December 24, 2019

In-Depth Issues:

Syrian Offensive in Idlib Province Sends Tens of Thousands Fleeing - Vivian Yee (New York Times)
    As many as 100,000 people have been forced to flee their homes in rebel-held Idlib Province in northwest Syria as the Assad government and Russia have been bombing relentlessly during their latest military offensive there.
    The civilians are huddling in makeshift settlements since Turkey has sealed its border.

Berlin Celebrates Hanukkah with Biggest Menorah in Europe - Leah Carter (Deutsche Welle-Germany)
    Jews in Germany kicked off the eight-day Hanukkah celebration on Sunday by lighting a 10-meter-high menorah, Europe's largest, at Brandenburg Gate in Berlin.
    Over 2,000 people attended including Germany's Minister of Justice and Berlin's Governing Mayor.

UN Panel to Probe Palestinian Claims of Israeli Apartheid in West Bank (Times of Israel)
    The Geneva-based UN Committee on the Elimination of Racial Discrimination (CERD) has decided to review Palestinian complaints that Israeli policies in the West Bank amount to apartheid, despite the opinion of the UN's legal adviser that it did not have the authority to deal with the matter, Israel's Channel 13 reported Monday.
    An Israel Foreign Ministry source said, "after the committee didn't accept the opinion of the UN legal adviser, it is not clear if there is any point in cooperating with this process."

A Terror Village next to Jerusalem - Nadav Shragai (Israel Hayom)
    Jabel Mukaber, an Arab neighborhood in east Jerusalem, has been home to the largest number of perpetrators of terrorist attacks and attempted terrorist attacks per capita since the Second Intifada, with residents involved in over 200 terrorist attacks, attempted attacks, and thwarted terrorist attacks.
    Residents Ahmad Jabis and Basel Abidat, who were arrested last month, planned to carry out terrorist attacks on Israel's Independence Day and kill "as many Jews as possible" at either Sultan's Pool or Safra Square in Jerusalem. The two sought to act in the name of the Islamic State and were in touch with ISIS.
    Arik Barbing, who was responsible for Judea and Samaria and the Jerusalem district for the Israel Security Agency, said:
    "In Jerusalem, ISIS almost doesn't exist, but the little it does is mostly in Jabel Mukaber. There are individuals there who connect to the idea of a global Islamic caliphate and global jihad, and the belief in the need to change the world and liberate it from the Crusaders and the Jews through extreme acts that feed off religion."

Israel's IceCure Gets FDA Nod to Treat Tumors in Liver, Kidney (Reuters)
    Israel's IceCure Medical said on Sunday it received U.S. FDA approval to expand the use of its cryoablation technology to treat benign and cancerous tumors in livers and kidneys.
    IceCure uses special needles to inject liquid nitrogen to freeze and destroy tumors without the need for surgery.

News Resources - North America, Europe, and Asia:
  • Israel Opposes Turkey-Libya Maritime Border Accord
    Israel opposes an accord signed last month between Libya and Turkey mapping out maritime boundaries in the eastern Mediterranean, Israeli Foreign Minister Israel Katz said Monday. Greece, a close ally of Israel, called the accord absurd because it ignored the presence of the Greek island of Crete, located between Turkey and Libya. Katz told Israel's Channel 13 that while Turkish President Erdogan was an adversary, "We have no desire, and Turkey has no desire, for a confrontation."  (Reuters)
  • ISIS in Iraq Getting Stronger Again - Orla Guerin
    The Islamic State (ISIS) is reorganizing in Iraq and ISIS attacks are increasing, Kurdish and Western intelligence officials have told BBC. Lahur Talabany, a top Kurdish counter-terrorism official, said the organization has spent the past 12 months rebuilding from the ruins of the caliphate "and we think the rebuilding phase is over." He says ISIS no longer wants to control any territory to avoid being a target, and they have gone underground in Iraq's Hamrin Mountains.
        The militants are also benefitting from strained relations between Baghdad and the Kurdistan regional government. According to Talabany, there is now a vast area of no man's land in northern Iraq between Kurdish Peshmerga forces and their Iraqi counterparts. The only ones patrolling in this area are ISIS. Peshmerga intelligence says ISIS ranks have recently been reinforced by 100 fighters who crossed the border from Syria, including some foreigners with suicide belts. (BBC News)
  • Video - British Prime Minister Boris Johnson: Every Decent Person in Britain Will Fight Resurgent Anti-Semitism
    At the beginning of Hanukkah on Sunday, British Prime Minister Boris Johnson tweeted: "I know that recent years have not been easy ones for British Jews. In the media, on the streets, and particularly online, anti-Semites have, in alarming numbers, been emboldened to crawl out from under their rocks and begin, once again, to spread their brand of noxious hatred far and wide."
        "When the Maccabees drove the forces of darkness out of Jerusalem, they had to do so on their own. Today, as Britain's Jews seek to drive back the darkness of resurgent anti-Semitism, you have every decent person in this country fighting by your side. Because Britain would not be Britain without its Jewish community."  (Twitter)
News Resources - Israel and the Mideast:
  • Iranian Revolutionary Guards Have Resumed Attempts to Militarily Entrench in the Region - Ron Ben-Yishai
    A missile attack apparently targeted Iranian arms shipments at the Damascus military airport. At least three people, probably Iranians, were reported killed. After a period of relative calm, Iran has decided to resume smuggling high-precision missiles and anti-aircraft missiles and flood Syria with its proxy militias. The latest developments indicate the Iranians are making preparations to attack Israel, as evidenced by renewed arms shipments to both Syria and Lebanon.
        Over recent weeks, the Russians have put enormous pressure on Iran to stop operating at Damascus International Airport and redirect its cargo flights to other airports. Given the increased Iranian activity near the Israeli border, the IDF has pointed out to the Russians the precise locations where Iranian arms and personnel are present. Israel won't stand by and watch as Iran attempts to establish a front against it in Syria and revive its precision-missile project. (Ynet News)
  • Jewish Graves on Mt. of Olives Uncovered after 72 Years - Yael Friedson
    Some 30 Jewish gravestones on the Mount of Olives in Jerusalem, which were covered up by the Jordanians 72 years ago to construct a parking lot, have recently been uncovered, and another 70 graves will soon be uncovered. Families of those whose graves have been uncovered have been notified. Yonatan Manovitch, director of the Mt. of Olives Information Center, said that 70% of the gravestones in the ancient Jewish cemetery had been destroyed by the Jordanians. (Ynet News-Hebrew)
Global Commentary and Think-Tank Analysis:
  • Will Argentina's New Leadership Undo the Previous Government's Counterterrorism Efforts? - Mark Dubowitz and Toby Dershowitz
    Former Argentine President Cristina Fernandez de Kirchner was inaugurated this month as the nation's vice president. During Kirchner's prior terms as president, her government signed a memorandum of understanding with Iran in 2013, attempting to cover up the role Iranian officials played in the 1994 bombing of the AMIA Jewish community center that killed 85 people and injured hundreds more.
        The U.S. should signal to Argentina that it will not support an economic bailout of the country if it backtracks on the previous Macri government's counterterrorism efforts. This includes holding Iranian officials accountable for the AMIA bombing. Mark Dubowitz is CEO of the Foundation for Defense of Democracies, where Toby Dershowitz is senior vice president for government relations and strategy. (NBC News)
  • Who Will Rebuild Syria? - Zvi Bar'el
    Russia's economic takeover of Syria has pushed Iran to the fringes of the economic projects it hoped to claim in return for its sacrifice of lives as well as military and civilian investment. Syria received from Iran credit lines topping $7 billion, but its colossal debt to Tehran is estimated at $34 billion - and Syria has no way to repay.
        Iran holds agreements to open branches of Iranian banks in Syria and a Syrian commitment to grant Iranian companies land and permits to build tens of thousands of apartments. But given Iran's dire economic situation, it's unlikely that Tehran has the wherewithal to open new Iranian banks or do massive construction. Meanwhile, last week Syrian President Bashar Assad said he offered China six investment projects as part of its Belt and Road Initiative. (Ha'aretz)
  • The Executive Order on Anti-Semitism Is Not Perfect, but It's Still Good for the Jews - Rabbi Andrew Baker
    The presidential executive order had been known as the Anti-Semitism Awareness Act, which enjoyed broad, bipartisan support but fell victim to the hyperpartisan climate of Washington. It will make an important but modest contribution to addressing the problem of anti-Semitism on the nation's college campuses. It is not, as some critics have charged, some new step by the Trump administration to redefine Judaism as a nationality rather than a religion. It merely restates what has already been the standard practice since the Obama administration.
        We have seen examples where someone merely substitutes "Zionist" for "Jew" and thereby claims that the most obvious of anti-Semitic statements is a form of acceptable "political" speech. There is general agreement that these are forms of anti-Semitism and should be condemned.
        While many of us may have preferred congressional legislation to an executive order, the results are the same. The writer is Director of International Jewish Affairs at the American Jewish Committee. (JTA)

  • The International Criminal Court's chief prosecutor, Fatou Bensouda, announced last week that at the request of the Palestinian Authority, she is opening a probe into alleged war crimes committed by Israel in the 2014 Gaza war, as well as crimes in the disputed territories of the West Bank.
  • Alan Baker, director of the international law program at the Jerusalem Center for Public Affairs, told JNS: "There is no legal basis to such requests since only sovereign states may appeal to the court, and there exists no sovereign Palestinian state with sovereign territory over which the court could extend its jurisdiction. If the court accepts the Palestinian requests and opens a formal investigation, it will damage its own juridical credibility and become politicized like other UN bodies."
  • Eugene Kontorovich, a professor at the George Mason University Law School, told JNS that the ICC "ignores international law by inventing a Palestinian state that does not exist and creates a crime that no one in international law has ever been charged with before: the crime of people living in places. To say it is a war crime for a Jew to live in the Jewish Quarter of the Old City [of Jerusalem] is absurd. It is quite clear that the crime of people living somewhere is a crime for which one must be Jewish to be eligible."
  • Kontorovich noted that Bensouda "pretended, in the interest of evenhandedness, to investigate 150,000 Russians being moved into Crimea and concluded without any fanfare that is not a war crime." He noted her refusal to investigate Turkish settlers in Cyprus.
  • The International Criminal Court (ICC) has been deliberating on whether it has jurisdiction over Israel, which is not a party to the Rome Treaty that established the court. "Israel is not a state party of the ICC and the Palestinian entity is not a state under international law," said Roy S. Schondorf, Israeli deputy attorney general for international law. "We have a strong legal basis for the fact that the court does not have jurisdiction."
  • Tal Becker, a former legal adviser to the Israeli Foreign Ministry, said, "It is a real act of overreach for a court to try and determine its jurisdiction...to determine the scope of the entity of the Palestinian state...when the parties themselves have said it's a matter for negotiations. Palestinian statehood is referred to by Palestinians themselves as a future aspiration and not a current legal reality."