January 28, 2019

In-Depth Issues:

Malaysia Stripped of Hosting World Para Swimming Championships after Banning Israeli Athletes - R. Loheswar (Malay Mail-Malaysia)
    The International Paralympic Committee (IPC) Sunday stripped Malaysia of the right to host the 2019 World Para Swimming Championships this July after it banned Israel's participation in the sports event.
    The IPC said that when it signed a contract with the Paralympic Council of Malaysia in September 2017 to host the event, it was assured that all eligible athletes and countries would be allowed to participate.
    "When a host country excludes athletes from a particular nation, for political reasons, then we have absolutely no alternative but to look for a new Championships host," IPC president Andrew Parsons said.

Iran Arrested 7,000 in Crackdown on Dissent during 2018 (BBC News)
    Amnesty International says Iran arrested 7,000 people last year in a "shameless campaign of repression."
    Hundreds were sentenced to prison or flogging. At least 26 protesters were killed and nine others died in custody.
    Five activists were charged with "corruption on earth" - a capital offense.
    More than 200 members of Iran's largest Sufi Muslim order, the Gonabadi dervishes, were sentenced to prison and lashes after taking part in peaceful protests in February.
    At least 20 media workers were handed long prison or flogging sentences.
    See also Iran's "Year of Shame": More than 7,000 Arrested in 2018 (Amnesty International)

Israel Working with U.S. to Maintain Funding for Palestinian Security Forces - Ron Kampeas (JTA)
    Israeli officials are working with the U.S. to maintain $60 million in U.S. funding for Palestinian security forces, slated to be cancelled on Feb. 1.

Thousands of Palestinians in Gaza Receive Payments after Qatar-Hamas Deal - Khaled Abu Toameh (Jerusalem Post)
    Qatar on Saturday began disbursing financial aid to thousands of families in Gaza via post offices after Hamas announced Thursday its refusal to receive the funds via Israel.
    At least 50,000 families will receive $400 in four installments.

Schoolboy on Class Trip Unearths Second Temple-Era Coin in West Bank Stream - Michael Bachner (Times of Israel)
    During a school trip last week near the Shilo stream in the West Bank, a boy found a 2,000-year-old coin from the Second Temple-era rule of Herod Agrippa, the last king of Judea.
    The coin features three stalks of grain on one side, and a royal canopy surrounded by an engraving reading "King Agrippa" on the other side.
    The coin will join the Israel Antiquities Authority's collection of National Treasures.
    Herod Agrippa, the grandson of Herod the Great, ruled Judea from 41 CE until his death three years later.
    "This is an exciting finding," said Hananya Hizmi, head staff officer of the Archaeology Unit of the Civil Administration.
    "Every archaeological find has a story that gives more details on the history of the Land of Israel and the Jewish people. Findings like this one complete another piece in the historic puzzle of our nation."

News Resources - North America, Europe, and Asia:
  • Russia: We Are Not Allies of Iran in Syria
    Days after sustained Israeli attacks against Iranian targets in Syria, Russia's Deputy Foreign Minister Sergei Ryabkov told CNN on Friday that Russia and Iran are not allies in Syria. When asked if Russia was Iran's ally on the ground in Syria, Ryabkov answered, "I wouldn't use this type of words to describe where we are with Iran," adding that "We in no way underestimate the importance of measures that would ensure very strong security of the state of Israel. The Israelis know this, the U.S. knows this, everyone else, including the Iranians, the Turks, the government in Damascus. This is one of the top priorities of Russia."  (Radio Farda)
        See also Russian Statement a Positive Development for Israel - Ron Ben-Yishai
    On Friday, Russian Deputy Foreign Minister Sergei Rybakov announced that Russia is not exactly an ally of the Iranians and that Israel's security must also be taken into account. Such a statement can be seen as a diplomatic turning point. Curious as it sounds, Russia needs Israel more than it needs Iran.
        The Russians have recently come to the realization that Israel is willing to go to the wire to thwart Iranian consolidation in Syria, the plan to improve Hizbullah's precision missiles in Lebanon, and the Iranian forces in Syria. The Israeli decision to end its veil of ambiguity over its Syria strikes definitely contributed to this realization. The Russians have apparently come to the conclusion that the Iranians are dragging Israel into attacks in Syria, which could hamper Russia in fulfilling its strategic goal of stabilizing Assad's regime.
        The Kremlin thinks that the Iranians have behaved badly of late. Reports that Qassem Suleimani, commander of the Quds Force of the Iranian Revolutionary Guards, was spotted on a tour in southern Syria, 40 km. from the Israel-Syria border, meant a blatant violation of Iran's commitment to Russia and Putin's public declaration that the Iranians and their proxies would keep 80 km. from the Israeli border. Israel gave Russia public proof that the Iranians had broken their promise. Putin apparently decided to let the Iranians know that they had to meet their commitments. (Ynet News)
  • U.S. Considering Staying in Syrian Base to Counter Iran - Lara Seligman
    Despite President Trump's December pledge to withdraw all U.S. forces from Syria, the U.S. government is considering a plan to keep some troops at the al-Tanf garrison in southeastern Syria to counter Iranian activity, sources tell Foreign Policy. "Al-Tanf is a critical element in the effort to prevent Iran from establishing a ground line of communications from Iran through Iraq, through Syria, to southern Lebanon in support of Lebanese Hizbullah," said one former senior U.S. military commander.
        Under the current withdrawal plan, the 200 U.S. troops who have been advising local Syrian fighters out of al-Tanf will be the last to leave the country, officials say. But given the garrison's strategic importance, sources said the U.S. government is considering a plan to keep at least some forces there. The significance is in the 55-km. (34-mile) exclusion zone around al-Tanf that allows U.S. troops to claim self-defense in striking Iranian or other forces moving through the area. (Foreign Policy)
  • U.S. Warns Europeans Not to Try to Evade Iran Sanctions - Deb Riechmann and Matthew Lee
    The White House is closely eyeing efforts in Europe to set up an alternative money payment channel to ease doing business with Iran and avoid running afoul of U.S. sanctions. A senior administration official told AP on Friday that the U.S. will fully enforce its sanctions and hold individuals and entities accountable for undermining them. (AP-Washington Post)
News Resources - Israel and the Mideast:
  • IDF Search and Rescue Unit Heads to Brazil after Dam Collapse
    130 IDF soldiers have left Israel for the area of the collapsed dam in Brazil. The delegation includes engineering experts, doctors, search and rescue teams, firefighters, and soldiers from the Israeli Navy's underwater missions unit. Search and rescue teams are equipped with advanced means of cellular location, underwater radars and drones.
        The IDF and the State of Israel will continue to assist in the aftermath of any disaster around the world that requires its experience and capabilities. (IDF Spokesperson-Israel Ministry of Foreign Affairs)
        See also Israeli Rescue Delegation Lands in Brazil (i24News)
  • Israel Recognizes the New Leadership in Venezuela
    "Israel joins the United States, Canada, most of the countries of Latin America and countries in Europe in recognizing the new leadership in Venezuela," Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said Sunday. (Prime Minister's Office)
Global Commentary and Think-Tank Analysis:
  • International Holocaust Remembrance Day - Fiamma Nirenstein
    International Holocaust Remembrance Day takes place on January 27 every year, on the anniversary of the liberation of Auschwitz-Birkenau on this day in 1945. Remembering the Holocaust provides us with universal lessons on the depth human evil can reach, and, conversely, the love of life and the heroism of adults and even children who thwarted human barbarity with their own survival.
        I think about my dear relatives who were murdered at Sobibor and Auschwitz. They included Poles and Italians, as well as my father's little brothers who, while my father just barely escaped deportation, were killed, and my heart is filled with unbearable pain.
        What hurts the most is that in Europe, the mother of genocidal anti-Semitism, its contemporary growth is all too visible. 58% of French Jews and nearly half of the Jews in Germany are worried about physical attacks. The bottom line is that we need to address the memory of the Holocaust in contemporary terms.
        Most European schools and universities continue to teach Israel's history as a continuation of European colonialism in which the Palestinians are occupied and exploited by "evil" Jews who practice apartheid or even genocide. Traditional tools against anti-Semitism do not work when the cultural platforms endorse claims that the Palestinians are victims of the Jews.
        The writer, former vice president of the Committee on Foreign Affairs in the Italian Chamber of Deputies, is a fellow at the Jerusalem Center. (Jerusalem Center for Public Affairs)
  • Video: "We Remember"
    On International Holocaust Remembrance Day, these IDF soldiers say #WeRemember. And for them, it's personal. "Because my grandfather fought." "Because my grandmother fought." "I am here today, and I fight so that my children will be here tomorrow." "We Remember."  (Israel Defense Forces)
        See also Israeli Holocaust Survivor Remembers Auschwitz - Aron Heller (AP)
  • Venezuela's Jews Describe Chaos, Uncertain Future - Shimon Yaish
    Venezuela is home to some 5,000 Jews. About 20,000 Jewish Venezuelans have left the country in the past decade because of economic conditions, and particularly because of how the Jewish community has been treated since 2009.
        Elias Farache, president of the Confederacion de Asociaciones Israelitas de Venezuela (CAIV) - the umbrella organization for the Venezuelan Jewish community - said, "The situation is tolerable. The government tries to respect us and gives us freedom to live as Jews. There are synagogues, schools, and all the Jewish services are fine. It disturbs us that there are no diplomatic relations with Israel."
        Venezuelan journalist Gabriel Chocron said, "The community keeps pretty much out of politics. Most of the members of the community hold very clear opinions - most of them oppose Maduro - but don't want to take a chance and get caught up in the situation. Venezuela has very good relations with the Palestinian Authority."  (Israel Hayom)

Iran Is Determined to Use Syria as a Springboard to Hit Israel - Brig.-Gen. (res.) Yossi Kuperwasser (Times of Israel)
  • In recent weeks, Iran has been accelerating its efforts to use Syria to build up its capability to hit targets in Israel, both by its own forces or through supporting its surrogates - Hizbullah and other militias - in Syria and Lebanon. This accelerated after the Americans announced they are going to leave Syria soon.
  • Iran's actions were followed very closely by Israel, which responded by resuming its attacks against Iranian military targets in Syria. Iran tried again to hit targets in Israel with rockets, as it had already done twice last year, but its effort was foiled by Israel.
  • What we should learn from these events is that Iran remains committed to building a military base in Syria from where it can threaten Israel. Iran is not going to give up easily and Israel will have to go on with its policy to deny Iran its goal.
  • Israel can still rely on its intelligence dominance and its military advantage to make it very costly for Iran to make progress on its plan.
  • Russia has a role to play and it can advise the Iranians to stop the military buildup in Syria beyond what is necessary to keep Assad in power.
  • In the eyes of the pragmatic Arab states, Israel's stature as the only country that is ready to stand against Iran militarily keeps growing and should be translated into closer relations with Israel.
  • Israel also serves as a model (for Arab states and Europe) of a regional force that is ready and capable of defending itself by itself based on American support. This is what the U.S. expects from American allies.

    Brig.-Gen. (res.) Yossi Kuperwasser, former head of the IDF Military Intelligence Research Division, is Director of the Project on Regional Middle East Developments at the Jerusalem Center for Public Affairs.