LionPAC Just another WordPress site Sun, 20 Oct 2013 18:08:37 +0000 en-US hourly 1 Israel Updates 10/20 Sun, 20 Oct 2013 18:08:37 +0000 Shas Undergoes Reforms, Broadening Support Base

Minister Aryeh Deri – leader of the orthodox Shas party– has announced a series of reforms that will broaden Shas’ support base and unify factions within the party, transforming Shas into a “moderate social party.” Deri hopes to harness the mass display of mourning that has arisen over the passing of Shas’ spiritual leader, Rabbi Ovadiah Yosef, into electoral support. Reforms would appeal to younger and more moderate voters–a constituency that is key to securing Shas’ place in the next government coalition.

Obama to Ease Economic Constraints on Iran

After the well-received Geneva talks this week between Iran and six world powers, the Obama administration plans to alleviate some financial pressure on Iran by steadily unfreezing Iran’s overseas assets “without rescinding the sanctions.” The administration hopes this relaxation in economic pressure will allow more room for negotiations. However, the proposal runs in contrast to those by many Members of Congress, who hope instead to ratchet up sanctions against Iran in a bid to halt its nuclear enrichment program.

Israeli Startups: Following Waze’s Success

Many Israeli startups are now following in the footsteps of Waze–the Israeli tech company snatched up by Google for $1 billion this summer–.and are netting huge investment increases for the second quarter in a row. Collectively, Israeli startups have garnered $660 million in funding from investors. Funding is coming in waves from big companies such as IBM, Qualcomm, and even Israeli supermodel Bar Rafaeli.

Israel Ships Artists to US Colleges

Ten Israeli artists are teaching classes at American colleges through the Schusterman Visiting Israeli Artist Program as a means of spreading awareness about genuine Israeli culture in the United States. One such artist is the famous novelist Dror Burstein, who will be teaching a Hebrew literature class at Clark University. The group is diverse, with participating artists ranging from filmmakers to writers to dancers. The executive director of the Israel Institute, Ariel Roth, spoke deeply of the program, saying “these artists provide a window into the heart of Israel.”


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LionPAC Bar Mitzvah Party Fri, 18 Oct 2013 21:11:52 +0000 0 Israel Updates 10/13 Sun, 13 Oct 2013 14:30:13 +0000 After West Bank Attacks, Opposition to Peace Talks Intensifies

Thursday’s fatal terrorist attack on Sariya Ofer, a retired IDF colonel, in the West Bank moshav Shadmot Meholaand, and last week’s attack on a 9-year old girl in Psagot have intensified opposition among Likud and Bayit Yehudi members to Israeli-Palestinian peace negotiations. “This murder requires a diplomatic response that includes the suspension of talks [with the Palestinians], halting the release of terrorists and [changing] attitudes toward settlements”. – Housing Minister Uri Ariel (Bayit Yehudi).


Israelis Concerned as US Freezes Aid to Egypt

Israeli officials have expressed concern regarding the US’ decision to suspend military aid to Egypt in response to the Egyptian military’s bloody crackdown on Muslim Brotherhood protesters last weekend. The US will continue supporting Egypt’s counterterrorism efforts in the Sinai – critical to Israel’s security – but it is suspending $260 million in monetary aid to the government, and is delaying delivery of advanced helicopters and jets to the Egyptian military.

The US has provided $1.5 billion in annual aid to Egypt to reinforce the Camp David Accords that set the basis for the Egypt-Israel Peace Treaty in 1979. Israel views the aid as crucial to maintaining peace with Egypt; according to former Defense Minister Binyamin Ben-Eliezer, US’s suspension of aid poses great “consequences for relations with Israel.”


Shas Party Weakened after Ovadiah Yosef’s Death

The recent passing of Rabbi Ovadiah Yosef, founder and spiritual leader of the Sephardic Shas party, has raised doubt among Israeli politicians regarding whether Shas can reinvigorate its ranks without its leader’s guidance, and not fall prey to fragmentation and loss of influence in the Israeli Knesset.



Foreigners Play First in Israel, then the NBA

Last year, Florida Gulf Coast University ruined many March Madness fans’ brackets with their upset over Georgetown. After not being picked in the draft, star player Sherwood Brown decided to take his talents to Israel– a “great place for a young player to kick off his European Career.” Over the course of the last decade, with the emergence of many phenomenal Israeli teams, including the famed Maccabi Tel Aviv program which won back to back Euroleague titles in 2004 and 2005, Israeli basketball has become a breeding ground for European League Stars.


African Jams Find their Way to Israeli Music Festival

The band “Black Guru” is bringing beats from Africa to its set in this year’s InDnegev music festival. The founders of the band–Ayalon and Yair–returned from their trip to Senegal with a love for the country’s musical heritage. They were determined to incorporate new musical elements, such as vibrant percussionist beats, into their own work.

Check out Black Guru this week at InDnegev!


Israel’s Brain Drain

Despite the announcements about Israeli Nobel Prize winners this year, a new study has demonstrated that Israel has the worst brain drain of any Western country. For every 100 Israeli faculty members living in Israel, there are 29 working in America. While the government’s Council for Higher Education committee has begun earmarking increased funds to universities and offering high salaries to top professors to deter them from leaving, it has yet to take on the comprehensive reform needed to plug the drain.



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Israel Updates 10/6 Wed, 09 Oct 2013 18:50:50 +0000 No More Prisoners-Release, say Likud MKs

An October 6 terrorist attack on a 9-year old girl in the West Bank settlement of Psagot sparked a wave of opposition from Likud and right-wing Ministers of Knesset against Israeli-Palestinian peace talks, sustained since their July 2013 launch. The Israeli government agreed to release 104 Palestinian Authority prisoners, many of whom were confirmed terrorists, as a precondition for resumed negotiations. Deputy Defense Minister Danny Danon summarized the position of the opposition, arguing “anyone that backs terrorists cannot be called a negotiating partner.” Ministers have called for an end to prisoner releases, which will continue in three additional stages over the coming months.



Livni Delivers J Street Address

Justice Minister and Chief Peace Negotiator, Tzipi Livni, gave the keynote speech at the annual J Street Conference in Washington. Many Ministers of Knesset were also in attendance, an indication of the growing voice of the 5-year old organization in the United States and Israel.



Declassified: Dayan pushed Meir to use Nuclear Weapons

“I thought that since the situation is very bad, it would be worthwhile…that we prepare to show the nuclear option” – Dayan, 1973. According to an interview made public Thursday, Oct. 3, Defense Minister Moshe Dayan requested PM Golda Meir to consider using nuclear weapons against Israel’s attackers in the 1973 Yom Kippur War. Meir promptly rejected this suggestion.



Nuclear Negotiations Limit Israel’s Options

A Time article has argued Israel has found itself backed into a corner as a result of Obama’s decision to open negotiations with Iranian President Rouhani. As long as the United States continues to pursue nuclear negotiations with Iran, Israel will be unable to use military action to prevent Iran from obtaining a nuclear weapon without severely damaging the relationship between Israel its strongest ally, the United States.”



Natalie Portman Announces New Film

Natalie Portman is now directing and starring in an adaptation of Amos Oz’s novel A Tale of Love and Darkness, which will begin filming this January in Jerusalem. The Israeli born Oscar winner has decided the film will be in Hebrew.



Tel-Aviv’s Florentine to be Revamped with Community Center

The Tel-Aviv based architecture firm, L2, has won a competition for designing a new community center in Ha’aliyah Market. The new center in the up and coming Florentine neighborhood will include necessities such as swimming and sports centers.




New Baby Elephant!

On Wednesday October 2, Asian Elephant La Petite gave birth to a Baby Elephant at the Ramat Gan Safari. The baby joins a paddock of that now includes six elephants, including another baby born two months ago.



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Columbia Political Review: Response to “The A-Word” Sun, 17 Mar 2013 05:04:55 +0000 This piece was featured in the Columbia Political Review on Friday, March 15, 2013. It was written by Ben Lewinter, LionPAC Deputy of Public Relations.

The apartheid analogy is in no way apt.

Students for Justice in Palestine have set up a protest this week on College Walk as part of their annual Israel Apartheid Week. Conversely, Omar Abboud lamented in a CPR column that the word “apartheid” has been universally rejected as a basis for criticizing Israel. While legitimately highlighting how criticism of Israel can be rejected by some circles, Mr. Abboud fails to explore the actual meaning of apartheid and the factual evidence that shows how it does not apply to Israel. Attempts to describe the situation in Israel as “apartheid” adversely oversimplifies and cheapens what is a significantly complicated conflict that demands honest intellectual discourse, not name-calling and rejection.

Mr. Abboud argues that when it comes to trying to label Israel, “the root problem with the word ‘apartheid,’ is that it almost always conjures memories of South African apartheid, and leads to a subconscious comparison of two very different situations.” His first distinction between Israel and South Africa is that Israel’s policies can hardly compare to the complete institutionalization of racism enacted through South Africa’s policies. The second distinction he makes is that Israel’s policies are motivated by security concerns. Yet he concludes the section by saying, “Regardless of the reason, they are segregationist measures and so the question remains: is it reasonable to call [the situation] “apartheid”?

The answer is a resounding no, because a look at the definition of apartheid reveals that the reasons behind the policies in question and complete institutionalization of racism are fundamental aspects of what apartheid is. Both of Mr. Abboud’s distinctions are specifically explicated in both the United Nations’ and the International Criminal Court’s definitions of apartheid. The UN definition, as it appears in General Assembly resolution 3068, otherwise known as the International Convention on the Suppression and Punishment of the Crime of Apartheid, says that apartheid constitutes inhumane acts “committed for the purpose of establishing and maintaining domination by one racial group of persons over any other racial group of persons.” Similarly, the Rome Statute of the International Criminal Court says in Article 7 Section 2h, “’The crime of apartheid’ means inhumane acts…committed in the context of an institutionalized regime of systematic oppression and domination by one racial group over any other racial group or groups and committed with the intention of maintaining that regime.” Institutionalization of separation by race and the intention of maintaining domination, the two factors that Mr. Abboud said applied to South Africa but certainly not to Israel, are actually central to the general definition of apartheid. As Israel does not fit into these categories, the apartheid analogy is in no way apt.

These definitions highlight the important place that the specific facts of the issue have in a discussion of labeling and definitions. Mr. Abboud addresses two such issues, but he fails to understand or convey their complexity. The checkpoints, which he decries, have in fact proven to be an essential component of Israel’s security system. That Israel removes them as the situation improves is testament to the integrity of Israel’s intentions. The recent addition of Palestinian bus lines was not, as Mr. Abboud claims, intended to satisfy settler demands. It was actually an act of good will to Palestinian travelers, in addition to settlers, to make their commutes easier and also to savePalestinian commuters from having to pay exorbitant prices for “pirate” bus lines. Palestinians are still permitted to ride the Israeli buses. Yes, the idea of separate buses is an eerie one and many Israelis have been quick to criticize them. But, as the UN and ICC point out, the fact that they were instituted with good intentions disqualifies them from being considered apartheid.

This is not to say that Israel’s security policies have not been harsh on the Palestinians. The Palestinians have definitely endured serious hardships. But both these hardships and Israeli policy have come within the context of an enormously nuanced and complicated struggle that Israel Apartheid Week seeks to encourage outsiders to overlook. Israel’s security barrier, for example, has undoubtedly caused serious suffering for many Palestinians physically, psychologically, and economically. However, the barrier has been a security miracle for Israel, certainly playing a large part in the dramatic reduction of terrorist attack deaths starting around 2003, and saving innocent lives. Moussa Abu Marzouq, Deputy Chairman of the Hamas Political Bureau, admitted in 2007 in a meeting with Egyptian intellectuals in response to a question about the drop in the number of suicide attacks being carried out, that, “[carrying out] such attacks is made difficult by the security fence, and by the gates surrounding West Bank residents.” Similarly, in 2006, Ramadan Abdallah Shalah, leader of the terrorist organization Palestinian Islamic Jihad, which was responsible for many suicide attacks during the Second Intifada, admitted that “the fence is an obstacle to the resistance; without it the situation would have been entirely different.” The security barrier issue is one of a myriad of issues that IAW critics protest are libelously oversimplified and cheapened by attempts to label Israel as an apartheid state.

The conflict is complex beyond these purely technical issues as well. Both Palestinians and Israelis have legitimate claims to the same land. Certainly the Palestinians are entitled to a state of their own. But certainly, too, is Israel entitled to secure borders. Israel’s fears are not alleviated by the facts that the Palestinian Authority continues to refuse to recognize Israel as a Jewish state and that the terrorist organization Hamas continues to enjoy significant public support throughout the Palestinian population. Palestinian fears, conversely, are heightened by Israeli settlement beyond the Green Line and reluctance to negotiate on issues like refugees and Jerusalem.

This year, the slogan feature on SJP Columbia’s flyers was “It’s not complicated – it’s apartheid”. Dishonest attempts like this to squeeze Israel into the label of apartheid seek to turn the conflict into an easy good vs. evil, black-and-white issue. It’s the cheapening of the debate, not criticism of Israel, which IAW critics are upset by. The IAW type of thinking, as Canadian Minister James Kenney said in the statement cited by Mr. Abboud, “censors other points of view, and limits academic discourse.” I believe that IAW critics would be fine with an “Israeli Criticism Week,” as Mr. Abboud proposes, as long as it is based on the recognition that the Israel-Palestine conflict demands discourse, not defamation and oversimplification.

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The Israel Spectrum Sun, 10 Mar 2013 19:37:19 +0000 0 Preparing for Israel Apartheid Week: Facts and Conversations Thu, 07 Mar 2013 23:07:41 +0000 0 AIPAC Policy Conference 2013 Reflections Thu, 07 Mar 2013 19:40:55 +0000 It is a rare thing to enjoy being just a number. This weekend, I was just that, one of 13,000 Pro-Israel activists attending AIPAC Policy Conference in Washington D.C., one of 2,000 students from all over the country and one of 10 students from Columbia. Sometimes it is important to be just a number, and in this case, I was representing those three groups. AIPAC Policy Conference was an incredible, eye-opening experience, where I got to see how what I did on campus matters.

This wasn’t my first Policy Conference, but the second time around I got to see the conflict in Israel from many different angles. AIPAC’s founding principle is to strengthen the relationship between Israel and the United States and it does that in numerous ways. In the opening plenary on Sunday morning, I saw how Dan Webb, a man from Warminster, PA who didn’t have any personal connection to Israel, saw his life change before his eyes when an Israeli technology company, Argo Medical Technologies Inc., introduced an exoskeleton called the ReWalk, used to help paraplegics walk again. Watching Dan meet the founder of the company, Dr. Amit Goffer, on stage showed that friendship can transcend borders, religions and political beliefs.

“Not a whole lot that I know about Israel,” Webb explained, “I watch the news and I see the problems but I’m impressed that this little country over in the middle east that came up with this technology are now sharing it with the United States.”

On Sunday afternoon I found myself in a session led by Chief Rabbi Lord Jonathan Sacks intended for Rabbis and Cantors focusing on how to get congregations more involved in the never-ending fight to strengthen the US-Israel relationship.

On Monday, I heard from Senator John McCain (R-AZ) and Senator Kirsten Gillibrand (D-NY) how Israel was right to stop the flotilla back in 2009. The atmosphere in the large room was exciting, filled with people who really care about the future of the state of Israel. I was hearing these important political figures, Vice President Joe Biden included, emphasize how important of an ally Israel is to the United States. On President Obama’s and his commitment to the state of Israel, Biden said “It’s in our naked self-interest, beyond the moral imperative.”

Beyond the strong words echoed by our elected officials, I also learned what could happen with Israel and the International Criminal Court.

If I left policy conference with one main insight it would be the following: To be pro-peace, you have to be pro-Israel and pro-Palestinian. You cannot be pro-Israel without being pro-Palestinian and you cannot be pro-Palestinian without being pro-Israel.
The two conflicts are interchangeable and you have to be able to sympathize with both groups.

It is possible to feel like the cause you are fighting for is so far away, but it is crucial to realize that every little bit counts. Every meeting you attend, every leadership statement you sign and every time you represent Israel on campus. Ultimately, that makes the effort worthwhile.

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Eat for Israel Tue, 05 Feb 2013 19:04:58 +0000 0 The Changing Face of Israeli Politics: Is the Israeli Center-Left Making a Comeback? Tue, 29 Jan 2013 22:57:12 +0000 0