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Resources updated between Monday, February 19, 2018 and Sunday, February 25, 2018

February 24, 2018

Sipora, a Jewish refugee from Iran, looking out the window of her daughter’s Netherlands home

To the dozens of revelers of this city's main Purim party, a Jewish grandmother who cooks the event's annual Persia-themed holiday feast is a rare communal asset.

Since she immigrated to the Netherlands in 2012 from her native Iran, the soft-spoken newcomer has been volunteering with the local Chabad House, preparing delicious traditional dishes with exotic spices, such as saffron-flavored yellow rice and chicken, for Utrecht's celebration of the holiday.

Her contribution has added prestige to the event, which has been featured in regional and national media thanks to the authentic touch she adds. (After all, the story behind Purim is set in Persia, celebrating the rescue of that country's Jews from a communal death sentence.)

But only a few of the locals who know Sipora (not her real name) are aware that she is both an illegal alien in the Netherlands and a refugee with a death sentence hanging over her own head in Iran for political offenses.

Sipora, 60, was sentenced in absentia to death by public execution in 2013 by a Tehran court that convicted her of "violating Islamic rules [of the] Islamic Revolution" and "anti-regime activity." Her crime: running an underground organization that found housing solutions for women with abusive husbands who could not obtain a divorce.

Luckily for Sipora, she had already left Iran a year prior to her sentencing to help with the pregnancy of her daughter - herself a political refugee who has been living in the Netherlands since fleeing her native land in 2010. Sipora's daughter, Rebecca, fled in connection with her involvement in the making of a documentary film about the fight for democracy in Iran.

"A few weeks after I came to Holland, I called my husband on the telephone. He asked me to go on Skype. I knew something was wrong," Sipora recalled.

Sipora's husband of over 40 years, a Jewish building contractor with a heart condition, told her online that Iran's dreaded secret police were looking for her and other members of her group.

"In that moment I knew there is no going back," Sipora recalled.

Unfortunately for her, Sipora's legal troubles back home coincided with a toughening of immigration policies in the Netherlands, where the center-right ruling party is bleeding votes in favor of the anti-Islam Party for Freedom, which favors a shutdown of immigration from Muslim countries.

Rebecca received a temporary residency permit and later citizenship without delay even though she had no death sentence against her in Iran. Meanwhile, the Dutch Immigration and Naturalization Service has consistently declined requests by Sipora two years later. Instead, she is in legal limbo - neither granted asylum nor deported, despite her whereabouts being known to authorities.

The Dutch Immigration and Naturalization Service did not reply to a query from JTA about Sipora's status.

A teacher of Persian who speaks neither Dutch nor English, Sipora lives with her daughter and grandson in relative social isolation and uncertainty. Her eyes well with tears as she explains through an interpreter that she is getting used to the thought of never again hugging her husband.

Yet Sipora has no regrets over helping the abused wives for whom she found shelter - sometimes inside nearly finished apartments constructed by her husband, a building contractor.

"I would do the same thing all over again," Sipora said. "For all my problems now I have family who care for me. These women have no one, only enemies hounding them, and no rights before the law."

Following the latest crackdown on alleged opposition activists in Iran, Sipora's husband told her he is under close watch and unlikely to be allowed to leave the country. This is part of the reason that Sipora does not want to immigrate to Israel, or make aliyah, though she is eligible for it.

"I could leave for Israel tomorrow, but then my husband's fate is sealed," Sipora said. "For a Jewish family to flee for Holland is one thing, but if I go to Israel he will pay the price for what will be seen as collaboration with the enemy."

Even her involvement with Chabad did not go unnoticed in Tehran, Sipora said.

Secret police in 2016 confronted Sipora's husband with pictures featuring Sipora from the Chabad Purim feast, he told her. They demanded he explain why his wife is "working with a Zionist organization." He answered that she was representing Persian Jewish culture in Holland and that Iran should be proud of it.

Trapped in her predicament, Sipora's only comfort is being with her 5-year-old grandson and her daughter. But this is no remedy against sleepless nights and a constant sense of foreboding, she said, especially before reporting to Dutch authorities as she must do periodically. She could be deported as an illegal alien at any moment. Sipora's next appearance before an immigration service judge is scheduled for March 2.

Outwardly, though, Sipora puts on a brave face, according to Erik Veldhuizen, who also volunteers at the Chabad House where Sipora is preparing the annual feast.

"She's a positive and polite person," he told JTA. "A few of us are of course aware of her situation, but you'd never know that she's in dire straits by her demeanor."

Back home, Sipora is discussing her grandson's Purim costume options with him as a welcome distraction from the fears and doubts surrounding her.

"Just like in Purim, it will all work out in the end," her daughter tells her. "It just has to."

Jewish grandmother sentenced to death in Iran; Holland won't grant her asylum Document

February 23, 2018

February 22, 2018

Some of the girls who were abducted by Boko Haram in 2014

More than 100 girls 'missing' after Boko Haram school attack Document

February 21, 2018

The U.N. Security Council (File photo)

Lies and Israel-Hatred At the U.N. Article

Damaged building in Eastern Ghouta, Syria

Syria: 250 civilians dead in 48 hours in Damascus suburb Document

February 20, 2018

An UNRWA building

"The news is abuzz with the decision of the United States to withhold 65 million dollars from the United Nations Relief Agency ('UNRWA') that was created supposedly to help Palestinian Arab refugees. Like many United Nations activities, this so-called 'relief agency' was set up for the wrong reasons and has become a tool of third world terrorists.
The Arab refugees who were created by the 1948 war were totally and completely the responsibility of the multitude of Arab nations that attacked the Jewish State in 1948 and tried to drive the Jewish people into the sea. Less spoken about are the 1 million Jewish refugees kicked out of Arab countries from North Africa through to the Middle East. All of those nations had sizeable Jewish populations dating back to Biblical times, and virtually every one of those nations seized Jewish property and threw those Jews into the street.
How did the Arabs treat the refugees they created? They put them in refugee camps and created UNRWA to feed them. UNRWA of course has not been funded very much by the Arab world, but rather by the United States and the West. We have been complicit in creating several generations of new terrorists because the Arabs wanted pawns who would become soldiers in their war against the presence of Jews and Christians in the Middle East.

However, the facts are far uglier than that. UNRWA has been used repeatedly as a disguise for terrorist indoctrination. UNRWA schools teach a revisionist history that claims the Holocaust against the Jews never happened and to deprecate Western values at every level. In subsequent Arab attempts to kill Jews, UNRWA schools and facilities have essentially been safehouses for terrorists, in which missiles and munitions were stored. There have been some feeble attempts by the United Nations to address this, but unfortunately the United Nations today is nothing more than a clearing house for those third world nations who are hostile to the West..."

U.N. Relief and Works Agency: Savior or demon? Article

Palestinian UN representative, Abdallah Abushawesh

"A recording surfaced last week of a Palestinian diplomat, Abdallah Abushawesh, member of the Palestinian Authority delegation to the UN, telling a group of students from Canada: 'We are very clever and very expert at throwing the stones,' as well as: 'We are very proud that we are stone throwers. I'm one of them.' Following is a transcript of the recording:

'We are very clever and very expert at throwing the stones. We are very proud to do that. We will not stop to learn our kids. We are very proud to say that every catching a Palestinian throwing a stone we go to the jail. We are very proud that we are stone throwers. I'm one of them. Now I became a little bit older, but I still resist in the name of my kids.'
[Ynet, Feb. 13, 2018]

It does not come as a surprise that a Palestinian UN diplomat openly praises rock throwing. Palestinian Media Watch has documented that the PA and Fatah openly encourage rock throwing. For example, a poem in a Palestinian youth magazine partially funded by the PA teaches children that throwing rocks at Jews is something mandated by Muhammad, Islam's Prophet..."

Palestinian UN diplomat caught on tape glorifying children's rock throwing Article

Palestinian children attend a class at the UNRWA elementary school

"The Palestinian refugee issue has been seen for some seventy years as a principal obstacle to a resolution of the conflict between Israel and the Palestinians. However, the expanding numbers of refugees from the Middle East and Africa today challenge the uniqueness of the Palestinian situation. In fact, the issue of Palestinian refugees is perceived more as the reflection of an ongoing lapse by Arab countries, Israel, and the international community, which have been unable to separate the solution to this problem from the greater political arrangement between Israel and the Palestinians. Despite the ongoing distress of the refugees, the subject is still seen as the Palestinians' main bargaining chip in peace negotiations with Israel. However, the value of this historical card appears to be ebbing with the growing numbers of refugees worldwide and the absence of a solution to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. After seven decades and many changes in the Middle East, perhaps this complex issue should be disconnected from the greater political settlement.

The decision by US President Donald Trump to freeze a third of the United States' contribution to UNRWA, the United Nations Relief and Works Agency, has brought renewed attention to an organization whose very existence and activity arouses harsh criticism in Israel. UNRWA was established in 1949 after the War of Independence to deal solely with Palestinian refugees. As with the question of Jerusalem, the Palestinian refugee issue has been seen for some seventy years as a principal obstacle to a resolution of the conflict between Israel and the Palestinians. For the Palestinians who have been raised on the Nakba heritage, any compromise on this issue is an attack on Palestinian national identity.

The number of individuals forced to leave their homes during the War of Independence is estimated at 720,000. Most of them settled in refugee camps in the West Bank, the Gaza Strip, Jordan, Lebanon, and Syria. According to UNRWA, all the descendants of Palestinian refugees are considered refugees, and therefore today they number over five and a half million. Citizenship of another country, for example, Jordan, does not cancel their refugee status. In other words, only the return of the refugees and their descendants to their homes can cancel this status.

For Israeli governments, the Palestinian demand for the 'right of return' of refugees was and remains a red line. This position is supported by an absolute majority of Israeli citizens from all parts of the political spectrum, because the return of such large numbers of Palestinian refugees to the State of Israel would have far reaching consequences for the character of the state. However, all the attempts by the State of Israel over the years to change UNRWA's definition of refugees have failed. Israel's efforts to change UNRWA's status as an independent entity and subject it to the UNHCR, which handles all other refugees worldwide, has failed as well. This is largely because the Arab countries believe that such a change would make it impossible to pass on refugee status to the descendants of Palestinian refugees and thus weaken the Palestinian position in negotiations..."

The Palestinian Refugees: Facts, Figures, and Significance Article

UNRWA employees in Syria

"The Administration's decision to withhold some of the payments scheduled for disbursement to the UN Relief and Works Agency, UNRWA, has drawn attention to a UN body that is today one of the most important obstacles to an Arab/Israeli peace agreement.

UNRWA, we need to note, now serves 5.3 million people, less than 1% of whom are Palestinian refugees from the 1948/49 war that followed the creation of the State of Israel. More than 99% are descendants of such refugees. The claim is now made that they all have the right to live in Israel. It is called the 'right of return.' The fact is that there is no such right. But the mere claim of such a right most certainly interferes with the peace process. UNRWA plays a key role in advancing that claim.
While Israel took responsibility for the refugees living within its territory, the same was not true of the Arab states. And here we get to the essence of the problem. Though a series of armistice agreements were signed in 1949 between Israel and its Arab neighbors, no peace agreement was signed at that time. The countries remained in a state of war and the Arab states remained committed to ending the existence of the State of Israel. If the State of Israel were to be liquidated, the refugees were quite obviously expected to return to the places where they had lived before the war. It followed that there was no good reason to seek to resettle them in the Arab states in which they were living. The 'right of return' was claimed for them.
Given the increasingly important role played in UNRWA from the 1950's onward by members of the Arab League and given the League's ability to assert itself in the UN system, no serious questions were raised by anyone about the fact that there were no efforts to integrate Palestinian refugees into the countries in which they lived under UNRWA auspices. The claim of a 'right of return' was full justification for maintaining refugee status for refugees served by UNRWA.

But as the years passed and refugees got older and died, the question arose as to how to maintain the claim of a 'right of return' in a way that could lead to the ending of the existence of the State of Israel. That led to the decision, again heavily influenced by the Arab League, to define a 'refugee' for UNWRA purposes as not only including people who had fled from their homes, but their descendants along the male line as well.

It is as a result of this redefinition of the word 'refugee' that UNWRA now serves approximately 5.3 million people. Let us note that the migration of these 5.3 million to Israel, if added to the 1.8 million Palestinians who now live in Israel, would turn Israel into a majority-Arab state, thus ending Israel's existence.

It is clear that no government of Israel will be prepared to enter into an agreement under which its country would be liquidated. The question is, therefore, whether the Palestinian negotiators would be prepared to sign an agreement under which they give up their claim for a 'right of return.' Mahmoud Abbas has made it clear that he would not do that..."

UNRWA as an Obstacle to an Israeli/Palestinian Peace Agreement Article

February 19, 2018

Palestinian girls with balloons in Gaza

Hamas on Sunday banned the launching of a new television station specializing in Palestinian women's affairs in the Gaza Strip.

The Hamas-controlled Ministry of Information said that the station, the first of its kind in the Gaza Strip, had failed to obtain a proper license from the relevant authorities.

The new station was supposed to go on air during a ceremony in the Gaza Strip, which is ruled by the Hamas terror group, on Sunday evening.

However, the organizers of the event said that they received an order from the Hamas ministry prohibiting them from holding the ceremony.

The ministry said that the decision came after Taif TV for Palestinian Women had ignored repeated requests to obtain a license.

It also claimed that another institution in the Gaza Strip carried the same name - a further reason why the television station was banned from launching its broadcasts.

Saying it honored freedom of expression, the Hamas ministry expressed "regret" that the managers of the new station had failed to abide by the law.

The channel's management expressed its own regret over Hamas's decision to ban the launching of the station.

In a statement, the management said that the channel was part of a program belonging to the Haifa Institute for Media and Communication, which already operates with a license from the Hamas ministry.

"We regret the claims made by the Government Press Office in Gaza and affirm that our legal status is intact and is not in violation of the law," the women's television channel said.

It also noted that the management had obtained a permit from the Ministry of the Interior in the Gaza Strip to proceed with the ceremony to launch the broadcasts.

The management said that the television station was aimed at "serving Palestinian women, developing their capabilities, and supporting their role in the process of the development of Palestinian society."

Some Palestinians took to social media to express their anger over Hamas's decision to ban the new women's television station.

Palestinian journalist Alaa Helou commented: "Those who are ruling the Gaza Strip make us hate them every day. The boisterous [Hamas] regime has to leave its fingerprint."

Facebook user Islam Zendah remarked: "The doors of the Gaza Strip carry a sign that reads: Here live the [Hamas] dream-killers."

In another Facebook comment on the Hams ban, Zeina Al Mashharawi said: "Regrettably, they [Hamas] haven't left a corner where they haven't sown hatred, animosity and oppression. There's no justification for today's ban."

Hamas bans Palestinian women's TV channel in Gaza Document