March 2, 2018

In-Depth Issues:

Iranian Hacking Group Is Expanding Operations in the Middle East - Saheli Roy Choudhury and Hadley Gamble (CNBC)
    Chafer, an Iran-based hacking group that in the past has conducted domestic surveillance, is turning its gaze outward across the Middle East, according to a new report from the Symantec cybersecurity firm.
    Last year, the group attacked organizations in Israel, Jordan, Saudi Arabia, Turkey and the UAE.
    "The group staged a number of ambitious new attacks last year, including the compromise of a major telecoms services provider in the region. There is also evidence that it attempted to attack a major international travel reservations firm."

Calls for Scotland Yard to Probe Whether UK Gave Aid to "Jailed Palestinian Terrorists" (Daily Express-UK)
    Scotland Yard has been asked to investigate whether the UK Department for International Development (DfID) and two ministers breached terrorism legislation by giving aid money to the Palestinian Authority.
    A complaint made by Ken Miller, on behalf of the pro-Israel group Israel Britain Alliance, to the head of the Metropolitan Police, Cressida Dick, claims aid to the PA has been used to pay terrorists in prison, contravening the Terrorism Act 2000.
    The allegation follows concerns raised by Kay Wilson, a British citizen attacked and left for dead, while her friend American Kristine Luken was murdered in 2010 by Palestinian terrorists.
    Wilson alleged that her attackers are now receiving thousands of pounds in payments from the PA while in prison.

Coming Soon - a Nuclear Middle East - Ran Porat (AIJAC-Australia)
    Dozens of nuclear reactors are in various stages of planning in the UAE, Egypt, Saudi Arabia, Jordan, Algeria, Tunisia and Sudan, according to a report by IDF Col. (res.) Dr. Shaul Shay, Director of Research at the Institute for Policy and Strategy at the Interdisciplinary Center Herzliya.
    Russia is the contractor building most of the reactors, while South Korea is constructing the others.
    While many of these countries are fossil fuel rich, the real motivation is the perception that atomic capabilities amount to "a status symbol and a response to the Iranian nuclear program," says Shay.
    Tehran's race for nuclear capabilities and the nuclear agreement it signed are major reasons for the urgency among Middle Eastern countries to possess their own nuclear plants and know-how.
    Following the Iranian example, Arab leaders know that the first step on the road towards atomic weapons is a civilian nuclear sector.
    For Arab leaders, the Iran deal is a clear illustration of how breaching international law and becoming a threat to world security means suffering nothing worse than verbal condemnation, yet all the while being courted and awarded prizes and enticements.
    Dr. Ran Porat is a researcher at the Australian Centre for Jewish Civilisation (ACJC) at Monash University.

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Unemployment Rate in Israel Falls to Record Low - Tali Heruti-Sover (Ha'aretz)
    The unemployment rate in Israel fell in January to a historic low of 3.7%, the Central Bureau of Statistics reported Wednesday.

Israel Awards Czechoslovak Priest for Saving Jews during Holocaust (Czech News Agency-Prague Daily Monitor)
    In a ceremony in Prague on Tuesday, Marie Cermakova, the daughter of Czechoslovak Evangelical priest Vaclav Cermak, received the Righteous Among the Nations title granted by the State of Israel to her father for saving Jews during the Holocaust.
    Cermak became the 117th Czech to be awarded the title for helping Jews regardless of the risk it meant for them.
    During the anti-Nazi Slovak National Uprising in 1944, Cermak helped hide the Weisenberger and Schoenfeld families in various Slovak towns and then in a mountain chalet, where they all survived the war.

Israelis Build First Dairy Farm in Papua New Guinea - Abigail Klein Leichman (Israel21c)
    Since 1990, civil engineer Ronen Feigenbaum has used Israeli technology and knowhow to set up dairy farms in China, England, India, Mexico, Namibia, Nigeria, Philippines, Romania, South Africa, Vietnam and now Papua New Guinea.
    Until now, the country didn't have a dairy and all dairy products were imported.
    "Israeli dairy farms are the best in the world," says Feigenbaum. "Each [Israeli Holstein] averages over 40 liters per day, some as much as 60."
    The U.S. average is 30 liters per day, and in Britain 21 liters.

Israeli Firm Develops More Accurate Test for Prostate Cancer (Times of Israel)
    Israel's Micromedic Technologies says its initial test of its Celldetect technology detected or ruled out prostate cancer in urine samples more accurately than the current PSA blood test.
    Tests of CellDetect have previously proven similarly high efficacy rates for detecting cervical and bladder cancer.

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News Resources - North America, Europe, and Asia:
  • Iran Rejects U.S. Conditions to Recertify Nuclear Deal
    Iran has dismissed the U.S. president's "excessive demands" for recertifying the 2015 nuclear deal, Foreign Ministry Spokesman Bahram Qassemi said Monday. "We should not take seriously the words which are in vain and worthless because such words are continuously repeated and I think that they will not yield any results for the U.S."
        On Saturday, Iranian Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif said, "A member of a multilateral agreement cannot set conditions for it. They had earlier raised a number of conditions which were improper. Their new terms are also improper. Principally, any condition is inappropriate....The international community is fully aware that none of these conditions is even worth of studying."  (Fars-Iran)
  • Federal Judge Rules that Terror Attack Victims May See Boeing Contract with Iran - Lorraine Bailey
    A federal judge in Chicago has ruled that Boeing must produce its $16 billion contract with Iran Air, in response to discovery requests filed by victims of Palestinian terrorist attacks in Israel. The family of Shlomo Leibovitch won a $32 million award for a Palestinian Islamic Jihad attack that killed his brother-in-law and maimed his daughter in 2003. As part of the family's attempt to collect on its judgment against Iran, Leibovitch served Boeing with discovery requests seeking to identify Iranian assets being held by the aerospace company.
        U.S. District Judge Ruben Castillo asked the government whether permitting the discovery would interfere with U.S. foreign policy, as Boeing claims. The administration responded that its commitments under the nuclear deal "do not require the executive branch to take any specific action with respect to effort by judgment creditors of Iran to pursue post-judgment discovery or other enforcement proceedings."
        Castillo ordered Boeing to produce the contract itself, which will reveal the existence of any accounts that could potentially lead Leibovitch to collect Iranian assets. (Courthouse News)
  • Israel's El Al Seeks International Help to Access Saudi Airspace - Tova Cohen and Ari Rabinovitch
    Israel's El Al has asked the International Air Transport Association (IATA) to help it access Saudi Arabian airspace, so it can compete with Air India's planned route between India and Israel. El Al currently flies four weekly flights to Mumbai, but these take seven hours rather than five as they take a longer route to avoid Saudi airspace. Air India is to begin direct flights to Tel Aviv which pass through Saudi airspace, offering a shorter route.
        El Al's CEO Gonen Usishkin has now turned to IATA, saying he understood no such permission would be granted to Israeli jetliners and asking the association to prevent "an uneven playing field." "I am approaching you and kindly requesting IATA to intervene and to represent aviation industry's interest by advocating equal overfly rights for all carriers over the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia and opposing any form of discrimination," he wrote. (Reuters)
News Resources - Israel and the Mideast:
  • Israel Concerned with U.S. Inaction on Iran Entrenchment in Syria - Michael Bachner
    While Iranian entrenchment in Syria is seen in Israel as an acute and critical threat, U.S. officials appear to be downplaying the issue as a minor concern for Washington. "There is a big gap between Washington's talk and their actions," a senior Israeli official told Channel 10 on Wednesday. "It is convenient for the Americans to let us be their proxy against Iran in Syria," he added. "We are very worried."
        In their meeting at the White House next week, Prime Minister Netanyahu will try to persuade President Trump to take immediate action against Iran in Syria to curb its military spread and diplomatic influence, the report said.
        Last week, Public Security Minister Gilad Erdan told the Conference of Presidents of Major American Jewish Organizations, "There is a need for greater American involvement in making sure that Iran doesn't turn Syria into a puppet state. Every day that Iran entrenches itself in Syria brings war closer. There is no vacuum. If the U.S. chooses not to be a major player in shaping the future of Syria, then others will."  (Times of Israel)
  • Video and Photos: Israel Celebrates Purim with Parades
    Israel celebrated the holiday of Purim this week with marches, dancing and elaborate costumes. (Ynet News)
  • Israel Youth Delegation Returns from Qatar with Handball Tournament Trophy
    Two Israeli high school teams returned from Qatar on Thursday with a third-place trophy in the World Handball Championship for Schools, held in Doha. "The delegation was received in Qatar by the organizing committee and participants with great respect and warmth," Israel's Ministry of Education said. "The delegation was secure, and all the arrangements were exemplary." Qatar was criticized on social media for allowing the Israelis to participate. (i24News)
Global Commentary and Think-Tank Analysis:
  • Are Saudi Arabia's Reforms for Real? - David Ignatius
    Are Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman's proposals for change supported by the religious leadership and the public in this very conservative country? During a trip there, I heard strong support for reforms from young Saudis interviewed on the street as well as a senior Muslim cleric. Sheikh Mohammad al-Issa, since 2016 the head of the Saudi-backed Muslim World League, said the moves are backed by his colleagues in the senior religious leadership.
        The new Saudi stance against radical Islam has an operational side, too, which I saw at the new Global Center for Combating Extremist Ideology, known as ETIDAL, or moderation. Under a giant dome, several hundred analysts sit at computer screens watching Arabic social media traffic for signs of support for extremist groups. (Washington Post)
  • U.S. Wants Saudis to Seek a Diplomatic Solution to Yemen's Civil War - Simon Henderson
    Since intervening in Yemen in 2015 to reinstate President Hadi, Saudi forces have been singularly unsuccessful in their fight against Houthi rebels. While allied military units from the UAE seized the port city of Aden and much of the south, the Houthis have been able to hold onto northwest Yemen, which contains around three-quarters of the population.
        Worse still from Riyadh's point of view is that Saudi Arabia has lost some of its own territory to Houthi forces - around a hundred square miles of Saudi land along the border is essentially under rebel control, if not actual occupation. Iran, the Saudis' regional archrival, has provided ample clandestine assistance to the Houthis, including long-range missiles that have struck as far as Riyadh and a drone speedboat that badly damaged a Saudi frigate.
        The U.S. view is that the war is unwinnable, and Washington wants the Saudis to seek a diplomatic solution to the war. The writer is director of the Gulf and Energy Policy Program at The Washington Institute. (Washington Institute for Near East Policy)
  • Abbas' Successor Won't Make a Difference When It Comes to Peace - Harold Rhode
    The Israeli and American establishments spend a lot of time over who should replace PA leader Mahmoud Abbas when he's gone. But any Palestinian (Muslim) will end up acting the same towards Israel.
        Why? Because the root problem is that no Muslim leader can sign a final peace agreement with the non-Muslim State of Israel and remain alive. He would be labeled a traitor because, according to the Shari'a, once a land is conquered by Muslims, it must remain Muslim forever.
        Muslims conquered all of these lands in 637 CE. All of pre-1967 Israel must, therefore, remain under Islamic rule. The non-Muslim Jewish state of Israel, from their perspective, has no right to exist because it is not Muslim. If a Palestinian leader would sign any such agreement, the people he supposedly would lead would destroy him. The Muslim struggle for the land will continue, no matter who is leading the Palestinian people. Dr. Harold Rhode, a Fellow at the Jerusalem Center for Public Affairs, served for 28 years as an advisor on the Islamic world in the Office of the U.S. Secretary of Defense. (JNS)
  • Duke of Cambridge's Visit to Israel Will End a 70-Year Royal Snub - Andrew Roberts
    A long-standing Foreign Office taboo has been broken with the news that HRH Prince William is going to visit Israel. The royal visit is a statement that Israel is no longer going to be treated like the pariah nation it so long has been by the Foreign Office. It is no coincidence that although Her Majesty the Queen has made over 250 official overseas visits to 129 different countries during her reign, neither she nor one single member of the British royal family has ever been to Israel on an official visit.
        Even though Prince Philip's mother, Princess Alice of Greece, who was recognized as "Righteous Among the Nations" for sheltering a Jewish family in her Athens home during the Holocaust, was buried on the Mount of Olives in Jerusalem, the Duke of Edinburgh was not allowed by the Foreign Office to visit her grave until 1994, and then only on a private visit.
        When he gets back to Britain after his visit, Prince William will be able to tell the rest of his family what a wonderful place they were forced to miss out visiting because of the ban imposed for 70 years by a small group of Foreign Office Arabists. The writer is a British historian and journalist. (Jewish News-UK)
  • Deal-Making in the Middle East - Amir Taheri
    Deal-makers who try to solve the "Middle East problem" often sacrifice the existential reality on the ground to the essential abstraction of elusive ideals. There are many reasons why so many deal-makers have failed. The first is that peace is never negotiated and is always imposed by the side that wins a war. There is not any instance in history, which is primarily a narrative of countless wars, in which an outsider has imposed peace on unwilling belligerents.
        Deal-makers do not fully appreciate the importance of the status quo, the reality on the ground. Whenever a status quo is at least tolerable for both belligerents, the desire for risking it in the hope of an ill-defined peace is diminished. Many people in the world live with a status quo they don't regard as ideal.
        Russia and Japan coexist, trade with each other, and maintain correct relations despite being technically at war after the Russian occupation of chunks of the Kuril Islands. China and India coexist despite the Chinese annexation of large Indian territories along the border. By one count, 89 of the 198 members of the UN are involved in territorial disputes or are home to restive, sometimes secessionist, minorities.
        If we add irredentist claims rooted in history, almost all UN members are in dispute with their neighbors. I haven't met a Mexican who didn't think that California and Texas belonged to Mexico. The writer was the executive editor-in-chief of the Iran daily Kayhan from 1972 to 1979. (Asharq Al-Awsat-UK)

  • Weekend Features

  • Watching the Strange Spectacle of Palestinian Made-for-Media Outrage - Amit Deri
    During a tour of IDF reserve duty this month, my men and I were attacked by about 400 Palestinian rioters in the Hebron area throwing firebombs, hurling large rocks, using slingshots, and burning tires. They were documented by some 40 foreign press with cameras. They were shouting slogans about Muhammad's army coming to avenge itself on the Jews, and pranced bravely in front of the photographers, knowing full well that the IDF's strict regulations prevent us from doing much more than trying to disperse the violent mob by shooting canisters of tear gas.
        We did the best we could to keep anyone, Israeli and Palestinian, from getting seriously injured. And then, magic: A short while into the demonstration, the media, getting what it came for, decided to leave. As soon as the last cameraman was gone, the very same Palestinian rioters who were, just a moment earlier, so passionate and furious and violent, tossed aside their gasoline-soaked rags and boulders and cheerfully walked away. They weren't interested in a real confrontation. They weren't truly mad. They were putting on a show for the press. The writer is the executive director of Reservists On Duty, dedicated to fighting BDS. (Tablet)
  • Remembering the 2,000 Berlin Jews Saved by German Women - Nathan Stoltzfus and Mordechai Paldiel
    75 years ago, in February and March 1943, hundreds of German women rescued 2,000 Jews, their husbands, from the jaws of death with a daring protest on Berlin's Rosenstrasse. They gathered there for more than a week, in spite of repeated commands by the authorities to "clear the streets or we'll shoot."
        The Nuremberg Laws of September 1935 criminalized sexual relations between Jews and non-Jews as "racial defilement." Following the Kristallnacht pogrom of November 1938, the Gestapo began a campaign to threaten and cajole non-Jewish German women married to Jews into getting a divorce. As soon as the non-Jewish partners agreed to divorce, the Gestapo deported the Jewish former spouses.
        Beginning on Feb. 27, 1943, the Gestapo imprisoned nearly 2,000 intermarried Jews in a pre-transportation facility at Rosenstrasse, as part of the final roundup of Berlin Jews. Hitler conceded, temporarily, to the brave women on Rosenstrasse. He "temporarily" exempted all intermarried Jews from genocide. To honor the Rosenstrasse women protesters, the German consulate in New York commemorated this event on Feb. 27.
        Nathan Stoltzfus is Professor of Holocaust Studies at Florida State University. Mordecai Paldiel, of Yeshiva University, is former director of the Department of the Righteous at Yad Vashem. (Jerusalem Post)

Deadline Looms to Fix the Iran Deal - Ahron Shapiro (AIJAC-Australia)

Dr. Jonathan Schanzer, Vice President for Research at the Foundation for Defense of Democracies in Washington, told AIJAC in a briefing on Feb. 16:
  • "The Trump Administration is now trying to get the international community to respond, to address the fatal flaws of the nuclear program, because they are literally a ticking time bomb. We have a deadline coming up in the United States on May 12. This is the date that Congress has to reassess and reissue the terms under which we are willing to work with the nuclear deal."
  • "My sense is that we are likely to keep all of the entities that we delisted from the nuclear program...free of sanctions. But we are going to start to heap on non-nuclear sanctions. That means terrorism, human rights, cyber violations - all the things that Iran has been doing as a rogue state, that fall outside of the nuclear realm. We are going to be calling upon Australia and the British and the Canadians and everyone who will work with us to begin to throw new sanctions on Iran to try to hinder its economic advancement."
  • "There are milestones which are coming due in the JCPOA, the Iran deal, which are highly problematic. In year four, which is 2019, it will be the end of the arms embargo, which means Iran is going to be able to buy and sell weapons on the open market. They are going to be able to give those weapons to Hizbullah, to Hamas, to the Assad regime, to the Houthis in Yemen, and there is going to be very little that we are going to be able to do about it, other than try to interdict."
  • "In year eight, we are going to see the end of ballistic missile restrictions. What's amazing about the Iran deal is that it even allowed Iran to have this ballistic missile provision because, of course, what is the ideal delivery system for a nuclear weapon? It's an ICBM."
  • "Then by years 10 through 12, we are going to have what is known as the sunset provisions. All of the major provisions of the nuclear deal will go away, which means that Iran will have a paved pathway to a nuclear weapon. It means that they will either be Japan, where they will be a turnkey away, or they will be Pakistan, or, even worse, they will be North Korea."
  • Regarding Israeli-Palestinian peace moves, Schanzer told ABC Radio National's Patricia Karvelas on Feb. 19: "[When] one looks at the bilateral negotiations that have gone on for the last several decades involving the Palestinians, the Palestinians have typically called the shots. They have determined the contours of the debate, despite the fact that they are really the weakest actor. With the U.S. recognizing Jerusalem as Israel's capital, I think there was a message sent to the Palestinians that they cannot dictate the terms."
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