Tuesday 28 May 2013

Silvan Shalom’s ghost apartments in Israel.

The Israeli government housing committee is making moves to reduce property prices and increase the number of rental apartments to the general public. At face value these are desirable goals. There is, however, a bogyman in the room.
On 22 May 2013, the Energy and Water Minister, Silvan Shalom, demanded action on what he called the 12,000 “ghost apartments” specifically located in Tel Aviv and Jerusalem. He was referring to vacation homes in Israel owned by people living abroad. Mr. Shalom can add the hundreds more such properties in Netanya, Caesarea, and Herzlia Pituach.
The decline in real estate sales seems to be forcing the Israeli government to lose touch with reality. Is Mr. Shalom not aware that many of the “ghost apartments” are owned by people living abroad who are planning and executing their complicated exit strategy from their mother countries in order to make a future Aliyah?  They are gradually cutting the Gordian knot consisting of professional, familial, and social responsibilities in order to come live in Israel. They are prepared to reduce their living standards and change their lifestyles here in Israel but they need time to make that move. In the meantime, they have committed financially by investing hard earned foreign currency into Israel by buying their dream home here. There is no logical reason why the Israeli government should turn that dream into the nightmare of ill-advised bureaucracy that will fail to achieve its illogical goals.
Silvan Shalom poured scorn on people who use their Israeli properties “sparingly.” The minister’s statement seemed to put these property owners to shame, inadvertently positioning them as acting immorally and against the best interests of Israel and Israelis. They are not.
What does he hope to achieve by this? That they will suddenly rent out their luxury, expensive, homes cheaply to young families? That he will force them to abandon their investments and sell their pricey, prime location, properties at vastly reduced prices? Is he not aware that the majority of people unable to get on to the property ladder will still be unable to pay the value of these quality homes. Neither will they be able to meet the mortgage payments for such properties.
In my professional experience local renters will be unable or unwilling to pay the high monthly Vaad or management fees on these properties. Usually, they have added facilities and demand a higher standard level of management care. They tend to be more labor intensive with daily, not weekly, cleaning of the common parts. Frequently there are facilities such as swimming pools, gyms, and saunas that require additional costs and expense.

Owners had no intention of renting to strangers when they took the decision to invest in their ideal home in Israel. They may be used for their family vacation use. They may be a first step in making their physical move to Israel, but they want their privacy, they do not want to rent out their homes, and they should not be punished for it.

Although they bought their homes here for positive and personally altruistic reasons, not for capital gain, they should not be forced to jettison their homes, their hopes and dreams in Israel, for the shortsightedness of the Israeli government.

 Barry Shaw is not only the author of ‘Israel Reclaiming the Narrative,’ he is the owner of Netanya Real Estate (www.netanyarealestate.com) with his wife, Carol.





Obama- the Cover-Up President.

Did anyone catch President Obama’s speech on counter terrorism and national security at Fort McNair? Did anyone care what he said?
Well, one person did. Leftist crazy, Media Benjamin, repeatedly and confusingly interrupted him to protestingly support the very things that he was advocating. She sounded as if she was arguing with him while shouting for the things that he was promoting, namely closing Guantanamo and to stop killing dangerous terrorists with drone strikes. That’s why Obama, even though he was ruffled by her rude interruptions, told his audience that she was “worth paying attention to.”

Apparently, in America, nobody much cared about what he said. For many it was simply a smokescreen to cover up the dire consequences of the revelations that are haunting the Obama Administration. Bengazi refuses to go away. The appalling definition of the Islamic terror attack on the US Consulate that killed Ambassador Stephens and three other Americans, as being a response to an amateur video, was shocking in its misinterpretation of what actually took place, and why. Why would Obama choose to turn a deaf ear to the desperate appeals of his men under siege and, after their deaths, alongside the four coffins at Andrews Air Force base, and in front of the families of the murdered men, reconfirm their murder as the fault of a video when they knew what had really transpired? I found the sight of President Obama and Hillary Clinton affirming this lie at such a time highly shameful. This was a cover up, and they were in denial.
Obama has more recently been in denial over a number of scandals ranging from the IRS investigation into media outlets such as Fox News and political groups unsavory to his regime, to the seizure of phone records belonging to Associated Press journalists, and to Eric Holder, the US Attorney General appointed by Obama, caught lying about not knowing about these unconstitutional measure, and then having his signature on the authorizing document exposed to the public by the media. He did this under oath and, if proven, he could face serious criminal charges for perjury.  

In all cases, the wagons circled to protect the president. He knew nothing of any of these critical incidents, we are led to believe. And now his conference on counter-terrorism, in which he droned about drones and muffled on for an hour in a contradictory message that had many scratching their heads. Why did he face the cameras, at this time, to talk not about the crisis facing his Administration but to give an ill-prepared speech on counter-terrorism? To many, Obama is the cover-up president and this address was a cover-up tactic to create smoke and mirrors in a vain effort to distract the press and the public away from the scandals that are rocking his White House. He hoped the resurrection of his oath to close Gitmo, the Guantanamo detention center, would hit the papers and TV channels and take the heat out of the unlawful and covert investigations of his rivals. It clearly did not work.
He tried to claim that he intended to move many of the remaining Gitmo prisoners to foreign lands. What he failed to tell the American public that over 30% of Gitmo prisoners who had been transferred overseas have returned to terrorism –and these were the soft cases. The hardened terrorists are the ones that have been kept in Gitmo lock-down.

Obama claimed the cost-efficiency of moving high profile terrorists into top security facilities in mainland America but these are civilian jails and Gitmo is a military prison. Where should terrorists be incarcerated, in a civilian, or a military, holding facility? He claimed that no one  ever escaped from a top security jail, but no one has ever escaped from Gitmo either. And here’s another reason to maintain Guantanamo. America is bound to need Gitmo in the future as more Islamic terrorists are caught killing Americans within America and worldwide. Believe me when I say that I regret this truth, but it is a truth that cannot be denied. And here we come to the crux of the Obama speech.
Here are some of his confusing soundbites. He praised the effective use of drones but then gave his presidential seal on the reduced use of drones in the future. His refusal to allow the current pattern of drone strikes was couched in human rights language but he acknowledged that drones had decimated the enemy and taken out the top leadership of major terror groups. It is clear that the surgical ability of drones reduces collateral damage to a minimum and their use is made where boots on the ground is not feasible and their use saves American soldiers lives. Yet he intends to limit their use. Mark that one up for the terrorists, who can now breathe a sigh of relief.

Obama said that the war on terror is nearing its end. That’s because he wants it to end, not because the terror threat to America and the West has been curtailed. It hasn’t. Osama Bin Laden has been removed but the top leadership of Al Qaida is still in place. Bin Laden’s capable right-hand man, and now Al-Qaida Number One, Ayman al-Zawahiri, is alive and well and still coordinating and inspiring a new breed of Islamic terrorists. New recruits are still making their way to Pakistan and Afghanistan for training before heading home, or to other battlefields, to practice their new-found skills. They have spread their terror across the Middle East and into the heart of Africa, and they are popping up with increasing regularity in America, Britain, and mainland Europe. Yet, Obama says the war on terror is reaching its end. Mark that one up to the terrorists who seem to have fooled the American President.
Ears pricked up when Obama made glancing references to “violent jihad” but he went into appeasement mode by denying that “violent jihad” had anything to do with Islam.  Yet another victory lap for Islamic terrorists. The West, led by America’s president, has their collective liberal heads buried in the sand.  

Obama was in denial when his ambassador and other Americans were gunned down in Bengazi, the term “Islamic terrorism” has been expunged from official language, “violent jihad” has nothing to do with campaign for Islamic global supremacy. Closing Guantanamo is actually closing our eyes to the truth. Send the terrorists away somewhere where we can’t see them or deal with them. Drones are an effective weapon against those who want to kill us, but we must stop their use. Pretend people hate us because one stupid guy made a video. It sounds better than scaring the public that people actually do hate us for what we are, and what we represent, and they are prepared to kill us for it.
Obama has a theory that I cannot get my head around. It goes like this. Fighting extremist radical Islamic terror encourages even more Islamic terror against us. Therefore, encourage non-Islamic leaders to take up the fight against Islamic extremism. If this was true, why did Obama throw Mubarak of Egypt under the bus? America, under Obama, may not think of itself at war with Islam, but radical Islam is definitely at war with America.

I also cannot get my head around the glorification and placation of Islam as Islamic terrorists continue to strike against American, Israeli, and European targets. It equates, as Barry Rubin reminded us in his article, “Obama’s Seven Premises about Islamist Terrorism and Revolution”, that when the Allies waged war against Germany we did not go into battle singing the praises of Mozart, hamburgers, and other achievements of German culture. So, why do we harp on about what a wonderful peaceful religion the Muslims have, even as they chop us down in Boston, Tel Aviv, Woolwich, Nairobi, Syria, Lebanon, Sudan, Bengazi, Bulgaria, etc., etc… you get the picture. First win the battle, then tell them how much you love them. We can now tell Germans what great football teams they have. We didn’t do that between 1938-45, and rightly so.
Obama is the cover-up president. He covers his eyes and ears to the true face of terror. He covers up the effective use of precise weaponry targeting terrorists. He covers up the trail when the results of his dysfunctional policies based on wishful thinking comes tumbling down around him. Up to now he has been aided and abetted by an adoring media, but that seems to coming to an end as much of the leftist media are belatedly beginning to speak out against the mismanagement and potential crimes of the Obama Administration.

Barry Shaw is the author of ‘Israel Reclaiming the Narrative.’  www.israelnarrative.com



Tuesday 14 May 2013

Boycott that, Hawkings!

Boycott that, Hawkings!

Stephen Hawkings decided to join an academic boycott of Israel uniquely at the same time as Israeli scientists, together with colleagues from the Harvard-Smithsonian Center for Astrophysics, discovered a planet outside of the solar system. The astronomers at Tel Aviv University named it the ‘Einstein Planet.’ Such is the meaning of scientific cooperation to which Stephen Hawkings, it seems, has lost the plot.
He turned down an invitation to be a special guest at the Presidents Conference in Jerusalem hosted by President Shimon Peres, a tireless worker for peace and reconciliation with the Palestinians.
Hawkings chose to cave into pressure from Palestinian academics and to boycott an event which, perversely, will have the presence of leading members of the Palestinian Authority. In other words, Hawkings has decided to boycott an Israeli event in support of Palestinian activists in which Palestinian leaders will participate. You couldn’t make that up.

When people like Hawkings choose to end all contacts with their Israeli academic counterparts it is the time when academia becomes dogma. When scholars and teachers choose to close their ears and their minds they are no longer academia. They have adopted dogma.

For Israelis, such a boycott that turns the Jewish State, and only Israel, into an international pariah has echoes in the dark days of Nazi Germany when Jews, and only Jews, were targeted for such academic boycotts on trumped up charges as a prelude to worse events that lay in wait for them. The Holocaust did not start with death camps. It began with academic boycotts and the banning and burning of Jewish books.
So it is today. Can anyone doubt that the ultimate aim of the boycotters, the BDS Movement,  the ‘Free Palestine’ activists, and the Palestinian leadership itself, is not the ultimate destruction of Israel? This is the camp into which Stephen Hawkings finds himself.

If Hawkings has studied the issue in any depth, and compared Israeli and Palestinian academia, he will find one filled with wondrous discoveries giving universal benefits to the world, and the other filled with study books crammed with denial of Israel’s right to exist, incitement, Anti-Semitism, hate, and a fictional drafting of a false history. Is this the type of academia that Hawkings really advocate? Does he genuinely support that kind of Palestinian teaching over sound and beneficial Israeli research?  

Is he not aware of the ongoing cooperation between Israelis and Palestinians in medicine, water, agriculture, and many other fields? Probably not. It has been kept from him, as it is kept from the attention of the general public, by the false narrative of an isolated Palestinian society blocked off by a brutal Israeli blockage.
At the time of Hawkings’ boycott announcement, the Palestinian Minister of Health was leading a delegation to Israel’s Hadassah Hospital to promote the increased employment of Palestinian medical staff and to examine further cooperation between the hospital and the Palestinian Ministry of Health.

If Hawkings was truly devoted to the anti-Israel boycott cause he should take a leaf out of a chapter in my book ‘Israel Reclaiming the Narrative’. The chapter is aptly called ‘If You Are Going To Boycott Israel, Do It Properly.’ As many have already suggested, Hawkings should dispense with the Intel chip that is the main source of his ability to communicate with the world. It was developed in Israel.
Boycott that, Hawkings, or be considered a hypocrite. You are certainly no longer an academic, for when academics adopt dogma instead of open minded dialogue it is the closing of the academic mind. It harms the academic boycotter more than the academic boycotted.


Barry Shaw is the author of ‘Israel Reclaiming the Narrative’ and is the Special Consultant on Delegitimization Issues to the Strategic Dialogue Center of the Netanya Academic College in Israel.