April 16, 2020

In-Depth Issues:

32 Residents Die of Covid-19 at 2 Massachusetts Jewish Nursing Homes - Penny Schwartz (JTA)
    11 residents of Chelsea Jewish Life Care, across its three Boston-area locations, and 21 residents at JGS Lifecare in Longmeadow, a suburb of Springfield in Western Massachusetts, have died from COVID-19, and scores of other residents and staff have tested positive for the virus.

Inside an Israeli Covid-19 Testing Center - Sandipan Dasgupta (Times of Israel)
    As a Ph.D. student in molecular genetics, I was fortunate to participate in the Covid-19 testing facility at the Weizmann Institute of Science in Israel.
    The center is one of the most sophisticated, top-of-the-line facilities and performs thousands of tests a day.
    See also New Website Presents Israel's Covid-19 Tech Efforts - Uri Berkovitz (Globes)
    The coronavirus outbreak has generated an abundance of initiatives and collaborations in Israel's tech ecosystem.
    Information about these efforts, and other initiatives around the world, can now be found on a dedicated website - CoronaTech Israel - which has been launched by Start-Up Nation Central and HealthIL.

Israeli Drone Strike Targets Top Hizbullah Security Official - Najia Houssari (Arab News-Saudi Arabia)
    An Israeli military drone fired two missiles on Wednesday at a jeep carrying four Hizbullah fighters just inside Syria near the border with Lebanon.
    The first strike missed, and the four men - one thought to be a senior security official - fled for their lives before a second strike destroyed the vehicle.
    "Those in the car jumped out of it before it was hit, and miraculously survived," a Lebanese security official said.
    There are suggestions that the security official targeted is linked to Hizbullah activity in the Syrian Golan Heights.

Iran Coronavirus Cartoon Contest Features Anti-Semitic Drawings (i24News)
    Sharon S. Nazarian, vice-president for international affairs at the Anti-Defamation League (ADL), criticized Monday Iran's health ministry over setting up a coronavirus-themed cartoon contest, which featured some highly anti-Semitic works.

Germany Arrests 4 ISIS Members Planning Attack on U.S. Bases (AP-Military.com)
    Four members of the Islamic State who were planning an attack on American military facilities were arrested by German tactical police units on Wednesday in North Rhine-Westphalia.
    The men, all citizens of Tajikistan, joined ISIS in January 2019 and were instructed to form a cell in Germany.
    They planned to target U.S. Air Force bases in the country and other targets, and had already obtained firearms and ammunition to carry out their attacks.

News Resources - North America, Europe, and Asia:
  • Iranian Vessels "Harass" U.S. Navy Ships in Arabian Sea - Barbara Starr and Jamie Crawford
    The U.S. Navy released video showing Iranian naval vessels repeatedly conducting "dangerous and harassing approaches" towards U.S. Navy ships in the North Arabian Sea on Wednesday. One Iranian vessel came within 10 yards of a U.S. ship. In the video, multiple Iranian-flagged vessels, with men manning guns, pass in front of a U.S. naval vessel. 11 Revolutionary Guard Navy vessels "repeatedly crossed the bows and sterns of the U.S. vessels at extremely close range and high speeds."  (CNN)
        See also Iranian Navy Temporarily Seizes Vessel, Sparking Persian Gulf Alert - Benoit Faucon and Summer Said
    Iranian naval forces seized a Hong Kong-flagged tanker and redirected the vessel into Iranian waters before releasing it on Tuesday, according to Western and Emirati officials, prompting a warning to ships along the Persian Gulf's key oil export route. The vessel "was boarded by armed men" while anchored in the Persian Gulf and taken near the Iranian port of Ras Al Kuh. Tankers crossing the Strait of Hormuz have been frequently stopped or approached by the Iranian Navy in recent months. (Wall Street Journal)
  • Russia to Send Syrian Mercenaries to Libya to Fight for Gen. Haftar
    Russia is preparing to send 300-400 former opposition members in Syria's Quneitra province bordering Israel to fight for Libyan Gen. Khalifa Haftar, who is trying to seize the Libyan capital Tripoli. Local sources told Anadolu Agency that Commander Ebu Cafer Memtene of the Nukhba unit would send the fighters to Libya after accelerated training in Russian camps in Syria. (Daily Sabah-Turkey)
News Resources - Israel and the Mideast:
  • Israel's Coronavirus Death Toll Is 140, with 12,591 Confirmed Cases
    Israel's coronavirus death toll is 140, with 12,591 confirmed cases, the Israeli Health Ministry said Thursday morning. 174 patients are in serious condition, including 140 patients receiving ventilator support. 669 coronavirus patients are receiving treatment in hospitals, while 1,193 people are in specially designated hotels. (Ynet News)
  • More Rescue Flights Slated for Israelis in Europe
    Israeli airline Israir announced Tuesday that it will send rescue flights to Europe to recover stranded Israelis, Walla reported. Destinations include Lisbon, Paris, Barcelona, Milan, Tblisi and Budapest. Anyone arriving from abroad will be required to stay in a quarantine hotel. (Jerusalem Post)
  • Saudi TV Series Depicting Jewish Life in Gulf Sparks Arab Outrage - Khaled Abu Toameh
    A new TV series, "Life of a Leopard," produced by the Saudi MBC about the life of Jews in the Gulf, has sparked outrage in the Arab world. Critics argue that the series promotes normalization with Israel. The series, to be broadcast during Ramadan which begins next week, focuses on the life of a Jewish woman as a social outcast in the Gulf because of her religion.
        Renowned Kuwaiti actress Hayat al-Fahad, 71, plays the role of a Jewish midwife and nurse in the series, called Umm Haroun. MBC says the series deals with social relations between Muslims and Jews in Kuwait during the 1940s, at a time when 200 Jewish families lived there. Critics are demanding that MBC refrain from broadcasting the series on the pretext that it's a "form of normalization with the Zionist entity."  (Jerusalem Post)
Global Commentary and Think-Tank Analysis:
  • Amid the Pandemic, Anti-Semitism Flares Up - Walter Russell Mead
    The world's newest disease has unleashed another wave of the world's oldest hate. That so many people in so many places instinctively blamed the Jews for the pandemic underscores how deeply ingrained the irrational force of anti-Semitism remains. This wave of hate should remind us all how important it is that the Jewish people have a state, and that the Jewish state remains strong enough to defend itself from the enemies near and far who yearn for its destruction.
        The writer is professor of foreign affairs and the humanities at Bard College, and a distinguished fellow in strategy and statesmanship at the Hudson Institute. (Wall Street Journal)
  • The Next Iranian Revolution - Eric Edelman and Ray Takeyh
    For the past 40 years, almost every U.S. president has tried to reach some kind of accommodation with Iran. They all failed to understand that the Iranian regime remains, at heart, a revolutionary movement that will never accommodate the U.S. The continued vitality of the Iranian revolution mandated its relentless export. That is why regime change is not a radical or reckless idea but the most pragmatic and effective goal for U.S. policy. It is the only objective that has any chance of meaningfully reducing the Iranian threat.
        This does not mean advocating a military invasion of Iran, but it does mean pushing for the U.S. to use every instrument at its disposal to undermine Iran's clerical state, including covert assistance to dissidents. The U.S. cannot overthrow the Islamic Republic, but it can contribute to conditions that would make such a demise possible. The regime is weaker than many Western analysts believe. Iranians are hungry for better leadership.
        Eric Edelman, former U.S. Undersecretary of Defense for Policy, is Counselor at the Center for Strategic and Budgetary Assessments and Senior Adviser at the Foundation for Defense of Democracies. Ray Takeyh is Senior Fellow for Middle East Studies at the Council on Foreign Relations. (Foreign Affairs)
        See also Countering Iran in the Gray Zone: What the U.S. Should Learn from Israel's Operations in Syria - Ilan Goldenberg, Nicholas A. Heras, Kaleigh Thomas, and Jennie Matuschak (Center for a New American Security)

  • The Orthodox religious city of Bnei Brak, in the shadow of Tel Aviv, has become Israel's biggest center of Covid-19 contagion. In desperation, Mayor Avraham Rubinstein reached out for help from the army. Two weeks later, the crisis is rapidly coming under control, as the rate of new infections has been cut by more than half and the number tested per week has tripled.
  • Maj.-Gen. (res.) Ronny Numa, former head of the IDF Central Command, took charge at City Hall. He enlisted Brig.-Gen. (res.) Ronen Manelis, formerly the top military spokesman, to poll residents to see how well they understood the situation. Col. (res.) Avi Cohen, who specialized in electronic warfare, installed a state-of-the-art data-visualization system to map the sick, the elderly, yeshivas, synagogues and other information on big-screen TVs in a virus war room.
  • Two brigades of active-duty soldiers, along with hundreds of volunteers, began delivering groceries, cooked meals, medicine and toys to quarantined homes. At a local test site, ambulances and private cars packed with families experiencing virus symptoms steadily rolled up to hazmat-suited medical workers wielding swabs. Residents in hundreds of buildings were recruited to knock on doors, hand out brochures and gather information about who was sick or needed help. A call center was set up to handle questions and requests.
  • Contrary to the public perception that the community was disobeying public health orders, Numa said, Bnei Brak's residents simply had not heard those orders due to their community's aversion to secular media. "Most of them didn't know the risks," he said.
  • During the past two weeks, Bnei Brak residents have had a rare chance to interact with soldiers up close, and they appear to be impressed. "Suddenly, one day, there are all these military vehicles, they're going to the elderly and people with special needs," said Avshalom Amar, 48. "Seeing this will be engraved on my heart." Capt. Oriel Bibi, a commander of paratroopers-in-training, said children keep smiling and shouting, "Soldier, soldier!" while adults offer him candy.

Today's issue of Daily Alert was prepared in Israel on Isru Chag.