August 19, 2019

In-Depth Issues:

Hizbullah Setting Fires at Israel-Lebanon Border (Times of Israel)
    In footage aired Sunday by Israel's Channel 12, Hizbullah operatives can be seen setting fires near Israel's border with Lebanon on Friday, adopting arson techniques that Palestinians in Gaza have used repeatedly to attack Israel.
    Strong winds quickly fanned the flames and caused the brush fire to cross the border and spread toward an IDF base and the community of Margaliot.
    UN peacekeepers can be seen patrolling near the fires, but making no attempt to stop the Hizbullah men from setting fires.
    Efforts to put out the fire were hampered by the inability to use fire-fighting aircraft due to the proximity to the hostile border.

Interpreting the Upsurge in Security Incidents on the Gaza-Israel Border - Amos Harel (Ha'aretz)
    The large number of recent security incidents on the Gaza-Israel border has spawned a wave of analysis suggesting that it is the result of a well-orchestrated campaign by the leadership of Hamas in Gaza, headed by Yahya Sinwar, to pressure Israel to move faster on promised relief.
    But conversations with a number of Israeli intelligence officials reveal nearly wall-to-wall disagreement with that thesis. The prevalent claim among defense officials is that the recent attacks mainly demonstrate the weakness of Hamas in controlling events.
    With Israel's quiet consent, Egypt recently began operating another major crossing point for goods into Gaza in the Rafah area, including food and building materials. Hamas taxes the merchandise coming over the border, earning tens of millions of shekels a month.
    Israel has also taken several steps to ease the situation in Gaza. Electricity is now on for 16 hours a day (as opposed to 4 hours) and thousands of Gazans - officially designated as business people but many of whom are day laborers - are now being allowed into Israel.

PA Bans LGBTQ Activities in West Bank - Khaled Abu Toameh (Jerusalem Post)
    The Palestinian Authority banned members of the Palestinian LGBTQ community from carrying out any activities in the West Bank, after the grassroots group Al-Qaws for Sexual & Gender Diversity in Palestinian Society was planning to hold a gathering in Nablus this month.
    Luay Zreikat, spokesperson for the PA Police, said that such activities are "harmful to the higher values and ideals of Palestinian society."
    The PA police will see to it that those behind the LGBTQ group are brought to trial once they are arrested, he warned.
    A member of Al-Qaws said that since the police announcement, he and his friends have received hundreds of threats and hate messages from Palestinians, especially through Facebook.
    "They are calling us traitors and corrupt people and many are calling for our execution. We are afraid for our lives."

Blackface Is a Staple of Arab Comedy - Declan Walsh (New York Times)
    Blackface, a racist entertainment device, is alive and well in mainstream Arab entertainment.
    In the Arab world, where racism is a deeply rooted yet rarely discussed issue, blackface comedy remains widespread and acceptable enough to be a staple on major television networks.

News Resources - North America, Europe, and Asia:
  • U.S. Cutting Off Oxygen Supply to Tehran's Proxies - Raghida Dergham
    During Lebanese Prime Minister Saad Hariri's visit to Washington last week, he heard firm declarations that the U.S. does not intend to relent on the issue of sanctions on Hizbullah and those who provide it with political, military and intelligence cover. U.S. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo, standing beside Hariri, declared that the Middle East is under threat from Iran and that the Lebanese people are under threat from Hizbullah. A high-level American source, summing up the U.S. message to Lebanon, said: "We stressed that he must achieve progress and take concrete steps to distance himself from Hizbullah."
        The U.S. put forward a set of parameters for clear overarching goals, the source revealed. These goals seek to weaken Hizbullah's hold over Lebanon and gradually dismantle Iranian influence over the country. U.S. officials made it clear that American money being channeled to Lebanon should not be spent to help Hizbullah in any way, and that continued Hizbullah domination over Lebanon would mean aid money would be denied. (The National-Abu Dhabi)
  • White Nationalist with Large Arsenal Arrested for Threatening Youngstown, Ohio, Jewish Center - Morgan Krakow
    On Saturday, police arrested James Patrick Reardon, 20, on charges of telecommunications harassment and aggravated menacing after he posted an Instagram video threatening the Jewish Community Center of Youngstown, Ohio. At the home of Reardon's parents, authorities seized two assault rifles and a large amount of ammunition, as well as a gas mask and bulletproof armor. (Washington Post)
News Resources - Israel and the Mideast:
  • 3 Armed Palestinians Killed Trying to Breach Israel-Gaza Border - Lilach Shoval
    Armed Palestinian terrorists were engaged by IDF troops shortly after midnight on Saturday night as they attempted to breach the Israel-Gaza border. Palestinian medics said they retrieved three bodies and a fourth man was wounded. (Israel Hayom)
        See also Video: See Foiled Palestinian Infiltration Attempt from Gaza - Judah Ari Gross (Times of Israel)
  • Palestinians in Gaza Fire Rockets at Israel on Friday and Saturday - Judah Ari Gross
    Palestinians in Gaza fired at least one rocket into Israel on Friday night, which was intercepted by the Iron Dome defense system. They fired three more on Saturday night, two of which were intercepted. Fragments from one of the Gaza rockets struck the yard of a home in the town of Sderot, causing damage. Sderot resident Itzik Twitto, whose house was damaged by the rocket, said he was sitting outside when he heard the siren and quickly ran to the bomb shelter with the rest of his family. "This is what we've been living with for 20 years," he said. (Times of Israel)
  • Israeli Car-Ramming Victim Remains Unconscious - Tovah Lazaroff
    Terrorist victim Nahum Navis, 18, remains unconscious and in serious condition after he and his sister, Noam, 20, were injured in a car-ramming attack on Friday at a bus stop near Elazar in the Gush Etzion region. The Palestinian driver, Ala' Khader al-Hareimi from Bethlehem, who was shot and killed at the scene, was imprisoned in 2014 and 2015 for violent activities. (Jerusalem Post)
  • Netanyahu: Israel Respects Congress, But Won't Tolerate BDS - Raphael Ahren
    Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu on Sunday said that while Israel respects all Congress members, it would not welcome those who back boycotts of the Jewish state. "There is only one exception: the exception is the BDS Law that requires us to check the entrance of supporters of BDS."
        "We respect all parties in the United States, but we also respect ourselves. Everyone who comes to boycott us and comes to undermine the legitimacy of the State of Israel, we don't allow them to enter."
        Foreign Minister Israel Katz denied reports that President Donald Trump had pressured Israel to disallow the two congresswomen from visiting. He also said the decision to bar the two was made before Trump tweeted support of a ban on Thursday. (Times of Israel)
Global Commentary and Think-Tank Analysis:
  • How Israel Can Deter Iran - Benny Morris
    Hizbullah is said to have 130,000 rockets that could reach all of Israel, with Hamas possessing thousands of rockets that could cover southern and central Israel, including the Tel Aviv area. A possible third front in the Golan Heights could involve an Iranian force made up of Revolutionary Guards and militias under Tehran's control.
        But there may be a way to avert the scenario of a multi-front war with one simple and blunt statement. The Israeli government should declare tomorrow, immediately, publicly and unequivocally, that if Iran's proxies forced Israel into an all-out war, for any reason, with a massive rocket barrage, Israel would respond immediately and forcefully against Tehran, Isfahan, Shiraz, Bushehr, Natanz, Qom and Iran's other population centers and strategic targets.
        Iran would understand that it would pay dearly for an assault on Israel by its proxies. The fear of such a massive Israeli reprisal would make Iran's leaders think very carefully about whether they should dispatch Hizbullah and Hamas and their proxies in Syria on any adventures. Israel's ability to strike Iran is much greater than Iran's ability to strike Israel. And in such a conflict, there is no reason to believe that Tehran would wish to add the U.S. as an active combatant against it. The writer is a former professor of history at Ben-Gurion University. (Ha'aretz)
  • The Complicated Views of Liberal Jews - Irwin J. Mansdorf
    At the Jerusalem Center for Public Affairs, we chose to address the question of how American liberal Jews relate to Israel. We posed the issues to different samples of American liberal Jews. Our research showed that, contrary to some opinions, liberal Jews do in fact show distinct identification with and support for Israel. Overall, Jewish liberals see the importance of keeping Israel a "Jewish" state, they reject the notion of Israel as an "apartheid" state, they see Palestinian violence as an illegitimate means of protest, and most see "Zionism" as a legitimate national liberation movement.
        When we asked which social issue is most important to liberal Jews, it was not black lives matter or Islamophobia, which general liberals see as more important. The "most important" issue for Jewish liberals (we tested three separate groups) was "anti-Semitism." When we specifically asked liberal Jews if the Democrats have a "Jewish problem," the answer was a resounding "no."  (New York Jewish Week)
        See also Video - American Liberal Jews: Strong Concern about Anti-Semitism, Strong Support of Israel but Less for under 60s - Irwin J. Mansdorf (Jerusalem Center for Public Affairs)
  • Omar, Tlaib Are Enemies of the Jewish State - Brooke Goldstein
    Israel was wise to deny entry to Reps. Ilhan Omar and Rashida Tlaib. These are not good-faith actors, earnestly seeking to visit the Holy Land and learn about its people, history and culture. If their intention was to truly see the facts on the ground for what they are, they could have easily joined 72 of their fellow House members who visited Israel last week. But the pair ruled this out, instead choosing to plan their own trip to advance their anti-Israel and anti-Semitic political agenda.
        The two congresswomen have First Amendment rights - as do all American citizens - to express their beliefs. But Israel, as a sovereign nation, also has every right to decide who can and cannot enter its borders and for what purpose. No country on Earth would allow its sworn enemies to use its territory as a base from which to continue an insidious campaign of delegitimization. The writer is executive director of The Lawfare Project, which provides pro bono legal services to protect the civil and human rights of the Jewish people worldwide. (Fox News)

Nuanced Realism: Israel and the Tlaib/Omar Visit - Gerald M. Steinberg (Times of Israel)
  • I argued for allowing Tlaib and Omar into Israel, despite the media circus and bad PR that they would manufacture, because we should not bar members of the U.S. Congress, and because this would probably be worse on the propaganda front. In my view, the risks of refusing entry to Members of Congress were still greater than the risks posed by their political theater.
  • Yet much of American punditry unleashed a flood of condemnations of the Israeli move entirely devoid of nuance. The portrayal of Netanyahu as merely following Trump's lead (or demand) are simplistic in the extreme, involving one-dimensional stick figures in a reality that is far more complex.
  • I realize that nuanced argument and political realism are in short supply in the era of ideological polarization and zero-sum politics (we have truth; everyone else is evil). But I will continue to hope that eventually, nuanced realism will return to favor, particularly on Israel.

    The writer is Professor of Political Studies at Bar-Ilan University and president of NGO Monitor.

  • According to Alan Baker, former legal adviser to Israel's Foreign Ministry, Israel's decisions to bar Reps. Rashida Tlaib and Ilhan Omar from visiting Israel and then permitting entry for Rep. Tlaib to enter the country for a family visit were made independently and were not related to President Trump's tweets.
  • Baker also rubbished the claim that the incident could cause significant damage to Israel's relations with the U.S. It is the "congresswomen that, for the past few years, have been the cause and source of the damage to relations with Israel," Baker said.
  • Referring to the potential consequences of Israel's decision, Baker presumed that "it'll pass in due course" when the critics "realize that Israel is still a vital ally of the U.S. and the...congresswomen orchestrated the whole event as a means of trying to harm Israel."