About the author  ⁄ Sarah Stern

On June 25, we awoke to the somber news that Recep Tayyip Erdoğan had secured a victory in Turkey’s presidential elections. The reason this news is so grim is because he is a very dangerous man who wants to establish a Turkish Islamist caliphate, as he has simultaneously been eroding human rights inside Turkey and grabbing more power for himself.

On April 17, 2017, Erdoğan held a referendum that greatly expanded and consolidated the powers of the presidency, eliminating the office of prime minister, meaning foreign policy is now part of his portfolio.

In the meantime, he has arbitrarily arrested approximately 50,000 people, including dissidents, intellectuals, professors, journalists and anyone that he might possibly conceive of as being in the opposition. The prisons in Turkey are so full of dissidents that they have released common criminals and convicted felons onto the streets.

A dear friend and colleague, Aykan Erdemir of the Foundations of Defense of Democracies, who had been a member of the opposition in the Turkish Parliament, told me that every Saturday night his friends gets together over Turkish coffee and read the newspaper to see who, among their friends, will be arrested—and whether or not they can make bail.

Among those arrested is Pastor Andrew Brunson, an American who has is in his second year of a seven-year sentence. The Turkish government contends that his evidence is based on the testimony of a “secret witness.” There is absolutely no habious corpus in Turkey, and no attorney working on Brunson’s behalf that can see the “evidence” and defend his client.

Turkey has one of the lowest rankings in the world in terms of freedom of press. The regime continues to trample on the right of its citizens, including freedom of speech, of association, and the rights of ethnic and religious minorities. Turkey is also now the world’s No. 1 jailer of journalists.

In particular, the Christians of Turkey, who are a tiny minority, have been under increasing assault. Anyone who cannot trace his roots back to Sunni Islam is under suspicion, which has resulted in a flurry of violent attacks against Christian churches throughout this newly xenophobic country.

In foreign policy, we have seen Erdoğan’s forces enter into Syria and massacre what had been an autonomous Kurdish canton of Afrin. Throughout Europe, we are seeing the emergence of cash-rich Turkish, Islamist parties. Erdoğan is emerging on the continent as a defender of a sense of victimization of Muslims against Islamophobia.

And in Jerusalem, in an attempt to win influence among the Palestinians, the Turkish autocrat has been showering the natives of eastern Jerusalem with funds. In an article in last week’s Haaretz, officials from Saudi Arabia, Jordan and the Palestinian Authority expressed concern that Turkey is trying to establish itself as “the guardian of Jerusalem in the eyes of the Muslim world.”

He has also called for an “Islamic army to invade Palestine.”

What emerges is a picture of a totalitarian brute with imperialistic designs. What is equally disturbing is that Turkey under Erdoğan has already purchased the all-powerful S-400 long range, anti-aircraft defense system. He has been cozying up to Russian President Vladimir Putin and has worked to prevent the Russian-Iranian constellation from leaving Southern Syria.

All of this does not fit the usual description of an “ally.”

Yet Lockheed Martin plans to sell Turkey 100 F-35 Lighting II fighter jets—one of the most sophisticated stealth fighter jets yet to be developed.

Congress has weighed in, in both chambers. On the House side, the National Defense Authorization Act specified that before the transfer of F-35s is made to Ankara, both the U.S. Secretary of State and Secretary of Defense must write a report that Turkey is behaving as an ally. The Senate side seeks to hold up Turkey’s possession of the F-35s unless it revokes its purchase of the S-400s, so it does not threaten NATOs defense capabilities and put an end to detaining American citizens.

The bill has yet to go to Conference Committee to be law.

Because Turkey is a member of NATO, many people would still like to regard it as an “ally.” Yes, it is formally in NATO. However, NATO (which has no mechanism to expel a member), had originally been established during the Cold War for smaller countries to defend one another against the Soviet threat.

From the way things appear now, Turkey appears to be far closer to Russia than to its other NATO partners. And America certainly does not want our most sophisticated stealth jet fighter ending up in Russian hands.

Yet despite the congressional action, on June 21, Lockheed Martin held a roll-out ceremony presenting the Turks with two F 35s. The jets will be remaining on American soil for at least a year while Turkish pilots are trained to use it.

That gives us a bit of time for folks to wake up to sample Erdoğan’s particular brew of Turkish coffee.

Originally published on: https://www.jns.org/opinion/time-to-wake-up-to-erdogans-turkey/

Photo: Twitter

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It seems as though Hamas is itching for another war. No less than 45 rockets were fired in recent days from the Gaza Strip into Israel, two of which landed near a community center and one just outside a kindergarten—the second attack on a kindergarten in the last few weeks. Operatives also launched scores of balloons and kites with Molotov cocktails, firebombs, chemicals and other incendiary devices attached to them. So far, these seemingly innocuous instruments have destroyed more than 7,000 acres of agricultural fields, natural growth and habitation, leading to extreme environmental devastation and an estimated $2 million worth of damage.

We have heard a great deal about the suffering of Gazans living under the ironclad rule of Hamas. It is absolutely tragic that the Hamas leadership has denied the population the opportunity to develop themselves and their region, and insists on using their people as nothing more than artillery in their ongoing war to obliterate the Jewish state. It is absolutely tragic that the textbooks used by UNRWA are highly ideological propaganda screeds that serve to perpetuate the 1948 conflict, rather than teaching their children fundamental skills to better themselves and their people. It is absolutely tragic that Hamas has syphoned off the funds and building equipment going into the area, and used concrete to build more underground tunnels to launch surprise attacks within Israel proper.

One never hears of the suffering of the Israelis living near the Gaza border, however. While in Israel, I have spoken to several.

Adele Reimer, a teacher of English who made aliyah from America in 1975, lives in Kibbutz Norim near the Gaza border. She spoke to me about the “relentless, ongoing stress.” Reimer said “it is not fair to call this post-traumatic stress syndrome. It is a daily, ongoing stress. Our children suffer from nightmares, bedwetting, refusal to go to bed at night, crawling into bed with parents. Many children, and even some adults, are immobilized with fear and refuse to leave the house. Every Friday, we brace ourselves. We hear the ‘Tzeva Adom’ [‘Red Alert’] several times a day, and we don’t know if it’s  a missile coming to our house, to our school or signaling the beginning of yet another war.”

She adds: “I have tremendous sympathy for the people of Gaza. Nobody elected Hamas as their leaders. It came about because of a hostile takeover in 2007, when they threw their opposition off from rooftops. I consider myself left-wing and am still in touch with many Gazans. They are miserable under Hamas and would like it to change, but it is dangerous for them to open their mouths. I have one friend who has spoken out occasionally, but I and he are both afraid he is about to be arrested, tortured and shot.”

“But, she says, it is Hamas who is calling the shots—not only for the people of Gaza, but for the State of Israel. They have manipulated international community to such an extent, so we are perplexed as to how to respond. We care too much about international public opinion.”

Susie Shaul was evacuated from Gush Katif in Gaza in 2005. Her husband worked for 27 years, the bulk of his working life in agriculture helping to develop crops in greenhouses. After the evacuation, they lived with two of the four children in caravans (two of the children were married). She and her husband now live in the Ashkelon region.

She feels that the situation is beyond tragic. She recalls that before the evacuation, when she used to pass the roads that bordered the kibbutzim on the way to her home in Gush Katif, there were signs posted that said: “Jews, out of Gaza. Go home to Israel.”

But today, because of the untold devastation, she only feels tremendous sympathy for those who live on the kibbutzim near Gaza. “They don’t deserve this. Nobody deserves this.”

Shaul recalls that before the Hitnakut (the evacuation from Gaza), former Prime Minister Ariel Sharon said, “Now if they attack, we can go in there and devastate them. We can use our rockets and our missiles. But do you think we can today? Nobody remembers. Nobody cares.”

Originally published at: https://www.jns.org/opinion/voices-from-the-border-with-gaza/

Photo Credit: Jack Guez/AFP

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For the sixth Friday in a row, protestors from Gaza came to Israel’s border with intentions to penetrate it. They come with scissors to cut through the fence, with burning tires, Molotov cocktails, slingshots with rocks, and kites with firebombs attached to them to destroy Israeli farmlands and villages.

This is not some peaceful demonstration akin to Selma in the 1960s, when blacks were simply trying to sit together with whites at a lunch counter. The usage of the word “demonstrators” is a misnomer; these are “rioters.”

The unfortunate Palestinian people have been cynically manipulated by their Hamas leaders and their hate-infested educational curriculum—brought to them by UNRWA—to despise Israel and the Jews, and to replace all of Israel, including Haifa and Tel Aviv, with Palestine.

Last Sunday, the lead story in The Washington Post displayed a photo of a 17-year-old Palestinian with one leg amputated and ran a compelling personal interest story of the boy with the headline “Shooting to Maim,” referring to Israel’s policies at the border with Gaza.

It’s time to ask what any other country would do when confronted with a similar situation? The Israeli government has three choices: 1.) Let them overrun the border in a massive terrorist killing spree; 2.) shoot to kill them; or 3.) shoot to maim them.

It is deeply tragic that this young man is the product of a cynical manipulation by his Iranian-backed Hamas leaders to be so imbued with such immense hatred against Israel that he was driven to put himself into this situation.

Hamas, which callously exploits its own children, is in a win-win situation. Hamas wins if they penetrate through the fence and go on a terrorism spree throughout Israel, and they win the public-relations battle if they cannot penetrate through the fence and are maimed.

By the way, why is it that we never see their leaders in the front lines?

It is a crime under international law to use child combatants in warfare, according to the Geneva Conventions, the Rome Statute and the Conventions of the Rights of a Child, which defines a child as being anyone under the age of 18.

Imagine, if you would, thousands of potential immigrants amassed onto the border with America from Central America or Canada. Right now, the U.S. government is being asked to take in a caravan of refugees from Central America, and we are divided on how to respond. Of course, these are peaceful people, not rioters.

However, in this case, instead of just wanting to find a better way of life for themselves and their families by entering Israel, these people come armed to destroy Israel.

Each Friday en masse, they are moving closer and closer to the border with Israel, and each week they are becoming increasingly more violent. And the ultimate objective is to storm Israel and go on a killing spree, which is due to take place on May 15: “Nakba” Day, the day of the “Catastrophe,” which intentionally follows Israeli Independence Day on May 14.

The Palestinians and their ever-growing body of international sympathizers have gone out of their way to white-wash their intentions. It is patently obvious—if any journalist or academician would just listen to what they are saying in Arabic—that the aim of these rioters is not two states living side by side in peace and democracy, but the destruction of the State of Israel and the replacement of that state with “Palestine.”

The chattering classes seem to willfully blind themselves to the memory of the Gaza withdrawal. This was the internally divisive and gut-wrenching decision by Prime Minister Ariel Sharon to uproot any remnant of a Jewish presence there in 2005. Wealthy Jewish philanthropists bought the greenhouses in order to give this nascent Palestinian state some sort of economic infrastructure, but as soon as the Israeli flag was lowered and the last Israeli military officer closed the gate, those greenhouses, along with any remnant of a Jewish presence, were destroyed in a hate-infested atmosphere of chaos and anarchy.

And when it comes to the West Bank (or Judea and Samaria), many generous offers have been made over and over again going back to the U.N. Partition Plan in 1947, the Clinton plan offered at Camp David in the summer of 2000 and the offer made by Ehud Olmert at Taba in 2009.

Each of these proposals was progressively more generous. As Jackson Diel wrote in The Washington Post on May 29, 2009:“Abbas acknowledged that Olmert had shown him a map proposing a Palestinian state on 97 percent of the West Bank. … He confirmed that Olmert “accepted the principle” of the “right of return” of Palestinian refugees—something no previous Israeli prime minister had done—and offered to resettle thousands in Israel.”

And President Barack Obama went further still when he pushed forward a plan that would have divided Jerusalem and given Israel borders that would be impossible to defend.

Yet the Western world insists on attributing these riots to the “occupation.”

This week, we heard the “moderate” leader of the Palestinian Authority Mahmoud Abbas go on a rant, using classic anti-Semitic tropes against Israel and the Jewish people, saying that we Jews brought the Holocaust upon ourselves because of our “usury and unethical practices.”

Which brings me to the core of the problem: The failure of any Palestinian leader to accept any number of generous offers made to them by their Israeli interlocutors is not because the offers have not been generous enough.

It is not a rational thing. It is based on an emotion—raw Jew-hatred in the form of classic anti-Semitism.

And those journalists and academics in the West who refuse to acknowledge any of these salient facts are guilty of the very same ancient hatred.

Originally published at: https://www.jns.org/opinion/the-blood-libel-of-the-21st-century/

Photo: AFP Photo/Mohammed Abed

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The government of Syrian President Bashir Assad launched a chemical attack on Saturday on the rebel-held town of Douma, Syria, killing at least 42 people and injuring some 500 more. Once again, our computer screens were replete with helpless children, some lifeless and limp, some foaming at the mouth and flinching, some with oxygen masks strapped across their tiny faces.

This attack was the final blow for the last remaining rebels in this Damascus suburb.

This came within a week of President Trump’s pronouncement that “we’re knocking the hell out of ISIS. We’ll be coming out of Syria, like very soon. Let the other people take care of it now.”

This brings us to the first lesson: Whether or not America wants to enter into a period of isolationism, when we withdraw from the picture the world becomes an infinitely more dangerous place. Nature abhors a vacuum, and when America retreats, all of the moral cockroaches—like Tehran’s mullahs, Syria’s Assad, Russia’s Putin and Turkey’s Erdoğan—immediately swoop in to fill the void.

Akin to the period between the two world wars, the American people might say they have no appetite for further military engagement, yet there is something in America’s moral fabric that simply cannot allow atrocities like these to go unanswered. As Winston Churchill once said: “America always does the right thing. After it has exhausted all other possibilities.”

Over the last seven years of the protracted Syrian civil war, the country has been on a slow and steady path towards total implosion. Initially, an alphabet soup of terrorist groups have used this empty playing field, including, but not limited to, Jabat Al Nusra, ISIS, Al-Qaeda, Ahrar al Sham, the IRGC, the Al Quds Force and Hezbollah—many of them proxies for bigger regional players.

Now the big boys are entering the scene, and Syria promises to be the theater in which America and the West might quite soon form a coalition against the regional forces of oppression and their Russian enablers.

The next lesson, therefore, is: If we do not engage ourselves in smaller wars, America might well find itself dragged into a much larger war.

The second major event was the attack on the T-4 air base early Monday morning. Israel has neither confirmed nor denied their involvement, as is characteristic, but Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu has made his red lines very clear.

On Feb. 10, when Israel shot down an Iranian drone launched from the identical Syrian air base and flown over Israeli territory, he said: “Our policy is very clear. Israel will defend itself against any attack and any attempt to harm our sovereignty.” He then added that “Iran seeks to use Syrian territory with the expressed goal of destroying Israel.”

Since the singing of the nuclear-trade deal, Iran has used its vastly enriched coffers to empower, embolden and enable its terrorist proxies within the widening Shiite crescent, and has used Syria as part of its ever-widening land bridge stretching from Tehran to Beirut.

This has been enabled by Russia military support. Russia under Putin wants to re-emerge as a world power and has just asked Iran permission to use its air bases in Iran as refueling stations. They have also just vetoed the U.N. Security Council resolution to investigate the Syrian chemical attack in Douma.

Which brings us to the final lesson of these recent Syrian events: In 1992, Francis Fukuyama, famously wrote a book titled, The End of History and the Last Man. In it, he argues that with the end of the Cold War, we are passing through a period of post-war history, and that we have reached the height of the ideological evolution and the universalization of Western liberal democracy as the apex and final form of government.

Democracy might be the best form of government devised, but Russia, though the use of its proxies, has shown that it might want to regress to a period of Cold War alliances. And unfortunately, because sometimes the only way to eradicate pure evil—such as was on display this weekend in Douma—is through the use of military force, we are quite far from a post-war epoch.

Photo: SANA/Handout via Reuters

Originally Published: https://www.jns.org/opinion/syria-gets-us-farther-from-a-post-war-epoch/

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A version is this was first published in the Washington Jewish Week on April 11, 2018, but it has been updated to reflect more current realities on the ground.

On March 30th, coinciding with the start of Passover, the former and current Hamas Prime Ministers, Ismael Haniya, Yahya Sinwar organized what they called “The March of Return”. Since then, every Friday, there has been a demonstration at the Gaza border. Each week, the demonstrators are getting closer and closer to the actual border with Israel, and each week there are few and fewer demonstrators —the first week they had approximately 30,000 and this week, approximately 3, 000–but they are growing increasingly more violent.

As Defense Minister Avigdor Lieberman put it, “We are fighting an uncompromising battle here, and the other side must understand there is a determined army here”, adding, “Every week there are fewer people, but much more terror activity.”

Although this had been dubbed  by many news outlets throughout the world as a peaceful demonstration,  these two Hamas leaders told their followers to  quote “infiltrate the border”,  and that this will “ mark  the beginning of the liberation of all of Palestine from the Jordan River to the Mediterranean Sea.” –which encompasses all of Israel

This was not intended therefore, as many media outlets had described it, “ to eliminate the economic suffering in the Gaza Strip”,  but rather,  to eliminate the sheer existence of the Jewish state.

These protestors, many known terrorists of Hamas, Islamic Jihad and the Al Qassam Brigades, among others came to Israel’s  with the explicit instructions to penetrate through that border into Israel, which would create a security and demographic nightmare for the Jewish state.

Most significantly: They brought wire cutters with them.

The objective was also stated that they would remain there until May 15th, Israeli Independence Day, which the Palestinians and many in the Arab World dub “Nakba Day”, “the Day of the Catastrophe”. May 15this also, (not coincidentally), the day that President Trump and his team have designated for the opening of the American Embassy in Jerusalem. They came with tents, erected to remain there until the 15th.

This “march” was not a peaceful demonstration reminiscent of  the sit ins of Selma Alabama. The protestors sought to storm the border with lethal intent, hurling firebombs, rocks and burning tires at Israeli soldiers. In at least two cases, they fired bullets directly at  Israeli soldiers.

And unfortunately, it has resulted in a number of Palestinian fatalities, who have constantly  been manipulated by  their leaders to despise the state of Israel.

However, considering the inflammatory potential of the situation, the IDF has got to be commended for training their young men and women to act with such amazing discipline and restraint.

It is also important to remember that Gaza is not under Israeli occupation.

In 2005, in a heart-wrenching, politically divisive move, the Israeli government decided to uproot any remnant of a Jewish presence in Gaza and withdrew to the pre-1967 lines, giving the Palestinian people there total independence. Jewish philanthropists actually bought the greenhouses to give to this “nascent Palestinian state.” Some rabbis wanted to leave the synagogues in Gaza, arguing “After all, we all pray to the same God.”

Many of my friends who were for the Gaza withdrawal explained to me, “This will finally prove to the world just how far Israel is willing to go for peace.”

Do you think the world remembers any of this today?

As soon as the blue and white flag was lowered, and the IDF closed the gate, those greenhouses and synagogues, and any other vestige of Jewish life, were all destroyed in a heightened display of hate-infested anarchy and mayhem.

And then in 2007, after a bitter internecine war between Fatah and Hamas, Hamas, an organization that is totally created for the imminent destruction of the state of Israel, took over the Gaza strip.

The result of this magnanimous gesture of the Gaza withdrawal was that over 10,000 missiles have rained down on Israel, provoking Israel to have to fight three wars: Cast Lead in 2008, Pillar of Defense in 2012, and Operation Protective Edge in 2014, with each successive war the range of the rockets was extended.

By now, the Palestinians in Gaza have missiles that can reach all of Israel’s main population centers. And just in case the missiles do not do the trick, the Gazans have been assiduously digging underground tunnels.

Yet there are many powerful voices in Washington, DC, that have not learned the lessons of the Gaza withdrawal. They want a precipitance withdrawal from Judea and Samaria, or the West bank, and try to delude themselves into thinking that that will solve the problem. They are looking at today’s difficulties with the impasse with the Palestinians, and as difficult as this situation is, many want to seize upon a solution, any solution, not realizing the lessons of the Gaza withdrawal.  These people chose to willfully blind themselves to what their leaders say to their own people in Arabic, and prefer not to entertain the notion that in today’s volatile Middle East, power changes hands very quickly. And assuming that the PA was a peaceful entity, which it most definitely is not-that does not mean that tomorrow Hamas will not be at the helm.

 

 

Photo: Amir Cohen/Reuters

Originally Published: http://washingtonjewishweek.com/45435/march-of-return-nothing-more-than-terrorists-plaything/editorial-opinion/voices/

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For a quarter of a century, the Palestinian Authority has cynically wrapped itself inside a fig leaf dubbed as the “Peace Process.” The naked truth, however, is that it has been using every means available to incite for, incentivize and reward terrorism. With Friday’s passage of the Taylor Force Act, which aims to deduct payments to Palestinian prisoners and martyrs, fissures are finally emerging in its iron wall of deception.

The phrase “Peace Process” served as an ingenious linguistic sedative, lulling the international community into the dream of a peaceful P.A. The harsh reality is that the objective of the P.A. has never been peace, but the gradual, staged elimination of the State of Israel. The P.A. has been consistently teaching their children that Jews and Israelis are odious, detestable creatures, and their final elimination would be of huge benefit to the Palestinian people, the Arab world and all of humanity.

The Palestinian National Covenant was adopted on May 28, 1963, in which most of the 33 articles invoke an “armed struggle” until “the Zionist entity is totally wiped out and Palestine is liberated.”

Note that this happened four years before the 1967 Six-Day War, so it had nothing to do with the disputed territories that followed that war, and everything to do with the 1948 War of Independence and the sheer existence of Israel.

In April 1996, amid the euphoria of the signing of the Oslo Accords and under much political pressure from the Clinton administration, the Palestinian National Council had a well-publicized vote to discuss whether to “revoke the covenant.” Despite the fanfare, they voted simply to extend the period of time to decide on what to do.

P.A. spokesperson Marwan Kanfani emerged from the meeting, saying: “This is not an amendment. It is a license to start a new, to found a new resolution, a new charter. This is really a vote to form a committee to look into it.”

The committee never was formed; the members never appointed; no meetings were subsequently announced.

Yet the international media was ablaze with headlines of how the P.A. had renounced the charter. Peter Jennings, the anchor of “World News Tonight” began his broadcast with: “They said it couldn’t be done. The P.A. has revoked its charter calling for the destruction of Israel.”

The PNC didn’t convene until 2009, in which Fatah spokesman Nabil Shaath said that “the covenant cannot be changed.” Azaam al Ahmed, another P.A. spokesman said “it [the covenant] will remain as is. It won’t be subject to change. We have the right to practice all forms of national struggle.”

Nevertheless, for decades the world convinced themselves that the P.A. was actually a peaceful entity, the moderate alternative to Hamas.

The P.A. has been playing a dubious game. It had used all means available to systematically indoctrinate  their people to despise and murder Israelis and Jews, using textbooks, children’s  television shows, sporting and cultural events to demonize Jews, to praise the shahid, (“martyr”) and to encourage their youth to follow in this “glorious path.”

As Itamar Marcus of Palestinian Media Watch writes, “P.A. libels claim that Israel conspires to infect Palestinians with AIDS, spread drug addiction, conspired and successfully murdered Arafat, and more. The P.A.’s goal has been to inculcate hatred to the degree that fighting and murdering Jews and Israelis will be glorified as heroic self-defense.”

After so many years of this systematic indoctrination, it’s no wonder that murdering Jews and Israelis is seen as a heroic act in the eyes of many Palestinians, and a regnant value of the P.A. In 2015, Palestinian Authority leader Mahmoud Abbas said: “We bless every drop of blood that has been spilled for Jerusalem, which is clean and pure blood.”

In defiance of the United States, the P.A. just announced that it will now directly pay the prisoners and the families of “martyrs” to the tune of $355 million a year.

Does this not constitute material support for terrorism?

At least, however, so far as the U.S. Congress is concerned, the gig is finally up.

Photo Credit: Flash90

Originally Published: https://www.jns.org/opinion/the-end-of-the-era-of-palestinian-deception/

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Photo Credit: Alik Keplicz/AP

Polish Prime Minister Mateusz Morawiecki was forced last week to deny being a Holocaust revisionist, after suggesting that Jews were complicit in their own genocide.

Referring to a new Polish law making it illegal to say the country has responsibility for the Holocaust, an Israeli journalist and son of Polish survivors asked Morawiecki if he could face prison for recounting how his mother was betrayed by her Polish neighbors.

The Prime Minister replied: “Of course it’s not going to be punishable … to say that there were Polish perpetrators, as there were Jewish perpetrators, as there were Russian perpetrators, as there were Ukrainian, not only German perpetrators.”

Morawiecki’s remarks were a shameful adulteration of history. There were no “Jewish perpetrators” in the Holocaust. They were victims. The Jewish prisoners who participated in the extermination machinery did so under the immediate threat of death.

The new law, which Polish lawmakers chose to push — on the eve of Holocaust Remembrance Day, no less — cannot be understood without an appreciation of the context from which it emerged, nurtured by the rise of nationalism in Poland and the tactic support of the populist government, which views itself as the guardian of Polish historical honor.

A dark trend is once again sweeping across the European continent. In Macerata, a small town in Italy, a neo-fascist admirer of Mussolini recently went on a shooting rampage, wounding five men and one woman of African origin. In Austria, a party with neo-Nazi roots now sits in the coalition government. And from Hungary to the Czech Republic, France and Britain, political parties and their supporters are reviving the old blood libel against Jews. Europe’s grip on its bloody past is far from assured.

Of course, Poland’s history with the Third Reich is complex. If the new law were to clarify that the Polish government had no official role in the Holocaust, it would be an accurate reflection of events. Likewise, Poland is right to object to the flippant use of “Polish death camps” to describe Auschwitz-Birkenau, Treblinka, Belzec, Sobibor, Majdanek and Chelmno rather than “Nazi death camps inside Poland.”

But in every country under Nazi occupation — Poland is no exception — most of the local population were either silent witnesses to the slaughter or willing participants in the annihilation of Jews.

Take, for example, the role of Polish collaborators. In July of 1941, 1,600 Jews, nearly the entire Jewish population in the village of Jedwabne, were murdered by their Polish neighbors. Some were hunted down and killed with clubs, knives and axes. Most were forced into a barn and burned alive.

The Polish police collaborated with the Germans on many occasions such as in Warsaw, where they remained on duty to control the 50,000 Jews still alive in the ghetto after the liquidation in the summer of 1942.

This is only part of the story. In Poland, complicity and heroism coexist. An important aspect of history that must not be forgotten or minimized is the sacrifice of the Polish Underground State. The organization, which came to the rescue of Polish Jewry, operated from 1939 to 1945 and was subordinated to the Polish government-in-exile.

The Council to Aid Jews codenamed “Zegota,” a unique organization one on a global scale, provided structural and monetary assistance to Jews hiding among the Polish population and those living in ghettos, saving the lives of tens of thousands. Thousands of other Poles sheltered Jews despite the fact they and their entire families faced execution by the Nazis, if they had been caught.

But the selfless act of humanity by a selective group of Poles cannot whitewash the more sinister chapters of Polish history. In Poland, and many other parts of Eastern Europe, historical revisionism is far from a new phenomenon.

The widespread hostility that Jews faced did not die with the defeat of the Nazis. After the closure of World War II, Jewish survivors that returned home were confronted with an anti-Semitism that was terrible in its fury and brutality.

The new communist government in Poland made no mention of the crimes committed against Jews by the Nazis. They, too, were Antisemites. In July 1946, a pogrom occurred in the Polish town of Kielce, resulting in 42 Jews being massacred, an event that Poland’s foreign minister would recognize fifty years later as an “act of Polish anti-Semitism.”

In recent years, things have regressed again. A rise in nationalism has always been bad for the Jews.

Matters were not helped when Poland, over the last decade, lost important public intellectuals who reminded their country of the horrors of the Holocaust with first-hand accounts. Among them Marek Edelman, a Jewish leader of the Warsaw Ghetto uprising, and Wladyslaw Bartoszewski, a leading figure in the Zegota underground organization.

The so-called “Holocaust Bill”, the new Polish law, promotes the avoidance of historical responsibility and deflects blame, in an attempt to rewrite history in the name of blind nationalism. But the Holocaust cannot be denied, avoided or played down. We are here to remember, educate and speak truth to power.

Originally published: http://www.sun-sentinel.com/opinion/commentary/fl-op-viewpoint-poland-holocaust-history-20180302-story.html

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Over the weekend, a series of extremely significant events happened in the skies over northern Israel and Syria.  An Iranian drone, dispatched from Syria, flew over the Golan Heights, violating Israeli sovereignty and Israeli airspace. Within one minute, the Israeli Air Force (IAF) downed the drone, and immediately embarked on a military campaign that struck at Iranian military sites inside Syria.

The Israeli military’s response was excellent. It was immediate. It was direct. And it was harsh. It struck down 12 military targets within Syria, which included four Syrian defense missile batteries, and four Iranian sites. Unfortunately, one IAF jet was downed and its pilot remains in serious condition.

On Saturday, Israeli Prime Minister Netanyahu said at a Cabinet meeting, “I have been warning for some time about the dangers of Iran’s military entrenchment in Syria. Iran seeks to use Syrian territory to attack Israel for its professed goal of destroying Israel. This morning, Iran brazenly violated Israel’s sovereignty. They dispatched an Iranian drone from Syrian territory into Israel. This demonstrates that our warnings were 100% correct. Israel holds Iran and its Syrian hosts responsible for today’s aggression. We will continue to do whatever is necessary to protect our sovereignty and our security.”

According to Amos Yadlin, the Executive Director of the Institute for National Security Studies in Tel Aviv, who spoke on a conference call for The Israel Project, this recent military action “is perhaps the most serious event since the second Lebanese war or the alleged Israeli attack on the Syrian nuclear reactor in 2007.  It is serious because for the first time we have targeted Iranian sites in Syria, and a lot [of] Iranian bases, which leads Damascus exposed. The rules of the game are not changing. There is a determination by Iran to build a serious military force inside Syria and Lebanon, and we have a serious determination not to allow this to happen.”

Thanks to the disastrous Iranian nuclear deal, the Iranians are using much of their recently acquired wealth to build factories inside Syria and Lebanon.  The Iranian mullahs, Turkey’s Erdogan, and Russia’s Putin are all using what is left of the decimated country of Syria, after its protracted seven year civil war, to flex their muscles.

This is a very dangerous situation.

The Iranians are turning Syria into a Shiite military base and weapons factory. Many of these weapons are being transferred directly into the hands of Hezbollah.

According to MEMRI, the Middle East Media Research Institute, the Lebanese, pro-Hezbollah website Dahiya boasted that Hezbollah has 70,000 missiles ready to launch at Israel, and by the end of the year, they will have 500,000.

Unfortunately, much of the Sunni world, who is just as fearful of an Iranian crescent as Israel is, is sitting back and letting Israel do its job (although I am certain they are applauding).

But Israel knows what it has to do to survive in the Middle East. And it has never been easy. Now, thanks to the newly enriched and emboldened Iran, the Levant might become the theater in which the attempt for Shiite hegemony will have to be confronted.

Watch this space.

Originally posted at https://voiceoftruth.fireside.fm/articles/watch-this-space

Photo: REUTERS/Ronen Zvulun

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Photo Credit: U.N. Photo/Shareef Sarhan.

U.S. Ambassador to the United Nations Nikki Haley made headlines on Jan. 2 by saying that President Donald Trump has decided to stop funding UNRWA, the United Nations Relief and Work Agency, until the Palestinians agree to come to the negotiating table. On Jan. 16, the president—on the advice of U.S. Secretary of State Rex Tillerson—agreed to transfer $60 million for now, as opposed to slashing all of the funding overnight. But the other $65 million of this usual installment has been held in reserve. The total amount of money paid to UNRWA by American taxpayers is approximately $370 million per year.

UNRWA was established in the wake of the Arab-Israeli war of 1948 to handle the Palestinian refugee problem, set up to deal with the immediate crisis resulting from the Israeli War of Independence. It has camps in Judea and Samaria, Gaza, Lebanon, Jordan and Syria.

The other refugees from World War II were taken under the U.N. High Commission of Refugees, whose mandate calls for immediate resettlement in their host nations. The Arab League, however, rejected that for the Palestinian refugees because they wanted them to be a constant thorn in the side of the newly established Jewish state.

This is the only refugee agency in the world whose mission is not for refugees to be resettled, integrated and re-entered into the workforce of their host countries, but whose mission is to instill in the minds of their population that they will one day return to their grandfathers’—or rather, great-grandfathers’—orchards and vineyards in Haifa and elsewhere.

In the absence of a solution to the refugee problem, UNRWA continues to redefine the word “refugee” to mean anyone who is a descendant of the 1948 war. Thus, from the original 700,000 refugees, UNRWA now claims to service approximately 5 million Palestinian refugees.

This agency’s conduct, although dressed in the benevolent clothing of a welfare agency, borders on the immoral because it implants within this population an unrealistic expectation that only serves to keeps the conflict alive. Not only does it perpetuate a psychology of victimhood, it entraps those being served into a perpetual state of poverty. Rather than getting on with their lives, they are trapped into perpetually reliving a conflict that happened 70 years ago.

A study of the new UNRWA textbooks, recently published by the Center for Near East Policy Research, found that for decades now, UNRWA has used textbooks that delegitimize and demonize the state of Israel and the presence of Jews there, and advocate for violent struggle as opposed to peaceful coexistence with the Jewish state.

In fact, inside UNRWA schools are pictures of Israel depicted as “Palestine,” posters praising the “brave shahids” (martyrs) who have killed civilians and an educational curriculum consisting of constant brainwashing for a violent jihad to despise and even murder Jews, and to liberate all of “Palestine.”

Pageants involve children as young as 4 years old, dressed in military garb, with rifles in hand. These children are being systematically programed to die for “Al Quds” (Arabic for Jerusalem) or any other part of “Palestine.” They are brainwashing an army of jihadists who keenly await the first opportunity to kill innocent civilians.

This is the worst sort of child abuse and exploitation imaginable. They are condemning these children—and any unfortunate civilian who might cross their paths—an early grave.

This comes in total conflict with the U.N. General Assembly Resolution 54/263’s own “Convention on the Rights of the Child: Optional Protocol on the Prohibition of Children in Armed Conflict,” barring the use of children under the age of 15 in combat.

Yet when it comes to this egregious practice, the United Nations chooses to look the other way.

This directly conflicts with an institution whose very charter speaks about practicing tolerance and living together with one another as good neighbors; reaffirming faith in fundamental human rights, in the dignity and worth of every human person, and of all nations, great and small; establishing conditions for justice and respect for international treaties; and employing international machinery for the promotion of the economic and social advancement of all peoples.

How these UNRWA camps and their hate-infested educational system can be an agency of the United Nations, with its lofty founding principles, continues to baffle me.

Given the deeply entrenched institutional biases of the United Nations against Israel, we can expect that UNRWA will soon find other donors. But that doesn’t mean that the United States, which had by far been the largest donor nation, has to continuously foot the bill.

The American taxpayer has other priorities than continuing to fund this corrupt and hypocritical agency.

Originally published at: https://www.jns.org/opinion/the-reasons-why-america-needs-to-stop-supporting-unrwa/

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In what has ironically been designated “Operation Olive Branch,” Turkey’s President Recep Tayyip Erdogan has been trying to put the northwestern Syrian region of Afrin into a stranglehold. Turkey is now in its second week of bombardment over Afrin from the air and heavy tanks are now carrying out a ground offensive into the Kurdish region.

Erdogan is a brute and a thug, who has made a habit of trampling on the human rights of his own people. He used the failed military coup of July, 2016 to arbitrarily arrest and imprison anyone whom he considers to be his opposition, including dissidents, parliamentarians, journalists, and academicians. Many have been languishing in prison since the failed military coup, without right of habeas corpus, and in 2017, Erdogan further strengthened his ironclad grip on the country of Turkey by winning a referendum, so there is no longer a free and independent judiciary or a free and independent legislative branch. A former member of the opposition party in the Turkish Parliament recently told me, “Every Saturday night, my friends and colleagues gather to read the newspaper to see if they are on the list of people to be purged in the coming week.”

The late Soviet dissident, Andre Sakharov, once said, “One can always tell a nation’s foreign policy by the way they treat their internal dissident population.”

Erdogan is sensing that America is in a period of withdrawal and isolation, and his eyes are set in taking over the Afrin region of Syria. But it will not end there.

Erdogan has threatened to go into Manbij, which is an American outpost, and he is just reckless enough to try to take out American lives.

Bullies like Erdogan carefully take America’s temperature, and measure whether or not we have an appetite for further engagement. In periods such as now, when America is exhausted and war weary after the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, all the world’s bullies and moral cockroaches come out of the woodwork.

Syria is the perfect battleground for many of those moral cockroaches. The Iranians want to create an uninterrupted land-bridge from Tehran through Bagdad stretching through to Beirut, and a Kurdish region would be an obstruction the road. Erdogan is pounding his chest with war chants, of course Putin, seeing a wide-open playing field, is trying to flex his muscles there, as well.

Syrian Kurds fought valiantly for us against ISIS, and they have never asked anyone to shed a drop of blood for them.

In Iraq, Kurdish forces fought alongside U.S. forces in Kirkuk, and then when America withdrew, where they allowed the Shiite Militia to control the area, and Kurdish flags are being torn down. They have been subjugated to Dhimmi laws and treated like second-class citizens there.

The Syrian Kurds therefore do have every right to remain skeptical of America’s friendship.

Russia controlled the airspace over Afrin, and Putin has given the green light to Erdogan to control the skies there. As I write this, Erdogan is battling to take over a strategic hill, and the Kurdish forces are courageously holding their own, but their losses are great.

How much longer can the Afrini Kurds hold out before being overrun when they are being attacked by tanks on the ground and bombarded from the skies? Some policy experts have told me that they might be able to hold out for only a week to 10 days.

If Afrin falls to Erdogan it would be tragic. This Kurdish region has offered a safe have to over 400,000 internally displaced persons from the brutal Syrian civil war that has been raging since 2011. These include Sunni Arabs, Assyrian Christians, Yazidis, Armenians, and Kurds from Iblib, and Aleppo and other parts of Syria who have fled to the north.

Earlier this week, all five members of one Sunni Arab family were killed. They now estimate the fatality rate to be around 100 civilians.

What is so refreshing about the Kurds is, with the sole exception of the state of Israel, this is the only region of the Middle East that offers a democratic, pluralistic paradigm for the troubled Middle East. People have actually converted to Christianity there. (Could you imagine what would happen to these people if ISIS were able to get a hold of them?)

Turkey, being a member of NATO, has a powerful military is presenting a formidable force for the Afrini Kurds. However, NATO was created to protect small countries against Russia in the days of the former Soviet Union.

Iran sees theses valiant Kurdish enclaves as obstacles to their hegemonic designs.

It is critically important that we develop some mechanism to dismiss countries from NATO when they have crossed red lines, and Turkey is the paramount example.

In the meantime, we need to send critically needed support to our friends in Afrin, or we will be empowering Erdogan and his Muslim Brotherhood friends, Russia’s Putin, and the mullahs of Iran.

I would like to believe that America is the moral compass of the world. That America is, in the words of John Winthrop “That shining city on the Hill.”

But it begins by remembering who our friends are.

Originally published at: http://www.americanthinker.com/articles/2018/02/remembering_who_our_friends_are.html

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