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March 10, 2016 2

The Economic Costs Of Boycotting Israel: An Arab Perspective

Anti-Israel activists have often argued that the goal of the Boy­cott, Divest and Sanc­tion (BDS) cam­paign is to encour­age Israelis to think crit­i­cally about the “eco­nomic cost of the Occu­pa­tion,” but a recent arti­cle pub­lished by Al-Hayat, one of the lead­ing daily pan-Arab news­pa­pers, may be chal­leng­ing them to con­sider think­ing about the costs some Arabs endure as a result of calls to resist nor­mal rela­tions with Israel.al hayat

“Resist­ing Nor­mal­iza­tion [with Israel] in Jor­dan adds eco­nomic losses to the defeat” by Jor­dan­ian jour­nal­ist Ibrahim Gharaiba, which appeared on the inter­na­tional edi­tion of Al-Hayat on March 7, offers a real­is­tic pic­ture of the real price Jor­da­ni­ans are pay­ing as a result of calls to boy­cott Israel.

Accord­ing to Gharaiba, the Israel–Jordan peace treaty, known as Wadi Araba, could have trans­formed the sta­tus of war between the two coun­ties into great eco­nomic and devel­op­ment oppor­tu­ni­ties for Jor­dan. “Israel, which its sta­tus has changed into a non-enemy coun­try is located at the same geo­graphic region as Jor­dan, and it has an advanced econ­omy which achieves very high lev­els of human development.”

This Israeli suc­cess story, accord­ing to the arti­cle, is focused around areas with strate­gic impor­tance for Jor­dan, such as water desali­na­tion and agriculture.

“Jor­dan, which suf­fered a mil­i­tary defeated in 1967 and regional crises cre­at­ing a refugee pro­por­tion close to 70 per­cent of the pop­u­la­tion, is also plagued by bizarre polit­i­cal trends work­ing against its best inter­est in a puz­zling way. [This polit­i­cal trend] turned work in Israel, export to and import from it, and train­ing and tech­ni­cal coop­er­a­tion with it into some­thing taboo.”

Israeli goods burned as part of the BDS activities in the Arab world

Israeli goods (and goods per­ceived as Israeli) burned as part of the BDS activ­i­ties in the Arab world

The author also defends his fel­low Jor­dan­ian cit­i­zens who seek work oppor­tu­ni­ties in Israel against attempts to crim­i­nal­ize their actions. “Cit­i­zens who work in Israel are try­ing to pre­serve their [human] dig­nity, espe­cially as the unem­ploy­ment rate [in Jor­dan] is too high.”  Gharaiba also responds against those who label coop­er­a­tion with Israel as “trea­son” by offer­ing a para­dox­i­cal real­is­tic def­i­n­i­tion: “Trea­son is when a gov­ern­ment aban­dons the inter­ests and eco­nomic oppor­tu­ni­ties of its people.”

The arti­cle com­pares the con­se­quences of such polit­i­cal rhetoric about boy­cotting Israel with the sit­u­a­tion in 1967 when Jor­dan joined sev­eral other Arab coun­tries in attack­ing Israel. Many in the Arab world remem­ber the polit­i­cal rhetoric in these years, which rejected any com­pro­mise with Israel. Accord­ing to the author, today’s calls to boy­cott Israel would add an eco­nomic defeat to the mil­i­tary defeat of the Six Day War.

Gharaibah is not the only one in the Arab world who empha­sizes the eco­nomic hard­ships that are shap­ing the future of the Arab world. A num­ber of Arab intel­lec­tu­als have chal­lenged attempts to mask the role of eco­nomic con­di­tions in trig­ger­ing frus­tra­tions of the Arab youth.

While many who sup­port the BDS move­ment may be moti­vated by what they believe to be the human rights agenda of its lead­ers, they often choose to dis­re­gard real­i­ties on the ground when it comes to the real bur­den endured by the aver­age Arab cit­i­zen. This arti­cle is a sober­ing reminder that the BDS movement’s rhetoric is dis­con­nected  from the real­ity of the cit­i­zens of Jor­dan and poten­tially oth­ers in the Arab world, many of whom are in seri­ous need of the eco­nomic ben­e­fits that could come from fur­ther coop­er­a­tion with Israel.

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March 9, 2016 0

Examining Zionism: Yesterday and Today

Zion­ism is a move­ment and ide­ol­ogy which has reli­gious, cul­tural polit­i­cal and prac­ti­cal mean­ing.  The con­nec­tion to Zion – Jerusalem – and the com­mit­ment to a national Jew­ish and demo­c­ra­tic home­land in Israel, the birth­place of Judaism, has been a source of inspi­ra­tion, a call to action, and a safe har­bor for Jews flee­ing persecution. Herzl bridge

But while Zion­ism is a pos­i­tive in the Jew­ish his­tor­i­cal nar­ra­tive, the term and move­ment has been the object of increas­ing demo­niza­tion and dele­git­imiza­tion. From pas­sage of the  “Zion­ism is Racism” res­o­lu­tion in the U.N. Gen­eral Assem­bly in 1975 (repealed in 1991), to recent charges by New York col­lege stu­dents that a “Zion­ist Admin­is­tra­tion” was respon­si­ble for high tuition, to British stu­dents call­ing polit­i­cal oppo­nents “Zios,” Zion­ism is used by some as a polit­i­cally charged term with neg­a­tive connotations.

Enter Col­lid­ing Dreams, a com­pelling doc­u­men­tary by Joseph Dor­man and Oren Rudavsky that exam­ines the mean­ing of Zion­ism and the his­tory of the build­ing a mod­ern Jew­ish state. Some­where along the 150-year path from Zionism’s ori­gins with Moses Hess and Theodore Herzl, to the present Israeli gov­ern­ment of Prime Min­is­ter Ben­jamin Netanyahu, remark­able things, both amaz­ing and regret­table, have occurred in Zionism’s name.  With the birth of the State of Israel, the con­tin­ued sur­vival of the Jew­ish peo­ple was insured. At the same time, Pales­tini­ans have been per­son­ally and nation­ally impacted by this Jew­ish nation­al­ist movement.

The chal­lenges, com­pet­ing nar­ra­tives, incon­sis­ten­cies and messi­ness of Zion­ism are fully on dis­play in this doc­u­men­tary, from the con­tro­ver­sies over Israeli set­tle­ments, to the treat­ment of Pales­tini­ans, to enhanced mil­i­tarism and fun­da­men­tal­ism. But also in full focus is the pride, promise and com­mit­ment of what Zion­ism has meant and con­tin­ues to mean for so many, Jews and non-Jews alike.

For those who con­sider them­selves Zion­ists, for those who know lit­tle or noth­ing about the move­ment and its his­tory, and even for those who con­sider them­selves opposed to Zion­ism, Col­lid­ing Dreams offers much-needed his­tor­i­cal con­text with diverse nar­ra­tives. The film takes a rea­soned and fresh look at the con­flict, and pro­vides a truth­ful tale of achieve­ment and woe. And while the film makes an impor­tant con­tri­bu­tion to the nec­es­sary dia­logue, what’s left is the ques­tion of the next chap­ter for Zionism’s future.

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March 2, 2016 4

Iran Trains Young Children for Warfare Against US and Israel

As the media focuses on all that is allegedly “new “ in Iran, with new elected rep­re­sen­ta­tives and new busi­ness oppor­tu­ni­ties,  young chil­dren in the Islamic Repub­lic are being trained in decades-old Iran­ian pro­pa­ganda, vio­lence and hate, with the goal of “con­quer­ing Tel Aviv”.

Iranian children

As part of last month’s Fajr Decade cel­e­bra­tions (the anniver­sary of Islamic Rev­o­lu­tion), Iran­ian offi­cials in the city of Lamard orga­nized the “Sixth National Children’s Memo­r­ial”, an event which trains chil­dren for war­fare against the US and Israel. Accord­ing to reports, as many as 1,200 chil­dren par­tic­i­pated in the event, with some dressed in mil­i­tary apparel. The event included forms of tar­get prac­tice with weapons, run­ning through obsta­cle courses and learn­ing about “con­quer­ing of Tel-Aviv and Jerusalem” as “holy val­ues.” One photo from the event shows a young boy hold­ing an Israeli flag which he is prepar­ing to set alight in a nearby bonfire.

Iran (which infa­mously sent in child sol­diers dur­ing the Iran-Iraq War in the 1980s) is a sig­na­tory to an inter­na­tional pro­to­col of the Con­ven­tion of the Rights of Chil­dren which says:  “States Par­ties shall refrain from recruit­ing any per­son who has not attained the age of fif­teen years into their armed forces…” and “States Par­ties shall take all fea­si­ble mea­sures to ensure that per­sons who have not attained the age of fif­teen years do not take a direct part in hos­til­i­ties. “   While such train­ings may not con­sti­tute explicit recruit­ment or involve­ment in hos­til­i­ties, with ses­sions such as these, Iran’s power bro­kers are edu­cat­ing, moti­vat­ing and train­ing for hos­til­i­ties against Israel in the future.

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