April 3, 2020

In-Depth Issues:

When a Crisis Erupts, the Jews Will Be among Those Blamed - David Harris (Times of Israel)
    Whenever a crisis erupts, the conspiracy theorists come out of the woodwork and, sooner or later, the Jews will be among those blamed.
    Now, with a pandemic circling the globe, the conspiracy theorists are at it once more.
    It doesn't matter that the outbreak began in Wuhan, China, where no Jewish community exists, or that Israel is battling the coronavirus tooth-and-nail, or that a number of American Jews have already succumbed to the pandemic.
    Failing to monitor and confront the threat posed by the conspiracy-mongers and their hateful incitement would be shortsighted in the extreme.
    The writer is CEO of the American Jewish Committee.

U.S. Redeploys in Iraq - Jonathan Spyer (Jerusalem Post)
    Over the last two weeks, U.S. forces have been significantly reducing their footprint in Iraq.
    Redeployments have taken place from three bases located in close proximity to positions of the Iran-supported Shia militias currently engaged in insurgency against the U.S. presence in Iraq.
    The shift in the U.S. presence serves to reduce the target bank available to the Shia militias.
    Nonessential personnel have also been withdrawn from the U.S. Embassy in Baghdad.
    The writer is director of the Middle East Center for Reporting and Analysis.

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Epidemics in the Holy Land 100 Years Ago - Lenny Ben-David (Times of Israel)
    Several years before the catastrophic influenza pandemic that struck the world in 1918, calamitous plagues were killing millions in the Middle East.
    According to Prof. Melanie Schulze-Tanielian of the University of Michigan, "Widespread epidemics consumed Ottoman soldiers and civilians alike during the Great War."
    "Typhus, malaria, and relapsing fever, transmitted via disease-infected lice, mosquitoes, and ticks, were the deadliest assailants, followed by bacterial diseases like dysentery and typhoid."
    According to an account by a German medical officer, "Of the 10,000 troops serving in the Ottoman division that set off from Istanbul, only 4,635 could make it to Palestine. The rest either became ill or deserted. The ones who reached Palestine were ill and had lost their strength."
    In 1916 a typhus epidemic killed Jewish soldiers and approximately 100 Jewish laborers in Beersheba.
    From the writer's forthcoming book, The Secrets of World War I in the Holy Land Revealed in Photographs.

Dutch Jew Who Rescued 100s in Vichy France Finally Recognized - Robert Philpot (Times of Israel)
    In August 1942, as the Nazis' net grew ever tighter around the Jews of Vichy France, Dutch diplomat Salomon (Sally) Noach walked into Lyon's Palais de Justice and successfully demanded the release of 118 prisoners being held there.
    He then appeared at the Stade des Iris on the outskirts of the city where Jews were being detained and issued false papers to 432 people, registering them as Dutch and thus securing their escape from near-certain death.
    The feature-length documentary "Forgotten Soldier," released last year, lifts the veil on a man who never received the recognition he undoubtedly deserved during his lifetime.
    Using fake documents supplied by the resistance (which supposedly proved the inmates weren't Jewish), he entered prisons and holding centers with the aim of securing the release of as many refugees as he could.
    He greased the process with bribes and gifts for the guards and police.

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News Resources - North America, Europe, and Asia:
  • Israel Responds to the Coronavirus - Ben Caspit
    Israel correctly responded to the coronavirus early in the game. The initial decisions to close Israel's airspace and limit entrance to people from China and other places were made just in time. This gave the country some breathing space before the virus actually erupted.
        The Israeli health system is viewed as successful and efficient. Israel has a national health insurance law that provides health coverage to all its citizens and a network of family and community clinics that are among the world's most developed. On the other hand, the numbers of nurses and intensive-care beds per capita are among the lowest in the West.
        The coronavirus caught Israel with less than 2,000 ventilators and a shortage of protective clothing, surgical masks, N95 masks, coronavirus test kits, and special swabs. Concerned that Israel might become like Italy, the prime minister tasked the Mossad with procuring the necessary medical equipment in the war against the coronavirus. On March 31, Defense Minister Naftali Bennett revealed that Israel has spent $560 million on its acquisition efforts. (Al-Monitor)
  • Iranian Academics Hold Iran's Supreme Leader Responsible for the Covid-19 Epidemic Disaster
    On March 29, 2020, 100 Iranian academics and political and social activists published a letter holding Iran's Supreme Leader Ali Khamenei chiefly responsible for the Covid-19 epidemic becoming a national disaster. The letter was posted on the Kalame.com website, identified with Green Movement leader Mir Hossein Mousavi, who has been under house arrest since 2011 for criticizing Khamenei for the repression of Green Movement protests and for falsifying the 2009 presidential elections.
        They hold Khamenei and regime officials directly responsible for concealing information about the coronavirus outbreak from the public and failing to take measures to curb the spread of the disease, out of political and religious considerations. They say Khamenei prevents the people from receiving American or other humanitarian aid, while he and other regime officials do have access to medical treatment. (MEMRI)
        See also 16 Countries Say Their Corona Outbreaks Originated in Iran - Con Coughlin
    The Iranian regime's failure to grasp the significance of the coronavirus outbreak led 16 other countries to claim that their own outbreaks originated in Iran. These include Iraq, Afghanistan, Bahrain, Kuwait, Oman, Lebanon, and the UAE. (Gatestone Institute)
  • Iran Accused of Cyberattack on World Health Organization - James Rothwell
    Iran has been accused of attempting to hack into the personal email accounts of staff at the World Health Organization during a severe outbreak of coronavirus. The attempted cyberattack, which failed, had several links with the Iranian regime, according to Reuters, which confirmed the hack with four sources. In this case, the hackers posed as workers for Google web services to obtain passwords and other data. (Telegraph-UK)
News Resources - Israel and the Mideast:
  • Israel's Coronavirus Count Reaches 7,030, Death Toll Is 37
    The Israeli Health Ministry said the number of Israelis infected with the coronavirus rose to 7,030 on Friday morning. The national death toll reached 37. 170 were in serious condition, with 95 on ventilators, and 144 were moderately sick. At least 357 Israelis have recovered. The death toll has more than doubled since Monday, and the number of people on ventilators or in serious condition has also nearly doubled in the last week.
        The Israeli military was preparing to remove 4,500 people over the age of 80 from Bnei Brak, placing those residents most at risk from the coronavirus in state-run isolation hotels. (Times of Israel)
        See also 94 Percent of Israel's Corona Fatalities Are over 60
    Most of Israel's coronavirus fatalities have been elderly men with underlying medical conditions, in line with global averages. As of Thursday, the average age of Israel's victims was 79.8 - 64% men and 36% women. 94% were over the age of 60, in line with the average in Europe of 95%. The vast majority had underlying medical conditions.
        At least 771 people are being treated at hospitals, 710 are hospitalized at hotels requisitioned by the Ministry of Defense, and 3,714 are being treated at home. (Times of Israel-Ynet News)
        See also Coronavirus Cases Reach 143 in PA, 12 in Gaza - Elior Levy (Ynet News)
  • IDF Assists in Fight Against Pandemic - Yaacov Ayish
    The Israel Defense Forces are assisting the civilian sector in the fight against the coronavirus pandemic, with Maj.-Gen. Tamir Yadai, head of the Home Front Command, spearheading efforts. These include launching a public communication campaign, staying in connection with local municipalities, and helping the Magen David Adom (MDA) emergency service field calls and test civilians for the coronavirus. Troops have been tasked with assisting at-risk and elderly populations purchase food and other necessities, while soldiers from the education corps are overseeing the children of medical professionals who must continue to work.
        The IDF has converted a resort in Ashkelon for use by soldiers with mild coronavirus infections, and opened hotels in Tel Aviv and Jerusalem for civilians with mild cases, in order to alleviate pressure on civilian hospitals. The writer is senior vice president for Israeli affairs at the Jewish Institute for National Security of America (JINSA). (Jerusalem Post)
        See also IDF Sends Troops into Virus-Stricken City to Help Residents - Judah Ari Gross
    The Israel Defense Forces on Thursday deployed two battalions from the Paratroopers and Commando Brigades to assist the Home Front Command to provide food, medicine and other services to those in the Tel Aviv suburb of Bnei Brak, a coronavirus hotspot.
        IDF Spokesperson Brig.-Gen. Hidai Zilberman said over 12,000 soldiers "get up each morning to fight the coronavirus." They are responding to questions on hotlines, bringing food and medicine to the elderly and disabled, driving medics to perform tests, and operating quarantine facilities across the country. "Next week there will be much, much more." One commander and four soldiers have been assigned to each of 200 assisted living facilities around the country, providing help, Zilberman said. (Times of Israel)
Global Commentary and Think-Tank Analysis:
  • Palestinian Ex-Militant Speaks about Leaving Terror
    Growing up in Jenin in the West Bank, Mohammed Massad listened to the songs that called on the Palestinians to liberate their land from the "Zionist oppressors," and as a teen he enrolled in the Black Panthers, Fatah's armed group that was responsible for multiple terror activities against Israelis. In the early '90s, he (along with other members of the cell) tried to kidnap an Israel soldier. Israeli security forces arrested the entire cell and sent them to prison.
        Released in 1993, he started working for the Palestinian Authority. "We appreciated the Palestinian leadership when it was in exile, but when they came here in 1993, straight after the Oslo Accords, we realized the magnitude of our mistake. Their corruption shocked many," said Massad.
        In early 2000s he started working in Israel in construction. Surrounded by Israelis, he realized "they weren't as bad as the PA depicted them to be." In 2002, while waiting for workers whom he used to smuggle into Israel for work, he noticed a Palestinian terrorist who pounced on an Israeli soldier patrolling the fence that separates Israel from the West Bank in an attempt to grab his rifle. "My instincts were very sharp, I ran towards the terrorist, beat him up and managed to get the rifle back," he recalls.
        "I only want peace. But I am not alone. There are hundreds of thousands like me, who want to lead a peaceful life along with Israelis," he said, referring to the 150,000 Palestinians who work in Israel in agriculture and construction and who rely on Israel for an income. "We can still make this area better if we only educate our children not to repeat our mistakes and not to differentiate between Jews, Muslims and Christians. After all: we are all human beings."  (Sputnik-Russia)
  • After Years of Breeding Anti-Israel Hatred, Egypt's Education System Is Overhauled under Sisi
    After Israel signed a peace treaty with Egypt in 1979, its education system continued to put forth a narrative that denied the legitimacy of the Jewish state. "Cairo wanted to show that despite the peace treaty, the attitude towards Israel hasn't changed and that the hearts of the Egyptians were still with the Palestinians. That's why Israel has been mentioned in school textbooks as the bitter enemy of Egypt," said Amr Zakariya, a Cairo-based expert on Israel-Egypt relations. "Sadat's peace initiative was sidelined and marginalized."
        "When President Sisi came to power, he decided to change that equation, realizing that Egypt and Israel shared a common enemy - the threat of terror, and acknowledging that breeding hatred would not solve the Palestinian problem." Another factor that contributed to the change was the shifting attitude towards Israel in the Arab world. "It was for these reasons that Egypt under Sisi took a mild approach towards Israel and that was also reflected in the school textbooks."
        In 2015, Egypt released a new geography textbook for 9th grade that provided more explicit support for a peace deal with Israel, stressing that the agreement was crucial for the stability and development of Egypt. It portrayed Israel as a legitimate peace partner and featured for the first time a photo of then-Prime Minister Menachem Begin, who signed the agreement with President Sadat. The book also reduced the discussion of the Palestinian conflict and the struggle against Israel from 32 pages to 12. (Sputnik-Russia)
  • Turkey vs. Syria: A Culture of Enmity - Col. (res.) Dr. Dan Gottlieb and Lt.-Col. (res.) Dr. Mordechai Kedar
    Enmity between Turkey and Syria is a longstanding component of the modern Middle Eastern political arena with deep roots. In 1936 Mustafa Kemal Ataturk demanded that the town of Alexandretta in Syria and its surrounding area be handed over to Turkey on the grounds that the majority of the inhabitants there were Turks. A complaint was made at the League of Nations, and a Turkish military column entered Alexandretta on July 5, 1938, annexing the area as the 63rd Turkish province. To this day, Syria considers Alexandretta part of its territory and shows it as such on its maps. On Turkish maps, this area is called Hatay.
        For many years, any Syrian official who dared mention the Alexandretta/Hatay issue was barred from entering Turkey. As the risk of being placed on a Turkish blacklist was too high for Syrian officials, media silence on the issue has rendered the Syrian man in the street unaware that the issue even exists - unlike, for example, the Golan Heights, which is always referred to by the Syrian government and media as "the occupied Syrian Golan."
        Ever since Syria was established in 1943, the Turkish people have viewed it, along with Lebanon, Jordan, and Israel, as states founded on the ruins of the Ottoman Empire. The Turks have never forgotten the collaboration of the Arabs and the British Empire, which brought about the demise of the Ottoman (Turkish) Empire. At the same time, memories of 400 years (1517-1917) of oppression by the Ottomans remain deeply etched in Arab culture. (BESA Center for Strategic Studies-Bar-Ilan University)

For Israel, Recognizing an Enemy Is Second Nature - Melanie Phillips (JNS-Israel Hayom)
  • Unlike the pampered West, Israel permanently lives in a state of potential emergency and existential threat.
  • From its experience of decades fending off attacks from physical enemies, Israel is geared to be proactive against threats to national security.
  • It doesn't flinch from taking desperately difficult decisions in order to save lives - like shutting down much of its economy.
  • More deeply still, Israel views every unnecessary death as a national tragedy.
  • It would be unthinkable for Israel to sit out the threatened epidemic until enough people had been infected to provide "herd immunity" protection because those most likely to die in this process were "only" the old.
  • Because the duty to protect the whole population is built into Israel's DNA, the same military and security forces that fight a physical enemy have been deployed to battle Covid-19, as has the fabled Mossad spy agency.

    The writer is a columnist for The Times of London.
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