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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Since the historic recognition of Jerusalem as Israel’s capital by President Trump on December 6, 2017, and the president’s pledge to relocate the U.S. Embassy to Jerusalem, many have suggested that the Israel-U.S. relationship has entered a new era.

Trump expressed his feelings about the renewed relationship between the two countries during a recent interview with Israel Hayom.  In response to the question, “Would you say that our nations are closer than ever before?,” the president stated, “I think they are probably as good as they have ever been.”

Since the beginning of his term, Trump and his administration have demonstrated their unwavering support for our one democratic ally in the Middle East. The administration withheld $65 million to the United Nations Relief and Works Agency (UNRWA) due to the Palestinian Authority’s (PA) refusal to engage in peace talks; condemned the PA’s “pay for slay” program, which financially rewards terrorists and families of terrorists held in Israeli prison; and withdrew from the United Nations’ Cultural and Educational Agency (UNESCO), due to its anti-Israel biases. And recent reports claim that Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu has had unprecedented discussions with the U.S. about Israel annexing Judea and Samaria – the West Bank – although the U.S. subsequently denied having these discussions.

In reference to such claims, Sarah Stern, the founder and president of the Endowment for Middle East Truth (EMET), said, “After a quarter of a century of pretending that they will one day make peace, while the Palestinian Authority continues to incite their people towards terrorism and Jihad, we think it’s a very important move by Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu to start talking about the legality of the settlement movement with the White House.”

This administration has taken commendable actions long overdue by the United States, and the president recognizes what many of his predecessors did not – the Palestinian leadership simply does not want peace. The P.A. continues to incite its people to violence, glorify and reward terrorism; demonize Jews and Israel; and refuses to recognize the State of Israel. The Palestinian leadership has been offered generous peace deals numerous times, including in 2000, 2005, and 2008, and rejected each one, instead responding with terror attacks against innocent civilians.

P.A. president Mahmoud Abbas recently stated that the Palestinians would not accept the U.S. as a broker for peace negotiations, calling the U.S. a “dishonest mediator.” Abbas, in response to the president’s Jerusalem announcement, said, “Jerusalem is and will forever be the capital of the Palestinian state,” and added that the P.A. will not recognize any previous agreements it made between the U.S. and Israel since the 1990s Oslo Accords.

Now that Israel is preparing its air defense in the North, following what some call a war which began on Saturday between Israel and Iran, it is critical that the U.S. stand by its ally. Iran infiltrated Israeli air space with a drone, which was then intercepted by Israel, in what was Iran’s first direct military operation against the Jewish State. Israel rightly retaliated Iran’s violation of its sovereignty with strikes against Iranian drone installations in Syria. One Israeli F-16 was abandoned by its pilots over Israel, following “massive Syrian anti-air fire,” according to reports.

Following the incident, Israel was met with overwhelming support by the United States. “Israel is a staunch ally of the United States, and we support its right to defend itself from the Iranian-backed Syrian and militia forces in southern Syria,” the White House said.

Pentagon spokesman said, “Israel is our closest security partner in the region and we fully support Israel’s inherent right to defend itself against threats to its territory and its people.”

The administration’s record of support for Israel, in words, and more importantly, in actions, is a far cry from the Obama administration’s continuous disrespect towards the Jewish State and Netanyahu for eight years.

The events of the weekend are a reminder to the world that Israel is willing to do whatever it needs to defend its sovereignty. And thankfully, this time around, there is someone sitting in the Oval Office that is willing to stand by her during her time of need.

Originally Published: http://thenationaldiscourse.com/new-era-us-israel-relationship-1568/

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Photo Credit: Reuters/Goran Tomasevic

In 1939, when the Nazis rolled into Poland, my aunt, whose name I carry, was forced to strip naked and dig a hole, into which she and the other members of her village were summarily mowed down.

Many in the Western world turned a deaf ear to the cries of my aunt, as well as to those of six million other Jews.

America was exhausted and war weary after having fought World War I, in which approximately 30 million people had been killed, and was in a period of profound isolationism and retreat.

There emerged a charismatic, young, impassioned leader who appealed to his people, stunned by their crushing defeat in WWI, with fiery speeches of reclaiming the pride of the Fatherland.

America heard Hitler’s speeches, and knew they were laced with antisemitism. But Germany was so far away, and the enemy that had been scapegoated was a strange people, with different customs, mere Jews.

This picture is not too dissimilar from what is happening today in northwestern Syria. Turkey’s president, Recep Tayyip Erdogan, is a tyrannical brute, who has made a frequent habit of trampling on the human rights of his own people, with total impunity. Since the failed coup of July 2016, Erdogan continues to conduct arbitrary arrests and purges of academicians, politicians and journalists. Anyone slightly threatening to him is held in prison on trumped-up charges.

As Hitler saw the world’s retreat after WWI as an opportunity to fill the vacuum and flex his muscles on the world stage, Erdogan, together with Russia’s President Vladimir Putin and the mullahs of Iran, sees America’s retreat from the Middle East and is swooping in to fill the void.

America, once again, after fighting the exhausting wars in Iraq where we suffered 4,486 fatalities, and Afghanistan, where we suffered 2,345, is once again in a period of profound isolationism and retreat.

As Hitler scapegoated the Jews to rally people behind him, today Erdogan is scapegoating the Kurds, making no distinction between his own internal separatist Kurdish movement, the PKK, and the YPG, the Syrian Kurdish movement.

This weekend, Erdogan gave a heated speech in Kilis, which is on the Turkish-Syrian border, vowing to drive out the Syrian Kurds from their ancestral homeland, and threatening to go into the US-backed Kurdish region east of the Euphrates, starting with the Kurdish-held town of Manbij, to which the crowd passionately chanted, “Hit. Hit. Let it reverberate and let Trump hear.”

Syria’s Kurds have done much of our own dirty work while they courageously fought to eradicate Islamic State (ISIS). They have never asked anyone else to shed a drop of blood in their defense. The region of Afrin has been a safe haven for approximately 400,000 internally displaced Syrians, who are Kurds, Sunni Arabs, Assyrians, Yazidis and others.

In the past week Turkey has been trying to create a stranglehold on the Kurdish region of Afrin in northwestern Syria. Afrin is in a particularly difficult place because it is an isolated Kurdish enclave, separate from where the bulk of US-backed Kurdish forces are.

Russia controls everything west of the Euphrates River, and Russia, which controls the airspace, has given Erdogan the green light to attack Afrin from the air. As I write this, Turkish tanks are penetrating the region, and there are at least 100 Kurds murdered.

WHEN I look at the Kurds, I see the history of the Jewish people before the State of Israel. I see the Kurdish people of Afrin as the Jews of Eastern Europe, or as the first settlers in pre-state Israel, who also valiantly defended their land.

I would like to believe that we, in the West, have an obligation to remember who our friends are and have been, and to protect and defend them from moral atrocities such as these.

I would like to believe that the United States can once again assume the mantle of the moral leader of the world; that we can become what president Ronald Reagan once called “the shining city on the hill” that all nations aspire to model themselves after. I would like to believe that the United States, which summoned up the courage to fight the two great evils of the 20th century, Nazism and Communism, can once again summon up the courage, the strength and the will to fight the great evils that are confronting humanity today. The reality is that, whether or not we want to acknowledge it, a new axis of evil has emerged between Turkey, Iran and Russia.

And the reality is also that irrespective of whether or not we are in the mood to acknowledge it, there are brutal tyrants in the world, who are poised to attack our allies when they see that America is exhausted.

No one spoke up for my Aunt Sarah when the Nazis invaded Poland. And that is why I must speak out today while Erdogan is launching this ruthless offensive on the Kurdish region of Afrin. Just as the West harbors a black chapter in our history for looking away from the cries of my aunt, our history will forever be blackened if we now choose to look away from the cries of the Kurds in Afrin. The Kurdish fight is a fight to preserve our humanity.

Originally published at: http://www.jpost.com/Opinion/The-Kurdish-fight-is-humanitys-fight-540261

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