January 5, 2018

In-Depth Issues:

Islamic State Video Shows Execution of Hamas "Collaborator" in Sinai - Loveday Morris (Washington Post)
    Islamic State in Sinai has released a video calling on its followers to attack Hamas and showing the execution of a man accused of collaborating with Hamas.
    The video cited Hamas' crackdown on jihadist groups in Gaza in its attempt to repair relations with Egypt.

Iran's Restive Minorities - Ely Karmon (Jerusalem Post)
    Persians represent only 65% of Iran's population (55% according to other sources), with the remainder including Shi'a Azeris 16%, Kurds 7%, Lurs 6%, Arabs 2%, Baloch 2%, and Turkmens 1%.
    The suppression of minority rights has resulted in ethnic insurgencies over the years, and violent protests have spread in all provinces inhabited by these minorities.
    In Ahwaz, a majority Arab region in Iran's southwest, protests have been going on for weeks against the repression and confiscation of Ahwazi land and water.
    In the recent protests, huge crowds of Iranian Kurds have taken to the streets in Sanandaj and Kermanshah chanting against the Islamic Republic while supporting the Kurdish cause.
    Since 2013 there has been a surge of attacks against Iranian military and provincial officials in Iranian Baluchistan.
    There have also been periodic demonstrations in mostly Azerbaijani cities in northwestern Iran.
    It is possible that all these forces will take advantage of the momentum and boost their battle against the Islamic regime.
    The writer is a senior research scholar at the International Institute for Counter-Terrorism at the Interdisciplinary Center Herzliya.

Iran Protests Include an Ethnic Element - Prof. Brenda Shaffer (Washington Institute for Near East Policy)
    The momentum of the demonstrations in Iran remains strongest in the border provinces rather than Tehran.
    The current protests include an ethnic element that was absent from the 2009 uprising. Minority grievances are amplifying economic grievances, which are worse in the provinces.
    In social media, participants in demonstrations are often using minority languages such as Kurdish and Azerbaijani to voice slogans of ethnic pride.
    The majority population of most border provinces is non-Persian. The largest group is Azerbaijanis (24 million), followed by Kurds (8 million), Lurs (3 million), Arabs (3 million), Turkmens (3 million), and Baluch (3 million).
    At the same time, many minority citizens identify completely as Iranian. Supreme Leader Ali Khamenei is Azerbaijani.
    The writer is a senior fellow at the Atlantic Council's Global Energy Center and an adjunct professor at Georgetown University.

Reuters Removes Photograph Implicating Israel in Deaths of Iranian Street Protesters (CAMERA)
    To illustrate a Reuters TV tweet saying "Ten Dead as protests continue in Iran," the news agency used a photo of Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and Israeli Transportation Minister Yisrael Katz conspiratorially huddling.
    After Tamar Sternthal, director of the Israel Office of CAMERA, tweeted, "Reuters, please explain. What is the relevance of this photo to this story?" Reuters later pulled the photo and tweet.

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Mosques in Iran Are Empty - Reuel Marc Gerecht (Wall Street Journal)
    Is Islam in Iran losing its appeal as a unifying political force?
    There is no great Iranian cleric, philosopher or writer who can attract large crowds with a brilliant defense of clerical rule. But plenty of thinkers could fill a stadium with withering critiques of religious dictatorship - if they were permitted.
    If all dissident political action in Iran can be labeled as moharebeh, or warring against God, then what room exists for healthy political debate?
    The mullahs' system is stuck: It can't evolve into a real democracy, and it can't resuscitate the religious militancy that once sustained the theocracy.
    Iran's seminaries have seen plummeting enrollments. Mosques all over Iran are empty at prayer times.
    In 2015 a Revolutionary Guard commander, Ziaeddin Hozni, revealed that only about 3,000 of the country's 57,000 Shiite mosques were fully operational. And of the 3,000, some were only functioning during the religious months of Ramadan and Muharram.
    The lack of attendance is striking in a state run by mullahs.
    The writer is a senior fellow at the Foundation for Defense of Democracies.

Israel Nearing 9 Million People - Amir Alon (Ynet News)
    As 2018 begins, Israel's Central Bureau of Statistics reported Sunday that 8,793,000 people currently reside in the country.
    6,556,000 are Jewish (75%), 1,837,000 are Arab (21%), and 400,000 are non-Arab Christians and others (4%).

Israel's Economy Grew 3% in 2017 - Amiram Barkat (Globes)
    Israel's GDP grew 3% in 2017, following rises of 4% in 2016 and 2.6% in 2015, the Central Bureau of Statistics reported Sunday.

Israeli Exports for 2017 to Pass $100 Billion - Danielle Roth-Avneri (Israel Hayom)
    Israel's exports of goods and services in 2017 are expected to exceed $100 billion for the first time, with exports up 5% over 2016, according to the Israel Export and International Cooperation Institute.
    Israeli exports to the EU increased by 20% in 2017.

Israeli Startup Nabs $3 Million to Develop Lab-Grown Chicken Meat (The Marker-Ha'aretz)
    SuperMeat, an Israeli startup developing lab-made chicken meat, said Tuesday it had raised $3 million in seed funding and formed a strategic partnership with European poultry producer PHW.
    SuperMeat extracts cells from a live chicken and grows them into chicken cuts.
    "This process puts an end to the industrial need to mass produce animals for slaughter, while eliminating exposure to animal waste and food-borne illnesses," the company says.
    The new funding would help bring its chicken products to market within three years at a price similar to conventional chicken products.

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News Resources - North America, Europe, and Asia:
  • Iranian Government Appears to Contain Protests - Ken Dilanian and Robert Windrem
    The Iranian government appears to have contained the civil unrest across that country, but the protests could still evolve into a serious threat to the regime, current and former intelligence officials told NBC News. "At this moment, the government appears to have this under control - this is discontent, not revolution," said a former senior intelligence official with long Middle East experience. "People so far are moving away from something - the status quo - but not embracing something else, revolution." However, "the social contract is stained, the regime is embarrassed."  (NBC News)
  • U.S. Sanctions Five Iranian Entities Involved in Missile Program - Carol Morello
    The U.S. Treasury Department on Thursday placed sanctions on five subsidiaries of the Shahid Bakeri Industrial Group, an Iranian defense entity that already is under U.S. sanctions. The Iranian industrial group is considered key in the development and production of the country's ballistic missiles. (Washington Post)
  • Breaking a Major Taboo in the Arab World, Egyptian Academic Saad Eddin Ibrahim Speaks in Tel Aviv - Roger Hercz
    Egyptian sociologist Saad Eddin Ibrahim, 79, Egypt's foremost social scientist and the founder of the Ibn Khaldoun Center for Development Studies in Cairo, was received on Tuesday as a rock star in a packed auditorium at Tel Aviv University. Ibrahim was in Israel to participate in an academic conference about Egyptian society.
        Ibrahim's participation was a major blow to the anti-normalization movement in the Arab world. With his visit, Ibrahim undermined attempts among academics in Europe and the U.S. to boycott Israeli universities. Ibrahim is a known human rights activist and a strong proponent of widening civil society in Egypt. Ex-president Hosni Mubarak threw him in jail in 2000 for "defaming Egypt's image abroad."
        Just as he started speaking, about 20 Palestinians got up and shouted insults at him. "You are a traitor to the Palestinian struggle....You are a paid agent." After five minutes, the demonstrators stormed out. Ibrahim responded, "If I am a paid agent, it would be nice if they at least would pay me."
        In his speech in Tel Aviv, he advocated further normalization with Israel, suggesting the country should be economically integrated into the Arab Middle East. "I hope you guys are all for it," Ibrahim said, as his Israeli listeners answered with enthusiastic clapping. The writer is Middle East correspondent of the Norwegian newspaper Dagsavisen. (Al-Araby Al-Jadeed-UK)
News Resources - Israel and the Mideast:
  • Thousands in Gaza Protest Against Palestinian Leadership - Dov Lieber
    Thousands of Palestinians protested Thursday against both the Palestinian Authority and Hamas over deteriorating humanitarian and economic conditions in Gaza, local media reported. In Jabaliya, protesters held signs proclaiming, "Where is the future," and "We want electricity." Another read, "Our requests are justice, living freely and social justice." The demands mirror those in protests in Iran in recent days.
        Two months have passed since 45,000 Hamas employees received their last salaries. (Times of Israel)
  • Israel Prime Minister's Video in Support of Iranian Protesters Viewed by Two Million - Herb Keinon
    Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu's statement in support of the Iranian protesters on Monday was the most widely watched video he has ever posted on Twitter, generating more than two million views, the Prime Minister's Office said Thursday. It generated thousands of responses, many of them in Farsi from Iranians living abroad, and many of those supportive of Netanyahu and Israel. (Jerusalem Post)
        See also Video: I Wish the Iranian People Success in their Noble Quest for Freedom - Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu (Prime Minister's Office)
Global Commentary and Think-Tank Analysis:

  • The Truth about the Protests in Iran - Tamar Eilam Gindin
    The violent disturbances have been going on for a few months, but were not frequent or noteworthy enough to receive media attention. After the heavy media coverage of the protests against corruption in Mashhad, other demonstrators took to the streets. This wave of protests is not just about economic issues, and it would be impossible to satisfy the protesters even with far-reaching economic reforms. They want to be rid of the Islamic Republic and become a secular democracy.
        Every Iranian I've talked to said the conservatives started these demonstrations in order to get rid of President Rohani because he's too open to the West. Since the demonstrations weren't immediately suppressed, Iranians concluded that the first demonstrators were there on behalf of the regime, but then things got out of hand. The writer is an Iran researcher at Shalem College in Jerusalem. (Ha'aretz)
  • The Iranian Regime Can't Keep Winning Forever - David Ignatius
    The Iranian regime will use its instruments of repression, and the unrest may wane. But the protests have been so widespread, taking place in what a former U.S. intelligence officer says are 80 cities, that it will be impossible to put the whole country back in a box. While the mullahs have the guns, they seem to have lost the public's trust.
        This week, France, Germany and Britain balked at a U.S. request for a joint statement on Iran. The West certainly should be careful about statements that encourage Iranians to open rebellion. But silence is wrong. If the government cracks down hard, as it did during the 2009 Green Movement, it must face real consequences.
        The Iranian regime will fight back ruthlessly, but it's hard to imagine the theocracy prevailing indefinitely in a society so hungry for change. The West can't wage this fight, but it shouldn't be afraid to say who's right and wrong. (Washington Post)
  • U.S. and Europe Must Begin to Develop a Common Approach to Iran's Nuclear Program - David Albright and Andrea Stricker
    The Iran deal suffers from inadequate verification and, most problematically, "sunset" clauses that allow Tehran to start rebuilding its nuclear-weapons capability. European officials like to stress that when the sunsets end, Iran would still be a member of the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty and subject to its Additional Protocol. If these were enough by themselves, however, there would have been no need for the 2015 nuclear agreement.
        Time isn't a friend. It took nearly 15 years to achieve the nuclear accord after the discovery of Iran's once-covert nuclear program in 2002. The U.S. and Europe must start building a common approach to prevent the nuclear crisis that the JCPOA has only temporarily delayed. Although developing a common position on stopping Tehran's nuclear buildup will take months, agreeing to start is urgent.
        The writer is president of the Institute for Science and International Security, where Andrea Stricker is a senior policy analyst. (Washington Post)

  • Palestinians

  • Defining "Occupied" and the Semantic Battle for Peace - Jonathan S. Tobin
    U.S. Ambassador to Israel David Friedman reportedly asked the State Department to stop using the term "occupied territories" when referring to the West Bank. Use of such words is part of a high-stakes battle to determine the outcome of the debate about the Israeli-Palestinian conflict.
        Friedman is correct that using the term "occupied" isn't neutral. It backs up the Palestinian narrative that Israelis are alien colonists in territories where only Arabs should have rights. Israel's position is that the ultimate disposition of the West Bank is a matter of dispute in which both sides have a legitimate argument.
        "West Bank" is itself geographic nonsense. It is a relic of the illegal Jordanian occupation of this area as well as the Old City of Jerusalem from 1949 to 1967. At that time, the Hashemite kingdom had two "banks," with an East - the area currently known as Jordan - as well as the West, which was taken by Israel during the Six-Day War.
        After the last 25 years, during which Israel repeatedly traded land and got more terror instead of peace, a cross-party consensus now exists that deems further withdrawals foolhardy until the Palestinians give up a political culture rooted in hatred and rejectionism.
        When push comes to shove, even Palestinian moderates still think of all of Israel, and not just the West Bank and Jerusalem, as "occupied" territory. As long as they think all land under Jewish control on either side of the 1967 lines is occupied, peace will remain a purely academic concept no matter which words are used. (JNS.org)
  • Time for Western Donors to Teach the PA a Lesson - Marcus Sheff
    On Dec. 10, 2017, Yasin Abu al-Qar'a left his home outside Nablus, traveled to Jerusalem, and plunged a knife which he had specially bought into the chest of a middle-aged bus station guard, Asher Elmaliach. Al-Qar'a told his interrogators that he had identified Elmaliach as a Jew and that his attempt to kill him was "based on what he'd been taught in Palestinian Authority (PA) textbooks." The PA curriculum is a rallying call to extremism and martyrdom.
        The textbooks promote hate and groom school children to sacrifice their lives. Negotiations with Israel are rejected, with children taught that a Palestinian state will be achieved only through violence and religious war. Martyrdom is preached as a life goal. Dying, they are taught, is better than living. War is an ongoing and praiseworthy necessity.
        The PA Ministry of Education is funded by the EU and EU member states, through programs of the American and Canadian governments, and by international organizations that are generously financed by the U.S. and Europeans. At a moment when around the Middle East, from Morocco to Jordan, governments are purging extremism from textbooks, the PA has made a strategic decision to do the opposite - to radicalize young Palestinians. The writer is CEO at IMPACT-SE, which monitors compliance with international standards on peace and tolerance in education. (Times of Israel)
  • In the West Bank: A Credit Boom Waiting for a Real Economy - David Wainer
    Driving around Ramallah in the West Bank, you might get the impression that the Palestinian economy is booming. Underground parking lots are brimming with Audis and BMWs, residential buildings are popping up at a frenetic pace, and cafes and restaurants are buzzing with customers. Helping drive the appearance of wealth is the emergence of a consumer loan market that was non-existent a decade ago. A 2008 law forced banks operating in the Palestinian territories to extend at least 40% of their credit to locals.
        But the overall picture for the West Bank's economy is still one of stagnation. Unemployment in the West Bank and Gaza is about 30% (versus 4.3% in Israel) and expected economic growth in the West Bank won't be enough to keep up with population growth, according to the World Bank. (Bloomberg)

  • Other Issues

  • Givat Hamatos: A Strategic Jerusalem Neighborhood - Nadav Shragai
    A plan to build a Jewish residential neighborhood in Givat Hamatos (Airplane Hill) in southern Jerusalem was approved in 2014, but has been frozen for four years due to pressure from the U.S. and EU countries. The area is adjacent to a main traffic artery of west Jerusalem.
        Givat Hamatos is one of the last reserves of land available for building within the jurisdictional boundaries of Jerusalem. The plan envisages 2,610 housing units for the Jewish population, while in the adjacent Arab neighborhood of Beit Safafa, approval has been given for 600-900 housing units.
        Before the Six-Day War, there were Jordanian outposts at the spot, and sometimes they fired from this hill at the Jewish neighborhoods of Talpiot and Baka. On the second day of the war, June 6, 1967, an Israeli aircraft was downed there and its pilot was killed. The incident gave the hill its name. In 1991 the site was used to house Ethiopian immigrants and contained 400 trailers, most of which have been removed. Also at the site are relics from the Second Temple period.
        One of the main reasons for the decline in Jerusalem's Jewish majority is that many Jews have left the city due to a severe shortage of apartments. Over the past 25 years, more than 400,000 Jews have left Jerusalem, while only 250,000 have come to live in it. The writer, a senior researcher at the Jerusalem Center, is a journalist and commentator who has documented the dispute over Jerusalem for 30 years. (Institute for Contemporary Affairs-Jerusalem Center for Public Affairs)
  • Anti-Israel Bias Reigns at Columbia University - Leila Beckwith and Tammi Rossman-Benjamin
    When Columbia University's Center for Palestine Studies was established in 2010, Rashid Khalidi, its founding and current director - and a supporter of an academic boycott of Israel - stated that steering clear of political activism was an important goal of the center. However, the Center has become an academic epicenter for anti-Israel political activism, as well as the promotion of an academic boycott of Israel. In 2015 and 2016, of the 44 Israel-related events sponsored by the Center, 41 included anti-Israel, pro-BDS speakers.
        During the same period, Israel-related events sponsored by Columbia University's other two Middle East studies departments - the Middle Eastern, South Asian and African studies department and the Middle East Institute - also overwhelmingly included anti-Israel, pro-BDS speakers. Columbia's three Middle East studies departments hosted 46 events with pro-BDS speakers in 2015 and 2016, more than double any other U.S. school. Beckwith is a professor emeritus at UCLA. Rossman-Benjamin is a former faculty member in Hebrew and Judaic studies at UC Santa Cruz. Both are founding members of the AMCHA Initiative, which combats anti-Semitism in higher education. (New York Daily News)

  • Weekend Features

  • The Christian Haven of Israel - Elias Zarina
    Having been born and raised in the Christian Quarter of the Old City of Jerusalem, I am certain that Israel is the only country in the region where Christians are thriving. Christians in the Middle East, including in eastern Jerusalem and the West Bank, are under enormous pressure from Muslim leaders.
        Recently, a Palestinian terrorist embarked on a vehicular ramming attack in the Christian town of Beit Jala, wounding 18 people and demolishing 41 vehicles. I heard first-hand that the assailant's declared goal was "to cleanse the infidels." The Christian exodus from Palestinian cities, including Bethlehem, is evidence of their maltreatment and their feelings of insecurity.
        However, in Israel, the Christian community continues to grow in numbers. Christians in Israel enjoy economic prosperity, independent educational systems with some of the country's most successful schools, a great health system, and full civil rights. It is for this reason that a growing number of Christians choose to enlist in the Israel Defense Forces, study, and live here.
        The writer is co-founder of the Brotherly Covenant Association, dedicated to the social integration of the Christian minority in Israel. (Times of Israel)
  • A Pakistani-American Muslim Meets a Pakistani Jew in Israel - Ibrahim Rashid
    On my first day in Jerusalem, as I boarded the bus to the Western Wall, my driver asked, "Where are you from?" and proudly, I announced, "I'm from Pakistan," to which he replied, "I'm from Pakistan, too." I was stunned. There are Pakistanis in Israel?
        "What's your name?" I asked in broken Urdu. "My name is Shimshon." Shimshon? That's an odd-sounding Pakistani name, I thought. "How long have you been in Israel?" "Since 1957." "Wow, that's a while. When were you last in Pakistan?" "1957." Confused, I asked, "Why haven't you gone back since?" "Because I can't, it's not safe for me." And then it hit me. Shimson is Jewish.
        He told me about growing up in Karachi - the city my family's from - and fearing for his life. He was harassed in the streets, his synagogue was targeted, and along with the rest of Karachi's Jews, he had to flee to the only country that would take him, Israel. We come from the same land, speak the same language, and he could even pass for one of my relatives, but because of his religion, our country failed him and now he's here, the only place where he feels safe.
        I was overcome with shame. How can I be proud of being Pakistani when this is how we treat our minorities? I ask all Muslims, no matter your politics, that you recognize that we, as an Ummah, failed the Jews. We failed them by kicking them out of our homes and treating them as everything but our brothers. (Huffington Post)
  • Jewish Artist Forged Dutch ID Papers to Save 350 Jewish Children from Nazis - Matt Lebovic
    During the years in which 102,000 Dutch Jews were murdered by the Nazis, a German-born Jewish artist, Alice Cohn, became an expert forger of identity papers and helped saved up to 350 Jewish children. Cohn's story is currently on display at the National Holocaust Museum in Amsterdam, based on items from the personal archive of Cohn, who died in 2000.
        Jacob Lentz, a Dutch official, created a so-called "fool-proof" personal identity card. During two years of hiding in an attic near Utrecht, Cohn crack Lentz's "hermetic" system, forging identity cards able to withstand scrutiny. Cohn and her group also forged ration coupons needed by "underground" people in hiding to obtain food, and documents to help young Dutch men evade forced labor in Germany. (Times of Israel)

  • Three weeks after President Trump's decision to recognize Jerusalem as the capital of Israel, the pessimistic warnings of widespread protests and violence across the Middle East have proven to be overblown. There were protests in some Arab capitals, but they lacked the numbers and enthusiasm to sustain themselves.
  • In the past, the Iranian-led axis, Sunni political Islamists, and Arab nationalists and leftists possessed an outstanding ability to mobilize masses into Arab streets to protest for the Palestinian cause. These actors, however, have lost their power and credibility in recent years.
  • Iranian intervention to support the rule of Syrian dictator Bashar Al Assad resulted in the mass killing of hundreds of thousands of Sunni Arabs, tarnishing the image of Iran and its allies throughout the Sunni world.
  • Moreover, pictures of Syrian children being attacked with chemical weapons by the Assad regime and its Iranian allies have forced many to refer to Iran's chief militia in the region, Hizbullah, as the "Party of the Devil" instead of the "Party of God." This is in complete contrast to the 2006 conflict between Israel and Hizbullah when pictures of Hizbullah leader Nasrallah were displayed in Cairo, Amman and other Sunni capitals as a show of support.
  • The second pillar of the Iranian axis in the region, the Palestinian militant group Hamas, has also been discredited publicly by its open association with the Muslim Brotherhood and its intervention in Egyptian affairs, particularly in Sinai, after 2011.

    Haisam Hassanein is Glazer Fellow at the Washington Institute for Near East Policy. Wesam Hassanein is a master's candidate at American University's School of International Service.
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