August 6, 2020

In-Depth Issues:

The Cause of the Explosion in Beirut - David Daoud (Ha'aretz)
    According to Lebanese officials, 2,750 tons of ammonium nitrate stored at warehouse 12 in Beirut's port exploded.
    In 2013, Lebanese officials seized the ammonium nitrate aboard a Moldovan-flagged ship en route to Africa.
    Since then, that cargo - by comparison, the amount is 200 times the explosive material used in the 1983 Beirut barracks bombing and 1,375 times the amount used in the 1995 Oklahoma City bombing - has remained improperly secured.
    The writer is a research analyst on Lebanon and Hizbullah at United Against Nuclear Iran.

Israel Offers Aid to Lebanon after Beirut Explosions (Reuters)
    "Israel has approached Lebanon through international security and diplomatic channels and has offered the Lebanese government medical and humanitarian assistance" after a massive explosion rocked Beirut on Tuesday, Israeli Defense Minister Benny Gantz said.
    See also Israeli Hospitals Reach Out to Lebanon - Maayan Jaffe-Hoffman (Jerusalem Post)
    Dr. Masad Barhoum, director-general of the Galilee Medical Center in Nahariya, took to social networks and the radio to appeal in Arabic to Lebanese leaders to allow him to help in the aftermath of the Beirut explosion.
    "We have no agenda, there are no enemies in this situation," said Barhoum.
    Dr. Salman Zarka, head of Ziv Medical Center in Safed, also reached out to Lebanon. He noted that until 2000, his hospital treated Lebanese citizens on a regular basis.
    "Israel is ready to help. It's a shame that people will die for no reason."
    See also Tel Aviv Lights Up City Hall with Lebanese Flag in Solidarity - Allen Kim (CNN)
    The Tel Aviv municipality building was lit up with the Lebanese flag on Wednesday in a show of support after the Beirut explosion.
    "Humanity comes before any conflict, and our hearts are with the Lebanese people following this terrible disaster," said Tel Aviv Mayor Ron Huldai.

Follow the Jerusalem Center on:

Brother of Senior Palestinian Official Killed in Family Feud (AP-The National-Abu Dhabi)
    Khalil Al Sheikh, brother of PA cabinet minister Hussein Al Sheikh, was killed in Ramallah on Wednesday after his nephew quarreled with a Palestinian security officer.
    His family members then marched through Ramallah, shooting at government buildings and at the headquarters of the PA Preventive Security force.

Hizbullah: Iran and Syria Gave Us Game-Changing Weapons in 2006 War Against Israel (Al-Manar TV-Hizbullah)
    Hizbullah Secretary General Hasan Nasrallah's political aide, Hussein Khalil, discussed behind-the-scenes details of the July 2006 war against Israel on Friday.
    Khalil stressed that "missiles from both Iran and the Syrian Army were transferred to Hizbullah during the war. They didn't hesitate to supply the resistance with game-changing weapons."
    Khalil said that the head of the IRGC Quds Force, Iranian Gen. Qassem Suleimani, was in Lebanon during the war and played a major role in the battlefield.

U.S., Israeli F-35s Train Together - Alyk Russell Kenlan (Air Force Magazine)
    American and Israeli F-35s trained together on Aug. 2 in the second bilateral exercise between the two countries focusing on Joint Strike Fighter operations.
    The exercise included in-air refueling, engaging targets, and command and control.
    Israel was the first foreign country to buy the F-35 and has agreed to buy 50 aircraft for $1.5 billion. 14 have been delivered.

An Israeli Responds to Criticism from American Jewish Comedians - Shany Mor (Forward)
    Two young American Jewish comedians recently felt the need to renounce Israel's history.
    When Israel fought for its independence, it was just one of many new states carved out of former imperial possessions.
    In the Middle East, many new nations were created, but most chose not to make common cause with the Jews.
    Instead they devoted all their efforts to snuffing out the Jewish presence in the Middle East.
    They actually succeeded in almost every corner of the Middle East. But they failed in the one place where Jews were able to form a local majority and defend themselves.
    I don't believe no one told them that there were Arabs in the Middle East who didn't want a Jewish state. When they were told about Israel's wars in 1948 and 1967, who did they think we fought against?
    The writer is an associate fellow at the Hannah Arendt Center at Bard College and a researcher at the Israel Democracy Institute.

The Young Australians Who Joined the Israel Defense Forces - Andrea Thiis-Evensen (ABC Radio-Australia)
    Mai has lived in Australia all her life, but volunteered to join the Israel Defense Forces (IDF) when she turned 18.
    In her experience, she says, the IDF is "morally admirable. I can say whole-heartedly that I have never seen a more ethically-grounded military when dealing with one of the most complicated conflicts in the world."
    She says she saw IDF soldiers go to the aid of injured Palestinians, and help get them food and medication.
    "From personal experience, as soldiers, we're taught first about the importance of humanity, that we are all human beings."
    "We were told about the severe consequences of misconduct towards civilians of all cultures and backgrounds."
    "We don't enlist into the IDF for the chance to kill a terrorist or make ourselves out to be heroes. We know that we are serving in order to defend the Jewish nation - to defend our fathers, mothers, brothers and sisters. We are part of the Israel Defense Forces - not the Israel Attack Forces."
    She concludes, "I would do it all over again in a heartbeat."

Search the Recent History of Israel and the Middle East

Send the Daily Alert to a Friend
    If you are viewing the email version of the Daily Alert and want to share it with friends, please click Forward in your email program and enter their address.

News Resources - North America, Europe, and Asia:
  • Death Toll Rises in Beirut Blast
    The death toll from a massive explosion that ripped across Beirut on Tuesday has climbed to 137. Dozens were missing and at least 5,000 were wounded, the Lebanese Health Ministry said Thursday. Beirut's governor, Marwan Abboud, said on Wednesday that as many as 250,000 people lost their homes as a result of the explosion. (Radio Free Europe-Radio Liberty)
  • Israel's Iron Dome to Be Manufactured in U.S. - Jen Judson
    U.S. firm Raytheon Technologies and Israel's Rafael Advanced Defense Systems have formed a joint venture - Raytheon Rafael Area Protection Systems - to build the Iron Dome missile defense system in the U.S., the companies announced Aug. 3. The system also is capable of intercepting cruise missiles, unmanned aircraft, rockets, artillery, mortars and other threats.
        According to Rafael, Iron Dome is "the world's most-used system with more than 2,500 operational intercepts and a success rate exceeding 90%."  (Defense News)
  • Hamas Leader: "Palestine Must Stretch from the [Jordan] River to the [Mediterranean] Sea"
    Ismail Haniyeh, Head of the Hamas Political Bureau, told Lusail News (Qatar) on July 26, 2020: "[Parties] came to us, and offered to establish new projects in Gaza to the tune of perhaps $15 billion...but what are we supposed to give in return?...Obviously, they want us to disband the military wings of the factions....Naturally, we completely rejected that offer....We will not give up the resistance, Jerusalem, our people in the West Bank, or our Right of Return to the land of Palestine."
        "We will not recognize Israel, Palestine must stretch from the [Jordan] River to the [Mediterranean] Sea, the Right of Return [must be fulfilled], the prisoners must be set free, and a fully sovereign Palestinian state must be established with Jerusalem as its capital."  (MEMRI-TV)
News Resources - Israel and the Mideast:
  • Coronavirus Death Toll in Israel Reaches 569
    Israel's coronavirus death toll has reached 569, Israel's Health Ministry reported Thursday. 345 people are in serious condition, including 100 who are intubated. (Jerusalem Post)
  • Expert Rules Out Beirut-Like Explosion in Israel - Sue Surkes
    Prof. Dan Shechtman of Haifa's Technion-Israel Institute of Technology, who received the 2011 Nobel Prize in chemistry, said Wednesday that the explosion in Beirut on Tuesday will not happen in Israel. He said the most dangerous thing in civilian use is liquefied gas, which "will go up in flames and create a big fire but not an explosion." He added: "In Kiryat Ata, and probably other places too, the containers are protected by concrete walls that are higher than the containers themselves."
        Shechtman said Israel has ammonium nitrate - the material that exploded in Beirut, but "in Israel, it's not concentrated in a particular place. There are small amounts all over the country."  (Times of Israel)
  • IDF Strikes Syrian Military Targets in Response to Border Attack - Judah Ari Gross
    The IDF conducted a series of airstrikes on Syrian military targets on Monday night in response to a bomb-planting incident that was thwarted on Sunday on the border in the Golan Heights. The IDF bombed Syrian observation posts, intelligence-gathering equipment, anti-aircraft cannons, and command-and-control infrastructure. Ha'aretz reported that Israel believes an Iranian proxy militia was responsible for the attempted attack. Troops who searched the area of Sunday's attack found a gun, as well as a backpack with several bombs, ready for use. (Times of Israel)
Global Commentary and Think-Tank Analysis:
  • The Fragility of the Liberal Democracies and the Challenge of Totalitarianism - Joel Fishman
    The murder of George Floyd in Minneapolis triggered rioting, looting, and arson across the U.S.  Mayors of several major cities and governors of some states where violence took place chose not to act and ordered the police and firefighters to stand down. Such inaction created a state of anarchy, leaving the public without protection.
        The fragility of the liberal democracies is a serious dilemma. There is a short distance between "peaceful demonstrations" and mob violence. The dynamics of political warfare and the methods of mob violence are knowable. Because it is a matter of self-defense, we must use this knowledge to safeguard our democracies and our freedoms. Dr. Joel Fishman, a fellow of the Jerusalem Center, is a historian and former editor of the Jewish Political Studies Review. (Institute for Contemporary Affairs-Jerusalem Center for Public Affairs)
  • Has Iran's Nuclear Program Suffered Real Damage from Secret Operations? - Uzi Even
    Iran's nuclear program began more than 50 years ago under the Shah. Eventually a Russian reactor was built on foundations built by the Germans in Bushehr, and it began to supply electricity in 2012. It is the most expensive reactor in the world, costing more than $10 billion, and provides only 2% of Iran's electricity. This reactor was positioned exactly at the intersection of three tectonic plates, so the area is earthquake prone. The Iranians claim they created their uranium enrichment capabilities for the sake of running the reactor.
        According to Iranian documents obtained by the Mossad, Iran had an orderly plan to produced nuclear weapons. The documents name research sites, research groups and the names of those responsible, and details about the equipment purchased (through 2003).
        In 2010, the "Stuxnet" virus ran on computers monitoring the centrifuges at Natanz. More than 1,000 centrifuges were damaged until the Iranians figured out the cause. In effect, the enrichment plant stopped running for more than two years.
        More recently, the plant that produces and assembles new centrifuges was struck by a strong explosion. Viewed from above it looks like a car bomb detonated close to the building. It will take at least a year to rebuild the building and restore "clean room" sterile conditions for assembling and balancing centrifuges. The damage done to the Iranian nuclear program is estimated at about two years. Prof. (emeritus) Uzi Even of Tel Aviv University was one of the founders of Israel's Dimona reactor. (Ha'aretz)
  • Is the Palestinian Cause Solvable? - Hazem Saghieh
    In descriptions of the Palestinian cause, several concepts have been popularized by the "Axis of Resistance": It is a question that the Palestinians do not have the right to settle, as it is of an Arab nationalist nature. It is a struggle that neither an Arab leader nor all Arab leaders combined have the right to end because the masses have the final say. It is a struggle that a single generation cannot solve.
        The fact is, a problem with these characteristics ceases to be a problem: problems are solvable, if not today, tomorrow. 120 years have passed since the problem began, and there is no guarantee that the next 120 years will solve it. The description above leaves the Palestinian question far removed from reality and reason.
        Some might say that the solution exists: the liberation of Palestine and the abolition of the State of Israel, and perhaps its society as well, through armed resistance. But this is simply not a solution. It is more of a half-backed and costly joke. (Asharq Al-Awsat-UK)
  • Time to Replace Ottoman Law in the West Bank, Abandoned 100 Years Ago Everywhere Else - Naomi Kahn
    The debate surrounding the application of Israeli law to parts of Judea and Samaria has failed to explain how sovereignty - or a lack thereof - impacts the lives of the people living there. A "temporary" situation has existed since June 1967. Israel voluntarily placed this territory in a state of limbo, relegating its status to "disputed territory" and placing it under military rule. The law regarding property rights would revert to the system enacted by the last known sovereign - in this case, the Ottoman Empire.
        The Ottoman legal system that was abandoned everywhere else in the world more than 100 years ago is applied to both Jewish and Arab residents of Area C. This is what makes the application of Israeli sovereignty in these areas so important, logical, and beneficial for everyone who lives there. Under Ottoman law, you can steal someone else's property simply by using it for awhile; under Ottoman Land Law, women are not allowed to own, inherit, buy or sell property; under Ottoman law, private individuals may lay claim to public property simply by planting trees on it.
        Replacing Ottoman law with the modern, democratic system in force throughout Israel simply makes sense. And it will have no impact whatsoever on the path toward a negotiated resolution of the Arab-Israeli conflict. The writer is Director of the International Division of Regavim, an Israeli NGO dedicated to protecting Israel's land resources. (JNS)
  • After 15-Year Hostile BDS Campaign, Israel Has Only Become Stronger - David May and Benjamin Weinthal
    On July 9, 2005, Omar Barghouti, then a graduate student in philosophy at Tel Aviv University, launched a campaign to boycott, divest and sanction (BDS) the State of Israel. In a May 2020 podcast in Arabic, Barghouti confirmed that BDS seeks to eliminate the "Zionist state." Yet, after 15 years, Israel has only become stronger economically and diplomatically.
        BDS has notched modest successes among American academics, church groups and campus organizations, but it failed to make inroads beyond the low-hanging fruit. Many U.S. lawmakers have condemned BDS. House Speaker Nancy Pelosi called on Americans to "be vigilant against bigoted or dangerous ideologies masquerading as policy, and that includes BDS."
        In 2017, governors of all 50 states signed a letter opposing BDS. And over half of U.S. states have laws that prevent state investment, bar state contracts or prohibit the use of state funds for companies boycotting Israel. David May is a research analyst at the Foundation for Defense of Democracies (FDD), where Benjamin Weinthal is a research fellow. (Washington Times)

  • Anti-Semitism

  • New York Times Claims Internationally Embraced Anti-Semitism Definition Is "Disputed" - Tamar Sternthal
    The New York Times reported on July 27 about the departure of Kenneth L. Marcus as the U.S. Education Department's civil rights chief, claiming, "he unilaterally adopted a disputed definition of anti-Semitism that includes opposition to the State of Israel."
        In fact, the definition in question was previously adopted by the U.S. State Department under the Obama administration and has been praised by the American Jewish Committee and Anti-Defamation League. It is virtually identical to the definition developed by the International Holocaust Remembrance Alliance, adopted by 26 countries and the EU.
        Regarding Israel, the definition explicitly states: "Criticism of Israel similar to that leveled against any other country cannot be regarded as anti-Semitic."
        But it defines anti-Semitism as "Using the symbols and images associated with classic anti-Semitism to characterize Israel or Israelis," "Drawing comparisons of contemporary Israeli policy to that of the Nazis," "Blaming Israel for all inter-religious or political tensions," "Applying double standards by requiring of it behavior not expected or demanded of any other democratic nation," "Multilateral organizations focusing on Israel only for peace or human rights investigations," and "Denying the Jewish people their right to self-determination, and denying Israel the right to exist."  (CAMERA)
  • I'm Glad We're Finally Talking about Anti-Semitism - Arielle Tchiprout
    I'm a 25-year-old British-Israeli Jewish woman, and I have experienced anti-Semitism my whole life. Anti-Semitism existed long before World War II (in the form of expulsions, pogroms and blood libels) and it continues to exist now, although now it's often skillfully disguised behind criticism of Israel.
        I was the only Jew in my year at school, and I experienced anti-Semitic comments regularly. Kids would sing Borat's parody "Throw the Jew Down the Well" song when I entered a room. I remember a group of boys staring and giggling at me during a Holocaust Memorial assembly, while another boy leaned behind me and whispered "synagogue monkey" into my ear with such venom I felt faint.
        When tensions flared up in Israel, my classmates would raise this with me at any opportunity, as if I - a 13-year-old girl - was somehow responsible. During these times, I'd feign sickness to avoid going in. My mum gave me strict instructions not to wear my Star of David necklace above my clothes. She felt it wasn't safe. My parents received late-night phone calls saying, "die Jew, die."
        One of my sisters was called a "baby killer" on her personal Facebook page, and when she called in to a radio station to tell a prominent politician about her experiences, he told her that anti-Semitism doesn't exist in this country anymore and if she is experiencing it, she should leave (which she did - she now lives in Tel Aviv). (Cosmopolitan-UK)

  • Weekend Features

  • Israeli Consul General Dani Dayan Befriended Progressive American Jews - Abe Silberstein
    After four years of service as Israel's consul general to New York, it is clear Ambassador Dani Dayan will be dearly missed by the mostly liberal Jewish leadership in the area. It was not supposed to be this way. Dayan is a former chairman of the Yesha Council that represents Israeli settlements in the West Bank. In August 2016, I wrote an op-ed in the English edition of Ha'aretz calling Dayan unfit for the position and denouncing his views. Today, I find myself among Dayan's progressive well-wishers.
        Shortly after my op-ed was published, I was invited to a private, off-the-record meeting with Dayan. Although we argued, I found him to be a genial and unassuming presence who was as eager to learn my perspective as he was sharing his. Through his friendly disposition and overtures to groups that felt alienated from the Israeli government, Dayan was well-liked and respected throughout the community. (Forward)
  • How the Mossad Hunted the "Butcher of Riga" Who Murdered 30,000 Jews - Robert Philpot
    In 1965, Israeli Prime Minister Levi Eshkol approved a plan by Israel's intelligence chiefs to hunt down Herberts Cukurs - the "Butcher of Riga" - who was accused of being personally responsible for the deaths of at least 30,000 Latvian Jews. The story is told in Stephan Talty's new book, The Good Assassin: Mossad's Hunt for the Butcher of Latvia.
        With the German invasion of the Soviet Union in 1941, Latvia came under Nazi rule. Cukurs became second-in-command of the notorious Arajs Kommando, a 300-strong Latvian paramilitary group which enthusiastically participated in the murder of the country's Jews. One eyewitness remembered Cukurs in the Riga ghetto, "laughing devilishly...shooting the people like a hunter in the forest."
        At a villa at 19 Waldemars Street, the Arajs Kommando held wild drunken parties as they tortured and murdered Jews. Max Tukacier saw Cukurs "beat to death 10 to 15 people" at the house. Cukurs was recorded giving orders to his commandos at "Aktions" on November 30 and December 8, 1941, when 25,000 Jews were murdered in or near the Rumbula forest.
        After the war, the Latvian escaped to Brazil, where he portrayed himself as a man who had rescued Jews during the Holocaust. The undercover agent dispatched by the Mossad to ensnare Cukurs was Yaakov "Mio" Meidad, a German-born Jew whose parents had perished in the death camps. He had helped abduct Adolf Eichmann and bring him to Israel for trial. Under the guise of an Austrian businessman, Meidad befriended Cukurs and lured him to his death in Montevideo, where a small Mossad team awaited. (Times of Israel)
  • Babi Yar: The Story of a Lost Universe - Rona Tausinger
    On September 28, 1941, nine days after the Germans conquered Kiev, the Nazis ordered every Jew in the city to convene with their belongings and documents near the cemetery at the edge of Babi Yar. Any Jew who refused would be killed, the announcement read. The following day 33,771 Jews arrived and were shot en masse over two days. Throughout that year an additional 15,000 were killed in a similar fashion. It is a known fact that Ukrainians took part in the massacre.
        Now a massive Holocaust center is set to be built in Babi Yar to commemorate events that happened 80 years ago. Natan Sharansky, chairman of the advisory committee for the center establishment fund, says: "Babi Yar for me was a symbol not only for the Holocaust but also for the great efforts the Soviet regime went to in order to erase its memory. To erase the Jewish identity of the place."
        The museum's artistic director, Ilya Khrzhanovsky, told Israel Hayom, "Before the Second World War, every fourth family in Kiev was Jewish. Imagine how much knowledge, tradition, smells, lessons, books, cultures - disappeared from the mental and emotional picture of the era. The story of Babi Yar is not just about the murder of Jews by Nazis and their Ukrainian collaborators, this is a story about a whole universe that was destroyed." The online museum will be up by 2021. The physical museum will open in 2026. (Israel Hayom)

Video: The Battle of the Narratives - Dore Gold (Jerusalem Center for Public Affairs)
  • On July 10, 1967, Israeli Foreign Minister Abba Eban rejected claims that measures taken by Israel after the Six-Day War to integrate eastern parts of Jerusalem were "annexation." He insisted on using the term "extension of Israeli law and jurisdiction" to eastern Jerusalem.
  • The International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC) defines "annexation" as "a unilateral act of a state through which it proclaims its sovereignty over the territory of another state." The obvious question is whether the West Bank was the territory of another state.
  • Before the new U.S. peace plan was announced, every other peace plan over the past 20 years had failed. One of the sad things about this entire period is that we're willing to give it a try but, unfortunately, the Palestinian side isn't.
    See also Video: Making an Impaired Peace Process Work - Dore Gold (Jerusalem Center for Public Affairs)
  • I think you have to respect the national aspirations of both people. That means the people of Israel and the Arab people in what they call Palestine and what will eventually become some kind of Palestinian state.
  • Everyone on the Israeli security side refers to the Jordan Valley as the front line of Israel's defense. Yet the peace process planners have in the last few decades said the IDF has to get out of the Jordan Valley, which contradicts our fundamental security needs. If you can construct a new set of relations between Israel and Palestinians that does address basic needs, I think we've got a shot.
  • U.S. Amb. Martin Indyk: First of all, Dore is right that Palestinians did not respond in particular to the Obama ideas that were put on the table in 2014 because I was involved in that effort and we still haven't had a response from Abu Mazen (Mahmoud Abbas). There is a fundamental problem on the Palestinian side in terms of the way in which they are not willing to engage on ideas which I think were fair and balanced at the time.

    Dore Gold is President of the Jerusalem Center for Public Affairs. This is from a virtual meeting on Middle East Peace sponsored by the U.S. Council on Foreign Relations on July 20, 2020.
Support Daily Alert
Daily Alert is the work of a team of expert analysts who find the most important and timely articles from around the world on Israel, the Middle East and U.S. policy. No wonder it is read by heads of government, leading journalists, and thousands of people who want to stay on top of the news. To continue to provide this service, Daily Alert requires your support. Please take a moment to click here and make your contribution through the Jerusalem Center for Public Affairs.

Daily Alert is published every Monday and Thursday.
Unsubscribe from Israel Alert.