February 1, 2019

In-Depth Issues:

Report: Hizbullah Facing Financial Difficulties - Neta Bar (Israel Hayom)
    Sky News Arabia reported Wednesday that employees of Hizbullah's media, education, medical and even military systems have complained of deep pay cuts, with some receiving only 60% of their salaries last month.
    Hizbullah is concerned by increasing U.S. sanctions as well as growing EU efforts against it.
    Sanctions imposed on Iran have also put a dent in Hizbullah's cash flow.

Facebook Removes 783 Iranian Accounts for "Coordinated Inauthentic Behavior" - Nathaniel Gleicher (Facebook)
    On Thursday, Facebook removed 783 pages, groups and accounts for engaging in coordinated inauthentic behavior tied to Iran.
    The page administrators and account owners typically represented themselves as locals, often using fake accounts, and posted news stories and commentary that repurposed Iranian state media reporting.
    Although the people behind this activity attempted to conceal their identities, our manual review linked these accounts to Iran.
    We don't want our services to be used to manipulate people.
    The writer is Head of Cybersecurity Policy at Facebook.

Captured Irish Militant Tells of Dying Days of "Caliphate" - Delil Souleiman (AFP-Asharq Al-Awsat-UK)
    From detention in northern Syria, Irish militant Alexandr Bekmirzaev describes hunger and fear as missiles pounded down on the last shreds of ISIS' "caliphate."
    "I thought we were going to die from the starvation," the Muslim convert, 46, who was detained by Kurdish-led forces last month, told AFP.
    Since summer, there had been "bombing, bombing, bombing" on a near-daily basis, said Bekmirzaev, who was born to an Uzbek father and Belarusian mother.
    Bekmirzaev says he converted to Islam in his early twenties in Uzbekistan, then lived and worked in Ireland for more than a decade before becoming an Irish citizen in 2010.
    Bekmirzaev now describes his decision to come to Syria as a "mistake."

Video: Watch Leviathan Gas Platform Foundations Lowered into Mediterranean (Jerusalem Post)
    The foundations of Noble Energy's Leviathan gas platform were lowered into the Mediterranean Sea on Wednesday 10 km. from Israel's coast.
    The upper half of the platform is expected to arrive in the second half of 2019 and be installed on top of the base.

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IDF Completes Large-Scale Drill along Israel's Northern Border - Anna Ahronheim (Jerusalem Post)
    The IDF completed a large-scale drill in northern Israel this week simulating war against Hizbullah.
    In December, Israel launched an operation to detect and neutralize cross-border attack tunnels dug by Hizbullah.
    Lt.-Col. Yaron Bitton said, "We know how to prepare ourselves for the different fronts. It's not about who we will face, but whether we are really prepared to confront them. I have high confidence in my men. I have fought in many wars with the IDF and I have a lot of trust in them and their professionalism."
    "Every month that passes, we get better and better. We understand our enemy more and more."
    See also IDF Simulates Attack on Gas Rigs - Judah Ari Gross (Times of Israel)
    The Israel Navy this week simulated an attack on the country's natural gas platforms, including a live-fire test of sea-to-sea missiles to destroy an "enemy ship," the IDF said Thursday.
    Four Sa'ar-4.5 model corvettes participated in the week-long naval exercise and fired simultaneously at the target.
    Hizbullah and Hamas have both threatened to attack Israel's natural gas platforms.

Birthright Israel Sees Record Participation in 2018 - Yori Yalon (Israel Hayom)
    A record 48,000 participants from abroad and 8,300 Israelis took part in 10-day Birthright Israel tours in 2018.
    Since 1999, 650,000 young Jews from 67 countries have participated.

Japanese Firms Pursuing Opportunities in Israel - Yasushi Kaneko (Yomiuri Shimbun-Japan)
    The number of Japanese companies doing business in Israel has tripled since 2013 to 80.
    Some 200 people from 100 companies accompanied Economy, Trade and Industry Minister Hiroshige Seko on a visit to Israel in January.
    Japanese investments in Israel have increased dramatically, from $10 million in 2013 to $1.2 billion in 2017.
    Japanese companies used to be reluctant to advance into Israel for fear of the Arab boycott of Israel.
    However, with better relations between Israel and Arab nations now, Seko said on Jan. 15: "The Arab boycott has lost substance. There are companies in Israel that have great innovative ideas, and Japan has technology to turn those ideas into reality. We have a mutually complementary relationship." 
    See also Israeli-Japanese Friendship: A Potential Yet to Be Realized - Shaun Ho (Jerusalem Center for Public Affairs)

Algae-Based Medical Adhesives Developer Sealantis Sold for $25 Million - Lilach Baumer (Calcalist)
    UK-headquartered Advanced Medical Solutions has acquired Israel-based medical adhesives developer Sealantis Ltd. for $25 million, the two announced Thursday.
    Hailing from Israel's Technion-Israel Institute of Technology, Sealantis uses an algae-based polymer with no proteins to develop medical adhesives with reduced risks of infection or allergic reaction.
    Surgical glue, often used in place of sutures or staples, has benefits such as less scarring and less time in the operating room, but some people react negatively to its components.

Israeli Exports to China Jump by 63 Percent in First 8 Months of 2018 (Xinhua-China)
    Israeli exports to China surged 62.7% in the first eight months of the year over 2017, the Israeli Central Bureau of Statistics reported Sunday.

Israel's Epic Long-Distance Trek - Jessica Stone (Matador Network)
    The Israel National Trail is a 683-mile hiking trail that crosses Israel between the southern and northern borders.
    On the trail, you'll meet hikers from all corners, so you'll be in good company when you want it.
    The trail is remote and still undiscovered enough to offer plenty of solitude and encourage generosity and solidarity among both thru-hikers and day-trippers.

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News Resources - North America, Europe, and Asia:
  • U.S. Director of National Intelligence: Tehran Continues to Sponsor Terrorism, Threaten U.S. Forces and Allies
    At the Senate Intelligence Committee on Tuesday, Director of National Intelligence Dan Coats presented the Worldwide Threat Assessment of global threats to U.S. national security. He said, "The Iranian regime will continue pursuing regional ambitions and improved military capabilities, even while its own economy is weakening by the day."
        "Tehran continues to sponsor terrorism as the recent European arrests of Iranian operatives plotting attacks in Europe demonstrate. We expect Iran will continue supporting the Huthis in Yemen and Shia militants in Iraq, while developing indigenous military capabilities that threaten U.S. forces and allies in the region."
        "Iran maintains the largest inventory of ballistic missiles in the Middle East. And while we do not believe Iran is currently undertaking the key activities we judge necessary to produce a nuclear device, Iranian officials have publicly threatened to push the boundaries of JCPOA restrictions if Iran does not gain the tangible financial benefits it expected from the deal."  (Director of National Intelligence)
  • 3 European Nations Create Firm to Trade with Iran, But Will Anyone Use It? - Steven Erlanger
    After President Trump pulled out of the Iran nuclear deal and reimposed banking sanctions last year, European leaders vowed to find a way to enable Tehran to keep doing business with the rest of the world. Britain, France and Germany on Thursday introduced a financial mechanism to do that. The question now is whether anyone will actually use it.
        The new company, called Instex, would essentially allow goods to be bartered between Iranian companies and foreign ones without direct financial transactions or using the dollar. It is unclear exactly when the company will become operational or whether other countries will join.
        On Thursday, the State Department said it did not expect Instex to have any impact on Washington's "pressure campaign" against Iran. "Entities that continue to engage in sanctionable activity involving Iran risk severe consequences that could include losing access to the U.S. financial system and the ability to do business with the United States or U.S. companies."
        Belgium's foreign minister, Didier Reynders, said Thursday, "At the end of the day, it will be companies that decide whether or not they want to work in Iran, bearing in mind the risk of American sanctions."  (New York Times)
  • Israeli Moon Lander Passes Final Tests as It Prepares to Blast Off on Feb. 18 - Mark Prigg
    Israel's first moon lander has passed its final tests ahead of its historic blastoff on Feb. 18th. SpaceIL's lander - dubbed Beresheet, the Hebrew word for "In the Beginning" - will carry a "digital time capsule" alongside a suite of scientific instruments. If successful, Israel will be the fourth country to carry out a controlled "soft" landing of an unmanned vessel on the moon.
        "Our landing site is located somewhere between the landing sites of Apollo 15 and Apollo 17," said SpaceIL CEO Dr. Ido Anteby. "It's a flat area. But still it has small craters and a lot of boulders."  (Daily Mail-UK)
News Resources - Israel and the Mideast:
  • IDF Team in Brazil Retrieves 35 Bodies at Disaster Site - Amy Spiro
    Maj. Tamir Hazan of the IDF Search and Rescue Brigade, said IDF forces in Brazil working with local teams have helped to recover 35 bodies buried under the mud. They did not locate any survivors, but they did manage to track down a group of 15 people that were believed to have been swallowed up by the mud, but were alive and well at another location.
        Hazan said, "There is no way to locate a body under meters of mud." Instead, they used two main techniques: recreating an aerial picture of the disaster zone, and utilizing the three Oketz search-and-rescue dogs that joined the delegation. "We have to recreate where the restaurant was - so we open Google Maps, and we say OK it was here, we should dig here." Hazan said the IDF's engineering and digging equipment can "do in a minute what a team of 10 people can do in an hour."
        Hazan added that "People on the street are very happy and welcoming - we have gotten a lot of love and appreciation from the locals."  (Jerusalem Post)
        See also Brazil's President Bolsonaro Thanks Israel as IDF Ends Rescue Mission (i24News)
  • U.S. Funding for Palestinian Security Services Ends - Tovah Lazaroff, Khaled Abu Toameh and Michael Wilner
    The U.S. funding and training program for the PA's security services ended at midnight on Thursday, as diplomats and politicians scrambled to find a way to mitigate the impact on West Bank stability. A PA official said Thursday, "I don't believe this will impact the security coordination [with Israel] in the short term, but who knows what will happen in the coming weeks and months."
        PLO secretary-general Saeb Erekat said in Ramallah on Thursday that the halting of U.S. funds will not affect the work of the security forces this year. One congressional aide working on the matter told the Post, "There's a widespread acknowledgment that it is not in anyone's interest to see security cooperation end - it's a question of how to proceed."
        IDF Lt.-Col. (res.) Alon Eviatar, former adviser on Palestinian affairs to the Coordinator of Government Activities in the Territories, said that at first glance, he did not believe the loss of U.S. funding would be that significant. He believed that alternative funding could be found from donor countries, such as Saudi Arabia and Kuwait. The bulk of U.S. funding had gone to training, and day-to-day activities were less likely to be affected, he said. The Palestinian security services will still be able to carry out their essential duties and operate against Hamas in the West Bank. (Jerusalem Post)
        See also Israeli-Palestinian Security Ties Likely to Continue Despite U.S. Aid Freeze (AP-Times of Israel)
Global Commentary and Think-Tank Analysis:


  • Iran Pushing Nuclear Deal's Boundaries - Omer Carmi
    The Iran nuclear deal is a 159-page document with numerous loopholes and technical ambiguities. Iran can be expected to take various steps toward strengthening its leverage. These include emphasizing its need for 20%-enriched uranium to fuel the Tehran Research Reactor; advancing its project to develop nuclear-fueled ships and submarines; taking all permissible steps to restart its nuclear program quickly; and "accidentally" accumulating excess nuclear materials.
        In April 2018, Iran unveiled 83 new nuclear projects during its "National Nuclear Technology Day." By embracing incremental progress, Tehran has cleverly advanced its nuclear program. The writer is director of intelligence at the Israeli cybersecurity firm Sixgill. (Washington Institute for Near East Policy)
  • Iran's Strategy for Control of Syria - Jonathan Spyer
    While Israeli officials have claimed a degree of success in Israel's efforts to contain and roll back Iran's entrenchment in Syria, Iran's influence and strength in Syria continues to deepen and expand. Iran's efforts include the arming and sponsoring of paramilitary formations on Syria soil. Iran has invested heavily in the creation of Basij-style paramilitary structures under its control within the Syrian security forces - such as the National Defense Forces. Evidence is now also emerging that conventional military units of the Syrian Arab Army are also identified closely with the Iranian interest.
        All the evidence points to a deep, long-term Iranian strategic plan to dominate Syria in the period ahead. The intention is to achieve a level of penetration and influence that will make their ambitions invulnerable both to superior Israeli air power and intelligence, and to the opposing project for domination of Syria by Russia. The writer is director of the Middle East Center for Reporting and Analysis. (Jerusalem Post)
  • How the EU Supports the Islamic Republic - Amir Taheri
    The EU's spokesperson for foreign policy, Federica Mogherini, has devoted most of her immense energies operating as a lobbyist for the Islamic Republic of Iran. She has visited more than 30 countries to present the Islamic Republic as the poor little lamb facing the American big bad wolf.
        When, just weeks after leaving office, German Foreign Minister Sigmar Gabriel heads a delegation of European businessmen to Tehran and praises the Islamic Republic as a rock of stability in the Mideast, some in the Khomeinist leadership will see that as an endorsement of Tehran's reckless adventurism.
        For almost two years the EU has fostered the illusion in the Islamic Republic that it can continue doing as it pleases without risking any bad consequence. The EU's special favorable treatment of the Islamic Republic includes keeping mum about over 20 EU citizens currently held as hostages in Tehran. It is also indicated by a mere rap-on-the-wrist response to the Islamic Republic's latest terrorist operations in four European countries.
        In Britain, the Islamic Republic controls at least a dozen tax-exempt "charities," often used for financing violent groups across the globe or simply for money laundering. The writer was the executive editor-in-chief of the daily Kayhan in Iran from 1972 to 1979. (Asharq Al-Awsat-UK)
  • Why Europe Should Pull Out of the Iran Deal Now - Struan Stevenson
    It is time for the EU to pull out of the nuclear deal with the Islamic Republic of Iran. The appeasement policy of the EU has been an abject failure, simply emboldening the mullahs to order assassination attempts against opposition figures in Europe.
        Last October, the U.S. State Department published a 48-page report titled "Outlaw Regime: A Chronicle of Iran's Destructive Activities." In a foreword, Secretary of State Mike Pompeo called the nuclear deal "a failed strategic bet that fell short of protecting the American people or our allies from the potential of an Iranian nuclear weapon."
        The writer is the coordinator of the Campaign for Iran Change, and was a member of the European Parliament representing Scotland (1999-2014). (UPI)

  • Other Issues

  • Slim Prospects for a Complete Economic Recovery in Syria - Dr. Oded Eran
    Given the very high number of casualties and wounded, the three million people displaced inside Syria itself, and the six million refugees who fled from Syria, as well as the scope of the economic damage, the civil war in Syria is among the largest disasters since World War II. In the Aleppo governorate, 320,000 housing units were destroyed or damaged; in the Damascus governorate - 103,000 housing units. In these governates, 2/3 of the water treatment facilities, half of the pumping facilities and a quarter of the sewage treatment facilities were destroyed.
        From Assad's perspective, the fact that six million Syrians fled their country has improved his position, because as a result the number of opponents to his regime from inside Syria has diminished. He is willing to forfeit Western assistance and thereby avoid a political process of national reconciliation, which would entail ending his rule. Israel will not be capable of preventing Iran from establishing an economic base and strategic infrastructure in Syria.
        The reconstruction of Syria will be a long process due to the lack of financial resources for an accelerated process. The writer, a senior research fellow at INSS, served as Israel's ambassador to the EU and Jordan. (Strategic Assessment-Institute for National Security Studies-Tel Aviv University)
  • To Its Detriment, the PA Spurns U.S. Financial Assistance - Josh Block
    The Palestinian Authority announced last week that it will renounce all financial assistance from the United States in protest of a new anti-terror law. The Anti-Terrorism Clarification Act (ATCA), which is set to take effect at the end of January, specifies that if the PA accepts funding from the U.S. government, American courts will have the jurisdiction to hold it accountable for acts of terror against U.S. citizens and pursue the PA for any monetary judgments.
        The PA can be expected to blame everyone but itself for the dire consequences of its decision. It means that the PA has chosen terror over the well-being of its own civilian population. The writer is CEO and president of the Israel Project. (JNS)
  • Amnesty International's Anti-Semitic Campaign Against Jewish Tourism
    On Jan. 30, Amnesty International published "The Tourism Industry and Israeli Settlements," which denies Jewish connections to historical sites - including in the Old City of Jerusalem - and in essence faults Israel for preserving Jewish historical and cultural heritage, as well as places that are holy to Christians. The possibility that Jews would visit holy sites and want to see archaeological remnants of biblical locations for their religious and historical significance is not entertained.
        Indeed, it is unclear how a Jewish individual visiting the Western Wall in the Jewish Quarter of the Old City of Jerusalem would somehow be guilty of human rights violations, or how a tourism website advertising this would also somehow be complicit. (NGO Monitor)
        See also EAPPI: The World Council of Churches' Training Camp for Anti-Israel Advocacy
    The Ecumenical Accompaniment Programme in Palestine and Israel (EAPPI), the World Council of Churches' (WCC) flagship project on the Arab-Israel conflict, has brought 1,800 volunteers to the West Bank to "witness life under occupation." The WCC does not run similar activities in other conflict zones. By singling out Israel, EAPPI embodies anti-Semitism, as defined in the International Holocaust Remembrance Association's working definition.
        When volunteers return home, they engage in anti-Israel advocacy, such as boycott campaigns and comparing Israel to apartheid South Africa and Nazi Germany. EAPPI partners with groups that support BDS campaigns against Israel and/or that accuse Israel of "war crimes."  (NGO Monitor)
  • Ireland's Surprise Attack on Israel - Clifford D. May
    Last week, the lower house of the Irish parliament passed legislation to wage economic warfare against Israel by criminalizing a range of business transactions with Jews in the West Bank, east Jerusalem and the Golan Heights. Obeying the Irish law would likely mean violating existing U.S. federal law that prohibits American firms from participating in foreign boycotts not endorsed by Washington.
        The U.S. in 2017 accounted for 2/3 of all foreign direct investment in Ireland. So, in the end, this law could have more impact on Ireland's economy than on anything happening in the Middle East. Based on such considerations, the executive branch of the Irish government may find a way to shelve the legislation, based on what it will cost Ireland, not because it's perceived as unfair and discriminatory. The writer is president of the Foundation for Defense of Democracies. (Washington Times)

  • Anti-Semitism

  • I Truly Thought that Anti-Semitism Was Over - I Was Wrong - Stephen Pollard
    I grew up almost entirely unaware of anti-Semitism. It was indeed just history to me. Now, I have to block 2,000 people because otherwise my Twitter feed would be an even greater cesspit of anti-Semitism than it is. People openly tell me that I should be in the gas chambers and that my children will not live to adulthood because Hitler's work will be finished. The writer is editor of The Jewish Chronicle. (Sunday Express-UK)
  • The Persistence of Anti-Semitism - Bret Stephens
    In April 2000, Deborah E. Lipstadt, a professor of Jewish history at Emory University, won a verdict against the Holocaust denier David Irving who had brought a defamation suit against her. Lipstadt's new book, Antisemitism: Here and Now, aims to awaken her audience to the nature, persistence and scale of the threat, along with the insidious ways in which it seeks to disguise itself. One guise is anti-Zionism, which pretends that one can malign Israel as a uniquely diabolical and illegitimate state, guilty of Nazi-like atrocities, and still be acquitted of anti-Semitism.
        Still, Lipstadt misses something important by insisting that anti-Semitism "has never made sense and never will." Most Jews can be said to stand for certain ideas and attitudes. A particular concept of morality. A reverence for law founded on the idea of truth. A penchant for asking nettlesome questions. Skepticism toward would-be saviors. A liberal passion for freedom. Anti-Semites tend to have the opposite set of views. (New York Times)

  • Weekend Features

  • Israel's UNESCO World Heritage Sites - Status Report - Rachel Bernstein
    While Israel left the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO) on January 1 over its anti-Israel bias, it remains a cosignatory to the Convention Concerning the Protection of the World Cultural and Natural Heritage of 1972. UNESCO has approved World Heritage status for sites in Israel including Masada, the Old City of Acre, Tel Aviv, the biblical tels of Megiddo, Hatzor and Beersheba, the Incense Route of the Negev's desert cities, the Baha'i Holy Places in Haifa and in the Western Galilee, Nahal Me'arot and Wadi el-Mughara caves, the caves of Maresha and Beit Guvrin in the Judean lowlands, and the necropolis at Beit She'arim.
        Israel still has a long wish list of sites it hopes would gain UNESCO approval. They include the triple-arch gate at Dan, the early synagogues of the Galilee, Lake Kinneret (the Sea of Galilee) and its flanking ancient sites, Khirbat al-Minya, Arbel, Deganya and Nahalal, Beit She'an, Caesarea, the White Mosque in Ramle, the craters in the Negev Desert, Mount Karkom, Timna Valley, Crusader fortresses, the Great Rift Valley including the Hula area, Lifta and Ein Kerem. (Jerusalem Post)
  • Fake Salvadoran Citizenship Papers Saved Thousands of Jews during the Holocaust - David B. Green
    Jose Arturo Castellanos and George Mantello saved thousands of Jews otherwise fated to die in Auschwitz. They met when Castellanos was posted by El Salvador as an army business agent in Europe and Mantello (formerly Mandl) brokered a deal for the Salvadoran to purchase weapons from Czechoslovakia in 1939. Later that year, Mantello, a non-Spanish-speaking, Central European Jew, became the honorary attache of El Salvador in Bucharest.
        Mantello and his immediate family held diplomatic passports, which protected them from the Germans. Encouraged by his friend, Castellanos issued a small number of visas to Jews in occupied countries that enabled them to escape deportation by the Nazis. After Kristallnacht in November 1938, Castellanos requested permission from El Salvador's foreign minister to do this on a larger scale. His request was turned down. Its president, Gen. Maximiliano Martinez, was an anti-Semite and an admirer of Hitler.
        After Mantello moved to Switzerland in 1942, Castellanos - by now the Salvadoran consul general - created a new "official" document: A certificate of Salvadoran citizenship, which they distributed to Jews in a number of countries in Europe. In 1944, after deportations began in Hungary, Mantello succeeded in smuggling 10,000 Salvadoran citizenship documents into Budapest, with the help of the Swiss consular office there. Each one was good for an entire family. (Ha'aretz)
  • Frank Blaichman, Commander of Jewish Partisans during World War II, Dies at 96 - Emily Langer
    Frank Blaichman, a leader of Jewish partisans in Poland during World War II, died Dec. 27 in New York City at 96. The U.S. Holocaust Memorial Museum in Washington counts Blaichman among the 20,000-30,000 Jews who joined partisan groups that fought the Nazis from hideouts in the forests of Eastern Europe. "Frank Blaichman commanded a Jewish partisan platoon," British historian Martin Gilbert wrote in an introduction to Blaichman's memoir, Rather Die Fighting.
        According to the Jewish Partisan Educational Foundation, his group's exploits included dynamiting bridges and rail lines, destroying telephone lines, attacking trains that were carrying Nazi troops and supplies and bombing Nazi headquarters. He was also credited with helping protect 200 Jews living in the forest. (Washington Post)

When the Palestinians Chose Peace over War - Fred Maroun (Times of Israel)
  • We Arabs have so far fought Israel for over 70 years with two openly stated objectives: Either destroy Israel by force, or destroy Israel by transforming it into an Arab state through a "solution" that would see Palestinian so-called refugees join the Jewish state.
  • If we had destroyed Israel, we would have entered history as responsible for another genocide of the Jewish people, not long after the Holocaust. By resisting and defeating the coalitions of Arab armies that attempted to destroy it, Israel prevented us from becoming the second Nazis of history.
  • And if we had succeeded in changing Israel into an Arab state, we would have found ourselves with one more failed Arab state, where democracy is fictional and where torture, muzzling of the press, and political assassinations are not.
  • Instead of this, Israeli Arabs live in a world-class country, with extensive economic opportunities and democratic freedoms. Palestinians living in Judea and Samaria and Gaza could have achieved those benefits too, if they had chosen peace over war.
  • Israel gives its Arab citizens equal rights even though the Arab world violently expelled practically all its Jews. Israel welcomes Arab visitors even though Israelis are banned from most of the Arab world.

    The writer is a Canadian of Arab origin.
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