February 19, 2020

In-Depth Issues:

Iran Sentences Alleged U.S. Spies to Up to 10 Years in Prison - Amir Vahdat (AP-Miami Herald)
    Iran sentenced eight environmental activists, including an Iranian who has British and American citizenship, to prison sentences ranging from 4 to 10 years on charges of spying for the U.S. and acting against Iran's national security, judiciary spokesman Gholamhossein Esmaili said Tuesday.
    A ninth activist, an Iranian-Canadian national, died while in custody in February 2018.

Kurdish Leader: ISIS Is Bigger Now than Six Years Ago - Mike Giglio and Kathy Gilsinan (Atlantic)
    The Islamic State has lost all of its territory; tens of thousands of its fighters have been killed or are imprisoned; and its former leader, Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi, is dead.
    But "ISIS is still very much intact," Masrour Barzani, the prime minister of Iraqi Kurdistan, said in an interview. They've "managed to gain more experience and to recruit more people."
    He said ISIS still has 20,000 fighters across Iraq and Syria. (U.S. officials put the number at 10,000 when ISIS announced its caliphate in 2014.)
    It is still carrying out 60 attacks a month in Iraq alone against security forces and local rivals as it regroups around a core of hardened fighters.
    The Pentagon's inspector general said in a report last week that Baghdadi's death has not disrupted ISIS' command structure or operations.
    The UN said in a report last month that ISIS still has at least $100 million in its reserves and has begun to reassert itself in Iraq and Syria.
    Barzani said the main reason for the ISIS resurgence is the persistence of the same conditions that allowed it to rise up in the first place: failure to solve problems such as corruption, poor governance, sectarianism, and economic malaise.
    Much of the Sunni-majority areas that were ISIS strongholds still lie in destruction, and some are now under the control of Iran-backed Shiite militias, which have antagonized much of the local population.

IDF Attacks Islamic Jihad Snipers Who Shot at Israeli Soldiers - Tzvi Joffre (Jerusalem Post)
    The IDF attacked a group of Palestinian Islamic Jihad snipers in Gaza near Khan Yunis after the terrorists fired at Israeli soldiers on Wednesday.

The Hawaiian Warrior Who Trains IDF Special Forces (Jerusalem Post)
    Former IDF Chief of Staff Lt.-Gen. Gaby Ashkenazi describes Nadav Tzadok Yair as "an expert in jungle warfare, night operations, sneak attacks and survival."
    "The IDF owes him a lot for what he taught us," the Hebrew website Mako reported on Friday.
    Yair was born in Hawaii and trained in the local martial art of Kapu Kuialua from age nine. He enlisted in the IDF at age 31 and became a Special Forces trainer.

News Resources - North America, Europe, and Asia:
  • UN Charges Syria and Russia with Attacking Hospitals and Refugee Camps - Eric Knecht
    Government air strikes have hit hospitals and refugee camps in northwest Syria and killed about 300 civilians as President Assad's forces press an assault against the last rebel stronghold, the UN said on Tuesday. UN human rights spokesman Rupert Colville, asked if Syria and Russia were deliberately targeting civilians and protected buildings, said: "The sheer quantity of attacks on hospitals, medical facilities, and schools would suggest they cannot all be accidental." The attacks could constitute war crimes, he said.
        Turkey said talks with Russia on Syria were "not satisfactory" and that Ankara would deploy more troops to the Idlib region. (Reuters)
        See also Turkey and Russia Clash over Syria - Zvi Bar'el
    In the past few weeks the Syrian army, together with the Russian air force, has attacked armed militias in Syria's Idlib province. As a result, "more than a million refugees and displaced people are making their way to the Turkish border," Turkish President Erdogan warned on Saturday.
        A Turkish-Russian agreement signed in September 2018 requires Turkey to persuade the Syrian militias in Idlib to disarm and to leave the province. But Ankara apparently can't persuade the radical militias to do so. Moreover, Turkey fears that a Syrian army takeover of Idlib would prevent it from establishing a security zone in northern Syria, to which it wants to relocate at least a million Syrian refugees now living in Turkey. (Ha'aretz)
News Resources - Israel and the Mideast:
  • Israel's Arrow Missile Defense System Led Iran to Shift Its Tactics - Yonah Jeremy Bob
    Association for Israeli Military History chairman Col. (res.) Beni Michaelson said Tuesday that Israel's Arrow missile system had already succeeded in pushing Iran to shift its military tactics. If for years Iran was focused almost exclusively on developing medium-range ballistic missiles to fire at Israel from its own territory, the Arrow convinced Iran to seek alternate tactics to threaten Israel, Michaelson said. "They are trying to shorten the range [for attacking Israel] so they can fire more rockets" from Lebanon, Syria and Iraq, he said.
        Michaelson argued that Tehran’s decision to try to move its rockets to those proxy areas was an acknowledgment that their medium-range ballistic missiles would be an insufficient threat to Israel because the Arrow would likely shoot them down. (Jerusalem Post)
  • Palestinian Officials Face Threats for Normalizing Ties with Israel - Khaled Abu Toameh
    On Friday, 20 Palestinians, including former ministers, participated in a meeting organized in Tel Aviv by the Israeli Parliament peace group. On Sunday, the PA invited Israeli journalists for a tour of Ramallah, including meetings and interviews with senior Palestinian officials. The PLO's Palestinian Committee for Interaction with Israeli Society, established in 2012 and headed by Mohammed Al-Madani, a member of the Fatah Central Committee, has arranged hundreds of meetings between Israelis and Palestinians.
        In the past few days, Palestinians took to social media to strongly condemn the recent meetings with Israelis, accusing them of betraying the Palestinian people by talking to Israelis. On Monday, assailants hurled firebombs at a restaurant where senior PA official Mahmoud al-Habbash met with Israeli journalists. (Jerusalem Post)
        See also PA Hosts Meetings with Israelis, then Collaborates with Incitement Against Them - Editorial
    There has always been an extremist side to anti-Israel campaigns among Palestinians and their supporters going back to the 1920s. This side is less interested in Palestinians than in opposing Israel. From the time of the Mufti Haj Amin al-Husseini, these groups spent as much time attacking their fellow Palestinians as they have "Zionists."
        This is because their real war is with coexistence and with the members of their own community who seek peace. They want to tear down both Israel and the Palestinians. It is the same motivation behind boycotts of companies that employ Palestinians. They prefer the vulnerable and poor to be unemployed than for them to work for Israel.
        The Palestinian Authority hosts meetings with Israelis and then quietly collaborates with the incitement against them. The Palestinians who are open to meeting Israelis understand that if you want to make peace, it must be done in the framework of a meeting, not by violence. Violence has achieved nothing for the Palestinians over the last decade. (Jerusalem Post)
Global Commentary and Think-Tank Analysis:
  • A Brazen Anti-Semitic "Blacklist" - Editorial
    The UN Human Rights Council's "blacklist" of 112 international and local companies operating in the territories is a shameful attempt to strike a blow against the Middle East's only functioning democracy and upholder of the rule of law and religious freedom. No wonder Australia/Israel & Jewish Affairs Council executive director Colin Rubenstein described publication of the blacklist as "a witch-hunt that reminds us of Nazi-era boycotts of the Jewish people." There is no precedent for any UN body taking similar action over a disputed territory, and no basis in international law for it to do so.
        As Dr. Rubenstein pointed out, it is not in breach of international law for the 112 companies to operate in the West Bank and east Jerusalem. "They are legitimate businesses providing goods and services...they are not breaking any international laws." Australia must waste no opportunity to condemn and counter the council's brazen hypocrisy and the sinister witch-hunt it has embarked on. (The Australian)
        See also UN Human Rights Council Delegitimizes Israel - Clifford D. May (Washington Times)
  • Mahmoud Abbas' Map of Lies - Danny Danon
    When PA leader Mahmoud Abbas spoke before the UN Security Council last week to denounce the U.S. Mideast peace plan, he brought with him a series of maps which purport to show how "Historic Palestine" has "disappeared" over the course of the 20th century. This episode represents a growing trend of rewriting the historical record of the Middle East.
        Abbas' graphic misleadingly suggests how "Historic Palestine" in 1917 has shrunk in size through a series of compromises until it is barely recognizable in 2020. Taken at face value, the map suggests that the creation and growth of one state, Israel, came at the expense of another, Palestine. The truth, however, is altogether different.
        The notion that a state of Palestine existed in 1917 is a fantastical reinterpretation of history. Moreover, as the Jews continually agreed to international offers for compromise and partition, the Arabs' and Palestinians' response each time was "no." Presenting these maps as "compromises" on the part of the Palestinians is rewriting history. The writer is Israel's ambassador to the UN. (JNS)

  • The Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights (OHCHR) has produced a handy catalogue of companies that supporters of Israel can give their business to. Of course, this was not its intention. The roster was compiled at the request of the UN Human Rights Council. This is a body in which countries whose idea of human rights is gender-neutral torture and equal-opportunity ballot-rigging get together and pass reams of vexatious resolutions against Israel.
  • The BDS movement's economic warfare against the Jewish state has had little success but that's not the point: a UN body is tacitly legitimizing its agenda and even doing the research for it. What OHCHR's list is about is the UN's institutional hostility towards Israel and support for "de-judaizing" Jerusalem and Judea and Samaria.
  • Jerusalem is Israel's capital; before that it was the capital of the ancient Kingdom of Judah. However hard the UN strives to erase the Jewish character of the city, its historical record isn't going anywhere. When Israel captured Judea and Samaria in 1967, they did so not from any state called Palestine (no such state has ever existed), but from Jordan, whose annexation was almost universally unrecognized - it was an illegal occupation - and prior to this these lands had been part of Mandatory Palestine.
  • Mandatory Palestine was created by the League of Nations to "secure the establishment of the Jewish national home." The Israelis have many innovations to their name, but perhaps their greatest feat is being the first nation-state in history to "illegally occupy" their own territory.
  • The people the UN harms when it works to isolate and delegitimize Israel are the Palestinians. It tells them that their long, painful campaign of national self-harm is just and holds out false hope that it will one day triumph. It won't.
  • The priority of anyone who professes to be pro-Palestinian should be convincing the Palestinians to recognize that Israel is here to stay and, on that basis, finally accept offers of peace and statehood.