August 5, 2019

In-Depth Issues:

Anti-Israel Ethnic-Studies Curriculum Proposed in California - Jacob Richman and Sean Savage (JNS)
    A new ethnic-studies curriculum under consideration by the California Department of Education has been widely condemned by pro-Israel and Jewish groups for its "blatant bias against Israel."
    Members of the California Legislative Jewish Caucus, all Democrats, wrote to the California Department of Education on July 29:
    "We cannot support a curriculum that erases the American Jewish experience, fails to discuss anti-Semitism, reinforces negative stereotypes about Jews, singles out Israel for criticism and would institutionalize the teaching of anti-Semitic stereotypes in our public schools."

Report: Blast at Syrian Air Base Kills 26 Soldiers (AP-New York Times)
    A Syrian pro-government newspaper reported 26 soldiers, including seven officers, were killed in an explosion while transporting ammunition on Saturday at the Shayrat air base in Homs province.

Defying U.S. Sanctions, China and Others Take Oil from 12 Iranian Tankers - Anjali Singhvi (New York Times)
    China and other countries are receiving oil shipments from a larger number of Iranian tankers than was previously known, defying U.S. sanctions, an investigation by the New York Times has found.
    The Times examined the movements of more than 70 Iranian tankers since May 2, when the American sanctions took full effect.
    Twelve of the tankers loaded oil after May 2 and delivered it to China or the Eastern Mediterranean, where the buyers may have included Syria or Turkey.
    An analyst said the scale of the shipments documented by the investigation is greater than what had been publicly known.

Belgium Suspends UNRWA Funds following Reports of Misconduct - Tovah Lazaroff (Jerusalem Post)
    Belgium temporarily suspended its funding to UNRWA on Friday, following reports of a UN investigation into ethical misconduct among its senior staff.
    The Netherlands and Switzerland have also suspended payments pending the results of the investigation.

Arab Israelis Say Community Needs Greater Policing - Judy Maltz (Ha'aretz)
    Guy Ben-Porat, chairman of the department of politics and government at Ben-Gurion University in Beersheba, and co-author of the study "Policing Citizens: Minority Policy in Israel," notes that since 2000, 1,300 Arab citizens have been killed because of violence within their own communities.
    Until about 30 years ago, he says, Arab communities were able, "to some extent," to police themselves through their own traditional governing structures.
    "As a result, police were not really needed or even desired. But changes in Arab society...have created a need for proper policing."

News Resources - North America, Europe, and Asia:
  • ISIS Still Active in Syria
    Special Envoy for the Global Coalition to Defeat ISIS Ambassador James F. Jeffrey and Counterterrorism Coordinator Ambassador Nathan A. Sales on Thursday provided an update on the efforts of the 80-member coalition. Jeffrey said that in Syria, "ISIS elements are still very active to the south of the Euphrates, where the Assad regime does not have control, and in Idlib, which is a major terrorist concern not just for ISIS." In Iraq, "what we have seen is a persistent, resilient, rural terrorist level of violence generated by these underground cells of ISIS, particularly in the area south of...Mosul and the Kurdish areas down to Baghdad."
        Sales noted that "the ISIS brand lives on around the world....In Africa, ISIS-linked groups are on the rise. ISIS branches and networks now span the African continent from east to west and north to south. They've increased the lethality of their attacks, they've expanded into new areas, and they've repeatedly targeted U.S. interests....In South Asia, ISIS networks and ISIS-inspired terrorists are increasingly active."
        "We estimate that since 2015 some 1,200 ISIS fighters have traveled back home to Europe, while hundreds more have returned to Southeast Asia....There's currently about 2,000 ISIS foreign fighters in SDF custody in Syria, and that's in addition to the Syrian and Iraqi citizens captured by the SDF. Let me be clear: These fighters are dangerous, battle-hardened terrorists....We all have an obligation to keep them from ever returning to the battlefield."  (U.S. State Department)
  • U.S. Launches Last-Ditch Effort to Stop Turkish Invasion of Northeast Syria - Karen DeYoung
    The U.S. has launched a last-ditch effort to head off a Turkish invasion of northeast Syria. Tens of thousands of Turkish troops are massed near the border. Kurdish-led victories against the Islamic State have left them in control of much of the border area. Turkey considers this a terrorist threat to its own security.
        The U.S. has proposed a joint U.S.-Turkish military operation to secure a strip south of the Syria-Turkey border that would be nine miles deep and 87 miles long and from which Kurdish fighters would be withdrawn. The U.S. and Turkish militaries would destroy Kurdish fortifications and then jointly patrol the area. Turkey has already rejected those parameters, insisting on a "safe zone" at least 20 miles deep and expressing a preference to control it alone.
        If Turkey refuses the U.S. proposal and launches an invasion, the administration has made clear that it cannot, under existing congressional authorities, intervene to protect the Kurdish fighters. The Kurds have warned that a fight with Turkey may leave them unable to guard the prisons in eastern Syria holding 10,000 Islamic State inmates. (Washington Post)
        See also below Observations: Turkey Sets a Course Against the West - Jonathan Spyer (Jerusalem Post)
News Resources - Israel and the Mideast:
  • Israel Sends Condolences after Mass Shootings in U.S.
    Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu told the Israeli Cabinet on Sunday: "In the past 24 hours, we have witnessed two murderous attacks in Texas and Ohio. On behalf of all government ministers and all citizens of Israel, I send condolences to the bereaved families, best wishes for recovery to the injured, and solidarity with the mourning of the American people."  (Prime Minister's Office)
        See also Tel Aviv City Hall Lights Up in Solidarity with U.S. after Mass Shootings
    "Tel Aviv City Hall lit up with the colors of the U.S. flag after the terrible shooting incidents in Dayton and El Paso. Our thoughts and prayers are with the people of the United States, with all those who suffered in these attacks," the Tel Aviv-Yafo municipality said Sunday. (Sputnik-Russia)
  • Jordan Closes Aaron's Tomb after Jews Seen Praying at Site - Tzvi Joffre
    The site where Aaron, Moses' brother, is said to be buried near Petra was closed by Jordan's Ministry of Awqaf Islamic Affairs and Antiquities on Thursday after Israeli tourists were filmed performing "Jewish rituals" at the site on the anniversary of Aaron's death.
        Tour guide Roni Ayalon told Ynet that the group was subjected to humiliating treatment by Jordanian authorities. "They just stripped down all of us," he said. "They took off the women's head scarves. All the boys' yarmulkes were taken off. They took off everyone's shirts to see if they had tzitzit (religious fringes) under their clothes and took [the tzitzit] off them. They confiscated any religious symbols they found on us."
        "If there was this kind of humiliation of an Arab on our side who wanted to enter Jerusalem and they would dare to tell him to take off his shirt or confiscate his Koran, there would be a world war....But they can do whatever they want to us." According to Ayalon, the group was forbidden from praying while traveling in Jordan, even in their hotel room. Walla News reported that Jordanian police arrived at the hotel near Petra and searched the Israelis' rooms to confiscate religious items.
        The Awqaf ministry strongly condemned the entry of the tourists and said an investigation will be opened to find out who was responsible for allowing them into the site, the official Jordan News Agency reported. Former Jordanian tourism minister Maha al-Khatib said, "There is a Zionist scheme to claim ownership of any part of our Arab homeland, especially in archaeological sites."  (Jerusalem Post)
Global Commentary and Think-Tank Analysis:
  • Hizbullah's American Sleeper Cells: Waiting for Iran's Signal to Strike U.S. and Israeli Targets - Dr. Matthew Levitt
    As tensions spike between Iran and the West, Iran has been able to draw upon its network of militant proxies to carry out attacks on Iran's behalf. As former IRGC commander Gen. Mohammad Ali Jafari said, "The upside of the recent (conflicts) has been the mobilization of a force of nearly 200,000 armed youths in different countries in the region," including Iraqi Shia militias, Yemeni Houthi rebels, and Lebanese Hizbullah, overseen by the IRGC's Qods Force.
        Over the past several years, the activities of Hizbullah's external operations unit 910 have been on the rise. Hizbullah's last successful attack targeted Israeli tourists in Burgas, Bulgaria, in 2012. But a long list of other plots have since been foiled in Bolivia, Cyprus, Peru, Thailand and the UK.
        Hizbullah preoperational surveillance has also been revealed in Canada, Panama, and the U.S. One such Hizbullah operative, Ali Kourani, told an FBI agent: "I am a member of 910...the Black Ops of Hizbullah. The unit is Iranian-controlled," and described himself as part of a "sleeper cell." The writer, a former FBI and Treasury Department official, directs the program on counterterrorism and intelligence at the Washington Institute for Near East Policy. (Ha'aretz)
  • Cairo Wary of Hamas Reviving Ties with Tehran - Amr Emam
    Egypt watched closely as a delegation from Hamas visited Tehran on July 20, the first such trip since December 2017. "The return of Iranian influence to the Gaza Strip will adversely affect the region," Egyptian political analyst Ammar Ali Hassan said. "Apart from potentially ending the calm between Hamas and Israel, this influence will harm Egypt's relations with Hamas."
        Egypt reportedly prevented Hamas political chief Ismail Haniyeh from leaving Gaza for the meeting in Iran. This was why Hamas Politburo Deputy Chairman Saleh al-Arouri, who lives in Beirut, led the delegation. Egypt looks with suspicion at Iranian attempts to expand its influence in the region, especially in Egypt's immediate vicinity. Hamas is an ideological offshoot of the Muslim Brotherhood, an organization hated by the government of Egyptian President al-Sisi.
        "Egypt has to use the cards in its hands to pressure Hamas to stop reaching out to Iran," said Samir Ghattas, a member of the Egyptian parliament. "Iran's influence in Gaza is a real threat to Egypt's national security."  (Arab Weekly-UK)

Turkey Sets a Course Against the West - Jonathan Spyer (Jerusalem Post)
  • Turkey occupies a chunk of northwest Syria and its troops are currently massing on the border of Syria further east. Turkish forces are also present in northern Iraq.
  • Turkey offers active support to the Muslim Brotherhood-associated government in Libya, supplying drones to Tripoli in violation of a UN embargo in place since 2011.
  • Ankara also supports the Hamas regime in Gaza which maintains an active office in Istanbul. Turkey is also seeking to build influence in Jerusalem through government-linked aid agencies.
  • Now Turkey is emerging as an aggressive and disruptive force with regard to gas development in the eastern Mediterranean, adopting its own interpretation of international law with regard to defining ownership of energy resources. Turkey claims that the waters adjacent to Cyprus constitute part of Turkey's own continental shelf, and that Ankara has the right to explore and to drill for gas there.
  • Turkey dispatched gunboats last year to drive off an attempt by the Italian energy company ENI to commence drilling in agreement with the Cypriot government.
  • Turkey's leaders today describe themselves frankly as enemies of Israel. They appear to have set a course toward a broader orientation of hostility to the West.

    The writer is director of the Middle East Center for Reporting and Analysis.