May 30, 2020

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04/02 Links Pt1: Israeli scientists: Coronavirus vaccine to be tested on humans by June; All Israelis must wear face masks; Pakistan Commutes Death Sentence of Main Suspect in Daniel Pearl Murder

From Ian:

Israel’s coronavirus deaths jump to 33, after 7 succumb in a single day
Israel’s coronavirus death toll rose to 33 on Thursday afternoon as patients in Ashkelon and Tel Aviv succumbed to COVID-19, sustaining an increase in the fatality rate over the last several days.

The deaths were the sixth and seventh announced on Thursday, bringing the toll over just the last day and a half to 13.

Barzilai Medical Center said one fatality was a 77-year-old man who suffered from several preexisting medical conditions.

The medical center said the man, whose name has not yet been released, had been brought to the hospital on March 22.

“His condition deteriorated and he was transferred a few days ago to the intensive care unit. In the past two days, his situation got much worse, and despite treatments with all possible equipment, the patient passed away,” the hospital said.
Medical personnel after evacuating a suspected COVID-19 patient at Shaare Zedek hospital in Jerusalem, March 31, 2020. (Nati Shohat/Flash90)

A second man, 90, died of the virus at Tel Aviv’s Ichilov Hospital, the medical center said. It said the victim had preexisting conditions.

All of Thursday’s victims have been men over 72 years old, and five of them had underlying conditions, according to hospitals announcing their deaths.

The death toll has more than doubled from 16 since Monday, and the number of people on ventilators or in serious condition has also nearly doubled in the last week.

Israeli scientists: Coronavirus vaccine to be tested on humans by June 1

A team of Israeli researchers says that they are days away from completing the production of the active component of a coronavirus vaccine that could be tested on humans as early as June 1.

“We are in the final stages and within a few days we will hold the proteins – the active component of the vaccine,” Dr. Chen Katz, group leader of MIGAL’s biotechnology group, told The Jerusalem Post.

In late February, MIGAL [The Galilee Research Institute] committed to completing production of its vaccine within three weeks and having it on the market in 90 days. Katz said they were slightly delayed because it took longer than expected to receive the genetic construct that they ordered from China due to the airways being closed and it having to be rerouted.

As a reminder, for the past four years, researchers at MIGAL scientists have been developing a vaccine against infectious bronchitis virus (IBV), which causes a bronchial disease affecting poultry. The effectiveness of the vaccine has been proven in preclinical trials carried out at the Veterinary Institute.

“Our basic concept was to develop the technology and not specifically a vaccine for this kind or that kind of virus,” said Katz. “The scientific framework for the vaccine is based on a new protein expression vector, which forms and secretes a chimeric soluble protein that delivers the viral antigen into mucosal tissues by self-activated endocytosis, causing the body to form antibodies against the virus.”

Corona Victims in Israel Had Pre-Existing Conditions

At the Wolfson Medical Center in Holon, a 67-year-old patient who had been in an induced coma and on a ventilator for two weeks was taken off the ventilator on Tuesday night and is breathing on her own. Her condition has been upgraded to moderate. The patients contracted the virus while visiting Egypt with her partner.

The director of the corona ICU at Wolfson called the woman’s case “encouraging.”

“Of course, we are continuing to monitor the patient’s condition closely, and hope that we will soon be able to report more improvement,” he noted.

Israel Hayom has elected to take a closer look at the “pre-existing conditions” that have been reported for all the corona fatalities in the country thus far and discovered that while the term might imply that the victims were already critically ill, in at least some cases the “pre-existing conditions” were common medical conditions that in approximately one-third of the Israeli population over 40 have: diabetes, heart disease, and high blood pressure.

Israel Hayom identified the “pre-existing conditions” from which 18 of the 21 victims suffered and discovered that eight were diabetics; eight had high blood pressure; and seven suffered from heart and vascular disease. Five of the patients were in varying states of dementia or had suffered strokes or a loss of cognitive functioning. Another four had respiratory illnesses. One patient who succumbed to coronavirus already had liver disease, an autoimmune condition, and cancer.

Netanyahu: All Israelis must wear face masks as virus precaution

All Israelis must wear face masks while in public as a precaution against the coronavirus, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said on Wednesday.

“We ask you, citizens of Israel, all of you, to wear masks in the public sphere,” Netanyahu said in a televised speech, adding that people could improvise in the absence of factory-produced masks.

Netanyahu also said that upcoming religious holidays, including the Jewish holiday of Passover, should be celebrated only with immediate family members.

Israel has taken stringent measures to try to halt the spread of its over 6,000 reported cases. At least 26 Israelis have died of the illness, according to the Health Ministry.

Netanyahu also vowed to give families substantial monetary benefits worth at least 500 NIS ($138) for each child to compensate for the economic cost of the pandemic, which has caused Israeli unemployment levels to spike due to the almost-complete paralysis of economic activity.

Ventilator manufactor Medtronic gives away patents to its competitors

The Israel division of the medical device company Medtronic will provide the blueprints for its ventilators for free to companies seeking to manufacture them.

Yaron Yitzhari, the CEO of Medtronic’s Israel division, made the announcement to Israeli media network Arutz Sheva on April 1.

“Our goal is to prolong lives — to save lives, in fact,” Yitzhari said. “This is what’s needed right now, in the emergency situation we’re in, and this consideration comes before everything else.”

The COVID-19 pandemic has resulted in a global “demand for literally hundreds of thousands of machines, when global production usually runs to maybe a few thousand a month,” he said, adding that Medtronic already has doubled its ventilator production and is aiming to triple it in the coming weeks.

Yitzhari said that he didn’t think his decision would negatively impact the firm’s profit margin.

“Our company manufacturers thousands of products,” he said. “Ventilators are just one of those products, and this is an emergency situation. We have many other products that we sell for profit.”

The Simon Wiesenthal Center tweeted, “G-d bless Israel’s Medtronic and its CEO Yaron Yitzhari for releasing its patents and sharing the know-how for its ventilators to help save countless lives worldwide!” (h/t Zvi)

NIS 1.2 million donated for orphans of Lod woman who died from coronavirus

Israelis on Tuesday donated more than NIS 1.2 million ($340,000) to help the 4-year-old twins who were orphaned when their mother Tamar Peretz-Levi died earlier in the day from the coronavirus.

The sum was donated on JGive for the children in less than nine hours, according to the Ynet news site, as fundraisers targeted NIS 1.8 million ($500,000) in a month.

The initiative was put together by residents of Lod and the mayor of the central city, where Peretz-Levi was from.

One of the people behind the fundraising effort, Yossi Davidov, said he was initially skeptical they could meet their goal due to the large number of Israelis who been laid off or put on leave without pay amid the virus outbreak.

“We’re already past the first million. Is there anything like this nation?” he told the website.

Lod Mayor Yair Revivo said the money would go to a foundation that would ensure it is only used for the children of Peretz-Levi, who died early Tuesday aged 49, the youngest person to die so far from the coronavirus in Israel. She was buried later in the day in Lod.

Her husband Shimon died shortly after the birth of their twins from a heart attack.

“Although we’re broken, we’ll rise up and raise the two of them with all the love in the world,” her niece told Ynet.

Telzstone beats back its severe coronavirus outbreak

Two weeks ago, the haredi town of Kiryat Ye’arim, known as Telz-Stone, had the highest rate of coronavirus infections per capita in the country. Almost one-third of its population was under Health Ministry quarantine orders.

Today, although the ultra-Orthodox town’s residents are all confined to their homes, just 100 people are officially quarantined, and only one new case has been reported over the last seven days.

How did Telz-Stone go from being a coronavirus epicenter to a beacon for how to deal with the epidemic in such a short period of time?
A total lockdown, closing all communal buildings and events and an aggressive public-diplomacy campaign stemmed the spread of Covid-19 in Telz-Stone, Mayor Yitzhak Ravitz told The Jerusalem Post.

“We had a very big outbreak,” he said. “We had the highest rate of infections. But thank God, and with God’s help, the outbreak has been stopped” (h/t Zvi)

Health official says 75,000 Bnei Brak residents likely have coronavirus

A top health official told a Knesset panel Thursday that nearly 40 percent of the ultra-Orthodox city of Bnei Brak has contracted the coronavirus, a far higher figure than the current number of confirmed cases in the ultra-Orthodox city.

Dr. Ran Saar, who runs the Maccabi health maintenance organization, said according to his group’s projections the Tel Aviv suburb of 200,000 residents was harboring tens of thousands of hidden cases that had not been confirmed by testing and called for government action to prevent an even larger outbreak during the Passover holiday.

“Maccabi treats half of the residents of Bnei Brak, and according to various indicators, some 38% of Bnei Brak residents are sick,” Saar told the Knesset’s special coronavirus committee.

The claim would put the number of sick in Bnei Brak at around 75,000, much higher than the 900 confirmed cases there, according to official Health Ministry data.

Maccabi is one of four major state-subsidized HMOs, and has a particularly large presence in Bnei Brak. Saar did not elaborate on the data he had to back up his claim, though officials around the world fear that most coronavirus cases go undetected.

Coronavirus: 1 out of every 7 sick Israelis is from Bnei Brak

One in every seven Israelis who are sick with the novel coronavirus are from the haredi (ultra-Orthodox) city of Bnei Brak, according to new data released by the Health Ministry and shared by the Hebrew website Ynet. There are now 900 people in the city with COVID-19, an increase of 177 patients in the last 24 hours – about 25%.

Compare this to Jerusalem: The capital’s 900,000 residents have 916 cases of coronavirus, an increase of 15% from the day before.

In contrast, Tel Aviv-Jaffa, Petah Tikva and Haifa have all begun to stabilize: There are 324 cases in Tel Aviv (up 8%) and 127 in Petah Tikva (up 2%). In Haifa, the number did not rise at all and remains at 81.

The rising number of cases in Bnei Brak had been expected by the ministry and the government, which yesterday increased both testing and restrictions on the city. Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and Health Ministry director-general Moshe Bar Siman Tov announced Wednesday that access to and from the city will be restricted by roadblock and human monitors.

“There has been a very positive shift in the ultra-Orthodox public,” the prime minister said, noting that in recent days the haredi community has recognized the danger that it is in and is working to follow the guidelines set forth by the Health Ministry. “But unfortunately, in some places, the disease has already spread at double the rate of the rest of the country and continues to double.”

Ruthie Blum: Haredi statistics show that social distancing works

The anger in Israel stems from two emotional impulses: blame and resentment. The current statistics show that more than half of all coronavirus patients and casualties are from haredi communities. We alternate between fearing that they are endangering our health, and fuming at the idea that the government in general and ultra-Orthodox Health Minister Yaakov Litzman, in particular, are treating them with unjustifiable lenience.

The truth is more complicated. Unlike the rest of us, who spend all day in front of cell-phone and TV screens, many haredim are off the information grid. So getting the message to them about COVID-19 has been more challenging.

This is slowly changing, with more rabbis issuing decrees to their congregants to obey the health directives. Even Litzman is now pushing to isolate Bnei Brak completely from its surroundings.

Whether the campaign to educate the haredi community to practice social distancing will work is questionable, as many live in cramped quarters with 10 or more children. Parents of two children are climbing the walls these days. Imagine what it must be like for those who have a dozen rug rats to keep occupied, not to mention fed, in the confines of small flats. All day, every day.

Turning against the haredim may be a national pastime, but in this case, we would do better to learn an important lesson from their lack of social distancing: that isolation is an effective policy. In other words, the haredim have served unwittingly as a control group in the experiment to combat the pandemic.

It is of little comfort to those whose lives are at risk, to be sure. But it should provide us with a degree of confidence that the disruption in our lives and livelihoods hasn’t been for naught.

Armed troops to be deployed to Bnei Brak to help coronavirus efforts

With Israel struggling to contain the outbreak of the coronavirus in the ultra-Orthodox city of Bnei Brak, armed troops from the IDF’s Paratrooper Brigade will soon be deployed to Bnei Brak to work with the Homefront Command.

Speaking to reporters, IDF Spokesperson Brig.-Gen. Hidai Zilberman said that the troops will have personal protective equipment like the police and will help the Homefront Command with logistics, evacuating the sick, and giving out food to at-risk populations,

The move comes as the healthcare provider Maccabi estimated that 38% of residents of Bnei Brak have the deadly disease, making it the city with the highest infection rate in the country.

According to Zilberman, the troops will be a significant increase in the role of the IDF to the country’s fight against the pandemic. There are some 12,000 IDF soldiers and 3,000 vehicles taking part.

Trump’s friend in coma from coronavirus is a Jewish real estate mogul

The friend whose case President Donald Trump cited as a point in his realization of the dimensions of the coronavirus crisis is a Jewish real estate mogul named Stanley Chera, Vanity Fair reported.

Chera is at New York-Presbyterian Hospital in a coma, the magazine reported.

“Boy, did that hit home. Stan is like one of his best friends,” Bill White, a Trump campaign donor, told Vanity Fair in a story posted Wednesday.

A day earlier, Trump in the daily White House briefing on fighting the pandemic described some of the factors that led him to realize the seriousness of the pandemic.

“When you send a friend to the hospital, and you call up to find out how is he doing — it happened to me, where he goes to the hospital, he says goodbye,” Trump said. “He’s sort of a tough guy. A little older, a little heavier than he’d like to be, frankly. And you call up the next day: ‘How’s he doing?’ And he’s in a coma? This is not the flu.”

Chera, 78, is part of the tight-knit Syrian Jewish community in Brooklyn. In 2014, he was honored at the gala dinner of the American Friends of the Rabin Medical Center.

Pakistani Court Commutes Death Sentence of Main Suspect in Daniel Pearl Killing, Acquits Three

A Pakistani court has commuted the death sentence of the main person accused in the 2002 kidnapping and murder of Wall Street Journal reporter Daniel Pearl, and acquitted three co-accused in the matter, two lawyers told Reuters on Thursday.

At least four people were convicted in connection with Pearl‘s murder, including British-born Ahmed Omar Saeed Sheikh, who was sentenced to death in 2002 for masterminding the murder. He has been in jail for 18 years awaiting the outcome of an appeal.

“The court has commuted Omar’s death sentence to a seven-year sentence,” Khawaja Naveed, the defence lawyer told Reuters by phone. “The murder charges were not proven, so he has given seven years for the kidnapping.”

“Omar has already served 18 years, so his release orders will be issued sometime today. He will be out in a few days,” Naveed said.

A two-member bench of the High Court of Sindh province issued the order in the city of Karachi on Thursday, Naveed said, adding that the three others, who had been serving life-sentences in connection with the case, had been acquitted.

Pearl was investigating Islamist militants in Karachi after the Sept. 11, 2001, attacks on the United States when he was kidnapped in January 2002.

Video emerged a few weeks later of his murder. He was beheaded.

Khalid Sheikh Mohammad, the accused mastermind of the Sept. 11 attacks, was also allegedly involved in Pearl‘s killing.

Netanyahu, much of Israeli top brass in quarantine as health minister gets virus

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and some of Israel’s other top officials in managing the country’s response to the coronavirus crisis will enter quarantine after Health Minister Yaakov Litzman was confirmed to have contracted COVID-19, amid concerns that other senior officials could also be forced into isolation.

Netanyahu will work from his Jerusalem residence until Wednesday in accordance with Health Ministry instructions and the advice of his personal physician, Dr. Tzvi Berkowitz, the Prime Minister’s office said in a statement.

Health Ministry head Moshe Bar Siman-Tov, who has become the face of Israel’s management of the crisis with near daily briefings and media appearances, announced on Thursday morning that he would self-quarantine, due to the contact he had with Litzman in recent days.

Sigal Sadetzki, head of public health at the Health Ministry, will also enter a two-week period of home isolation, since she recently met with Litzman.

Mossad Chief Yossi Cohen, whose spy agency has been instrumental in obtaining medical equipment for Israel, and National Security Adviser Meir Ben-Shabbat, who has been coordinating the government’s response to the pandemic, will also be sent into isolation, according to Hebrew news reports. IDF chief of staff Aviv Kohavi is already working from quarantine, due to exposure to an infected officer, but has tested negative for the virus.

2021 Maccabiah Games postponed by a year amid coronavirus pandemic

The 21st Maccabiah Games, scheduled to take place in Israel in June 2021, have been postponed for a year due to the ongoing coronavirus outbreak, organizers said Thursday.

The Games will instead take place on July 12-26, 2022, the Maccabi World Union Congress said.

The primary reason for delaying the competition was the separate postponement of the Olympics from 2020 to 2021 due to the coronavirus pandemic.

“We are satisfied with the decision made to postpone Maccabiah this year, even though it has not happened in the past. We will continue to prepare with our many partners, in Israel and around the world, to best meet the 21st Maccabiah in the summer of 2022,” Maccabi World Union Congress chairman Roy Hessing said in a statement.

Known as the “Jewish Olympics,” the Maccabiah Games bring together thousands of athletes from over 80 countries to compete in over 40 sports once every four years. In 2017, more than 10,000 athletes competed. It’s the third-largest sporting event in the world, according to organizers.

The Maccabiah Games were the launching pad for many international Jewish sports stars. Many return to play or coach in the games.

Arabs Riot in Jaffa After Resident Arrested for Violating Quarantine Regulations

Arab residents of Jaffa rioted on Wednesday, burning tires and dumpsters because the police were enforcing nationwide quarantine restrictions to prevent the spread of coronavirus.

During a patrol of the Ajami neighborhood, police saw two men standing together and asked to see identification to check if they were outside the 100-meter limit from their homes, according to a report by Ynet.

The young man refused the order, and other residents began surrounding the officers to help the man escape. Police called for backup; shortly after, clashes began.

Police officers made four additional arrests.

The police released a statement, according to the report, stating that “forces in Jaffa spotted a man who refused to disclose his details, and dozens of people gathered, including his family, surrounding the officers to aid the boy’s escape. Some even confronting the forces and attacking them violently.”

“A large group of people burned tires and hurled objects, hitting police, who arrived at the scene. Israeli police officers are now engaged in stopping violations of directives. The police will allow the right to protest and freedom of expression, but will not allow violent behavior,” said the statement.

Israel links virus aid for Gaza to recovering missing soldiers

Israel on Wednesday linked any assistance it might offer for the Gaza Strip’s efforts against coronavirus to progress in its attempt to recover two Israeli soldiers who were killed during the 2014 war in the Palestinian enclave and whose remains are held by Hamas, the terrorist group controlling Gaza.

Gaza has so far reported 12 coronavirus cases and authorities worry that local health facilities – with just 96 ventilators for a population of 2 million – are insufficient to contain the contagion.

Both Israel and Hamas have closed the Gaza border to non-essential traffic as a precaution against the spread of the infection. But with Gaza authorities appealing for foreign humanitarian assistance, Israel has been weighing its role.

“The moment there is talk of the humanitarian world in Gaza – Israel also has humanitarian needs, which are mainly the recovery of the fallen,” Defense Minister Naftali Bennett told reporters, referring to fatalities sustained during Operation Protective Edge, fought in the summer of 2014.

“I think that we need to enter a broad dialogue about Gaza’s and our humanitarian needs. It would not be right to disconnect these things … and certainly, our hearts would be open to many things.”

It was not immediately clear if Bennett was speaking of a possible condition on Israel providing direct aid, or also on it enabling the transfer of other aid over its border with Gaza.

PA asks Israel to test thousands of Palestinian workers before they return home

The Palestinian Authority is asking Israel to test Palestinian workers for the coronavirus before tens of thousands of them return to the West Bank ahead of Passover next week, fearing they could spark a massive surge in infections in the territory, officials said Wednesday.

Palestinian Authority Prime Minister Mohammed Shtayyeh spoke by phone with Gerald Rockenschaub, the head of the World Health Organization’s mission to the Palestinians, and asked him to convey the request — on behalf of the Palestinians — to Israel, Ibrahim Milhem, the premier’s spokesman said at an evening press conference in Ramallah

Rockenschaub confirmed the request to The Times of Israel and he said he would imminently do so.

Nearly two weeks ago after the first confirmed cases of the virus in Israel and the West Bank, Israeli authorities barred the vast majority of Palestinians from entering the Jewish state, but allowed tens of thousands of Palestinian workers in “essential sectors,” mostly construction, to spend one to two months in the country.

Israeli authorities said the workers would not be allowed to move back and forth between the West Bank and Israel and would be required to sleep in accommodations that their employers provide them.

PMW: PA rewrites Hans Christian Andersen’s “It’s Quite True” – the making of a Corona fairy tale

Once upon a time there was an Israeli soldier who spat. He didn’t spit on a door handle. He didn’t spit on a home. He just spat on the ground near a car.

How the PA turned one spit into a grotesque Israeli plan to infect and get rid of Palestinians, is reminiscent of how one feather turned into five hens in Hans Christian Andersen’s It’s Quite True.

In the fairy tale a hen plucks out one of her feathers and jokingly says that the more she plucks the more beautiful she will be. Another hen tells her friend that the first hen plans to pluck out all her feathers to be more beautiful to catch the rooster. The story is retold and exaggerated by hens, owls, and pigeons until the story comes back to the first hen who doesn’t recognize it is about her since the story now is of five hens who plucked themselves naked, and pecked at each other until they all bled to death. The first hen is shocked and condemns the feather plucking hens.

Seeing how the PA turned that one soldier’s spit into a major Israeli conspiracy to infect Palestinians with Coronavirus, one could almost imagine that the PA was inspired by the famous fairy tale.

Hezbollah shifts attention from Syria fight to battle virus

In the streets of Beirut’s southern suburbs, Hezbollah paramedics and volunteers on trucks and on foot sprayed disinfectants on shops and buildings. At a hospital where it once treated its wounded fighters, the group’s medical staff set up beds for a center to deal with coronavirus patients.

Hezbollah says it is turning the organizational might it once deployed to fight Israel or in the civil war in neighboring Syria to battle the spread of the virus pandemic in Lebanon.

It wants to send a clear message to its supporters in Lebanon’s Shiite community that it is a force to rely on in a crisis. The Iranian-backed guerrilla group and political powerhouse is under pressure to send that message after a series of blows to its prestige.

Opponents have angrily accused Hezbollah of helping bring coronavirus to Lebanon. It took more than three weeks for the country to halt flights from Iran after a woman who had just returned from Iran emerged as Lebanon’s first confirmed case on Feb. 20. Critics claim Hezbollah was behind the delay, ostensibly to give its members and supporters time to return home, an accusation it denies.

Since then, Lebanon has recorded nearly 480 cases and 12 deaths.

Is Iran Using Pandemic to Race toward Nuclear Weapons?

Israeli intelligence officials believe the numbers of dead and infected in Iran are four or five times higher than the official reports, but it isn’t clear if the gap stems from intentional efforts on the part of the regime to conceal the true picture, or from the general disarray in the country and the fact that quite a few regime officials are among the dead and sick.

Israeli officials are concerned that Iran will exploit the fact that the world’s attention is entirely focused on the coronavirus to secretly push forward its nuclear program. Iran has already said it no longer considers itself obligated to the nuclear deal and has reverted to enriching uranium.

Israeli intelligence officials said in January that if Iran continues at its current pace, within a few months Tehran could amass enough enriched uranium for its first nuclear bomb, and that it will be able to finish the bomb-making process in late 2021. The fear now is that Iran will accelerate these processes. Due to the coronavirus crisis, international monitors from the IAEA have stopped oversight activities in Iran’s nuclear facilities almost completely.

Danny Danon: Israel: Sanctions on Iran Must Not Be Lifted for Coronavirus

Some have called for the U.S. to lift sanctions on Iran to help the regime fight the coronavirus. However, the belief that lifting sanctions would do anything but empower the regime at the expense of the Iranian people is foolish and dangerous.

Like other authoritarian responses to the coronavirus outbreak, Iran withheld information and imprisoned whistleblowers. The government allowed daily commercial flights to and from China, and propagated the lie that the U.S. engineered the virus.

Last year, European nations sent Iran an aid package of a billion euros to purchase medical supplies to help the people. Last week, Secretary of State Mike Pompeo revealed that the regime stole most of that money, using it to acquire protective equipment for regime leaders against the virus and line their pockets.

The desire to help those suffering, particularly under an authoritative regime, is admirable. However, in Iran’s case, instead of sanctions relief, the focus should be on providing humanitarian aid in the form of medical equipment to help the Iranian people.

Israel wants to see Iranian hospitals and doctors empowered with the necessary resources to help everyone inflicted with the virus. And Israel does not want the Iranian people paying for the sins of the authoritarian regime. However, the help cannot come at the cost of lifting sanctions intended to end Iran’s nuclear program and terrorism campaigns.

Moreover, in less than seven months, the UN arms embargo, the first of the nuclear agreement’s sunset provisions, will expire. Beginning on October 18, the Iranian regime will be able to openly import advanced weapons, which it will use to arm its regional proxies and advance its missile program.

Coronavirus Poses a Greater Threat to the Ayatollahs than US Sanctions Do

The Iranian regime’s failure to grasp the significance of the outbreak in its own country has led 16 other countries in the region to claim that their own outbreaks originated in Iran. These include Iraq, Afghanistan, Bahrain, Kuwait, Oman, Lebanon, the United Arab Emirates.

The European aid package, which is said to be worth $548,000, is the first transaction conducted under a trade mechanism known as the Instrument In Support Of Trade Exchanges, or Instex, which has been set up by the Europeans to enable them to barter humanitarian goods and food with Tehran after the US withdrawal from the 2015 nuclear deal.

Tehran would be well-advised, though, not to regard the aid delivery as raising the prospect of the sanctions being eased. The new trading arrangements set up by Europe have been designed not to breach the Trump administration’s policy of applying “maximum pressure” against Iran, so that Instex can only be used for the delivery of humanitarian aid and food.

This means that, while the aid delivery might help to fight the coronavirus pandemic, it will do little to alleviate the pressure on Iran’s incompetent, and increasingly unpopular, leadership.

PreOccupiedTerritory: COVID19: Iranian Authorities Warn Public Against Conspiracy Theories That Don’t Blame Jews (satire)

Public health and security officials in the Islamic Republic sought to emphasize existing guidelines today regarding the dissemination of information, cautioning citizens to give credence to, or to spread reports of, cabals manipulating events behind the scenes only if those reports involve Zionist cabals, or at least Jewish ones.

Spokesmen for the Ministry of Information and Ministry of Public Safety issued statements Thursday warning Iranians of conspiracy theories in which Jews play no major part, and instructing them to disregard any such irresponsible reports.

“Lies will not help us in this stressful time,” stated Deputy Minister of Information Ayman Asshat. “The challenges facing our country and society amid the coronavirus crisis are formidable enough without our getting distracted or deluded by non-credible ideas such as Jews not being involved in something this big, this destructive. I urge our citizens to take the responsible route and only accept conspiracy theories in which the evil, manipulative parties are those of the Zionist enemy and its ethnic brethren.”

“Please do not confuse ‘The US created coronavirus as a weapon against Iran and Islam’ with the idea that it wasn’t the Jews,” added Ministry of Public Safety spokesman Smelav Fartz. “Our knowledge that the coronavirus is an American invention in no way negated or diminishes the reality that the tentacles of the Elders of Zion control American government, policy, and decisions. While combating the pathogen on the medical and public health front, we must not lose sight of who bears ultimate responsibility. In this case that would be the same entity that bear responsibility for everything else negative that happens in this world. Our leaders will continue to work toward the elimination of this threat from our region and from the world at large. The Holocaust never happened, by the way. No one could be that evil. Its appearance in history books is yet another machination of the same entity that must be exterminated.”

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