Prepared for the Conference of Presidents
January 24, 2020
News Resources - North America, Europe, and Asia:
Vice President Mike Pence said at Yad Vashem in Jerusalem on Thursday: "Today we pause to remember...the greatest evil ever perpetuated by man against man in the long catalogue of human crime."
'When soldiers opened the gates of Auschwitz on January 27, 1945, they found 7,000 half-starved, half-naked prisoners, [and] hundreds of boxes of camp records that documented the greatest mass murder in history. Before the war was over, in its five years of existence, more than 1.1 million men, women, and children would perish at Auschwitz."
"We must be prepared to confront and expose the vile tide of anti-Semitism that is fueling hate and violence all across the world....We must also stand strong against the leading state purveyor of anti-Semitism, against the one government in the world that denies the Holocaust as a matter of state policy and threatens to wipe Israel off the map. The world must stand strong against the Islamic Republic of Iran." (White House)
Speaking on behalf of the Holocaust survivors at the Yad Vashem ceremony was Rabbi Israel Meir Lau, 82, who was sent with his brother to the Buchenwald concentration camp as a child, was liberated at the age of 8 by American forces, and rose to become the chief rabbi of Israel and a towering moral voice of his generation.
At the age of 7, he said, he had no name, only a number. "I came especially to tell you I cannot forgive," he said, "because I am not authorized." He said his parents, before they were taken away, "did not ask me to forgive. They asked me to continue the chain, so the Jewish chain will be unbroken, unbroken forever." Now chairman of the Yad Vashem Council, Rabbi Lau added, "I can never forget." (New York Times)
"The magnitude of the genocide that was visited upon the Jewish people defies comprehension and can make those of us who live in the shadow of those indescribable events feel hopelessly inadequate. The scale of the evil was so great, the impact so profound, that it threatens to obscure the countless individual human stories of tragedy, loss and suffering of which it was comprised. That is why places like this, and events like this, are so vitally important."
"I have long drawn inspiration from the selfless actions of my dear grandmother, Princess Alice of Greece, who in 1943, in Nazi-occupied Athens, saved a Jewish family by taking them into her home and hiding them. My grandmother, who is buried on the Mount of Olives, has a tree planted in her name here at Yad Vashem, and is counted as one of the Righteous among the Nations, a fact which gives me, and my family, immense pride." (The Prince of Wales-UK)
See also The Prince of Wales Visits Israel and the Occupied Palestinian Territories (The Prince of Wales-UK)
The secretary general of the Muslim World League, Mohammad bin Abdulkarim Al-Issa, and the CEO of the American Jewish Committee, David Harris, led a delegation of 62 Muslims, including 25 prominent religious leaders, from 28 countries in a "groundbreaking" tour of the Auschwitz-Birkenau memorial in Poland on Thursday.
"To be here, among the children of Holocaust survivors and members of the Jewish and Islamic communities, is both a sacred duty and a profound honor," Al-Issa said. "The unconscionable crimes to which we bear witness today are truly crimes against humanity. That is to say, a violation of us all, an affront to all of God's children." (AP-New York Times)
U.S. special representative for Iran Brian Hook told Asharq Al-Awsat in Davos that if Esmail Ghaani, the successor to Iran's Quds Force commander Qasem Soleimani, "follows a similar path of killing Americans, he will meet the same fate....Any attacks against American personnel or interests in the region will be met with a decisive response....I think the regime now understands that they cannot attack America at will, and expect to get away with it."
Hook said, "You need to take a comprehensive approach to this problem set. And that's the nuclear program, the missile program, the regional aggression, the expansionist foreign policy, the hostage-taking. We aren't going to make a difference in the Middle East unless we take a comprehensive approach, and the big mistake of the Iran nuclear deal, among many, is that it was very narrow."
"The world's leading state sponsor of terrorism will have the UN arms embargo lifted in 9 or 10 months....Perhaps the theory was five years into the deal, the moderates would be in charge. That's foolish. This is a regime that does not have moderates. The supreme leader is in charge. He's called the supreme leader for a reason, and he's not a moderate. He's a hardliner. He makes the decisions and we judge the regime by what it does, not by what (Foreign Minister) Zarif says." (Asharq Al-Awsat-UK)
The U.S. Department of the Treasury on Thursday sanctioned a network of companies helping Iran circumvent U.S. sanctions by selling products by the National Iranian Oil Company. The Treasury said hundreds of millions of dollars were traced to these companies, which repatriated revenues to Iran's Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps and its Quds Force, enabling the Islamic Republic to finance "terrorist" proxies and activities throughout the Middle East. (Radio Farda)
President Donald Trump said Thursday he will release his long-delayed peace plan for the Middle East before Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and his election rival Benny Gantz visit the White House next Tuesday. Trump said Palestinians might react negatively to his plan at first, but that "it's actually very positive for them. It's a great plan. It's a plan that really would work." (Reuters)
See also Palestinian Authority Reiterates Rejection of U.S. Peace Initiative (AFP-Arab News-Saudi Arabia)
Most attacks on U.S. and allied forces in Iraq are being carried out by Shiite militias, said Air Force Maj.-Gen. Alex Grynkewich, the deputy commander for operations and intelligence for U.S. troops in Iraq and Syria. "Most of the attacks have come from those Shia militia groups, who are launching rockets at our bases and frankly just trying to kill someone to make a point," Grynkewich said Wednesday at the Air Force Association's Mitchell Institute for Aerospace Studies. There are more than 100 Shiite militia groups in Iraq, some of which take their orders from Iran, he said.
Grynkewich added that as a result of Soleimani's death, most U.S. efforts to train Iraqi security forces have been suspended. The U.S. and Iraqi governments are in discussions about when to resume full security cooperation, he said. (Task and Purpose)
See also Pro-Iranian Militias in Iraq Threaten Iraqi President for Meeting U.S. President at Davos - Seth J. Frantzman (Jerusalem Post)
Decades ago, the Soviet invasion of Afghanistan prompted thousands to flee to neighboring Iran. Now, many of these refugees are once again seeking a new home in Turkey, desperate to escape the dire economic conditions in Iran. In the Turkish city of Van, 50 miles west of the Iranian border, a growing number of Afghan refugees are sleeping in public parks and bus terminals, barred by Turkish authorities from traveling farther. Turkey says 184,000 undocumented Afghans crossed the border last year - up from 100,000 in 2018. (Washington Post)
News Resources - Israel and the Mideast:
German President Frank-Walter Steinmeier said at Yad Vashem in Jerusalem on Thursday: "Here at Yad Vashem burns the Eternal Flame in remembrance of the victims of the Shoah....Germans deported them. Germans burned numbers on their forearms. Germans tried to dehumanize them, to reduce them to numbers, to erase all memory of them in the extermination camps. They did not succeed."
"Those who murdered, those who planned and helped in the murdering, the many who silently toed the line: They were Germans. The industrial mass murder of six million Jews, the worst crime in the history of humanity, it was committed by my countrymen. The terrible war, which cost far more than 50 million lives, it originated from my country....Germany's responsibility does not expire. We want to live up to our responsibility. By this, you should measure us." (Ha'aretz)
Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said at Yad Vashem in Jerusalem on Thursday: "Your presence in Jerusalem honors the memory of the six million victims of the Holocaust. Israel and the Jewish people thank you....Israel is eternally grateful for the immense sacrifice that was made by the allies, by the peoples and the soldiers, to defeat the Nazis and save our common civilization. Without that sacrifice, there would be no survivors today."
"Yet we also remember that some 80 years ago, when the Jewish people faced annihilation, the world largely turned its back on us....For the Jewish people, Auschwitz is...the ultimate symbol of Jewish powerlessness. It is the culmination of what can happen when our people have no voice, no land, no shield."
"The Jewish people have learned the lessons of the Holocaust: always to take seriously the threats of those who seek our destruction; to confront threats when they are small; and above all...to always have the power to defend ourselves by ourselves. We have learned that Israel must always remain the master of its fate." (Prime Minister's Office)
Russian President Vladimir Putin said at Yad Vashem in Jerusalem on Thursday that in World War II, the Soviet Union "paid the highest price, more than any other. 27 million Russians were killed. That is the price of victory." Of the six million Jews killed by the Nazis, historians say about one million were Soviet. "We need to find the courage not just to speak about anti-Semitism but also to do everything in our power to protect Jews," Putin said. (Times of Israel)
French President Emmanuel Macron laid a wreath at the Memorial to the Deportation of Jews from France, located near Beit Shemesh in Israel. The memorial carries the names of the deportees, along with their date and place of birth. It is set in a forest of 80,000 pine trees, signifying the 80,000 Jews deported from France to Nazi labor and death camps. (Jerusalem Post)
Palestinians demonstrated in Gaza on Thursday to protest the visit of world leaders to Jerusalem to attend the Fifth World Holocaust Forum. Another demonstration in Ramallah on Wednesday condemned Russian President Vladimir Putin's visit to Bethlehem. Protesters carried placards denouncing Putin as a "murderer" and "criminal" and accusing the Russian Army of committing "massacres" against the Syrian people. (Jerusalem Post)
Global Commentary and Think-Tank Analysis:
The Trump administration's plan for Israeli-Palestinian peace will open up a historic window of opportunity for the Jewish state, senior Israeli officials said on Thursday. According to the information currently available to Israeli officials, for the time being, the U.S. administration doesn't expect the Israeli government to recognize a Palestinian state, only to express willingness to discuss it in the future, and only if the Palestinians meet the American demands. Israeli officials were aware that the American initiative could lead to a security escalation in the West Bank and Gaza. (Israel Hayom)
Dr. Saeb Erekat, secretary-general of the Palestine Liberation Organization, opines that the unilateral recognition of a Palestinian state will advance peace. Rather inconveniently for him, the exact opposite is true. In making his demand, Erekat has knowingly reneged on the Palestine Liberation Organization's peace process commitment to solve all outstanding matters through negotiations with Israel. If the Palestinian leadership can receive international recognition for a declaratory state without directly negotiating, why would they ever seek genuine talks and reconciliation?
The global community has long agreed that direct peace talks are the only way forward, and Israel remains willing to discuss all the contested issues. Despite this, the Palestinian leadership has consistently refused to engage in such talks and has instead sought to bypass them. For the Palestinians, there is always an excuse to avoid negotiations.
Unilateral recognition will only prolong the Palestinians' delusion that progress is possible without direct talks. Erekat's proposal may be a useful distraction from the Palestinian Authority's failing leadership and its past rejection of numerous serious opportunities for reconciliation. If implemented, it would only serve to undermine peace and condemn his own people to the perpetuation of the status quo. The writer is Ambassador of Israel to the UK. (Guardian-UK)
Israelis and Palestinians in Gaza have brokered unwritten "understandings" that are already having a modest impact. Strawberries and snacks from Gaza may now be sold abroad. Gazan fishermen can venture farther into the Mediterranean for a better catch. 5,500 Palestinians are suddenly allowed to work in Israel after more than a decade.
Israel is easing some restrictions on trade and travel out of Gaza on the condition that Hamas halts rocket fire into Israel and violent confrontations at the Israeli border. Gaza resident Mahmoud Ghaben secured a coveted permit last August to work plastering buildings in Israel. "It's like finding treasure," says Ghaben. "Like a prisoner being let free." Gazans say they can make ten times as much money in Israel as they can in Gaza. (National Public Radio)
The tension between Iran and the U.S. that resulted from the targeted killing of Qasem Soleimani and the Iranian response of missile strikes on Iraqi military bases housing American troops has reached a level of intensity that has not been seen in years, and the possibility of additional deterioration to the point of a broad clash in the coming months still exists. Still, the conduct of both leaderships attests to the fact that neither has an interest in a large-scale confrontation.
The Trump administration, which from the outset viewed the American presence in the Middle East as an unnecessary burden, could, under other circumstances, have supported the withdrawal of its forces from Iraq. However, in the situation that has emerged since the killing of Soleimani, it has no interest in handing Tehran a victory. Moreover, Europe fears the possibility of the U.S. deciding to leave Iraq.
Sima Shine, formerly responsible for the Iranian file at Israel's Ministry of Strategic Affairs (2009-2015), was also head of research at the Mossad. Col. (res.) Eldad Shavit served as head of the research division of IDF Military Intelligence. (Institute for National Security Studies-Tel Aviv University)
In one of its last acts of 2019, the German parliament called on the government to ban Hizbullah and deny the Iranian terror proxy the ability to plan, recruit and raise funds on German soil. The EU should follow the German parliament's lead and recognize Hizbullah in its entirety as a terrorist organization.
Some EU members still argue for Hizbullah's legitimacy due to its political role in Lebanon, maintaining an artificial distinction, that the terror group itself does not recognize, between Hizbullah's "political wing" and "military wing." Yet Hizbullah works for the Iranian regime, not the Lebanese people, who have protested against Iran's influence in their country since October.
Hizbullah has planned and executed terrorist attacks on European soil. It raises hundreds of millions of dollars per year through criminal networks and money laundering schemes originating in or transiting Europe. An EU-wide designation of Hizbullah is necessary to deny it the vast European recruiting and fundraising networks it needs to survive. The writer is U.S. Ambassador to Germany. (Politico-EU)
On Jan. 15, ABC published "The moral case against Zionism" by Salman Abu Sitta, who argued that racism is intrinsic to Zionism. To dismiss an entire national liberation movement as racist - thereby calling into question its very existence - is extraordinary. Zionism is Jewish national self-determination.
Not only is national self-determination a universally-recognized right, but every national liberation movement in history has sought to create a state for their nation in their national homeland. Zionism is no different in this regard. If one thinks one national liberation movement is intrinsically racist, then, to be ethically consistent, one must consider all racist.
The Palestinian National Charter and the draft constitution of the future Palestinian state make clear the position of Arab Palestinians over any other people in the desired state. Either Palestinian nationalism and Zionism are both intrinsically racist, or neither are. The writer is Director of Public Affairs at the Zionist Federation of Australia. (ABC-Australia)
Former Soviet dissident and Jewish Agency chairman Natan Sharansky told the Jerusalem Post: "If I were a European leader, I would spend day and night asking myself how come that Europe was so quick to get rid in such a cruel way of its Jews who played such an important role in the creation and development of modern liberal European society, and how is it possible that today, just one generation after Holocaust, more and more European Jews believe that neither they nor their children have a future in Europe?"
"The ease with which these communities were destroyed and killed shows how thin the layer of culture and humanity is in liberal Europe....At a very minimum, every European leader should expect from each citizen of his or her country, including new citizens, to accept the fundamental principles of human rights, such as freedom and equality, that are basic for modern European culture."
"We should have zero tolerance for those who claim they love Jews and yet demonize Israel, or claim they love Israel and yet demonize Jews." (Jerusalem Post)
Identifying Jews as white in the context of American history is not only a perversion of the Jewish past but a denial of its peoplehood. In American politics, white implies one who is a beneficiary of the past 500 years of European exploration and exploitation, hardly accurate characteristics of Jewish history.
Only collective amnesia would preclude us from recalling how recently Jews were still barred from exclusive hotels, unwelcome in select restaurants, country clubs and even neighborhoods, and restricted by universities that implemented quotas.
It is nearly impossible to imagine that any other group who had one out of every three of its members wiped out in a six-year span would be considered privileged.
Jewishness as whiteness also obscures the unique and often oppressed experiences of Jews, including those of Sephardic, Arab, African or Middle Eastern descent. Jewish skin comes in every shade. Fighting anti-Semitism will begin when the complexity of Jewish experience is properly portrayed rather than lost in skin color. (JTA)
There is a problem with turning the "lessons of the Holocaust" into the moral basis for fighting anti-Semitism. Jewish suffering is put on display as a call to end hatred, instead of presenting Israel's status as a sovereign country as a counterweight to the new anti-Zionistic anti-Semitism.
When the justification for Israel's existence is predicated on the memory of victimhood, Europe can view the state as a type of humanitarian tent for Jews, and less as a sovereign country. Consequently, Israel is not permitted, in the eyes of Europe, to realize its legitimate right to self-defense. The moment the Israeli soldier ceases being the emaciated extermination camp survivor, he morphs into a monster in the eyes of the Europeans. The writer is professor emeritus of sociology at Paris Nanterre University. (Israel Hayom)
Bulgarian President Roumen Radev and Israeli President Reuven Rivlin discussed innovation, security and water management in Jerusalem on Jan. 21. With a water crisis in several Bulgarian cities, Radev expressed Bulgaria's interest in Israel's experience in protecting water resources. Rivlin expressed readiness for Israeli experts to assist Bulgaria in this area. (Sofia Globe-Bulgaria)
A new study published in Cell Reports that has the potential to eliminate the future need for dialysis says it is possible to rejuvenate kidneys and improve their function by using the patient's own stem cells. "This treatment is aimed at the millions of patients who have yet to require dialysis treatment, and focuses on improving their renal function," said Prof. Benjamin Dekel.
The new technology allows the extraction of healthy kidney cells from diseased kidneys, expands their numbers in a laboratory, and returns them to rebuild the organ. Relying on the patient's own cells circumvents problems with immune rejection. (Sheba Medical Center-Tel HaShomer)
Jordanian Vote Shows Why Defensible Borders Still Matter - Evelyn Gordon (JNS)