March 13, 2020

In-Depth Issues:

Former Prisoner of Zion Natan Sharansky's Advice for Those in Quarantine - Avital Chizhik-Goldschmidt (Twitter)
    Israeli human rights activist Natan Sharansky, who spent nine years in Soviet prisons, spoke to students and parents at schools in New York who are confined to home quarantine because of the coronavirus about remaining productive amid isolation.
    Some of his thoughts: Don't lose your sense of humor; continue making light of the situation, however dire.
    The power of Jewish unity is when we feel together with one another, even if we are in solitary confinement.

Top Foreign Policy Advisor to Iran's Khamenei Has Coronavirus (Radio Farda)
    Iran's former foreign minister and current adviser to Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, Dr. Ali Akbar Velayati, 75, has tested positive for coronavirus, Iranian news outlets reported Thursday.
    Velayati is president of Tehran's Masih Daneshvari Hospital, where almost all senior officials infected by coronavirus are hospitalized.
    See also Satellite Images Show Iran Has Built Mass Graves for Coronavirus Victims - Erin Cunningham (Washington Post)
    See also Iran Asks for Billions in Loans as Virus Death Toll Climbs - Nasser Karimi (AP)

Desert Locusts Arrive in Southern Iran (Xinhua-China)
    Huge swarms of desert locusts have arrived in southern Iran, Tasnim news agency reported on Tuesday.

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2,000 Israeli Women Doing National Service Overseas Ordered to Return Home amid Virus Outbreak - Philissa Cramer and Ben Harris (JTA)
    2,000 young Israeli women who work at Jewish schools, synagogues and college Hillels abroad as part of their national service, an alternative to Israeli army service chosen by many Orthodox girls, have been ordered to return to Israel immediately by Israel's National Civic Service Authority.
    The agency allowed only emissaries in Australia and Singapore to remain abroad, deeming their risk of coronavirus infection during travel higher than the risk of staying put.

Does Increased Support for Arab Knesset List Reflect a Wish to Integrate into Israeli Society? - Danny Zaken (Al-Monitor)
    The Arab Joint List won 15 seats in the March 2 Israeli Knesset elections, up from 13 in September and 10 in April 2019.
    In February, the Hebrew University released a study that predicted a sharp rise in the number of voters among Israel's Arab citizens.
    The study's chief researcher, Rana Abbas, said: "The study uncovered a change in attitude within Arab society over whether to participate in Israeli elections. An analysis of the data shows that among Arab society in general, and especially among the younger generation, there is a growing readiness to participate."
    "The purpose of voting as they see it is to have some kind of influence on issues that are important to young people: violence and civil security in Arab society; housing;...the education system; the cost of living, poverty and unemployment."
    "According to this study, the Palestinian issue...ranks eighth, i.e., last, in the list of urgent issues. This seems to be sending a clear signal to the members of the Joint List: Deal with our issues, not the problems of the Palestinian Authority."
    Umaya Abu Ras, a chemistry teacher, and Nidaa Haj-Yihya, an attorney, are from the town of Taibeh, and both are socially active in the struggle over the status of women in Arab society.
    They both say that integration into Jewish society is important and that it begins with the economy. Leaving Arab towns and villages to work in Israeli society at large means earning a higher income and achieving greater economic and political power.
    "It empowers them and leads to political participation and integration with Israeli society at large," says Haj-Yihya.

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News Resources - North America, Europe, and Asia:
  • U.S. Carries Out Retaliatory Strikes on Iranian-Backed Militia in Iraq - Eric Schmitt
    U.S. planes, supported by the British military, struck five targets in southern Iraq on Thursday night, hitting an Iraqi militia with ties to Iran that was part of a rocket attack on Wednesday that killed two Americans and a British soldier, American officials said. The airstrikes targeted Kataib Hezbollah rocket storage facilities. "The United States will not tolerate attacks against our people, our interests or our allies," Defense Secretary Mark T. Esper said. (New York Times)
        See also U.S. Hits Kataib Hezbollah Weapon Storage Sites in Iraq (U.S. Department of Defense)
        See also Report: U.S. Airstrikes Kill Five Members of Iran's Quds Force - Seth J. Frantzman
    Arabic media claimed that five members of Iran's Quds Force including a high-ranking Iranian officer were killed in the U.S. airstrikes on Kataib Hezbollah warehouses in Iraq. (Jerusalem Post)
  • U.S. to Warn Shippers Against Storing Iranian Oil
    "We will target and designate anybody that stores Iranian oil, petrochemicals or refined petroleum in violation of U.S. sanctions, no matter where they are," said David Peyman, the deputy assistant secretary of state for counter threat finance and sanctions, on Monday. Peyman also said the U.S. will encourage ship captains to take photos, and submit them to the U.S. government, of anyone conducting ship-to-ship transfers in case those transfers involve sanctioned oil. (Reuters-New York Times)
News Resources - Israel and the Mideast:
  • How Hamas Views Prospects of an Arrangement with Israel
    On March 3, 2020, Isma'il Haniyeh, head of Hamas' political bureau, was interviewed by Hizbullah-affiliated al-Mayadeen TV in Lebanon. Haniyeh's main message was that Hamas is prepared for a limited arrangement to help ease the humanitarian hardships of Gazans, but rejects a long-term lull which could force Hamas to abandon its fundamental positions or disarm. (Intelligence and Terrorism Information Center)
  • Israel Now Looks Like a Coronavirus Containment Visionary - Lahav Harkov
    When Israel first started pulling up the drawbridges, it was taking the most extreme measures in the West to contain COVID-19. Prof. Eytan Gilboa of the BESA Center for Strategic Studies at Bar-Ilan University noted, "The international media both praised and criticized the Israeli measures, which at the beginning seemed to be too extreme, but following the disastrous spread of the virus in Italy and across several states in Europe, coupled with the relative Israeli success in fighting the epidemic, the criticism has disappeared and has been replaced with more interest and understanding."  (Jerusalem Post)
        See also Under Quarantine? Here Are 10 Ways to Cope - Jessica Steinberg (Times of Israel)
Global Commentary and Think-Tank Analysis:
  • Coronavirus in Iran: Regime Culpability and Resiliency - Mehdi Khalaji
    On paper, the Iranian regime's defining traits seem like a self-destructive combination: declining domestic credibility, international isolation, minimal competence to carry out its basic duties, ceaseless use of violence to maintain control, and an exhausting, defiant, utopian push to expand its hegemony abroad.
        Yet even if the regime founders, the damage it has done to Iranian society leaves little hope for a smooth, speedy transition to a democratic, relatively U.S.-friendly state in the near term. The public is struggling with a profound social trust deficit, the disintegration of shared values, and deep burnout after years of regime aggression and humiliation. Many citizens are focused on just surviving, and have adopted deeply cynical worldviews that create a disturbing sense of living in a lawless space rather than a functioning nation.
        In all likelihood, only a small subset of actors would be able to fill the vacuum that follows the regime's ultimate collapse - namely, existing factions that already hold the keys to Iran's military arsenal and prisons. Such a replacement government would hardly choose to denounce the defiant anti-Western animosity that has been Khamenei's calling card. The writer, a Qom-trained Shiite theologian, is a fellow at The Washington Institute. (Washington Institute for Near East Policy)
  • Regional Changes Put New Pressure on Iran - Prof. Eyal Zisser
    The U.S. peace deal with the Taliban in Afghanistan and Turkey's increasing involvement in the Syrian quagmire are both dangerous from Iran's perspective. The Americans invaded Afghanistan to neutralize the threat it posed to the world after the Taliban helped al-Qaeda carry out the 9/11 terrorist attacks against the U.S. Two decades later, the Taliban is prepared to revoke its terrorist policies and has even expressed hope for cooperation with the U.S. The Taliban views Iran's ayatollah regime as a bitter and dangerous enemy, both from an ideological and religious standpoint.
        Two years ago, Turkey, Iran and Russia reached an understanding whereby northern Syria would be a safe zone barring entry to Bashar Assad's army. But recently, Assad and his allies, undoubtedly with a push from Moscow, attacked the rebels in the north, killing dozens of Turkish soldiers in the process. This time, Erdogan ordered his army to advance deeper into Syrian territory, exposing the fact that Assad's forces are exhausted and ineffective, and therefore completely dependent on Iranian help. The writer is a lecturer in the Middle East History Department at Tel Aviv University. (Israel Hayom)
  • Israeli Diplomat: Israel Should Quit Putting Up with UN's "Triple" Standards
    Sympathy for the Palestinians is not the only reason behind the UN's bias against Israel, says Ron Prosor, Israel's former ambassador to the UN. The race for prestigious positions and anti-Semitism are what push many countries to vote against the Jewish state.
        "There are countries in Africa, former Soviet territory and Asia that would vote in favor of Israel at the UN on some of the issues but they are afraid of certain blocs that would gang up against them and prevent them from getting any positions at the organization if they dared to do so," he explained, referring to the Arab League, the Organization of Islamic Conference or the Non-Alignment Movement.
        Prosor believes that the UN accepts this behavior because of its "triple standards." "There is one standard for democracies, one standard for dictatorships, and one special standard for Israel." "I am not worried about the 'bad guys'," said Prosor referring to the undemocratic states that make up the majority at the UN. "I am worried about Europe. They need to understand that they are giving legitimacy to this behavior and are not standing up to calls to delegitimize Israel."  (Sputnik-Russia)
  • The UN's Selective Outrage on Disputed Territories - Brenda Shaffer, Svante Cornell, and Jonathan Schanzer
    As U.S. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo pointed out at AIPAC, the UN Human Rights Office on Feb. 12 published a database of 112 companies that operate in the West Bank and east Jerusalem to give a boost to the Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions campaign that seeks to wage an economic war against Israel. The UN Human Rights Office must now be prepared to explain why some occupations are inconsequential, but only Israel's control of the West Bank is deserving of a blacklist.
        Brenda Shaffer, a senior advisor at the Foundation for Defense of Democracies (FDD), is an adjunct professor at Georgetown University. Svante Cornell is director of the Central Asia-Caucasus Institute at the American Foreign Policy Council. Jonathan Schanzer is senior vice president at FDD. (RealClearWorld)
        See also Occupied Elsewhere: Selective Policies on Occupations, Protracted Conflicts and Territorial Disputes - Svante Cornell and Brenda Shaffer (Foundation for Defense of Democracies)
  • Joint Arab List Demands End to Jews Visiting Temple Mount - Nadav Shragai
    In negotiations following the latest Israeli Knesset elections, the Joint Arab List is demanding an end to Jews visiting the Temple Mount in Jerusalem. When Israel liberated holy Jewish sites including the Temple Mount 53 years ago, it made a concession that is unlike anything any other religion in the world has done. It allowed its most holy site to be left in the hands of a competing religion, Islam, and waived the rights of Jews to pray there, allowing them only to visit the Mount. (Israel Hayom)

  • Weekend Features

  • Stories from the Israel Security Agency - Yonah Jeremy Bob
    Arik "Harris" Barbing retired a year ago after 27 years in the Israel Security Agency where he headed the counter-terror division for Jerusalem, Judea and Samaria. He said that years ago there was one hardened Hamas terrorist in the southern Judea region who "collected materials for and manufactured bombs," but also "had some kind of connection and interest in Jews...and even possessed books about Judaism in Hebrew."
        After he was arrested, the Hamas operative told Harris that "he wanted to convert to Judaism." The ISA "brought him an elderly man wearing a kippa who spoke Arabic as his mother tongue." This agent was originally from an Iraqi-Jewish background, but he was presented as an Arab who had converted to Judaism, so that the Hamas operative would feel he was not the first convert from an Arab background.
        The Hamas operative "believed the story big time....Then he helped stop many attacks...in the Hebron and south Hebron areas, including significant Hamas weapons infrastructure for carrying out shootings and kidnappings."  (Jerusalem Post)
  • Israeli Paralympic Medalist Builds Wheelchairs for Athletes - Yoghev Karmel
    Doron Shaziri was 20 when he lost his left leg to a landmine in Lebanon. While in rehab, Shaziri got into wheelchair basketball and started playing professionally. He won his first two Paralympic medals in Atlanta in 1996 and has participated in five Paralympics since.
        Now 53, Shaziri's other passion is fitting athletes with customized wheelchairs compatible with their chosen sports. "A regular chair mostly needs stability to be able to go over challenging terrains like grass," he said. However, in basketball, the terrain is a smooth parquet floor and speed is what matters most. That is why wheelchairs built for basketball have angled back wheels offering better maneuvering capabilities. He also makes chairs for tennis, badminton, and rugby.
        In his day-to-day life, Shaziri said he does not feel like he has a disability. "I walk, I drive a stick, and even ride a bike."  (Calcalist)
  • Researchers Find Nazi Photo Album Bound with Human Skin - Ed Wight and Stuart Dowell
    A WWII photo album made from the skin of Nazi death camp victims has been found at an antiques market in Poland. Experts at the Auschwitz Memorial Museum said the skin likely came from an inmate murdered at the Nazi concentration camp Buchenwald in Germany.
        Ilse Koch, the wife of camp commandant Karl-Otto Koch, is said to have had male prisoners with interesting tattoos murdered and then had their skin turned into interior designs. Her interests included lampshades, books, albums, table covers and thumbs which were used as light switches. Witnesses say she was helping Nazi doctor Erich Wagner who collected human skin from 100 people at the camp for his PhD thesis.
        Wagner was arrested in 1958 and committed suicide a year later. Ilse Koch was arrested by the U.S. and sentenced to life in prison following the war, committing suicide in her cell in 1967. (Daily Mail-UK-Times of Israel)

Palestinians Choose "the Cause"over Statehood - Alex Ryvchin (Fathom-BICOM-UK)
  • The latest U.S. proposal to end the Israeli-Palestinian conflict was rejected by the Palestinian side before it was even tabled. It is the Palestinians who have the most to gain from securing a deal. The Jewish people have their national home, but the Palestinians remain stateless.
  • In rejecting the U.S. offer, PA Prime Minister Mohammad Shtayyeh said, "It is nothing but a plan to finish off the Palestinian cause." Herein lies the answer as to why a people that claims they want nothing more than a home of their own have rejected five comprehensive offers of statehood. The conflict is not a territorial dispute to be settled by delineating borders.
  • The "Palestinian cause" seeks no precise outcome beyond thwarting its rival, and holding out, digging in, struggling on, resisting. So shameful to this "cause" is the notion of compromise, so inconceivable is a life beyond conflict and grievance, that it is impossible to contemplate any offer.
  • We hear how unbearable life is under "Israeli occupation," and yet the idea of reaching a fair bargain to change that condition is evidently more unbearable still.
  • Meanwhile, the Kurds, the Assyrians, the Tibetans, all stateless peoples with unimpeachable claims to their ancestral lands, who don't benefit from dedicated UN agencies or billions in foreign aid, would do anything for a single shot at statehood, let alone a perpetual flow of White House peace proposals to scoff at.

    The writer is co-Chief Executive Officer of the Executive Council of Australian Jewry.
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