Tag Archives: syria

Call for the Immediate Resignation of Rutgers President Barchi

In an article co-authored by CAMERA Fellow Miriam Waghalter and Austin Altman, president and board member of CAMERA-supported group Scarlet Knights for Israel, the two outlined the immorality of Rutgers continuing to employ Rutgers professors Michael Chikindas and Mazen Adi.

Jasbir Puar, who has a history of anti-Semitism, including using blood libel to demonize Israel, recently made headlines again this fall. Her book, “The Right to Maim: Debility, Capacity, Disability” which was released this month, alleges that the IDF intentionally shoots Palestinians to harm them and not kill them, so that they will suffer as much as possible.

But Chikindas and Adi were only recently exposed as anti-Semites. Professor Chikindas shared anti-Semitic images on his Facebook profile, which as International Campus Director Aviva Slomich described, depicted scheming, controlling and evil Jews, evoking Der Stürmer-style imagery which is shared widely by hate and extremist groups on social media. 

Chikindas’s posts reminded many of Oberlin College’s Joy Karega, who shared content which invoked similar anti-Semitic tropes, just last year.

Just days after Campus Coordinator Ben Suster visited Rutgers to provide students with moral and practical support, students were faced with another bomb of troubling news: it was discovered that an additional professor on their campus held anti-Semitic views.

One of the Facebook posts from Professor Chikindas’s profile.

Since 2015, former Assad spokesman Mazen Adi has been lecturing in the political science department at Rutgers University. Working for the Assad regime, Adi repeatedly expressed support for the Syrian dictator’s war crimes during the Syrian civil war. Beyond defending a genocidal regime, Adi has also spewed antisemitic libel at the UN. In 2012, he alleged to the Security Council that “international gangs led by some Israeli religious figures are now trafficking children’s organs.”

From these scary details, it’s obvious that continuing to employ Adi and Chikindas is fundamentally wrong and harmful to students.

124th Plenary Meeting of the General Assembly 66th session: Prevention of armed conflict: draft resolution (A/66/L.57)
SYRIA

Yet, despite the tireless work of the Jewish community and its allies, including that of CAMERA students Miriam and Austin, President Robert Barchi has turned a blind eye to the Jewish community, defending the employment of all three professors. Barchi has shockingly gone so far as to question The Algemeiner, the Jewish newspaper that has provided significant coverage on the disturbing sentiments of both faculty members.

At a town hall meeting sponsored by the Rutgers student government last Thursday, President Barchi addressed the ongoing controversies surrounding Chikindas, Puar, and Adi, noting that “the one thing that is common to all of these is that they were all brought forward by The Algemeiner.”

Responding to President Barchi, Slomich made the following statement:

“After Oberlin College President Krislov wrongfully defended Professor Joy Karega after she shared anti-Semitic posts on social media last year, he appropriately stepped down.

Rutgers University President Barchi has repeatedly defended anti-semitism similar to those of Karega’s by three of his own faculty members. Not only has Professor Barchi defended these shocking actions, which targets a significant portion of Rutgers students, he also has expressed anti-Semitic rhetoric of his own, making disparaging remarks about The Algemeiner, the Jewish newspaper which has provided extensive coverage of these anti-Semitic incidents.

President Barchi’s continual defense of these anti-Semitic faculty members, in addition to his own apparent prejudice, leave no other option other than Barchi stepping down immediately to allow Rutgers students the justice and safety they deserve.”

To sign the petition created by Rutgers students for action against Professor Chikindas, click here.

To sign the petition created by UN Watch for action against Professor Adi, click here.

Contributed by Lia Lands, Campus Communications for CAMERA.

Rutgers Cannot Defend Hiring Assad Spokesman, Anti-Semite

CAMERA Fellow and President of Scarlet Knights for Israel Miriam Waghalter.

Rutgers University is supposed to be a safe and encouraging environment for students to learn about their passions. A large component to this goal is the faculty employed at the University. Over the past several weeks, it has been revealed that several members of the Rutgers faculty have backgrounds and hold beliefs that are antithetical to the ideals that we have as a University. Professor Michael Chikindas posted blatantly anti-Semitic and homophobic posts online and now we know that Professor Mazen Adi worked for the Assad regime in Syria. While working there, he engaged in horrific activity that should not be present at our school. We question the University’s decision to hire Adi in the first place, why both professors are still employed here and the lack of response that the University has given regarding their conducts.

Adi was brought on in 2015 after working for the Assad regime in Syria for over 16 years. He had a hand in defending Syria to international bodies, such as the UN and has “justified the war crimes of the genocidal Assad regime,” according to UN Watch. Ironically, he is scheduled to teach a class on“International Criminal Law and Anti-Corruption” next semester. Rutgers has responded to demands to fire Adi by saying that “Rutgers will not defend the content of every opinion expressed by every member of our academic community, but the University will defend their rights to academic freedom and to speak freely.”

But we have to ask ourselves, should an “apologist for … mass murder” be given the platform to speak freely in the context of a political science class about anti-corruption while being so blatantly a part of it? Adi has a clearly biased and unethical platform and it has no reason to be shared at our University. Furthermore, in an article from Algemeiner, a former student has claimed that Adi defended Palestinian terrorism in class as a legitimate form of “resistance” to Israeli “occupation.” Clearly, Adi’s positions cannot be part of the fabric and culture of inclusion and peace that Rutgers University promotes. The University defends its decision to hire him based off of “his expertise in international law and diplomacy, and other fields.” But is genocidal diplomacy the type of politics that we want taught in our University? Where is the line drawn?

 

Former Syrian diplomat and current Rutgers professor Mazen Adi, center, at a General Assembly meeting beside Bashar Ja’afari, permanent representative of Syria to the UN. Photo: UN / JC McIlwaine.

This revelation of Adi’s associations comes soon after Chikindas’s Facebook page was revealed to contain many problematic posts. After creating a petition to suspend Chikindas with over 5,000 signatures as of Nov. 9, we have yet to hear a response from the chancellor or president of the University, both of whom received an email with the petition and signatories attached over a week ago. While we appreciate the University’s statement condemning Chikindas’s posts, further action must be taken and a new statement must be made.

Freedom of speech is a right that all citizens and students have, including these professors. But while what they say and believe may not break U.S. law, they do not adhere to the culture that we here at Rutgers have worked so hard to cultivate. As students and humanitarians, we do not support mass murder and terrorism nor those who try to excuse it and justify it.

The University must recognize how immoral employing these professors as University faculty is and must to take action against them. As students, we do not deserve to be subject to people who are capable of spewing such hatred.

Contributed by Rutgers CAMERA Fellow Miriam Waghalter and Austin Altman. Austin is a board member and Miriam is president of CAMERA-supported group Scarlet Knights for Israel.

This article was originally published in Rutgers campus paper, The Daily Targum and was also published in The Algemeiner.

 

Fifty Years Ago, Jews Returned to the Golan Heights

Fifty years ago today on July 14, 1967, Jews returned to the Golan Heights, building a town in the region.

Between 1948 and 1967 while the Golan Heights was under Syrian control, the Syrians used the region as a military stronghold, randomly sniping at Israeli citizens. Syria allowed the terrorist organization Fatah to operate in the region, carrying out attacks on Israelis and laying mines throughout the area. Syria was not using this region for the good of its people, but instead to terrorize Israel. In 1966, Israel requested that the United Nations denounce the Fatah attacks. In response, the Syrian ambassador said “It is not our duty to stop them, but to encourage and strengthen them.”

Four days after the Six Day War began on June 5, 1967, Israeli forces moved in on the Syrian military in the Golan. On June 10, 1967, one day after their arrival, Israel assumed complete control of the region. Israeli control of the strategic mountain region helped secure the Jewish state from the Syrian threat. Syria tried to recapture the region six years later in the Yom Kippur War but failed. After the war, Syria signed a disengagement agreement that left the Golan Heights in Israel’s control.

On December 14, 1981, the Knesset voted to extend civilian law to the Golan Heights which was previously under military authority since 1967. Syria has abided by the ceasefire agreement with Israel mainly because of the proximity of Israeli artillery to Damascus, but Syria continues to fund and harbor terrorist organizations that carry out attacks on Israel from Lebanon and other areas.

Despite the history, the international community still views this region as an “occupied territory.” For some, this stems from anti-Semitism that disregards the facts and Syria’s use of the region’s high ground to attack Israel.  

Today, there are around 17,000 Druze residents and 14,000 Jewish residents in the Golan heights. Israel invests heavily in upgrading electric and water infrastructure that was left in disrepair by successive Syrian leaders. All residents enjoy freedom of religion, the right to fair trials and to run for office, access to Israeli welfare, healthcare, and social security programs, and every other right available to citizens throughout Israel.

In fact, many of the 17,000 Druze are relieved they now live in Israel rather than Syria, especially because of the Syrian Civil War. Many maintain their Syrian ties, but so far around 30% have become Israeli citizens. The broad support for Israel among Golan Heights residents, especially the Druze majority, further bolsters Israel’s claim to the region.

The journey of the relationship between the Golan Heights and the Jewish people has come full circle. In 1891, Baron Edmonde de Rothschild purchased 20,000 acres of land from the Ottoman Empire. In 1942 the Syrian government illegally confiscated the land. In 1957 the deeds were transferred to the Jewish National Fund by Baron Edmonde’s son, Baron James de Rothschild, and from there they were transferred to the Land office of Israel. Today they are stored in Israel’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs.

Archaeology shows clearly that Jewish ownership of land in the region dates back well before the 1890s, all the way to biblical times. It was promised to Abraham and later became part of the tribe of Menashe by Moses’s division of the Land. Many events and battles took place in and around the Golan and there are many famous sites such as the fortress of Gamla and the Jewish town of Qasrin. Ruins of around twenty-five synagogues have been discovered dating from after the destruction of the Temple; mosaic inscriptions depict peaceful and uninterrupted Jewish life in the Golan until the Middle Ages.

Today we celebrate the modern return of Jewish life to the region, but we also must remember that the Jewish history of the Golan Heights dates back millennia.

Contributed by CAMERA Intern Jake Greenblatt

11 Years Since the Start of the Second Lebanon War

This week marks 11 years since the start of the Second Lebanon War. The war took a large toll on northern Israel and its population, and still lives strong in the memories of many Israelis.

The war was sparked when Hezbollah terrorists fired rockets at an Israeli town near the Lebanese Border. At the same time, Hezbollah attacked an IDF Humvee, killing three soldiers and abducting two. The IDF then launched an operation to recover the abducted soldiers which included airstrikes on key Hezbollah infrastructure and the invasion of southern Lebanon.

The war lasted almost two months, with Hezbollah around 4,000 rockets at Israeli towns and cities, at a rate of over 100 per day. Over a million Israelis had to stay near or in bomb shelters throughout the duration of the war, with some 250,000 civilians evacuating northern Israel and relocating to other areas of the country.

In the 11 years since the war, Hezbollah has been significantly increasing its weapons stockpile, with the terror group now possessing 17 times the number of missiles it had at the end of the war.  The specific number of Hezbollah missiles stands at around 120,000, with many being placed in and around villages in southern Lebanon, within the vicinity of schools, mosques and hospitals.

Nasrallah, Hezbollah’s leader, has continued to threaten Israel regarding war, and there have been some worries that a ‘Third Lebanon War’ is on the horizon with the end of the Syrian Civil War seemingly in sight. Hezbollah has recently even erected billboards with the words “we are coming” facing the Israeli border.

Hezbollah Billboards on Israeli Border (Courtesy)

Despite this, Israeli intelligence officials have recently noticed some positive developments in regard to the Hezbollah threat. Iran is trying to establish a weapons factory in Lebanon, which in reality points to a failure for the Iranian regime and their proxy Hezbollah. This is because it indicates that all other ways by which Iran could transfer advanced weapons to the Shiite terrorist group through Syria have been blocked.

Additionally, the IDF believes its deterrence efforts regarding Hezbollah are going well. Israel has incredibly strong intelligence on the terror group, with one IDF official stating “If Nasrallah knew what we knew about him, he would give up any future intentions to start a war.” Israel’s striking power, which dealt large blows to Hezbollah during the Second Lebanon War, combined with a now superior intelligence, would give Israel a significant advantage if war were to break out.

Another deterrence from war, this time not from Israel, is the Syrian Civil War. Though some may argue the ending of the Syrian Civil War would make war between Hezbollah and Israel more likely, Hezbollah has lost over 1,800 operatives since it entered the fighting in Syria, hardly acting as an incentive to start a fresh campaign against Israel.

Therefore, though threats from Hezbollah are very real, so real that they are considered to be Israel’s biggest strategic threat, the circumstances around the Syrian Civil War, and the strong deterrence strategy from the IDF, means war, for now, seems unlikely. The sudden flare-up however of the Second Lebanon War shows the fragility of the situation on Israel’s northern border.

Contributed by Daniel Kosky, CAMERA Intern

Jewish and Muslim Students Unite For Syrians

The war in Syria is now in it’s sixth year, and it is one of the great crises of our times – half a million people have been killed, and half the country have been forced from their homes. Many people around the world feel helpless, with no way of helping those suffering. But last month, in a beautiful event at Brandeis University, Jewish and Muslim students came together, united by the common cause of helping those suffering – a ray of light in a very dark storm.

The event saw many different organizations join together for this important cause.

Students at the event

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

CAMERA-supported group Judges For Israel joined the Muslim Student Association and other campus groups at Brandeis to bake goods, which were sold to raise money for the refugees. Specifically, the money went towards two of the Israeli hospitals that are helping the Syrian refugees (which are just some of the Israeli initiatives to help Syrian refugees). The Ziv Medical Center has given medical help to thousands of Syrian refugees during the past few years. Amaliah is another Israeli hospital, right on the border of Syria and Israel, which works with civilians to try to create a safe space whilst treating those who need medical assistance. More than one thousand dollars was raised at the event, for these Israeli hospitals working for the Syrian refugees.

But the event itself was special, because of the unique atmosphere that was created. The words of one of the participants speak for themselves. “Before the event we had a dinner (for Judges for Israel and Muslim Student Association) to get to know each other and plan the fundraiser,” said Aviya Zarur, CAMERA fellow at Brandeis. “It was supposed to be a business meeting but we all got along so well and couldn’t stop talking it was hard for the presidents to get us to focus!”

“When we got together with them again to bake the cookies it felt like we were meeting up with friends. While the dough was being made or when there was no work that needed to be done the guys on both boards started playing video games and hanging out as friends. I think the best part about all of this was that when people noticed us getting along so well at the actual sale they weren’t taken aback. Why wouldn’t JFI and MSA be having a fundraiser together? It wasn’t questioned or apposed. Nobody came up to us to ask about political, or religious differences or whether there was tension at all.”

The Middle East often looks like it is stuck in an endless cycle of war and fighting. But in a small corner of Massachusetts, a model for interfaith and co-operation was created for an evening. Let us hope this can spread to the Middle East itself as well.

Israel itself prizes its diversity, and hopefully this model can be applied across the Middle East

Contributed by Aron White, CAMERA intern

Six Years of Civil War

CAMERA Fellow Aviya Zarur

March 15th 2017 marks the six year anniversary of the war in Syria. Since 2011, there have been thousands killed and injured in fighting, 4.9 million refugees, and 6.3 million displaced people within the country’s borders. The numbers are unimaginable, and the stories told through photos are unbelievable. Apart from a country self destructing and countless cities collapsing, there are 13.5 million Syrians in need of humanitarian aid; every one of them risking their lives to find refuge, for themselves and their families, including the 3 million children who cannot grasp the idea of a world without the conflict. Every day, hundreds of refugees take the risky voyage across oceans to try to find a new home, some never making it to the other side. Others are told to turn around, and most are unable to properly integrate into an alien society.

A group of women and children, refugees in Syria’s humanitarian disaster

Countries around the world are trying to help these refugees, but the thousands that flood in are a strain on the communities, economy, and politics of their host countries. The UNHCR (UN Refugee Agency) is doing what it can to save the lives of men, women, and children all affected by the chaos. In the last year alone, they provided more than 4 million Syrians with basic relief items such as food and bedding. Every motion to protect and assist the refugees, despite only putting a dent in the issue, is crucial.

Turkey, Lebanon, and Jordan are the top three among many who are allowing the refugees inside their borders. In Egypt, the refugees do not live in camps, and are immediately integrated into society. Israel too is doing its part in saving lives, by taking injured refugees from Aleppo, and arranging for them to be treated in the country’s hospitals, and returning them after their treatment.

In the most evil of worlds, humanity shines as people come together to find support even the smallest fraction of people. The Ziv Medical Center in Tzfat, Israel, for example, is a hospital that has treated over two thousand casualties from the civil war in Syria since February 2013, and is currently raising funds for the treatment and return of even more Syrians. The patients hospitalized in Ziv are treated for a long period of weeks, sometimes months, until they are well. When they arrive at the hospital they have nothing, including medical forms usually required to treat patients, yet they are treated nonetheless. Patients include Druze, Christians, Jews, and Muslims. The hospital staff take care of men, women, and children who have suffered war injuries and cannot be treated due to lack of medical care in Syria.

 

Driven by the determination to prevent another mass massacre such as the Jewish Holocaust, Amaliah, a different hospital at the border of Israel, understands that there is a need for a safe zone in Southern Syria. The hospital brings refugees to be treated before being taken back. Amalia’s mission is to support projects that create partnership, stability and prosperity with the Middle East and promote a safe zone in Southern Syria. They focus on South Syria with the goal of restoring civil society there. Because of a strong presence of the United Nations in that area and the border with the Golan Heights it becomes easier to envision a brighter society due to geographical advantages. Among their goals for 2017 is to bring over ten thousand injured and sick Syrian civilians into neighboring countries, partner with Syrian doctors and an ongoing medical relief program, and expand their “Bus of Angels” to Syria’s neighboring countries. Ziv Hospital and Amaliah Field Hospital in Israel have been providing medical aid to Syrian civilians caught in the Syrian Civil War, but they are still understaffed and underfunded. 

At Brandeis University different groups and people came together to find a way to support the refugees. Syrians in America, [CAMERA-supported group] Judges for Israel, the Muslim Student Association, and Common Ground teamed together to raise money for this hospitals. By coming together, their fundraiser, Kneading Aid, raised over a thousand dollars that will be distributed evenly between the two hospitals that help thousands regain their health and their lives. Despite the immigration ban, together JFI and MSA baked goods, designed shirts, and sold all of it in an effort to help make a difference where possible. Hopefully there will be an end to this crisis soon, and we will not have to witness the seven year anniversary of this tragedy.

Students at the event

The event saw many different organizations joint together for this important cause.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Contributed by Aviya Zarur, CAMERA Fellow at Brandeis University, and the first year rep for CAMERA-supported group Judges for Israel.

This article has been republished by Brandeis University campus paper The Brandeis Hoot.

United Nations International Day of Democracy

Today is the UN’s International Day of Democracy.

Israel was established as a parliamentary democracy, a state with fundamental democratic values. While much of the Middle East is hostile to democratic governments from forming, Israel strives to constantly develop as a democracy. Between rights for Palestinianswomen, and members of the LGBTQ community, Israel is a leader in democratic values in the Middle East, not to mention the world.

Danny Danon, first Israeli head of a commitee at the United Nations. Source: Facebook Page

Danny Danon, first Israeli head of a committee at the United Nations. Source: Facebook Page

Israel is often held to unfair scrutiny by the United Nations. While Syria tears itself to shreds, impoverishment only increases in India, and female genital mutilation is accepted among many countries, the UN chooses to unfairly criticize Israel rather than focus on critical international issues.

The UN ironically tried to condemn Israel for violating health standards at a World Health Organization assembly. Not only are Israeli health regulations up to level, Israel is a leader in international aid when other countries are in need of assistance.

Likewise, the UN tried to accuse Israel of not fully supporting women’s rights. In all areas, women in Israel have full equal rights. They lead in government, military, and all professional fields in Israel.

Just like any other democratic country, there are room for improvements. However, its democratic values cannot go unappreciated and its efforts to promote human rights should not be overlooked.

With pride in the democracy it is today, Israel celebrates the UN’s International Day of Democracy.

For Israel, every day is World Humanitarian Day

Today is World Humanitarian Day. On a day like today, Israel can be extra proud of its impressive contributions to populations around the world.

In 1958, only ten years after the State of Israel was established and was struggling to build itself up, the state created an official humanitarian aid agenda. Since then, through various organizations, Israel has been dedicated to serving international humanitarian needs.

As the #IDFWithoutBorders map shows, the Israel Defense Forces have sent countless aid missions across the globe. Sent by the IDF to help the Philippines recover from a typhoon, one doctor explains that “This sort of mission allows you to be a real doctor, this is what medicine is all about.” Medical resources should be used for good, for treating people and saving lives and that is exactly what the IDF strives to do by bringing top medical care and support resources to places in need. With the IDF’s C4I BranchIsrael’s advanced military technology even allows doctors and nurses to create an internal digital medical file for every patient while abroad.

Hundreds of casualties were tended at the IDF field hospital in Kathmandu, Nepal, after the earthquake earlier this year. Photo by IDF Spokesperson via FLASH90 and Israel21c

Hundreds of casualties were tended at the IDF field hospital in Kathmandu, Nepal, after the earthquake earlier this year. Photo by IDF Spokesperson via FLASH90 and Israel21c

IDF delegations are often the first to set up field hospitals and provide help at post-disaster scenes. The IDF will carefully help in areas that could potentially put Israel in danger as well. The IDF recently began helping Syrians by allowing for the delivery of medical, educational, and food supplies into Syria.

Non-profit humanitarian aid organization, IsraAID's chief operating officer Navonel Glick. Source: CIJA

Non-profit humanitarian aid organization, IsraAID’s chief operating officer Navonel Glick. Source: CIJA

Aside from the IDF’s incredible aid work, IsraAID, a non-profit, apolitical organization, has provided aid relief to 37 countries and and reached over one million people in need. The organization works tirelessly to help reconstruct and rehabilitate populations recovering from crises, providing rapid response humanitarian aid as well as long term support programs.

Source: www.bicom.org.uk

Source: www.bicom.org.uk

Just days ago, IsraAID’s chief operating officer Navonel Glick was awarded with the Muhammad Ali Humanitarian Award for his dedication and leadership. Based out of the Tel Aviv headquarters, Glick manages this incredible organization. Glick feels very honored by this award and is pleased that it is bringing attention to the need to further expand international humanitarian aid.

Israel continues to develop internally, and with all its advancements, becomes even more dedicated to helping populations in need abroad.

Happy World Humanitarian Day from Israel!

To learn more about IsraAID, visit their website and check out their accomplishments from 2015:

Contributed by CAMERA Intern Penina Simkovitz.

Water Shortages – Scarier Than ISIS?

Israel is a country with constant droughts. A good year in Israel is a year full of rain. Since it is impossible to depend on a sufficient rainy season, Israelis have developed ways to preserve water resources and manage their limited water resources.

Israel water drip system. Source: Haaretz

Israel water drip system. Source: Haaretz

In the 1960’s, Israel’s famous water drip system was created. Dripping water onto plants rather than spraying copious amounts across fields allows farmers to hydrate their produce without wasting water.

In addition, the water used for agriculture is also heavily recycled. 80% of sewage water from Israeli homes is recycled for agriculture use.

Despite lacking resources, Israel manages to hydrate the whole country efficiently. While Hamas fails to develop a clean water supply in Gaza, which Israel gave to Arab control as part of a peace treaty in 2005, Israel fully supplies the Arabs in the West Bank with plenty of water.

Israelis have been working hard on this water issue since the 1960’s, when they developed a desalination system in order to use seawater. At the time, Israel had worked with Iran—both countries wanted to become seawater-based. For a few years, Iran also succeeded to create great water systems to hydrate the needs of Iranians.

However, as the Islamic revolution began, the efforts to build a great water system in Iran faded.

Along with many countries in the Middle East, good living standards in Iran are not currently the highest priority of the government. While citizens live poorly and suffer daily from constant political and social strife, water does not seem like such a big concern.

Seth Siegel, CAMERA speaker and author of Let There Be Water, begs to differ. Water is a critical issue in Iran and many other countries and if it is not confronted, it will come back to bite them. Or more accurately, leave them very thirsty.

Seth Siegel speaking at Cal Polytech CAMERA-supported event. Source: Mustangs United For Israel Facebook page

Seth Siegel speaking at Cal Polytech CAMERA-supported event. Source: Mustangs United For Israel Facebook page

Seth Siegel has spoken to a Mustangs United for Israel CAMERA-supported event at California Polytechnic State University on international water crises and works hard to advocate for the need to follow after Israel’s example of developing sufficient water systems.

Poly Tech student at CAMERA-supported event holding Seth Siegel's book, Let There Be Water. Source: Mustangs United for Israel Facebook page

Cal Polytech student at CAMERA-supported event holding Seth Siegel’s book, Let There Be Water. Source: Mustangs United for Israel Facebook page

While he has promoted water systems in California, which suffers from drought, Siegel is more concerned about water, or lack thereof, in politically torn countries.

Turkey holds power over the Tigris and Euphrates River. With control over these water sources, Turkey can withhold water resources from Syria and Iraq. That said, according to a recent study, Turkey does not even have an ample water supply and Syria is already creating a worrisome water deficit.

Similarly, Ethiopia is already suffering and is now competing with Egypt for access to the Nile. While Egypt has a good amount of water, the country uses their resources inefficiently and unfortunately Ethiopia and Yemen already lack sufficient water supply.

Seth Siegel points out the importance of developing sufficient water systems. The lack of water management is feeding the already-heated political tensions in the Middle East. As countries compete for water, and citizens fear they will not have enough, daily living conditions such as water supply may be turning the ideological fights of the Middle East into resource wars as well.

This continuing problem of water carries a lot of weight on security in the Middle East. However, as Seth Siegel argues, the problem could be averted. If Middle Eastern countries were willing to accept help from Israel, they could better manage their water supplies and also improve political relationships. Hopefully countries will begin to see Israel as part of a solution for their resource troubles, rather than continuing on to work against the state of Israel.

For more information on Seth Siegel’s book, Let There Be Water, visit his site.

Contributed by CAMERA Intern Penina Simkovitz.

Remembering Operation Protective Edge and the Miracle of the IDF

Two years ago this week, Operation Protective Edge had just ended. Operation Protective Edge was a war in Gaza instigated by constant rockets fired into Israel and the kidnapping and murder of three Israeli boys. IDF troops were sent into Gaza to close up terror tunnels infiltrating into Israel and detonate rocket launching sites set up throughout the Gaza Strip.

operation protective edge

By August 4th, 2014, IDF soldiers came home from Gaza, some unfortunately carried over the shoulders of their brothers in arms. Operation Protective is one among many wars that Israel has endured since the Jews have returned to this land.

Such is the history of Israel—since the establishment of Israel in 1948, the Israel Defense Forces had struggled to preserve the country and protect her people.

Israeli Independence War. Source: Jewish Virtual Library

Israeli Independence War. Source: Jewish Virtual Library

Today, the IDF is seen as an incredible military, esteemed by other armies as one of the most efficient, capable, and moral in the world.

However, in 1948, no one could have predicted that the IDF would ever amount to such a great defense force for the Israeli people. Threatened by five surrounding nations, small militant groups in Israel were put together to make the Israel Defense Forces. The combined forces of Egypt, Jordan, Syria, Iraq, and Lebanon were ready to take down Israel with their manpower as well as military capabilities.

At the time, aside from an insufficient amount of troops to withstand the enemy armies, the IDF did not have a single plane or any form of an air force. While the tragedy of war should not be glazed over with unnecessary romanticism, the miracle of Israel’s make-do first Israeli Air Force is uncanny and, as Producer Nancy Spielberg and Director Roberta Grossman present in their film, Above and Beyond, played a critical role in the establishment of the State of Israel.

American volunteers together with Israeli pilot in front of an Avia S-199, flew the first combat mission in the Israel War of Independence. Source: Jewish Journal

American volunteers together with Israeli pilot in front of an Avia S-199, flew the first combat mission in the Israel War of Independence. Source: Jewish Journal

The documentary film, Above and Beyond, presents the back story of the birth of the Israeli Air Force. With such an exciting sequence of events throughout this incredible true story, the film borders the sensation of an action movie.

In May, 1948, as Israelis were mustering forces, a few American Jews recognized the needs of their people far away in the land of Israel. After serving in the US Air Force in WWII, two Jewish American pilots recognized Israel’s dire need for airplanes. After pressing other Jewish American pilots to join them overseas, these two pilots flew 11 hours until they reached Israel and landed the first two planes of the new Israeli Air Force onto Israeli territory.

As the film reveals, little did these American pilots know that the establishment of the modern state of Israel would depend so heavily on their contribution. Other American veterans followed the lead of these two pilots and with the help of these volunteer soldiers, food and supplies were provided throughout the country and Israeli soldiers were able to successfully complete their missions along all of Israel’s borders.

As shown in Above and Beyond, overseas care from American Jewry is a well-established tradition. As mentioned in the film, Italian American singer Frank Sinatra did what he could as well to show support for Israel by contributing basic supplies to troops back in 1948.

This tradition continued throughout Operation Protective Edge in 2014—Americans and American Jewry made greats efforts to send food and moral support to IDF soldiers going in and out of Gaza. Likewise, many celebrities have shown support for the IDF through FIDF fund raising events.

Aside from presenting the admirable story of how Israel’s Air Force came to be, the film touches upon Jewish identity as well. Just as throughout Operation Protective Edge, Jews outside of Israel supported IDF troops and Israelis banded together to protect the country, Israelis and volunteer soldiers from abroad worked together to establish the State of Israel in 1948. American Jews who knew no Hebrew and maybe ate gefilte fish on holidays, the volunteer soldiers explained during the film how they became proud Jews while serving with the IDF in Israel’s War of Independence.

Just as the world was mesmerized by the establishment of the state of Israel and often is still amazed today by its flourishing progress despite continuous threats and constant terror, the volunteer soldiers recognized the miracle of 1948. In one veteran’s words, when asked if he thought Israel would survive throughout all these years, his response was “Israel is an article of faith.”

The film Above and Beyond reminds viewers of the blood and sacrifice on which Israel was build. Looking back at the heroes of 1948 and remembering the heroes of Operation Protective Edges from two years ago, the Jewish people continue to protect Israel and preserve the legacy of the incredible homeland as a just, democratic society in the Middle East.

Contributed by CAMERA Intern Penina Simkovitz