January 21, 2021

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01/08 Links Pt1: Terrorism is terrorism; ACLU Falsely Claims That Anti-Boycott Legislation Limits Free Speech; Israel nabs Givat Assaf terrorist after month-long manhunt


From Ian:

Jpost Editorial: Terrorism is terrorism
The Shin Bet (Israel Security Agency) on Sunday revealed details of a serious case of suspected terrorism. Three Jewish minors are being investigated as suspects in the death of Aysha Rabi, a Palestinian woman and mother of nine, who was hit in the head by rocks when the car she was driving was pelted near the Tapuah Junction in the West Bank.

The agency’s statement said that the minors studied at Pri Haaretz Yeshiva in Rehalim, near where the incident occurred, adding that on the day after the Friday incident, a group of Yitzhar residents drove to Rehalim – despite being Shabbat observant – to instruct the youths on how to handle the Shin Bet questioning.

Further details revealed a video of the burning of an Israeli flag, a placard bearing the inscription “death to Zionists” and a swastika on an Israeli flag which, according to the Shin Bet, were connected to some of the suspects. These were obviously presented to indicate that the youths oppose the state out of extremist religious ideology.

The families of the detainees have complained that the rights of their children are being brutally infringed upon and that the youths are being held and interrogated in harsh conditions. Itamar Ben-Gvir, a lawyer for one of the suspects and well known for his support of far-right causes, complained that the youths had not had initial access to legal representation and had been traumatized by their treatment at the hands of the Shin Bet.

The Shin Bet statement said the interrogations have been carried out in accordance with proper procedure, supervised by the state prosecution and with court oversight.

“Since the arrests, the Shin Bet has identified a continuous and active effort from interested parties to slander the organization and its agents and to delegitimize its activities,” the agency said.

“This attempt should be condemned and should not be assisted, and nothing should be done to weaken the Shin Bet from continuing its efforts to thwart terror in any form – Jewish or Palestinian. All of this is based on the values of the state and for the sake of national security.”

Here lies the rub. Terrorism is terrorism. The state cannot treat cases of suspected Jewish terrorism any less seriously than similar incidents of Palestinian terrorism. Every effort must be made to find those responsible for the death of Rabi, no matter what age or religion they are.

David Singer: United States and Israel Quit over UNESCO’s Love Affair with “Palestine”

UNESCO’s admission of “Palestine” to membership breached Article II (2) of UNESCO’s Constitution which only allows States to be admitted to UNESCO. “Palestine” was not a state under the criteria laid down under international law by the 1933 Montevideo Convention.

107 states voted to admit “Palestine” whilst the remaining 86 voted “No”, “abstained” or “did not vote”.

UNESCO’s legally questionable decision was never referred by UNESCO to the International Court of Justice or an arbitral tribunal for confirmation under Article XIV (2)of UNESCO’s Constitution.
Given what has transpired – such failure was a monumental misjudgement.

President Trump’s National Security Adviser – John Bolton – recently exposed the fiction that there is a legally-constituted entity called “Palestine”:
‘[Palestine] is not a state… It does not meet the customary international law test of statehood. It doesn’t control defined boundaries. It doesn’t fulfil the normal functions of government…calling it the so-called “State of Palestine” defines exactly what it has been — a position that the United States government has pursued uniformly since 1988 when the ‘Palestinian’ Authority declared itself to be the state of “Palestine”. We don’t recognize it as the state of “Palestine”. We have consistently across Democratic and Republican administrations opposed the admission of ‘Palestine’ to the United Nations as a state, because it’s not a state.’

Australia’s Head of Mission – Ms Gita Kamath – gave Australia’s reasons for its negative vote on admitting “Palestine” at the time of the 2011 UNESCO vote:
“Our decision to vote against reflects Australia’s strong concern that consideration of Palestinian membership in UNESCO is premature. The matter of Palestinian membership of the UN has recently been placed before the UN Security Council for its consideration. We should allow the United Nations Security Council process to run its course rather than seek first to address this question in different UN fora. Our decision also reflects our concerns with the possible implications of a successful vote on UNESCO funding.”

The Security Council course is still being run in 2019 with the finishing line nowhere in sight and UNESCO’s funding in tatters.

UNESCO’s credibility, integrity and self-created fantasy dream world has imploded.

UNESCO’s seven-year love affair with a non-existent “Palestine” has produced an international humanitarian crisis.

Anti-BDS Bill Battles up Senate Hill

The anti-BDS legislation may also be tricky for an entirely different reason. Although it’s rare for Democrats to endorse the boycott movement, laws seeking to deny government contracts to entities that boycott Israel have been accused of infringing on the right to free speech.

At the same time, it is also clear that BDS has won the approval of increasingly powerful mainstream left-wing activist constituencies, including the Democratic Socialists of America. When the bill first advanced out of the Senate Appropriations Committee in June of 2016, nine members voted against it, all of them Democrats. Depending on who you ask, including the anti-BDS bill as part of a larger legislative package saved Democratic senators, several of whom are likely to run for president in 2020, from taking a politically embarrassing vote for or against an anti-BDS measure that is clearly controversial within the party.

Cardin and other Democrats are locked in a shutdown battle with Congressional Republicans and Donald Trump’s White House in which they need as much leverage as possible, which means that conditioning all legislation on an end to the standoff could turn out to be a canny political move. Meanwhile, the optics of moving forward on even a bipartisan bill that’s primarily helpful to foreign states are undeniably tricky with the government still closed. Still, Republicans believe that Democrats are using the shutdown as an excuse not to address the very real political dilemmas that anti-BDS measures currently raise for them.

“A significant number of Democrats don’t want to vote against BDS,” a senior GOP source involved in negotiations over the bill claimed, asserting that if legislation doesn’t move forward when the government reopens, it will be clear which side is winning in the debate about Israel among Democrats.

Ben Shapiro: Democrats Say They’re Stopping A Pro-Israel Bill So They Can Reopen The Government. They’re Doing It Because Democrats Have Soured On Israel And Warmed To Anti-Semitism.

On Monday, Senator Chuck Schumer (D-NY) threatened to cut off security assistance to Israel under Senate Bill 1 unless Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell begins to push the budget bills necessary for a government re-opening. The bill itself allows state and local governments to stop doing business with companies that boycott Israel, in much the same way state and local governments have authority to stop doing business with companies that engage in racial discrimination. While some have expressed free speech concerns with the bill, suggesting that companies that boycott Israel are merely expressing their First Amendment rights, the bill itself raises few First Amendment concerns – or at least, it raises concerns only insofar as government anti-discrimination policies with regard to contractors raise First Amendment concerns more generally.

The real rationale behind Schumer’s block-and-tackling has to do with the Democratic Party’s newfound warmth toward anti-Semitism. Boycott, divestment, and sanctions of Israel is textbook anti-Semitism – it singles out Israel for treatment no other nation undergoes, it has little or nothing to do with Israeli “settlement” policy, and it is largely pushed by people who would love to see Israel disappear. Among those people: new Democratic star Reps. Rashida Tlaib (D-MI) and Ilhan Omar (D-MN), as well as Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez (D-NY), who refuses to answer regarding her personal position on BDS but supports others who support BDS.

Senator Marco Rubio (R-FL) tweeted this today:

How do you know Rubio is right? Check out Tlaib’s anti-Semitic canard suggesting that those who support the bill are guilty of dual loyalty to Israel:

It’s also fascinating that Senator Bernie Sanders (I-VT), who has questioned whether outspoken Christians can serve in government, suddenly has drawn the line with regard to Israel and free speech:

ACLU Falsely Claims That Anti-Boycott Legislation Limits Free Speech

The American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU), one time the nation’s premier civil rights organization, has falsely characterized legislation that would penalize companies that boycott Israel as limiting free speech.

A letter posted at the organization’s website claimed that the bipartisan legislation, which supports state laws barring contracts with businesses that boycott Israel, “flies in the face of the First Amendment’s guarantee that the state should impose no law infringing on the right to speak freely and to associate with those of like mind.”

Sen. Marco Rubio (R – Fla.), the main sponsor of the bill, defended his bill on Twitter, explaining, “My bill doesn’t punish any political activity. It protects the right of local & state govts that decide to no longer do business with those who boycott #Israel. So boycotting #Israel is a constitutional right,but boycotting those participating in #BDS isn’t?”

In July 2017, legal expert Eugene Kontrovich explained that the proposed legislation was nothing more than an updating of existing legislation that prohibited American companies from participating in the Arab boycott of Israel. However, given the efforts of the United Nations Humans Rights Council to establish a blacklist of companies doing business in the West Bank, Kontorovich argued that the law needed updating.

“The old law already forbids ‘support’ for foreign state boycotts of Israel, and the many regulations enacted pursuant to the law already define ‘support’ to be limited to ‘certain specified actions’ that go well beyond merely ‘speech’ support,” Kontorovich wrote. “The new bill does not change or alter the meaning of ‘support.’ It simply clarifies the list of foreign boycotts covered by the law.”

Congressional Democrats Support Discrimination Against Jews?

Why is antisemitism on the rise in the Democratic Party? Anti-semitism is on an exponential slope in the Democratic Party. This is due solely to the fact that Democrats have categorized Jews as white, imperialist oppressors of dark-skinned, impoverished Palestinians. To maintain this position, Democrats have engaged in a campaign to rewrite history. Jews, who walked with Martin Luther King, Jr., were deeply involved in the equality movement in the U.S., who were prohibited from using white establishments (think back to the 1950s signs “No N*****, No Jews, No dogs”) and who were slaughtered by the millions just 70 years ago, are now being rewritten by the Democrats as white supremacists. Israeli Jews, who wanted nothing but to live in peace and be left alone, who gave up land for peace, are being rewritten by Democrats as war-hungry. The Palestinians, on the other hand, have rejected every peace offer and have engaged in continuous terrorism, and are now being recast by the Democrats as peace-loving victims.

Moreover, Democrats have been embracing Palestinian-allegiance politicians as their own. Rashida Tlaib, America’s first Palestinian Muslim Congresswoman, who cloaked herself in a Palestinian flag to celebrate her U.S. election night victory over no-one (she ran unopposed), stated that she supports a one-state solution to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict that would eradicate Israel and replace it with an Islamic totalitarian state for the Palestinians. She cemented herself as a champion for Palestinians as the first course of business in Congress with a post-it note on her office map with the word “Palestine,” and an arrow pointed towards Israel. Tlaib also supports the Great Return March, a Hamas-run terror movement to kill Jewsand overtake Israel. Unsurprisingly, she also supports BDS.

As of now, Democrats oppose discrimination against everyone other than Jews. The ACLU, for example, an opponent of discrimination against the disabled, women, blacks, immigrants, Muslims, LGBT, etc., has hypocritically supported the discrimination of Jews. In a fascinating act of double-dealing, the ACLU proposed that while businesses cannot discriminate against LGBT community, those same businesses can discriminate against the Jewish-Israeli community, attacking the former as discrimination while defending the later as political speech. “Refusing to do business with people or companies just because of their nationality is not political speech,” responded professor of law Eugene Kontorovich. “It is discrimination in business. Replace ‘Jews’ with ‘gays,’ and you’ll see how fake the constitutional objections to the BDS bill are,” Kontorovich asserted. An expert on constitutional and international law, Kontorovich has recently exposed the discriminatory policies of leftist company Airbnb, “which will operate anywhere and serve anyone—except Jews in the West Bank.”

The same Democrats who audaciously throw the word Nazi at conservatives who support Donald Trump, a President who unabashedly supports the Jewish country’s right to exist, feel entitled to discriminate against Jews to appease the Palestinian who terrorize Israelis with arson kites laden with swastikas and who are intent on raising a nation of radical Islamists.

When it comes to Jews and Israel, Democrats’ hearts don’t bleed; they seep venom.

NY Post Editorial: Rashida Tlaib Casually Dives into Anti-Semitism

American Jews have long been slandered with charges of dual loyalty for their support of Israel. Activists such as Linda Sarsour hurl it more and more often these days. It was used against opponents of the Iran nuclear deal and supporters of the war in Iraq.

Yet it’s particularly ironic for Tlaib to make the charge, since she has vowed to “be a voice” for her relatives in the West Bank and declared that her “passion for justice is rooted in my beautiful Palestine.”

Is she just trying to top the ruckus she’d already raised by publicly taunting President Trump with a vow to “impeach the motherf - - - - r”?

Objectionable as that remark was, it didn’t venture beyond the uncouth and obscene. Her latest tirade is a far broader and lower smear, which also puts the lie to her claim that she merely opposes Israel.

So far, other Democrats have remained silent on Tlaib’s disgraceful canard. The party’s depressing drift of recent years makes that no real surprise. But it still makes them abetters, enablers — and equally guilty.

Brazil Finds More than a Friend in Israel

The friendly relationship between Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and Brazil’s new president, Jair Bolsonaro, made headlines at the end of 2018. This “budding brotherhood,” as they’ve called it, started when Bolsonaro, then the president-elect, announced plans to move Brazil’s embassy in Israel from Tel Aviv to Jerusalem. Though he has since revised that promise, relations between the two countries continue to flourish. Netanyahu even attended Bolsonaro’s inauguration Jan. 1, becoming the first sitting Israeli prime minister to visit Brazil. More than a bromance, the close ties between the two leaders are a testament to their countries’ foreign policy strategies.

Back to Normal
Alignment with Israel, while often framed as a new development, is a return to form for Brazil. In the late 1940s, Brazil supported the creation of an Israeli state and was among the first countries to recognize the Israeli government. Ties between the two grew closer during Brazil’s military dictatorship, from 1964 to 1985, as they cooperated in areas such as security and nuclear energy. The relationship continued through the 1990s; in fact, Brazilian President Fernando Henrique Cardoso received several awards from Israel, including an honorary doctorate from the Hebrew University of Jerusalem, while in office. It was only when Luiz Inacio Lula da Silva took power in Brasilia in 2003 that Brazil-Israel relations became strained. Diverging from Cardoso’s neoliberal economic policies, da Silva espoused more direct government control of the economy and ushered in a populist era of government in Brazil.

Changes in foreign policy accompanied the economic shifts: Brasilia turned against the United States – and, by extension, against Israel. Brazil formally recognized the Palestinian state, according to the 1967 border, in 2010. Even then, its relationship with Israel persisted. In 2010, Brazil also ratified the free trade agreement that the Common Market of the South, a regional trade bloc better known as Mercosur, had struck with Israel three years earlier. And despite its decision to recognize Palestine, Brazil never upgraded its diplomatic mission there to embassy status. The moves didn’t exactly please Israel, but neither did they derail its relations with Brazil.

Toward coexistence: Senior Islamic figures visit Samaria

Senior Islamic figures from Egypt, Iraq and Syria have visited Samaria in recent weeks, some in secrecy.

Among the visitors were Egyptian Sheikh Dr. Omar Salem and Prof. Ra’ad Salem Na’aman from Iraq. Sheikh Salem met with the head of the Samaria Regional Council Yossi Dagan, visited the Barkan industrial zone and was exposed to examples of coexistence in the area and at other sites in Samaria.

Sheikh Salem said in his meeting with Dagan that “we want you here, in this region, in the Middle East. We feel that you are fulfilling the prophecy so that we will all live together as brothers and friends. The Torah and the Koran are amazing books. Both are from Allah and both call to act in the world according to good values. This is what we want and we want our leaders to have the same good values ​​that exist in our books.”

“Get rid of Oslo, get rid of the secular ways of life, because they will not create peace here. This land is sacred. It means that there are values ​​that should be respected here. Western values ​​may be good, but they are not good here. We have to live according to our values ​​fro, the books of the Torah and the Qur’an, and, G-d willing, if we do so we can live together.

“The Palestinians will be happy, they will have respect, and the Jews will have security on this land, because once the Jews have security and the Palestinians have dignity, we will no longer have problems. All the borders will be open and the entire Middle East will be one and we will become a good model for humanity,” Sheikh Salem added.

Samaria Regional Council head Yossi Dagan told him: “I am very happy that you came here, I respect you, I heard a lot about you too, we are the sons of Abraham. The problem is in the context we discussed earlier, that all the processes that happen here today are conducted by those people who do not believe. And a believer does not have to be the person with the biggest skullcap.”

Controversy Erupts in Iraq Over Reported Secret Dignitary Visits to Israel

The revelation that three groups of Iraqi dignitaries traveled in secret to Israel last year has sparked controversy in their home country.

The trips were first reported on, by the Israeli news channel Hadashot, on Sunday.

The visitors were said to be “influential Shiite and Sunni personalities” who met with Israeli officials and academics, and visited the Yad Vashem Holocaust memorial in Jerusalem.

According to Arab News, the first deputy speaker of the Iraqi parliament, Hassan Karim Al-Kaabi, has demanded “an investigation … to identify those who went to the occupied territory, particularly if they are lawmakers.”

“To go to the occupied territory is a red line and an extremely sensitive issue for all Muslims,” he was quoted as saying.

Iraq has technically been in a state of war with Israel since the Jewish state’s founding in 1948.

Israel nabs suspected Givat Assaf terrorist after nearly month-long manhunt

Israeli security forces early on Tuesday arrested a Palestinian man suspected of carrying out a deadly terror attack in the central West Bank last month, ending a weeks-long manhunt.

Asem Barghouti is believed to have opened fire at a bus stop outside the Givat Assaf outpost near Ramallah on December 13, killing two soldiers stationed there and seriously injuring a third serviceman and a civilian woman.

Barghouti fled the scene after the attack, evading Israeli troops for almost a month before his capture in the village of Abu Shukheidim in the predawn hours of Tuesday morning, the Shin Bet security service said.

He was taken into custody “without a shot being fired,” police said.

According to the Shin Bet, Barghouti also took part in another shooting attack on December 9 with his brother, Salih, in which they injured seven Israelis, among them a seven-months pregnant woman, who was seriously wounded. The woman’s baby was delivered in an emergency operation, but died days later.

Salih Barghouti was shot dead on December 12 in Kobar as he attacked Israeli security forces in an attempt to evade arrest, the army said.

The Shin Bet said Asem Barghouti was “busy preparing to carry out additional terror attacks in recent days.”

PMW: Another baby murderer to receive fat salary from the PA

Assem Barghouti suspected of participating in the murder of 4 day old Amiad Ish-Ran and IDF soldiers Staff Sergeant Yuval Mor Yosef and Sergeant Yosef Cohen, and the injury of numerous others, was arrested this morning.

According to Palestinian Authority law and regulations, since he was arrested by Israel for his “participation in the struggle against the occupation”, Barghouti is entitled to a monthly salary from the PA of 6,000 shekels. According to PA law, his salary will increase over time to 12,000 shekels per month.

Barghouti’s starting salary is higher than most other terrorist prisoners, since he has already spent 11 years in prison for past involvement in terrorism. During his first term in prison, Barghouti received an estimated cumulative sum of 447,000 shekels.

Additionally, according the PA law and regulations, upon his release, Barghouti was also entitled to a $6,000 one-time release grant and a guaranteed salary paid by the PA even if he did not work.

Assem Barghouti is not the only baby killer that receives a monthly salary from the PA. Other recipients include, Amjad and Hakim Awad who murdered the five members of the Fogel Family, parents and their three children, including 3 month old Hadas, and four year old Eldad in March 2011 and have already cumulatively received 460,800 shekels ($132,895); Abdullah Barghouti who built six bombs used by suicide terrorists including the bomb that exploded in the Sbarro pizza shop in August 2001 murdering 15 people, among them two year-old Hemda Schijveschuurder, and who has already received 695,200 shekels ($200,496); and Majdi Za’atri who planned the August 2003 Jerusalem bus bombing, in which 23 people were murdered, including one year-olds Shmuel Zargari and Shmuel Taubenfeld, who has already received 661,800 shekels ($190,863).

Hebrew U professor to give talk on Israel using Palestinian kids as ‘arms laboratories’

Another Hebrew University professor is under fire for her upcoming speech at a lecture later this month in Amsterdam titled “Technologies of Violence at the Damascus Gate.”

Prof. Nadera Shalhoub-Kevorkian is the Lawrence D. Biele Chair in Law at the Faculty of Law-Institute of Criminology and the School of Social Work and Public Welfare at the Hebrew University of Jerusalem.

According to the event description, Shalhoub-Kevorkian will share letters written by east Jerusalem children about the impact of Israel’s security policy against Palestinians in the city.

“Through their letters she will reveal how surveying, imprisoning, torturing and killing can be used as a laboratory for states, arms companies, and security agencies to market their technologies as ‘combat proven,’” read the event description for the conference which will be held on January 22.

“Through the children’s own voices she will highlight the rights of Palestinian children to safety and security and how Israel’s ‘security’ industry uses their life and bodies to sell power/knowledge,” the description continued, adding that “the marking of children’s bodies and lives casts them as disposable others, whose bodies are used to transfer knowledge and to market technologies of violence.”

Hebrew University told The Jerusalem Post that the university didn’t fund the professor’s trip to Amsterdam nor was it involved in her decision to speak there, noting that she “accepted an invitation to speak at the conference on her own time and on her own dime.”

Matan Peleg, CEO of Im Tirtzu called the lecture a “disgrace.”

Khaled Abu Toameh: Why did Abbas pull his men out of the Rafah border crossing?

The Palestinian Authority’s decision to withdraw its employees from the Rafah border crossing between the Gaza Strip and Egypt is aimed at punishing Hamas for its security crackdown on Fatah members. But the decision, which was announced on Sunday night, is also designed to send a message to Egypt and Qatar – the only Arab countries that continue to be directly involved with the Palestinians – that the PA is unhappy with their dealings with Hamas.

The announcement came less than 48 hours after Abbas met in Cairo with Egyptian President Abdel Fattah al-Sisi. Abbas, according to Palestinian sources in Ramallah, has not been happy with Egypt’s recent decision to keep the Rafah terminal open on a permanent basis. He fears that the move will embolden Hamas and allow them to tighten their grip on the Strip.

Abbas, the sources said, has also expressed dissatisfaction with the apparent rapprochement between Egypt and Hamas. During his visit to Cairo, Abbas is said to have complained to Sisi that the Egyptian intelligence officials, who visit the Gaza Strip almost on a regular basis have developed friendly ties with Hamas leaders there.

It’s not clear whether Abbas notified Sisi of his decision to pull the PA employees out of the Rafah terminal. The pullout, nonetheless, is a severe blow to Egyptian efforts to end the Hamas-Fatah rift. The PA employees who were stationed at the border crossing were there in accordance with an Egyptian-sponsored reconciliation deal that was signed in Cairo in October 2017.

Avi Issacharoff: When Hamas and Fatah fight, the ricochets are likely to end up hitting Israel

That could just be a move intended to pressure Hamas or signal to the Egyptian that there’s an emergency, but it seems that the fragile situation in Gaza is destabilizing again.

According to a report in the London-based Arabic-language daily Asharq Al-Awsat, PA President Mahmoud Abbas conveyed a clear message to the Egyptians during his recent visit to Cairo that he intends to take stronger measures against Gaza, including in the fields of health and education. That is essentially a threat to cut PA funds to the Strip, which could drag the already impoverished population there into an unprecedented crisis.

Crises and instances of deterioration in Hamas-Fatah relations have frequently led to an increase in tensions with Israel: more border protests, rocket fire and other incidents, such as the explosive device attached to balloons that was launched into Israel on Sunday and prompted the IDF to strike in Gaza in retaliation.

All that is added to the current delay in the transfer of Qatari aid money to the Strip — $15 million to pay Hamas staff’s salaries — resulting in a general feeling in Gaza that another round of violence is brewing.

The famous rule in the Palestinian arena hasn’t changed: When Fatah and Hamas have a brawl, Israel gets hit.

Egypt limits passage of Palestinians through Rafah after PA removes forces

Egypt blocked Palestinians from entering the country from Gaza on Tuesday after Palestinian Authority (PA) personnel pulled out of the Rafah border crossing and Hamas officers took their place.

The dispute over the border stems from a rift between the Western-backed PA and Hamas Islamists who took control of Gaza more than a decade ago in a brief civil war.

Human rights groups say Rafah has been the sole exit point from Gaza for an estimated 95 percent of its population of 2 million. Citing security concerns, Israel maintains tight restrictions on Palestinian movement at its border crossings.

PA employees were deployed to Gaza’s border crossings with Israel and Egypt in 2017, a move that largely opened up Rafah for two-way traffic, after Egyptian mediation led to a Palestinian reconciliation deal, which has since faltered.

On Sunday, the PA announced its pullout from Rafah, accusing Hamas of undermining its operations and detaining some of its workers. Since May, the crossing has been operating daily after sporadic openings for many years.

Zarif jeers at ‘blind’ Bolton visiting Western Wall; Bahraini FM fires back

The foreign ministers of Iran and Bahrain entered into a Twitter spat Monday over Israel, and American support for the Jewish state, with a top Israeli diplomat also chiming in.

The exchange began with Tehran’s Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif, who shared a photo of US National Security Adviser John Bolton during a Sunday visit to Jerusalem’s Western Wall. Bolton and his entourage were seen wearing goggles while attending a virtual reality experience of the site’s history.

“It’s said a picture says a thousand words,” Zarif said.

“This picture, however, says more than a thousand words about decades of failed US policies in our region. In the valley of the blind, even those with VR glasses are still blind.”

He received a prompt reply from Bahrain’s Foreign Minister Khalid bin Ahmed Al Khalifa, who has defended Israel on several recent occasions.

Al Khalifa tweeted a 2010 photo of then-Iranian president Mahmoud Ahmadinejad sporting goggles as he toured a site belonging to Iran’s Atomic Energy Organization.

Iran’s Quest for Nuclear Weapons Continues Apace

In December, Secretary of State Mike Pompeo announced that the Islamic Republic had tested a ballistic missile that could easily be equipped with a nuclear warhead. Last week, Pompeo warned Tehran to refrain from launching satellites with certain types of rockets since these use the same technology employed in ballistic missiles. Farzin Nadimi puts these remarks in context:

The [description of the missiles as given by Pompeo] in December match those of the Khoramshahr, a relatively new medium-range ballistic missile unveiled in September 2017 and test-fired on at least three occasions. . . . The Khoramshahr can reportedly carry a far heavier payload than would be required for a weapon whose purpose is pinpoint accuracy—its claimed 1,800-kilogram warhead would make it the largest in Iran’s arsenal. One possibility is that this extra capacity is designed to carry multiple warheads. . . . If Iran has in fact successfully tested such a capability for the first time, it would be an alarming milestone, since multiple warheads have a better chance of defeating missile defenses.

The Khoramshahr’s large payload would also make the job of mating it with a first-generation nuclear warhead relatively easy, at least in theory. One rule of thumb among experts is that any missile capable of carrying a 500–1,000-kilogram warhead can be mounted with a nuclear device. Khoramshahr reportedly offers twice that capacity—a troubling figure given the fact that miniaturizing a warhead is arguably one of the most daunting tasks in nuclear-weapons design.

[T]he international community should not forget that the [ballistic-missile] program remains a central pillar of Iran’s strategy for dominating the region. Although Tehran became less public about its missile advancements following the [2015] nuclear deal, there has been no substantive halt in the program’s progress. Most troubling, the latest test indicates that [Tehran] is moving forward with the Khoramshahr, a ballistic-missile design that may already have the capability of lifting a heavy payload to targets anywhere in the Middle East or southern Europe.

EU Puts Iran Intelligence Unit and Two Staff on Terrorism List, Freezes Assets

The European Union on Tuesday agreed to place a unit of the Iranian Intelligence Ministry and two of its staff on the EU terrorist list for planning assassinations in Europe, the Danish Foreign Ministry and EU diplomats said.

The decision, which freezes financial assets in the bloc belonging to the unit and the two individuals, comes after Denmark said last year it suspected an Iranian government intelligence service of carrying out an assassination plot on its soil.

France has said there was no doubt the Iranian Intelligence Ministry was behind a failed attack in Paris.

Iran has denied any involvement in the alleged plots, saying the accusations were intended to damage EU-Iran relations.

“EU just agreed to enact sanctions against an Iranian Intelligence Service for its assassination plots on European soil. Strong signal from the EU that we will not accept such behaviour in Europe,” Danish Foreign Minister Anders Samuelsen said on Twitter.

The decision was taken without debate at an unrelated meeting of Europe ministers in Brussels and the asset freeze comes into effect on Wednesday, EU officials said.

Netherlands accuses Iran of murdering 2 dissidents on Dutch soil

The Netherlands accused Iran Tuesday of involvement in the murder of two dissidents on Dutch soil, adding that the EU was hitting Tehran with sanctions partly as a result of the killings.

The Dutch secret service “has strong indications that Iran was involved in the assassinations of two Dutch nationals of Iranian origin in Almere 2015 and in The Hague in 2017,” Foreign Minister Stef Blok said in a letter to parliament.

“These individuals were opponents of the Iranian regime,” he said in the letter, also signed by Dutch Interior Minister Kajsa Ollongren.

“The Netherlands considers it probable that Iran had a hand in the preparation or commissioning of assassinations and attacks on EU territory,” the ministers said.

They added that the EU had on Tuesday “partly at the recommendation of the Netherlands” agreed to impose fresh sanctions on Iran.

Dutch police have previously named the two victims as Ali Motamed, 56, who was killed in the central city of Almere in 2015, and Ahmad Molla Nissi, 52, murdered in The Hague in 2017.

Last June, the Netherlands expelled two workers from the Iranian embassy in connection with the murders.

Erdogan Refusing to Meet Bolton in Ankara over ‘Dishonorable, Ugly, Vulgar and Defaming’ Comments

Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan on Tuesday refused to meet with US National Security Adviser John Bolton in Ankara, according to US officials.

Bolton came on a two-day visit in Turkey to discuss the withdrawal of 2,000 US troops from Syria. On Sunday, while in Israel, Bolton said he would seek assurances from Erdogan not to harm the Kurds the US would be leaving behind unprotected in Syria, which appears to have a condition of the withdrawal.

On Tuesday, Erdogan slammed Bolton for his recent claim that Turkey “targets Kurds” in Syria.

“It is impossible to accept the message given by Mr. Bolton in Israel,” Erdogan told members of his ruling Justice and Development [AK] Party’s parliamentary delegation.

“The claims that Turkey targets Kurds in Syria are dishonorable, ugly, vulgar and defaming,” Erdogan said.

Bolton was demoted to meeting with a Turkish delegation that did not include the president. National Security Council spokesman said the two sides had a “productive discussion.” The meeting took place at the Presidential Complex in Ankara and lasted around two hours.

Knicks’ Kanter to Miss London Game, Says He Fears Assassination for Criticizing Erdogan

New York Knicks center Enes Kanter says he will not go to London for a game with his NBA team because he fears he could be assassinated for criticizing Turkish President Tayyip Erdogan.

Kanter, who is Turkish, expressed his fear after the Knicks’ victory over the Los Angeles Lakers on Friday night. A video of his remarks was posted on Twitter.

The Knicks are scheduled to play the Washington Wizards in London on Jan. 17.

“There is a chance I could get killed out there,” Kanter, a longtime critic of Erdogan, told reporters.

“It’s pretty sad that all the stuff affects my career and basketball because I want to be out there and help my team win.”

A Knicks official later said that Kanter was not traveling to London because of a visa issue, the New York Times reported.

Tortured dissident who won £500,000 from Britain for its role in his rendition in 2004 is wanted ‘for terror attacks on oil terminals and an airbase’ in Libya

War-torn Libya has issued an arrest warrant for a dissident given £500,000 by the British government for its role in his rendition.

Adbel Hakim Belhaj is wanted over his alleged involvement in terror attacks on oil terminals and on an airbase in southern Libya.

Mr Belhaj, who leads the country’s pro-Islamist Watan Party, is the most prominent figure among dozens wanted by the attorney general’s office in Tripoli.

He denied the allegations against him, which centre on reports that Sudanese and Chadian mercenaries were paid to create chaos in Libya. And he claimed the warrant was ‘a plot by those in control of security in Tripoli to distance me from the political scene’.

Libya descended into civil war following the overthrow of Muammar Gaddafi in 2011 and its UN-backed government in Tripoli is struggling to exert authority.

Mr Belhaj, who was the leader of the Libyan Islamic Fighting Group, which was allied to al Qaeda and the Taliban, received an apology from Theresa May last year for Britain’s role in his rendition and that of his pregnant wife.

Egyptian Cleric: No Death Penalty for Muslim Who Kills Non-Muslim; Blood of Muslims More Important

During a January 7, 2017 address at the Al-Khulafa Al-Rashideen Mosque in Sixth of October City near Cairo, Egyptian cleric Samir Hashish referred to a hadith in Sahih Al-Bukhari that says that Muslims should not be put to death for killing infidels, and he said that some people use this hadith to justify killing non-Muslims. He explained that this is a distortion of the hadith, which actually only means that the death penalty may not be applied in such cases, while other punishments should still be applied. He added that Muslims are not put to death for killing infidels because their blood is worth more. The video was recently posted online.

PreOccupiedTerritory: Video Of Iran Gays Dancing On Rooftops Before Being Thrown Off Sparks Outrage (satire)

Conservatives in the Islamic Republic railed against the irreverence that a number of homosexuals displayed before their executions this week, following the dissemination of a video recording that captured the condemned men dancing on top of the buildings from which they were pushed to their deaths in punishment for their sexuality.

Iranian conservatives in print and broadcast media pounced on the short clip, declaring it an illustrative example of the lack of seriousness that makes them oppose homosexuality on pain of death.

“Light-hearted dancing before one’s execution has no place in Islamic law, and no place in the Islamic Republic,” railed Ayatollah Ayminda Klazzet on his weekly program on official state TV. “This video evidence shows clearly why we must defeat the forces of immorality by whatever means necessary.”

Sheikh Jamitinmi Anali made a similar point in his newspaper column in regime mouthpiece Al Butseksfeend on Monday. “The depravity inherent in such behavior sheds a disturbing but indicative, and, we must conclude, a damning light on the social and political agenda of our society’s enemies,” he wrote. “Facing the serious challenges our country confronts requires a sober attitude.”

Authorities vowed to crack down on homosexuals who dance before being hurled to their deaths or hanged from construction cranes. “We will not tolerate such actions,” pronounced Basij paramilitary commander Attekit Azdipazakan. “Anyone who tries to dance in violation of the law and in contravention of Islamic sensibilities before we cast him off the upper stories of a building for immorality will find himself cast off the upper stories of a building for his immorality.”

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