September 20, 2020

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02/12 Links Pt1: Kontorovich: For the ACLU, Antipathy to Israel Trumps Antidiscrimination; Ben-Dror Yemini: The occupation didn’t kill Ori Ansbacher

From Ian:

Eugene Kontorovich (WSJ): For the ACLU, Antipathy to Israel Trumps Antidiscrimination
The ACLU has long argued that although private parties have the right to refuse to do business with people for ideological reasons, the government need not fund such conduct. “Taxpayer dollars must not fund discrimination” carried out by private parties, the ACLU states in its issue brief on government-funded discrimination. It has successfully pushed measures banning the federal government from contracting with companies that engage in certain boycotts. And it “strongly” supported legislation that would bar federal funds from being used by states in contracts with companies that engage in boycotts.

Identity politics is the key to understanding the ACLU’s apparent change of heart. The antiboycott laws the ACLU has defended are meant to protect gays and lesbians, an identity group they favor. The ACLU acknowledges that in many states it is “legal to fire or refuse to hire someone based on their sexual orientation,” but argues that companies that do so “must not be allowed to do so with taxpayer dollars.” It inexplicably ignores that the logic of those antiboycott laws applies equally to Israel.

The ACLU may think that refusing to do business with people because of their sexuality is immoral while refusing to do business with people connected with Israel is a blow for justice. That’s an intelligible political position, but it’s lousy First Amendment jurisprudence. First Amendment protections are the same regardless of what one thinks of the underlying conduct.

I played a role in developing the state anti-BDS laws, submitting testimony to legislatures and advising private groups that supported the measures. To avoid any constitutional doubts, I stuck to the model of antiboycott laws that the ACLU supports, comfortable in the knowledge that their constitutionality was unquestioned. I underestimated how much changes when sexual identity is replaced with Israeli identity.

There is more at stake here than hypocrisy. The ACLU’s enthusiasm for Israel boycotts has led it to take legal positions that threaten to undermine the antidiscrimination norms it has worked for decades to achieve. Now it is prepared to risk legal protections for sexual minorities for the sake of creating a constitutional right to boycott Jews. The ACLU probably hopes to have it both ways, arguing that boycotts of Israelis are “political” and boycotts of gays and lesbians are just mean. But courts won’t maintain one standard for boycotts of progressives’ favored targets and another standard for everyone else.

Minister Gamliel gets a platform in Newsweek

It is rare for mention of Jews of Arab countries to penetrate the mainstream international media, let alone for a voice in the maligned Israeli government to make itself heard. This piece in Newsweek by the minister of social equality, Gila Gamliel, bucks both trends. Gamliel recently launched a new app for uploading the stories of Jews from Arab countries to an oral history website, Seeing the Voices.

Gila Gamliel: story with us for good
Like most things, this history has its good and its bad periods; peaceful neighborly relations were followed by economic discrimination and then deadly violence as thousands of Jews were murdered in violent rioting caused by blood libels and false accusations.

My father Yosef escaped Yemen at the age of 10, and came to Israel as an orphan, where he was adopted by a Polish Jewish family. My mother Aliza came from Libya to Israel at the age of 6, the oldest of 12 brothers and sisters.
Aliza and Yosef were just two people among the 850,000 other Jews from Arab countries who were forced to leave their homes.

For seven decades, the story of the Jews from the Arab countries—both the good and the bad—was left largely untold both in Israel and around the world.
Now as a Minister in the Government of Israel, I am working to preserve the rich cultural history of our parents and grandparents from the Arab world.

We’ve just launched an app allowing Israeli citizens to document the testimony of family members and friends; we’ve promoted research on this history by academics and historians, we have marked an annual commemoration of the Jewish communities from the Arab countries; and we’ve made sure this history is in our classroom schoolbooks.

I can say with satisfaction that this important part of history is now with us for good.

It is a critical part of the story of the Jewish people who over centuries of steadfast determination managed to maintain their identity and religion, along with the dream of one day returning to the Holy Land.

Rivlin marks 70th anniversary of last Jewish camps in Cyprus

President Reuven Rivlin flew to Cyprus Tuesday to mark 70 years since the closure of British detention camps on the island for Jews trying to reach Palestine after World War II.

He was to visit a monument in Nicosia dedicated to the 2,200 children of Holocaust survivors who were born in British colonial camps there between 1946 and 1949.

Rivlin also held talks with Cyprus President Nicos Anastasiades.

Cyprus and Israel aim to upgrade relations, “especially on energy, security, economy, tourism, research and innovation,” tweeted Anastasiades.

Rivlin said cooperation between Israel and Cyprus on intelligence, security and terror prevention has made the Mediterranean “much, much safer.”

After the talks Tuesday with Anastasiades, he said Israeli-Cypriot security ties “have never been better” with the two countries’ navies and commando units sharing “space, knowledge and experience.”

He added that the focus of the neighbors’ strategic partnership, which includes Greece, is developing the East Med gas pipeline that “could be one of the greatest underwater projects in the world.”

The envisioned pipeline would carry natural gas from deposits in the eastern Mediterranean to Europe via Greece and Italy.

One century ago this week, a catastrophe struck Jewry

On the Sabbath day, February 15 1919, horror came to the Jewish community of the Ukrainian town of Proskurov. The Proskurov pogrom would come to signify the tragedy that befell the Jews of Ukraine during the Ukrainian-Soviet war. (1918-1920)

Following the withdrawal of German troops after World War One from Ukraine, Communist Bolshevik troops sought control as did Ukrainian nationalists. Also involved were the White Russians who wanted to restore Czarist rule.

Proskurov had no historical record of ever experiencing a pogrom despite its location in a terror plagued region that had suffered many violent attacks for hundreds of years. No pogrom since that of Kishinev in 1904 had made such an impact upon Jewry. The Pruskoruv pogrom caused great fear and panic which spread throughout towns in Ukraine in early 1919 and alarmed world Jewry to the dire emergency Ukrainian Jewry was facing.

In early 1919, Ukrainian nationalists unleashed their fury against the Jews. Massacres were perpetrated in Yekaterinoslav, Zhitomir and other cities in the Ukraine. Proskurov Jewry, which numbered about 25,000, was soon in great danger.

The local Haidamak (Cossack) leader Ataman Semosenko, of the third regiment, who had assumed command just days earlier, targeted the Jews. At a dinner celebrating his new command, he delivered a speech in which he accused the Jews of being the enemy of Ukraine and the Cossacks. Semosenko called for the elimination of the Jews in order to “save the Ukraine.”

Douglas Murray: UK: A Defeat Dressed Up as a Victory

The event, which took place on a Sunday, was attended by around 70 people, including a number of “interfaith” leaders, a representative of the Israeli embassy in London and by Sara Khan, the “Extremism Commissioner” appointed by the Prime Minister in the wake of the string of terror attacks which struck Britain in 2017. Local press reported all of this as a signal of “defiance.” Fiyaz Mughal, the representative of Faith Matters who had been partly responsible for the successful transplant of the event to Ilford, told the UK’s Jewish Chronicle that he believed this was the first time such an exhibition had been shown at a mosque in Britain and that the event was “significant”. “It sends a clear signal,” he added, “to anti-Semites and extremists that education on the Holocaust will not be stopped, particularly when we want Muslims to engage with it.”

Of course, it is a good thing that in the end, the exhibition was able to go ahead. Those who organised it and re-arranged it, especially at such short notice, should indeed be praised. Amid the small amount of jubilation that the event was able to take place at all, there was no rumination on the deeper and disturbing trend.

We are often told in Britain — as elsewhere in Europe — that there are specific “integration” problems that we may suffer, but that by and large everyone in our country wishes to get along and does get along. We hear much talk of “British values” and that officials from government and civil society should stand firm against those who would subvert these values. We have interfaith groups, government bodies and any number of people paid by government to address “integration” and “cohesion”. By and large, the political and commentator class says that things are going pretty well in Britain — that our minority communities are as British as anyone else and that anyone who says otherwise or even worries about the whole issue in any way is some variety of “phobe”.

Yet, an event like this — an awkward, embarrassing but ultimately remedied event — is looked on as indicative of… really very little. National papers pay little attention and no one thinks of making anything like a fuss. A story such as this should provide the strongest possible alarm bells to government and civil society. If, in 2019, any Muslim organization wants to commemorate the bravery of some Muslims in the Holocaust, this has to be staged secretly, covertly, and in fear of some violent or non-violent backlash? What was proposed at Golders Green and then took place at Ilford was not a full overview of the Holocaust. It was not an overview of the suffering of the Jewish people in the middle of the last century. It was a focus on one tiny, relatively minor aspect of that catastrophe — an aspect that should cause pride rather than fury and anger among any decent Muslim or non-Muslim.

In Britain, in 2019, government and non-government figures still feel they must flit around, letting no one know of their movements to commemorate an aspect of the Holocaust. They manage to have a commemoration of the Holocaust in secret. And they think this is a victory.

Daphne Anson: “Simply Bullets to Be Fired From an Arab Gun”

At an Oxford Union debate on 17 January on the motion “This House Believes The Arab World Has Failed The Palestinian People”, that’s how Colonel Richard Kemp, former commander of Britain’s forces in Iraq and Afghanistan, aptly characterised the plight of the so-called Palestinians, pawns in their fellow Arabs’ rejectionist stance towards Israel.

Watch the colonel’s speech here:

The introduction to the motion noted:
“Arab support for a Palestinian state has long been assumed. However, the denial of citizenship to 4.6 million exiled Palestinians, combined with greater Israeli-Arab collaboration, has led some to question their commitment. Are these incidents isolated, or symptomatic of an Arab world that has failed the people of Palestine?”

Apart from Colonel Kemp speakers “in proposition” were, in the Union’s words:
‘Mudar Zahran – Palestinian-Jordanian Secretary General of the Jordanian Opposition Coalition. He has advocated for Jordan to be the Palestinian state’
‘Imad-ad-Dean Ahmad – President and co-founder of the Minaret of Freedom Institute, an Islamic libertarian organisation which counters distortions and misconceptions about Islamic beliefs and practice’

On the opposing side:
‘Lowkey – British-Iraqi rapper and activist known for his politically charged music, including Long Live Palestine. He is a Patron of the Palestine Solidarity Campaign

Ghada Karmi – Palestinian doctor, journalist and academic at the University of Exeter, she fled Jerusalem with her family in 1948

Kito de Boer – Former Dutch diplomat, he served as Head of Mission of the Quartet from 2015 to 2017, an international organisation which mediates between Israelis and Palestinians’

Dr. Mordechai Kedar: The latest Palestinian lie – “We are all Mary”

The end of January brought with it the launching of a new Islamic propaganda campaign called “We are all Mary,” its name referring to the mother of Jesus, and its content purporting to show the world the suffering of Arab women in Jerusalem as a result of the “Zionist occupation’s” persecution aimed particularly at them. The public relations campaign began in Istanbul, probably the initiative of Hamas operatives, but spread quickly all over the Islamic world thanks to the widespread use of social media.

The “Palestine On-line” website posted a news item regarding the campaign, sent by its Jerusalem correspondent, Mustafa Zabar, in which he wrote:

Jerusalem activist Zena Amar praised the “We are all Mary” initiative, telling the “Falestin” newspaper: “…the goal of the campaign ‘We are all Mary’ is to show everyone the suffering of the Jerusalem woman who experiences pain – and hope – in Jerusalem, because she is uprooted from her family in order to be there when arrested or is denied entry to Jerusalem. The Jerusalem woman is either the mother of a prisoner or the mother of a son who is a shaheed or who has been wounded. The world remains silent despite the crimes of the occupation against Jerusalem’s women. That is why the campaign bears the name of Mary, the mother of Jesus, who lived under difficult conditions, similar to those of today’s Jerusalem woman.”

Jerusalem activist Hajja Khawid commented: “Jesus’ mother Mary gave birth to the best of all men and the Jerusalem woman gives birth to the men who are best at protecting Al Aksa, the city of Jerusalem and its holy places. Thanks to these women, men stand strong, while women are at the helm in all our battles – and that is why the occupation concentrates on punishing the Jerusalem woman. “

An anti-Iranian show of force

The U.S.-led summit in Warsaw that will start on Wednesday may very well be a strategic turning point in the Trump presidency.

After several unilateral moves – such as the withdrawal from the nuclear deal with Iran and the start of the pullout from Syria – the U.S. is now about to forge a wide coalition against the Iranian menace.

In other words, the White House is now asking all those who feel threatened by Iran – be it because of its nuclear ambitions or its ballistic missiles – to join hands and counter the threat, not just behind closed doors and in secret talks but through a public show of force.

The summit will focus on the various means to check Iran, not just sanctions.

For Israel, which is taking part in the summit, this will be a rare moment where it would able to talk with Arab leaders in an international forum that does not deal with the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. This is important in and of itself.

The summit will allow Israel not only to coordinate moves with the power brokers of the Sunni Arab world but also to test the waters and see whether they are willing to upgrade the secret ties Gulf states reportedly have with Israel and make them public.

Lebanon to boycott Warsaw Mideast summit over Israel’s attendance

Lebanon said it will not take part in a conference that Poland is holding this week on the situation in the Middle East and Iran, citing Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s scheduled attendance at the summit.

Foreign Minister Gebran Bassil made the announcement Monday during a joint press conference with his Iranian counterpart, Mohammad Javad Zarif.

The two-day Warsaw conference begins Wednesday and will be co-hosted by the US. Some 80 countries have been invited, including Israel. The conference is widely seen as aimed at isolating Iran, which was not invited.

“We explained why we will not be present at the Warsaw conference,” Bassil was quoted saying by the Naharnet news site. “Israel will be present and because of the orientation the conference is expected to take.”

“Lebanon is committed to the dissociation policy,” he added, referring to Beirut’s attempts to staying out of regional conflicts.

Iran enjoys wide influence in the country through the Hezbollah terror group, which along with allied parties holds a majority in parliament.

Lebanon is technically at war with Israel, and Lebanese officials avoid conferences where Israelis are present.

Israel and Iran both set to join Russia-led free trade zone

Israel is set to sign a free-trade agreement with the Russia-led Eurasian Economic Union in the near future, according to officials in Moscow and Jerusalem.

Incidentally, Iran is also in advanced talks about creating a free trade zone with the union, known as EAEU. However, each country would sign its own free-trade agreement (FTA) with the union, which would mean that Jerusalem would not be able to trade freely with Tehran, or other states signing similar agreements.

“The negotiations with the EAEU were launched in Moscow in April 2018, following positive results of a comprehensive Joint Feasibility Study conducted by the parties,” a spokesperson for the Economy Ministry told The Times of Israel on Monday.

“The agreement will cover various aspects of trade in goods, such as rules of origin, customs cooperation, technical barriers to trade, sanitary and phytosanitary measures, e-commerce, dispute settlement, and others.”

Tehran’s ambassador to Moscow Mehdi Sanaei said Friday that he expects the Iranian parliament to ratify the free-trade agreement with the EAEU “in the near future,” according to Iran’s Mehr news agency.

“The agreement is very important for Iran… because it opens the gates to a big market for our country, and also opens the Iranian market to Russia and northern countries,” he said.

Asked what significance, if any, Iran’s joining the EAEU free trade zone would have for Israel, the ministry spokesperson referred this reporter to the Prime Minister’s Office. The PMO did not respond to a query by the time of publication.

US denies telling banks to stop working with Palestinians

The United States has denied accusations it is pressuring banks to stop dealing with the Palestinian Authority, whose relations with Washington have been plummeting.

Several Palestinian officials have accused the US of trying to force banks not to deal with transactions linked to the Palestinian Authority, which has limited self-rule in the West Bank.

“The United States has not requested that foreign donors restrict assistance to the Palestinians, nor has it requested that financial institutions cease transfers to Palestinian Authority (PA) bank accounts,” a US official told AFP late Monday.

“We are aware of media reports suggesting this has occurred. Those reports are incorrect,” he said.

PA Foreign Minister Riyad al-Malki has said on local radio that the US was using “all means to press Arab countries to stop financial support for our people.”

On Sunday, senior Palestinian official Hussein al-Sheikh charged that Washington was launching a “financial siege” on the PA. “Major international financial institutions and parties have begun to accede to an American request to impose a tight financial siege on the Palestinian Authority,” he told AFP.

Venezuela’s Guaidó seeks to renew diplomatic ties with Israel

Once bastions of support for President Nicolás Maduro, Venezuela’s shanty towns have in recent weeks grown increasingly fond of opposition leader Juan Guaidó. In fact, he is now so popular in Venezuela’s slums that he asks me to meet him in one such barrio north of the country’s capital of Caracas. When Guaidó learns that I am Israeli, his face lights up.

Some 50 foreign countries, including Israel, have recognized Guaidó as Venezuela’s interim president.

I asked Guaidó whether he would act to re-establish diplomatic ties between Venezuela and Israel, which were cut off by the country’s former leader Hugo Chávez following 2008’s Operation Cast Lead.

“I am very happy to announce that the process of stabilizing relations with Israel is in full swing,” Guaidó said, noting, “It is very important for us.” “We will renew ties, later we will announce the appointment of an ambassador to Israel, and we really hope an ambassador from Israel will come to us.”

In the past, the friendly relations between Venezuela and Israel were such that Caracas was one of the few capitals to establish its embassy in Israel in Jerusalem.

When asked whether Venezuela’s new embassy would be situated in Jerusalem, Guaidó replies that “that is one of the subjects we are talking about. I will declare the resumption of ties and the site of the embassy at the proper time,” he said.

Ever since the socialists have taken power in the country, many of Venezuela’s Jews have fled the country as a result of increasing anti-Semitism, some of them have immigrated to Israel. Venezuelan Jews in Israel have been very active in efforts to enlist support for Guaidó, so I asked him whether he had a message for the Venezuelan Jews now residing in Israel.

“There are many Venezuelans in Israel and many Jews in Venezuela,” he said. “This [Jewish] community is very active and prosperous, one which has contributed greatly to our society. I assume they are happy we are renewing ties with Israel.”

Time to Target Terrorist Salaries Doled Out by the PA

Only one thing hasn’t been tried throughout this entire cursed period of time. Just one simple measure hasn’t been implemented, among other things because of objections from the defense establishment: putting an end to terrorist salaries doled out by the Palestinian Authority.

Due to the fact that our security agencies work with the PA to thwart terrorist attacks, and because the Israel Defense Forces and Shin Bet are concerned about the possible collapse of PA leader Mahmoud Abbas’s security forces, our own agencies, incredibly, have balked at deducting the amount paid by the PA to terrorists from the taxes Israel collects on its behalf.

The same defense establishment — again, incredibly — has dragged its feet on compiling data about the phenomenon, as required by a law passed with great effort by Knesset members Avi Dichter and Elazar Stern.

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, it must be said, is torn between the position of the defense establishment and basic common sense, which demands punishing the Palestinians for this industry of murder. Although Netanyahu has routinely acknowledged the severity of the phenomenon of terrorist salaries, to this day he hasn’t claimed a single shekel from Abbas because of it.

Indeed, esteemed prime minister and security agency leaders — after three years and dozens of murdered Israelis, the time has come to try the only leverage we have yet to apply, and that is deducting the terrorist payments from the PA’s taxes.

This is the bare minimum requirement if we want to stop the lone-wolf attacks. As for the PA and its security forces: If they encourage lone-wolf attacks, why is it so important for us to protect them?

Ben-Dror Yemini: The occupation didn’t kill Ori Ansbacher

We have always been told that for as long as Israeli occupation continues, Palestinian terror will not end. Although the terrorists were not born murderers, the harsh reality of life made them this way, say the claimants. In order to uproot it, however, one has to give the Palestinians hope, and remove all cause for them to resort to terrorist activity. This thesis of “terrorism caused by occupation” is supported by many —too many, one might say. Not all of them are even anti-Semites or anti-Zionists; some are good people, who actually believe this nonsense.

Sometimes, there is indeed a connection between terror and a struggle for liberation. This is not the case when it comes to Palestinian terrorism, which in recent decades has practically evolved into jihadist terrorism. They indeed were not born murderers, but the brainwashing, the incitement and the overall environment turned them into them.

During the week in which Ori Ansbacher was murdered, some 186 people were killed by jihadists elsewhere in the world. Since the start of 2019, 712 people have been murdered, while 2018 saw some 11,769 jihadist killings.

The majority of these terror acts did not actually make international headlines, because they occurred in Asia and Africa, so who cares? In Congo, Chad, Somalia, Nigeria, Kenya, and many other places. That’s in addition to Iraq, Afghanistan, Pakistan and Syria, where jihadist murders are carried out on a daily basis. The majority of the victims in these attacks are Muslims and their sins unclear.

Terror is also rampant in Sweden, Belgium, London, and New York. Is there an occupation in those places too? The main reason for terrorism is incitement and brainwashing in mosques and on social networks. Some brave, prominent imams, such as the Paris-based Hassen Chalghoumi or Mohammad Tawhidi from Australia, as well as many others, are fighting this cancerous ideology. Although they reveal the mechanisms of brainwashing, they usually are given a cold shoulder, because the progressive elites would rather hear the post-colonial and anti-Zionist attribution for this horrific phenomenon.

Suspect in murder of teen: ‘I wanted to kill a Jew and be a martyr’ — report

The Palestinian man suspected of brutally murdering 19-year-old Ori Ansbacher told interrogators from the Shin Bet security service that he entered Israel and looked for a Jewish victim because he wanted to be a martyr, Channel 13 news reported Monday.

“I entered Israel with a knife because I wanted to become a martyr and murder a Jew,” Arafat Irfaiya reportedly said. “I met the girl by chance.”

Irfaiya said that after he crossed the Green Line he sprinted to deliberately avoid detection by security cameras.

The Jerusalem Magistrate’s Court on Monday extended Irfaiya’s remand for an additional ten days.

It was the first time Irfaiya appeared before cameras since his Friday arrest in the West Bank city of Ramallah. He had open scabs on his forehead, nose and below his right eye. The suspect appeared to smirk from his seat as photographers flashed their cameras before being ushered out of the courtroom.

Palestinian groups steer clear of Ori Ansbacher’s killer over rape allegation

Palestinian terror groups and the Palestinian Authority appear to have quietly renounced the confessed murderer of Israeli teen Ori Ansbacher because he also allegedly raped her.

Citing his answers under questioning, Israel’s Shin Bet security agency said that Arafat Irfaiya, 29, left his home in Hebron on Thursday armed with a knife and made his way toward Jerusalem, where he spotted Ori Ansbacher, 19, in a forested area on the city’s southern edge. He then raped and murdered her, according to the agency.

“If it turns out there was a sexual assault, we will not represent him,” the head of the PA-affiliated Palestinian Prisoners Club, Qadura Fares, told the Haaretz daily on Monday.

On Sunday, the Shin Bet announced that the murder was a nationalistically motivated terror attack. The intelligence agency, which has been running the investigation with assistance from police, had held off on announcing a terror motive in the first few days after the attack.

Irfaiya confessed his actions to investigators and accurately recreated the events at the scene, the agency said. He also claimed he had done it to become a “martyr” for the Palestinian cause.

Palestinian Man’s Rape, Murder of Israeli Teenager Condemned by UN, EU Envoys

The recent killing of Israeli teenager Ori Ansbacher in what officials have described as a Palestinian terrorist attack drew increased international condemnation on Monday.

Israeli security officials said 29-year-old Hebron resident Arafat Irfaiya had confessed to the murder, which took place in a forest southwest of Jerusalem on Thursday.

Ansbacher, a national service volunteer and daughter of a rabbi from the West Bank community of Tekoa, was found with multiple stab wounds to her chest.

Investigators are seeking to indict Irfaiya for nationalistically-motivated rape and murder. He appeared in the Jerusalem Magistrate’s Court court on Monday, where his remand was extended for ten days.

‎Nickolay Mladenov — the United Nations special coordinator for the Middle East peace process — said in a tweet on Monday that he was “appalled by the horrific murder of 19-year old #OriAnsbacher, by a Palestinian perpetrator in #Jerusalem.”

“My deepest condolences to Ori’s family,” he continued. “There is no justification for violence and terror. Such brutal acts must be condemned by all. #UN”

Emanuele Giaufret, the European Union’s ambassador to Israel, also tweeted his condolences to Ansbacher’s family on Monday. German Ambassador to Israel Susanne Wasum-Rainer likewise took to the social media network to say that she was “shocked and [appalled]” by the killing, while a fellow German official called for an end to Palestinian stipends to convicted terrorists and their families.

‘From the north to the south we are ready’: IDF officer

With tensions high along Israel’s northern border, soldiers from the IDF’s 401st Armored Brigade are completing a large-scale drill simulating war with Hezbollah.

“This drill simulated what will need to be done during a war with Hezbollah,” Maj. Tsur Goldman of the 401st Armored Brigade told The Jerusalem Post on Tuesday.

While most drills take place in the Ramat HaGolan, hundreds of troops drilled for two weeks in the northern Jordan Valley in challenging mountainous terrain which is similar to the terrain found in southern Lebanon and on a variety of scenarios including urban combat.

According to Goldman, “there is a good feeling among the soldiers that we will complete our mission,” especially after they finished a 17 week long training “which allowed us to go from looking at the most basic thing to in depth to the smallest detail.”

The IDF has significantly stepped up the scope and frequency of its combat training in order to improve its readiness. As part of the IDF’s five-year Gideon plan, the military has returned to 17 weeks of consecutive training, an increase from the 13 weeks soldiers trained for the past 15 years.

Last week, the IDF’s Givati reconnaissance battalion completed a challenge drill simulating war with Hezbollah and a week earlier troops belonging to the 450th Battalion from the IDF’s school for Infantry Corps Professions & Squad Commanders (also known as Bislamach), completed a similar large scale drill in northern Israel.

Gabbay hails Gaza disengagement, is booed by right-wing audience

Labor party chief Avi Gabbay on Tuesday offered unequivocal praise of the 2005 Israeli withdrawal from the Gaza Strip, saying it was “the right thing to do,” and reiterating his party’s commitment to a two-state solution.

The comments drew immediate anger from Gabbay’s audience at a conference of the right-wing Besheva weekly newspaper in Jerusalem.

Speaking days after Israel Resilience head Benny Gantz drew ire from the right for appearing to applaud the Gaza pullout, Gabbay said that he supported the controversial move despite the territory having since fallen into the hands of the terror group Hamas.

“People forget that [before the disengagement] they fired rockets on Sderot from within Gaza,” Gabbay told participants, referring to an Israeli city near the Gaza border pummeled for years by crude Kassam rockets.

“Disengagement was the right thing to do. Our job is to separate from the Palestinians on the basis of a two-state solution with us responsible for security. This is our worldview,” he said.

Met with boos from some in the crowd, the Labor leader responded: “Get used to it, there are other opinions [than yours].”

Palestinians get more medical treatment permits in Israel in 2018 – report

More than 20,000 permits were granted to Palestinians living in Judea and Samaria to enter Israel and receive treatment or support a patient who was receiving treatment in the Jewish state, according to numbers released to The Jerusalem Post by the Unit for Coordination of Government Activities in the Territories (COGAT).

That number is up by nearly 3,000 from the year before.

Medical coordination between Israel and the Palestinian Authority has been ongoing since 1995 and continues to increase each year, despite ebbs and flows on the security and diplomatic fronts.

As one representative from the program who asked to remain anonymous explained, “treatment must go on” even in times of high tension, including during each of the two intifadas and the more recent uptick of violence in the West Bank.

The Israeli health coordinator trains Palestinian doctors in Israel, helping to improve their capacity to treat patients in the West Bank. Palestinian doctors are paired with professionals from Hadassah University Medical Center in Jerusalem and they become colleagues and friends.

Hamas, Islamic Jihad War Crimes Against Children and Women

It is worth noting that the Hamas and Islamic Jihad members who were killed while participating in the violence near the Gaza-Israel border did not come there dressed in military uniforms or carrying their weapons. Instead, the Hamas and Islamic Jihad men participated in the weekly protests dressed in civilian clothes. They pretended they were ordinary and innocent civilians protesting against the economic crisis in the Hamas-ruled Gaza Strip.

While they are in Cairo, the Hamas and Islamic Jihad leaders continue to send thousands of women and children to engage in violent attacks on Israeli soldiers. These leaders do not care about the safety or welfare of their women and children. On the contrary; the more dead women and children, the better. That way, they can blame Israel for killing innocent civilians and incite more Palestinians to join the jihad against Jews.

Those who are encouraging women and children to take part in a violent confrontation with the Israeli army should be held accountable for war crimes. It is time for the international community to call on Hamas and Islamic Jihad and the other terrorist groups in the Gaza Strip to stop hiding behind women and children and to stop using them as human shields in their jihad to eliminate Israel.

Hizbullah Is in Venezuela to Stay

U.S. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo confirmed in a recent interview that Hizbullah maintains “active cells” in Venezuela and that “Iranians are impacting the people of Venezuela,” because Hizbullah is trained, financed, and equipped by Tehran. Margarita Island, located off the coast of Venezuela, is a well-known criminal hotbed where Hizbullah members have established a safe haven. Yet there’s reason to doubt that replacing the current Venezuelan regime with Washington’s preferred alternative would change the country’s relationship with Hizbullah.

Venezuela’s border security and law enforcement officials, amid the country’s general desperation, have been largely unwilling to resist bribes and kickback schemes offered by Hizbullah members and their cadres. A government led by opposition leader Juan Guaido would almost certainly be more active in opposing Hizbullah’s presence on Venezuelan soil, but there is a major difference between will and capability.

Venezuela serves as Iran’s entry point into Latin America, a foothold the Iranians are unlikely to cede without putting up a fight. Moreover, Hizbullah has deep roots in Venezuela, and completely expelling the group remains unlikely.

PM warns Iran: Attack Israel and ‘it will be the last anniversary you celebrate’

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu on Monday threatened the Iranian regime with destruction after an Iranian military leader warned that the Islamic Republic would raze major Israeli cities if the US attacked it.

“I don’t ignore the threats from the Iranian regime, but I’m also not intimidated by them,” Netanyahu said in a Hebrew-language video uploaded to social media.

“If this regime makes the terrible mistake and tries to destroy Tel Aviv or Haifa, it won’t be successful, and it will be the last anniversary of their revolution they will ever celebrate.”

“They should take that into account,” he said.

The threat came as Iran marked the 40th anniversary of its revolution with rallies and marching that featured chants and banners calling for “Death to America,” and “Death to Israel.”

Monday’s celebrations in Tehran were also a backdrop to the military’s display of Iranian-made missiles, which authorities showcase every year during anniversary celebrations.

Bolton calls Iran anniversary ’40 years of failure’

US National Security Adviser John Bolton blasted the Islamic Republic of Iran Monday on the 40th anniversary of the revolution that created the current government.

“For all your boasts, for all your threats to the life of the American President, you are responsible for terrorizing your own people,” Bolton announced in a video message released on the White House Twitter feed. “I don’t think you’ll have many more anniversaries to enjoy,” he said.

In Iran, hundreds of thousands joined a state-sponsored rally waving Iranian flags and chanting anti-American and anti-Israel slogans. President Hassan Rouhani addressed the crowd vowing to “raze Tel Aviv and Haifa to the ground” in the event of a US attack on their soil.

Bolton accused Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei and other Islamic leaders in Iran of “tyrannizing its own people and terrorizing the world. Iran continues to seek nuclear weapons to intimidate peaceful people, all around the globe, and ballistic missiles to use as delivery systems.” He noted Iran’s support for Hamas and Hezbollah, proxy militias that threaten Israel, as well as it’s military presence in Yemen and Syria.

Withdrawal from the Nuclear Deal with Iran Has Paid Off

More than six months ago, Donald Trump declared that the U.S. would no longer abide by the terms of the 2015 agreement in light of Tehran’s violations of it. As Fred Fleitz explains, events have vindicated the U.S. decision:

Trump’s withdrawal from the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA), [as the deal is formally known], did not lead to war with Iran, as many critics predicted. Instead, Iran is far more isolated than it was when President Trump assumed office. The United States has worked to unite its Middle East allies, especially Israel and Saudi Arabia, against Iran and, in Warsaw this month, will co-chair an international conference with Poland on the threat from Iran. Iran’s economy is under unprecedented pressure thanks to re-imposed U.S. sanctions, especially oil sanctions, with negative 1.5-percent growth in 2018 and an expected negative 3.6-percent growth in 2019. Iran’s current year-on-year inflation rate through last month was 40 percent.

Some Trump critics predicted that any effort by the president to reimpose U.S. sanctions lifted by the JCPOA would have little effect, since other parties to the agreement—in particular the EU, Germany, France, and the UK—would not follow suit. But numerous European companies have resisted pressure from their governments to defy the re-imposed U.S. sanctions. On January 31, European leaders announced a special finance facility to help European firms skirt U.S. sanctions on Iran, but that initiative is months behind schedule, and few experts believe it will work. . . .

Before the U.S. withdrawal, JCPOA critics made strong arguments about the accord’s weaknesses, especially Iran’s refusal to allow International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) inspectors access to military sites. The lone exception is the Parchin military base, [where] the IAEA obtained evidence of covert nuclear-weapons work. . . . JCPOA supporters rejected those criticisms, noting that the IAEA repeatedly declared Iran to be in compliance with the nuclear agreement. However, they refused to admit that the IAEA reached its compliance findings by claiming that Iranian violations were not “material breaches” and by not asking to inspect Iranian military facilities that Tehran has declared off-limits, even though they are the likely locations of covert nuclear-weapons work.

MEMRI: How Iran Deceived The U.S. Intelligence Community: Four Examples

On January 30, 2019, U.S. President Trump criticized the U.S. intelligence community’s Worldwide Threat Assessment, released January 29, 2019,[1] tweeting that it is “naïve”[2] about the danger posed by Iran. MEMRI research in recent years shows that the Iranian regime deceived the American intelligence community a number of times; the MEMRI reports are based on openly available information released by the Iranians. The following are four examples:

The Plutonium Reactor At Arak
The Iranian regime deceived the U.S., the West, and the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) about shutting down the plutonium reactor at Arak, as it was required to do under the JCPOA. Ali Akbar Salehi, director of the Iranian Atomic Energy Organization (AEOI) and a member of Iran’s nuclear negotiating team, revealed in a January 22, 2019 interview that Iran had deceived the Americans and Europeans about the shutdown of the reactor, saying that Iran had not filled the reactor core with cement, but had filled only external pipelines. He said: “We have been saying for three years now that we did not pour cement into the pit of the Arak heavy water reactor. If we had, the Arak heavy water reactor would have been ruined.” He also revealed that the Iranians had secretly purchased other pipes to replace the cement-filled ones, and boasted that only one other person in Iran had been party to the deception – Iranian Supreme Leader Ali Khamenei. Had the other side known about the deception, he added, they would have demanded that the Iranians fill the replacement pipelines with cement as well.[3]

Salehi revealed the deception at Arak in other interviews as well: in a January 15, 2019 interview with Iran’s Tasnim news agency,[4] and in an August 22, 2017 television interview (see MEMRI Inquiry & Analysis No. 1341, Head Of Iran’s Atomic Energy Organization: Only External Pipelines Of Arak Reactor Were Filled With Cement, Its Core Was Not; Within Five Days, We Can Begin Enriching Uranium To 20%, September 1, 2017).

Fatwa By Iranian Supreme Leader Khamenei Banning The Development, Production, Possession, And Use Of Nuclear Weapons

The Obama administration espoused this alleged fatwa, despite the fact that no such fatwa exists, and no U.S. intelligence element ever addressed the fact that this fatwa does not exist. There would have been no secrecy constraints on stating that it does not exist.

The New York Times’s Wordplay to Absolve Iran’s Leadership

On Monday, Iranians took to the streets nationwide to mark the 40th anniversary of the Islamic Revolution. The rallies celebrated Ayatollah Ruhollah Khomeini’s triumph in toppling Iran’s monarch, Mohammad Reza Shah Pahlavi, along with Iran’s 2,500-year-old monarchy, on Feb. 11, 1979. Before the year’s end, Khomeini would engineer the formation of the Islamic Republic—an oppressive, anti-Western theocracy—and become its first supreme leader, until his death in 1989.

Every major publication seems to have published an article reflecting on the anniversary, and on the state of Iran’s revolution after 40 years, including the New York Times. The paper’s Tehran bureau chief, Thomas Erdbrink, on Sunday wrote a piece whose headline—”The Iranian Revolution at 40: From Theocracy to ‘Normality'”—immediately reveals his hackneyed, pre-scripted take. Under the guise of a straight-news report, Erdbrink epitomizes the flawed, dangerous view of Iran that most of the political left, and some of the isolationist-leaning right, hold.

First, Erdbrink does not assign any explicit blame to the regime for Iran’s dark situation. In a remarkable show of wordplay that would make any college professor cringe, Erdbrink employs vague language and the passive voice throughout his work to avoid holding the mullahs accountable for Iran’s economic crisis and their oppression of the Iranian people.

“Forty years ago, Iranians swelled with pride, hope, and the expectation of a better future,” Erdbrink writes. “But great, rapid change can leave deep and lasting wounds. There were lashings, hangings, amputations, and mass imprisonment. Thousands of people died and hundreds of thousands left the country, some fleeing for their lives, never to return.”

“What materialized after those first bloody years was truly revolutionary: an Islamic republic, a theocracy built on ideological choices inspired to a great extent by Ayatollah Khomeini,” he continues.

Human Rights NGO condemns Iran for forty-years of continued violations

Progetto Dreyfus, an Italian-speaking Middle East watchdog, has condemned Iran in protest for their lack of democracy within the government and free speech for the public within Iranian society, following the 40th anniversary of the Islamic Revolution of Iran.

Progetto Dreyfus is a “non-profit association that fights against antisemitism, fundamentalism and any kind of discrimination” and as noted, has recently set its sights on Iran.

The watchdog has focused on Iran’s hostile politics, human rights violations and archaic ideals, claiming that Iran is the “single most aggressive country in international politics” and that normal would-be-allies of the Arab state seek alliances with Israel instead of Iran in order to protect themselves against the ideology of the religious leaders of the Iranian regime.

As a government with a Shia Islam being the designated religion of the country, Iran has faced many occasions where they cause rifts with their Sunni neighbors, such as Egypt and Saudi Arabia due to their “aggressive politics.”

“Modern democracies respect human rights. Iran does not!” Progetto Dreyfus explained in a tweet on February 7th.

Iran’s Year in Review for 2018

Hey Ayatollah Khamenei, Hassan Rouhani & Javad Zarif – since you’re the only ones allowed to use #facebook in #Iran, we figured we’d share your Year in Review with the Iranian people. #ComplacencyIsLethal

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