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September 23, 2016

In-Depth Issues:

Iranian-Backed Shiite Militias Executed Sunni Muslims in Iraq - Carlo Munoz (Washington Times)
    After Iraqi forces and Iranian-backed Shiite militias flushed ISIS out of Fallujah in June, the dead bodies started to appear.
    Reports emerged that as many as 300 Sunni Muslim civilians had survived Islamic State's two-year grip on their city only to be summarily executed by Shiite militiamen.
    Sunni lawmaker Hamid al-Mutlaq said Iraqi troops and Shiite political leaders were nowhere to be seen when Shiite fighters rounded up between 600 and 700 Sunni men in Fallujah who've never been seen since.
    The paramilitary Shiite Popular Mobilization Units now number over 120,000 fighters.
    Many fear the growing strength of the Shiite militias has blown the door wide open for Tehran to expand its already formidable influence in Iraq.

Islamic State Holds Russian Intelligence Officer Hostage - Thomas Joscelyn (Long War Journal)
    The Islamic State's Furat Media Establishment posted a video online on Sept. 20 of a Russian-speaking man dressed in black with a badge that reads "infidel."
    He identifies himself as Petrenko Ivgeniy Viktorovich, a captain in the Russian intelligence service, and pleads with the Russian government and people to do whatever it takes to free him from captivity.
    The writer is a senior fellow at the Foundation for Defense of Democracies.

Muslim Brotherhood Bloc Wins 15 of 130 Seats in Jordan Vote (AP-Fox News)
    The opposition Muslim Brotherhood said Thursday its electoral bloc won 15 seats in Jordan's 130-member parliament.

Israeli Spy Satellite Working after Rocky Launch (AP-Ynet News)
    A new Israeli spy satellite is operational and taking high-quality pictures after suffering technical difficulties during its launch on Sept. 13, defense officials said Thursday.
    Amnon Harari, director of the Defense Ministry's space administration, said satellite operators downloaded the first images from the Ofek 11 satellite on Thursday.
    Ofer Doron, head of the space division at Israel Aerospace Industries, the maker of the satellite, said the country's most sophisticated spy satellite took images of "interesting" places in the region on Thursday.
    He said the photos were "absolutely" the quality the satellite's designers had intended. "You should smile when you look up at it," he said.

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Inquisition-Era Torah Scroll Found in Portugal - Richard Zimler (Jewish Chronicle-UK)
    A Portuguese Torah dating from the time of the Inquisition was discovered by a builder while demolishing a house in Covilha, next to a 16th century church where descendants of Jewish converts were known to have worshipped.
    After discovering the document, the builder wrapped it in a sheet and brought it home where he kept it for 10 years.
    Six months ago, he showed it to specialists, and it is currently on display at Covilha's City Hall. It is in very fine condition and the letters are easily legible.
    Virtually all of Portugal's Jews were forcibly converted by King Manuel I in 1497 and, later, persecuted by the Inquisition, which lasted from 1536 until the 1770s.

LA Times Casts Palestinian Attackers as Victims (CAMERA)
    In a report Wednesday on recent Palestinian violence, the Los Angeles Times obscures the fact that all of the Palestinians killed in recent days, along with the majority of those killed in the last year, were attackers.
    It writes, "Some six Palestinians and a Jordanian citizen have been killed in the violence" - failing to make clear that the perpetrators of the knifing and ramming attacks were Palestinians and that Israelis were the targets.
    In some of the incidents there is video evidence showing that the Palestinian fatalities were assailants.

Israeli Startup SafeShoot Prevents Friendly Fire Casualties - Yuval Azulai (Globes)
    The worst nightmare of every commander and combat soldier is a mistake in identification in the heat of battle, leading them to shoot their comrades, in what is called "friendly fire."
    Israeli startup SafeShoot is completing the development of a system that may significantly reduce cases of friendly fire.
    "The system constantly communicates with other systems installed on the personal weapons of soldiers from the same force," explained cofounder and CEO Brig.-Gen. (res.) Amir Nadan.
    "If the system detects a situation of future shooting by our forces at our forces, it warns the soldier about to shoot."

Technion Invents Spinach-Powered Electricity Cell - Ruth Schuster (Ha'aretz)
    Israeli researchers have developed a power cell that produces electricity and hydrogen, using nothing but spinach, water and sunlight.
    "We used spinach, but you can use any leaf," says Prof. Noam Adir of the Technion team that designed the breakthrough bio-photo-electro-chemical cell.
    The spinach cell could be perfect for remote villages with modest power needs, Adir said.
    "We proved that energy can be made really green using material at negligible cost, with no contaminating synthetics, and no expensive or rare or toxic elements."

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News Resources - North America, Europe, and Asia:
  • World Crises Push Israeli-Palestinian Conflict Off UN Center Stage - Peter Baker
    Where the Israeli-Palestinian conflict once dominated the annual meeting of the UN General Assembly, this year it has become a side show, competing for attention against more urgent crises like the civil war in Syria and the threat from the Islamic State.
        Israel Prime Minister Netanyahu on Thursday told the assembled diplomats, "We will not accept any attempt by the UN to dictate terms to Israel. The road to peace runs through Jerusalem and Ramallah, not through New York." Palestinian President Abbas said he would seek his own Security Council resolution condemning Israeli settlements in the West Bank. "We hope no one will cast a veto," he said, referring to the Americans who have vetoed resolutions targeting Israel in the past.
        It did not go unnoticed in Jerusalem that President Obama devoted just one sentence to the Israeli-Palestinian issue in his final UN speech, compared with some years when the topic took up to a quarter of his address. (New York Times)
        See also below Observations - Netanyahu at UN: World Nations Are Changing Their Attitudes towards Israel (Prime Minister's Office)
  • Iran Parades New Multiple Warhead Missile with Message Vowing to "Destroy Tel Aviv" - Rory Tingle
    Iran used the 36th anniversary of the start of the Iran-Iraq war to parade arms including 16 ballistic missiles through Tehran. A new missile with multiple warheads, called Zolfaghar, was also on show with a threat directed at Israel written on the side of the truck transporting it. "If the leaders of the Zionist regime make one false move, the Islamic republic will destroy Tel Aviv and Haifa," it said. (Daily Mail-UK)
  • Syria Launches Offensive to Recapture Aleppo, Ignoring U.S. Calls to Restore Ceasefire - Liz Sly
    Syria's government made it clear on Thursday it has no intention of abiding by U.S. calls for the restoration of the failed U.S.-Russian ceasefire deal as the Syrian army announced an offensive to recapture the rebel-held eastern portions of the city of Aleppo. Syrian rescue workers and activists reported heavy bombing in rebel-controlled areas early Friday. (Washington Post)
News Resources - Israel and the Mideast:
  • Netanyahu Radiates Optimism at UN - Herb Keinon
    When Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu addressed the UN General Assembly on Thursday, his 40-minute speech radiated a sense of optimism, in stark contrast to the speech given by PA President Mahmoud Abbas just a few minutes before him. Citing inroads Israel has made in relations with African, Asian, Latin American and even Arab countries, he said that in the near future the delegates will get calls from their leaders with a short message: "The war against Israel at the UN has ended."
        Netanyahu told the world body that even with all the talk about UN resolutions on the Middle East, it will never, ever be able to impose a solution on Israel that it doesn't want. And Netanyahu repeated that the core of the conflict is not the settlements, but the Jews' right to exist anywhere in their historical homeland.
        Netanyahu said that if Abbas wanted to sue the British for the Balfour Declaration, then he should also sue Cyrus the Great for letting the Jews come back to Israel to rebuild the Temple, and organize a class action suit against Abraham for buying a parcel of land in Hebron. (Jerusalem Post)
  • Netanyahu Meets with African Leaders in New York - Danielle Ziri
    "Africa excites our imagination....We would like to propose a friendship and a partnership with every one of your countries," Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu told African leaders on Thursday on the sidelines of the UN General Assembly. "Technology changes everything....We want to share our knowledge and technology with the world."
        After the closed meeting to discuss Israeli innovations in Africa and developing countries, the Prime Minister and Israel's UN Ambassador Danny Danon held an event to present the latest Israeli technological developments to heads of states from Africa and developing countries. (Jerusalem Post)
  • Palestinian Attempts Stabbing Attack at Kiryat Arba Bus Stop - Judah Ari Gross
    A Palestinian teenager on Friday attempted to stab Israelis outside Kiryat Arba in the West Bank before he was shot by Israeli security forces. The attack took place at the same junction where last Friday two Palestinians rammed their car into a bus stop. (Times of Israel)
  • Israel Recommits to Improving Life for Palestinians - Itamar Eichner and Elior Levy
    An Israeli delegation to UNRWA presented a list of steps that Israel is seeking to implement to improve the Palestinians' economic reality during the agency's annual meeting at the UN General Assembly on Tuesday. Israeli Minister Tzachi Hanegbi spoke of providing electricity to the West Bank following the settlement of the Palestinian Authority's debt to the Israel Electric Corporation, improved mail services, and an agreement that will allow Israeli banks to conduct business with Palestinian banks.
        Hanegbi noted that many of the meetings set up to find a solution to the water shortage among the Palestinian population are boycotted by the Palestinian representatives. However, he noted that "In a very successful meeting with the Palestinian Treasury minister, we agreed to reconvene the joint water committee, which hasn't met in seven years."
        Some countries that pledged to donate money to UNRWA have yet to do so, mainly due to the influx of refugees within their own borders, or, in the case of Arab countries such as Jordan, Egypt and Saudi Arabia, fending off ISIS. As a result, donations have gone down from $800 million to $450-500 million, while the PA continues to amass an ever-growing debt. (Ynet News)
Global Commentary and Think-Tank Analysis (Best of U.S., UK, and Israel):


  • Why Abbas Won't Accept Netanyahu's Offer to Address the Israeli People at the Knesset - Jonathan S. Tobin
    During his address to the UN General Assembly on Thursday, Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu asked PA President Mahmoud Abbas to come to Jerusalem to address the Israeli people at the Knesset. The spectacle of Abbas at the Knesset would undermine the arguments of the majority of Israelis who agree with the prime minister that the Palestinians don't want peace. It would signal that the century-long Palestinian war on Zionism is over.
        But Abbas won't do that because that isn't what he is after. As his own speech illustrated, Abbas' view of the conflict is still fatally mired in a miasma of historical grievances and religious hate. He recycled the lies he and his official media have been circulating about Israel's intentions to harm the Temple Mount mosques that have served as the principle source of incitement to terrorism during the current "stabbing intifada."
        The entire focus of his current campaign at the UN is to abandon the bilateral negotiations to which the Oslo Accords committed the PA. Abbas at the Knesset won't happen because the political culture of the Palestinians is still rooted in rejection. (Commentary)
  • Needed: A Palestinian Leadership that Ends Rejectionism - Ben-Dror Yemini
    In August, 1,637 people were murdered in jihadist terror attacks. Almost all of them were Muslims. At the same time, in Israel, the knife intifada has resumed. There the terrorists did not go to their death because of a "protest against the occupation." They are part of a global phenomenon. The stabber from Minnesota who shouted "Allahu Akbar" did not act because of an occupation. He operated as the product of incitement.
        There are hundreds of millions of desperate people in the world who don't turn to murder and terror. Those who offer justifications are encouraging terror. They are not the Muslims' friends. In order to stop the occupation, there is no need for terror. There is a need for a Palestinian leadership which will drop the rejectionism and stop the incitement. The ongoing occupation is the result of the rejectionism. (Ynet News)
  • A Palestinian State Free of Jews? - Eugene Kontorovich
    What does international law say about the demand to remove settlers as part of a solution to a territorial conflict? There is simply no support in international practice for the expulsion of settlers from occupied territories.
        When East Timor received independence in an internationally-approved process, none of the Indonesian settlers were required to leave. The current UN-mediated peace plan for Western Sahara and Cyprus presupposes that the demographically dominant settler population can remain. The Cambodian demand for the mass removal of nearly a million ethnic Vietnamese was rejected outright by diplomats. In short, there is simply no precedent in international practice for such a demand. The writer is a professor at Northwestern University School of Law. (Tablet)
  • Palestinian Demand to Uproot Jews in West Bank Is Unprecedented in History - Dror Eydar
    Is the demand to evict Jews from Judea and Samaria within the framework of a peace deal justified, or ethnic cleansing? In the early 1970s, Judge Stephen Schwebel, who would later serve as president of the International Court of Justice at The Hague, argued that Israel was within its rights to hold onto the territory it had seized during the Six-Day War in 1967.
        His argument was based on the assessment that the war was a matter of self-defense for Israel. Schwebel said that because the original danger had not dissipated, from Israel's perspective, holding the land was justified, valid, and that any change was dependent on resolving the conflict through peaceful avenues.
        By its very definition, the law is a set of rules applied objectively and consistently to similar situations. If the law is applied selectively - as is the case only in regard to Israeli settlement - then it is not a law but rather the expression of an opinion under the guise of legal pretexts. (Israel Hayom)

  • Other Issues

  • Isolation? Israel's Diplomatic Ties Have Never Been Better - Josh Cohen
    Beyond its relationship with Washington, Israel is successfully developing close ties with an unprecedented number of countries - including many old enemies. Since Egyptian President el-Sisi's ascension to power in 2014, Israeli-Egyptian cooperation has reached new heights. The two countries also share intelligence on Hamas and Islamic State's Sinai affiliate. Egypt even allows Israel to conduct drone strikes against militants on Egyptian territory, according to a former senior Israeli official. Mutual security interests also drive an Israeli-Saudi detente.
        A new Israel-Greece-Cyprus alliance has emerged. Israel is significantly expanding trade and diplomatic ties with India. Chinese-Israeli trade has exploded. China recently began building a new port in Ashdod and also agreed to fund a high-speed railway connecting Ashdod to the Red Sea port of Eilat. (Reuters)
  • After the Ceasefire Collapse, What's Next in Syria? - Eyal Zisser
    With the collapse of the most recent cease-fire agreement in Syria, fighting has resumed, and even if a new deal is reached to stop the shooting, there is no doubt that it, too, will crumble like its predecessor. Evidently the warring parties in Syria still have the strength to continue fighting. It also appears they still have faith in victory, as well as international support and generous financial and military aid which allows them to carry on fighting.
        The Syrian regime is exhausted after nearly six years of fighting, and has few remaining soldiers it can still throw into the cauldron. The rebels enjoy the support of the local population in the battle zones, and like locusts they descend time and again on the regime's forces. The rebels, however, are also fatigued, as is the population that supports them. They have failed repeatedly to unify their ranks and produce a diplomatic and military leadership.
        The Syrian state headed by Assad has not collapsed, even if it has dwindled to one quarter of the country's territory, which is home to most of the population that still remains in the country. Meanwhile, the areas under rebel control are characterized by chaos and anarchy and the rebels have been unable to establish any sort of alternative governance. The writer, Vice Rector at Tel Aviv University, is former director of its Moshe Dayan Center for Middle Eastern and African Studies. (Israel Hayom)
  • Former Archbishop of Canterbury Criticizes Church's Israel "Checkpoint" - Stephen Oryszczuk
    A Methodist church in London has agreed to display Israel's justification for security checks in the West Bank alongside its replica checkpoint, after criticism from the former Archbishop of Canterbury. Hinde Street Methodist Church in Marylebone launched the exhibition to show Palestinians' limited access between Jerusalem and Bethlehem, but was accused of "fanning the flames of anti-Semitism" and of harming Christian-Jewish relations.
        On Tuesday, Lord Carey of Clifton, the former Archbishop of Canterbury, said he was saddened by the portrayal of "Israel as oppressors." "Jewish people across Europe are increasingly being targeted and killed by terrorists, who often attempt to justify their actions by demonizing Israel. It is therefore particularly sad to see a church in London demonizing and singling out Israel's defensive actions against terrorism."
        "Checkpoints in Israel are sadly needed in order to save lives. The methods used by democracies to defend their civilians should not be undermined by religious leaders in places of worship and brotherhood."  (Jewish News-UK)

  • Weekend Features

  • Modern Technology Unlocks Secrets of a Damaged Biblical Scroll - Nicholas Wade
    Nearly half a century ago, archaeologists found a charred ancient scroll at the Ein Gedi synagogue near the Dead Sea. The lump of carbonized parchment could not be opened or read. Technology perfected by computer scientists at the University of Kentucky has unfurled a digital image of the scroll, making it legible. It contains the first two chapters of the Book of Leviticus in the Hebrew Bible. Nearly 2,000 years old, the scroll is the earliest instance of this text.
        "We may safely date this scroll" to between CE 50 and 100, wrote Ada Yardeni, an expert on Hebrew paleography. "We now have evidence that this text was being used from a very early date by Jews in the Land of Israel," said Dr. Michael Segal, a biblical scholar at the Hebrew University of Jerusalem, who helped analyze the text. (New York Times)
  • Growing Numbers of Arabs in Israel Are Performing National Service - Michele Chabin
    Leen Jaber, 19, who speaks fluent Hebrew as well as Arabic, is in high demand in the oncological day ward at Hadassah-Ein Kerem Hospital in Jerusalem. Jaber is one of Israel's growing number of non-Jewish National Service (Sherut Leumi) volunteers. Today there are 4,500 non-Jews doing National Service (up from 600 in 2010); 70% are Muslim, while the rest are Druze, Christian or Circassian.
        About 85% of Arab volunteers serve within their own communities in health care, working with children or the elderly, in social service agencies, or in education. Volunteers receive financial grants - nearly $3,000 per year of service, enough to cover a year's tuition at an Israeli university - once they complete their volunteer service.
        A.H., 21, who volunteers at the Interior Ministry's east Jerusalem office, did not want his name or photograph published. "Except for my close friends I keep my volunteering a secret from people in the neighborhood," he said. When he encounters a neighbor at the ministry, he lets them think he is a paid employee - something that doesn't carry a stigma in Arab society. "Never in my life have I felt so appreciated," he says. "I'm comfortable here. I'm helping people. I interact with the public. And yes, I feel loyal to the state and feel I should serve it."  (New York Jewish Week)
  • What You Should Know about Terrorism's Impact - Sherri Mandell
    I am a veteran victim of terror. On May 8, 2001, my son Koby, 13, and his friend Yosef Ish Ran were murdered. In an attempt to help ourselves and others, my husband and I created the Koby Mandell Foundation, where we provide therapy and activities for hundreds of victims of terrorism in Israel.
        Along the way I have learned the following lessons: There is no closure. Victims' families don't move on. They move with the memories, the pain, the love, and the will to survive and bear witness. Survivors don't overcome, they become somebody else. The survivors don't need to be distracted from the pain. What they need is support. (USA Today)

Netanyahu at UN: World Nations Are Changing Their Attitudes towards Israel (Prime Minister's Office)

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu addressed the United Nations General Assembly on Thursday:

  • The UN General Assembly last year passed 20 resolutions against the democratic State of Israel and a grand total of three resolutions against all the other countries on the planet.
  • The UN Human Rights Council each year condemns Israel more than all the countries of the world combined. As women are being systematically raped, murdered, and sold into slavery across the world, the UN's Commission on Women this year chose to condemn Israel, where women fly fighter jets, lead major corporations, head universities, preside over the Supreme Court, and have served as Speaker of the Knesset and Prime Minister.
  • But more and more nations see Israel as a potent partner in fighting the terrorism of today, a partner in developing the technology of tomorrow. Governments are changing their attitudes towards Israel because they know that Israel can help them protect their peoples, can help them feed them, can help them better their lives.
  • The biggest change in attitudes towards Israel is taking place in the Arab world. Our peace treaties with Egypt and Jordan continue to be anchors of stability in the volatile Middle East. For the first time in my lifetime, many other states in the region recognize that Israel is not their enemy. They recognize that Israel is their ally.
  • Israel is ready, I am ready to negotiate all final status issues but one thing I will never negotiate: Our right to the one and only Jewish state. Wow, sustained applause for the Prime Minister of Israel in the General Assembly? The change may be coming sooner than I thought.
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