May 25, 2018

In-Depth Issues:

Gaza Health Ministry Removes Baby from List of Border Clash Casualties - Hazem Balousha and Oliver Holmes (Guardian-UK)
    Gaza's Hamas-run health ministry has said it has removed Leila al-Ghandour, an eight-month-old baby, from a list of people killed in clashes at the border with Israel while authorities investigate the cause of death.
    A doctor cited by the Associated Press said the infant had a pre-existing medical condition and that he did not believe teargas caused her death.
    The New York Times cited the family as saying the child suffered from a congenital heart disease.
    A copy of a hospital report seen by the Guardian said the infant had "heart defects since birth." 

Missiles Hit Hizbullah Weapons Depots in Syria (Arab News-Saudi Arabia)
    "Six missiles were fired at the Dabaa military airport and surrounding area in the western sector of Homs province, targeting Lebanese Hizbullah weapons depots," Rami Abdel Rahman, director of the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights, told AFP.

Iraqi Jets Carry Out Airstrikes Against Islamic State in Syria - Nehal Mostafa (Iraqi News)
    The Iraqi Joint Operations Command announced Thursday that it had carried out airstrikes against Islamic State locations in Syria.

Paris Attack "Mastermind" Killed in Airstrike in Syria - Henry Samuel (Telegraph-UK)
    Salim Benghalem, an Islamic State operative and French national accused of plotting the Paris attacks, was killed in November 2017 in a Syrian regime airstrike, family members told France Info.

U.S. Imposes Sanctions on Companies Aiding Iranian Airlines - Ian Talley (Wall Street Journal)
    The Treasury Department on Thursday imposed sanctions on nine individuals and firms accused of procuring jet engines and airplane parts for Iranian airlines previously blacklisted for their support of U.S.-designated terror groups.
    "The deceptive practices these airlines employ to illegally obtain services and U.S. goods is yet another example of the duplicitous ways in which the Iranian regime has operated," U.S. Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin said.

Iran Wants Europeans to Present Economic Package by End of May (Reuters-New York Times)
    Iran wants European powers to give it a package of economic measures "by the end of May" to compensate for the U.S. withdrawal from the 2015 nuclear agreement, a senior Iranian official said on Friday.

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The February Battle between Russian Mercenaries and U.S. Commandos in Syria - Thomas Gibbons-Neff (New York Times)
    A column of tanks led a four-hour assault on Feb. 7 by 500 pro-government forces on a small outpost in eastern Syria where 40 American soldiers were stationed.
    For the first 15 minutes, American military officials called their Russian counterparts and urged them to stop the attack. When that failed, American warplanes arrived in waves, while Marine rocket artillery was fired from the ground.
    In the end, 200 to 300 of the attacking fighters were killed by U.S. airstrikes. American military and intelligence officials said a majority were private Russian paramilitary mercenaries.
    "The Russian high command in Syria assured us it was not their people," Defense Secretary Jim Mattis testified last month. He said he directed "for the force, then, to be annihilated. And it was."

The U.S. Takes Away Iran's "War" Card - Seth Frantzman (SethFrantzman.com)
    Iran concluded around 2013 that the U.S. was very reticent to get involved in any more conflicts in the region. So it successfully packaged the Iran deal as the answer to "another war."
    It gambled that American policy-makers would buy this idea that to stop a "new war" required doing whatever the Iranian regime wanted. This leverage has now been taken away from Iran.
    There was never a threat of a "new war," at least not between the U.S. and Iran.
    There was always the threat that Iran's war-mongering might spread throughout the Middle East, as it did anyway, with or without the "deal."

The Privileged Palestinian "Refugees" - Efraim Karsh (Middle East Quarterly)
    No sooner had the Palestinian Arabs fled their homes during the 1948-49 war than they were taken under the protective wing of the international community and protected like no other group in similar circumstances.
    This special treatment ranged from their recognition as refugees despite the failure of many to satisfy the basic criteria for such status, to the unprecedented creation of a relief agency committed exclusively for their welfare.
    Moreover, the UN blindly registered countless false claimants as refugees despite its keen awareness of the pervasiveness of this fraud, then let their falsely obtained status be passed on to future generations.
    The writer, emeritus professor of Middle East and Mediterranean studies at King's College London, is director of the Begin-Sadat Center for Strategic Studies at Bar-Ilan University.

Saudi Journalist Calls on Arabs to Come to Terms with Reality (MEMRI)
    Saudi journalist Amal 'Abd Al-'Aziz Al-Hazzani wrote on May 15 in Asharq Al-Awsat: "What can the Arabs do... [now] that Washington has made two fateful decisions - to withdraw from the nuclear agreement and to move its embassy to West Jerusalem?"
    "With respect to the first decision, we congratulate and support it, especially when we see how fear has seeped into Iran following the Israeli attack on it in Syria a few days ago, to the extent that it announced that it wasn't connected to the attack on the Israeli bases in the Golan."
    "And in addition, the sanctions [on Iran] are expected to be reinstated, one after the other, and thus will end two sweet years during which Tehran enjoyed a free hand in everything concerning its wild behavior and fanning of conflict."
    "As for the Arab position on the U.S. Embassy to West Jerusalem, the wise [approach]...would be to see it as a motive for rushing to negotiate - not the opposite."
    "A state of rage that engenders rejection and entrenchment has not been effective in the past, and will not be effective in the future."

BP Invests in Israeli Fast-Charge Battery Company (Reuters)
    Oil major BP said on Tuesday its venture capital fund invested $20 million in Israeli firm StoreDot, which developed a battery system that could potentially charge an electric car in the amount of time it takes to fill a gas tank.
    StoreDot, which raised $60 million from Daimler in September, developed a super-fast charger for cellphones. It is aiming to bring its mobile phone batteries to market in 2019.
    The company says its lithium ion-based battery technology can fully charge an electric vehicle in five minutes.

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News Resources - North America, Europe, and Asia:
  • Iran's Push for Influence Meets Resistance in Iraq and Syria - Sune Engel Rasmussen and Isabel Coles
    Iran's widening influence in the Middle East faces growing resistance from within its close regional allies, Syria and Iraq. In Iraq, discontent among the country's Shiite Muslim community with Iranian influence was reflected in cleric Moqtada al-Sadr's victory in this month's election. Sadr is a fierce nationalist whose supporters sometimes chant slogans criticizing Iran.
        In Syria, Russia has showed impatience with Iran's growing military presence. The Syrian government has sought to limit Iran's reach beyond the military sphere, reneging on preliminary agreements giving Iran rights to phosphate mining and mobile phone networks.
        In Syria, "Iran has a sense of entitlement, having spent so much money, energy and lives, and it is now seeking to cash in its chips," said Jubin Goodarzi, an associate professor at the Geneva campus of Webster University. If the pressure continues, Iran may have to cut its losses, he said. In Syria, "if they need to, they will downsize. But in Iraq, they'll make sure there is no setback."  (Wall Street Journal)
  • Israeli Deputy Minister Michael Oren: "No Soldier Fires at Will" on Gaza Border - Tim Sebastian
    Michael Oren, Israeli deputy minister for public diplomacy and a former ambassador to the U.S., spoke in an interview of events on the Israel-Gaza border. "There were dozens of attempts to cross the border. And the people who were shot were presenting an imminent danger to our border and every shot taken had to have three clearance orders....We used lethal fire because there was no choice. And, last point: If they had broken through the border, many, many more people would have been killed including a great many more Palestinians....No soldier fires at will. That order did not exist on the Gaza border."  (Deutsche Welle-Germany)
        See also Israeli Opposition Lawmaker Tzipi Livni Defends Army's Response to Gaza Violence - Alisa Odenheimer
    Israeli opposition lawmaker Tzipi Livni, a former foreign minister, defended her country's military against allegations it used excessive force against violence at a Palestinian protest last week. Livni, co-leader of the Zionist Union, said on Wednesday that forces tried to use non-lethal riot control methods, and snipers had to receive permission from high-ranking officers before firing. "We knew in advance what Hamas wants to see is dead people on the border. We tried to avoid it."  (Bloomberg)
        See also Czech Foreign Minister: Hamas Alone Responsible for Deadly Gaza Violence - Raphael Ahren
    In a statement entitled "Gaza - Telling things as they really are," Czech Foreign Minister Martin Stropnicky on Thursday said Hamas alone was to blame for the recent flare-up of violence on the Gaza border. He also posited that deadly riots on May 14 had nothing to do with the relocation of the U.S. embassy from Tel Aviv to Jerusalem on that day.
        Stropnicky said protest organizers engaged in a number of "provocative actions that no state in the world could accept, including those that so vehemently protest against Israel's response."  (Times of Israel)
  • Israel Calls on EU to End Funding to Pro-Boycott Groups - Tia Goldenberg
    Israel called on the EU on Friday to halt funding to more than a dozen European and Palestinian non-governmental organizations that it says promote boycotts against Israel, saying the financial support violates the EU's stated policy that it opposes boycotts against the Jewish state. Israel's Strategic Affairs Ministry said some of the groups receiving EU money had links to militant groups.
        "The State of Israel expects the EU to act with full transparency and reveal the scope of its financial aid to organizations that have ties to terror and promote boycotts against Israel," the ministry said. "Israel strongly urges the EU to fully implement in practice its declared policy of rejecting boycotts against Israel, and to immediately halt funding to organizations which promote anti-Israel boycotts and de-legitimization." Israel said the NGOs received a total of 5 million euros ($5.9 million) in 2016. (AP-ABC News)
News Resources - Israel and the Mideast:
  • Israel Supreme Court Declares IDF Conduct on Gaza Border Legal - Yonah Jeremy Bob
    In one of the most important decisions it has made about the laws of war and human rights in years, Israel's High Court of Justice declared Thursday that the IDF's rules of engagement during the Gaza border crisis were legal. Due to the high esteem in which the High Court is held overseas, the decision will make it more difficult for the International Criminal Court to declare the IDF's conduct a violation of international law. (Jerusalem Post)
  • Israel to UN Security Council: Iran Still Testing Ballistic Missiles - Juliane Helmhold and Daniel J. Roth
    Israel's Ambassador to the UN Danny Danon informed the Security Council on Thursday that in January 2018 Iran had carried out two ballistic missile tests in clear violation of Security Council Resolution 2231, which calls upon Iran not to undertake any activity related to ballistic missiles designed to be capable of delivering nuclear weapons.
        "Iran continues to ignore its obligations to the international community and further destabilizes the Middle East, particularly in Syria, Lebanon, Iraq, Yemen and the Gaza Strip," Danon stated. Iranian breaches this year include "the missiles it fired from Syria into Israel and the armed UAV it launched from Syria into Israeli airspace. Its activities pose a direct threat to Israel and the entire region."  (Jerusalem Post)
Global Commentary and Think-Tank Analysis:


  • Israeli Military Officers Have No Regrets over Use of Lethal Force at Gaza Protests - Raf Sanchez
    A senior IDF commander supervising a team of Israeli snipers at the Gaza border spoke of their mission to stop Palestinians coming through the thin fence that separates Gaza from Israel. "Was there an option where we could stop them cutting the fence and coming into Israel without using a lethal weapon? The answer is no," he said. "They have a hard and deep hatred of Israel and if they came into Israel I think there is no question of what they are going to do."
        Israeli military officers expressed no regrets over their decision to use live bullets. They spoke instead of pride in their troops and in the success of their military mission: no Palestinians made it through the fence and no Israeli soldiers or civilians were killed or injured. They voiced frustration at what they considered knee-jerk criticism of their use of live fire by people who did not understand the situation on the ground.
        Major J. described one incident when shots began to ring out as the Palestinian crowd surged in front of the fence. "They started shooting on our positions," he said. Militants opened fire with handguns and Kalashnikov rifles from a Hamas outpost and a rubbish dump directly facing the Israelis, as well as from the middle of the crowd. The gun battle lasted for 25 minutes.
        One Druze infantry battalion commander said the men under his command had 20 explosives - grenades, Molotov cocktails, improvised bombs - thrown at them each week of the protests. (Telegraph-UK)
  • Score Sheet on Hamas' "March of Return" Campaign - Hillel Frisch
    How well did Hamas create and spread violence and Israelis avoid or quell it in the "March of Return" campaign? The score sheet is heavily set against Hamas. The campaign failed to ignite the Arab residents of Jerusalem and the Palestinian Authority in the West Bank, which was relatively quiet.
        While in the past, during the first intifada (1987-93), the Israeli public was sharply divided, the "March of Return" aimed at returning Palestinians to Ashkelon, Beersheba and Jaffa had the opposite effect, as Israelis united behind the IDF's tough policy of zero-tolerance for breaching the border fence.
        If the number of dead and wounded is anywhere near true (the figures are probably exaggerated), not only will the vast majority of Gazans who did not get anywhere near the fence question such bloodshed in the face of the fact that it changed nothing, but also those who participated probably have second thoughts as well. The writer, a professor of political and Middle East studies at Bar-Ilan University, is a senior fellow at the Jerusalem Institute for Strategic Studies. (Jerusalem Post)
  • Gaza Riots: The Israelis Were Right to Stand Their Ground - Richard A. Epstein
    On May 14, thousands of angry Palestinian demonstrators were rebuffed with deadly force as they sought to storm into Israel from Gaza. A mob, even of "unarmed" individuals, is typically intent on committing acts of violence by its sheer force of numbers. Indeed, the fiery confrontation looked like a war zone, marked by the hurling of Molotov cocktails, rocks, grenades, and pipe bombs at IDF forces. At multiple points along the border, Hamas operatives used wire cutters to tear up fences in order to allow hordes of thuggish Palestinians to fan out into Israeli territory. As Israeli intelligence reports, Hamas paid women and children to go to the front in order to put them in the line of fire.
        This was no peaceful protest, and it takes an uninformed view of the law of self-defense to insist that Israeli soldiers should have held back their fire until personally faced with "imminent danger," at which point it would have been too late both for them and the civilians they were there to protect. There is no principle in the law of self-defense that requires a group to forego self-defense. The Israelis were right to stand their ground. The writer, a senior fellow at the Hoover Institution, is the Laurence A. Tisch Professor of Law at New York University Law School. (Hoover Institution-Stanford University)
  • The Palestinians' Real "Nakba" - Jeff Jacoby
    Seventy years ago, on May 14, 1948, the State of Israel proclaimed its independence. The next day, a story in the New York Times - "Jews in Grave Danger in All Moslem Lands" - reported that Jewish communities throughout the Arab world were under siege. Hundreds of thousands of Jews became refugees as once-vibrant Jewish communities in the Middle East and North Africa were decimated. In 1945, there were nearly 1 million Jews living in Arab lands. Today, there are almost none.
        The "Jewish nakba" of the 1940s is now largely forgotten. Yet in terms of the number of people affected, property lost, and history erased, the catastrophe that befell the Jews of the Arab world dwarfed what happened to the Palestinians. The waves of expulsion and expropriation that ensued were orchestrated by Arab governments, which passed harsh new laws stripping Jews of their property. Most made their way to Israel with little more than the clothes on their backs.
        Unlike Palestinian refugees, the Jews expelled from Arab countries were not encouraged to keep believing that they would return and reclaim their lost homes. They were not kept in refugee camps for decades, or denied the right to become citizens of countries that took them in. The Palestinian refugees' worst catastrophe wasn't displacement. It was being fed a lie - that the clock will be turned back, and the last 70 years undone. The grandchildren and great-grandchildren of the 1948 refugees are not refugees. No one is going back to the 1940s. Once Palestinians stop believing otherwise, the "nakba" will be at an end. (Boston Globe)
  • Hamas Writes the Anti-Israel Script and Canada Plays Along - Editorial
    Alas, across much of the Western world last week, the reflexive response to the violence at Israel's border with Gaza was to blame the Jewish state for defending itself against what was obviously a deliberate provocation by terrorists. The violence was roundly portrayed as a massacre of innocents.
        We've seen this play many times before, which makes it all the stranger that no one ever seems to learn from past mistakes. The violence at the border was a justified, if bloody, response to a cynical attack on Israel organized and controlled by Hamas. Israel was well within its legal rights to defend itself, and provided ample warning of its intentions to do so.
        Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau played a part in issuing unfair accusations against Israel. "Reported use of excessive force and live ammunition is inexcusable....Canada calls for an immediate independent investigation to thoroughly examine the facts." That's the backward way: condemn first, then admit we need to get all the facts, then call for an investigation. It's embarrassing that Canada insists on acting along with Hamas' script. (National Post-Canada)
  • Arab Leaders to Blame for Palestinian Plight - Alex Ryvchin
    Britain's support for the restoration of the Jews to their ancestral land was noble and just and was part of a broader policy of the victors in World War I to restore self-government to the native peoples of the Middle East. At the same time as Britain expressed support for the creation of a Jewish state on a small part of their ancient homeland, Britain also supported the creation of 22 Arab states in the Middle East. The creation of Israel was not about colonization, it was about the precise opposite - the removal of colonial influence from the region, whether Ottoman or British, to allow for indigenous peoples to exercise self-determination.
        Israel's creation had been mandated by international law decades before the Holocaust, on the basis of 3,000 years of unbroken historical connection to the land. Israel was not created by guilt, but by the blood, sweat and tears of its people.
        The still-unresolved Palestinian refugee problem, which followed the creation of the State of Israel, is the direct consequence and legacy of the Palestinian rejection of the 1947 UN Partition Plan, which recommended the creation of a first-ever Palestinian Arab state alongside the reborn Jewish state.
        Arab belligerence towards Israel caused an even greater refugee problem, as 800,000 Jews who had lived in Arab lands for hundreds, even thousands of years, were ruthlessly dispossessed and forced to flee their homes. Had the Arabs not rejected peace in 1947 and at every opportunity since, Israelis and Palestinians would be celebrating a joint 70th anniversary of independence this year. Palestinians are kept stateless by their corrupt and violent leaders. The writer is public affairs director for the Executive Council of Australian Jewry. (Brisbane Courier-Mail-Australia)

  • Iran

  • Iran's Aggression Has Sundered the Nuclear Deal - Con Coughlin
    When former U.S. President Barack Obama invested so much of his personal political capital in securing a nuclear deal with Iran three years ago, there was an expectation that the Iranians would indeed pursue constructive relations. Instead, the Iranians intensified their hostility towards the West and its allies, to the extent that the very idea that Iran might be interested in maintaining a constructive dialogue now seems quite laughable.
        It is this aggressive mindset on the part of Iran's ruling elite with the express intention of exporting the Iranian revolution throughout the Muslim world that has led to the latest diplomatic confrontation between Washington and Tehran. How can Washington and the other signatories to the Iran deal have any faith in the Iranians when their every deed is filled with malign intent?
        Judging by Tehran's recent conduct in the Middle East, the ayatollahs' real intention is to achieve regional domination. And if that is the case, then it is pointless having any deal, whether on nuclear issues or otherwise, that enables the ayatollahs to achieve their goals. (Telegraph-UK)
  • Why Britain Must Stand with the U.S. and Israel to Stop Iran from Creating a Shiite Empire - Julie Lenarz
    We now have two options: We can see America withdrawing from the Iran nuclear deal as a threat. Or, if we're smart, we see it as an opportunity to formulate a new, broader Iran strategy which adequately curbs Tehran's illicit nuclear activity and, at the same time, addresses its malign non-nuclear activity.
        The mullahs in Tehran never had the intention to use the JCPOA as a means to integrate into the international community and improve the lives of their people. Instead they chose power, terror and deceit, undeniably proven by Israel's recent intelligence bombshell regarding the Iranian nuclear archive.
        We mustn't let the turbulences over the JCPOA blind us to the need to confront Iran's vision of a new Shiite empire, threats to Israel, and aggression against Arab allies. America and its allies should be clear that Iran will face increased pressure until they pull their troops out of Syria. A permanent Iranian military presence in the country is a recipe for disaster. The writer is a senior adviser at The Israel Project in Washington and executive director of the Human Security Centre in London. (Telegraph-UK)

  • Weekend Features

  • 4th Century BCE Jewish-Minted Coins Unearthed in Jerusalem - Amanda Borschel-Dan
    Three Jewish-minted coins dating from the 4th century BCE were recently discovered by the Temple Mount Sifting Project. Made of silver, they bear an inscription in ancient Hebrew - "yhd" or Judah. The Sifting Project has uncovered over 6,000 ancient coins in tons of Temple Mount earth discarded during unauthorized renovations of a subterranean mosque in the late 1990s.
        The Yehud coins were minted during a period in which Jews semiautonomously ruled under the Persian Achaemenid Empire, from circa 539-332 BCE, in a province called Yehud Medinata, with its capital in Jerusalem.
        Sifting Project co-director Zachi Dvira told Ynet, "Throughout the 150 years of archeological digs all across the sites of ancient Jerusalem, only five of these coins were ever found. We have now found three whole coins, along with two eroded ones, apparently from the same series, and assume we’ll find more in the future."  (Times of Israel)
  • The Secret History of Israel's War Against Hitler's Scientists - Ronen Bergman
    On July 21, 1962, Egyptian newspapers reported the successful test launch of four surface-to-surface missiles. President Gamal Abdel Nasser proudly declared that the military was now capable of hitting any point "south of Beirut" - meaning Israel. A few weeks later, Israelis learned that a team of German scientists had played an integral role in developing these missiles.
        The German scientists developing the Egyptian missiles were some of the Nazi regime's most senior engineers, who had worked during the war at the Third Reich's research base at Peenemunde on the Baltic coast. The Egyptian project had been initiated by two internationally known scientists, Eugen Sanger and Wolfgang Pilz. Sanger headed the prestigious Research Institute of Jet Propulsion Physics in Stuttgart, where Pilz headed a department. They had approached the Egyptian regime in 1959 and offered to develop long-range surface-to-surface rockets. In 1961, they relocated to Egypt and recruited 35 highly experienced German scientists and technicians to join them.
        In 1962, Israel learned that Egypt was planning to manufacture 900 missiles and arm them with radioactive and chemical warheads. But the guidance systems for the missiles still needed to be developed by the German scientists. Without them, the project would collapse. (Newsweek)

Video: Hamas, Gaza, and the Rush to Judgment - Dore Gold (Jerusalem Center for Public Affairs)
  • In 2009, Israel was bombarded with criticism that it had used disproportionate force as it tried to suppress Hamas rocket fire aimed at Israeli cities. Now in 2018, Israel was bombarded again with a whole series of false accusations about how it handled the situation along the Gaza-Israel fence.
  • This time, Hamas ordered an attack on the Kerem Shalom international crossing from Israel into Gaza - the passageway that supplies food, pharmaceuticals, clothing, and everything that the people of Gaza need for a normal life. Kerem Shalom was set on fire by the Palestinians themselves.
  • Former Hamas foreign minister Mahmoud al-Zahar said of the demonstrations along the fence, "This is not peaceful resistance. It is supported by our weapons." Hamas even released a press release that said the "Great Return March," which was leading Palestinians to charge the border fence, was actually part of the heroic armed struggle.
  • Another statement by Hamas said the goal of the march was to breach the fence, meaning to break open the fence and allow thousands to pour into Israel. They weren't going there to have a picnic.
  • The picture became clearer when a senior Hamas member admitted that of the 62 Palestinians who had been killed, 50 were Hamas operatives.
  • What is common to all the critics of Israel in the wars involving Gaza is a kind of rush to judgment by which people automatically assume that Israel is to blame for whatever has occurred. It's this rush to judgment that encourages Hamas to keep its war going against the State of Israel.

    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.
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