Anne Frank on antisemitism | Julie Nathan | The Blogs …

Posted By on July 1, 2015

The theater production of The Diary of Anne Frank is playing in Newtown, Sydney. I saw it last month when it opened. The play was powerful, moving, and sensitive. The acting was highly professional. The characters portrayed the situation, the fears, the pressures, and the closeness of the Jews hiding in the attic. It also showed the bravery and moral courage of the gentiles who put their own lives at risk to save Jews. The Newtown production brought this 71 year old diary to life with great vibrancy. I would urge all those so inclined to see it.

However, it was disappointing to see that the 1955 play by Frances Goodrich and Albert Hackett which was reenacted at Newtown was not updated to recapture Annes authentic words about antisemitism. Annes words had been replaced with a sanitized version about antisemitism and the reason for the suffering they were subjected to. The playwrights put these words into Annes mouth: We are not the only people that have had to suffer sometimes one race, sometimes another. This is an egregious rewriting of history.

Whilst it is true that other peoples have also suffered, and continue to suffer, due to racism, these fabricated words negate the unique aspects of antisemitism. Racism thus becomes some bland generic universalistic phenomenon, negating the unique history and reasons for racism against different peoples, whether it be the enslavement of black Africans in previous centuries or of Yazidi women presently or the continuing persecution of Bahai, Assyrians, Roma or Rohingya, and thus disrespecting all victims of each form of racism.

As Dennis Prager and Rabbi Joseph Telushkin state in their book Why The Jews?, the elimination of Annes original words is part of the dejudaization of antisemitism [] Anne Franks beliefs that Judaism was at the root of Jew-hatred and that the Jews were different were eliminated in the Broadway version. [] The Hacketts thus presented their dejudaized interpretation of antisemitism in place of the Jewish interpretation offered by Anne Frank, that the Jews are hated precisely because of the Jews unique role in the world.

It is worth revisiting Annes original words, rather than those that have been put in her mouth. On 11 April 1944, she wrote in her diary:

Who has made us Jews different from all other people? Who has allowed us to suffer so terribly up until now? It is God who has made us as we are, but it will be God, too, who will raise us up again. Who knows? It might even be our religion from which the world and all peoples learn good, and for that reason and only that reason do we suffer. We can never become just Netherlanders, or just English or representatives of any country for that matter. We will always remain Jews, but we want to, too.

Anne had a far superior understanding of the reasons for, and uniqueness of, antisemitism than many people. She understood that it was not just an unfortunate confluence of random events that saw a long history of hatred and murder of Jews. Although she grew up in a secular and assimilated Jewish family, Anne realised it was Judaism, with its ethics and values, that intrinsically so rile up those who would prefer to live by brute force and have freedom without conscience. It is this, which a 14 year old Dutch/German girl understood even as she hid in that attic, trying to survive the onslaught of murderous hate. It is a pity that a great play could not appreciate Annes deep insights.

Antisemitism is on the rise once more throughout the world. Obfuscating the nature of antisemitism and the impetus for it is counterproductive to the efforts to fight it. Whether it is hostility and hatred towards the Jewish religion, the Jewish people, or the Jewish state, we need to understand the perennial nature of the toxic evil that propels this unique phenomenon.

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Anne Frank on antisemitism | Julie Nathan | The Blogs …

Likud – Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia

Posted By on July 1, 2015

Likud (Hebrew: , translit. HaLikud, lit. The Consolidation), officially the LikudNational Liberal Movement, is the major center-right political party[10][11] in Israel. A secular party,[12] it was founded in 1973 by Menachem Begin in an alliance with several right-wing and liberal parties. Likud’s landslide victory in the 1977 elections was a major turning point in the country’s political history, marking the first time the left had lost power. In addition, it was the first time in Israel that a right-wing party won the plurality of the votes.[13] However, after ruling the country for most of the 1980s, the party lost the Knesset election in 1992. Nevertheless, Likud’s candidate Benjamin Netanyahu did win the vote for Prime Minister in 1996 and was given the task of forming a government after the 1996 elections. Netanyahu’s government fell apart after a vote of no confidence, which led to elections being called in 1999 and Likud losing power to the One Israel coalition led by Ehud Barak.

In 2001, Likud’s Ariel Sharon, who replaced Netanyahu following the 1999 election, defeated Barak in an election called by the prime minister following his resignation. After the party recorded a convincing win in the 2003 elections, Likud saw a major split in 2005 when Sharon left to form the Kadima party. This resulted in Likud slumping to fourth place in the 2006 elections and losing twenty-eight seats in the Knesset. Following the 2009 elections, Likud was able to gain fifteen seats and, with Netanyahu back in control of the party, formed a coalition with fellow right wing party Yisrael Beiteinu and Shas to take control of the government from Kadima, which earned a plurality but not a majority. Netanyahu has been prime minister since and Likud has been the leading vote-getter in each election.

A member of the party is often called a Likudnik (Hebrew: ).[14]

The Likud was formed as a secular party[12] by an alliance of several right-wing parties prior to the 1973 electionsHerut, the Liberal Party, the Free Centre, the National List and the Movement for Greater Israel. Herut had been the nation’s largest right-wing party since growing out of the Irgun in 1948. It had already been in coalition with the Liberals since 1965 as Gahal, with Herut as the senior partner. Herut remained the senior partner in the new grouping, which was given the name Likud, meaning “Consolidation”, as it represented the consolidation of the Israeli right.[15] It worked as a coalition under Herut’s leadership until 1988, when the member parties merged into a single party under the Likud name. From its establishment in 1973, Likud enjoyed great support from blue-collar Sephardim who felt discriminated against by the ruling Alignment.

Likud made a strong showing in its first elections in 1973, reducing the Alignment’s lead to 12 seats. The party went on to win the 1977 elections, finishing 11 seats ahead of the Alignment. Begin was able to form a government with the support of the religious parties, consigning the left-wing to opposition for the first time since independence. A former leader of the hard-line paramilitary Irgun, Begin helped initiate the peace process with Egypt, which resulted in the 1978 Camp David Accords and the 1979 Israel-Egypt Peace Treaty. Likud was reelected with a significantly reduced mandate in 1981.

Likud has long been a loose alliance between politicians committed to different and sometimes opposing policy preferences and ideologies.[16][17] The 1981 elections highlighted divisions that existed between the populist wing of Likud, headed by David Levy of Herut, and the Liberal wing,[18] who represented a policy agenda of the secular bourgeoisie.[16]

Begin resigned in October 1983 and was succeeded as Likud leader and Prime Minister by Yitzhak Shamir. Shamir, a former commander of the Lehi underground, was widely seen as a hard-liner with an ideological commitment both to the settlements in the West Bank and Gaza Strip, the growth of which he encouraged, and to the idea of aliyah, facilitating the mass immigration of Jews to Israel from Ethiopia and the former Soviet Union. Although Shamir lost the 1984 election, the Alignment was unable to form a government on its own. Likud and the Alignment thus formed a national unity government, with Peres as Prime Minister and Shamir as foreign minister. After two years, Peres and Shamir switched posts. This government remained in power through 1990, when the Alignment pulled out and Shamir stitched together a right-wing coalition that held on until its defeat in 1992 by Labor.

Shamir retired shortly after losing the election. His successor, Benjamin Netanyahu, became the third Likud Prime Minister in May 1996, following the assassination of Yitzhak Rabin. Netanyahu proved to be less hard-line in practice than he made himself out to be rhetorically, and felt pressured by the United States and others to enter negotiations with the Palestine Liberation Organization and Yasser Arafat, despite his harsh criticism of the Oslo accords and hawkish stance in comparison to Labor.

In 1998, Netanyahu reluctantly agreed to cede territory in the Wye River Memorandum. While accepted by many in the Likud, some Likud MKs, led by Benny Begin (Menachem Begin’s son), Michael Kleiner and David Re’em, broke away and formed a new party, named Herut The National Movement, in protest. Yitzhak Shamir (who had expressed harsh disappointment in Netanyahu’s leadership), gave the new party his support. Less than a year afterward, Netanyahu’s coalition collapsed, resulting in the 1999 election and Labor’s Ehud Barak winning the premiership on a platform of immediate settlement of final status issues. Likud spent 19992001 on the opposition benches.

Barak’s “all-or-nothing” strategy failed, however, and early elections for Prime Minister were called for March 2001. Surprisingly, Netanyahu declined to be the Likud candidate for Prime Minister, meaning that the fourth Likud premier would be Ariel Sharon. Sharon, unlike past Likud leaders, had been raised in a Labor Zionist environment and had long been seen as something of a maverick. In the face of the Second Intifada, Sharon pursued a varied set of policies, many of which were controversial even within the Likud. The final split came when Sharon announced his policy of unilateral disengagement from Gaza and parts of the West Bank. The idea proved extremely divisive within the party.

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Likud – Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia

Hamas and the PLO – Palestine Facts

Posted By on July 1, 2015

One of the major Islamic evangelist movements in the Middle East started in 1928 in Egypt with the name of the Muslim Brotherhood. The movement was formed with social and religious motives initially and focused on the educational and social reforming of the Palestinian Arab areas. The situation changed following the intifada in West Bank and Gaza in 1987 when the Muslim Brotherhood was challenged regarding their fundamental beliefs as Palestinian population turned their focus on the uprising. In such a situation where leaders of the Muslim Brotherhood felt that they are being detached from the activities of the PLO and Islamic Jihad, they founded a new organization in the same year as a response and named it Hamas.

The Hamas Covenant, which was drawn up in 1988, laid down that the organization recognizes the contributions of the PLO and its efforts to work for a Palestinian state fighting Israel. However, it did not recognize the PLO superior than themselves in representing Palestinian Arabs and Islam. Hamas held the view that only jihad and armed struggle can liberate Palestinian land from Israel and not negotiations. Stated in Hamas Covenant:

There is no other solution for the Palestinian problem other than jihad. All the initiatives and international conferences are a waste of time and a futile game.

Hamas gives a clear vision of the Palestinian state which runs from Mediterranean Sea to the Jordan River and is based on the principals of Islam, opposing to the view of a small, indeterminate state given by the PLO. Hamas also enjoyed a position more balanced in the 1990 Gulf Crisis than the PLO and received major aids from Saudi Arabia as PLO sided with Iraq, leaving an inclination of Saudi Arabia towards Hamas who were critical of the secular Iraqi rule.

More distances came between the PLO and Hamas after the Oslo peace process started. Iran supported Hamas in its efforts to carry on the Islamic movements. During the time Israel expelled Hamas activists to Southern Lebanon, relations between Hamas and Hezbollah were strengthened. There was a slight improvement in the relationships between the PLO and Hamas during 1993 when the PLO refrained from involving in peace talks with Israel. However, it turned out to be only a temporary improvement as the PLO signed Oslo Agreement in 1993.

Aimed at achieving a higher political standing in Palestine, Hamas found its position deteriorating with the peace process negotiations of the period 1993-1995. It brought them down to the dilemma where they had to choose between joining in the negotiations which challenged their origins or continue to oppose the negotiations which would damage their image in front of the emerging Palestinian state. Eventually agreements were signed between the PLO and Hamas which solved the problem for both and turning their rivalry in collaboration.

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Hamas and the PLO – Palestine Facts

Diary of Anne Frank: Read TIME’s Original Review of the Book

Posted By on June 27, 2015

When the diary of Anne Frank was first published in English, as Anne Frank: The Diary of a Young Girl, a full decade had passed since a young Anne received the fateful journal for her 13th birthday. Five years had passed since the diary had been published in the Netherlandson this day, June 25, in 1947, as Het Achterhuisand more than dozen had passed since its author stopped writing down her days.

And yet, despite the passage of time, her story was something new, a different way of understanding the horrors of the Holocaust. The resulting diary is one of the most moving stories that anyone, anywhere, has managed to tell about World War II, as TIMEs book reviewer put it, describing the diarists experiences:

As the war dragged on and news trickled in of mass deportations of Jews, Anne became desperate. She had terrifying fantasies about the death of Jewish friends. Often she saw rows of good, innocent people accompanied by crying children [walk] on and on . . . bullied and knocked about until they almost drop. With appalling prescience she wrote that there is nothing we can do but wait as calmly as we can till the misery comes to an end. Jews and Christians wait, the whole earth waits; and there are many who wait for death. When her pen fell into the fire, she wrote that it has been cremated.

Though not much interested in politics, Anne tried to understand what was happening to the world. I dont believe that the big men, the politicians and the capitalists alone, are guilty of the war, she wrote. Oh no, the little man is just as guilty, otherwise the peoples of the world would have risen in revolt long ago! Theres in people simply an urge to destroy, an urge to kill, to murder and rage, and until all mankind, without exception, undergoes a great change, wars will be waged

But sometimes she cried out from the heart, as if for all the Jews of Europe: Who has inflicted this upon us? Who has made us Jews different from all other people? Who has allowed us to suffer so terribly up to now? It is God that has made us as we are, but it will be God, too, who will raise us up again.

Many more decades have passed by nowthis year marks the 70th anniversary of Anne Franks death at Bergen-Belsenand her fathers decision to execute her wish to have her diary published continues to prove significant. According to the Anne Frank House, it has since been published in 70 languages.

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Diary of Anne Frank: Read TIME’s Original Review of the Book

Holocaust | European history |

Posted By on June 26, 2015

Holocaust,Hebrew Shoah, Yiddish and Hebrew urban (Destruction), the systematic state-sponsored killing of six million Jewish men, women, and children and millions of others by Nazi Germany and its collaborators during World War II. The Germans called this the final solution to the Jewish question. The word Holocaust is derived from the Greek holokauston, a translation of the Hebrew word olah, meaning a burnt sacrifice offered whole to God. This word was chosen because in the ultimate manifestation of the Nazi killing programthe extermination campsthe bodies of the victims were consumed whole in crematoria and open fires.

Even before the Nazis came to power in Germany in 1933, they had made no secret of their anti-Semitism. As early as 1919, Adolf Hitler had written, Rational anti-Semitism, however, must lead to systematic legal opposition.Its final objective must unswervingly be the removal of the Jews altogether. In Mein Kampf (My Struggle; 192527), Hitler further developed the idea of the Jews as an evil race struggling for world domination. Nazi anti-Semitism was rooted in religious anti-Semitism and enhanced by political anti-Semitism. To this the Nazis added a further dimension: racial anti-Semitism. Nazi racial ideology characterized the Jews as Untermenschen (German: subhumans). The Nazis portrayed Jews as a race and not a religious group. Religious anti-Semitism could be resolved by conversion, political anti-Semitism by expulsion. Ultimately, the logic of Nazi racial anti-Semitism led to annihilation.

When Hitler came to power legally on January 30, 1933, as the head of a coalition government, his first objective was to consolidate power and to eliminate political opposition. The assault against the Jews began on April 1 with a boycott of Jewish businesses. A week later the Nazis dismissed Jews from the civil service, and by the end of the month, the participation of Jews in German schools was restricted by a quota. On May 10, thousands of Nazi students, together with many professors, stormed university libraries and bookstores in 30 cities throughout Germany to remove tens of thousands of books written by non-Aryans and those opposed to Nazi ideology. The books were tossed into bonfires in an effort to cleanse German culture of un-Germanic writings. A century earlier, Heinrich Heinea German poet of Jewish originhad said, Where one burns books, one will, in the end, burn people. In Nazi Germany, the time between the burning of Jewish books and the burning of Jews was eight years.

As discrimination against Jews increased, German law required a legal definition of a Jew and an Aryan. Promulgated at the annual Nazi Party rally in Nrnberg on September 15, 1935, the Nrnberg Lawsthe Law for the Protection of German Blood and German Honour and the Law of the Reich Citizenbecame the centerpiece of anti-Jewish legislation and a precedent for defining and categorizing Jews in all German-controlled lands. Marriage and sexual relations between Jews and citizens of German or kindred blood were prohibited. Only racial Germans were entitled to civil and political rights. Jews were reduced to subjects of the state. The Nrnberg Laws formally divided Germans and Jews, yet neither the word German nor the word Jew was defined. That task was left to the bureaucracy. Two basic categories were established in November: Jewsthose with at least three Jewish grandparentsand Mischlinge (mongrels, or mixed breeds)people with one or two Jewish grandparents. Thus, the definition of a Jew was primarily based not on the identity an individual affirmed or the religion he practiced but on his ancestry. Categorization was the first stage of destruction.

Responding with alarm to Hitlers rise, the Jewish community sought to defend their rights as Germans. For those Jews who felt themselves fully German and who had patriotically fought in World War I, the Nazification of German society was especially painful. Zionist activity intensified. Wear it with pride, journalist Robert Wildest wrote in 1933 of the Jewish identity the Nazis had so stigmatized. Martin Buber led an effort at Jewish adult education, preparing the community for the long journey ahead. Rabbi Leo Baeck circulated a prayer for Yom Kippur (the Day of Atonement) in 1935 that instructed Jews how to behave: We bow down before God; we stand erect before man. Yet while few, if any, could foresee its eventual outcome, the Jewish condition was increasingly perilous and expected to get worse.

By the late 1930s there was a desperate search for countries of refuge. Those who could get visas and qualify under stringent quotas emigrated to the United States. Many went to Palestine, where the small Jewish community was willing to receive refugees. Still others sought refuge in neighbouring European countries. Most countries, however, were unwilling to receive large numbers of refugees.

Responding to domestic pressures to act on behalf of Jewish refugees, U.S. President Franklin D. Roosevelt convened, but did not attend, the vian Conference on resettlement, in vian-les-Bains, France, in July 1938. In his invitation to government leaders, Roosevelt specified that they would not have to change laws or spend government funds; only philanthropic funds would be used for resettlement. The result was that little was attempted, and less accomplished.

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Holocaust | European history |

Netanyahu calls for calm after Golan Heights lynching …

Posted By on June 24, 2015

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu warned Tuesday that Israel would prosecute those involved in the mob killing of a wounded Syrian in the Golan Heights a day earlier, and appealed to Druze leaders for calm.

The Majdal Shams attack, which is being described in Hebrew-language media as a lynching, was the second assault on an ambulance carrying wounded Syrians in a day, as Druze acted on fears that Israel was aiding the same jihadists threatening their coreligionists across the border.

I view this with utmost gravity. We will not allow anyone to take the law into their hands, Netanyahu said at a cyber-security conference in Tel Aviv. We will not allow anyone to hinder IDF soldiers in their mission. We will locate those who perpetrated this lynching and we will deal with them to the fullest extent of the law.

Netanyahu called on leaders of the Druze community, a splendid community with whom we have a brotherly bond, citizens of the State of Israel, to push for calm and to entreat their coreligionists to respect the law, respect IDF soldiers and not take law into your hands.

The attack took place late Monday night, as the ambulance was carrying two wounded Syrians into Israel for treatment, escorted by an IDF vehicle. A mob of some 150 people hurled rocks at the cars, killing one of the injured men, further wounding the second one who is now in critical condition and lightly injuring two Israeli soldier.

It wasnt clear who perpetrated the lynching, or whether they were citizens of the State of Israel. The vast majority of Syrian Druze living in the Golan Heights do not have Israeli citizenship.

In a Tuesday report, the mouthpiece of the Assad regime, the Syrian Arab News Agency, praised the mob who attacked the ambulance and claimed that the wounded on board were al-Nusra Front jihadists.

Two terrorists from al-Nusra Front were killed Monday when heroes of the occupied Golan confronted a Zionist ambulance which was transporting them to receive treatment at one of the Israeli entitys hospitals, the report said.

The IDF vigorously denied claims that it permits jihadists entry to Israel for medical treatment and said that those on board the ambulance were civilians.

An ambulance attacked in the Golan Heights on June 22, 2015. (Screen capture: Channel 2)

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Netanyahu calls for calm after Golan Heights lynching …

Zionism | nationalistic movement |

Posted By on June 23, 2015

Zionism,Jewish nationalist movement that has had as its goal the creation and support of a Jewish national state in Palestine, the ancient homeland of the Jews (Hebrew: Eretz Yisrael, the Land of Israel). Though Zionism originated in eastern and central Europe in the latter part of the 19th century, it is in many ways a continuation of the ancient attachment of the Jews and of the Jewish religion to the historical region of Palestine, where one of the hills of ancient Jerusalem was called Zion.

A brief treatment of Zionism follows. For fuller treatments, see Israel: Zionism; Judaism: Zionism.

In the 16th and 17th centuries a number of messiahs came forward trying to persuade Jews to return to Palestine. The Haskala (Jewish Enlightenment) movement of the late 18th century, however, urged Jews to assimilate into Western secular culture. In the early 19th century interest in a return of the Jews to Palestine was kept alive mostly by Christian millenarians. Despite the Haskala, eastern European Jews did not assimilate and, in reaction to tsarist pogroms, formed the ovevei iyyon (Lovers of Zion) to promote the settlement of Jewish farmers and artisans in Palestine.

A political turn was given to Zionism by Theodor Herzl, an Austrian journalist who regarded assimilation as most desirable but, in view of anti-Semitism, impossible to realize. Thus, he argued, if Jews were forced by external pressure to form a nation, they could lead a normal existence only through concentration in one territory. In 1897 Herzl convened the first Zionist Congress at Basel, Switzerland, which drew up the Basel program of the movement, stating that Zionism strives to create for the Jewish people a home in Palestine secured by public law.

The centre of the movement was established in Vienna, where Herzl published the official weekly Die Welt (The World). Zionist congresses met yearly until 1901 and then every two years. When the Ottoman government refused Herzls request for Palestinian autonomy, he found support in Great Britain. In 1903 the British government offered 6,000 square miles (15,500 square km) of uninhabited Uganda for settlement, but the Zionists held out for Palestine.

At the death of Herzl in 1904, the leadership moved from Vienna to Cologne and then to Berlin. Prior to World War I, Zionism represented only a minority of Jews, mostly from Russia but led by Austrians and Germans. It developed propaganda through orators and pamphlets, created its own newspapers, and gave an impetus to what was called a Jewish renaissance in letters and arts. The development of the Modern Hebrew language largely took place during that period.

The failure of the Russian Revolution of 1905 and the wave of pogroms and repressions that followed caused growing numbers of Russian Jewish youth to emigrate to Palestine as pioneer settlers. By 1914 there were about 90,000 Jews in Palestine; 13,000 settlers lived in 43 Jewish agricultural settlements, many of them supported by the French Jewish philanthropist Baron Edmond de Rothschild.

Upon the outbreak of World War I, political Zionism reasserted itself, and its leadership passed to Russian Jews living in England. Two such Zionists, Chaim Weizmann and Nahum Sokolow, were instrumental in obtaining the Balfour Declaration from Great Britain (November 2, 1917), which promised British support for the creation of a Jewish national home in Palestine. The declaration was included in Britains League of Nations mandate over Palestine (1922).

In the following years the Zionists built up the Jewish urban and rural settlements in Palestine, perfecting autonomous organizations and solidifying Jewish cultural life and Hebrew education. In March 1925 the Jewish population in Palestine was officially estimated at 108,000, and it rose to about 238,000 (20 percent of the population) by 1933. Jewish immigration remained relatively slow, however, until the rise of Hitler in Europe. Nevertheless, the Arab population feared that Palestine would eventually become a Jewish state and bitterly resisted Zionism and the British policy supporting it. British forces struggled to maintain order in the face of a series of Arab uprisings. The strain of suppressing the Arab revolt of 193639, which was more extensive and sustained than earlier uprisings, ultimately led Britain to reassess its policies. In hopes of keeping the peace between Jews and Palestinian Arabs and retaining Arab support against Germany and Italy in World War II, Britain placed restrictions on Jewish immigration in 1939. The new restrictions were violently opposed by Zionist underground groups such as the Stern Gang and Irgun Zvai Leumi, which committed acts of terrorism and assassination against the British and organized illegal Jewish immigration to Palestine.

The large-scale extermination of European Jews by the Nazis led many Jews to seek refuge in Palestine and many others, especially in the United States, to embrace Zionism. As tensions grew among Arabs and Zionists, Britain submitted the Palestine problem first to Anglo-U.S. discussion for a solution and later to the United Nations, which on November 29, 1947, proposed partition of the country into separate Arab and Jewish states and the internationalization of Jerusalem. The creation of the State of Israel on May 14, 1948, triggered an invasion by the neighbouring Arab countries that was soundly defeated by the Israeli army. (See Arab-Israeli War of 194849.) By the time armistice agreements were signed in 1949, Israel held more land than had been allotted to it under the UN partition plan. About 800,000 Arabs had also fled or been expelled from the area that became Israel. Thus, 50 years after the first Zionist congress and 30 years after the Balfour Declaration, Zionism achieved its aim of establishing a Jewish state in Palestine, but at the same time, it became an armed camp surrounded by hostile Arab nations, and Palestinian organizations engaged in terrorism in and outside Israel.

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Zionism | nationalistic movement |

UN Report On Gaza: Both Sides May Be Guilty Of War Crimes

Posted By on June 23, 2015

JERUSALEM (AP) A much-awaited United Nations report into the 2014 Gaza war released Monday found that both Israel and Palestinian militant groups may have committed war crimes during the conflict.

Both Israel and Gaza’s Hamas rulers quickly rejected the report’s findings, which said Palestinian militants targeted civilians in their rocket attacks, while Israeli forces likely used “disproportionate” force in civilian areas of the Gaza Strip both identified by the U.N. committee as potential war crimes.

While Israel long has had a contentious relationship with the United Nations, the stakes now are much higher as Palestinians have joined the International Criminal Court and are pursuing war crimes charges against Israel. Monday’s report could play a key role in the case against Israel.

“The extent of the devastation and human suffering in Gaza was unprecedented and will impact generations to come,” said Mary McGowan Davis, the chair of the commission. “There is also ongoing fear in Israel among communities who come under regular threat.”

The war started July 8, 2014, after the kidnapping and killing of three Israeli teenagers in the West Bank, as well as the subsequent kidnapping and burning alive of a Palestinian teenager in an apparent revenge attack. Israel responded to the teens’ kidnapping by arresting hundreds of Hamas members in raids in the West Bank, prompting militant groups in Gaza to step up their rocket attacks.

More than 2,200 Palestinians, including hundreds of civilians, were killed during the fighting, according to U.N. and Palestinian officials, while 73 people, including six civilians, died on the Israeli side.

Israel preemptively criticized the report as biased. In particular, Israel took issue with the U.N. Human Rights Council that commissioned the inquiry, saying it is stacked with countries that focus disproportionate attention on Israel while having poor human rights records themselves.

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu insisted that throughout the conflict Israel acted according to international law and he criticized the U.N. Human Rights Council on Monday as a body that does “everything but worry about human rights.”

“Israel does not commit war crimes. Israel defends itself against a terrorist organization that calls for its destruction and carries out many war crimes,” Netanyahu said. “We will continue to act forcefully and determinedly against those who seek to harm our citizens and we will do this according to international law.”

Hamas was similarly defiant, with senior official Ghazi Hamad telling The Associated Press the U.N. report created a false balance “between the victims and the killers.” He said Hamas rockets and mortars were aimed at Israeli military sites, not at civilians.

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UN Report On Gaza: Both Sides May Be Guilty Of War Crimes

Gaza | city, Gaza Strip |

Posted By on June 22, 2015

Gaza,Arabic Ghazzah, Hebrew Azza, city and principal urban centre of the Gaza Strip, southwestern Palestine. Formerly the administrative headquarters for the Israeli military forces that occupied the Gaza Strip, the city came under Palestinian control in 2005.

Records exist indicating continuous habitation at the site for more than three millennia, the earliest being a reference by Pharaoh Thutmose III (18th dynasty; 15th century bc). It is also mentioned in the Tell el-Amarna tablets, the diplomatic and administrative records of ancient Egypt. After 300 years of Egyptian occupation, the Peleset (Philistines), one of the Sea Peoples, settled the city and surrounding area. Gaza became an important centre of the Philistine Pentapolis (league of five cities). There the biblical hero Samson perished while toppling the temple of the god Dagon. Because of its strategic position on the Via Maris, the ancient coastal road linking Egypt with Palestine and the lands beyond, Gaza experienced little peace in antiquity; it fell, successively, to the Israelite king David and to the Assyrians, Egyptians, Babylonians, and Persians. Alexander the Great met stiff resistance there, and, after conquering it, he sold its inhabitants into slavery. Throughout its history it was a prosperous trade centre. In Hellenistic and Roman times the harbour, about 3 miles (5 km) from the city proper, was called Neapolis (Greek: New City).

In ad 635 the Arabs took Gaza, and it became a Muslim city. Gaza has long been an important centre of Islamic tradition and is the reputed site of the burial place of Hshim ibn Abd Manf, great-grandfather of the Prophet Muammad, and the birthplace of al-Shfi (767820), founder of the Shfiite school of Muslim legal interpretation. The city declined during the Crusades and never regained its former importance. After the sultan Saladin (al al-Dn) defeated the Crusaders occupying the region at the Battle of an (1187), Gaza reverted to Muslim control; it passed to the Ottoman Turks in the 16th century. In World War I it was stoutly defended by the Turks and was not taken by British forces until November 1917.

After the war Gaza became part of mandated Palestine, and a small coastal port (fishing, lighterage) was operated on the coast. When the Palestine partition plan was promulgated by the United Nations (1947), Gaza was assigned to what was to be an Arab state. That state, however, was not set up, and Gaza was occupied in 1948 by Egyptians. At the time of the signing of the Israeli-Egyptian armistice (February 1949), Egypt held Gaza and its environs, a situation that resulted in the creation of the Gaza Strip. (See Arab-Israeli wars.) Egypt did not annex the city and territory but administered it through a military governor. Gaza and its surroundings have continued to be greatly overpopulated by Palestinian Arab refugees.

During the Sinai campaign of November 1956, Gaza and its environs were taken by Israeli troops, but international pressure soon forced Israel to withdraw. Reoccupied by Israel in the Six-Day War (June 1967), the city remained under Israeli military administration until 1994, when a phased transfer of governmental authority to the Palestinians got under way. In 2005 Israel completed its withdrawal from the Gaza Strip, handing over control of the region to the Palestinians.

Long a prosperous citrus centre, Gaza also has extensive truck farms within the city limits. Dark pottery, food products, and finished textiles are manufactured; the city has a long-standing textile industry. Sites of interest include at the harbour an early Byzantine mosaic floor (6th century ad), evidently of a synagogue, showing King David playing the harp and dressed as the Greek hero Orpheus. Pop. (2005 est.) 479,400.

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Gaza | city, Gaza Strip |

Israelis watch intently as Syrian rebels approach Golan …

Posted By on June 20, 2015

The Israeli early warning station on Mount Hermon, above the cloud line on the Golan Heights. Photograph: STR New/Reuters

The top of Mount Hermon bristles with the golfball antennae, surveillance masts and bunkers that make up Israels northernmost intelligence base. Damascus is a blur in the distance, but the villages on the edge of the Golan Heights are easily visible below, deceptively peaceful in the afternoon sun.

Perched on the windswept 6,500 ft peak, the Israeli army has a birds eye view of what is happening as Syria disintegrates. Hadr, a pro-regime Druze village, fell to rebel fighters on Wednesday. Nearby Jubata al-Khashab is held by loyalist forces. Jabhat al-Nusra, the Syrian branch of al-Qaida, is advancing.

On the Syrian and Lebanese sides of the border, this eyrie is known as Jebel al-Sheikh. It saw fierce fighting in the 1973 war but for 40 years watched over a quiet front, the peace maintained by Hafez al-Assad. In recent weeks, however, signs have multiplied that the end may be approaching for his son Bashar.

Syria is dead, Moshe Yaalon, Israels defence minister, declared last week. Assad is paid to be president but he only runs a quarter of the country. He can stay in his palace but hes no longer relevant. Hes on the way out.

Syrias Druze community around 5% of the population has been split between supporters and opponents of Assad but has largely managed to stay out of the war. Now they have been targeted by Nusra and Islamic State (Isis). That has alarmed their co-religionists in Lebanon, on the Israeli-occupied Golan and in Israel proper, where, unlike Arab citizens, the minority serve in the armed forces.

Israeli Druze have demonstrated outside the Knesset in Jerusalem, demanding action to save their brethren, but to no avail. Many in southern Syria expect Israel to do something to keep the knives of Isis away from the throats of the Druze, said a supporter, Mordechai Kedar, recalling the fate of the Yazidis in Iraq. Still, the army did send messages to Nusra, via the mainstream Free Syrian Army (FSA), warning the Islamist group not to harm Syrias Druze.

Publicly, Israel insists it is sticking to its policy of staying out of the conflict next door. But that is not the whole story. Ehud Yaari, a well-connected Middle East analyst, wrote last October that some rebel groups were maintaining constant contact with the IDF (Israel Defence Forces) though they had only been given a modest amount of weapons. UN reports have described Israeli troops handing boxes to armed Syrians.

Evidence of links to anti-Assad groups including Nusra meets official silence. In one intriguing case, subject to censorship and a legal gag order, a Druze activist from the Golan and a serving IDF Druze soldier reportedly learned of and filmed a covert meeting between Israeli intelligence officers and Syrian rebels.

Exactly what Israels eyes and ears can glean about its neighbour from Mount Hermon is a closely guarded military secret. But the implosion of Syria has brought new challenges. In terms of knowing the enemy we used to need to know the name of the Syrian president and chief of staff, Yaalon observed. Now we need to know the leaders of every single militia.

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Israelis watch intently as Syrian rebels approach Golan …