The Jerusalem Post quoted B'nai B'rith International CEO Daniel S. Mariaschin concerning the fall of Afghanistan and the strategic, regional uncertainty that it has unleashed – particularly with regard to Iran, the Palestinians and the future of the Abraham Accords.
WASHINGTON — US Jewish organizations were following closely as the drama was unfolding. Even before Thursday’s terror attack, it was already clear that the Afghanistan withdrawal will overshadow the meeting between US President Joe Biden and Israeli Prime Minister Naftali Bennett. But the deadly attack near the Kabul airport made it clear that the administration’s attention is currently elsewhere, as the President and his close staff monitored the developments from the situation room, postponing the meeting to a later timing.
William Daroff, CEO of the Conference of Presidents of Major Jewish Organizations, told The Jerusalem Post that “as we watch the rise of the Taliban in Afghanistan, the alliance and partnership between the United States and the State of Israel is more critical than ever.”
Speaking about the meeting, Daroff said that he expected the two new administrations “to make significant progress on issues of mutual and fundamental importance to all Americans and Israelis during Prime Minister Bennett’s first US trip to Washington since assuming office — the first opportunity for the two leaders to meet face-to-face during their many years in public service.”
“These priorities include sharing knowledge and resources to counter the COVID-19 virus and its variants, how best to deter Iranian aggression and hold its nuclear program accountable and in check, and defending and promoting Israel’s security, peace, and stability,” he said.
Dan Mariaschin, CEO of B’nai B’rith International, told the Post that with the fall of Afghanistan to the Taliban and all of the strategic uncertainty that it has unleashed, “events would hopefully dictate a further closing of the ranks between Washington and Jerusalem on Iran and the Palestinian issue.”
“This is clearly no time for risk-taking with Iran, including sanctions relief, especially given the election of Ebrahim Raisi, Tehran’s ratcheting up enrichment and other aspects of its nuclear program, and its malign behavior throughout the region,” said Mariaschin.
“With regard to the Palestinian issue, the PA’s pay-for-slay program and its incessant efforts at the UN and elsewhere to demonize Israel suggests more business-as-usual in Ramallah,” he continued. “There should be no rush to proffer additional incentives to the PA —such as re-opening of the PLO office in Washington and certainly not re-opening of the consulate in Jerusalem — in the face of its zero-sum recalcitrance.”
“Finally, we hope that the success of the Abraham Accords will move the administration to proactively seek out, together with Israel, new partners for peace and cooperation in the region, to join those already committed to this camp,” Mariaschin said.
Jewish Democratic Council of America (JDCA) CEO Halie Soifer released a statement on Thursday morning, saying that the meeting between President Biden and Prime Minister Bennett is the first meeting between a new US president and new Israeli Prime Minister in more than a decade. “It ushers in a new chapter for the United States and Israel, and reaffirms the strength of our historic and mutually beneficial bilateral relationship,” she said.
“President Biden entered office with a longer and stronger record of support for Israel than any of his predecessors, and has been steadfast in his support for Israel’s security and right to self-defense,” she said.
She went on to say that The United States and Israel “share a common goal of preventing Iran from acquiring a nuclear weapons capability. With the future of a renewed Iran nuclear agreement remaining, at best, uncertain, we welcome close collaboration between the US and Israel in ensuring that Iran does not acquire a nuclear weapon.”
Jeremy Ben Ami, President of the progressive group, J Street, said in a statement on Thursday that “while the US builds common ground with the new Israeli government in a number of areas, we also must make clear that the “status quo” is too dangerous to accept.”
“J Street is urging President Biden to make clear in [the] meeting that a strong, enduring, bipartisan US-Israel relationship demands fidelity to our shared values of democracy, peace and respect for human rights,” said Ben Ami. “That means pushing for an end to harmful settlement expansion; an end to discriminatory evictions in East Jerusalem and demolitions in the West Bank; an end to the policy of perpetual occupation; an end to the twin erosion of Israeli democracy and Palestinian hopes for self-determination,” he said in a statement.
JBS covered our condemnation of Ben & Jerry's anti-Israel boycott of what the company calls the "occupied Palestinian territories," as well as the ice cream maker's noted silence when Hamas fired thousands of rockets into Israel. View coverage here (beginning at 2:13) or below.
CEO and Director of U.N. Affairs Letter in Financial Times: U.N.’s Israel Bias Outlives Ban Ki-moon’s Exit
The following letter appeared in the Financial Times in response to former U.N. secretary-general Ban Ki-moon's false claims against Israel.
Having engaged directly with former UN secretary-general Ban Ki-moon on multiple occasions, we are stunned by the one-sidedness of his piece (Opinion, June 30).
Ban — who hails from South Korea, a democratic country under existential threat from a neighbour — shows exceptional indifference to the unenviable circumstances of another small democracy, Israel. He calls for a fresh approach to the Palestinian-Israeli conflict, but recycles blame of Israel alone for the situation.
Ban claims Israeli “apartheid” against Palestinians — but Israel is by far the most humane and pluralist country in the Middle East. Is any other regional actor so described?
Ban fails to even mention the unrelenting terrorism and threats facing Israelis. How can he cite Israel for preventing a two-state solution but not Palestinian fanatics like Hamas, openly sworn to Israel’s destruction?
At the end of his tenure, Ban finally chided the UN’s structural obsession with condemning Israel.
In fact, the U.N. targets Israel more than all other countries. Sadly, old habits die hard.
Daniel S Mariaschin
Chief Executive, B’nai B’rith International
David J Michaels
Director of U.N. and Intercommunal Affairs
B’nai B’rith International
Washington, DC, US
JTA and the Jewish Journal noted our denunciation of a Human Rights Watch report once again demonizing Israel, the world's only Jewish state.
(JTA) — A report by Human Rights Watch says that Israel’s treatment of the Palestinians in the West Bank and Gaza has crossed the threshold into apartheid and recommends far-reaching punitive measures, including prosecutions for crimes against humanity.
The leading human rights group’s embrace of the term, seen by Israel and many Jewish groups as a way of accusing Israel of being essentially racist and illegitimate, set off a firestorm of outraged attacks from a number of major U.S. Jewish groups that charged Human Rights Watch with attempting to “delegitimize” Israel. Israel’s ambassador to the United Nations called it “a collection of lies and fabrications, bordering on antisemitic.”
Human Rights Watch is an international group that monitors countries’ adherence to international human rights law. It has often been harshly critical of Israeli policy, and in 2019 Israel deported one of the group’s employees.
But this is the first time the group has used the word “apartheid” to describe Israeli policy. The report says Israel systematically discriminates against Palestinians in the West Bank and Gaza as well as against its Arab citizens, some of whom identify as Palestinian. But the report says the apartheid designation applies only to Israel’s policy in the West Bank and Gaza.
“To maintain domination, Israeli authorities systematically discriminate against Palestinians,” Human Rights Watch said in a statement. “In the occupied territory, the severity of the repression, including the imposition of draconian military rule on Palestinians while affording Jewish Israelis living in a segregated manner in the same territory their full rights under Israel’s rights-respecting civil law, amounts to the systematic oppression required for apartheid.”
Israel captured the West Bank and Gaza in the 1967 Six-Day War. In the West Bank, Israeli settlers are Israeli citizens with the right to vote and freedom of movement. West Bank Palestinians live under varying degrees of Israeli military control and Palestinian local governance, without citizenship or the right to vote in Israel.
Israel withdrew its settlers and troops from Gaza in 2005, and Israelis particularly reject the notion that Israel still controls the coastal strip. Israel does control most of Gaza’s border and airspace. And the Human Rights Watch report treats the West Bank and Gaza as a single entity despite their different realities.
Within Israel’s recognized borders, Arab Israelis are full Israeli citizens with the right to vote, equality under the law and representation in Israel’s parliament. Community leaders, however, have long complained of systemic discrimination in a range of fields.
Gilad Erdan, the Israeli ambassador to the U.N. and the United States, told the Jewish Telegraphic Agency in a statement that the report “is part of the organization’s ongoing campaign against Israel. He added, “When the authors of the report cynically and falsely use the term apartheid, they nullify the legal and social status of millions of Israeli citizens, including Arab citizens, who are an integral part of the State of Israel.”
The Conference of Presidents of Major American Jewish Organizations, an umbrella body for U.S. Jewish groups, called the report released Tuesday “disgraceful” and said it was an attempt to “demonize, delegitimize and apply double standards to the State of Israel.”
The Presidents Conference statement stopped short of calling the report antisemitic, but the “three d’s” cited in the statement is a formula coined by Natan Sharansky, a former Soviet refusenik, to describe when criticism of Israel crosses into antisemitism.
Other major U.S. Jewish groups including the American Jewish Committee and B’nai B’rith International, separately slammed the report. AIPAC, the pro-Israel lobby, retweeted the Presidents Conference statement and two Republicans in Congress condemned Human Rights Watch. The Anti-Defamation League also called the report “yet another attempt to delegitimize the very concept of a Jewish and democratic state,” though the group added that the report “raises legitimate issues of concern about Israeli policies.”
Human Rights Watch is not the first group to apply the apartheid label to Israel. In January, the Israeli human rights group Btselem concluded that Israel should be considered an apartheid state.
The core of Israeli and mainstream Jewish objections to using the term apartheid is that in its original South African definition, it described a system that explicitly used race to discriminate against, oppress and disenfranchise minorities.
The Presidents Conference said that the “tyranny and dehumanization” of South African apartheid had “no equivalence” with Israel’s “vibrant democracy where all citizens of rights and representation in the national legislature.”
Human Rights Watch argued in its report that the term apartheid has been used since the collapse of South African apartheid to describe inequitable societies that are not explicitly based on racist laws, as South Africa’s was.
The group said Israel met the terms of what it says is this more recent definition in three ways: by maintaining domination over the Palestinians who live in the West Bank and Gaza Strip through military occupation, citing statements from Israeli officials who suggest the occupation will continue in perpetuity; through Israeli laws that discriminate against Israel’s Arab minority, including one from 2018 that states Israel is the “nation state of the Jewish people”; and “inhumane acts” including restrictions on the movement and residency rights of Palestinians in the West Bank and Gaza Strip.
The report’s recommendations are far-reaching, including prosecutions of Israeli officials for crimes against humanity and restrictions on trade with Israel. It also calls for the international community to “establish through the United Nations an international commission of inquiry to investigate systematic discrimination and repression based on group identity in the [Occupied Palestinian Territories] and Israel.”
NGO Monitor, an Israeli watchdog of human rights groups, says such recommendations suggest a broader and more sinister agenda.
“This publication is not merely a critique of Israeli policy in the West Bank, but an attack on the very foundations of Israel and a rejection of the legitimacy of a Jewish state, regardless of borders,” it said in publishing its own report on the report.
At least two pro-Israel groups on the left said the correct reaction to the report should not be to focus on whether or not apartheid is an appropriate term, but to address the corrosive effects of the occupation described in the report.
“After 40 years of documenting and protesting against the occupation of the West Bank, Gaza Strip and East Jerusalem, we do know a thing or two about it,” said Americans for Peace Now, a constituent of the Presidents Conference. “And we know that the carefully documented facts in the HRW report on the occupation are largely indisputable. We also know too well what the occupation does to Palestinians and Israelis, and how desperately it needs to end.”
The president of J Street, a liberal pro-Israel group, said his organization would not use the apartheid term, but called on other Jewish groups to refrain from “defaming” those who do use it.
“While we do not ourselves use the term ‘apartheid’ to describe the current situation in the occupied territories, we believe it’s deeply wrong and harmful to defame scholars, activists and political leaders who use it themselves,” Jeremy Ben-Ami said.
Jewish Voice for Peace, an anti-Zionist group that has longed use the term, welcomed the report.
“It is long past time for the rest of the world to call this what it is,” JVP said on Twitter. “It could not be more clear. It’s apartheid.”
Jewish Insider noted, along with other Jewish organizations, our call for members of the U.S. Congress to sign a letter to the U.N. secretary general urging increased transparency and accountability over UNRWA curricula.
The Biden administration announced Wednesday it would provide at least $235 million in aid to the Palestinians, reversing a decision by former President Donald Trump to halt U.S. aid to the Palestinian Authority and organizations that provide services and support to Palestinians.
Wednesday’s announcement follows a series of quiet steps taken by the administration in recent weeks to restore aid to Palestinians living in the West Bank and Gaza.
Approximately $150 million of the total aid will be distributed by the United Nations Relief and Works Agency for Palestine Refugees in the Near East (UNRWA), the U.N. agency tasked with dealing with Palestinian refugees. UNRWA has drawn criticism numerous times in recent months for distributing learning materials to Palestinian students that glorified militants and promoted violence against Israelis.
Israeli Ambassador to the U.S. Gilad Erdan promptly criticized the administration for restoring aid to UNRWA, which he said “should not exist in its current form.”
“In conversations with the U.S. State Department, I have expressed my disappointment and objection to the decision to renew UNRWA’s funding without first ensuring that certain reforms, including stopping the incitement and removing antisemitic content from its educational curriculum are carried out,” Erdan said.
State Department spokesman Ned Price said at his Wednesday press briefing that reinstating aid to UNRWA puts the U.S. in a better position to address issues including the organization’s neutrality, accountability and approach to education.
“By resuming this assistance today… we have a seat at the table. We can help drive UNRWA in the ways that we think it is in our interest and consistent with our values to do. Obviously, there are areas where we would like to see reform,” Price said. “We will continue to be in a position, an even greater position to drive and to steer UNRWA in a direction that we think is productive and useful with this step today.”
Republican opposition on Capitol Hill to the administration’s announcement was also swift. Sen. Lindsey Graham (R-SC) accused the administration of “support of pay to slay,” referencing the Palestinian Authority’s payments to the families of individuals who have carried out terror attacks on Israelis. Graham was an original cosponsor of the Taylor Force Act, which bans U.S. aid to the PA until it halts such payments.
“I am deeply troubled by recent decisions from the Biden administration to turn a blind eye to behavior by the Palestinian Authority,” Graham said in a statement. “Recent decisions by the State Department to provide funding for projects in the West Bank come close to violating the provisions of the Taylor Force Act… A willingness to make concessions to the Palestinians without demanding anything in return is deeply troubling and should worry us all.”
Price insisted Wednesday the aid is “absolutely consistent” with U.S. law, adding that the U.S. had consulted with both members of Congress and regional stakeholders before the announcement.
“We provide assistance in the West Bank and Gaza through experienced and trusted independent partners on the ground, and it’s these partners who distribute directly to people in need, not through government or de facto government authorities,” Price said. “Our development partners in the West Bank and Gaza have aggressive risk mitigation systems in place.”
Sen. Jim Risch (R-ID), the ranking member of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee and another original cosponsor of the Taylor Force Act, issued a joint statement denouncing the decision with Rep. Michael McCaul (R-TX), the ranking member of the House Foreign Affairs Committee. The two Republicans argued that Biden should have secured concessions from the Palestinian Authority and UNRWA before providing aid.
“The Biden administration should use all available leverage to secure behavior changes from the Palestinian Authority, including ending terror payments,” Risch and McCaul said. “We will continue to scrutinize every proposed program to ensure the administration’s actions are in lockstep with the Taylor Force Act.”
Rep. Lee Zeldin (R-NY), an original cosponsor of Taylor Force in the House, similarly criticized the administration for failing to address the issue of payments to terrorists in its announcement. Sen. Ted Cruz (R-TX) is currently circulating a letter among Senate Republicans calling on Biden to put the aid on hold, citing concerns that it violates Taylor Force and other U.S. laws, the Associated Pressreported Wednesday.
The administration’s move also comes amid renewed action on Capitol Hill to crack down on UNRWA- and PA-sponsored education programs. A bipartisan group of House members led by Rep. Brad Sherman (D-CA) reintroduced legislation on Monday mandating State Department reports on the content of curricula distributed to children in the Palestinian territories.
Ilan Goldenberg, a senior fellow and director of the Middle East Security Program at the Center for a New American Security, suggested that the administration and UNRWA “will be negotiating an understanding of the terms of their relationship” that includes “incitement and antisemitism in UNRWA schools.” Goldenberg added that withdrawing all aid “got [the U.S.] no influence or real change.”
A group of Jewish organizations, including Hadassah, the Anti-Defamation League, B’nai B’rith, the Orthodox Union, the Zionist Organization of America and Christians United for Israel began calling on members of Congress to sign a letter to the U.N. secretary general calling for increased transparency and accountability over UNRWA curricula on Wednesday afternoon, shortly after the administration’s announcement.
JNS covered, along with other pro-Israel and Jewish organizations, our push for members of the U.S. Congress to sign a letter to the U.N. secretary general urging him to end anti-Semitic content found in the curriculum of schools run by UNRWA.
(April 8, 2021 / JNS) Several pro-Israel and Jewish organizations are urging U.S. legislators to pressure the United Nations to end hateful anti-Semitic content found in the curriculum of schools run by the U.N. Relief and Works Agency (UNRWA).
The letter to Congress—spearheaded by Hadassah and signed by more than a dozen leading Jewish and pro-Israel groups, including the Anti-Defamation League, B’nai B’rith, the Orthodox Union, the Zionist Organization of America, the Combat Anti-Semitism Movement and Christians United for Israel—calls on lawmakers to urge “U.N. Secretary-General António Guterres to shield students in U.N.-run schools from lessons steeped in anti-Semitism and supportive of violence.”
“It is critical that we stand together to demand systemic reform to educational materials used by … UNRWA before one more child is taught from textbooks riddled with hateful lessons,” the letter states.
It cited a recent report by IMPACT-se that discovered how UNRWA staff have authored and disseminated educational content, which in some cases was “more egregious than that of the Palestinian Authority.”
It further adds that “Guterres can play an important role to ensure transparency, accountability and oversight that will stop the decades-long practice of teaching children to hate.”
The letter comes as U.S. Secretary of State Antony Blinken announced it is restoring $150 million in aid to UNRWA that had been cut under the Trump administration.
The Jerusalem Post published an op-ed by B'nai B'rith International CEO Daniel S. Mariaschin and the late U.S. Ambassador Richard Schifter on the need for the U.N. to stop funding "Palestinian committees" and end its support of the “right of return."
For the past several decades, the United Nations General Assembly has dutifully approved the funding of the so-called specialized “Palestinian committees,” each of which advances only one side of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. The UN has an opportunity to cut off this funding supply by year-end, thereby righting a decades-long wrong and in turn, ending a long-standing charade.
Created in the aftermath of the infamous 1975 Zionism=Racism resolution, the Committee on the Exercise of the Inalienable Rights of the Palestinian People (CEIRPP) and the Division for Palestinian Rights (DPR) are powerful, enduring vestiges of a discredited policy that has seen the world body largely aligned against Israel, not only in New York, but at UN agencies such as the Human Rights Council in Geneva, and UNESCO (the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization) in Paris.
The CEIRPP organizes conferences, photo exhibitions and other programs around the world aimed at undermining, discrediting and demonizing Israel. It does so with the active cooperation of the UN’s Department of Global Communications.
The DPR actually sits inside the UN Secretariat, giving the Palestinians a UN home no other people or sovereign state has. DPR sits alongside regional units such as the Asian, the African and Latin American, and the Caribbean groups of the UN system. The DPR works together with CEIRPP to organize an annual International Day of Solidarity for the Palestinian People, and maintains UN web-based information systems devoted to the Palestinian side of the conflict.
At the core of the work of these offices is the perpetuation of “the right of return” narrative that demands all Palestinians considered by the UN to be refugees have a right to “return” to pre-state Israel. Since 1949 the UN has, through the creation of UNRWA (the United Nations Relief and Works Agency), aggressively advanced this position.
So why are millions of people classified as refugees? Because as “refugees” they maintain their claim to migrate to Israel in order to overwhelm the Jewish majority and thus end the existence of the State of Israel.
According to the UN, there are now 5.5 million such refugees, less than 1% of whom were actual refugees from the War of Independence in 1948. More than 99% are their descendants, now five generations on. The UN has endeavored to find solutions to nearly every other refugee crisis in the world over the years, largely by resettling people in the lands to which they fled.
Only in the case of the Palestinians has an infrastructure been established to perpetuate a crisis. Over these past seven decades UNRWA, through its schools and other services, and the UN system have held out the promise that all Palestinians will one day “return” to what is now the State of Israel.
In fact, 40% of these “refugees” already live on the West Bank and in Gaza among fellow Palestinians, yet they maintain a status of refugees, so they would be able to migrate to Israel under the “right of return.” Another 40% live in Jordan, where many acquired Jordanian citizenship. They, too, live among people with whom they share religion and language, but maintain their refugee status so as to qualify for a “right of return,” as do the remaining 20% who live in Syria, Lebanon and other Arab countries.
The recently signed peace agreements between Israel and the United Arab Emirates and with Bahrain, and actions and public statements by other Arab states, suggest that the Palestinian program to end Israel’s existence is losing support among some Arabs. The world – and especially the region – have moved on. Other considerations, largely based on national interest, have taken precedence: the threat of Iranian hegemony, trade and investment and even tourism, are incentives to normalization.
The Palestinians have overplayed their hand, pressing for a zero-sum outcome to the conflict with Israel, and especially by its leaders missing opportunity after opportunity to conclude a peace with Israel in the 27 years since the Oslo Accords were signed in 1993.
The Palestinian reaction to the Abraham Accords has been a vehement reassertion of their position, including the “right of return,” made possible, in large part by the automatic reinforcement they receive at the UN.
It is the UN, created to “maintain peace and security,” that encourages the Palestinians to hold out for their one state solution: A “Palestinian state from the Jordan River to the Mediterranean Sea,” a goal to be attained through a “right of return.
”The CEIRIPP and the DPR are the chief proponents of this campaign, but are aided by regional groups at the UN such as the Group of 77 (known for years as the “Non-Aligned”) and a raft of anti-Israel resolutions adopted by rote at the Human Rights Council and other UN agencies, including the World Heritage Committee, a sub-group of UNESCO.
The Palestinian claim of a “right of return” is simply an obstacle to peace; it has become the third rail of the conflict. No one dares touch it; no friends of the Palestinians – and there are several amongst the European countries – seem interested in persuading them that the idea is simply a non-starter. It is not going to happen. No Israeli government from anywhere on the political spectrum would sign its own national suicide warrant.
The vote count supporting funding of the Palestinian committees is dropping; the number of “no” votes to fund these committees is rising – slightly – with a large number of abstentions and those voting “absent.”
A new wind is blowing in the region. “Normalization” is in, and obstructionism is on its way out. Israel, the UAE, Bahrain and perhaps others to come are demonstrating that where there is good will to resolve more than seven decades of animosity, economic warfare and the absence of real human interaction, reconciliation can follow.
Spending millions of dollars on conferences that perpetuate the “right of return” mantra and the constant efforts to delegitimize Israel is both a waste of time and a sure prescription for the UN to become increasingly irrelevant when it comes to the Israeli-Palestinian issue.
The responsible member states of the UN need to look out the window and see the dramatic, positive changes that are taking place across the region, despite attempts by Iran and its proxies and terrorist surrogates to perpetuate chaos and instability.
Depoliticizing “peacemaking” at the UN by eliminating the CEIRIPP and the DPR would send a clear message to the Palestinians and their friends that the free ride is over. That will tell us whether or not they are really interested in emulating their neighbors who have reached historic accords with Israel.
Until the UN ends its support of the “right of return,” we cannot expect meaningful progress toward a peaceful resolution of the conflict.
CEO Op-ed in the Times of Israel: Would San Francisco State University Invite the 9/11 Hijackers to Speak?
The Times of Israel published an op-ed by B'nai B'rith International CEO Daniel S. Mariaschin on San Francisco State University's (SFSU) decision to invite Palestinian terrorist Leila Khaled to speak at an SFSU-hosted panel.
Like Che Guevara, terrorist Leila Khaled’s notoriety has had a life of its own, largely promoted through her perpetually young visage, wearing an Arafat-style keffiyeh and holding an AK-47 assault rifle which appears on innumerable posters. For sure, there are probably T-shirts and mugs, too, which are worn by, or adorn the shelves of university students and those older than that, who hold her acts of terror in the highest regard. There have been songs written about her, and even a street named after her.
She seems to be in demand as a speaker; not that long ago she was featured on a panel discussion inside the European Union’s parliament building. Europe, the scene of so many acts of terror in recent years, would seem to be a place where an appearance by a true-believer terrorist would have elicited reams of criticism, and calls for the event to be cancelled. Some 60 MEPs did protest the appearance, but it occurred anyway. The program at which she spoke was organized by far-left factions in the parliament, the spokeswoman for one of which praised “the fantastic turnout” and proclaimed, “long live international solidarity.” Only after the event was held did the president of the parliament propose that those engaged in acts of terror be denied access to its premises.
Khaled, who is still a member of the Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine (PFLP), a terrorist organization with roots going back to 1967, has now been invited to appear on a webinar at the end of September, organized by San Francisco State University’s (SFSU) Arab and Muslim Ethnicities and Diaspora Studies (AMED) program. The topic? “Whose Narratives? Gender, Justice and Resistance.”
Khaled cannot enter the United States, not only because of membership in a State Department-designated terrorist organization, but because she was involved in some of the more noteworthy acts of international terror in the 1960s and 1970s. In February 1969 she was involved in the hijacking to Damascus of TWA flight 840, headed for Tel Aviv from Rome. After landing, the hijackers blew up the front part of the plane.
As noteworthy, a year later, was the hijacking of El Al flight 219, headed from Amsterdam to New York. This time Khaled worked with Patrick Arguello, a Nicaraguan-American connected to the Sandinista movement, which had entered into a “partnership” with the PFLP to carry out both training and terrorist activities. The two had boarded the plane posing as a couple, using forged Honduran passports. In the ensuing commotion, Arguello is said to have rolled a grenade down the aisle of the plane and fired his gun, wounding a flight attendant. Khaled herself was carrying grenades. When the pilot put the plane into a steep nosedive, it threw the hijackers off balance. Arguello was shot and killed by a sky marshal; Khaled was overwhelmed by passengers and held until the plane landed in London. She was jailed in London but was later released in a prisoner-hostage exchange growing out of another PFLP hijacking.
There could have been mass casualties in both hijackings. Khaled was no mere spokesperson for the Palestinian cause. She was armed and clearly willing to bring the planes down, and their hundreds of passengers with them. Her targets were not random. That she chose a flight to Israel on an American airliner, and an El Al flight meant that the great number of passengers were Jewish, and most likely citizens or supporters of Israel.
Over the decades that have passed, there has been a major campaign to glorify Khaled and her terrorist actions. And now, “compassion” has entered the legend. One story circulating over the years is that she was given explicit instructions not to threaten passengers.
But here’s what one passenger, Rodney Khazzam, then a child traveling with his father, pregnant mother, and sister on Flight 219 had to say about Khaled, in a letter to Lynn Mahoney, the president of SFSU:
“Leila Khaled sat just behind me…several minutes into the flight, above the English Channel, Khaled and her partner stood up directly behind us and began her flight of terror. Her intent was to kill every passenger on board, whether by taking the plane down or diverting it to the desert in Jordan…I wonder if any of the hijackers on 9/11 had survived, if 30 years from now it would be considered educational to have one of them lecture young students at a university. Would you express support for a 9/11 hijacker to speak at your school? I fail to see the difference.”
SFSU has responded to this controversy, with a usual rote-sounding defense of free speech. Said a university spokesman: “A university is a marketplace of ideas, and San Francisco State University supports the rights of all individuals to express their viewpoints and other speech protected by law, even when those viewpoints may be controversial.”
Most Americans will defend free speech to the nth degree, but where this argument collapses is that the university is under no obligation to invite everyone who wants to say something to speak at a university forum. Khazzam asks the key question: would the 9/11 hijackers be welcome at SFSU? I sincerely hope not – especially at an institution that is state and federally-funded. Do would-be or actual killers and assassins have anything fundamentally positive to teach us? If we are not able to draw that line, something is terribly askew not only in our American values, but in how a university sees the very basic definition of morality.
Or maybe it’s something more than that. SFSU’s AMED program has a history of support for those who would demonize and delegitimize the Jewish State. Inviting a real, live terrorist to campus – even virtually – is very much in line with AMED’s objectives. And Khaled is not just any terrorist; she’s the one on the poster smiling with her AK-47, with the stripes to show that she actually carried out “heroic” acts such as the TWA and El Al hijackings. The invitation might as well say, “Come one, come all, to hear the real thing expound on her years threatening the lives of innocent civilians.”
SFSU should immediately cancel Khaled’s appearance on the AMED panel on gender, justice and resistance. Is she really a gender role model? Is there justice in carrying (and using) guns and grenades to advance one’s “cause?” And as for resistance, her objective is the destruction of Israel. The logo of the PFLP still includes the map of the Jewish state. Does the university have any reservations about that?
A university surely needs to be a place where students can broaden their intellectual horizons. Hearing from someone who was armed with hand grenades on an airliner flying at 30,000 feet to make a deadly point, should not find a place of welcome in that universe.
There are many definitions of the Yiddish word “chutzpah”: temerity, audacity, nerve, are chief among them.
Any of these definitions aptly fit the upcoming, and grandly-named, Paris Conference on Middle East Peace. Seventy countries will soon gather in the French capital to discuss the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, and more likely than not, will propose—or perhaps will try to impose a solution to it.
Israel will not be in attendance, and for good reason.
French authorities, in introducing the idea for this conference seven months ago, said that they were “compelled to act” on the issue, which they presumptuously profess was necessary to bring the parties together. The conference spokesman says that discussions will center within three working groups, dealing with civil society, institution building and economic assistance.
This all may have been another exercise in “international conference futility,” as the Geneva peace conferences of decades past attest, had it not been for the passage of Resolution 2334 in the United Nations Security Council (UNSC) and the speech of Secretary of State John Kerry outlining his “six principles” late last month.
Huge assemblages of diplomats from dozens of countries, some of which don’t even have relations with Israel, normally wind up letting off steam at these gatherings, and close with presumptuous declarations that either raise Palestinian expectations or frustrate Israel because they have never dealt with the rejectionism of the Palestinian camp.
But this time may be different.
Protestations coming out of Paris about not seeking to impose a settlement on the parties ring hollow. Armed with both the resolution and the Kerry declaration, the Palestinians, who will be attending the gathering, will seek to use the meeting to further isolate Israel. With friends like Sweden, which holds the presidency of the Security Council this month, mischief-making could very well be the order of the day.
The conventional wisdom is that the conference will endorse the Kerry principles, which placed the blame and onus on Israel for an absence of progress on a two-state solution, and send it on to the Swedish-chaired UNSC, for adoption. At that point, with the parameters not only enunciated by Kerry, but then backed by both the Paris Conference and the Security Council (how could the U.S. veto its own policy?), what would be left to negotiate?
It defies understanding how the French organizers, or any other parties, can still speak both of prejudging an outcome, as well as a serious return to direct negotiations.
Indeed, some Palestinian leaders rejected out of hand the Kerry parameters and called for negotiations within hours of the speech. Palestine Liberation Organization (PLO) Executive Committee member Mustafa Barghouti dismissed three of Kerry’s points, saying that the refugee issue must still include the right of return, that the Palestinians would not recognize Israel as a Jewish state and that Kerry’s proposal for Jerusalem being the capitol of two states did not go far enough—presumably meaning that Israeli neighborhoods like Gilo and Har Homa would need to be evacuated in a final agreement.
In showing his hand, Barghouti underscores not just Palestinian rejectionism, but the Palestinian Authority’s (PA) incessant desire to wear down the international community and insist that it continue to attempt to marginalize and weaken Israel, both diplomatically and economically, until there is nothing left to talk about. Full diplomatic recognition of a Palestinian state could very well follow this conference. With that in hand, there would be no need for the PA to make any concessions. What next? A PA invitation for Iran to send Revolutionary Guards to set up an operation in Ramallah or Hebron?
So is it any wonder that Israel has decided not to appear before this latest version of an international kangaroo court?
Where have the 70 countries joining this gathering been over the past decades, failing to strongly insist that the PA enter negotiations with Israel following offers made by a succession of Israeli governments of concessions ranging from custodianship of Islamic religious sites in Jerusalem (2000), evacuating settlements in Gaza (2005), further concessions on settlements in Judea and Samaria (2008) and most recently, a 10 month settlement freeze (2014).
The responses to these opportunities are well known: intifadas, rockets, incitement and utilizing the United Nations agencies to circumvent the very idea of a negotiated peace, at the General Assembly, the Human Rights Council, the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO), and now, the Security Council.
The massive amounts of time and energy the international community has wasted on these gatherings cannot be regained. Castigating Israel—and by all accounts that will be the end result of the Paris conference, notwithstanding whatever diplomatic language is used—is a non-starter. This is especially so now, when on every one of Israel’s borders there is chaos and uncertainly, ascribable not to the Palestinian issue, but to intra-Arab and intra-Islamic rivalries, mistrust and shifting ideological and strategic currents.
Security Council resolution 2334, and the Kerry speech, have already set back the notion—adhered to by many who back a two-state solution to the conflict—of directly negotiating its end.
Already, some diplomatic scholars and Middle East experts are suggesting ways to, if not rescind the resolution, then to at least mitigate its fallout.
As that unfolds, on into the new Trump administration in Washington, the PA should understand that its zero-sum strategy is also a non-starter.
The Paris conference could send that message to the PA, but it won’t. Those countries participating in these deliberations should do no more harm to this process.
In a joint statement, B’nai B’rith Anti-Defamation Commission chairman Dvir Abramovich and B’nai B’rith International executive vice-president Dan Mariaschin said the lack of outcry against the wave of terror was disturbing.
“If a rash of terror broke out in any other democratic nation, most of the international community would be appalled,” they said.
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