February 12, 2019

In-Depth Issues:

Ex-Saudi Intelligence Chief Reveals Secret Israel-Saudi Relations (Middle East Monitor-UK)
    Former Saudi intelligence chief Turki Al-Faisal this weekend revealed that secret relations between Israel and a number of Gulf states date back as far as 25 years.
    Al-Faisal was interviewed by Israeli journalist Barak Ravid, and Israeli TV aired only two minutes of the interview, which is to be aired fully as a series.
    In the series, Ravid claims he will reveal information about a "world of economic, political and military relations" between Israel and Saudi Arabia, Bahrain and the UAE.

A Self-Imposed PA Economic Crisis - Shlomi Eldar (Al-Monitor)
    The Knesset passed the "pay-to-slay" law in July 2018, which enables the government to withhold tax money from the Palestinian Authority (PA) as long as it continues to pay stipends to Palestinian assailants in Israeli prisons and to their families.
    After a young Israeli girl was brutally murdered in Jerusalem last week, Prime Minister Netanyahu pledged quick implementation of the law.
    Under no circumstances would public opinion in Israel agree that the family of the Palestinian assailant receive payment from the PA.
    Yet the PA now has announced that it would refuse to accept any money transfers from Israel if the salaries of terrorists are deducted.
    This means a self-imposed economic crisis is right around the corner, intended to bring about the economic collapse of the PA.
    This would, in turn, lead to calls for help to extricate it from the very crisis it brought on itself.

Venezuela's Guaido Says He Is Working to Restore Ties with Israel (Reuters)
    Venezuelan opposition leader Juan Guaido, who many nations have recognized as the country's rightful interim ruler, told Israel Hayom on Tuesday he was working to restore ties with Israel that Caracas cut off a decade ago in solidarity with the Palestinians.

Anti-Semitic Acts Hit France amid Anti-Government Protests - Samuel Petrequin (AP-Washington Post)
    Portraits of a Holocaust survivor tagged with swastikas. A memorial in honor of a Jewish man vandalized. A bagel shop with the German word "Juden" sprayed on its front window.
    These are just a few of the hundreds of anti-Semitic acts that have been committed in France in recent months.
    According to French authorities, the number of anti-Semitic acts rose to 541 in 2018 from 311 in 2017, a rise of 78%.

Ancient Coin from Bar Kochba Revolt Found in Israel - Michael Bachner (Times of Israel)
    An Israeli tour guide last week came across a 1,900-year-old coin from the time of the Bar Kochba revolt in the Lachish region, southwest of Jerusalem, the Israel Nature and Parks Authority said Monday.
    The coin, from 133 or 134 CE, has an image of a palm tree with seven branches and two clusters of grapes above the name "Shimon" - Bar Kochba's first name - in ancient Hebrew.
    Coins of this type were minted during the Bar Kochba revolt, during which Jewish rebels regained some autonomy from Rome.

News Resources - North America, Europe, and Asia:
  • Democratic Leaders Urge Rep. Omar to Apologize for "Anti-Semitic" Tweet - Cristina Marcos
    House Democratic leaders, led by Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.), on Monday accused Rep. Ilhan Omar (D-Minn.) of using "anti-Semitic tropes" and called on her to apologize after she sent tweets suggesting that lawmakers defending Israel were motivated by money. Pelosi's statement was co-signed by Majority Leader Steny Hoyer (D-Md.), Majority Whip James Clyburn (D-SC), Assistant Speaker Ben Ray Lujan (D-NM), Caucus Chairman Hakeem Jeffries (D-NY) and Caucus Vice Chairwoman Katherine Clark (D-Mass.).
        "We are and will always be strong supporters of Israel in Congress because we understand that our support is based on shared values and strategic interests," the House Democratic leadership said. "Legitimate criticism of Israel's policies is protected by the values of free speech and democratic debate that the United States and Israel share. But Congresswoman Omar's use of anti-Semitic tropes and prejudicial accusations about Israel's supporters is deeply offensive. We condemn these remarks."  (The Hill)
        See also Rep. Omar Apologizes for Statements Condemned as Anti-Semitic - Sheryl Gay Stolberg (New York Times)
        See also Hours after Apology, Rep. Omar Retweets Thread Denouncing Pelosi, Pushing Jewish Money Claims - Victor Morton (Washington Times)
  • As Iran Marks Its Anniversary, Economic Woes Cloud Its Future - Sune Engel Rasmussen
    Forty years after Iranians overthrew the Shah, leaders in Tehran face public dissent over the Islamic Revolution's failure to provide better economic conditions for all. After the U.S. imposed new sanctions last year, the International Monetary Fund expects Iran's economy to contract by more than 3% in 2019. Each year, 150,000-180,000 educated Iranians leave the country, according to the IMF, in one of the worst brain drains in the world. (Wall Street Journal)
        See also Crowds Chant "Death to America, Death to Israel" as Iranians Mark Anniversary of Islamic Revolution - Faith Ridler
    Crowds chanted "Death to America, death to Israel" as hundreds of thousands of Iranians gathered at rallies on Monday to mark the 40th anniversary of the Islamic Revolution. Chants of "Death to Britain" followed. Demonstrators were caught on camera burning U.S. and Israeli flags. (Daily Mail-UK)
News Resources - Israel and the Mideast:
  • Israeli Teen's Murderer: "I Wanted to Kill a Jew and Be a Martyr" - Jacob Magid
    Arafat Irfaiya, the Palestinian who brutally murdered Ori Ansbacher, 19, told interrogators, "I entered Israel with a knife because I wanted to become a martyr and murder a Jew. I met the girl by chance," Channel 13 reported Monday. (Times of Israel)
  • Terror Originates from Hate and Incitement - Ben-Dror Yemini
    We have been told that Palestinian terror will not end until Israel removes all cause for the Palestinians to resort to terrorist activity. During the week in which Ori Ansbacher was murdered, 186 people were killed by jihadists elsewhere in the world. 2018 saw 11,769 jihadist killings, and the majority of the victims were Muslims. The main reason for terrorism is incitement and brainwashing in mosques and on social networks.
        Ansbacher was killed because her murderer originates from a community where many sanctify death and hatred. She was killed because the highest religious official in the Palestinian Authority, Sheikh Muhammad Hussein, regularly calls for the murder of Jews. She was killed because the environment that encourages murder is sustained by the PA's monthly salary payments to terrorists.
        Arafat Irfaiya, Ori Ansbacher's murderer, knew that nothing would happen to him and his family following this attack, but that they would actually benefit from it. Even if his house is destroyed, it will be rebuilt within days. (Ynet News)
Global Commentary and Think-Tank Analysis:
  • Ilhan Omar's Tweets Were Appalling. What Happened Next Was Inspiring. - Dana Milbank
    Ilhan Omar, the first-term Democratic representative from Minnesota, did something ugly Sunday, tweeting that wealthy Jewish interests were bribing U.S. lawmakers to sell out America. In addition to being false - the real power backing current Israel policy in the U.S. is evangelical Christianity - this is Protocols-of-the-Elders-of-Zion stuff. What happened next, though, was inspiring. Denunciations rained, not just from Jews and Republicans but from Democrats. On Monday, the Democratic House leadership issued a joint demand for an apology.
        Accusations that pro-Israel Americans are unpatriotic puppet-masters is vile. And though the BDS movement isn't necessarily anti-Semitic, it attracts those who are - and many who favor Israel's elimination. There is nothing wrong with criticizing the Israeli government. There is something very wrong with alleging the corrupting influence of American Jews, and with joining those who seek the Jewish state's destruction. (Washington Post)
  • Why Americans Support Israel - Evan Gottesman
    Rep. Ilhan Omar's comments about lobby money being behind support for Israel in American politics betray a serious misunderstanding about what makes support for Israel such a potent political current in the U.S. Much of Israel's political cachet in American domestic politics comes from the Evangelical Christian community. Their ideological conviction is real and requires no buyout. Moreover, much of American Jewry feels a genuine bond with Israel, independent of any lobby.
        Then there are other aspects of the relationship that are more broadly appealing to Americans. There is the idea that Israel is a democratic outpost of Western civilization on the edge of an untamed wilderness. In the aftermath of the 9/11 attacks, Israel's enemies were recast in the same mold as the Islamic fundamentalist hijackers who brought down the Twin Towers. Israel is also a key American strategic and intelligence partner in the Middle East.
        The truth is that elected leaders don't simply boost Israel to cash in. They do so because it is appealing to constituents of many political stripes. The writer is associate director of policy and communications at the Israel Policy Forum. (Ha'aretz)
  • Hizbullah Is in Venezuela to Stay - Colin P. Clarke
    U.S. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo confirmed in a recent interview that Hizbullah maintains "active cells" in Venezuela and that "Iranians are impacting the people of Venezuela," because Hizbullah is trained, financed, and equipped by Tehran. Margarita Island, located off the coast of Venezuela, is a well-known criminal hotbed where Hizbullah members have established a safe haven. Yet there's reason to doubt that replacing the current Venezuelan regime with Washington's preferred alternative would change the country's relationship with Hizbullah.
        Venezuela's border security and law enforcement officials, amid the country's general desperation, have been largely unwilling to resist bribes and kickback schemes offered by Hizbullah members and their cadres. A government led by opposition leader Juan Guaido would almost certainly be more active in opposing Hizbullah's presence on Venezuelan soil, but there is a major difference between will and capability.
        Venezuela serves as Iran's entry point into Latin America, a foothold the Iranians are unlikely to cede without putting up a fight. Moreover, Hizbullah has deep roots in Venezuela, and completely expelling the group remains unlikely. The writer is a senior fellow at The Soufan Center and an adjunct senior political scientist at Rand Corp. (Foreign Policy)

For the ACLU, Antipathy to Israel Trumps Antidiscrimination - Eugene Kontorovich (Wall Street Journal)
  • The American Civil Liberties Union, which for decades defended the vulnerable against public discrimination, has begun an assault on several antidiscrimination laws in order to bring boycotts of Israel into the political mainstream.
  • The ACLU has long argued that although private parties have the right to refuse to do business with people for ideological reasons, the government need not fund such conduct. "Taxpayer dollars must not fund discrimination" carried out by private parties, the ACLU has stated. It has successfully pushed measures banning the federal government from contracting with companies that engage in certain boycotts.
  • The antiboycott laws the ACLU has defended are meant to protect gays and lesbians. Yet it inexplicably ignores that the logic of those antiboycott laws applies equally to Israel.
  • The ACLU may think that refusing to do business with people because of their sexuality is immoral while refusing to do business with people connected with Israel is a blow for justice. But First Amendment protections are the same regardless of what one thinks of the underlying conduct.
  • The ACLU's enthusiasm for Israel boycotts has led it to take legal positions that threaten to undermine the antidiscrimination norms it has worked for decades to achieve. Now it is prepared to risk legal protections for sexual minorities for the sake of creating a constitutional right to boycott Jews.

    The writer is a professor at George Mason University's School of Law and a director at the Kohelet Policy Forum in Jerusalem.