Thursday, January 8, 2015

Terror in France, appeasement does not pay

France has gone out of its way to come to terms with its rising Muslim population.  It has advanced an active foreign policy fighting ISIS in Syria as well as supported Palestinian UN-based attempts to circumvent negotiations with Israel.
At the same time, as a free democracy, France recognizes that free speech, even in the form of cartoons some find insulting, is one of the most valuable rights that a free society has.
Then comes the terror attack in Paris.  This is my latest column.  It can be viewed on-line here.

Paris attack shows Frances appeasement of Palestinians and Islamists failed
By Stephen M. Flatow/

Less than three months ago, U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry claimed that there was a link between Islamist terrorism and frustration over the Palestinian issue. Yet despite vigorous recent attempts by the French to champion the Palestinian cause, Islamist terrorists have just struck in Paris, killing 12 people at the offices of the satirical newspaper Charlie Hebdo. Where did Kerrys theory go wrong?

At an Oct. 18, 2014 State Department event celebrating the Muslim holiday of Eid al-Adha, Kerry presented his linkage theory. Discussing the phenomenon of young Muslims flocking to the ranks of Islamist terror groups such as the Islamic State, Kerry said that the issue of Israel and the Palestinians is a cause of recruitment and of street anger and agitation among Muslims worldwide.

If Kerry were correct, then one would expect the Islamist extremist groups to refrain from harming those who embrace the Palestinian cause. And France certainly has been at the forefront of pro-Palestinian activism, especially in recent weeks.

On Dec. 2, the French parliament voted overwhelmingly to demand that the French government immediately recognize the State of Palestine. Not after negotiations. Not with Israels agreement. Just do it right away, whether the Israelis like it or not. And the vote wasnt even close339 in favor, 151 against.

Four weeks later, the Palestinian Authority presented a resolution to the United Nations Security Council, setting a timetable for Israel to unilaterally withdraw from all of Judea, Samaria, and most of Jerusalem. That is, back to the pre-1967 armistice lines that Abba Eban said would make Israel so vulnerable that it would set the stage for another Holocaust.

That position is so extreme that even the Obama administration, which has not exactly been Israels warmest friend, opposed the resolution. Yet France joined with those stalwarts of reason and democracy, China and Russia, to support the resolution. Frances ambassador to the United Nations, explaining his countrys vote in favor of the resolution, said there was an urgent need to act.

One would thinkif one subscribed to the Kerry Linkage Theorythat Islamist extremists would have appreciated Frances sense of urgency regarding the Palestinian issue. But evidently not.

In the meantime, there was more pro-Palestinian news from France. The city council of Aubervilliers, which is a suburb of Paris, voted to grant honorary citizenship to Marwan Barghouti, a Palestinian terrorist leader who is currently service five consecutive sentences of life imprisonment for carrying out a series of terrorist attacks in Israel.

Not many Americans have heard of Aubervilliers, but those who are familiar with the history of World War II may know the name of the city's most famous and longest-serving mayor: Pierre Laval. His 19 years as the leader of Aubervilliers was interrupted when he was called to national serviceas the head of Vichy France and chief collaborator with Adolf Hitler. It was under Laval that more than 77,000 Jews were deported from France to Auschwitz and other death camps.

But why dredge up old history, when there are fresh victims to memorialize? One of the attacks that Barghouti masterminded consisted of gunning down a Greek Orthodox monk. Another was a shooting and stabbing attack on a Tel Aviv restaurant, in which three Israelis were murdered and 31 wounded.

Frances national government was not responsible for the decision of Aubervilliers to honor a mass murderer. But when combined with the French parliaments vote on Palestinian statehood, and the French governments vote at the U.N., one would think that this French bear-hug of the Palestinians would impress the Islamists. The massacre of journalists in Paris by killers shouting the jihadist call of Allahu Akhbar indicates that perhaps the linkage that Kerry imagines is nothing more than thatimaginary.

Appeasement of terrorists never works. Endorsing terrorists political demandssuch as Palestinian statehoodnever satisfies them. And blaming Israel for the rise of terrorist groups is an outrageous theory that has been repeatedly discredited by real-world events.

Stephen M. Flatow, an attorney in New Jersey, is the father of Alisa Flatow, who was murdered in a Palestinian terrorist attack in 1995. He is a candidate on the Religious Zionist slate ( in the World Zionist Congress elections.

Monday, December 8, 2014

U.S. response to Palestinian terror attack is disappointing

U.S. response to Jerusalem synagogue attack disappoints
By Stephen M. Flatow/

The scenario has been repeated more times than I can remember: Palestinian terrorists murder Israelis. The Obama administration condemns the attack. And thats it. No change in U.S. policy, no penalties or consequences for those who encourage and praise the killers. The Palestinians are, quite literally, getting away with murder.

Secretary of State John Kerry condemned the Nov. 18 slaughter of four Jews in a synagogue in Jerusalems Har Nof neighborhood. He even acknowledged that it was a pure result of incitement, of calls for days of rage by the Palestinian leadership. Indeed it was. Its too bad it took a massacre to get Secretary Kerry to admit that. If only he had spoken out against Palestinian incitement weeks or months ago.

But speaking out is not enough. Bland verbal condemnations of incitement dont make any difference. Palestinian Authority (PA) President Mahmoud Abbas and has colleagues dont take Americas words seriously. There have to be actions. The Palestinian leaders need to see that there will be real consequences for their incitement.

Secretary Kerry said that Palestinian leaders must begin to take serious steps to restrain any kind of incitement that comes from their language, from other peoples language, and exhibit the kind of leadership that is necessary to put this region on a different path.

But what if they dont?  Whats he going to do about it?

Back in 1998, President Bill Clintons administration established a Trilateral Committee on Incitement. (Thats what Israel received in exchange for agreeing to the Wye River Memorandum.) But the committee turned out to be a farce. The Israeli members of the committee would complain about Palestinian leaders making inciting statements, and the Palestinians would respond by pointing to some individual Israeli newspaper columnist who said something strongly critical of the Palestinians, and they would say that, too, was incitement.

The problem was that the Clinton administration refused to define incitement. It refused to acknowledge the difference between what a Palestinian official said and what an individual Israeli pundit said. The U.S. preferred to play the both sides are guilty game. It was like putting Holocaust survivors and Holocaust deniers in a room together and declaring that each side has its own equally valid perspective.

President Obamas response to the Har Nof massacre took the same both sides approach. He declared, At this sensitive moment in Jerusalem, it is all the more important for Israeli and Palestinian leaders and ordinary citizens to work cooperatively together to lower tensions, reject violence, and seek a path forward towards peace.

Calling on Israeli and Palestinian leaders to lower tensions and reject violence is saying that they are both currently not doing enough to lower tensions or reject violence. Both sides are to blame. Both sides need to act. This kind of moral equivalency is false and outrageous. Israel has done everything possible to lower tensions. Israel is the victim. The Palestinians are the aggressors. But President Obama refuses to acknowledge that simple truth.

If the Obama administration is really interested in lowering tensions and getting the Palestinians to reject violence, there is plenty it can do. Here are a few first steps:

Revive the Trilateral Commission on Incitement, but start by defining incitement, and then impose real penalties on the inciters.

The PA has a policy of paying salaries to Palestinian terrorists who are imprisoned by Israel. Whatever they pay the prisoners should be deducted from Americas $500-million annual aid to the PA. The PA also pays the families of terrorists who are killed in action--meaning that the families of the Jamal cousins, who carried out the Har Nof massacre, are about to receive large checks from the PA. Deduct that from the U.S. aid package, too.

The Har Nof attack was perpetrated by the Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine. Its the second-largest faction in the PLO, of which Abbas is chairman. The U.S. should demand that Abbas expel the PFLP from the PLO. If he refuses, declare him to be partially responsible for the Har Nof attack, and put him on the U.S. Watch List, which prohibits terrorists from entering the U.S.

There is a park in Ramallah, Mahmoud Abbass capital, that is named after Dalal Mughrabi, leader of the Palestinian terror squad that murdered 38 Israelis in a 1978 attack, including the niece of U.S. Senator Abraham Ribicoff. Every Palestinian child who walks those streets gets the messagehe sees who is regarded as a hero, who he is supposed to emulate. The U.S. should demand that Mughrabis name be removed. And if Abbas refuses, there need to be consequences.

I am flying to Israel this week with a heavy heart. I am filled with grief for the families of the latest terror victims. I am worried about my children who live there and have to go to work every morning, not knowing if they will return home that night. And I am anguished by the thought that my own government could do so much to combat Palestinian terrorismand yet chooses to do next to nothing.

Stephen M. Flatow is a New Jersey attorney whose daughter Alisa was murdered in a 1995 bus bombing by the Palestinian terrorist group Islamic Jihad.

Burning Jews is not news for The New York Times and other newspapers

When burning Jews isnt news
By Stephen M. Flatow/

On Aug. 30, Palestinian terrorists set a Jewish man on fire in Jerusalem, and on Sept. 1, other Palestinian terrorists tried to set an entire bus full of Israeli Jews on fire.

Yet I couldnt find any mention of these horrific attacks in the New York Times, the Washington Post, or any other major American news outlet. Why is it that news about burning Jews is not considered fit to print?

The first of the firebomb attacks took place in Jerusalems City of David neighborhood. A Molotov cocktaila flaming bottle of gasoline which explodes upon contactwas hurled through the window of a historic 19th-century house known as Beit Meyuhas. One of the residents, a 45-year-old man, was struck by the firebomb and set on fire. He suffered first and second-degree burns to his face and head. Second-degree burns often result in permanent scarring and require skin grafting.

Burning one Jew is not enough to satisfy the appetite of Palestinian terrorists. On Sept. 1, two firebombs were thrown at an Israeli bus traveling on Route 505, between the towns of Migdalim and Kfar Tapuach. The attackers goal was to set the entire bus on fire and burn all of its passengers alive. They almost succeeded. The flaming bombs exploded as they crashed through the front windshield of the bus. Flying glass slashed the driver. It was only by a miracle that he was able to stop the bus without crashingand that the flames did not spread through the entire vehicle.

Palestinian terrorists sometimes use rocks instead of firebombs. Stoning is, after all, a time-honored method of execution in that part of the world. Recently, they certainly have been trying to do just that.

On Aug. 20, Palestinian rock-throwers attacked an Israeli automobile traveling near the Yitzhar junction. An 11-month-old baby was wounded. Medics on the scene were quoted as saying that it was a miracle she survived, since the rock that hit her was the size of a fist.

Three days later, Yedaya Sharchaton, his wife Hadassah, and 1-year-old daughter Nitzan were driving in the Gush Etzion region. Arab rocks smashed through the front windshield, causing Yedaya to lose control of the car. It flipped over. All three family members were injured; Yedaya suffered internal bleeding.  It turns out that my family was on the same road as the Sharchatons just a few days before as we headed to celebrate my granddaughters bat mitzvah by serving hot dogs to Israeli soldiers at a base in the Hebron hills.

On Aug. 29, a mob of Palestinians emerging from prayers in the Al-Aqsa Mosque on Jerusalems Temple Mount threw rocks at Israeli police officers. It would be interesting to know if anything in the sermons they had just heard encouraged them to try to murder Jews. Two of the rock-throwers were arrested; they were minors. One wonders what they are learning in school about the idea of stoning Jews to death.

The next day, Palestinian rock-throwers targeted Israeli policemen in another section of Jerusalem. Three of the officers were injured. Their names were not mentioned by the Israeli media. Nor were the extent of their injuries. Did one of them lose an eye? Was one of them permanently disfigured? Three more anonymous, forgotten victims of Arab terror.

On Sept. 1, the rock-throwers chose the northern Jerusalem neighborhood of Pisgat Zeev. Spotting an Israeli bus coming down Uzi Narkis Street, from Pisgat Zeev to the adjoining Arab neighborhood of Shuafat, the would-be killers attacked. The rocks smashed the windows, one striking and injuring a 3-year-old girl. The Magen David Adom paramedics who rushed to the scene to provide emergency treatment knew that the difference between life and death for that little girl was just bad aim.

So once again, they are burning and stoning Jews. Yet the New York Times and the others are not interested. Why? Because it doesnt fit their preferred narrative.

Most of the editors and reporters in the mainstream media subscribe to a narrative of the Israeli-Arab conflict in which the Israelis are the aggressors, and the Palestinians are the victims. That narrative supports the political outcome that most editors and reporters personally endorse: an Israeli retreat to the 1967 lines, a division of Jerusalem, the rise of a Palestinian state.

But when you report about Palestinians burning and stoning Israelis, that changes everything. Americansfrom the average person in the street to Members of Congressregard such behavior as barbaric. They naturally conclude that giving a state to such violent extremists is crazy. Telling the truth about Palestinian behavior makes it harder to mobilize pressure on Israel to give in. Thats why in the editorial offices of the New York Times and so many other newspapers, news about burning Jews isnt fit to print. Sadly, its that simple.

Mr. Flatow, a New Jersey attorney, is the father of Alisa Flatow, who was murdered by Palestinian terrorists in 1995.

Friday, November 7, 2014

Car terrorism in Jerusalem will not stop Israelis from living their lives

I'm leaving for a short trip to Israel in a few short weeks.  What about the Palestinian's new way to attack Israelis, car terrorism?  Will it stop me from going?  No, but I examine this new wave of violence.

What to do about car terrorism
By Stephen M. Flatow/

As I prepare for an upcoming visit to Israel, I cant help but feel a twinge of apprehension. How could it be otherwise? The recent vehicular terrorist attacks in Jerusalem inevitably make every visitor to the city wonder who will be the next victim.

On Oct. 22, a Palestinian terrorist rammed his car into a crowd at a Jerusalem light rail station, murdering two people, one of them a 3-month-old baby. On Nov. 5, another terrorist used his van as a weapon against pedestrians at another light rail station in the Israeli capital, killing one person and wounding more than a dozen others.

The seeming randomness of the attacks is particularly terrifyingexactly as the killers intend. The attacker doesnt need any bomb-making skills or expertise as a sniper. He doesnt have to elude security check points or Israeli army patrols. All he has to do is get in his car and step on the gas pedal. He can strike anywhere, any time.

And yet if you walk down any street in Jerusalem this morning, you will see Israelis going about their daily lives as they always do. They dont seem especially worried. Theyre not going to stop taking the train. They know that a crowd at a bus stop or outside a movie theater or on a corner waiting for the green walk signal could be targets too. Life has to go on. Israelis dont worry because they have no choice. Visitors worry because they do. They can and will soon return to their home countries, where standing on a street corner is not a life-endangering action. That is a difference between the lives of Americans and Israelis that cant be bridged.

Yet there is another, and very important, difference. The average Israeli cant do much about Palestinian terrorism. But the average American Jew can.

Israelis have little choice but to rely on the police and the army to continue doing everything possible to preempt the terrorists in their on-going genocidal war against them. American Jews, however, have the ability to take political action that could make a real difference in the fight against Palestinian terrorism.

Let us recognize that car terrorists do not simply appear out of nowhere. Abdel Rahman al-Shaludi, who carried out the Oct. 22 attack, had twice served time in prison for terrorist activities. His uncle, Mohiyedine Sharif, was a senior Palestinian terrorist who was killed in an intra-Arab feud in 1998. Ibrahim al-Akari, who perpetrated the Nov. 5 attack, was the brother of Musa al-Akari, who was convicted in the kidnap-murder of an Israeli border policeman and was freed in the Gilad Shalit prisoner exchange.

Al-Shaludi and al-Akari are the products of a society, and a culture, in which murdering Jewswhether by bomb, knife, or automobileis praised and rewarded. Remember It Takes a Village, the childrens book by then-U.S. Senator Hillary Clinton? She argued that it is not just the immediate family that influences a child, but also ones neighbors, culture, and community standards.

What influenced Abdel Rahman al-Shaludi and Ibrahim Akari to become car terrorists? One source was the Palestinian Authoritys leadership and social media.

Exhibit A: Sultan al-Einen. Hes a senior adviser to Palestinian Authority president Mahmoud Abbas and a member of the Central Committee of Fatah, which is the largest faction of the PLO (the PAs parent body) and is also chaired by Abbas. Hes not quite the Palestinian equivalent of Valerie Jarrett or (until recently) David Axelrod, but hes up there.

Palestinian Media Watch has compiled a long list of statements by Einen praising terrorists. But the one that attracted the most attention was his public praise, in May 2013, of a terrorist who stabbed to death an Israeli father of five. Einen said the killer was a heroic fighter and called for blessings to the breast that nursed him. In response, five members of CongressRepublican Ed Royce (Calif.) and Democrats Eliot Engel (N.Y.), Nita Lowey (N.Y.), Ted Deutch (Fla.), and Brad Sherman (Calif.)wrote to Abbas, demanding that he fire Einen.

Abbas ignored the letter.

After the car attack by al-Shaludi two weeks ago, Einen publicly hailed him as a heroic martyr and charged that Israel murdered him in cold blood. Fatahs Facebook page is replete with cartoons extolling car terrorism and urging viewers to Hit the gas at 199 [km/h] for Al-Aqsa.

Now is the time for American Jews to ask those five members of Congress to take actionnot just another letter that Abbas will ignore, but the imposition of penalties that Abbas cannot ignore. Heres one idea: from now on, deduct the cost of medical treatment for victims of Palestinian terrorism from the $500-million that the U.S. gives the Palestinian Authority each year. Make them pay for the damage they cause.

There are many other ways in which American Jews, working closely with friends in Congress, can force Mahmoud Abbas and the Palestinian Authority to stop praising and glorifying terrorists. That would be the first, important step in the process of changing the culture in Palestinian villages that is raising children to become car terrorists.

Tuesday, October 28, 2014



By Rafael Medoff

The controversy over the New York Times-sponsored luxury excursion to Iran is a reminder that totalitarian regimes are always looking for ways to soften their image--and there always seem to be someone ready to oblige.

With veteran Times correspondent Elaine Sciolino as their guide, travelers who pay $6,995 each will spend thirteen days visiting a very different Iran from the one we've all read so much about. Not the Iran of terror-sponsorship, nuclear arms development, Holocaust-denial and oppression of minorities--no, they'll see "beautiful landscapes, arid mountains and rural villages, [and] vibrant bazaars,” according to the Times' promotional pitch. Sciolino and company will “get lost in ancient cities and learn about the traditions and cultures of Iran. Traveling in a small group and staying in luxurious hotels along the way, [their] journey through Iran will reveal the secrets from this once forbidden land.”

Sadly, it's all been done before.

In the 1920s, Soviet dictator Josef Stalin welcomed numerous American intellectuals and cultural celebrities. Among them was Isadora Duncan, one of the leading figures in American dance in the 1920s, who returned from Soviet Russia bursting with enthusiasm for the Communist cause. She soon began concluding her performances by waving a red scarf over her head, while shouting, "This is red! So am I! It is the color of life and vigor!" 

During the 1930s, Nazi Germany welcomed visitors, especially from the American academic community. This sordid story has been chronicled in Prof. Stephen Norwood's critically-acclaimed book, The Third Reich in the Ivory Tower. American University chancellor Joseph Gray, for example, returned from a visit to Nazi Germany "full of praise" for the Hitler regime. Gray reported to the American public in 1936 that German cities were "amazingly clean" and that "everybody was working in Germany."

That same year, more than twenty U.S. universities sent delegates to take part in celebrations at the Nazi-controlled University of Heidelberg, scene of some of the earliest mass book-burnings. In fact, the chief book-burner, Nazi Propaganda Minister Josef Goebbels, presided over one of the receptions for the American delegates. Columbia University's representative, Prof. Arthur Remy, reported that mingling with Goebbels and company was "very enjoyable."

Prof. Norwood describes how American students, too, visited Nazi Germany, thanks to a program of student exchanges with German universities, in which Columbia, Harvard, Yale, Princeton and others took part. Even after a German official's candidly asserted that his country's students were being sent abroad to serve as "political soldiers of the Reich," only Williams College terminated the exchanges.

During the Holocaust itself, Hitler used visits by foreigners to help camouflage the mass murder of the Jews. As part of this disinformation strategy, the Nazis in June 1944 invited a delegation from the International Red Cross to visit Theresienstadt, the Jewish ghetto that the Nazis had created in Czechoslovakia. Theresienstadt was a transit point for Jews being shipped to the gas chambers in Auschwitz, but the Nazis sought to present the camp as a final destination, where Jewish prisoners lived happily.

In the days before the Red Cross visit, the Nazis worked the Jewish inmates at breakneck speed to pretty up the site. Houses were freshly painted--but only those portions that would be visible to the Red Cross inspectors as they walked down the street on the preselected route. Schools, stores, a bank and a cafe were quickly built, to give the appearance of a normal village. Deportations to Auschwitz were increased so as to temporarily relieve overcrowding in the camp. With Theresienstadt's flower beds neatly trimmed and its orchestra well rehearsed, the Red Cross delegates saw only what the Nazis wanted them to see.

The visitors' subsequent reports to Red Cross headquarters were critical of some aspects of Theresienstadt, but also described conditions there as "relatively good." They agreed with the Germans' contention that it was a final-destination camp--even though the Red Cross knew that the population of Theresienstadt at the time of the visit was 30,000 less than it had been shortly before. From the Germans' point of view, the visit was quite a success.

In different forms, this phenomenon has continued in recent decades. From Jane Fonda visiting Hanoi, to Jack Nicholson meeting Fidel Castro (and praising him as "a genius") to ex-basketball star Dennis Rodman traveling to North Korea last year, more than a few Americans have enjoyed the charms of a carefully-choreographed visit and then returned to share with the U.S. public a whitewashed picture of life under a dictator's heel.

(Dr. Medoff is founding director of The David S. Wyman Institute for Holocaust Studies,