May 17, 2019

In-Depth Issues:

Iran Tells Middle East Militias: Prepare for Proxy War - Martin Chulov (Guardian-UK)
    Two senior intelligence sources said that Gen. Qassem Suleimani, leader of Iran's powerful Quds force, summoned the Iraqi militias under Tehran's influence to Baghdad three weeks ago and told them to "prepare for proxy war."
    The move to mobilize Iran's regional allies has triggered fears in the U.S. that its interests in the Middle East are facing a pressing threat.
    See also Iraq Warns Militias Against Provocation - Alissa J. Rubin (New York Times)
    Iraqi officials say they have warned armed groups tied to Iran to refrain from taking any action that could provoke American retaliation.
    "We will become the enemy of anyone who does something against American interests," said Sayed al-Jayashi, a senior member of Iraq's National Security Council.

State Department: Iran's Revolutionary Guards Set Up Training Base in Lebanon (Al Arabiya)
    The U.S. State Department has released a video of an Iranian Revolutionary Guard Corps' Quds Force military training base in Lebanon near the border with Syria.
    In an Arabic language tweet on Tuesday, the State Department said that those being trained at the site include militias from Iraq and Hizbullah.

Tension with Iran Linked to High-Level IRGC Defector (J.E. Dyer)
    The recent dynamic in developments between the U.S., regional nations, and Iran may have started with the reported defection of a senior IRGC officer, Brig.-Gen. Ali Nasiri, in April.
    According to the Islamic State of Iran Crime Research Center (ISICRC), in a 22 April report, Nasiri sought refuge at a U.S. embassy in the Persian Gulf on 12 or 13 April, following an 11 April blow-up with Ayatollah Khamenei's representative in the IRGC.
    This is a high-level defector. Nasiri commanded the IRGC's Protection Bureau, which provides security for the regime.
    Previously, he commanded the Seyyed al-Shohada Guards unit in Tehran Province, the command that handles security in Tehran.
    ISICRC reported that Nasiri was "carrying important strategic documents" when he went to the U.S. embassy, seeking political asylum.
    The writer is a retired U.S. Naval Intelligence officer.

Lebanese Man in New York Convicted of Providing Support to Hizbullah (U.S. Justice Department)
    A Lebanese man living in New York was convicted on Thursday of providing material support to Hizbullah.
    U.S. Attorney Geoffrey S. Berman said: "Ali Kourani was recruited, trained, and deployed by Hizbullah... to plan and execute acts of terrorism in the United States."
    "Kourani's chilling mission was to help procure weapons and gather intelligence about potential targets in the U.S. for future Hizbullah terrorist attacks."
    "Some of the targets Kourani surveilled included JFK Airport and law enforcement facilities in New York City."

Flawed BBC Documentary Proves the Israeli Narrative - Emanuel Miller (HonestReporting)
    A BBC documentary, "One Day in Gaza," examining the events of May 14, 2018, along the border with Israel, confirmed Israel's version of the events that went on that day.
    Despite a number of flaws, "One Day in Gaza" proves that Israel was not facing unarmed protesters, but was dealing with violent rioters and armed terrorists concealed in large groups of civilians.
    The program showed a Hamas official admitting that Israeli shooting only commenced as a direct response to armed Palestinians firing on IDF soldiers.
    One Gazan woman says, "We line up like a human shield so the men could advance further."

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Jewish Cinema-Goers in UK Harassed by Protesters at Israeli Film Festival - Jo Wadsworth (Brighton & Hove News-UK)
    A dozen protesters waved banners and used a megaphone in a bid to stop people going to see a film at an Israeli film festival in Brighton on Sunday.
    The protest was organized by the Palestinian Solidarity Campaign (PSC) against the screening of "Tel Aviv on Fire" by Palestinian director Sameh Zoabi.
    Fiona Sharpe of the Sussex Jewish Representative Council said: "Everyone is entitled to their own views but to scream and shout at a mainly elderly Jewish community, holding them responsible for the actions of another sovereign nation, is purely intimidation and harassment."
    "Why these people feel it is okay to abuse people going to see a film, which was written and directed by a Palestinian with a mainly Palestinian cast, is beyond me."

Iran to Compete with Israel in Future Judo Competitions - Tzvi Joffre (Jerusalem Post)
    Iran will compete with athletes from all countries, including Israel, Iran's National Olympic Committee stated on Saturday in a letter to the International Judo Federation.
    The Iranians confirmed that they would "fully respect the Olympic Charter and its non-discrimination principle."
    For years, Iran has avoided competing with Israeli athletes.

Israelis Take Gold and Silver at Baku Judo Grand Slam (Times of Israel)
    Israeli middleweight champion Sagi Muki took home a gold medal and Tohar Butbul won a silver medal in the under-71 kg. category at the Baku Grand Slam in Azerbaijan on Saturday.

Paper Napkins Imported from Israel Anger Tunisians (Middle East Monitor-UK)
    Photos have been circulated on social media websites in Tunisia showing paper napkins labeled "Made in Israel" being sold in a popular shop.
    The Tunisian General Labor Union demanded the withdrawal of these napkins.

French Jew Leaves Israel $14.5 Million to Support Bereaved Families - Marcy Oster (JTA)
    A Hungarian-born French Jewish widower with no children left $14.5 million to the State of Israel to assist families who lost loved ones serving in the military or to terrorism.
    "The fact that Jews around the world are deciding to leave their life's inheritance for the benefit of the State of Israel constitutes an example of the power of the Jewish people everywhere, and the importance the State of Israel holds for those in the diaspora," said KKL-JNF World Chairman Daniel Atar.

Israel's Big Heart - Sarah Saide (Algemeiner)
    In a world of nearly 200 countries, there is a small country of 9 million people - a mere 0.1% of the world's population - that provides care to children of all nationalities with heart disease, is the first at the scene when natural disasters strike in foreign countries, and assists people worldwide to recover from any extreme crisis they face.
    As a country, Israel recognizes the beauty of its duty to shine light and concern upon those who are not as fortunate.

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News Resources - North America, Europe, and Asia:
  • Israel Presses the Case Against Iran, But Not for War - David M. Halbfinger
    Israel has been providing Washington with intelligence about potential Iranian attacks. But analysts and former Israeli military and intelligence officials say the Israeli government is not angling for a full-blown war between the U.S. and Iran. "Nobody thinks about regime change militarily, but to weaken the regime, to weaken the Iranian economy, and to make the people of Iran change the regime - this is, I think, the ultimate goal," said Maj.-Gen. (ret.) Amos Yadlin, a former head of Israeli military intelligence who runs the Institute for National Security Studies in Tel Aviv. "Another very positive result is a better agreement."
        In meetings in Washington and Tel Aviv in the past few weeks, Israeli intelligence warned the U.S. that Iran or its proxies were planning to strike American targets in Iraq, a senior Middle Eastern intelligence official said. Israel also warned of Iranian attacks against American allies Saudi Arabia and the UAE.
        Israeli experts say Iran was behind the sabotage of four oil tankers off the port of Jubairah in the UAE and drone strikes on a Saudi oil pipeline. "The Iranians' motto is, if you're going to prohibit exporting our oil, and get our production and exports down to half a million barrels a day or less, which is an economic catastrophe for Iran, then we will interfere with the oil exports of other people," said Ehud Yaari, an Israel-based fellow of the Washington Institute for Near East Policy.
        Former Israeli national security adviser Maj.-Gen. (ret.) Yaakov Amidror said of the two episodes, "They are testing the Americans, no question." "If the Americans now act like nothing happened - 'Iran didn't spit on us, it's only rain' - it's catastrophic, because it's saying to the Iranians, 'We won't interfere.'"  (New York Times)
  • Britain Backs Washington over Iran Threat - Lucy Fisher and Catherine Philp
    British Foreign Secretary Jeremy Hunt said Thursday that Britain and the U.S. share "the same assessment of the heightened threat posed by Iran." His intervention overrode remarks by Maj.-Gen. Chris Ghika, the most senior Briton in the U.S.-led mission against Islamic State, who appeared to contradict Washington's claims of a credible threat from Iran in the Middle East.
        Despite the officer's comments on Tuesday, it is understood that Britain had in fact increased its assessment of the threat level posed to its military personnel and diplomats in Iraq amid rising tensions between the U.S. and Iran. (The Times-UK)
  • U.S. Mideast Envoy: "We Can't Make a Deal Unless the Two Sides Want to Make a Deal"
    U.S. special envoy to the Middle East Jason Greenblatt told the World Jewish Congress' governing board in Ottawa, Canada, on Wednesday: "We knew the challenges of reaching a peace agreement are extraordinary....We hope for a comprehensive agreement, and if that can't be achieved, then positive steps forward that would be helpful for both Palestinians and Israelis in the region would be helpful as well....We can't make a deal unless the two sides want to make a deal."  (World Jewish Congress)
News Resources - Israel and the Mideast:
  • The Real Catastrophe for the Palestinians - Pinhas Inbari
    Every year on May 15, Palestinians commemorate Nakba ("Catastrophe") Day, referring to the displacement of Palestinians after Israel's independence in 1948. PLO leader Yasser Arafat inaugurated Nakba Day in 1998.
        One of the biggest problems the Palestinians face today is the growing feeling in the Arab world that the Palestinians are ungrateful. The Arab world, wracked by disasters and wars, complains that the Palestinians demand that Arab nations neglect their own crises and focus on "Palestinian suffering."
        By all measurements, the situation of the Palestinians in the West Bank, and definitely in Israel, is much better than in any Arab country. Only in the Israeli parliament can Palestinian parliamentarians speak and act freely.
        In these times, a real Nakba is taking place, but not in Israel. The disaster of Syria is far greater than the Nakba of 1948. Many thousands of Syrians and Palestinians have been displaced from the Yarmouk refugee camp in Damascus, which once held more than 100,000 residents but was razed during the Syrian civil war. Hundreds of Palestinians and Syrians were killed there in fighting and barrel-bombings by Syrian forces. (Jerusalem Center for Public Affairs)
  • Report Charts Support for Israel among EU States - Noa Landau
    A new study of EU members' relations with Israel has been published by Mitvim - the Israeli Institute for Regional Foreign Policies, in cooperation with the German Institute for International and Security Affairs (SWP) and the peace organization PAX. The study divides the EU into three main groupings: countries more critical of Israel, countries more supportive, and countries that seek a balance.
        The bloc of critical countries comprises France, Sweden, Belgium, Ireland, Spain, Denmark, Luxembourg, Malta, Portugal, Slovenia and Finland. Of these, the most active is Ireland. The countries more supportive of Israeli policy are Hungary, Poland, the Czech Republic, Slovakia, Austria, Romania, Bulgaria, Croatia, Estonia, Latvia, Lithuania, Greece and Cyprus. (Ha'aretz)
        See also Divided and Divisive: Europeans, Israel and Israeli-Palestinian Peacemaking - Dr. Muriel Asseburg and Dr. Nimrod Goren (Mitvim)
Global Commentary and Think-Tank Analysis:


  • The Palestinian Tragedy Is Self-Perpetuating, Led by Those Unable to Come to Terms with History - David Harsanyi
    The tragedy of the Palestinian people is neither the fault of the Jews, nor the British, nor the Holocaust. After World War I, Jewish migration was exceptionally beneficial for the Arabs living in the area. Rarely mentioned in the Israeli-Palestinian debate is that significant Arab migration into a largely empty land was spurred by Jewish economic development. Jews were not displacing Arabs, they were attracting them.
        Yet, as the British Peel Commission noted in 1936, "the Arabs have benefited by the development of the country owing to Jewish immigration, [but] this has had no conciliatory effect. On the contrary...with almost mathematical precision the betterment of the economic situation in Palestine meant the deterioration of the political situation."
        Every plan that didn't end in complete subservience of Jews to the Palestinians was rejected with violence. This hasn't changed in 80 years. Most Palestinians consider the entire land "occupied." Peace can be had easily when Palestinian leadership stops embracing the anti-Semitic terrorism that's rationalized and girded by historical fantasies. (Federalist)
  • Abbas Admits PA/PLO Responsibility for Terrorism in Israel - Judith Bergman
    Palestinian Authority leader and PLO Chairman Mahmoud Abbas said recently: "We have been paying salaries to the families of the martyrs, to the prisoners, and to the wounded since 1965. This is because they were killed, imprisoned, or wounded because of a national interest and for the sake of a national interest, and not for personal reasons. It is our obligation to take care of their relatives."
        His spokesman, Nabil Abu Rudeina, added, "Israel needs to understand this. It is impossible to send a soldier to war and then not take care of his family. We are talking about someone who acts on our behalf and receives orders from us."
        Every Israeli child, man and woman killed in a terrorist attack had their life taken away simply because Abbas and his henchmen thought they should die for being Jews in the Land of Israel.
        The EU has pledged 15 million euros to the PA to cover public employee salaries so that the PA will continue to have enough money to pay salaries to terrorists. (Mida-JNS)
  • New Palestinian Party Has Ties to Israel, Seeks PLO Reform - Adnan Abu Amer
    A Palestinian political body calling itself the Reform and Development Party was established on May 1 in Hebron, stating it will represent the Palestinian "silent majority." In its founding statement, it said it wants to improve communication with the rest of the world, end corruption and nepotism, and reform the PA and the PLO. It believes improving Palestinians' economic conditions is a top national priority. Nearly 5,000 activists from throughout the West Bank attended the founding conference.
        Hours after the launch, Fatah issued a statement warning Palestinians against dealing with the party and pledging to hold its organizers and participants accountable for stepping out of the national ranks and aligning with Israel.
        One of the party's founders, Ashraf Jabari, told Independent Arabia on May 4 that the party wants to live in peace with its Jewish neighbors. Belal Shobaki, a political science professor at Hebron University, told Al-Monitor, "Jabari is an isolated figure. We only hear about him in the Israeli media." The writer heads the Political Science and Media Department of Umma University Open Education in Gaza. (Al-Monitor)
  • Rethinking the Nakba - Jonathan S. Tobin
    The full story of the nakba ("the catastrophe") is that the Palestinians weren't helpless victims. The war that was fought from 1947 to 1949 was largely of their design, even if their conduct of it was militarily incompetent and resulted in a rout that left the Arabs fleeing rather than the Jews being tossed out of their homes.
        Until Palestinians come to terms with the fact that the nakba was caused by their intolerant refusal to accept that the Jews had indeed returned and that they needed to share the land to which the Zionists also had a legitimate claim, they will go on rejecting peace offers as they did before 1948 and continue to do to this day. (JNS)

  • Iran

  • The Nuclear Deal Did Not Cause Iran to Change Its Revolutionary Behavior - Editorial
    Even as the U.S. abided by the nuclear deal, Gen. Qassem Soleimani, the leader of Iran's Quds Force, the expeditionary arm of the Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps (IRGC), fed the war in Yemen against the Saudis, intervened to save Bashar Assad's murderous regime in Syria, tried to establish a terror beachhead in southern Syria against Israel, expanded ballistic-missile production, and financed the terrorist militias of Hizbullah in Lebanon and Hamas in Gaza. Denying Iran the trade and money to finance this adventurism is a major reason the U.S. withdrew from the nuclear deal.
        The goal of U.S. strategy isn't to start a conflict but to get Iran to stop its terror support and renegotiate the nuclear deal. The Europeans can help by joining the U.S. pressure campaign, rather than lobbying Washington to cave to Tehran's threats. If Iran or its proxies react to this pressure by killing Americans, blame the state sponsors of terrorism in Iran. (Wall Street Journal)
  • Nuclear Archive Shows that Iran Camouflaged Its Nuclear Weapons Program - David Albright and Olli Heinonen
    Israel's acquisition in early 2018 of a significant portion of Iran's nuclear archive, which details an effort to build five nuclear weapons and prepare an underground nuclear test site in the early 2000s, has revealed an unpleasant truth: Iran has been in violation of the spirit, if not the letter, of the nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty (NPT), the 2015 nuclear deal, and other non-proliferation commitments. Instead of demanding a nuclear standard for Iran that the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) has applied to other countries, however, many are turning a blind eye to Tehran's dangerous transgressions.
        The seized archive shows a robust program in the early 2000s to build nuclear weapons. Under intense international pressure in 2003, Iran downsized it, but the archive shows that instead of ending it, Iran reoriented its nuclear weapons program to survive as a smaller, more camouflaged one.
        This archive clearly is designed to be used to preserve and reconstitute a path to an atomic arsenal. The documents show that Iran's atomic ambitions were much further along than previously known. Most worrisome, breakout time for a missile-deliverable nuclear warhead was much shorter than U.S. officials thought likely.
        David Albright is president of the Institute for Science and International Security in Washington. Olli Heinonen is former deputy director general of the International Atomic Energy Agency and head of its Department of Safeguards. (The Hill)
  • Iran Threatens Oil Exports from Persian Gulf - Yaakov Lappin
    Recent developments in the Persian Gulf demonstrate that Iran has taken a strategic decision to respond to escalating U.S. financial and diplomatic pressure against it by threatening the ability of Sunni Arab states to export oil to the world. The decision by Iran to extract "a price" for these moves must have been approved by Iranian Supreme Leader Ayatollah Khamenei. It has already been translated into action, with two attacks on oil sites in the UAE and Saudi Arabia in recent days.
        It is safe to assume that the IRGC is behind both attacks. Iran maintains a large network of heavily armed terrorist proxies throughout the region, giving it the ability to hit targets while maintaining a facade of plausible deniability.
        Iran is prone to miscalculations and rapid escalations, even if they are unintended. Israel will need to be on high alert for Iranian proxy attacks on it. (JNS)

  • Other Issues

  • Israel Needs Bipartisan Support - Fred Zeidman and Steve Israel
    One of us is a conservative Republican fundraiser and a Bush appointee, and the other was chairman of the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee. While we disagree on many issues, we are in complete and total agreement about continuing support for the relationship with Israel, which is a vital tenet of U.S. foreign policy in an increasingly unstable world.
        One ideal that has remained paramount is that the alliance with Israel is vital to protecting American interests. A strong ally in the war on terror, intelligence cooperation with Israel is unparalleled. The only democracy in the region, Israel has an exemplary record of human rights that celebrates due process. While Israel proudly identifies as a Jewish state, it is not a theocracy and the Knesset remains a vibrant and often chaotic example of the diverse Israeli parliamentary system.
        Today, global affairs spin with centrifugal force, uprooting long established norms and assumptions. Certain things must center us. The alliance between the U.S. and Israel is one. On this issue, there is no disagreement between this Republican and this Democrat.
        Fred Zeidman is a chairman of the Council for a Secure America and is chairman emeritus of the U.S. Holocaust Memorial Museum. Steve Israel is on the board of the Council for a Secure America. He served as a U.S. Representative from New York from 2001 to 2017. (The Hill)
  • Israel's Unique Support for Preserving Minorities' Identities - Megan McArdle
    Last week, I spent some time in Israel talking to people about religion, ethnicity and identity. Viewing faith as integrally tied to your place and your ancestors and your history is probably more common worldwide than the modern American and Western European view of faith as a personal choice. That radical difference in worldviews explains much of what makes many Americans most uncomfortable about Israel: calling itself the Jewish state, maintaining separate educational systems for Arabs and Jews, excusing most Arabs from mandatory military service.
        Israel gives its religious minorities ample freedom to practice their faith, as Israel defines itself by Judaism. But Israel's religious minorities don't necessarily resent that in the way Americans might expect. I spoke to Shadi Khalloul, a Maronite Christian activist in the Galilee who is working to revive Aramaic as the daily language of his community. He wants a separate school system for his community's children.
        If a country protects the civil rights of minority citizens, as the Israelis generally do, it can offer the one thing that an aggressively secular liberal state can't: easy preservation of the minorities' own particularist identities, which tend to be lost in aggressively secular liberal nations as the minorities are more or less forcibly assimilated.
        Israel is able to accommodate these communities more tolerantly not despite its particularist self-definition but because of it. Judaism isn't a universalizing creed - it doesn't seek converts - so the Jewish majority feels relatively little threat from other faiths. (Washington Post)

  • Anti-Semitism

  • The Anti-Jewish Manifesto of the San Diego Synagogue Shooter - Michael Davis
    On April 27, 2019, John T. Earnest, 19, carried out a shooting attack at the Chabad of Poway synagogue, near San Diego, California, killing one and wounding three others. Before the attack he published a predominantly anti-Jewish manifesto where he outlined his political and racial views and his motives for the attack.
        He writes: "There is at least one European man alive [meaning himself] who is willing to take a stand against the injustice that the Jew has inflicted upon him....I only wish to inspire others and be a soldier that has the honor and privilege of defending his race in its greatest hour of need." Earnest says that he has complete certainty that after reading his manifesto, white men will begin carrying out more attacks, to victory or death. (MEMRI)

  • Weekend Features

  • Israel's Shalva Band at Eurovision - Amy Shapiro
    The Shalva Band, comprised of eight adults with disabilities, made it to the finals of the "Rising Star" show which selects Israel's Eurovision representative, but ultimately dropped out when they realized they would have to participate in rehearsals on Shabbat in order to perform at Eurovision. In the end, they performed on Thursday as an interval act.
        Shai Ben-Shushan, director of the band, said, "We've made a huge change in Israeli society. Today, when we walk in the street, the Israeli people want to embrace us - not because we're a gimmick, but because we're good at what we do."  (Jerusalem Post)
        See also Video: Shalva Band Performs at Eurovision
    Israel's Shalva Band performed the song "A Million Dreams" at the 2019 Eurovision Song Contest. (YouTube)
        See also The Shalva Band
    Shalva, the Israel Association for the Care and Inclusion of Persons with Disabilities, is dedicated to providing transformative care for individuals with disabilities, empowering their families and promoting social inclusion. (Shalva: Inspiring Hope, Changing Lives)
        See also Video: Jewish Communities around the World Perform Israel's Eurovision Entry in American Sign Language (Jewish Agency for Israel)
  • The IDF's Medical Innovation Branch - Anna Ahronheim
    Established less than a year ago, the IDF's Medical Innovation Branch has been working on several projects. One such project is to use virtual reality glasses like Microsoft's HoloLens. It allows for paramedics treating wounded soldiers on the battlefield to get guided treatment from a doctor in a hospital.
        Another innovative technique involves placing a bar code on the injured individual to track medical information. When Syrians came to Israel for medical treatment, IDF paramedics attached the bar code to the wounded, who were able to transfer all relevant medical information to doctors at Nahariya's Galilee Medical Center. The doctors were able to plan ahead to receive the patients an hour and a half before they arrived.
        Autonomous aerial vehicles are being studied as an option to evacuate wounded soldiers during war. One unmanned aerial system (UAS) the IDF has been working on for several years is the Cormorant - a compact, unmanned, single-engine, VTOL (vertical take-off and landing) aircraft. (Jerusalem Post)

Iran's Gulf Aggression Can Be Stopped Without War - Adm. (ret.) James Stavridis (Bloomberg)
  • The worry on which the world should focus is not a deliberate and overt Iranian attack, but a miscalculation that spirals into war. Things could escalate quite easily.
  • I commanded the Carrier Strike Group Enterprise in the Gulf in the summer of 2003. Every day I watched Navy warships under my command operate with restraint as small Iranian Navy and Revolutionary Guard boats circled us, made high speed runs in our direction, and broadcast dire warnings.
  • In 2016, two small U.S. riverine patrol boats and their crews were seized by Iran. That kind of incident in today's hair-trigger environment could easily cause the administration to launch strikes against Iranian ships.
  • Iran could retaliate with mines against commercial shipping, threatening to close the Strait of Hormuz, through which flows 30% of the world's oil. This would very likely lead to the U.S. and its allies to forcibly reopen the strait, an operation that would almost certainly require cruise missile and air strikes against the entire Iranian naval force, which would necessitate pre-strike operations against the Iranian air force.
  • The best approach for the U.S. now is to return to a greater focus on allies, partners and friends. This means continuing to build an anti-Iran coalition that includes not only Israel, Saudi Arabia and the other Gulf states, but also the European and NATO partners.
  • The role for the Europeans is to help force Iran back to the negotiating table through economic sanctions. It's unfortunate that some of them don't seem to be taking the increased Iranian threat seriously.

    The writer, a retired U.S. Navy admiral and former supreme allied commander of NATO, is dean emeritus of the Fletcher School of Law and Diplomacy at Tufts University.
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