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The Iranian Crown Prince’s Speech- Part II

Mon, 08/06/2018 - 01:00

The pressure rose in the Yemen-Saudi-Iran triangle last week due to the rockets launched by Houthi rebels on Wednesday, July 25th from Yemen’s Red Sea coastline (or from another vessel), on a Saudi oil tanker sailing in the Red Sea near Yemen.

The Saudis decided to stop using this essential route to bring oil to Europe, and world oil markets began showing signs of tension.

In addition, a Twitter duel has been raging for the past two weeks between the Iranian rulers and the US government, with each side threatening the other: The Iranians threaten the boats sailing through the Straits of Hormuz and the Americans threaten the Iranians not do dare interfere with international sea routes, one of them being the Red Sea.

On the backdrop of these mutual threats, and the possibility that they might lead to the employment of force and military conflict, it is important to read the second part of the interview granted by the son of the deposed Shah, Reza Pahlevi II, to the Elaph website (my additions in parentheses, M.K.) during the month of July.

Pahlevi: “The Gulf States and Iran will have to deal with much future suffering if things continue as they are now, but if the regime falls, a new horizon will open up for cooperation in every area and to everyone’s benefit. I have said it before and am even more convinced that my observations were on the mark: Iran does not need nuclear arms nor does it need to be obsessed with military might. Iran is in possession of resources and a demographic makeup that allows for great economic growth, especially if there is a real development plan based, among other things, on cooperation with its neighboring states.

“I believe that once the nuclear weapons are dismantled, a new and positive spirit will emerge.” (If the world, however, does not force Iran to scrap its nuclear plans, the tension will continue.)

Sans racism, sans sectarianism

What is your message to the Gulf States and the Arab World during this period in history?

Pahlevi“We have much in common. We want our children and young people to have a better future, we want a future without racism (Arab against Persian) and without sectarianism (Shiite against Sunni). We want stability and development. Which state is going to be the leader of this massive change is not important, nor does it matter if there are disagreements on these issues. The Gulf has two coastlines and along most of them really good things are to be found, such as talented people in every field.”

“It’s time the region’s nations began to reap benefits from one another. I hope to see the European model of cooperation take root here. These dreams do not depend on the work of one person or leadership because it will be the people who make the decisions. The Europeans chose to work together for a joint future, without any decision by a single person to enforce that process. It would be wonderful if that could happen in our region at a rapid pace without wasting time and effort.

“My message (to the Arab Gulf States) is: There is no enmity between us, we have a common denominator and fertile ground for cooperation for the common good (he may mean: If you help me get rid of the mullahs  and allow me to be the ruler in Iran, the area will become a Garden of Eden).

We want to have modern ports, a strong joint economy for everyone to enjoy. Enough of the enmity the (Iranian) mullahs caused between us. The worst form of populism has become the norm and we have to change all that. We have to guard our resources in this region, we have to work to develop it with all our power. We must stand strong together in order to stop those countries who hope to take advantage of us and profit from the disputes between us.

From an economic viewpoint

Elaph:  How do you analyze the situation in Iran from the point view of the economy and encouraging investment?

Pahlevi: “The situation in Iran is so volatile that I am convinced that all that is missing is for  the Iranians to have the opportunity to create an alternative and accept its  price  (one that they will be forced to pay). Right now, there is no one willing to invest in Iran. Unfortunately, poverty and unemployment rule at every intersection of an Iranian’s life. This is the result of failed management and political and ideological trends (the export of the revolution to other countries) that destroy any chance to improve the lot of the Iranian people. While we talk, there are Japanese and Chinese vessels which have taken over the Iranian bank of the Gulf and are gathering the Iranian treasure trove of fish.”

“I cannot understand how the Iranians let this happen. What undercover deals were struck? (Someone in Iran must have gotten a hefty bribe to allow China and Japan to take over the Iranian fishing territories). Iran is suffering, the present generation is suffering, all are suffering because of this regime’s actions. I do not believe the Iranian people agree to have others squander our riches. All this is happening due to secret deals and no one knows exactly who profits from them.

Readers’ comments:

Hussein (probably a Shiite) from Iraq writes:

“This is an attempt to blind us or make us forget:”

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“It was the Shah’s Iran under Reza Pahlevi’s father that tried to interfere in the Persian Gulf’s affairs, ruin the area’s reputation and weaken the Arab states, especially Iraq.  I think that Mr. Reza II has not forgotten how his father  would interfere in Iran’s internal affairs by aiding armed militias (the Kurds) in northern Iraq,  providing them with money, arms and expertise, and I also don’t think that Mr. Reza II has forgotten how his father allowed Israeli  and US Intelligence to enter northern Iraq to train militants (Kurds) to fight against the Iraqi regimes from 1958 on, in order to rule the region by conquering the three islands (in the Gulf: Greater Tunb, Lesser Tunb and Abu Musa) after he purchased them from one of the Gulf rulers in 1962.

“I don’t think that Mr. Reza II and the Elaph website have forgotten that Iran insists on calling the Arabian Gulf by the name Persian Gulf and protests when anyone calls it by another name. If we are going to talk about this, we can write entire books about Iran’s interference in the affairs of the region’s countries, because the Shah’s regime called him the’ Gulf Police Officer’. The Gulf States lived in fear of his behavior and aspirations because he purchased large amounts of advanced Western weaponry, as several of the states near the Gulf are doing now (Saudi Arabia and the Emirates).’

“At any rate, it would be wonderful if wisdom, patience and calm would find a place in the minds of Iran’s rulers and those of the Arabian Gulf so that they could go about their affairs in an atmosphere of tranquillity, understanding and peaceful dialogue, because the wars, destruction and killing are going to spell the end for all of us. We have plenty of examples, such as North and South Korea, Japan and the entrance of the USA into the picture. Peace serves us all and wars destroy us all.”

Hassan al Rashid comments under the headline: A burnt playing card

The man whose father was the ‘police officer of the Gulf’ in order to serve the USA wants to market himself as the alternative to the capable Islamic Republic which has managed, over a period of four decades, to bring Iran up to the level of highly developed nations in terms of science, technology and production, as opposed to the Shah’s regime under which Iran slid into a tunnel of poverty, backwardness and corruption in every sphere, whether economic, political, social or ethical. The Shah sold his country to the Americans in exchange for protecting his throne, but that protection could  not stand up to the Iranian people’s rebellion.

“He lacked legitimacy, and was rejected from within the country despite the enormous amount of money he spent on spreading propaganda and buying loyalty.  Reza II has no plans except achieving power, resurrecting a dead and embalmed regime that does not suit the present or future just as it was a helpless failure in the past.  It is idiotic to market a loser when experience proves that his father’s regime played the role of the US regional policeman, forcing most of the other Arab leaders to be subservient to his authority and wishes, and turned them into his slaves. What can this boy suggest besides empty promises whose only goal is regaining the Peacock Throne and ruling from its heights? There is a well known saying:  ‘The believer does not allow the same viper to bite him twice’ (anyone with brains does not approach a snake’s lair after having been bitten previously by that same snake.

From readers’ responses it is clear that Reza Pahlevii’s sweet talk does not impress many listeners in the Arab world. It is also obvious that people see him as someone who will think and act like his father, a tendency that is rooted in the traditional way of thinking in the Middle East which believes that  every son is an exact duplicate of his father.  Egyptians are fond of saying: The son of the engineer is also an engineer, and this saying expresses, with much self criticism and sad loathing, the absurdity in the concept that a son must be like his father whether or not he has the same talents.

Those who think that Reza II’s behavior is going to be an exact duplicate of his father’s, act according to the Middle Eastern concep that creates the son in his father’s image. This is based on the idea that the father is older and more experienced and therefore worthy of emulation. His son, lacking knowledge and experience, must follow in his father’s footsteps because not doing so would be rebelling against his father’s authority and the mandated recognition that his father is perfect and his behavior ideal.

Many in the Arab world, and perhaps even in Iran, do not buy Reza II’s words, and have  no hope of seeing the Shah’s descendants returning to rule Iran. Will he succeed in convincing enough Iranians to support him as an alternative to the mullahs? We will only know the answer to that after the fact. (To be continued)

Reprinted with author’s permission from Israel National News

Never Trump’s Insane Foreign Policy

Mon, 08/06/2018 - 00:00

George Orwell once quipped, referring to a conspiracy theory that American soldiers had been brought to England in World War II to put down a working-class rebellion rather than to fight Nazi Germany: “One has to belong to the intelligentsia to believe things like that: no ordinary man could be such a fool.”

His insight is certainly valid in connection to the “Never Trump” intellectuals today.

Case in point is a recent article published by Never Trump super-intellectual, the Brookings Institute’s Robert Kagan.

Earlier in the summer, Kagan wrote an oped in the Washington Post where he laid out his best case against President Donald Trump’s foreign policy.

Not to put too sharp a point on things: It was unhinged.

Titled “Trump’s America does not care,” Kagan made a contention that was wrong and then made two additional assertions which were also wrong — and which, even worse, contradicted one another.

Kagan’s basic contention was that Trump has transformed the United States from a moral actor and a great power into an immoral actor and a “rogue power.”

Trump did this, apparently, by committing the unpardonable offense of basing his foreign policy on U.S. interests.

It used to be that outside the confines of a marginal groups of Communists and their fellow travelers, no one in Washington would ever argue that it is immoral for the United States to use its foreign policy to advance its national interests.

But at a time when Trump Derangement Syndrome spreads like the plague through intellectual circles, Kagan wrote that under Trump, the “United States [behaves like a] rogue superpower, neither isolationist nor internationalist, neither withdrawing nor in decline, but active, powerful and entirely out for itself.”

And what has happened as a result of Trump acting entirely on behalf of his nation? How has Trump’s America First foreign policy transformed America into a rogue superpower?

For the answer, we come to Kagan’s two further assertions.

First, Kagan said that it is immoral for the U.S. to use foreign policy to advance its national interests as Trump is doing.

Second, Kagan wrote that the U.S. is only allowed to advance its national interests by adhering to the post-World War II alliance system the U.S. constructed 70 years ago (because it advanced the U.S’s primary national interest at the time of defeating the Soviet Union in the Cold War).

Before considering the veracity of these assertions, it is important to mention that they cannot both be true. Obviously, if it is immoral for the U.S. to use its foreign policy as a means to advance its national interest, then it is immoral for the U.S. to advance its interests through the Cold War alliance system.

As it works out, neither of Kagan’s assumptions is true.

By Kagan’s telling, until Trump came along, everyone in U.S. foreign policy circles was of either one of two opinions. On the one hand were those who believed that the U.S. was and should “continue as primary defender of the international order it created after World War II.”

On the other hand, there were those who wanted the U.S. to “pull back from overseas commitments, shed global responsibilities, turn inward and begin transitioning to a post-American world.”

The first approach, which views the U.S. as the savior of human freedom worldwide, is the neoconservative approach. The latter approach is former President Barack Obama’s approach.

And whereas Kagan and his comrades in the neoconservative section of the Never Trump choir assumed, as Kagan notes, that Trump would follow Obama’s approach, Trump stumped them when he came up with a totally new concept of foreign policy based on the revolutionary idea that U.S. power should be used to advance U.S. interests and even dared to argue that the world is better off when the U.S. is better off.

The fact that Trump is accomplishing real things that Kagan and his comrades used to support – like moving the U.S. embassy in Israel to Jerusalem, forging a new alliance with U.S. Arab allies directed against Iran, and closing advantageous trade deals with Europe – merely causes Kagan to double down in his rejection of Trump’s foreign policy.

While inexplicable in the real world, Kagan’s response to Trump’s successes is sensible in the closed intellectual universe he and his fellow Never Trump intellectuals have inhabited since the Republican National Convention two years ago.

Kagan contends that until Trump came along, “the United States was, up to a point, willing to play Gulliver tied down by the Lilliputians’ ropes, in the interest of reassuring and binding the democratic community together.”

Who, in Kagan’s view, was the U.S. willing to be exploited by as a “Gulliver tied down by the Lilliputians ropes,” in order to reassure? What was America supposed to reassure them about?

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Were the Italians concerned that the Americans were about to seize the Coliseum and require them to eat Wonder Bread?

Or did the French worry the U.S. would invade Normandy and sell nuns and orphans as sex slaves and child soldiers?

In other words, upon the briefest reflection, the U.S. never posed a danger to its allies. It didn’t need to accept restraints on its actions in order to reassure them that it wouldn’t commit atrocities.

But wait, there’s more.

Kagan wrote, “Europeans and others may have found the United States selfish and overbearing, too eager to use force and too willing to pursue its goals unilaterally, but even President George W. Bush’s America cared about them, if only because Americans had learned through painful experience that they had no choice but to care.”

Why would it be America’s fault if the Europeans and others “found the United States selfish and overbearing, too eager to use force and too willing to pursue its goals unilaterally”?

As Kagan noted elsewhere in his article, America paid Europe’s defense bill and protected it from the Soviet Union for five decades while allowing the Europeans to take advantage of America in lopsided trade deals, and to undermine America’s foreign initiatives across a spectrum of issues and areas. And the U.S. continued paying Europe’s defense bill and allowing the Europeans to take advantage of it on trade for 27 years after the Soviet Union disappeared.

If anything, by his own description of the U.S. as “Gulliver tied down by the Lilliputians ropes,” the U.S had a perfect right to find the Europeans selfish and overbearing, too eager to criticize and too willing to pursue their goals in contravention of U.S. policies.

As for America’s alleged fear that if it stopped allowing Europeans to exploit it they would start World War III, if that fear is indeed what drove U.S. administrations from 1945 until 2017, then Trump’s abandonment of that view in 2017 was long overdue.

The postwar international system was predicated on the Soviet Union’s emergence as the U.S.’s primary foe. The Soviet Union ceased to exist in 1991. And at least since 2001, the U.S.’s primary foe has been a loose-  and fast-changing alliance of jihadist governments and terror groups that operate globally.

Why an alliance system built around fighting an enemy that no longer exists is the best system to use to fight a completely different enemy is anyone’s guess. Regardless, the notion that it is immoral to downgrade or sideline an alliance system built on fighting an enemy that has been gone for 27 years is simply wrong.

It is too early to tell if Trump’s America First foreign policy will succeed. But it is progressing in a promising trajectory. Indeed, if Trump’s policies in the Middle East, Asia, Latin America and Europe are even partially successful, he will be remembered as the most significant – and successful – U.S. statesman in the post-Cold War era.

Perhaps the best sign that Trump’s foreign policy is succeeding – or at least promising — is the frothing-at-the-mouth quality of the critiques his foreign policy attracts. Attacks like Kagan’s show that Trump’s America First foreign policy is the only game today in Washington.

And, given the dismal intellectual and practical failures of the foreign policies of both the George W. Bush administration and the Obama administration, it is a good thing for America and for global security that Trump has the field to himself.

Reprinted with author’s permission from Caroline Glick

Ambassador Thanks US Volunteer Firefighters in Israel

Sun, 08/05/2018 - 08:25

U.S. Ambassador to Israel, David Friedman, visited Sderot’s fire station where he met with firefighters who are working to extinguish the fires on the border along the Gaza Strip, including 10 American firefighters. The American firefighters, who volunteer through the Emergency Volunteers Project (EVP) organization came to Israel from the U.S to help their Israeli counterparts fight fires caused by incendiary kites and balloons launched from Gaza towards Israel. Israel’s Fire and Rescue Commissioner Dedi Simhi also came to thank the firefighters.

Jewish Congressman Narrowly Avoids Humiliation by Sacha Baron Cohen

Sun, 08/05/2018 - 08:10

Jewish Congressman Lee Zeldin, a Republican representing New York’s 1st congressional district (Central and Eastern Suffolk County, LI) since 2015, has his communications director Katie Vincentz to thank for saving him from the kind of devastating humiliation TV prankster Sacha Baron Cohen has been heaping on American politicians, mostly from the right.

In case you don’t watch vulgar, borderline-pornographic TV such as Cohen’s latest series, “Who Is America?” on Showtime, is a half-hour, 7-episode series from the Jewish-British comedian, who in the 90s gave us his comic characters Ali G, Brüno Gehard, and Borat Sagdiyev (originally seen on HBO, then developed into feature films) who stretched the boundaries of good taste, dragging unsuspecting celebrities as well as innocent bystanders into the muddy, sewerish kind of satire.

Sacha Baron Cohen’s return to series television in 2018 (so far 3 episodes have aired) has offered more of the same and then some, as the master of bathroom humor is dragging down marginal as well as mainstream personalities (including, most recently, former VP Dick Cheney) into the gutter.

Baron Cohen is disguised as two characters in the new series, one of whom is a nightmare Israeli ex-IDF special force Rambo calling himself Eran Morad, who, among other things, gets his victims to advocate giving guns to toddlers (admitting that, in a fit of anger, he shot his own late son who tried to pull on him first). It was this “Israeli” officer (Baron Cohen is fluent in Hebrew) who tried to trap Congressman Zeldin.

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According to the NY Post, Zeldin’s office received a “convincing” interview request in February from an Israeli TV station that told the Jewish Republican who is very pro-Israel, that he is among 70 celebrities being honored in 2018 as part of Israel’s 70th-anniversary celebrations.

But Katie Vincentz was not convinced, because the representative of “Yerushalayim Television” introduced herself as “Julia Harris.” Vincentz hit Google, as any self-respecting communications person would have done, only to discover “there was no mention anywhere of this big award, which was surprising especially in light of the big names they claimed to have interviewed,” she told the Post.

“Julia Harris” had assured Vincentz the awards ceremony would include Bono, Steven Spielberg, Rupert Murdoch and Tony Blair.

Zeldin, who is the Co-Chairman of the Long Island Sound Caucus (a rare Republican preserve in the blue state of NY), is a member of the Congressional Subcommittee on the Middle East and North Africa. The last thing we need is for a man in his position to look like an idiot on TV.

Give Katie a big bonus, Congressman.

Russia Appoints Martial Arts Star Steven Seagal Envoy to the US

Sun, 08/05/2018 - 07:55

Celebrated martial arts star Steven Seagal, who was born in Lansing, Michigan and became a Russian citizen, has been appointed special representative of the Russian Foreign Ministry in charge of the Russian-US humanitarian ties, the Russian Foreign Ministry announced on its Facebook page.

Seagal’s mother was of Dutch, English, and German ancestry, while his paternal grandparents were Russian Jews who immigrated to the US. He also claims to have some Mongol heritage. Seagal is a Buddhist.

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“Steven Seagal was appointed as the Russian Foreign Ministry’s special representative for Russian-US humanitarian ties,” the ministry announced. “The task is to facilitate relations between Russia and the United States in the humanitarian field, including cooperation in culture, the arts, public and youth exchanges, and so on.”

Seagal faced a string of sexual harassment and assault lawsuits, starting in the early 1990s and going all the way to January 2018, several of which were settled out of court.

In 1999, Seagal was awarded a PETA Humanitarian Award.

Seagal, who holds a dual citizenship of the US and Russia, is known for his support of Vladimir Putin, to whom he once referred as “one of the greatest living world leaders.”

Netanyahu: Nation-state Law Necessary to Ensure Israel’s Jewish Future

Sun, 08/05/2018 - 07:35

The controversial Nation-State Law was necessary in order to guarantee Israel’s future as a Jewish country, but the measure does not detract from individual civil rights, Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu told the security cabinet Sunday.

Addressing Saturday nights Tel Aviv rally against the law, sponsored by the Druze community, Netanyahu stressed that individual rights in Israel were guaranteed in a variety of laws, beginning with the Basic Law: Human Dignity and Liberty. But he said that without the law it would be impossible to guarantee the country’s future as a Jewish state.

“No one has detracted, and nobody has any intention of detracting, from these personal rights. But without this law it would be impossible to ensure Israel’s future as a national home for the Jewish people,” Netanyahu said.

“The Nation-State Law serves to protect the Law of Return; it raises it to another level and of course grants the right to automatic citizenship to Jews, and only to Jews. The nation-state law prevents, for instance, people from taking advantage of the clause that allows for family reunification, via which tens of thousands of Palestinians have been absorbed in Israel since the Oslo accords were signed. This law will help prevent the continued unchecked entry of Palestinians into Israel. “The law could also help Israel block future entry of illegal immigrants.

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“These, and other things are happening because the country’s laws only anchored in a basic law that deals with individual liberties, with no constitutional balance for our national element. So we passed the nation-state law in order to ensure that the country is not only democratic but also continues to be the national home of the Jewish people. This is a critical need for our generation, and for future generations.”

The premier also addressed the Druze community directly, saying Israeli Jews and Druze share a special bond that will not be broken by the current legislation.

“Our deep connection with members of the Druze community and our commitment towards it are also critical. So we are creating today a special ministerial committee to give support to this connection and this commitment while at the same time recognizing individuals of all faiths who serve in the IDF and the security forces,” Netanyahu said.

Syrian Chemical Weapons Scientist Assassinated, Israeli Intelligence Accused

Sun, 08/05/2018 - 07:05

Dr. Aziz Asbar, a director of the Syrian Scientific Studies and Research Center (SSRC), was killed by a roadside bomb that targeted his car early Sunday morning as he was being driven from his home in the city of Masyaf in Hama province, Syria.

According to Hezbollah’s al-Manar news site, Azbar headed Department 4 at the center. This section is believed to be responsible for developing Syria’s ballistic missile and rocket programs. The department is also in charge of Institute 4000, which allegedly houses several chemical weapons programs. Dr. Azbar was also believed to be involved in helping develop Iran’s Fateh missile program and was reported to have close connections to Iranian and Korean scientists.

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Since 2005, the SSRC  has been on a list of the US Treasury Department, “Blocking Property of Weapons of Mass Destruction Proliferators and their Supporters.” The SSRC has been hit by two air strikes and one missile strike that were blamed on Israel. Israel has never officially denied or confirmed these allegations.

 No official comment from the Syrian authorities has been made but official sources were cited in the Prensa Latina, official state news agency of Cuba, as saying that Israeli intelligence services may be involved.

The Abu Amara Brigades, a Syrian rebel group affiliated with al Qaeda, claimed responsibility for the assassination, releasing a statement on their Telegram online channel stating they “planted explosive devices” which detonated and killed Azbar.

IDF Dismantles Humanitarian Field Hospital on Syrian Border

Sun, 08/05/2018 - 06:14

Last week, the IDF dismantled ‘Mazor Ladach’, a field hospital set up on the border as a humanitarian project to aid the Syrian people. Established in August 2017 as part of Operation Good Neighbor, approximately 6,800 Syrians were treated there.

Eli Wiesel’s Childhood Home Vandalized With Anti-Semitic Graffiti

Sun, 08/05/2018 - 05:45

Elie Wiesel (Photo: World Economic Forum/ Wiki Commons)

The childhood house of famed Nobel Laureate Holocaust novelist, Eli Wiesel, was spraypainted with anti-semitic graffiti on Friday. Vandals painted, “Pedophile. Jewish Nazi who is in hell with Hitler,” in bright pink.

The house in the town of Sighetu Marmatiei in northwest Romania is a protected historical monument and currently serves as a museum

“This grotesque act represents an attack not only on the memory of Elie Wiesel but on all the victims of the Holocaust,” said a statement by Romania’s National Institute for Holocaust studies, which is named after the writer.

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Police opened an investigation on Saturday, stating to the press that the location was protected by security cameras.

Wiesel was a strong supporter of Israel and critics of Israel’s policies targeted him, frequently comparing him to the Nazis who tried to kill him. Shortly after Wiesel’s death two years ago, Jewish anti-Israel blogger Max Blumenthal tweeted, “Elie Wiesel went from a victim of war crimes to a supporter of those who commit them. He did more harm than good and should not be honored.” Blumenthal also accused Wiesel of praising “Jewish settlers for ethnically cleansing Palestinians in East Jerusalem.” Blumenthal was a close adviser of Hillary Clinton, who was forced to reject these comments.

Jewish slave laborers in the Buchenwald concentration camp near Jena, Germany. April 16, 1945. Elie Wiesel can be seen second row from bottom, seventh from left. (Photo: NARA image ARC #535561)

In 1944, the Nazis occupied Hungary and 15-year-old Wiesel and his family were deported to Auschwitz and later to Buchenwald where he stayed until the death camp was liberated by U.S. troops in 1945. In 1960, Night, his sparse 100-page account of his Holocaust experiences, was published in English. The book went on to be translated into 30 languages, selling over ten million copies in the United States alone.

Wiesel, who passed away two years ago, authored 57 books.  When he was awarded the Nobel Peace Prize in 1986, the committee called him a  him a “messenger to mankind”, stating that through his struggle to come to terms with “his own personal experience of total humiliation and of the utter contempt for humanity shown in Hitler’s death camps”, as well as his “practical work in the cause of peace”, Wiesel had delivered a message “of peace, atonement, and human dignity” to humanity.

2020 Presidential Hopeful Poses With BDS Sign

Sun, 08/05/2018 - 04:44

Sen. Cory Booker (D-N.J.) was seen posing with a sign featured by a pro-BDS Palestinian group.

Booker, a rumored 2020 Democratic presidential hopeful, is seen holding a sign that reads “From Palestine to Mexico, all the walls have got to go,” a slogan developed by the U.S. Campaign for Palestinian Rights.

According to the watchdog group NGO Monitor, “USCPR is a national coalition of hundreds of groups working to advocate for Palestinian rights and a shift in U.S. policy, and is a leader and mobilizer of anti-Israel BDS campaigns.”

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USCPR posted the picture of Booker on its Twitter page on Friday.

“Excited to be here at Netroots Nation talking with progressives like Sen. Cory Booker about our shared commitment to freedom, justice and equality for all people,” the tweet said.

Excited to be here at Netroots Nation talking with progressives like Sen. Cory Booker about our shared commitment to freedom, justice, and equality for all people. #NN18

— Palestinian Rights (@US_Campaign) August 3, 2018

Booker, who represents a state with one of the largest Jewish communities in America, has long fostered ties with the Jewish community and is noted for his study of Jewish texts during his time at Oxford University. However, he has drawn the ire of some within the pro-Israel community in recent years for his support of the Iranian nuclear deal.

It Takes a Village: Doctors and Social Workers Team Up at Israel’s Sha’are Zedek Hospital

Sun, 08/05/2018 - 04:05

Non-profit Just One Life and Israeli medical center Sha’are Zedek have teamed up to expedite medical testing on fetuses to help couples make quick and well-informed decisions regarding pregnancy.  

After immigrating to Israel from New York, social worker Chaya Katzin began working for Just One Life, a boutique non-profit based in Jerusalem that serves to empower women who encounter medical complications during their pregnancies.

When Ultra-Orthodox Jews make important decisions, Katzin explained to Breaking Israel News, they often consult their Rabbis. But when it comes to important medical decisions about pregnancy, she said, they also need well-informed doctors as well as emotional support.

“When Sha’are Zedek goes through routine testing and finds birth defects, the doctors meet with the couples and explain any problems with the fetus – this can be very difficult emotionally and there is only so much doctors can offer when a couple is going through a hard time,” said Katzin.

“In addition, according to Jewish Law,” Katzin explained, “Ultra-Orthodox couples cannot terminate pregnancies up until a certain week, requiring quick testing and checkups that are often expensive as they are not always covered by insurance. So we offer financial aid to help couples acquire the medical information they need to make important decisions, and if they choose to go through with the pregnancy, we help them make a plan.”

For these reasons, Sha’are Zedek, the fastest growing hospital in Jerusalem, asked Just One Life to partner with them, offering guidance, counseling, and therapy for couples going through difficult times.

So far, they have helped over 16,000 families through their programs, which include a 24/7 call-in service, parenting and self-help classes, home visits, clothing distribution, therapy and counseling and up-to-date resources for pregnant mothers.

Katzin spoke of recently helping a mother with seven children who found out that her eighth would be born with Downs Syndrome. “We worked with her to plan for the upcoming birth. When you have support and are able to talk about your emotions, it’s easier to make a plan.”

In some cases, Just One Life must help couples cope when they decide to go through with a pregnancy in which they know the life of the baby is not sustainable.   

Planning for the unexpected is preventive, said Katzin. “When dealing with pregnancies, disabilities, children and medical issues, it’s important to process emotions in advance and make a plan of who will support them, take care of any children in the home, and how to make a difficult situation easier by planning ahead.”

She compared the process of planning for the unexpected to planning a trip to France and learning French, only to find out that Holland is the real destination. “Holland is also very nice, but I learned French to prepare for France, and now I have to learn Dutch to prepare for Holland,” said Katzin. “So you have to reorganize yourself and plan a trip to Holland.

Although often dealing with tragic circumstances, Katzin is proud of her work of helping people in difficult situations, which she finds especially meaningful.

“It’s a mission,” she said, maintaining that even though she would do this work for any population, she is proud to be living in Israel and working with the Jewish people who have a unique value for life and chesed (loving-kindness) and helping others. 

Netflix Cancels Farrakhan Musical Documentary at Last-Minute

Sun, 08/05/2018 - 03:42

Netflix has decided against releasing a documentary titled, “My Life’s Journey Through Music,” about the life of Louis Farrakhan, after a tweet by the Nation of Islam leader calling on his followers to watch for the movie on Wednesday, August 1.

Netflix issued a statement saying, “This film will not be released on Netflix. Due to an internal miscommunication, it appeared to be scheduled for release on Netflix, but it is not. We apologize for any confusion this has caused.”

Farrakhan’s tweet read: “My dear viewers and listeners, on August 1 you will be able to view the premiere on Netflix of the minister’s life journey through music. And, if you would like to leave a comment of what you think about that documentary, and its music, you can go to and leave your comment. May God bless you – As-Salaam Alaikum.”

The Nation of Islam leader and dyed-in-the-wool Jew hater began his career in the 1950s as a calypso singer, recording several calypso albums under the name “The Charmer.” In March he released a box set that includes an album titled “Let’s Change the World,” which he recorded with Stevie Wonder, Chaka Khan, Stephanie Mills, Common, Snoop Dogg, Rick Ross, Damian Marley and Teena Marie. The box set, retailing for $250, contains 7 CDs, a book with exclusive content, and 1 bonus DVD of behind-the-scenes footage.

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Which is why the exposure promised by the Netflix film meant a great deal to the man who’s been known to call Judaism a gutter religion and was behind the clever remark, “Everybody always talk about Hitler exterminating 6 million Jews…but don’t nobody ever asked what did they do to Hitler?”

On Wednesday, the Nation of Islam issued an official statement on the Netflix cancellation, which went: “The Honorable Minister Louis Farrakhan produced a documentary entitled, ‘My Life’s Journey Through Music.’ As late as July 30, 2018, Netflix published that this documentary would be ‘Coming August 1’ on its media platform.

“On July 31, 2018, less than 24 hours before the airing of the documentary, the Nation of Islam became aware through news and online outlets that Netflix decided not to air it due to ‘internal miscommunication.’ The Nation of Islam has not been informed of what was the alleged ‘internal miscommunication.’

“The timing of Netflix’s decision – at the 11th hour – to cancel the airing of the documentary affected millions of potential viewers and raises more questions than answers: In light of this untimely sequence of events, did Netflix bow to outside forces in canceling the airing of the documentary? Did media pressure contribute to this result? What do the opponents of truth not want you to learn about Minister Farrakhan?”

The NOI press release did not consider the possibility that Farrakhan has managed to make so many enemies over the years, that his attempt to whitewash his despicable role in race relations in America, especially his vile comments against Jews, just can’t take.


Sun, 08/05/2018 - 02:06

King David begins the Book of Psalms by focusing on man. This man’s first action is to walk, in Hebrew halakh (הלך), and immediately upon setting out on his journey he is forced to decide which path he should take: righteous or wicked, fruitful or barren. This ‘walking’ reminds us of God’s first words to Avraham (Abraham) directing him to travel to the land of Israel, lech lecha (לך לך), ‘Go forth’ (Genesis 12:1), and more significantly, kum hithalekh ba’aretz (קום התהלך בארץ), ‘Arise, walk about the land’ (Genesis 13:17). David may have been reminding us that while praising God transcends time and place, the Books of Psalms was written in the Land of Israel, the ancient walking grounds of our forefathers.

Incendiary Balloons Ignite Over 40 Fires in Southern Israel

Sat, 08/04/2018 - 18:07

The Hamas-led March of Return riots continued over the weekend and participants sent incendiary kites and balloons over the border into Israel. Over 30 fires were ignited in southern Israel on Friday and at least ten more on Saturday. Kan Broadcasting said it was the highest number of arson attacks since Hamas declared an unofficial ceasefire with Israel last month. The IDF reported that it fired at two terror cells that launched incendiary devices.

Countless aerial incendiary devices have been sent from Gaza since the March of Return riots began on March 30. This has resulted in hundreds of fires that have burned over 7,000 acres of land causing millions of shekels in damages.

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On Friday, a number of suspects infiltrated Israel from the southern Gaza Strip, hurled firebombs and an explosive device in the border fence area, and then returned into the Gaza Strip. In response, an IDF tank targeted a Hamas military post in the southern Gaza Strip

Report: Kushner Seeking to End UNRWA and Multi-Generation PA Refugee Status

Sat, 08/04/2018 - 17:46

A report claims that Jared Kushner, U.S. President Donald Trump’s son-in-law and senior advisor, is trying to eliminate the United Nations Relief and Works Agency (UNRWA) and reset its definition of refugees that grants open-ended refugee status to Palestinians.

“It is important to have an honest and sincere effort to disrupt UNRWA,” Foreign Policy reported Kushner writing in an email, dated Jan. 11 and addressed to several other senior officials, including Trump’s Middle East peace envoy, Jason Greenblatt. “This [agency] perpetuates a status quo, is corrupt, inefficient and doesn’t help peace.”

“Our goal can’t be to keep things stable and as they are. … Sometimes you have to strategically risk breaking things in order to get there,” the email continued.

Just a few days after this email, the U.S. froze $65 million in UNRWA funding.

The following day, Victoria Coates, a senior advisor to Special Representative for International Negotiations Jason Greenblatt, sent an email to the White House’s national security staff indicating that the White House was considering a way to eliminate theUNRWA for Palestinian refugees.

“UNRWA should come up with a plan to unwind itself and become part of the UNHCR [U.N. High Commissioner for Refugees] by the time its charter comes up again in 2019,” Coates wrote.

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The UNRWA was established in 1949 to aid Palestinian refugees in the wake of Israel’s War of Independence. The UNHCR definition of a refugee is someone who has been forced to flee his or her country because of persecution, war or violence. The UNRWA expanded this definition solely for Palestinians to include all patrilineal descendants of any Arab that had lived in Israel for at least two years prior to being displaced by Israel’s War of  Independence in 1948. As a result of this open-ended inherited refugee status, the number of Palestinian refugees has grown and UNRWA now claims there are an estimated 5.3 million registered patrilineal descendants of the original “Palestine refugees.” A report by the State Department determined the number of Palestinian refugees who personally fled Israel as per the normal definition of the term ‘refugee,’ at around 20,000.

This open-ended definition has been blamed for artificially perpetuating the Israel-Palestinian conflict and for artificially extending the UNRWA’s mandate.

Kushner and Greenblatt reportedly asked Jordan to reclassify the more than 2 million Palestinians who live there as non-refugees. Jordan is the only Arab country to fully integrate the Palestinian refugees of 1948.

U.S. lawmakers are considering two bills that may facilitate this new approach to the Palestinians. Last week, Rep. Doug Lamborn, (R-Colorado) introduced a bill that would limit assistance to only the original refugees with most of the money being redirected to the U.S. Agency for International Development (USAID). USAID is currently constrained by the Taylor Force Act, limiting assistance to the Palestinian Authority until it ends its policy of giving money to terrorists and their families.

“Instead of resettling Palestinian refugees displaced as a result of the Arab-Israeli Conflict of 1948, UNRWA provides aid to those they define as Palestinian refugees until there is a solution they deem acceptable to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict,” Lamborn’s bill states. “This policy does not help resettle the refugees from 1948 but instead maintains a refugee population in perpetuity.”

Foreign Policy also reported on a bill that is about to be introduced by Sen. James Lankford, (R-Okla.) which

would require the U.S. secretary of state to certify by 2020 that the UN ends its recognition of Palestinian descendants as refugees.

“The United Nations should provide assistance to the Palestinians in a way that makes clear that the United Nations does not recognize the vast majority of Palestinians currently registered by UNRWA as refugees deserving refugee status,” reads a draft obtained by Foreign Policy.


Fri, 08/03/2018 - 07:35

The Prophet Isaiah speaks speaks of an idyllic time in the future when the earth is calm. Calm may not be one of the first words that one would use to describe the future redemption. The Bible however, does use the calm numerous times as a positive character trait as well as a desirable state of mind. Proverbs 29:11, “A dullard vents all his rage, but a wise man calms it down”, and Proverbs 14:30 “A calm disposition gives bodily health; passion is rot to the bones” both mention the loftiness of calmness and describe this state as one that all of humanity should strive to achieve.

Jewish Groups Slam Episcopal Bishop for Spreading ‘Blood Libel’

Fri, 08/03/2018 - 06:38

An Episcopal bishop spread a “blood libel” against the Jewish state at the Episcopal Church’s General Convention in July, according to CAMERA analyst Dexter Van Zile.

Bishop Suffragan Gayle Harris was filmed urging the passage of a resolution condemning Israel during a July 13, 2018 meeting of the denomination’s House of Bishops.

In her testimony in support of a resolution condemning Israel, Harris made two accusations of Israeli heartlessness and criminality.

First, she accused Israeli officers of trying to hand-cuff a three-year-old boy on the Temple Mount after the child’s rubber ball allegedly rolled off the Temple Mount and fell onto the Western Wall below.

“The problem is, her story must be fake,” Van Zile told JNS. “Besides Bishop Harris’s obvious attempt to demonize the Jewish state, there is the physical fact that a number of buildings and structures between the Temple Mount and the Western Wall make it impossible for a ball to simply roll off the Temple Mount and onto the plaza below. Her story is bogus.”

Second, video footage of Harris shows her accusing Israeli soldiers of gunning down a defenseless Palestinian teenager, shooting him ten times in the back. She doesn’t say where or when the attack took place. The Simon Wiesenthal Center has called her charges “fabrications” which border on “blood libel.” The Episcopal Diocese of Boston has remained silent in the face of the center’s criticism.

“Bishop Harris doesn’t provide any evidence whatsoever for these defamatory and incendiary charges,” Van Zile said. “She makes it sound as if she were an eye-witness to these alleged atrocities, but why hasn’t anyone else told the world about these events?”

If the events Harris described happened, there “would be wall-to-wall coverage,” Van Zile said. “But the first we’ve heard of these atrocities is from Bishop Harris at the Episcopal Church’s General Convention a few years after they happened. That doesn’t make sense. Unless Harris can provide extraordinary proof of the events she described, it’s reasonable to conclude she is promoting a blood libel worthy of the Middle Ages. People are talking about the modern state of Israel the way people spoke about Jews in Medieval Europe,” Van Zile said. “No calumny is off-limits.”

On behalf of the Committee for Accuracy in Middle East Reporting in America (CAMERA), Van Zile wrote a formal letter to the Episcopal Diocese of Massachusetts requesting that Bishop Harris substantiate her stories or retract them and apologize.

“If she cannot substantiate the stories she told her fellow Bishops, she should publicly retract the stories and apologize publicly for issuing such ugly propaganda in a church setting,” Van Zile said.

Is ‘Israel’ a Dirty Word on Facebook?

Fri, 08/03/2018 - 05:26

Is Facebook flagging fake news or censoring content?

It’s a question that many have been asking since June, when Facebook posted hiring notices for “news credibility specialists,” who come up with a list of credible and non-credible news publishers. This job, according to Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg, was previously accomplished by news consumers and artificial intelligence.

How trustworthy a source is ranked determines whether its content will be boosted or suppressed. However, this team of specialists is headquartered at Facebook, in what is often considered liberal and secular Silicon Valley. The move generated fear of what is turning out to be real prejudice, as Facebook has been shown to discriminate against Conservative viewpoints, among many others.

Facebook CEO, Mark Zuckerberg, testifying to the US Congress. (Credit: YouTube screenshot)

Zuckerberg said in an April hearing in Congress that it is “a fair concern” that liberal posts may receive more favorable treatment because of his employees’ political leanings.

Conservative leaders have spoken out against this biased censorship. Following Zuckerberg’s Congress hearing, a joint statement by 62 conservative leaders and led by the Media Research Center called on social media platforms to provide transparency, clarity on “hate speech,” equal footing for Conservatives, and adjusted standards that align with the First Amendment as interpreted by the U.S. Supreme Court. They called on Facebook, YouTube, Twitter and Google to stop rejecting pro-life advertisements, banning gun videos and skewing search results, arguing that the tech titans “work with groups openly hostile to conservatives to restrict speech.”

“Social media companies must address these complaints if they wish to have any credibility with the conservative movement and its tens of millions of supporters,” the statement said.

Financial Consequences

In addition to harming freedom of speech by relegating articles and other content that these specialists don’t agree with, Facebook’s new policies seem also to be censoring right-leaning nonprofits who are trying to capture leads or fundraise on the platform.

In June – at the same time as the credibility specialists were hired – Facebook launched a new system for advertisements in the United States of “politics and issues.” The new policy includes adding a “paid for by” label on all politics and issues ads, as well as making these and news ads publicly searchable in an advertising archive.

While Facebook said they chose not to shut down all political ads completely because it could unfairly favor political candidates without resources for more pricey advertising platforms, many companies are reporting that the nonprofits, business and keywords that Facebook is deeming political in its new system is stifling their lead generation and their ability to advertise or fundraise effectively.

American Friends of Meir Panim, the fundraising arm of Meir Panim in Israel, works to alleviate poverty in Israel.  The organization told Breaking Israel News that multiple ads in the last few months have been deemed political, despite their goal of feeding all Israelis without preference to background, religion, age, gender and ethnicity.   

“Youthbuild Israel” program participants. (Courtesy Meir Panim)

“Multiple times when we’ve boosted posts on our Facebook account, which has close to 30,000 followers, we’ve gotten an automated message from Facebook that the boost has not been approved due to ‘political content,’” said Danielle Rubin, project director at American Friends of Meir Panim. “But these posts have been appeals to support our work combating poverty in Israel, for example, with a ‘call to action’ to feed hungry children in Israel.”

Rubin said that though she cannot prove it, it seems that the word “Israel” causes Facebook’s Artificial intelligence (AI) algorithm to automatically reject posts.

“When we get rejected, we submit an appeal to Facebook and after a live person reviews the post it is approved,” Rubin said, noting that while waiting on Facebook valuable leads and donors are lost.

“It’s concerning that the word ‘Israel’ is deemed automatically as political by Facebook,” she continued. “As a nonprofit, we are completely apolitical. We have restaurant-style soup kitchens located across Israel, and we provide a hot meal to anyone who walks through the door, regardless of race, religion or ethnic background. Feeding hungry people is not a political statement.”

According to Facebook, political ads are only available for verified U.S. advertisers who reside in the U.S. and who plan to target the U.S. with ads. Facebook defines political ads as anything related to: abortion, budget, civil rights, crime, economy, education, energy, environment, foreign policy, government reform, guns, health, immigration, infrastructure, military, poverty, social security, taxes, terrorism and values.

Many point out that Facebook’s definitions are vague and open to interpretation, especially when using human moderators – each of whom comes with his or her own political leanings and biases – to flag content.

How Does Facebook Make Decisions?

Last year, documents were released that were provided to Facebook moderators, showing that Facebook may make decisions based on expected response rather than its own policies, international law or moral code.

In a report released by The Guardian, the documents showed that, “Facebook does not want to remove Holocaust denial content in any country where it is illegal. But it appears to make exceptions in four countries – those where the site is likely to face prosecution or be sued.”

Dr. Tehilla Shwartz Altshuler, senior fellow and head of the Democracy in the Information Age Program at the Israel Democracy Institute told Breaking Israel News that Facebook is trying to adopt a “neutral attitude” because of its commercial interests. Additionally she said that “Facebook is creating pretty deep emotional social behavioral profiles about us” to sell to advertisers, something she finds “very worrisome in an age where our online life can greatly influence our personal and democratic decisions.”

The Stakes are High

Indeed, when it comes to finding the correct balance between free speech and censorship, the sources from which people consume news – which are being sourced more and more often by social media – shape the way people make informed democratic decisions.

The latest Pew Research Center Study on social media usage showed that 45 percent of Americans get their news from Facebook – and that percentage is increasing. From 2016 to 2017, the number of Americans getting at least a portion of their news from social media increased from 62 percent to 67 percent. With 45 percent of American teenagers reporting that they are online “almost constantly” and another 44 percent saying they log on “several times a day,” the effects of censorship could shape the way Americans think and act.

ADL National Director and CEO, Jonathan Greenblatt. (Credit: PopTech via

Jonathan Greenblatt, national director and CEO of the ADL, voiced concern over the proliferation of fake news in closed groups on Facebook and encrypted media, such as WhatsApp.

“Facebook has made some progress in responding to Holocaust denial,” Greenblatt said, as “there are fewer open Facebook groups devoted to promoting Holocaust denial. But there are still closed groups that are hotbeds for it.”

Similarly, said Shwartz Altshuler said that while Facebook is comparatively public, migration to closed groups, such as on WhatsApp or closed Facebook groups, are harder to monitor and regulate, censor, and punish.

“We now know from research about Twitter that fake news and disinformation penetrates deeper into social networks than the truth” said Shwartz Altshuler. “And even though Facebook says they are slowing down fake news, we don’t know how slowing down is being applied.”

Another problem, she posed, is the echo chamber effect, where the information that shows in one’s news feed reflects one’s own interests and opinions, which Shwartz Altshuler said causes political polarization, as people are only being exposed to certain opinions and news.

“The knowledge that you’re surrounded by other people who share the same ideas as you has a strengthening effect on people, increasing self confidence and sense of belonging,” she said. “Its influence on you is much stronger than when you are exposed to a marketplace of ideas.”

Shwartz Altshuler said Facebook can tell advertisers in a tailor-made way about individual’s fears, emotions and other aspects of their profile, making the ability for these advertisers to influence their audience much stronger.

“Having the power to influence your opinions, especially before elections, undermines the whole idea of the democratic process,” Shwartz Altshuler said.

She cited Russia’s influence on American voters before the last election, when the Russians were able to target people who were not intending to go out and vote and encourage them to do so. This, said Shwartz Altshuler helped President Donald Trump win the election.

“So sometimes it’s not only the influence on specific ideas, but also the ability to influence people to act in a way that would help one side of the election campaign,” she said.

Striking the Right Balance?

In a July interview with Recode, Zuckerberg announced that Holocaust denial is appropriate content for Facebook because even though the content is “deeply offensive,” he didn’t “think that [Holocaust deniers are] intentionally getting it wrong.”

He explained that while Facebook will not remove conspiracy theories like Holocaust denial, they will “stop fake news and misinformation from spreading” thereby losing “the vast majority of its distribution.”

“Reducing the distribution of misinformation — rather than removing it outright — strikes the right balance between free expression and a safe and authentic community,” Facebook said in a statement.

Soviet forces liberate Auschwitz-Birkenau 27 January 1945. (Credit: World War Archive Facebook)

But not all are in agreement that Facebook is striking the right balance. While the ADL says that Holocaust denial isn’t just misinformation – it’s hate speech that should be taken down – others say that Facebook censorship undermines the democratic practice, silences moderate voices and even limits fundraising efforts of organizations doing humanitarian work in regions of conflict.

What each of the groups has in common is their recognition that in this digital age where online content means power, transparent and accountable social media platforms are more vital than ever before.

ADL’s Greenblatt believes that giving a platform for Holocaust denial does not facilitate a “safe community,” a goal that Facebook expressed in a July statement. Rather, Greenblatt said in a report in the NY Daily News, “Facebook’s CEO fails to understand that Holocaust denial is not simply a gross distortion of the facts, but is also a pernicious form of anti-Semitic hate speech that serves no other purpose than to attack Jews.”

Because Facebook bans hate speech, he argued, Facebook should also root out Holocaust denial.

“We are talking here about a conspiracy theory which argues that Jews around the world knowingly fabricated evidence of their own genocide in order to extract reparations from Germany, gain world sympathy and facilitate the theft of Palestinian land for the creation of Israel,” Greenblatt said, “It is founded on the belief that Jews are able to force governments, Hollywood, the media and academia to promote a lie at the expense of non-Jews.”

Facebook community standards define hate speech as a “direct attack on people based on what we call protected characteristics — race, ethnicity, national origin, religious affiliation, sexual orientation, sex, gender, gender identity, and serious disability or disease.” Greenblatt said he places anti-Semitism at the core of this definition.

While Greenblatt has called for more censorship on the issue of Holocaust denial, others believe that Facebook is going too far in its censorship – arguing that its censorship processes are biased and effectively silencing voices by wrongfully freezing certain types of accounts and posts.

For Imam Mohammad Tawhidi, often called “the Imam of peace,” this censorship undermined his ability to spread messages of moderation and counter the ideology and terrorist attacks of Islamic extremism to his 100,000 followers.

A post in which he criticized Palestinian terrorist organization Hamas “for launching a missile into an Israeli Kindergarten, targeting Jewish children” was flagged by “mass extremists” and led Facebook to disable his page as well as his personal account. Before his account was reactivated, he created a video plea to Mark Zuckerberg saying, “I use these platforms to bridge between different communities and to spread peace.”

He continued, “I wasn’t given the option to appeal on Facebook,” asking Zuckerberg why pages of Islamic extremists are verified and not taken down while “the page of a moderate Imam is taken down… Silencing me only allows the extremists to win.”

The disabling of Tawhidi’s post may have occurred as a result of a Facebook employee responding to the number of users who flagged his post, or it may have occurred as a result of a Facebook engineer-made algorithm that flagged keywords. However, Tawhidi will never know, as Facebook is often not completely open about why a post, ad or page is shut down.

Moving Toward Transparency?

Many critics of Facebook’s censoring practices say the company should be both more specific in defining its terms and be more transparent about how and why they flag content.  

Facebook is slowly responding to criticism against its imbalanced censorship practices, for example closing Safa News Agency’s account, which had close connections to Hamas, and taking down videos that incite physical violence, such as in Myanmar where killings were linked to hate speech on the site.

Facebook has also tested a “hate speech button” that asks  users if a status contains hate speech, confirming that they were trying to understand how people will react to the new tag and different posts, including posts that Facebook deems as not hate speech.

Others agree that more transparency is necessary, calling for “open systems so that they can be held accountable, while giving weight to privacy concerns.”

“Facebook isn’t always accurate about their policies, and they are not transparent about them,” said Shwartz Altshuler, who maintained that leaders in the industry should be seeking international cooperation to help Facebook better define its platform’s community standards.

“What we have seen with the GDPR [the General Data Protection Regulation in EU law on data protection and privacy within the EU] is that once you have a big body that is willing to stand against social media platforms, it can actually influence their mode of operations,” she said, noting that the decline in Facebook stock that recently took place is a partial reflection on GDPR.

(Credit: Graphic Stock)

“This means that when the EU wants to implement values and to force social media platform to obey those values, they can do it,” said Shwartz Altshuler.

Schwartz Altshuler said that in cooperation with German authorities, Israel tried to give the Israeli criminal justice system the power and authority to issue orders to remove content from the general Internet, but Facebook and Twitter said they’d remove it only from Israeli IP users.

“So they would only effectively clean the Israeli Internet – and even then, you’re turning the Internet into local authorities, which changes the nature of the Internet as we know it,” she explained.

Shwartz Altshuler suggested cooperatively defining what hate speech is, “by sorting it out to different sub-definitions.” For instance, she said Facebook should consider whether satire is considered hate speech.

“Is dehumanizing people through satire?” Shwartz Altshuler asked. “How exactly do you define a group when it comes to defining hate speech as it pertains to a group? There is a lot of work to be done here to make precise decisions and definitions.”

Another solution she offered is making the enforcement process much more transparent but also involving other groups and bodies outside of the platforms in the enforcement process, for instance, having bodies of civil society that would be able to make a decision when Facebook is not sure whether certain content should be removed or not.

“I think that this whole process can be applied only when governments gather together and make enough pressure on the platform in the sense that they say, ‘If you don’t do it yourself, according to our guidelines, we are going to legislate and do it ourselves,’” Shwartz Altshuler said. She also noted that this would be no different than how the government handles traditional media, which is charged with creating press councils and self-regulating bodies so that the government does not have to meddle in its content decisions.

How will Facebook respond?

The community is waiting. In the meantime, the stakes are high.

Yankees Legend Visits Israeli Army Base

Fri, 08/03/2018 - 03:23

Former legendary New York Yankees pitcher Mariano Rivera visited an Israel Defense Forces base in northern Israel in solidarity with Israeli soldiers.

Rivera, who played 19 seasons with the Yankees and was widely regarded as one of the best closers in baseball history, was in Israel as part of a spiritual interfaith mission led by the New York Board of Rabbis.

As part of this mission, Friends of the Israel Defense Forces (FIDF) arranged a base visit, where Rivera and mission participants learned about the FIDF programs carried out at the IDF Alon Educational and Instructional Center (Michve Alon base), where support is given to soldiers from at-risk populations to help them adapt to their army service, and become successful and contributing citizens in Israel.

Among the FIDF courses for the about 6,000 soldiers stationed at Michve Alon are those that help new immigrants and soldiers from minority groups learn Hebrew.

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“I’m privileged and honored to be here, and learn about the young men and women who are here in the IDF, being trained to be a better person, a better citizen and a better human being,” Rivera said while meeting with soldiers. “For me, it was something special that I will take with me through my life.”

Rivera was joined in the visit by members of his church, Refugio de Esperanza-Refuge of Hope in New Rochelle, N.Y., where his wife, Clara, serves as pastor. Rivera is involved in several philanthropic initiatives, primarily through the Mariano Rivera Foundation and the Christian community.

“We were thrilled to host Mr. Mariano Rivera at Michve Alon to witness FIDF’s important programs in action,” said FIDF National director and CEO, Maj. Gen. (Res.) Meir Klifi-Amir. “Considering Rivera’s own remarkable philanthropic endeavors, including his foundation’s work helping impoverished communities and providing education assistance, we believe that he’d recognize and appreciate how valuable FIDF’s programs are for IDF soldiers of all backgrounds.”

Iranian Navy Conducts Snap Drills In Strait of Hormuz

Fri, 08/03/2018 - 03:05

Iran has conducted a snap naval drill in the Straits of Hormuz. It is significant for many reasons; including that it is a gateway for a third of the world’s oil. The threat of renewed U.S. sanctions also forms part of the backdrop to the Iranian move.