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A Bipartisan “Arc of Justice”: Trump Commutes Rubashkin’s Unjust Sentence

Thu, 01/04/2018 - 02:00

There are several important lessons to be gleaned from President Trump’s act of justice and compassion. First, even in this age of hyper-partisanship, there are issues of simple justice that can unite diverse elements. Second, no one should ever give up on the quest for justice, even when all legal appeals have been exhausted.

The Bible commands, “Justice, Justice you must run after”. It requires active pursuit of justice — not passive acceptance of injustice — for the right result to be achieved.

As Martin Luther King Jr. put it: “The arc of the moral universe is long, but it bends toward justice.”

The president of the United States has the constitutional authority to pardon any defendant and commute any sentence. It is a power rarely used. Recently, US President Donald Trump commuted an outrageously unjust sentence imposed on a Chasidic Jew named Sholom Rubashkin, who had been convicted of a bank fraud that generally warrants a sentence of a few years and a fine. This case was tried in the Iowa federal court. The prosecution manipulated the sale of Rubashkin’s company to lower the price, thereby increasing the loss to the bank. Under the federal sentencing guidelines, the greater the loss, the higher the sentence. The prosecutor recommended a sentence of 25 years, more than 10 times what this crime warranted. But even that was not enough for the judge, who — remarkably — increased the sentence over the one recommended by the overzealous prosecutor. The final sentence was 27 years — more than sentences often imposed on murderers, rapists, armed robbers, and mobsters. This was especially unjustified, as Rubashkin had a clean record and a large family. There is no explanation for this wildly excessive sentence other than bias.

Appeals failed, but those seeking justice would not give up. I received a call from a prominent business and religious leader, Isaac Schapira, who pleaded with me to look into the case. I did and concluded that this was a perfect case for a presidential commutation of such an unjust sentence. I was not alone. Dozens of former prosecutors, judges and other law enforcement officials agreed, including former Attorney General Michael Mukasey, former Director of the FBI, Louis Freeh, Harvard Professor Phillip Heymann, former Justice Department official Larry Thomson, and many others. We were joined by elected officials, including Senator Orrin Hatch and Congresswoman Nancy Pelosi. The advocates for justice for Rubashkin included Republicans and Democrats, liberals and conservatives, prosecutors and defense attorneys, Jews and non-Jews, women and men. In this age of partisan division, we all united around this call for simple justice and compassion. We worked with Rubashkin’s superb lawyer, Gary Apfel, and his earlier lawyers, including the legal icon, Nathan Lewin.

The joint effort was coordinated largely by an organization called The Aleph Institute. The moving force was an energetic rabbi, Zvi Boyarsky, who seemed never to sleep, and called others and me at all hours of the day and night. He solicited letters from prominent individuals from the day of the sentencing until the day of the commutation.

We had tried in vain to obtain a commutation from President Obama, who had pardoned or commuted the sentences of many small-time drug dealers who had received unjustly long sentences, but he did not act on the Rubashkin request.

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When President Trump was elected, we renewed our effort. I played a small role in bringing the matter to President Trump’s attention. I had been invited to the White House to discuss the Israeli-Palestinian conflict because I have a long-term friendship with Israel’s Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu. When that discussion was concluded, I raised the issue of Rubashkin, emphasizing the unfairness of the prosecution manipulating the sales price of his company and the loss to the bank in order to secure a higher sentence. As an experienced businessman, President Trump understood the unfairness of this tactic. He said he would look into the matter of commutation.

Several months later, he commuted Rubashkin’s sentence to the 8 years he had already served He did not pardon him — and did he not commute the large financial penalty and probationary aspects of the sentence. Rubashkin was immediately freed from prison on the last day of Chanukah and returned to his large family and community to celebrate a joyous Sabbath.

There are several important lessons to be gleaned from President Trump’s act of justice and compassion. First, even in this age of hyper-partisanship, there are issues of simple justice that can unite diverse elements. Second, no one should ever give up on the quest for justice, even when all legal appeals have been exhausted. The Bible commands, “Justice, Justice you must run after”. It requires active pursuit of justice — not passive acceptance of injustice — for the right result to be achieved As Martin Luther King Jr. put it: “The arc of the moral universe is long, but it bends toward justice.” Thanks to all the justice-seekers who worked together, and thanks to President Trump, on the last day of Chanukah, that moral arc moved a little bit closer to justice.

(Image source: ILTV video screenshot)

Reprinted with author’s permission from Gatestone Institute

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US Ambassador Pays Condolence Call to MK Rabbi Yehudah Glick

Thu, 01/04/2018 - 01:35

US Ambassador to Israel David Friedman paid a condolence call to Likud member of Knesset Rabbi Yehudah Glick on Wednesday. Rabbi Glick’s wife, Yaffa, passed away on Monday. Visiting a mourner is a mitzvah (Torah commandment) of the highest order and Friedman is a Torah observant Jew.

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Israel Discovers Covert Iranian Intelligence Operation Near Hebron

Thu, 01/04/2018 - 01:30

Israel’s Shin Bet security agency said Tuesday that it has uncovered an Iranian military intelligence operation near Hebron that was planning to carry out terror attacks and collect intelligence for the Islamic Republic.

Mahmoud Makharmeh (Shin Bet)

According to the Shin Bet, the key suspect arrested was Mahmoud Makharmeh, 29, a computer engineering student who resides in Hebron. He was recruited for Iranian intelligence by his relative, Bakhar Makharmeh, who is also from Hebron but has resided in South Africa in recent years.

In 2015, Mahmoud Makharmeh visited South Africa and met several times with Iranian intelligence agents, the Shin Bet said.

“The operation demonstrates the Iranian involvement in encouraging terror attacks against Israel and also shows the forces being sent by Iran to countries around the world, in order to advance enemy activities against Israel,” stated the Israeli security agency.

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Among the crimes Mahmoud Makharmeh was charged with include recruiting suicide terrorists and a cell to carry out shooting attacks, undergoing a training course in explosives and war materials, and recruiting Israeli Arabs who could take photographs inside of Israel for intelligence gathering.

The Shin Bet said it has learned that Iranian intelligence has been using South Africa as a significant center for locating, recruiting and operating agents against Israel in Judea and Samaria.

“I would like to bring it to your attention that Iran is using terrorism against the State of Israel not only with the assistance of terrorist movements such as Hamas, Hezbollah and Islamic Jihad, but is also attempting to organize terrorist actions inside the State of Israel and against the citizens of Israel,” Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said Tuesday.

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High-Tech Exits For 2017 Soar to $23 Billion

Thu, 01/04/2018 - 01:30

Israeli high-tech exits  totaled $23 billion in 2017 thanks to two mega deals that accounted for 72 percent of the total amount – the $15.3 billion acquisition of autonomous driving and vehicle safety technology developer Mobileye by Intel, and the $1.1 billion of drug developer  Neuroderm by Japan’s Mitsubishi Tanabe Pharma – according to data released Wednesday by the IVC research firm.

Despite an overall decline in the number of exits, excluding the two mega-deals, exit capital volume was up 19% on 2016 at $6.6 billion. The number of exits dropped 8 percent in 2017 compared to 2016.

Excluding buyouts and exits above $1 billion, a major decrease was seen during 2017 in the number of non-VC-backed exits; 57 deals – the lowest in the past 5 years. The value of non-VC-backed exits continued to decline for the fourth year, down to $2.22 billion in 2017. VC-backed exits performed more steadily and stayed on course, with 44 exits in 2017 totaling $2.88 billion. The data revealed a decrease of 18 percent in the number of exits in small to mid-range deals (up to $100 million) in 2017. The major decline happened in non-VC-backed exits, while VC-backed exits demonstrated a minor decline.

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The number of exits above $100 million showed an increase of more than 60 percent, following a slowdown in 2016.

While software and life sciences exit activity slightly increased in terms of amounts and kept to the average number of deals compared to 2016, the number of exits in communications (-29%) and Internet (- 28%) dropped significantly compared to the previous four years. Both sectors suffered from a decrease in exit capital volume.

“While we can see a decrease in several threads of Israeli high-tech, the specifics of this exit report support the known innovative strength of Israeli high-tech”, said Benzi Segev, IVC Research Center CEO.

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On Assassination, Preemption, and Counterterrorism: The View from International Law

Thu, 01/04/2018 - 01:00

International Journal of Intelligence and CounterIntelligence, Volume 21, Issue 4 December 2008, pages 694 – 725

The United States and a few of its more-or-less reluctant allies are presently engaged in an inconclusive “war”[1] with terrorism. [2] By definition, war requires killing as remediation. Yet, while virtually all societies and civilizations accept the permissibility of warfare involving vast armies and powerful armaments in particular circumstances (to wit, the long tradition of a just war doctrine [3] in philosophy, theology, and jurisprudence), most would nonetheless deny the legality and ethical correctness of targeted killings, such as assassinations. These denials sometimes accompany even fully incontestable expressions of anticipatory self-defense.[4] A similarly far-reaching rejection of preemptive strikes[5]that involve larger-scale military force also prevails.

For more than a quarter-century I have argued openly, in various lectures and numerous law journals, for the limited legality and pragmatic reasonableness[6] of assassination as an element of counterterrorism.[7] The core of my argument has always been a utilitarian calculation in preserving innocent human lives. Specifically, I have maintained that the preemptive elimination of terrorists who plan large-scale, or even unconventional, mass casualty attacks against Americans and others could ultimately save the lives of a great many intended terrorist victims. Of course, such targeted killing would always require maximal attention to the long-standing rules of war[8] concerning discrimination,[9] proportionality,[10] and military necessity.

Also present is the question of justice.[11] Among the most sacred American ideals is the rule of Nullum crimen sine poena, “No crime without a punishment.” This principle, drawn from the worlds of ancient Israel[12] and ancient Greece, is explicitly codified in the binding Nuremberg[13] Principles of International Law.[14] Where planners of egregious crimes[15] such as the 11 September 2001 terrorist attacks on the United States cannot be punished by any normal judicial remedy (for example, very little international compliance with the codified and customary norm of aut dedere, aut punire (“extradite or prosecute”) can be expected),[16] the choice must be to leave these murderers unpunished, or to punish them extra-judicially.[17]

Punishment[18] is always at the heart of justice,[19] but intelligence professionals and police officials are understandably less concerned with the punishment of past terrorist crimes than with the prevention of future terrorist attacks.[20] The imperative to seek prevention is all the more considerable when future attacks are more apt to employ weapons of mass destruction.[21] Under the settled international law,[22] the United States has this defensive obligation, and corollary authority, under the customary right of anticipatory self-defense and also the treaty-based right of self-defense following an armed attack at Article 51 of the United Nations Charter.[23] Acknowledging this obligation and authority, President George W. Bush, on 20 September 2002, issued The National Security Strategy of the United States.[24] Unilaterally extending America’s right of preemption in foreign affairs, the “Bush Doctrine”-drawing upon antecedent principles of law and justice-asserts that traditional concepts of deterrence will not work against an enemy “whose avowed tactics are wanton destruction and the targeting of innocents….”[25] It continues: “We must adapt the concept of imminent threat to the capabilities and objectives of today’s adversaries.” This “adaptation,” of course, means nothing less than striking first where an emergent threat to the United States is presumed to be unacceptable.

Might the broadened right of preemption asserted by President Bush include assassination? Normally, preemptive strikes are thought of in terms of much larger-scale military operations directed against enemy forces and/or infrastructures. Moreover, substantial prohibitions of assassination in domestic and international law would seem to prima facie rule out this use of force as an expression of anticipatory self-defense. Yet, when the issues are examined purposefully and dispassionately, assassination will sometimes turn out to clearly be the most humane and useful form of preemption. Getting beyond any deep-seated visceral objections that are detached from the rational jurisprudential calculation is necessary in order to very carefully compare targeted killing with all other available preemption options. To be sure, assassination is not “nice,” but neither is full-scale war.

International law is not a suicide pact.[26] The right of self-defense by forestalling an attack was already established by Hugo Grotius in Book II of The Law of War and Peace in 1625.[27] Recognizing the need for “present danger” and threatening behavior that is “imminent in a point of time,”[28] Grotius indicated that self-defense is to be permitted, not only after an attack has already been suffered, but also in advance, where “the deed may be anticipated.”[29] “It be lawful to kill him,” wrote Grotius, “who is preparing to kill….”[30]

What particular strategies and tactics may be implemented as appropriate instances of anticipatory self-defense? Might they even include assassination?[31] Understood as tyrannicide,[32] assassination has sometimes been acceptable under international law (e.g., Aristotle’s Politics; Plutarch’s Lives and Cicero’s De Officiis).[33] But the primary concern here is not with the international law of human rights,[34] but rather with those equally peremptory rights[35] of legitimate self-defense[36] and national self-protection.


Normally, of course, the assassination of officials in other states represents a clear violation of international law. Where no state of war exists, such assassination would likely constitute a crime of aggression and/or the crime of terrorism.[37] Regarding aggression, Article 1 of the Resolution on the Definition of Aggression, adopted by the United Nations General Assembly in December 1974, defines this crime, inter alia, as: “… the use of armed force by a State against the sovereignty, territorial integrity or political independence of another State, or in any other manner inconsistent with the Charter of the United Nations, as set out in this Definition.”[38]

In view of the jus cogens norm of nonintervention[39] codified in the UN Charter that would ordinarily be violated by transnational assassination, such killing would generally qualify as aggression. Assuming that transnational assassination constitutes an example of “armed force,” the criminalization, as aggression, of such activity, may also be extrapolated from Article 2 of the Definition of Aggression: “The first use of armed force by a State in contravention of the Charter shall constitute prima facie evidence of an act of aggression although the Security Council may, in conformity with the Charter, conclude that a determination that an act of aggression has been committed would not be justified in the light of other relevant circumstances.”[40]

In the absence of belligerency, the assassination of officials in one state upon the orders of another state might also be considered as terrorism.[41] Although it never entered into force, the League of Nations’ Convention for the Prevention and Punishment of Terrorism[42] warrants consideration and consultation.[43] Inasmuch as the Convention on the Prevention and Punishment of Crimes Against Internationally Protected Persons, Including Diplomatic Agents, is normally taken as a convention on terrorism, its particular prohibitions on assassination are also relevant here. After defining “internationally protected person” at Article 1 of the Convention, Article 1 identifies as a crime, inter alia, “The intentional commission of (a) a murder, kidnapping or other attacks upon the person or liberty of an internationally protected person.”[44]

The European Convention on the Suppression of Terrorism reinforced the Convention on the Prevention and Punishment of Crimes Against Internationally Protected Persons. According to Article 1(c) of this Convention, one of the constituent crimes of terror violence is “a serious offense involving an attack against the life, physical integrity or liberty of internationally protected persons, including diplomatic agents.” And, according to Article 1(e), another constituent terrorist crime is “an offense involving the use of a bomb, grenade, rocket, automatic firearm or letter or parcel bomb if this use endangers persons.”[45]


When a condition of war exists between states, transnational assassination is normally considered a war crime under international law. According to Article 23(b) of the regulations annexed to Hague Convention IV of 18 October 1907, respecting the laws and customs of war on land: “It is especially forbidden … to kill or wound treacherously, individuals belonging to the hostile nation or army.” U.S. Army Field Manual 27-10, The Law of Land Warfare (1956), which has incorporated this prohibition, authoritatively links Hague Article 23(b) to assassination at Paragraph 31: “This article is construed as prohibiting assassination, proscription or outlawry of an enemy, or putting a price upon an enemy’s head, as well as offering a reward for an enemy ‘dead or alive.’”[46] Whether or not a particular state has followed a comparable form of incorporation, it is certainly bound by the Hague codification and by the 1945 Nuremberg judgment that the rules found in the Hague regulations had entered into customary international law as of 1939.[47]

A contrary argument exists, however. Here the position is offered that enemy officials, as long as they are operating within the military chain of command[48] are combatants and not enemies hors de combat. By this reasoning (reasoning, incidentally, which was accepted widely with reference to the question of assassinating Saddam Hussein during Operation Desert Storm and Operation Iraqi Freedom), certain enemy officials are lawful targets, and the assassination of enemy leaders is permissible, so long as it displays respect for the laws of war. As for the position codified at Article 23(b) of Hague Convention IV, which is also part of the customary international law, this contrary argument, in practice, has simply paid it no attention.

In principle, adherents of the argument that assassination of enemy officials in wartime may be permissible could offer two possible bases of jurisprudential support: they could argue that such assassination does not evidence behavior designed “to kill or wound treacherously” (emphasis added) as defined at Hague Article 23(b); and/or they could argue that a “higher” or jus cogens obligation to assassinate in particular circumstances transcends and overrides pertinent treaty prohibitions. To argue the first position would focus primarily on a “linguistic” solution; to argue the second would be to return to the historic natural law origins of international law.[49]

But even if one or both of these positions could be argued persuasively, the conclusion would, by definition, have nothing to do with anticipatory self-defense. Because assassination during wartime cannot be a measure of self-help short of war, its legality must be appraised solely according to the settled laws of war. It follows that any assassination of enemy officials in another state may be a lawful instance of anticipatory self-defense only in those cases wherein the target person(s) represents states with which there is no recognized belligerency.[50]


The customary right of anticipatory self-defense has its modern origins in the Caroline incident, which concerned the unsuccessful rebellion of 1837 in Upper Canada against British rule (a rebellion that aroused sympathy and support in the American border states).[51] Following this case, the serious threat of armed attack has generally been taken to justify militarily defensive action. In an exchange of diplomatic notes between the governments of the United States and Great Britain, then-U.S. Secretary of State Daniel Webster outlined a framework for self-defense, which did not require an actual attack. Here, military response to a threat was judged permissible, so long as the danger posed was “instant, [and] overwhelming, leaving no choice of means and no moment for deliberation.”[52]

Today, some scholars argue that the customary right of anticipatory self-defense articulated by the Caroline has been overridden by the specific language of Article 51 of the UN Charter. In this view, Article 51 fashions a new, and far more restrictive, statement of self-defense, one that relies on the literal qualification contained at Article 51 “if an armed attack occurs.” This interpretation ignores the reality that international law cannot compel a state to wait until it absorbs a devastating or even lethal first strike before acting to protect itself. The argument against the restrictive view of self-defense is reinforced by the apparent weaknesses of the UN Security Council in offering collective security against an aggressor, and, of course, by the 20 September 2002 National Security Strategy of the United States of America.

Whether or not assassination would qualify as law-enforcing anticipatory self-defense in a particular instance could be a largely subjective judgment, and may also be affected by the municipal law.[53] Before any state could persuasively argue any future instances of anticipatory self-defense under international law, including assassination, a strong case would have to be made that it had first sought to exhaust peaceful means of settlement. Even a broad view of the doctrine of anticipatory self-defense does not relieve a state of the obligations codified at Article 1 and at Article 2 of the UN Charter.

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These obligations notwithstanding, the primary understanding that international law is not a suicide pact, especially in an age of uniquely destructive weaponry, must be understood. The advent of the nuclear age has probably made it a form of suicide for a state to wait for an actual act of aggression to occur. Recognizing this, Wolfgang Friedmann argued as follows long before today’s growing threat of “rogue states” and weapons of mass destruction (WMD):

The judgment as to when to resort to such [preemptive] measures now places an almost unimaginable burden of responsibility upon the major Powers. But while this immensely increases the necessity for a reliable international detection organization and mechanism, in the absence of effective international machinery the right of self-defense must probably now be extended to the defense against a clearly imminent aggression, despite the apparently contrary language of Article 51 of the Charter.[54]

In rather similar fashion, Myres McDougal argued:

The more important limitations imposed by the general community upon the customary right of self-defense have been, in conformity with the overriding policy it serves of minimizing coercion and violence across states lines, those of necessity and proportionality. The conditions of necessity required to be shown by the target state have never, however, been restricted to “actual armed attack”; imminence of attack of such high degree as to preclude effective resort by the intended victim to non-violent modalities of response has always been regarded as sufficient justification, and it is now generally recognized that a determination of imminence requires an appraisal of the total impact of an initiating state’s coercive activities upon the target state’s expectations about the costs of preserving its territorial integrity and political independence. Even the highly restrictive language of Secretary of State Webster in the Carolinecase, specifying a “necessity of self-defense, instant, overwhelming, leaving no choice of means and no moment for deliberation,” did not require “actual armed attack,” and the understanding is now widespread that a test formulated in the previous century for a controversy between two friendly states is hardly relevant to contemporary controversies, involving high expectations of violence, between nuclear-armed protagonists.[55]

Still remaining, though, is the problem of demonstrating that assassination can be construed, at least under certain very limited circumstances, as an appropriate instance of anticipatory self-defense. The enhanced permissibility of anticipatory self-defense that follows generally from the growing destructiveness of current weapons technologies falling into rogue hands may be paralleled by the enhanced permissibility of assassination as a particular preemptive strategy. Indeed, where assassination as anticipatory self-defense may actually prevent a nuclear or other highly destructive forms of warfare, reasonableness dictates that it would represent distinctly, or even especially, law-enforcing behavior.

For this to be the case, several particular conditions would need to be satisfied. First, the assassination itself would have to be limited, to the greatest extent possible, to those authoritative persons in the prospective attacking state. Second, the assassination would have to conform to all of the settled rules of warfare as they concern discrimination, proportionality, and military necessity. Third, the assassination would need to follow intelligence assessments that point, beyond a reasonable doubt, to preparations for unconventional or other forms of highly destructive warfare within the intended victim’s state. Fourth, the assassination would need to be founded upon carefully calculated judgments that it would, in fact, prevent the intended aggression and that it would do so with substantially less harm to civilian populations than would the alternative forms of anticipatory self-defense.

This argument may appear both manipulative and dangerous, permitting states to engage in what is normally illegal behavior under the pretext of anticipatory self-defense. Yet, a blanket prohibition of assassination under international law could produce even greater harm, compelling states to resort to large-scale warfare that could otherwise be avoided. Although the best of all possible worlds might result if international legal norms could always be upheld without resort to assassination as anticipatory self-defense, the dynamics of a decentralized system of international law may sometimes require such extraordinary methods of law enforcement.[56]

For example, supposing that a particular state determines that another state is planning a nuclear or chemical surprise attack upon its population centers. Suppose also, that carefully constructed intelligence assessments reveal that the assassination of selected key figures (or perhaps just one leadership figure) would prevent such an attack altogether. Balancing the expected harms of the principal alternative courses of action (assassination/no surprise attack vs. no assassination/surprise attack), the selection of preemptive assassination could prove manifestly reasonable, life-saving, and cost-effective.

What of another, more common form of anticipatory self-defense? Might a conventional military strike against the prospective attacker’s nuclear, biological or chemical weapons launchers and/or storage sites prove even more reasonable and cost-effective? An answer is inevitably contingent upon the particular tactical and strategic circumstances of the moment and the precise way in which these circumstances are configured. But conventional military forms of preemption could conceivably generate far greater harms than assassination, and possibly with no greater defensive benefit. This suggests that assassination should not be dismissed out of hand in all circumstances as a permissible form of anticipatory self-defense under international law.

What of circumstances where the threat to particular states does not involve higher-order WMD[57] military attacks? Could assassination represent a permissible form of anticipatory self-defense under these circumstances? Subject to the above-stated conditions, the answer might still be “yes.” The threat of the chemical, biological, or nuclear attack may surely enhance the legality of assassination as preemption but is by no means an essential precondition. A conventional military attack might still, after all, be enormously (even existentially) destructive[58] It could be followed, in certain circumstances, by follow-on unconventional attacks.


The principal threat to be considered within this argument is terrorism. More precisely: “To what extent, if any, might assassination represent a permissible form of anticipatory self-defense as a strategy of counter-terrorism”?[59] Here, the answer may be contingent, inter alia, upon whether the intended victim represents leaders of a state that sponsors or supports terrorism against the state considering assassination; and/or a terrorist group directly.

Before any answer can be offered, however, an antecedent question must be an addressed a question that still baffles and confuses students and practitioners of international relations and international law: “When is the ‘private’ use of force lawful, and when is it terrorism”?

International law has consistently proscribed particular acts of international terrorism.[60] At the same time, however, it codifies the right of insurgents to use certain levels and types of force whenever fundamental human rights are being repressed, and where nonviolent methods of redress are unavailable.[61] Inhabiting a sovereignty-centered system, wherein the normative rules of the human rights regime are normally not enforceable by central global institutions,[62]the individual victims of human rights abuse must obtain relief in appropriate forms of humanitarian assistance or intervention by sympathetic states, and/or in approved forms of rebellion. Indeed, without such self-help remedies, the extent protection of human rights in a decentralized legal setting would be entirely a fiction, assuring little more than the primacy of Realpolitik.[63]

The origins of the current human rights regime-highlighted by the UN Charter; the UN Universal Declaration of Human Rights (1948); the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights (1976); and the International Covenant on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights (1976)-lie in ancient Greece and Rome. From Greek Stoicism and Roman law to the present, the jus gentium (law of nations) and modern international law have accepted the right of individuals to overthrow tyrants and to oppose, forcefully if necessary, tyrannical regimes. This acceptance can be found primarily in international custom, the general principles of law recognized by nations, UN General Assembly resolutions, various judicial decisions, specific compacts and documents (e.g., the Magna Carta,[64] 1215; the Petition of Right,[65] 1628; the English Bill of Rights,[66] 1689; the Declaration of Independence, 1776; the Declaration of the Rights of Man and of the Citizen,[67] 1789), the writings of highly-qualified publicists (e.g., Cicero, Francisco de Vitoria, Hugo Grotius, and Emmerich de Vattel[68] ) and, by extrapolation, from the convergence of human rights law with the absence of effective, authoritative institutions in world politics.

This leads to the first authoritative jurisprudential standard for differentiating between lawful insurgency and terrorism, one commonly known as “just cause.”[69] Where individual states prevent the exercise of human rights, the insurgency may express law-enforcing reactions under international law. For this to be the case, however, the means used in that insurgency must be consistent with the second authoritative jurisprudential standard, commonly known as “just means.”[70]

Therefore, in deciding whether a particular insurgency is an instance of terrorism or law-enforcement, states must base their evaluations, in part, on judgments concerning discrimination, proportionality, and military necessity. Once the force is applied broadly to any segment of the human population, intentionally blurring the distinction between combatants and noncombatants, terrorism is taking place. Similarly, once the force is applied to the fullest possible extent, restrained only by the limits of available weaponry, terrorism is underway. The consistently indiscriminate use of force by Palestinian insurgents against Israeli noncombatants is incontestably terroristic. However a defense of the justness of the Palestinian cause may be attempted, simply no cause can ever justify the fully premeditated murder of innocent men, women, and children.

The legitimacy of a certain cause can never legitimize the use of certain forms of violence. Under international law, the ends do not justify the means. As in the case of war between states, every use of force by insurgents must be judged twice: once with regard to the justness of the objective, and once with regard to the justness of the means used in pursuit of that objective.

The explicit application of codified restrictions of the laws of war to non-international armed conflicts dates back only as far as the four Geneva Conventions of 1949. However, recalling that the laws of war, like the whole of international law, are comprised of more than treaties and conventions, the obligations of jus in bello (justice in war) are clearly part of the general principles of law recognized by civilized nations and are binding upon all categories of belligerents. Indeed, the Hague Convention No. IV of 1907 declares in broad terms that in the absence of a precisely published set of guidelines in the humanitarian international law concerning “unforeseen cases,” all belligerency is governed by the pre-conventional sources of international law:

Until a more complete code of the laws of war has been issued, the High Contracting Parties deem it expedient to declare that, in cases not included in the Regulations adopted by them, the inhabitants and the belligerents remain under the protection and the rule of the principles of the law of nations, as they result from the usages established among civilized peoples, from the laws of humanity, and the dictates of public conscience.[71]

This “more complete code” did become available with the adoption of the four 1949 Geneva Conventions. These agreements contained a common article, No. 3, under which the convention provisions would be applicable in non-international armed conflicts. Nevertheless, the 1949 Geneva Diplomatic Conference rejected the idea that all of the laws of war should apply to internal conflicts, and in 1970, UN Secretary General U Thant of Burma requested that additional rules relating to non-international armed conflicts be adopted in the form of a protocol or a separate convention.

In 1974, the Swiss government convened in Geneva the Diplomatic Conference on the Reaffirmation and Development of International Humanitarian Law Applicable in Armed Conflicts. On 8 June 1977, the Conference formally adopted two protocols additional to the Geneva Conventions of 12 August 1949. Protocol II relates “to the Protection of Victims of Non-International Armed Conflicts,” and develops and supplements common Article 3 of the 1949 Conventions. Although in the fashion of common Article 3 and Article 19 of the 1954 Hague Cultural Property Convention, Protocol II does not apply to situations of internal disturbances and tensions such as riots or isolated and sporadic acts of violence, it does apply to all armed conflicts…

… which take place in the territory of a High Contracting Party between its armed forces and dissident armed forces or other organized armed groups which, under responsible command, exercise such control over a part of its territory as to enable them to carry out sustained and concerted military operations and to implement this Protocol.

Geneva Protocol 1 also constrains the insurgent uses of force in “armed conflicts in which people are fighting against colonial domination and alien occupation and against racist regimes in the exercise of their right of self-determination.” Thus, even where the peremptory rights to self-determination are being exercised, insurgent forces must resort to lawful means of combat. According to Article 35, which reaffirms longstanding norms of international law: “In any armed conflict, the rights of the Parties to the conflict to choose methods or means of warfare is not unlimited.”

States also have an obligation to treat captured insurgents in conformity with the basic dictates of international law. Although this obligation does not normally interfere with a state’s right to regard as common or ordinary criminals those persons not engaged in armed conflict (that is, persons involved in merely internal disturbances, riots, isolated and specific acts of violence, or other acts of a similar nature), it does mean that all other captives remain under the protection and authority of international law.

In cases where captive persons are engaged in armed conflict, states may have an additional obligation to extend the privileged status of prisoner of war (POW) to such persons. This additional obligation is unaffected by the level of insurgent respect for the laws of war of international law. While all combatants are obliged to comply with the rules of international law applicable in armed conflict, violation of these rules does not automatically deprive an insurgent combatant of the right to protection equivalent in all respects to that accorded to prisoners of war. This right, codified by the Geneva Conventions, is now complemented and enlarged by the two protocols to those conventions.[72]

Weighing the Options

These norms notwithstanding, the essential principle remains that international law is not a suicide pact and that the jus cogens right to ward off annihilation may countenance assassination in certain residual instances as permissible anticipatory self-defense against terrorism. Just as states may have the right to resort to assassination as a method of preempting overwhelming harm threatened by other states, so may they reserve this right when confronted with the serious threat of international terrorism. Of course, such reservation will become even more reasonable to the extent that the expected threat of terrorism is of a WMD (e.g., chemical/nuclear/biological) nature. Recognizing this, The National Security Strategy of The United States of America affirms clearly: “Our priority will be first to disrupt and destroy terrorist organizations of global reach and attack their leadership; command, control, and communications; material support; and finances.”

Assessing assassination as a permissible form of preemption against terrorism requires the recognition that the prospective targets of assassination may be not only terrorists themselves, but also the officials of states that support terrorism. From the point of view of international law, the question must now be asked, “Is there a difference?” Are individual officials of states that sponsor or sustain terrorism against other states legitimate objects of transnational assassination?

This question is, of course, exceedingly complex, involving, among other difficult issues, the matter of the lawfulness of the particular insurgency. Although state sponsorship of insurgencies in other states may be lawful as an indispensable corrective to gross violations of human rights, such sponsorship is patently unlawful whenever its rationale lies in presumptions of geopolitical advantage. Today, the long-standing customary prohibition against foreign support for lawless insurgencies is codified in the UN Charter and in the authoritative interpretation of that multilateral treaty at Article 1 and Article 3(g) of the General Assembly’s 1974 Definition of Aggression.

The legal systems embodied in the constitutions of individual states universally provide that they must normally be defended against aggression.[73] Legal scholar Hersch Lauterpacht more than three decades ago expressed this peremptory principle. According to Lauterpacht, the following rule concerns the scope of state responsibility for preventing acts of insurgency or terrorism against other states:

International law imposes upon the State the duty of restraining persons within its territory from engaging in such revolutionary activities against friendly States as the amount to organized acts of force in the form of hostile expeditions against the territory of those States. It also obliges the States to repress and discourage activities in which attempts against the life of political opponents are regarded as a proper means of revolutionary action.[74]

Lauterpacht’s rule reaffirms the Resolution on the Rights and Duties of Foreign Powers as Regards the Established and Recognized Governments in Case of Insurrection adopted by the Institute of International Law in 1900. His rule, however, stops short of the prescription offered by Emmerich de Vattel.[75] According to Vattel’s The Law of Nations, states that support terrorism directed at other states become the lawful prey of the world community: “If there should be found a restless and unprincipled nation, ever ready to do harm to others, to thwart their purposes, and to stir up civil strife among their citizens, there is no doubt that all others would have the right to united together to subdue such a nation, to discipline it, and even to disable it from doing further harm.”[76]

Vattel extends the principle of Hostes humani generis[77] from individuals to states (“nations”), even insisting that collective wrongdoers be dealt with just as harshly as singular criminals:

Nations which are always ready to take up arms, when they hope to gain something thereby, are unjust plunderers; but those who appear to relish the horrors of war, who wage it on all sides without reason or pretext, and even without other motives than their savage inclinations, are monsters, and unworthy of the name of men. They should be regarded as enemies of the human race, just as in civil society persons who follow murder and arson as a profession commit a crime not only against the individuals who are victims of their lawlessness but against the State of which they are the declared enemies. Other Nations are justified in uniting together as a body, with the object of punishing, and even of exterminating, such savage peoples.[78]

But what, precisely, are the proper jurisprudential boundaries of this “right?” Do they include assassination? And if they do, would the resort to assassination be a permissible instance of anticipatory self-defense?

Significantly, as already noted, the right of tyrannicide is well established in political philosophy and international law. Indeed, this right may extend even to state-sponsored tyrannicide or transnational assassination as a form of humanitarian intervention. This is the case, for example, where such use of force is not directed against the territorial integrity or political independence of another state, but rather to assure peremptory human rights and/or self-determination within such a state.

Recalling that an individual state’s right to self-defense is also peremptory under international law, the assassination that is not undertaken against the territorial integrity or political independence of another state, but only to further its own self-defense, may perhaps be permissible. Of course, where the concern is with anticipatory self-defense, in particular, assassination would have to be consistent, in part, with the tests set forth by the Caroline and in part by the broadened criteria identified in 2002 by The National Security Strategy of the United States of America. Moreover, it would have to follow a determination that assassination was the least generally injurious form of anticipatory self-defense and the exhaustion of all possible peaceful means of settlement.


Arguably, no more serious ongoing security problem exists for America and the West than Iran.[79] With its steady and illegal march toward full nuclear capacity-a march entirely unhindered by United Nations sanctions-this Islamic state sponsor of terrorism represents genuinely existential threats on several fronts. For Israel, in particular, a nuclear Iran portends nuclear-armed proxies in both Lebanon and Gaza,[80] and/or direct missile attacks upon population centers in Tel-Aviv and Haifa.[81]

With primarily the “Iranian nuclear problem” in mind, I created “Project Daniel” in 2002. A private group comprised of four Israelis and two Americans,[82] Project Daniel presented its final report to then-Israeli Prime Minister Ariel Sharon on 16 January 2003. After a period of confidentiality, this report, Israel’s Strategic Future, was published by the Ariel Center for Policy Research in May 2004.[83]

From the standpoint of a particular concern with counterterrorism, the Iran problem necessarily brings to mind far broader issues of preemption. With regard to the growing prospect of a fully nuclear Iran, the assassination remedy would inevitably be inadequate. In this connection, Project Daniel acknowledged the stark limitations for Israel of ballistic missile defense (the “Arrow”), even where such measures continue to produce successful test results. Though necessary for Israeli security and survival, the Arrow is not sufficient. To achieve a maximum level of security, Israel must now also take appropriate and coordinated preparations for preemption and deterrence. Moreover, ballistic missile defense will do nothing to thwart terrorist surrogates of Iran who could utilize ordinary ships, cars, or trucks as nuclear delivery vehicles.

International law is not a suicide pact.[84] Together with the United States and other Western countries, Israel now exists in the crosshairs of Jihad[85] and will not conform to the normal civilizational expectations of peace and justice. Left alone to complete its planned nuclearization, Iran would likely share certain of its atomic munitions with assorted terrorist proxies in Lebanon, Syria, Pakistan, Gaza, Saudi Arabia, and Iraq. Ballistic missile defense is indispensable for Israel (primarily as a form of “hard target” protection), but it is also critical for both Jerusalem and Washington that Iran’s nuclear infrastructures be destroyed at their source.[86]

International law is not a suicide pact. The observance of justice between and among nations should always be the goal,[87] but at the same time we need to remain mindful of the clear disregard for such observance among its many civilizational enemies. “The blood-dimmed tide is loosed,” observed the poet Yeats, “and everywhere, the ceremony of innocence is drowned.”[88]

The military war in Iraq and the global war on terror are not narrowly tactical conflicts. Neither will ultimately yield to operational solutions. Rather, America and the West are embroiled in a genuine clash of civilizations, and to actually prevail in such a contest will require much more far-reaching kinds of understanding. The West is certainly bound to take seriously the rules and procedures of international law, including the law of armed conflict, but it must also bear in mind that its enemies are generally unmindful of these same obligations. It follows that assassination and other broader forms of preemption may sometimes be, not only permissible under international law, but also altogether indispensable.[89]

Deception can be an essential and acceptable virtue in warfare, but a jurisprudentially meaningful distinction between deception or ruses (stratagems or Kriegslist) and “perfidy is always present.”[90] The Hague Regulations in the Laws of War allow “ruses,”[91] but disallow “treachery.” Permissible ruses include such practices as the use of camouflage, decoys, mock operations, and ambush. False signals, too, are allowed-as an example, the jamming of communications. Perfidy, on the other hand, includes such treacherous practices as the improper use of the white flag, feigned surrender, or pretending to have civilian status.

The Western system of international law remains founded upon the curious assumption of a ubiquitous human Reason, and that this Reason will inevitably guide our confused species toward correct behavior and a rejection of violent solutions.[92]


The reason, therefore, lies at the very heart of the international law, yet it is almost nowhere to be found-certainly not among the West’s current civilizational enemies operating within the framework of Jihad. Satisfying the universal wish to remain unaware of one’s own subconscious, seekers of a viable system of international law enforcement are still too often imprisoned by assumptions of an idealized humanity. Before this difficulty can be overcome, international law must be understood in very different terms. At a minimum, the time has come to recognize that international law operates within a world in which reason often submits to pure irrationality and barbarism, and where visions of human oneness or cosmopolis are now routinely overwhelmed by sustained eruptions of fragmentation, killing, and disunity.

All international law must now move in the midst of death,[93] and visions of death are absolutely central to the lives of the West’s civilizational enemies. For these enemies, such animating visions of Jihad are the beginning of individual and collective martyrdom and point conclusively toward the inevitable triumph of Islam’s “one true faith” over all others. Once this view is finally understood, the West’s genocidal[94] enemies can be confronted with far more than narrowly military responses,[95] and its altogether defensible policies of preemption and anticipatory self-defense[96] can then be oriented toward more comprehensive and promising new directions.

Article 38 of the UN Statute of the International Court of Justice makes explicit reference to “general principles of law recognized by civilized nations.”[97] The concept of “civilized nations” continues to make legal and geopolitical sense in the present world order. Each “civilized nation” has both the right and the obligation under international law to protect its citizens from terrorism, war, and genocide. Should these nations ever surrender to perfidy in the current “Clash of Civilizations,” they would undermine this basic right and obligation? The net civilizational effect of such capitulation would be to make absolute victors of the criminals, a result that would doubtlessly increase rather than diminish the overall number of noncombatant victims. It would also strengthen the resolve of all allied terrorist organizations in their interrelated and expanding war of chaos against the West.

In any democratic state, the obligation of citizens to their government is contingent upon that government’s assurance of protection. [98] Many major legal theorists throughout history, especially Jean Bodin, Gottfried Leibniz, and Thomas Hobbes, understood that the provision of security is always the first obligation of the state: “The obligation of subjects to the sovereign,” writes Hobbes in Chapter XXI of Leviathan, “is understood to last as long, and no longer, than the power lasteth by which he is able to protect them.” It follows that our civilization’s obligation to oppose perfidy at every level (terrorism, war, and genocide) now derives not only from the international law but also from each constituent state’s more general requirement to protect its own citizens.[99]

“Just wars arise from our love of the innocent.”[100] Now in the midst of a stark civilizational struggle, the United States and its allies must continue to use all necessary and permissible means for self-defense and self-preservation. Although perfidious provocations by various terror groups and enemy states may elicit reprisals that bring assorted harms to noncombatants, these provocations, not the West’s required defensive responses, violate the humanitarian international law.

Again, with greater emphasis, international law is not a suicide pact. In the fashion of United States law,[101] it is based fundamentally and immutably, upon Natural Law.[102] And Natural Law makes it plain that states have a peremptory (jus cogens) obligation to protect their citizens and to resist crime. In his Opinion on the French Treaties,[103] written on 28 April 1793, Thomas Jefferson stated that when performance in international agreements “becomes impossible, nonperformance is not immoral. So if performance becomes self-destructive to the party, the law of self-preservation overrules the laws of obligation to others.”[104] In that same document, Jefferson wrote: “The nation itself, bound necessarily to whatever its preservation and safety require, cannot enter into engagements contrary to its indispensable obligations.”[105] None of this is to suggest that the United States and its allies are unsupported by pertinent elements of codified and customary international law in their essential policies of preemption and anticipatory self-defense, but only to underscore that these norms of positive jurisprudence are reinforced by Natural Law.[106]

In 442 B.C.E., Sophocles articulated the idea of true law as an act of discovery, challenging the superiority of human rule-making in Antigone.[107] Exploring the conflict between claims of the state and the claims of an individual conscience, this drama has since been taken to represent the incontestable supremacy of Natural Law over the human-made law. Later, in the nineteenth century, Henry David Thoreau, noting that men live with “too passive a regard for the moral laws,”[108] cited Antigone as a stirring example of civil disobedience.

The Natural Law foundations of international law are indisputably the legal foundations of the United States of America. When Jefferson wrote the Declaration of Independence, he consulted extensively the writings of Aristotle, Cicero,[109] Grotius, Vattel, Pufendorf, Burlamaqui, and especially Locke.[110] The Declaration posits a natural order in the world whose laws are external to all human will, and which are discoverable through human reason. Although, by the eighteenth century, God had been judged to have withdrawn from any immediate or direct contact with humankind-having been transformed into a Prime Mover of the universe-“Nature” provided an apt substitute. Reflecting the decisive influence of Isaac Newton, whose Principia was first published in 1686, all of creation was now taken as an expression of divine will.[111] It follows that the only way to know God’s will was then to discover the Law of Nature. Jefferson, via Locke, had deified Nature and denatured God.


Today, we live in a secular system of international law and international relations-a society of states originally bequeathed to all after the Thirty Years War and the Peace of Westphalia (1648)-but the present civilizational challenge of mega-violence comes against us from those who still refuse to accept a modern jurisprudential theory of enmity and war.[112] This refusal by Jihadist enemies[113] to accept the basic world order norms of comity most likely cannot be changed, [114] certainly, at least, not in the foreseeable future. Therefore, the West must be prepared to sustain a protracted struggle for its own civilization’s survival. The individual and collective rights of individuals to endure are thoroughly grounded in both natural and positive law,[115] and corollary to these jus cogens[116] norms is the right of preemption and anticipatory self-defense. Should the West fail to heed these rights,[117] it would hasten the arrival of a world prophesied by the poet Yeats, a world in which “There is no longer a virtuous nation, and the best of us live by candlelight.”[118]

Reprinted with author’s permission from Scholars for Peace in the Middle East

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Palestinians Fire Back at Trump’s Threat to Cut Off Aid

Thu, 01/04/2018 - 00:32

The Palestinian Authority (PA) fired back at President Donald Trump’s tweets on Tuesday that threatened to cut off aid to the Palestinians for their refusal to negotiate with Israel.

“This statement has absolutely no justification. We wanted a peace process with the Americans and we worked hard for it,” Nabil Shaath, PA President Mahmoud Abbas’s international affairs adviser, told The Jerusalem Post.

“We went to the White House to see him and welcomed him here in Bethlehem. But then he recognized Jerusalem as Israel’s capital, taking the single-most important part of negotiations and a two-state solution off the table,” Shaath said. “So he wants to punish us for protesting and not accepting his position on Jerusalem…This [tweet] shows that Trump is not a serious man.”

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On Tuesday, as part of a series of tweets on U.S. foreign aid, Trump wrote that “with the Palestinians no longer willing to talk peace, why should we make any of these massive future payments to them?”

Trump’s tweet was followed up by a statement from U.S. Ambassador to the United Nations Nikki Haley, who said, “I think the president has basically said that he doesn’t want to give any additional funding until the Palestinians are agreeing to come back to the negotiation table.”

The U.S. is the largest foreign funder of the PA as well as UNRWA, the U.N. agency dedicated to Palestinian refugees.

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Israeli Lawmakers Approve Preliminary Bill on Death Penalty for Terrorists

Thu, 01/04/2018 - 00:00

Israeli lawmakers on Wednesday approved a preliminary piece of legislation easing the threshold for military courts to carry out executions of convicted terrorists.

The bill was approved in a 52-49 vote in its preliminary reading by the Knesset. Currently, military courts have the power to carry out executions only if a panel of three military judges passes a sentence unanimously. The new bill would lower that requirement to a majority verdict.

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said he supports the death penalty in “extreme situations,” pointing to the July 2017 Halamish terror attack, in which three members of an Israeli family were fatally stabbed by a Palestinian terrorist as they gathered around the table for a festive Shabbat meal.

“I’ve seen some shocking things in my life, but I was shocked,” Netanyahu said regarding that attack. “There are extreme cases, where people commit terrible crimes and don’t deserve to live. We’re changing the law for these situations.”

The bill was introduced by Member of Knesset Robert Ilatov (Yisrael Beiteinu), who said lawmakers have a “moral obligation to the people of Israel.”

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“When terrorists sitting in Israeli prisons end up going free [in prisoner exchanges], I think the most moral thing is for [terrorists] to get the death penalty,” he said.

The bill sharply divided Netanyahu’s coalition, with haredi parties such as United Torah Judaism asking for the vote to be postponed in order to consult with their rabbis about the legislation. While Jewish law technically allows for the death penalty, the standard for carrying out the punishment is nearly impossible.

Opposition leader MK Isaac Herzog (Zionist Union) also opposed the bill.

“This is only about political considerations. The ministers need to ask: How will this help Israeli security? Will it deter? What will it do to our Jewish brothers in Arab countries? Analyze the psychology of those who commit acts of terrorism,” Herzog said.

Israel has only carried out the death penalty twice since the establishment of the state in 1948. Meir Tobianski, who was accused of treason during Israel’s War of Independence, was executed by a firing squad in 1948; he was posthumously exonerated. In 1961, an Israeli civilian court sentenced former Nazi leader Adolf Eichmann to death by hanging, and he was executed in 1962.

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Why Calling Lorde a ‘Bigot’ Won’t Earn Israel Any PR Points… and What Will

Thu, 01/04/2018 - 00:00

The full-page Washington Post ad firing back at Lorde for deciding to cancel her Israel concert due to BDS pressure by calling her a “bigot,” and blasting New Zealand at the same time, is not the kind of response that will earn Israel’s image any points.

Sure, Israel is right in its efforts to fight the various delegitimization campaigns. But instead of trying to tell those who resent Israel that they are wrong, we should first explain to ourselves where these sentiments truly come from.

Instead of pouring money into divisive PR attacks, which make us all look no more mature than school children cursing each other, it would be much more beneficial for Israel, Jews worldwide, and even human society in general, to invest in a PR strategy that uncovers the true foundation of the Jewish people and the deep seeded reason for why so many people hate Israel and the Jewish people, and what can be constructively done about it.

I would focus the message of such a PR effort on the following three points:

1. What is the root of the hatred?

The root of the hatred toward Jews is deeply rooted in humanity. The Hebrew word for “Jew” (Yehudi) comes from the word “united” (yihudi) (Yaarot Devash, Part 2, Drush no. 2), as the Jewish people was founded on the principle of unity above differences. In consequence, they are expected to exemplify that unity for humanity to follow. By doing so, they would become a vital conduit that has the power to replace humanity’s division, conflicts and suffering with unity, peace and happiness. As Rav Kook writes, “In Israel lies the secret of the unity of the world.”

Humanity is connected as a single network, and the people of Israel are a critical “hub” in the network. The Zohar states that thoughts and actions of the Jewish people have a rippling effect throughout humanity and that all the crises in the world are related to the function they are supposed to fulfill within the network.

Thus, the more negative phenomena accumulate in the world, the more the world resents Israel and the Jewish people, indirectly pressuring us to realize our role. If we showed the world the example of unity it is waiting for, we would immediately feel a positive response. As long as we do not act this way, then more and more people feel inexplicable hatred toward the Jewish people.

2. Where do the Jews come from?

The nation of Israel is not a typical nation. It emerged in ancient Babylon when individuals, families, and tribes agreed to follow the revolutionary spiritual idea that Abraham the Patriarch had pioneered.

It was a time of immense social division. Abraham was a Babylonian who refused to succumb to the flow of everydayness, which sided people against each other. Instead, he embarked on a journey of self-discovery, the study of nature and the system of creation. This led him to a cutting-edge discovery: the perception of humanity as a single unified network, where two fundamental forces are at play: a positive force of unity and a negative force of egoism. The positive force constantly operates to unify all individuals into a single whole, while the negative force constantly gravitates in the opposite direction, distancing individuals from one another.

Abraham’s discovery pointed out that the laws acting on an individual are the same laws acting on wider scales in nature. He concluded that the Babylonian society’s crisis could be fixed if the balance between the two forces was would be restored, by strengthening the positive force of unity. He formed groups and guided them to cultivate unity as a supreme value, teaching them how to rise above the egoistic force that separated them.

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This is how a method of rising above the human ego and maintaining unity above differences was developed. Throughout the generations, this method became known as “the wisdom of Kabbalah.”
3. Why now?

Humanity has been rapidly developing in recent years. We have reached new heights in technological and scientific development, dangerously coupled with new lows in the quality of our human relations. Today’s world is immersed in division and conflict, with intensifying politically-based social division, the resurfacing of Nazi, fascist and xenophobic tendencies, and increasing anxiety about nuclear weapons and war.

UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres’ ushering in of 2018 by issuing “a red alert for our world” and emphasizing the need to “together settle conflicts, overcome hatred and defend shared values” is a clear warning signal of our times.

The solution to today’s intensifying anxieties, which has the power to elevate human society to a new level of relations based on unity and mutual responsibility, is the ability to rise above the divisive human ego. The method to implement this solution lies deep in the heart of the Jewish people.

It’s simple: the more the system will require us Jews to unite above our differences, the stronger the hatred toward us will become. Or in a more positive light: the more we will unify, the more we will “unblock” the system, allowing nature’s positive, unifying force to flow into human relations.

Therefore, if we return to the initial examination of “What do Israel’s boycotters truly feel?” before we simply counterattack them as a knee-jerk reaction to them attacking us, they are right in reminding us of the world’s harsh demands for the Jewish people to carry out their role. No matter what high-tech innovations Israel brings to the world, the world remains unimpressed, subconsciously expecting something a lot more meaningful and substantial from the Jewish people.

In the past week, Lorde’s voice has been stripped off the musical stage and amplified in political exploits. However, with more articulate PR efforts, we might be able to start hearing the much deeper calling behind Lorde’s Israel concert cancellation: the voice of the world that yearns for Israel and the Jewish people to start setting a positive, unifying example.

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Wed, 01/03/2018 - 23:04

This Torah Portion is about the experiences of Yaakov in Lavan’s house. As Yaakov’s wealth increases, Lavan’s sons become jealous of their cousin. Yaakov realizes the climate is turning against him and tells his wives it is time to leave, with or without Lavan’s permission. Yaakov also tells his wives of his dream that an angel of God appeared to him among the flock, telling him it is time to return to his homeland. God implies that He will only remain with Yaakov if he returns to the Holy Land, and will no longer protect him in Lavan’s house. Rachel and Leah encourage their husband to do what he thinks is best, since they, too, have no place in their father’s home anymore.

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‘In 2017, Jews Won War for Temple Mount’ – Activist

Wed, 01/03/2018 - 07:55

In the past year, an unprecedented number of Jews ascended to their holiest site, laying claim in a manner that some Temple Mount Activists consider even more significant than the IDF victory in 1967 that unified Jerusalem. The next step for the Jews, prayer on the Temple Mount, may be even closer than most realize, waiting on a court case set to be decided in just a few weeks.

Yera’eh, an organization promoting ascending to the Temple Mount, counts the number of Jews who ascend every day. Their statistics show that in 2017, 25,628 Jews went up to the Temple Mount. This compares to only 14,626 Jews who went up to the Temple Mount in 2016. In 2014 and 2015, about 11,000 Jews ascended to the Temple Mount each year. In 2009, the only 5,658 Jews went up to the Temple Mount.

Elisha Sanderman, a representative from Yera’eh, believes this is a revolutionary development.

“Fifty years ago, the IDF conquered the Temple Mount, and announced, ‘The Temple Mount is in our hands’, but that concept never materialized in fullness,” Sanderman told Breaking Israel News. “Now, the nation is expressing its connection to our holiest site and we can say in all sincerity, ‘The Temple Mount is in our hands’.”

According to Israeli government statistics, over 300,000 Christians visit the site annually. Included in this number are Jews who do not identify as Jews.

“There are very specific Torah laws concerning Jews who go up to the Temple Mount,” Sanderman said. “They are restricted in where they can go and the shoes they can wear. Jews must also bath in a mikveh (ritual bath) before going up.”

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Asaf Fried, the spokesman for the United Temple Movement, agreed that the past year was a watershed that brought the Third Temple closer.

“The war for the Temple Mount is finally over,” Fried told Breaking Israel News. “Now, we need more Jews to go up to the Temple Mount, and we all need to do much more spiritual work because the next step is the Temple.”

Fried cited two reasons for this drastic change.

“There has been a powerful spiritual awakening among the Jews of all streams concerning the Temple Mount,” Fried said. “This is even true among the rabbis. There used to be a consensus among many of the influential rabbis that going onto the Temple Mount was forbidden. Last week, Rabbi Eliezer Melamed, a world-renowned expert on Halacha (Torah law) went up, clearly establishing his opinion that it is permitted.”

“The other reason is that the security situation is vastly improved. In 2014 I went up with my children in a group of 15. Hundreds of Arabs ran up to us, yelling ‘Allahu Akhbar’ and cursing. Even though the police were accompanying us, it was untenable. Jews and Christians alike were treated horribly.”

“Now, the site is quiet,” Fried said. “A person has the ability to meditate on the meaning of the place.”

Many elements, including increased public interest, are coming together to improve the situation for the Jews at the site. The United Temple Movements, led by Yaakov Hayman, brought a case to the High Court that will allow Jews to visit the site, unaccompanied by police or Waqf (Muslim authority) guards. The case will be decided in two weeks.

“This will greatly enhance the Jewish experience on the Temple Mount,” Hayman explained to Breaking Israel News.”We will be able to go where we want and do what we want while we are up there.”

“When we first brought the case last year, President Obama allowed a resolution to pass the UN Security Council condemning the Israeli presence in Jerusalem,” “The prime minister and the government had to take that into consideration. Now, the political situation is totally different. President Trump has just declared Jerusalem to be Israel’s capital. This has an enormous influence on what will happen on the Temple Mount.”

“The stage is totally set for things to come,” Hayman said.

Rabbi Hillel Weiss, the spokesman for the nascent Sanhedrin and head of the Mikdash B’Tzion (Temple on Zion) organization, was cautious in his enthusiasm.

“This is a wonderful and blessed phenomenon but we need to add content in order for this to have meaning,” Rabbi Weiss told Breaking Israel News. “We need to add prayer, as individuals and in a minyan (quorum of ten), and have organized places for storing Torah scrolls. This is what will bring the Temple service, and, of course, the Temple.”

Rabbi Weiss explained that this is more than an internal Jewish matter.

“The Temple Mount is the center of the world,” Rabbi Weiss said. “When meaningful changes are made here, positive changes will appear around the world.”

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Iranian in Jerusalem Asks Israel for Help Against the Regime:”Iranians Love Israel”

Wed, 01/03/2018 - 05:14

An Iranian journalist staged a protest in Jerusalem, calling out to the Israeli government,  Prime Minister Netanyahu in particular, to help the Iranians against the regime because “Iranian people really love Israel”.

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Wed, 01/03/2018 - 05:12

Deuteronomy 15:8 provides divine instruction regarding the needy. In the preceding verse, God commands the children of Israel to “not harden your heart and shut your hand against your needy kinsman.” The Bible then provides an explanation of how this commandment is to be fulfilled. Rashi, a revered 11th century Biblical scholar, comments that it is possible that one may have to give or open his/her hand repeatedly in order to fully satisfy the needs of their kinsman. While there is no Biblical commandment to make a poor man rich, there is indeed a commandment to sufficiently provide for the needy. Unfortunately, many of God’s Children in Israel are living in poverty are in dire need of financial assistance. Young children and the elderly alike do not have access to proper food, clothing, and medication. November is the month of giving. Open your hand to God’s people.

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Identity Politics Works Until You Run Out of Other People

Wed, 01/03/2018 - 04:00

Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher famously observed that socialism works until you run out of other people’s money. Identity politics also works until you run out of other people.

And then #MeToo becomes #NotMeToo.

Other people’s money can be borrowed against. That’s why we have the national debt that we do. But identity politics has multiplied too abruptly and explosively to postpone the reckoning much longer. What were once simple categories of three races and two genders has mutated into an infinite alphabet of sexual identities, a Big Bang of ethnicities, national, cultural, racial and religious, each with its own microaggressions, that easily tops two hundred and shows no signs of slowing down its expansion.

Intersectionality, the Das Kapital of identity politics economics, tries to manage the complex network of interactions even as it purges Jews and white people. And now it’s even starting to purge men.

The left is running out of other people.

#MeToo, #BlackLivesMatter, the campus purges of ‘whiteness’ and ‘toxic masculinity’, the civil wars within the LGBT alphabet soup all point to the ‘other people’ crisis of the left. The latest social justice wave has made men, white people and even white gay men into hate objects. The resentment coalition of identity politics is fracturing into a tribal war of identity micro groups against everyone else.

The economics of socialism and the political economics of identity politics both come down to the core leftist creed of redistributing the wealth and privilege supposedly hoarded by a minority. Seize all the wealth from the rich and fund free health care. Take away the white privilege and open up society. Open the borders of the United States to the Third World. Shut down factories and end all pollution. Destroy capitalism, the patriarchy, heteronormativity, whiteness and every other strawman raised up by the left.

That is the engine of the three radical R’s of the left: Resentment, Revolution, and Redistribution.

It’s a scam. Like every scam, it relies on using the greed of the mark against him. Con artists are in the easy money business. They promise the men and women they scam that they can have easy money. But it’s only the con artist who ends up easily making money out of the deal. That’s the scam the left pulls.

It’s why leftist politics is the greatest and deadliest scam ever perpetrated in human history.

The Russian peasants who were promised their own land were instead chained to feudal collectivist farms. They were reduced to sharecroppers who were unable to leave the lands of their masters. The workers who were promised bread starved in the cities. The soldiers who were promised peace died in a more horrifying war. When Stalin told his mother that he was the new czar, the scam was complete.

It was the same story from the Soviet Union to Communist China, from Cuba to Cambodia, from the ghettoes of blue states to the rusting factories of union shops, from the decaying farmlands of Europe to the blighted working class of Britain. The scam ends with mass misery for everyone except the leftist scammers. The revolutionaries get rich and powerful while everyone else loses everything.

But every scam has a choke point. That’s where the bait turns out to be the hook. It’s where the revolution runs out of other people’s money and comes for your life savings. It’s when environmentalism doesn’t mean shutting someone else’s factory but raising your energy bills, banning your plastic bags and shutting down the business that pays your wages.

It’s when the new horrible racist or sexist of the week isn’t that guy on the news. It’s you.

The choke point is when the revolution you supported runs out of all the other people who supposedly had it coming. And its machinery of smears, thievery, and murder (for the people) reaches you.

The great scam of the left is convincing the majority that the solution to their problems lies with a small minority. Get rid of the 1 percent and the 99 percent will live like kings. Get rid of a few southern racists and we can all be brothers. Ban X, regulate Y and outlaw Z and we’ll all be better off for it.

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The choke point is when the small minority expands to include you. And then it’s no longer a few billionaires. It’s the upper middle class. And then it’s the entire middle class. It’s all white people. It’s all men. And then it’s everyone. The minority turns out to be the majority. And that’s the scam.

Identity politics is approaching its own choke point. It’s running out of other people.

The theme of intersectionality is that everyone is privileged and everyone is oppressed. The choke point of identity politics is being hidden behind complex formulas that openly stigmatize all white people and all men, but that’s the bait that actually and ultimately lines up everyone for privilege redistribution.

The war on ‘whiteness’, a racist academic construct, is the identity politics equivalent of the denunciations of the middle class. The ‘white privilege’ slogan makes it clear that the left isn’t just coming for a small indefensible minority (which is where the left always starts its lynch mob), but for a narrow and envied majority. White people in identity politics, like the middle class in economics, are the choke point where the seductive 1 percent lie gives way to the lesser lie that splits society apart.

Intersectionality is the identity politics equivalent of Bolshevism. Inside its rhetoric and formulas is the final and fatal truth that it isn’t merely a narrow minority that must be dispossessed, but everyone. It’s not only a small minority or even a majority that is guilty. Everyone is oppressive. Everyone is guilty.

Universal guilt is the jagged hook waiting at the end of the shiny lure. The left educates its marks into resenting easy targets and then expands that resentment into circles that eventually encompass our entire society. No race, class or gender is truly exempt. Eventually, the purges even reach the acolytes of the left. Just ask the old Bolsheviks of the USSR or the leftist media heads rolling under #MeToo.

It’s the final stop of leftist politics where all its rotten ideas sink into the muck. Everyone is guilty of polluting the environment. And everyone must pay the carbon tax. Everyone has a privilege and must check their privilege. Everyone has too much money. Even if they hardly have anything at all.

The left is not in the business of partial revolutions. That too is part of the scam. Its revolutions are total. And totally fatal. The revolutions begin with the 1 percent, but they are meant to end with 100 percent.

Leftist revolutions run on resentment and greed. And when they have worked through the most obvious targets of that resentment and greed, they will turn on anyone who can be resented or envied.

And that’s everyone. Everyone is enviable to at least one other person. And that’s enough.

Intersectionality’s mantra of universal privilege and guilt is in the toxic DNA of leftist politics. Everyone is guilty. Everyone must pay. No race, gender or class provides any ultimate immunity from the reckoning. With so many identities, the next purge can come from anywhere. Even as the left rages against Trump, its own civil war is underway. Sandernistas are battling Clintonistas. Every group is asserting its own oppression. Leftists are readying a final purge of pro-life Dems. Campus culture denounces whiteness. Everyone is waiting for the next social justice hashtag to sweep through with its wave of political terror.

The revolution is here. And leftists are running out of other people to feed to the guillotine.

Reprinted with author’s permission from Sultan Knish Blog

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US State Department Still Considers Judea and Samaria ‘Occupied Territory’

Wed, 01/03/2018 - 03:30

A request by US Ambassador to Israel David Friedman asking the State Department to stop referring to Judea and Samaria as ‘Occupied Territory’  led to a surprising affirmation that US policy still holds the regions to be illegally occupied by Israel.

Last week, it was reported that Friedman made the request to the State Department. According to the report by Kan, Israel’s Broadcasting Corporation, the State Department initially refused but later agreed to discuss the matter after receiving pressure “from above”—an apparent reference to the White House.

A reporter asked State Department Spokesperson Heather Nauert about this in Tuesday’s press briefing.

“The ambassador in Tel Aviv, who is reported to have wanted the administration to stop calling the West Bank occupied. Without getting into internal government deliberations, does the administration still believe that the West Bank is occupied?”

Nauert responded, “I can only say that our position has not changed.”

When pressed for a clarification that the current policy is indeed that the West Bank is occupied by Israel, Nauert repeated her response, saying, “Our position has not changed, and I won’t budge from that.”

The frustrated reporter answered, “At some point it would be nice to find out exactly what that position is.”

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There has, in fact, been a perceived shift in US policy concerning Jerusalem, which some claim is partially occupied territory. On December 6, US President Donald Trump made a historic speech in which he recognized Jerusalem as Israel’s capital and expressed a desire to move the US embassy to the city.

Though the president did not refer to specific boundaries, leaving open the possibility of a Palestinian capital in the eastern half of the city and an Israeli capital in the western half, his speech was seen as a major policy shift. It was condemned in the United Nations.

At the State Department briefing, the reporter raised the issue of Jerusalem, asking if there had been a policy change concerning the city.

“Do you believe that Jerusalem ought to be a final status issue, as it’s always been?” he asked.

This was a reference to US policy which has historically considered it desirable to establish an international regime for the city with its final status resolved through negotiations.

“We have always talked about final status negotiations and that being a part of the final status negotiation,” Nauert responded.

Friedman has made remarks in the past that seem to contradict US State Department policy concerning Judea and Samaria. In an interview with the Israeli news outlet Walla in late September, Friedman said he believes that the settlements are “part of Israel”. At the Time Nauert also responded to inquiries about the ambassador’s remarks, stating that they did not represent a change in US policy.

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The Iranian Explosion of Truth

Wed, 01/03/2018 - 03:00

If the Iranian regime is unable to brutally stomp out the countrywide protests raging through the country, and if the protesters achieve their goal of bringing down the regime, they will go down in history as the saviors of millions of people not just in Iran but throughout the world.

Given the earth-shattering potential of the protests, it is extraordinary to see the liberal media in the US and Europe struggle to downplay their significance.

Aside from a lukewarm statement on Twitter from British Foreign Minister Boris Johnson, as of Monday morning – five days into the protests – no senior European official had spoken in favor of the hundreds of thousands of Iranians marching throughout their country demanding freedom.

In the US, former members of the Obama administration and the liberal media have determinedly downplayed the importance of the protests. They have insisted that President Donald Trump should stop openly supporting the protesters and so adopt former president Barack Obama’s policy of effectively siding with the Iranian regime against the Iranian people who seek its overthrow.

These talking points have been pushed out into the media echo chamber by Obama’s former deputy national security adviser and strategic communications chief Ben Rhodes, his former national security adviser Susan Rice and former secretary of state John Kerry.

Obama’s Middle East coordinator Philip Gordon stated them outright in an op-ed in The New York Times on Saturday. Gordon called on Trump “to keep quiet and do nothing” in response to the protests.

In Gordon’s view, no matter how big their beef with the regime, the protesters hate the US more. And they really hate Trump.

Gordon wrote, “Whatever Iranians think of their own government, they are unlikely to want as a voice for their grievances an American president who has relentlessly opposed economic relief for their country and banned them from traveling to the United States.”

Just as Obama’s surrogates have repeated Gordon’s claims, so the Obama-supporting liberal media have gone out of their way to diminish the importance of the protests in their coverage of them and use Obama’s surrogates as their “expert” analysts to explain what is happening (or rather, distort what is happening) to their audiences.

Obama administration officials have been so outspoken in their defense of the Iranian regime because they rightly view the prospect that the protesters will succeed in overthrowing the regime as a mortal threat to their legacy.

Obama’s foreign policy rested on the assumption that the US was a colonialist, aggressive and immoral superpower. By their telling, the Iranians – like the Cubans and the Russians – were right to oppose the US due to its legacy of meddling in the internal affairs of other countries. This anti-American worldview informed the Obama administration’s conviction that it was incumbent on the US to make amends for its previous decades of foreign policy.

Hence, Obama traveled the globe in 2009 and 2010 apologizing for the policies of his predecessors. Hence, Obama believed that the US had no moral right to stand with the Iranian people against the regime in the 2009 Green Revolution. As he saw it, anyone who stood with the US was no better than an Uncle Tom. Truly authentic foreign regimes were definition anti-American. Since the Green Revolutionaries were begging for his support, by definition, they didn’t deserve it.

Since the current wave on anti-regime protests began last Thursday, the liberal media have parroted the Obama alumni’s talking points because they feel that their war against Trump requires them to embrace Obama’s legacy just as they embraced his talking points and policies for eight years.

After all, if Obama is not entirely infallible, then Trump cannot be entirely fallible. And if Trump may be partially right and Obama partially wrong, then their dispute may be a substantive rather than existential one. And so, the New York Times’ coverage of the most significant story in the world has deliberately distorted and downplayed events on the ground in Iran.

The protests are potentially so important because the Iranian regime is so dangerous. Thanks to Obama, the regime is on a glide path to a nuclear arsenal. Its proxy armies in Lebanon, Syria, Yemen, and Iraq possess sophisticated armaments most militaries can only dream of. Its tentacles spread throughout the globe.

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The longer the Iranian regime remains in power, the greater the likelihood humanity will soon face a global conflagration that will dwarf World War II.

Nothing any single state does against Iran’s proxies will end Iran’s continued ability to cause mayhem and death on multiple fronts. Every day the Iranian regime remains in place, it will use its power to continue its direct and indirect wars against its enemies in the Middle East and throughout the world.

Gordon argued that Trump’s pro-Israel and pro-Saudi policies since taking office have made him less credible with the Iranian people. All you have to do to understand that this is nonsense is listen to what the protesters are chanting. They insist that they want their country’s money spent at home, on them. They do not want their money used to underwrite Hezbollah, the Assad regime in Syria and Hamas’s regime in Gaza. In other words, they don’t want to make war with Israel – or, presumably Saudi Arabia.

Their criticism is on point.

In 2016, flush with cash from Obama’s nuclear deal, Iran quadrupled its support of Hezbollah from $200 million to $800m. per year.

In 2012 Iran cut off its funding to Hamas in retaliation for Hamas’s support for the Muslim Brotherhood against Iran’s Syrian proxy President Bashar Assad. In the wake of Obama’s nuclear deal, Iran became Hamas’s largest financier.

Last August, Hamas leader Yahya Sinwar said that Iran is Hamas’s “largest backer financially and militarily.”

The $100 billion in sanctions relief Iran received in the wake of the nuclear deal enabled the regime to give hundreds of millions of additional dollars each year to its proxy militias and armies in Iraq, Yemen, and Syria.

It is self-evident that if the protesters get their way and the ayatollahs are overthrown, that money would stop flowing to Hezbollah, Hamas, the Houthis and the Shi’ite militias in Iraq. Instead, that money and billions more would be spent developing Iran.

There are many ways that the nations of the world can help the protesters in Iran. The US and Iran’s other targets can expose the financial corruption in the Islamic Republic, including the bank account information of everyone from Supreme Dictator Ayatollah Ali Khamenei down to local Basij commanders. They can broadcast anti-regime information into Iran through multiple platforms outside the regime’s control. They can bypass the regime and unblock Twitter, Facebook, Telegraph and other social media platforms.

Aside from that, the Trump administration can take immediate steps to constrain even further the regime’s access to the international monetary system and force European and US firms to cancel their multi-billion dollar deals with the regime.

There are many reasons to fear that the protests will fail to achieve their goal of overthrowing the regime. The regime is already sending its forces out to repress the protesters through killing and mass arrests.

But even if the protesters’ prospects of success are small, there is no excuse for not supporting them, as constructively, enthusiastically and unconditionally as possible. There is certainly no excuse for working to preserve Obama’s foreign policy legacy at the expense of a popular uprising that has the potential to avert a world war.

Reprinted with author’s permission from The Jerusalem Post

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Drone Footage of Rujm el-Hiri, Israel’s Mysterious Stonehenge

Wed, 01/03/2018 - 02:20

A drone videos a series of concentric stone circles in the Golan that scientists still do not understand.

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Debating BDS with Cornel West

Wed, 01/03/2018 - 02:00

Zionism was the national liberation movement of the Jewish people, not a colonial enterprise. Nor is Israel in any way like South Africa, where a minority of whites ruled over a majority of Blacks, who were denied the most fundamental human rights. In Israel, Arabs, Druze, and Christians have equal rights and serve in high positions in government, business, the arts, and academia.

BDS is not a protest against Israel’s policies. It is a protest against Israel’s very existence.

West argued that BDS would encourage Israel to make peace with the Palestinians. I replied that Israel would never be blackmailed into compromising its security and that the Palestinians are disincentivized into making compromises by the fantasy that they will get a state through economic and cultural extortion.

I recently debated Professor Cornel West of Harvard about the boycott movement against Israel. The topic was resolved: “The boycott, divestiture, and sanctions (BDS) movement will help bring about the resolution of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict.”

Debating Cornel West about BDS, which Prof. Dershowitz (right) says is not a protest movement against Israeli policy, but against Israel’s very existence. Photo: CSPAN/Screenshot.

West argued that Israel was a “colonialist-settler” state and that apartheid in the West Bank was “worse” than it was in white-ruled South Africa and should be subject to the same kind of economic and cultural isolation that helped bring about the fall of that regime.

I replied that the Jews who emigrated to Israel – a land in which Jews have lived continuously for thousands of years – were escaping from the countries that persecuted them, not acting as colonial settlers for those countries. Indeed, Israel fought against British Colonial rule. Zionism was the national liberation movement of the Jewish people, not a colonial enterprise. Nor is Israel in any way like South Africa, where a minority of whites ruled over a majority of Blacks, who were denied the most fundamental human rights. In Israel, Arabs, Druze and Christians have equal rights and serve in high positions in government, business, the arts, and academia. Jews were a majority in Israel, both when the UN divided mandatory Palestine (Eretz Yisrael) into “two states for two people,” and at present, although the Arab population has increased considerably since 1948. Even the situation on the West Bank – where Palestinians have the right to vote for their leaders and criticize Israel, and wherein cities such as Ramallah there is no Israeli military or police presence – the situation is no way comparable to apartheid South Africa.

West then argued that BDS was a non-violent movement that was the best way to protest Israel’s “occupation” and settlement policies.

I responded that BDS is not a “movement” – a movement requires universality, like the feminist, gay rights and civil rights movements. BDS is an anti-Semitic tactic directed only against the Jewish citizens and supporters of Israel. The boycott against Israel and its Jewish supporters (to many Palestinians, all of Israel is one big “settlement;” just look at any map of Palestine) began before any “occupation” or “settlements” and picked up steam just as Israel offered to end the “occupation” and settlements as part of a two-state solution that the Palestinians rejected. BDS is not a protest against Israel’s policies. It is a protest against Israel’s very existence.

West argued that BDS would help the Palestinians. I argued that it has hurt them by causing unemployment among Palestinian workers in companies such as SodaStream, which was pressured to move out of the West Bank, where it paid high wages to Palestinian men and women who worked side by side with Israeli men and women. I explained that the leadership of the Palestinian Authority is opposed to broad boycotts of Israeli products, artist, and academics.

West argued that BDS would encourage Israel to make peace with the Palestinians. I replied that Israel would never be blackmailed into compromising its security and that the Palestinians are disincentivized into making compromises by the fantasy that they will get a state through economic and cultural extortion. The Palestinians will get a state only by sitting down and negotiating directly with Israel. I told my mother’s favorite joke about Sam, an Orthodox Jew, who prayed every day to win the N.Y. Lottery before he turned 80. On his 80th birthday, he complains to God that he hasn’t won. God replies, “Sam, help me out a little – buy a ticket.” I argued that the Palestinians expect to “win” a state without “buying a ticket” — sitting down to negotiate a compromise solution.

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The debate in its entirety – which was conducted in front of an audience of business people in Dallas, Texas, as part of the “Old Parkland Debate Series” – continued with broad arguments about the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, the refugee situation, the peace process, terrorism and other familiar issues. It can be seen in full on CSPAN. I think it is worth watching.

The audience voted twice, once before the debate and once after. The final tally was 129 opposed to BDS and 16 in favor. The vote before the debate was 93 opposed and 14 in favor. I swayed 36 votes. West swayed 2. The anti-BDS position won overwhelmingly, not because I am a better debater than West – he is quite articulate and everyone watching the CSPAN can judge for themselves who is the better debater – but because the facts, the morality, and the practicalities are against BDS.

The important point is never to give up on making the case against unjust tactics being employed against Israel. In some forums – at the United Nations, at numerous American University campuses, in some parts of Western Europe – it is an uphill battle. But it is a battle that can be won among open-minded people of all backgrounds. BDS lost in Dallas. BDS lost in a debate between me and an articulate human rights activist at the Oxford Union. BDS is losing in legislative chambers. And if the case is effectively and honestly presented, it will lose in the court of public opinion.

Reprinted with author’s permission from Gatestone Institute

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What Does it Take to Be a Pilot in Israel’s Elite Air Force?

Wed, 01/03/2018 - 01:30

Thirty-six students recently completed the 175th prestigious and challenging Israel Air Force (IAF) pilot course, which runs for three years. Major General Amikam Norkin joined the group on their test flights and stated, “Thirty years from now, one of you will stand here and assume the role of commander of the air force.”

Major General Norkin, a graduate of the 113th pilot course, will give the cadets their flying wings on the same parade grounds where he received his 30 years ago.

The IAF pilot’s course is the most stringent in the Israeli army; only 9 percent of the trainees who began the course actually completed the program. Data is shared each year about its graduates to partially assess their qualities. This year, the data included information about where the graduates grew up, their educational backgrounds, and their upbringings.

36 percent of the graduates live in cities, 22 percent live in local councils, 19 percent live in moshavim (villages with some shared responsibilities), 14 percent live in townships, and 9 percent live in kibbutzim (villages with a full share of responsibilities).

69 percent of the graduates come from the center of Israel, 28 percent from the north and 3 percent from the south.

69 percent of the graduates studied for a science major, 25 percent combined human and science studies, and 6 percent chose to study in the humanities.

28 percent chose to study for a degree in Mathematics and Computer Science, 22 percent in Politics and Government, and 19 percent in Economics and Management.

42 percent of the graduates are the eldest children in their family, 47 percent are the middle children and their families, and 11 percent are the youngest children in their family.

25 percent of course graduates are not the first members of their family to receive their flying wings.

58 percent of the graduates took part in activities in various youth movements – 57 percent were in Scouts, 5 percent were in Hanoar Haoved Vehalomed, 14 percent were in moshavim, 14 percent were in Bnei Akiva and 10 percent were in the agricultural union.

11 percent of graduates completed hesder yeshivas (combined Bible studies with army service).

Eight percent of the graduates are IDF veterans who served before the course in another position.

28 percent of the graduates play musical instruments.

9 percent of the trainees who started the flight course completed the program.

“The IAF of 2017 is a world leader in attack capabilities, aerial defense, UAVs and jointness with ground and naval forces,” stated retired Major General Eshel. “The IAF’s capabilities, in attack and defense, were tested over the past years in thousands of operations, five theatres, close ranges and thousands of kilometers away from home. Threats were foiled, targets were destroyed, rockets and aircraft were intercepted and downed.”

Major General Norkin pointed out, “Over the next few years the IAF will integrate advanced technology, expand its jointness and continue strengthening its relations with other air forces. But above all, in the next few years the IAF will nurture its personnel, deepen their feeling of belonging, ability to make a difference and sense of satisfaction from their work.”

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Too Much Free Expression?

Wed, 01/03/2018 - 01:00

Prominent in what’s similar between the Great Leaders of the US and Israel are their claims about the media. Fake news, especially from the mainstream-leftwing print and electronic.

Those who worry see these preoccupations as the tricks of demagogues. Some have compared them with how Hitler moved toward the complete squashing of opposition in Nazi Germany.

Maybe. But we can also cite an ancient text, of making many books there is no end, and much study is a weariness of the flesh. (Ecclesiastes 12:12)

That such a sentiment could appear some 1500 years before Gutenberg, and more than 2100 years before the Internet should moderate our concern that we are facing anything new in what Bibi and Donald are selling to their supporters about those who write, publish and broadcast.

Despite the blather that is coming from the tops of our governments, both Americans and Israelis seem adequately protected against any serious effort to stifle dissent. The First Amendment of the US Constitution survived the Red Scare of Attorney General Palmer in the 1920s and Joe McCarthy in the 1950s. More recently the multiplicity of blogs, Facebook, Twitter, et al,  plus a great variety of non-network radio and television are more than replacing the declines in daily newspapers, whose fates come from the ease of sending news and opinion over the air.

Israelis have access to the same innovations, along with deeper threads of Judaic culture. Intellectual pluralism is apparent in various elements of the Hebrew Bible that confound any effort to compose a simplified version of the ancient religion. Then came Rabbinical disputes that are the essence of the Talmud, another 2,000 years of Rabbinical pronouncements, as well as the feisty politics of Jews from the 19th century onward in Europe, North America, and Israel.

It’s always been difficult to decide if the sum total of free expression amounts to wisdom or garbage. There’s plenty of both. The translation service  has published an item from an Egyptian journalist, doing her best to refresh awareness that Jews seek to establish their empire from the Nile to the Euphrates, and destroy Arab regimes between here and there.

Alas, the origins of that canard lie in what Jews wrote a couple of thousand years ago, and what some still accept as holy writ.

“Unto thy seed have I given this land, from the river of Egypt unto the great river, the River Euphrates.”(Genesis 15:18)

The multiplicity of expression provides the best antidote to the dangers inherent in the opportunity.

Yet with all the checks and balances, inherent in society as well as government structure, Donald, Bibi, and their supporters continue to give democracy a bad name.

Donald is Tweeting Americans and its friends beyond wonder to some degree of worry.

Against a creeping series of investigations by police that seems likely to end Bibi’s long career, he continues to blast the police and the media, and to assert that “they’ll find nothing because there is nothing.”

His Knesset cadre has proposed several measures to curtail the police. And in order to keep the ultra-Orthodox in their camp, they are proposing other measures to firm up the Rabbis’ control of what Israelis cannot do on the Sabbath.

Yet Israeli politics has its defenses against anything excessive. The measures that have so far survived the weight of opposition, as well as the reflection within the governing coalition, are full of enough holes to frustrate their creators.

Along the way, opposition parliamentarians have added a bit to Hebrew that comes directly from the US Senate, i.e., פיליבוסטר (filibuster). Israeli opponents to government-sponsored measures have introduced hundreds of reservations, which take days for the Knesset Committee charged with preparing a proposal for a vote on the floor. Then individual MKs have spoken for hours at a time, singing ethnic-religious chants from the speaker’s podium in the Knesset, as well as reading stories and bits of history.

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What survives the legislature may be tied up in judicial dithering, or fall victim to officials who do not implement what’s on the books.

It’s part of the demagogue’s routine to distract the public from bad news by highlighting what is said to be evidence of success.

Bibi’s good news is that Guatemala is following Donald Trump in announcing that Jerusalem is the capital of Israel and that it’ll be moving its Embassy to this city. He also claims that Honduras is sure to follow.

That’s not quite as good as an Empire from the Nile to the Euphrates, but it does remind us that Jewish ambition is nothing new.

Sound and fury signifying nothing (Macbeth Act 5) are not as ancient as of making many books there is no end, but Shakespeare was making the same point as Ecclesiastes.

We do not know if Bibi and/or Donald are aware of their roots, and laughing quietly at themselves, or–more frightful–if they are serious at all they utter.

Ranking members of the Likud delegation in the Knesset have learned a new routine, which they express whenever a journalist asks about police inquiries concerning David Bitan or Benjamin Netanyahu. They are confident in the capacity of the accused to establish his innocence. Yet Likud has already replaced Bitan as parliamentary leader of the governing coalition, and Bibi’s hold on the top slot may not be more secure.

Various movements from the right and left have demonstrated against corruption and the delays in finishing the investigations of those in high office.

It won’t be over till its over, but meanwhile, there is no effective limit on our capacity to express ourselves.

Those expecting anything new in the New Year can check their enthusiasm against what the Rabbis included in the Hebrew Bible centuries before the New Year was defined as January 1, i.e., that there is nothing new under the sun (Ecclesiastes 1:9).

We also know that details change. Lots of good and bad have occurred since Ecclesiastes and Shakespeare. But those sources provide us with caution against excessive certainty in whatever we are inclined to predict.

And both Bibi and Donald must know about the fates of predecessors said to be irreplaceable.

With all that, we should conclude with mutual wishes for the best in 2018 and beyond.

Reprinted with author’s permission from The Jerusalem Post

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Jerusalem Supermajority Law Passes: 80 Mks For Any Measure to Give Up Parts Of City

Wed, 01/03/2018 - 01:00

A Jewish-Home sponsored law requiring a two-thirds supermajority of 80 Mks to approve any agreement that calls for the transfer of territory to any foreign entity was approved by lawmakers in the early hours of Tuesday morning.

The amendment to the Basic Law: Jerusalem, Capital of Israel passed second and third readings by a 64-51 majority.

The amendment, sponsored by Jewish Home MK Shuli Moalem-Refaeli probits ceding any territory within Jerusalem’s municipal boundaries without a two-thirds majority. The amendment, however, can be changed with a regular majority of 61.

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While the amendment blocks the government from giving up territory without a supermajority, it cancels a clause in the law that prohibits any change in the municipal boundaries of the city. The annulment of that clause could pave the way for removing some densely populated Palestinian neighborhoods beyond the security fence from Jerusalem’s municipal boundaries. At the same time, ceding sovereignty over those neighborhoods would require a supermajority under the Referendum Law which requires a popular vote on ceding sovereign Israeli territory. The Referendum Law applies to Jerusalem and the Golan Heights, which were annexed by Israel, but not to Judea and Samaria.

“Today we ensured the unity of Jerusalem for eternity,” said Jewish Home leader Naftali Bennett. “The Mount of Olives, the Old City and the City of David will remain in our hands forever. There will be no more political trickery that enables our capital to be torn apart. This is  Israel’s answer to the shameful United Nations vote on Jerusalem.”

Jerusalem Affairs Minister Ze’ev Elkin said the amendment would “provide a defensive shield against those in the Left who may in the future seek to sabotage Israeli sovereignty over Jerusalem.

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