November 14, 2019

In-Depth Issues:

Islamic Jihad Rocket Chief Killed in IDF Gaza Strike (Times of Israel)
    Rasmi Abu Malhous, head of the Islamic Jihad's rocket unit, was killed in an overnight strike in Gaza, the IDF said Thursday.

Sweden Jails Iranian Prosecutor Implicated in Mass Execution in Prisons (Radio Farda)
    On Nov. 9, Sweden arrested Hamid Nouri, an Iranian assistant public prosecutor who was a member of the execution committee at Gohardasht Prison near Tehran in 1988 and played a key part in the mass execution of political prisoners.
    On Wednesday, a number of former political prisoners told Persian television channels in London that Nouri was involved in their torture and trial.
    Political activists say at least 5,000 prisoners were executed in Iranian prisons in 1988.

Lebanon Protests Are Breaking "Fear Barrier" - Scott Peterson (Christian Science Monitor)
    The veteran Hizbullah fighter can't count how many times he has been to Syria, but he now refuses to return there and curses the organization to which he has devoted his life.
    More Hizbullah fighters have returned from Syria in coffins than lost their lives battling Israel since the "Party of God" was founded in 1982.
    "The leaders are getting richer with corruption. I am willing to fight Israel, but...you die in Syria for nothing," he said.
    Many Shiites from traditional Hizbullah strongholds have joined a nationwide uprising in Lebanon against endemic corruption, sectarianism, and chronic lack of services.
    Though Hizbullah has never been stronger militarily or politically, "at the same time they are facing a host of vulnerabilities that they haven't had to deal with before," says Nicholas Blanford, a Beirut-based fellow at the Atlantic Council. "I think Hizbullah has reached its peak."

Calls to Reassess Norwegian Aid to Palestinians as Schoolbooks Glorify Holy War, Martyrdom (Sputnik-Russia)
    Norwegian MPs from across the political spectrum have called to cut aid to the Palestinian Authority after it was reported that new Palestinian schoolbooks glorify holy war and martyrdom.
    This year, Norway increased its annual support to Palestinian education from $4.3 million to $6 million annually.
    A new Palestinian syllabus almost completely omits Israel's very existence and all references to the peace process of previous years.

NASA to Send Israeli Solar-Power Generator to International Space Station - Aaron Reich (Jerusalem Post)
    A new prototype miniaturized solar-power generator developed in Israel by Ben-Gurion University professor emeritus Jeffrey Gordon will be sent by NASA to the International Space Station in its first launches of 2020.

News Resources - North America, Europe, and Asia:
  • U.S. Opposes New EU Label Rule for Israeli Settlement Products
    U.S. State Department spokesperson Morgan Ortagus said Wednesday: "The United States is deeply concerned by the EU requirement identified in the decision issued yesterday by the Court of Justice of the European Union (CJEU) in the Psagot Case. The circumstances surrounding the labeling requirement in the specific facts presented to the Court are suggestive of anti-Israel bias."
        "This requirement serves only to encourage, facilitate, and promote boycotts, divestments, and sanctions (BDS) against Israel. The United States unequivocally opposes any effort to engage in BDS, or to otherwise economically pressure, isolate, or otherwise delegitimize Israel. The path toward resolving the Israel-Palestinian conflict is through direct negotiations. America stands with Israel against efforts to economically pressure, isolate, or delegitimize it."  (U.S. State Department)
  • Iran Commits Multiple Violations of Nuclear Deal - David Albright and Andrea Stricker
    On November 11, 2019, the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) released its latest safeguards report on the verification and monitoring of the Iran nuclear deal. Our analysis details 14 violations of the deal, some of which are not fully reversible. Based on Iran's stock of 550 kg. of enriched uranium, Iran's breakout time has been reduced from 8-12 months to 6-10 months. The breakout time will decrease further as Iran increases its stock of enriched uranium and installs more centrifuges.
        David Albright is president of the Institute for Science and International Security. Andrea Stricker is a research fellow at the Foundation for Defense of Democracies. (Institute for Science and International Security)
  • Turkey's Proxy Army Accused of Abusing Civilians in Northern Syria - Asser Khattab
    Proxy forces backed by Turkey in northern Syria have been blamed for a growing ledger of abuses against the local population, residents say, undermining Turkey's stated goal of creating a "safe zone" for civilians. More than 200,000 people have been internally displaced by the Turkish-led offensive, according to the UN.
        Locals say Turkey's Syrian Arab proxies have carried out summary executions and beatings, kidnapped or detained their relatives, and looted their houses, businesses and belongings. The result, refugees say, is a form of ethnic cleansing - designed to force out Kurdish residents and replace them with Arabs loyal to Turkey.
        Fateh, 38, an Arab of Turkish origin, said in a telephone interview, "Those people are filled with hatred and a lust for blood. They do not distinguish between Arab and Kurdish, Muslim and non-Muslim." Mikael Mohammad, a Kurd who fled with his family, said of the Turkish-backed fighters: "They walk into houses and proclaim them theirs. They kidnap and execute people for being 'atheists' or 'blasphemers.' And they are looting people's properties in broad daylight."  (Washington Post)
News Resources - Israel and the Mideast:
Global Commentary and Think-Tank Analysis:
  • No Hamas Tears Shed for Islamic Jihad Leader - Ben Caspit
    Islamic Jihad commander Baha Abu al-Ata torpedoed all efforts for an arrangement between Israel and Hamas and tried to usurp Hamas' sovereignty in Gaza. In the past year, he humiliated Hamas time after time by violating ceasefires with Israel. Abu al-Ata was a violent, belligerent and uncontrollable element, and no Hamas tears will be shed for him.
        For the first time, Israel is not exacting a price from Hamas for rocket fire from Gaza. Instead, Israel focuses only on Islamic Jihad. That Hamas has held back and let Islamic Jihad wear itself out against Israel is truly unprecedented. (Al-Monitor)
  • Fighting in Gaza Exposes Overlapping Interests of Hamas and Israel - Brig.-Gen. (res.) Udi Dekel
    The targeted killing of Palestinian Islamic Jihad commander Baha Abu el-Ata showed that Israel can reach anyone planning terror attacks against it. The decision to focus on PIJ, rather than Hamas, can be viewed as a policy shift by Israel. Hamas and Israel's conduct exposes their overlapping interests, not just in weakening PIJ but also in laying the groundwork for a long-term ceasefire. PIJ realizes it is currently alone and that the longer this fight drags on, the damage it incurs will become more acute. The writer, former head of the IDF Strategic Planning Division, is managing director of the Institute for National Security Studies at Tel Aviv University. (Israel Hayom)
  • Israeli Winery at Center of EU Court Ruling on Labeling Refuses to Back Down - Josh Hasten
    The European Court of Justice on Tuesday ruled that foodstuffs originating in "territories occupied by the State of Israel" cannot be labeled as "made in Israel." The ECJ ruling comes following a lawsuit levied by the Psagot Winery against the French government in 2017, after France announced that it would label Israeli-imported products manufactured in those areas.
        Psagot Winery CEO Yaakov Berg says, "The winery...intends to continue the struggle....As Israeli citizens, living in a community that has been approved by the Israeli government, we only wish to produce and export high standard wine that has earned its reputation worldwide." The winery produces nearly 400,000 bottles a year. "We are not going to accept a double standard between Israel and the rest of the world. No other country which has territorial disputes has their products labeled, and we won't accept it."
        Brooke Goldstein, executive director of the Lawfare Project, said that if the EU treats Israeli products differently than any other product imported, then it is clear discrimination based on the International Holocaust Remembrance Alliance's (IHRA) working definition of anti-Semitism as "[a]pplying double standards by requiring of [Israel] a behavior not expected or demanded of any other democratic nation."  (JNS)

Gaza Fighting Highlights Differences between Hamas and Islamic Jihad - Prof. Hillel Frisch (BESA Center for Strategic Studies-Bar-Ilan University)
  • While Hamas views the use of violence as a means for increasing the volume of trade with Israel and securing the inflow of Qatari money to enhance the welfare of the Gaza population, Islamic Jihad seeks confrontation as part of an Iranian strategy to deflect attention from its Syrian military buildup and regional expansion.
  • Hamas must take into consideration its popular base, which includes 50,000 men and women whose salaries depend on Hamas' retention of control of Gaza.
  • Most Gazans live in a society that is almost exclusively Sunni and suspect Islamic Jihad members of being Shiites in disguise. This is why in elections in Gaza universities and trade unions, Islamic Jihad secures a mere 2-3% support.
  • At Abu Ata's funeral procession just hours after his killing, it was hard to count more than 100 participants. No flags of other Gaza organizations were visible.
  • Islamic Jihad's paltry popular base means its dependence on Iran is all the greater. Moreover, PIJ can operate purely as a fighting arm without the need to take into account the welfare of the Gaza population.
  • Hamas leaders are keenly aware who wags Islamic Jihad's tail, the reasons behind its activities, and the ways its strategy contradicts Hamas' current agenda. However, Hamas can only constrain rather than stop Islamic Jihad because it needs Iran as well.

    The writer is a professor of political and Middle East studies at Bar-Ilan University and a senior research associate at its Begin-Sadat Center.