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October 20, 2014 0

The Lancet Editor Reconsiders Israel

In a sig­nif­i­cant about face, Dr. Richard Hor­ton, the edi­tor of the pres­ti­gious med­ical jour­nal The Lancet, pub­lished an arti­cle on Octo­ber 11 reflect­ing on his recent visit to Israel and announc­ing sev­eral pol­icy ini­tia­tives the jour­nal will now under­take which will more accu­rately reflect the Israeli med­ical sys­tem and deal with the Israeli-Palestinian conflict.

Horton’s visit to Israel and his writ­ten reflec­tions came in the after­math of a firestorm that met The Lancet’s post­ing on July 23 of a highly one-sided, pro­pa­gan­dis­tic  “Open Let­ter for the Peo­ple of Gaza,”  con­demn­ing Israeli “aggres­sion” in Gaza and charg­ing Israel and Israeli physi­cians with full cul­pa­bil­ity for the sit­u­a­tion in Gaza.    The let­ter, signed by 24 indi­vid­u­als who iden­ti­fied them­selves as “doc­tors and sci­en­tists, who spend our lives devel­op­ing means to care and pro­tect health and lives” (many of whom have been strongly crit­i­cal of Israel for a long time), appeared on The Lancet web­site with­out any counter-perspective and, ini­tially, the pub­li­ca­tion encour­aged read­ers to add their names. As of July 30, the web­site had gar­nered 20,000 sig­na­tures before the sign­ing func­tion was shut down. The Lancet later posted a hand­ful of let­ters in response to the Gaza open let­ter on its web­site, includ­ing many by Israeli physi­cians and med­ical professionals.

Con­tro­versy over the let­ter raged at the height of the Israel-Hamas con­flict, with many, includ­ing ADL, call­ing into ques­tions Dr. Horton’s deci­sion to fea­ture such a “par­ti­san” and “highly politi­cized screed.”

In Sep­tem­ber, Hor­ton, invited by Pro­fes­sor Karl Sko­recki of the Ram­bam Hos­pi­tal in Haifa, decided to visit Israel for the first time. (See a video of his speech at Ram­bam below.)   The real­ity of Israel appar­ently took Dr. Hor­ton by sur­prise.  He writes:

At Ram­bam I saw an inspir­ing model of part­ner­ship between Jews and Arabs in a part of Israel where 40% of the pop­u­la­tion is Arab. I saw Ram­bam offer­ing an open hand, gladly grasped by fam­i­lies from Gaza, the West Bank, and Syria, who were liv­ing with life-threatening health-care needs. I saw Ram­bam as one exam­ple of a vision for a peace­ful and pro­duc­tive future between peo­ples, which I learned exists through­out Israel’s hospitals.

Sig­nif­i­cantly, Dr. Hor­ton admit­ted :  “I have seen for myself that what was writ­ten in the Man­d­uca et al let­ter does not describe the full reality.”

He also laid out new guide­lines for the edi­tors to more thor­oughly review the “inter­ests” of authors, as well as con­sider how to approach poten­tially divi­sive and polar­iz­ing con­tent, and announced plans for a Lancet series on Israel’s health and med­ical system.

In a let­ter to Dr. Hor­ton, ADL com­mended his arti­cle and state­ments and requested that a link to it appear promi­nently along­side the “Open Let­ter” which can still be found on The Lancet web­site.   ADL also noted that:

In your Octo­ber 11 arti­cle you state that “…The Lancet opposes all forms of boy­cott.”   You may be aware that numer­ous anti-Israel res­o­lu­tions pre­sented in uni­ver­si­ties, pro­fes­sional asso­ci­a­tions and the like – includ­ing those call­ing for boy­cotts of and divest­ment from Israel – cite mate­r­ial from The Lancet in bol­ster­ing their advo­cacy.  We urge you to speak out against all efforts to link The Lancet to advo­cacy in favor of boy­cotting Israel, its aca­d­e­mics and professionals.

Dr. Hor­ton says he will return to Israel in Jan­u­ary 2015.  Med­ical pro­fes­sional around the world will watch with inter­est what might result from this new aware­ness and open­ness to Israel.

 

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October 8, 2014 0

Sweden’s Recognition of ‘Palestine’ Premature and Ill-Advised

   By Abra­ham H. Fox­man
   National Direc­tor of the Anti-Defamation League

   This arti­cle orig­i­nally appeared in The Huff­in­g­ton Post

Many observers were sur­prised by the sud­den announce­ment by the newly elected prime min­is­ter of Swe­den that his coun­try would become the first in the Euro­pean Union to for­mally rec­og­nize the “State of Palestine.”

The announce­ment by Prime Min­is­ter Ste­fan Lofven, which stip­u­lated that his new gov­ern­ment would even­tu­ally rec­og­nize a Pales­tin­ian state within the 1967 bor­ders, was inap­pro­pri­ate on a num­ber of lev­els. First, it is con­trary to long­stand­ing E.U. for­eign pol­icy. Sec­ond, it appears to reward the intran­si­gence of Pales­tin­ian Pres­i­dent Mah­moud Abbas, which was on full dis­play in his recent speech at the United Nations. Mr. Abbas’ over­heated rhetoric only con­tributes to dis­cour­ag­ing the pos­si­bil­ity of resum­ing nego­ti­a­tions between Israel and the Palestinians.

But Sweden’s deci­sion was much less sur­pris­ing if one con­sid­ers the state of dete­ri­o­rat­ing rela­tions between Swe­den and Israel, which in recent years have trig­gered tremors along a grow­ing fault line in Swedish soci­ety between more mod­er­ate forces and the rad­i­cal left.

It should be said upfront here that the bilat­eral rela­tion­ship between Israel and Swe­den remains vitally impor­tant, and that even with this poten­tial change in pol­icy there are still oppor­tu­ni­ties to move for­ward diplomatically.

Com­pli­cated fac­tors are at play in Swedish pol­i­tics and soci­ety, and these are clearly influ­enc­ing its for­eign pol­icy. Zvi Mazel, who served as Israeli ambas­sador to Stock­holm between 2002 and 2004, out­lined some of those fac­tors in recent inter­views in the Israeli press.

Lofven, he noted, only won the elec­tion with 43 per­cent of the vote, and needs to form a minor­ity gov­ern­ment that has the sup­port of the for­merly com­mu­nist left-wing party, which has stri­dent anti-Israel pro­cliv­i­ties and whose sup­port­ers are pri­mar­ily Arab and Mus­lim Swedish cit­i­zens. Mus­lims now com­prise about 8 per­cent of Sweden’s pop­u­la­tion after the coun­try absorbed more than 80,000 immi­grants from Syria and Iraq this year alone.

As a result, says Mazel, Lofven is seek­ing sup­port and pub­lic sym­pa­thy by play­ing “the Israel card.”

Two of Lofven’s cab­i­net appoint­ments are trou­bling as well. They are indi­vid­u­als well known for their enthu­si­as­tic sup­port for the Pales­tin­ian cause and who were deported from Israel because of their activities.

Accord­ing to a report in the Israeli daily Ma’ariv, the new city plan­ning and envi­ron­ment min­is­ter, Mehmet Kaplan, a native of Turkey and a for­mer spokesman for the Mus­lim Coun­cil of Swe­den, was involved in the Mavi Mar­mara inci­dent in which pas­sen­gers on the Gaza-bound ship vio­lently attacked Israeli naval per­son­nel in 2010. And the new edu­ca­tion min­is­ter, Gus­tav Fridolin, was arrested and deported from Israel in 2003 for encour­ag­ing demon­stra­tions against the secu­rity fence between the West Bank and Israel.

More­over, highly pub­li­cized spats between Israel and Swe­den in recent years have widened the rift between these two coun­tries that oth­er­wise share many of the same demo­c­ra­tic val­ues and a strong bilat­eral relationship.

Most mem­o­rably, in August 2009 the Swedish news­pa­per Afton­bladet pub­lished a false and mali­cious report that Israeli sol­diers were har­vest­ing organs from Pales­tini­ans. The report mush­roomed into a full-blown global con­spir­acy the­ory and led to a diplo­matic row when Swe­den rejected Israel’s request to con­demn the false report, cit­ing “press freedom.”

Ear­lier that year a mob descended on a sta­dium where an Israeli team was play­ing against Swe­den, with pro­tes­tors car­ry­ing signs con­demn­ing Israel and threat­en­ing to attack Israeli athletes.

There have also been trou­bling anti-Semitic attacks reported in the coun­try this year, tak­ing place before and after Israel’s oper­a­tion in Gaza. In March, a high school in Stock­holm which holds classes for Jew­ish stu­dents was spray painted with anti-Semitic graf­fiti, includ­ing a swastika, the phrases “Jew­ish swine” and dis­gust­ing Jews.” In July, the city of Malmo’s main syn­a­gogue was attacked when van­dals hurled bot­tles at the build­ing, break­ing three win­dows. And in August, a rabbi in Malmo was attacked by a group of men who threw a glass bot­tle at his car while shout­ing anti-Semitic epithets.

At the same time, the coun­try has high lev­els of edu­ca­tion and a very low accep­tance for tra­di­tional anti-Semitic beliefs.

The recent ADL Global 100 Sur­vey found that only 4 per­cent of the adult pop­u­la­tion in Swe­den is infected with anti-Semitic atti­tudes, the low­est find­ing for Europe. This amounts to just 300,000 peo­ple out of a total pop­u­la­tion of 7.4 mil­lion peo­ple. Com­pared with other coun­tries in Europe (France was 37 per­cent, Nor­way and Fin­land, 15 per­cent) this was a remark­ably low score.

And here is where the issues of Israeli poli­cies and the anti-Jewish rhetoric and vio­lence in Swe­den can get enmeshed. Politi­cians and jour­nal­ists who espouse vir­u­lently anti-Israel mes­sages, con­tribute to an atmos­phere which pro­vides a patina of accept­abil­ity and cover for anti-Jewish hate to emerge. While 96 per­cent of Swedish adults do not har­bor strong anti-Semitic atti­tudes, the small per­cent­age who do are likely among the ones act­ing on those beliefs and doing it under the guise of express­ing oppo­si­tion to Israel’s poli­cies toward the Palestinians.

It is up to Sweden’s polit­i­cal, reli­gious and civic lead­ers to make clear to the peo­ple of Swe­den that anti-Semitic rhetoric and vio­lence against the Jew­ish pop­u­la­tion are never accept­able expres­sions of crit­i­cism of Israel’s poli­cies. Prime Min­is­ter Lovfen should be the one to set an exam­ple in this regard, not allow­ing pol­i­tics to trump the government’s respon­si­bil­ity to ensure the well-being and secu­rity of Sweden’s small but vibrant Jew­ish community.

Sweden’s pre­ma­ture recog­ni­tion of the State of Pales­tine will have reper­cus­sions far beyond Scan­di­navia. Swe­den is con­sid­ered a flag-bearer of human rights, and many coun­tries across Europe respond to its cues. The risk is that other coun­tries in the E.U. may soon want to fol­low suit.

The U.S., the inter­na­tional com­mu­nity, and the global Jew­ish com­mu­nity need to con­vince Swe­den that this is the wrong posi­tion at the wrong time.

If Swe­den is truly con­cerned about improv­ing the sit­u­a­tion for the Pales­tin­ian peo­ple, they should be work­ing hard to sup­port inter­na­tional efforts to pre­vent Hamas from replen­ish­ing its sup­ply of mis­siles and rock­ets and to pro­mote the restora­tion of hous­ing and infra­struc­ture for the peo­ple of Gaza.

The time for rec­og­niz­ing a Pales­tin­ian state will come when the Pales­tin­ian lead­er­ship shows it is fully com­mit­ted to liv­ing in peace and secu­rity in a state side by side with Israel and the par­ties reach an agree­ment through direct bilat­eral nego­ti­a­tions resolv­ing all the issues between them.

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October 8, 2014 0

Moroccan Islamic Union-Mail Now Hacking For ISIS

The Moroc­can Islamic Union-Mail hacker group, which tar­geted Jew­ish web­sites in the United States in sup­port of Hamas dur­ing Oper­a­tion Pro­tec­tive Edge, has claimed credit for hack­ing into the Mass­a­chu­setts Mar­itime Academy’s web­site on Monday.moroccan-union -islamic-electronic-mail-google

Vis­i­tors to the acad­emy web­site were redi­rected to a site that fea­tured an image of an appar­ent ceme­tery for Amer­i­can sol­diers with a mes­sage that reads: “Iraq is the grave­yard of Amer­ica. Wel­come to the death that awaits you at the hand of the Muja­hedeen in Iraq.” The site also includes an audio clip of an Islamic Jihadist song that glo­ri­fied Islamic conquests.

In August, the Moroc­can Islamic Union-Mail’s Face­book page included state­ments threat­en­ing the U.S .with cyber-attacks in response to the Amer­i­can mil­i­tary oper­a­tions against the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria (ISIS). The state­ment read:

After focus­ing on Israeli tar­gets dur­ing the aggres­sion on Gaza, the Moroc­can Islamic Union-mail declares tar­get­ing impor­tant web­sites in Amer­ica in sup­port of the Iraqi peo­ple and in response to the Amer­i­can airstrikes.

The Face­book page, which has since been removed, fea­tured var­i­ous com­ments and images express­ing sol­i­dar­ity with ISIS and con­demn­ing mil­i­tary inter­ven­tion in Iraq.

The group uses var­i­ous online plat­forms to claim respon­si­bil­ity for its hacks and to pro­mote its views, includ­ing an Arabic-language blog, a YouTube chan­nel and var­i­ous Face­book pages that claim to be affiliated.

ADL first exposed the group’s hack­ing efforts in July after sev­eral Jew­ish insti­tu­tional web­sites were hacked by the group.

The group has also claimed respon­si­bil­ity for hack­ing the web­site of the Nepalese embassy in the U.S. Its claim of respon­si­bil­ity read: “The Moroc­can Islamic Union-mail hacks the embassy of Nepal in Amer­ica and pulls sev­eral data. We will attack the inter­ests of Amer­ica world­wide, with God’s will­ing, to respond to the Amer­i­can air strikes against the Iraqi people.”

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