Friday, June 5, 2015
We’ve not resolved all our differences, but we hope to, says Dore Gold; two countries have held 5 secret meetings since 2014, Bloomberg claims
BY TIMES OF ISRAEL STAFF June 5, 2015, 1:58 am | The Times of Israel|
An extremely unusual public meeting of high-ranking Israeli and Saudi officials took place in Washington on Thursday, when the incoming director-general of the Israeli Foreign Ministry shared a stage — and shook hands — with a retired Saudi general who is a former top adviser to the Saudi government.
In their back-to-back addresses to the Washington-based Council on Foreign Relations think tank, Dore Gold and Anwar Eshki both espoused Israeli-Saudi peace and identified Iran as the chief threat to regional stability.
Eshki spoke at length of Iran’s hostile and aggressive actions in the region and signaled that peace with Israel, based on the Saudi-led Arab Peace Initiative, was a top priority. He also spoke of the need for a joint Arab military force to increase regional stability.
Gold, the current head of the Jerusalem Center for Public Affairs think tank, is expected to be confirmed as the Foreign Ministry chief in the coming days. He too spoke of the challenge posed to the Middle East by Iran, and warned of a weak nuclear accord with Tehran which would leave the Islamic republic as a nuclear threshold state.
Bloomberg News reported that the two countries, longtime foes with no diplomatic relations, have held five clandestine meetings over the past 17 months on the threat posed by Iran. Long-rumored back-channel talks between Jerusalem and Riyadh have never been officially confirmed.
Shimon Shapira, described by Bloomberg as an expert on Lebanese terror group Hezbollah who took part in the meetings, said: “We discovered we have the same problems and same challenges and some of the same answers.”
While Gold and Eshki stressed that they were not speaking as official representatives of their nations, but rather as foreign policy experts, they expressed hope that their states could find common ground in the face of regional challenges.
“Our standing today on this stage does not mean we have resolved all the differences that our countries have shared over the years,” Gold said, according to Bloomberg News. “But our hope is we will be able to address them fully in the years ahead.”
While stopping short of fully endorsing the Arab Peace Initiative, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said last week that he welcomed the general idea behind it — a regional agreement between Israel and the moderate Arab states.
The Arab Peace Initiative, originally proposed by Saudi Arabia in 2002, has many problematic aspects to it, the prime minister said, such as its call for an Israeli withdrawal from the Golan Heights and the return of Palestinians refuges to Israel. “There are positive aspects and negative aspects to it,” he told Israeli diplomatic correspondents at a rare on-record briefing. “This initiative is 13 years old, and the situation in the Middle East has changed since it was first proposed. But the general idea — to try and reach understandings with leading Arab countries — is a good idea.”
In the framework proposed by the initiative, all Arab and Islamic states would establish normal diplomatic relations with Israel after the successful conclusion of the peace process with the Palestinians.
The Israeli government has never fully endorsed the plan. But Netanyahu has repeatedly stated that given Iran’s nuclear and regional aspirations, the moderate Arab states and Israel have a common enemy and grounds for increased cooperation.
Meanwhile, a new telephone poll conducted by an Israeli college among citizens of Saudi Arabia concluded that the Saudi public is far more concerned about the threats of Iran and the Islamic State group than Israel, and that the vast majority of Saudis support the decade-old peace offer to the Jewish state.
The International Disciplinary Center’s poll found that 53 percent of Saudis named Iran as their main adversary, while 22% said it is the Islamic State group and only 18 percent said Israel. The poll, conducted in conjunction with the University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee, surveyed 506 Saudis over the phone and had a margin of error of 5 percentage points.
The results indicates significant common ground between Saudi Arabia and Israel. Netanyahu has been outspoken in his criticism of an emerging nuclear deal between Iran and global powers, saying the deal will leave much of Iran’s nuclear infrastructure intact. He has also claimed that unnamed Arab countries, presumably Saudi Arabia and other Sunni Gulf countries, share his concerns.
“What we think here in Israel about the Saudis is not exactly what they are,” said Alex Mintz, who heads the IDC’s Institute for Policy and Strategy and oversaw the survey. “There is a great identity of interests and threats and agendas … some would even like to join forces with Israel.”
The questioners told respondents that they worked for the IDC, though they did not say they or the school were Israeli. Mintz said few people questioned the source of the survey, and those who did raise questions did not make the connection to Israel. He said there were no unpleasant exchanges.
Thursday, June 4, 2015
By JPOST.COM STAFF \06/04/2015 11:42| The Jerusalem Post
Netanyahu echoes claims that Iran developing technologies and negotiating nuclear deal simultaneously.
The US Defense Department issued a statement saying Iran has continued to work on developing advanced military technologies – such as ballistic missiles – while in the midst of finalizing a nuclear deal,Bloomberg reported Wednesday.
According to Bloomberg, a Pentagon report of Iran's military capabilities concluded that the Islamic Republic paused progress in its nuclear program once obligations under the Joint Plan of Action, reached with the US and other world powers, were fulfilled.
The Pentagon assessment found that "covert activities [by Iran] appear to be continuing unabated," particularly in countries such as Iraq, Syria, Yemen, Lebanon, and Bahrain, where Iranian Revolutionary Guards have a strong base.
Iran's military prowess is defensive, the report claimed, intended to isolate the regime "from the consequences of Tehran's more aggressive policies" of terrorism and covert activities.
Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu released a similar press statement on Wednesday after his meeting with New Zealand's Foreign Minister Murray McCully. He alleged that Iran was continuing to operate its nuclear program while world powers are preparing to resume negotiations with the Islamic Republic.
"There are reports that show Iran is continuing to increase its nuclear arsenal while continuing to negotiate," part of the statement read.
Nuclear talks are headed towards a June 30 deadline.
Wednesday, June 3, 2015
WASHINGTON – US Secretary of State John Kerry underwent hours of surgery on Tuesday in his hometown of Boston after breaking his femur in a bicycle accident over the weekend.
While the secretary’s team says that Kerry is committed to an “aggressive, ambitious and responsible” recovery schedule, White House press secretary Josh Earnest said on Tuesday that the Obama administration could not say how long he would need to recover before doctors deemed him fit to fly.
“It’s too early to say,” Earnest said, speaking to reporters moments after Kerry’s operation ended.
Negotiations with Iran over its nuclear program have long taken place on neutral ground: either in Switzerland, along the banks of Lake Geneva in and around United Nations facilities, or in Vienna, which hosts the UN’s International Atomic Energy Agency.
But over two years of negotiations, talks have occasionally taken place on the sidelines of major conferences or assemblies at the UN headquarters in New York. Earnest would not comment on New York as a possible host to the final round of the nuclear negotiations.
Still, the possibility has been raised since the secretary hit a curb while riding his bike in Geneva, where he met with Iranian Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif on Saturday. Kerry, 71, has had hip surgery in the past, not far from the fracture in his right femur.
Given his historic, personal relationship with his Iranian counterpart, Kerry is keen on participating inside the room, “personally,” his senior adviser Marie Harf said on Monday.
“What that looks like, we’re still working out logistics,” Harf said. “But absolutely, he is committed to moving forward, working toward the end of this month and the deadline, personally.”
That deadline, June 30, appeared to be in jeopardy well before Kerry injured himself in France on Sunday: The negotiators are still facing questions of political will, including the pace of sanctions relief and whether Iran is willing to allow inspections at a select number of its military facilities.
A New York Times report on Tuesday suggested that, in violation of an interim deal that has governed the negotiating period, Iran has increased its stockpile of nuclear fuel within the last year by 20 percent. The IAEA reported the findings this month without identifying an explanation for the increase, but the Times report claimed the news “complicated” the talks.
Speaking with The Jerusalem Post, one US official declined to corroborate that new developments had further complicated the talks based on new reporting from the IAEA.
Meanwhile, talks are ongoing at the expert level, with political directors from each participating nation – the US, Britain, France, Russia, China, Germany and Iran – meeting with increasing frequency as the deadline approaches.
The US maintains that it is not entertaining an extension in the talks.
Tuesday, June 2, 2015
President tells Israeli TV he understands Israelis’ ‘concerns and fears,’ but only a ‘verifiable, tough agreement’ can thwart Iran’s nuclear drive
U.S President Barack Obama told Israeli television that the emerging deal between Iran and world powers is the only way to prevent Tehran from obtaining nuclear weapons, and that “a military solution will not fix it.”
In an excerpt aired Monday on Channel 2 of an interview with veteran journalist Ilana Dayan, Obama said that military action against Iran would not deter its nuclear ambitions and that he could prove that a “verifiable” agreement with Iran was the best way forward.
“I can, I think, demonstrate, not based on any hope but on facts and evidence and analysis, that the best way to prevent Iran from having a nuclear weapon is a verifiable, tough agreement,” he said.
“A military solution will not fix it. Even if the United States participates, it would temporarily slow down an Iranian nuclear program but it will not eliminate it,” Obama added.
Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu on Tuesday rejected Obama’s comments, warning that the emerging deal would “pave the way” for Iran to attain a nuclear arsenal. He said the deal would also see Iran’s economy boosted and thus enable it to engage in further terrorist activity.
Touching on the deeply uneasy relationship between Obama and Netanyahu on the issue, Dayan asked the president about the possibility of Israel striking Iran without informing the US in advance.
“I won’t speculate on that,” he said. “What I can say is, to the Israeli people: I understand your concerns and I understand your fears.”
Obama has led the diplomatic initiative to try to end a 12-year international standoff between Tehran and the West, and put a nuclear bomb beyond Iran’s reach.
Netanyahu has long decried the emerging deal as dangerous, saying it will “pave the way” to an Iranian bomb, and has repeatedly warned that the easing of sanctions would enable the Iranian government to continue sponsoring terrorism and fomenting unrest across the region.
On Sunday, Netanyahu told German Foreign Minister Frank-Walter Steinmeier that Iran is “the greatest threat to Israel’s security, to the stability of the region and to the peace of the world.”
Obama’s interview came less than a month before the June 30 deadline for a finalized deal between Iran and the six world powers led by the US. The emerging agreement aims to curb Iran’s uranium enrichment and put in place a stricter inspections regime, in exchange for an easing of punishing economic sanctions.
The full interview with the US president is scheduled to air during Channel 2’s “Uvda” investigative news program on Tuesday evening.
Monday, June 1, 2015
After meeting with German foreign minister, PM reiterates need for ‘better’ nuclear deal, Palestinian state that recognizes Israel as Jewish state
BY TIMES OF ISRAEL STAFF |May 31, 2015, 4:41 pm | The Times of Israel|
Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu on Sunday decried Iranian “aggression” across the Middle East, telling German Foreign Minister Frank-Walter Steinmeier that an emerging nuclear deal should take into account not only Tehran’s alleged nuclear ambition but also its regional aspirations.
After noting that “the greatest threat to Israel’s security, to the stability of the region and to the peace of the world” was Iran’s alleged quest for nuclear weapons, Netanyahu pointed to an Iranian “campaign of aggression across the entire Middle East, in Yemen, Iraq, Syria, Lebanon, around our borders on the Golan.”
Speaking at a press conference after his meeting with Steinmeier, the prime minister added, “Today, Iran is sponsoring terrorism across the globe beyond the Middle East, in the Middle East, but also in Asia, Africa, Europe, the Americas. Iran is building a vast infrastructure of terror.”
He said Iran is “conducting an unprecedented, I would say, conventional arms build-up. It’s developing a huge arms industry, which includes drones, rockets, precision guided missiles, submarines and satellites as well.”
Netanyahu said that he and Steinmeier had discussed “at some length” the stalled peace process with the Palestinians.
“I think the only way to move that is through direct negotiations,” he said. “Unfortunately, the Palestinian Authority has moved away from these negotiations, but I believe, I remain committed to the idea that the only way we can achieve a lasting peace is through the concept of two states for two peoples — a demilitarized Palestinian state that recognizes the Jewish nation-state of Israel.”
After meeting with Netanyahu, the German foreign minister met with President Reuven Rivlin at the President’s Residence in Jerusalem.
Picking up where they had left off during Rivlin’s official visit to Germany two weeks ago, the two men spoke about current developments in the region and bilateral ties between Germany and Israel.
During the meeting, Rivlin spoke of the international concern over the Israel-Palestinian conflict and the need for the resumption of talks.
“We do not need to be pressured,” he told the German foreign minister. “The need to rebuild Gaza and the renewal of direct negotiations is very clear to us. The Palestinians’ unilateral actions as we saw for example on Friday in Zurich are unnecessary and a bizarre twist on history — that the successors of those who murdered athletes in Munich should now be promoting a boycott of Israel goes against the ideas of humanity and justice.”
Referring to the fact that Steinmeier would be traveling to the Palestinian Authority later Sunday for a meeting with the PA president, Rivlin said, “We hope that in your meeting with Mahmoud Abbas, you will be able to stress the idea that, for both people, the only way we will be able to bring an end to the conflict is through direct negotiations.”
The German foreign minister thanked Rivlin for his warm welcome, and said, “I remember that when we have met in the past, we often spoke about the crisis in your region, and today we are also discussing the crisis in our region. The calming of the situation in the eastern Ukraine is still very difficult and the ceasefire is still very fragile.
“At the same time, I know that the situation in your region is much more complicated. I just had the opportunity to discuss with Prime Minister Netanyahu the number of crisis regions here — Syria, Iran, and the Palestinians. I still believe in the need to return to negotiations for a two-state solution. The troubled situation in Gaza demands of us to think about concrete steps to improve daily life there — without which, I am afraid, the situation is escalating.”
Steinmeier said during the meeting that he wished to promote concrete measures for the reconstruction of Gaza in order to build confidence between both sides, adding that the discussion had to focus on Gaza as well as on the West Bank.
Both men affirmed that Europe had an important role to play in mediating an end to the conflict
Friday, May 29, 2015
By HERB KEINON \05/28/2015 22:21| The Jerusalem Post|
Israel is in early discussion with the US about a new 10-year defense assistance program, but this is not “compensation” for the possible signing of a possible nuclear deal with Iran, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said Thursday.
Netanyahu, during a briefing with Israel’s diplomatic correspondents, did not say how much Israel was requesting. With the current 10-year, $30 billion US defense assistance agreement set to expire in 2017, the two sides are negotiating the terms of a 10-year deal that according to a recent report in Defense News could be worth up to $45b.
The prime minister said this package is not a “quid pro quo” for the Iranian nuclear deal, which he said Israel continues to adamantly oppose.
The previous defense assistance memorandum of understanding was signed in August 2007 with the Bush administration, and outlined a 10-year framework of military assistance that called for incremental yearly increases that reached $3.1b. this year. Of that money, 74¢ of every dollar is spent in the US.
According to the Defense News report, this does not include US war stocks prepositioned in Israel and available for Israel’s emergency use, and nearly $500m. annually in money for joint research and development of rocket defense systems, like Iron Dome.
US President Barack Obama has not only honored that agreement, but – as Netanyahu pointed out – said during his visit to Israel in March that the US would continue to provide Israel with multi-year commitments of military aid subject to the approval of Congress.
One of the chief architects of the previous framework was Ron Dermer, Israel’s current ambassador to Washington, who at the time was Israel’s economic attaché to Washington.
He said then that “the most important part of the agreement is the message that it sends to Israel’s enemies that America remains fully committed to Israel’s security.”
According to Defense News, this package would be independent of increased military aid the US might offer Israel if a deal with Iran is signed.
Thursday, May 28, 2015
Iran and Europeans willing to work past June 30 target date; Kerry and Zarif to meet Saturday in Geneva
BY AP, TIMES OF ISRAEL STAFF AND AFP
May 27, 2015, 11:51 pm| The Times of Israel|
The US State Department is not planning on extending nuclear talks past its June 30 deadline, a spokesman said Wednesday.
European and Iranian officials have suggested the talks may require more time.
However, State Department spokesman Jeff Rathke said the US isn’t considering an extension and that the goal remains to make progress toward an agreement by the end of June deadline.
“We’re not contemplating any extension beyond June 30,” Rathke told reporters Wednesday.
Iranian negotiator Abbas Araqchi, quoted by state news agency IRNA, said Wednesday the two sides were “not bound by the schedule.”
“We are not at the point where we can say that negotiations will be completed quickly — they will continue until the deadline and could continue beyond that,” he said.
Secretary of State John Kerry and Iranian Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif will hold talks Saturday in Geneva.
Iran and world powers signed a framework accord on April 2 and aim to agree on a final deal by the end of June to prevent Iran from developing an atomic bomb, in exchange for an easing of crippling economic sanctions.
Meanwhile, the level of international access to Iranian military sites has emerged as a potential deal breaker, with Iran’s supreme leader staunchly opposed, and France insistent.
Iranian hardliners have accused negotiators of having accepted demands for international inspections of Iran’s military sites, a position which Supreme Leader Ali Khamenei has ruled out.
French Foreign Minister Laurent Fabius warned on Wednesday that France would oppose a final nuclear accord unless it allowed inspections of military sites.
An agreement “will not be accepted by France if it is not clear that verifications can be made at all Iranian facilities, including military sites,” Fabius told parliament.
Also Wednesday, Yukiya Amano, the head of the UN’s atomic watchdog, said Iran had agreed to implementing the Additional Protocol of the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty (NPT) that allows for snap inspections.
“When we find inconsistency or when we have doubts, we can request access to the undeclared location for example, and this could include military sites,” the Japanese diplomat told AFP.
“Some consideration is needed because of the sensitiveness of the site, but the International Atomic Energy Agency has the right to request access at all locations, including military ones.”
Zarif has said the protocol allows “some access” but not inspections of military sites, in order to protect national “military or economic secrets”
Wednesday, May 27, 2015
UN nuclear agency chief Yukiya Amano says months needed to assess military apects of Iranian nuclear sites
PARIS, France (AFP) — If Iran signs a nuclear deal with world powers it will have to accept inspections of its military sites, the head of the UN’s atomic watchdog Yukiya Amano told AFP in an interview.
The question of inspections is shaping up to be one of the thorniest issues as world powers try to finalize a deal by June 30 to prevent Iran from developing a nuclear bomb.
Amano said Tehran has agreed to implementing the Additional Protocol of the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty (NPT) that allows for snap inspections of its nuclear facilities, and if required, military sites.
However, differences have emerged over the interpretation of the protocol and the issue is far from resolved.
Iran’s supreme leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei last week ruled out allowing nuclear inspectors to visit military sites or the questioning of scientists.
And Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif has said the protocol allows “some access” but not inspections of military sites, in order to protect national “military or economic secrets.”
In an interview with AFP and French daily Le Monde, Amano said that if a deal is reached, Iran will face the same inspections from the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) as any of the 120 countries implementing the additional protocol.
“When we find inconsistency or when we have doubts we can request access to the undeclared location for example, and this could include military sites,” said the Japanese diplomat.
“Some consideration is needed because of the sensitiveness of the site, but the IAEA has the right to request access at all locations, including military ones.”
Iran and the so-called P5+1 group — Britain, China, France, Russia, the United States plus Germany — have been engaged for nearly two years in negotiations on Tehran’s nuclear drive.
The deal is aimed at preventing Iran from developing the atomic bomb in exchange for an easing of crippling economic sanctions.
The two sides signed a framework agreement on April 2 and began meeting in Vienna on Wednesday to start finalizing a deal which is due by June 30.
Possible military dimension
Iran has long asserted its nuclear program is for peaceful energy purposes, and that international concern about it seeking a nuclear bomb is misplaced.
According to the United States, Iran has agreed to cut the number of its centrifuges, used for enriching uranium, by two thirds from 19,000 to about 6,000, and will put excess nuclear equipment into storage monitored by the IAEA.
Iran has also reportedly agreed not to build any new facilities for enriching uranium for 15 years, cut back its stockpile of enriched uranium and mothball some of its plants.
However, Tehran is sensitive over the IAEA’s stringent oversight demands as the agency is at the same time trying to probe allegations that Iran tried to develop nuclear weapons prior to 2003, and possibly since.
Iran denies the allegations, saying they are based on hostile intelligence provided by the US Central Intelligence Agency (CIA) and Israel’s Mossad.
Western officials stress that these claims of “possible military dimensions” need to be cleared up before sanctions can be lifted, but the IAEA’s probe has been stalled since last August.
‘A huge operation’
Amano said that once there is a deal, “several months will be needed” to investigate whether there were any military dimensions to Iran’s research.
“It depends very much on the pace and the intensiveness of the cooperation from Iran. We have identified 12 areas to clarify.”
One notable area the IAEA is interested in is the Parchin military base, where they suspect tests relating to the development of nuclear weapons have taken place.
The IAEA has already visited the sprawling military base near Tehran but wants to return for another look.
Amano said it could take years “to give the credible assurance that all activities in Iran have a peaceful purpose”.
If a deal is reached with the P5+1, the IAEA will be charged with overseeing it and reporting back to the UN Security Council.
“This will be the most extensive safeguard operation of the IAEA. We need to prepare well, we need to plan well, it is a huge operation,” said Amano.
Currently the watchdog has between four and 10 inspectors in Iran at any given time, and if a deal is reached at least 10 will need to be on the ground daily.
The agency will also need to install cameras and seals on sensitive equipment.
Tuesday, May 26, 2015
By: Yaakov Lappin| 5/25/2015| 15:33
Diplomats involved in efforts to set up a regional dialogue over weapons of mass destruction helped it avoid a bad outcome during a UN conference last week, arms control expert Emily Landau said on Monday.
In recent day, the US vetoed an Egyptian-led drive for a Middle East nuclear weapons ban at a UN Nuclear Nonproliferation Treaty Review Conference in Manhattan.
Landau, head of the Arms Control and Regional Security Program at the Institute for National Security Studies in Tel Aviv, told The Jerusalem Post, “Much of the media commentary is focusing on the fact that the US did this for Israel, and [Prime Minister Benjamin] Netanyahu has thanked [Secretary of State John] Kerry.
Thanks to the US are certainly in order as it stood by Israel and its principles in a very noteworthy manner. But in addition, I would highlight that US support this time was made easier because of the cooperative approach that Israel had adopted over the past few years.”
Israel, which is not a signatory to the NPT, has nevertheless spent the past two years cooperating with UN attempts, led by the Finnish diplomat Jaakko Laajava, to establish a regional dialogue on weapons of mass destruction, using the opportunity to share its concerns during a series of meetings, and through the submission of a paper.
“Had Israel remained unwilling to cooperate with Laajava’s efforts, it would have been more difficult to defend. But US officials over the past year had praised Israel’s cooperation regarding the informal meetings, and this most likely strengthened their ability to argue against the new resolution that was changing the terms mid-course,” Landau said.
“At the end of the day, by overplaying its hand, Egypt lost out,” she added.
Cairo’s failure to push through a resolution that would have called on Israel to join the NPT mean that the “conference is at least temporarily suspended, and with it the progress that had been made. There are no terms in the framework of the NPT for continuing at this point. For Israel this is certainly good news – substantively, and in terms of the expression of US support,” Landau said.
A draft proposal submitted for final vote at the NPT Review Conference “was much better than the Arab [Egyptian] proposal submitted in the first days of the conference, but it still had problematic elements,” Landau said.
Those elements included a commitment to holding a weapons of mass destruction free zone conference by March 2016, and placing all of the authority in the hands of the UN secretary-general, rather than conveners such as the US and Britain.
Had it been passed, the draft resolution “would have basically fired Jaakko Laajava, which it seems was one of Egypt’s objectives. It mandated the secretary- general to appoint a new facilitator. Why do that when Laajava had spent so much time and energy learning the issues and carving out a path with the regional parties?” Landau asked.
“It seems that all of these elements were directed toward convening a conference by March whether Israel likes it or not,” she added. “What incentive would the Arab states have had to work seriously with Israel when they would have had the guarantee that a conference would be convened by next March, no matter what?” Earlier in May, Landau reported that the international arms control community has come to the defense of contacts between Israel and UN diplomats, who are engaged in talks aimed at including Jerusalem in a forum on weapons of mass destruction.
Friday, May 22, 2015
BY: JEFFREY BARKEN| MAY 21, 2015 10:40 AM| The Algemeiner|
JNS.org – Recent ordeals for Jews on college campuses include being probedon their religious identity in student government hearings, seeingswastikas sprayed on fraternity houses, and the presence of astudent-initiated course accused of anti-Semitism. Pro-Israel voices are fighting back, but who is winning this war of ideas? An episode at Columbia University, a historic hotbed of anti-Zionism, illustrates the complex dynamics at play.
Last month, Christians United for Israel (CUFI), America’s largest pro-Israel organization with more than 2 million members, planned a lecture at Columbia concerning the legacy of Martin Luther King, Jr., and his support for Israel. CUFI says that the school administration meddled with the event in a way that unfairly singled out the pro-Israel group. The university imposed an “unprecedented level of bureaucratic scrutiny in an effort to intimidate,” says David Walker, CUFI’s national campus coordinator.
Walker tells JNS.org that the university moved the lecture to a much smaller venue at the last minute, demanded to know the names of all off-campus individuals expected to attend, and denied the general public entry as evidence of “bureaucratic bullying.” Some organizations partnering with CUFI on the event proceeded to withdraw their support in the aftermath of the administration’s actions.
Despite the obstacles, CUFI’s diversity outreach coordinator, Pastor Dumisani Washington, was permitted to speak at Columbia during the April 30 event. He began by refuting a statement issued by the Columbia Black Students Organization (BSO) in which the group condemned Aryeh, a pro-Israel student organization at Columbia, for using “the image and words” of Martin Luther King to promote Zionist views and co-opting “the black liberation struggle for the purposes of genocide and oppression.”
“When I see black students saying these things I know there is a great deal of confusion,” Washington says. His lecture offered a history of the civil rights movement in the U.S., demonstrating how King and his closest followers were always aligned with Israel, both spiritually and politically. By citing the shared experience of slavery as epochs uniting Jews and blacks, recalling songs about Moses, and highlighting excerpts from New Testament and Old Testament psalms that figure prominently in King’s speeches, Washington defended Christian Zionism and King’s legacy as a pro-Israel voice.
In his presentation, Washington also included a short video that illustrates BSO’s “confusion.” The video recalls the 1975 United Nations General Assembly resolution that declared Zionism as racism. Noting the maxim “follow the money,” the video connects the dots of a complicated political strategy devised by the former Soviet Union. At the height of the Cold War, the USSR sought to manipulate and intimidate poorer member states (mostly African) into passing anti-Israel resolutions. The real target of this strategy was not Israel, but rather America, the Soviets’ chief rival. Since the U.S. and Israel are close allies, the Soviets reasoned, any discrediting of Israel’s reputation as a humane democracy reflected negatively on the U.S., creating ideological conflicts of interest.
With CUFI’s event going on planned, the pro-Israel side at Columbia University managed to have its voice and narrative heard—at least for that day. Columbia, as it turns out, sits atop a recently published list of 10 American college campuses where anti-Semitism is most rampant. The list was compiled by JewHatredOnCampus.org, an initiative launched earlier this year whose mission is to engage directly with students at institutions of higher learning where pro-Palestinian student groups are using school funding to launch aggressive anti-Israel and anti-Jewish propaganda campaigns. The new website publishes a regular newsletter and provides a portal for reporting anti-Semitic incidents.
“Fifty-four percent of Jewish students on college campuses feel they’ve witnessed anti-Semitism,” says well-known conservative writer David Horowitz, the founder of JewHatredOnCampus.org. “The problem is that Jews aren’t fighting back.”
But how should they fight back? A 2010 incident involving Horowitz sheds light on the activist’s strategy of choice. In a post-lecture Q&A session hosted by the University of California, San Diego (UCSD), Horowitz asked a UCSD Muslim student, Jumanah Imad Albahri, to condemn Hamas and Hezbollah as genocidal terrorist organizations. Albarhi’s answer shocked the audience, and the video of their heated exchange quickly went viral.
In the video, Albarhi asks Horowitz “to explain the purported connection” between UCSD’s Muslim Student Association chapter and “jihadist terrorist networks.” Horowitz doesn’t answer directly. Instead, he counters by pressing Albarhi to refute the documented statement by the head of Hezbollah, Hassan Nasrallah, expressing his desire for Jews to gather in Israel so that “it will save us the trouble of going after them worldwide.” Albarhi appears rattled. She worries that the U.S. Department of Homeland Security will label her a terrorist if she sides with Hezbollah, but denies that pro-Palestinian organizations are aligned with doctrines of hate.
“For it or against it?” Horowitz persists, demanding an answer regarding Albarhi’s opinion on Hezbollah’s rhetoric. Finally, Albarhi leans toward the microphone and says decisively, “For it.” (Though Albarhi later denied supporting Nasrallah’s comments.)
Indeed, similar YouTube clips and social media debates reveal the intensity of student opinions regarding Israel, as well as the animosity directed at Jewish students and professors. Horowitz believes that one common Israeli public relations strategy—the spotlighting of “all the wonderful things Israel has accomplished, from medical inventions and agricultural advances to being tolerant of gays”—falls short as a proper defense of the Jewish state’s policies. From his perspective, history is what provides a legitimate justification for Israel to exist under its present borders. He cites the original Palestinian Liberation Organization slogan declaring a fundamental intention to “push [the Jews] into the sea” as clear-cut evidence that Israel does not have a partner for peace.
“You have to call it what it is,” Horowitz tells JNS.org. “You cannot make peace with people who want to kill you. These are literally Nazis… planning another Holocaust openly.”
Against the backdrop of that sense of urgency, Horowitz advocates a robust and unapologetic public relations campaign on the part of pro-Israel advocates as the only way to repair the damage done to Israel’s image by its enemies. The press release that launched hisJewHatredOnCampus.org initiative lists anti-Jewish acts such as “Israeli Apartheid Week” (the annual anti-Israel showcase on campuses around the world), the interruption of university activities by staging mock “checkpoints” on campus, the hosting of speakers on campus that call for the destruction of the Jewish state, and harassment and violence against Jewish and pro-Israel students.
Horowitz’s efforts to counter anti-Israel and anti-Semitic rhetoric has sparked many contentious debates at the more than 400 college campus visits he says he has made. CUFI speakers are similarly accustomed to meeting fiery opposition. On the same day as the recent Columbia event, CUFI Outreach Coordinator Kasim Hafeez—a British Muslim of Pakistani origin and a jihadist-turned-Zionist—had Students for Justice in Palestine (SJP) activists walk out on a speech he gave at the University of Toledo.
Horowitz concedes that the current debate over Israel on campus is a shallow shouting match to which he contributes his own propaganda. He expresses his desire for an “informed scholarly debate,” but says of pro-Palestinian advocates, “I don’t believe there is an honest way for them to argue their cause… [when their] side wants to annihilate the other.”