August 3, 2020

In-Depth Issues:

U.S.-Israeli Firm Develops Drug for Critically Ill Covid Patients (Reuters)
    U.S.-Israeli NeuroRx pharmaceutical company, partnered with Geneva-based Relief Therapeutics Holdings, has developed RLF-100, or aviptadil, a synthetic form of a natural peptide that protects the lung, for treating critically ill Covid-19 patients.
    Patients recovered rapidly from respiratory failure after three days of treatment with RLF-100, a therapy granted fast-track designation in the U.S., the two drug companies said on Sunday.
    Similar results were seen in more than 15 patients treated under emergency use.

Fugitive Hamas Operative Was Tasked with Shooting Down Israeli Helicopter - Yoav Zitun (Ynet News)
    Izz al-Din Hussein, 24, who was facing persecution from Hamas and "family issues," swam to Israel on June 28 and was immediately detained by the Israel Defense Forces, the Israel Security Agency said Thursday.
    Hussein told investigators he was a member of the Hamas air defense unit, head of a squadron using shoulder-fired missiles.
    "He stored an anti-aircraft missile in his home and was instructed to launch it at an Israeli helicopter, ensuring it landed near his home in Gaza, for the purpose of killing or abducting Israeli soldiers," the ISA said.

Claims Iran Hacked Israel Railways Are False - Daniel Nisinman (Jerusalem Post)
    A report Friday by the Turkish Anadolu news agency that Iran had successfully hacked 28 stations in Israel's railway network is not true, the Jerusalem Post has confirmed.

UAE Becomes First Arab Nation to Open a Nuclear Power Plant - Vivian Yee (New York Times)
    The United Arab Emirates became the first Arab country to open a nuclear power plant on Saturday.
    The South Korean-designed plant will provide a quarter of the country's electricity.
    The UAE signed a nuclear energy cooperation agreement with the U.S. in 2009 that allows it to receive nuclear materials and technical assistance while barring it from uranium enrichment and other possible bomb-development activities.

Israeli Firm Offers Wearable Anti-Drone Device - Udi Etsion (Calcalist)
    Israeli company Skylock has sold its personal anti-drone system to the U.S. Army and NATO forces.
    Meant for mobile forces, like a presidential guard or special army units, the system weighs only 1.5 kg.
    It includes a drone detector and an anti-drone jammer, and is capable of neutralizing any drone within 1 km.

Israeli Startups Raised $700 Million in July (Globes)
    Israeli tech companies raised nearly $700 million in July, despite the Covid-19 crisis, bringing the total raised in the first seven months of 2020 to almost $6 billion, well on course to surpass last year's record.

News Resources - North America, Europe, and Asia:
  • Iran Will Expand Nuclear Program and Won't Talk to U.S., Ayatollah Khamenei Says - Farnaz Fassihi
    Iran's supreme leader, Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, said Friday in a televised address that Iran will expand its nuclear program and will not negotiate with the U.S. He also said that Iran would maintain its close alliances with militia groups in the region that it uses as proxies.
        On Thursday, Secretary of State Mike Pompeo said that the State Department would expand sanctions on Iran to cover 22 materials believed to be used in Iran's nuclear, military and ballistic missile programs. (New York Times)
  • Torture on the Rise in Erdogan's Turkey - Amberin Zaman
    Turkey's ruling Justice and Development Party (AKP) came to power 18 years ago pledging "zero tolerance" for torture. For a brief time, there was "real hope," said Sebnem Korur Fincanci, a forensics doctor and president of Turkey's Human Rights Foundation. But torture is back "in its cruelest forms," Fincanci told Al-Monitor. The gutting of independent media and the ongoing jailing of critical journalists means that the abuses go unreported.
        Beyond Turkey's borders in northern Syria, where Turkish forces occupy broad swaths of territory, reports of ill-treatment, sexual abuse and extrajudicial killings carried out by Turkish-supervised Syrian rebels have been described as "war crimes" by the UN. (Al-Monitor)
News Resources - Israel and the Mideast:
  • IDF Thwarts Attack along Syria Border Fence - Anna Ahronheim
    On Sunday night, "an IDF force foiled an attempt to place explosive devices along the border with Syria," the army said. "An IDF force and an aircraft opened fire together on the four-member cell and hit them." The attack took place in the southern Golan Heights near the site of the former IDF field clinic that provided medical treatment for thousands of Syrians in 2017-18. (Jerusalem Post)
  • Israel Intercepts Rocket Launched from Gaza
    The IDF reported on Sunday that its Iron Dome missile defense system intercepted a rocket fired from Gaza into Israel. (Ynet News)
  • Coronavirus in Israel - Rossella Tercatin
    As of Monday morning, the Israel Health Ministry said 334 people were in serious condition from Covid-19, 100 of them on ventilators. The death toll has reached 541. (Jerusalem Post)
        See also Israeli Covid-19 Infection Rate Stabilizing, but Daily Deaths Still High - Amos Harel
    The latest data indicate a stabilization in the incidence of new coronavirus infections in Israel. The number of new cases a day is somewhat less than it was a week or two ago and the sharp rise in the number of patients in serious condition has halted.
        The new coronavirus czar, Prof. Ronni Gamzu, the CEO of Tel Aviv Sourasky Medical Center, on Sunday revealed that the army's Home Front Command would call on 3,000 reserve soldiers to assist the health system. They will conduct epidemiological investigations, boost the staff at the coronavirus hotels, and help in locales where the rate of infection is high. Gamzu believes that within three to six months Israel can overcome the virus and resume a more or less normal life. (Ha'aretz)
  • Coronavirus Cases Surge in West Bank - Ibrahim Husseini
    When the PA eased a coronavirus lockdown following street protests in late May, there were less than 130 confirmed infections. The number of Covid-19 cases in the West Bank, east Jerusalem, and Gaza reached 13,457 on Friday. Spotty adherence to social distancing guidelines remains widespread. Of the 8,796 active cases, more than half have been reported in the Hebron region in the southern West Bank. During the last two weeks of July, newly detected cases averaged around 500 a day. (Al Jazeera)
  • IDF Steps Up Efforts to Curb Coronavirus in Jerusalem's Arab Neighborhoods - Khaled Abu Toameh
    The IDF has stepped up its efforts to help residents of Jerusalem's Arab neighborhoods as they face a sharp increase in the number of confirmed coronavirus cases. The Home Front Command has been operating in these neighborhoods since March, working in coordination with the Jerusalem Municipality's community centers in the Arab neighborhoods.
        Col. Itay Levi, Commanding Officer of the Jerusalem and Central District, said: "The pandemic does not differentiate between Jew and Arab. Our mission as an army and soldiers is to help people during disasters....In the beginning, everyone thought it would be difficult for the IDF to deal with the Arab residents. I believe we are making history when you see [IDF] soldiers working shoulder-to-shoulder with Arabs in Jerusalem."
        Brig.-Gen. (res.) Ben Tzvi Eliasi, Commanding Officer of the Control Center in east Jerusalem, said, "We are helping with the tests for coronavirus and hotels for absorbing the patients....We are now in the process of preparing more hotels in east Jerusalem for absorbing infected cases [and]...we are providing food and medicine to those patients who choose to remain at home."  (Jerusalem Post)
Global Commentary and Think-Tank Analysis:
  • In a Crumbling Lebanon, Hizbullah May Have to Change Course - Zvi Bar'el
    The U.S. opposes the International Monetary Fund giving Lebanon any aid so long as Hizbullah remains part of the government. Meanwhile, violent demonstrations have become daily sights, especially in Beirut and Tripoli. Beirut residents get only a few hours of electricity per day, since the electric company has run up huge debts and can't pay for the oil it uses.
        Last week, there was a vocal demonstration in Beirut's Dahiyeh neighborhood, where Hizbullah's offices are located and where most of the population is Shi'ite. "Hey, master of the resistance, is there electricity in your house?" asked a large banner hanging on one Dahiyeh apartment building, referring to Hizbullah leader Hassan Nasrallah.
        Nasrallah must also contend with the collapse of Iran's position in Syria and the reduced financial aid it is giving Hizbullah due to American sanctions. Hizbullah can no longer portray itself as Lebanon's savior, because the enemy isn't Israel, but a shortage of bread and gasoline. (Ha'aretz)
  • Hamas Prioritizing Naval Attack Force Build-Up - Yaakov Lappin
    A top Hamas priority is its naval attack force, said Brig.-Gen. (res.) Yossi Kuperwasser, former head of the research division of IDF Military Intelligence and a senior research fellow at the Jerusalem Center for Public Affairs. "Hamas is looking for ways to bypass [Israel's] closure on Gaza, and to do this parallel to its underground tunnel concept. There are two sea levels - the sea surface and below-sea level, and this forms a very important component for Hamas in its ability to launch attacks on strategic sites in Israel."
        "Hamas clearly understood that attacks via the sea have strategic significance, both because they can hit sensitive targets and because they can use it to infiltrate into Israel in a way that is difficult to prevent. An infiltration in itself would be a strategic achievement. Hence, they invest a lot in this. In asymmetric warfare at sea, there is a big advantage for those who employ a secretive naval force. Hamas is buying diving equipment all of the time, as well as other forms of equipment, and training its personnel. This is a very high priority for them."  (Investigative Project on Terrorism)

Taking a Jewish Approach to U.S. History - Natan Sharansky and Gil Troy (Los Angeles Jewish Journal)
  • Jews are preprogrammed to navigate history, not negate it. The Bible's colorful lineup of flawed heroes challenges us to replicate their virtues and avoid their sins. That prepares us for modern life.
  • Western civilization is riddled with anti-Semitism, along with racism, sexism and imperialism. But Western civilization also has produced some of the most effective tools reformers have against these scourges. Democratic political structures that emerged from the European Enlightenment incorporated biblically-rooted ideals of equality and liberty.
  • History is like a LEGO tower. You cannot keep building more elaborate structures by removing all the bricks at the bottom. Here is the great liberal democratic leap: Rather than lying about some oversimplified past by constantly updating it, you learn about the imperfect real past to keep improving the future.
  • True progress cannot be made by imposing new orthodoxies or betraying the valuable ideas that caused whatever progress we have made. Teaching America's sins exclusively risks draining the idealism that fueled the greatest leaps forward minorities have made in U.S. history.
  • In St. Louis, we wouldn't tear down the statue of St. Louis or change the city's name. Yes, Louis IX was a notorious anti-Semite, but he also helped institutionalize the notion that you are presumed innocent until proven guilty - among other building blocks of Western civilization at its best.
  • Thomas Jefferson was a slaveholder - which is unconscionable - but as his magical phrase "all men are created equal" grew to include all people, it helped end slavery. Woodrow Wilson was a racist, but his Fourteen Points undermined imperialism and launched many national liberation movements seeking self-determination.

    Natan Sharansky, a human rights activist and former political prisoner of the Soviet Union, served in four Israeli cabinets. Today he is chairman of ISGAP, the Institute for the Study of Global Antisemitism and Policy.

    Gil Troy is a distinguished scholar of North American History at McGill University.

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