Resources updated between Monday, December 26, 2016 and Sunday, January 01, 2017
December 31, 2016
Saudi Arabia carried out 153 executions in 2016, according to an AFP tally based on official announcements, slightly down from the year before.
The ultra-conservative kingdom is one of the world's most prolific executioners and has a strict Islamic legal code under which murder, drug trafficking, armed robbery, rape and apostasy are all punishable by death.
Rights group Amnesty International said Saudi Arabia carried out at least 158 death sentences in 2015, coming third after Iran and Pakistan.
Amnesty's figures do not include secretive China.
Murder and drug trafficking cases account for the majority of Saudi executions, although 47 people were put to death for "terrorism" offences on a single day in January.
They included prominent Shiite cleric Nimr al-Nimr, whose execution prompted Iranian protesters to torch Saudi diplomatic missions, leading Riyadh to sever relations.
Saudis execute 153 in 2016 Document
December 30, 2016
High Noon at Turtle Bay Article
Obama's Attack on Israel Article
Obama's Treachery Exposed Article
December 29, 2016
The UN's Lost Legitimacy Article
The War on Israel Never Ends Article
Obama Joining the Jackals Article
"The US may have worked for the passage of last Friday's anti-settlement resolution in the UN, and western countries like Britain, France, Japan and Spain may have supported it, but if Australia was on the UN Security Council, it would likely not have voted for it, Australian Foreign Minister Julie Bishop indicated on Thursday...
According to the Australian newspaper, Bishop said that the current government of Malcolm Turnbull is 'firmly committed to a two-state solution,' but indicated it would not have supported the UN move.
"Australia is not currently a member of the UN Security Council and therefore not eligible to vote on UNSC resolutions,' Ms Bishop said.
'In voting at the UN, the Coalition government has consistently not supported one-sided resolutions targeting Israel.'..."
"UK Prime Minister Theresa May came out against US Secretary of State John Kerry's address criticizing Israel, with a spokesman saying Thursday that disproportionately focusing on settlements and criticizing the composition of the Israeli government is not a constructive way to work towards solving the Israeli-Palestinian conflict.
'We do not believe that the way to negotiate peace is by focusing on only one issue, in this case the construction of settlements, when clearly the conflict between the Israelis and the Palestinians is so deeply complex,' the spokesman said...
On that, May's spokesman commented: 'We do not believe that it is appropriate to attack the composition of the democratically-elected government of an ally.'
The UK government believes negotiations must take place between Israel and the Palestinians, with backing from the international community, the spokesman added..."
"Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov rejected U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry's proposal that the Quartet the United States, Russia, the UN and the European Union adopt the principles he will present in his speech on the Israeli-Palestinian in Washington on Wednesday afternoon.
Haaretz has learned that Kerry raised the proposal in a telephone call to Lavrov on Tuesday night. It is unclear if Kerry suggested that after the Quartet's announcements of support another resolution would be pushed in the UN Security Council to adopt the principles of the speech...
After the Lavrov-Kerry phone call, which was the 70th between the two since Kerry became secretary of state, the Russian foreign ministry issued an exceptional announcement, in which it detailed its contents.
According to the announcement, Lavrov stressed to Kerry that there is a need for conditions to conduct direct negotiations between the Israeli and Palestinian leaders, but stressed that internal American politics must not dictate them.
'Lavrov warned against the impact of the U.S. domestic agenda on the Middle East Quartet and the UN Security Council,' the ministry stated. 'He spotlighted harmful attempts to use these platforms for the Democrats' and Republicans' bickering.'
Lavrov's statement echoed some of the fears that have been voiced in recent days by the Prime Minister's Office in Jerusalem that the Obama administration would likely make additional attempts to advance international steps on the Palestinian issue before Donald Trump becomes president on January 20..."
Obama to Israel: Drop Dead Article
Kerry's Rage Against Israel Article
A Stupid Anti-Israel Policy Article
December 28, 2016
"Even before Donald Trump's inauguration as president, Congress is planning to escalate the clash over the U.N. Security Council's anti-Israel resolution into a full-on conflict between the United States and the United Nations. If Trump embraces the strategy - and all signals indicate he will - the battle could become the Trump administration's first confrontation with a major international organization, with consequential but largely unpredictable results.
Immediately after the Obama administration abstained Friday from a vote to condemn Israeli settlements as illegal, which passed the Security Council by a vote of 14 to zero, Republicans and Democrats alike criticized both the United Nations and the U.S. government for allowing what Rep. Eliot Engel (D-N.Y.) called 'a one-sided, biased resolution.' Sen. Lindsey Graham (R-S.C.), the chairman of the Senate appropriations subcommittee for the State Department and foreign operations, pledged to lead an effort to withhold the U.S. funding that makes up 22 percent of the U.N.'s annual operating budget.
'The U.N. has made it impossible for us to continue with business as usual,' Graham told me right after the vote. 'Almost every Republican will feel like this is a betrayal of Israel and the only response that we have is the power of purse.'...
There are several options under consideration, two senior Senate aides working on the issue told me. Some are considered 'micro' options, such as passing a resolution that would bar any funding that might go to implementing the anti-settlement resolution. Other options include withdrawing the United States from U.N. organizations such as UNESCO or passing legislation to protect settlers who are American citizens and might be vulnerable to consequences of the resolution.
Withholding U.S. contributions to the United Nations could be done in different ways. There are discretionary funds Congress can easily cut off, but the bulk of U.S. support is obligatory, mandated by treaties that Congress has ratified, making them de facto U.S. law. Depending on how drastic the funding cuts are to be, Congress may have to pass new legislation to undo some of the obligations..."
December 27, 2016
"On Friday, the Obama administration decided not to veto a UN Security Council resolution harshly criticizing Israel and calling its settlement activity illegal. The decision not to veto was cowardly, hypocritical, wrong, and yet, thankfully, ultimately ineffectual.
Do not be misled -- the decision to abstain was not the thoughtful action of a principled leader determined to make peace no matter what the cost. At worst, it was the cowardly move of alame-duck politician who waited until there was absolutely zero political accountability before reversing his previously held position on vetoing anti-Israel Security Council resolutions (despite bipartisan calls from congressional leadership for him to stay the course) in order to take a symbolic parting shot at Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, and President-elect Donald Trump.
At best, it was another failed attempt by President Obama to impose his will by any means available on a situation that he has never fully understood -- despite the fact that the entire time he had any political accountability he explicitly said that he would never sink to use these means, which he acknowledged are ineffective, and in fact even counterproductive because they encourage the parties to harden their positions and refrain from further direct negotiations.
That is why the decision Friday was so troublingly hypocritical - to quote from President Obama himself, in a speech at the United Nations itself in 2011 (when he did veto a similar proposal, right in the midst of his reelection campaign):
'Peace is hard work. Peace will not come through statements and resolutions at the United Nations -- if it were that easy, it would have been accomplished by now. Ultimately, it is the Israelis and the Palestinians who must live side by side. Ultimately, it is the Israelis and the Palestinians -- not us --- who must reach agreement on the issues that divide them: on borders and on security, on refugees and Jerusalem.'
History of the dispute
Apart from the hypocrisy, the president's decision was also wrong, as a matter of law.
Some brief history is in order. In 1922 the League of Nations Mandate for Palestine established an area (which included the West Bank) to be a national home for the Jewish people. Article 6 of the mandate explicitly encouraged 'close settlement by Jews on the land.' ('The Administration of Palestine, while ensuring that the rights and position of other sections of the population are not prejudiced, shall facilitate Jewish immigration under suitable conditions and shall encourage, in co-operation with the Jewish agency referred to in Article 4, close settlement by Jews on the land, including State lands and waste lands not required for public purposes.') When the United Nations was formed it affirmed existing arrangements of this nature, and after Britain announced that it would leave the area, the United Nations proposed a partition plan that was not accepted by the relevant sovereign parties, (because the Arab world rejected it) leaving the Mandate lines unrevised.
Scholars such as Eugene Kontorovich and Abraham Bell have noted that under the international legal principle of Uti possidetis juris, 'widely acknowledged as the doctrine of customary international law that is central to determining territorial sovereignty in the era of decolonization,' emerging states presumptively inherit their pre-independence administrative boundaries, and thus international law clearly dictates that Israel inherit the boundaries of the Mandate of Palestine as they existed in May, 1948. Israel thus has title to the land.
When Israel declared independence in 1948 it was immediately attacked by five Arab nations. The United Nations blamed the Arabs for the violence and aggression meant to undermine the Resolution and forcefully take land, and the Spokesman for the Arab Higher Committee readily agreed.
If there was ever an occupation of Palestinian territory under international law, it happened between 1948 and 1967, when two of the invading Arab armies, Jordan (West Bank) and Egypt (Gaza Strip) occupied territory that they had taken through aggressive action -- the kind of aggressive action that the new Resolution explicitly reminds us is forbidden under international law.
This was, of course, territory that was part of the Mandate for Palestine and therefore rightfully under Israeli title: from 1949 to 1967, Jordan and Egypt literally occupied Palestine. The Green Line was drawn for no other reason than to mark off on a map how far the two invading armies had managed to get. The armistice agreements themselves state that these were not ever meant to be actual borders. Thus to give meaning under international law to these 'pre-67 lines' is, ironically, to retroactively ratify aggression against the mandate and support occupation.
In 1967, Israel regained those territories in what was undisputedly a defensive war. While the UN charter forbids aggression, UN Charter Article 51 clearly recognizes 'the inherent right of individual or collective self-defense if an armed attack occurs against a Member of the United Nations.' In 1967 then, Israel legitimately regained sovereignty having never lost title.
To quote Former State Department Legal Advisor Professor Stephen Schwebel, who later headed the International Court of Justice in the Hague: 'Where the prior holder of territory had seized that territory unlawfully, the state which subsequently takes that territory in the lawful exercise of self-defense has, against that prior holder, better title.'
As this was the only defensive re-conquest of previously occupied territory that has ever happened under the UN charter one might be forgiven for wondering if the law on point is somewhat murky, but it is not; Kontorovich and others note that pre-1967 sources evidence the fact that defensive conquest would be considered legitimate, but the truth is that even if the law was somehow grey in this area, one of clearest doctrines of international law is the Lotus principle, which says that sovereign states may act in any way they wish so long as they do not contravene an explicit prohibition, i.e. if there is no law against it -- and there is no law against defensive re-conquest - then it is legal under international law.
In short; Israel was given land under a Mandate that was never repealed, two other countries attacked Israel and squatted on the land for a while, and then, when they attacked Israel again and lost, Israel regained the land she had originally been given. Israel has exclusive title and sovereignty; from an international law perspective this is not an occupation.
What everybody 'knows'
How then, does every layperson 'know' with heartfelt surety that Israel's 'occupation' is illegal under international law?
Because, as Mark Twain ironically never said, 'A lie can travel halfway around the world while the truth Is putting on its shoes.'
The occupation myth relies on the fact that the UN has continually condemned the Israeli 'occupation,' and people mistakenly believe that the UN's resolutions are internationally binding. The truth is that according to Article 10 of the UN's own Charter, General Assembly Resolutions are generally not binding, and do not create international law. UN Security Council Resolutions are theoretically binding in limited circumstances, when the Council is using its UN Charter Chapter VII powers, which deal with threats to the peace, breaches of the peace, or acts of aggression, but the Security Council has never made such a declaration regarding Israel.
The new resolution condemning the settlements was actually adopted under Chapter VI, which simply authorizes the Security Council to issue non-binding recommendations dealing with the peaceful settlement of disputes.
And so thankfully, aside from being wrong as a matter of law, the new Resolution is also ultimately, completely ineffectual, because despite what people might think, the resolution was merely the expression of a political opinion, and not, in any way, binding international law.
Anti-Israel bias at UN
In his last speech to the Security Council just this month, outgoing Secretary General Ban Ki-Moon admitted that there has been an anti-Israel bias at the United Nations, noting that, 'Decades of political maneuverings have created a disproportionate volume of resolutions, reports and conferences criticizing Israel.' In her abstention statement Friday, US Ambassador Samantha Powers said that, 'One need only look at the 18 resolutions against Israel adopted during the UN General Assembly in September; or the 12 Israel-specific resolutions adopted this year in the Human Rights Council -- more than those focused on Syria, North Korea, Iran, and South Sudan put together -- to see that in 2016 Israel continues to be treated differently from other Member States.' And yet Powers abstained, and Ban wholeheartedly welcomed the resolution. Neither of them seemed to notice that once again Israel was being singled out for disparate treatment.
The settlements issue is actually a good example of this phenomenon: While the resolution condemned Israeli settlements as 'illegal' and obstacles to peace, the fact that the EU has been funding the building of Palestinian settlements in the disputed territories somehow was not even mentioned, let alone condemned as illegal, or an obstacle to peace. Most of the new Palestinian settlements have been built in Area C of the West Bank, territory which, according to the Oslo Accords signed in 1993 between the Israeli and the Palestinians, 'falls under full Israeli civil and security control,' according to the Times of Israel. So when Ban Ki-Moon calls the Israeli settlements illegal, he is not just legally wrong, but also deeply hypocritical.
Which is not to say that on a political level the settlement issue is at all clear-cut. It is certainly true that the areas in question are disputed territory, and that 'settlements are one of the obstacles to peace' in the sense that it would be helpful for the negotiations (at least for one side) if Israel would stop.
But it is also true that there is no consensus on what other 'obstacles' there are, or how many there are, or how much of an 'obstacle' the settlements are, or why only Israeli and not Palestinian settlements, and whether the Israeli settlements, which actually cover only 1.7 percent of the disputed West Bank territory, are in fact a necessary bargaining chip for Israel to hold when dealing with an opponent that still refuses to recognize its very right to exist.
And it is equally true that Israel has already given back the vast majority of the land it regained; that 98 percent of Palestinians in the West Bank already live under Palestinian, not Israeli rule; and that recent land-for-peace moves by Israel, including uprooting Israeli settlements, has led to more violence, and not peace.
Regardless, none of these political considerations make the legal argument(s) any different. It is important to remember that neither the UN (except in limited circumstances) nor the US make international law, and that the opinions they express about international law, and what it should be, are often simply political in nature, intended to pressure parties into conforming with a particular agenda. But the truth is that aside from being wrong and ineffectual, even from a political standpoint the U.S. allowing the Resolution to pass was likely actually harmful to the overall peace process.
As President Obama once famously explained, resolutions are not the way to make peace, negotiations are. And as former UN Ambassador for the United States Susan Rice explained when she vetoed the 2011 vote, all these resolutions do is make negotiations that much harder.
So long as institutions like the United Nations continue to issue one-sided statements that ignore foundational concepts in international law, pressuring Israeli leadership to concede more and more while ignoring their previous concessions (i.e. like the ripping up of Jewish settlements in Gaza, which led not to peace but to Hamas terror tunnels and rockets, or the fact that Israel has already returned roughly 95 percent of the territory it legitimately regained in 1967) and failing to hold Palestinian leadership accountable for their actions (inciting hatred) and statements (refusing to recognize Israel's right to exist), real peace cannot happen.
These resolutions are annoying and sad -- they incentivize Palestinian leadership to try and play end games around Israel instead of engaging directly with their bargaining opponent, and they leave Israel less inclined to even try.
In pulling his veto on the eve of Hanukkah President Obama failed to heed the lesson of the holiday. Historically speaking, unlike his own administration, when Israel faces illegitimate and unjust pressure to conform it does not bend. Instead it continues to shine its light as the only real democracy in the entire Middle East, with faith that its light will not be diminished but will eventually spread and grow.
"The Obama administration pulled a bait and switch in refusing to veto the recent Security Council resolution against Israel. In attempting to justify its abstention which under Security Council rules has the same effect as a vote in favor the administration focuses on "new" settlement building, especially in areas deep into the West Bank.
In her speech to the Security Council, Ambassador Samantha Power explained the administration's vote this way: "Today, the Security Council reaffirmed its established consensus that settlements have no legal validity.... President Obama and Secretary Kerry have repeatedly warned publically and privately that the absence of progress toward peace and continued settlement expansion was going to put the two-state solution at risk, and threaten Israel's stated objective to remain both a Jewish State and a democracy ... This resolution reflects trends that will permanently destroy the hope of a two-state solution if they continue on their current course."(emphasis added)
Likewise Ben Rhodes, Obama's Deputy National Security Advisor, said:
"Netanyahu had the opportunity to pursue policies that would have led to a different outcome today.... In the absence of any meaningful peace process, as well as in the accelerated settlement activity, we took the decision that we did today to abstain on the resolution." (emphasis added)
In a press release, the pro-Obama advocacy group J. Street welcomed America's abstention, citing a poll showing "that 62 percent of Jewish voters believe the United States should either support or abstain from voting on a United Nations Security Council resolution calling on Israel to stop building settlements in the West Bank."(emphasis added)
And the media from CNN, to the New York Times, to the Wall Street Journal also reported that the resolution was only about the expansion of new settlements.
But the text of the resolution itself goes well beyond new building in these controversial areas and applies equally to historically Jewish areas that were unlawfully taken by Jordanian military action during Israel's War of Independence and liberated by Israel in a war started by Jordan in 1967.
The text of the Security Council Resolution says that "any changes to the 4 June 1967 lines, including with regard to Jerusalem," have "no legal validity and constitutes a flagrant violation under international law." This means that Israel's decision to build a plaza for prayer at the Western Wall Judaism's holiest site constitutes a "flagrant violation of international law." If it does then why did President Obama pray there and leave a note asking for peace?
Under this resolution, the access roads that opened up Hebrew University to Jewish and Arab students and the Hadassah Hospital to Jewish and Arab patients are illegal, as are all the rebuilt synagogues destroyed by Jordan in the ancient Jewish Quarter of the Old City.
Is it really now U.S. policy to condemn Israel for liberating these historically Jewish areas in Jerusalem? Does Obama really believe they should be made judenrein again, as they were between 1949 and 1967? If so, why didn't the administration openly acknowledge that it was changing half a century of bipartisan support for Israel's claims to these sacred areas? If not, why did it not demand changes in the language of the resolution to limit it to new building in disputed areas of the West Bank?
The Obama administration can't have it both ways. It must now declare where it stands on Israel's right to allow prayer at the Western Wall, access to Hebrew University and Hadassah Hospital, and the repair of destroyed synagogues to the Jewish Quarter.
J Street, as well, has an obligation to its members many of whom pray at the Western Wall and have deep connections to Hebrew University and Hadassah Hospital and the Jewish Quarter of Jerusalem to advise them whether the organization supports Israel's abandoning these Jewish areas until Palestinians agree to a negotiated settlement.
The media, as well, should clarify the impact of the resolution beyond new building in the West Bank, so that all Americans well know what their President supported.
President-elect Donald Trump and Congress can make it clear that it is not U.S. policy that all changes "to the 4 June 1967 lines, including with regard to Jerusalem" are in violation of international law. The new president can immediately recognize Jerusalem as the capital of Israel and begin the process of moving our embassy there.
The justification for keeping it in Tel Aviv was not to change the status quo, but that justification no longer exists because this resolution does precisely that: it declares the status quo the reality on the ground that acknowledges Israel's legitimate claims to its most sacred and historical Jewish areas to be flagrant violations of international law. Congress can legislate no funding to implement the Security Council's troubling resolution.
If the Obama administration refuses to announce that it supports the language of the resolution that applies to the Jewish areas discussed above, then the entire resolution should be deemed invalid because the U.S. did not cast its abstention the equivalent of a yes vote in good faith."
"Friday, December 23 was a dark day for the United Nation's Security Council as they adopted Resolution 2334, which condemned Israel for building in the Land of Israel and Jerusalem.
This was the height hypocrisy.
While thousands are being massacred in Syria, the Security Council wasted valuable time and efforts condemning the democratic State of Israel for building homes in the historic homeland of the Jewish people.
We presented the truth time and again to the Council and implored them not to believe the lies presented in Palestinian resolution.
By voting 'yes' in favor of this resolution, they in fact voted 'no.' They voted 'no' to negotiations. They voted 'no' to progress and a chance for better lives for Israelis and Palestinians. And they voted 'no' to the possibility of peace.
Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon, addressing the Security Council just one week earlier, said that the UN has 'a disproportionate volume of resolutions, reports and conferences criticizing Israel.'
This resolution will be added to the long and shameful list of anti-Israel UN resolutions.
Instead of charting a course forward, the UN sent a message to the Palestinians: that they should continue on the path of terrorism and incitement; they should continue to hold their own people hostage; they should continue to seek meaningless statements from the international community.
The sad truth is that Friday's vote will be a victory for terror. It will be a victory for hatred and violence. By continuing to provide excuses for the Palestinians to avoid recognizing our right to exist, the Security Council is only sustaining the status quo.
The world is undergoing great change and a new secretary-general will soon assume office. I call on the Security Council to take this opportunity to turn a new page. Put an end to the bias and obsession with Israel.
Stop this endless attempt to blame all the problems of the Middle East on the one true democracy in the region. They should make clear to the Palestinians that the only way forward is to end incitement and terror and to enter into direct and meaningful negotiations with Israel.
Just two months ago UNESCO approved an absurd resolution denying the connection between the Jewish people and Jerusalem. On Friday, the Security Council including many of the world's leading democracies, the beacons of liberty voted to condemn the State of Israel.
They voted to condemn the Jewish people for building homes in the Land of Israel.
They voted to ban us from building in our historic capital of Jerusalem, the heart and soul of the Jewish people.
This week Israel and the Jewish people around the world are celebrating the Hanukka. Over two thousand years ago King Antiochus banished the Jewish people from our Temple in Jerusalem and issued decrees trying to sever us from our religion and our heritage.
But we prevailed. The Jewish people fought back. We regained our independence and relit the Menorah candles in the Temple.
I ask each and every member of the Security Council who voted for this resolution: who gave you the right to issue such a decree denying our eternal rights in Jerusalem? Would this Council have had the nerve to condemn the French from building in Paris? Would it condemn the Russians from building in Moscow? Would it condemn the Chinese from building in Beijing? Would it condemn the British from building in London? Would it condemn the Americans from building in Washington? We overcame those decrees during the time of the Maccabees and we will overcome this evil decree today. We have full confidence in the justice of our cause and in the righteousness of our path.
We will continue to be a democratic state based on the rule of law and full civil and human rights for all our citizens. At the same time, we will continue to be a Jewish state proudly reclaiming the land of our forefathers where the Maccabees fought their oppressors and King David ruled from Jerusalem.
Our holy book, the Bible, contains thousands of years of history of the Jewish people in the land of Israel. No one can change or rewrite this history."
December 26, 2016
On December 23, 2016, the UN General Assembly approved spending $138,700 to create a "database" of all companies that conduct business - directly or indirectly - relating to Israeli "settlements" in Arab-claimed territories. The idea of a boycott, divestment and sanctions (BDS) blacklist came from a March 2016 resolution of the UN Human Rights Council. According to UN documentation, the $138,700 will be used "to pay for one staff member to create the database over a period of 8 months and present a report" to the Human Rights Council in March 2017. In other words, the December authorization backdated approval of an expenditure for an operation already underway.
When the General Assembly's Budget Committee met to approve the UN budget, Israel proposed to delete approval specifically for funding the blacklist.The Committee rejected the Israeli amendment 6 in favor (Australia, Canada, Guatemala Israel, Palau and the United States), 151 against, with 6 abstentions (Cameroon, Cτte d'Ivoire, Central African Republic, Georgia, Honduras and Ghana).
After Israel lost the vote on funding the BDS item, it declared it was "disassociating" from the General Assembly's subsequent approval of the UN budget as a whole. Despite the U.S. voting against funding the blacklist initially, it voted in favor of the UN budget, and made no mention of any problem funding BDS.