March 12, 2019

In-Depth Issues:

Israeli-Palestinian Conflict a Low Priority for Americans - Grace Sparks (CNN)
    Polling shows the Israeli-Palestinian conflict is barely registering as a top foreign policy concern for most Americans.
    Only 17% of Americans said that finding a solution to the conflict was a top foreign policy priority in a November 2018 Pew Research survey - the lowest number since Pew started asking the question in 1993.
    In 2011, the last time the question was asked, 23% of Americans rated it as a top priority, while in January 2003 [during the Second Intifada], 38% called it a top priority.
    72% of Americans said the top foreign policy priority should be to protect the U.S. from terrorism.
    The next two were protecting jobs of American workers (71%) and preventing the spread of weapons of mass destruction (66%).

UN Investigating North Korean Arms Dealers in Iran - Dan De Luce (NBC News)
    The UN is investigating two North Korean missile and arms companies suspected of operating in Iran in possible violation of international sanctions, according to a report by a UN panel of experts.
    The presidents of top North Korean regime arms firms, KOMID, which exports equipment for ballistic missiles, and Green Pine, which sells conventional arms, recently traveled to Iran.
    The two North Korean arms firms - both blacklisted by the UN - are "extremely active in Iran now," said Hugh Griffiths, coordinator of the UN panel assessing sanctions on North Korea.

Videos Show Violent Assaults on Iranian Women over Dress Code (Radio Free Europe-Radio Liberty)
    Videos shared on social media recently have demonstrated "shocking levels of abuse" that women in Iran face from morality police and pro-government "thugs" seeking to enforce the country's strict dress code, Amnesty International said on March 12.
    Women in Iran were "routinely stopped in the street at random by morality police." They are also physically assaulted, including by being "slapped in the face, beaten with batons, handcuffed, and bundled into police vans."

Nvidia Buys Israel's Mellanox for $6.8 Billion - Sayanti Chakraborty (Reuters)
    U.S. chipmaker Nvidia Corp. said on Monday it will buy Israeli chip designer Mellanox Technologies Ltd. for $6.8 billion.
    Mellanox, based in Israel and the U.S., makes chips and other hardware for data center servers that power cloud computing.

Columbia U College Votes Down BDS Referendum (Columbia Spectator)
    The Columbia College Student Council voted 20-17 on Sunday to reject a referendum to gauge student support for the anti-Israel boycott, divestment and sanctions movement.

News Resources - North America, Europe, and Asia:
  • Sen. Graham to Push for U.S. to Recognize Golan Heights as Part of Israel - Rafael Bernal
    Sen. Lindsey Graham (R-S.C.) told Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu he will push for the U.S. to formally recognize the Golan Heights as part of Israel, as they toured the Golan Heights on Monday. Israel annexed the area in 1981, but that failed to get international recognition. The Golan Heights is a key strategic position in northern Israel, bordering Syria and Lebanon, that Israel sees as crucial to any defense efforts against potential incursions from its neighbors. (The Hill)
        See also PM Netanyahu and U.S. Senator Graham Tour the Golan Heights (Prime Minister's Office)
        See also Video: Recognizing Israeli Sovereignty on the Golan Heights - Amb. Dore Gold
    Testimony before the U.S. House Subcommittee on National Security in Washington on July 17, 2018. (Jerusalem Center for Public Affairs)
  • Ongoing Protests in Jordan Threaten to Destabilize the Regime - Z. Harel
    The public unrest in Jordan is not dying down, and the frequent protests are threatening to destabilize the country. Several main forces have been active in the protests in Jordan in recent months. In mid-February jobless young people took to the streets, first in Aqaba and then across the country, to march towards the Royal Court offices in Amman in protest, where they staged a sit-down strike.
        In addition, for several months now, popular protest movements have been holding a regular Thursday demonstration across from the prime minister's office in Amman, demanding comprehensive political and economic reform. On several occasions, the demonstrators have shouted slogans against the king.
        A protest movement identified with Jordan's largest tribe, the Bani Hassan tribe, part of the regime's traditional support base, recently posted on social media a harsh statement against the king, the queen and their associates. Other tribes expressed support for this statement, including the Bani 'Abbad and Bani Hamida tribes. Former regime officials and military officers, many of them tribe members, have likewise been expressing displeasure with the conduct of the regime. And the Muslim Brotherhood, the main opposition group in Jordan, has been exploiting the protests. (MEMRI)
News Resources - Israel and the Mideast:
  • Two Israelis Killed in Ethiopia Plane Crash - Elisha Ben Kimon
    Two Israelis were killed in an Ethiopian Airlines plane crash on Sunday near Addis Ababa. One of them was identified Monday as Avraham Matzliah, 49, a high-tech businessman from Maale Adumim, near Jerusalem. (Ynet News)
  • PA TV Teaches the End of Israel - Itamar Marcus and Nan Jacques Zilberdik
    The PA continues to teach children that Israel will come to an end. On Feb. 21, 2019, the host on official PA TV showed a drawing of a map of "Palestine" which included all of Israel and stated that "all of Palestine will return to us." On March 6, 2019, PA Minister of Education Sabri Saidam appeared on official PA TV holding a map of "Palestine" that included all of Israel. (Palestinian Media Watch)
Global Commentary and Think-Tank Analysis:
  • Is the U.S. Sabotaging Iran's Missile and Space Programs? - Dr. Farhad Rezaei
    Iran's rapid development of missile expertise has raised concerns in the U.S. and among its allies. In negotiations over the nuclear deal, Washington softened the language of UNSC Resolution 1929 (2010), which stipulated that "Iran shall not undertake any activity related to ballistic missiles capable of delivering nuclear weapons." Resolution 2231, which passed on July 20, 2015, used more permissive language: "Iran is called upon not to undertake any activity related to ballistic missiles designed to be capable of delivering nuclear weapons."
        With the legal loophole created, the Iranians set about putting more effort into their ballistic missile program. On Jan. 14, 2019, Iran launched a Simorgh (Phoenix) missile carrying a satellite, which failed to enter orbit. On Feb. 5, the Revolutionary Guards launched a second satellite. However, satellite images released by DigitalGlobe and Planet, which specialize in space imaging, suggest that this attempt also failed.
        Iran's military and political officials attributed the two failures to a secret Washington program to sabotage Iran's missile and space programs. Brig.-Gen. Amir Ali Hajizadeh, commander of the Revolutionary Guards' aerospace program, accused U.S. and Israeli intelligence agencies of engaging in campaigns of "infiltration and sabotage" of Iran's missile complex. On Feb. 13, the New York Times revealed that the U.S. has accelerated a secret project to subvert Iran's missile and space program, a plan described as "a far-reaching effort to slip faulty parts and materials into Iran's aerospace supply chains."
        The writer is a member of the Association for the Study of the Middle East and Africa (ASMEA) in Washington. (BESA Center for Strategic Studies-Bar-Ilan University)
  • Anti-Boycott Laws Are Not "Loyalty Oaths to Israel" - David E. Bernstein
    Various states have passed legislation that bans their state governments from contracting with businesses that refuse to do business with Israeli-affiliated institutions and individuals. The ACLU has launched both a litigation and public relations campaign against the laws. There's nothing inherently wrong with that, but there is something wrong with the ACLU publicly arguing that contractors are being forced to sign a "loyalty oath" to Israel.
        ACLU political director Faiz Shakir said: "a state is going to say that we're not going to do business with an American citizen because they refuse to take a loyalty oath." The ACLU blog reprinted an article stating that the law requires "a loyalty oath to the state of Israel." An ACLU legal brief stated: "There is no plausible justification for...the loyalty oath." This is complete nonsense.
        Contractors certifying that their businesses don't boycott Israel-related entities is no more a "loyalty oath" to Israel than certifying that they don't refuse to deal with black or gay or women-owned business or nonunion businesses is a "loyalty oath" to blacks, gays, women, or unions.
        By falsely spreading the meme that no-boycott certifications amount to not just loyalty oaths, but loyalty oaths to a foreign government, the ACLU has spread the canard that pro-Israel organizations want to use the force of the state to require everyone to be "loyal" to Israel.
        The writer is a professor at the George Mason University School of Law. (Volokh Conspiracy-Reason Magazine)

Ilhan Omar Can't Break the U.S.-Israel Bond - Walter Russell Mead (Wall Street Journal)
  • Rep. Ilhan Omar is a gifted and ambitious politician who thinks Jew-baiting will help her career. Will the new wave of anti-Israel activists succeed in breaking up the U.S.-Israel alliance?
  • The answer is almost certainly no, less because of the Benjamins than the weakness of the conspiratorial anti-Israel case. The argument that the American Jewish community - animated by slavish loyalty to the Jewish state, armed with unlimited financial resources, and abetted by fundamentalist Christians hoping for Armageddon - has imposed a pro-Israel policy on the gentile majority strikes most Americans as implausible and lame.
  • Americans who follow politics at all know that American Jews are anything but monolithic on the subject of Israel. Americans also know that Christian support for Israel is not confined to Bible-thumping fundamentalists. It has been widespread among Christians of many theological views who admire Israel's economic success and military strength, and who abhor the venomous Jew-hatred that is so regrettably prevalent among some Muslims today.
  • The theory that "the Jews" control American foreign policy by distributing Benjamins to elected officials reflects not just anti-Semitism but contempt for the American people as a whole.
  • Omar, like many other anti-Israel activists, seems to believe that mixing crackpot theories about U.S. politics with insults to voters' intelligence will change the way Americans see the Middle East conflict. When this strategy fails, as it invariably does, anti-Israel activists attribute the failure not to the weakness of their arguments but once more to the Benjamins of those oh-so-clever Jews, and to the stupidity of the hypnotized non-Jewish voters.

    The writer is professor of foreign affairs and humanities at Bard College, and a fellow at the Hudson Institute.