AMERICA RECOGNISES JERUSALEM AS THE CAPITAL OF ISRAEL
US embassies in the Middle East and Europe are warning Americans travelling or living there of the potential for violent protests after President Trump’s decision to recognise Jerusalem as the capital of Israel. Within minutes of Mr Trump’s announcement, the embassies in Turkey, Jordan, Germany and Britain issued security alerts urging Americans to exercise vigilance and caution. Australian Foreign Minister Julie Bishop said the government was reviewing its travel advice to the Middle East in the wake of the move. Ms Bishop said she was taking advice on the tensions in Israel and the broader region, flagging travel advice may change. Soon after Mr Trump’s announcement, hundreds of Palestinians took to the streets, chanting anti-Trump slogans and burning car tyres. Protests were seen in Beit Hanoun in the northern Gaza Strip, all over Gaza City and in the southern Gaza Strip towns of Khan Younis and Rafah.
Smaller protests also took place in the West Bank communities of Ramallah and Bethlehem. Mosque loudspeakers called on Gaza residents to take to the streets to express rage and protest against Mr Trump’s declaration. Leaders from the Muslim world and wider international community immediately condemned the move, which overturns nearly 70 years of US policy in the region. Palestinian leader Mahmoud Abbas said Mr Trump had destroyed his credibility as a Mideast peace broker. In a televised statement, Mr Abbas said the decision “is a declaration of withdrawal from the role it has played in the peace process.” By recognising Israel’s claim to Jerusalem, Mr Trump is seen by the Palestinians as siding with Israel on the most sensitive issue in the conflict and Palestinians warned of “a days of rage” over the announcement.
Hamas condemned the move, declaring that Mr Trump had opened “the gates of hell,” and Turkey described the move as “irresponsible” and illegal. Announcing his decision, Mr Trump described the move as an obvious and overdue recognition of reality. But he said the decision, which has sparked anger across the Middle East and among Palestinians, would not diminish America’s push for a peace agreement between Israel and Palestine. “I have determined that it is time to officially recognise Jerusalem as the capital of Israel,” Mr Trump declared. “This is a long overdue step to advance the peace process and to work towards a lasting agreement.” Mr Trump said the move was “nothing more or less than the recognition of reality,” noting that the country’s prime minister, parliament and highest courts were all based in Jerusalem.
But he said America’s recognition of Jerusalem and its plan to move the US embassy there from Tel Aviv was an isolated issue. He said the decision makes no assumption about the ultimate status and the final boundaries of Jerusalem in any peace agreement concluded between Israel and the Palestinians. Mr Trump acknowledged that the decision would be unpopular with some, but said the US would continue to push for a possible peace agreement in the region and maintained that his decision would not compromise the city’s geographic and political borders, which will still be determined by Israel and the Palestinians. “The United States remains deeply committed to helping facilitate a peace agreement that is acceptable to both sides. I intend to do everything in my power to forge such an agreement.”
Israeli PM Benjamin Netanyahu hailed the announcement as “historic,” but pledged no change to status quo at Jerusalem holy sites. “Israel will always ensure freedom of worship for Jews Christians and Muslims alike,” he said. Ahead of Mr Trump’s speech, Arab and Muslim leaders had spoken about the potential for violence. In Gaza, hundreds of Palestinian protesters burned American and Israeli flags. They also waved Palestinian flags and banners proclaiming Jerusalem as their “eternal capital,” language that Israelis similarly use for their nation. Egypt denounced the decision as a violation of international resolutions on the city’s status. A Foreign Ministry statement said Egypt is worried about the impact of the US move on the stability of the region and about its “extremely negative” impact on the Israeli-Palestinian peace process.
Saudi media reported that King Salman told Mr Trump by telephone: “Any declaration on the status of Jerusalem before reaching a final settlement would harm the peace negotiation process and escalate tension in the region.” The Arab League called it “a dangerous measure that would have repercussions” across the region, and also questioned the future role of the US as a “trusted mediator” in peace talks. The supreme leader of Iran, Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, said: “It is out of despair and debility that they want to declare Jerusalem as capital of the Zionist regime. On the issue of Palestine, their hands are tied and they can’t achieve their goals.” Even America’s closest allies in Europe questioned the wisdom of Trump’s radical departure from the past US position, which was studiously neutral over the sovereignty of the city.
French president Emmanuel Macron described Mr Trump’s decision as “regrettable,” but called for efforts to “avoid violence at all costs.” In Australia Ms Bishop told ABC radio: “We are considering whether we should change our travel advice, we are monitoring the situation very carefully, we are getting feedback from our embassy in Tel Aviv in the region.” “I am deeply concerned at the level of unrest now, the fault lines between Turkey and the Kurds, between the Sunnis and the Shia, between the Saudis and Iranians. “I am concerned about the level of tension now and of course would not support any action that would add to that.”
Ms Bishop said Australia would not follow the US President’s lead and identify the contested city of Jerusalem as the capital of Israel or move its embassy from Tel Aviv to Jerusalem. “The political identification of the status of Jerusalem is a matter for final status negotiations, That has always been our position, it has been a longstanding position from both sides of the Australian parliament,” Ms Bishop said. America’s consulate in Jerusalem has ordered US personnel and their families to avoid visiting Jerusalem’s Old City or the West Bank, and urged American citizens in general to avoid places with increased police or military presence.
ISRAEL’S RADICAL NEW APPROACH THAT HELPS PREVENT POST-TRAUMATIC STRESS
The success of the Six Cs model has been documented. For example, in the summer of 2014, residents of an Israeli town on the Gaza border who were traumatized by rocket fire did not develop post-traumatic stress disorder if they had been treated on the scene according to Farchi’s protocol. When dealing with someone in psychological trauma, most people instinctively hold, calm and soothe the person. That may be well-intentioned but it’s not helpful, according to clinical social worker and volunteer medic Moshe Farchi, whose counterintuitive approach recently was adopted as the Israel Health Ministry’s national model for psychological first aid. Farchi is head of Stress, Trauma & Resilience Studies at Tel-Hai College, and is teaching and using his method in several other countries as well.
While serving as a reserve mental-health officer in the Israel Defence Forces over the past decade, Farchi noticed that the approaches used to help traumatized soldiers in the field simply weren’t effective. Then he began seeing new research showing the scientific reasons for that failure. He determined to create a new psychological first-aid model based on the latest science and easily implemented by anyone on the scene, not only by mental-health professionals who aren’t as likely to be available immediately. “I wanted to provide something the whole community could do,” Farchi said. The program he devised centres on six Cs: cognitive communication, challenge, control, commitment and continuity. The Six Cs model calls for activating the traumatized person mentally and physically. Activating might mean assigning a task, asking the person to take a walk or giving them decisions to make.
Often those in trauma aren’t hurt but have witnessed or otherwise been involved in a frightening situation. But even injured people in psychological trauma can be given small decisions in order to feel in control, says Farchi. They can be offered a drink of water or asked to direct first-responders where to stand, for instance. The success of the Six Cs model has been documented. For example, in the summer of 2014, residents of an Israeli town on the Gaza border who were traumatized by rocket fire did not develop post-traumatic stress disorder if they had been treated on the scene according to Farchi’s protocol. The scientific underpinning of this approach is dozens of studies demonstrating that the brain’s centre of emotions, the amygdala, has a seesaw relationship with the brain’s centre of logical actions, the prefrontal cortex.
“Activating the amygdala by calming the person emotionally causes the prefrontal cortex to decrease its function, and vice versa,” says Farchi. “We need to reduce the dominance of the amygdala, so actually we should speak cognitively rather than emotionally.” Emotional communication (“Of course you’re scared”) only reinforces the person’s feeling of helplessness, while cognitive communication shifts attention from emotions to actions. “Instead of stabilizing the feeling of being scared, we activate the person. We might say, ‘Tell me how many people are around you. Can you count them? How many people are lying down?’ It takes about 90 seconds to shift the person from passiveness to a person who can be helpful to himself and others,” says Farchi,
Since 2013, Farchi’s Six Cs model has been taught to every IDF soldier. In November 2013, Farchi led a delegation from his program at Tel-Hai College to work with victims of the Philippines typhoon in coordination with Israeli humanitarian organizations Brit Olam and Natan. “People going through a traumatic event are very confused and cannot synchronize the event in logical order, and that means the endpoint of the event is also not synchronized,” says Farchi, who volunteers for the Golan Search and Rescue Unit in Israel. “Subjectively that means the incident doesn’t end and that’s why we have flashbacks. A couple of studies showed that the window of opportunity to resynchronize the events is no more than six hours before the memory is stabilized. That’s why we should assist the person to synchronize the event and emphasize that the major threat is over.”
After a suicide bombing last May in Manchester, Farchi immediately flew over to teach community members his method and returned this summer to train first-response trainers. He went to Argentina twice to train firefighters, and has taught his method in Haiti and in Germany as a member of Natan’s psychosocial team. All Israeli first responders are now learning the method, and the Education Ministry will start training high school students in Farchi’s method too. “I hope in the next two or three years the whole population will know how to do this,” he says. Training takes only a couple of hours. Family therapist and EMT Miriam Ballin, director of the United Hatzalah Psychotrauma and Crisis Response Unit, says that previously, training for the two-year-old voluntary unit’s 150 mental-health workers and 150 medics was based on World Health Organization (WHO) psychological first-aid protocols.
“We are happy to collaborate with Dr. Farchi through the Health Ministry to implement his protocol and we hope it will allow us to give a whole other level of care to the patients we meet in distressing circumstances,” Ballin said. She got an opportunity to use the Six Cs method not long afterward as part of her team’s work with Houston flood victims in August 2017. “We always like to advance our skill sets. We meet people on the worst day of their lives and want to do all we can to ease them through that crisis period,” she says.
ISRAEL STANDS WITH EGYPT AFTER MASSIVE TERROR ATTACK IN SINAI
More than 300 people were killed by terrorists at a mosque in Egypt’s Sinai Peninsula during Friday prayers recently, in one of the deadliest attacks in the country in recent memory. “My condolences to the families of the dozens of people murdered in the terror attack on a mosque in the Sinai,” Israeli Transportation and Intelligence Minister Yisrael Katz tweeted. “Israel stands shoulder to shoulder with Egypt and other countries in the region and the international arena in the war against radical Islamic terror.” Israeli Education Minister Naftali Bennett said that the “murderous terror attack is testimony to the fact that a new world order is being created around us, in which the distinction is between terror supporters like Iran and Islamic State, and supporters of humanity.” The terror attack occurred at the al-Rawdah mosque in the northern Sinai town of Bir al-Abed.
According to Egyptian media reports, terrorist shooters using all-terrain vehicles planted bombs outside of the mosque, then detonated them and opened heavy fire on worshippers as they attempted to flee. The terrorists also set the worshippers’ vehicles ablaze and used them to block escape routes. Egypt’s President Abdel Fattah El-Sisi declared a nationwide three-day mourning period following the attack. Despite ongoing efforts to secure the Sinai by the Egyptian military, with clandestine help from Israel, an Islamic State-affiliated terror group has waged an insurgency in the region, perpetrating a succession of deadly attacks on Egypt’s security forces and civilians, especially Christians. Many experts and officials fear that given Islamic State’s recent loss of its self-declared caliphate in Syria and Iraq, the jihadist group will turn its attention to other lawless areas of the Middle East, including the Sinai, in a bid to bounce back and bolster its terror network.
TRUMP ADMINISTRATION PULLS U.S. OUT OF UNESCO CITING ANTI-ISRAEL BIAS
Washington cut off funding to UNESCO under the Obama Administration in 2011 because UNESCO admitted the Palestinians as full members, and the UN body retaliated by taking away the US vote in UNESCO decisions. In May of this year, UNESCO voted on Israel’s Independence Day to approve a resolution rejecting any legal or historical claims by Israel to the city of Jerusalem, a move strongly condemned by the Israeli government. Then in July, UNESCO declared the city of Hebron in Biblical Judea, the final resting place of the Jewish patriarchs Abraham, Isaac and Jacob, to be a Palestinian World Heritage site. State Department Spokesperson Heather Nauert released a statement which said that the U.S. had “notified UNESCO Director-General Irina Bokova of the U.S. decision to withdraw from the organization and to seek to establish a permanent observer mission to UNESCO.” “This decision was not taken lightly, and reflects U.S. concerns with mounting arrears at UNESCO, the need for fundamental reform of the organization, and continuing anti-Israel bias at UNESCO,” the statement said.