March 25, 2020

In-Depth Issues:

Rouhani Says UN Security Council Weighing Plans to Remove Sanctions on Iran (Al-Manar-Hizbullah-Lebanon)
    Iranian President Hassan Rouhani said Wednesday that the UN Security Council is weighing plans for the removal of all sanctions on Iran amid the outbreak of the coronavirus.
    He said a foreign official from a non-permanent member of the Security Council informed him that a plan for lifting the sanctions is going to be mooted.
    "We are also trying to have our blocked money unfrozen," Rouhani noted.

Scientists at Work on Coronavirus Treatments - Maya Margit (Media Line-Jerusalem Post)
    While a vaccine against the coronavirus is expected to take a year to develop and test, scientists around the world are racing to develop new treatments.
    Dr. Rivka Abulafia-Lapid, a senior lecturer on virology at the Hebrew University of Jerusalem, said, "Israel already has 11 different drugs for trial [on COVID-19 patients]."
    She is "very optimistic" that the world is six months away from an effective treatment.

72 Ethiopian Immigrants Arrive in Israel - Lisa Klug (Times of Israel)
    14 Ethiopian families - totaling 72 new immigrants - landed at Ben-Gurion Airport on Tuesday.
    The immigrants are first-degree relatives of Beta Israel members from Gondar and Addis Adaba already settled in Israel.
    They are members of the Falash Mura community, Ethiopians whose Jewish ancestors converted to Christianity generations ago, often under social, financial or political pressure.

Video: Israeli Performing-Arts Students Perform Together from Home (YouTube)
    The Thelma Yellin Choir and Orchestra at a performing-arts high school in Givatayim performed Mendelssohn's Psalm 42 using their smartphones, separately, from their homes.

2 Jewish Professors Win Nobel Prize Equivalent in Mathematics - Marcy Oster (JTA)
    Hillel Furstenberg, 84, and Gregory Margulis, 74, have won the Abel Prize for mathematics, the equivalent of a Nobel, it was announced Monday. While there is no Nobel for mathematics, the Abel has been given out annually by the Norwegian Academy of Science and Letters since 2003.
    Furstenberg, a Berlin native, was on the faculty of the Hebrew University of Jerusalem from 1965 to 2003. Margulis, a Moscow native, took a position at Yale in 1991.

News Resources - North America, Europe, and Asia:
  • Iran Tells "Doctors Without Borders" to Leave Despite Worsening Epidemic
    A team of nine doctors deployed to Iran by international medical humanitarian organization Doctors Without Borders (MSF) is expected to head back home without even starting its relief operations aimed at containing the coronavirus outbreak. It is not clear whether MSF's donated medical items were turned back as well.
        Earlier this week, two shipments of medical supplies arrived from France. The MSF team, comprised of nine emergency and intensive care unit medical doctors and logisticians, was planning to set up a 50-bed inflatable field hospital in Isfahan, one of Iran's worst-affected areas.
        "Expelling MSF will be a decision based on wisdom because their presence is a cover for nonhumanitarian activities," said Hossein Shariatmadari, a close aide to supreme leader Ayatollah Khamenei. "The question is why our officials allowed the group to enter in the first place."  (Al-Monitor)
  • U.S. Designates Iran-Backed "League of the Righteous" as Foreign Terrorist Organization - Bill Roggio
    The U.S. Department of State has added Asaib Ahl al Haq (League of the Righteous), an Iranian-backed Iraqi Shia terror group, to its list of Foreign Terrorist Organizations. Additionally, the group's leader, Qais al Khazali, and his brother, Laith al Khazali, have been listed as Specially Designated Global Terrorists. The League of the Righteous "and its leaders are violent proxies of the Islamic Republic of Iran," Secretary of State Mike Pompeo said. (Long War Journal)
News Resources - Israel and the Mideast:
  • Israel's Coronavirus Count Reaches 2,030, with 5 Dead - Maayan Jaffe-Hoffman
    The Israel Health Ministry announced on Wednesday morning that the number of Israelis who have tested positive for coronavirus had reached 2,030. The death toll reached five. 37 are in serious condition, while 54 are in moderate condition. More than 900 Israelis with the virus are being treated at home. Another 203 are recovering in specially designated hotels. Those who died suffered from underlying health conditions and were ages 88, 87, 67, 76 and 87. (Jerusalem Post)
  • Israel Health Ministry: Coronavirus Spread Matches "More Optimistic Scenario" - Alexandra Lukash
    Israel Health Ministry Deputy Director-General Itamar Grotto said on Monday that although the number of confirmed coronavirus cases in Israel keeps climbing steadily, the figures match the ministry's "more optimistic" predictions. "There are no exponential leaps [in numbers of cases]. I hope we will maintain this level of new cases. This is how we know that the steps we've taken are starting to be effective. We'll have to wait a couple of days to see whether these steps are working. In another two weeks, they will start affecting the rate of severe illness and mortality rates."
        Grotto said that the number of coronavirus tests conducted by health authorities will "reach at least 7,000 this week and then double that figure by next week."  (Ynet News)
  • 330 Israelis Flee Milan, Italy, on "Rescue Flight"
    330 Israelis, mostly students, landed at Ben-Gurion International Airport on Monday after fleeing the coronavirus outbreak in northern Italy on an Israir airlines flight. The passengers were required to wear face masks for the entire flight and were served by flight attendants dressed in full-body protective gear, Channel 13 reported. The passengers are now in quarantine at a hotel. (Times of Israel)
Global Commentary and Think-Tank Analysis:
  • Arab Israelis Are Pulling Away, Not Integrating in Israeli Society - Nadav Shragai
    Prof. Raphael Israeli, 84, one of the preeminent researchers on the Arabs of Israel, sees a "clear trend of disconnect, not any desire to integrate into Israeli society" among Arabs: "Not increasing closeness at all, but rather Arab Israelis pulling away from Israeli-ness."
        "They say that Arab Israelis, who are 20% of the population, want to integrate, but they vote for a confederation of parties that define Israel as a state that commits theft and robbery....[Their] representatives justify the right of return for Arabs even now, reject the idea of Arab Israeli identity, and cling to the idea of the Palestinian people and the Arab nation. For them, Zionism is colonialism....There is no process of moderation, only radicalization."
        "They are willing to vote in the Knesset so the state will approve budgets for more policing in their communities in the face of the raging crime there, and that's fine. That's acceptable. But they...don't exactly see Israel as their country. I'm saying this with regret and disappointment....At any rate, this 'distinction' between the citizens and their politicians doesn't really exist."
        Q: A poll by the Israel Democracy Institute showed that 83% of Israeli Arabs want to integrate into Israeli society.
    Israeli: "What does integrate mean? It's important to them to live in the State of Israel, but the State of Israel is not important to them. That's a huge difference....Given the national conflict, I don't expect them to be Zionists, but I expect them not to be anti-Zionist - to not behave and speak in a way that undermines the foundations of the Jewish state and to not identify with terrorism."  (Israel Hayom)
  • Arab Israelis: "We Aren't Really a Minority" - Dr. Dan Schueftan
    The vast majority of Arab Israeli voters cast ballots for the Joint Arab List. They are well aware that their leadership rejects the legitimacy of the Jewish state, and openly expresses understanding, sympathy and support for Israel's enemies. The way they see it, the heinous crime of "Zionist colonialism" can be accepted for now - and is convenient when the Arabs are benefiting from the achievements of the Jews - but it cannot be legitimized or accepted as a permanent reality.
        Mohammad Dahla, one of the founders of the Arab rights group Adala, explained in an interview in Ha'aretz in 2003: "I connect to the greatness of Islam. It gives me...a sense of self-confidence. I know we are not destined to be defeated and weak. And I know that we aren't actually a minority. The idea of being a minority is foreign to Islam. It fits Judaism, but not Islam. And when you look around, you see that we aren't really a minority."  The writer is head of the International Graduate Program in National Security Studies at the University of Haifa. (Israel Hayom)

International Legal Issues in Preventing the Spread of Contagious Diseases - Amb. Alan Baker (Institute for Contemporary Affairs-Jerusalem Center for Public Affairs)
  • Contagious diseases, like water, know no borders. They do not distinguish between peoples, countries and religions, nor do they recognize conflicts. They do not observe treaties, armistices or ceasefires. They affect all states and individuals, posing health, economic and social challenges to all.
  • International regulation of contagious diseases by the World Health Organization is not obligatory and is dependent on the good will and openness of states in providing vital and timely information in order to enable the organization to take the necessary measures to halt the pandemic.
  • International legal issues such as the potential violation of human rights and freedom of movement arise in the face of travel and trade restrictions imposed by states as a means of halting the spread of the virus.
  • In the Middle East, Israelis and Palestinians have developed frameworks for cooperation in preventing the spread of contagious diseases. Such cooperation should not be prejudiced by incitement, hatred and hostility.
  • Collaboration, openness, good faith and the genuine need to protect and heal the populations of the area in the face of the Corona pandemic should lead to the realization that good neighborly relations have the potential to enhance mutual trust and confidence between Palestinians and Israelis, as a basis for good faith and peace between them.

    The writer, director of the Institute for Contemporary Affairs at the Jerusalem Center and head of the Global Law Forum, served as legal adviser and deputy director-general of Israel's Ministry of Foreign Affairs and as Israel's ambassador to Canada.