March 18, 2020

In-Depth Issues:

Epidemics Expert: Jewish Institutions Should Cancel Everything - Dr. Gary Slutkin (JTA)
    I am an infectious disease epidemiologist who worked at the World Health Organization on epidemics in 25 countries.
    I prize the Jewish teaching that places the saving of a life above all other laws and practices.
    As a result of the emergence of the coronavirus, we need to suspend our usual religious services and social gatherings. As an epidemiologist, I know that these recommendations will save lives.
    These changes are necessary and urgent to avoid preventable deaths, no matter whether we live in an area where there is a known case of COVID-19 or not.
    As we learn more, we will be better able to make more localized and informed decisions about when and how to attempt to get back to normal, but now is the time to stop any possible potential for getting infected yourself or for unknowingly infecting others.
    Epidemics follow a curve up and then back down, and eventually they end. It is up to us to stop the spread now - and to keep the curve of infections and deaths as small and short as possible.

Israelis Stranded Abroad to Be Airlifted Home - Ariel Kahana (Israel Hayom)
    Israeli Foreign Minister Israel Katz on Tuesday announced that El Al will fly home several hundred Israelis who are currently stranded in Peru.
    "Young Israelis who were there before the travel ban was put in place...will be flown back to Israel at no cost to them, thereby illustrating the principle of caring for each other in a time of national crisis, which Israel embraces," Katz said.
    On Wednesday, Sun d'Or - an El Al subsidiary - announced it would send out a flight to bring home 100 Israelis from Lapland.

Israel's Museums Go Online amid Pandemic - Jessica Steinberg (Times of Israel)
    Israel's museums are using the web to offer cultural options during the coronavirus lockdown, hosting virtual tours of current exhibits, activities for the young and old, and talks from curators and artists.

Coronavirus: This, Too, Shall Pass - Herb Keinon (Jerusalem Post)
    Israel is a country that has dealt with crises in the past, and in that sense its citizens are better prepared for the restrictions being demanded of them than citizens of most other Western countries who have not faced this type of emergency since World War II.
    To a certain extent, the mood today is reminiscent of the First Gulf War in 1991, when Saddam Hussein fired Scuds at Israel and the country walked around with gas masks at the ready and kept children home from school.
    The mood today is also reminiscent of the height of the Second Intifada in 2002, when concern about suicide bombings was on everybody's minds.

News Resources - North America, Europe, and Asia:
  • Pompeo: The International Criminal Court Is an Embarrassment. We Are Confronting Its Abuses
    Secretary of State Michael R. Pompeo said Tuesday: "The ICC, a so-called court...is revealing itself to be a nakedly political body....We oppose any effort by the ICC to exercise jurisdiction over U.S. personnel. We will not tolerate its inappropriate and unjust attempts to investigate or prosecute Americans. When our personnel are accused of a crime, they face justice in our country."
        "It has recently come to my attention that the chef de cabinet to the prosecutor, Sam Shoamanesh, and the head of the jurisdiction, complementarity, and cooperation division, Phakiso Mochochoko, are helping drive ICC prosecutor Fatou Bensouda's effort to use this court to investigate Americans. I'm examining this information now and considering what the United States' next steps ought to be with respect to these individuals....We want to identify those responsible for this partisan investigation and their family members who may want to travel to the United States."
        "This court, the ICC, is an embarrassment. We are exposing and confronting its abuses...to ensure that multilateral institutions actually perform the missions for which they were designed."  (U.S. State Department)
  • The Middle East Is Shutting Down as Coronavirus Spreads - Liz Sly
    The Middle East is shutting down as the coronavirus accelerates its spread. Prayers are being canceled, bars and cafes closed, flights grounded, and festivals and pilgrimages called off. The al-Aqsa Mosque in Jerusalem, the Church of the Nativity in Bethlehem, and the Shiite Muslim shrine in Karbala, Iraq, have been closed.
        The Iraqi government declared a state of emergency, Lebanon began a two-week lockdown, Saudi Arabia ordered government offices and businesses to close, and Jordan, Lebanon and Iraq are sealing their borders.
        Only Egypt has yet to take any significant steps to combat the spread of the coronavirus, despite mounting evidence that it could be the origin of dozens of infections. The U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention said Sunday that 60 infections had been found in 15 states linked to Nile cruises. (Washington Post)
  • Iranian to Be Charged in U.S. for Exporting Military Sensitive Items to Iran - Justine Coleman
    Merdad Ansari, 38, an Iranian citizen and a resident of the UAE, arrived in San Antonio, Texas, on Saturday to face federal charges in connection with a scheme to give "military sensitive items" to Iran between 2007 and 2011 in violation of the Iranian trade embargo. Ansari and his co-defendant, Mehrdad Foomanie, who remains a fugitive, were charged in June 2012 for selling or attempting to sell "dual-use" parts that could be used for nuclear weapons, missile guidance and development, secure tactical radio communications, offensive electronic warfare, military electronic counter measures and radar warning and surveillance systems. (The Hill)
News Resources - Israel and the Mideast:
  • 427 Israelis with Coronavirus - Maayan Jaffe-Hoffman
    The number of coronavirus patients in Israel increased to 427 on Wednesday morning, an increase of 90 from the day before, as testing for the disease expands. (Jerusalem Post)
  • PA Says Movement between Israel and West Bank to Be Cut Off - Adam Rasgon
    Palestinian Authority Prime Minister Mohammad Shtayyeh announced on Tuesday that movement between Israel and the West Bank would be cut off in three days amid coronavirus fears. Tens of thousands of Palestinians who work "essential sectors" in Israel including health, agriculture, construction, and caregiving will be allowed to spend one to two months in the country, with their employers finding a place for them to stay. (Times of Israel)
Global Commentary and Think-Tank Analysis:
  • The Corona Crisis and Israel's National Security - Itai Brun and Yael Gat
    On March 12, the Institute for National Security Studies (INSS) broadcast a seminar on "Corona, National Security and Democracy." In the short term, international actors will likely withdraw into themselves. The risks of escalation in the Middle East have declined, as all regional actors are focused on the corona crisis. According to official reports, outbreaks of coronavirus in the region are limited in scope (except in Iran). However, it is likely that the reports do not reflect the true situation, and the peak of the epidemic still lies ahead.
        The challenges facing the IDF include the need to maintain the readiness and health of the soldiers to meet security challenges, and to assist the civilian system as the crisis continues. There was broad agreement that it would be difficult now to finance the IDF's new multi-year plan, due to a necessity to allocate resources to health services and economic recovery.
        Brig.-Gen. (ret.) Itai Brun is Deputy Director for Research and Analysis at INSS, where Yael Gat is a research assistant. (Institute for National Security Studies-Tel Aviv University)
  • Can the Arab World Cope with the Coronavirus? - Dr. Edy Cohen
    Almost all of the coronavirus cases in Iraq, Syria and Lebanon originate with Iran. Photos and videos of night-time burials and dead people lying in the streets are going viral on Arabic social networks. Ten members of the Iraqi parliament have been infected.
        Dozens of people have returned infected to Cairo on flights from the U.S. and Europe, but the Egyptian government continues to insist that there are no coronavirus cases in the country. Saudi Arabia has so far managed to prevent a serious local outbreak as, for the first time in modern history, it has shut down the holy places in Mecca. Stories are circulating that many Iranian Revolutionary Guards are escaping to Lebanon with their families. The writer is a researcher at the BESA Center. (BESA Center for Strategic Studies-Bar-Ilan University)

  • As the world faces the threat of the coronavirus (COVID-19), many commentators and national leaders around the world are beginning to recognize it as a genuine national security threat.
  • In human behavior terms, however, the threat is not from an external enemy but from citizens who refuse to comply with guidelines and instructions and fail to change their behavior to adapt to the developing situation. With the coronavirus, the individual refusing to comply is an active and ongoing threat to others as well as or sometimes more than to themselves.
  • The obvious threats are the outright refusers. From a psychological perspective, these are people who are either oppositional in their attitude or in denial regarding the effects of their refusal. While the former understand that by intentionally violating guidelines they are creating risk for others, the latter deny it, at times adopting an "it won't happen to me" attitude.
  • Classifying the refusers' behavior as a risk and treating them as a genuine threat is a national priority. Since the cadre of those who intentionally or unintentionally put the public at risk cannot be eliminated solely through education and social pressure, law enforcement and government authorities may have to intervene.
  • While understandably not popular with those that value the protection of civil liberties, the suspension of these protections in times of national emergency may prove to be central in reducing mortality, as well as in limiting the economic consequences of a protracted battle with an unseen enemy hiding in a friendly population.

    The writer, a clinical psychologist, is a fellow at the Jerusalem Center, specializing in political psychology.