November 30, 2018

In-Depth Issues:

For Israel, a Rearmed Hizbullah in Lebanon Is Top Concern - Aron Heller (AP)
    Two dozen Israeli soldiers in full battle gear patrol at night near a Lebanese border village with a bomb-sniffing dog, searching for explosives and infiltrators.
    Through night-vision goggles, they see two suspicious men appear over the ridge, holding what looks like binoculars.
    Even with attention focused on Gaza militants along its southern front, Israel's main security concerns lie to the north, along the border with Lebanon.
    Israeli officials have long warned of the threat posed by Iran-backed Hizbullah's heavily-armed mini-army with valuable combat experience and an arsenal of 150,000 rockets that can reach nearly every part of Israel.
    "The rules of the game are very clear. They know I'm here and I know they're there," said Lt. Col. Aviv, a regional battalion commander. "But if they break that equation, they are going to get hit."
    Under the UN-brokered cease-fire that ended the 2006 war, Hizbullah's troops are prohibited from approaching the border. But Israeli intelligence says Hizbullah men operate freely, generally unarmed and in civilian clothes. Sometimes they come within just a few meters of Israeli troops.
    With Syria's civil war winding down, an empowered Hizbullah is now free to refocus on Israel, said Eyal Ben-Reuven, a lawmaker and retired general who commanded Israeli ground troops in the 2006 war.
    "A terror organization, unlike a country, doesn't stockpile weapons for deterrence but in order to use them one day," he said. "The war the Israeli military has to prepare for is the one against Hizbullah."

Israel's War Against Hamas Tunnels - Yoav Zitun (Ynet News)
    Hamas has been using the last decade to transfer its entire army to an extensive underground network located under houses, streets, hospitals and educational institutions.
    The IDF estimates that thousands of Hamas fighters will hide beneath the surface in the next war in Gaza - and it has acquired advanced technologies that can locate and dismantle Hamas' offensive tunnels.
    The newly acquired anti-tunnel technologies can scan tunnel routes and locate tunnel shafts in order to turn Hamas' underground city into an underground cemetery, without having to deploy ground forces.
    For instance, the army acquired dozens of Caterpillar D9 bulldozers, tiny "worm" cameras, and unique sealing bags that can instantly close tunnel shafts. Low-tech means, such as TNT sacks and anti-tank mines, were also purchased.

CNN Drops Commentator after Anti-Israel Remarks - Matthew Choi (Politico)
    CNN dropped commentator Marc Lamont Hill on Thursday after he made remarks calling for the elimination of Israel.
    Speaking at the UN on Wednesday, Hill called for a "free Palestine from the river to the sea."
    The statement, which refers to the territory between the Jordan River and the Mediterranean Sea where Israel is located, is a rallying cry used by several Palestinian groups, including Hamas.
    "Those calling for 'from the river to the sea' are calling for an end to the State of Israel," said Sharon Nazarian, the Anti-Defamation League's senior vice president for international affairs.

Remaining ISIS Fighters in Syria Are Hiding in Tunnels (U.S. Department of Defense)
    U.S. Army Col. Sean Ryan, a spokesman for U.S. military operations in Iraq and Syria, said Tuesday that in the Middle Euphrates River Valley in eastern Syria, "ISIS remnants are fortifying their positions and digging in for a protracted campaign."
    "Fighting will continue to be intense as we continue to pressure the enemy into smaller and smaller spaces....ISIS is underground. They're in tunnels, they're hiding."

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Report: Egypt, Saudi Arabia Push Arab Nations to Trade with Israel - Yassir Okbi (Maariv-Jerusalem Post)
    Egyptian President Abdel Fattah al-Sisi and Saudi Arabia's Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman, who met on Monday, resolved to encourage Arab nations to establish economic relations with Israel, London-based Al-Arabi Al-Jadid reported Thursday.

UAE to Invest $100 Million in Israel-Europe Gas Pipeline (Al-Manar-Lebanon)
    Israeli media reported that the UAE is to invest as much as $100 million in an Israeli project to pipe natural gas to Europe.

Evangelicals Are Behind Brazil's New Pro-Israel Policy (JNS)
    A grassroots revolution has been taking place in Brazil. Masses of people began flocking to the country's evangelical and Pentecostal churches.
    Evangelicals in Brazil grew from 6.6% in 1980 to 22.2% in 2010. Today, they constitute an estimated 27% of the population.
    The evangelical caucus in Brazil's Congress is among the largest with nearly 200 members.

Israel Receives Two More F-35 Stealth Fighter Jets - Judah Ari Gross (Times of Israel)
    Two more F-35 stealth fighter jets landed in Israel Sunday, the IDF said, expanding Israel's fleet of the state-of-the-art aircraft to at least 14.

Why Imams Recite Prayers against the "Filth of the Jews" - Lt. Col. (ret.) Jonathan D. Halevi (Jerusalem Center for Public Affairs)
    Muslim clerics in Canada, the U.S., and around the world have been documented reciting prayers to Allah to purify the al-Aqsa Mosque of the "filth of the Jews."
    An analysis of Islamic sources shows that Islam attributes spiritual "filth" to all non-Muslims, including Jews, and Muslims are commanded by Allah to eradicate the spiritual "filth" from the world in order to implement Sharia (Islamic) law.

Video: Firefighters Save Torah Scrolls from Burning Houston Synagogue - Jay R. Jordan (Houston Chronicle)
    The Torah Vachesed synagogue in Houston burned Wednesday night as dozens of congregants were meeting inside at a group study.
    Houston firefighters were able to save several of the synagogue's holy Torah scrolls - the holiest book within Judaism, handwritten by a scribe. A pair of scrolls sustained minor water damage.
    "I really want to thank the firefighters and police for their bravery, their sensitivity and understanding," said Rabbi Avraham Yaghobian.
    Fire department arson investigators are looking into how the fire ignited.

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News Resources - North America, Europe, and Asia:
  • Report: Airstrikes Target Hizbullah in Syrian Golan Heights - Suleiman Al-Khalidi and Dan Williams
    Reported airstrikes in Syria on Thursday are said to have occurred in an area where Hizbullah has its communications and logistics hub for southern Syria near the Israeli border, according to two senior regional intelligence sources. Among the targets struck were two Syrian army brigades where Hizbullah is embedded alongside a rocket depot close to its bases near the border with Lebanon.
        A Syrian opposition figure, Said Seif, said, "Israel has targeted this area because the Syrian army barracks there have become a recruiting ground for Hizbullah and their militias to deploy in Quneitra" in the Syrian Golan Heights. Tehran has in recent months expanded its military presence in southern Syria after insurgents were driven out, with Hizbullah, the biggest of the Iranian-backed militias, expanding its foothold there. (Reuters)
        See also Israel Denies Its Aircraft Downed in Syria - Judah Ari Gross
    The Israel Defense Forces refused to comment on the reported airstrikes in Syria, but said, "Reports of an Israeli aircraft or other Israeli aerial platform being hit are false." The IDF said it was investigating reports of a Syrian surface-to-air missile that landed in the Golan Heights. (Times of Israel)
        See also Iran Arming Hizbullah via Cargo Flights to Beirut - Judah Ari Gross
    An Iranian Fars Air Qeshm cargo plane transporting advanced weaponry to Hizbullah flew directly from Tehran to Beirut on Thursday. Such cargo planes typically unload their materiel in Syria. (Times of Israel)
  • U.S.: Iran Floods Unstable Regions with Advanced Weaponry
    U.S. Special Representative for Iran Brian Hook said Thursday: "Iran's support of the Houthi militants has deepened. Its backing of terrorist activities across the world has increased....The new weapons we are disclosing today illustrate the scale of Iran's destructive role across the region."
        "The Iranian regime's investment in missile testing and development...is increasing....In January of 2017, Iran launched a medium-range missile, believed to be the Khorramshahr. It can carry a payload of more than 500 kg. and could be used to carry nuclear warheads. Its suspected range is over 1,200 miles, which is far enough to target some European capitals."
        "Just this month, rockets rained down on Israel from territory controlled by Iran's Palestinian partner Hamas. In Lebanon, we have evidence that Iran is helping Hizbullah build missile production facilities. In Iraq, credible reports indicate that Iran is transferring ballistic missiles to Shia militia groups." (State Department)
  • Pro-Israel Demonstrators Oppose Boycott Bill in Dublin
    Demonstrators led by the Ireland Israel Alliance (IIA) have protested in Dublin against the country's new bill to boycott goods or services originating in the territories. The bill would make it an offense for someone "to import or sell goods or services originating in an occupied territory or to extract resources from an occupied territory." Protesters said the bill "only targets Israel," ignoring other disputed territories in the world. Both Ireland's Attorney General and the European Union Commissioner have questioned the legality of it.
        "This bill would mean that you as a tourist in Jerusalem could be prosecuted for buying a souvenir from a Jewish-owned shop or taking a tour with a Jewish tour company," said IIA director Jackie Goodall. "If the bill is passed, it is likely to result in long, drawn-out legal battles [which will be] expensive, time-consuming and unhelpful to the Israel-Palestine peace process."  (Jewish News-UK)
        See also Ireland's Deputy Head of Government Says Bill to Ban Goods from Territories Is "Not Legally Sound" - Marie O'Halloran
    Deputy Head of Government and Minister for Foreign Affairs Simon Coveney has said he will "not be bounced into anything I believe is the wrong thing to do" as he expressed his opposition to a bill banning goods from Israeli-occupied territories. "We do not believe [the bill] to be legally sound or capable of being implemented."  (Irish Times)
  • In Response to Turkey's Decision, Israel Won't Appoint New Ambassador to Turkey
    In response to Turkey's decision not to return its ambassador to Tel Aviv, Israel has decided not to appoint a new ambassador to Turkey, Emmanuel Nahshon, a spokesman for the Israeli Foreign Ministry, said on Thursday. Israel also decided not to appoint a new consul in Istanbul, in line with the principle of reciprocity. "However, it is in Israel's and Turkey's interest to fully restore diplomatic representation," Nahshon said. (Anadolu-Turkey)
        See also Turkey-Israel Relations: Flourishing Trade But Little Trust - Aykan Erdemir and David May
    Turkey and Israel have been sparring for a decade, but economic ties have remained robust. Israel is now one of the top 10 export markets for Turkish products. Turkish Airlines is the second most popular carrier out of Tel Aviv. Israel is the top buyer of both Azerbaijani and Iraqi Kurdish oil in part due to Turkish facilitation. (Foundation for Defense of Democracies)
News Resources - Israel and the Mideast:
  • Europe Agrees to Back UN Resolution Condemning Hamas - Raphael Ahren
    The European Union agreed to support a U.S.-sponsored UN General Assembly resolution condemning Hamas to be voted on Monday, diplomats said Thursday. "All 28 members will support the U.S. text," a European diplomat told AFP.
        The draft resolution "condemns Hamas for repeatedly firing rockets into Israel and for inciting violence, thereby putting civilians at risk" and demands that "Hamas and other militant actors including Palestinian Islamic Jihad cease all provocative actions and violent activity, including by using airborne incendiary devices."  (Times of Israel)
  • U.S. Warns France and Germany Against Evading Iran Sanctions - Benjamin Weinthal
    The Wall Street Journal reported on Monday that "France and Germany have joined forces to rescue a European effort to create a payments channel to keep trade flowing with Iran." In response, U.S. Ambassador to Germany Richard Grenell told the Jerusalem Post on Tuesday, "The U.S. will consider sanctions on those entities participating in these tactics," adding that such French and German activities "would not be a smart move."  (Jerusalem Post)
  • Israel Supreme Court Rejects Palestinian Claims to Jewish National Fund Land in Gush Etzion - Jack Gold
    A legal battle lasting 22 years involving land purchased 74 years ago by the Jewish National Fund (JNF) ended this week when Israel's Supreme Court ruled that JNF is indeed the rightful owner of the 522 dunam tract in Gush Etzion, Israel Hayom reported Wednesday. A three-judge panel rejected an appeal filed by Palestinians against the decision of the Jerusalem District Court, which likewise ruled that the JNF was the owner of the land.
        Kibbutz Ein Tzurim was established on the land, which was purchased in 1944, but the kibbutz was destroyed in 1948 and the Jordanians took control of the area. With the renewal of the Israeli presence in Gush Etzion in 1969, the kibbutz was re-established and renamed Rosh Tzurim, and it will now be able to build new housing units. (World Israel News)
  • Israeli Strategic Affairs Minister: Irish Bill Criminalizing Settlement Imports a "Disgrace" - Herb Keinon
    A vote in the Irish Senate advancing a bill to make it a crime to import or sell goods originating in settlements and eastern Jerusalem is a "disgrace and infected with anti-Semitism," Israeli Strategic Affairs Minister Gilad Erdan said on Thursday. The vote "gave a tailwind to contemptible boycott organizations that have links with terrorist organizations and cynically use the term 'human rights' for purposes of spreading hatred and deepening conflict."
        Erdan said that if the legislation does pass, "We will work to expose the motivations behind it and act to legally prevent its implementation in accordance with international trade laws." The legislation would put Ireland at odds with EU law, since trade is governed by the EU, and not the individual states. (Jerusalem Post)
Global Commentary and Think-Tank Analysis:
  • Palestinian Aid Groups Perpetuate the Conflict - Odelia Azoulay
    The number of non-governmental organizations with a vested interested in perpetuating the Israeli-Palestinian conflict has multiplied ever since the Palestinian Authority was formed after the 1993 Oslo Accords. Throughout modern history, it was civil society groups that laid the foundations for the creation of state institutions and paved the way for governance. In Palestinian society, however, the opposite is true. With the PA's founding, more aid organizations were established at the expense of effective and official government institutions.
        According to a 2016 report by the Palestinian NGO Network, civil organizations are responsible for the supply of 60% of medical services and health insurance in the Palestinian territories. In other words, they are significantly delaying the development of the PA's own institutions.
        Furthermore, instead of promoting a resolution of the conflict, these organizations consistently act to exacerbate it. A code of conduct signed by over 200 Palestinian organizations obligates its members to "align themselves with the national agenda that prohibits normalization" with Israel.
        A World Bank report in 2018 found that aid funds do not help to improve quality of life for residents in the territories, but rather contribute to the strengthening of the NGO elite. The writer is a researcher with NGO Monitor. (Israel Hayom)
  • Fatah Leader: "Real Men Approach Death with a Smile" - Itamar Marcus and Nan Jacques Zilberdik
    Fatah Central Committee member Abbas Zaki urged students at Al-Quds Open University on Nov. 19 to seek death for Jerusalem. "Allahu Akbar! Allahu Akbar! Cursed is anyone who doesn't sacrifice for Jerusalem!... Those who die [naturally] are the cowards. But real men approach death with a smile. Do not be afraid - death is in the hands of Allah. Rush toward death and life will be given to you!"
        Zaki's inciting speech shows that encouraging the young generation to seek death for "Palestine" is an integral part of the Palestinian narrative, culture, and society today, as well as an integral part of PA policy. (Palestinian Media Watch)
  • Middle East's Jews Were Victims of Ethnic Cleansing - Liat Collins
    I live in an area of Jerusalem's Katamonim neighborhood fondly referred to as the "Kurdish enclave" thanks to the Kurdish and Iraqi Jews who compose the bulk of the local population. Further down the road is a large pocket of Moroccan and Tunisian Jewish families. Anyone who thinks that Israel is some kind of Yiddish-dominated culture planted in the Middle East is in for a surprise. The descendants of Jews from Arab lands now make up more than 50% of the Jewish Israeli population.
        After the creation of the state in 1948, more than 800,000 Jews were expelled from Arab lands and came to Israel (compared to 711,000 Palestinian refugees). The Arab world took revenge on the Jews living among them with devastating riots and anti-Jewish measures. According to the Israeli Foreign Ministry, "259,000 Jews fled from Morocco, 140,000 from Algeria, 100,000 from Tunisia, 75,000 from Egypt, and another 38,000 from Libya....135,000 Jews were exiled from Iraq, 55,000 from Yemen, 34,000 from Turkey, 20,000 from Lebanon and 18,000 from Syria."
        Jews had first settled in what became Arab lands following the Babylonian conquest of the Kingdom of Judea, more than 2,500 years ago, and their communities predated Islam by 1,000 years. Today, only 4,000 Jews remain in Arab countries. In other words, the Jews are the victims of ethnic cleansing.
        I recently asked veteran Palestinian official Hanan Ashrawi about Jews from Arab lands who had moved to Israel as a result of persecution. Ashrawi responded, "They can't be refugees in their own homeland." She refused to answer how Palestinians could be considered refugees in what she calls the State of Palestine. (But at least she acknowledged Israel as the Jewish homeland.) (Jerusalem Post)

  • Anti-Semitism

  • Europe's Jew Hatred, and Ours - Bari Weiss
    Anti-Semitism has been a fact of European life for more than 2,000 years. The postwar generation who lived with the shame of the Holocaust is dying out. Their children and grandchildren are less abashed when it comes to the old prejudices.
        In her forthcoming book, Anti-Semitism: Here and Now, scholar Deborah Lipstadt discusses a 2013 study of overtly anti-Semitic letters, emails and faxes received over the previous decade by the Israeli embassy in Berlin and the Central Council of Jews in Germany. The study found that 60% percent of the messages "came from educated, middle-class Germans, including lawyers, scholars, doctors, priests, professors, and university and secondary school students." Most of the letter writers provided their names and addresses. (New York Times)
  • Israeli President: Anti-Semitism "Corrupts Society" - Oren Libermann
    "For us, it is clear as daylight. Anti-Semitism is a presence in society that corrupts society itself," Israeli President Reuven Rivlin told CNN. "We try to explain to the whole world that if you don't fight against anti-Semitism, it will hit your societies. There are stereotypes present in societies that create a lack of understanding; treatment of minorities which is not humane or moral will corrupt societies."
        "We are diligent, and we have to be even more diligent, to explain in all those places where anti-Semitism is spreading, or returning, that we are not ready to accept it....Evil can sprout in any society that fails to examine itself, that fails to remember the past, and that fails to educate."  (CNN)
  • Widespread Anti-Semitism Has Suppressed Jewish Life in Europe - Yair Rosenberg
    CNN released a sweeping survey of European attitudes toward Jews on Tuesday, essentially finding that 1/4 of respondents espoused textbook anti-Semitic views. Moreover, 34% said they knew "little or nothing" about the Holocaust.
        These numbers are bad enough on their own. But they do not paint the whole picture, which is substantially worse for European Jews and Jewish life. As a result, shocking numbers of European Jews conceal their Jewishness in public, and many have left Europe entirely.
        In 2013, the EU Agency for Fundamental Rights conducted its own survey of European anti-Semitism. Nearly 40% of European Jews said they feared to openly identify as Jewish, including 60% of Swedish Jews, 51% of French Jews, and 45% of Belgian Jews. A new survey released Monday found that 43% of Dutch Jews hide their Jewish identity.
        Anyone who has ever been to Europe knows that synagogues are frequently unmarked and typically encased within extraordinary layers of security, as compared with their North American counterparts. In other words, anti-Semitism has had a massive chilling effect on Jewish life in Europe, beyond the numbers of actual anti-Semites. None of this is to say that there isn't vibrant Jewish life across Europe today. But the existence and resistance of proud Jewish communities should not blind us to the sobering long-term effects of that anti-Semitism. (Tablet)

  • Weekend Features

  • Israeli Startup Restores Speech Abilities to Stroke Victims - Bob Sherbin
    When Danny Weissberg's grandmother was overcome by a stroke 10 years ago, she lost the ability to speak intelligibly. The engineer resolved to find a way to help. The result is Voiceitt, a Tel Aviv-based startup that has developed deep learning, signal processing and customizable speech recognition technologies to provide a synthesized voice for those whose speech has been garbled.
        Millions of people have their speech impaired due to strokes and aneurysms, diseases such as cerebral palsy and Parkinson's, brain injuries from accidents, and other medical conditions. Voiceitt's mobile app converts non-standard language into readily understood speech. It's already in beta testing with more than 200 users in four different languages. The algorithms are fine-tuned for each user because speech patterns are unique to each individual and their condition. (Nvidia)
  • Israel: A World Leader in Cardiology Inventions
    Israel is #1 in the world in patents per capita in the medical field, and a significant part of it goes to cardiovascular disease, Prof. Michael Glikson, Director of the Integrated Heart Center at Shaare Zedek Medical Center in Jerusalem, said Wednesday. Among the major innovations being implemented at the hospital that were born from Israeli innovation is the transcatheter aortic valve replacement procedure for severe narrowing of the aortic valve. Using a catheter, this procedure brings a new valve into place in the heart to restore normal flow. Similarly, the mitral valve can be repaired by using a clip that staples the two leaflets of the valve together.
        He also demonstrated how pacemakers have continued to decrease in size, so that it's possible to implant a capsule-like pacemaker without a box and leads, without leaving any surgical scar. Another tiny chip-like device is injected under the skin and performs like an EKG machine that can remain in the patient's body for up to three years. (Jerusalem Post)
  • How Israeli Innovation Using Artificial Intelligence Can Save Lives - Maayan Hoffman
    Israel's MedAware utilizes artificial intelligence (AI) and machine learning to significantly reduce medication errors. The technology allows healthcare providers, payers and pharmacy chains eliminate a wide range of prescription errors and provide better risk management. MedAware CEO and co-founder Dr. Gidi Stein said medication errors account for a $21 billion drain on the American healthcare system alone, not including the cost of legal action taken when medication errors occur.
        Each year in the U.S. there are two million adverse drug events that cause 100,000 deaths. In a two-year MedAware trial at Sheba Medical Center, most prevented errors occurred when a previously safe medication became dangerous to a patient, due to a change in his condition.
        MedAware uses methods similar to those used in the finance sector to stop fraud. The bank tracks an individual's personal spending patterns and is alerted when an unordinary transaction is made. Stein said, "Prescription patterns of thousands of physicians treating millions of patients are used to determine the 'normal' treatment spectrum. A prescription largely deviating from this spectrum is likely to be erroneous."  (Jerusalem Post)

Iran Empties Atomic Warehouse while IAEA Fails to Act - David Albright and Olli Heinonen (Institute for Science and International Security)
  • On Sep. 27, 2018, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu of Israel revealed at the UN General Assembly the existence of a secret warehouse in the Turquz Abad district in Tehran, which he said held a range of equipment and materiel related to Iran's past or possibly on-going nuclear weapons efforts. He also stated that the facility had held 15 kg. of radioactive material that Iran had since dispersed around Tehran. Even after Netanyahu's UN speech, and Iran's continued efforts to empty out the site, the IAEA has still not inspected it.
  • Iran denied having such a warehouse and stated that the site was a carpet cleaning facility. However, photographs show that the carpet cleaning site is directly across the street from the actual atomic warehouse.
  • Commercial satellite images purchased by the Institute show the steady progression of containers disappearing from the site from July to September, when the last container had been removed. Israel stated categorically that it had intelligence information that the containers held nuclear-related equipment and materials.
  • It is unfortunate that the IAEA did not act on this information, since, if the information is correct, the IAEA may have lost a remarkable opportunity to go to the site while shipping containers remained there, and irretrievably lost its capability to find the equipment and confirm its true purpose.
  • The IAEA's lack of action or explanation of its inaction undermines its credibility and raises questions about its effectiveness in its Iran safeguards mission. This lack of action also undermines the implementation of the provisions of Section T of the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA).
  • This event directly contradicts those who hoped and proclaimed that the JCPOA would make it easier to mount inspections when concrete evidence would arise. Israel has certainly brought forth actionable, credible evidence to the IAEA. Yet, nothing has happened.

        See also The IAEA's Impotence vis-a-vis Iran - Lt. Col. (res.) Dr. Raphael Ofek
    The JCPOA deal gave Iran tailwind and funding for its efforts to develop ballistic missiles, undermine stability in the Middle East, and continue sowing terror in the world. It has been assisted by the limp conduct of the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) against Iran. The writer is an expert in the field of nuclear physics and technology who served as a senior analyst in the Israeli intelligence community. (BESA Center for Strategic Studies-Bar-Ilan University)
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