April 10, 2020

In-Depth Issues:

Coronavirus Kills 15 at Amsterdam's Jewish Old-Age Home - Cnaan Liphshiz (JTA)
    At least 15 residents have died from Covid-19 at Beth Shalom, the main Jewish elderly home in Amsterdam, and another 22 have the disease.

Syria Used Chemical Weapons 3 Times in One Week, Watchdog Says - Ben Hubbard (New York Times)
    An investigative team with the Organization for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons said in a report on Wednesday that in the span of one week in March 2017, Syrian fighter jets twice dropped bombs containing sarin nerve agent on the village of Ltamenah in northern Syria and a helicopter targeted its hospital with a cylinder containing chlorine.
    The attacks attributed to the Syrian government came after Syria was supposed to have relinquished all of its chemical weapons.

Photos Reveal Massive Damage at Syrian Airbase - Seth J. Frantzman (Jerusalem Post)
    Satellite images released by ImageSat International on April 8 revealed "evidence of a massive strike in Shayrat Airbase, located in Homs, Syria." The site was struck on March 31.
    The airstrikes may have been intended to interdict weapons transfers from Iran to Syria.

Many Iraqi Politicians Resent Iranian Meddling - Hassan Ali Ahmed (Al-Monitor)
    The recent visit of new Iranian Quds Force commander Esmail Ghaani to Iraq failed to unify the Shiite forces in nominating a new prime minister who would have close ties to Iran.
    Grand Ayatollah Ali al-Sistani rejected Ghaani's request for a meeting, while Shiite cleric Muqtada al-Sadr canceled a prescheduled meeting with Ghaani, stating that "there should be no foreign interference in Iraq's affairs."
    Nor did Ghaani meet Sunni or Kurdish politicians during his visit to Baghdad.
    Unlike his predecessor, Qasem Soleimani, Ghaani does not speak Arabic and lacks charisma.

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Six Critically Ill Coronavirus Patients Survive after Placental Cell Therapy in Israel - Maayan Jaffe-Hoffman (Jerusalem Post)
    Six critically ill coronavirus patients in Israel who were treated with Pluristem's placenta-based cell-therapy have survived in a compassionate use trial. Four showed improvement in respiratory parameters and three are in the advanced stages of weaning from ventilators.
    Pluristem's PLX cells have "immunomodulatory properties," meaning they induce the immune system's natural regulatory cells to reduce inflammation of lung tissue.

Defense Ministry Uses Israeli Start-Up to Vet Chinese Medical Equipment Providers (Jerusalem Post)
    Israel's Defense Ministry has recruited Israeli start-up Qlarium to assess the reliability of Chinese medical equipment suppliers.
    The company gathers information from a range of sources in Chinese and translates them to compile a report on the supplier.
    The information helps Israel to avoid middlemen, defective equipment and fake companies.

Israeli Judo World Champion Sells Memorabilia to Buy Ventilators (i24News)
    Israeli judoka Sagi Muki is auctioning off his memorabilia to raise money for more ventilators to treat coronavirus patients at Laniado Hospital in Netanya, he announced Tuesday.
    He will auction off online his judo belt, the unique "red patch" awarded to Judo World Champions, and the uniform from his victory at the 2019 Judo World Championship finals in Japan.

Energean Ups Israeli Offshore Gas Estimate - Simon Griver (Globes)
    Energean Oil and Gas has raised its estimate of the amount of energy resources in the Israeli offshore Karish North field by 32%.

Hamas Conducts Rocket Tests (Jerusalem Post)
    Hamas launched rockets towards the sea Thursday morning in a test aimed at improving its rocket arsenal.

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News Resources - North America, Europe, and Asia:
  • New Iranian Nuclear Weapons Site Identified - David Albright, Sarah Burkhard, and Frank Pabian
    Based on documents in the Iran Nuclear Archive, seized by Israel in 2018, Iran created the Shahid Mahallati Uranium Metals Workshop near Tehran to research and develop uranium metallurgy related to building nuclear weapons. The facility was capable of making the first cores of weapon-grade uranium. Iran should declare this site to the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) and allow its inspection, since the facility was designed and built to handle nuclear material subject to safeguards under Iran's comprehensive safeguards agreement. (Institute for Science and International Security)
  • Iran Nuclear Chief Says New Centrifuges to Come Online Soon
    The head of Iran's Atomic Energy Organization (IAEO), Ali Akbar Salehi, said on Wednesday that "a new generation of centrifuges would soon come online at the Natanz fuel enrichment plant."
        Earlier on April 5, Salehi disclosed, "Nuclear activities, as well as research and development on the nuclear fuel cycle, uranium conversion, and enrichment (including production and storage), are being carried out without any restrictions." He revealed that Iran's enriched uranium production and stockpile are now as high as before the 2015 nuclear agreement, and that the process of building Arak's heavy water research reactor is advancing in cooperation with foreign parties. (Radio Farda)
  • State Department: Threat from Iran to U.S. Forces in Iraq Remains "Significant" - Humeyra Pamuk
    David Schenker, assistant secretary of state of Near Eastern Affairs, said Thursday that Iranian-backed militia pose a "significant" threat to U.S. forces in Iraq. Iran-backed paramilitary groups have been regularly shelling bases in Iraq that host U.S. forces and the area around the U.S. embassy in Baghdad. (Reuters)
  • 150 Members of Saudi Arabia's Royal Family Contract Covid-19 - David D. Kirkpatrick and Ben Hubbard
    As many as 150 members of the Saudi royal family are now believed to have contracted the coronavirus, according to a person close to the family. Prince Faisal bin Bandar bin Abdulaziz Al Saud, the governor of Riyadh, is in intensive care. King Salman, 84, has secluded himself in an island palace near Jeddah.
        The royal family includes thousands of princes, many of whom travel routinely to Europe. Several doctors in Saudi Arabia said the kingdom's biggest current outbreaks were in the slums around Mecca and Medina, home to hundreds of thousands of African or Southeast Asian Muslims. (New York Times)
  • Israelis Looking Out for Overworked Healthcare Professionals - Aron Heller
    In less than three weeks, more than 10,000 Israelis have signed up to "Adopt A Doc," to assist the health care professionals who are saving lives while braving exposure in long hours at hospitals. Besides providing for needed protective gear and other medical supplies, an army of volunteers has carried out grocery shopping, delivered homecooked meals, babysat for children and even walked the pets of health care providers. Nearly 1,000 doctors, nurses and other overworked medical personnel now have a designated volunteer who cares for their personal needs. Some 3,000 other volunteers offer support in other ways.
        The grassroots organization now has a coordinator at every hospital in the country and has secured donations from private catering companies. "We kind of wanted to make sure that our medical teams are taken care of, all their personal lives are taken care of so they can really focus only on being professional and at their best in the hospitals," said Karmon Scope, 44, a startup entrepreneur who first posted the initiative on Facebook. (AP-Washington Post)
  • Hamas Arrests Gaza Peace Activists for Zoom Chat with Israelis - Oliver Holmes
    Hamas security forces in Gaza have arrested local peace campaigners for treason after they held a two-hour Zoom conference with Israeli activists on Monday. Hamas spokesperson Eyad al-Bozom said they were charged with "establishing normalization activities with the Israeli occupation via the internet," calling the activity "a crime punishable by law, and a betrayal of our people and their sacrifices."  (Guardian-UK)
News Resources - Israel and the Mideast:
  • Israel's Coronavirus Count Reaches 10,095, Death Toll Is 93
    As of Friday morning, the total number of confirmed Covid-19 cases in Israel was 10,095 and 93 people had died, the Israeli Health Ministry said. 164 people are in serious condition, including 125 patients on ventilators. (Times of Israel)
  • Experts: Corona Unlikely to Change Middle East Balance of Power - Herb Keinon
    Maj.-Gen. (ret.) Amos Yadlin, former head of Israeli Military Intelligence and executive director of the Institute for National Security Studies (INSS) in Tel Aviv, told a Zoom conference this week, "The Middle East is up to its neck in problems. The corona is just another variable on top of all that." For instance, a half million people have been killed in the nine-year Syrian civil war, so the death of a number of people there at the hands of the virus will likely go unnoticed, he said.
        The coronavirus is unlikely to fundamentally change the balance of power in the Middle East, he said. The Sunni and Shi'a camps will continue to be in conflict, the Israeli-Palestinian issue will not be solved, and the various civil wars in the region will rage on.
        Brig.-Gen. (res.) Yossi Kuperwasser, a former head of Military Intelligence's Research Division and now with the Jerusalem Center for Public Affairs, agreed that at this point the virus "is not enough to stop local wars, or bring about unity," or even to trigger much of a discussion in the region about the world after corona. The region sees the virus "as a time out, let's stop for a minute," but not as a factor that will lead to a decline in ideological enmity and confrontation. (Jerusalem Post)
Global Commentary and Think-Tank Analysis:
  • How the Coronavirus Is Changing How We Think about Warfare - David Ignatius
    Defense analysts are beginning to assess how the global coronavirus pandemic should change how we think about warfare. The pandemic's ability to cripple the nuclear aircraft carrier USS Theodore Roosevelt shows the vulnerability of military forces to disease.
        It also shows how problematic it would be to use a pathogen as a bioweapon. The attacker would be nearly as vulnerable as the target as the pandemic spread. An Islamist terrorist group, say, would have to expect that the pathogen could kill as many of the Muslim faithful as unbelievers. (Washington Post)
  • The Impact of the Coronavirus Pandemic on the Iranian Economy - Raz Zimmt and Tomer Fadlon
    The Iranian economy is experiencing a particularly critical period after several months when it appeared to be stabilizing, once it adjusted to the sanctions regime. Recovery was also seen in the stabilization of the rial, after it collapsed in 2018 and lost 2/3 of its value. Moreover, the coronavirus outbreak took place in March, just prior to Nowruz, the Iranian New Year, which is a peak period for business and consumer activity.
        Nonetheless, no systemic economic collapse is evident at this stage, and there are no signs of a lack of essential goods or a loss by government authorities of the ability to ensure regular supply of essential services. Dr. Raz Zimmt is a research fellow and Dr. Tomer Fadlon is a research associate at INSS. (Institute for National Security Studies-Tel Aviv University)
  • The Coronavirus Won't Kill the Islamic Republic - Kenneth M. Pollack
    It's true that, even before the outbreak of Covid-19, the Iranian regime had little legitimacy. However, the Islamic Republic has withstood repeated attempts at popular revolution by dint of force. The regime has shown itself willing to do whatever is necessary to keep itself in power, including assaulting, arresting, and killing its own citizens. As the history of revolutions has repeatedly demonstrated, they succeed only if the regime loses the will or the capacity to use force against the people. So far, the regime never has, and there is no evidence that the Covid-19 crisis has altered either its determination or its ability.
        There has never been a successful revolution without mass demonstrations. The fear of Covid-19 has effectively eliminated the potential for large-scale protests. Moreover, it has been the hard-liners, led by the IRGC, who have responded in the most appropriate fashion. They have been the ones arguing for travel bans, quarantines, social distancing, canceling of religious and cultural events, and government assistance to the distressed.
        Bizarrely, it has been the moderates and pragmatists, led by President Hassan Rouhani, who have insisted that the virus is not very dangerous and that people should go about their daily lives. Consequently, Iranians may see the hard-liners as the heroes of the story. The writer, a former CIA intelligence analyst who served on the National Security Council staff, is a resident scholar at the American Enterprise Institute. (Foreign Policy)
  • Instead of Investing in Health Care for Gazans, Hamas Built Rockets and Attack Tunnels - Khaled Abu Toameh
    Hamas leaders, who have done virtually nothing to provide basic healthcare in Gaza, have never accepted responsibility for the well-being of their people and constantly search for ways to blame Israel for the miseries of Palestinians. The Hamas leaders who are now complaining about the lack of ventilators in their hospitals are the same as those who have invested tens of millions of dollars on manufacturing and smuggling weapons, including rockets, to attack Israel.
        Since 2014, Hamas has invested about $120 million in digging terror tunnels. Had Hamas invested a small amount of these funds to purchase medical equipment, the situation in Gaza hospitals today would be very different.
        Hamas leader Yahya Sinwar told Hamas TV on April 2: "If ventilators are not brought to Gaza [by Israel], we will take them by force from Israel and stop the breathing of six million settlers." He forgot to mention that it was Israeli doctors who saved his life when he had brain surgery to remove a tumor while he was serving time in Israeli prison for murdering several Palestinians suspected of collaborating with Israel. (Gatestone Institute)

  • Weekend Feature

  • FDR, the Saudis, and the Jews - Rafael Medoff
    On February 14, 1945, on the deck of the USS Quincy in Egypt, President Franklin D. Roosevelt met with King Ibn Saud of Saudi Arabia. U.S. ambassador to Riyadh William Eddy wrote down the two leaders' remarks in a "Memorandum of Conversation," which both leaders signed.
        Ibn Saud said he opposed "continued Jewish immigration and the purchase of land [in Palestine] by the Jews." The king insisted that "the Arabs and the Jews could never cooperate, neither in Palestine, nor in any other country." Roosevelt "replied that he wished to assure his majesty that he would do nothing to assist the Jews against the Arabs and would make no move hostile to the Arab people."
        Roosevelt asked Ibn Saud for his view of "the problem of Jewish refugees driven from their homes in Europe." The king asserted that the Jews should be "given living space in the Axis countries which oppressed them." In response, "The president remarked that Poland might be considered a case in point. The Germans appear to have killed three million Polish Jews, by which count there should be space in Poland for the resettlement of many homeless Jews."  The writer is director of the David S. Wyman Institute for Holocaust Studies in Washington. (Jerusalem Post)

Can Muslims Ever Accept a Jewish State? - Dr. Harold Rhode (Jewish Policy Center)
  • To understand any potential agreement between Israel and its neighbors, it is essential to understand how Islam understands it relationships with non-Muslims. Only then can we address the question of whether Muslims can ever accept a Jewish state on land they believe is theirs.
  • Many years ago, I taught Middle East history at the University of Delaware. The classes included a significant number of Muslim students from Iran, Turkey, and the Arab lands. When we came to the French conquest of North Africa in the 19th century, I asked the students what they thought about the French imposing their culture and language on the locals. Both the American and Muslim students were outraged by French colonialism.
  • I then referred to the Muslim conquest of these lands in the 7th century, asking whether what the Muslims conquerors had done was any different from what the French had done. The Americans quickly got the point. But the gut reaction of the Muslim students was to shout out that the Muslims brought Islam to the locals which improved/elevated their lives.
  • No Muslim would publicly admit that what the Arab Muslims coming out of Arabia had done was imperialism. Better to be ruled by Muslim autocrats/tyrants than by non-Muslim infidels who had no right to rule over Muslims, no matter how much freedom or prosperity their governance might bring.
  • In 1979, Anwar Sadat signed an agreement with Israel supposedly ending 30 years of conflict between overwhelmingly Muslim Egypt and Jewish Israel. Interestingly, the Arabic word most often used in the Egyptian press to describe the agreement was tafahhum - best translated as "mutual understanding," not a peace agreement. There is, in fact, no way in Arabic to express the Western concept of letting bygones be bygones.

    The writer served for 28 years as an advisor on the Islamic world in the Office of the U.S. Secretary of Defense.
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Today's issue of Daily Alert was prepared in Israel on Chol Hamoed Pesach.