Israel Update: 24 November 2016
by Hazel Green
THIRD DAY OF WIDESPREAD FIRES IN ISRAEL
The fires that have burned across Israel since Tuesday continue to rage, with new areas threatened by flames as other blazes have come under control.
The Israel Security Agency and Israel Police announced Thursday afternoon that they have detained a number of suspects on suspicion of arson.
60,000 residents have been evacuated from the Haifa area.
To help Israel contain the fires, four firefighting aircraft arrived from Cyprus and Greece, while additional aircraft are also expected to arrive from Russia, Italy, Croatia and Turkey.
This is a developing situation and The Times of Israel is liveblogging events: http://www.timesofisrael.com/liveblog-november-24-2016/
ROYAL NAVY VISIT
The Royal Navy assault ship HMS Bulwark arrived in Haifa Port on Tuesday. It is the second largest ship in the British fleet, with a company of 560 men and women. A Royal Navy statement said the Bulwark’s docking “demonstrates the growing relationship between the Royal Navy and the Israeli Navy.” Capt. Parkin said “We have Israel Navy colleagues on board right now, learning, getting presentations, and exchanging ideas about operations. We have a great relationship with the Israel Navy…I am very proud that I am in Haifa for the second time in my naval career.” The ship’s company challenged the “Israeli Barbarians” rugby team to a match, will watch Beersheba vs Inter Milan in the Europa League and is taking time to see some of the historic sights in Israel.
A dedication ceremony was held on Tuesday at the Dead Sea Research Institute, in which Israeli, Jordanian and Palestinian Authority scientists will work together to study the Dead Sea in order to find ways to rehabilitate it and the region around it (on both shores). The institute would coordinate the work of four separate research institutes in Israel and Jordan which are carrying out advanced studies for the benefit of the local population and neighbouring peoples.
Maj.-Gen. Yoav Mordechai, the IDF Coordinator of Government Activities in the Territories (COGAT), set up the Facebook page Al-Monsiq (The Coordinator) in March 2015 to improve communications with residents of Gaza and the West Bank. Recently, Al-Monsiq’s 80,000 Palestinian followers were asked to send in questions for him.Throughout the 30-minute chat, hundreds of participants reacted with “likes” and openly addressed the security, diplomatic and economic situation. Mordechai responded to them in Arabic.
One of the main messages Mordechai sought to deliver was that “if you are asked to pay someone for an exit permit [from Gaza or the West Bank] to Israel, don’t pay.” He thereby sought to counter the flourishing industry of fake documentation and extortion by Palestinian middlemen who charge high fees for obtaining entry permits. Mordechai noted that “the number of Palestinians working in Israel these days is the highest since the year 2000 [when the second intifada broke out]. Some 75,000 permits have been granted.” He added that Israel has an additional quota of 10,000 permits that can be issued immediately, and urged the Facebook users to apply through the PA.
A Palestinian man armed with a knife was shot and killed by Israeli security forces as he attempted to stab a guard at a crossing outside Jerusalem on Tuesday
IDF forces apprehended two Palestinians armed with hand grenades on Thursday night, not far from the Gaza border fence with Israel.
Portuguese chef Jose Avillez along with at least 11 other chefs from renowned dining establishments around the world participated in the Round Tables festival in Tel Aviv this month. Subsequently Anti-Israel activists vandalized his restaurant in Portugal. Several other chefs participating in Round Tables have been targeted by BDS activists, including Stéphane Jégo, head chef of L’Ami Jean in Paris. Following picketing outside his bistro, he hit back at his critics, calling them “an affliction [of] people who are, at best, misinformed, mix everything up or at worst biased and dishonest.”
For the first time, Israel has enforced environmental regulations against Palestinian charcoal plants that cause clouds of polluting smoke to waft over Jewish and Palestinian communities in the northern West Bank….Israeli officials said they were taking action after having issued several warnings to the Palestinian Authority that it would enforce anti-pollution regulations if the authority failed to shut the plants down. Maj.-Gen. Yoav Mordechai of the Civil Administration said, “We intend to open a dialogue with the charcoal producers to find technological solutions to lower the risks of charcoal production for workers and residents
Rejecting Palestinian claims at a UN climate conference, that Israel damaged the Palestinian environment, Israeli Environmental Protection Minister Ze’ev Elkin gave an example to demonstrate how the PA is actually polluting the local environment. “A cement factory has been set up in a nature reserve which endangers the surrounding population and the reserve itself. The local population has turned to Israel for assistance as the cement factory is being promoted by the PA through two of Mahmoud Abbas’ sons.”
Sesame Enable, a Caesarea-based company that allows people to control their cellphones without using their hands, has reached more than 1,200 customers globally, including in Saudi Arabia and Lebanon, in the three years since it was set up. The startup allows disabled people to control their Android smartphones by using voice and head movements.
The sleep inducer 2breathe Technologies, has won the Consumer Electronics Show (CES) Innovation award in the fitness, sports and biotech product category. 2breathe, an Israeli invention, is a smart device and mobile app which induces sleep via guided breathing.
Bank Leumi, one of Israel’s largest banks, announced that its credit card subsidiary, will introduce the first-of-its-kind integration of a mobile security product based on behavioural biometrics. Based on the cutting-edge technology of Israeli startup SecuredTouch, the solution embedded in the Leumi Card app will provide an advanced layer of security to its customers and will eliminate the need for complex passwords.
The UN Second Committee (Economic and Financial) approved on Friday an Israeli-sponsored resolution for encouraging entrepreneurship by a vote of 123-30, with 8 abstentions, despite opposition from the Arab bloc.
MINORITIES IN ISRAEL
Lt. Col. Dr. Avraham Yitzhak has been nominated to take over as chief medical officer of the army’s Southern Command, putting him on the path to becoming the first Israeli of Ethiopian heritage to hold the rank of colonel in the IDF… Among six women also heading for promotion, Lt. Col. Carmel Wahabi, a Druze Israeli, will preside in the army’s judiciary, as head of the army’s Special Court and Court of the General Staff and Home Front Command. She will be the first Druze Israeli to head an IDF court.
UNREST IN THE P.A.
With the long-ruling Palestinian Fatah faction torn by rivalries, fierce shootouts between Palestinian security forces and Fatah-aligned gunmen have erupted in recent months, plunging the Balata camp into unrest and lawlessness. “I no longer want to fight Israel. I’m not willing to die for these officials who are only taking care of their families and letting us suffer,” said Abu Riziq, 30, who spent nearly seven years in an Israeli prison for assisting in a suicide bombing.
COMMENT & OPINION
In an article in the London-based Saudi daily Al-Hayat, Dr. Salman Masalha, a Druze Israeli-Arab intellectual, discussed an Israeli bill seeking to ban the use of loudspeakers by houses of worship, which would prevent mosques from using them to broadcast the call of the muezzin (i.e., the call for prayer). In contrast to the prevailing response to this bill in the Arab and Muslim world, that this is a declaration of war against Islam, Masalha noted that the mosque loudspeakers disturb many people, both Jews and Arabs. Moreover, he said, even in Arab countries there have been calls to ban the use of loudspeakers, and fatwas have been issued justifying such a ban. He called not to consider the bill from the populist perspective of the Arab-Israeli conflict, but to consider it objectively from the perspective of the public good.
Yair Lapid (Chairman of Yesh Atid party) The Palestinians need to work on building a state for themselves instead of focusing on terror and death… the PA has existed for over 20 years and Israelis do not have a presence in Palestinian cities except when there are security needs. The Palestinians have built a corrupt governing system without an effective judiciary or modern industry. Palestinians did not use the resources Israel left behind in Gaza, and instead they voted in Hamas, who shot rockets at Israel. In addition, the “Palestinian education system poisons the minds of six- and seven-year-olds, every single day, with anti-Semitic propaganda of the worst kind….Instead of building something, instead of creating something, they choose a culture of murder and destruction.” He said “self-pity is not an efficient policy,” and called on the Palestinians to “free [themselves] from the past and go build a future. If you do that, we will be the first to help you.”
Miriam F Elman: On Oct. 25, Dr. Mohammed Dajani spoke to LIME, an Israeli-Palestinian student dialogue group that I mentor at Syracuse University. Dajani garnered international attention in 2014 when he was vilified for taking a group of Palestinian students to the Auschwitz death camp in Poland. After an assassination attempt, Dajani was forced to resign his Al Quds University position. Now he speaks to university audiences about his family history, the radicalization of Palestinian society, and his transformation from an Israel-hater into an admirer of Israel’s pluralistic democracy. Dajani also voiced his opposition to the BDS campaign.
Ziva Dahl: he 1993 Oslo Accords established Palestinian self-rule over 98 percent of the Palestinian population in the West Bank and Gaza. Since then, the PA has received an estimated $25 billion in financial aid from the U.S. and other Western countries, the highest per capita assistance in the world. Instead of creating the independent and robust civil institutions necessary for good governance, promoting peace with Israel and improving the lives of its people, the billions of dollars of international aid were used to create a corrupt dictatorship focusing on enriching its elites, inciting its people against Israel, advocating terrorism and waging a massive international campaign to demonize, delegitimize and destroy the Jewish State
Sheree Roth: Robert Kennedy, reporting from Palestine for the Boston Post in 1948, also noted the influx of Arab immigration into Palestine: “The Jews point with pride to the fact that over 500,000 Arabs in the 12 years between 1932 and 1944 came into Palestine to take advantage of living conditions existing in no Arab state.”
Israel Update: 15 September 2016
by Hazel Green
Israel is to expand its humanitarian assistance to internally-displaced Syrians who have been uprooted by the five-year civil war and are stuck in camps near the Syria-Israel border…In addition to treating rebel fighters wounded in the conflict, Israeli hospitals will now begin treating the sick. The first busload of patients, numbering around 60 Syrians — mostly children — is set to arrive at a hospital in Safed, northern Israel, soon. The initiative will see one bus a day crossing from Syria into Israel to receive basic medical care, with patients returning to Syria once they have completed their treatment,
Mortar fire from Syria has struck Israeli territory on several occasions. In response to the fifth such incident in just over a week on Monday (hours after a ceasefire was put in place) the IDF struck artillery positions belonging to the Syrian regime on Tuesday. Later Israel dismissed as false Syrian claims that an Israeli plane had been shot down.
Former Israeli president Shimon Peres’ condition has improved but he remains seriously ill in intensive care after suffering a major stroke on Tuesday.
Israeli P.M. Netanyahu rejected international criticism of West Bank settlement construction last Friday, equating it to “ethnic cleansing” of Jews and insisting the settlements are not an obstacle to peace, He said “No one would seriously claim that the nearly 2 million Arabs living inside Israel, that they’re an obstacle to peace,” Netanyahu said. “Yet the Palestinian leadership actually demands a Palestinian state with one precondition: No Jews. There’s a phrase for that: It’s called ethnic cleansing….It’s even more outrageous that the world doesn’t find this outrageous. Since when is bigotry a foundation for peace?”
Israel Foreign Ministry Director-General Dore Gold told the City of David’s 17th Annual Archeological Conference on Thursday, “Our affinity to Jerusalem is a certain historical truth – not just a narrative,” as archeologists are scientifically proving the Jewish people’s connection to Jerusalem.
Gold addressed “the international attempt to disengage Jerusalem from Jewish history, focusing specifically on a UNESCO resolution adopted in April which ignored Judaism’s ties to its holiest site, the Temple Mount. He accused UNESCO of promoting the distortion of history.
He also referred to British documentation of a Jewish majority in Jerusalem in 1863.
Israeli government ministers met Facebook officials on Monday to discuss how to tackle incitement on the social media network. Over the past four months Israel submitted 158 requests to Facebook to remove inciting content and another 13 requests to YouTube.Facebook granted 95% of the requests and YouTube granted 80%.
52 U.S. police officers from seven states arrived in Israel for a week of counter-terrorism training. The leader of the delegation, Michael Safris, expressed respect for Israel’s efficiency and advanced tactics, coupled with its ability to enforce the law in a humane manner, despite dealing with countless depraved terrorists. The delegation is one of more than 200 from across the globe annually hosted by the Israel Police.
A delegation that included Hindu gurus, Buddhist monks, Shinto priests and leaders of the Sikh, Jain and Taoist traditions met P.M. Netanyahu and President Rivlin on Tuesday at a Jerusalem conference aimed at deepening Israel-Asia ties. Noting the antiquity of the faiths represented, Rivlin first voiced greetings in Arabic to the Muslim communities in Israel and throughout the world who are celebrating the festival of Id al-Adha.
A mortar shell fired from Gaza hit southern Israel and in response, the IAF struck Hamas targets.
Israel is a pioneer in the use of medical cannabis. Recently, the government approved a plan to relax some of the medical cannabis restrictions including increasing the number of doctors who can issue cannabis prescriptions, removing limits on the number of marijuana growers, making cannabis available at approved pharmacies etc. The Cann10 International Medical Conference was held earlier this week in Tel Aviv.
EID AL ADHA
Thousands of West Bank Arabs swam at beaches in and around Tel Aviv on Tuesday, after being granted permits to visit during the Eid al-Adha holiday… Palestinian Arab women in burkinis swam or played with children near bikini-clad Israelis and foreigners. 100,000 visiting permits for Palestinian Arabs from the West Bank were issued by Israel for the Eid holiday which started on Monday.
*And see Comment below
John Hilary, executive director of War on Want, will step down next month amid investigations by the Charity Commission into the organisation’s “campaigning and political activities” after growing controversy about the charity’s work against Israel. War on Want funds Israeli Apartheid Week, an event at universities that Jewish Human Rights Watch has accused of “targeting and harassing Jewish students and inviting anti-semitic speakers to campuses”.
Claire Lomas, 36 who is paralyzed from the chest down after a riding accident has completed the Great North Run wearing an Israeli exoskeleton. Lomas, who is 16 weeks pregnant, took five days to walk the half marathon in the ReWalk suit.
Israel and the Palestinian Authority have reached a deal to settle the Palestinians’ outstanding debt of $530 million to the Israel Electric Corporation (IEC)…The agreement requires the PA to collect unpaid electricity bills from Palestinian customers in the West Bank. And the PA will assume full responsibility for paying the IEC, which formerly had to collect from several different local electricity companies in the West Bank.
Two female IDF soldiers were rescued from Tulkarem (West Bank) after they mistakenly entered the area and had rocks thrown at their vehicle.
Israeli security forces uncovered over 200lb (about 100 kg) of bomb-making supplies in a West Bank village on Monday. In a separate raid, the army found two pipe bombs and two Molotov cocktails in a different village.
Doron Shaziri, 49, won a bronze medal at the Rio Paralympics in the men’s 50-meter rifle three positions final. He has won at least one medal in every Paralympics since 1996. Moran Samuel has won a bronze medal for rowing.
Exciting tributes, a new lead singer with plenty of charisma, and some affection for Hebrew were just part of Queen and Adam Lambert’s concert on Monday night, attended by over 50,000 fans in Tel Aviv.
For videos of the show including Queen’s version of Hava Nagila
featuring Brian May:
After a gap of several years, free opera performances are being resumed in Tel Aviv’s Yarkon Park, with a new and unique production of Madame Butterfly lasting about 90 minutes.
COMMENT & OPINION
Khaled Abu Toameh: Sheikh Abdullah Tamimi (from Hebron) and his colleagues do not believe in boycotts and divestment. They are convinced that real peace can be achieved through dialogue between Palestinians and all Israelis — not just those who are affiliated with the left-wing. For Tamimi, real peace begins between the people and through economic cooperation and improving the living conditions of the Palestinians. This is more important than the talk about the establishment of a Palestinian state, which he believes, under the current circumstances, is not a realistic option. This notion goes against the ideas of the advocates of “anti-normalization”…..and those promoting BDS.
*Ron Kronish:This week during the Muslim holiday of Id al-Adha, I visited two malls in Jerusalem where I saw hundreds of Muslim families out shopping for the holiday. No one harassed them, no one even noticed. Israeli Muslims easily enter Jewish malls without fear and travel to vacation spots all over Israel without trepidation.They are Israeli citizens and feel comfortable here. They share the workplace with Jews and are part and parcel of the landscape and of civil society.