January 24, 2019

In-Depth Issues:

Iran Continues with Its Nuclear Activities Unabated - Lt.-Col. (ret.) Michael Segall (Jerusalem Center for Public Affairs)
    Iran's nuclear chief Ali Akbar Salehi has said that Iran will continue with its activities at the heavy water plant in Arak.
    Salehi said that Iran did not fill in the core of the reactor with cement in accordance with the nuclear deal and claimed on Jan. 22 that images showing that Iran had sealed the core were photo-shopped.
    Salehi said he was "thankful to Allah for the way in which the discussions relating to the technical aspects of the nuclear talks were conducted, as they left so many breaches in the agreement that Iran was able to exploit."
    "Iran has lost nothing as a result of signing the agreement....We have preserved our capabilities in the field of enrichment. We are...continuing to manufacture new centrifuges. We are doing everything we need to do."
    See also Iran Moving towards Readiness to Ramp Up Nuclear Program (Al-Monitor)

Why Did Israel Claim Responsibility for Attack on Iran in Syria? - Ben Caspit (Al-Monitor)
    On the night of Jan. 21, Israel's air force destroyed a large Iranian weapons storage area and flattened a large number of Iranian targets throughout Syria.
    In a break from Israel's previous ambiguity policy, Prime Minister Netanyahu took responsibility for the attack.
    "Why is he poking his finger in the other side's eye?" critics asked.
    The reason is that Gen. Qasem Soleimani, who commands Iranian forces in Syria, has been putting on a fake show for his bosses in Tehran and the Iranian people in general. He keeps his military losses under wraps and tries to create an imaginary picture of victory.
    Israel's public announcements throw cold water on his attempts.

Iran Fails to Find Buyers for Crude Oil Offered on Exchange (Reuters)
    Iran failed to find any buyers on Monday for one million barrels of oil in its latest attempt to work around U.S. sanctions and sell oil to private companies for export on the energy exchange, state media reported.

Israel Ranked World's Fifth Most Innovative Economy (i24News)
    Israel has the 5th most innovative economy out of 60 countries, according to Bloomberg's annual Innovation Index, published Tuesday. Last year Israel was ranked 10th.
    Ahead of Israel were South Korea, Germany, Finland and Switzerland.

UK-Israel Trade Surges as Countries View Post-Brexit Trade Deal (Jewish Chronicle-UK)
    Britain and Israel agreed "in principle" on a post-Brexit trade deal at the World Economic Forum in Davos, Switzerland, on Wednesday.
    UK-Israel trade surged by 75% in the first half of 2018, as the value of annual trade between the two countries passed the $10 billion mark for the first time.

News Resources - North America, Europe, and Asia:
  • Federal Judge Lets Arkansas Law Against Israel Boycott Stand - Andrew DeMillo
    U.S. District Judge Brian Miller dismissed a lawsuit by the Arkansas Times challenging a 2017 state law requiring contractors to pledge not to boycott Israel, ruling that such a boycott is not protected by the First Amendment. Miller wrote that the Times "may even call upon others to boycott Israel, write in support of such boycotts, and engage in picketing and pamphleteering to that effect. This does not mean, however, that its decision to refuse to deal, or to refrain from purchasing certain goods, is protected by the First Amendment."  (AP-Arkansas Business)
        See also below Commentary: Why Prohibiting Boycotts of Israel Does Not Violate Freedom of Speech - Alyza D. Lewin (Kol HaBirah)
  • Iran Increasing Its Sway in Southwestern Syria - Hanin Ghaddar and Dana Stroul
    Iran is heavily invested in securing Damascus and the zone extending to the Lebanese border. In Tehran's view, this requires systematic demographic changes. Over the past year, Sunni communities have been pushed out of their long-time homes and replaced by people friendly to Iran and the Assad regime.
        Hizbullah and Iran's Revolutionary Guards have purchased numerous properties; according to reports quoting Syrian officials, more than 8,000 properties in the Damascus area have been transferred to foreign Shia owners in the past three years. Iran is also transforming local Sunni mosques into Shia religious centers and shrines, as well as constructing new Shia meeting halls, mosques, and schools.
        Over the past six months, Iranian personnel have established military posts and security networks across the southwestern province of Deraa. Concurrently, they and their Hizbullah proxies have constructed at least eight local Shia religious centers and five religious schools. Iran is also reportedly offering jobs to young Sunnis. For $200 a month, many unemployed young men would rather join Iran's militias in noncombat roles than be arrested, conscripted, or killed by the Assad regime.
        Hanin Ghaddar, a veteran Lebanese journalist, is a visiting fellow at The Washington Institute, where Dana Stroul is a senior fellow in the Program on Arab Politics. (Washington Institute for Near East Policy)
News Resources - Israel and the Mideast:
  • Most Palestinians Killed in Gaza Riots Had Terrorist Ties
    Since the beginning of the Gaza border riots on March 30, 2018, 187 Palestinians were killed in those events. As of Jan. 16, 2019, 150 of those killed were found to be affiliated with Hamas or other terrorist organizations (about 80%). Those belonging to Hamas or affiliated with it accounted for 96 fatalities (51% of the total). 45 were operatives of the Hamas military wing.
        The large number of fatalities from terrorist organizations demonstrates that the violence against the IDF near the border is not "popular," but is orchestrated by Hamas and involves its operatives. It also shows that IDF soldiers do not shoot indiscriminately, but, in most cases, hit specific terrorist operatives. Hamas operatives occupy the front line of confrontation with IDF forces and are the ones who throw hand grenades and IEDs at IDF forces. It is these operatives who approach the security fence and attempt to sabotage it or penetrate into Israeli territory. (Intelligence and Terrorism Information Center)
  • Israel Accuses The Guardian of Willfully Distorting the Facts on Gaza Riots - Raphael Ahren
    In an editorial Tuesday, Britain's Guardian lamented that in 2018, Israeli troops killed unarmed civilians who "posed no danger to anyone." On Wednesday, Israel Foreign Ministry spokesperson Emmanuel Nahshon accused the Guardian of willfully distorting the facts.
        "The Guardian has decided to engage in an exercise of cheap moralizing, deliberately ignoring Palestinian terror and violence. The Guardian knows very well that the Gaza Strip has been transformed by Hamas into a launchpad of rockets and violent attacks, endangering Israeli civilians on a daily basis, but prefers to ignore this reality."  (Times of Israel)
  • Israel Blocks Palestinian Bid for Observer Status at UN Disarmament Panel - Raphael Ahren
    At the first public plenary of the UN Conference on Disarmament (CD) in 2019, 33 states were granted observer status, "while the Palestinian bid was the only one to be rejected, denying yet another Palestinian attempt to politicize the work of professional international organizations," the Israel Foreign Ministry said Tuesday.
        The Palestinian bid was supported by Iran, Turkey, North Korea and Venezuela, but Israeli diplomats, "in close coordination with the U.S.," managed to block the move, according to the ministry. "The CD is a professional forum for negotiation and Israel, together with others, will object to any attempt to politicize this forum."  (Times of Israel)
Global Commentary and Think-Tank Analysis:
  • Why Prohibiting Boycotts of Israel Does Not Violate Freedom of Speech - Alyza D. Lewin
    The American Civil Liberties Union argues that the Arizona law requiring all businesses who want to contract with the state to certify that they do not engage in a boycott of Israel violates the free speech clause of the First Amendment of the Bill of Rights.
        Federal, state, and local governments across the U.S. regularly use conditions in government contracts to promote equality under the law, combat discrimination, and ensure that public funds are not used for invidious purposes. Conditions on contracting are a pillar of anti-discrimination laws. The First Amendment does not require the government to subsidize discriminatory conduct.
        These regulations only target discriminatory conduct, not speech, by state contractors. Contractors may speak passionately and advocate openly in any forum and on any subject, even an anti-Israel boycott. But discrimination is not protected speech. Private discrimination on the basis of national origin, religion, gender, and other classifications is prohibited in employment and public accommodations by the Civil Rights Act of 1964.
        The ACLU argues that government must subsidize discriminatory conduct. But government must have the power to discourage discriminatory boycotts by prescribing non-discrimination conditions in government contracts. The writer is President and General Counsel of the Louis D. Brandeis Center for Human Rights Under Law in Washington. (Kol HaBirah)
  • Ireland Risks Seeming Anti-Semitic with Israeli Settlement Boycott Bill - Editorial
    The best that can be said about the Control of Economic Activity (Occupied Territories) Bill is that it is a well meaning show of solidarity with the Palestinians living in the West Bank. The worst that can be said about it is that, by targeting the actions of Israel alone, the Bill risks the accusation that Ireland is anti-Semitic. It is already being seen as such in the U.S.
        What about the occupied territories of Russia (Ukraine, including Crimea, from 2014, also parts of Moldova - 1992 - and Georgia - 2008), Turkey (northern Cyprus from 1974 and parts of Aleppo in Syria since 2016), Morocco (most of the Western Sahara since 1975)? If our legislators are serious about using economic boycott to make a political point, they should broaden the debate to include all of those occupied territories. (Irish Examiner)

  • The New York Times Sunday Review featured a column by Michelle Alexander entitled, "Time to Break the Silence on Palestine" - as if the Palestinian issue has not been the most overhyped cause on campuses, at the UN, and in the media. There is no silence to break.
  • What must be broken is the double standard of those who elevate Palestinian claims over those of the Kurds, Syrians, Iranians, Chechens, Tibetans, Ukrainians, and many other more deserving groups who truly suffer from the silence of the international community. The UN devotes more of its time, money, and votes to the Palestinian issue than to the claims of all of these other oppressed groups combined.
  • The suffering of Palestinians, which does not compare to the suffering of many other groups, has been largely inflicted by themselves. They could have had a state, with no occupation, if they had accepted the Peale Commission Report of 1938, the UN Partition of 1947, the Camp David Summit deal of 2000, or the Ehud Olmert offer of 2008.
  • They rejected all these offers, responding with violence and terrorism, because doing so would have required them to accept Israel as the nation state of the Jewish people, something they are unwilling to do even today.

    The writer is Professor of Law, Emeritus, at Harvard Law School.