Jerusalem Center for Public Affairs – Israel News Highlights for the Past Week
News Resources – North America, Europe, and Asia:
- U.S. Says Iranian Forces May Have Killed more than 1,000 Protesters – Carol Morello and Missy Ryan
Brian Hook, the U.S. special representative for Iran, said Thursday, “As the truth is trickling out of Iran, it appears the regime could have murdered over 1,000 Iranian citizens since the protests began,” including at least a dozen children, and that many thousands more have been wounded. Hook gave a harrowing description of the government crackdown, including the torture and rape of captured protesters.
“Now is the time for all nations to stand with the Iranian people, diplomatically isolate the regime and sanction those officials who are responsible for murdering innocent Iranians,” he said. (Washington Post)
- International Criminal Court: Palestinian Stipends to Attackers and Their Families Could Be a War Crime
A report by the International Criminal Court’s chief prosecutor includes a warning that Palestinian stipends to attackers and their families could constitute a war crime. The Palestinians have long sought redress with international bodies such as the ICC and President Mahmoud Abbas’ government appeared to have been caught off guard by the criticism, expressing “great concern” Thursday over the report. (AP-New York Times)
See also Text: Office of the ICC Prosecutor – Preliminary Examination Activities 2019
The Prosecutor’s Office has “received allegations that: (i) Palestinian security and intelligence services in the West Bank have committed the crime against humanity of torture and related acts against civilians held in detention centers under their control; and (ii) the PA have encouraged and provided financial incentives for the commission of violence through their provision of payments to the families of Palestinians who were involved, in particular, in carrying out attacks against Israeli citizens, and under the circumstances, the payment of such stipends may give rise to Rome Statute crimes.” (International Criminal Court)
- Canada Set to Deport Nazi Death Squad Member – Bernie M. Farber and Len Rudner
On Thursday, the Supreme Court of Canada declined to hear the appeal of Helmut Oberlander, 95, a former member of a Second World War mobile killing unit who has, since 2000, fought to retain his citizenship and to avoid deportation. Oberlander was a translator for an Einsatzgruppen unit; such units were responsible for the murder of more than 1.5 million Jews.
While Oberlander was not found to have been directly involved in the murders, without translators, who would have told the doomed Jews to follow the path to the clearing, remove their clothing, and stand naked at the edge of the pit before being shot? Though not charged with war crimes, Oberlander was found to have lied about his wartime activities in order to gain entry to Canada. (Toronto Star-Canada)
News Resources – Israel and the Mideast:
- IDF: Hizbullah Beefing Up Presence on Israel’s Lebanon Border
Hizbullah has beefed up its presence along Israel’s Lebanon border, IDF Col. Roy Levy, the Northern Border Brigade commander, said Thursday. He said Hizbullah’s main focus is to entrench itself along the border area and “plan to attack us.” Last December, the IDF uncovered a network of tunnels that Hizbullah built to infiltrate Israel and carrying out attacks. Hizbullah has taken over houses in Lebanese border villages to hide soldiers, ammunition, cameras and intelligence-gathering equipment.
Hizbullah positions are just a few hundred meters from Israeli residents. “Civilians, farmers, children drive here every day,” Levy said. “They have a lot of cameras, a lot of forces along the border, camouflaged,” he said. (Times of Israel)
- Israel Sending Team to Samoa to Help Battle Measles Outbreak
“Israel is sending an emergency medical team in coordination with the WHO to Samoa in response to the Samoan measles outbreak,” Israeli Ambassador Itzhak Gerberg tweeted Thursday. At least 63 people, mostly children, have died since the outbreak began in mid-October. Government and aid workers have spread out across the nation of 200,000 people to vaccinate as many as possible. (Times of Israel)
Global Commentary and Think-Tank Analysis:
- Hamas’ Use of Israeli Civilians and Remains of IDF Soldiers as Bargaining Chips Is a Clear Violation of Humanitarian Law – Amb. Alan Baker
For the last five years, the remains of two Israeli soldiers, Hadar Goldin and Oron Shaul, have been illegally held by Hamas, together with two Israeli civilians, Avera Mengistu and Hisham al-Sayed. Contrary to internationally accepted humanitarian norms, the repatriation of the soldiers’ remains, as well as the return of the civilians to their families in Israel, has been placed on the bargaining table.
All parties engaged in any aspect of settling a dispute are equally obligated to accept, comply with and implement the basic humanitarian obligations to unconditionally recover missing soldiers and civilians.
The obligation to handle human remains with dignity and to return them to their families is a basic, humanitarian, customary international norm and obligation that applies to all, in all circumstances. This obligation cannot and should not be used as a bargaining chip, and their repatriation cannot be conditioned on any prisoner-exchange deal.
On June 11, 2019, the UN Security Council unanimously approved Resolution 2474, calling upon parties to armed conflict to take all appropriate measures to actively search for persons reported missing, to enable the return of their remains and to account for persons reported missing. The resolution reaffirms the “importance of allowing families to know the fate and whereabouts of their missing relatives, consistent with applicable international humanitarian law, which is of crucial humanitarian importance.”
The use of missing soldiers and civilians as bargaining chips is a clear violation of accepted and obligatory norms of humanitarian law. It should not be conditioned or linked to negotiating issues with Hamas. All other issues may be negotiated and inter-linked, but not the return of our missing soldiers and civilians.
The writer, former legal adviser to Israel’s Foreign Ministry and Israeli ambassador to Canada, is director of the international law program at the Jerusalem Center for Public Affairs. (Jerusalem Post)
- Why Holy Land Christians Are Leaving Bethlehem – Matt London
Fox News host Pete Hegseth traveled to the Holy Land to investigate why Christians are leaving Bethlehem. American journalist Brian Schrager noted, “The Muslim population, the Christian population often clash. So it’s not uncommon to hear, shall we say, unkind sentiments expressed by one toward the other.” Hegseth said that his team set up multiple interviews with Christian business owners in Bethlehem, but all the meetings were canceled at the last minute.
Eugene Kontorovich of the Kohelet Policy Forum said that Christians fear reprisals from the Palestinian government under which they live. “It’s just like when journalists used to go to the Soviet Union and ask people in communist Russia, ‘Are you happy here under the communists?’ But in fact, we can see people vote with their feet and they overwhelmingly vote to leave.” Professor Mazin Qumsiyeh, a Palestinian Christian who teaches at Bethlehem University, said, “The Christian population has dramatically plummeted in Bethlehem to under 10% today.” (Fox News)
- Did the U.S. Withdrawal from the Nuclear Deal Cause Iran’s Increased Aggression? – Jake Novak
Britain, France, and Germany argue that Iran’s increased aggression is a direct result of the U.S. decision to pull out of the nuclear deal. Yet the idea that Iran’s mischief was somehow more manageable before the nuclear deal is more than a stretch. The deadly Syrian civil war that Iran has played a major role in for years by backing the regime of Bashar al-Assad began well before 2015. The Yemeni civil war, where Iran has backed the Houthi rebels, also began before the 2015 nuclear deal. Iran’s continued backing of terror groups like Hamas and Hizbullah and their continued attacks on Israeli civilian locations also long predates any nuclear deal with the West.
In fact, many experts believe the billions of dollars Iran was able to reclaim as part of the nuclear deal were used by the regime to advance their terrorist and other destabilizing efforts around the region. Then-Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff General Joseph Dunford told Congress in 2017 that’s what at least some of the money given to Iran was being used for. Indeed, this is a belief held by many Iranians themselves. A key rallying cry against Iranian money being used to fund paramilitary activities abroad has been heard frequently in the current Iranian protests. (CNBC)
- Iran’s Multi-Front War Against America and Its Allies – Seth J. Frantzman
Tehran’s answer to the U.S. “maximum pressure” campaign is a policy that seeks to evict the U.S. from the Middle East and stir up trouble for Washington worldwide. In the Persian Gulf, it twice struck at foreign oil tankers over the summer, shot down a high-tech U.S. drone in late June, and launched drone and cruise-missile attacks on key Saudi oil facilities in September. It is also seeking to use its terrorist proxies in Gaza to provoke Israel into a wider regional war.
In Afghanistan, the Islamic Republic now hopes to push the U.S. out by whatever means are necessary and fill the resulting power vacuum. In Iraq, it hopes its allies in parliament and among various Shiite militias will force the U.S. to withdraw; militia mortar and rocket attacks have hit U.S. bases in the country every month since May. In Syria, Iran-backed militias would like to grab the oil facilities that the U.S. is currently protecting. In Lebanon, Iran’s proxy Hizbullah wants control over the choice of the country’s next prime minister. (National Review)
- Iran’s Middle East Empire of Anarchy – David Rosenberg
It looked like the spread of Iranian influence across the Middle East was unstoppable. Now, the entire Iran-hegemony enterprise is at risk. Protests have been going on in Iraq and Lebanon for weeks, bringing their economies to a near standstill and forcing their Iran-approved prime ministers to step down.
Tehran doesn’t have the expertise or money to help its ailing allies fix their economies. It’s tempting to see the protests as a new Arab Spring, but what’s really happening should be called the Persian Autumn: the gradual collapse of Iranian aspirations. (Ha’aretz)
- Speaking the Truth about Jerusalem – Jason D. Greenblatt
No one with any credibility denies the attachment of Muslims and Christians to Jerusalem. Yet, shockingly, there are many who deny Judaism’s spiritual and historical ties to Jerusalem. For example, in 2016, UNESCO tried to pretend that over 3,000 years of the Jewish people’s ties to Jerusalem did not exist, when its executive board voted to refer to the Western Wall and Temple Mount only by their Muslim names. Some prominent Palestinians accused Israel of attempting to “Judaize” the city of Jerusalem, as if it was not a Jewish city for thousands of years. Such actions are thoroughly outrageous and deceitful.
Those countries who think that a solution to this extraordinarily complicated conflict can be resolved by making unrealistic demands of Israel, such as rejecting their claim to Jerusalem, by endlessly arguing legal positions about the conflict, by international conferences, or by UN resolutions, are tragically misleading Palestinians. When people mistakenly refer to the West Bank as the “Occupied Palestinian Territories,” when, in fact, the land is disputed, they stand in the way of a negotiation.
When countries do not make clear that the only realistic path to peace is through direct negotiations between the parties, they prolong the conflict. The time for speaking the truth, recognizing reality, and seeking to build a better future is now. The writer is a former assistant to the president and special representative for international negotiations. (CNN)
- A Call to Pull U.S. Troops Out of Turkey – Gen. (ret.) Charles Wald
Over the last several years, it has become increasingly apparent that Turkey has operated against U.S. interests in the Middle East and Eastern Mediterranean. It hindered American military operations against ISIS in Syria, set back progress in the Cypriot peace negotiations, and – despite repeated warnings – purchased and received Russia’s S-400 air defense system, which represents a grave threat to NATO and U.S. security.
It is time to re-evaluate America’s military dependence on Turkey. Begin by putting Ankara on notice that the U.S. will move its military assets from Turkey’s Incirlik Air Base. There is simply no longer a strategic necessity for maintaining a nuclear arsenal in Turkey as the U.S. has other nuclear forces available for deterring Russia.
The Greek press reported in March 2018 that former U.S. Assistant Secretary of State for European and Eurasian Affairs Wes Mitchell had discussed the possibility of relocating a “significant portion” of U.S. military assets from Incirlik to Greece during a visit to Athens. The writer, former deputy commander of U.S. European Command, is now a fellow at the Jewish Institute for National Security of America (JINSA). (Breaking Defense)
- France Faces a Surge of Anti-Semitic Attacks – Adam Sage
France announced the creation of a hate crimes police unit Wednesday after 107 graves at Westhoffen Jewish cemetery in Alsace were daubed with swastikas and anti-Semitic graffiti, the latest of several similar attacks in the region and in France as a whole. President Macron condemned the desecration of the 16th-century cemetery, saying, “Anti-Semitism is a crime and we will fight it in Westhoffen and everywhere else until our dead can sleep in peace.”
Over the past year swastikas have been painted on 96 Jewish graves in Quatzenheim cemetery and 37 in Herrlisheim cemetery. The number of anti-Semitic acts registered by French police was up 74% in 2018 compared with the previous year, a trend attributed by many observers in part to animosity towards Jews from within France’s Muslim community.
Some academics say Alsace is no more anti-Semitic than other French regions, but simply has more Jewish cemeteries. Others say it has a long history of anti-Semitism dating back to 1349, when about 2,000 Jews were burnt to death in Strasbourg. (The Times-UK)
- The Global Surge in Jew-Hatred Barely Registers in the West – Bari Weiss
Two years ago, Kobili Traore, 27, walked into the Paris apartment of kindergarten teacher Sarah Halimi, 65, where he beat and stabbed her. According to witnesses, he called her a dirty Jew, shouted, “Allahu akbar,” then threw her battered body out of her third-story apartment window. One would think that this would be an open-and-shut hate crime, but French prosecutors decided to drop murder charges against Traore because he had smoked cannabis.
If hatred of Jews can be justified as a misunderstanding or ignored as a mistake or played down as a slip of the tongue or waved away as “just anti-Zionism,” you can all but guarantee it will be. Even those who seek to uplift the marginalized can’t seem to find their voice when it comes to Jews facing anti-Semitism.
Jew-hatred is surging, yet Jewish victimhood does not command attention or inspire popular outrage. Unless Jews are murdered by neo-Nazis, the one group everyone of conscience recognizes as evil, Jews’ inconvenient murders, their beatings, their discrimination, the singling out of their state for demonization, will be explained away. (New York Times)
- Anti-Semitism Is a Unique Obsession – Melanie Phillips
Anti-Semitism is not a prejudice like any other. It has unique characteristics applied to no other group, people or cause. It’s an obsessional and unhinged narrative based entirely on lies; it accuses Jews of crimes of which they are not only innocent but the victims; it holds them to standards expected of no one else; it depicts them as a global conspiracy of unique malice and power. Anti-Zionism has exactly the same unique characteristics directed against the collective Jew in Israel.
Judaism is indivisibly composed of the people, the religion and the land. To attack the right of the people to the land is to attack Judaism itself. The onslaught on Zionism and Israel has therefore legitimized and encouraged anti-Semitism, with behavior of a malice and virulence directed at no other community.
In Britain there is a false equation of anti-Semitism with anti-Muslim abuse. But Jews suffer proportionately vastly more abuse and attacks than Muslims. Synagogues and Jewish schools have to be under guard and behind barbed wire, not mosques and madrassas.
People can’t stand the uniqueness of anti-Semitism because they can’t stand the uniqueness of the Jewish people. The refusal to acknowledge the uniqueness of Jew-hatred merely demonstrates precisely that Jew-hatred. The writer is a columnist for The Times (UK). (JNS-Israel Hayom)
- Israeli Medical Clown Visits Indian Hospital – Tabassum Barnagarwala
The sight of a foreigner dressed as a clown in Mumbai’s JJ Hospital is rare. As Israeli Nir Raz, 50, entered the pediatric ward, his fake puppy ears flapping, nose painted black and an animated smile lighting his face, he extracted laughter from each cot that he visited. Raz is a medical clown at Schneider Children’s Hospital in Petah Tikva in Israel. The clowns use entertainment, magic tricks, games and conversation to ease the fears of patients.
“In hospitals, patients find themselves in an unfamiliar environment. The hospital gown and long treatment can depress them and their families. I try to play with them, create characters out of diseases to make the treatment process easier,” Raz said. In Israel, one has to undergo a two-year course to become a medical clown, and today almost every hospital has a medical clown to handle stress and trauma. (Indian Express)
- Israeli Singers Form Bridge to Arab Countries – Danny Zaken
Israeli journalists attending the Regional Economic Conference in Bahrain in June were surprised to find local music stores selling CDs by Israeli artists such as Eyal Golan, Sarit Hadad and Moshe Peretz. Their music is described in Israel as Middle Eastern or Mediterranean, often accompanied by local instruments like the oud and the darbuka. Israeli Middle Eastern music has long been popular in Arab countries. Israel has a large population of Mizrahim, Jews from Arab lands, who immigrated in the 1950s and 1960s.
Our bond with our neighbors through music is natural, because we are the Jews of the Middle East, with our own rich culture,” said Yemen-born singer-songwriter Avihu Medina. “We never left the region, nor were we influenced by European culture. We have nothing to change about ourselves in order to integrate into the Middle East. We are an essential part of it.” (Al-Monitor)
- Dore Gold, president of the Jerusalem Center for Public Affairs, said that U.S. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo “did a great service for Israel and for truth by stating that Israeli settlements in the West Bank are not illegal.” Gold sent a letter to each of the 107 Congress members who expressed “strong disagreement” with the new policy, explaining why Pompeo’s decision was correct.
- “I thought it was very important to put on the table the issue of the improper application of the Fourth Geneva Convention in the case of Israel,” Gold said. What has bothered him, in particular, was that the idea that an occupying power cannot move its population into occupied territory came from the actions of Nazi Germany, which moved its Jewish population into places like Poland for purposes of extermination.
- “So somebody has the nerve to say that Israelis who have voluntarily moved into the West Bank are violating an international law that was based on a completely different situation?” he asked. “Comparing what Israel does in the West Bank to what Nazi Germany did in Poland to the Jews is something I find repulsive.” Gold said it was important to send the letters because “if you don’t say anything, it will continue.”
- Pnina Sharvit-Baruch of the Institute for National Security Studies said it is necessary to move away from the arguments over who is right or wrong, and instead “find a solution on how to move forward.” She said she fears that a future U.S. administration might return to the policy of saying settlements are illegal.
- “An argument can be made – and it is not baseless to say – that the settlements are not necessarily illegal,” she said. “The case of why Palestinians have a right to this territory is not a clear-cut question. Even if they have the right of determination, there is still no clear-cut legal answer as to what territory this right applies to because the Green Line of 1967 is not a border.”
- She said the main point is that the two sides previously agreed that the topic of settlements and borders is an issue that needs to be negotiated and that it is not supposed to be determined in court. By declaring the settlements a violation of international law, the Obama and Carter administrations were “very unhelpful” and “doing a disservice to any kind of peaceful settlement to the conflict
Speaking after a meeting with U.S. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo on Thursday in Portugal, Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu called for increased action against Iran.
“Iran’s aggression is growing, but its empire is tottering, and I say let’s make it totter even further.”
Secretary Pompeo said, “There are anti-Iran protests taking place in Baghdad, anti-Iran protests taking place in Beirut, and we all know what is going on in Iran itself. These are people that are seeking freedom and a reasonable way to live.”
Iran’s Ambassador to the UN Majid Takht-Ravanchi refuted European countries’ claims about Iran’s missile program in a letter to the UN on Wednesday.
“Iran is determined to resolutely continue its activities related to ballistic missiles and space launch vehicles,” he wrote.
The U.S. Navy guided missile destroyer Forrest Sherman seized “advanced missile components” of Iranian origin from a boat in the Arabian Sea on Nov. 25, U.S. officials said on Wednesday.
One official said the weapons were bound for Iran-aligned Houthi fighters in Yemen.
Israeli security forces arrested a number of Hamas activists from Birzeit University in the West Bank.
“It was found that [their activities] were focused on gathering intelligence data on targets [to attack] and to conduct sabotage operations, including producing explosive materials,” IDF spokesman Lt.-Col. Avichay Adraee said Wednesday.
He said the recent arrests proved “how Hamas is using Birzeit University for subversive purposes.”
The Czech Republic’s defense ministry has signed a deal to buy eight mobile MADR 3D radars from Israel for $125 million.
The MADR radars are the detection systems for the Iron Dome batteries that Israel uses to intercept rockets fired by Palestinian militants.
Israel has tens of trillions of proven natural gas reserves within its Exclusive Economic Zone and potentially tens of trillions more that could be discovered.
The discovery of gas fields in the eastern Mediterranean has given Israel new avenues to pursue foreign policy objectives: to create energy self-sufficiency, enhance regional stability within the Eastern Mediterranean region, and normalize relations between Israel and its Arab neighbors.
The formation of the Eastern Mediterranean Gas Forum (EMGF) with Israel, Egypt, Cyprus, Greece, Jordan, and the PA is creating the diplomatic space to facilitate a sustainable regional gas market, providing Israeli gas with export opportunities to its neighbors while increasing regional economic interdependence.
The EMGF, founded in January 2019 in Cairo, also provides increased credibility to pre-existing gas deals between Israel and Egypt and Israel and Jordan.
The writer is an analyst at Global Risk Insights.
A rocky spur of land jutting south from Jerusalem’s Old City conceals a subterranean labyrinth of natural caves, Canaanite water channels, Judean tunnels, and Roman quarries.
Israeli archaeologist Joe Uziel’s mission is to unearth a 2,000-year-old, 2,000-foot-long street that once conveyed pilgrims, merchants, and other visitors to the Jewish Temple.
Choked with debris during the fiery destruction of the city by Roman forces in 70CE, this monumental path disappeared from view.
Today, an army of engineers and construction workers, toiling 16 hours a day in two shifts, is boring a horizontal shaft under the spine of the ridge.
As they move forward, Uziel and his team laboriously dig out earth from the top of each newly exposed section to the bottom, retrieving pottery, coins, and other artifacts.
For Jews this is the City of David, the place where King David created the first Israelite capital.
Units from the IDF Commando Brigade, alongside several air force squadrons, took part in a large training exercise in Cyprus this week, the IDF said.
It was the IDF’s fourth exercise in Cyprus in the past three years. Cypriot troops also took part.
The exercise focused on fighting in “a new and unknown terrain that simulates combat in the northern arena,” the IDF said.
A new Tel Aviv University study finds that a starch-rich breakfast consumed early in the morning coupled with a small dinner could replace insulin injections and other diabetes medications for many diabetics.
Prof. Daniela Jakubowicz of TAU’s Faculty of Medicine explains, “We believe that through this regimen it will be possible for diabetics to significantly reduce or even stop the injections of insulin, and most of antidiabetic medications, to achieve excellent control of glucose levels.”
Aiming to solve severe agricultural challenges posed by the recent decline in honeybees, Israel’s Edete Precision Technologies for Agriculture has developed a unique pollen harvesting and mechanical pollination system which promises high-quality viable pollen.
Field trials in Israeli almond orchards substantially increased crop yields, Edete said on Tuesday.
Edete’s system mechanically collects and extracts pure pollen from flowers, which can then be stored for more than a year before applying it to trees using a robotic pollination system, dispersing optimal dosages of pollen on target flowers day and night.