March 30, 2020

In-Depth Issues:

Mossad Brings More Medical Equipment to Israel - Yonah Jeremy Bob (Jerusalem Post)
    Israel's Mossad intelligence agency, officially the Institute for Intelligence and Special Operations, recently brought to Israel 10 million masks, a few dozen ventilators, tens of thousands more test kits, 25,000 N95 masks, and is expected to bring even more medical equipment.

Saudi Arabia Intercepts Two Missiles Fired by Yemen's Houthis (Reuters-New York Times)
    Saudi Arabian air defenses intercepted two missiles on Saturday night launched by Yemen's Iran-aligned Houthis toward Riyadh and Jizan, the Saudi news agency SPA reported on Sunday.

Monsey Attack Victim Succumbs to Injuries - Kenneth Garger (New York Post)
    Josef Neumann, 72, who was critically injured in the Monsey machete attack during Hanukkah last December, succumbed to his wounds on Sunday.

On the Front Line of Israel's Fight Against Coronavirus - Roy Rubinstein (Ynet News)
    At the Meir Medical Center in Kfar Saba, medical staff are treating 23 coronavirus patients - four in serious condition - in an impromptu ward erected at a moment's notice two weeks ago.
    Suddenly a patient who was in moderate condition is showing signs of respiratory failure. The staff must quickly suit up and get to the patient to perform CPR, all the while being escorted by another nurse whose job it is to make sure that the staff remains adequately protected.

Israeli, Chinese Companies to Set Up Joint COVID-19 Testing Lab in Israel (Xinhua-China)
    Israeli genealogy and genetic testing company MyHeritage will collaborate with the Chinese biotech giant BGI Genomics to set up a coronavirus testing lab in Israel, the Hebrew-language financial website Calcalist reported Friday.
    The lab will be set up by April 9 and will conduct up to 20,000 tests for COVID-19 a day.

Military Intelligence Joins War on Coronavirus - Yoav Limor (Israel Hayom)
    IDF Military Intelligence (MI) has opened a national coronavirus information center to help the Israeli Health Ministry and the IDF Home Front Command make better decisions in real-time for stopping the rate of infection.
    The information compiled thus far, for example, facilitated the transition from three testing swabs to one.
    This week, Sheba Medical Center will conduct a test on a new ventilation system that has been developed by the MI Special Operations Division.
    Its success will spare Israel the need to compete with other countries desperately trying to buy the expensive machines abroad.

News Resources - North America, Europe, and Asia:
  • Iran-Backed Militia Attacks on Americans in Iraq Are Becoming More Audacious - Louisa Loveluck
    Iran-backed militias are becoming more audacious in attacking the 5,000 U.S. troops in Iraq, with rocket strikes against military bases occurring more frequently and, for the first time, in broad daylight. U.S. officials say they receive near-daily reports of "imminent" attacks on U.S.-linked military or diplomatic facilities.
        Meanwhile, American requests that Iraqi authorities track down and prosecute those responsible for rocket attacks have made little headway. Yet a senior Iraqi military official described the American request as unrealistic. "No judge will issue an arrest warrant against a senior militia member if he wants to stay alive," he said. "Let's be honest. If the militias want to attack the bases, we can't stop them."
        At the same time, more U.S. air defense equipment and personnel have been deployed in Iraq, officials said. New air defenses - including C-RAMs and Patriot missile batteries - are expected to be in place in the next week or two. (Washington Post)
  • Iranian Diplomats Instigated Killing of Dissident in Istanbul, Turkish Officials Say
    Two intelligence officers at Iran's consulate in Turkey instigated the killing last November of an Iranian dissident in Istanbul, two senior Turkish officials told Reuters. Masoud Molavi Vardanjani was shot dead on an Istanbul street on Nov. 14, 2019, a little over a year after he left Iran. He worked in cyber security at Iran's defense ministry and had become a vocal critic of the Iranian authorities.
        A Turkish official said "the testimonies of the arrested suspects [showed] that these two Iranians, carrying diplomatic passports, had given the order for the assassination," and identified the two men by their first names and initials. Vardanjani posted a message on social media targeting Iran's Revolutionary Guards in August, three months before he was shot dead. "I will root out the corrupt mafia commanders," the post said. "Pray that they don't kill me before I do this."  (Reuters)
  • Palestinians Cancel Gaza Border Rallies over Coronavirus Concerns
    Palestinians in Gaza cancelled mass rallies planned for March 30 to mark the second anniversary of the "Great March of Return." Instead, Khaled al-Batsh, a senior member of Islamic Jihad, called upon Gazans to mark the day by raising Palestinian flags on their rooftops and burning Israeli ones. (Reuters)
News Resources - Israel and the Mideast:
  • Israel's Coronavirus Count Reaches 4,347, Death Toll Is 16
    As of Monday morning, the Israeli Health Ministry said 4,347 people were infected with COVID-19. They include 80 in serious condition, of whom 63 are attached to ventilators, and 81 in moderate condition. Of the 16 people to die in Israel from COVID-19, 13 were over age 70.
        As of Sunday evening, 3,944 had light symptoms and 139 had recovered. 500 patients were hospitalized, 2,100 are being treated at home, and 551 are being treated at hotels requisitioned by the Defense Ministry. (Times of Israel-Ynet News)
  • Palestinian Rocket Fire at Israel from Gaza Continues - Anna Ahronheim
    Palestinians in Gaza fired a rocket into Israel on Friday evening. In response, "IDF aircraft and tanks attacked military positions and infrastructure used for underground activity by Hamas in the northern Gaza Strip," the IDF Spokesperson said. (Jerusalem Post)
        See also Exchange of Fire with Gaza Signals Israel Won't Hesitate to Act despite Coronavirus Crisis - Yaniv Kubovich
    The IDF response to rocket fire from Gaza on Friday was meant to send the message that Israel would not hesitate to act despite the coronavirus crisis. Hamas conveyed a message to Israel that it was not behind the rocket attack. Hamas has deployed its forces along the Gaza border and has raised its preparedness to prevent attacks by splinter groups on Israeli troops. (Ha'aretz)
Global Commentary and Think-Tank Analysis:
  • Coronavirus Fight Should Bring Us All Together, Not Divide Us by Promoting Hatred - Ronald Lauder
    In frightening and uncertain times - like those we are facing now with the coronavirus - some people all too often and dangerously look for and unjustly blame scapegoats. Holding Asian-Americans responsible for the coronavirus merely because it originated in China is deeply offensive and a genuine threat to them. Such scapegoating is terrifyingly familiar to my community, the Jewish people. And we are also being targeted now.
        When the bubonic plague swept through 14th century Europe, Jews were held responsible. Thousands of innocent men, women and children were viciously slaughtered, and entire Jewish communities were wiped out. Needless to say, all that Jewish blood did nothing to stop the plague. Now, messages and images implying that Jews are exploiting positions of power in politics, finance and health care to spread the virus have emerged.
        It is vital that the Jewish people and all Americans take an unyielding stand against any and all efforts to vilify any individual, community, people or nation for the crisis unfolding around us. This is a moment for coming together in a globally shared experience as we recognize what we have in common. We are all in this together. We will not allow COVID-19 to rob us of our civility, our pride in our nation's diversity, and our ability to build a more perfect union across the many communities that call America home. The writer is President of the World Jewish Congress. (Fox News)
  • Coronavirus Bringing a New Level of Anti-Semitism - Avi Benlolo
    Some are using the coronavirus pandemic as another excuse to attack the Jewish people. Last week, the FBI warned that white supremacist groups are targeting police and Jewish people by planning to expose them to coronavirus. If their members contract the virus, they are being encouraged to use themselves as bio-weapons, to infect synagogues, marketplaces and areas where Jewish people might congregate. The writer is president and CEO of Friends of the Simon Wiesenthal Center for Holocaust Studies. (National Post-Canada)
  • Israeli Doctor in Italy Notes New, Innovative Treatments - Ira Tolchin Immergluck
    Carmi Sheffer, a doctor at the University Hospital of Padua in northern Italy, says the country is close to "flattening the curve" with some new treatments appearing to be helping some COVID-19 patients. "In the past few days, people have begun to recover, in part due to new medications," he said.
        In Padua, the autoimmune medicine Tocilizumab has proven effective, but can only be used once it is established that no other viruses or bacteria are present in the patients. The hospital has also seen positive results from the antiviral drug Remdesivir. 500 patients in northern Italian hospitals are receiving ventilators that use a snorkeling mask, with a part that connects it to the machine being printed by a 3D printer.
        He said dramatic results resulted when they had patients lie on their stomach instead of on their back while on a ventilator. "Suddenly the oxygen level in the blood jumped by hundreds of percent."  (Times of Israel)

  • When the coronavirus disappears, it will leave behind a different world. The first, and most surprising, lesson is that the coronavirus reinforces the notion of national sovereignty.
  • The virus does not recognize national boundaries, but the struggle against it reflects a distinct national state of mind. One by one, nation-states are putting their citizens first.
  • Countries around the world decided to close their borders, physically separating their citizens from those of other states. National sentiments prevailed, proving, once again, that in times of crisis, fellow nationals come together. Others - in this case, those residing outside our borders - turn into a threat.
  • In each of the countries facing the crisis, a common ritual ensued, with the leader addressing his or her citizens, appearing against the backdrop of the national flag. The battered Italians wrapped themselves in their tricolor flag while they stood on their balconies, singing the national anthem and Italian folk songs.
  • The coronavirus has placed a civil-territorial kind of nationalism at the center of the political stage, reminding us that national identity is deeply rooted in our political cultures.

    Former Israeli Minister of Education Yael (Yuli) Tamir, a professor of political philosophy, is the author of Why Nationalism (Princeton University Press, 2019).