March 8, 2019

In-Depth Issues:

Egypt Seeks to Consolidate Truce in Gaza - Kifah Ziboun (Asharq Al-Awsat-UK)
    Well-informed Palestinian sources said Egypt was holding intensive talks with Israel and Hamas in order to consolidate the ceasefire agreement in Gaza and move to the next phase.
    "Egypt wants a comprehensive cessation of all forms of escalation, so as to ensure the start of the implementation of the second phase of the previous cease-fire," the sources said.
    An Egyptian security delegation arrived in Gaza on Tuesday, headed by Maj.-Gen. Ahmed Abdel-Khaliq, head of the Palestinian desk in the Egyptian intelligence service.
    According to the sources, "Israel requires Hamas to stop all forms of violence, including incendiary balloons and multiple demonstrations, while Hamas requires the resumption of transfer of funds after it was halted because of differences over the mechanism of transfer."

French Jihadist Who Fought for Islamic State in Syria Jailed for Brussels Jewish Museum Murders (BBC News)
    Mehdi Nemmouche, 33, a French-born jihadist who spent a year fighting in Syria for the Islamic State, has been found guilty of the murder of two Israeli tourists, a volunteer worker and a receptionist at the Jewish Museum in Brussels in May 2014.
    Nacer Bendrer, who helped plan the attack and provided the weapons, was also found guilty of murder.

Arab Foreign Ministers Discuss Preempting Israeli Political Expansion in Africa - Hussein al-Kabani (Anadolu-Turkey)
    The Arab Foreign Ministers Council met in Cairo on Wednesday to discuss a "plan of action" to preempt efforts by Israel to normalize relations with African states.

U.S. Sanctions Are Hurting Hizbullah - Hanin Ghaddar (Washington Institute for Near East Policy)
    Evidence suggests that Hizbullah is facing a serious financial crisis. Its leaders have already implemented harsh new austerity measures, and sources close to the group believe these efforts will become more severe over time.
    Most of the austerity measures have been enacted in the past few months, with Hizbullah attributing them to U.S. sanctions on Iran, the group's principal patron.
    As the fighting subsided in much of Syria over the past three months, Hizbullah has brought many of its personnel home, apart from combat troops and logistics forces stationed in the Damascus area, Deir al-Zour, and south Syria.
    Meanwhile, employees of Hizbullah's media, education, medical, and military systems have complained of deep pay cuts. Fighters and their families are beginning to complain about lost wages as well.
    Employees in its religious institutions have not been paid in three months. The group has also closed around a thousand offices and apartments throughout Lebanon, merged many of its institutions, and frozen all hiring. Its social services budget has decreased as well.
    If a new war breaks out with Israel, Tehran might not be able to send trucks full of cash to Lebanon as it did around the time of the 2006 conflict.
    Tehran is engaged in several expensive endeavors beyond Lebanon, many of which involve Hizbullah personnel. In Syria, their activities are entering a new phase - purchasing large amounts of land, recruiting Sunni men in the south and Deir al-Zour, and establishing social and cultural services to indoctrinate Syrian youths.
    All of these initiatives require budgetary shifts, and Hizbullah leaders seem intent on making cuts in Lebanon (where they believe the Shia community can afford such sacrifices) in order to build roots in Syria.

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Cornell University President Shares "Strong Opposition to BDS" - Shiri Moshe (Algemeiner)
    Cornell University President Martha Pollack responded to a letter by Students for Justice in Palestine which urged the university to divest from companies involved with Israel.
    Pollack expressed her "strong opposition to BDS" which "unfairly singles out one country in the world for sanction when there are many countries around the world whose governments' policies may be viewed as controversial."
    "Moreover, it places all of the responsibility for an extraordinarily complex geopolitical situation on just one country and frequently conflates the policies of the Israeli government with the very right of Israel to exist as a nation, which I find particularly troublesome."

U.S. Army Orders Israeli Helmets for Helicopter Pilots (AIN)
    The U.S. Army awarded Elbit Systems of America, a subsidiary of Israel's Elbit, a five-year contract for its wide field-of-view Common Helmet Mounted Display (CHMD) system.
    The full-color CHMD systems will give Army helicopter pilots enhanced situational awareness in day and night conditions, as well as improving survivability.
    It will be fully integrated into the Elbit Systems Helmet Display and Tracker System used on the U.S. Army's Boeing Chinook and Sikorsky Black Hawk.
    "Our solution supports pilots experiencing crisp, clear, and accurate symbology, which provides critical information during flight and a decisive edge in mission effectiveness," said Raanan Horowitz, president and CEO of Elbit Systems of America.

Increase in Tourism to Israel Reflects Tourists' Sense of Security - Shmuel Even and Sason Hadad (Institute for National Security Studies-Tel Aviv University)
    While global tourism between 2007 and 2018 increased 60%, tourism in Israel in the same period rose 100% - to 4.1 million tourists annually.
    The scale of tourism is a gauge of Israel's attractiveness and the normalization of Israel's relations with various countries.
    The dramatic increase in tourism, despite the security situation and the BDS phenomenon, may attest both to tourists' sense of security in Israel and to the failure of BDS.

Israel's Roboteam to Supply Robots to Italian Military Police - Meir Orbach (CTech-Calcalist)
    Israeli defense robotics company Roboteam announced Wednesday it will supply 40 tactical robotic systems to the Arma dei Carabinieri, Italy's military police force, for $10 million.
    Roboteam's ground robotic systems for law enforcement and military are used to handle suspicious objects and dangerous materials and intelligence collection.
    The company lists the U.S., Israel, the UK, Canada, Thailand, Japan, Korea, and Switzerland among its clients.

Israeli Startups Raised $550 Million in February (Globes)
    Israeli startups raised nearly $550 million during February, after raising $450 million in January.

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News Resources - North America, Europe, and Asia:
  • U.S. House Passes Broad Measure Condemning Hate in Response to Rep. Ilhan Omar's Comments - Mike DeBonis
    Democrats engineered a 407-to-23 House vote broadly condemning hatred on Thursday in an attempt to move past anti-Semitic comments by Rep. Ilhan Omar. The resolution condemned anti-Semitism and discrimination against Muslims in equal measure, and acknowledges "traditionally persecuted peoples, including African Americans, Latinos, Native Americans, Asian Americans and Pacific Islanders and other people of color, Jews, Muslims, Hindus, Sikhs, the LGBTQ community, immigrants, and others." It did not mention Omar or her comments. (Washington Post)
        See also Rep. Ted Deutch: Why Can't House Resolution "Singularly Condemn" Anti-Semitism? - Juliegrace Brufke
    Rep. Ted Deutch (D-Fla.) called on the House on Thursday to pass a resolution that would "singularly condemn" anti-Semitism in the wake of Rep. Ilhan Omar's recent comments. "We are having this debate because of the language of one of our colleagues, language that suggests Jews like me who serve in the United States Congress and whose father earned a purple heart fighting the Nazis in the Battle of the Bulge, that we are not loyal Americans?" said Deutch.
        "Why are we unable to singularly condemn anti-Semitism? Why can't we call it anti-Semitism and show we've learned the lessons of history?... It feels like we're only able to call out the use of anti-Semitic language by a colleague of ours...if we're addressing all forms of hatred. And it feels like we can't say it's anti-Semitism unless everyone agrees that it's anti-Semitism."
        "Jews control the world? Jews care only about money? Jews have dual loyalty and can't be patriotic members of the country in which they live? Words matter. For generations, they have had dangerous consequences for me, for my family and for my people. This shouldn't be so hard."  (The Hill)
        See also Video: Rep. Ted Deutch Speaks in House on Anti-Semitism (YouTube)
        See also Why, as Members of Congress, We Must Call Out Rep. Ilhan Omar's Comments - Reps. Brad Schneider (D-Ill.), Elaine Luria (D-Va.), and Josh Gottheimer (D-N.J.) (CNN)
  • Top U.S. General in Middle East Says Fight Against ISIS "Far from Over" - Ryan Browne
    The fight against ISIS is "far from over," and its remnants are positioning themselves for a potential resurgence, Gen. Joseph Votel, commander of U.S. Central Command, told the House Armed Services Committee on Thursday. He cautioned that many ISIS fighters have dispersed across Syria and Iraq. "We will need to maintain a vigilant offensive against this now widely dispersed and disaggregated organization that includes leaders, fighters, facilitators, resources and of course their toxic ideology," he said.
        "What we are seeing now is not the surrender of ISIS as an organization but a calculated decision to preserve the safety of their families and the preservation of their capabilities by taking their chances in camps for internally displaced persons and going to ground in remote areas and waiting for the right time to resurge....We will see low level attacks, we'll see assassinations, we'll see IED attacks, we'll see ambush type things as they begin to emerge from this."  (CNN)
        See also As the Caliphate Crumbles, Islamic State Is Seeding a New Insurgency - Louisa Loveluck (Washington Post)
        See also below Commentary: The Fall of the Caliphate - Jonathan Spyer (Jerusalem Post)
News Resources - Israel and the Mideast:
  • Senior Israeli Delegation Visits Jordan over Temple Mount Crisis - Amos Harel
    A delegation of senior Israeli officials visited Jordan Thursday in an attempt to reach a solution over a disputed prayer site on Jerusalem's Temple Mount. Meanwhile, the Waqf has called on Muslim worshipers to hold protest prayers at the gates of the compound on Friday. (Ha'aretz)
  • Israeli Spacecraft Completes Another Successful Maneuver Heading to the Moon
    Beresheet, the first Israeli spacecraft, currently on course to the Moon, completed another successful maneuver on Thursday. "During the maneuver, Beresheet's main engine was activated for 152 seconds. The next maneuver is planned in another two weeks," SpaceIL and Israel Aerospace Industries engineers said. (Jerusalem Post)
  • Israel Increases Work Permits for Jordanians in Eilat - Tovah Lazaroff
    Israel agreed on Thursday to increase the number of Jordanian day workers who can be employed at hotels in Eilat by 500, joining 1,500 Jordanians currently employed. (Jerusalem Post)
Global Commentary and Think-Tank Analysis:

    U.S. Rep. Ilhan Omar and Anti-Semitism

  • Ilhan Omar's Dual Loyalty Charge Was about More than Anti-Semitism - Gregory J. Wallance
    The fundamental fallacy of Rep. Ilhan Omar's comment is that national loyalty is a zero-sum game. The more loyal you are to Israel, in her view, the less loyal you must be to the United States. In fact, in my experience, American Jews are both loyal American citizens and strongly supportive of and emotionally loyal to Israel (even when criticizing it). There is no contradiction.
        Omar needs a crash course, not just in anti-Semitism, but in how the accusation of dual loyalties has been leveled throughout history with catastrophic consequences against minorities of all kinds, including Christians, Buddhists, and Muslims.
        Alleged dual loyalty was the justification used by the Ottoman Empire to launch a genocide against its Christian Armenian population during World War I, which killed a million men, women and children. During World War II, America interned Japanese-Americans, the majority of whom were Buddhists, whom the FBI and the War Relocation Authority claimed were likely to be more loyal to Japan than their own country.
        The writer was a federal prosecutor during the Carter and Reagan administrations. He is the author of America's Soul in the Balance: The Holocaust, FDR's State Department and the Moral Disgrace of an American Aristocracy. (The Hill)
  • Ilhan Omar Knows Exactly What She Is Doing - Bret Stephens
    Rep. Ilhan Omar does not like Israel. That's a shame, not least because Israel is the only country in its region that embraces the sorts of values the Democratic Party claims to champion. When was the last time there was a gay-pride parade in Ramallah, a women's rights march in Gaza, or an opposition press in Tehran?
        America is a free country, and Omar is within her rights to think what she will about Israel or any other state. There's rarely a social or reputational penalty for publicly criticizing Israeli policies today. It's ubiquitous on college campuses and commonplace in editorial pages. Omar, however, isn't just a critic of Israel.
        For those who don't get it, claims that Israel "hypnotizes" the world, or that it uses money to bend others to its will, or that its American supporters "push for allegiance to a foreign country," repackage falsehoods commonly used against Jews for centuries. Those who support Israel should not have to face allegations that their sympathies have been purchased, or their brains hijacked, or their loyalties divided.
        As the criticism of Omar mounts, it becomes that much easier for her to seem like the victim of a smear campaign, rather than the instigator of a smear. The secret of anti-Semitism has always rested, in part, on creating the perception that the anti-Semite is, in fact, the victim of the Jews and their allies. (New York Times)
  • Ilhan Omar Is Getting Off the Hook - Max Boot
    No one ever accuses supporters of the U.S.-Britain "special relationship" of owing allegiance to a foreign country. Nor do supporters of the U.S. alliances with Canada, Japan, Germany, Saudi Arabia, Jordan, Poland or any other country face such accusations. Only supporters of Israel. This is an old and ugly anti-Semitic canard. It should be a no-brainer for Democrats to condemn what Omar said.
        Omar's defenders suggest that to criticize her is to "stifle" debate and to equate any criticism of Israel with anti-Semitism. Wrong. It's perfectly legitimate to criticize Israel. I do it myself: But Omar wasn't criticizing Israeli policies. She was criticizing Israel's supporters by suggesting that they are not loyal Americans. That's textbook anti-Semitism. (Washington Post)
  • Making Jews Choose: Our Progressive Values or Ourselves - Batya Ungar-Sargon
    In the past three weeks, Congresswoman Ilhan Omar attempted to discuss the U.S.-Israel relationship three times. And each time, her words descended into anti-Semitic tropes. Instead of expressing support for American Jews, the progressive left started a hashtag on Twitter: #IStandWithIlhan. But a more disturbing rationale emerged among some of Omar's supporters: a kind of resentment towards Jews over the fact that House Democrats would come to our defense.
        Congresswoman Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez suggested that Jews "call in" Omar instead of calling her out, apparently unaware that Omar's Jewish constituents have been unsuccessfully trying to do just that for a year now, thanks to yet another anti-Semitic tweet from 2012 accusing Israel of "hypnotizing the world."
        When Jews hear racist stereotypes, the onus is on us to not go "nuclear" and to stay silent, to reach out to the offender privately (again and again and again) and if that doesn't work, to never, ever involve the authorities.
        Are Jews supposed to stay in a progressive movement that resents us for standing up for ourselves? That has leaders who are "hurt" when they see Congress defend us? A movement that is lionizing a woman for the fact that she has offended us?
        America - and its progressive wing - will surely be worse off if Jews can no longer find a political home there, and it's for the soul of this country that we are fighting as much as for ourselves. (Forward)
  • Ilhan Omar Is Hurting the Palestinian Cause - Hussein Ibish
    Palestinians will not benefit from the controversy resulting from Rep. Ilhan Omar's repeated use of familiar anti-Semitic themes. If Ms. Omar wants to support Palestinians, there's no end to the urgent tasks she could champion as Palestinians are enduring a crisis in relations with the U.S.
        Omar's rhetoric is a disaster that reinforces divisive stereotypes about supposed Muslim hostility to Jews. As someone who has spent more than 20 years in Washington working on Arab and Muslim-American problems and championing the Palestinian cause, I implore Omar to learn more about the issues at stake. In the meantime, I have one thing to say to her: Please, just stop it! The writer is a senior resident scholar at the Arab Gulf States Institute in Washington. (Bloomberg)

  • Other Issues

  • The Fall of the Caliphate - Jonathan Spyer
    The Islamic State proclaimed in Mosul on June 29, 2014, is about to cease to exist. The demise of the caliphate does not mean the end of the organization that established it. We are likely to be hearing again from the nucleus of Iraqi Sunni jihadists who launched this enterprise. ISIS still has 30,000 fighters available to it and does not lack for funds.
        Moreover, for all its terrible cruelties, Islamic State was only a manifestation of a larger crisis still under way across Iraq, Syria and Lebanon. This crisis is ultimately one of state fragmentation, and sectarian war of succession. Both Iraq and Syria are fractious and divided.
        The Assad regime rules over only 60% of Syria, while Iran and Russia have the final say on key issues. The Turks and their Sunni Islamist allies control 10%. The Kurds and their Western backers control an additional 30%. In each of these areas, a slow-burning insurgency is growing, supported by one of the other players. The writer is director of the Middle East Center for Reporting and Analysis. (Jerusalem Post)
  • Palestinians: No Peace or Reconciliation with the "Infidels" - Khaled Abu Toameh
    The possibility of some Arab countries normalizing their relations with Israel has prompted the Palestinians to wage a campaign titled: "Normalization is a Crime," aimed at pressuring Arab leaders to refrain from such moves. The Palestinians are convinced that the U.S. is continuing with its efforts to persuade some Arab states to establish normal ties with Israel before solving the Israeli-Palestinian conflict.
        As part of their effort to thwart the prospective U.S. peace plan, and to prevent Arabs from establishing normal relations with Israel, the Gaza-based Palestinian Scholars' Association issued yet another fatwa (Islamic religious opinion) on March 3 warning against any form of normalization with the "Zionist entity."
        It serves as a reminder that even if some Arabs do sign peace treaties with Israel, there will always be those Muslims who will denounce them as "traitors" and accuse them of acting against Islam. In light of this threat, it is hard to see how Abbas or any Palestinian leader would be able to agree to any form of reconciliation and normalization with the "Zionist enemy." Abbas is acutely aware that Muslims will condemn him - and perhaps issue a fatwa calling for his death - if he ever dares to make peace with the Jews. (Gatestone Institute)
  • California Campuses Take Lead Against Israel Boycott - Thomas Elias
    In California, speeches by Israelis are regularly disrupted or shut down. Jewish students have been stopped at mock military checkpoints set up by Palestinian students and their allies. And student government representatives have been subjected to intimidation.
        But backlash is coming. President Melvin Oliver of Pitzer College in Claremont vetoed a faculty vote to end an exchange program with Haifa University, saying it is plain wrong, discriminatory and inconsistent to boycott Israel so long as Pitzer, along with many other American colleges, "promotes exchanges and study abroad in countries with significant human rights abuses." "China, for example, has killed, tortured and imprisoned up to 1 million people in Tibet and utterly obliterated the Tibetan nation. China currently has 1 million Muslims imprisoned in 're-education' camps. Why would we not suspend our program with China?"
        As Oliver implied, Israel is singled out among all nations for student and faculty protests because it is primarily a Jewish state. And one definition of anti-Semitism is singling out Jews or Israel to be punished for supposed but unproven actions that have been documented on a much larger or much more brutal scale in many other countries.
        No college faculty, for example, has even considered voting to boycott Saudi Arabia for its state-sanctioned assassination and dismemberment of journalist Jamal Khashoggi. But Israel is excoriated for defensive acts. (California Focus)
  • The Creators of Belgium's Anti-Semitic Carnival Float Are Not Sorry - Cnaan Liphshiz
    I initially had some sympathy for the creators of an anti-Semitic carnival float in Belgium. Some 20 upstanding citizens - a fireman, a technician, an Education Ministry official and a police department employee, to name a few - had invested countless unpaid hours to produce something they thought was beautiful but ended up horrifying viewers all over the world.
        I called up the lyricist behind the float's song about "bulging coffers" and "Jews getting extra fat." Pascal Soleme, 52, who works for the Aalst Police Department, said he thought the float was funny and cited the support of his mayor. Mayor Christoph D'Haese even told the group that his office would cover any fine imposed by the authorities, Selome said. (JTA)
  • Israel Concerned by Rise in Anti-Semitic Attacks in Germany
    Israeli Ambassador to Germany Jeremy Issacharoff told Deutsche Welle he was "very concerned" about the rising number of attacks on Jewish people in Germany. Government figures showed violent crimes motivated by hatred against Jews rose to 62 in 2018 from 37 in 2017. Issacharoff said: "When we see acts of anti-Semitism, words of anti-Semitism, anti-Semitic words that translate into violence, of course we are concerned we are looking back to a much more horrific past."  (Deutsche Welle-Germany)

  • Weekend Features

  • Book Review - Ben Hecht: From Successful Screenwriter to Jewish Activist - Robert Low
    In her lively and readable biography, Ben Hecht: Fighting Words, Moving Pictures, the latest in Yale's excellent Jewish Lives series, Adina Hoffman charts Hecht's progress from America's most successful screenwriter to Jewish activist. Beginning in Chicago, he wrote a daily newspaper column, short stories, novels, plays, and launched his own magazine. Ending up in Hollywood, his first screenplay, "Underworld," won Hecht his first Academy Award for original story in 1929. After that, he never stopped churning out screenplays.
        Hoffman writes that in his World War II work on behalf of the doomed Jews of Europe, "Ben Hecht had at last found a cause worthy of his formidable fury." He was one of the first public figures to grasp the full horror of the Holocaust, thereafter campaigning tirelessly for the U.S. to intervene. He lobbied, raised money, wrote speeches and scripts, and organized a celebrity-packed "mass memorial" show called "We Will Never Die," which opened to a packed Madison Square Garden and then toured the country. After the war he campaigned just as vigorously for a Jewish state in Palestine, raising hundreds of thousands of dollars for the cause. (Standpoint-UK)
  • Yad Vashem Exhibit Details Death March of 1,300 Jewish Women in January 1945
    To mark Women's History Month, the Yad Vashem Holocaust memorial and museum in Jerusalem is featuring an online exhibit titled "The Death March to Volary," depicting the fate of Jewish women forced on a death march in the winter of 1945. Of the 1,000-plus prisoners sent on the march, some 350 survived. (JNS)
        See also The Death March to Volary
    On January 20, 1945, 1,000 female Jewish prisoners were evacuated from the Schlesiersee (today Slawa) camp in Upper Silesia, western Poland. They were forced on a death march in a southwesterly direction. On the way, the prisoners passed through other camps, and more women were added to the march.
        On May 5, 1945, after over 800 km., the march ended in the town of Volary in Czechoslovakia. 106 days of rigorous marching through snow. 106 days of gnawing hunger and sickness, humiliation and murder.
        The exhibition is based on testimonies of survivors and U.S. Army veterans, and documentation from the trial of death march commander Alois Dorr.
        Liberating U.S. serviceman and Jewish medical officer Maj. Aaron S. Cahan testified: "My first glance at these individuals was one of extreme shock, not ever believing that a human being can be degraded, can be starved, can be so skinny and even live under such circumstances.... When I entered the room I thought that we had a group of old men lying...at that time judged their ages ranged between 50 and 60 years. I was surprised and shocked when I asked one of these girls how old she was and she said 17, when to me she appeared to be no less than 50."  (Yad Vashem)

  • Like some malignant virus, anti-Semitism, or, to speak more plainly, Jew-hatred, never dies. It always lies dormant, ready to wake.
  • In the wake of the Holocaust, the deliberate killing of Jewish, non-Israeli civilians is usually condemned across the political spectrum (butcheries of Israeli civilians being often excused as an understandable expression of Palestinian frustration). But those are easy sentiments, because it costs nothing to sympathize with dead Jews as opposed to standing up for live ones.
  • In the United States, anti-Semitism has taken many forms - whether it is nominally respectable professors insisting that a vast Israel Lobby controls American foreign policy, or clueless congressional representatives accusing American Jews of dual loyalties, or others speculating about diabolical financiers dominating the 2018 midterms. In each case, the unique feature of this kind of Jew-hatred is the wild, aggrieved indignation that results when it is called out or rebuked.
  • The essence of anti-Semitism is a confession of weakness and fear, a belief in occult forces that explain why you or your group has failed in some way. Anti-Semitism is, in short, the religion of people too lazy to accept the complexity of reality, who hunger for enemies whose power excuses their own deficiencies, and who cannot take responsibility for why their side has not won. It is a creed for losers.
  • For some period of time after the Holocaust, open Jew-hatred went into retreat. That has changed. In the form of Israel-hatred - to include a denial of that state's right to exist, a complete disregard of the threats it has faced, and simple lies about what it has done - it is now acceptable in many places.
  • In 2017, the FBI recorded more than three times as many anti-Jewish as anti-Muslim religious hate incidents, or almost 60% of the total. What is particularly scary now is that Jew-hatred seems to bring with it no real penalties.
  • In the end, this is less of a problem for the Jews than for everybody else. The Jews are used to their enemies, and against all odds have survived them. So it will be now as well. But the resurgent anti-Semitism tells us that our societies are more troubled than we think.

    The writer is Professor of Strategic Studies at Johns Hopkins University.
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