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June 20, 2016

In-Depth Issues:

Iraqi Forces Enter Falluja - Tim Arango (New York Times)
    Iraqi forces entered central areas of Falluja on Friday and raised the Iraqi flag over the main government building after weeks of battling the Islamic State.
    ISIS forces abandoned their dug-in positions and regrouped in western neighborhoods of Falluja, allowing thousands of civilians to flee beginning on Thursday, though the battle appeared far from over.
    Col. Christopher C. Garver, an American military spokesman in Baghdad, said coalition airstrikes on Friday aided the taking of the government building in Falluja.
    A major population center just 40 miles west of Baghdad, Falluja has been in the hands of the Islamic State since the end of 2013.
    See also Iraqis Celebrate Victory in Falluja One Sniper Too Soon - Tamer El-Ghobashy (Wall Street Journal)

Israel Sends Firefighting Planes to Help Battle Cyprus Blaze - Tamar Pileggi (Times of Israel)
    Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu on Saturday evening ordered Israeli firefighting aircraft to assist Cyprus authorities struggling to put out a massive wildfire.

Israeli Rhythmic Gymnasts Win Gold Medal in European Championships - Uri Talshir (Ha'aretz)
    Israel's rhythmic gymnastics team won a gold medal for the first time in an international competition on Sunday for the clubs and hoops category, at the European Championships being held in Holon, Israel.
    See also Video: Israeli Gymnastics Team's Award-Winning Routine (YouTube)

Varying Enforcement of Ramadan Laws in Palestinian Cities - Daoud Kuttab (Al-Monitor)
    The Palestinian press has published numerous stories of individuals being arrested and imprisoned for eating, drinking and smoking in public in Nablus and Tulkarm during Ramadan.
    In Ramallah and Bethlehem, restaurants whose owners are Christians are open. Those cities have traditionally strong Christian populations and Christian mayors - Musa Hadid in Ramallah and Vera Baboon in Bethlehem.
    Article 274 of the Jordanian Penal Code, which still applies, stipulates, "Whoever publicly violates fasting in the month of Ramadan, s/he shall be punished by imprisonment of up to one month or a fine of up to 25 Jordanian dinars [about $35]."
    Sani Meo, publisher of This Week in Palestine, said polarization within Palestinian society is obvious at Ramadan.
    "In Palestine, we have been experiencing [increased polarization] in how people view social-religious issues, between those who are very conservative and those who are more liberal." According to Meo, the more conservative wing is the more influential.
    See also ISIS Crucifies Three People in Syria for Breaking Ramadan Fast - Matt Payton (Independent-UK)

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News Resources - North America, Europe, and Asia:
  • Uranium Provides New Clue on Iran's Past Nuclear Arms Work - Jay Solomon
    The Obama administration has concluded that traces of man-made uranium were found last year at the Parchin facility, southeast of Tehran, by investigators from the International Atomic Energy Agency, a finding that contradicts Tehran's longstanding denials that it was pursuing a bomb. The particles were the first physical evidence - on top of satellite imagery and documents from defectors - to support the charge that Iran had been pursuing a bomb at the site. (Wall Street Journal)
  • Is Israel a Pariah? Not According to Its New Friends - Eli Lake
    On March 10, Dore Gold, the director general of Israel's Foreign Ministry, visited the government that replaced the apartheid regime in South Africa. Gold made sure to visit Nelson Mandela's home in Soweto. Next month, Benjamin Netanyahu will be the first Israeli prime minister since Yitzhak Rabin to travel to African capitals for meetings with the leaders of Ethiopia, Kenya, Rwanda and Uganda.
        China is now Israel's third-largest trading partner. Gold told me that it's almost impossible to get a seat these days on the El Al flight from Tel Aviv to Beijing. Narendra Modi is expected to be the first Indian prime minister ever to visit Israel later this year.
        Prime Minister Netanyahu has met with Russian President Vladimir Putin four times in the last year. He has also worked out a deal, according to senior officials, in which Russia will allow Israeli jets to target members of Hizbullah operating in Syria, where Russians now control the air space. "The prime minister is cognitive of the fact that the United States is [Israel's] number one ally," Gold told me. "But the relationship with Putin has vastly improved. Instead of being in conflict with him like we were, we are now making sure there is a line open to him."
        There is also much secret diplomacy between Israel and the Gulf monarchies. Gold said that today the Middle East faces the twin threats of Iran and the Islamic State, which "creates a lot of mutual interests between Israel and the Arab states."  (Bloomberg)
News Resources - Israel and the Mideast:
  • Israeli Public Security Minister: No DIfference between Global Terror and Terror in Israel - Shlomi Diaz and Shlomo Cesana
    Public Security Minister Gilad Erdan told the Herzliya Conference on Thursday: "It is absurd to try to say that the terrorism in Florida, California, Paris, Brussels and many other places around the world is the result of radical Islamic ideology and incitement and radicalization online and in mosques - but that the terrorism in Tel Aviv is the result of the Israeli presence in Judea and Samaria. This terrorism [in Israel] is the exact same kind of terrorism....The democratic world is in a war against an extremist group of people who are trying to create a new world order based on radical Islam and contradicting the basic values of the enlightened world."
        Intelligence Minister Yisrael Katz told the conference: "Iran continues to be the state that poses the main threat to Israel, even after the nuclear deal. This is largely because of its ongoing military support of terrorist organizations that focus on Israel as a target, especially Hizbullah in Lebanon....Hizbullah is not capable of posing an existential threat to Israel, but it is capable of attacking civilians and national infrastructure. The safest way to prevent a conflict tomorrow is to weaken Hizbullah today by imposing crippling economic and legal sanctions and applying pressure on Iran to stop providing weapons and funding. Weakening Hizbullah is an Israeli, Lebanese, regional and global interest."  (Israel Hayom)
  • Palestinians Held after M-16 Rifle Found Hidden in Car - Stuart Winer
    Security forces arrested three Palestinians late Saturday after they were caught in the West Bank with an M-16 rifle hidden in their car. A search of the vehicle uncovered the rifle, which had been broken down into parts and concealed in different parts of the car. (Times of Israel)
  • Four Arabs Arrested for Hurling Firebombs at Jewish Home in Jerusalem - Daniel K. Eisenbud
    A Jewish home in Jerusalem's Armon Hanatziv (East Talpiot) neighborhood was struck by four firebombs Thursday night thrown by four Arabs who were apprehended by Border Police in the adjacent neighborhood of Jebl Mukaber. Residents of Jebl Mukaber have murdered four Jews since last October and the neighborhood is a haven for Hamas sympathizers. (Jerusalem Post)
Global Commentary and Think-Tank Analysis (Best of U.S., UK, and Israel):
  • Palestine Revisited - Hassan Nafaa
    In the official Arab discourse, the Palestine cause is still the "Arab's first cause" and the "crux of the Arab-Israeli conflict." Today, however, such talk seems to have lost credibility at both the official and grassroots levels. Egypt since 1979 and Jordan since 1994 are bound by peace treaties that oblige them to normalize relations with Israel, regardless of Israel's position on the Palestinian cause. Moreover, in 1993, the Palestine Liberation Organization (PLO) itself signed the Oslo Accords, committing it to security cooperation with Israel.
        In addition, some Arab governments today openly hold that Israel is no longer a major threat to the security of Arab states and peoples. They promote the idea of cooperating with it beneath the guise of the need to fight terrorism or, alternatively, the need to counter the Iranian expansionist project in the region.
        At the grassroots level, the Palestinian cause has fallen to the bottom of the list of Arab priorities now that the region is infested with the plagues of extremism, sectarian strife and civil wars with no end in sight. Shia Arabs are at war with Sunni Arabs. The Kurds in Arab countries are at war with Arab citizens, whether Sunni or Shia. Most Muslims in the region, whether Arab or non-Arab, are at war with non-Muslims. Even the Palestinians are so divided that one camp accuses the other of serving as an Israeli tool designed to bury the Palestinian cause.
        Until the Palestinians unite and all factions agree on a new and unified strategy for managing the conflict with Israel, there can never be a real opportunity for a political settlement. The writer is professor of political science at Cairo University. (Al-Ahram-Egypt)
  • The U.S. Doesn't Really Understand the Risks Israel Faces - Micah Halpern
    American administrations don't really grasp the reality of the Middle East. It's a part of America's DNA. Americans have an innate optimism. They believe that their point of view is the prevailing point of view and they feel that they can convince anyone. And if that doesn't work, bribery - military aid, monetary aid, UN votes - will.
        The U.S. will always see the Palestinians as weaker than Israel. Part of the objective of any deal brokered by an outsider, especially the U.S., is to make both parties equal - or at least more equal. But Israel and the Palestinians are not equal. Israel is a democracy. The Palestinian Authority is not. The last PA parliamentary election, which took place 11 years ago, elected Ismail Haniyeh, the head of Hamas, as Palestinian prime minister, a position he held for four weeks.
        Israelis want peace, not a facsimile of peace, not a partial peace. A sustainable peace. We hear it all the time: "This is the best chance," "This is the last chance," "This is the only chance." Games of chance are for people who have resources to blow, and Israel cannot afford to leave anything to chance. (Jerusalem Post)

Anti-Semitism and Anti-Zionism: Same Idea, New Cloak - Brig.-Gen. (res.) Yossi Kuperwasser (Institute for the Study of Global Antisemitism and Policy)

  • Showing that anti-Zionism is the modern form of anti-Semitism may be easy if we use the U.S. State Department 2010 definition of anti-Semitism: "Anti-Semitism is a certain perception of Jews, which may be expressed as hatred toward Jews."
  • The State Department then provides a list of contemporary examples of anti-Semitism, many of which are performed by anti-Zionists.
  • Finally the State Department clarifies what anti-Semitism is relative to Israel and provides examples of the ways in which anti-Semitism manifests itself as anti-Zionism:
    • Demonizing Israel - using the symbols and images associated with classic anti-Semitism to characterize Israel or Israelis; drawing comparisons of contemporary Israeli policy to that of the Nazis.
    • Applying double standards for Israel by requiring of it a behavior not expected or demanded of any other democratic nation.
    • Denying the Jewish people their right to self-determination, and denying Israel the right to exist.
  • This definition makes it clear that anti-Zionism is anti-Semitism. Demonization of Israel, adopting double-standards about Israel, and delegitimization of Israel are expressions of anti-Semitism which is hatred towards Jews.

    The writer was formerly Director General of the Israel Ministry of Strategic Affairs and head of the Research Division of IDF Military Intelligence.

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