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February 19, 2016

In-Depth Issues:

Poll: After Nuclear Deal, 79 Percent of Americans Have Unfavorable View of Iran - Andrew Dugan (Gallup)
    As the deal designed to limit Iran's nuclear program has come into effect, Iran's long-standing negative image in the U.S. remains unchanged; 79% say they have an unfavorable view of Iran, while 14% say they have a favorable view, according to a Gallup poll conducted Feb. 3-7.
    57% of Americans disapprove of the Iran nuclear deal while 30% support it.

Report: Hizbullah Holds Assad's Opponents in Secret Prisons - Maayan Groisman (Jerusalem Post)
    According to the Syrian opposition website, Hizbullah has established several prisons in Syria outside Homs and Damascus where it tortures Syrian regime opponents as well as opponents to Hizbullah's presence in Syria.
    The most famous Hizbullah prison is the "Yellow Hole" in Homs.

Al-Quds University in Jerusalem Commemorates Terrorist (MEMRI)
    On Feb. 13, 2016, Al-Quds University in east Jerusalem held a "cultural event" in memory of Baha 'Alyan, who, together with Bilal Ghanem, carried out an Oct. 13, 2015, shooting and stabbing attack on a Jerusalem bus, killing three people and wounding four.
    The event was held under the auspices of the Palestinian Authority's "High Commission for Youth and Sports."
    The 2,500 students taking part in the event were asked to write messages in honor of Baha and other "martyrs," which were collected in a special box with the aim of compiling them into a book. Many of the participants at the event wore shirts bearing Baha's portrait.

Iran's Revolutionary Grandchildren - Robin Wright (New Yorker)
    When the revolutionary leader Ayatollah Khomeini died in 1989, he left behind fifteen grandchildren.
    All the Khomeini grandkids (eight males and seven females) are committed reformers pushing for Iran to open up at home - politically, economically, and socially.
    In public letters and interviews, seven have challenged the theocracy's political rules and rigid social strictures.

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Poll: Most Frenchmen Believe Jews Responsible for Rise in Anti-Semitism - Sam Sokol (Jerusalem Post)
    60% of Frenchmen believe that Jews bear at least some responsibility for recent rises in anti-Semitism, according to a new poll by the Ipsos market research firm.
    Commenting on the poll, French expert Dr. Dov Maimon of the Jewish People Policy Institute said:
    "Anti-Semitism is very high, etc. Jews are perceived as too many in the media, in politics, in finance, in public affairs. What is new? Jews are not perceived as troublemakers, they are contributing to the country. Prejudices against Muslims are much higher."
    Another recent poll pegged the number of French Jews mulling moving to Israel at 43%, or about 200,000 people.

IAI Unveils "Drone Guard" Counter-UAV Systems (Israel Defense)
    Israel Aerospace Industries (IAI) revealed the Drone Guard at the Singapore Airshow - new systems for detection, identification and flight disruption of hostile drones.
    ELTA, IAI's subsidiary, offers 3D radars and electro-optical (EO) sensors for detection and identification, as well as dedicated electronic attack (EA) jamming systems for disrupting drone flight.
    The jamming can either cause the drone to return to its point-of-origin or to shut down and make a crash landing.
    "We believe that in the near future every critical asset and public site will require these safety measures for protection against hostile drones," said ELTA president Nissim Hadas.

U.S. Extremist and Anti-Semitic Groups Surge in 2015 (Reuters)
    Extremist groups proliferated in the U.S. in 2015, the Southern Poverty Law Center said on Wednesday.
    Black separatist groups advocating anti-Semitic views grew to 180 chapters last year, up from 113 in 2014.
    The number of Ku Klux Klan chapters more than doubled to 190 from 72.
    See also Report: Active Hate Groups in the United States in 2015 (Southern Poverty Law Center)

After Palestine Talk, Harvard Donor Stops Sponsoring Events - Collin Binkley (AP)
    In 2012, the international law firm Milbank promised Harvard $1 million over five years to pay for scholarly conferences organized by law students.
    But after the money was used to support an event hosted by the student group Justice for Palestine, the law firm asked Harvard Law School to use the money for other purposes.

Apple's Chief Chipmaker Is an Israeli Arab - Brad Stone (Bloomberg)
    Johny Srouji, 51, is the senior vice president for hardware technologies at Apple. He runs the division that makes processor chips for the iPhone, iPad, Apple Watch, and Apple TV.
    Srouji is a Christian Arab born in Haifa, Israel, who learned at the Technion-Israel Institute of Technology, one of the world's top engineering schools.
    After graduating, Srouji got a job with IBM, which had placed its largest non-U.S. research facility in Haifa, then moved to Intel, and joined Apple in 2008.

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News Resources - North America, Europe, and Asia:
  • Report: Israel Strikes Syrian Army Outposts near Damascus
    The Syrian Observatory for Human Rights reported that three Israeli missiles hit Syrian military outposts on Wednesday south of Damascus. Syrian state media denied the report. (Reuters)
        See also Did Someone Cross Israel's Red Line in Syria? - Ron Ben-Yishai
    If Israel indeed carried out a strike in Syria, it is safe to assume that it was done in order to stop the transfer of advanced strategic weapons systems from Syria to Hizbullah, or from Iran, through Syria, to Hizbullah. Over the last few years, the Syrians and Iranians have been trying to transfer to Hizbullah precision ground-to-ground missiles, with warheads capable of holding hundreds of pounds of TNT, which are specifically designed to target strategic locations in Israel.
        They also have been trying to transfer surface-to-air missiles that could limit the abilities of the Israeli Air Force. The Air Force's ability to attack high-profile targets in large numbers is essential to prevent destruction and loss of life in Israel. (Ynet News)
  • Russia's UN Envoy: Assad Out of Step with Moscow on Syria Objectives - Alexander Winning and Christian Lowe
    President Bashar al-Assad was out of step with the views of his main ally, Russia, when he said he planned to fight on until he re-established control over all of Syria, Russia's UN envoy Vitaly Churkin said Thursday. Churkin said Russia was working toward a peaceful settlement for Syria, and that attempting to take back control over the whole country would be a futile exercise which would allow the conflict to drag on indefinitely. Unofficial reports have emerged of Assad refusing to meet opposition figures proposed by Moscow as potential negotiating partners. (Reuters)
News Resources - Israel and the Mideast:
  • Off-Duty IDF Soldier Stabbed to Death in West Bank Supermarket - Chaim Levinson
    An off-duty IDF soldier, Tuvia Yanai Weissman, 21, was stabbed to death and another Israeli man badly wounded in a knife attack by two 14-year-old Palestinian boys in a West Bank supermarket Thursday. The assailants entered the Rami Levy supermarket in the Sha'ar Binyamin industrial zone, stabbed the men, then were shot by passersby. Weissman was married and the father of an infant daughter. (Ha'aretz)
        See also Two Border Policemen Hurt in Damascus Gate Stabbing - Roi Yanovsky
    Two Israeli Border Policemen were wounded in a terror attack at Damascus Gate in Jerusalem's Old City on Friday morning. The attacker, Mohammed Abu Khalaf, 20, who assaulted the officers with a knife, was shot and killed. (Ynet News)
  • Israeli Foreign Ministry Delegation in Moscow for Talks Thursday - Herb Keinon
    Israel Foreign Ministry Director General Dore Gold met with Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov in Moscow on Thursday. Gold and Lavrov know each other from when they served as their countries' ambassadors to the UN in the late 1990s. Lavrov praised Israeli-Russian cooperation, saying that President Vladimir Putin and Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu meet regularly and speak often on the phone.
        Diplomatic officials said the discussions covered issues "from Iran to Syria to the Palestinian issue." The discussions did not focus on security issues, such as Russia supplying S300 anti-aircraft batteries to Iran, since there is a security channel for those types of discussions. At the end of the meeting, the two sides signed an agreement outlining cooperation in 14 fields, including strategic planning. (Jerusalem Post)
Global Commentary and Think-Tank Analysis (Best of U.S., UK, and Israel):


  • Does Abbas Really Want Israel to Withdraw from the West Bank? - Gadi Taub
    Why should Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas sign a peace treaty with Israel in return for a state along the 1967 lines? It's not so simple. First of all, it would require giving up the Palestinian refugees' right of return, for which any Palestinian politician would pay a heavy price. Yielding on the right of return will without a doubt be regarded as capitulation and moral bankruptcy.
        Abbas has surely looked around at what's happening throughout the region and has noticed that Arab nation-states have been collapsing all around him. The assumption that a Palestinian national state will be an island of stability in the heart of this chaos is not obvious. Tiny, with institutions that have not been groomed for nation-building and with a shaky economy that's dependent on others, it would not be a particularly safe bet, especially when all that separates it from the Islamic State caliphate is Jordan. (Ha'aretz)
  • Do Palestinian Leaders Believe Their Own Rhetoric? - Khaled Abu Toameh
    As the current wave of stabbings, car-rammings and shooting attacks continues, PA President Mahmoud Abbas insists we are witnessing a "popular and peaceful uprising," as he said to a group of Arab Israeli journalists in Ramallah last week. Abbas seems to consider knives and automatic weapons "peaceful" tools that Palestinians are entitled to use. Rather than seeking to calm the situation, Abbas glorifies the Palestinian assailants, encouraging others to join the "peaceful uprising" against Israel.
        Palestinian leaders have a long history of shirking responsibility for the travails of their people. In doing so, they have brought disaster to generation after generation of Palestinians. The Palestinian youths who are goaded by the Palestinian Authority to murder Jews are also victims. They are victims of failed leaders who push them to their death by lying to them about Israeli and Jewish "conspiracies" against Arabs and Muslims and the Al-Aqsa Mosque.
        The Palestinian leadership is now seeking to leverage the violence to call for an international peace conference, toward receiving international "protection" for the Palestinians and an overall solution imposed upon Israel.
        Thanks to the poison with which the PA has indoctrinated its people, Palestinians are now unable to condemn the murder of any Jew or even call to keep their teenagers from becoming deadly attackers. The Palestinian leaders have made it impossible even to talk about peace with Israel. Such is their journey to a healthy and prosperous society and state. Despite the old saying that you can't fool all of the people all of the time, Abbas and company are doing pretty well fooling many people much of the time. (Gatestone Institute)

  • Israel Boycott

  • "BDS Is Anti-Semitic"; "It Poisons the Atmosphere" - Amanda Borschel-Dan
    At the annual meeting of the Conference of Presidents of Major American Jewish Organizations in Jerusalem on Monday, Brig. Gen. (res.) Yossi Kuperwasser drew a comparison between BDS and the current wave of stabbing and car-ramming attacks. "Stabbings are not 'popular resistance,' they are terrorism. Just as BDS is terrorism. BDS is anti-Semitic; it is a form of anti-Semitism - they deny the right of Jews to have self-determination."
        He showed several examples taken from Palestinian television in which children joyfully sing: "When we die as martyrs we go to heaven. What meaning is there to childhood without Palestine?" "Every Palestinian child knows this song [which states] everybody has a way to fulfill their mission to bring the demise of Zionism," said Kuperwasser, the project director of regional Middle East developments at the Jerusalem Center for Public Affairs. "BDS is just one expression of the battle."
        Brig. Gen. (res.) Michael Herzog said that from a macro-economic perspective, the impact of BDS is marginal. However, it is extremely effective in that it "poisons the atmosphere." "The word 'Zionism' is now so charged that people want to keep their distance from it." Herzog, a senior fellow at the Jewish People Policy Institute, said there needs to be "a line in the sand" - an understanding that Israel "has the right to exist and be self-determinant as the national state of the Jewish people in its ancestral homeland."  (Times of Israel)
  • Majoring in Anti-Semitism at Vassar - Mark G. Yudof and Ken Waltzer
    Anti-Israel sentiment mixed with age-old anti-Semitism has reached a fever pitch at Vassar College. It is time that faculty and administrators take a stand against this toxic brew on behalf of academic values.
        The most recent incident was a talk on Feb. 3 by Jasbir Puar, a Rutgers associate professor of women's and gender studies. Ms. Puar began by exhorting the students to support a boycott of Israel as part of "armed" resistance. Ms. Puar passed on vicious lies that Israel had "mined for organs for scientific research" from dead Palestinians - updating the medieval blood libel against Jews - and accused Israelis of attempting to give Palestinians the "bare minimum for survival" as part of a medical "experiment."
        Now there is a resolution before the Vassar student union, in part seeking a boycott of Ben & Jerry's, on the grounds that the company - founded by two Jews - sells ice-cream "transported on Jewish-only roads to be sold in Jewish-only settlements." These events are transforming a prestigious institution into a parody ripe for ridicule. Mr. Yudof, former president of the University of California, is chairman of the Academic Engagement Network, where Mr. Waltzer, professor of history emeritus at Michigan State University, is the executive director. (Wall Street Journal)
  • Two Cheers for Britain's BDS Ban - Melanie Phillips
    British Prime Minister David Cameron is taking action against the Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions movement. New government guidance will prevent any public body such as municipal councils from imposing a boycott on a member of the World Trade Organization, to which Israel belongs.
        Democracy does not require a local council to busy itself in foreign policy matters. It does not require public bodies to behave in a discriminatory manner by singling out Israel for treatment afforded to no other country. And "ethical investment" hardly entails supporting Palestinian dictatorships and the proposed ethnic cleansing of the Jews from their own ancient homeland.
        BDS is a campaign of mass bullying and intimidation, sending threatening mobs into supermarkets, lecture theaters and concert halls intent on harassment and censorship under the guise of human rights. Many British Jews feel intimidated and threatened by BDS because they understand it to be nothing less than the Western front in the war of extermination directed at Israel. No other country is subjected to such a campaign built on grotesque lies about its behavior designed to turn the Israelis into devils in the Western public mind.
        There is no boycott campaign against either Hamas or the Palestinian Authority which persecute and tyrannize their populations, jail dissidents and throw homosexuals off the roofs of tall buildings. The BDS brigade is mute on the Palestinians' abuse of each other, as well as their hysterical incitement against and mass murder of Israeli Jews. BDS is attempting to destroy the only state in the Middle East which actually upholds human rights, and whose only crime is to exist at all as the homeland of the Jewish people. (Jerusalem Post)
  • Anti-Israel Intolerance Has Made a Sham of Academic Freedom - Joanna Williams
    Despite paying lip service to academic freedom, there is one issue that many scholars think justifies restricting free speech. The campaign to boycott Israeli universities and scholars is the legitimate face of censorship on campus and it is often led by academics. This month, 18 academics from Warwick University signed a letter to protest against the visit of an Israeli Embassy spokesperson at an International Relations Society debate, which was subsequently cancelled. When it comes to Israel, academic freedom is either problematic, irrelevant, or redefined to mean restricting the speech of some. The writer is a lecturer in higher education at the University of Kent. (Spiked)

  • Other Issues

  • The Problem with ISIS - Aaron David Miller
    ISIS, along with the phenomenon of global jihad it represents, is here to stay - not as an existential threat but as a chronic one. ISIS has spawned 50 affiliates in 21 countries. The Paris attacks last November were supposed to be a transformative moment in the war against ISIS, and yet the inconvenient and painful reality is that there is no effective coalition, either in the region or among the international community, that is seized with the ISIS problem.
        No external power, including the U.S., wants to deploy ground personnel in the thousands to root out ISIS, nor thinks that this idea is wise or feasible. The Arab states are unwilling and unable to join the military fight on the ground and to deploy their own forces. Even if the U.S. and its partners manage to inflict massive damage to the Caliphate, the long war against global jihad will continue. The writer, a vice president at the Woodrow Wilson Center, served as a Middle East negotiator, analyst and adviser in Republican and Democratic administrations. (RealClearWorld)
  • Kuwaiti Columnist: Israel Has Outdone Us in Everything - We Must Learn from It
    Columnist Ahmad Al-Sarraf wrote in the Kuwaiti daily Al-Qabas on Feb. 1: "Israel has outdone us in all fields - military, scientific, and cultural - but despite this we have refused to consider the reason for its obvious superiority to us, and have never stopped calling it 'the monstrous entity'....Since its founding, Israel has been committed to democracy, while we refuse to even speak of it, let alone adopt it....Israel has given its minorities rights that most citizens in most Arab countries do not even dream of. Furthermore, the freedom of worship there exceeds that in any Arab or Islamic country."
        "Israel has managed to unite people emigrating to it from 50 countries, and to forge a single people from them, while we have not managed to create a [joint] army out of the [Arab] people....Israel has known law and order since its first day, while we still try to comprehend the meaning of both these words....Israel has developed its technologies and developed its agriculture, industry, and military, becoming an advanced and respected country, while we currently occupy the bottom slot in every field."  (MEMRI)

  • Weekend Features

  • Israeli Device Slows Progression of Alzheimer's - Abigail Klein Leichman
    Based on a just-completed study involving 131 patients, Israel's Neuronix medical device company will apply for U.S. FDA approval for its neuroAD system to slow and even reverse the progression of Alzheimer's. The novel technology combines transcranial magnetic stimulation (TMS) and cognitive training of specific brain regions to slow the rate of mental deterioration in patients with mild to moderate Alzheimer's and other neurodegenerative disorders. The treatment is commercially available in Europe and Asia, including in Israel.
        Neuronix CEO Eyal Baror said, "Our previous successful six clinical trials have shown that neuroAD is safe and effective in treatment of mild to moderate Alzheimer patients, significantly improving their cognitive performance and day-to-day activities, and slowing down their mental deterioration for about one year." In 2015, Korean researchers said a clinical trial showed that neuroAD "was remarkable in the memory and language domains, which are severely affected by Alzheimer's disease."  (Israel21c)
  • Breakthrough Cancer Cure Originated at Israel's Weizmann Institute of Science - David Shamah
    A team at the University of Pennsylvania's Abramson Cancer Center and the Perelman School of Medicine reported Tuesday that 27 out of 29 patients with an advanced blood cancer saw their cancers go into remission or disappear altogether when they received genetically modified T-cells that targeted and destroyed the tumor cells.
        Weizmann Institute Professor Zelig Eshhar was one of the first to work on the innovative immunotherapy technique. He said, "In our lab, we cured many rats and mice of cancer. I have been saying for years that we could do this in people, as well."
        Eshhar has been conducting T-cell research for over a decade and laid out the mechanics of T-cell immunotherapy. He cautioned that the breakthrough did not represent a "cure for cancer" since "you have to develop specific T-cells for each kind of cancer."  (Times of Israel)
  • The Optometrist in Your iPhone - David Shamah
    The Israeli medical technology start-up 6over6 has developed a technology to enable anyone to "self-prescribe" eyeglasses via a smartphone app. "With our technology, a user could put their phone in front of their eyes for a few minutes, and get as accurate a reading as they could at the optician," said CEO Ofer Limon. "The app will give you a completely accurate prescription within a range of +/- 0.25D error for near and farsighted vision."
        With the iPrescribe function, "it's just like being in an optometrist's office. iPrescribe manipulates the optical and perceptual phenomena to give you a completely accurate prescription for nearsighted vision, including astigmatism."  (Times of Israel)

How War Is Redrawing Syria's Demographic Map Forever - Etienne Dubuis (Le Temps-Switzerland-Worldcrunch)

  • Youssef Courbage, research director of the French Institute for Demographic Studies (INED) in Paris, notes that in Syria, the Alawites now have a fertility rate of slightly more than two children per woman, which is close to European averages, while the Sunnis still have five children per woman, though the Sunni urban upper classes had a fertility rate similar to the Alawite elites.
  • So far, the Syrian civil war has killed some 90,000 regime soldiers and 80,000 rebels.
  • The Alawite camp, which ruled over 21.5 million Syrians five years ago, now controls just 10 million, or 63% of the 16 million people still in the country. Of those Syrians still in the country, some 6.5 million have been uprooted, redrawing the communal map and contributing to the creation of more ethnically or religiously homogenous areas.
  • Religious minorities (Alawite, Christians and Druse) that represented just 22% of Syria's total population are now 41% of the population in the territory controlled by the regime in Damascus.
  • The Sunnis form the great majority of refugees fleeing the country. One-fourth of Syria's population - 5.3 million people - fled between 2011 and 2015. With this, the proportion of Alawites increased from 10% to 13% and the Arab Sunnis decreased from 64% to 61%. The proportion of the Christian community fell from 5% to 3%.
  • The exile of several million Syrians has also had a profound effect on Jordan and Lebanon. In Jordan, the influx of 600,000 Syrians after the arrival of 1 million Iraqis has distinctly reduced the proportion of Palestinians in the population.
  • In Lebanon, the arrival of 1.5 million Syrians has doubled the Sunni community there, far outnumbering the local Shia community.
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