Iran Proxies Raise Risk of Conflict
- Sune Engel Rasmussen and Isabel Coles (Wall Street Journal
As the U.S. pressures Iran to cut support for its armed proxies, some of those same militias are lashing out at Tehran's adversaries, risking an escalation.
From the Persian Gulf to Baghdad's Green Zone and Saudi oil facilities, Iran's rivals have been targeted in attacks in the past two weeks, while Iran has denied involvement.
Secretary of State Mike Pompeo told Iraqi officials in Baghdad this month that the U.S. would strike inside Iran to retaliate for any attack on its installations or personnel in Iraq.
"Iran will use its proxies for escalation, but a very gradual and measured one," said Fabian Hinz, an independent Middle East security analyst.
"Iran is doing what it has been doing for years, but slightly upping the ante to gain leverage."
Changes in the Iranian Revolutionary Guard: Preparations for Conflict?
- Iran Desk (Jerusalem Center for Public Affairs
The Iranian Revolutionary Guard Corps (IRGC) has undergone a new round of senior appointments and structural changes in its key intelligence, security, and cultural branches.
The appointments reflect Iran's preparation, domestically and externally, for a protracted campaign.
Hossein Salami and Ali Fadavi are expected to contend with military threats from the U.S. and other "enemies of Iran," while Hossein Taib and Mohammad Reza Naqdi are expected to respond to domestic threats, particularly a civil insurrection in light of the rapid aggravation of the economic crisis amid tightening U.S. sanctions.
Hundreds of Thousands of Israelis Flock to Mt. Meron for Lag B'Omer
Thousands converged on the northern Israeli town of Meron from Wednesday night through Thursday to celebrate Lag B'Omer at the tomb of Rabbi Shimon bar Yochai, author of the Zohar,
a seminal work on Jewish mysticism.
The celebration of his contribution to Jewish tradition and knowledge is commemorated with the lighting of bonfires.
Some 250,000 to 500,000 people are expected in Meron during the holiday.
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Palestinian Security Prisoners Receive Special Perks in Detention
Palestinian security prisoners receive special food for holidays, a TV in every cell, access to a ping-pong table and games, workout machines, and unlimited newspapers, according to official details released by the Israel Prison Service to the Israeli NGO Im Tirtzu.
UK Minister Orders Universities to Crack Down on Anti-Semites
- Eleanor Harding (Daily Mail-UK
UK higher education minister Chris Skidmore said Jewish societies have to pay up to 2,000 pounds for security at events because they are often gate-crashed by thugs.
"It is unacceptable to oblige certain groups of students to incur additional costs because of their race or religion, just to counteract the actions of others."
In a letter sent to all universities, Skidmore urged them to adopt the International Holocaust Remembrance Alliance (IHRA) definition of anti-Semitism to help clamp down on incidents.
This follows complaints from Jewish students that they are being made to feel unwelcome at UK universities.
The New German Anti-Semitism
- James Angelos (New York Times Magazine
Some 200,000 Jews live in Germany, a nation of 82 million people, and many are increasingly fearful.
In a 2018 EU survey of European Jews, 85% of respondents in Germany characterized anti-Semitism as a "very big" or "fairly big" problem; 89% said the problem has become worse in the last five years.
Slightly more than half said they directly experienced anti-Semitic harassment within the last five years, and of those, 41% perceived the perpetrator of the most serious incident to be "someone with a Muslim extremist view."
Sigmount Konigsberg, the anti-Semitism commissioner for Berlin's Jewish community, believes the former sense of security has eroded. People aren't heading for the exits yet, but they are starting to think: Where did I put that suitcase?
Felix Klein, Germany's first federal Commissioner for Jewish Life in Germany and the Fight Against Anti-Semitism, told me the rise of anti-Semitic acts was not just a matter of rising hate but a rising willingness to express it.
How Israel Is Helping to Feed the World
- Abigail Klein Leichman (Israel21c
Since the 1950s, Israelis have not only been finding miraculous ways to turn their own desert green but have also shared their discoveries far and wide.
Israeli drip-irrigation solutions are used worldwide.
Since 1/3 of the food produced globally is lost or wasted each year, Israeli-designed GrainPro Cocoons - huge bags that keep both water and air out - are used today in 100 countries.
Kibbutz Sde Eliyahu-owned Bio-Bee breeds and exports several species of beneficial insects and mites for biological pest control, and bumblebees for natural pollination, to more than 50 nations.
The company's top seller is the tiny BioPersimilis, a highly efficient enemy of the spider mite, a devastating agricultural pest.
BioPersimilis is used by most of California's strawberry farmers and by growers of peppers, tomatoes, potatoes, beans, corn, cucumber, melon, eggplant and ornamental flowers in order to reduce the amount of pesticides they use by up to 80%.
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News Resources - North America, Europe, and Asia:
- India Ended Iranian Oil Imports
India has ended all imports of oil from Iran in compliance with U.S. sanctions, its ambassador in Washington Harsh Vardhan Shringla said Wednesday. Iran formerly supplied 10% of India's oil needs. Turkey has also stopped importing oil from Iran, a Turkish official said Tuesday.
- NATO and Israel Deepen Ties - Michael Sieveking
Israel is fast becoming NATO's premier partner country. NATO can tap into over seven decades of counterterrorism experience, learn from a cyber powerhouse, and deepen intelligence ties with a tested and vibrant democracy perched on the shores of the Levantine powder keg. Living at close quarters with radical Islamist terrorists is business as usual for Israel.
The Israel Defense Forces (IDF) can share invaluable experience in asymmetric warfare against terrorist armies that use its own population as human shields and can give crucial advice to NATO commanders as they face similar challenges. Israel has pioneered advanced techniques to help protect civilians in residential combat zones.
On countless occasions, Israel has fed NATO allies life-saving intelligence. Just last year, Israel prevented a blood bath at a political rally in Paris plotted by diplomats of the Iranian regime. Israeli warnings also foiled an ISIS attack at a soccer match between NATO ally Albania and Israel in 2016.
The writer is deputy director of the American Jewish Committee Transatlantic Institute in Brussels.
- German Holocaust Archive Puts Millions of Documents Online
The International Tracing Service in Germany announced Tuesday it has uploaded more than 13 million documents from Nazi concentration camps to help Holocaust researchers investigate the fate of victims. The archive in the German town of Bad Arolsen with information on more than 2.2 million people is now available online. Established by the Western Allies in the final days of World War II and initially run by the Red Cross, the ITS is changing its name to "Arolsen Archives - International Center on Nazi Persecution." (AP-Washington Post)
News Resources - Israel and the Mideast:
- Dozens of Homes Destroyed as Israel Battles Major Wildfires
Israel on Thursday battled a multitude of wildfires. Thousands of residents were evacuated and dozens of homes were destroyed at Kibbutz Harel and Mevo Modi'im - a community founded by the late songwriting Rabbi Shlomo Carlebach.
"The damage is enormous, not just to the woodland, but also to the animals," said a Jewish National Fund (JNF) official. "Large swaths of the woodland, the green lung of the Dan region [greater Tel Aviv], were burnt."
Firefighting brigades mobilized all available units and used planes and dozens of fire trucks. In addition, Israel has asked for assistance from Greece, Cyprus, Italy and Croatia to help with the blazes. (Ynet News)
See also Cyprus Sends Two Fire-Fighting Planes to Israel
Two fire-fighting aircraft and a four-member team of ground-support Cypriot firefighters arrived in Israel on Friday morning to assist in putting out multiple blazes in the neighboring country. Israel formally requested Cyprus' assistance on Thursday evening.
- Flaming Gaza Balloons Ignited Fires in Israel Thursday - Anna Ahronheim
Flaming Gaza balloons ignited dozens of fires throughout southern Israel on Thursday.
- Arab States Pressuring Palestinians to Attend Bahrain Economic Workshop - Khaled Abu Toameh
"Some Arab countries are unhappy that we immediately rejected the idea of the workshop" next month in Bahrain, where the U.S. is planning to unveil the economic portion of its peace plan, a senior Palestinian Authority official in Ramallah told the Jerusalem Post. "They are now asking us to stop attacking the workshop and not to oppose the participation of Palestinian businessmen."
Other officials in Ramallah said Saudi Arabia, Egypt and the UAE have relayed a message to the PA leadership expressing their "concern" over Palestinian opposition to the workshop. (Jerusalem Post)
Global Commentary and Think-Tank Analysis:
- Former Israeli Security Adviser: Iran Wants "to Annihilate" Israel - Shiryn Ghermezian
Former Israeli National Security Adviser Brig.-Gen. (res.) Jacob Nagel talked about regional challenges facing Israel's security at an event in New York City last week. He called Iran "a country that wants to annihilate Israel," and said that Israel cannot accept an agreement in Syria that allows Iran and its proxy, Hizbullah, to remain as ground forces in the country because they are threatening the security of the Jewish state.
On the Israeli-Palestinian peace process, Nagel said for negotiations to begin, PA leader Mahmoud Abbas must acknowledge Israel's right to exist as a Jewish democratic state. Abbas' refusal to do so is the reason why he and Netanyahu have talked no more than seven hours in the last eight years.
Addressing the ongoing violence from Hamas in Gaza, Nagel said, "Why is there no solution? Because they don't want a solution. They share the same view as the chief of the Israeli navy: that the future of Israel is in the sea. This is where their mind is at - that we should be in the sea. Not living."
"They don't want the 1967 lines; they want Jaffa, they want Nahariya, Tel Aviv and Jerusalem. The only chance for peace in the West Bank, Gaza or with the Palestinian Authority is if someone on the inside will rise up and say enough, we cannot get 100%. We cannot get the right of return. This is Israel, and Israel is here to stay."
"We have to be prepared; Israel doesn't have the luxury to lose one war and then win another war. The first war that we lose will be the last one. We have to be prepared to fight regular armies, paramilitary, terrorists, terror along our borders and all over the world, in addition to cyber attacks and, of course, threats to our legitimacy." (JNS)
- The Problem with the U.S.-Backed Opposition outside Iran - Mehdi Khalaji
High-level members of the U.S. administration and others opposed to Iran's regime have long seen some outside Iranian opposition groups as saviors for the oppressed Iranian people. Unfortunately, these groups offer little hope for the future: they lack intellectual rigor, suffer from deep political divisions, and are missing organizational competence on the ground.
Groups such as the Mujahideen-e Khalq (MEK) and the Iranian monarchy-in-exile are seen as key players in a rosy scenario that envisions the wholesale abdication of the ruling regime, an end to Tehran's quest for regional hegemony and Iran's transformation into a liberal secular democracy, friendly toward the U.S. and its allies in the region. However, foreign support for the opposition would feed into the regime's propaganda that these groups are "foreign agents" and could very well be the kiss of death for any sort of popular opposition to the Islamic republic. The writer is a fellow at the Washington Institute for Near East Policy.
- U.S. Middle East Initiative, while Futile, Is Also a Breath of Fresh Air - Jonathan S. Tobin
The Palestinian Authority has already made clear that it won't negotiate on the basis of the new U.S. peace initiative. Under the current circumstances, Palestinian leadership and the political culture that sustains them simply won't allow it. But that is not the only way to look at the plan.
By sticking to a plan that puts economics first and refusing to prioritize pandering to Palestinian intransigence, the U.S. is creating a template for peace that makes sense, one that is being welcomed by most of the Arab world. That means that even after they torpedo progress toward peace, it will be the Palestinians who will be more isolated than ever, not the U.S. Convening an economic summit in which Israelis and Arab states will openly work toward greater cooperation will enhance America's standing in the region.
The Palestinians have already repeatedly rejected peace deals that would have given them statehood in almost all of the West Bank, Gaza, and a share of Jerusalem in 2000, 2001, and 2008. What's more, they refused to negotiate seriously during Obama's eight years in office despite his
nonstop efforts to tilt the diplomatic playing field in the Palestinians' direction.
The notion that the Sunni Arab states will blame the U.S. for trying to make a peace that the Palestinians will again reject is absurd. When the dust settles from the rollout of the American plan, the Arab states will be firmly in America's corner no matter what the Palestinians do.
- What Would a Palestinian State Actually Look Like? - Elan Journo
What would a Palestinian state actually look like? There have been four Palestinian quasi-states that provide ample data - in Jordan (1968-1970); in Lebanon (1970-1982); the Palestinian Authority in parts of the West Bank and Gaza (1993-onward); and the Hamas regime in Gaza (2007-onward). To the extent that the Palestinian movement has gained any semblance of self-rule and territorial control, it has built quasi-states that are militant and dictatorial - much to the detriment of the Palestinian people themselves.
Whenever the Palestinian movement has attained a modicum of self-rule over a stretch of territory, it has subjugated its own people and waged war against Israel. No honest error or inexperience with governance can explain this pattern. It reflects the ideas animating the leading factions of the Palestinian movement.
Some argue that we should suspend judgment until a sovereign, independent Palestinian state is realized. That's absurd. Why expect that handing authoritarians and theocrats more political power will convert them into champions of individual freedom? The idea of national self-determination cannot be a license to subjugate. No self-identified national community has the moral right to create a tyrannical regime.
- No, Israel Isn't a Country of Privileged White Europeans - Hen Mazzig
Israel's critics have undertaken a strategic campaign to taint Israel as an extension of privileged and powerful white Europe, positioning Israel as a colonialist aggressor rather than a haven for those fleeing oppression. This narrative all but erases the story of my family, who came to Israel from Iraq and Tunisia. Indeed, the majority of Jews in Israel today are of Middle Eastern and North African descent.
In Iraq, a Nazi-incited riot in 1941, the brutal Farhud, claimed the lives of hundreds of Jews. My great-grandfather was falsely accused of being a Zionist spy and executed in Baghdad in 1951. 850,000 Jewish refugees expelled from nations across the Middle East emigrated to Israel.
Demographic ignorance also works to deny the existence of almost 200,000 descendants of Ethiopian Jews who were airlifted to Israel in the early 1990s.
One of Judaism's central themes is a story of national liberation in the face of imperial powers. Israel is a place where an indigenous people have reclaimed their land and revived their ancient language, despite being surrounded by hostile neighbors and hounded by radicalized Arab nationalists who cannot tolerate any political entity in the region other than their own.
(Los Angeles Times)
- Saudi Reform Is Inching in a Positive Direction - Melanie Phillips
After last year's grisly murder of Saudi dissident Jamal Khashoggi in the Saudi Consulate in Istanbul, it looked like it might be curtains for Saudi reformist crown prince Mohammad bin Salman, known as MBS, who was accused of ordering his killing. As I revealed last October, however, Khashoggi was no reformer but an Islamist extremist. A one-time friend of Osama bin Laden, he called on all Arabs to join the "resistance" against Israel; and he opposed MBS because he wasn't jihadi enough. My own sources suggested
the Khashoggi killing was an attempt by MBS to kidnap him back to Saudi Arabia that went badly wrong.
Until recently, Saudi Arabia was the principal exporter to the world of the Wahhabi strain of Islamic extremism, which has radicalized countless millions to the jihadi cause. Now, the kingdom is no longer trying so hard to do so. It has been almost completely replaced by Qatar as the main source of funding for global Islamist education, and Saudi newspapers regularly publish diatribes against Islamist extremism.
Does the Saudi thaw toward Israel go any deeper than a tactical alliance against a common foe - Iran? Some of what is now being said in the kingdom, necessarily with the tacit consent of its regime, goes further than might be expected from merely tactical considerations. During the most recent rocket onslaught from Gaza, several prominent Saudi journalists and intellectuals expressed support for Israel that went beyond merely blaming Turkey and Iran for being behind the attacks.
Saudi reform is moving at a glacial pace. With a population and culture steeped in Islamist fundamentalism and anti-Semitism, to move too fast would produce a violent backlash. But Saudi Arabia is inching in a direction that until very recently would have been thought utterly impossible. And that is a big deal. The writer is a columnist for The Times (UK).
- A Global Study of Settlements in Occupied Territories - Eugene Kontorovich
This article examines every occupation since the adoption of the Geneva Conventions that involve the movement of civilian population into belligerently occupied territory. Eight such situations were identified. The study shows that there is no support in state practice for the notion that mere facilitation or accommodation of settlement activity violates the norm, or that there is any duty to prevent, obstruct, or discourage settlement activity.
The cases reviewed in addition to Israel include Indonesian settlers in East Timor, Moroccan settlers in Western Sahara, Turkish settlers in Northern Cyprus, Syrian settlers in Lebanon, Vietnamese settlers in Cambodia, Armenian settlers in Azerbaijan, and Russian settlers in Crimea (Ukraine) and Abkhazia (Georgia).
Outside the context of Israel, Article 49(6) of the Fourth Geneva Convention is not invoked by the international community in reaction to other settlement enterprises in occupied territories. Nor has there been any suggestion that the occupying power is obligated to remove such settlers.
The writer is a professor at George Mason University Law School.
(Journal of Legal Analysis-Oxford University Press)
- My Father's Family Was Turned Away from America on the M.S. St. Louis - David Molton
My father's family were among more than 900 passengers on the M.S. St. Louis, a German refugee ship that was turned away from North American ports in 1939. In June 1938, my grandfather was arrested and sent to Sachsenhausen concentration camp. After two months, he fled to Cuba. In November, Kristallnacht in Germany saw Jewish businesses sacked, synagogues burned to the ground, and Jewish men arrested en masse.
Left alone with three children, my grandmother spent much of her dwindling savings on a voyage to Cuba aboard the St. Louis.
As the ship neared Havana in May 1939, the Cuban government announced it wouldn't honor the Cuban landing permits sold to passengers by a corrupt Cuban minister. My father recalled seeing the lights and hotels of Miami as the ship steamed up the Florida coast, but the American government had prohibited the St. Louis from docking at any U.S. port. Canada also turned the ship away.
On June 6, the St. Louis headed back to Europe, where the passengers were allowed into Britain, France, Holland and Belgium.
Nazi armies overran three of these countries within a year. My family - through their own cunning, the assistance of righteous Christians, and a good amount of luck - survived the Nazi invasion. My father, aunt and grandmother went underground after receiving deportation notices to Auschwitz. They traveled through France to sanctuary in Lugano, Switzerland.
In 1946 the family finally reunited with my grandfather, who had come to the U.S. in 1940. Many of the other passengers from the St. Louis were not so lucky. The Germans killed 254 of the 532 who remained in Western Europe when Hitler's armies invaded. (Wall Street Journal)
- How the Mossad Rescued Oppressed Jews from around the World - Yonah Jeremy Bob
Israel is the only place "in the world to give the intelligence community the job of bringing large groups" of a specific population sector to another country to save them from persecution through secret dangerous operations, says Maj. (ret.) Yochi Erlich of the Israel Intelligence Heritage and Commemoration Center. An up-coming exhibition at the center will tell the tale of the Mossad's clandestine role in saving Jews under oppression in foreign lands.
Ibrahim Barzilai, now 93, was one of 20 Mossad agents brought in during 1955-6 to train and organize local Jewish communities in Algeria, Morocco and Tunisia. All of the Mossad agents were married and sent as couples. Barzilai said the Mossad ran two full-time laboratories for cranking out a massive number of forged passports.
In 1957, when Morocco formally closed off legal aliyah to Israel, the Mossad exploited an area of Morocco which had remained officially part of Spain. Once they got the Moroccan Jews into the Spanish area, they would legally be in Spain and could make aliyah to Israel.
Jews were also smuggled into France via Algeria, which was still officially French at the time. (Jerusalem Post)
- The Palestinian government "will work on gradually disengaging from Israel," PA Prime Minister Mohammed Shtayyeh asserted on May 20. As its first step toward disengagement, the PA had decided to freeze issuing referrals to Palestinians seeking medical care in Israel.
- "This is a game of false pride and honor," a source in Israel's Civil Administration said. "They are endangering the lives of the patients, mainly children and babies."
- The PA does not have many alternatives to the treatments provided by Israel for cancer patients or people suffering from genetic diseases, a relatively prevalent condition among local Palestinians due to marriage among close relatives.
- The second stage of the Palestinian disengagement process is to encourage local production to halt reliance on importing products from Israel. But according to Israeli sources, the PA is disregarding the reality in which it lives. Most of the raw materials the PA imports arrive via Israeli seaports or airports. The PA does not have its own currency. The Israeli shekel is the official legal tender in the West Bank as well as in Gaza.
- Because the Palestinian market is small and limited, the cost of production for creating alternative products would be high. Moreover, Palestinian consumers are familiar with Israeli products, and lower-quality, higher-priced alternatives will simply not survive market forces.
- The U.S. has recruited Qatar, Bahrain and other wealthy Gulf states to provide financial backing for the peace plan it will unfurl next month. The commitment of the Gulf states to the U.S. is significant.
- Abbas has almost no economic alternatives beyond Saudi Arabia and the UAE, and they are acting in their own interest to maintain good relations with the U.S. In other words: The Saudis and the Gulf states will not lift a finger to save Abbas from the dangerous corner that he is painting himself into.
The writer has covered the Palestinian Authority and Gaza for Israel's Channels 1 and 10 for the past two decades.
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