February 2, 2018

In-Depth Issues:

PA Seeks More Active Russian Role in Training Palestinian Security Forces - Jack Khoury (Ha'aretz)
    Since President Trump's declaration in December recognizing Jerusalem as Israel's capital, Palestinian Authority officials have approached Russia to take a more active role in training Palestinian security forces, a subject that had been primarily dealt with by the U.S.
    Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas and Palestinian intelligence chief Majid Faraj met with two members of a Russian delegation in Ramallah on Thursday and discussed cooperation on security matters including training and training exercises, Faraj's office said.

Israel "Adamantly Opposes" Polish Senate's Approval of Draft Holocaust Law (Reuters)
    Israel "adamantly opposes" the Polish Senate's approval on Thursday of draft legislation penalizing suggestions of any complicity by Poland in the Nazi Holocaust, the Israeli Foreign Ministry said.
    "Israel views with utmost gravity any attempt to challenge historical truth. No law will change the facts," ministry spokesman Emmanuel Nahshon said on Twitter.

Anti-Semitic Incidents in Britain Hit Record High (JTA)
    The number of anti-Semitic attacks recorded in the UK rose 3% in 2017, marking a new record for the second straight year with 1,382 cases.
    The Community Security Trust reported 145 violent anti-Semitic assaults in 2017, a 34% increase over 108 in 2016.

Jerusalem Arabs Increasingly Finding Work in Jewish Sector - Gwen Ackerman and Fadwa Hodali (Bloomberg)
    Most of the 300,000 Arabs of Jerusalem work in Jewish areas.
    Ro'aa, 22, a sales clerk at the Malcha shopping mall, said, "I tried to work several times on the Arab side, but it didn't work out. There were no benefits, my salary was always two months late. On the Israeli side you get paid more and receive all your benefits, and if they see you are working hard you get promoted."
    Salary gaps with the city's Jewish population are narrowing, more are learning Hebrew, and registration at higher education institutions in the western sector is up.
    Ben Avrahami, the mayor's adviser for east Jerusalem affairs, said, "It is dripping into the consciousness that Israel is a reality and that if east Jerusalemites want to improve their lives, they might be willing to pay the price of integration," adding that the city is doing what it can to improve infrastructure in the Arab areas.

Iraqi Shia Militia Confirms "Essential" Role of Iran and Hizbullah - Baxtiyar Goran (Kurdistan24)
    Abu Mahdi al-Muhandis, deputy commander of the Iranian-backed Popular Mobilization Forces (PMF) Shia militia group in Iraq, said in Basra last week, "The support of the Islamic Republic [of Iran] has been essential, and the youth of Hizbullah had an essential role in training, planning, and supporting" the PMF factions.
    "The Islamic Republic opened its treasury for us when weapons and ammunition were lacking."
    The PMF has repeatedly been accused of being under the direct command of Tehran rather than Baghdad.

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Ethiopian-Israeli Teen Wins Israel's X-Factor - Marcy Oster (JTA)
    An Ethiopian-Israeli teenager, Eden Alene, 17, of Jerusalem, won Israel's "X-Factor 2018" singing competition on Tuesday, receiving the most votes from the viewing audience.
    See also Video: Eden Alene's Winning Song (Reshet TV-Israel)

8 Gazans Killed, 20 Wounded in Gaza Family Dispute - Khaled Abu Toameh (Times of Israel)
    Eight Palestinians were killed and another 20 wounded "in an explosion at a home" in Gaza City on Thursday, the Hamas-run health ministry said.
    Police said a member of the Abu Assi clan deliberately set a gas canister on fire during a family quarrel, leading to the explosion which seriously damaged a two-story building.
    Sources in Gaza said a dispute over inheritance had erupted among members of the Abu Assi family.
    A few hours before the explosion, a violent altercation erupted between the main suspect and some of his family members. Eyewitnesses said they saw the suspect carrying gas cylinders near the house before the explosion.

Guardian Article on Terror in Cities Omits Israel - Adam Levick (UK Media Watch)
    An expansive Guardian article published on Jan. 29 on the history of terror attacks in cities around the world includes a diverse array of examples.
    Yet it somehow manages to avoid any mention of the thousands of Palestinian terror attacks against Jews in Israeli cities, or Palestinian attacks on Jewish targets in Western cities.
    Modern Palestinian terror "innovations," such as the widespread use of suicide bombing go unmentioned.

Inside the Israel Security Agency's Cyber Division - Yonah Jeremy Bob (Jerusalem Post)
    The organizers of this week's Cybertech TLV 2018 conference published a magazine that included interviews with members of the Israel Security Agency's cyber division.
    "R.," the head of the Development & Attack Team of the cyber division, is 34, married and a mother. She said, "In cyber, the question of whether you are male or female is insignificant. A woman who is knowledgeable about the field" is rewarded in the security agency.

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News Resources - North America, Europe, and Asia:
  • U.S. Says Syria Is Moving to Conceal Chemical Weapons Use Amid Rise in Attacks - Dion Nissenbaum
    A senior U.S. official on Thursday warned Syria about an increase in the use of poison gas against civilians, despite last year's cruise-missile strike aimed at deterring the Assad regime from carrying out such attacks. "Our policy is zero tolerance of chemical weapons, so we reserve the right to use military force to prevent or deter the use of weapons of mass destruction."
        The Syrian American Medical Society said the Assad regime has carried out four attacks using chlorine gas in the past week, raising new concerns in Washington that Assad is accelerating his use of such weapons. (Wall Street Journal)
  • Irish Ambassador: Government Does Not Support Ban on West Bank Settlement Goods - Mark Weiss
    Irish Ambassador to Israel Alison Kelly told officials in Jerusalem on Wednesday that the Irish Government does not support an initiative to ban the sale of goods from West Bank settlements. The Irish Senate voted on Tuesday to indefinitely postpone a vote on a private member's bill to criminalize the sale of settlement products. Kelly said the government opposes the BDS (boycott, disinvestment, sanctions) campaign against Israel. (Irish Times)
News Resources - Israel and the Mideast:
  • U.S. Diplomat: Blacklisting Hamas Head Intended to Prevent the Next War
    The U.S. decision to put the head of the Hamas terrorist organization, Ismail Haniyeh, on its terror blacklist is an essential step towards "drying up" Hamas, U.S. Coordinator for Counterterrorism Nathan Sales told Ynet in an interview on Thursday. "It is a crime under U.S. law for people to engage in transactions with these designated terrorists," he said. Iran, Hamas' biggest financial supporter, will thus be declared in violation of U.S. law.
        "The United States is under no illusions about Iran's malign intentions in the region, nor are we under any illusions about its ability to project its power and to shed blood around the world....Iran can be stopped. Iran is not invincible."
        Sales emphasized the importance of restricting "the ability of terrorist organizations to raise money (and) to inspire new recruits....We want to stop war from happening by degrading terrorist organizations and preventing them from accumulating the weapons, manpower and confidence that they would need to launch a new war."  (Ynet News)
        See also U.S. Counterterrorism Chief Reviews Iran's Malign Influence in the Region - Amb. Nathan Sales (Institute for National Security Studies-Tel Aviv University)
  • IDF Attacks Hamas Outpost in Response to Gaza Rocket Fire - Yoav Zitun
    The IDF attacked a Hamas observation post in Gaza early Friday in retaliation to Thursday's rocket fire on Israel from Gaza. (Ynet News)
  • Four Gazans Arrested Crossing Border into Israel
    Four Palestinians were apprehended Thursday after crossing the border from Gaza to Israel. One was carrying two knives and a hand grenade. The four were observed by IDF spotters as they approached the border fence and were apprehended immediately. (Ynet News)
Global Commentary and Think-Tank Analysis:
  • New U.S. Messages to the Palestinians - Prof. Eyal Zisser
    The U.S. State Department announced Wednesday that it was designating Hamas leader Ismail Haniyeh as a terrorist. The message from Washington is that Haniyeh and Hamas are part of the problem, not the solution. The U.S. has no intention of "embracing" Hamas and fostering dialogue in hopes that someday the Islamist terrorist group would change its tune and become moderate.
        This decision, together with the U.S. decision to cut aid to UNRWA, the Palestinian refugee agency, sends two messages: first, that those who have come to see the U.S. as little more than an ATM will from now on be expected to consider its positions; and second, that the war on terror has no shades of gray. You either are or are not a terrorist and there is no such thing as a terrorist organization with a legitimate political arm. The writer, vice rector at Tel Aviv University, is former director of its Moshe Dayan Center for Middle Eastern and African Studies. (Israel Hayom)
  • Israel Is Not Deporting Refugees - Dr. Emmanuel Navon
    There are 37,288 illegal immigrants in Israel. Most entered Israel from Sinai between 2006 and 2012, and many live in south Tel Aviv. Israel completed the construction of a barrier on the Israel-Egypt border in 2013 and put an end to illegal immigration.
        Like other signatories of the UN Refugees Convention (1951), Israel is bound to grant refugee status to people who flee "genocide, war, persecution, and slavery to dictatorial regimes." It did so in 1977 when it accepted Vietnamese "boat people." It has been doing so for the small percentage of African migrants who are actual asylum seekers.
        Israel is far from being the only democracy that sends back illegal immigrants. The U.S. expels 400,000 illegal immigrants every year. In 2017, Germany expelled 80,000 illegal immigrants. Some claim that Israel is only expelling illegal immigrants from Africa but not from eastern Europe. This accusation is both malicious and false. In 2017, Israel expelled 3,361 illegal immigrants from the Ukraine and 844 from Georgia. Israel is the only country in the world that brought in Africans (Ethiopian Jews in 1985 and in 1991). The writer teaches at Tel Aviv University and at the Interdisciplinary Center Herzliya. (Times of Israel)
  • Video: The Brewing Conflict along the Red Sea - Dore Gold
    There is a crisis brewing to Israel's south in the Red Sea area where at least a half a dozen countries are scrambling for influence, seeking bases and positioning themselves in the event of a future conflict. Iran is seeking positions of strength along the entire Red Sea, from the Suez Canal in the north down to Bab-el-Mandeb, the outlet of the Red Sea into the Indian Ocean. In the 1990s, the Iranians deployed their Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps in Port Sudan and Sudan became a conduit for moving Iranian weapons into Egypt, to the Sinai Peninsula, and ultimately to Gaza where they were used by Hamas and other pro-Iranian organizations.
        In the critical Bab-el-Mandeb straights, the naval choke point at the bottom of the Red Sea, Iran has been using the Houthi militias, which are its proxies in the Yemen war. And it may get to a point where the Iranians will seek to block the flow of naval traffic through this sensitive point.
        Of all the nations that are positioning themselves in the Horn of Africa, like Iran, the U.S., Turkey, France, the United Arab Emirates, and Russia, careful attention should be given to the presence of China in Djibouti where China has constructed one of its first naval bases at the gateway to the Middle East. Given the interests of all the actors appearing now in the Red Sea, the whole region has become far more combustible than it was in the past. Amb. Dore Gold, former director general of the Israel Ministry of Foreign Affairs and Israeli ambassador to the UN, is president of the Jerusalem Center. (Jerusalem Center for Public Affairs)
  • The IRS Campaign Against Israel - Lori Lowenthal Marcus
    I founded Z Street in 2009 to educate Americans about the Middle East and Israel's defense against terror. We applied to the Internal Revenue Service for tax-exempt status under Section 501(c)(3) of the tax code in December 2009 - a process that usually takes 3 to 6 months. In July 2010, an IRS agent responded to our lawyer's query about why processing was taking so long: Z Street's application was getting special scrutiny, the agent said, because it was related to Israel. In August 2010 we sued the IRS for violating Z Street's First Amendment rights to be free from viewpoint discrimination - government treatment that differs depending on one's political position.
        Now that the case has been settled, IRS documents reveal that an IRS manager in our case said in sworn testimony, the IRS needed to investigate whether Z Street was funding terror. In August 2010, three other Jewish organizations applying for tax-exempt status were asked by the IRS to "explain their religious beliefs about the Land of Israel."
        Between 2009 and 2016, while Z Street's application was stalled, the IRS granted numerous applications for tax-exempt status that proclaimed donations would be spent in Gaza - a territory formally under the jurisdiction of Hamas, which the U.S. State Department designates as a terror organization. The IRS ultimately granted Z Street's application, in October 2016. (Wall Street Journal)
        See also IRS Apologizes to Pro-Israel Group for Biased Treatment - Adam Kredo
    Z Street, a pro-Israel advocacy group that found its nonprofit status subjected to undue scrutiny by the IRS as a result of its advocacy on the Jewish state's behalf, reached a settlement Thursday with the Department of Justice that included a formal apology for subjecting the group to unfair treatment. (Washington Free Beacon)
        See also Department of Justice Announces Settlement with Z Street over Improper IRS Treatment (U.S. Department of Justice)
  • How to Restore U.S. Credibility in the Middle East - Michael Oren
    As Israel's ambassador to Washington and, later, as a member of its government, I held many conversations with Arab diplomats, ministers, journalists and businessmen from Egypt, Jordan and the Gulf States. All believed that America was secretly allied with Iran. Fighting Iran's enemies such as Saddam Hussein, ISIS and the Taliban, while refusing to stop Iranian conquests in Syria, Lebanon, Yemen and Iraq, was presented as proof of Washington's collusion with Tehran. No evidence was more damning than the Iranian nuclear deal, which preserved Iran's nuclear infrastructure while enabling the regime to overcome financial crises.
        Advocates of the deal warn that canceling it will cost America credibility abroad and alienate important allies. But it is the deal itself that has created a credibility deficit for the U.S. in the Middle East.
        To restore America's stature in the Middle East, the international community, led by the U.S., could mount a campaign to roll back Iranian conquests and combat Iranian-backed terror. The production and testing of ICBMs by Iran must also completely stop. Efforts must be made either to cancel the nuclear deal or link it to Iranian behavior. The dangers of the "sunset clause" must be addressed by assuring that the deal's restrictions will never expire as long as Iran is ruled by a terror-sponsoring regime.
        Standing firmly with its Arab and Israeli allies against Iran will contribute immensely to restoring America's credibility in the Middle East. It will also have a material and positive effect on nonproliferation efforts elsewhere in the world. (CNN)

  • Weekend Features

  • Meet My New Friend Hussein - Dov Lipman
    Hussein Aboubakr, 28, was born to a traditional, middle-class Muslim family in Cairo. He recalls how the movies of his childhood were filled with Jewish villains who were stopped by good Egyptians. The No. 1 comic book character was "Man of the Impossible," who went around the world destroying Zionist conspiracies. Obsessed with super-villain Jews, Hussein decided to study Hebrew via the Internet, and to then infiltrate these evil plans.
        After Hussein learned Hebrew, he was completely shocked by Jewish history: Here was an ancient Middle Eastern nation indigenous to the Land of Israel, with an ancient connection to Jerusalem. Hussein became horrified by "everyone around me telling me pure nonsense." After numerous arrests for blogging about his criticism of anti-Semitism and the mistreatment of women and Christians in the Muslim world, he fled Egypt and received political asylum in the U.S.
        Hussein now teaches Hebrew in California and advocates for Israel. In his words: "In Israel, no one will be tortured for writing a blog, and no one will be imprisoned for simply writing their ideas. Israel gives hope that the Middle East can have Western, moral values with human rights, liberty and freedom." The writer served as a member of the 19th Knesset and is the executive vice president of government and community affairs for Innovation Africa. (Jerusalem Post)
  • MI6 Honors British Spy for Saving 10,000 Jews from Nazi Germany - Eytan Halon
    Britain's MI6, the Secret Intelligent Service, honored late British intelligence officer Major Frank Foley on Tuesday for saving an estimated 10,000 German Jews in Nazi Germany prior to the Second World War. The most senior spy in Berlin, stationed in the British Embassy, Foley issued thousands of visas to German Jews seeking to flee Nazi persecution - an act of heroism that was never acknowledged during his lifetime.
        Foley's cover story for his espionage activity in Germany was his work as a passport control officer at the embassy, moving to Berlin in 1920. Foley risked arrest and even his life by entering concentration camps, including Sachsenhausen, to present camp authorities with visas issued for Jewish prisoners, enabling them to escape. Foley also hid fleeing Jewish families in his home.
        MI6 chief Alex Younger said, "With little regard for his personal safety he took a stance against evil. Despite exposing himself to significant personal risk, Frank made a decision to help. He knew the dire consequences were he to get caught." Foley, who died in 1958, was awarded the "Righteous Among the Nations" status by Israel's Holocaust center Yad Vashem in 1999. (Jerusalem Post)
  • Book Review: The Book Smugglers of Vilna - Gerald J. Steinacher
    In The Book Smugglers, David E. Fishman, a professor at the Jewish Theological Seminary in New York, introduces us to a thriving Jewish culture in Eastern Europe and to the people who risked their lives to save this culture from the barbaric Nazi onslaught.
        Vilna, Lithuania, was the cultural capital of Eastern European Jewry. Yiddish literature flourished in the town where 28% of the population were Jews. On June 24, 1941, the German Wehrmacht captured Vilna, and the assault on the Jewish community began almost immediately. 40,000 people were first crammed into two small ghettos and then rounded up by the SS and its local Lithuanian collaborators and shot in the nearby forest of Ponary.
        Alfred Rosenberg, the leading ideologist of the Third Reich, was especially interested in plundering books and artifacts related to Jewish culture. But a group of Jewish scholars and librarians from Vilna worked to hide important papers and books from the Nazis, placing them in secret hideouts. When Vilna was taken by the Soviet army in July 1944, the surviving members of the group found some of the hiding places still intact. The writer is an associate professor of history at the University of Nebraska-Lincoln. (Wall Street Journal)

U.S. Envoy Sees "Growing Receptivity to Peace across the Region" - Jason Greenblatt (U.S. Embassy in Israel)

U.S. Middle East envoy Jason Greenblatt told the Institute for National Security Studies in Tel Aviv on Tuesday:
  • "After extensive travel in the region to explore the possibility of Israeli and Palestinian peace this year, I continue to firmly believe that there is a real path forward towards peace."
  • "My many meetings with the leaders of Israel, the Palestinian Authority, Jordan, Saudi Arabia, Qatar, Egypt, and the United Arab Emirates, reveal...[that] confronted with an emboldened, aggressive Iran, and populations eager for economic opportunity, many leaders understand now that Israel is not the problem - in fact, Israel could be part of the solution."
  • "Despite criticism following President Trump's recognition of Jerusalem as Israel's capital, for the most part I have seen a growing receptivity to peace across the region....President Trump has brought a fresh set of eyes and energy to the task of peacemaking. It is clear that President Trump's actions and language have changed expectations about what is possible. He has revitalized the discussion and language of peace in the region."
  • "Our approach is rooted in the belief that instead of working to impose a solution from the outside, we must give the parties space to make their own decisions about their future. Our approach is also guided by the belief that instead of laying blame for the conflict at the feet of one party or the other, we must focus on unlocking new areas of cooperation which benefit both Palestinians and Israelis....We will not impose a deal on either party."
  • "When President Trump made his historic decision to recognize Jerusalem as Israel's capital, he was not rewriting history - he was recognizing an obvious reality....Jerusalem...has been the cultural and spiritual homeland of the Jewish people for thousands of years and Israel made Jerusalem its capital 70 years ago. We deeply believe that recognizing this reality was an important step, not just for Israel, but to lay the ground for a comprehensive, enduring - and real peace."
  • "Did the President's decision prejudge any final status issues? No....Did the announcement change the status quo at Jerusalem's holy sites? It did not....Did the decision, then, signal the United States' abandonment of the peace process, or a bias against one side? Again, I answer, no. The United States is as committed as ever to reaching an agreement that guarantees a peaceful, prosperous future for both Israelis and Palestinians."
  • "Peace will not be achieved by denying Judaism's thousands of years of ties to Jerusalem and the Land of Israel. Peace will not be achieved by walking away from negotiations. Peace only has a chance of success through respectful, continuous dialogue and through negotiations."
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