January 25, 2019

In-Depth Issues:

Iran "Angry" at Russia's Failure to Activate S-300 Air Defense System in Syria (Asharq Al-Awsat-UK)
    Heshmatollah Falahat-Pisheh, head of the Iranian Parliament's national security and foreign policy committee, expressed "anger" on Thursday at Russia's failure to activate the S-300 air defense system deployed in Syria during a recent Israeli airstrike near Damascus, IRNA reported.
    "It seems that there is a kind of coordination between Israel's attacks and the Russian air defense deployed in Syria," he said.

Area around Tehran Is Sinking Due to Excessive Water Pumping - Mehdi Fattahi (AP-ABC News)
    The area around Tehran has begun to sink dramatically, due to a 30-year drought and excessive water pumping.
    Fissures appear along roads, while massive holes open up in the countryside.
    Iranian authorities say they have measured up to 22 cm. (8.6 inches) of annual subsidence near the capital.
    "In European countries, even 4 mm. (0.15 inches) of yearly subsidence is considered a crisis," Iranian environmental activist Mohammad Darvish said.
    German scientists estimate that land under Tehran's Imam Khomeini International Airport is sinking by 5 cm. (1.9 inches) a year.
    Tehran's oil refinery, a key highway, automobile manufacturing plants and railroads all sit on sinking ground.

How Will the U.S. Withdrawal Impact Israel's Strategy in Syria? (Cipher Brief-Soufan Center)
    The 2,000 U.S. troops in Syria lack the congressional authority to go on the offense against Iranian installations in Syria.
    After the announced U.S. withdrawal from Syria, Israel has adjusted its approach toward combatting the Iranian military presence there and has abandoned the previous policy of ambiguity about its attacks on Iranian weapons warehouses.
    U.S. officials have consistently asserted that Israel, in conducting strikes on Iranian positions in Syria, has the right to defend itself and has full U.S. support in doing so.
    The U.S. has committed to resupplying Israel with precision-guided munitions and intelligence needed to attack hardened Iranian targets in Syria, which reportedly include rocket factories and other weapons manufacturing sites.

Indian Navy Successfully Test-Fires Israeli Surface-to-Air Missile (NewsX-India)
    India's Defence Research and Development Organisation on Thursday successfully test-fired a Long-Range Surface-to-Air Missile (LR-SAM) from naval warship INC Chennai, ANI reported.
    Defence Minister Nirmala Sitharaman said the missile, jointly developed by Israel Aerospace Industries and known as the Barak 8, directly hit a low-lying aerial target.
    The Barak 8 system is designed to defend against any airborne threat including aircraft, helicopters, anti-ship missiles, unmanned aerial vehicles (UAVs). ballistic missiles, cruise missiles and combat jets.

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The Deal of the Century Has No Buyers in the Arab World - Pinhas Inbari (Jerusalem Center for Public Affairs)
    Until now, apart from possibly Saudi Arabia, Trump's "Deal of the Century" has had no buyers in the Arab world, and certainly not among the Palestinians, Jordan, and Egypt.
    Regarding the Palestinians, Mahmoud Abbas and the PLO are not prepared in any way for any deal that is less than their maximum demands, which are primarily the "right of return" and Israel's withdrawal to the 1967 lines including in Jerusalem.

Lessons about Israel from British Parliamentary Debates - David Collier (david-collier.com-UK)
    Hansard, the record of British Parliamentary debates, with archives from the 1800s, turned up some astonishing results.
    Hansard records show that the identity "Palestinian" appeared for the first time in 1920 and at the time it was an identity only really accepted by Jews.
    Gaza is mentioned seven times in the 19th century, not once in the same speech as the word "Palestine."
   Whenever Gaza is referenced, it is always geographically tied to Egypt.
    The first ever use of the word "anti-Semitism" was by Winston Churchill on 22 August 1911, discussing an incident in Wales.

Israeli Startup Wins 1st Place in UN Tourism-Tech Competition - Alon Einhorn (Jerusalem Post)
    Refundit, an Israeli startup which revolutionizes tax-free shopping for tourists, eliminating lines and paperwork, won first place in the UN World Tourism Organization travel-tech competition on Thursday.
    2,771 companies from 132 countries competed. Out of the ten finalists, four were Israeli.

Soaring Indicators Show Israel's Economy Is Strong - Matthew A. Winkler (Bloomberg)
    Israel's gross domestic product has been rising at an average annual rate of 3.69% since 2000, inflation has been 1.57%, and unemployment has fallen to 3.6%.
    The nation of 8.4 million people has outperformed European stalwarts since 2009. Israel's GDP growth of 69% since then is more than 17 times what Austria managed and almost three times what Switzerland mustered.
    Among the 36 developed economies that make up the OECD, Israel will be the 4th fastest growing (tied with Chile) this year with 3.6%, behind Slovakia, Poland and Slovenia.

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News Resources - North America, Europe, and Asia:
  • Ireland's Dail Passes Law Prohibiting Israeli Goods from Territories
    The Dail, the lower house of Ireland's Parliament, passed legislation on Thursday to prohibit the import of Israeli goods produced in the West Bank by a vote of 78 to 45. In earlier debates on the bill, the deputy head of government, Simon Coveney, said the Attorney General had advised it was not legally implementable because trade was an EU competence and not an Irish one. Ahead of the vote, Catholic bishops Noel Treanor, of the Down and Connor diocese, and Alan McGuckian SJ, of the Raphoe diocese in County Donegal, urged Dail members to support the bill. (Irish News)
        See also Israel Expresses Disgust after Irish Boycott Vote
    After lawmakers in the Republic of Ireland on Thursday voted in favor of a bill that would implement a draconian ban on goods produced by Israeli communities in the West Bank, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said, "Israel is outraged over the legislation against it in the Dail which is indicative of hypocrisy and anti-Semitism. Instead of Ireland condemning Syria for slaughtering hundreds of thousands of civilians, Turkey for the occupation of northern Cyprus and the terrorist organizations for murdering thousands of Israelis, it attacks Israel, the only democracy in the Middle East. What a disgrace."
        The Israel Foreign Ministry said, "This is a clear expression of obsessive discrimination that should be rejected with disgust." Ireland's ambassador to Israel was summoned to the Foreign Ministry in Jerusalem on Friday for a reprimand. (Algemeiner)
  • ISIS Down to Its Last 2 Villages in Syria - Rukmini Callimachi
    At its height, Islamic State ruled over more than 60,000 square miles in Syria and Iraq. It is now squeezed into two villages occupying six square miles in northeastern Syria. "Yesterday, 60 fighters - among them 50 foreigners - surrendered to our forces, and the number was 30 fighters the day before," Shervan Derwish, spokesman for the military council in Manbij, said on Wednesday. It's not surprising that a majority of those who surrendered are foreign fighters. The foreigners often do not speak Arabic fluently, and their non-Arab features mean that they cannot blend in with the local population.
        "Now they [ISIS] will resume smaller attacks. Everyone needs to remain vigilant," said Col. Sean Ryan, spokesman for the American-backed coalition fighting the group. (New York Times)
        See also Islamic State Leaving Syria for Iraq's Anbar Desert - Dima Abumaria
    The Syrian Observatory for Human Rights last week revealed that more than 2,000 civilians, along with nearly 200 ISIS members embedded among them, fled the Deir ez-Zor region in eastern Syria. Abdul Rahman, Director of the SOHR, said at least 20,000 people - including ISIS fighters and mercenaries from places such as Iraq and Somalia - have left the area since the beginning of December.
        "The Islamic State is moving from that area to another large geographical spot extending from Syria to the desert of Anbar [in Iraq]," said Nizar Abd al-Qader, a former Lebanese army general. At the same time, ISIS is not totally vacating Syria as there are few forces there standing in the way of its re-emergence. He predicted that ISIS will continue to pose a significant threat, as it reverts to guerilla attacks launched from remote bases and activates sleeper cells inside Syrian residential areas. (Media Line-Jerusalem Post)
News Resources - Israel and the Mideast:
  • Israeli President in Paris: Israel May Have to Hit Hizbullah Rocket Factories in Beirut - Stuart Winer
    Israeli President Reuven Rivlin on Wednesday told French President Emmanuel Macron at the Elysee Palace in Paris that Israel could be forced to strike Hizbullah's rocket-building operations in Lebanon. "If we are threatened from Lebanon, we will not stand by," Rivlin said. "Hizbullah is creating facilities to produce and convert precision-guided missiles in the heart of Beirut under civilian cover and with Iranian support. This threatens Israeli security and could force us to respond, dragging the region into escalation that could badly harm Lebanon."
        "Lebanon bears sovereign responsibility for all Hizbullah actions. France is a power with decisive influence in our region and it is vital that she understands that Hizbullah is part of the Lebanese system. I expect France to exert whatever pressure necessary on the Lebanese government to display its sovereignty and rid itself of Iranian and Hizbullah involvement that could lead us to war."  (Times of Israel)
  • Israel Okays Qatari Fund Transfer to Gaza, But Hamas Says No
    Israel approved the transfer of $15 million in Qatari money to Gaza on Thursday, a source in Jerusalem said, but Hamas rejected the money. (Ynet News)
  • Palestinians Throw Firebombs at Passing Motorists in Jerusalem, One Shot by Police
    Israel Border Police entered the Shuafat neighborhood in eastern Jerusalem Thursday to arrest Palestinian youths who were throwing firebombs at passing motorists on a main road. One of the youths refused to stop the attacks, leading undercover officers to shoot and wound him. Two other assailants were arrested. (Times of Israel)
Global Commentary and Think-Tank Analysis:
  • Iranian Hostility toward Israel Is Not Inevitable - Natan Sachs
    Iranian-Israeli hostility is actually quite odd. Tehran is well over a thousand miles from Jerusalem. The two countries have no major bilateral claims toward one another. Whereas large Arab neighbors of Iran, like Iraq or Saudi Arabia, might be considered its natural competitors, Israel cannot.
        What historical memory there is of Persian-Judaic interactions is largely positive in Jewish eyes: Streets in Israel are named for Cyrus the Great, who allowed the Jews to return to Judea from their Babylonian exile in 538 BCE. The hostility between the two states can be traced directly to one period, 40 years ago: the Iranian revolution and the birth of the Islamic Republic. Before 1979, Israel had ambassadors in Tehran and robust trade in oil.
        The revolution upended these relations dramatically as Israel was relegated by Ayatollah Khomeini to the status of "Little Satan" (the "Great Satan" being the U.S.). A street in Tehran was named for the assassin of Egyptian President Anwar Sadat, who first signed peace with Israel.
        Israel is a useful enemy for the Islamic Republic. It is not merely a diversion from domestic woes, but it is also part of an Iranian attempt to play in Middle Eastern affairs. For a large, Muslim-majority, non-Arab state committed to exporting its revolution to Arab countries, it is essential that the main fault lines in regional affairs not be national - Arab-Persian - but rather religious: Muslim-non-Muslim. The writer is director of the Center for Middle East Policy at Brookings. (Brookings Institution)
  • Israeli and Palestinian Drivers Celebrate New "Divided" Road - Josh Hasten
    A new 5-km. stretch of highway east of Jerusalem contains separate lanes for Israeli citizen and non-citizen traffic divided by a concrete wall. Motorists are praising the new Eastern Ring road, Route 4370, which bypasses an overtaxed entrance to Jerusalem, as a game-changer that is alleviating traffic jams in the area. The road bypasses the busy Hizma checkpoint, which for years has been a daily rush-hour bottleneck for both Jews and Arabs.
        Akram Abdel-Rachman, a retired business leader in the Jerusalem Arab community, attended the ribbon-cutting ceremony for the new road. He said, "Any project that eases the life of residents in the area...is a blessing." He was joined at the ceremony by the mukhtar of the Arab town of Anata.
        While Arabs can travel freely on all of the main arteries throughout the West Bank, Jews are limited in which roads they can travel. Under Israeli law, it's illegal for Jews to enter any territories labeled as Area A, under full Palestinian Authority control. Large red signs warn Israeli citizens not to enter PA-controlled towns and villages. Prior to the Oslo Accords in the 1990s, Israelis were able to travel freely throughout the West Bank, including in major Arab cities, and Palestinians were able to travel freely throughout Israel. (JNS)
  • Is Jerusalem a Sacred Islamic City? - Imam Tawhidi
    There is a big difference between a city being sacred in the eyes of God and it being a sacred Islamic city. For example, all prophetic tombs, birthplaces and areas where miracles took place are considered sacred in Islam, but they are not specifically Islamic locations. A sacred Islamic location is a location where a significant Islamic event has taken place by either Allah or Prophet Mohammad.
        The Holy Koran states very clearly that the Holy Land, Jerusalem, belongs to the Jewish nation of Moses, the Israelites. Koran 5:20 makes it clear that God "had not given (this land to) anyone among the world" other than the Jewish nation. From this verse, and others of similar context, we understand that Jerusalem is a sacred city according to God, but it is not a sacred Islamic city, due to the fact that its sacredness was established before the existence of Islam.
        Koran 17:1 reported on the Prophet Mohammad's night journey to Al-Aqsa Mosque (the Farthest Mosque). First, Prophet Mohammad traveling to a location does not make that location "Islamic." Second, there is little evidence that "Al-Aqsa Mosque" is actually in Jerusalem, and there are a large number of Muslims who believe that "the Farthest Mosque" is a reference to a mosque in the heavens, due to the fact that the current Al-Aqsa Mosque did not exist during the lifetime of Prophet Mohammad, making it impossible for him to have visited it. The writer, an Iranian-born Australian Shia Muslim Imam, is president of the Islamic Association of South Australia. (Jerusalem Post)

  • Anti-Semitism

  • When Did It Become Acceptable to Be an Anti-Semite? - Richard Cohen
    When and how did it become acceptable to be an anti-Semite? When did it become okay to socialize with and even praise a Jew hater? I am referring to Louis Farrakhan, who spouts the most vile things about Jews yet retains the admiration of many including, notably, leaders of the Women's March.
        It is not Farrakhan's anti-Semitism that worries me. More worrisome is the casual acceptance of his anti-Semitism by others that makes him somehow unremarkable - the unstated agreement that Jews are all-powerful, all-controlling and somehow blocking black progress. This stands history on its head and mocks the 1964 deaths in Mississippi of Michael Schwerner and Andrew Goodman, who were among the many Jews who volunteered during the civil rights movement. (Washington Post)
  • Yes, Jeremy Corbyn IS Fuelling Anti-Semitism - Prof. Deborah Lipstadt
    In her new book, Anti-Semitism Here And Now, Professor Deborah Lipstadt devotes several pages to Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn: "Jeremy Corbyn's record in politics is deeply rooted in firmly held ideological beliefs. Fundamental to his political philosophy is an automatic - critics might call it knee-jerk - sympathy for anyone who is or appears to be oppressed or an underdog."
        "It is doubtful that Corbyn deliberately seeks out anti-Semites to associate with and to support. But it seems that when he encounters them, their Jew-hatred is irrelevant as long as their other positions - on class, race, capitalism, the role of the state, and Israel/Palestine - are to his liking. Alan Johnson, the former moderate Labour MP, aptly described Corbyn as someone who does not 'indulge in anti-Semitism himself. It is that he indulges the anti-Semitism of others.'"
        "Even though the EU and the U.S. have classified Hamas and Hizbullah as terrorist organizations, Corbyn has described them as 'friends,' attacked the notion they were 'terrorists' and invited them to meet him at Parliament....In 2010...on Holocaust Remembrance Day, he hosted an 'Auschwitz to Gaza' event in Parliament at which repeated comparisons were made between Jews, Israelis and Nazis."
        "So, in answer to the question: Is Jeremy Corbyn an anti-Semite? My response would be that that's the wrong question. The right questions to ask are: Has he facilitated and amplified expressions of anti-Semitism? Has he been consistently reluctant to acknowledge expressions of anti-Semitism unless they come from white supremacists and neo-Nazis? Will his actions facilitate the institutionalization of anti-Semitism among other progressives? Sadly, my answer to all of these is an unequivocal yes."
        The writer is Professor of Modern Jewish History and Holocaust Studies at Emory University. Her epic court victory over British Holocaust denier David Irving was made into the 2016 film "Denial." (Daily Mail-UK)

  • Weekend Features

  • Israeli Company Uses Virtual Reality to Change Patient Healthcare - Jennifer Kite-Powell
    VRHealth, an Israeli health tech company based in Boston, is working to provide virtual reality technology solutions for a variety of health challenges, from pain management for birthing mothers and cancer patients during chemotherapy to alleviating patient anxiety before and after surgery. The company has its VR platform in 30 locations across the U.S. from hospitals to rehab centers and out-patient centers.
        According to VRHealth CEO Eran Orr, VR could be applied effectively in dealing with the opiate crisis. "When you put on a VR headset in the hospital, you are not in the hospital anymore. It transports the patient to another location, so there's a psychological aspect at play. And this can impact the rehab process and improve the patient experience." Orr also said that once the patient puts on a VR headset, healthcare providers can quantify and measure things they couldn't before. (Forbes)
        See also Virtual Reality: A Radical Prescription - Lucy Hooker
    Firms are now exploring wider applications for virtual reality: confronting phobias, physical and cognitive therapy, and replaying combat scenarios to help servicemen and women manage post-traumatic stress disorder.
        According to Miki Levy, co-founder of Israeli start-up VRHealth, a firm that has five virtual reality applications approved by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration, and further products in development, the new platform could save health services money by aiding faster recovery and keeping elderly patients more mobile. (BBC)
  • The Netherlands and the Jews in World War II - Dr. Manfred Gerstenfeld
    The Dutch government remains the only one in Western Europe that consistently refuses to admit, let alone apologize for, the massive failures of its predecessors towards the Jews during WWII. In May 1940, the Netherlands was occupied by the invading Germans. In the years to follow, more than 70% of its 140,000-strong Jewish population were murdered after having been sent to German camps, mainly in Poland.
        In the preparatory activities for what would lead to genocide, the Dutch authorities followed Nazi orders. Dutch police arrested Jews, including babies, simply for being Jews. Dutch railways transported Jews to the Dutch transit camp Westerbork, and from there to the German border. Dutch police guarded the Jews in the camp.
        While authorities in the occupied Netherlands assisted the Nazis, a small minority of good Dutchmen helped 24,000 Jews to hide. A third of these were ultimately betrayed. The Netherlands was the only occupied country in which a group of volunteers and a special police unit were paid to hunt down Jews in hiding.
        The writer is a senior research associate at the BESA Center and a former chairman of the Steering Committee of the Jerusalem Center for Public Affairs. (BESA Center for Strategic Studies-Bar-Ilan University)
  • Escape to Budapest - Barry Davis
    Tales of miraculous escapes during the Holocaust continue to emerge. Dutch-born Jerusalem filmmaker Willy Lindwer's documentary, "The Train Journey," tells the story of 89 Jews who were living in the Netherlands prior to and during WWII and were allowed to leave Nazi-controlled Holland for Budapest between March and October 1943, thanks to their Hungarian roots. Remarkably, 73 survived the Holocaust, and Lindwer's documentary features four of the survivors. (Jerusalem Post)
Observations: Israel Is Sending a Spacecraft to the Moon

  • Israeli nonprofit SpaceIL and Israel Aerospace Industries (IAI)'s first lunar spacecraft left Israel on Jan. 17 for Florida, ahead of launching from Cape Canaveral in mid-February. The spacecraft is named Beresheet (Hebrew for "in the beginning").
  • "After eight years of hard work, our dream has come true: We finally have a spacecraft," said SpaceIL CEO Ido Anteby. Upon completing its lunar mission - the first in Israel's history and the first that's privately funded - Israel would join superpowers China, Russia and the U.S. in landing a spacecraft on the moon.

        See also Israeli Beresheet Moon Lander to Launch in Mid-February, Land in April - Jason Davis (The Planetary Society)
  • SpaceIL was the Israeli team participating in the international Google Lunar X Prize competition: a modern race to the Moon. SpaceIL has taken this task upon itself as a national mission, regardless of the Google Lunar X Prize competition.
  • SpaceIL's collective vision is to inspire the next generation in Israel and around the world. Space and space exploration are the next frontier. The space industry has produced satellite TV, water filters, UV sunglasses and many more inventions.
  • SpaceIL's success will be a source of pride for Israel while introducing the world to new and innovative ways to explore outer space. In addition, the space industry has the potential to become a major growth engine for the Israeli economy.

        See also Video - SpaceIL Presents: The Mission (SpaceIL)
Google's $30 Million Moon Race Ends with No Winner - Mike Wall (Space.com-23Jan2018)
  • The $30 million Google Lunar X Prize is no more. "After close consultation with our five finalist Google Lunar X Prize teams over the past several months, we have concluded that no team will make a launch attempt to reach the moon by the March 31, 2018, deadline," X Prize founder and chairman Peter Diamandis said.
  • The Google Lunar X Prize was announced in 2007, with the stated aim of encouraging commercial spaceflight and exploration. The contest challenged privately funded teams to put a robotic spacecraft on the moon, move the craft 1,640 feet (500 meters), and have it beam high-definition photos and video back to Earth.
  • The five finalists were: Florida-based Moon Express, Japan's Team Hakuto, SpaceIL from Israel, India's Team Indus, and international outfit Synergy Moon.
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