February 19, 2019

In-Depth Issues:

ISIS Fighters in Syria Flee into Iraq with Millions of Dollars - Barbara Starr (CNN)
    More than 1,000 ISIS fighters have likely fled from Syria into western Iraq in the past six months and they may have up to $200 million in cash with them, according to a U.S. military official.
    Earlier this month, Gen. Joseph Votel, in charge of U.S. military operations in the Middle East, estimated there were 20,000 to 30,000 ISIS fighters remaining.

Britain and Israel Sign Trade Continuity Agreement for after Brexit - Daniel Sugarman (Jewish Chronicle-UK)
    The UK and Israel signed a trade continuity agreement in Jerusalem on Monday that will take effect after Brexit.
    The Department for International Trade said the move would "deliver significant savings and help to safeguard British jobs."

Palestinians Reject Participation in Israel-Arab Railway (i24News)
    Palestinian Civil Affairs Minister Hussein al-Sheikh on Friday rejected an Israeli offer to establish a railway link between Israel and several Arab states that would go through the West Bank.
    "Israel offered us the chance to participate in a railway scheme linking Haifa to Jenin (in the West Bank) to a number of Arab capitals," he said. "But we rejected the offer. We won't normalize relations with Israel."
    The plan, called "Tracks for Peace," would see Israel build a rail link between the port of Haifa and Amman, Jordan, which would then extend to Saudi Arabia and the Gulf.

University of Cologne Students Condemn BDS as Anti-Semitic - Benjamin Weinthal (Jerusalem Post)
    The student parliament at the University of Cologne in Germany passed a resolution in October against the BDS campaign targeting Israel because BDS is an anti-Semitic movement that seeks to abolish the Jewish state.
    Students at the University of Vienna in Austria, Goethe University in Frankfurt, Leipzig University, and Johannes Gutenberg University in Mainz all have rejected BDS.

Israeli Cyber-Hotline Offers Help for the Hacked - Dan Williams (Reuters)
    Israel has launched a cyber hotline, staffed mostly by veterans of military computing units, to enable businesses and private individuals to report suspected hacking and receive real-time solutions.
    The 119 call-in number to the Computer Emergency Response Center (CERT) is billed by Israel and cyber experts as a world first.
    "Our job is to mitigate the damage as quickly as possible, to learn about the threats and to spread the knowledge where relevant," said CERT director Lavy Shtokhamer.
    Since its launch three weeks ago, the hotline has received around 100 calls daily, Shtokhamer said. Most complainants have been victims of cyber-criminals rather than nation-states.
    Some 15% have been so-called "white hackers," sleuths who find vulnerabilities in corporate or government systems and want them plugged before they can be hit.

News Resources - North America, Europe, and Asia:
  • Israel Hosts East European Leaders after Summit Scrapped
    Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu met in Jerusalem on Tuesday with Slovakian Prime Minister Peter Pellegrini, Czech Prime Minister Andrej Babis, and Hungarian Prime Minister Viktor Orban. A planned summit of the Visegrad group unraveled after Poland withdrew to protest Israeli leaders' comments about the complicity of Poles in the Holocaust. (AP)
        See also below Observations - Knesset Speaker Edelstein: We Have a Right to Say What Really Happened in Poland - Lahav Harkov (Jerusalem Post)
  • Seven MPs Leave Labour Party in Protest of Anti-Semitism
    Seven MPs have resigned from the Labour Party in protest at Jeremy Corbyn's approach to anti-Semitism and Brexit. They are Chuka Umunna, Luciana Berger, Chris Leslie, Angela Smith, Mike Gapes, Gavin Shuker and Ann Coffey. Berger said Labour had become institutionally anti-Semitic and she was "embarrassed and ashamed" to stay. "I am leaving behind a culture of bullying, bigotry and intimidation," she said. Gapes said he was "sickened that Labour is now perceived by many as a racist, anti-Semitic party."  (BBC News)
        See also below Commentary: A Labour Revolt Against Corbyn - Editorial (Wall Street Journal)
News Resources - Israel and the Mideast:
  • Waqf Demand Leads to New Tensions on Jerusalem's Temple Mount - Elior Levy and Yishai Porat
    In recent days, the Muslim Waqf on the Temple Mount in Jerusalem has been trying to reopen a small compound in the eastern part of the Mount called Bab a-Rahema, which has been closed in recent years because the banned Islamic Movement used it as a meeting place. On Monday, the Waqf held prayers in the area, violating the court-ordered closure of the site.
        The Palestinian Authority, Hamas and Jordan have joined in condemnations of Israel in order to open the compound. Mahmoud al-Habash, a senior advisor to Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas, warned that the closure of the compound is a declaration of war on Islam. (Ynet News)
        See also Israel Reopens Compound on Temple Mount after Arab Riots
    Israeli security forces on Tuesday reopened a gate leading to a building inside the Temple Mount compound called the House of Mercy which had been used as a base by a terrorist organization. Palestinians claimed that Israel was trying to block off an area on the Temple Mount for Jewish prayer and called for popular protests. (i24News)
  • Jordanian-Palestinian Collaboration Against the "Deal of the Century" - Yoni Ben Menachem
    According to senior figures in the Fatah movement, the Palestinian Authority and Jordan have begun cooperation in anticipation of the new U.S. peace plan known as the "Deal of the Century." On Feb. 14, the Jordanian government approved the expansion of the Council of the Islamic Wakf and the Holy Places in Jerusalem from 11 to 18 members.
        For the first time, the council - which was manned by pro-Jordanian figures - will include senior figures connected to the PA and Fatah. Senior elements in Fatah call Jordan's agreement a "historic change" aimed at enabling joint control of the Mount. Jordan has special status on the Mount, and the 1994 peace treaty with Israel makes it the custodian of the Jerusalem holy places.
        According to senior Fatah sources, the Jordanians and Palestinians fear that Trump's plan seeks to transfer responsibility for the Holy Basin in east Jerusalem, including the Temple Mount, to joint Arab administration and give Saudi Arabia a special status at the Al-Aqsa Mosque. The expansion of the Wakf council was aimed to scuttle the move and establish facts on the ground. (Jerusalem Center for Public Affairs)
Global Commentary and Think-Tank Analysis:
  • A Labour Revolt Against Corbyn - Editorial
    Seven members of the Labour opposition resigned from the party in protest over leader Jeremy Corbyn's tolerance for anti-Semitism. All seven have held senior party positions and hail from the centrist wing in charge during the Tony Blair era. All seven cited the excuse-making of Corbyn and his allies regarding abuse of Jewish members, spread of anti-Jewish tropes, and sympathy for anti-Israel terrorists.
        The number of such cases referred to the party for disciplinary proceedings has skyrocketed under Corbyn, yet last summer he resisted formalizing an internationally accepted definition of anti-Semitism in party rules. The willingness of the rebels to leave raises questions about why so many others are still working for Corbyn. The Labour rebels have performed a public service by doing what too many other politicians won't. (Wall Street Journal)
  • How Israel Sees Eastern Europe - Zev Chafets
    Many Europeans wonder how Israel can make common cause with the nationalist leaders of Hungary, Poland, the Czech Republic and Slovakia - the Visegrad nations. Given Israel's precarious history, it is a highly pragmatic country.
        Looking the other way has been the practice of every prime minister. Golda Meir formed a partnership with Richard Nixon, despite his well-known distrust of Jews. Menachem Begin dealt with UN General Secretary Kurt Waldheim, a former Nazi officer, and French President Francois Mitterrand, who had been an official in the Vichy collaborationist government in World War II France.
        In recent times, Israel has found itself increasingly challenged by the diplomacy of the EU. The Visegrad nations do not share EU concerns about Israeli policy, however. Netanyahu's embrace of the Visegrad also reflects growing frustration with their Western EU partners. European anti-Semitism is at a level not seen since World War II. Chancellor Merkel's open-door policy was an act of humanitarian charity. But she and her colleagues failed to consider the possible consequences of bringing in a wave of newcomers from societies where anti-Semitism is the norm.
        Many Europeans are reluctant to make a causal connection between the rise of anti-Semitism and the mass Muslim immigration. But all 14 hate-crime related murders of Jews in Western Europe since 2012 were carried out by Muslims. It is true that there is still plenty of anti-Semitism in Eastern Europe too. But as long as their governments do not countenance pogroms, do not work actively on behalf of Israel's enemies, and support Israeli policy, the leaders of Visegrad will be welcomed in Jerusalem. The writer served for five years as director of the Israel Government Press Office. (Bloomberg)

  • Poland cannot deny that some Poles collaborated with the Nazis, Knesset Speaker Yuli Edelstein told the Jerusalem Post on Monday.
  • "We don't have to collectively blame all the Poles or forget those who acted differently, but we have the right to remember the facts of history and remind everyone what really happened. I definitely regret" that the Visegrad summit was canceled, Edelstein said, "but having said that, we are not trading in history, definitely not that of the Holocaust."
  • Edelstein said the latest incident reminded him of his personal experience visiting Poland as Knesset Speaker. He recounted, "I was trying to be very diplomatic and say something in the vein of 'we will never forget courageous Poles saving Jewish lives, and we will never forgive Poles collaborating with the Nazis,' and everyone was taken aback. As far as my hosts were concerned, we only had to talk about Righteous Among the Nations," meaning those who saved Jews. "It doesn't work that way. Reality was harsh," Edelstein added.
  • Edelstein recalled that in the Knesset's annual Holocaust Remembrance Day ceremony, when MKs read names of their relatives who perished in the Holocaust, former Prime Minister Yitzhak Shamir would say at the end of his list, which included his parents, that they were "all murdered by their Polish neighbors."
    See also A Timely Reminder of Poland's Relationship with the Past - Gideon Taylor and Colette Avital (Jerusalem Post)
  • More than 75 years since the Holocaust, Poland has still not provided justice to survivors and their families whose property was taken during the Shoah and its aftermath. Last week, U.S. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo said in Warsaw: "I urge my Polish colleagues to move forward with comprehensive private property restitution legislation for those who lost property during the Holocaust era."
  • Poland is the only country in the EU that has not passed comprehensive national legislation to return, or provide compensation for, private property confiscated by the Nazis.
  • For many years, the World Jewish Restitution Organization (WJRO) has urged the Polish government to address the issue of Holocaust-era restitution.

    Gideon Taylor is WJRO chairman of operations and Ambassador Colette Avital is WJRO secretary-general.