Nostalgic for Last Week’s America?

oathSo much of the America I had taken for granted as recently as last week has disappeared.

President Donald Trump’s slogan “Make America Great Again” feels increasingly appropriate, leading many Americans wonder if Trump will really remain President for four years of will one of the many scandals swirling around him lead to his impeachment, or if Trump’s erratic behavior and plummeting popularity will lead his cabinet to invoke Section 4 of the 25th Amendment.
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Obama Refutes Criticism of Iran Deal

Remarks by President Barack Obama at American University, August 5, 2015

Between now and the congressional vote in September, you’re going to hear a lot of arguments against this deal, backed by tens of millions of dollars in advertising. And if the rhetoric in these ads, and the accompanying commentary, sounds familiar, it should — for many of the same people who argued for the war in Iraq are now making the case against the Iran nuclear deal.

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Tug of War Over Iraqi Jewish Archive

— by Ronit Treatman

When the U.S. invaded Iraq in 2003, American soldiers discovered an Iraqi Jewish archive in Sadam Hussein’s secret police headquarters. These documents belonged to Iraq’s 2,500-year-old Jewish community.  

When the soldiers entered the building, it was flooded. The documents were located in the basement, under four feet of water. As soon as they were exposed to the air, they began to get moldy.

With the consent of the Iraqi authorities, the archive was sent to the National Archives in Washington, D.C. for preservation.

More after the jump.
The archive includes:

  • a Hebrew bible from 1568,
  • a Babylonian Talmud from 1793,
  • a Zohar from 1815, and
  • a lunar calendar printed in Baghdad in 1972, among other documents.

Most of Iraq’s Jews left before the 1990s, due to persecution, leaving the archive behind.

When the exhibit is over, the archive is expected to be returned to the Iraqi antiquities ministry. It is not known where the archive will be stored. The experts at the National Archives trained two Iraqi preservation experts in the conservation procedures used on these materials.  

A group of Iraqi Jews is mobilizing to prevent the archive from being returned to Iraq, and keep it in the Babylonian Jewish Heritage Center in Israel. This museum is located in Or Yehuda, a center of the Iraqi Jewish community in Israel.  

Hold Peres Accountable: Questions to Ask the President of Israel

— by David Bedein

The President of Israel, Shimon Peres, pushing 90, celebrates his longevity with a birthday bash this week that include thousands of invited guests and hundreds of reporters.

It behooves the journalists who cover the Peres birthday event to hold Peres accountable for policies that Peres stands for. In the media, longevity allows for long memories.

14 questions follow the jump.

  1. In 1981, Peres opposed and tried to interfere with Menachem Begin’s 1981 decision to bomb Saddam Hussein’s Iraqi nuclear reactor. Does Peres have any regrets for his opposition to the destruction of that nuclear reactor?
  2. Peres is proud of the Oslo peace accord which he helped facilitate between Israel and the PLO on the White House lawn on September 13, 1993. However, on October 7, 1993, the left wing newspaper Al HaMishmar revealed that the PLO would not ratify that accord, and, indeed, the PLO has never ratified that accord. Instead of heeding the Al HaMishmar report, Peres, then Israel’s foreign minister, dispatched his Deputy Minister, Yossi Beilin, to fly to Tunis to thank Arafat for ratifying the Oslo accord, which Arafat and the PLO never did. Why does Peres promote an unratified accord?
  3. In 1994, Rabin, Peres, and Arafat made an agreement that Arafat’s armed forces would comprise no more than 9,000 inductees, and that any Palestinian under arms would first have to be vetted by Israeli intelligence to ensure that he did not have a background in terror activity. Yet as early as December 1993, it was discovered that the PA had drafted two Arab residents from the Arab village of Tequa who had murdered the curator of the Herodian, David Rosenfeld, in 1982. In December, 1995, Arafat announced that his commanders for Ramallah and Nablus were men who planted bombs in Jerusalem’s Zion Square on July 5, 1975, killing thirteen people. As of 1995, the PA armed forces counted as many as 19,000 under arms by 1995 and now comprise a least 30,000. Since 1995, the IDF acknowledges that it no longer knows who has been recruited into the PA security force. Can Peres answer the question as to whether the PA armed forces now include volatile terrorists within its ranks?
  4. Throughout 1994 and 1995, when private agencies produced videos of Arafat’s speeches where Arafat expressed support for Jihad to liberate Palestine, Peres implored Israel TV not to air Arafat’s speeches in the Arabic language. Peres also asked the US Congress not to view the videos of what Arafat was saying in Arabic? Does Peres express regret for trying to obfuscate Arafat’s message in the Arabic language?
  5. In December 1994, when Peres and Rabin conducted a briefing for the media in Oslo before they both received the Nobel Peace Prize together with Arafat in, I asked them if Arafat had fulfilled his commitment to crush the Hamas. Both Rabin and Peres indicated that he would do so. A few hours later, when I asked Arafat the same question, as to whether the PLO leader would crush the Hamas, Arafat’s response was clear: “Hamas are my brothers. I will handle them in my way.” And Arafat did handle the Hamas – by bringing them into his new regime, as full coalition partners. In May, 1995, Arafat’ security forces announced that they would provide Hamas with arms. In December, 1995, Arafat invited Hamas to join his provisional regime. In 1996, Arafat appointed Hamas officials to run the religious departments and schools under his authority. By fall 2001, the IDF confirmed that Islamic terror groups train and operate in the full view of the Palestinian Authority security services, and that the Islamic terrorists get a clear message that their activity operates with the full blessing of Arafat’s regime. The promise of the Oslo process was that Arafat would crush the Hamas, not co-opt Hamas. Does Peres feel today that Arafat betrayed him?
  6. Norwegian statesmen Kare Kristiansen resigned from the Nobel Prize committee because of the Nobel Prize bestowed upon Arafat. The same  Kare Kristiansen told the Norwegian media that Peres had promised financial remuneration to fellow Nobel Prize Committee member Terje Larsen in order to ensure that he would share the Nobel Peace Prize with the late Prime Minister Rabin. In 2002, I interviewed Mr. Kristiansen and he explicitly affirmed that he had witnessed the deal made between Peres and Larsen which assured Larsen that he would be “well rewarded for his efforts.” How does Peres respond to the allegation that he paid good money for the Nobel Peace Prize?
  7. The Palestine National Council, meeting in April 1996, did not vote to nullify the PLO charter to destroy Israel. However, Peres proclaimed that Arafat did fulfill his promise to nullify amend the PLO charter. It turned out that the resolution that Arafat had told Peres that they would pass was not even brought up for a vote. What is Peres’s current perspective of the PLO charter, which was never changed?
  8. In March 2007, when a new “Palestinian unity government” was formed to include Hamas and the Fatah in a coalition government, Peres declared that “only with economics can we make peace.” Peres went on to say that if members of terrorist groups perceive economic incentives, they will cease to be terrorists. Does Peres   truly believe that a terrorist organization which acts upon a deep rooted ideology can be enticed by a good business opportunity to abandon the path of terror?
  9. Peres repeats over and over that the “gap between Israel and the PA is very small,” while consistently describing Abbes as “Israel’s hope for peace.” However, Peres refuses to comment on the war curriculum that Abbas and the PA ministry of education have introduced in the PA. Peres consistently refuses to say if he has even reviewed the new PA school books, which have introduced a curriculum of war for the next generation of Palestinian Arab school children. On March 1, 2000, Peres addressed an international colloquium for the Jewish media, where Peres announced that the PA had adopted a PA school curriculum for peace. When I pointed out to Peres that the curriculum that he had quoted from had been vetoed by the PA, Peres moved away from the microphone and said “I know.” The Israeli intelligence report on PA school books now being used in PA schools, prepared by Dr. Noah Meritor, is accessible at….  Why will Peres not comment on the current PA curriculum of war?
  10. Before the Gaza retreat, Peres, then deputy Prime Minister, Peres announced on July 7th, 2005 that the American government had allocated $2 billion to cover the costs of disengagement. That assurance was quoted by the mainstream Israeli media for months to come. However, on July 12th, 2005, the spokesman for the US treasury department told Israel’s leading business newspaper, GLOBES, that the US was not giving one penny for the Disengagement Policy. Where did Peres get the idea that the US would fund the Israel retreat from Gaza?
  11. Before Israel’s 2005 retreat from Gaza, Shimon Peres accused southern Israelis of “stoking hysteria” about the rockets and asked “What’s the big deal?”, while calling the kassam missile as a harmless. “Kassam Shmassam”, said Peres. Since the southern region of Israel has suffered  29,000 aerial attacks from Gaza and 49 people killed over the past ten years, what is Peres’s perspective on the assurances that he gave the people of Southern Israel before Israel withdrew its civilians, soldiers, and bases from Gaza?
  12. In 2011, Shimon Peres dispatched a letter of praise to J Street, one day after J-Street called on the US to support the PLO resolution at the UN Security Council calling for the halt of settlement construction, including east Jerusalem, which the Obama administration vetoed after all other permanent members voted were in favor. Does Peres have any second thoughts about sending such a letter of support to J Street?
  13. On January 4, 2013, Machmud Abbas, head of the Palestinian Authority, delivered a new year’s message in which he lauded Adolf Hitler’s Arab ally, Haj Amin Al Husseini, the Mufti of Jerusalem, as someone whose legacy should be emulated” by the Palestinian people, Since Israel’s President Shimon Peres never stops in his adulation of Abbas, Peres was asked if he would condemn Abbas’s praise of the Mufti, yet Peres refused comment on Abbas’s praise of the Mufti. Why would Peres not condemn Abbas’s praise of the Mufti?
  14. Peres continually endorses an independent Palestinian state under the leadership of Abbas, as a Palestinian state that would coexist as a peaceful neighbor with Israel. Yet UNRWA remains in tact, maintaining 5 million Arab refugees and their descendants in “temporary” refugee camps, under the premise and promise of the right of return to Arab villages that no longer exist within Israel. Why does Peres not support a change in the UNRWA mandate, which contradicts his vision of a “two state solution”?

Israel Behind The News
Funds Needed to Continue Proactive News Investigations

  • Dangers of Further US Aid to the PLO Army
  • Threat of Planned PLO Army Deployment in Hebron and Jerusalem
  • UNRWA and PA for War Curriculum, financed by US and the West
  • Conflicts of Interests of Israeli businesses invested in the Palestinian Authority

Somebody Ought To Get Him A Map

Glenn Kessler reports in the Washington Post:

Mitt Romney repeated his contention that Syria is Iran’s “route to the sea.” This is a puzzling claim, considering that Syria shares no border with Iran — Iraq and Turkey are in the way — and that Iran has about 1,500 miles of coastline along the Persian Gulf and Gulf of Oman, leading to the Arabian Sea. The Fact Checker column has looked into this before.

Romney made the same mistake at the Arizona GOP Debate, at the AIPAC’s Annual Summit, and during interviews on MSNBC, on Fox News Radio, and in the Washington Post.

Date Vinegar: A Middle Eastern Exotic

— by Ronit Treatman

What should you offer your “been there, done that” friends this summer?  Try some natural date vinegar.  This vinegar is unfamiliar even to people from the Middle East.  I saw this product for the first time on a shelf at the Makkah Market in West Philadelphia.  I purchased a bottle without knowing what it tastes like or what I would prepare with it.

More after the jump
Date vinegar was discovered in Babylonia (present-day Iraq) around 5000 BCE.   Babylonia was famous for its date palms.  When the fruit of these palms was harvested, the ripe dates were allowed to ferment until they were transformed into wine.  When the clay amphorae holding the wine were opened, bacteria in the air converted the alcohol in the wine into acetic acid.  The result was a dark caramel-colored vinegar with a sharp aroma.  Its flavor was complex and tart, with fruity undertones.  The ancient Babylonians used it to season food, and to preserve vegetables by pickling them.  

I asked Amal, one of the chefs at the Makkah Market, what she uses date vinegar for.  Amal gave me a wonderful suggestion.  “Add it to your labneh appetizer,” she told me.

Labneh at Gaby's Mediterranean
Labneh Appetizer With Date Vinegar

  • 1 ¼ labneh or Greek yogurt
  • Extra virgin olive oil
  • Date vinegar
  1. Pour the labneh into a serving bowl.
  2. Trickle some extra virgin olive oil over the labneh.
  3. Drizzle some natural date vinegar over the labneh.
  4. Serve with hot pita and an assortment of cured olives.

Since date vinegar is an Iraqi specialty, I asked my Facebook friends from the Jews of Iraq what they suggest.  “I use it with my salad,” one of them wrote back.  Here is my interpretation of his suggestion.

Salad with Dijon Mustard DressingCrunchy Lettuce Salad Dressed With Date Vinegar

  • Very fresh Romaine lettuce
  • Ripe tomatoes
  • Date Vinegar
  • Extra virgin olive oil
  • Salt
  • Freshly ground black pepper
  1. Cut up the lettuce and tomatoes.
  2. Add salt, pepper, olive oil, and date vinegar to taste.

I prepared these two dishes for a light summer repast.  I loved the complexity that the date vinegar added to my labneh dip.  It really intensified the flavor of the yogurt!  My fresh summer salad was enhanced by this unusual vinegar.  The date vinegar dressing reminded me of a balsamic vinaigrette, with a sweeter fruit undertone.  After enjoying it in these dishes, I realized that I should have acquired more than one bottle.  Date vinegar would be the perfect gift for any host!

Increased Sanctions Continue to Pressure Iran’s Economy

— Max Samis

It has been several weeks since President Barack Obama first increased sanctions on Iran, effectively cutting off Iran’s central bank from the global economy. To this point, the evidence is overwhelming that these sanctions have had a strong effect on Iran’s economy and government.

Previously a major importer of steel, Iranian steel traders have found their business “grinding to a halt.”

More after the jump.
According to Reuters:

Iranian buyers cannot obtain dollars or euros, forcing them to offer letters of credit in alternative currencies such as the Indian rupee, Korean won and Russian rubles.

Most steel traders, wary of currency risk and taxation issues, are not willing to accept this form of payment.

‘Now you can really feel the effects of the sanctions imposed by the U.S. and Europe…It is very difficult to do any business with Iran at the moment,’ a steel trader at a Swiss metals trading house said.

Perhaps even more importantly, the Iranian oil flow has taken a massive hit. Reuters wrote:

Iran could be forced to place unsold barrels into floating storage or even shut in production in the second half of this year, the IEA said on Friday in its monthly Oil Market Report.

‘International sanctions targeting Iran’s existing oil exports do not come into effect until July 1, but they are already having an impact on crude trade flows in Europe, Asia and the Middle East,’ it said.

‘Although there are five months before restrictions on existing contracts take effect, European customers have already curtailed imports of Iranian crude and Asian buyers are lining up alternative sources of supply,’ the IEA said, adding that European customers were likely to look to Russia, Iraq and Saudi Arabia for replacement barrels.

Bloomberg added that owners of over 100 supertankers have now said they will stop loading oil supplies from Iran.

In an interview with Haaretz, Dennis Ross, Obama’s former Middle East advisor, stated that ‘The fact is [Iran’s] currency has devalued by half in the last six weeks… I’d say sanctions are working, if that’s the case.’ Haaretz wrote:

These sanctions, Ross said, are the crippling sanctions Israel has called for, and can affect Iran’s behavior. When the Iranians feel they are under sufficient pressure, they look for a way to reduce it, Ross said, and right now they are under pressure they have not been under before. ‘It’s not an accident that suddenly they want to meet with the P5 +1,’ Ross said, referring to the forum of five permanent members of the U.N. Security Council plus Germany.

Ross also stated his belief that sanctions are forcing Iran to the negotiating table in an op-ed in The New York Times. Ross wrote:

Iran cannot do business with or obtain credit from any reputable international bank, nor can it easily insure its ships or find energy investors. According to Iran’s oil ministry, the energy sector needs more than $100 billion in investments to revitalize its aging infrastructure; it now faces a severe shortfall.

New American penalties on Iran’s central bank and those doing business with it have helped trigger an enormous currency devaluation. In the last six weeks, the Iranian rial has declined dramatically against the dollar, adding to the economic woes Iran is now confronting…

Now, with Iran feeling the pressure, its leaders suddenly seem prepared to talk. Of course, Iran’s government might try to draw out talks while pursuing their nuclear program. But if that is their strategy, they will face even more onerous pressures, when a planned European boycott of their oil begins on July 1.

As sanctions continue to take effect, international pressure will only continue to increase against Iran’s nuclear program.  

The Dog That Didn’t Bark: Iraq War Winds Down

Iraq Coalition Casualties: Fatalities by Year and Month

Year Jan Feb Mar Apr May Jun Jul Aug Sep Oct Nov Dec Total
2003 92 80 42 36 49 43 33 47 110 48 580
2004 52 23 52 140 84 50 58 75 87 68 141 76 906
2005 127 60 39 52 88 83 58 85 52 99 86 68 897
2006 64 58 34 82 79 63 46 66 77 110 78 115 872
2007 86 85 82 117 131 108 89 88 70 40 40 25 961
2008 40 30 40 52 21 31 13 23 25 14 17 16 322
2009 16 18 9 19 25 15 8 7 10 9 11 3 150
2010 6 6 7 8 6 8 4 3 7 2 2 1 60
2011 6 3 2 11 2 15 5 0 44

After eight years, the month that just ended was the first since the beginning of the Iraq war with no casualties for the United States. While we still have troops in the country, the end of an error is in sight.