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Monday, September 26, 2016

Federal Judge slams Facebook and its legal counsel for not taking terrorism seriously

Greetings from New York City, where I have been since Thursday evening and where I have been totally tied up with work. I have a few minutes now before a conference call - not enough to work but enough to post something.

On Thursday, a Federal Judge in Brooklyn told a shocked lawyer from Chicago's Kirkland & Ellis that the lawyer's client, Facebook, isn't doing enough to deter terrorists from using its site. And then the judge laid into the firm for sending a first-year associate (someone about four months out of law school at this time of year) alone to the hearing.
U.S. District Judge Nicholas Garaufis in Brooklyn, New York, also accused Facebook’s lawyers -- by sending a first-year associate to a hearing -- of not taking seriously lawsuits with implications of international terrorism and the murder of innocent people.
“I think it is outrageous, irresponsible and insulting,” Garaufis told the attorney Thursday. The judge ordered Kirkland & Ellis LLP, the law firm representing Facebook, to send a more senior lawyer to the next hearing on Sept. 28 because he wanted to “talk to someone who talks to senior management at Facebook.”
Garaufis is overseeing two lawsuits in which more than 20,000 victims of attacks and their families accused Facebook of helping groups in the Middle East such as Hamas.
The judge noted similar suits haven’t been successful under U.S. law which insulates publishers from liability for the speech of others. But he said that doesn’t mean Facebook shouldn’t take it seriously and try to address the issue.
Isn’t the social media platform “basically putting together people who’d like to be involved in terrorism with people are are terrorists?” the judge asked. “Doesn’t Facebook have some moral obligation to help cabin the kinds of communications that appear on it?”
The judge didn’t stop there.
"Let’s put the law aside and talk about reality,” Garaufis said, less than a week after a bomb rattled the Chelsea neighborhood of Manhattan, injuring 29 people. “The reality is that people are communicating through social media and the outcome of these inquiries, be it Google or Facebook, has the potential of hooking people up to do very dangerous, bad and harmful things in terms of international and domestic terror."
Federal judges have limited ability to address terrorism and don’t usually get involved in such cases until someone is arrested and charged with a crime, Garaufis said.
"Don’t you have a social responsibility as citizens of the world without having these plaintiffs come to me in Brooklyn?" he asked. “There are things you could do that don’t involve the courts or the judicial system."
Facebook said it’s committed to making people feel safe using the social network.
“Our Community Standards make clear that there is no place on Facebook for groups that engage in terrorist activity or for content that expresses support for such activity, and we take swift action to remove this content when it’s reported to us,” the company said in a statement. “We sympathize with the victims of these horrible crimes.”
A Kirkland & Ellis spokeswoman didn’t have an immediate comment on the judge’s remarks.
The page pictured above was deemed not to violate Facebook's community standards. But Twitter last week briefly suspended Professor Glenn Reynolds (known as Instapundit on social media) for making a sarcastic comment that didn't threaten anyone. Some 'community standards.'

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Tuesday, September 20, 2016

88 US Senators sign letter to Obama opposing UN-imposed 'solutions' in the Middle East, 2 of Israel's best friends don't sign

Greetings from Boston's Logan Airport where I am having a travel evening. I'm headed to... Chicago.

88 United States Senators have signed an AIPAC-drafted letter urging President Obama to oppose UN attempts to impose a 'solution' to the Israeli-'Palestinian' conflict. Two of Israel's best friends in the Senate - Marco Rubio (R-Fl) and Ted Cruz (R-Tx) did not sign the letter. Here's why. The letter says
The only way to resolve the conflicts between the two is through direct negotiations that lead to a sustainable two-state solution with a future state of Palestine living in peace and security with Israel. This outcome would provide Israel with greater security and strengthen regional stability. We remain optimistic that, under the right circumstances, Israel and Palestinians can successfully resume productive negotiations toward this goal.
My guess is that Rubio and Cruz don't agree with two-state anymore. I wonder why. 

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Sunday, September 18, 2016

Terror in New York City

Shavua tov, a good week to everyone.

I've been warning about this for years. There have been two attempted terror attacks in New York City this evening. The first was in Chelsea, on 23rd Street between 5th and 6th Avenues, around 8:30 pm.
And the second nearby on West 27th Street.
Earlier Saturday, there was an explosion at a 5-kilometer charity race in Seaside Park, New Jersey.

More here.

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Saturday, September 17, 2016

Don't celebrate the new US-Israel MoU

If you were thinking of celebrating the new United States - Israel Memorandum of Understanding signed by Prime Minister Netanyahu and President Obama this week, Eli Lake has a bunch of reasons why you shouldn't.
After all of this bad blood, in the last months of his administration, Obama has decided to sign an agreement with Israel that guarantees $3.8 billion per year between 2018 and 2028. On paper it seems generous. As Susan Rice, Obama's national security adviser, said Wednesday, this is the "single largest pledge of military assistance -- to any country -- in American history."
The fine print tells a different story. The key word in Rice's statement is "pledge." Congress is the body that appropriates the annual aid budget. When Obama is long gone, it will be Congress that doles out the money for Israel to spend on U.S. military equipment. So one aspect of the aid deal should raise eyebrows: terms saying that Israel will stop making its case directly to Congress for military aid.
Morris Amitay, a former executive director of the American Israel Public Affairs Committee, or Aipac, told me he had never before heard of a president asking a sovereign country, as part of an aid package negotiation, not to lobby Congress.
At first Netanyahu didn't want to give up Israel's ability to ask Congress for more funding. But he relented. A secret annex to the memorandum signed Wednesday requires Israel to forgo any funding Congress would want to give it that exceeds what was in the aid agreement that expires in 2018.
It's unclear how restrictive the lobbying restriction will actually be. Israel doesn't lobby Congress much. Far more pro-Israel lobbying is done by Aipac, which comprises U.S. citizens. Could an agreement between Israel and the U.S. limit the rights of Americans to petition Congress? When I put this question to Aipac's spokesman, Marshall Wittman, he told me: "The agreement, of course, is only between the two governments. When the two governments reach an agreement on an issue, we give that factor great weight." For the time being, Aipac says it will lobby Congress to enact the terms of the new 10-year aid agreement signed on Wednesday.
Obama's 11th-hour aid deal is less than it seems, not only because the White House cannot appropriate and because the lobbying restriction is off target, but also because Obama's successors may not honor his pledge. Obama himself discarded an agreement with Israel's leaders that was made by George W. Bush and supported by Congress, to accept the legitimacy of some settlements in and around Jerusalem. (That agreement was made as part of negotiations to get Israel to unilaterally withdraw from Gaza.)
The White House also got its way on another key issue known as the "off-shore procurement" carve out, whereby Israel is allowed to spend around 26 percent of the U.S. aid on its own defense industry. In the new aid deal, Israel will spend all of the U.S. subsidy on U.S. defense equipment by 2024.
In this sense the U.S. aid to Israel is a subsidy to American defense companies. The U.S. also retains the leverage that comes from subsidizing around 20 percent of a sovereign nation's defense budget.
Of course, Israel doesn't even need the money. When the U.S. began giving Israel serious military assistance in the 1960s, the country's planned economy was minuscule. In the 1970s it faced a very real boycott, backed by wealthy nations like Saudi Arabia (as opposed to an inconsequential boycott backed by U.S. and European college professors). Back then, the Jewish State really needed as much help as it could get.
Today, Israel's economy is thriving. In the last 10 years, the country's gross domestic product has nearly doubled, to $230 billion. Israel has discovered great deposits of natural gas. Its lawmakers in recent years have discussed starting a sovereign wealth fund. Israel is a key partner with the U.S. arms industry.
I've heard it claimed that Netanyahu agreed to this because he 'fears' that if elected President, Donald Trump will force Israel to repay aid money. If that were true, as Lake points out, this deal would not stop Trump from doing that.

I suspect that the quid pro quo is much more immediate and relates to the Obama administration's behavior at the United Nations over its last four months in office.

But who knows if they'll honor that?

Shabbat Shalom everyone.

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US designates Hamas Television founder a global terrorist

It's certainly taken long enough, but the United States has designated Fathi Hammad, the founder of Hamas' al-Aqsa Television station, as a global terrorist.
The United States on Friday added a senior Hamas official, the Islamist group's former interior minister Fathi Hammad, to its "global terrorist" list.
Hamas, the Palestinian party controlling the Gaza Strip, has already itself been proscribed by the United States as a "foreign terrorist organization."
Under the new designation, U.S. citizens and companies will be banned from doing business with Hammad and any property he holds in areas under U.S. jurisdiction will be frozen.
According to the U.S. State Department, which issued the designation, as interior minister Hammad used his position to "coordinate terrorist cells."
The statement also said Hammad founded al-Aqsa TV, "with programs designed to recruit children to become Hamas armed fighters and suicide bombers upon reaching adulthood."  
What took them so long?

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Friday, September 16, 2016

Maybe he should have just said 'Judenrein'?

A reminder once again that I am in Boston where the local time as I begin this post is 4:29 pm. It is still more than two hours before the Sabbath starts, although it started in Israel quite some time ago.

I'm sure that many of you heard Prime Minister Netanyahu's 'ethnic cleansing' remarks last week. For those who did not, let's go to the videotape.

Netanyahu's speech brought outrage from President Obama, from United Nations Secretary General Ban Ki-Moon, and from Anti-Defamation League director Jonathan Greenblatt.

But as Northwestern University Law Professor Eugene Kontorovich points out, Netanyahu is right. The demand that 'settlers' (in this case another way of saying 'Jews') be removed from a territory as part of ending an 'occupation' is unprecedented.
When pressed, defenders of the Palestinian position characterize the demand as no settlers rather than the uglier-sounding no Jews. The claim is hard to take at face value, as the Palestinians have never objected to Israeli Arabs settling across the Green Line, as they have in significant numbers. But, granting its sincerity, what does international law say about the demand to remove settlers as part of a solution to a territorial conflict? To answer this question, as part of a larger research study on settlements, I examined the fate of settlers in every occupation since the adoption of the Geneva Conventions—eight major situations in total. The results highlight how extraordinary the Palestinian demand is.
There is simply no support in international practice for the expulsion of settlers from occupied territories. In the many situations involving settlers around the world, the international community has never supported expulsion, and consistently backed plans allowing the settlers to remain in a new state.
Settlement activity is the rule rather than the exception in situations of belligerent occupation around the world. In places like Western Sahara and northern Cyprus, the settlers now make up a majority of the population. In most other places, they account for a much higher percentage of the territory’s population than Jews would in a potential Palestinian state. In all these cases, the arrival of the settlers was accompanied with the familiar claims of seizure of land and property, and serious human rights abuses. Unlike the Israeli situation, it was also accompanied with a large-scale expulsion of the prior inhabitants from the territory.
In internationally-brokered efforts to resolve these conflicts, the question of the fate of the settlers naturally arose. The answer, across all these very different situations, has always been the same: the settlers stay. Indeed, the only point of dispute has typically been what proportion of settlers receive automatic citizenship in any newly-created state and what proportion merely gets residence status. Thus, when East Timor, for example, received independence in an internationally-approved process, none of the Indonesian settlers were required to leave. The current U.N.-mediated peace plan for Western Sahara and Cyprus not only presupposes the demographically dominant settler population can remain, it also gives it a right to vote in referenda on potential deal.
This is not because these settlers are beloved by the surrounding population. The opposite is true. In the Paris peace talks to end the Vietnamese occupation of Cambodia, representatives of the latter tried to raise the possibility of expelling the nearly million Vietnamese settlers. Their arguments were familiar: the settlers remind them of the occupation, rekindle ancient hatreds, and destabilize the peace. Yet the Cambodian demand for the mass removal of ethnic Vietnamese was rejected outright by diplomats: One simply cannot ask for such things.
Indeed, uniform international practice shows that the removal of settlers is an obstacle to peace. In those occupations that have been resolved—East Timor, Cambodia, Lebanon—such demands would have been a complete deal-breaker. And those still subject to international diplomacy, however slim the chances of resolution, there would not even be a pretense of negotiation had demands similar to the Palestinians been made.
In short, the Palestinians couching their objection as one about removing “settlers” rather than Jews does not change the harsh reality. There is simply no precedent in international practice for the demand. Whatever term one uses for such a demand, Netanyahu was clearly right to call attention to the extraordinary nature of the demand. It is also disappointing that, instead of exercising moral leadership on this issue, the ADL went against its mission by seemingly excusing singular treatment for Jews.
Perhaps, instead of referring to a 'Palestinian' demand for 'ethnic cleansing,' Netanyahu should have spoken about a 'Palestinian' demand for a Judenrein state. That would have put the 'Palestinian' demand into its proper context.

Read it all.

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When the 'peace process' and a 'Palestinian state' are your religion

Greetings once again from Boston, where the local time is 5:09 pm as I start this post.

I learned in a yeshiva that shall remain nameless in 1979-80 (okay, some of my readers know which one it was, but please don't mention it in comments or I'll delete them). The yeshiva was unusually open in terms of the viewpoints that were tolerated by the Roshei Yeshiva (heads of the yeshiva). An apocryphal store from the year before I arrived would perhaps be the best illustration.

The year before I arrived, one of the Roshei Yeshiva stood up and spoke out in favor of the then pending Camp David accords with Egypt, pursuant to which Israel was going to return every last inch of Sinai to the Egyptian aggressors from which it had captured Sinai 11-12 years earlier. There was an argument about what the Rosh Yeshiva was saying, and one of the other rabbis stood up and started screaming at him in the Beit Midrash (study hall). That Rosh Yeshiva passed away a bit more than a year ago. His eldest son is today one of the Roshei Yeshiva. The rabbi who stood up and screamed at him is also one of the Roshei Yeshiva today.

Perhaps that will explain to some of you how it could be that Rabbi Donniel Hartman (then known as Danny) and I both studied in the same yeshiva at the same time. I did not know him well, but even then I had heard of the Sholom Hartman Institute founded by his father. I wonder which of us got the yeshiva's openness correctly. This statement seems like an overstep to the yeshiva's philosophy in my book, for reasons I will explain below.
Donniel Hartman, president of the Shalom Hartman Institute in Jerusalem and an Orthodox rabbi, focused his part on the Israeli side of the conflict.
Hartman said he dreams of a time where he can live side-by-side with the Palestinian state in peace and security.
Change must be made, he said, as fear of the unknown can begin to define and warp an individual’s existence.
“We also have to unequivocally stop acting in such a way that undermines each other’s hopes,” he said. “If the deepest hopes of the Palestinians and my hope for them is to be a free people living as sovereign in sovereign state, side-by-side with Israel, any action which undermines the fulfillment or the completion of that dream has to cease to be.
It is not simply enough for me to declare my commitment to a Palestinian state, anything I do that undermines that possibility has to become forbidden either as a political position, let alone as a political platform or political action.”
The emphasis is mine.

Really? If defending Jews anywhere means no 'Palestinian state,' that means no defending Jews anywhere? Not in my Talmud and not in my Rambam (for starters).

While the yeshiva in which we studied was quite open, it was still well within Torah boundaries. I find it hard to believe that the Roshei Yeshiva - today or in my times - would have placed the value of a 'Palestinian state' on a pedestal above the Torah. In fact, I'm sure they would not. 

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