July 30, 2020

In-Depth Issues:

60 Pro-Iranian Militants Killed in Syria since May - Tzvi Joffre (Jerusalem Post)
    60 pro-Iranian militants have been killed in attacks targeting over 10 sites belonging to Iran and pro-Iranian militias in Syria since May, according to the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights.
    A large number of ammunition and weapons depots were destroyed.
    Iran has meanwhile intensified recruitment operations among Syrian youth in southern and eastern Syria, with 11,700 militants recruited so far.

In Iran, Not Everything that Goes Boom in the Night Is Sabotage - Dr. Raz Zimmt (Atlantic Council)
    The recent series of unusual events in different locations around Iran has received growing interest from the media, but not every explosion or fire is the result of foreign subterfuge.
    Recent research by Tiziana Corda at the University of Milan revealed that such events frequently occur in Iran.
    According to the Islamic Republic News Agency's archive, there were at least 97 fires or explosions between mid-May 2019 and the end of July 2019 in power plants, factories, hospitals, research centers, naval vessels, and arms depots.
    At least some of the recent events are clearly related to the dismal condition of Iran's infrastructure, which is a result of lackluster maintenance, negligent management, and human error.
    The writer is a research fellow at the Institute for National Security Studies (INSS) specializing in Iran.

Israel Gives Nepal Medical Supplies to Fight Covid-19 (Himalayan Times-Nepal)
    The Embassy of Israel in Kathmandu on Wednesday delivered 400 units of personal protective equipment, 1,000 KN95 masks, 10,000 surgical masks, 5,000 pairs of surgical gloves, and 500 liters of sanitizer to Nepal's Ministry of Social Development.

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Israelis and Palestinians Join Forces to Battle the Coronavirus - Lt.-Col. (res.) Avital Leibovich and Shay Avshalom Zavdi (JNS)
    At the very early stages of the coronavirus pandemic, Israeli doctors reached out to Palestinian health-care workers, offering to share their expertise and provide assistance, and the Palestinians accepted the help.
    Every week, Israel sends medical equipment to Hamas-controlled Gaza. During July 12-18 alone, Israel transferred 163 tons of medical supplies there.
    It also facilitated the delivery of equipment from Turkey and the UAE to Gaza and the West Bank.
    Lt.-Col. (res.) Avital Leibovich is director of the American Jewish Committee's (AJC) Jerusalem office, where Shay Avshalom Zavdi is director of media relations.

Collapse of PA Could Bring New Generation of Palestinian Leaders - Ariel Ben Solomon (JNS)
    Amid questions about the continued viability of the Palestinian Authority, Dr. Harold Rhode, who served for 28 years as an advisor on the Islamic world in the Office of the U.S. Secretary of Defense, said the collapse of the PA "may present an opportunity for the Palestinians for a brighter future with less oppressive and younger leadership."
    The leadership of the Palestinians should be clan- and family-based since this is the way things are decided on the ground, said Rhode.
    "The PA-appointed leaders are outsiders. As the locals say, most of the foreign funds are skimmed off the top by the thugs that rule over them, and the people actually get next to nothing of all this aid."

Venezuelan Opposition Seeks Alliance with Israel - Lahav Harkov (Jerusalem Post)
    Members of Venezuelan opposition leader Juan Guaido's party and others held an inaugural meeting of the Venezuelan Parliamentary Israel Allies Caucus, the party's envoy to Israel Rabbi Pynchas Brener told the Jerusalem Post on Monday.
    The caucus called to reestablish ties between Venezuela and Israel and for an embassy to be opened in Jerusalem.
    Both Guaido and Nicolas Maduro have claimed the presidency since January 2019. More than 50 countries recognize Guaido, while 20 recognize Maduro, who became president in 2013 after the death of Hugo Chavez. Israel recognized Guaido as president.

Third Israeli Water Generator Donated to Gaza - Celia Jean (Jerusalem Post)
    Israeli company Watergen and the Arava Institute for Environmental Studies recently donated a much-needed water generator to Nasser Medical Center in Khan Younis, Gaza's second largest hospital.
    It can produce up to 5,000 liters of drinking water a day from the humidity in the air.
    The first machine was installed at the municipal building in Abasan al-Kabira, while the second was installed at the Rantisi Medical Center in Gaza City two months ago.

Israeli Video Gives Glimpse of "Spiderman" Urban Assault Drone - David Hambling (Forbes)
    An IDF video gives a glimpse of an unusual new drone: a quadcopter which sticks to a vertical wall and hangs there, before flying off and leaving an object still attached.

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News Resources - North America, Europe, and Asia:
  • Iran Fires Missiles from Underground in Gulf War Games
    Iran's Revolutionary Guards said they launched ballistic missiles from "the depths of the Earth" on Wednesday during military exercises. On Tuesday, the Guards struck a mock-up of a U.S. aircraft carrier with missiles near the Strait of Hormuz. Iranian Sukhoi Su-22 fighter-bombers also targeted positions on Bani Farur Island in Iran's territorial waters. (AFP)
  • Iran's Covid-19 Death Toll on the Rise - Sune Engel Rasmussen and Aresu Eqbali
    In the past two weeks, Iran has reported about 200 deaths every day, compared with 150 daily deaths at the end of March. Hospitalizations are growing quickly, with more than 1,600 patients admitted over the past 24 hours, the Health Ministry said Tuesday. President Rouhani's government has warned that 25 of the country's 31 provinces are in an emergency or are suffering from an alarming level of risk. Mashhad, Iran's second-largest city and home to the country's most important holy site, has seen a 300% rise in coronavirus cases in recent days. (Wall Street Journal)
  • Abolition of Agreements with Israel Impacts on Palestinian Daily Life - Saud Abu Ramadan and Emad Drimly
    The Palestinian leadership's decision to abolish all bilateral agreements and understandings with Israel and the U.S. "has led to increasing the suffering of Palestinian citizens, who pay a high price for the abolition of the agreements and coordination of daily life with Israel," said Ramallah-based political analyst Ghassan al-Khatib.
        Shukri Bishara, the Palestinian Minister of Finance, had said earlier that the Palestinian budget is facing an 80% drop in financial resources due to severing ties with Israel, refusing to receive tax revenues via Israel, and the coronavirus crisis. (Xinhua-China)
News Resources - Israel and the Mideast:
  • IDF Thwarts Hizbullah Infiltration along Lebanon Border - Anna Ahronheim
    The IDF thwarted a Hizbullah attack near Mount Dov along the border with Lebanon on Monday. Three to five Hizbullah operatives crossed the border into Israeli territory and were identified by the IDF, which opened fire with machine guns and tank shells. The cell fled back into Lebanon without firing at IDF troops. (Jerusalem Post)
        See also IDF Soldiers Ordered Not to Kill Hizbullah Infiltrators in Attempt to Reduce Tensions - Anna Ahronheim (Jerusalem Post)
  • Israel Sends Additional Reinforcements to Lebanese, Syrian Borders - Judah Ari Gross
    The Israel Defense Forces deployed additional reinforcements to the country's Lebanese and Syrian borders on Tuesday, including precision-guided surface-to-surface missiles, additional combat intelligence units, and special forces.
        Defense Minister Benny Gantz said Tuesday, "I suggest that all the countries in the region, near and far - Iran, Lebanon, Syria or anyone else who may be involved in terrorism - remember that Israel has unlimited capabilities and knows how to use them."  (Times of Israel)
  • Coronavirus in Israel: Death Toll Reaches 497
    The Israel Ministry of Health reported 1,968 new coronavirus cases in the past 24 hours on Thursday morning. There are 336 patients in serious condition, including 99 on ventilators. The national death toll has reached 497. (Jerusalem Post)
        See also Coronavirus in Israel: Rise in Serious Cases Slows
    Israel's Channel 12 reports a significant slowdown in the number of seriously ill cases and fatalities when compared to March-April. The number of patients requiring ventilation, in proportion to the number of cases, has dropped by 80%. (Times of Israel)
Global Commentary and Think-Tank Analysis:
  • Imagine What Israel Would Look Like If It Hadn't Applied Its Law to Eastern Jerusalem in 1967 - Eugene Kontorovich
    Imagine what Israel would look like now if it had declined to apply its law to eastern Jerusalem just after the Six-Day War. Israel's action cemented the Jewish claim to Jerusalem, and by extension the legitimacy of its claims to those areas of the land occupied by Jordan from 1949 to 1967. It put down an important marker that it would not part with this territory lightly.
        At the time, the UN Security Council condemned the move; not a single nation supported it. But it created a new reality, which eventually pulled in supporters including the U.S. in 2017. This would have been impossible had Israel not staked its claim in the face of opposition. The writer is director of the Center for the Middle East and International Law at George Mason University Scalia Law School. (Mosaic)
  • Israeli Security Requires Control over the Jordan Valley - Maj.-Gen. (res.) Gershon Hacohen
    It has never been and will never be sufficient to dot Israeli troops sparsely across West Bank hilltops and along the Jordan Valley. Instead, long-term Israeli sovereignty and settlement is needed across parts of the West Bank to ensure Israeli security.
        The Jordan Valley buffer zone is an essential shield for Israel. One need only look at the recent past to understand why. Recall the lessons of the second intifada 20 years ago, the regional instability wrought by the "Arab Spring" 10 years ago, the continuing missile threat from Hizbullah in Lebanon and Hamas in Gaza, and the unimpeded growth of Iran's presence on Israel's borders, including inside the West Bank and Gaza. Even the stability and longevity of the Hashemite Kingdom of Jordan cannot be guaranteed if Israel abandons the scene.
        IDF control of the Jordan Valley allows Israel to enforce the requirement, embedded in the U.S. peace proposal, that the future Palestinian state be demilitarized. Moreover, the Iranian Quds Force and its Shiite militia allies are aggressively seeking to penetrate the West Bank from Jordan. The writer, a senior research fellow at the Begin-Sadat Center for Strategic Studies, served in the IDF for 42 years, commanding troops in battle on the Egyptian and Syrian fronts. (Mosaic)
  • Iran: Jordan Assisted U.S. in Harassing Iranian Passenger Plane - Lt.-Col. (ret.) Michael Segall
    The Iranian Nour news agency, considered close to Iran's Supreme National Security Council (SNSC), reported that Jordan assisting U.S. Air Force F-15 combat aircraft to intercept an Iranian passenger plane flying to Beirut last week. The report claimed that Jordan permitted American "warplanes and drones" to take off from al-Azraq air base in Jordan, from where drones were also dispatched to assassinate Qassem Soleimani in Iraq. Jordan denied that it was involved in the Soleimani mission.
        Relations between Iran and Jordan are correct, and the accusation against Jordan is unusual. Iranian attempts to operate in Jordanian territory against Israel have met with limited success in the face of counterintelligence actions by Israel and Jordan. The writer, an expert on strategic issues with a focus on Iran, is a senior research fellow at the Jerusalem Center. (Jerusalem Center for Public Affairs)
  • Former New York Times Writer Bari Weiss Continues to Champion Israel - Aviva Engel
    On July 14, Bari Weiss, the acclaimed author of How to Fight Anti-Semitism, resigned as op-ed editor and columnist at the New York Times, citing harassment about the frequency with which she wrote about Jewish topics, as well as being called a "Nazi and a racist" by her colleagues. During a Zoom conference on Thursday, she said, "It's not enough for a Jew to be an anti-anti-Semite. That's not what we were put on earth to do. We were put on earth to be Jews. The more deeply I connected to my own Judaism, Jewish history, the stronger my conviction has become. I am just extremely clear on who I am, what I'm about, and what I'm fighting for."
        "A lot of people think [my resignation is] nuts, like, why would you give up the prestige of that? For me, it's extremely clear: I am part of a line of a people that is about values that are way bigger than any fancy platform or title. That's really what drives me."  (Times of Israel)
  • Seth Rogen's Anti-Israel Rant - David Harsanyi
    Actor Seth Rogen, who has, at best, a facile understanding of basic history, faith, or politics, claimed this week he was "fed a huge amount of lies about Israel" growing up, and he now questions the legitimacy of the Jewish state's existence. "They never tell you that - oh by the way, there were people there [in Israel]."
        Anyone with basic cognitive abilities understood that "other people" lived in Israel. It was "other people" who launched pogroms against Jews in the 1920s and 1930s. It was "other people" who allied with Hitler during World War II, continuing to stoke violence against Jews.
        It was "other people" who rejected the UN partition plan and launched an all-out war against Jews only three years after the concentration camps were liberated. It was "other people" who initiated wave after wave of terrorism against Jewish civilians. It was "other people" who rejected dozens of peace offerings from 1948 onward. And yet, some of those "other people" still reside in Israel and enjoy more liberal rights than Arabs do in any Arab nation.
        In fact, as the historian Efraim Karsh has noted, large numbers of those "other people" initially came to sparsely populated areas of Israel because of the influx of Jews, who, starting in the late 19th century, brought economic growth and opportunities with them. (National Review)
        See also A Clear-Eyed Zionist Answer to Seth Rogen's Blind Spot - David Suissa (Los Angeles Jewish Journal)

  • Weekend Features

  • The Western Wall and the Jews: More than a Thousand Years of Prayer - Nadav Shragai
    The current place of worship at the Western Wall was established after an earthquake in 1546, which collapsed a row of buildings leaning against the Western Wall and cleared a short prayer alley for Jews, used with the approval of the Ottoman authorities.
        The central synagogue of the Jews in Jerusalem was located inside the Western Wall tunnels for many years, until the city fell to the Crusaders in 1099. The Jewish scholar Yitzhak Yehezkiel Yehuda collected dozens of testimonies of Jewish prayers throughout many points in time, beginning in 950 CE. They were submitted to the 1930 British Western Wall Commission, testifying to the Jewish connection to the place. The writer, a fellow of the Jerusalem Center, has documented Jerusalem for Ha'aretz and Israel Hayom for over 30 years. (Jerusalem Center for Public Affairs)
        See also Ancient "Cave" Synagogue beneath Temple Mount Used by Jews of Jerusalem for Hundreds of Years - Nadav Shragai
    When Jerusalem fell to the Crusaders in 1099, the Jews took the lead in defending the city and were the last to fall, according to Gilo of Paris, a 12th-century poet. Muslim historian Ibn al-Qalanisi says that the Jews of the city fled to the Cave Synagogue, where the Crusaders burned them alive, a story corroborated by the 12th-century Arab writer Sibt Ibn al-Jawzi.
        Archaeologist Dan Bahat, who excavated and researched the Western Wall tunnels, thinks that he has discovered the location of the Cave Synagogue "in the area of Warren's Gate," one of four gates that led from the Western Wall to the Temple Mount. "For hundreds of years, it was the center of Jewish life in Jerusalem, but the Crusaders...wiped out the city's Jewish community, blocked off the gate, and turned the synagogue into a cistern."
        Documents from the Cairo Geniza from the 11th century include a request sent in 1035 by Shlomo Ben Yehuda, head of the Jerusalem yeshiva, to Rabbi Ephraim in Cairo, asking for help in rebuilding the Cave Synagogue, which had collapsed in an earthquake in 1033. (Israel Hayom)
  • Despite the Pandemic, Young Americans Arrive in Israel to Become IDF Soldiers - Tobias Siegal
    Two groups of 78 future IDF soldiers landed in Israel on Monday in flights organized by Nefesh B'Nefesh, with 50 more expected in the next few days. The recent arrivals are part of the Lone Soldiers Program, referring to IDF volunteers who do not have immediate family in Israel to support them during their service. As part of their enlistment, they become Israeli citizens.
        "These young men and women who chose to make Aliyah from North America and will enlist in the IDF to serve in the front lines of Israel's defense and security are our people's greatest pride," said Aliyah and Integration Minister MK Pnina Tamano-Shata. "Along with the citizens of Israel, I salute them as an inspiration to us all."
        Friends of the IDF (FIDF) director Maj.-Gen. (res.) Meir Klifi-Amir added, "Their decision to come to Israel and enlist in the IDF is a brave and noble act, one that is rooted in a deep sense of mission, determination, and love of the State of Israel. This is true Zionism."  (Jerusalem Post)
  • Bodies of 286 Jews Murdered in Holocaust Found in Ukraine Basement - Tamar Beeri
    The bodies of 286 Jewish people, mostly women and children, were found in a basement below the town square's marketplace in Sataniv, Ukraine. The Jews were gassed in gas chambers in two separate basements. The basements were opened after the war, but the bodies were left with a sign marking it as a place of mass murder. Over the years, the entrance disappeared below the rubble of a house standing above it.
        It took the local Jewish community several legal battles in order to finally gain ownership of the basement. Searches began on the site in 2019 and, one by one, bones and articles of clothing were found. The remains were taken for burial in the city's ancient Jewish cemetery. (Jerusalem Post)
  • IDF Honors Holocaust Survivors Who Died during Israel's 1948 War of Independence
    In July, IDF officials visited the graves of Holocaust survivors who immigrated to Israel following the Second World War, and then died during Israel's 1948 War of Independence without leaving behind any family. During the visit, a memorial was held for Yitzhak "Izo" Nueman, who died while dismantling mines during the war. (Jerusalem Post)
  • Olympics and the Holocaust: Remembering the Sportspeople Lost to the "Final Solution" - Kobe Tong
    It had barely been a decade since Judikje "Jud" Simons collected her Olympic gold medal with the Dutch gymnastics team in Amsterdam in 1928, that was now shackled amidst Adolf Hitler's cross-continent destruction. At 38, she was deported to Sobibor extermination camp with her family, where in 1943 she was gassed along with her husband, 5-year old daughter, and 3-year-old son.
        There were many Olympians among those who perished in the Holocaust, as Agnes Grunwald-Spier's wonderful Who Betrayed the Jews? reveals. Attila Petschauer, of Jewish heritage, was crowned an Olympic fencing champion at Los Angeles in 1932. He was murdered by guards at the Hungarian-controlled Davidovka concentration camp on January 20, 1943.
        Tennis champion Lenke Ziszovits-Popper won the Romanian National Ladies Championship in 1930 and 1938. She and her daughter were moved into the Oradea ghetto, before being transported to Auschwitz by cattle truck from the very Rhedey Park in which she had played tennis as a youngster. (GiveMeSport)

  • An essay I wrote in 2014 for Tablet described the replacement of journalism by activism, the subjugation of objective description to higher ideological truth, and the manufacture of politically driven morality plays in the guise of news.
  • I took this to be a problem related to, and perhaps limited to, perceptions of Jewish people and of Israel. But from the vantage point of 2020, Israel was just an early target, a place to manufacture a mobilizing mythology.
  • Upon gaining admission to the tribe of Western journalists in Jerusalem in 2006, I found that it wasn't enough - or necessary - to be knowledgeable about the region or to speak its languages.
  • The important thing was adopting a creed, one that is widely familiar now. This outlook included a dim view of America; a healthy respect for fervent Islam; the belief that while groups like Hizbullah, Hamas, and the Muslim Brotherhood might sometimes go too far, they do have a point; and the idea that the world would probably be improved if Jewish sovereignty could somehow be reduced to 0% from the current high of 0.01%.
  • The news narrative in Israel was constructed with tricks of storytelling and framing: pretending the Palestinian national movement merely wants a state beside Israel; dismissing Israeli attempts to solve the conflict on reasonable terms; erasing the actions of Israel's opponents so Israel's own actions and fears seem irrational or duplicitous; and suggesting the Jewish instinct for self-preservation in the Middle East is "right wing" while the Islamist war against Jews or the Iranian drive for regional hegemony are somehow about "human rights."
  • In many ways Israel was patient zero of the "cancel culture." Israel was transformed from a real country into something so dangerous and disruptive to the desired order that it had to be canceled - an aspiration that is now aired in the press as if it were completely rational.

    The writer is a former journalist for AP in Jerusalem (2006-11).
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