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A Pig with Lipstick, UNESCO Woes, Israel at 69


Hamas Softens Stance on Israel, Drops Muslim Brotherhood Link

Nidal al-Mughrabi and Tom Finn, Reuters, May 2nd 2017

Recap:

Hamas’ new charter dropped its longstanding call for Israel's destruction although Hamas still rejects Israel’s right to exist and backs "armed struggle" against it. A Hamas spokesman said the new charter “gives [Hamas] a chance to connect with the outside world,” and proves it is a “pragmatic and civilized movement [1].” Israel accused Hamas of trying to "fool the world."

The Context:

  • Founded in 1987 as an offshoot of the Muslim Brotherhood, Hamas seeks an Islamic state in the territory between the Mediterranean and the Jordan River [2]. Hamas is considered a terrorist group by much of the West, including the United States (US), a status that has led to its exclusion from international talks about the Palestinian’s future [3].

  • Hamas’ stance in its new charter mirrors those of the Palestinian Authority (PA), the internationally recognized leader of the Palestinian people. The charter declares its support for the liberation of all of Palestine and its willingness to accept a Palestinian state based on 1967 borders albeit without recognizing Israel or ceding any rights to the land. Hamas also declared independence from the Muslim Brotherhood and claimed its resistance to Israel should not be interpreted as anti-Semitism but rather anti-Zionism [4].

  • Israel, which has fought three wars with Hamas since 2008, greeted the charter with skepticism. “Not even one mind” will be changed in Israel, said Yossi Kuperwasser, a retired IDF brigadier general [5] and a spokesman for Prime Minster Benjamin Netanyahu said real change will come "the day Hamas stops digging tunnels, diverts its resources to civilian infrastructure and stops educating children to hate Israelis [6].”

  • Khaled Mashaal, the outgoing Hamas leader in exile, will be replaced later this month after the completion of secret elections [7].

Conversation Points:

  • Is there significance to Hamas’ timing of the revised charter, which comes on Israel’s Independence Day and only a few days prior to a meeting between PA President Mahmoud Abbas and President Donald Trump?

  • Will world leaders and the media be quick to buy Hamas’ self-proclaimed enlightened path?

  • Does Hamas now seek more mainstream acceptance to gain ground against Abbas?

  • Is there a difference between anti-Semitism and anti-Zionism?

UNESCO Passes Resolution Critical of Israeli Conduct in Jerusalem and Gaza

Barak Ravid, Haaretz, May 2nd 2017

Recap:

UNESCO's Executive Committee passed a resolution on “Occupied Palestine” that stipulates Israel has no legal or historical rights anywhere in Jerusalem. The vote was taken on Israel’s Independence Day and follows a highly controversial UNESCO resolution passed last October that ignored Jewish ties to the Western Wall and Temple Mount [8].

The Context:

  • Submitted to UNESCO’s Executive Board by Algeria, Egypt, Lebanon, Morocco, Oman, Qatar and Sudan, the resolution passed with 22 votes in favor, 23 abstentions and 10 opposed [9]. Countries that voted in favor of the resolution included Russia, China, Sweden, South Africa and Iran. Countries that voted against the resolution included the US, UK, Italy, Germany and Greece.

  • The resolution’s language was softer than similar motions on Jerusalem approved by UNESCO in the past. Arab states agreed to make concessions like omitting references to the Al-Aqsa Mosque in order to ensure the bills passage. The resolution still defines Israel as an "occupying power" regarding everything pertaining to Jerusalem.

  • Despite the setback, Israeli Ambassador to UNESCO Carmel Shama-Hacohen hailed the vote as a diplomatic achievement since last year 32 countries supported similar resolutions while this week, only 22 voted in favor [10].

  • Netanyahu made light of the vote, saying Israel "does not believe in UNESCO” and "there is no other people for whom Jerusalem is as holy as for the Jewish people." Palestinian leaders lauded the resolution as a "step forward" and a "victory for international law." In 2011, the Palestinians were admitted as a member state of UNESCO, which led the US to suspend its payments to the organization [11]. Following the vote, Israel cut $1 million in funding to UNESCO.

  • In November, it is expected that a former Qatari minister will become UNESCO’s next director while Saudi Arabia and Iran are front-runners to be elected as the next chairs of the UNESCO General Conference and Executive Board [12].

Conversation Points:

  • Should nations be allowed to make UNESCO an arena for ideological wrangling?

  • Will Israel-centric measures increase if Qatar, Saudi Arabia and Iran take control of UNESCO next year?

  • Why does Egypt co-introduce anti-Israel measures at the UN if the two countries are allies sharing the same regional concerns?

  • Is it a coincidence that the resolution passed on Israel’s independence day?

69 Years of Independence: Israel By The Numbers

Ilana Messika, Breaking Israel News, April 30th 2017

Recap:

Israel’s Central Bureau of Statistics (CBS) published data this week that offers insight into the evolution of the Israeli population and economy since 1948.

The Context:

  • Israel’s population at its 69th year of existence is estimated to be 8.68 million, almost eleven times its population of 806,000 at its establishment in 1948.

  • 75% of Israel’s population are Jewish, Arabs make up 21% of the population while the remaining 4% are Druze or of a different ethnicity.

  • The current Jewish population in Israel constitutes 43% of global Jewry, which is estimated to be 14.4 million. 6% of world Jewry lived in Israel in 1948. The CBS estimates that Israel’s population of 8.68 million will double by 2048.

  • The biggest population center in Israel is Jerusalem, numbering 865,000 residents, while the smallest is Neve Zohar in the south, which houses just 71 residents.

  • While only two institutes of higher education (the Technion and the Hebrew University of Jerusalem) existed at the establishment of the state, there are 63 institutions around the country today, including nine universities and 33 colleges.

  • This year, Bloomberg News ranked Israel’s economy the 3rd most stable in the world while Forbes believes Israel might just have the world’s best restaurant scene [13].

Conversation Points:

  • What changes might we expect to see on the eve of Israel’s 100th birthday?

Notes:

  1. In Palestinian Power Struggle, Hamas Moderates Talk on Israel, Ian Fisher, New York Times, May 1st 2017

  2. New Hamas program softens language, retains goal of eliminating Israel, Raphael Ahren and Dov Lieber, Times of Israel, May 1st 2017

  3. In Palestinian Power Struggle, Hamas Moderates Talk on Israel, Ian Fisher, New York Times, May 1st 2017

  4. Hamas Presents New Charter Supporting Palestinian State Along 1967 Borders, Jack Khoury, Haaretz, May 2nd 2017

  5. In Palestinian Power Struggle, Hamas Moderates Talk on Israel, Ian Fisher, New York Times, May 1st 2017

  6. Hamas Presents New Charter Supporting Palestinian State Along 1967 Borders, Jack Khoury, Haaretz, May 2nd 2017

  7. New Hamas program softens language, retains goal of eliminating Israel, Raphael Ahren and Dov Lieber, Times of Israel, May 1st 2017

  8. UNESCO Votes 22-10 To Condemn Israel’s Control Over Jerusalem, JTA, May 2nd 2017

  9. Palestinians applaud UNESCO vote denying Israeli claims to Jerusalem, Stuart Winer and Raphael Ahren, Times of Israel, May 2nd 2017

  10. Ibid.

  11. UNESCO passes Jerusalem resolution critical of Israel, Al Jazeera, May 2nd 2017

  12. Jewish Human Rights Group Warns of Potential UNESCO ‘Catastrophe’ as Saudi Arabia, Iran Join Qatar as Frontrunners for Leading Posts, Ben Cohen, Algemeiner, May 2nd 2017

  13. 69-PLUS ONE NEW REASONS I LOVE ISRAEL, Barbara Sofer, Jerusalem Post, May 1st 2017


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