Australia/Israel & Jewish Affairs Council

The Palestinians and UNESCO/ An Attack on Iran?

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Update from AIJAC

Nov. 4, 2011
Number 11/10 #01


This Update features two comments on the vote by the UN Educational, Social and Culture Organisation (UNESCO) to admit "Palestine" as a full member on Monday, a measure opposed by the Australia (see AIJAC's media release on the Australian vote here).  It also contains some comments on reports originating in the Israeli press alleging that the Israeli Government is stepping up preparations for a possible military strike on Iran's nuclear program.

First up is American analyst Kenneth Bandler of the American Jewish Committee. He notes that Palestinian Authority President Abbas' aggressive pursuit of UN recognition is not only not a step towards peace, it is seriously damaging to the UN and an apparently deliberate effort to slight the US, whose support is essential for a two-state peace deal. Bandler notes that the destructiveness of the results of these efforts must, in the end, call into question Abbas' stated motives. For his complete argument, CLICK HERE. The Wall Street Journal made some similar comments concerning what the Palestinian UN efforts say about the motives of Abbas. Meanwhile, a number of commentators have argued that, by triggering US withdrawal of funds from UNESCO, the Palestinians likely harmed their cause - including several experts quoted by Bloomberg news, columnist Claudia Rosett, journalist Daniel Halper, and Erin Dwyer of the Jewish Policy Centre. Supporting this idea are comments from UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-Moon, who calls the Palestinian efforts "not beneficial" for anybody.

Next up is an editorial from the Jerusalem Post noting that the claim that the UNESCO vote is a vote for peace is absurd in the face of the incitement in the Palestinian education system that it essentially whitewashes. The Post notes that a new study of Palestinian textbooks shows that they retain considerable antisemitism, reject any Jewish rights in Palestine and do not mention the idea of a negotiated peace with Israel, but do endorse Jihad to regain the "robbed lands." In effect, the paper says, UNESCO has endorsed these textbooks by accepting Palestinian membership, which means that the body renounces any right to scrutinise the Palestinian education system. For all that the paper has to say on UNESCO and the Palestinian textbooks, CLICK HERE. More details on the textbooks report come from noted Israeli Arab journalist Khaled Abu Toameh.

Finally, Jackson Diehl of the Washington Post brings some realism to the reports and speculation about an Israeli military strike on Iran. He says there is no new reason for Israel to strike in the near future and in any case, it is unlikely to strike without at least tacit approval from Washington, which will not be forthcoming anytime soon. He sees these leaks as part of an effort to refocus attention on Iran and to raise the pressure for more serious sanctions on Iran, something currently being considered in both  Washington and at the UN. For Diehl's piece in full, CLICK HERE. Similar good comments on the reports about Israeli preparations come from Barry Rubin, Michael Rubin, Hirsch Goodman, the Jerusalem Post, Jonathan Tobin and author Joel Rosenberg.

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As He Pursues His UN Agenda, Has Abbas Stopped Caring About Anyone But Himself?

 Kenneth Bandler

FOXNews.com, November 2, 2011

Mahmoud Abbas' obstinacy surely will be encouraged by UNESCO's grant of full membership to Palestine even before a state by that name is actually created. While the Palestinians—without a final peace agreement with Israel—await U.N. Security Council action on their application for admission to the world body, they are broadening their outreach among a range of U.N.-affiliated international organizations to gain recognition of their non-existent state.

The Palestinian Authority president’s strategy of ignoring Israel was set forth in his New York Times op-ed six months ago, when he argued that U.N. recognition of a Palestinian state would enhance his bargaining position in negotiations with Israel.

Abbas, however, abandoned all negotiations with Israel more than a year ago, snubbing not only Prime Minister Netanyahu, but also President Obama, who hosted the resumption of direct talks in Washington.

Pursuing his U.N. gambit, Abbas continues to disregard both leaders. Why hassle with painstaking peace process details when voting blocs in the UN system offer Palestinians a blank check, as long as the veto option, unique to the UN Security Council, is not in play.

UNESCO membership, however inevitable, does not advance the chances for Israeli-Palestinian peace. It also threatens to bring irreparable harm to an important global organization that depends on U.S. government contributions.

The 107 countries that voted in favor of Palestinian membership in UNESCO and the 52 that abstained – in essence, as good as affirmative votes – are complicit in this reckless approach. Each of the 159 governments knew the consequences: an end to critical American support, some 22 percent of the UNESCO budget, and no positive contribution towards achieving the peace that both Israelis and Palestinians so desire.

Indeed, even as UNESCO members voted in Paris, Palestinian terrorists in Gaza fired another 20 rockets and missiles into southern Israel. The latest assault came just days after Gilad Schalit, the Israeli soldier kidnapped by Hamas five years ago, was returned to Israel in exchange for more than 1,000 Palestinian prisoners, some of whom had committed the most horrific terror attacks.

If Gaza rulers continue to operate independently of the PA even in the face of the unity agreement Abbas signed with Hamas last May, then what land of a future Palestinian state does he control? That question, as well as final borders, security and other issues can only be determined through direct peace negotiations with Israel, not in the conference halls of UN agencies.

In addition, as the Jerusalem Post’s Palestinian reporter, Khaled Abu Toameh, points out, textbooks currently used in Palestinian schools contravene UNESCO rules for becoming a full member. In those books Jews and Israelis are demonized, Jewish holy places are not identified, and Israel is absent from the maps and listings of countries in the region. The IMPACT-SE study that confirmed this is an updated version of the report, Palestinian Textbooks: From Arafat to Abbas and Hamas, jointly produced with AJC three years ago.

Looking ahead to their bid for UN membership, the Palestinians presently do not have the 9 votes they need, though several of the15 Council members are still undecided. So far, it looks as though the U.S. will be able to avoid using its veto, which it has promised to wield if needed because Washington firmly agrees that a Palestinian state must be produced in Israeli-Palestinian talks on a permanent peace accord.

At some point, if Abbas continues on his U.N. path, members of Congress will step up their questioning of U.S. funding of other U.N. agencies, should they follow UNESCO in admitting Palestine, and possibly cut the funding of the Palestinian Authority itself.

If American generosity and genuine concern for Arab-Israeli peace are not fully appreciated, Washington may need to reconsider its role.

For decades the U.S. has been central to all Arab-Israeli peace negotiations. Surely, a diminished American role can’t be something any Palestinian leader would desire. Or, does Abbas simply not care anymore?

Kenneth Bandler is the American Jewish Committee’s director of media relations.

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Editorial: UNESCO’s vote

Jerusalem Post, 11/01/2011 23:34

PA President Abbas’s statement that UNESCO decision “is vote for peace” is utterly incomprehensible; Rather, it is a vote for bigotry, hatred and conflict.

A huge cheer of joy erupted Monday in the General Assembly room of the Paris-based UN Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO) after "Palestine" was voted in as the organization's 195th member.

However, the event was, in reality, not a cause for celebration but another lamentable example of the moral bankruptcy of the UN and its organizations.

While the US, Canada, Germany, the Netherlands and Israel voted against it, such bastions of human rights and freedom as China, Russia and Brazil voted in favor.

Disappointingly, Austria and France ­ two states which should have known better ­ voted in favor, while Britain could do no more than abstain.

In its rush to aid the Palestinians in their unilateral bid for internationally recognized statehood status, UNESCO completely disregarded its own declared educational and cultural standards based on equality and mutual respect.

Instead, UNESCO effectively endorsed the warped, hate-mongering Palestinian national "narrative" as reflected in the Palestinian Authority's official school textbooks, cultural policies and popular media.

Impact-SE, a research organization that monitors and analyzes schoolbooks and curricula across the Middle East, with an eye toward determining their compliance with international standards on peace and tolerance ­ like those set by UNESCO ­ found shameful examples of anti-Semitism being taught in the Palestinian educational system.

Indeed, textbooks used in PA schools conveyed rabidly anti-Semitic messages (Jews are described as violators of treaties, deceivers, murderers of children, disembowelers of women and impersonators of snakes) erased Jewish peoples' ties to the land of Israel (Rachel's Tomb is presented as the Bilal bin Rabah Mosque, and the Kotel is described simply as Al-Buraq Wall) and supported jihad while, completing ignoring the option of a negotiated peace settlement with Israel.

The study quotes the following paragraph from a eighth-grade book: "Today the Muslim countries need urgently jihad and jihad fighters in order to liberate the robbed lands and to get rid of the robbing Jews from the robbed lands in Palestine and in the Levant." Nowhere in official PA textbooks is the Holocaust mentioned, though there is an entire chapter on World War Two.

One ambiguous passage states: "The Jewish question is first and foremost a European problem." Before the UNESCO decision, there might have been a chance, through international pressure and dialogue, to influence the PA to gradually revamp textbooks so that they more closely reflected reality.

Perhaps a new generation of Palestinian children could have been raised not on anti-Semitism, stereotypes and lies, but on respect for those who are different, the value of peaceful negotiation and recognition of the Jewish people's ties to the land of Israel.

But by accepting "Palestine" as a member, UNESCO has effectively given its stamp of approval to the sort of vicious indoctrination undergone by Palestinian schoolchildren at a young, impressionable age.

Can we honesty expect any future Palestinian leader to criticize the abhorrent messages that appear in PA textbooks if UNESCO failed to? Any leader who dared to introduce reforms would be fighting an uphill battle, not only against Palestinian prejudices and its culture of violence and self-victimization, but also against a respected UN institution's decision.

What's more, according to UNESCO's own rules, accepting "Palestine" as a full-fledged member means that UNESCO essentially waives its right to interfere in ­ or even criticize ­ Palestinian education policies. If anything, Palestinian schoolbooks will inculcate children with even more uncompromisingly anti-Semitic, anti-Israel messages.

And the messages presented in school will continue to be reinforced in Palestinian media and in mosques. Consequently, the chances for peace between Israelis and Palestinians will get even slimmer.

Seen in this light, PA President Mahmoud Abbas's statement that the UNESCO decision "is a vote for peace" is utterly incomprehensible.

Rather, it is a vote for bigotry, hatred and conflict.


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Will Israel really attack Iran?

By Jackson Diehl

Washington Post "Post-Partisan",11/02/2011

Every few months a new flurry of speculation erupts about whether Israel is about to launch a military attack on Iran’s nuclear facilities. This week the subject is back again — and the smoke seems thicker than usual.

The discussion got started this time in a relatively dramatic way: with a banner-headlined story in one of Israel’s best-read newspapers, under the byline of one the country’s most renowned journalists. Nahum Barnea normally writes a column for the Yediot Ahronot newspaper, but last Friday he produced a bombshell story under the headline “Atomic Pressure.”

His main point: Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and his defense minister, Ehud Barak, are determined to attack Iran, and are pressuring Israel’s reluctant military and intelligence chiefs to go along.

“Binyamin Netanyahu and Ehud Barak are the two Siamese twins of the Iranian issue,” Barnea wrote. “A rare phenomenon is taking place here in terms of Israeli politics: a prime minister and a defense minister who act as one body, with one goal.”

Barnea’s story quickly touched off a frenzy in the Israeli media, which have followed up with several intriguing reports in recent days. Several accounts described a major Israeli air force exercise at a NATO base in Italy over the weekend, which was said to include all of the types of planes Israel would use in an attack on Iranian nuclear facilities.

On Wednesday, the newspaper Haaretz reported that Netanyahu was working to assemble a majority in his cabinet in favor of a strike and had recently won over his previously skeptical foreign minister, Avigdor Lieberman. And Iran’s own media weighed in: The state news agency quoted the defense minister as saying that the United States as well as Israel would suffer “heavy damages” in the event of an attack.

So why is this coming up now? Could an Israeli attack really be imminent? Iran, after all, has not shown any sign of launching a breakout to produce a bomb; even if it did, most experts in Israel as well as the West have said it would take the regime a year or more to complete a bomb.

Haaretz reported that Netanyahu and Barak were focused on an upcoming report by the International Atomic Energy Agency, due on Nov. 8, that is expected to offer new information about Iran’s attempts to develop designs for warheads and delivery systems. Other Israeli reports have speculated that any attack by Israel must occur before the winter months, when cloudy skies might complicate strikes from the air. Iran’s recent steps toward opening a new underground facility for uranium enrichment that is buried under a mountain, and possibly immune to air strikes, could also be a factor.

In reality, Israel is unlikely to launch any attack without the support of the United States, which could easily be drawn into the regional conflict an air strike would trigger. Like the Israeli military establishment, the Pentagon opposes any such venture — and it’s hard to imagine President Obama signing on. If he acts in the coming weeks or months, Netanyahu would risk a rupture in the alliance that is the ultimate guarantor of Israeli security.

The new burst of speculation, like those before it, does serve a couple of purposes for Israel, however. It refocuses attention on the Iranian threat, and takes it away from the Palestinian bid for statehood at the United Nations; it raises the pressure on the United States and its allies to increase sanctions and other nonmilitary pressure on Tehran.

All the smoke also helps to obscure Israel’s real intentions. After so many cries of “Wolf!,” it seems fairly probable that when Israel really does prepare to attack, no one will believe the press leaks. That includes now.

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