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November 20, 2015

In-Depth Issues:

After 30 Years in Prison, Jonathan Pollard Is Freed - Peter Baker (New York Times)
    Jonathan J. Pollard, the American convicted of passing classified documents to Israel, walked out of a federal prison in Butner, N.C., on Friday after 30 years, after receiving parole on a life sentence.
    Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said in a statement that the people of his nation "welcome the release," noting that he himself had "raised Jonathan's case for years" with several American presidents.
    The Obama administration had no plans to let Pollard move to Israel as he requested.
    However, Rep. Eliot L. Engel of New York, the top Democrat on the House Foreign Affairs Committee, said, "I don't know why we wouldn't approve that. He served his full term. I don't know what good it does except to keep the whole show going."
    The only American ever given a life sentence for spying for an ally, Pollard was granted Israeli citizenship during his imprisonment.
    Nahman Shai of the center-left Zionist Union, who heads a Knesset caucus that advocated Pollard's release, wrote, "We will not rest until you are free to depart the United States for any destination of your choosing, first and foremost Israel."

53 Iranian IRGC Fighters Killed in Syria (Intelligence and Terrorism Information Center)
    In September 2015 Iran increased the number of its forces in Syria, dispatching between 1,500 and 2,000 fighters, some of them taking an active part in the fighting.
    Iranian Revolutionary Guards (IRGC) and Shi'ite foreign fighters from Afghanistan and Iraq were sent to support the Syrian army in its attack in northern Syria in October.
    The fierce battles caused the Iranian forces heavy losses: since the beginning of the offensive at least 53 Iranian IRGC fighters have been killed in Syria.
    The heavy losses have required the Iranian leadership to justify Iran's military involvement in Syria.
    The regime has instituted a media campaign praising sacrifice for defending sites in Syria sacred to Shi'a Islam, especially the shrine of Set Zaynab, the prophet Muhammad's granddaughter.

Russia to Build Egypt's First Nuclear Power Plant (Reuters)
    Moscow and Cairo signed an agreement on Thursday for Russia to build a nuclear power plant in Egypt, with Russia extending a loan to Egypt to cover the cost of construction.
    The plant, Egypt's first, would be built at Dabaa in the north and is expected to be completed by 2022.

China Kills 28 Responsible for Attack in Xinjiang, Blames "Foreign Terrorists" (BBC News)
    Chinese security forces have killed 28 people responsible for a deadly attack on a coal mine in Asku in Xinjiang that killed 16 people on Sept. 18.
    Xinjiang, often hit by unrest, is home to a mostly Muslim Uighur ethnic minority. Hundreds of people have died in attacks over the past three years.
    China says "foreign terrorists" are behind the violence in the region.

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It's Hope, Not Despair, That's Driving Muslims to ISIS - Israel Harel (Ha'aretz)
    Islamic State does not act out of desperation. Just the opposite: It is hope that is driving the Islamic offensive against the free world.
    The desperate do not believe that they can change reality and are inclined to passivity. The hopeful, in contrast, believe that if they take active measures, they will achieve their goal.

Israel, Palestinians Sign Agreement on High-Speed Internet - Khaled Abu Toameh (Jerusalem Post)
    The IDF signed an agreement with the Palestinians on Thursday that allows their two mobile carriers to upgrade to 3G high-speed mobile Internet. The new service is expected to go into effect in mid-2016.
    The upgrade is a unilateral gesture by Prime Minister Netanyahu to improve economic and civilian life for the Palestinians.

Technion Scientists "Grow" Gold - Judy Siegel-Itzkovich (Jerusalem Post)
    An artificial, porous, single crystal of gold has been "grown" for the first time by scientists at the Technion-Israel Institute of Technology in Haifa, according to a report in the journal Nature Communications.
    Doctoral student Maria Koifman-Khristosov said, "These materials clearly have many potential applications."
    "Single crystals have multiple advantages [that]...include mechanical strength, high resistance to heat and enhanced conduction of electricity and heat."

Israel Unveils Roman-Era Mosaic (AP)
    Israel's antiquities authority on Monday unveiled a 1,700-year-old mosaic floor that archaeologists found last year.
    The Roman-era mosaic measures 11 meters by 13 meters and paved the courtyard of a villa in an affluent neighborhood. The scenes include hunting animals, fish, vases and birds.
    "The quality of the images portrayed in the mosaic indicates a highly developed artistic ability," said Amir Gorzalczany, who directed the excavation.

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News Resources - North America, Europe, and Asia:
  • Islamic State Determined to Produce Chemical Weapons - Hamza Hendawi
    The Islamic State is aggressively pursuing development of chemical weapons, setting up a branch dedicated to research and experiments with the help of scientists from Iraq, Syria and elsewhere, according to Iraqi and U.S. intelligence officials. The group has used mustard gas on the battlefield in Iraq and Syria.
        Sameer al-Khalifawy, a senior deputy to IS leader Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi, wrote in a 2013 report to al-Baghdadi of "significant progress" toward producing chemical weapons, according to two senior officials with access to the document, obtained by Iraqi intelligence. (AP)
  • U.S. Airstrikes Destroy 116 ISIS Fuel Trucks in Syria - Robert Burns
    In an intensifying campaign to squeeze Islamic State oil revenues, U.S. planes on Sunday destroyed 116 oil trucks in Syria that were a key part of a smuggling operation that brings the group an estimated $1.4 million a day. U.S. officials previously had said they avoided attacking fuel trucks out of concern for civilian casualties.
        Navy Capt. Jeff Davis, a Pentagon spokesman, said that in an effort to warn the truck drivers to leave the area in advance of Sunday's attacks, leaflets were dropped and coalition planes conducted low-level "show of force" flights over the site. (AP-Huffington Post)
  • Swedish Police Arrest Islamic State Terror Suspect - Charles Duxbury
    Swedish police on Thursday arrested Mutar Muthanna Majid, 25, whom they believe has links to Islamic State and whom they have been hunting since Wednesday on suspicion of planning an attack. Dagens Nyheter newspaper reported that the arrest had taken place at a reception center for asylum seekers in Boliden. (Wall Street Journal-Reuters)
        See also Italy Hunting Five Terror Suspects after FBI Tip-Off
    Italy is looking for five terror suspects after a tip-off from the FBI about possible jihadist attacks on landmark sites including St. Peter's cathedral in the Vatican, Foreign Minister Paolo Gentiloni said Thursday. (AFP)
News Resources - Israel and the Mideast:
  • Palestinian Murders Two Israelis in Tel Aviv - Judah Ari Gross
    Two Israelis were killed and at least two others wounded by a Palestinian in a stabbing attack in southern Tel Aviv Thursday. Rabbi Aharon Yesiab, 32, and Reuven Aviram, 51, were killed by Raid Halil bin Mahmoud, 36, from West Bank town of Dura near to Hebron. Mahmoud was issued a work permit four days ago enabling him to find employment in Israel. (Times of Israel)
  • Palestinian Murders 3, Wounds 4 in Etzion Bloc Shooting Attack - Raoul Wootliff
    Three people were killed and four others injured Thursday by a Palestinian in shooting attacks near Alon Shvut in the Etzion Bloc in the West Bank. An Israeli educator, Yaakov Don, 49, from Alon Shvut; American yeshiva student Ezra Schwartz, 18, of Sharon, Massachusetts; and a Palestinian man, Shadi Arafa, from Hebron, were killed by Mohammed Abdel Basset al-Kharoub, 24, from Dir Smat near Hebron, who opened fire with an automatic weapon from inside his vehicle at Israeli vehicles, hitting several people. Then he rammed his vehicle into a car. Security personnel shot back at the suspect and arrested him. (Times of Israel)
        See also Former Toronto Teacher and Rabbi Killed in West Bank Shooting - Oliver Sachgau
    Rabbi Yaakov Don, who was killed in a drive-by shooting Thursday in the West Bank, taught at the Community Hebrew Academy of Toronto for four years in the early 2000s before moving back to Israel. Josh Sable, who worked with Don at the academy, said Don had an unusually large impact on his students. "He had this incredibly warm smile, and he was very passionate about everything that he did."  (Toronto Star-Canada)
        See also U.S. Teen Killed in West Bank Terror Attack - Allison Kaplan Sommer
    Ezra Schwartz, a recent graduate of the Maimonides School in Brookline, MA, was in Israel for his gap year, studying at the Yeshiva Ashreinu in Beit Shemesh. According to Channel 2, Schwartz and other students from the yeshiva were in a minivan on their way to deliver snacks to Israel Defense Forces soldiers when a Palestinian opened fire toward a line of cars. (Ha'aretz)
  • Netanyahu: Homes of Terrorists Will Be Demolished - Herb Keinon and Lahav Harkov
    Israel will "settle accounts" with the terrorists and "exact a price" from their families, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said on Thursday following a pair of fatal attacks in Tel Aviv and Gush Etzion. He said the homes of the terrorists will be demolished and their residency revoked. Netanyahu held high-level security consultations to discuss moves to carry out in the Hebron area, the region from where most of the terrorists have come in recent days.
        The prime minister said the same Islamist extremists who are trying to destroy Israel are attacking Paris and threatening Europe. (Jerusalem Post)
        See also Israel Freezes Entry Permits for Palestinians from Hebron Area - Stuart Winer
    Over a thousand Palestinian residents of the Hebron area have had their entry permits into Israel suspended following Thursday's stabbing attack in Tel Aviv, which was carried out by a permit holder from the area. (Times of Israel)
Global Commentary and Think-Tank Analysis (Best of U.S., UK, and Israel):
  • Why the Palestinians Keep Killing - Jonathan S. Tobin
    In an interview with Israel's Channel 10, PA leader Mahmoud Abbas admitted that in 2008 he flatly rejected an offer of statehood from Israel that would have given him control of almost all the West Bank and a share of Jerusalem as well as Gaza. This is the first time he has owned up to the truth about what happened during the negotiations that took place during the last months of the Bush administration. It also undermines the premise of Israel's critics who claim its policies are the obstacle to peace in the Middle East.
        We're constantly told, both by voices in the mainstream media and the Obama administration, that if only Israel would offer the Palestinians a state of their own, then the current surge in Palestinian terrorism would not be happening. But what if Israel had already offered the Palestinians the state their apologists say would be the solution to all of the region's problems? Well, actually they have. Several times. If the lack of a state was the problem, Abbas saying yes could have solved it in 2008.
        Abbas knew that he could not sign any document that would recognize the legitimacy of a Jewish state no matter where its borders would be drawn. The killing continues, not because the Israelis haven't tried, but because the Palestinians don't want peace. Just like Hamas, Abbas thinks all of Israel, not just the West Bank and Jerusalem, are occupied territory. Those who are interested in the truth can no longer claim there is any doubt about who rejected peace. (Commentary)
  • Poll: Palestinians Want to Work in Israel Now, "Liberate" It Later - David Pollock
    A Palestinian opinion poll I conducted in June 2015 found that neither politics nor religion is a top priority for most Palestinians in the West Bank or Gaza. Most people say their top priority is either "making enough money to live comfortably" or "having a good family life." Only 14% of West Bankers, and 24% of Gazans select "working to establish a Palestinian state" as their top priority. A mere 12% of West Bankers and 19% of Gazans say that "being a good Muslim (or Christian)" is either their first or even second priority.
        Despite widespread theoretical support for boycotts against Israel, most Palestinians want economic cooperation and say they "would like to see Israel allow more Palestinians to work inside Israel."
        At the same time, there is majority support in both the West Bank (58%) and Gaza (65%) - even if a two-state solution is negotiated - for continuing the "struggle...until all of historic Palestine is liberated" and for armed "resistance" as a means toward that end. In the West Bank, 81% say that all of historic Palestine "is Palestinian land and Jews have no rights to the land." In Gaza it's 88%. The writer is a fellow at the Washington Institute for Near East Policy, where he directs the Fikra Forum blog and the Arabic website. (Mosaic)
  • Politically Correct Westerners Serve the Aims of the Islamist Revolution - Yair Lapid
    The Israeli-Palestinian conflict is not connected in any way to the wave of mass murder being carried out in the name of fundamentalist Islam. In fact, even ISIS doesn't claim that it attacked the heart of Paris because of the Palestinians. They say they did it because of the situation in Syria.
        Facts aren't good or bad, they're just facts: There is a thing called Islamic terrorism and the choices are to fight it without wavering or die. Muslims have killed no fewer than 12 million other Muslims because they didn't seem radical enough to them. In the long run everyone will have to choose which side they are on.
        In Asia, Africa, the Middle East and even in Europe, hundreds of millions of people live in conditions far worse than the fanatics of ISIS (and certainly far worse than the Palestinians who enjoy self-rule and generous European aid). The world is full of hungry, downtrodden people who don't think, even for one second, that their condition justifies the idea that they can pick up a weapon and murder innocent young people at a concert. Whoever offers some narrative which justifies terrorism is helping the fanatics.
        In my previous role as a member of Israel's security cabinet, I was exposed to a huge amount of intelligence information about how Islamic terrorists view Westerners who try to explain their actions with political correctness. They think it serves their aims and helps them achieve a global Islamist revolution. The writer, a former minister, is chairman of the Yesh Atid party in the Knesset. (Times of Israel)
  • Rise in Anti-Israel Activity on U.S. Campuses Reported
    Over 150 explicitly anti-Israel programs have taken place or are scheduled to take place on U.S. campuses so far this academic year, marking a 30% increase from last year when there were 105 similar programs during the same timeframe. (Anti-Defamation League)
        See also 70 Percent of Jewish Students Experienced Anti-Semitism at University of California - Tammi Rossman-Benjamin
    More than 70% of Jewish students at the University of California reported witnessing or experiencing anti-Semitism on campus including anti-Semitic graffiti, heckling, name-calling, threats and physical assaults. The writer is a lecturer at the University of California, Santa Cruz, and cofounder and director of the AMCHA Initiative, devoted to investigating and combating campus anti-Semitism. (Times of Israel)

  • Weekend Features

  • Coping with Terror by Choosing Life - Evelyn Gordon
    The most remarkable aspect of Israel's response to terror is how the victims' families and friends cope with their grief and pain. One particular response has become common: commemorating the victims by launching some concrete project to make Israel a better place.
        One such project is called "Nirim in the Neighborhoods," that seeks to rehabilitate juvenile delinquents by means of wilderness therapy. The program was founded by a group of Israeli naval commandos to commemorate one of their comrades, Nir Krichman, who was killed during a counterterrorism operation in the West Bank in 2002. The program was subsequently adopted by the entire unit, and to this day commandos regularly accompany the teenage participants on the wilderness treks that constitute the therapy's key element. Thirteen years later, Nirim claims that 95% of its 300 graduates have successfully turned their lives around.
        The Koby Mandell Foundation was established by Koby's parents after the 13-year-old was murdered by terrorists in 2001; it runs programs to help traumatized siblings of terror victims. The Malki Roth Foundation was established by Malki's parents after the 15-year-old was murdered by terrorists that same year; this organization helps families care for special-needs children at home. The Benji Hillman Foundation, which assists lone soldiers, was started by Benji's parents after he was killed in the Second Lebanon War of 2006.
        When Jonathan Einhorn fell in the Second Lebanon War, his parents chose to commemorate his love of the land by building a public park. After Gilad Shtokelman fell in the same war, his parents decided to build their small community's first synagogue in his memory.
        Israelis have repeatedly responded to grief and pain by actively working to make some little corner of their world a better place. And that's precisely why Israel, against the odds, has become the thriving country it is amid a region that is falling apart. Faced with terror, Israelis have overwhelmingly chosen life. (Commentary)
  • Israeli Life Science Innovation and Technology Continues to Change Lives for the Better - Ohad Cohen
    There are over 1,200 active life science companies in Israel with some 40 new companies formed each year. In 2013, Israeli life science exports reached $8 billion. The life sciences industry combines medicine with very advanced technology. Israel has world-leading expertise in many different areas, including big data, electronics, medicine, imaging and software. The largest life science sectors in Israel are medical devices and healthcare IT technologies.
        Israeli scientists and engineers have developed world-class innovations in digital imaging, medical lasers, telemedicine, early diagnostics and smart surgical equipment. The writer heads the Foreign Trade Administration at the Israel Ministry of Economy. (Times of Israel)

Part 1 - Confessions of an ISIS Spy - Michael Weiss (Daily Beast)

  • A man claiming to be a member of the Islamic State's security services whom we'll call Abu Khaled has defected and stepped forward to provide an inside view.
  • Before the fight for the Kurdish town of Kobani last year, the caliphate had an aura of invincibility. But in that battle, which lasted for months, Kurdish paramilitaries backed by U.S. airpower fought well, while ISIS sent thousands to their slaughter. The jihadist army had lost between 4,000 and 5,000 fighters, most of them non-Syrians. "Double this number are wounded and can't fight anymore," Abu Khaled told me.
  • Last September, "we had like 3,000 foreign fighters who arrived every day to join ISIS....Now we don't have even like 50 or 60." This sudden shortfall has led to a careful rethinking by ISIS high command.
  • "They are trying to make sleeper cells all over the world." The ISIS leadership has "asked people to stay in their countries and fight there, kill citizens, blow up buildings, whatever they can do. You don't have to come."
    See also Part 2 - How ISIS Picks Its Suicide Bombers - Michael Weiss (Daily Beast)
  • "When you join ISIS, during the clerical classes, they ask: 'Who will be a martyr?' People raise their hands, and they go off to a separate group." There's no lack of young men looking for a quick trip to Paradise. "They keep volunteering," said Abu Khaled.
  • The ISIS leadership is mainly Iraqi, the former henchmen of Saddam Hussein, and if there is a political, as opposed to religious, objective underlying all its activity, it is the restoration of Sunni power in Baghdad.
  • Not all of America's supposed allies in Syria are what they seem. Some of the people in the Free Syrian Army are secretly working for ISIS.
  • In Syria, the chiefs of the security services branches tend to be Palestinians from Gaza. The provincial governors are foreigners from Saudi Arabia, Tunisia, Iraq - but not Syrians.
    See also Part 3 - Inside ISIS's Torture Brigades - Michael Weiss (Daily Beast)
  • As with Bashar al-Assad and Saddam Hussein, ISIS is absolutely paranoid about infiltration. Fear must be maintained to keep people from so much as thinking of resistance.
    See also Making Sense of ISIS - Shirin Lotfi interviews Michael Weiss (Fathom-BICOM)
  • Most of the guys running ISIS were former Saddamists. They were Ba'ath Party members, they worked in the Iraqi military under Saddam, or they were Mukhabarat officers. That explains why they are much better than al-Qaeda at lording over a local population, and at conducting themselves at the level of conventional warfare.
  • Also, it explains why their informational warfare is very sophisticated. We are talking about the Iraqi Ba'ath, trained by the Soviets.
  • Putting out tweets showing ISIS barbarism and ISIS atrocities doesn't work. ISIS puts them out anyway! They like to exhibit their own atrocities, because that's a recruitment driver. They've managed to achieve in three years what al-Qaeda never did in 20.

    Michael Weiss is the co-author with Hassan Hassan of the New York Times bestseller ISIS: Inside the Army of Terror.
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