Sunday, July 16, 2017

Israel, the world, disabilities and rights

Yotam Tolub [Image Source]
In June 2017, Yotam Tolub who is the director of Bizchut,  the Israel Human Rights Center for People with Disabilities, delivered a lecture at a Kiryat Ono conference about disabilities.

The full text is expected to be uploaded soon. But in the meantime, he shared with us this summary of that talk:

  • Basically, I spoke about the fact that in Israel, in contrast to the U.S. and Europe, in-community living is the last topic rather than the first in the promotion of the rights of people with disabilities. 
  • I pointed out the huge gap in this area between Israel and the rest of the world and related to the fact that academics are not active enough in this domain and do not inspire discussion about it. 
  • This results in minimal awareness of and information about the topic.

More to come.

Friday, July 14, 2017

A pair of discordant voices

Eisenkot [Image Source]
This week, Israel's Chief of Staff, Lt. Gen. Gadi Eisenkot, extolled institutionalization during his fanfare visit [link] to Aleh Negev.

His hyperbolic praise of Israel's largest chain of closed institutions for children and adults with disabilities included these words:
"It is an opportunity to experience the vision, the mission and the love of mankind evident here. This meeting teaches us about man’s spirit, and about the power of a society that is measured by its sensitivity and its efforts to benefit every person."
At about the same moment, another world-renowned figure sent the opposite message about institutionalization.

To mark the twentieth anniversary of Harry Potter, his creator J.K. Rowling gave a rare interview [link] to Christiane Amanpour on CNN during which she focused on the history and mission of her NGO, Lumos.
"Our ambition is to end the institutionalization of children throughout the world by 2050".
JK Rowling [Image Source]
She noted that 8 million children are currently warehoused in institutions globally, "But that might be a low guess".

She added that "90% of those children have at least one parent who overwhelmingly did not want to give the child up".

(In many cases, that is true of those living in Aleh facilities as well.)

She warned donors to
"be careful how you give because even if you're giving with the best of intentions, you may inadvertently be doing harm... propping up a system that we know, 100 years of research shows that even a well run institution, even an institution set up with the best possible intentions, will irrevocably harm the child".
Rowling also addressed potential volunteers:
"Volunteer differently... Volunteering is an amazing thing but volunteer in the right way. Unfortunately, little though you might want to believe it, one of the reasons institutions are set up is to bring into the country foreign money in the form of donations but also in the form of volunteers, wealthy Western volunteers who are also bringing currency."
The next time you see one of Aleh's invitations to volunteer and donate to its large, closed institutions, you may want to ask yourself: "Why do they want me?"

Friday, June 23, 2017

Even Chief Rabbis make mistakes

Source: https://aleh.org/donation/adopt-yosef/
It has been a demoralizing season for people in Israel with disabilities.

On May 25th, we were subjected to yet another Flash-A-Celebrity episode courtesy of Aleh Jerusalem.

This time, it was the chief Rabbi of Great Britain and the Commonwealth, Rabbi Ephraim Mirvis, who was hosted by that institution's director, Shlomit Grayevsky. She told him:
"Thanks to ALEH’s professional staff and innovative programming, Israeli children with complex disabilities of every age are able to live much like their non-disabled peers, are accepted by a wider segment of the population and develop far beyond the boundaries of their initial prognoses...” ["UK Chief Rabbi Is Captivated by ALEH’s Disability Care", May 26, 2017, Jewish Link of NJ]
I fairly choked on those lies. So being locked in a large, closed institution constitutes living "much like their non-disabled peers"? Well,  it probably does in North Korea. But in Israel?

Aleh maintains that institutionalization of these children is in their own best interests. It affords them access to, as Aleh describes them, state-of-the-art services and therapies. To illustrate, in a profile of one of its residents, Aleh states:
Faced with this new reality [the child suffered devastating brain damage], his family decided that the best home for Yosef would be at ALEH, where he would receive the outstanding care and optimal rehabilitative opportunities to help him develop... ["Adopt Yosef | YOUR SUPPORT WILL HELP YOSEF CONTINUE TO DEVELOP HIS POTENTIAL AND KEEP SMILING!"]
Even if this were accurate, why should these unfortunate children be removed from their homes and families in order to receive the "outstanding" and "optimal" care they surely need and certainly deserve?

Just imagine being told by the government:
"Yes, your non-disabled child needs and deserves an education. She will definitely receive an outstanding one with one proviso: that you first transfer her out of your home."
Sadly, it appears Rabbi Mirvis was either unaware of or unconcerned by the injustices being promoted by his hosts. He also appears not to be sensitive to the disparity between the policies of his own home country toward children with disabilities and those of Israel.

Both the UK and Israel are signatories to the United Nations Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities. Article 19 of that Convention states clearly that governments are obligated to
"...recognize the equal right of all persons with disabilities to live in the community, with choices equal to others and take effective and appropriate measures to facilitate full enjoyment by persons with disabilities of this right and their full inclusion and participation in the community..."
The United Kingdom ratified that Convention in 2009 affording it the force of a national law. The starting dates for strategic change toward community services varied. During the past 2-3 decades, complete closure of the traditional large institutions for the mentally disabled has been achieved in several countries. In England for instance, this had been achieved by 2011.

Nevertheless the Chief Rabbi chose to "applaud" and "thank" Aleh for perpetuating the system that his own country has eradicated.

Perhaps he feels that Israeli children with disabilities don't deserve the quality of life that English children with disabilities enjoy?

He said:
"I am proud that in London we have so many generous people who are very supportive of ALEH. I will make it a priority to share what I have seen here today with our constituents across the UK so that this support only continues to grow.” ["CHIEF RABBI OF UK VISITS ALEH", May 5, 2017 - from the Aleh website]
He also mentioned the trendy term "disability inclusion". Never mind that, as we all know, inclusion is the diametrical opposite of what Aleh practices.

The icing on this tawdry cake was the announcement [here] that same month of the opening of a new educational and residential wing at Aleh's Jerusalem branch.

So while institutions like Aleh have been made obsolete in the rest of the world, in Israel they are flourishing and expanding. And they are doing so in contravention of the law.

At around the time that Aleh was boasting and expanding, another institution was in the news too.

Last week, a shocking undercover video clip from the Feuerstein Institute's hostel for disabled and cognitively challenged adults in the Ein Karem section of Jerusalem made waves in the world of disabilities. Residents come from locations throughout Israel and suffer from conditions including cognitive and developmental disabilities, behavioral and emotional impairments, Down Syndrome and more.

As a result of the exposure on Israeli TV news (via hidden-camera reporting), we now know that residents are horribly victimized verbally and physically.

Some excerpts I picked up from watching:
  • "Animal! Pig!" shouts one caregiver at a resident. "No more shouting! The only one allowed to shout here is me!"
  • A caregiver is asked by a young female resident: "Can I have another portion?" He replies: "You'll get a beating! What portion? You'll get a beating! Really a portion!"
  • A resident is warned: "Keep eating! If not, I'll come and hit you."
The news item said employees at the hostel told journalists they had reported the abusive behavior of their Feuerstein hostel colleagues to superiors but were threatened with retribution if they pursued the matter. The parents, they related, are also afraid to speak up because "there is a correlation between parents who complain about the situation and the residents who suffer."

That is surely a quandary facing parents of children in any closed institution.

Notwithstanding, two parents of children who were in Aleh institutions - one in a day program, the other in a residential one - have recently contacted me to share their bitter experiences. They paint a picture of life there that is a far cry from the one that the Chief Rabbi extolled.

Thursday, June 15, 2017

A lesson in the politics of extradition

Image Source: The blog I co-write with my husband
This month, Israel proved yet again that re-arresting prisoners released in swap deals isn't such a big deal. The proviso, of course, is that the ex-prisoner violated a condition of release. But that's a lenient requirement. After all, we're dealing with a gang disinclined to repent their murders of Jews.

But this week's re-arrest was different from others. It was for a relatively mild infraction, unrelated to terrorist activity. And committed by a man in his seventies.

Notwithstanding, our government's reaction was swift and severe.

With no retrial, and relying only on a finding by a parole board, Yusuf Abu al-Hir was promptly re-imprisoned for the remainder of his original sentence, namely 15 life terms.

Originally from Acre, Abu al Hir was jailed in 1969 for a series of security offenses. He was found guilty of planting explosives in various places and facilities, causing the death of two people and wounding many others. A military court sentenced him to 15 life sentences plus 20 years in prison and another 10 years, set to be served concurrently.

In 1983, Abu al-Hir was released as part of the first Jibril Agreement under which Israel freed 4,765 security prisoners in exchange for six IDF Nahal soldiers captured during the First Lebanon War.

On May 25, 2017, Abu Al Hir re-entered Israel from Greece where he has lived since his deportation. The conditions of his release categorically prohibited him from doing so. 

But Israel's move begs the question: why is it thoroughly indifferent toward another, younger, far more dangerous terrorist? A woman who has repeatedly violated the conditions of her release? Namely, Ahlam Tamimi.

Tamimi has been brazenly and relentlessly inciting Muslims to the murder of more Jews ever since her release in 2011 as part of the Shalit Deal. She is a convicted, self-confessed mass murderer responsible for 16 deaths in the bombing of Jerusalem's Sbarro pizzeria of August 2001.

So why has Israel washed its hands of her? Why did our prime minister appease her in 2012 by allowing her fiance - also a Shalit Deal releasee - to join her in Jordan in order to marry her? Why did he deem that violation of release conditions irrelevant?

We are also left wondering about another decision Israel recently took. Based on our meeting with FBI and US Department of Justice officials, it is apparent that their request for assistance in winning Tamimi's extradition from Jordan was flatly denied by Israel. It is fairly safe to presume this response was approved - if not instigated - by our prime minister.

Source
Israel's assistance is crucial to bringing Tamimi, an active, blood thirsty terrorist, to justice. U.S. efforts to have her extradited - as provided for by an extradition treaty between the U.S and Jordan -have struck a brick wall. Jordan's King Abdullah has trotted out every excuse he could dredge up - from the judicial to the parliamentary to the "constitutional" - to argue that extradition of Tamimi is impossible. Bear in mind the absurdity of all that: he heads a dictatorial monarchy!

Nevertheless, we were told by U.S. representatives that Israel's official statement was: "Our hands are tied behind our backs." Or in plain English: "Go jump in the lake."

There are probably several theories as to why our prime minister would approve that. His hypocrisy vis a vis terrorism is no secret. In speeches, he waxes bombastic about the topic. But when it comes to action: political profit is what guides him and when being soft with terrorists has empowered him, soft he has been.

So, to concede that the Shalit Deal releasees have resumed terrorism is political poison for the man who set them loose on us all to begin with. This explains our government's refusal to publicize updated statistics regarding those 1,027 prisoners.

We, and the public, know that since 2011, Israel has rearrested dozens of Palestinians freed in the Shalit Deal for terrorist activities. Also, that between 2014 and 2015, six Israelis were killed by Palestinian prisoners released in that deal.

Political calculations also explain why Israel has chosen to steer clear of Tamimi's extradition. Our prime minister cannot afford to have headlines reiterating the brutal massacre that Tamimi perpetrated on 15 men, women and children. Media rehashing of Tamimi's gloating over the large number of children - eight - she butchered could be disastrous for him. And, as we all know, nothing would be more disastrous than that.

Last year, on our behalf, our lawyer inquired of the Prime Minister's Office as to what guidelines the Israeli courts have for sentencing Shalit Deal prisoners who are re-arrested. A lawyer in the PMO responded to him saying the answers were subject to security censorship, were controlled by the government's security service, and that we were not entitled to an answer.

We are now preparing for another round of legal challenges against the Ministry of Justice, possibly through the Freedom of Information mechanism. We will keep you updated.

Friday, May 26, 2017

After Manchester: Media and politicians are moved by some terrorist attacks, not so much by others

AWhat would people say if
the child-seeking Manchester savages were freed,
honored and given refuge by a Western ally?
As my daughter's murderer was and is..
I originally published this article on the Times of Israel where I frequently write. It appeared under the title "Manchester, Jerusalem and a double standard".


The entire sane world is united in its condemnation of the Manchester terror bombing. It has been particularly shocked by the targeting of children and teens, describing it as barbaric, cruel and horrific [here and here for instance]. Undoubtedly the only appropriate reaction.

But it is also puzzling.

Because it contrasts so starkly with the world's recent response to another terrorist who targeted children and teens and murdered. I refer to the Hamas mastermind of the Sbarro massacre on August 9, 2001, Ahlam Tamimi.

My daughter, Malki, among the fifteen murdered then, was, like so many of the Manchester victims, fifteen years old when she died. 

What do you think these outraged news commentators and world leaders would say were the perpetrator of the Manchester attack freed, celebrated as a hero and given refuge by an ally of key Western powers?

Can you imagine them just blowing that off? Would they shrug their shoulders and yawn if that ally refused to extradite the terrorist to a state whose nationals were among the victims? Would they ho hum and stick to business-as-usual if that harboring ally had actually signed an extradition treaty with that state two decades ago?

Would they dare to welcome that terrorist protector as an honored guest and praise it as an enemy of terrorism?

Well, that is what has happened to the child murderer, Tamimi and to the state giving her refuge, the Hashemite Kingdom of Jordan.  

On March 14, 2017, the US Department of Justice unsealed a 2013 criminal complaint charging Tamimi with conspiring to use a weapon of mass destruction against U. S. nationals outside the United States resulting in death. Two of Tamimi's victims were Americans. Malki was one of them.

The DOJ reported that it had requested Tamimi's extradition from Jordan at that time but that King Abdullah II and his regime had refused to comply despite the existence of an extradition treaty signed by the two countries in 1995.

Jordan's romance with Tamimi dates back to 2011 when it welcomed her back home after her release from Israeli prison in the now-infamous Shalit Deal.

Here is an Arabic media description of that event in October 2011:
Freed Jordanian captive Ahlam al-Tamimi arrived Tuesday night to a hero's welcome as hundreds of Palestinians and Jordanians waited for her arrival at Queen Alia Airport in Amman.As well as her family members, hundreds of Muslim Brotherhood activists and trade unionists as well as ordinary citizens gathered at Queen Alia Airport to welcome Tamimi. They raised Palestinian flags as well as Hamas banners and chanted in support of the resistance who achieved the exchange deal.Tamimi gave a short speech which was interrupted many times by applause and chants of support. [Al-Jazeerah, October 19, 2011]

Subsequently, she landed her own weekly TV talk show on the Hamas station, Al Quds. The program is beamed by satellite to viewers throughout the Arab world and is replete with brazen incitement to terror acts. 

Malki z"l
But Western media and leaders couldn't be less moved by this injustice if they tried. For them, Tamimi is somehow a different species of child killer than Manchester's Salman Abedi was. The travesty of justice she embodies doesn't warrant any airtime.

And Jordan's intimate relationship with its western allies has continued to thrive.  Its monarch, King Abdullah II, was an honored guest of the U.S. just a few weeks after the DOJ announced its indictment and demand for extradition.

Abdullah's embrace of Tamimi didn't impact President Trump in the slightest. He heralded the king as "a great warrior" who has been key in the fight against ISIS.

And Abdullah chimed in that the fight against terror "has no borders, no nationality, no religion". Adding: "We are very encouraged with the president's determination to support Arab and Muslim states in their fight against terrorism." 

By now you may be asking, as I am, why the murder of Jewish children in Jerusalem is not deemed as horrific and intolerable as that of the children in Manchester.

I have one explanation for the double standard and it starts with an "A".


What's yours?

Sunday, April 30, 2017

Peeling the layers of grief

My daughter Malki Z"L, about eight
weeks before the end of her life
It’s the grief that keeps on taking.

That is, of course, the loss of a child, unique among other losses. Indeed, the murder of our precious fifteen year old daughter, Malki, in 2001 has been inflicting ever new and unexpected pain since we lost her.

First, there was the release of her murderer, Ahlam Tamimi, by the Netanyahu administration in the Shalit Deal of 2011. We are still reeling from that travesty of justice.

Then in 2012, our government freed another Shalit Deal releasee from West Bank "exile", causing a baffling sort of pain. A murderer too, he was Tamimi's cousin/fiance. The pass Israel gave him to cross the border into Jordan directly contravened the terms of the Shalit deal. 

Then why do it? Well, there had been press coverage in previous weeks of the “star crossed lovers” and Israel’s “cruel interference” in their romance. Apparently our leaders could not withstand the media heat.

Word reached us that Israel intended to allow the male Tamimi to enter Jordan. We immediately engaged a lawyer to petition the High Court for an injunction preventing that move. However we were urged by the Prime Minister’s Office and the Justice Department to delay proceeding while they “looked into the matter”. Naively, we acquiesced. The delay enabled Netanyahu’s government to secretly whisk the murderer through the Allenby Bridge checkpoint unimpeded.

On March 14, 2017, the US Department of Justice unsealed its 2013 criminal complaint charging Ahlam Tamimi with conspiring to use a weapon of mass destruction against U. S. nationals outside the United States resulting in death. Both Malki and a second victim – a young, pregnant woman who was her parents’ only child – were US citizens. 

The US request for Tamimi’s extradition has been flatly refused by Jordan despite an extradition treaty signed by those two countries in 1995.

Observing the U.S. and Israel nurturing their warm relationships with Jordan’s King Abdullah while he harbors a mass murderer has added yet another facet to our grief. President Trump recently hosted him at the White House and fell all over himself praising him:
“In King Abdullah, America is blessed with a thoughtful and determined partner… The King has been a leader in calling for a plan to defeat ISIS once and for all. And I’m with you on that. We’re both leaders on that, believe me.”
At the same time, Israel has been exporting gas to Jordan from its Leviathan offshore field since March 2017. According to this source, it will maintain the current volume of gas throughout the 15-year contract with Jordan even if this means gas shortages for Israelis according to a secret letter signed by Mr Netanyahu and Israel’s energy minister. By comparison
“Egypt has reduced the amount of gas it supplies the Jordanians, after it emerged that Egypt needed to reserve gas for its own people.”
A generous contract, to say the least.

Neither leader has raised the Tamimi extradition matter with the Jordanian king.

So you'll forgive us our cynicism when Netanyahu dons expressions of gravitas and compassion, as he undoubtedly will on Yom Hazikaron – Israel’s Remembrance Day, to warn of the existential threat that terrorism poses to the Jewish people.

Here is what he said on Yom Hashoah – Holocaust Remembrance Day some years ago:
“As Prime Minister of Israel, I will never shy from speaking the truth before the world, no matter how uncomfortable it may seem to some. I speak the truth at the United Nations; I speak the truth in Washington DC, the capital of our great friend, the United States, and in other important capitals; And I speak the truth here in Jerusalem, on the grounds of Yad VaShem which are saturated with remembrance. I will continue to speak the truth to the world, but first and foremost I must speak it to my own people. I know that my people is strong enough to hear the truth.”
But Netanyahu did not speak the truth to his people when he told them in 2011 that he had written to every victim of terror's family to explain and apologize for the release of the murderers of their loved ones. The truth was he had written to none of them and never has to this day.

He never responded to our written pleas to him to delete the mass murderer, Ahlam Tamimi, from his list of Palestinian prisoners included in the Shalit Deal.

He never explained the bizarre release of Tamimi’s husband from the West Bank.

And now, he has not explained his silence about Jordan’s refusal to extradite Tamimi to the U.S.

We dream of the day when this hypocrisy will cease; when this mass murderer who widely disseminates her brand of evil and hatred will be returned to prison; and when we will be free to grieve for our Malki without the painful burden of these additional injustices.

Monday, April 24, 2017

Who was Władysław Szlengel?

Image Source
Władysław Szlengel (1914-1943), a victim of the Holocaust, is a poet of whom I first heard this weekend via the Haaretz Book Review section.

Szlengel and his wife fled to Bialystok after the Nazis invaded Poland in 1939. They returned to their home in the Warsaw Ghetto after the Nazi incursion into USSR. Throughout that period, Szlengel published poems and articles in Polish in literary and political journals.

The literary Café Sztuka situated in the Ghetto was the venue for literary evenings and events. There Szlengel excelled in his prophetic poetry and satirical songs and skits which laughed at the Jewish society around him, at the good and the bad therein. He saw himself as "The Writer of the Chronicles of the Drowning".

He was extremely sensitive to all that happened in the world of the Ghetto. Thus, for instance, he wrote a poem about a Jew who had never seen an airplane and heard:
"That you can now get from Poland to Palestine in an airplane... So is the Holy Land so close?"
And most of all, his poems settle accounts with G-d as does the following (my translation into English):
They said: Pray
I prayed
They said - You must fast - I fasted...
They said: Don't steal
I didn't steal!
They said don't eat pig (which I love)
I didn't eat it
They said: don't commit adultery
I restrained myself...
For the L-rd...
Excuse me? I asked, for what?
I said, G-d will help
I said, G-d will deliver
I believed: G-d is with me...
How do You answer me today?
For all my deeds
Do You still expect me
In two days time, as in a will,
while I walk toward the Prussian gas
to say Amen?
Szlengel [Image Source]
In the Ghetto, Szlengel printed and secretly distributed a book of poetry entitled "Which I Read to the Dead" which has just been translated into Hebrew. That title is taken from this piece of his:
"I review and sort the poems I have written to those no longer alive. I once read these poems to living, warm people when I believed with all my heart that all this come to an end, that we will survive, that we will live to see tomorrow... This is our history. These are the poems I read to the dead."
And so we learn - on Holocaust Remembrance Day - of yet another precious, gifted Jewish soul, snuffed out by evil.