Tuesday, January 31

The Unpredictability and Sanity of President Donald Trump

Now that Donald Trump is the new president of the United States, many voters in the US and people all over the world are beginning to question the sanity and unpredictability of the new president. There have been a large number of articles on the net written by psychologists of all specialties on President Donald Trump’s sanity.

Naturally those who support Trump blindly in the desperate hope of radical change in the US from the previous Obama Administration were jubilant at his winning the presidential election. Many Trump supporters are accusing the media of a witch-hunt and the left inclined voters of mass hysteria against him. They view Trump as almost a godsend for the people of the US. He has made many promises of making America great once again after the “foreign countries have bled America dry” because of billions of dollars spent on help to foreign countries by the previous administration. Trump, in his inauguration speech, has stated that this aid will stop. The big question is: Will this sweeping statement apply to the billions of dollars aid that the previous administration has given to Israel’s security? Will Israel be exempted from Trump’s blanket statement on US foreign aid? There are no answers to these questions, especially from a president that is very unpredictable and of questionable sanity.

President Donald Trump signed an executive order on Friday that put a four-month hold on allowing refugees into the United States and temporarily barred travelers from Syria and six other countries.1 

These seven countries are listed under section 217(a)(12) of the INA, 8 U.S.C. 1187(a)(12) of the U.S. code, and it is this code that Trump's executive order cited while banning citizens of those nations. 2

Who would have thought that President Trump would override the Constitution in his desire to sign an order to close all airports to entry of Muslim citizens of the US on their return from oversea, including their families and travelers who have visas and are legally entitled to entry into the US? The acting Attorney General of the US, Sally Bates, was fired for speaking out against Trump’s travel ban and not because of the change from previous Obama Administration to the present Trump Administration. Trump pundits will say that she was relieved of her post because of change in the administration from Obama to Trump. This is not the case here. She questioned the legality of the Executive Order signed by Trump. It is obvious that if you question Trump’s Executive Orders, whether you are a Trump appointee or not you will be on the firing line. Below is her letter to the Justice Department Attorneys on Trump’s Travel Ban:

“On January 27, 2017, the President signed an Executive Order regarding immigrants and refugees from certain Muslim-majority countries. The order has now been challenged in a number of jurisdictions. As the Acting Attorney General, it is my ultimate responsibility to determine the position of the Department of Justice in these actions.

My role is different from that of the Office of Legal Counsel (OLC), which, through administrations of both parties, has reviewed Executive Orders for form and legality before they are issued. OLC’s review is limited to the narrow question of whether, in OLC’s view, a proposed Executive Order is lawful on its face and properly drafted. Its review does not take account of statements made by an administration or it surrogates close in time to the issuance of an Executive Order that may bear on the order’s purpose. And importantly, it does not address whether any policy choice embodied in an Executive Order is wise or just.

Similarly, in litigation, DOJ Civil Division lawyers are charged with advancing reasonable legal arguments that can be made supporting an Executive Order. But my role as leader of this institution is different and broader. My responsibility is to ensure that the position of the Department of Justice is not only legally defensible, but is informed by our best view of what the law is after consideration of all the facts. In addition, I am responsible for ensuring that the positions we take in court remain consistent with this institution’s solemn obligation to always seek justice and stand for what is right. At present, I am not convinced that the defense of the Executive Order is consistent with these responsibilities nor am I convinced that the Executive Order is lawful.

Consequently, for as long as I am the Acting Attorney General, the Department of Justice will not present arguments in defense of the Executive Order, unless and until I become convinced that it is appropriate to do so.”
President Donald Trump proudly showing his signature to the executive order -the Travel Ban

The travel ban has caused much pain and difficulty for innocent Muslim travelers (many of whom are US Citizens and many non-citizens have legal visas for entry into the US) and their families at airports all over the US. The excuse - they compromise US security by being Muslims who happen to be born in the 7 Muslim States that have been blacklisted by Trump as security threats. The US has every right to screen people from countries that are a terror threat to the US before granting them visas of entry. However, once they have been screened and granted visas, it is unacceptable morally to refuse them entry on the grounds of their religious denomination. This applies to refugees as well.

Moreover, a report released this week shows that Muslim Americans with family backgrounds in those seven countries have killed no Americans over the last 15 years.
Twenty-three percent of the Muslim Americans involved with violent extremist plots since Sept. 11, 2001, had family backgrounds in Iran, Iraq, Libya, Somalia, Sudan, Syria or Yemen, according to a Triangle Center on Terrorism and Homeland Security report released this week. None of those plots resulted in American deaths.
Similarly, none of the 19 plane hijackers on 9/11 were from any of those seven countries. 

What about Mexico and the security wall that Trump wishes to build with Mexican money to keep Mexicans out?

The president of Mexico has canceled a state visit to Washington, and prominent Mexican leaders say that Trump's border wall plans “could take us to a war — not a trade war.”3 

Can you imagine what would happen if Israel built a security fence using Palestinian Tax money for that purpose? Even Israel never stooped to that low level. The cherry on the Mexican cake is PM Bibi Netanyahu’s tweet supporting Trump’s decision on the wall. Mexico’s Foreign Minister called in Israel’s Ambassador for a dressing down over the matter.    

PM Netanyahu should not have sent the tweet on this matter It was unnecessary and in very bad taste.

It appears that the Government Coalition in Israel is ecstatic over President Trump. The fact that he appears sympathetic to the right wing settler enterprise in the occupied territories and his declaration of moving the American Embassy to Jerusalem is lovely music to the present Israeli leadership. They expect a carte blanche from the Trump Administration to do what they like in the territories. Even the new incoming US Ambassador, David Friedman, is on record as supporting the settler movement by donations in his own private capacity. What the Israeli leadership does not seem to take into consideration is the unpredictability of President Donald Trump.

President Donald Trump must be treated with suspicion by Israel as he is not what he seems to be. There are many faces to Trump. A healthy, discreet distance between the Israeli Government and the Trump Administration will be a positive direction. His macabre relationship with President Vladimir Putin of Russia is also ominous. He will be ruling America as if it is his own business enterprise. 


Thursday, January 5

Elor Azaria, the Israeli Soldier - a Hero or Criminal?

The biggest military trial in Israel’s history has ended with a verdict. Sgt. Elor Azaria has been found guilty of manslaughter in a Military Court, on 4th January 2017. The verdict was surrounded by much controversy in Israel and it has shown up the divisions in Israeli society. The verdict is a reasonable verdict, and is just short of cold blooded murder.

It was a trial overshadowed by politics and many members of the ruling government coalition expressed support for the convicted soldier right throughout the trial for the purpose of scoring populist points with the electorate. It was wrong and unjustifiable for the Prime Minister, Benjamin Netanyahu, to even contact the parents of Elor Azaria to express his sympathy. This was obviously a populist move to rabble rouse the right wing in order to increase support for his coalition.
Elor was filmed by B’tzelem shooting a prone Palestinian terrorist, Abdel Fattah al-Sharif, who had stabbed a fellow soldier before being neutralized. About 11 minutes after al-Sharif was lying neutralized on the ground, Azaria decided to take revenge for the stabbing of a fellow soldier by shooting a bullet into the terrorist’s head. Despite Azaria’s claims that he felt that his life (Azaria’s) was endangered by the fact that the terrorist may have explosives and endangered the lives of fellow soldiers. Apart from that, is there any logic shooting a prone terrorist who may have an explosive vest as Elor claimed in his trial? If this was the case, he should have warned his fellow soldiers that their lives were endangered before shooting.

The attitude towards the shooting of the terrorist by Elor Azaria by the previous Minister of Defense, Moshe Yaalon, had cost him his portfolio.

The presiding judge, Col. Maya Heller, unraveled version after version of Azaria’s testimony, and claim after claim made by his attorneys. Her ruling was unequivocal, and had the backing of the other judges on the military court panel. One of them, Lt. Col. Yaron Sitbon, is a combat officer who today commands the army’s anti-terror unit. The only plausible conclusion is that the prosecution’s charge of manslaughter against Azaria was proven beyond a reasonable doubt.

The result was the violent reaction of the crowd outside the military court. It was so disgraceful and all the extreme right wing scumbags started chanting threatening the judge, press and TV of influencing the verdict as well as the IDF Chief of Staff Gadi Eizenkot. All the racist scum arrived from all over the country to demonstrate and to support the convicted soldier. La Familia of Betar Soccer Club, Jerusalem, extreme right wing supporters of the Late Rabbi Meir Kahane’s Kach movement, Benzi Gopstein the leader of Lehava, Baruch Marzel (who shook Elor’s hand after he shot the terrorist). To this extremist right wing, racist rabble, Elor Azaria is a hero, who was wrongly convicted of manslaughter. He was saving his fellow soldiers from being stabbed by the prone terrorist. The reaction of the Government Coalition to this hate rhetoric from the demonstrators was relatively mild.

The IDF orders of firing a weapon is for neutralizing those who endanger the lives of others. Many Palestinian terrorists were killed in their stabbing sprees against innocent civilians in order to save lives. Nobody, apart from Palestinian terrorist groups and their pundits, condemn the use of firearms to kill terrorists in action. This was not the case of Elor Azaria, whose act was nothing but an act of vengeance as was proved by the military court.

Despite that, many Israelis believe that Azaria is a hero and did what was required of him in order to save lives. Even Israel’s cabinet members, PM Netanyahu, Education Minister, Naftali Bennett, Minister of Culture and Sport Miri Regev, Defense Minister Avigdor Lieberman have expressed views that Elor should be pardoned for what he did. Even on the so-called left, Shelly Yachimovich has expressed the populist view of pardoning Elor Azaria. It would have been prudent of them not to comment or get involved apart from stating that they accept the court judgment and allow matters to take their course according to the law of the land without political involvement. Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu says he supports a pardon for Sergeant Elor Azaria, the Israeli soldier convicted of shooting and killing a Palestinian attacker who had been disarmed and was lying on the ground.1

Killing a shackled prisoner, neutralized terrorist, or any criminal in custody is an offense and this case is no different. IDF Protocol is very specific about when to fire a weapon. The right wing extremists accuse those who agree with IDF protocol on using a firearm as being treacherous. They seem to have a bloodlust.

The hype surrounding the Elor Azaria case and its political overtones have done much harm to the IDF, democracy and freedom of the courts that also ensures the freedom of all Israelis. The demonstration of the rabble rousing scum outside the military court has done nothing but harmed Israel.