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November 28, 2014

In-Depth Issues:

U.S.-Backed Rebels Push Forward in Southern Syria (AP-Washington Post)
    Syrian rebels backed by the U.S. are making their biggest gains yet, capturing a string of towns from government forces south of the capital Damascus.
    The rebel forces are believed to include fighters who graduated from a nearly 2-year-old CIA training program based in Jordan.
    The rebels are working together with fighters from al-Qaeda's Syria branch, which points to the difficulty in American efforts to build up "moderate" factions while isolating militants.

Oil Prices Plummet as OPEC Decides Against Output Cut - Kim Hjelmgaard (USA Today)
    Oil prices fell sharply Thursday after the powerful oil collective OPEC, which accounts for 40% of global oil production, said it wouldn't intervene in global markets and cut production levels to stem oil prices that have fallen 30% since June.
    Crude oil prices plummeted 2.7% to $72.61 a barrel following the announcement. In June, prices were as high as $115 a barrel.

Bulgaria Charges Radical Imam, Six Others with Supporting Islamic State - Angel Krasimirov (Reuters)
    A Bulgarian imam and six others detained earlier this week have been charged with supporting the ultra-radical militant group Islamic State, Bulgarian prosecutors said on Wednesday.
    Charges against Muslim prayer leader Ahmed Mussa, five men and one woman include propagating an anti-democratic ideology and incitement to war, both verbally and with videos and images, Deputy Chief Prosecutor Borislav Sarafov said.
    Investigators discovered a large number of shirts, hats, flags and banners with the logo of the Islamic State. Mussa preached surrounded by Islamic State flags.
    Muslims in Bulgaria are a centuries-old community, mostly ethnic Turkish descendants of Ottoman rule that ended in 1878. They make up 12% of the 7.3 million population.

Islamic State Relaxes Vetting of Foreign Jihadists - Ruth Sherlock (Telegraph-UK)
    The Islamic State has relaxed "vetting" procedures for foreign jihadists and expanded military training camps in a drive to build its "caliphate."
    "[IS leader] Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi has called for all Muslims to come to their land, so the process is much less stringent," said Abu Ahmed, a Syrian in Turkey who runs a safe house and helps funnel jihadists into the country. "They want everyone to come."
    See also ISIS Enlisting Child Soldiers on Massive Scale - Zeina Karam and Vivian Salama (AP)
    Teenagers carrying weapons stand at checkpoints in Iraq's second-largest city, Mosul. They are members of the Islamic Police.
    Across the vast region under IS control, the group is actively conscripting children for battle, according to independent experts and human rights groups.
    A UN panel investigating war crimes in Syria concluded that in its enlistment of children for active combat roles, the Islamic State is perpetrating abuses and war crimes on a massive scale "in a systematic and organized manner."

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On Anniversary of Mumbai Terror Attacks, Israel Stands with India (Indo Asian News Service)
    In the Nov. 26-28, 2008, Mumbai terror attack, 166 people were killed by 10 gunmen from Pakistan.
    Remembering the victims, which included four of its citizens, Ambassador of Israel to India Daniel Carmon said Wednesday: "We appreciate the efforts put in by the people, the government and the security forces of India in their tireless efforts to fight and eliminate terror."
    "Fighting terror is a global mission and Israel has, is and will always stand with India and with all nations who stand up against terror."

Son of Hamas Chief: Ceasefire Gives Hamas Time to Rearm - Avi Issacharoff (Times of Israel)
    The son of West Bank Hamas chief Sheikh Hasan Yousef, Mosab Hasan Yousef, who was an Israeli agent from 1997 to 2007, said in an interview during a visit to Israel that Hamas "is first and foremost an ideological movement, and there can be no negotiating or compromising with it. It cannot be appeased through diplomatic compromise."

British Town Council Votes to Ban All Israeli Goods - Jerry Lewis (Jerusalem Post)
    The Leicester city council, which is controlled by Britain's main opposition party, Labor, has instituted a ban of all Israeli goods despite Labor's leader Ed Miliband saying he and his party oppose any boycotts.
    About 19% of the city's 330,000 residents are Muslims. The Jewish community numbers 295.
    The resolution calling for a ban on Israeli goods was proposed by Councilor Mohammed Dawood and was passed by the city council on Nov. 13.

Israeli Water Technologies Migrate to China - Karin Kloosterman (Green Prophet)
    Israeli Minister of Economy Naftali Bennett launched the flagship "Water City" project in Shouguang, China, this week.
    The Chinese water system faces many challenges including rapid population growth and widespread contamination of the country's water resources.
    As part of the project, the city will enjoy technologies offered by Israeli firms in desalination, sewage management, irrigation, reuse of water for agricultural, water supply and more.

Israel's SimilarWeb Raises $15 Million (Reuters)
    Israeli start-up SimilarWeb said on Tuesday it raised $15 million in a funding round aimed at increasing the pace of its global expansion.
    SimilarWeb measures computer usage into the mobile Internet realm and the apps where users spend the overwhelming bulk of their time on smartphones.
    SimilarWeb tracks Internet and mobile use in more than 200 countries, offering standardized rankings for site traffic in the top 55 web countries.

Israeli Pollution Monitor Named One of World's Hottest Apps - David Shamah (Times of Israel)
    Israeli air pollution monitor app BreezoMeter has been named one of the "20 hottest in the world" by American cable news network CNBC. BreezoMeter shows how good or poor air quality is in a specific location - like right outside your house.
    According to Ran Korber, who developed BreezoMeter along with partner Ziv Lautman, the app "takes information from pollution stations and extrapolates it, based on wind direction, speed, and other factors to give an accurate reading of pollution levels even far away from a station."

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News Resources - North America, Europe, and Asia:
  • Iran's Supreme Leader Backs Further Nuclear Talks - Thomas Erdbrink
    "I do not disagree with the extension of the negotiations, as I have not disagreed with negotiations in the first place," Iran's supreme leader, Ayatollah Khamenei, said in a speech published on his personal website on Thursday. Khamenei reiterated his support for the Iranian negotiators, saying: "They have been firm, have not caved in and are seriously trying hard." Khamenei said he was not worried about whether the negotiations would lead to a deal. "If there is no agreement, we will not lose."  (New York Times)
        See also Iran's Ayatollah Khamenei Threatens Israel
    Iran's supreme leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei tweeted on Thursday: "US says that Israel's security must be protected; know that whether or not a deal is achieved, #Israel will get more insecure on a daily basis."  (Twitter)
  • EU Foreign Policy Chief: Palestine Recognition Not "Goal in Itself" - James G. Neuger
    EU foreign policy chief Federica Mogherini cast doubt on the movement to recognize Palestine as a state, asking whether the gesture would promote a Middle East peace settlement. "The recognition of the state and even the negotiations are not a goal in itself, the goal in itself is having a Palestinian state in place and having Israel living next to it," Mogherini told the European Parliament in Strasbourg on Thursday.
        Benny Dagan, deputy head of the Israeli Foreign Ministry's policy research center, told the German Marshall Fund in Brussels this week that "empty gestures" would lessen the Palestinian will to make compromises needed for peace. (Bloomberg)
  • Tony Blair: "The Only Way to Create a Palestinian State Is to Create It on the Ground" - Stephen Fidler
    Q: What do you think of the moves toward diplomatic recognition of the Palestinian state?
    Blair: "In the end, the only way to create a Palestinian state is to create it on the ground, so this issue won't be resolved in the capitals of Europe or in New York, it's going to be resolved between the Israelis and Palestinians, helped, supported and guided by the international community, particularly the Americans."
        "Probably the members of the Quartet would not be agreed on whether it's a good idea or a bad idea. No one seriously believes that in the end that is what is going to create the Palestinian state, but it's significant because it indicates the degree of dissatisfaction that people have with the status quo."  (Wall Street Journal)
News Resources - Israel and the Mideast:
  • Israeli Army Jeep Shot at near Gaza Border, IDF Responds with Tank Fire - Gili Cohen
    An Israel Defense Forces jeep patrolling the Gaza border near Kissufim was fired at on Thursday. The jeep's window was damaged, but no one was wounded. The army responded with tank fire. This was the first such incident since the summer's Gaza war. (Ha'aretz)
  • Israeli UN Ambassador Prosor: The Only Arabs in the Middle East Who Are Truly Free Are Citizens of Israel
    Israeli Ambassador to the UN Ron Prosor addressed the UN General Assembly on the "Question of Palestine" on Monday: "Today in this Assembly, truth will be turned on its head and morality cast aside....When members of the international community speak about the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, a fog descends to cloud all logic and moral clarity....The world's unrelenting focus on the Israeli-Palestinian conflict is an injustice to tens of millions of victims of tyranny and terrorism in the Middle East. As we speak, Yazidis, Bahai, Kurds, Christians and Muslims are being executed and expelled by radical extremists at a rate of 1,000 people per month."
        "Of the 300 million Arabs in the Middle East and North Africa, less than half a percent are truly free - and they are all citizens of Israel."
        "Every European parliament that voted to prematurely and unilaterally recognize a Palestinian state is giving the Palestinians exactly what they want - statehood without peace. By handing them a state on a silver platter, you are rewarding unilateral actions and taking away any incentive for the Palestinians to negotiate or compromise or renounce violence."  (Israel Ministry of Foreign Affairs)
  • Israel Accuses UN Investigator of Singling Out Israel, Ignoring Victims of Terror - Tovah Lazaroff and Herb Keinon
    The UN Special Rapporteur on adequate housing, Leilani Farha, on Tuesday issued a statement calling on Israel to "end its punitive demolition of Palestinian homes." Farha has not commented on the hundreds of homes Egypt has destroyed along the Gaza border in Rafah in the last month to prevent Hamas from digging smuggling tunnels. On Nov. 19, Israel destroyed the Jerusalem home of Abd al-Rahman al-Shaludi, who killed a 22-year-old woman and a three-month-old infant by ramming his car into them at a light rail station.
        Israel's mission to the UN in Geneva responded Thursday: "We regret that, despite the escalating trend of family evacuations and house demolitions throughout the entire Middle East region, the special rapporteur on adequate housing has never commented on the issue before, but deemed it necessary to make a statement regretting the demolition of the house of a terrorist who killed in cold blood a three-month-old baby, a young woman, and injured six others."  (Jerusalem Post)
Global Commentary and Think-Tank Analysis (Best of U.S., UK, and Israel):


  • Hamas Embraces the Path of the Islamic State - Lt. Col. (ret.) Jonathan D. Halevi
    The emergence of the State of the Islamic Caliphate (Islamic State) has fundamentally altered the reality of the Middle East and threatens to change the map of existing state borders and undermine all the Muslim states as separate national entities. Hamas and the Islamic Movement in Israel view the creation of the caliphate as a religious duty. In line with the prophecy of Muhammad, the restoration of the caliphate is supposed to be the means to unify Muslims under the rule of Islamic law before proceeding to conquer Europe and impose the Muslim religion worldwide.
        In Iraq and Syria, the Islamic State continues to entrench its rule, fearlessly defying the West while attracting thousands of Muslims from all over the world and inspiring many millions more. It also exercises considerable influence in the West Bank and in Gaza. In October 2014, Palestinian security forces arrested dozens of Islamic State supporters, some of whom had tried to set up secret cells and carry out terror attacks.
        Neither Hamas nor Islamic Jihad, both of which are dependent on Iran as a strategic ally, is free to express direct or indirect support for the Islamic State, the cardinal enemy of the regime in Tehran. The Islamic State has initiated a jihadist surge as it achieves victories on the battlefield, fights the West without trepidation, enforces Islamic law, and promises to liberate Palestine after overthrowing the "treasonous" Arab regimes in Saudi Arabia and Jordan.
        Hamas is trying to open a front with Israel in the West Bank and Jerusalem, adopting the Islamic State's terror methods without crediting the source of the inspiration. (Institute for Contemporary Affairs-Jerusalem Center for Public Affairs)
  • With Israel, Against Terror - William Kristol
    The latest terror attack took place in West Jerusalem, making clear - once again - that the goal of many Palestinians is not to adjust borders but to eliminate Israel, getting Jews out of the one place in the Middle East they remain.
        Given that, Americans and the members of Congress who represent them should ask: What is the reason for further delaying the move of the American embassy to Jerusalem, the capital of Israel since 1948? What is the rationale for the State Department not recognizing Israel as the land of your birth if you're born in West Jerusalem? Why shouldn't at least some of the aid to Abbas' Palestinian Authority be suspended and made contingent on their stopping incitement against Israelis and Jews?
        For that matter, why does the administration add fuel to a dangerous fire by denouncing Israel every time an apartment building is constructed in a neighborhood that everyone agrees would be part of Israel if there were to be a peace agreement?
        An obsession with the "peace process" encourages Palestinians to think that with a little more pressure - ranging from terror to boycotts - Israel can be forced to make concessions. But having pulled out of Gaza, and having tried time and again to respect Palestinian wishes and demands (God forbid Jews should intone prayers themselves on the Temple Mount), Israel is not now going to make further concessions under pressure. Nor should she.
        It should be a priority for Congress to signal unequivocally that America stands with Israel in our common fight against terror and barbarism. (Weekly Standard)
  • From an Era of Refugee Millions, Only Palestinians Remain - Andrew Roberts
    In the mid-1940s to early 1950s, 20 different ethnic groups were either forcibly or voluntarily moved, and usually in far worse circumstances and for far longer distances than the Palestinians. The groups included the Sikhs, Muslims and Hindus of the Punjab; the Crimean Tatars; the Japanese and Korean Kuril and Sakhalin Islanders; and the Soviet Chechens, Ingush and Balkars - numbering in the tens or even hundreds of thousands, if not millions.
        All of these refugee groups, except one, chose to try to make the best of their new environments. Most have succeeded. The sole exception has been the Palestinians, who made the choice to embrace fanatical irredentism and launch two intifadas resulting in the deaths of thousands of Palestinians and Israelis. Sadly, it has been the Arab states' cynical and self-interested policy for nearly seven decades to keep the Palestinians boiling with indignation. (Wall Street Journal)
  • The Hamas Charter Calls for the Murder of Jews - Yiftah Curiel
    Hamas' recent statements celebrating the murder of four Jews by Palestinian terrorists as they prayed in their Jerusalem synagogue are entirely consistent with its charter, which calls for the murder of Jews. Hamas TV, in a form of incitement and child abuse combined, teaches Palestinian children that all Jews should be killed, in order to brainwash the next generation to despise their Israeli neighbors and seek their destruction.
        Earlier this year, Hamas members murdered three Jewish teenagers who were on their way home from school. Hamas leader Khaled Meshaal spoke warmly about the "blessed hands" of the perpetrators. In August, Hamas spokesman Fawzi Barhoum said: "Anyone who has a knife, a club, a weapon, or a car, yet does not use it to run over a Jew or a settler, and does not use it to kill dozens of Zionists, does not belong to Palestine."
        Hamas is a representative of a jihadi ideology that is the main obstacle to peace in our region. Its rule of Gaza is an ongoing tragedy for both Palestinians and Israelis. Hamas must be condemned and marginalized by the international community, just like ISIS and al-Qaeda, so that it doesn't quash the hopes of the majority of Israelis and Palestinians to live in peace. The writer is the spokesman for the Embassy of Israel in Britain. (Guardian-UK)

  • Arab World

  • The Myth of the Caliphate - Nick Danforth
    In 1924, Turkish leader Kemal Ataturk officially abolished the Ottoman caliphate. If today's Islamists reference the Ottomans, most of them are much more focused on trying to re-create earlier caliphates: the era of the four Rightly Guided Caliphs, who ruled immediately after Muhammad's death in the seventh century, or the Abbasid caliphate, which existed from the ninth to the thirteenth centuries.
        The caliphate's history under the Ottomans shows why the institution might be better thought of as a political fantasy - a blank slate that contemporary Islamists are largely making up as they go along. The 21st-century Islamist movements are just players in a centuries-long debate about a concept that has only occasionally taken on widespread relevance in the Islamic world. (Foreign Affairs)
  • West Cannot Control Resurgent Islam - Ariel Ben Solomon
    World powers cannot "control the scope and nature of resurgent Islam, are too timid to go all the way with Iran, restrain Turkey's resurgent neo-Islamism or even to force the Palestinians to accept Israel's existence," said Middle East Quarterly editor Prof. Efraim Karsh, a Middle East scholar at King's College in London. "So, in the final account, the staying and/or disintegration of certain states will depend on how well these states handle their formidable challenges, not what the West does or does not do."  (Jerusalem Post)

  • The Gaza War

  • The Lessons of Operation Protective Edge - Anat Kurz and Shlomo Brom
    Operation Protective Edge was the third round of fighting between Israel and Hamas since 2008. The 27 essays in this study focus on military, civilian, political, and strategic aspects of the 2014 Gaza War, while attempting to elicit the lessons that could be of relevance in future similar situations. (Institute for National Security Studies-Tel Aviv University)
  • The Combat Performance of Hamas in the 2014 Gaza War - Jeffrey White
    Major improvements by Hamas in its latest war with Israel included: enhanced range and numbers of rockets, improved protection of its military infrastructure from Israeli attack, a system of offensive and defensive tunnels, and increased effectiveness and cohesion of its ground combat forces. These improvements allowed Hamas to conduct sustained strikes deep inside Israel, to conduct offensive ground actions inside Israel, and to present significant opposition to Israel's ground incursion.
        Nevertheless, its rocket offensive caused few casualties and little damage. Its offensive tunnel system did not lead to successful penetration of the border defense system, except perhaps in one case. Despite the defensive tunnel system, Israeli forces caused extensive damage to Hamas' military infrastructure and Hamas' ground forces were unable to prevent IDF ground operations. The writer, a former senior U.S. defense intelligence officer, is a defense fellow at The Washington Institute for Near East Policy. (Combating Terrorism Center-West Point)
  • The War over the Gaza War - Gregory J. Wallance
    Israel and human rights groups are still fighting over whether the Israeli army committed war crimes in this summer's Gaza War, just as they have after every major Palestinian-Israeli clash. What makes the current fight unusual is that Gen. Martin Dempsey, the Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, has sided with Israel, telling the Carnegie Council for Ethics in International Affairs earlier this month: "I actually do think that Israel went to extraordinary lengths to limit collateral damage and civilian casualties."
        The essential inquiry is whether Israel used proportionate force, that is, pursued military objectives while making reasonable efforts to minimize civilian casualties. Dempsey explained that in the Gaza battlefield, underground tunneling had turned Hamas into "nearly a subterranean society" directly beneath the civilian population. He cited the tactics used by Israel to minimize civilian casualties, including leaflets and "roof knocking" by small rockets with low-yield explosives on buildings to warn civilians sufficiently in advance of a coming strike to evacuate. He noted that the Joint Chiefs were sufficiently impressed that they sent an American military observer team to Israel to "get the lessons from that particular operation in Gaza."
        In September, Human Rights Watch issued a report accusing Israel of war crimes in connection with civilian casualties. Amnesty International recently issued a report accusing Israel of displaying "callous indifference" to civilian lives in the Gaza conflict. Israel is being found guilty of war crimes not based on a measured military assessment of whether proportionate force was used, but simply because the battlefield dynamics of the Gaza War made civilian casualties inevitable despite tactics designed to minimize them. (The Hill)

  • Other Issues

  • The Decision on the Gaza Flotilla by the ICC Prosecutor: A Warning for the Future - Pnina Sharvit Baruch and Keren Aviram
    On Nov. 6, 2014, the prosecutor of the International Criminal Court (ICC) issued a report determining that there will be no investigation against Israel regarding the Mavi Marmara incident that took place in May 2010. While the prosecutor's operative conclusion is favorable to Israel, the decision's analysis of the events, combined with the findings and conclusions, could be indicative of the position the prosecutor's office will adopt toward future incidents.
        The report states that there is reasonable basis upon which to conclude that Israel continues to be an occupying power in Gaza despite the 2005 disengagement.
        The report states that there is a reasonable basis to believe that war crimes were committed by IDF soldiers, specifically, the willful killing and injuring of protected civilians. The claim accepted by Israel's Turkel Commission, that the violent IHH activists should be seen as civilians taking direct part in hostilities, and therefore, as a legitimate military target for attack, was rejected. Adv. Pnina Sharvit Baruch, a senior research associate at INSS, is former head of the International Law Department of the Israel Defense Forces. (Institute for National Security Studies-Tel Aviv University)
  • Why Do We Keep Saying It's Not Anti-Semitic? - Carol Hunt
    What occurred this week at the synagogue in Israel was age-old anti-Semitism. It was not political, it was not anti-Zionist, it was not an attack against Israel's military actions, it was a religious pogrom; the type of which has been seen thousands of times through the ages.
        The call to kill all Jews and destroy Israel is still there in the Hamas charter. This, to put it mildly, makes Jews living in Israel, surrounded by enemies, more than a little bit nervous. (Can you imagine what would happen if ISIS got in there? And we wonder why the Israelis need to be so militarized and hard-nosed?) Violent anti-Semitism is alive and well and increasing exponentially. (Independent-Ireland)

  • Weekend Features

  • Paralyzed Marine to Receive Bronze Star - Joshua Stewart
    Thanks to perseverance and cutting-edge technology, Capt. Derek Herrera did something once thought impossible: He walked across a stage last Friday to receive the Bronze Star. Herrera was paralyzed from the chest down in June 2012 by a sniper's bullet in Afghanistan. He now has a robotic exoskeleton called the "ReWalk" that helps him walk, invented by Dr. Amit Goffer of Israel.
        Herrera was one of the first Americans to use the ReWalk in their home after the Food and Drug Administration approved the device for use outside of medical settings. The nearly $70,000 exoskeleton includes leg braces, a backpack with a computer and batteries, a watch-like controller, and crutches. With it, he can stand, walk and sit. (Marine Corps Times)
  • Israel Navy Gets First Woman Ship Commander - Yoav Zitun
    Captain Or Cohen has been promoted to deputy chief of an Israel Navy Dvora patrol boat. Cohen is currently serving as navigation officer on a missile boat. "My life's dream is coming true," she said. "I'm grateful for the opportunity and the trust the senior command has in me."  (Ynet News)
  • A Visit to Chile's Little Palestine - Christine Legrand
    In the Santiago, Chile, neighborhood of Patronato, the walls of Cafe Beit Jala are covered with pictures from Beit Jala, the village from which many of the Palestinian families living in Chile emigrated. Chile is home to the largest Palestinian community outside of the Arab world, which some estimates put at 400,000; 95% are Christians. More than 80% arrived between 1900 and 1930, mostly from Bethlehem, Beit Jala, Beit Sahour and Beit Safafa.
        Chile's deputy interior minister is of Palestinian descent, as are 10% of the country's senators and 11% of the lower house deputies. Some Palestinian families are now among the wealthiest in Chile. More than two-thirds of marriages now involve a non-Palestinian partner. (Worldcrunch)

Myths about Israel and Zionism - Gerald McDermott (Public Discourse-Witherspoon Institute)

  • The United Nations partitioned Palestine in 1947, offering part to Jews and part to Arabs, with the intention that each part would become either a state or part of a state. What is commonly forgotten is that the part of Palestine allotted to Jews was home to a substantial Jewish majority - 538,000 Jews to 397,000 Arabs, according to official UN estimates.
  • Besides, the "Jewish national home," mandated by the League of Nations in 1920, originally included what is now the state of Jordan. 80% of this was given to Arabs, in what was then called Trans-Jordan. The remaining 20% was divided in the 1947 partition, which means Jews received only 17.5% of what was originally designated to be theirs.
  • Jews were unhappy, because the land they were given did not include West Jerusalem, which had a Jewish majority, and because 60% of their portion was the Negev, an arid desert then thought to be useless. But they accepted the partition. The Arabs did not.
  • Jews did not rob poor Arab peasants of their land, as many of today's critics suggest. By 1949, Britain had allocated 187,500 acres of cultivable land to Arabs and only 4,250 acres to Jews. So Jews were forced to pay exorbitant prices for arid land to wealthy, often absentee landlords - $1,000 per acre, when rich black soil in Iowa was getting $110 per acre.
  • Overall, the 1.3 million Arabs who live in Israel are the best-educated, healthiest, and best-fed Palestinians in the Middle East. The vast majority of this prosperity has come from citizenship or other participation in the Israeli state.
  • Those who support liberal democracy and religious freedom should remind themselves and others that claims for statehood ought to rest on historical fact - not fiction.

    The writer is Professor of Religion at Roanoke College.
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