December 20, 2019

In-Depth Issues:

Rouhani: Iran Testing New Uranium Enrichment Centrifuges - Joshua Berlinger (CNN)
    Iran President Hassan Rouhani said Wednesday in Malaysia that his country is now testing advanced IR-9 uranium enrichment centrifuges, the Iranian state-run news agency IRNA reported.
    Under the terms of the nuclear deal, Iran had committed to not using advanced centrifuges to enrich uranium.

Hizbullah-Backed Professor to Form New Government in Lebanon (AP-New York Times)
    Hassan Diab, 60, a professor at the American University of Beirut and a former education minister, backed by Hizbullah, was selected Thursday as Lebanon's new prime minister.
    He won support from 69 lawmakers in the 128-member parliament, including the Shiite Hizbullah and Amal movements, as well as lawmakers affiliated with President Michel Aoun.
    But Diab failed to get the support of Lebanon's major Sunni leaders.

Knesset Guard Drills for Missile Attack, Rescue of Wounded Lawmakers (Times of Israel)
    35 members of the Knesset Honor Guard participated in a drill on Thursday simulating a missile attack on the Israeli parliament, necessitating rescue operations and medical assistance to legislators.
    The Guard was drilled on multiple scenarios requiring evacuation from beneath rubble, and practiced communication, teamwork and initial medical assistance.
    Knesset director-general Albert Saharovich said: "The Knesset is a strategic site and one of Israel's most significant government symbols. So there is great importance in maintaining the readiness of the Knesset and the professionalism of its staff in extreme situations."

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Spanish Court Annuls Municipal Anti-Israel Campaign (Algemeiner)
    A Spanish court has found that a decision by the city hall of Camargo in northern Spain to boycott companies over their ties to Israel was illegal, the Madrid-based pro-Israel group ACOM announced Thursday.
    The ruling called the city's support of the boycott campaign "a clear violation of the fundamental rights to equality" and "to transmit freely ideas and opinions."
    The city had adopted a "Space Free of Israeli Apartheid" pledge on April 25, 2016.

Israeli Public Name New Planet "Alef" - Itamar Eichner (Ynet News)
    The Israel Ministry of Science, Technology and Space announced on Monday that it will name a planet after the Hebrew letter Alef, the first letter of the alphabet.
    The name was chosen in an online poll of 20,000 participants conducted by the Israel Space Agency.
    On the occasion of its 100th anniversary, the International Astronomical Association offered dozens of countries the chance to name a planet and a star in solar systems outside of the Milky Way.

Israeli Migraine-Busting Device Hailed as "Game Changer" - Shoshanna Solomon (Times of Israel)
    Israeli startup Theranica has developed a medical device for the treatment of acute migraine.
    The device, Nerivio, is worn on the upper arm and uses smartphone-controlled electronic pulses to stimulate the body's neural pathway at the onset of a migraine.
    The device is FDA approved and is available by prescription in the U.S.
    "Utilizing the brain's native conditioned pain modulation response has been shown to offer an affordable, drug-free, non-invasive alternative to drug-based medications," said Alon Ironi, CEO of Theranica.

U.S. Contact Lens Firm Buys Israeli Eye Test Firm 6over6 for $100 Million (Globes)
    U.S. online contact lens retailer 1-800 Contacts has acquired Israeli smartphone eye test developer 6over6 for an estimated $100 million.
    6over6 has developed GlassesOn, a digital healthcare platform that enables users to perform their own vision test.
    The apps enable a complete and accurate measurement of the refractive error of the eye for eyeglasses or contact lenses and are clinically proven to be as accurate as an optometrist's exam.

Israeli Pancreatic Cancer Treatment Could Extend Lives of 3/4 of Patients - Maayan Jaffe-Hoffman (Jerusalem Post)
    77% of patients suffering from stage IV metastatic pancreatic cancer and treated with a protocol developed by Israeli biopharmaceutical company BioLineRx were able to get their disease under control, according to results of an ongoing study.

Israel's Elbit to Provide Montenegro with Remote Control Weapon Stations for Armored Vehicles - Anna Ahronheim (Jerusalem Post)
    Israel's Elbit Systems has been awarded a $35 million contract by the government of Montenegro for the acquisition of Remote Control Weapon Stations (RCWS) for their new light tactical vehicles.
    The RCWS allows for accurate firing while on the move and is operated from inside the vehicle, providing the crew full protection.

DuPont Buys Israeli Desalination Firm Desalitech (Globes)
    DuPont announced Wednesday that it will acquire Israeli closed circuit reverse osmosis (CCRO) company Desalitech.
    Desalitech's CCRO process lowers water treatment costs by 20-60%, compared with current desalination solutions.

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News Resources - North America, Europe, and Asia:
  • European Parliament Condemns Iran for Excessive Use of Force on Non-Violent Protesters
    The European Parliament on Thursday passed a non-binding resolution deploring Iranian security forces' widespread and disproportionate use of force against non-violent protesters in recent weeks. The resolution was supported by all major political groups. (Radio Farda)
        See also UN General Assembly Condemns Iran's Violations of Human Rights
    The UN General Assembly on Thursday voted 81-30, with 70 abstentions, for a resolution, sponsored by Canada, against human rights violations in Iran. (Radio Farda)
        See also Human Rights and the Iranian Regime - Secretary of State Mike Pompeo (U.S. State Department)
  • Kurdish Commander Calls for International Observers to Prevent Ethnic Cleansing in Syria - Lara Seligman
    Gen. Mazloum Abdi, commander of the Kurdish-led Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF), called on the U.S. to enforce the Oct. 17 agreement negotiated by U.S. Vice President Mike Pence to end Turkey's incursion into northeastern Syria. Abdi said the Turks are violating the condition that both sides would safeguard religious and ethnic minorities inside the 20-mile zone Turkey seized from the Kurdish forces. "The Turks are doing ethnic cleansing inside this area as they did in Afrin," Abdi said, referring to Turkey's 2018 invasion of the majority-Kurdish Afrin district. He called on the U.S. and the UN to send international observers as a guarantee to the displaced Kurdish population.
        The Turkish-backed Free Syrian Army has been terrorizing the local population. There are regular reports of atrocities including arrests, looting, and executions. The Kurdish commander said the Turkish proxies are arresting and killing any Kurds who try to return. (Foreign Policy)
  • PM Boris Johnson: Britain to Ban Israel Boycotts by Local Councils
    British Prime Minister Boris Johnson said Thursday: "We will stop public bodies from taking it upon themselves to boycott goods from other countries to develop their own pseudo-foreign policy against a country which with nauseating frequency turns out to be Israel." Board of Deputies of British Jews President Marie van der Zyl said: "We welcome the Government's pledge today to take action."  (Jewish Chronicle-UK)
  • German Parliament Calls for Full Ban of Hizbullah Activities - David Rising
    Germany's Bundestag passed a resolution Thursday calling for a national ban on the activities of Hizbullah. Mathias Middelberg, the spokesman for Chancellor Angela Merkel's Christian Democratic Union (CDU) in parliament, said, "It is unacceptable that Hizbullah is waging a terrorist fight against Israel in the Middle East, which is being financed through worldwide criminal activities....In view of Germany's special responsibility toward Israel, we call on the government to ban all activities for Hizbullah in Germany."
        "The separation between a political and a military arm should be abandoned, and Hizbullah as a whole should be placed on the EU terrorist list," he said. Israeli Foreign Minister Israel Katz said, "The Bundestag's resolution is an important step in the international struggle against terrorism, particularly against the terrorist organization Hizbullah and its patron, Iran." Britain banned Hizbullah in March, as have the Netherlands, the U.S. and Canada. (AP-San Francisco Chronicle)
News Resources - Israel and the Mideast:
  • Israel Weighs Moves to Stop Palestinians from Taking Over Area C in the West Bank - Ariel Kahana
    Israeli Defense Minister Naftali Bennett has held several meetings with officials in the security establishment to define priorities for enforcement by the IDF Civil Administration in the West Bank, with a focus on the years-long Palestinian and European attempt to establish facts on the ground with illegal Palestinian construction. Over 1,000 illegal housing starts are underway in Area C - the majority of which are funded by foreign money.
        Defense and security officials call the illegal construction "a well-organized tactic by the Palestinian Authority to illegally take over large areas of Area C that are under Israeli control, as part of a broader strategic move." Bennett said, "We will no longer stand aside while the European Union builds political, illegal construction here."  (Israel Hayom)
  • Number of Israelis Killed in Terror Attacks Declined in 2019, But Terrorists' Motivation Remains Undiminished - Yoav Limor
    Five Israelis were killed in terrorist attacks in 2019, compared to 13 in 2018. But the motivation among terrorist groups in Gaza and the West Bank to carry out attacks against Israeli civilians and security forces is only growing. The only thing keeping them at bay are the tireless counterterrorism efforts of the Israel Security Agency and the military. (Israel Hayom)
  • Greek Fans Burn Israeli Flag at Basketball Game Against Israelis - Efrat Amoraban
    When the Greek basketball team AEK Athens hosted Hapoel Jerusalem for a match in the Basketball Champions League on Wednesday, its fans waved Palestinian and Hizbullah flags and burned an Israeli flag during the game. AEK's supporters even shined laser in the eyes of the Israeli fans.
        "We had heavy security protecting us," said Israeli fan Matan Ben-Harush. "We were surrounded by hundreds of police officers, we could see the fans of the other team tearing Hapoel flags before the game but there was no physical confrontation."
        Merav, another Israeli fan, said, "It hurts seeing your country's flag being burned in front of your very eyes, and even though the way they acted was horrifying, I felt proud to have 400 Israeli fans with me who cheered and rooted like there were thousands of us." The BCL said it will launch disciplinary proceedings against AEK Athens regarding the incident. (Ynet News)
Global Commentary and Think-Tank Analysis:
  • Arbitrary Detention and Torture under the PA - Rhys Davies
    In the middle of the night on November 3, 2018, 40 armed men burst into the home of Suha Jbara, a Palestinian woman with American and Panamanian citizenship, shoving their guns in her face and that of her mother and her three young children. The men were from the Palestinian Authority (PA) and demanded that she accompany them to the PA Intelligence Service headquarters in Al-Bireh. During her ten weeks of detention, Jbara was physically tortured, denied legal advice and the chance to speak to her family. She was also forced to sign a confession.
        Jbara's case is just one of many examples of arbitrary detention and torture under the PA. During her detention, she described how she saw other prisoners - including many teenagers - who were blindfolded, handcuffed, and forced to sit in stress positions facing the wall as cold water was poured on their faces.
        In October 2018, Human Rights Watch released a report which detailed how the PA crushes dissent, from controlling social media and arbitrarily arresting demonstrators, university students and journalists, to brutal torture and abuse once in custody. The PA has failed to respect the basic rights of its own people and the rule of law for too long. It cannot continue. The writer is an international criminal law and human rights law barrister, based in London and The Hague. (Euronews-France)
        See also Palestinian Woman Tortured in PA Prison (Amnesty International-5Dec2018)
  • Iran's Plan to Foil a Gaza-Israel Ceasefire - Khaled Abu Toameh
    Iran summoned leaders of Palestinian Islamic Jihad (PIJ) to Tehran after reports in the Arab media suggested that the Egyptians have made significant progress in their efforts to achieve a long-term ceasefire between Hamas in Gaza and Israel.
        Senior Hamas official Mahmoud Zahar downplayed the reports, saying that even if his group agrees to a temporary cessation of terror attacks against Israel, that would be only to allow Hamas to continue stockpiling weapons. "There's no ignoring our main goal: the liberation of all of Palestine," Zahar explained.
        The only explanation for Palestinian denials is fear of Iran's response to any deal with Israel. Hamas and PIJ have long been receiving financial, political and military aid from Iran so that they could continue the jihad against Israel. (Gatestone Institute)
  • The New Rocket Threat to Israel - Jonathan Schanzer
    Over the past five years, the Israelis have been fighting a quiet war targeting "game-changing weapons" that Iran was transferring to its proxies. Their recent targets are precision-guided munitions, or PGMs. Iran is working overtime to allow its proxies to convert their dumb rockets into smart ones like the deadly Joint Direct Attack Munition (JDAM) which is capable of striking within 5-10 yards of their intended targets. When enough PGMs reach the hands of Israel's enemies, the effect will indeed be game-changing.
        Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu's former national security adviser Jacob Nagel recently told me, "With enough PGMs, the impact on certain targets could be close to the impact of a nuclear weapon." For this reason, "after the Iranian nuclear threat, Israeli leaders cite the PGM threat as next on their list."
        When the Iranian PGM project comes online, Iron Dome may no longer provide the Israeli leadership with the luxury of time to weigh their options when they must respond to a hailstorm of precision strikes. The political and military leadership will be forced to respond more rapidly and with greater force.
        The writer, a former terrorism finance analyst at the U.S. Department of the Treasury, is senior vice president for research at Foundation for Defense of Democracies. (Commentary)
  • Egypt Seeks Allies to Confront Turkish Involvement in Libya - Seth J. Frantzman
    Egypt is concerned by Turkey's attempts to meddle in neighboring Libya after Ankara hinted it may send troops to Tripoli. Libya has been in a brutal civil war since 2011 and is divided between a government in Tripoli and an eastern Libya government that backs Field Marshall Khalifa Haftar. Turkey and the Tripoli government signed a defense agreement in November.
        Egypt has reached out to the UN after Turkey and Libya's Tripoli government signed a deal demarcating their Mediterranean boundaries. Greece and Cyprus were not included, nor was Haftar's government in Libya, which actually controls the coastline across from Turkey that Tripoli sought to demarcate.
        Egyptian media say the Tripoli government is run by militias and sees its government as being eroded by the Muslim Brotherhood, an enemy of Egypt's leaders. Turkey is close to the Brotherhood. This is why Turkey wants to be in Libya: to balance Egypt and not give it a win. (Jerusalem Post)
        See also Turkey and Libya Challenge Israel's Allies in the Mediterranean - Michael Harari
    Greece and Cyprus are leading the international opposition to the Turkish-Libyan agreement. The EU, too, has condemned the agreement and backed its two Hellenic member states in the dispute. Israel has expressed public and clear support for the Greek position. The writer is a policy fellow at Mitvim - The Israeli Institute for Regional Foreign Policies, and formerly the Israeli ambassador to Cyprus. (Jerusalem Post)
  • Shifting Perceptions among the Shia in Lebanon - Hanin Ghaddar
    Lebanese Shia identity is moving from a sectarian identity to a national one. Moreover, there is a widening departure from the resistance narrative, which is increasingly seen as a narrative of war and Islamic indoctrination. The ideas of resistance and antagonism towards Israel are still deep-seated facets of Lebanese Shia identity.
        Yet growing feelings of resentment towards war and Hizbullah's efforts to continue militarizing the community are proving to be stronger, as members of the community desire better living standards, financial stability, and security. In this sense, national identity - and an eagerness to be part of the Lebanese people as a whole - is becoming more significant than the sectarian identities that have long dominated Lebanese politics. The writer is a visiting fellow at The Washington Institute. (Washington Institute for Near East Policy)
  • German Lawmaker Behind Hizbullah Ban Says Move in "Our Own National Interest" - Raphael Ahren
    Freshman German MP Benjamin Strasser authored the Bundestag resolution approved Thursday urging the government in Berlin to outlaw the activities of Hizbullah. Strasser negotiated with the two major parties that make up Germany's ruling coalition until they were willing to support his text.
        "At the core of our effort stands the protection of Israel and of the Jewish community in Germany," he told the Times of Israel during a recent interview. The resolution, he stressed, is "first and foremost a measure of German domestic politics in order to prevent Hizbullah's criminal activities and the anti-Semitism it spreads here on German soil....I hope that we can reach a situation where Hizbullah operations in Germany and Europe can be prohibited."  (Times of Israel)

  • Anti-Semitism

  • White House Explains How Its Anti-Semitism Executive Order Will Work in Practice - Amir Tibon
    Avi Berkowitz, a White House official heavily involved in the executive order on anti-Semitism, told Ha'aretz: "A complaint against a lecture... would not trigger Title VI [of the Civil Rights Act]. In order for Title VI to apply, there has to be actionable conduct. Title VI requires a certain level of conduct, and the executive order does not change that requirement. The lecture remains protected speech."
        In other words, the Department of Education would not respond to a complaint about a statement alone. It would only respond to complaints about "actionable conduct" - meaning an action that could count as discrimination. (Ha'aretz)
  • Why Was an Executive Order Needed to Combat Anti-Semitism in the U.S.? - Editorial
    What has the situation for U.S. Jews come to if the president needs to issue an executive order to combat anti-Semitism? In 2019, nearly 75 years after the end of World War II and the Holocaust, there is a remarkably frightening rise in violent anti-Semitism. Data shows that 2017 and 2018 had among the highest annual rates of anti-Semitic incidents in almost 40 years. (Jerusalem Post)
  • I Cried When I Heard the British Election Exit Poll - Sara Miller
    British politics elicited a genuinely visceral response in me last week. I cried. This had been a battle over the soul of the country that my paternal grandfather and great uncles defended from the Nazis, the country that took in my maternal grandfather when he fled anti-Semitism in Eastern Europe. Almost every British Jew has this story or one like it.
        Competing in the election for the highest political office in the land was a man whose career has been dictated by his vilification of the only Jewish state, who apparently has never met an anti-Western terrorist he didn't like, and whose agitation, nastiness and tolerance of the worst of anti-Semites were wrapped in a cozy sweater and Santa beard.
        So when it became clear that Britain had said "no, thank you" to this man and his policies, the tears came. Many British people were revolted by Jeremy Corbyn and his lifelong allegiances. The suitcases can stay under the bed - for now. (Ynet News)
  • Thanking the Unsung Heroes Who Keep U.S. Synagogues Safe - Jason D. Greenblatt
    On many trips to Europe I was disconcerted by the police or private security presence at so many of the synagogues I visited. I was sad, confounded and upset to see that such a presence was needed. How is it possible, I wondered, that in cities and countries where the land is so stained with Jewish blood after a targeted, systematic attempted annihilation of the Jewish people that European synagogues would need such protection? Was there no guilt or shame? Were there no lessons learned?
        Growing up in New York City, other than the occasional rough anti-Semitic comment here or there, I was fortunate to have personally experienced virtually no anti-Semitism. The synagogues I attended had little to no visible security protocols in place. The large and extremely serious security challenges and danger we face today did not exist.
        We must all express our deep gratitude to our friends and neighbors who volunteer for the Community Security Service and Secure Community Network, organizations that train and watch over us in our synagogues.
        Last Shabbat when I arrived at my synagogue, one of our CSS volunteers pointed out that in the wake of the horrific attack in Jersey City days earlier, they were now wearing bulletproof vests. Let that sink in a moment. The risk to these volunteers has grown so much that they must now wear bulletproof vests to protect themselves while they protect us. The writer is a former assistant to the president and special representative for international negotiations for the Trump administration. (JTA)

  • Over the past two years, the "marches of return" and arson balloons and kites floated over the border from Gaza by Hamas have started 2,155 fires that consumed over 8,600 acres of forests, fields, and nature preserves, causing damage estimated at $50 million.
  • The Jewish National Fund and families of victims of terrorism have filed a civil suit in U.S. federal court that is seeking to expose how money to fund these activities makes its way to Gaza. The lawsuit says the U.S. Campaign for Palestinian Rights (USCPR) has functioned as a pipeline to transfer donations to terrorist organizations, using the BDS National Committee (BNC).
  • The lawsuit argues that starting in 2018, the USCPR has been involved in a conspiracy to support, promote, and encourage the marches of return, which are directed, led, and encouraged by a terrorist coalition. Therefore, the suit argues, the BNC receives tax-free donations and uses them to promote an agenda of hatred and the arson balloon and kite attacks against Israel.
  • The lawsuit claims that since November 2017, the USCPR has been knowingly supplying the BNC with funds and services that went to terrorism that has killed or wounded Israeli civilians and damaged property. In accordance with American law, the USCPR is being sued for aiding terrorist organizations that committed international acts of terrorism.
  • Attorney Yifa Segal, director of the International Legal Forum, which helped the plaintiffs, said the suit "exposes a shocking and multi-layered planned conspiracy and campaign aimed at manipulating the public and hiding the key role played by designated Foreign Terror Organizations in efforts which are cynically designed to appear seemingly grassroots and legitimate, while masking an international terror campaign."
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