June 7, 2019

In-Depth Issues:

Hamas Fails to Restore Quiet on Gaza Border (i24News-Ynet News)
    In accordance with Egyptian mediation efforts, Hamas agreed to keep protesters far from the border fence and stop incendiary devices from being sent over the border via balloons and kites.
    However, "terror balloons" have caused a dozen fires in Israel in the last two weeks.

Israeli Technology Helps Take Down Gaza Drones and Balloons - Anna Ahronheim (Jerusalem Post)
    The SMASH 2000 fire control system developed by Israeli company Smart Shooter to accurately neutralize moving targets has been deployed along the Gaza border by the IDF.
    The combination of simple hardware and advanced image-processing software can turn every soldier into a sharpshooter.
    After the shooter locks onto the target and squeezes the trigger, the system calculates the target's movement and prevents the bullet from being fired until the target is precisely in its cross hairs.
    In the last round of violence in Gaza, the IDF said there were multiple attempts to attack troops along the border using drones.

Fire Breaks Out at Iran's Largest Container Port (Radio Farda)
    A fire broke out at a facility used for storing oil products at the Shahid Rajaee port on Iran's Gulf coast on Wednesday, the Islamic Republic News Agency (IRNA) reported. Local officials said the blaze is under control.

UK Regulator Finds "No Evidence of Charitable Activity" by Viva Palestina Group (Jewish News-UK)
    There is "no evidence of charitable activity" by Viva Palestina, set up in 2009 to fund aid convoys to Gaza, the UK Charity Commission reported this week.
    Michelle Russell, director of investigations at the commission, said, "We found little evidence that the intended beneficiaries received the support intended, despite the extensive fundraising by Viva Palestina."
    Although no money made its way to Gaza, one of the charity's former trustees received payments from the charity, and mobile phones and radios were purchased with charity funds at "significant expenditure."

Teams Who Exposed Hizbullah Tunnels Awarded Israel Defense Prize - Yoav Limor (Israel Hayom)
    The 2019 Israel Defense Prize will be awarded to the intelligence and engineering teams that uncovered and neutralized a grid of six Hizbullah tunnels in northern Israel, the Defense Ministry announced Monday.
    The Mossad intelligence agency team that broke into the Iranian nuclear archive and successfully transferred the information to Israel was also honored, as were two other teams whose work is classified.

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No Arab Demographic Time Bomb - Amb. Yoram Ettinger (Jewish Political Studies Review)
    Contrary to conventional wisdom, the Jewish state is not facing an Arab demographic time bomb.
    In 2018 there were 1.85 million Arabs in the West Bank (not 3 million as claimed by the Palestinians), 1.6 million Israeli Muslim Arabs, 130,000 Israeli Druze, 130,000 Israeli Christian Arabs, and seven million Jews - a 65.5% Jewish majority in the combined area of pre-1967 Israel and the West Bank.
    By 2017 the Jewish fertility rate had risen to 3.16 births per woman, exceeding the Arab fertility rate in the West Bank of 3 births per woman.
    Recent years have seen an annual net Jewish immigration of 25,000-30,000, while net Arab emigration from the West Bank has been 20,000 annually.

EU Awards $200 Million in Grants to Israeli Researchers in 2018 - Eytan Halon (Jerusalem Post)
    The European Research Council's Horizon 2020 research and innovation program awarded grants worth $201 million in 2018 to 188 Israeli researchers, 146 companies and 42 projects.
    Since the program began in 2014, 1,062 Israeli projects have benefited from Horizon 2020 financing, valued at $830 million.

Israeli Sailor, 15, Wins Four Gold Medals at European Championship - Abigail Klein Leichman (Israel21c)
    Yogev Alcalay, 15, of the Sdot Yam Sailing Club in Israel, took home four gold medals in the under-18 boys laser sailing competition at the Youth European Championship in Hyeres, France, in May.
    Yogev was the top laser sailor among 270 male competitors.

Chinese Tourism to Israel Jumps in First 5 Months of 2019 (Xinhua-China)
    70,800 Chinese tourists visited Israel in the five months from January to May, up from 46,900 in the same period in 2018, Israel's Central Bureau of Statistics reported on Tuesday.

Israeli Arab Women Joining Labor Force in Large Numbers - Linda Gradstein (Jerusalem Post)
    A decade ago, only 22% of Israeli Arab women were working outside the home. Today over 40% are part of the labor force.
    "The major reason is the increase in the educational level of Arab women and internal changes within Arab society," says Aiman Saif, director of the Authority for the Economic Development of the Minorities Sector.
    Arab citizens comprise 17% of the university students in Israel, close to their 20% share of the population. Of these students, 70% are women.
    A recent study found that 90% of employees in a workplace shared by Arabs and Jews said they had a good relationship with their counterparts.

71+1 Reasons I Love Israel - Barbara Sofer (Jerusalem Post)
    American fighter pilots are using Israeli helmets that let them lock a missile onto a target aircraft by looking at it.
    Lancet medical journal: Israel is the country with the lowest rate of diet-rated deaths.
    The Jerusalem YMCA has a kosher certificate.

Video: Israel Defying the Odds (Facebook-aish.com)
    A small place making a big difference.

Search the Recent History of Israel and the Middle East

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News Resources - North America, Europe, and Asia:
  • U.S. Officials Detail Face-off in the Persian Gulf over Iran's Missile Boats - Dion Nissenbaum
    For two weeks in May, the U.S. military shadowed two Iranian commercial boats sailing around the Persian Gulf after it saw Iranian forces load missiles into launchers on their decks, according to U.S. officials. Eventually, the Iranian ships pulled into a harbor and unloaded the missiles that had set off the alarms. "The conversion of a merchant ship for an attack in and of itself is a very provocative act," said one U.S. official familiar with the intelligence.
        U.S. officials said a U.S. destroyer tracked 20 Iranian boats leaving Iran, crossing the Strait of Hormuz, and entering Emirati waters shortly before small explosions blew holes in the sides of four ships there. The Pentagon later accused Iran's Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps of dispatching a team of divers to plant magnetic mines on the ships. (Wall Street Journal)
        See also "State Actor" Likely to Blame in Tanker Attacks, Report Says - Joyce Karam (The National-Abu Dhabi)
        See also U.S. Commander Says American Forces Face "Imminent" Threat from Iran - Courtney Kube
    U.S. Marine Gen. Frank McKenzie, the top commander of U.S. forces in the Middle East, says he believes the Iranians or their proxies may orchestrate an attack at any moment. "I think the threat is imminent," he told NBC News in Baghdad. "They probe for weakness all the time."  (NBC News)
  • Assad Urged Syrian Refugees to Come Home; Many Are Being Welcomed with Arrest and Interrogation - Louisa Loveluck
    Hundreds of Syrian refugees have been arrested after returning home, then interrogated, forced to inform on close family members, and in some cases tortured, say returnees and human rights monitors. Many more who weathered the conflict in rebel-held territory now retaken by government forces are meeting a similar fate. A recent survey of Syrians who returned to government-held areas found that 75% had been harassed at checkpoints, in government registry offices or in the street, conscripted into the military despite promises they would be exempted, or arrested. (Washington Post)
  • Iran's Supreme Leader Rails Against U.S. Peace Plan - Aresu Eqbali and Sune Engel Rasmussen
    Iran's supreme leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei said Wednesday the Arab countries were committing "a big treason to the Islamic world" and betraying the Palestinians by cooperating with the U.S. and Israel on the roll-out of an economic blueprint for peace in Bahrain in June.
        Palestinian leaders are boycotting the Bahrain conference and have called on Arab countries to do the same. PA President Mahmoud Abbas said Wednesday that he hoped the U.S. peace plan would "go to hell."  (Wall Street Journal)
        See also below Commentary: Palestinians Miss Another Opportunity - Matthew RJ Brodsky (New York Post)
News Resources - Israel and the Mideast:
  • Israel Foils Hamas Attempt to Smuggle Material for Missiles into Gaza - Yaniv Kubovich
    The Israeli army said Friday it foiled an attempt by Hamas to smuggle material to manufacture rockets into Gaza. On May 11, two Palestinian vessels entered a restricted area and were seized, with four Hamas members arrested. An investigation by the Israel Security Agency revealed that they were headed toward the Sinai coast in Egypt to smuggle 24 barrels of fiberglass, which Hamas uses to make rockets. (Ha'aretz)
  • Palestinian Vandals Attack Israeli Agriculture in West Bank - Ilanit Chernick
    Vandals threw a firebomb that ignited a cherry tree orchard in Kibbutz Kfar Etzion in the West Bank on Tuesday on land belonging to the Jewish National Fund. Yaron Rosenthal, director of the Kfar Etzion Field School, said Israeli farmers have been exposed for years to such attacks. Earlier this year, 200 cherry trees were uprooted and destroyed at a kibbutz in Gush Etzion. In another incident, Palestinians uprooted and stole 50 trees in the Gush Etzion community of Nokdim planted in memory of terrorist victim Ori Ansbacher.
        In January, vandals destroyed dozens of vines at Israeli-owned vineyards in Shiloh and Hebron. Days earlier, vandals uprooted an Israeli-owned vineyard in the Jordan Valley. (Jerusalem Post)
Global Commentary and Think-Tank Analysis:


  • Palestinians Miss Another Opportunity - Matthew RJ Brodsky
    With the Palestinian Authority facing a financial crisis and economic challenges, one might think its leaders would be eager to attend the upcoming "Peace to Prosperity" workshop in Bahrain this month. After all, the conference is about providing a transformative economic roadmap for the Palestinian people in the context of a conflict-ending, signed political agreement with Israel.
        Instead, Palestine Liberation Organization Secretary-General and chief negotiator Saeb Erekat announced "a collective" boycott on behalf of "all Palestinian political movements and factions, national figures, private sector and civil society." Ahmed Majdalani, the PLO's social development minister, threatened to brand any Palestinian who attends as a "collaborator for the Americans and Israel" and "a traitor."
        Recall that Israeli Foreign Minister Abba Eban in 1973 quipped about Palestinians "never missing an opportunity to miss an opportunity." Jared Kushner's recent attempt to tell Palestinians directly that they shouldn't allow their grandfather's conflict to determine their children's future may have fallen on deaf ears. Getting Palestinians to reject the idea of an endless standoff is a first step toward an Israeli-Palestinian deal. The writer is a senior fellow at the Security Studies Group in Washington. (New York Post)
  • The Fate of Palestinian Refugees in Syria and Lebanon - Pinhas Inbari
    In Syria, the brutal civil war caused significant demographic changes that can be defined as the war crime of ethnic cleansing, as Sunnis, including Palestinians, have been driven out of the country. The large Yarmouk refugee camp adjacent to Damascus, known as the "capital of the camps," has ceased to exist.
        A secret European initiative sought to transfer the refugees from Yarmouk to the Palestinian-controlled Jericho area in the West Bank. Mahmoud Abbas rejected the initiative, however, insisting that the right of return does not apply to territories in the Palestinian Authority but to Israel.
        Palestinian refugees fleeing from Syria to the refugee camps in Lebanon were joined by non-Palestinian, Syrian refugees, who have completely changed the demographic composition of the camps. The writer, a veteran Arab affairs correspondent, is an analyst for the Jerusalem Center. (Institute for Contemporary Affairs-Jerusalem Center for Public Affairs)
  • PA Creates an Ancient Village that Never Existed - Naomi Kahn
    Over the past two years, the PA has created, out of thin air, a "historic" village at a strategic point adjacent to the Jerusalem-Hebron highway. With EU funding, the PA has renovated two primitive stone structures used by passing shepherds or farmers as shelter from the elements, and has added 15 homes at the site. Signs posted on the refurbished buildings, proudly bearing the EU emblem, explain that the site is an ancient village. Yet aerial photos from 1967, as well as historic maps dating back to 1880, prove there was never any settlement of any kind at the site.
        "This is another phase in the PA-European Union program to seize control over strategic areas," says Yishai Hemo, field coordinator for NGO Regavim. (JNS-Israel Hayom)
        See also Video: Illegal European Union Project Creates a Brand New "Ancient Village" (YouTube)

  • Other Issues

  • Are Russia, the U.S. and Israel Uniting Against Iran? - Zvi Bar'el
    Russia has no intention of simply returning Syria to Assad's control. It sees Syria as leverage to furthering its hold in the Middle East. This consists of building bridges with Saudi Arabia and the UAE, forging an economic alliance with Egypt while giving it military assistance, getting rid of American and European sanctions, and bolstering its status in the world.
        These Russian aspirations are not compatible with Iran's. Iran sees Syria not only as a strategic outpost that will preserve Iran's influence in Lebanon, but as a regional outpost to counterbalance Saudi Arabia's ambitions. This outpost will open pathways for Iran into the Mediterranean and complement the alliances it has forged with Iraq and Turkey. This is viewed as a strategic threat not only to Israel and the U.S., but to Russia as well.
        Recent local clashes between pro-Iranian militias and Russian-sponsored militias indicate that Russia is acting to thwart the Iranian threat. Russia is training and arming local militias through private Russian companies. Russia has also ordered Assad to fire pro-Iranian officers and soldiers, while Russian officers have taken command of some Syrian army units.
        A summit of Israeli, U.S., and Russian national security advisors will take place in Israel this month. Meir Ben-Shabbat, John Bolton and Nikolai Patrushev will discuss regional developments as equal partners. Such a meeting conveys to Iran and the region that the Russian-American-Israeli axis could be the one to draft the new Middle East roadmap. At the same time, Russia has failed to keep its promise to keep Iran's forces more than 80 km. away from Israel's border in the Golan Heights, and there are doubts whether it can make Iran withdraw at this stage. (Ha'aretz)
  • Pro-Palestinian Campus Activists Change Tactics - Lidar Grave-Lazi
    During the past school year, pro-Israel groups have documented a change in tactics among BDS groups away from physical and verbal attacks and towards a more sophisticated approach. Jonathan Elkhoury, an Arab-Christian activist who spent two months in the U.S. visiting college campuses on behalf of the pro-Israel Reservists on Duty (RoD), said: "In the past few years, pro-Palestinian activists were very loud and very aggressive....We were often pushed, spat on, verbally and even physically assaulted when visiting campuses." This year, "there were still a few incidents where we were spat on or assaulted, and, of course, there were still 'Apartheid Walls,' but for the most part what we saw was a more calm and cohesive language among all SJP [Students for Justice in Palestine] groups."
        He added that many campuses had replaced "Apartheid Week" with "Oppression Week," so that rather than single out Israel, they now "tried to frame the narrative that Israel equals white supremacy. And it was clear that this was a well-thought-out strategy directed to coincide with the debate currently going on in the U.S. regarding oppressed minorities."  (JNS)
  • Book Review: An Israeli Academic's Case for Liberal Nationalism - Andre Archie
    In Why Nationalism, former Israeli Education Minister and Labor Party politician Yael "Yuli" Tamir sings the praises of nationalism and exhorts her fellow liberals to embrace nationalism as a unifying force to overcome ethnic, religious, and class divisions that plague the modern nation-state.
        Tamir makes the case for liberal nationalism as a sensible alternative to the nativist's blood-and-soil nationalism, which she rejects outright. Tamir argues that citizens have a psychological need for membership in a particular place, a human need to belong to something more than oneself. The writer is an associate professor of ancient Greek philosophy at Colorado State University. (National Review)

  • Weekend Features

  • Nechama Rivlin Was Us - Noah Efron
    The late Nechama Rivlin, wife of Israeli President Reuven Rivlin, had no airs, she was not fancy, she was direct. A childhood friend said that when she would invite the old gang, women who were friends on the moshav almost 70 years earlier, to the President's Residence, she served them cake she'd stayed up late the night before baking herself.
        There was a decency to most everything we saw her say and do. A radio interviewer once asked her if people make comments about the portable oxygen tank that she needed to breathe. Oh yes, all the time, she said. They ask questions like, where did you get it? How much does it cost? Is it a good one? They ask these questions because they have a parent who has trouble breathing, or a husband or a child. So I tell them what store I bought it at, and ask them to say hi for me to the man that runs it.
        Nechama Rivlin somehow embodied who we are. She's those kids clamoring to get the army to let them spend a year before they enlist, so they can live in a run-down apartment in a run-down town, teaching math or art to kids whose parents can't buy them books. She's Maria Nahmias from the torch-lighting ceremony, who, after surviving the Holocaust raised 53 Jewish and Arab foster kids.
        She's Dudi, my mail carrier, who phoned me in D.C. because he knew I was abroad and worried a package I got would be returned; is there a neighbor he could bring it to? She's the person who notices that you're confused at the bus stop and says, let me help you.
        Nechama Rivlin touched us so much because she did not think that being decent is somehow special. We loved her for that, for who she was. And we loved her, too, because she showed us what we are, at our best. The writer teaches history and philosophy of science at Bar-Ilan University and has served on the City Council of Tel Aviv-Jaffa. (Times of Israel)
  • Video: New Israeli Technology Freezes Cancer Cells
    An Israeli company has developed a revolutionary minimally invasive technique to freeze cancerous tumors that only requires a local anesthetic. It is already used to treat breast cancer. A solution at a temperature of -274 degrees Fahrenheit is injected into the cancerous tumor to freeze it, rendering it inactive and enabling the body to dispense with it as it does with other dead cells naturally within a few weeks. Most patients can be treated within one hour, allowing them to go home the same day or the following day. (i24News)
  • The Israeli Doctor Who Treats West Bank Palestinian Villagers - Steven Davidson
    "Shalom! Shalom!" shouts Dr. Yitzchak Glick, waving to several Palestinian children beside the village mosque. To my surprise, they wave back without hesitation. After we drive to the home of a patient, on the way back to his car, waves of people from the village beckon Glick to inspect their children. Glick seems to know every one of them.
        Glick, 59, moved with his family as a teenager from New York City to Israel in 1974. He settled in Efrat in Gush Etzion, part of the West Bank just south of Bethlehem that is often discussed as becoming part of Israel in a possible political agreement with Palestinians.
        In Glick's eyes, Israeli administration of the West Bank does not amount to oppression or even occupation. Palestinians may live under military law, but it's "totally for security," he says. Until the terrorism ends and Palestinians agree to "compromise," Glick views the status quo as enabling Palestinians and Jews to live together in security "instead of [in] a terrorist state like you have in Gaza. In the '60s [in America], we always said integration is a great thing."
        Glick began an emergency health clinic in Efrat, where some 10% of the patients are Palestinian. He and others in Efrat have also helped fund Palestinian medical clinics nearby, though Glick and the villagers remain low-key about the aid and his village visits so the clinics don't run afoul of the PA. (OZY)
  • Innovation: Africa Brings Israeli Solar and Water Technologies to Rural Africa - Hillel Fuld
    Innovation: Africa is the ultimate manifestation of what it means to be a "light unto the nations." Founded in 2008 by Sivan Ya'ari, the organization provides solar energy to schools and medical centers and pumps clean water throughout villages across Africa. Its videos show African children who have never seen or drank fresh running water and who live in villages without electricity.
        The Israeli heart and mind has transformed the lives of 1.5 million Africans. Since its founding, Innovation: Africa has installed solar energy, water and agricultural technology in more than 250 rural African villages - with 42 projects in Malawi, 119 in Uganda, 34 in Tanzania, 26 in South Africa, three in the Democratic Republic of the Congo, six in Senegal, and 11 in Cameroon.
        Its newest product, the "Energy Box," can provide solar power to an entire school or medical center for more than 10 years with no maintenance required. (Jerusalem Post)
  • Renewal at an Ancient Site: Caesarea Reaches Out to the World - Judy Lash Balint
    Herod, the master builder of ancient times, planned and built a massive port city in Caesarea, replete with a harbor, palace, temple, amphitheater and hippodrome. Caesarea has recently undergone extensive preservation and restoration.
        A state-of-the-art Visitor Center is housed in the restored harbor vaults that formed the base for Herod's magnificent temple, which was the main public building of ancient Caesarea. The vaults, which look out over the harbor, are adjacent to a monumental staircase still being restored that led those arriving from the harbor to the temple itself.
        National park officials say it would take almost six hours to see all the major sites, which include the oldest theater found in Israel, the remnants of Roman and Byzantine streets, a fortified medieval city, the amphitheater, aqueduct, harbor, bathhouse complex, and the Roman wall.
        President Reuven Rivlin said on May 30, "I believe that one day soon, Caesarea will take its rightful place as one of the world's most impressive windows to the ancient past."  (JNS)
        See also Caesarea National Park (Israel Nature and Parks Authority)

  • The U.S. government funded $243 million for education assistance in the West Bank and Gaza for fiscal years 2015 through 2017. UNRWA purchased English language textbooks used in UNRWA schools with funds that consist of contributions from donor countries, including the U.S.
  • To address content deemed as not aligned with UN values, UNRWA created complementary teaching materials, such as alternate photos and examples, to use with the textbooks in UNRWA schools.
  • However, UNRWA did not train teachers or distribute the complementary teaching materials to classrooms. As a result, these materials were not used in UNRWA classrooms.
  • The annual appropriations acts for fiscal years 2015 through 2017 require the State Department to report to Congress on several topics, including steps UNRWA has taken to ensure that the content of all educational materials taught in UNRWA schools is consistent with the values of human rights, dignity, and tolerance, and do not induce incitement.
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