WHILE ISRAEL, STABLE, REMAINS AT WAR, IN ISLAMIC WORLD, CHRISTIANS ARE PERSECUTED Posted on May 12, 2017May 12, 2017 Printer Friendly Nine Challenges Confronting Israel: Isi Leibler, Word From Jerusalem, May 10, 2017 Not since the creation of the state has Israel found itself in such an advantageous position. While a genuine peace settlement with the Palestinians remains a distant mirage and the threat from Iran is ever present, Israel has emerged as a regional superpower, both militarily and economically. But we still face major challenges Israel Is Still at War: Prof. Efraim Inbar, BESA, May 4, 2017 — Israel just celebrated its sixty-ninth anniversary. Its citizens can be proud of its many impressive achievements, and particularly the building of a very strong military that has withstood many tests. Yet acceptance by all its neighbors has not been attained. Israel is still at war. A Dwindling Faith in the Middle East: Amy Spiro, Jerusalem Post, May 6, 2017—On May 23, dozens of churches around the United States are expected to host a screening of a new film about the persecution of Christians in the Middle East. The film is called Faithkeepers, and the people behind it are almost entirely American Jews living in Israel. A Tribute To Rabbi Benny Elon: Building Bridges With Christians for a Stronger Israel: Adam Eliyahu Berkowitz, Breaking Israel News, May 9, 2017— Former Israeli politician Rabbi Binyamin “Benny” Elon passed away last Friday, leaving behind a powerful legacy connecting Christians to Israel through faith-based diplomacy. A brilliant Torah scholar, Rabbi Elon advocated establishing Biblical borders in Israel. He was known for being an uncompromising leader of the right wing movement in Israel, but the same motivations drove him to reach out to Christianity. On Topic Links Dear President Shoukri: Prof. Sally Zerker, CIJR, May 12, 2017 2016 A Record-Setting Year for Antisemitism in Canada, B’nai Brith Audit Finds: Bnai Brith Canada, May 9, 2017 Jakarta’s Christian Governor Gets 2 Years for Blasphemy against Koran: David Israel, Jewish Press, May 9, 2017 Rivlin: Plight of Christians in Middle East a ‘Stain on Humanity’: Jeremy Sharon, Jerusalem Post, May 19, 2017 NINE CHALLENGES CONFRONTING ISRAEL Isi Leibler Word From Jerusalem, May 10, 2017 Not since the creation of the state has Israel found itself in such an advantageous position. While a genuine peace settlement with the Palestinians remains a distant mirage and the threat from Iran is ever present, Israel has emerged as a regional superpower, both militarily and economically. And now, finally, the United States seems willing to exert its muscle to neutralize the overtly biased behavior of the international community toward the Jewish state. But we still face major challenges, which can be summarized as follows: 1. The relationship with the Trump administration must be cultivated by displaying patience and cooperating with his efforts to reach a peace settlement with Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas. If, as is likely, Abbas continues to refuse to make any meaningful concessions, Trump will hopefully reach an understanding with us on settlement and building issues, enabling the formal annexation of the major settlement blocs and paving the way to implement his commitment to transfer the U.S. Embassy to Jerusalem. 2. The people must press for a broader government. There is no reason for Yair Lapid’s Yesh Atid to be in opposition when his policy is almost identical to that of Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu. He could also serve as an outstanding foreign minister. A broader coalition would neutralize the arguments of those claiming that Netanyahu heads the most extreme right-wing government in Israel’s history, and demonstrate that the government’s policies are endorsed by the clear majority of the nation. With a broad consensus of the electorate, the government would be in a position of strength and, even in the absence of a Palestinian state, would finally be able to determine future borders. 3. A successor to Netanyahu must be groomed. There is a consensus, certainly by those who admire and even many who loathe Netanyahu, that he is currently the most capable leader to successfully navigate through the complex diplomatic challenges confronting us. Despite the domestic upheavals, history will grant him a respected reputation as a brilliant leader who held firm under enormous external pressures. But it is Netanyahu’s responsibility, no less than ours, to ensure that we now begin grooming a successor rather than leaving it to a crude political ballot to determine our future leader. 4. We must avoid an impending Kulturkampf over religious control and stringent interpretation of Halacha by the current state rabbinical instrumentalities. Much of the conflict results from the extortion imposed by the haredi political leadership, which holds the balance of power in the government. There is already a discernable change in a substantial proportion of haredim who are working and some even volunteering to serve in haredi army units. The areas in urgent need of attention are conversion and marriage. 5. The government should introduce tougher legislation to prosecute those engaged in sedition, sabotaging the Jewish state and promoting our destruction. The Arab parties in particular, must be countered. They are anti-Zionist and seek to antagonize relations between the State of Israel and the 20% of its population that is Arab. At the same time, many Arab citizens are proud to consider themselves loyal Israelis and recognize that they enjoy far more freedom and rights than do the citizens of any Arab country, and higher living standards than most Arabs throughout the Middle East. But they are still socially and economically disadvantaged compared to Israeli Jews, and the government must do everything possible to close this gap. 6. We must create better conditions for Israelis living near or below the poverty line and eliminate bureaucratic obstacles to reducing land prices, enabling more Israelis to own homes. 7. Netanyahu’s policy of reaching out to other nations, which has already paid major dividends, must be consolidated.The situation has been enormously strengthened by Trump’s robust support for Israel, especially at the U.N. The recent UNESCO resolution reflects significant defections by various European and non-Muslim states that have previously endorsed outrageous anti-Israel resolutions. Now many of these voted against or abstained. Israel has established healthy diplomatic ties and strengthened relations with major powers such as India, China, Russia, Japan, the U.K. and other Asian, African and South American countries. Many of these countries still need to be encouraged to demonstrate their friendship openly but dramatic progress has been achieved. 8. There is now a major opportunity to liaise with some of the pragmatic leaders in the Sunni Arab world, with countries like Saudi Arabia and the Gulf states that are willing to covertly cooperate and ally themselves with Israel against the Iranian Shiites seeking to exert hegemony over the entire region.The alliances with Egypt and Jordan are also immensely important. However, we should be under no illusions. Anti-Semitism is so deeply ingrained in the religion and culture of these countries that we must not be tempted into regarding them as conventional allies. There is also a concern that Jordan’s King Abdullah will seek to appease the ferociously anti-Israeli refugees and Palestinians in his ranks. There is also the constant fear that either Abdullah or Egypt’s Abdel-Fattah el-Sissi could be assassinated, which would create enormous turmoil in the region. We should maximize our cooperation with these Arab states as far as possible and seek friendship at a grass-roots level with the aim to initiate a process designed to overcome hatred. 9. Even though the IDF is admired throughout the world for its achievements, we must not become complacent. It is only our superior power that ultimately deters our enemies. Even at the cost of sacrificing other important economic plans, we must continue to ensure the formidable strength of the IDF and our military industries.The barbarians at our gates headed by Iran, an insane Shiite Islamic theocracy, remain obsessed with our destruction and we could, at any time, face a confrontation by their surrogate Hezbollah or ally, Hamas. To deflect massive Israeli casualties from rockets, we must be prepared to use all our might should we be forced into another conflict. These are some of the major challenges currently confronting Israel. They may seem formidable, but when viewed in the context of what we have faced over the past 70 years, we have never been so self-reliant or as powerful as we are today and in an optimal position, if need be, to defend ourselves. Contents ISRAEL IS STILL AT WAR Prof. Efraim Inbar BESA, May 4, 2017 After several military defeats, the largest and strongest Arab state, Egypt, signed a historic peace treaty with Israel in 1979. The defection of Egypt from the anti-Israel Arab alliance largely neutralized the option of a large-scale conventional attack on Israel, improving Israel’s overall strategic position. Yet Cairo refrained from developing normal relations with the Jewish state. A “cold peace” evolved, underscoring the countries’ common strategic interests but also the reluctance of Egypt to participate in reconciling the two peoples. Jordan followed suit in 1994, largely emulating the Egyptian precedent. Jordan’s peace treaty with Israel also reflected common strategic interests – but was commonly referred to by Jordanians as the “King’s peace,” indicating a disinclination for people-to-people interactions with the Jews west of the Jordan River. The inhibitions in the Arab world against accepting Israel should not be a surprise. Muslims seem to have good theological reasons for rejecting the existence of a Jewish state. Moreover, the education system in the Arab countries has inculcated anti-Semitic messages and hatred toward Israel for decades. Unfortunately, the dissemination of negative images of Jews and Israel has hardly changed in Arab schools and media. This is also why the euphoria of the 1990s elicited by the “peace process” with the Palestinians, and propagated by the “peace camp”, was unwarranted. Indeed, the peace negotiations failed miserably. The process did, however, allow the Palestinian national movement a foothold in the West Bank and Gaza. As a large part of the Arab world is in deep socio-political crisis and another fears the Iranian threat, it is the Palestinian national movement and the Islamists that carry on the struggle against the Zionists. The Palestinians are at the forefront of the war on Israel, despite their lack of tanks and airplanes. They use terror, and pay the terrorists captured by Israel as well as their families. The use of force against Jews is applauded, and killed perpetrators are awarded the status of martyrs. They use missiles against Israel’s civilian population. The limits on their firepower are the result of Israeli efforts to cut off their supply of armaments. The Palestinian national movement denies the historic links of the Jews to the Land of Israel, and particularly Jerusalem. The Palestinian Authority (PA) demanded of the UK that it apologize for the 1917 Balfour declaration, which recognized Jewish attachment to the Land of Israel. There are endless examples in Palestinian schools and media to sustain the conclusion that the Palestinians are not ready to make peace. Moreover, the PA cannot conclude a “cold peace” like Egypt or Jordan. Those two countries take their commitment seriously to prevent terrorism from their territory. In the West Bank, the PA – established by Yitzhak Rabin on the premise that it will fight terror in exchange for the transfer of territory – refuses to honor its part of the bargain. It encourages terror by subsidies to jailed terrorists and by innumerable steps to eulogize the “martyrs” and honor their “heritage.” The ruling Palestinian elite in Gaza, Hamas, formally refuses to give up armed struggle against Israel. The “Oslo process” was an attempt by Israel to push the Palestinian national movement into a statist posture and to eventually adopt a statist rationale along the lines of that of Egypt and Jordan, which led them to a “cold peace” with Israel. But the religious and ethnic dimensions of the conflict with Israel have overcome any underdeveloped statist Palestinian instincts. The ethno-religious impulses of the Palestinians nurture their continuation of violent conflict. So far, no Palestinian leader who has adopted a statist agenda, prioritizing state-building over other Palestinian aspirations, has garnered popular support. Salam Fayyad, who was admired in the West for his attempts to reform the PA’s bloated bureaucracy, seemed to tend in this direction. But his level of support among the Palestinian public never rose above 10%. Palestinian society is becoming more religious and radical, similarly to other Arab societies. This trend benefits Hamas, which is becoming more popular. The ascendance of Hamas further feeds hostility towards Israel. A drive to satisfy the quest for revenge, and, ultimately, to destroy Israel – which would be an historic justice in the eyes of the Palestinians – overrides any other consideration. A renewal of negotiations leading to Israeli withdrawals is extremely unlikely to result in a durable and satisfactory agreement any time soon. Israel will need to maintain a strong army for many more decades to deal with the Palestinian challenge. Moreover, changes within neighboring states can be rapid. Unexpected scenarios, such as a return of the Muslim Brotherhood to the helm in Egypt or the fall of the Hashemite dynasty, might take place, and a large-scale conventional threat might re-emerge. Finally, the Iranian nuclear specter is still hovering over the Middle East. Israel must remain vigilant and continue to prepare for a variety of warlike scenarios. The understandable desire for peace should not blur the discomforting likelihood that Israel will live by its sword for many years to come. Contents A DWINDLING FAITH IN THE MIDDLE EAST Amy Spiro Jerusalem Post, May 6, 2017 On May 23, dozens of churches around the United States are expected to host a screening of a new film about the persecution of Christians in the Middle East. The film is called Faithkeepers, and the people behind it are almost entirely American Jews living in Israel. The hour-long film features chilling testimony from Christian refugees from Iraq, Lebanon and Egypt about the horrors they endured. Interspersed are experts discussing the history, context and decline of Christianity in the Middle East. Paula Kweskin, who produced the film for the nonprofit Clarion Project, said the tragic tales are woefully underreported in the Unites States. “When I’ve shown the film to small groups or large groups, they’re floored,” she told The Jerusalem Post in a recent interview. “They always say the same thing: We didn’t realize how bad it actually was.” “When we consider the extent of persecution and what it means for the future of Christianity in the Middle East, we’re talking about the possibility that Christianity [there] could become extinct,” she added. Kweskin, who is trained as a human rights lawyer, also produced Honor Diaries for Clarion Project in 2013, which garnered both acclaim and controversy. Faithkeepers is slated to make its debut on May 23 at small screenings hosted by churches and other groups around the US. Kweskin said dozens are expected to take part; as of Saturday, there were 10 scheduled screenings listed on the film’s website. Any church can sign up, and when it has sold 35 advance tickets it receives a copy of the film for no direct cost. The majority of the speakers in the film called the persecution of Christians in the Middle East a genocide, something Kweskin echoed. But, she said, that’s not enough. “It’s one thing to recognize something as a genocide, but it’s another to take meaningful action,” she said. “For now, all it has done – to call something a genocide – just means that our silence and our lack of action makes us even more guilty that we’re not doing more to put an end to it.” While concrete numbers are difficult to come by, many estimates indicate that the Christian population in Iraq has dropped significantly over the past 15 years. According to figures quoted by Reuters, in 2003 there were 1.5 million Christians in Iraq, whereas today the figure could be anywhere from 100,000 to 400,000. Kweskin claimed that the US Congress, the European Parliament and the UK Parliament have all labeled the persecution of Christians in the Middle East a genocide. Motions by all three bodies did use the term genocide, but they all referred specifically to the actions of Islamic State in Syria and Iraq. The film, however, seeks to draw connections between attacks on Christians throughout the Middle East … [To Read the Full Article Click the Following Link—Ed.] Contents A TRIBUTE TO RABBI BENNY ELON: BUILDING BRIDGES WITH CHRISTIANS FOR A STRONGER ISRAEL Adam Eliyahu Berkowitz Breaking Israel News, May 9, 2017 Former Israeli politician Rabbi Binyamin “Benny” Elon passed away last Friday, leaving behind a powerful legacy connecting Christians to Israel through faith-based diplomacy. A brilliant Torah scholar, Rabbi Elon advocated establishing Biblical borders in Israel. He was known for being an uncompromising leader of the right wing movement in Israel, but the same motivations drove him to reach out to Christianity. While a member of the Israeli Knesset, Rabbi Elon became the second chairman of the Knesset Christian Allies’ Caucus (KCAC), the primary channel for Christian leaders and organizations to formally engage with Israel’s elected officials. He also launched the Israel Allies Foundation (IAF), a global network of Christian parliamentarians who join together to coordinate their efforts in defense of Israel and to promote Judeo-Christian values. Today, the IAF has established sister caucuses in more than 30 parliaments around the world. As Director of the KCAC, Josh Reinstein worked closely with Rabbi Elon in this endeavor. “Rabbi Elon was a visionary in reaching out to Bible believing Christians,” Reinstein told Breaking Israel News. “He began as Minister of Tourism during the Second Intifada in 2001, when there were very few countries standing up for Israel. He saw that Christians from all around the world, regardless of their country, were our greatest allies. That is when he came up with the idea of faith-based diplomacy.” Though working through diplomatic channels for Israel’s national interests, Rabbi Elon realized that faith-based diplomacy transcended politics. “Rabbi Elon realized that countries who have a vested interest, political or economic, will abandon Israel, but Christians who have a strong belief in the Bible will always stand with us, regardless of national interests,” Reinstein said. He explained that Rabbi Elon came to believe in this connection through his deep understanding of the Torah. “He saw that the Christians were connected with the prophecies in the same way we are,” Reinstein said. “He saw that as the future of our relations with Christians, making our relationship stronger. It isn’t interfaith. We are very different, but we have common core elements we can agree on, and these elements come from the Bible we share.” Rabbi Elon was highly regarded by the Christians he connected with. Dr. Jürgen Bühler, President of the International Christian Embassy Jerusalem (ICEJ), wrote a moving testimony in his memory. The International Christian Embassy Jerusalem notes with sadness the passing of Rabbi Elon. He will always be remembered by the pro-Israel Christian community worldwide as one of our truest and dearest friends within Israel’s national leadership. During his career as a spiritual leader, educator and government official, Rabbi Elon was an exceptional representative of the Jewish people and a passionate defender of the entire Land of Israel. He had a special rapport with Christian audiences, weaving together Israel’s biblical and modern history in ways that few can. Rabbi Elon especially stood out for his keen insights into the Hebrew Scriptures, his warm, folksy speaking style, and his visionary pursuit of closer Jewish-Christian relations. Moved by their genuine support for his nation, Elon spent the latter part of his professional career reaching out to Christians and forming alliances that will continue to build on his legacy in the decades to come. Ayal Kellman, Vice President of e-commerce at Israel 365, worked with Rabbi Elon at the KCAC. He had very warm words for the rabbi. “It was an absolute honor to working with the rabbi,” Kellman said. “All his efforts were for God and Israel. He personified the perfect blend of Torah scholarship and practical political activity, all via some our best non-Jewish friends around the world. I am sure that this relationship, based as it is on God’s eternal word, will be Rabbi Elon’s true and lasting legacy.” CIJR Wishes All Our Friends & Supporters: Shabbat Shalom! Contents On Topic Links Dear President Shoukri: Prof. Sally Zerker, CIJR, May 12, 2017— CIJR Academic Fellow Prof. Sally Zerker writes to the President of York University, expressing her disapproval of his use of the term “white privilege.” 2016 A Record-Setting Year for Antisemitism in Canada, B’nai Brith Audit Finds: Bnai Brith Canada, May 9, 2017— The year 2016 was a record-setting year for antisemitism in Canada, B’nai Brith Canada’s Annual Audit of Antisemitic Incidents has found. Now in its 35th year, the Audit is the definitive and authoritative resource on antisemitism in Canada, cited regularly by law-enforcement agencies, government bodies, and human rights organizations around the world. Jakarta’s Christian Governor Gets 2 Years for Blasphemy against Koran: David Israel, Jewish Press, May 9, 2017— The Christian governor of Jakarta Basuki “Ahok” Tjahaja Purnama was sentenced on Tuesday to two years in prison, after an Indonesian court ruled he was “convincingly proven guilty of blasphemy.” Ahok, 50, who is Jakarta’s first non-Muslim governor and its first ethnic Chinese leader, said he would appeal the verdict. He was then taken to jail, and replaced by his deputy. Rivlin: Plight of Christians in Middle East a ‘Stain on Humanity’: Jeremy Sharon, Jerusalem Post, May 19, 2017— Israeli President Reuven Rivlin described the plight of Christians in the Middle East as “a stain on humanity,” during a meeting with the head of the Latin Patriarchate in Jerusalem and the Greek Orthodox Patriarch on Wednesday morning in honor of Easter. The president noted the recent terrorist attacks against Coptic Christians in Egypt as well as the persecution of Syrian Christians by ISIS and other extremist Islamist groups, and said that Israel would continue to protect its Christian population.