“Without Israel, the Palestinians are nothing and nobody is interested” | By Olivier Rafowicz

Roro’s Rantings is delighted to present special guest blogger, Olivier Rafowicz.

This article currently appears in French in Le Monde Juif:

http://www.lemondejuif.info/2014/10/israel-les-palestiniens-rien-ninteressent-personne-o-rafowicz/#.VDwO1RtAEvY.gmail

RAFOWICZ

During this last week, world leaders convened at a summit in Cairo to discuss plans for the reconstruction of Gaza and to pledge financial aid to the Hamas-ruled territory.

Kerry, Ashton, Fabius et al decided to award $5.4 billion in aid for this process. Kerry and the others have pledged this vast amount of money all the while pointing fingers of blame at Israel and demanding the creation of a Palestinian state. Meanwhile, thousands of Kurds in Kubani and elsewhere are slaughtered and forgotten. Hamas are laughing all the way to the bank.  How much of this aid will actually go towards the building of schools, hospitals and homes?

Thousands of Eastern Christians have been massacred and expelled and hundreds of thousands more line the roads of Iraq and Syria as refugees. They are nameless men, in an unfriendly country, with nothing. Their plight does not make our 24 hour news broadcasts and the streets of major cities around the world are empty. There are no protests in Paris, London, Berlin and New York for the massacre of these Christians. Protests are reserved to express outrage against Israel for defending her citizens.

All these refugees do not have the chance to be pitied like the Palestinians. They do not interest anyone, not Kerry, not Fabius nor Ashton.

There are no summits to discuss any help for them. They are not awarded billions of dollars in aid. There is no future for them but death, anonymity and to disappear into the oblivion of history. The great powers only care about Israel and the poor Palestinians who have murdered children and launched thousands of rockets into the Jewish State.

The only chance that the Palestinians have is Israel. Without us they are nothing and nobody is interested. Our fates seem intertwined but if the Palestinians did not seek constant confrontation with Israel, the world would not care about them. In a sense they are fortunate that they are in conflict with Israel. It elevates their status and brings their issues into the collective consciousness of a world yearning to absolve itself of a long history of mistreatment of the Jewish people. If the Palestinians were engaged in conflict with another nation would the world care? Would they retain special refugee status and receive an incredible amount of financial aid? No. The world would remain disinterested and uncaring. Perhaps it is chance or luck that links them to the Jewish state.

While the world’s attention is focused on Gaza, a new barbaric evil continues to rise and spread across the Middle East.

Daeish stretches from the gates of Baghdad to the border of Turkey. The Kurds of Syria have been massacred while Turkey watches and does nothing. How Daeish must laugh when they see that the world has mobilized to help Hamas and Gaza and have forgotten the main enemy, the first danger to the world, the Islamic State.

The current Western leadership has taken the wrong route and the results will be terrifying.

The Middle East is in the process of falling into an Islamist killing spree and the world is more concerned about rebuilding Gaza at the hands of jihadist Hamas. They care more about loans to jihadists than the human rights of those suffering at the hands of Daeish.

Irish philosopher, Edmund Burke, once remarked that all it took for evil to flourish was for good men to do nothing. Sadly, it seems that history is repeating itself once again.

Olivier Rafowicz is a reserve Colonel in the Israel Defence Forces (IDF) and has provided analysis and commentary on Middle Eastern issues on radio television and in the print media. Rafowicz is a frequent commentator on i24 News French edition.

Previous blogs by author on this site: http://rorosrantings.wordpress.com/2012/04/09/dressed-to-kill-suits-ties-and-the-packaging-of-evil/

Fighting the flesh trade – how Israel went from zero to hero in the fight against human trafficking

This post currently appears in the WIZO Lapid Newsletter

http://www.wizo.org/page_15227

One of the lesser known facts about Israel is that this tiny country is leading the battle against international human trafficking. In fact, Israel is considered a top tier country in this battle that is becoming more and more prevalent around the world.

It has not always been this way. In the past, Israel had an abysmal record when it came to catching the pimps and purveyors of vulnerable men and women. In 2001, Israel was considered a Tier 3 country and not responsive to dealing with the issue. Women from Africa and Eastern Europe were easily smuggled through the Sinai Peninsula and sold into prostitution or cheap labour. Israel’s rating was so low that we were on a par with Somalia and the Sudan.

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All this changed in 2001. The US State Department had put Israel on a blacklist and realizing the veracity of this issue, the country started the process of fighting the flesh trade.

Israel started the process that would result in the country becoming a leader in the fight against the flesh trade. This started with giving police more jurisdiction over arresting perpetrators and then an administrative body was set up at the Ministry of Justice which changed the way that victims were treated. Victims would no longer be treated as prostitutes but as victims who deserve help.

In 2006 the Knesset, spearheaded by the Committee on the Status of Women, passed a law which would see offenders sentenced to 20 years for human trafficking violations.  This was followed up in 2007 with further legislation in a campaign to end forced labour and an increased number in convictions for sex offenders.

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But what about the victims?

Israel started to give victims of human trafficking shelter, legal aid and protection assistance. Former head of the Knesset Committee on the Status of Women says, “When we formed our committee, I met with a government worker who worked with the trafficked  women. It was a step by step process and we started out by going to speak to the women who had been rescued from the Sinai or Egypt and were in shelters or in a prison facility. Their stories were heartbreaking – many, including children and young boys have been sold into slavery and prostitution.  Rape is common occurrence for these victims. We took the media into these facilities and this really contributed in highlighting and bringing attention to their awful situation. The first law that was legislated was the creation of “no mans land”. Pressure was put on the government, judges and the police and today Israel is a country that leads  the global fight against human trafficking.”

Israel has made remarkable strides in the fight against human trafficking, so much so that the US State Department not only ranks the country as Tier 1 but the tiny state has achieved the highest grade.  More shelters have been opened and the construction of a barrier between Egypt and Israel, constructed in 2013, has helped close a primary route for traffickers.

In February 2013, Ha’aretz newspaper successfully sued the Tel Aviv District Court to reveal the name of a major sex trafficker who became a police informer, David Digmi

The success of various government departments working together is also something that can be applied to other socio-economic areas within the state.

Perhaps the most notable achievement is that Israel is the only country in the world to sponsor a year of rehabilitation for victims that have been trafficked and this is paid for by the government. A comprehensive training programme that includes personnel from the police services, hospitals and health workers who take care of victims has been successfully implemented. Government and NGO’s (non-governmental organisations) work in partnership and this has helped Israel become a first tier country. Israel has instituted a policy of “safe return” which entails skills training as well as physical and emotional therapy for victims. If a person is unable to return to their country of origin for whatever reason, Israel will grant asylum.

Every year, three awards are given out to individuals from NGO’s, government or industry for excellence in the fight against human trafficking. The selling of women into prostitution has virtually disappeared and it is illegal to advertise or distribute cards or pamphlets selling sex.

There is still so much to do to combat this international scourge. Israel can share how the successful models and legislation implemented help win the battle for the flesh trade. As a leading global women’s organization, WIZO can help educate and shine a light on this issue.

Israel has once again proved that although the country is tiny in size, it packs a mighty punch in the fight for justice and rehabilitation of the victims of human trafficking. Tikkun Olam at its finest.

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Crying for the Beloved Country

This post currently appears in The Times of Israel:

http://blogs.timesofisrael.com/crying-for-the-beloved-country/

Have you ever had that distinct feeling that you are living in some kind of Orwellian or parallel universe? Reading the comments and invective that has come out of South Africa since the beginning of Operation Protective Edge has been a frightening wake-up call, bringing out the latent anti-Semitism and ignorance that has been lurking under the surface. South Africa, once the bastion of victory against racism is fast losing its shiny lustre.

The ruling ANC has been a leading player in disseminating the hate infested drivel that is making headlines and trending on social media. From the ANC’s deputy secretary general, Jesse Duarte, comparing Israel to Nazis (her inability to count THREE murdered youth, not two, notwithstanding) to the ANC Western Cape social media manager tweeting that “Yes, man, you were right! I could have killed all the Jews, but I left some of them to tell you why I was killing them” underneath a picture of Hitler. I could fill in the space with some other nuggets of nasty but there simply is not enough column space.

Duarte

But just when I think I have seen it all, along came the comment published yesterday by the ANC, co-signed by Secretary General, Gwede Mantashe stating that Israel is a country founded on Apartheid and a crime against humanity.

The ANC never fail to use every opportunity to belittle and denigrate the suffering of millions of South Africans by drawing comparisons between the Jewish State to one of the most vilified regimes in history. The danger in this is that those who are not acquainted with truth and facts, take this comparison at face value and nothing could be more further from the truth. We cannot and should not dismiss this accusation as it is the very charge that the BDS movement is built on. It is an accusation that must be fought at every opportunity.

Why is the ANC choosing to focus on Israel at the expense of other conflicts around the world? Are they courting the powerful Muslim vote or is there another motive? Sadly, the country that once set the benchmark for peaceful negotiation has now proven itself to be so blatantly biased that any attempts by the ANC to broker peace between Israel and her Palestinian neighbours will be laughed out the room.

The accusation that the founding of the Jewish State is a crime against humanity is as dumfounding as it is hurtful. Surely an organization like the ANC that boasts the Freedom Charter that espouses equality for all and a country that has one of the most progressive and modern Constitutions in the world would not begrudge a persecuted people a country of their own? Surely they would find succour in Ben Gurion’s Declaration of Independence when he welcomed minority communities to be a part of the newly formed State? The ANC need a history lesson post haste and maybe a smack upside the head with a copy of the South African Constitution.

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The great irony is all of this is that boycotts will only harm those the ANC think that they are helping. The founding fathers Tambo, Mandela and Sisulu would be heartbroken. There is no country that is better poised to help South Africa than Israel but sadly there are elements so blinded by ignorance that they would rather sacrifice their citizens on the altar of stupidity and hate.

I cannot help but cry for the Beloved Country.

Peres Mandela

Media myths about Gaza – Op-Ed in iAfrica co-authored by Ben Friedman and Rolene Marks

This op-ed currently appears in iAfrica.com

http://mobi.iafrica.com/news/2014/09/03/reader-letter-media-myths-about-gaza/

A neutral observer reading recent media reports on the Gaza conflict could be forgiven for believing that Israel was deliberately targeting the Palestinian population. After all, the media reporting for the most part lacked context, truth and balance.

It was reported as fact that most of the Gaza casualties were civilians, as reported by Palestinian sources without any verification from Israel. According to Israeli sources, at least 1000 Hamas fighters were killed. After all, if after thousands of Israeli airstrikes, one would have expected many more civilian deaths if they had been deliberately targeted.

Hamas are an internationally recognized terror organisation and an offshoot of the Muslim Brotherhood. It rules Gaza by terror and brooks no political opposition and does not uphold basic human rights. By its own admission it supports an “industry of death”, seeing “martyrdom” and suicide bombings as a tactical weapon against Israel. It has also executed alleged collaborators with impunity and bears a striking resemblance to Islamic State.

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Journalists who have left Gaza have documented how Hamas has used the civilian population as human shields, firing from mosques, schools, hospitals, private homes and abusing United Nations facilities to store rockets. This claim has been made on many occasions by Israel, who have observed strict rules to avoid civilian casualties, including warning civilians of impending attacks by phone calls, text messages, dropping of pamphlets and releasing low-charge explosives on roofs as a warning of an impending attack. Just for comparison, Sri Lanka – in its war against the Tamil Tigers – killed 40 000 civilians in the last four months of the war alone. Even Palestinian authority President Mahmoud Abbas now admits that Hamas is to blame for the death and destruction in Gaza.

Then there is the myth of the seige and blockade of Gaza. Both Egypt and Israel have borne the brunt of terror from Gaza. Egypt keeps its Rafah border crossing tightly controlled. Even during the war, Israel was supplying food and medicine in regular convoys to Gaza through its border crossings, except when they came under Hamas fire. Israel, unbelievably, supplies Gaza with much of its water and electricity. The only reason for the land and sea border controls is to prevent Hamas from obtaining weapons and materials to be used for attacks against Israel.

That is why the key to future peace and redevelopment of Gaza is a Gaza free from Hamas rule or completely demilitarized. Even now after a crushing defeat, Hamas proclaims that the truce is merely a means to recoup their strength and continue their objective of “liberating” Jerusalem and all of “Palestine”.

All of the above begs the question: why does the media put such a negative spin against Israel’s legitimate defence against the onslaught of 4500 rockets and missiles against its civilian population in this operation alone?

Yehuda Avner, in his book The Prime Ministers, records the story of former Prime Minister of Israel, Menachem Begin, on his first official visit to Margeret Thatcher of Britain. On arrival he was surrounded by a hostile press and was asked: “Mr Begin, there are those in Britain who would describe you as a terrorist. What do you say to that?”

Begin replied: “I see here in Britain many leaders from your former colonies who fought Britain bitterly in order to gain their independence. Today they are received here with pomp, ceremony and respect. Do you ask your question because I am Jewish?”

Israel - Cartoons Israeli and Hamas soldier with baby

Where have all the flowers gone?

It is the accessory that ignited a firestorm. When King David Victory Park’s (A Jewish high school in Johannesburg, South Africa) Deputy Head Boy, Josh Broomberg, donned a Palestinian scarf, it ignited a storm and outpouring of emotions and opinion I have seldom seen on other more serious issues.  It must be mentioned that Broomberg is captain of South Africa’s National Debating Team. 

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In a statement of apology to the understandably upset South African Jewish community, Broomberg stated:

While I apologise for the hurt we seem to have caused, I do not apologise for standing with Palestine on this issue. This is not because I do not believe in Israel or its people. I do believe in Israel, and I take this stand because I can love and support the state of Israel but still reject and criticize some of its actions. In fact, I consider it my duty to contribute to the growing worldwide discussion surrounding the desperate need for a quick end and lasting solution to this pernicious conflict.

In my eyes, this criticism is not a betrayal, but actually the only honest and true way to show my patriotism and commitment to Israel, as well as my belief in human rights and the entitlement of all citizens of all countries to those right. To improve, we must criticise.

The same student has a history of criticism of Israel including accusing a speaker at Yom Hazikaron who was a first responder to the Park Hotel massacre in Netanya as “photoshopping the pictures as an account of the Israeli Government”.

Wearing the Palestinian scarf makes a very strong political statement. The scarf is not a symbol of “humanity” and the map of Palestine “from the river to the sea” pictured on the garment will attest to that.

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“Scarfgate” as you can well imagine, created a lot of controversy. A petition was started calling for Broomberg to be stripped of his honours as he had signed a code of conduct detailing how he should represent the school. Unfortunately not only did this action bring out the worst in some who hurled vile insults at the 18 year old and attention from the press, salivating at yet another Jewish/Israel focused story they could trot out on the front pages of newspapers, online publications and of course radio and television but has also seen members of the community turn on each other. Once again the media microscope is on the Jewish community who are already exhausted with a biased media coverage that is seeping with venom.

We can debate the issues around this ad infinitum and everybody has but is this an isolated incident or symptomatic of a greater problem?

Who is responsible for the Zionist education of our youth? Is it the school? The youth movements? The parents? Have we failed as Zionist educators? Have we prepared our youth enough to face a world that is growing more and more hostile towards Jews by the day?

I don’t know if I would like to be a teenager or university student right now and for those who are making the case for Israel on campuses around the world, I salute you. You are lions! University campuses, once the bastions of free speech and debate, have become battlefields and many young Jewish students prefer to go unnoticed rather than wear their identities proudly. It is not because they don’t feel connected, it is because they fear for their safety.

What about the student that considers him/herself Zionist but may have a contrary opinion to the establishment? Is there enough room in the tent to accommodate debate? Ironically, Israelis have never met a debate or discussion they did not like. It is our national sport and one we take great pride in. It is healthy, democratic and good for the blood pressure to get your concerns off your chest. Above all, we don’t take it personally if we agree to disagree. Why is this something foreign to others?

In my recent experience interacting with students many have expressed that there are no safe spaces for debate, may expressed that they feel increasingly isolated. Many feel that they have to do something radical to start a discussion and instead of a healthy riposte they are castigated, cast out, ostracized. Opponents on the other side are standing waiting with open arms to welcome them. Are we losing some of our children because of our reluctance to listen? Does the fault lie with us?

For many of our youth, the old ideals of Zionism are not relevant today. Israel is a successful thriving country and they tend to see all conflicts and issues wrapped up in the language of human rights. We who are educated with the facts need to listen and respond in a way that takes cognizance of their concerns. We need to dialogue with our youth. This means listening carefully to what each other has to say.

In my opinion, Scarfgate has brought an uncomfortable wound to the surface that needs to be healed. Don’t let us get to the point where we wonder where have all the flowers gone?

http://www.enca.com/media/video/king-david%E2%80%99s-principal-speaks-out-student-victimisation

Israel standing tall

This post currently appears in The Times of Israel:

http://blogs.timesofisrael.com/israel-standing-tall/

The summer in Israel started out all about the Rolling Stones and Justin Timberlake, start-up acquisitions and celebrity spotting. And then it all changed.

This past month and a half has probably been one of the most traumatic and difficult in Israel’s recent history. We hoped with all our hearts for the safe return of our three kidnapped boys and then wept with untold grief as we mourned their brutal slayings. We were plunged into war by a ruthless and relentless enemy, who hold both their civilians and us hostage with their terrorist intentions.

But Israel, despite all that she is enduring, is standing tall.

I am in awe at my fellow citizens and the calm and proactive way everyone is handling this situation. Instead of cowering or spewing hate invective, we have adopted  a “all hands on deck” approach and everyone is doing their bit to help each other and our soldiers.  Every citizen wants to show our soldiers our gratitude for their service, for fighting for our freedom and defending our beloved country. Each soldier is our child and the least we can do is show our appreciation.

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We have cooked tens of thousands of meals, bought out entire stocks of underwear, deodorant and every conceivable thing a soldier (and a well fed army) would possibly need.  We have converged on hospitals to visit our injured soldiers, bearing cards, gifts and of course, food. We have made our lone soldiers part of our collective family, doting over these brave warriors who come to serve and don’t have the families here to support them. Children from as far as South Africa have joined our in drawing pictures and making cards, and our bereaved families have been held tenderly in our collective arms as we hold them through their grief.

We have formed prayer chains and vigils, evacuated terrified citizens from Southern communities and gently tried to coax children out of shelters. We know that the massive task of post-traumatic stress management will start as soon as this operation is over and to organisations like WIZO who are standing by to listen and love, we thank you.

And we have lined the roads to bury our fallen warriors. Just when I thought I could cry no more, the loss of another brave son tears a fresh wound. Thousands have attended funerals to accompany our warriors to their eternal rest. We may not have known them personally but our love for them and our deepest gratitude at their sacrifice overrides acquaintanceship. May their memories forever be blessed.

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Loss of our brave young warriors is almost too much to bear. Their handsome, vibrant faces, filled with the promise of life haunt me as I know that they were cut down in their prime, defending our country and our freedom. From a grateful and heartbroken nation, we thank you.

We know that what happens in our neighbourhood impacts on our Diaspora communities, many of whom are facing a tsunami of anti-Semitism we have not seen since the 1930’s. Please know that we stand shoulder to shoulder with you and your love gives us strength. We have faced a barrage of bias from the international media who in my opinion are complicit in civilians casualties as their skewed facts give impetus to the grotesque Hamas death factory of human shields. And they are complicit in flaming the fires of anti-Semitism.

This tiny country who has faced wars and intifada, calls for boycott and slander by people delirious with hatred stands heads and shoulders above the rest. My beautiful country and your inspiring citizens, you have demonstrated dignity and grace and they can sling their arrows of venom towards us but we will never be broken.

Our strength is each other, our faith unbreakable. We punch above our weight in every sense of the word. As we observe Tisha B’Av and the countless tragedies we have endured, let us remember the rallying cry that has helped us triumph over centuries of tragedy – AM YISRAEL CHAI.

The people of Israel live.

An open letter of apology to the media:

My letter to the world media:

This is currently featured in The Times of Israel:

http://blogs.timesofisrael.com/my-letter-of-apology-to-the-world-media/

A letter of apology.

Dear Editor

Please allow me to apologise on behalf of all the citizens of the State of Israel. I humbly apologise to you and your readers and to the world for our leaders defending our right to live. Here in Israel, we consider living a basic human right.
The indignation of journalists, commentators and your readership has prompted them to spew forth some of the most vile invective we have seen other than that of Der Sturmer circa 1940’s and the letters and op-eds posted in your publication have educated me in a new level of hatred.
I apologise that it is left up to our army to make sure that the citizens of Gaza are evacuated from dangerous zones safely through pamphlets, text messages and roof knocking. I guess my text message and pamphlet were lost due to Hamas being on strike. Literally.
I apologise that we have not racked up those large numbers of Israeli casualties you were hoping for. I apologise for a government who values my life and those of my fellow citizens so much they do anything in their power to protect it. Whatever internal squabbles we may have or policies we agree or don’t agree on, life is valuable. I am sorry for our defense forces, made up of representatives of all sectors of Israeli society, who both prepare us and defend us with their lives. I am sorry for our Iron Dome batteries that intercept the rockets aiming for our death and destruction. For those of you calling Israel an Apartheid state, Iron Dome makes no distinction between Jew, Christian or Arab. We are all targets.
I apologise that our government has made sure that we are equipped with bomb shelters and know how much time we need to take cover. I am sorry that Hamas prefer to build weapons smuggling tunnels instead of protecting their citizens but the “death industry” (their words not mine – google it yourself) has proven more lucrative than saving lives.
Most of all, I am sorry that this upsets you so much that in countries across the world you choose to take out your frustration on members of the Jewish community, attacking people physically, in the media and in barely disguised hateful press releases.
Please accept my humble apologies for any inconvenience we may have caused you.

Rolene Marks
Modiin
Israel