May 1, 2020

In-Depth Issues:

Report: Israel Strikes Hizbullah Positions in Syrian Golan (Asharq Al-Awsat-UK)
    Israeli helicopters fired at militia posts near Quneitra in the Syrian Golan Heights, opposition sources said Friday.
    Bases run by Iranian-backed Hizbullah, which has a strong presence in the Syrian Golan Heights, have been hit by Israel in recent years.
    See also Report: Hizbullah Missile Depot Hit near Homs in Syria (i24News)
    Israeli missiles destroyed a warehouse used by Hizbullah to store ammunition and missiles on the road connecting Homs with Palmyra, the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights reported Friday.

Iran Is Hauling Gold Bars Out of Venezuela's Almost-Empty Vaults - Patricia Laya and Ben Bartenstein (Bloomberg)
    Venezuelan government officials piled 9 tons of gold worth $500 million on Tehran-bound jets last month as payment for Iran's assistance in reviving the country's crippled gasoline refineries, according to people with direct knowledge of the matter.

Suspect Charged in Denmark with Preparing Islamist Attack (Reuters-New York Times)
    Danish police said Thursday they had arrested and charged a person suspected of preparing an Islamist terrorist attack.
    The person had attempted to source firearms and ammunition to carry out one or more terrorist acts, said Jorgen Bergen Skov, chief inspector of the Copenhagen police.

A Rift Emerges among Pro-Iranian Militias in Iraq - Seth J. Frantzman (Jerusalem Post)
    In Iraq, the powerful Hashd al-Shaabi or Popular Mobilization Units have been maneuvering to dominate the country since the ISIS war, but they are increasingly divided between those who want to play a role in Iran's regional strategy and those who want to be a more local Iraqi force.

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UK Educational Publisher Withdraws Textbook Accused of Bias Against Israel - Jacob Judah (Jewish Chronicle-UK)
    Hodder Education is withdrawing the textbook, Conflict in the Middle East 1945-95, after complaints about its impartiality in a report from UK Lawyers for Israel (UKLFI).
    The report noted that the textbook referred to early 20th century Jewish immigrants as "settlers" when they had entered legally and were living on legally purchased land.
    The book also labelled ancient Judea as "Palestine" at a time when the region had not been named as such by the Romans.

Israel Film Archive Is Releasing Its Collection Online - Hannah Brown (Jerusalem Post)
    The Israel Film Archive (IFA), which is located in the Jerusalem Cinematheque, features a copy of virtually every film ever shot in Israel, including feature films, documentaries, newsreels and home movies, going back to 1896.
    The IFA also contains prints of tens of thousands of foreign films. IFA founder Lia van Leer acquired these by persuading the heads of film studios from around the world to leave one copy of every foreign film released in Israel with the IFA.

A Survey of Archives and Research Institutions in Israel - Kian Byrne (Wilson Center)
    One of the few countries in the Middle East with a clear declassification law and a well-structured and organized state archives, Israel represents one of the best resources for historians interested in modern Middle East history.
    The archive is posting many of its gems online and plans to make more available.

Remembering Israel's Military Heroes on Independence Day - Steve Linde (Jerusalem Post)
    In his new book, Men of Valor: Israel's Latter-Day Heroes, writer Peter Bailey tells the fascinating and heroic stories of all 40 recipients of Israel's Medal of Valor, awarded to heroic participants of the seven major conflicts Israel fought between the years 1948 and 1973.

Israel Raises Additional $5 Billion on Asian Markets - Amiram Barkat (Globes)
    Israel's Ministry of Finance on Wednesday completed a first-ever Israel government 40-year bond sale on Asian markets, raising $5 billion. Demand was oversubscribed and totaled more than $10 billion.
    This follows the raising of bonds worth $5 billion last month.
    The ministry said this was done "due to the expected rise in the government deficit as a result of the coronavirus in Israel."

Israeli All-Girls Math Team Wins Silver, Two Bronze Medals (Jerusalem Post)
    Israel's team at the European Girls' Mathematical Olympiad (EGMO 2020) took home a silver medal and two bronze medals.
    Due to the coronavirus pandemic, EGMO 2020 was held using remote communication with the participation of 204 girls from 53 countries.

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News Resources - North America, Europe, and Asia:
  • Biden Says He Would Keep U.S. Embassy in Jerusalem
    Democratic presidential hopeful Joe Biden said Wednesday that he would keep the U.S. embassy in Israel in Jerusalem if elected. "Now that it's done, I would not move the embassy back to Tel Aviv," Biden told a virtual fundraising event. President Donald Trump recognized Jerusalem as Israel's capital and announced his decision to shift the U.S. embassy to the holy city in December 2017. (AFP-France 24)
  • Iran Threatens Germany for Ban on Hizbullah
    Iran has slammed Germany's ban on the activities of Hizbullah on its soil, saying it would face consequences for its decision to give in to Israeli and U.S. pressure. The U.S. and Israel have long designated Hizbullah as a terrorist group and urged allies to follow suit. (AFP-Al-Arabiya)
  • Hamas Allows Gaza Doctors to Get Covid-19 Training in Israel - Entsar Abu Jahal
    A group of doctors and nurses from Hamas-run Gaza received training inside Israel without coordination with the PA Health Ministry in Ramallah, Fathi Abu Warda, an adviser to the ministry, told Al-Monitor. "Four doctors from the Gaza government, including the director of international cooperation in the Gaza Health Ministry, Abdul Latif al-Hajj, received training inside Israel. Six nurses and lab technicians underwent another training session inside Israel, also without our knowledge. Everyone was taken aback that Gaza had coordinated such training, since the PA is known for coordinating with the Israeli side, not the Hamas government."
        Abu Warda noted that the Gaza government also refused to send samples to Ramallah to be tested for the coronavirus and sent them to Israel instead. Nor was ministry informed about the laboratory to be established in Gaza with donations from Chinese and Israeli companies. "It seems that Gaza was able to find a direct outlet to communicate with the Israeli side without us knowing," he said.
        A well-informed source in the Gaza government said they do not want to talk to the media about the issue so as not to publicize that there are relations between Israel and the Gaza government. Sources claimed Hamas hides the relationship to avoid accusations of normalization with Israel. (Al-Monitor)
News Resources - Israel and the Mideast:
  • ICC Chief Prosecutor Insists "Palestine" Is a State - Raphael Ahren
    Chief Prosecutor of the International Criminal Court Fatou Bensouda on Thursday reiterated her position that Palestine is a state for the purposes of transferring criminal jurisdiction over its territory to The Hague. Dismissing the legal opinions of several states and dozens of international law scholars, Bensouda's view, laid out in a 60-page document, could pave the way for an investigation of alleged war crimes committed in the West Bank, Gaza and eastern Jerusalem.
        It is now up to a pre-trial chamber of three judges to rule on the matter. Israel has long argued that the ICC has no jurisdiction over the case, not least because there is no sovereign Palestinian state. (Times of Israel)
  • Israel's Coronavirus Death Toll Is 223
    Israel's coronavirus death toll is 223 (up from 219 on Thursday), the Israeli Health Ministry said Friday morning. 105 patients are in serious condition (down from 117 on Thursday), including 83 on ventilator support (down from 85 on Thursday). Active coronavirus cases dropped to 7,023 (down from 7,239 on Thursday). (Jerusalem Post)
  • After 25 Years, Israeli Farming Enclave Returned to Jordan - Almog Ben Zikri
    Under the 1994 Jordan-Israel peace treaty, the Tzofar area, which straddles the border between the two countries, was recognized as falling under Jordanian sovereignty but with special provisions allowing Israeli farmers to work the land. After Jordan's King Abdullah II refused to renew the deal, the area was returned to Jordan on Thursday. The move had been delayed for a few months to allow farmers to harvest their crops and move their equipment into Israel. Most of the 271 acres was dedicated to pepper farming. (Ha'aretz)
Global Commentary and Think-Tank Analysis:
  • Israel's Covid-19 Stats Are Stunning - David Horovitz
    As of this writing, Israel, population 9.2 million people, has suffered 219 fatalities in the coronavirus pandemic. Of the nearly 16,000 confirmed cases, more than half have now recovered. Fewer than 100 Israelis are currently on ventilators.
        Compare those figures to other countries. Israel has 25 fatalities per million citizens - which puts us at about 50th in the world. Sweden, which chose a radically less interventionist approach, has about 10 times as many deaths as Israel - about 2,500 - in a population only slightly larger than ours at 10 million. Belgium, population 11 million, has over 7,500 fatalities - 34 times as many as Israel. Austria, with over 8.5 million people, has almost 600 dead. In the U.S., with a similar-sized Jewish community to Israel's, the most conservative estimate puts the death toll among Jews deep into four figures.
        Israel's leaders and authorities made decisions that its citizens generally heeded, that were designed to maximize the defense against a mysterious virus that disproportionately targeted the elderly - our parents, our pioneers. For now, the numbers and the comparisons suggest, that strategy has been remarkably effective. The writer is founding editor of the Times of Israel. (Times of Israel)
  • Israelis Displayed Discipline in Response to the Coronavirus Pandemic - Ari Harow
    Israel was quick and agile in its response to the coronavirus pandemic, meeting the virus with a united and regimented front. Military service in Israel is mandatory and, as such, much of the population has served or is currently serving. While Israeli soldiers are encouraged to ask questions and not just accept military strategy dictated from above, once a decision is finalized, military discipline kicks in.
        Years of living under rocket fire, starting with the Gulf War in 1991, has ingrained in us a similar discipline. All of Israel has become a target for rocket attacks from Lebanon and Gaza. We are trained not to take chances. When the sirens sound, the people of Israel head for a safe room or find cover. When security and safety are at risk, our army discipline kicks in.
        When Defense Minister Naftali Bennett explained that loving our parents and grandparents meant staying away, Israeli children and grandchildren saluted and immediately followed this directive, protecting the most vulnerable demographic. The writer is a former chief of staff to the prime minister. (Jerusalem Post)
  • The Coronavirus Crisis Is Bringing Israel's Jewish and Arab Citizens Together - Yossi Klein Halevi
    Israel is facing its first national threat that has nothing to do with the Arab-Israeli conflict. In the coronavirus, Israel's Arab and Jewish citizens are facing a crisis that is bringing us together. Israeli media regularly feature stories of Arab-Jewish intimacy in the quarantine wards. Israel's Yediot Aharonot published a four-page photo essay of Arab and Jewish nurses, featuring Arabs as Israeli heroes.
        Israel's health-care system is fully integrated. Nearly a fifth of Israel's doctors, a quarter of its nurses, and almost half its pharmacists are Arabs. Arab doctors head hospital departments and emergency rooms; one heads a hospital in the Galilee. Jews and Arabs encounter one another in maternity and cancer wards. The writer is a senior fellow at the Shalom Hartman Institute in Jerusalem. (Atlantic)
  • Salafi-Jihadists and the Coronavirus Pandemic - Yoram Schweitzer and Aviad Mendelboim
    According to spokesmen for the Salafi-jihadist stream, the pandemic has proven that the Western countries, including the U.S. and European countries, are a paper tiger.
        On March 31, the al-Qaeda leadership stated that the coronavirus pandemic has exposed the fragility of the world economy and the weakness of the criminal materialism of the Western world, which was a source of pride, and stated that the technological progress and globalization championed by the West have become the source of its failure. The Western world was called on to pay attention to the evidence of Allah's might that the pandemic has provided and to adopt Islam.
        Nor did the spokesmen spare harsh words for Iran, accusing it of exporting the virus and claiming that the pandemic that has seriously harmed it is proof that Shi'ism is not the true Islam but a fraud.
        At the same time, ISIS suicide attacks, which were their "trademark," have plummeted sharply in recent months. Moreover, while some advocate showcase terrorist attacks such as those carried out in Paris, London, and Brussels, the fact that the vast majority of residents of the West are holed up in their homes makes it harder to harm them.
        Yoram Schweitzer heads the Program on Terrorism and Low-Intensity Conflict at INSS, following a distinguished career in the Israeli intelligence community. Aviad Mendelboim is a research assistant at INSS. (Institute for National Security Studies-Tel Aviv University)
  • Coronavirus in the West Bank and Eastern Jerusalem - Michael Herzog and Ghaith al-Omari
    The Covid-19 pandemic has underscored the Palestinians' mutually dependent relationship with Israel, as both sides are jointly implementing practical measures to keep the situation under control at home and next door.
        As of April 27, PA officials reported 325 coronavirus cases in the West Bank, with two fatalities. They reacted swiftly and efficiently, declaring a state of emergency, closing schools and mosques, and severely restricting movement into and within the West Bank.
        The government's instructions have been enforced by the PA security services. In eastern Jerusalem and villages in Area C where PA forces are not permitted to operate freely, local "emergency committees" established by the ruling Fatah movement have taken on this responsibility.
        IDF Brig.-Gen. (res.) Michael Herzog, a fellow at The Washington Institute, is a former senior military advisor and chief of staff to four Israeli defense ministers. Ghaith al-Omari is a senior fellow at the Institute and a former advisor to the Palestinian negotiating team. (Washington Institute for Near East Policy)
  • Coronavirus: More Palestinian Libels Against Israel - Khaled Abu Toameh
    A new Palestinian campaign of incitement against Israel claims that Israel - or, to be more accurate, Jews - are deliberately spreading coronavirus among Palestinians. One might have hoped that the Israeli-Palestinian cooperation against the coronavirus would have had a moderating effect on the Palestinians, especially their leaders, who have long been engaged in vitriolic anti-Israel rhetoric. Sadly, even the joint war on the pandemic has not changed the hearts and minds of most Palestinian leaders.
        The lies spread about Israel will undoubtedly pave the way for more violent attacks against Jews. The next time a Palestinian goes out to kill a Jew, he or she will say: "I had to do that in order to prevent these evil Jews from spreading coronavirus among my people. My own leaders told me that Jews are spreading the virus."  (Gatestone Institute)

  • Weekend Features

  • The Modern-Day Return to Zion Is Not Something to Take for Granted - Nadav Shragai
    Israel's 72nd Independence Day is characterized by the challenge to our sense of what can be taken for granted. Even when talking about the nation, we would do well to allow ourselves to feel anew the most ordinary things that seem obvious but aren't: a Jewish government, a Jewish police force, a Jewish army, and a Jewish language and national anthem and flag and landscapes and symbols and laws, as well as our own school system; wonderful achievements that are ours. Even troubles and disputes that are entirely our own. We are no longer dependent on the kindness of others. (Israel Hayom)
  • Video: Secret of Israel's Military Revealed
    We are the Israel Defense Forces. For 72 years you've heard our story. Tiny country, surrounded by enemies, surviving against all odds. The key to our existence is not our weapons. Its our soldiers, our spirit, our passion, our love.
        We are an army of the people - Jews, Druze, Muslims, Christians. We are defending our homes. We are protecting our mothers, our fathers, our sisters, our brothers, our neighbors, our friends. When our new soldiers are sworn in, they pledge, if necessary, to sacrifice their lives for Israel. It's an honor to have this mission today. We stand on the shoulders of giants who came before us. Happy Independence Day. (Israel Defense Forces)
  • Documentary Highlights Americans Who Fought for Israel's Independence - Maya Margit
    The one-hour video "From Remembrance to Independence: Behind the Scenes of Israel's Founding," highlights the American contribution to the state's creation and is available online. The stars of the show, released by Jerusalem-based Toldot Yisrael, are undoubtedly the overseas volunteers who present compelling testimonies about Israel's War of Independence.
        Toldot Yisrael has been documenting first-hand accounts of people involved in the state's founding for the past 12 years. This archive, housed in Israel's National Library, so far includes 5,000 hours of footage and 1,200 interviews. Aryeh Halivni, founder and executive director of Toldot Yisrael, said he came up with the idea after seeing film director Steven Spielberg carry out a similar project to collect Holocaust survivors' testimonies. (Media Line)
  • Weizmann Institute Scientists Develop "Sniff Test" that Predicts Recovery in Brain-Injured Patients
    If an unconscious person responds to smell through a slight change in their nasal airflow pattern - they are likely to regain consciousness, according to a new study by Weizmann Institute scientists published Wednesday in the journal Nature. 100% of the unconscious brain-injured patients who responded to a "sniff test" developed by the researchers regained consciousness during the four-year study period.
        This simple, inexpensive test can aid doctors in accurately diagnosing and determining treatment plans after brain injury. The sense of smell is in the most ancient part of the brain, and its integrity provides an accurate measure of overall brain integrity. (Weizmann Institute of Science)

  • Former Israeli Knesset Member Einat Wilf and journalist Adi Schwartz argue in their new book, The War of Return, that what actually lies at the heart of the Israeli-Arab conflict is the Palestinian assertion of a "right of return." The persistent demand that the Arabs who fled what became the State of Israel after its War of Independence and their descendants be allowed to return constitutes a refusal to accept a Jewish state on any part of the former British mandate.
  • For decades, the Palestinian national movement has insisted on the return of the Arab refugees, and for just as long, Israel has seen this demand as an existential threat that would immediately turn Israel into an Arab state by sheer weight of demographics. And it is this, Wilf and Schwartz say, that has rendered all peace initiatives futile.
  • It is now fashionable for historians sympathetic to the Palestinian narrative to downplay the threat that the Jewish community faced in the 1948 conflict, but that is simply untrue. The secretary-general of the Arab League openly stated: "This will be a war of extermination and momentous massacre, which will be spoken of like the Mongolian massacre and the Crusades."
  • The Palestinian Arabs' most influential leader, the Nazi collaborator Mufti Hajj Amin al-Husseini, said the Arabs would "continue to fight until the Zionists are eliminated, and the whole of Palestine is a purely Arab state."
  • Wilf and Schwartz advocate a long overdue paradigm shift, in which the international community tells the Palestinians publicly and firmly that a mass "return" of the refugees to Israel will never happen and that the Jewish state is here to stay.
  • "The resolution of the conflict therefore lies not simply in finding technical solutions to matters of borders, settlements, security, and even Jerusalem - but primarily in getting the Arab world, and specifically the Palestinians, to accept the rightful exercise of sovereignty by Jews in their midst, recognizing that there will be no Palestinian return to the State of Israel."
  • The Palestinian demand for return, they say, must be delegitimized and replaced with "full legitimacy, support, and fuel for a moderate Palestinian vision that does not entail the erasing of Israel under any guise."
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