December 3, 2019

In-Depth Issues:

ICC Prosecutor Again Refuses 2010 Gaza Flotilla Raid Probe - Mike Corder (AP)
    The prosecutor of the International Criminal Court, Fatou Bensouda, on Monday again refused to open an investigation into the 2010 storming by Israeli forces of a Turkish flotilla heading to Gaza.
    Appeals judges in September ordered Bensouda to reconsider her earlier refusals to open a formal investigation into the storming of the Mavi Marmara.

Israel Dispatches Aid Mission to Albania following Earthquake (Israel Ministry of Foreign Affairs)
    A special Israeli aid mission departed Tuesday for Albania, headed by the commander of the National Search and Rescue Brigade, Col. (res.) Golan Wach, following the devastating earthquake there.
    Ten officers and engineers will survey damaged buildings. A humanitarian aid shipment includes tents to be used as emergency dwellings and logistical support for casualties.

U.S. Urges Probe of "Excessive" Use of Force in Iraq (Reuters)
    Iraqi security forces opened fire on demonstrators in Nassiriya, killing at least 29 people and wounding dozens more.
    David Schenker, U.S. assistant secretary of state for Near Eastern affairs, said Monday, "The use of excessive force over the weekend in Nassiriya was shocking and abhorrent."
    Iraqi forces have killed over 400 people since mass anti-government protests broke out on Oct. 1.

McGill Sides with Jewish Student Against Student Government - Siddak Ahuja (Post Millennial-Canada)
    Fabrice Labeau, Deputy Provost of McGill University, sent an email to its students stating that their student government's decision to prosecute a Jewish student for attending a Hillel-sponsored trip to Israel fosters "a culture of ostracization."
    The decision "is contrary to the University's values of inclusion, diversity and respect" and represents a "very serious breach of trust."
    "There is absolutely no place for discriminatory behavior, attitude or discourse that runs contrary to our core values and principles."

Chief Advisor to Erdogan: "The Islamic World Should Prepare an Army for Palestine" (MEMRI)
    Retired Turkish general Adnan Tanriverdi, a chief advisor to Turkish President Erdogan, told a conference in Istanbul on Nov. 29 "that it was not possible for the Islamic world to give up on Jerusalem," and that "Israel governed 85% of Palestinian land."
    He added: "The Islamic world should prepare an army for Palestine from outside Palestine."

News Resources - North America, Europe, and Asia:
  • Iran, Cut Off from Vital Cash Reserves, Is Approaching Economic Peril, U.S. Says - Ian Talley
    U.S. officials cite new intelligence suggesting Tehran's finances are more dire than previously thought and are bringing it closer to a financial crisis. According to the new intelligence, the government is scraping the barrel on foreign-exchange reserves. Combined with the oil drop-off and a widening trade deficit, Iran is facing even greater economic duress than in 2013, when the government was pressured into starting nuclear negotiations with global powers, U.S. officials say.
        Iran's currency reserves are estimated by the IMF to be at $86 billion currently, or 20% below the level in 2013. But the situation likely is more challenging. Brian Hook, the U.S. special envoy for Iran, said Tehran has access to only 10% of those cash reserves, as sanctions against the financial sector prevent the government from tapping them. (Wall Street Journal)
  • Pompeo: Iran the Common Enemy in Mideast Protests
    U.S. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo said Monday that Iran was the uniting factor behind protests in Iraq, Lebanon and Iran. Iraqi premier Adel Abdel Mahdi resigned "because the people were demanding freedom and the security forces had killed dozens and dozens of people. That's due in large part to Iranian influence," Pompeo said. "The same is true in Lebanon, the protests in Beirut. They want Hizbullah and Iran out of their country, out of their system as a violent and a repressive force."
        He said that protests inside Iran showed that Iranians were also "fed up." "They see a theocracy that is stealing...tens of millions of dollars."  (AFP)
  • Jeremy Corbyn's Most Ardent Supporters "More Likely to Be Anti-Semitic" - Edward Malnick
    A YouGov poll found that 35% of those who "strongly like" Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn agreed with four or more statements deemed to be anti-Semitic, while 58% held two or more such views. The proportion of ardent supporters of the other candidates who agreed with such statements was significantly less. Gideon Falter of the Campaign Against Anti-Semitism said that "the leader of the once fiercely anti-racist Labour Party is now the candidate of choice for anti-Jewish racists."  (Sunday Telegraph-UK)
        See also Ruth Smeeth, Jewish Labour MP, Carries Panic Button due to Death Threats
    Prominent Jewish Labour party politician Ruth Smeeth told Stoke on Trent Live that she carries a panic button in her pocket, and refrains from using public transport due to death threats. "My house is a fortress, my office is a fortress. I've got panic buttons in my house, I carry one in my pocket. I have to live in an environment that no one should have to live in," she said. (Jerusalem Post)
        See also Anti-Semitism Is Embedded in British Culture - Prof. Robert S. Wistrich (Jerusalem Center for Public Affairs, 2008)
News Resources - Israel and the Mideast:
  • Visiting Irish Foreign Minister Says He's Open for "New Thinking" on Peace Process - Raphael Ahren
    Visiting Irish Foreign Minister Simon Coveney said Tuesday he was in favor of "new thinking" about the Israeli-Palestinian peace process, acknowledging that the realities on the ground have changed since the Oslo Accords in the mid-1990s. He acknowledged that any peace agreement will have to take Israeli security concerns into consideration.
        In an interview with Israel's Channel 11, Coveney reiterated Dublin's opposition to a bill passed in the upper house of Ireland's parliament that would criminalize the import of settlement products into Ireland. "Because we don't believe it's legally sound, we have effectively blocked the legislation from moving through parliament," Coveney said. (Times of Israel)
  • Libyan Foreign Minister: We Hope for Normal Relations with Israel - Gideon Kuts
    Abd al-Hadi al-Hajj, foreign minister to Gen. Khalifa Haftar's interim government that controls east Libya, told Maariv during a visit in Paris that he hopes Libya could establish normal relations with Israel if the Palestinian problem was resolved. Al-Hajj said his government, which sits in Tobruk, enjoys the support of Russia, France, Egypt, the UK and Saudi Arabia. According to Hajj, extremist Islamic militants backed by Turkey and Qatar sit in Tripoli. (Maariv)
Global Commentary and Think-Tank Analysis:
  • Protests Might Be the Harbinger of a Greater Crisis for Iran - Afshon Ostovar and Henry Rome
    Iran has experienced its most significant turmoil in a decade. The crowds have adopted chants that include taunts against the supreme leader. They have attacked statues of Ayatollah Khomeini, the founder of the revolution, and offices affiliated with his successor, Khamenei. Numerous images and videos of Basiji paramilitary forces firing into crowds, rushing into crowds while swinging truncheons from the backs of motorcycles, and beating protesters indiscriminately have been posted to social media. The most severe anti-regime activism in terms of destruction to government buildings appears to be occurring in more blue-collar and traditionally more conservative provincial cities.
        In Iraq, Iran has become one of the key targets of the protest movement. Iran's massive political influence in Iraq has made it an arch villain. A recent opinion poll found that Iraqis view Iran even less favorably than they view the U.S.
        Iran has invested in militants who can fight wars and take territory, but they are generally poor at governance. Once security has been established, and citizens have the luxury to think about more than mere survival, suddenly things like access to electricity, employment, education, and health care begin to matter more. The protests in Iran evince the shaky ground undergirding the Islamic Republic. As the region's recent history has shown, repressing the popular desire for good governance and justice does not end that desire and could beget even further instability.
        Afshon Ostovar is an assistant professor at the Naval Postgraduate School and a Fellow at the Foreign Policy Research Institute. Henry Rome is an Iran analyst at Eurasia Group. (War on the Rocks)
  • Is Iran Near Collapse? - Mohammed Ayoob
    Iran's economy is in far worse shape today than it was on the eve of the Shah's fall in 1978. While the protests were initially largely motivated by economic factors, they now demand the removal not only of President Rouhani and his government but of the supreme leader and the clerics around him as well.
        The regime forces suppressing dissent are ideologically committed to the system of clerically-dominated rule. Their commanders realize that the fall of the regime could mean an end to their power and perks. This means that the regime is likely to survive in the short term, but its legitimacy has been irreparably damaged by the disproportionate and brutal use of force.
        Hardly anyone in Iran now buys the argument that the governing powers are defending Islam and the country against foreign enemies. The writer is Distinguished Professor Emeritus of International Relations at Michigan State University. (National Interest)

New Hallmark Hanukkah Movies Are Anti-Semitic - Britni de la Cretaz (Washington Post)
  • The Hallmark channel has introduced two Hanukkah movies to its Christmas lineup this year. There's just one problem: Neither movie is a Hanukkah movie. They are Christmas movies with Jewish characters. And they rely on some of the oldest anti-Semitic tropes in the book.
  • In "Holiday Date," a woman hires a Jewish actor to pose as her boyfriend and join her at her family's house for Christmas, but the family grows "suspicious" about "whether he knows how to celebrate." The trope of the sneaky, untrustworthy Jew, who is a perpetual outsider, is an enduring and pernicious anti-Semitic stereotype.
  • "Double Holiday" follows a Jewish woman as she plans a company Christmas party with her office rival to further her professional ambition to get a promotion. In the movie, Hanukkah stands only in relation to Christmas, not on its own terms. Indeed, it functions as an obstacle to the rest of the characters getting to celebrate as usual.
  • Along with the coming Lifetime movie "Mistletoe and Menorahs," these stories hinge on Jewish characters being compelled to observe Christmas, and the tension only resolving when these outsiders learn how to participate in or appreciate the dominant religious tradition.
  • At their worst, these movies traffic in bigoted stereotypes at a time when anti-Semitic hate crimes are on the rise. I, for one, would prefer to have been overlooked by the network than handed down insulting content that treats me as an obstacle to someone else's celebration.