Good News

In Pro-Israel Victory, Methodists to Withdraw from BDS Coalition

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Church votes to reject efforts to isolate Israel ‘while overlooking anti-Israel aggression’

Just days after rejecting four resolutions calling for divestment from companies that profit from Israel’s control of the West Bank, the United Methodist Church voted to withdraw from the US Campaign to End the Israeli Occupation.

By a vote of 478-318 at its general conference in Portland, Oregon, on Tuesday, the church approved a petition requesting its withdrawal from the group, Religion News Service reported.

A national coalition that “works to end U.S. support for Israel’s occupation of the Palestinian West Bank, Gaza and East Jerusalem,” according to its website, the US Campaign to End the Israeli Occupation has been accused of being more anti-Israel than pro-peace.

The Methodist petition called the group a “one-sided political coalition” that seeks to isolate Israel “while overlooking anti-Israel aggression.” The US Campaign promotes the Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions movement against Israel and seeks to end U.S. aid to that nation.

“Blaming only one side while ignoring the wrongdoing of Hamas, Hezbollah, and Iran will not advance the cause of peace,” the petition added.

Not everyone was pleased with the decision.

The Rev. Armando Arellano, a delegate from Ohio, told RNS the US Campaign is “neither pro-Palestinian or pro-Israel, but pro-equal rights for all.”

“By withdrawing from the coalition,” he said, “we are withdrawing our commitment to be an agent of peace and justice.”

Over the weekend, a church committee rejected four resolutions calling for the church to divest from companies that profit from Israel’s control of the West Bank.

The resolutions called for divesting from three companies that pro-Palestinian activists have accused of working with Israeli security forces to sustain Israel’s West Bank settlement enterprise. They are Caterpillar, Hewlett-Packard and Motorola.

Similar boycott, divestment and sanctions petitions failed at general conferences in 2008 and 2012.

Last week Hillary Clinton, the front-runner for the Democratic presidential nomination who was raised and remains a practicing Methodist, criticized the BDS movement in a statement that was believed to be directed at the church, though it did not specifically mention the church.

In January, the Methodists’ pension fund removed five Israeli banks from its portfolio, saying the investments were counter to its policies against investing in “high risk countries” and to remain committed to human rights. Read more at the Times of Israel.

Israel Successfully Tests “Iron Dome of the Sea”

The test of the Tamir Adir shipborne Iron Dome system. (Photo: YouTube screen shot)

The test of the Tamir Adir shipborne Iron Dome system. (Photo: YouTube screenshot)

IDF unveils new weapon that can block short-range ballistic missiles while aboard a moving ship, expected to protect offshore rigs and other assets

Israel has successfully tested a maritime missile interception system that can shoot down short-range missiles, dubbing it the “Iron Dome of the Sea,” the navy announced on Wednesday.

The Tamir-Adir system, which the IDF said can shoot down short-range rockets similar to those fired from Gaza, successfully destroyed “several” missiles, Col. Ariel Shir, head of operational systems in the navy, said.

Shir said that during tests carried out two weeks ago, a battery mounted to a ship shot down every one of a salvo of short-range ballistic rockets fired from the shore.

He said the test “proved the Israeli navy’s ability to protect Israel’s strategic assets at sea against short-range strategic rockets.”

A video provided by the army showed a rocket launcher installed on a ship firing at targets in the sky and later intercepting a missile.

During the 2014 Gaza war, Israel deployed its Iron Dome system on land to shoot down rockets fired by Hamas and other terror groups across the border, calling the system a game-changer.

The Tamir Adir system uses technology developed for Iron Dome but adjusted for the operational needs of a moving vessel.

The system was in development for several years, but was only unveiled to the public Wednesday.

The battery is designed to be placed on a moving ship traveling up to cruise speed and will be used to protect strategic assets, such as natural gas rigs, in Israel’s territorial waters.

Included in Israel’s sea assets is a major offshore gas rig around 16 nautical miles from Gaza which the Hamas terror group has previously targeted unsuccessfully. Read more at the Times of Israel.

Marking Mimouna, PM Hails Lull in Violence over Passover

Prime Minister Netanyahu Mimouna

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and Sara Netanyahu celebrating Mimouna. [Screen shot from video on Benjamin Netanyahu – בנימין נתניהו’s Facebook page.]

President, opposition leader urge national unity as Israelis celebrate North African festival

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, President Reuven Rivlin and dozens of Israeli lawmakers on Saturday night attended Mimouna parties, a North African Jewish tradition held each year to celebrate the end of Passover.

Speaking from a Likud event in Yavne, Netanyahu praised the security forces for working over the Passover holiday and keeping Israel safe.

“We had a quiet, kosher, happy Passover,” said Netanyahu. “Quiet — thanks to our soldiers, policemen and policewomen, the women and men of the Shin Bet [security agency] who protect us — and also thanks to to the determined, forceful policy of our government, the Likud government.”

Rivlin and opposition leader Isaac Herzog, meanwhile, urged national unity.

“May the feeling of unity and solidarity that the various communities in our nation feel during this holiday accompany us every day, even in the most difficult hours of divisiveness,” said the president. Read the rest at the Times of Israel.

CUFI Sunday Afternoon Must-Reads: April 24, 2016

CUFI Sunday Must-Reads

This week’s CUFI Must-Read Articles of the Week focus on the dangers of the Boycott, Divestment, and Sanctions (BDS) movement targeting Israel. This weekend, our Christians United for Israel On Campus (CUFI On Campus) leadership held another of the four anti-BDS boot camps they are holding this year to equip students with the tools they need to defeat BDS on their college campuses. To learn more about the BDS movement, visit www.cufi.org/smallgroups to view our CUFI Small Group Studies – including one on the BDS movement.

Birds of a Feather? The Link Between BDS and Hamas

Naïve college students are due for a wake-up call

By Ziva Dahl

The terrorist organization Hamas and the Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions movement (BDS) share a common goal: The elimination of the Jewish State of Israel—one with rockets, tunnels, suicide bombers and explosives placed to kill the maximum number of civilians; the other with words and actions to demonize Israel, turning it into a pariah not worthy of its own state in the Middle East.

The Hamas Charter states, “Israel will exist, and will continue to exist, until Islam abolishes it…. There is no solution to the Palestinian problem except by Jihad.” Senior Hamas official Izzat al-Risheq openly admits that the ultimate goal of BDS is to destroy Israel and calls for escalating BDS “to isolate the occupation and end the existence of its usurper entity.”

Palestinian Omar Barghouti, a founding member of BDS, contends, “A Jewish state in Palestine in any shape or form cannot but contravene the basic rights of the indigenous Palestinian… most definitely we oppose a Jewish state in any part of Palestine….Ending the occupation doesn’t mean anything if it doesn’t mean upending the Jewish state itself.”

In their own words, there is no daylight between the ultimate objective of Hamas and BDS

Since the goals of Hamas and BDS intersect, it’s not surprising that former U.S. Treasury terrorism analyst Jonathan Schanzer recently testified before two subcommittees of the House Committee on Foreign Affairs about a troubling link between a major American funder of the U.S. BDS campaign and the terrorist organization Hamas.

Using available “open source” information, it’s possible to examine past associations of individuals now active in American Muslims for Palestine (AMP), a major supporter of Students for Justice in Palestine (SJP), the campus arm of the American BDS movement. From this data, Mr. Schanzer, now working for the Foundation in Defense of Democracies (FDD), concluded that “at least seven individuals who work for or on behalf of AMP have worked for or on behalf of organizations previously shut down or held civilly liable in the United States for providing financial support to Hamas: the Holy Land Foundation for Relief and Development (HLF), the Islamic Association for Palestine (IAP) and the Kind Hearts Foundation for Humanitarian Development” (KindHearts).

According to Mr. Schanzer’s testimony, the U.S. Treasury, in 2001, designated HLF the U.S. financing arm of Hamas. From 1995 to 2001, “HLF sent approximately $12.4 million outside of the United States with the intent to willfully contribute funds, goods, and services to Hamas.” Seven officials were indicted and the organization was closed down. Three individuals from HLF now work for or on behalf of AMP: Hossein Khatib, a board member for AMP and former regional director for HLF; Jamal Said, keynote speaker at AMP fundraisers and an unindicted co-conspirator in the Holy Land Foundation trial against HLF; and Salah Sarsour, AMP board member who spent eight months in an Israeli jail for his Hamas activity.

Islamic Association for Palestine also raised money and provided material support for Hamas in America. IAP was found civilly liable in federal district court for supporting Hamas and it subsequently disbanded. FDD discovered that four former IAP operatives now are involved with AMP: Rafeeq Jaber, former president of IAP and current representative and tax preparer for AMP; Sufian Nabhan, AMP board member and IAP’s former Michigan representative; Osama Abu Irshaid, current National Coordinator for AMP and former editor of IAP’s newspaper; and Abdelbasset Hamayel, previously IAP’s secretary general and KindHearts’ Illinois representative and now a director for AMP. The U.S. Treasury froze KindHearts’ assets for providing support for terrorism and it disbanded.

Working closely with Students for Justice in Palestine (SJP), American Muslims for Palestine (AMP) provides money, speakers, training, printed materials and campus coordinators to student activists. It spent $100,000 on campus activities in 2014. AMP is a corporate not-for-profit, but not a federal 501(c)(3) tax-exempt organization. It uses the 501(c)(3) tax-exempt organization Americans for Justice in Palestine Educational Foundation (AJP) as a fiscal sponsor, gives its money to AJP, who then disburses it to SJP and other BDS groups—a very convenient relationship that limits transparency. Read the rest at The Observer.

BDS Move At NYU Tears Apart Student Union

By Hannah Dreyfus

Story Update 4/22/16: The GCOS referendum vote to join the global BDS movement to boycott Israeli institutions and companies until Israel “ends the military occupation” passed with 66.5 percent of the vote. 645 students, representing approximately 38 percent of the current student union membership, cast votes. The additional referendum to join an academic boycott of Israeli institutions passed with 57.6 percent of the student vote. Results were announced on Friday morning.

A new BDS initiative at NYU is calling for the university to close its program at Tel Aviv University, a measure far more extreme than any urged in previous petitions, The Jewish Week has learned.

The new referendum, drafted by the Graduate Student Organizing Committee (GSOC), a union of graduate employees at NYU, is being voted on this week. Results of the vote will be announced on Friday, the first night of Passover. The referendum calls on the university to divest Israeli state institutions and companies, and encourages members to make an “individual commitment” to participate in an extensive academic boycott of Israeli institutions, in addition to shuttering the Tel Aviv program.

The resolution reads, in part: “I will personally adhere to the academic boycott, by refusing to take part in any research, conferences, events, exchange programs, publications or other activities that are sponsored by or require official affiliation with the Israeli government or Israeli academic institutions.”

According to graduate student Samuel Zerin, this is the first time GSOC, initially created to negotiate fair workers’ rights for graduate student employees, has ever called for an academic boycott.

“There’s something very different about this,” said Zerin, 29, a Ph.D. candidate in the Graduate School of Arts and Science and a member of GSOC. “NYU has campuses all over the world, in locations with severe human rights violations, but there has never been a call to divest. Israel is being singled out in a very extreme manner.”

In response to the new BDS initiative, 10 Jewish graduate students came together over the past few weeks to mobilize a counter-plan. After creating a caucus for graduate students who oppose BDS, the core group encouraged 180 students to join the union in order to cast votes against the referendum.

However, members of the GSOC who support divestment have actively tried to stem the flow of new applicants, said Ilana Ben Ezra, one of the students involved in the counter-efforts. Of the 18 “stewards,” or graduate student leaders, who run the union, none of them oppose BDS, she said.

“There’s been a lot of fishy red-tape about who can register, who can’t — changing dates about when registration cards have to be in. It’s made it very difficult for us to mobilize,” said Ben Ezra, a first year Ph.D. student in the history and Judaic studies department.

Still, even more concerning than the far-reaching BDS referendum is the manner in which the GSOC has been “co-opted” to serve an “unrelated political purpose,” instead of functioning to serve the graduate student body, she said.

“The union is being used as a platform for BDS, which is absolutely not its purpose,” Ben Ezra charged. “The union is intended to ensure fair working conditions for graduate student employees. How can we succeed in our actual purpose if we are being divided over irrelevant issues?”

Maya Wind, a member of GSOC who supports the BDS resolution, believes the union’s parent organization, the United Autoworkers Union Local 2110 Executive Board, is actively trying to suppress the BDS vote. In a complicating controversy, the “local” elected several new stewards to the GSOC last week. Several of the new members openly opposed the BDS referendum, infuriating members who had been working on the initiative since last November.

“Such strong-armed interference in the election process is unprecedented in the union,” Wind told The Jewish Week.

Rabbi Yehuda Sarna, executive director of the Bronfman Center for Jewish Student Life at NYU, said the controversy has left him “astonished.”

“I’ve never seen anything like this,” he said. “This level of discord within a student union is unprecedented.” Read more at The Jewish Week.