Friday, June 23, 2017

Even Chief Rabbis make mistakes

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.

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.