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Luxembourg Chain Boycotts Israel Products
By Micah Halpern

Monday August 31, 2015

I've Been Thinking:

The largest supermarket chain in Luxembourg has just joined the boycott against Israeli products.

The chain has said that until it can be proven that a product is not produced in the West Bank, the product from Israel will not be sold in their markets.

The Cactus Supermarket chain said that it was easier to do business in this way than to suffer the inconvenience of protesters and their impact on the shoppers. Cactus management said that they use very few Israeli products anyway.

They also followed up by saying that they would continue to sell Israeli produced Soda-Stream and other equipment that compose a larger percentage of their sales.

Luxembourg is a tiny country of about 500,000 people with a GDP (gross domestic product) of about $53 billion.

The size of the country and the size of the supermarket chain do not matter. This boycott must be stopped not because it will hurt Israel, but because it is the principle that counts. Boycotts are anti- democratic and anti-freedom.

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Rouhani Against the Vote
By Micah Halpern

Sunday August 30, 2015

I've Been Thinking:

As I wrote several days ago, Iranian leadership had decided to mimic the US and have a parliamentary debate and vote on the famous Nuclear Deal.

But the other day, President Hassan Rouhani announced that he opposes the vote. The Iranian president told a news conference that the agreement is not a treaty and does not need either a vote or a debate.

Rouhani said that it was an understanding between the parties. If it is voted upon in parliament, he said, that would mean that the agreement would have legal obligations in Iran and that would not be advantageous.

In other words - there would be internal legal issues if the Iranians violated the agreement.

Rouhani said that the deal says that Iran is not obligated by the agreement. He says that the deal very clearly states that Iran will implement the terms of the agreement voluntarily. If, on the other hand, it is voted upon by parliament it is no longer voluntary and instead becomes becomes legally binding in Iran and that is not to their benefit.

Democracy versus realpolitik.

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Swiss Ambassador Calls Iran "Pole of Stability"
By Micah Halpern

Friday August 29, 2015

I've Been Thinking:

The Swiss ambassador to Iran addressed 500 Swiss business people and called on them to run back to Teheran and invest.

Ambassador Guilio Haas said that Iran was "a pole of stability" in the Middle East and now that the sanctions are over it is a perfect and safe place to invest. Haas urged those listening to his message to take advantage of a lucrative market that has been closed for years.

Haas was not just referring to the oil markets. He was referring to the entire Iranian market. And he was urging the heads of business to invest in Iran.

"Iran seems still for a lot of people to be bearded, elderly gentlemen with turbans. You see them, but you see not a lot of them, especially when you're dealing with business," Haas said.

This is the new modus operandi across Europe. European investors are excited about the possibilities that will emerge out of Iran.

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Iran Invites Israeli Conductor
By Micah Halpern

Thursday August 27, 2015

I've Been Thinking:

Iran is a society that loves culture, especially music.
So it was not a surprise for me to learn that Iran has been working out details so that the Berlin State Opera Orchestra can come to visit Teheran, Iran.

The Iranians love great music. And this is one of the greatest orchestras in the world. The only hitch is that the musical director/conductor is an Israeli named Daniel Barenbiom.

The word is that the orchestra will accompany Angela Merkel when she visits Teheran on an official visit -- the plans for that are also in the works.

The ministry of culture in Iran has confirmed that details are being worked out but would not comment on whether Barenboim will have a problem getting a visa. Barenboim has also conducted a Palestinian youth orchestra in Ramallah amidst protestors there. The original plan was to have a joint Israeli - Palestinian youth band but that failed.

Iran will probably make an exception for Barenboim.
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Saudi King To Visit DC
By Micah Halpern

Wednesday August 26, 2015

I've Been Thinking:

It is not yet official, but it looks like King Salman, the new king of Saudi Arabia, will visit Washington DC on September 5th and 6th.

This will be his first trip to the United States as king. Salman ascended to the throne in January after the death of King Abdullah.

New heads of state usually rush to DC to meet the president of the United States. But Salman waited, he wanted to play it cool. He wanted to make his own evaluations of the players in Washington. And most importantly, he wanted everyone - especially the United States to know that he was not Abdullah, that he was his own man.

The word is also out that Salman will visit Egypt on his way back from the United States to Saudi Arabia. This, too, is important because the relationship between Egypt and Saudi Arabia has become strained of late, especially over the tension between the Muslim Brotherhood in Egypt and Hamas in Gaza. Saudi Arabia sides with the Muslim Brotherhood.

He is an interesting character this King Salman of Saudi Arabia. He bears watching.

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BDS -- A Chance to Beat Them
By Micah Halpern

Tuesday August 25, 2015

I've Been Thinking:

The BDS (Boycott Divest & Sanction Israel) movement has taken off like wildfire in the United States and in Europe.

Lovers of Israel are stymied by the attraction and magnetism that the movement has generated. They are asking why is it that so many young people and critical thinkers are running to embrace a movement that condemns Israel and blames nearly all the problems of the world - certainly all the problems in the Middle East, on Israel's occupation of the Palestinians.

For the longest time I feared that the battle was lost. I feared that there was no possible chance of convincing BDS supporters that they were wrong. Pointing out that the facts did not support their movement was fruitless. Like Hamas and ISIS, BDS supporters held strong to their point of view and did not let facts get in the way of their beliefs. Quite simply, they hated Israel and that in their eyes the world would be vastly improved without Israel.

But recently, after the debacle in Spain during which world famous and obviously Jewish reggae singer Matisyahu refused to sign a declaration supporting a Palestinian state and was then removed not permitted to perform in a festival, I saw a glimmer of hope.

People, not lovers of Israel at all, just plain people and the publications that supported the BDS movement suddenly realized that the movement was not about mutually resolving an issue - but rather, it was about destroying Israel to make room for the Palestinians.

The government of Spain apologized for the embarrassing incident. They publicly and personally said that what happened was wrong and anti Semitic - and they re-invited Matisyahu to perform. National and local papers said more or less the same thing - that they support a Palestinians state but they do not support anti Semitism.

I am wary, yet hopeful that many followers of BDS fit into this category. I hope that they have seen the true hateful colors of the BDS movement. That BDS supporters now realize that rational people can disagree with Israel and support Palestinian statehood without advocating the destruction of Israel.

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Iran's New Missile
By Micah Halpern

Monday August 24, 2015

I've Been Thinking:

Iran has just unveiled their newest missile, it is called the Fateh 313.

I watched the videos of their celebration and the test launching complete with all the hype and all the propaganda one would expect at such an auspicious occasion.

The missile seems very effective. It has a range of 500 kilometers, which is 310 miles, and the claim is that it has pinpoint accuracy.

The celebration, the display, the announcement and all the accompanying bravado is essential to the Iranian strategy.

Despite the nuke deal, Iran is moving ahead on missile production. Iranian President Hassan Rouhani announced that "We will buy, sell and develop any weapons we need and we will not ask for permission or abide by any resolution for that."

It might surprise you to know that weapons production is not in violation of The Deal signed between Iran and the P5 +1- - - but Iranian action and the building of these missiles is definitely in violation of countless other UN Security Council resolutions.

Another example of the game Iran is playing, and playing so very well.

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