June 26, 2020

In-Depth Issues:

Coronavirus in Israel: 668 New Cases in 24 Hours (Times of Israel)
    The Israel Health Ministry on Thursday evening reported 668 new coronavirus cases over the past 24 hours.
    The number of active cases rose above 6,000, with 186 people hospitalized and 47 in serious condition, including 29 on ventilators. The death toll is 309.
    Defense Minister Benny Gantz ordered the IDF Home Front Command to open additional hotels for coronavirus patients and for quarantine purposes beyond the six facilities currently operating.

Iraqi Forces Raid Iran-Backed Militia Base in Baghdad - John Davison (Reuters)
    Iraqi security forces raided a headquarters belonging to the Iran-backed Kataib Hizbullah militia in southern Baghdad on Thursday and detained more than a dozen members of the group, government officials said.
    U.S. officials have accused the militia of firing rockets at bases hosting U.S. troops.

UAE and Israeli Companies Sign Deal to Tackle Covid-19 (Arab News-Saudi Arabia)
    Two private companies in the UAE have signed an agreement with two companies in Israel to develop research and technology to combat Covid-19, the UAE state news agency WAM reported.
    See also 100,000 Virus Test Kits Brought to Israel from UAE (Times of Israel)

South Africa Chief Justice Under Fire for Support of Israel (Jerusalem Post)
    The African National Congress (ANC), South Africa's governing party, has called for parliamentary censure of Chief Justice Mogoeng Mogoeng over his expression of support for Israel in a webinar hosted on Tuesday by the Jerusalem Post.
    Mogoeng lamented his country's adoption of a lopsided attitude toward the Israeli-Palestinian conflict and said it would have greater influence if it displayed a more balanced approach.
    "We are denying ourselves a wonderful opportunity of being a game-changer in the Israeli-Palestinian situation."
    He added that as a practicing Christian he believed that those who curse Israel will themselves be cursed.

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U.S. Sanctions Major Iranian Metals Companies (U.S. Treasury Department)
    The U.S. Treasury Department on Thursday sanctioned four Iranian steel, aluminum, and iron companies, including one subsidiary of Mobarakeh Steel Company - Iran's largest steel manufacturer.
    Treasury also designated one Germany-based and three UAE-based sales agents for being owned or controlled by Mobarakeh.
    "The Iranian regime continues to use profits from metals manufacturers and foreign sales agents to fund destabilizing behavior around the world," said Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin.
    "The United States remains committed to isolating key sectors of the Iranian economy until the revenues from such sectors are refocused toward the welfare of the Iranian people."

Hizbullah Is Starting to Suffocate - Zvi Bar'el (Ha'aretz)
    In recent weeks, demonstrations and violent clashes between protesters and security forces have erupted in Beirut and Tripoli in Lebanon.
    Hundreds of demonstrators were arrested, and the authorities fear this is only the start of a wave of dissent.
    The Lebanese government, together with Hizbullah, is waging a grim struggle against its critics and adversaries, and is investing considerable efforts to suppress the protest movements.
    Calls against Iran and Hizbullah have been heard in the demonstrations.
    Hizbullah cannot shake off responsibility for the struggle against the coronavirus either, as the health minister belongs to the organization.
    At the same time, international circumstances have created a conjunction of interests between Israel, Russia and the U.S. - all of which want to expel Iran from Syria - and European pressure on Lebanon to remove Hizbullah from the government.

Ukraine's New Memory Czar Tones Down Glorification of War Criminals - Sam Sokol (Times of Israel)
    Over the past five years, streets all over Ukraine have been named after people like Stepan Bandera and Roman Shukhevych, leaders of the Organization of Ukrainian Nationalists (OUN) and its offshoot, the Ukrainian Insurgent Army (UPA), whose men collaborated with the Nazis and were responsible for the deaths of tens of thousands of Jews and Poles during World War II.
    But Dr. Anton Drobovych, the new director of Ukraine's Institute of National Memory (UINP), appears to be questioning such moves.
    Drobovych said the institute has stopped actively promoting the legacy of far-right leaders, but that does not mean he has fully repudiated them.
    He told the Times of Israel that he was focusing on rehabilitating people condemned by the communists, locating Ukrainian war graves in Poland, compiling oral histories of the current Russo-Ukrainian conflict, and collaborating with the Ukrainian Center for Holocaust Studies to distribute textbooks and hold seminars for teachers.
    Eduard Dolinsky, director of the Ukrainian Jewish Committee, said that "on the issues of the glorification of Ukrainian Nazi collaborators," Drobovych "is more objective, he is more correct in terms of historical memory."
    Yet memorials to Nazi collaborators are still going up around the country, albeit not as frequently as in previous years.

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News Resources - North America, Europe, and Asia:
  • U.S.-Israel Talks Continue on Sovereignty in Parts of West Bank - Laura Kelly
    No final U.S. decision has been made on supporting the extension of Israeli law in parts of the West Bank as outlined in the U.S. peace plan, following a series of meetings at the White House. A senior White House official said Thursday that "meetings this week were productive" but "there is yet no final decision on next steps for implementing the Trump plan. Ambassador Friedman is returning to Israel tonight with Special Envoy Avi Berkowitz and Mapping Committee member Scott Leith for further meetings and analysis." Israeli officials have signaled that U.S. support is key before moving forward. (The Hill)
  • Iran Rejected Russian Pressure to Change Its Role in Syria - Ali Hashem
    Iran's Revolutionary Guards' Quds Force, which largely determines Iran's Syria strategy, is keeping the heat on President Hassan Rouhani to maintain Iran's focus on its commitments there, despite pressure and attacks from the U.S. and Israel. Israeli intelligence sources are saying that the Quds Force is seeking to increase its presence in Syria, despite Israeli airstrikes on Iranian-linked military positions around the country.
        A source working with Iran's IRGC advisers in Syria told Al-Monitor that "Iran is there to stay....Neither the assassination of Qassem Soleimani would have changed the Iranian point of view, nor would the [U.S.] sanctions."
        "We might have differences over issues with our Russian partners in Syria. They have their plans and we have ours. In the last few months they pushed for changes in our role that didn't meet our objectives. We refused."  (Al-Monitor)
  • UK Labour Education Spokeswoman Fired for Sharing Anti-Semitic Conspiracy Theory - Robert Hutton
    British Labour leader Keir Starmer fired the party's education spokeswoman Rebecca Long-Bailey on Thursday after she tweeted a link to an article suggesting U.S. police learned to kneel on suspects' necks from the Israeli secret service. While previous Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn's time was dominated by questions about the party's anti-Semitism, Starmer has put a strong focus on trying to rebuild relations with the Jewish community.
        His office said in a statement: "The article Rebecca shared earlier today contained an anti-Semitic conspiracy theory....Anti-Semitism takes many different forms and it is important that we all are vigilant against it."  (Bloomberg)
News Resources - Israel and the Mideast:
  • Netanyahu: Israel Must Defend Itself Against Iranian Aggression
    Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu told the graduates of the Israel Air Force pilots' course on Thursday: "Three main challenges are before us, and we are taking action without respite against them: First, we are taking constant action against the efforts of Iran and its proxies to entrench militarily in Syria. The Iranian military must leave Syria."
        "Second, we are taking action against the efforts of our enemies to develop precision missiles in Syria, Lebanon and other areas. Third, and most importantly, we will not allow Iran to attain nuclear weapons. I must tell you that Iran is continuing to lie to the international community in its effort to achieve a bomb."
        "We regard with utmost seriousness the threats of destruction against Israel by Iranian and pro-Iranian elements....Our struggle against Iranian aggression in the region is designed - first and foremost - to defend ourselves, to defend the State of Israel. However, this struggle, this effort, serves the interest of stability in the entire region."
        "The stronger and more powerful we are, the more we deter our enemies and draw our friends closer. This mission, to translate Israel's strength into deterrence of our enemies and action against them if need be, is - from this moment - placed on your shoulders as well."  (Prime Minister's Office)
  • Mossad Chief Visited Jordan to Deliver Message from Netanyahu on Sovereignty - Chaim Levinson
    Mossad chief Yossi Cohen visited Jordan last week to convey a message from Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu to King Abdullah II about the West Bank sovereignty process. (Ha'aretz)
  • Israeli Strikes in Syria Are Message to Assad and Tehran - Ron Ben-Yishai
    The Syrian regime and its military know full well who carried out the airstrikes on their territory on Sunday and Tuesday nights. The Syrians say that Israeli planes attacked four different locations, and cellphone footage shows large explosions, typical of a weapons storage facility being hit.
        The Iranians are bringing technology for missile development to Syria in order to assemble precision missiles there. Their inventory is scattered across many storage facilities to hide it from Israeli intelligence. These sites were often guarded by Shi'ite soldiers, directed and funded by Iran.
        The alleged Israeli attacks this week were also conducted to convey a message to the Syrian regime: As long as you protect the Iranians, you will continue to pay a high price even though Israel has no interest to directly confront the Syrian regime at the moment. Israel's message to the Iranian regime is: We will not allow you to entrench in Syria, you will pay with money and blood, and we will disrupt your precision missile project as much as we can. (Ynet News)
  • Head of Bedouin Tribes in Iraq and Syria Calls for Strategic Alliance with Israel
    A virtual meeting was held this week with Sheikh Ali al-Obeidi, the head of the Bedouin tribes in Iraq and Syria, and the Jerusalem Center for Public Affairs. Al-Obeidi had written to Jerusalem Center President Dore Gold, saying, "We want to join our hands with yours in order to create for our people and upcoming generations a future where we will live in peace and love as allies." He said that he wants to reach a strategic alliance with Israel and hopes to reach a peace agreement between Iraq, Syria, and Israel and establish full political and economic relations.
        The sheikh stated that his goal, together with Israel, is to expel Iranians from Syria, Lebanon, and Iraq. He added, "We are ready to go to Jerusalem to visit you and make a new history for the Middle East."
        Amb. Gold said this is an important step to another and different dialogue in the Middle East, a dialogue that can bring about a change in the world and Israel, and it is important to foster it. Gold said it was important to note that neither the current debate over Israeli application of sovereignty nor the Palestinian issue arose during the conversation. (Israel Hayom)
Global Commentary and Think-Tank Analysis:
  • Unilateral Israeli Action Could Break the Negotiations Deadlock - Gregory Rose
    The Israeli government is considering applying Israeli civil law jurisdiction and administration to parts of the Jordan Valley and/or certain settlement blocs. This possibility was proposed under the U.S. peace plan and agreed in the broad national coalition agreement between most of Israel's political parties.
        Israel has pursued a pragmatic approach to the area that was Jordan's "West Bank," one that would ultimately enable Palestinian Arab self-determination over most areas populated by them, while ensuring Israeli security, thus hopefully enabling a sustainable peaceful solution between them.
        The Palestinians have rejected repeated Israeli offers since 1967 - for example, in 2000, 2001 and 2008 - of full self-determination in the majority of this land. There is no comparable international legal situation in the world today where a country that acquired territory in self-defense and offered to surrender it in exchange for peace was refused.
        The International Law Commission Draft Code of Offences against the Peace and Security of Mankind (1954) has endorsed the legality of acquisition of territory, unless by aggression or in violation of the UN Charter. International practice demonstrates that aggression, such as Jordan's in 1967, consistently leads to forfeiture of territory.
        Unilateral Israeli action this year is likely to break the negotiations deadlock, pressuring a Palestinian side that has simply been refusing to negotiate since 2014. The writer is a professor of law at the University of Wollongong. (Brisbane Times-Australia)
  • The Great Myth of Israeli Annexation - Alex Traiman
    Critics of Israel's proposed application of Israeli civilian law in parts of the West Bank are hyper-concerned with the optics of an Israeli administrative move, despite the fact that Israel's action would not change any facts on the ground. Many critics specifically call Israel's move an "annexation," falsely implying that Israel will be marching across a line and taking over property it has no rights to and does not currently control. Yet what Israel is about to do is alter its own governing structure and formally apply Israeli law to the 400,000 Jewish citizens who already live in strategic lands the Jewish state has controlled for decades.
        Jews living in "Area C" of the West Bank are full, tax-paying Israeli citizens. Israel's move would simply remove the authority of an IDF-controlled Civil Administration over their communities. Just as nobody tells the Palestinian Authority how to govern the territories it administers, Israel's decision over how to govern "Area C" should be of little concern to anyone who doesn't live there. (JNS)
  • Israel Must Be Able to Keep Iran in Check - Yonah Jeremy Bob
    Nothing will stop Iran's pursuit of nuclear weapons, so Israel must work on a deterrent capability to keep Iran in check, former Mossad director Shabtai Shavit told the Jerusalem Post. Shavit served in the Mossad for 32 years and was director from 1989 to 1996. He knows the Iranian people from living in Iran in the mid-1960s for 18 months, and from cooperating with pre-Islamic Republic Iranian intelligence while in Kurdistan in 1973.
        "They are an empire, and they think of themselves as an empire.... They look down on Arabs. They never forgave the Arab conquest" and Arab actions to erase their Persian heritage. Iran "wants to get back to what it was."
        "I have no doubt that Iran is continuing to work today, as we speak, to develop nuclear capabilities. They are doing it clandestinely to avoid provoking the U.S. and the rest of the world....We need to prepare for the day Iran says they have it. I don't say this so we should attack preemptively; rather, so we should have deterrence. They should know it is not worth" making trouble for Israel. (Jerusalem Post)
  • How the EU Discriminates Against Israel Diplomatically - Ariel Kahana
    The former head of the European Division in the Israel Foreign Ministry and Israeli Ambassador to Norway Raphael Schutz said, "The European Union is discriminating against Israel," in a paper presented Thursday to the Mitvim Institute for Regional Foreign Policies. "In other territorial disputes, such as the Spanish Sahara and northern Cyprus, European countries and their envoys to Brussels do not invest the same energy, time, and thought as they do to promoting the boycott of goods produced in Israeli settlements."
        "It is impossible to get a definitive statement from Brussels about Israel's right to exist as the nation-state of the Jewish people, and it has not come out in rejection of the [Palestinian demand for] the 'right of return.'" Yet "EU policy on the Israeli-Palestinian issue is clear and decisive with regard to territorial aspects, about which the EU aligns with the Palestinian position."  (Israel Hayom)

  • Anti-Semitism

  • Israel Is Not to Blame for the Tragic Killing of George Floyd - Steerpike
    Actress Maxine Peake gave an interview with the Independent in which she claimed: "The tactics used by the police in America, kneeling on George Floyd's neck, that was learnt from seminars with Israeli secret services." Peake's bizarre claim originates in a Morning Star piece from June 1 headlined: "Minnesota cops 'trained by Israeli forces in restraint techniques.'" The newspaper was founded by the Communist Party of Great Britain.
        The piece seems to be solely based on a short article on Minnesota Public Radio, which noted that 100 officers attended a conference hosted by the Israeli consulate eight years ago. The conference was not about policing or restraint techniques though, but was instead focused on counter-terrorism and mainly looked at techniques to prevent terrorist acts, such as suicide bombings. None of this appeared to trouble Shadow Education Minister Rebecca Long-Bailey though, who glowingly re-tweeted the interview. (Spectator-UK)
  • Covid-19 Pandemic Unleashed Worldwide Wave of Anti-Semitism
    The Kantor Center for the Study of Contemporary European Jewry at Tel Aviv University has published a report on worldwide anti-Semitic phenomena associated with the Covid-19 pandemic. Based on hundreds of accounts from March-June 2020, the report says the libels in the new wave of anti-Semitism claim that the Jews, the Zionists and/or the State of Israel are to blame for the pandemic and/or stand to gain from it. Such claims are manifested throughout Europe, in the Americas and in the Muslim world. An Oxford University study revealed that 19% of the British public believes that the Jews caused the pandemic.
        Dr. Giovanni Quer, director of the Kantor Center, said, "Universal disasters have been attributed to the Jews and to Israel before, giving rise to anti-Semitic discourse - such as conspiracy theories blaming Israel for 9/11, or false reports accusing Israeli soldiers of harvesting organs from the bodies of dead Palestinians. The current wave of anti-Semitism is unprecedented...spreading very swiftly through the social media."  (American Friends of Tel Aviv University)

  • Weekend Features

  • Portugal Honors Diplomat Who Saved Jews from the Nazis - Raphael Minder
    The Portuguese Parliament voted this month to put a cenotaph in the national Pantheon in Lisbon dedicated to Aristides de Sousa Mendes, who helped save thousands of Jews from Nazi persecution by defying the orders of his own government and providing them with visas to leave Nazi-occupied France. Sousa Mendes, Portugal's consul in Bordeaux, suffered severe reprisals from the Portuguese authorities for his actions. (New York Times)
  • The Nazi Massacre of African Soldiers in the French Army - Stephanie Trouillard
    As France crumbled under the Nazi invasion in June 1940, the German army engaged in a series of massacres against African soldiers in the Lyon region. New photos revealed by historian Julien Fargettas show captured Senegalese riflemen fighting for the French army, as German soldiers lead them into a field. The photos show some of a group of 40 soldiers who only had minutes to live, killed by machine-gun fire from Panzers positioned along a road.
        Nazi massacres of African soldiers "started at the end of May 1940, in the Somme region," Fargettas explained. "There was no order from high up saying that colonial prisoners of war should be killed or even ill-treated. It was impulsive, but the German military hierarchy did nothing to even try to stop it."  (France 24)

  • Former U.S. special envoy Jason Greenblatt on Thursday discussed the U.S. peace plan that he helped draft, at a virtual roundtable discussion moderated by Adv. Nitsana Darshan-Leitner, President of Shurat HaDin-Israel Law Center.
  • Greenblatt said: "While we tried to create a Palestinian state, every description in this very lengthy plan of how that state is supposed to operate should address all of the concerns that those who are opposed to it have, and if they don't, I've always said, 'share your concerns with us - the same way we tell the Palestinians - so we could try to address them.'"
  • "I think we could put forth a Palestinian state that does not endanger Israel's security. We were careful to be clear, and this is one of the biggest fights because the Palestinians and their allies believe that this is not a state - there is no sovereignty because Israel has overriding security control. That's critical to Israel's safety and security."
  • "We also gave Israel the ability to go back in. If they extend more and more abilities to the Palestinians to police their state but then they fail - either they fail because they can't do it properly or they fail because some new leadership comes up and wants to abrogate the agreement - then the Israelis have the right to go back in and do what they need to do to protect their society, without fear of the UN issuing all sorts of sanctions and condemnations for doing that. That is a critical component of the plan."
  • Former U.S. Special Representative for International Negotiations Jason Greenblatt defended Israel against the Director of the North Africa and Middle East Department of the French Ministry of Foreign Affairs, Christophe Farnaud, during an online discussion this week organized by the European Leadership Network (ELNET) to mark the 100th anniversary of the San Remo Conference, which granted international recognition to future Jewish statehood and Zionism.
  • Farnaud said that the Israeli move to extend its sovereignty to Jewish communities in Judea and Samaria under the U.S. peace plan was a violation of international law.
  • Greenblatt responded: "Are you suggesting that the United States Congress in 1995, when it passed the Jerusalem Embassy Act and when President Trump recognized Jerusalem and moved the embassy based on our law from 1995, and Secretary of State Mike Pompeo when he said that the settlements were not illegal per se, that the U.S. is violating international law? Or do you accept the fact there is a difference of opinion between certain countries around the world, in this case the U.S. and some others."
  • "If you don't agree that there is a difference of opinion, then you are accusing the U.S. of violating international law, the same way you are accusing Israel of violating international law."
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