February 25, 2021

In-Depth Issues:

German Court Convicts Former Syrian Official of Crimes Against Humanity - Ben Hubbard (New York Times)
    A court in Germany convicted former Syrian secret police officer Eyad al-Gharib, 44, on Wednesday of aiding and abetting crimes against humanity for his role in arresting and transporting protesters to an interrogation center known for torture.
    He was sentenced to four and a half years in prison.

Russia Intensifies Search for Remains of Israeli Soldiers near Damascus (Asharq Al-Awsat-UK)
    Russian troops continued digging operations at the Yarmouk refugee camp cemetery in south Damascus in search of the remains of Israeli soldiers who were killed decades ago.
    "More than three weeks have passed since the Russian forces started to search for the remains of two Israeli soldiers and prominent Israeli agent Eli Cohen in the south of the capital Damascus," the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights reported Tuesday.

Mediterranean Oil Spill Reaches Lebanon (Naharnet-Lebanon)
    Deposits of tar have started washing up in the Lebanese city of Tyre's coastal nature reserve.
    Engineer Hassan Hamza said "most Lebanese beaches have been affected by this pollution."

Israel's Iron Dome Has Intercepted 2,500 Enemy Rockets - Yaakov Lappin (JNS)
    Since Israel's Iron Dome air-defense system made its first interception of a Gazan rocket in 2011, the system has intercepted more than 2,500 enemy rockets aimed at Israeli cities, with a success rate of over 90%.

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Israeli Tank Protection System Has Transformed Land Warfare - Yaakov Lappin (JNS)
    In 2011, an Israel Defense Forces tank was on the border with Gaza. In a recorded encounter, tank crew members reported that suddenly a missile appeared. They tell one another, "We've been fired on; we're supposed to be dead."
    The Trophy active protection system had just made history, successfully intercepting a threat in mid-air.
    Since then, Trophy has saved many lives in combat after being installed on IDF Merkava tanks and Namer armored personnel carriers.
    Using advanced radars, Trophy is able to identify the source of fire. Linked with the military's command network, the tank that responds does not have to be the tank that was fired upon.
    Two months ago, Israel completed the supply of 400 Trophy systems for four U.S. Abrams tank brigades.

Germany Procures Israeli Tank Defense System (Israel Defense)
    Israel's Rafael Advanced Defense Systems announced Tuesday that Germany's Ministry of Defense will equip its Leopard 2 tanks with Rafael's Trophy active protection system.

IDF Is Using More Drones - Paul Iddon (Forbes)
    On its Golan Heights frontier with Syria, field intelligence battalions of the Israel Defense Forces are using an increasing number of drones.
    Battaliion commander Yotam Gillon said, "We use them every day, sometimes even twice or three times a day, to collect intelligence." Similar units are focused on Gaza and Lebanon.
    Troops carry small drones that they can quickly launch for scanning their immediate surroundings, which significantly increases their ability to identify potential threats.
    Gillon anticipates that his troops will soon get small loitering munitions to use for neutralizing enemy combatants in close-quarters fighting.

Israel Air Force Founding Member Promoted to Colonel at Age 105 (JNS)
    Alex Ziloni, 105, was promoted to the rank of colonel on Friday in honor of his "many decades of dedication to the State of Israel."
    Ziloni served as an engineer in the Royal Air Force during World War II and became a founding member of Israel's air force.
    In January 1948, Ziloni negotiated the purchase of 21 single-engine, lightweight Auster planes from the British at a time when Britain had imposed an embargo on the shipment of planes and equipment to Israel.
    According to Machal, the overseas IDF volunteer organization, "These small aircraft did a great job. Manned by a pilot and bomb-chucker, they were used for bombing the enemy with small bombs dropped onto the targets manually; for aerial reconnaissance; communications; for transporting food and medicine; and for transporting sick and wounded personnel."

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We wish our readers a Happy Purim holiday!

News Resources - North America, Europe, and Asia:
  • U.S. Will Not Lift Sanctions before Iran Returns to Compliance with Nuclear Deal - Arshad Mohammed
    In the week since Washington offered to talk with Tehran about reviving the 2015 nuclear deal, Iran has curbed UN monitoring, threatened to boost uranium enrichment, and its suspected proxies have twice rocketed Iraqi bases with U.S. soldiers. Iran has repeatedly demanded that the U.S. first ease sanctions. A U.S. official responded, "However much they believe the U.S. should lift sanctions first, that's not going to happen."  (Reuters)
  • Iranian Militias Seek New Recruits in Syria - Khaled al-Khateb
    Iranian forces and affiliated militias in Deir ez-Zor province in eastern Syria are recruiting Syrians to join their ranks and form new militias. Ahmed al-Ramadan, director of the Euphrates Post, a Syrian opposition website, said the Afghan Fatemiyoun Brigade is recruiting men between 16 and 48. While the salary of an Afghan member reaches $300 per month, "the salary of a Syrian member does not exceed $100 per month, and individuals joining the brigade are required to attend ideological courses and embrace the Shiite sect."  (Al-Monitor)
News Resources - Israel and the Mideast:
  • Israel Will Not Rely on Any New Iran Nuclear Deal - Lahav Harkov
    "Israel isn't pinning its hopes on an agreement with an extremist regime like [Iran]," Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said on Tuesday. He referred to the story of Purim, which begins on Thursday night: "2,500 years ago, a Persian oppressor tried to destroy the Jewish people, and just as he failed then, you will fail today....We didn't make a journey of thousands of years to return to the Land of Israel in order to allow the delusional Ayatollahs' regime to finish the story of the rebirth of the Jewish People."  (Jerusalem Post)
  • Israel: Iran's Nuclear Actions Require Immediate International Response
    With Iran moving to limit some UN inspections of its nuclear facilities, Israeli Foreign Minister Gabi Ashkenazi said, "Iran is destroying what remains of the IAEA's oversight and continues to challenge and threaten regional stability. Iran's policy is a declaration of intent as to its desire to continue to secretly develop nuclear capabilities. Israel sees this step as a threat, and it must not go by without response. We will never allow Iran to control the capability to acquire a nuclear weapon."  (Israel Ministry of Foreign Affairs)
  • Israel to Give Surplus Vaccine Doses to Palestinian Authority, 19 Countries
    Israel is set to give nearly 100,000 doses of the Moderna coronavirus vaccine it had purchased to 19 countries, including Cyprus, Greece, Italy, Egypt, Spain, Hungary, Chad, the Czech Republic, Guatemala, Honduras, Mauritania, the Maldives, Ethiopia, Kenya, Uganda, and Guinea, it was reported Tuesday. In addition, Israel would provide thousands of doses for medical staff in the Palestinian Authority. (Times of Israel-Globes)
Global Commentary and Think-Tank Analysis:
  • U.S. Should Not Provide Sanctions Relief for Terrorism - Matthew Zweig, Alireza Nader, and Richard Goldberg
    As the U.S. looks to rejoin the 2015 Iran nuclear agreement, Iran is likely to pressure the Biden administration to provide broad sanctions relief, including to entities targeted since 2015 for financing terrorism. Undermining the global terrorism sanctions regime is not a price the U.S. should be willing to pay. Iran has been designated as a state sponsor of terrorism since 1984 and is currently labeled by the State Department as "the world's worst state sponsor of terrorism" for its financial and material support to terrorist organizations responsible for the deaths of thousands of Americans.
        A 2018 article co-authored by former Obama administration senior official Dennis Ross argued: "The sanctions relief provided under the JCPOA should not be interpreted as a blanket immunity for Iranian officials, banks and other government instrumentalities to expand their illicit activities. If such a person or entity is found to be connected to the Revolutionary Guard, terrorism, missile proliferation and human rights abuses, it most certainly can and should be subject to sanctions."
        Matthew Zweig and Alireza Nader are senior fellows at FDD, where Richard Goldberg is a senior advisor. (Foundation for Defense of Democracies)
  • KKL-JNF Has the Right to Purchase Land in Area C of West Bank - Editorial
    A new plan by Keren Kayemeth LeIsrael-Jewish National Fund (KKL-JNF) to buy land in Judea and Samaria has sparked controversy. We respectfully disagree with the critics. KKL-JNF has the right to approve the purchase of private Palestinian land in Area C, the part of the West Bank controlled by Israel. The focus of the plan is on land within the boundaries of or adjacent to existing communities and not on new land.
        The KKL-JNF plan is in line with existing Israeli policy, which is not aimed at establishing new facts on the ground, but rather at expanding and developing existing Jewish communities. Israel cannot prevent existing communities from meeting the needs of their growing populations. This was once termed "natural growth," and has been largely accepted by the international community, including the U.S., as legitimate and not in violation of the status quo. (Jerusalem Post)
  • Will a Palestinian Election Matter? - Jonathan S. Tobin
    Fatah and Hamas have set the dates for the first Palestinian elections in 15 years, with a legislative election in May and a presidential vote in July. Many Americans once held high hopes for the idea of spreading democracy across the Middle East. But as the U.S. intervention in Iraq demonstrated, it was a mistake to think you could parachute into a country where the rule of law had not previously existed - or had any experience of representative government - and produce anything remotely resembling democracy. Elections in the absence of a democratic political culture are meaningless.
        Approximately half of the Palestinian electorate still believes that the right policy for their leaders is armed conflict against Israel. As long as Palestinians remain mired in a political culture that prizes the shedding of Jewish blood over good government, democracy will actually make peace even less likely. (JNS)
  • PA and Hamas Silent on Plight of Palestinians in Syria - Khaled Abu Toameh
    Since the beginning of the civil war in Syria in 2011, 4,048 Palestinians have died. Another 333 have gone missing, while 1,797 are being held in Assad's prisons. 40% of Palestinians in Syria have been displaced since the beginning of the civil war, and 91% live in poverty. Like most Arab countries, Syria denies citizenship to Palestinians. According to a January 2020 report published by the Action Group for Palestinians of Syria (AGPS), at least 620 Palestinians have been tortured to death at Syrian detention centers. But Palestinian leaders in the West Bank and Gaza hardly seem to notice.
        Palestinian leaders see no evil or wrong-doing when their people are killed, injured, displaced, arrested and tortured in an Arab country. Their attention is solely focused on Israel, which they denounce day and night. "Pro-Palestinian" groups around the world also remain silent about the catastrophic human rights violations of Palestinians in Syria. (Gatestone Institute)
  • It's Time for Black People to Reclaim the Term "Apartheid" - Klaas Mokgomole
    As a young black South African, I am reminded that our parents and grandparents were compelled to live under the viciously discriminatory system of apartheid. Precisely because we South Africans know intimately what apartheid involved, we have a duty to question whether it is an appropriate term to be used in the context of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict.
        Apartheid was about race, not religion or nationality, the domination by one race over another. By contrast, Arab citizens of Israel enjoy the same rights and freedoms as Jewish Israelis. Comparisons between the territories controlled by the Palestinian Authority (PA) and the bantustans in apartheid South Africa are absurd. As foreign governments refused to recognize them, economic aid was withheld, while the PA has received billions of dollars in aid from international governments. It already looks after a range of functions in Palestinian society, including policing functions and healthcare.
        Unlike black people in apartheid South Africa, Arabs in Israel are entitled to vote in national elections and elect their own representatives. They currently have the third-largest party in the Israeli Knesset. In Israel, Arabs are found in the highest ranks of political, civil and even military life. Arabs in Israel enjoy more freedom than those living in the rest of the Middle East.
        Those who apply the term "apartheid" to the Israeli-Palestinian impasse are guilty of cultural appropriation by denying the uniqueness of the racism and hatred that we faced and overcame with much blood and tears. The writer is the coordinator of Africans for Peace. (Eyewitness News-South Africa)

  • Anti-Semitism

  • BDS Is Anti-Semitic - Julia Leb
    I rarely ever feel comfortable talking about Israel in a university setting, despite the fact that the land of Israel is such a dearly held part of my Jewish identity. I have always found it interesting that sweeping dismissals of this part of my Jewish identity, the part that is tied to Israel, are so very welcomed in certain academic and progressive circles. In these groups, it feels like everyone else has the right to defend their cultural, ethnic and religious identities except for the Jew.
        On Feb. 9, 2021, the student government at the University of California, Irvine voted 19-3 to pass a Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions (BDS) resolution. BDS stands for the boycott of, divestment from and sanctions on the current Jewish state of Israel. The BDS movement will not be satisfied until there is no Jewish state existing within the land of Israel.
        From a principled perspective, the notion of divesting from one nation in the name of helping an entirely separate nation strikes me as odd. Why divest from Israel to help under-resourced Palestinians? Why not invest directly in Palestinian aid or grassroots movements?
        It is a lack of satisfactory answers to these questions that leaves me and many other Jewish people feeling like these movements are more about opposing Jewish self-determination than they are about supporting Palestinian liberation.
        Calling for the mass boycott of Israel is a way to publicly stand against the existence of a Jewish nation in a land that Jews are indigenous to. In doing so, the movement is denying a huge part of the Jewish identity from having an acceptable place in social life. If that is not anti-Semitism, what is? (Daily Trojan-University of Southern California)
  • Buddhist Anti-Semitism - Christopher L. Schilling
    It is unlikely that Buddhism's founder or his disciples even heard of the Jewish people. Nor does Buddhist scripture talk about Jews or Judaism. Yet anti-Semitism has occurred within the Buddhist religious context.
        Buddhism's reputation in the West as a religion of peace is an orientalist Western fantasy. Contemporary Buddhist monks in Burma and Sri Lanka frequently engage in nationalistic violence, especially against non-Buddhist minorities, and the history of Asia is filled with Buddhist rulers committing massacres.
        The World Values Survey found that 33% of Buddhist respondents rejected having a Jewish neighbor, compared to 20% of Protestants and 18% of Roman Catholics. Buddhists who give greater importance to their religion were found to be more anti-Semitic than secular Buddhists.
        Anti-Semitism became part of Buddhist Modernism in Japan. Zen master Hakuun Yasutani (1885-1973) was a virulent anti-Semite. He wrote in 1943: "It is, therefore, necessary to thoroughly defeat the propaganda and strategy of the Jews. That is to say, we must clearly point out the fallacy of their evil ideas advocating freedom and equality." Buddhist scholar Tanaka Chigaku (1861-1939) "argued that Jews were fomenting social unrest in order to rule the world."
        The given examples are not representative of Buddhism as a whole, just as the Crusaders do not represent all of Christianity. Yet this specific form of anti-Semitism should not remain unnoticed.
        The writer has held academic positions at universities in Japan, the UK, Germany, Mexico, the U.S., South Korea and Taiwan. (Jewish Political Studies Review)

Israel Braces for U.S. Revival of Iran Nuclear Deal - Brig.-Gen. (ret.) Michael Herzog (Washington Institute for Near East Policy)
  • On Jan. 26, Israel Defense Forces Chief of Staff Lt.-Gen. Aviv Kochavi publicly warned against returning to the 2015 nuclear deal with Iran. His remarks underscore the broad domestic Israeli consensus on three crucial points: that Tehran never abandoned its ambition to become nuclear-armed, that the 2015 nuclear deal (JCPOA) left pathways open for realizing this ambition, and that a nuclear Iran would pose a grave threat to Israel.
  • Citing historical precedent, Israelis argue that diplomacy and related incentives cannot block Tehran's path to a nuclear weapon unless they are constantly backed by robust disincentives and a demonstrated determination to follow through with them if needed. Israel's campaign against Iranian military entrenchment in Syria demonstrates that such assertiveness can push back against the regime's destabilizing activities abroad and at the same time deter it from escalating in response.
  • However, Israel is skeptical that the U.S. will significantly increase the pressure if Tehran comes back into compliance with the JCPOA but refuses to move toward an enhanced deal.
  • While Jerusalem is not rushing toward a public spat with the Biden administration over Iran policy, it is preparing for dialogue. Israeli officials believe that once they lay out their full findings from the captured Iranian nuclear archive, they will be able to make an impact on U.S. policy.
  • In Israel's view, Iran cannot be permitted to acquire the capacity to come within short reach of the nuclear threshold, whereas the U.S. redline tends to be Tehran actually crossing that threshold and rushing toward a weapon.
  • According to updated Israeli intelligence estimates, Iran's breakout time to produce enough weapons-grade fissile material for one bomb has shrunk to four months, and it would need 21-24 months for weaponization.
  • The U.S. would do well to keep in mind that critical Israeli national security interests are at stake, and Israel's government is determined to protect them. The best approach for both governments is to enter a comprehensive, continuous, and discreet discussion that focuses on constructive ideas and shies away from public posturing.

    The writer, a fellow of the Washington Institute, served as head of the IDF Strategic Planning Division and chief of staff to the minister of defense.
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