May 27, 2020

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06/03 Links Pt1: Israel Criticized for Declining Invitation to National Suicide; Iran’s chess board

From Ian:

Charles Krauthammer: Israel Criticized for Declining Invitation to National Suicide
This seems a gratuitous provocation. Sanders hardly made Israel central to his campaign. He did call Israel’s response in the 2014 Gaza war “disproportionate” and said “we cannot continue to be one-sided.” But now Sanders seeks to permanently alter — i.e., weaken — the relationship between the Democratic Party and Israel, which has been close and supportive since Harry Truman recognized the world’s only Jewish state when it declared independence in May 1948.
[Cornel] West doesn’t even pretend, as do some left-wing “peace” groups, to be opposing Israeli policy in order to save it from itself. He makes the simpler case that occupation is unconscionable oppression and that until Israel abandons it, Israel deserves to be treated like apartheid South Africa — anathematized, cut off, made to bleed morally and economically. The Sanders appointees wish to bend the Democratic platform to encourage such diminishment unless Israel redeems itself by liberating Palestine.
This is an unusual argument for a Democratic platform committee, largely because it is logically and morally perverse. Israel did in fact follow such high-minded advice in 2005: It terminated its occupation and evacuated Gaza. That earned it (temporary) praise from the West. And from the Palestinians? Not peace, not reconciliation, not normal relations but a decade of unrelenting terrorism and war.
Israel is now being asked — pressured — to repeat that same disaster on the West Bank. That would bring the terror war, quite fatally, to the very heart of Israel — Tel Aviv, Jerusalem, Ben Gurion Airport. Israel is now excoriated for declining that invitation to national suicide.
It is ironic that the most successful Jewish presidential candidate ever should be pushing the anti-Israel case. But perhaps not surprising considering Sanders’ ideological roots. He is old left — not the post-1960s, countercultural New Left. Why, the man honeymooned in the Soviet Union — not such fashionably cool communist paradises as Sandinista Nicaragua where Bill de Blasio went to work for the cause or Castro’s Cuba where de Blasio honeymooned. (Do lefties all use the same wedding planner?)
For the old left, Israel was simply an outpost of Western imperialism, Middle East division. To this day, the leftist consensus, most powerful in Europe (which remains Sanders’ ideological lodestar), holds that Israeli perfidy demands purification by Western chastisement.

Caroline Glick: Iran’s chess board

Strategic thinking has always been Israel’s Achilles’ heel. As a small state bereft of regional ambitions, so long as regional realities remained more or less static, Israel had little reason to be concerned about the great game of the Middle East.
But the ground is shifting in the lands around us. The Arab state system, which ensured the strategic status quo for decades, has collapsed.
So for the first time in four generations, strategy is again the dominant force shaping events that will impact Israel for generations to come.
To understand why, consider two events of the past week.
Early this week it was reported that after a two-year hiatus, Iran is restoring its financial support for Islamic Jihad. Iran will give the group, which is largely a creation of the Iranian Revolutionary Guard Corps, $70 million.
On Wednesday Iranian media were the first to report on the arrest of a “reporter” for Iran’s Al-Alam news service. Bassam Safadi was arrested by Israel police in his home in Majdal Shams, the Druse village closest to the border with Syria on the Golan Heights. Safadi is suspected of inciting terrorism.
That is, he is suspected of being an Iranian agent.

Israel Foes Will Always Have Paris

But times have changed. The Europeans are more hostile to Israel than ever. Their justification for this attitude is their belief that Israel has taken a hard turn to the right and can cite the recent coalition changes in the Jewish state as proof that they are right. They conveniently ignore the fact that the Palestinians have repeatedly refused peace offers that would have given them a state. Moreover, if they were really interested in working with the Israelis they’d follow up on Netanyahu’s renewed embrace of a two-state solution and stated willingness to negotiate about the 2002 Arab Peace Initiative. But what can’t be ignored is the influence of a rise in anti-Semitism in Europe and the effect — however indirect it might be — on government attitudes toward Israel. There is no cost for treating Israel unfairly or giving the Palestinians a pass for their support for terrorism is and benefits to be had in terms of domestic and foreign applause.
At the same time, those planning these events know that after Election Day, President Obama will have a couple of months when he will feel free to settle scores with Netanyahu without having to worry about its impact on the presidential election. Whether that means a U.S. initiative to impose terms about borders, settlements, Jerusalem and refugees on Israel or merely a decision to not veto a Palestinian independence resolution in the Security Council, it’s clear that Obama has something up his sleeve before he leaves office.
What will begin tomorrow in Paris won’t lead to diplomatic progress but it must be considered as the start of an effort whose certain failure will serve as an excuse for imposing dangerous terms on Israel. As with past such efforts, the only thing that it will encourage will be more Palestinian intransigence and a new round of terrorist warfare. Those who want to encourage peace rather than the isolation of Israel must hope that the next president — whoever he or she might be — will seek to influence Obama from making things worse and make sure the world knows that they will have Israel’s back once they take office. Failing that, what the French start with lofty rhetoric about peace will likely only end in more bloodshed.

Paris summit ends with bland communique

The Paris summit on Middle East peace ended Friday afternoon with a brief statement acknowledging that “acts of violence,” and not only settlement activity, are endangering a two-state solution.
After a delay of some two hours with the delegates from the 29 countries and international organizations trying to come to a consensus statement, a joint rather bland communique was issued with the participants reaffirming their “support for a just, lasting and comprehensive resolution to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict.”
The statement read that the parties “reaffirmed that a negotiated two-state solution is the only way to achieve an enduring peace, with two states, Israel and Palestine, living side by side in peace and security. They are alarmed that actions on the ground, in particular continued acts of violence and ongoing settlement activity, are dangerously imperiling the prospects for a two-state solution.”
A brief document put out by the French on Thursday explaining the purpose of the summit said that the two state solution was under increased threat, “particularly with regard to continued settlement activities.” That document made no mention of Palestinian terrorism.

Analysis: Israel can sigh relief at parve Paris communique

The communique that emerged Friday would not have been as neutral and bland as it was without US efforts to water down the language, and Israel was in close coordination with Washington over the last few weeks on this matter. The Obama Administration has not hidden its displeasure over the years with Israel’s policies regarding the diplomatic process. But it also understands — though this is less frequently stated or reported — that Israel is not solely responsible for the stalemate, and that the Palestinians also bear much of the responsibility.
This came out clearly in the communique. While a French explanatory note on Thursday reflected Paris’s thinking, that the two-state solution was under threat primarily because of the settlements, Friday’s communique added another reason: “continued acts of violence.”
For weeks Israel had come out very strongly against the Paris meeting, concerned it would be the beginning of an international effort to gang up and force a solution on Israel. For exactly that same reason, the Palestinians embraced the summit. After the communique, they had little reason to rejoice.
The Foreign Ministry issued a statement saying that the Paris summit was a “missed opportunity.”

France says Israeli settlements main ‘threat’ to two-state solution, ahead of peace summit

Forget unrelenting terrorism, the Hamas-Fatah split, and the consistent Palestinian refusal to recognize Israel as the national home of the Jews. According to a French pre-summit paper published on Thursday, settlement activity is the main threat to a two-state solution.
The brief document put out by the French Foreign Ministry to explain the French initiative and the one-day Mideast summit to be held in Paris on Friday said the two-state solution was under increased threat, “particularly with regard to continued settlement activities.”
Foreign Ministry director-general Dore Gold said in response that what has disrupted the peace process more than any other factor since the 1993 Oslo Accords has been the “breakdown of security due to the Palestinian adoption of violence against Israel.”
Citing the suicide bombings, the rockets from Gaza, and the current wave of knife attacks, Gold said that “to ignore this recent history and focus on Israeli settlements is to completely distort what is going on in the Middle East.”
The document did not include a word regarding any Palestinian culpability for the current diplomatic logjam. It also seemed to seek to revitalize the notion, which lost much of its currency following the Arab Spring, that the Israeli-Palestinian conflict was at the core of instability in the Middle East.

Israel MFA DG Gold Statement on the Paris Conference

Israel-Palestinian peace initiatives are suddenly popping up everywhere

Until a week ago, it seemed the Israeli-Palestinian peace process was a flat-liner.
President Obama thought so. In March, he said he wouldn’t seek to jump-start talks — the two sides were too far apart; it was not in the cards.
Now Israeli-Palestinian peace initiatives are popping up all over.
On Friday, the French will host a meeting of about 25 foreign ministers, including Secretary of State John F. Kerry, to seek international consensus on a way to move talks forward.
State Department spokesman John Kirby said Kerry was going to Paris to learn and listen — not to lead.
“It’s about being there, being part of the discussion, exploring ideas and options that might get us closer to a two-state solution,” Kirby said.
But Kerry’s presence in Paris worries Israelis who fear that the international community is going to press them to end the 49-year military occupation of the West Bank and the partial trade and travel blockage of Gaza, and to stop ongoing construction of Jewish settlements on land the Palestinians want for a future state.
The Israelis also have their eyes on the calendar. They are concerned that the Obama ­administration will, before leaving office, enshrine a two-state ­solution in a speech or a U.N. resolution, in effect laying out the final status ahead of negotiations.

UN chief: Israelis and Palestinians must show commitment to two-state solution

Israeli and Palestinian leaders must ensure that their actions reflect their stated commitment to a two-state solution, United Nations Secretary General Ban Ki-Moon said at the French ministerial conference meeting on the Middle East peace process held in Paris on Friday.
“We all agree that a two-state solution is the only viable option for a sustainable peace,” he told the forum. “Yet we all can see that the two-state solution is at great risk.”
Ki-Moon added that “Israel and Palestine must pull back from the brink by undertaking serious efforts to create the conditions which will enable a return to meaningful negotiations.”
While the Secretary General condemned “terror, violence and the incitement that fuel them”, he also cited “the ongoing settlement enterprise” and the “lack of unity between Gaza and the West Bank.” as obstacles to peace.
“Settlement activity is illegal under international law and Israel must cease its policy of expanding settlements, legalizing outposts and demolishing Palestinian structures,” he stated. “These actions raise legitimate questions about its commitment to the two-state solution and to its obligations as the Occupying Power.”

Israel to Place Gorillas Near Gaza; Hopes Int’l Community Will Care About Rocket Attacks (satire)

Looking to raise awareness and concern over the flood of rockets launched from the Gaza Strip for the past decade, Israel has decided to place gorillas throughout the communities and neighboring towns surrounding Gaza.
“For years we’ve highlighted the deaths of innocent men, women, and children from these rockets, but people throughout Europe and on college campuses in the U.S. continued to support Hamas,” a spokesman for the Israeli government told The Mideast Beast. “After seeing the outpouring of anger over the death of Harambe the gorilla, we realized we’ve been doing it all wrong.”
Israel will now place a handful of gorillas in Ashdod, Ashkelon, Sderot and other communities in the south that have seen a high number of rocket attacks. While Hamas publically insists the move won’t change its military approach, some Hamas commanders expressed concern in private conversations.
“If one of our rockets were to kill a gorilla, we would completely alienate our core support base of 18 to 22-year-old left-wing American Facebook commenters,” one senior Hamas official told The Mideast Beast off record. “That’s not a risk we can take lightly.”

Who were the 1948 Arab refugees?

Contrary to conventional “wisdom,” most Arabs in British Mandate Palestine — and most of the 320,000 1948 Arab refugees — were migrant workers and descendants of 1831-1947 Muslim immigrants from across the Arab world. At the time, Britain enticed Arab immigration and blocked Jewish immigration.
Thus, between 1880 and 1919, Haifa’s Arab population surged from 6,000 to 80,000, mostly due to migrant workers. The eruption of World War II accelerated the demand for Arab manpower by the British Mandate’s military and its civilian authorities.
Moreover, Arab migrant workers were imported by the Ottoman Empire, and then by the British Mandate, to work on major civilian and military infrastructure projects. Legal and illegal Arab migrants were also attracted by economic growth generated by the Jewish community starting in 1882.
According to a 1937 report by the British Peel Commission (featured in the ground-breaking book “Palestine Betrayed” by Professor Efraim Karsh), “during 1922 through 1931, the increase of Arab population in the mixed-towns of Haifa, Jaffa and Jerusalem was 86%, 62% and 37% respectively, while in purely Arab towns such as Nablus and Hebron it was only 7% and a decrease of 2% in Gaza.”

European Union Declares War on Internet Free Speech

Opponents counter that the initiative amounts to an assault on free speech in Europe. They say that the European Union’s definition of “hate speech” and “incitement to violence” is so vague that it could include virtually anything deemed politically incorrect by European authorities, including criticism of mass migration, Islam or even the EU itself.
Some Members of the European Parliament have characterized the EU’s code of online conduct — which requires “offensive” material to be removed from the Internet within 24 hours — as “Orwellian.”
“By deciding that ‘xenophobic’ comment in reaction to the crisis is also ‘racist,’ Facebook has made the view of the majority of the European people… into ‘racist’ views, and so is condemning the majority of Europeans as ‘racist.'” — Douglas Murray.
In January 2013, Facebook suspended the account of Khaled Abu Toameh after he wrote about corruption in the Palestinian Authority. The account was reopened 24 hours later, but with the two posts deleted and no explanation.

CENSORED: Facebook deletes a Gatestone author’s page!

Dear Readers,
On Tuesday, the European Union (EU) announced a new online speech code to be enforced by four major tech companies, including Facebook and YouTube.
On Wednesday, Facebook deleted the account of Ingrid Carlqvist, Gatestone’s Swedish expert.
It’s no coincidence.
Ingrid had posted our latest video to her Facebook feed — called “Sweden’s Migrant Rape Epidemic.” As you can see, Ingrid calmly lays out the facts and statistics, all of which are meticulously researched.
It’s a video version of this research paper that Gatestone published last year. The video has gone viral — racking up more than 80,000 views in its first two days.
But the EU is quite candid: it is applying a political lens to their censorship, and it now has teams of political informants — with the Orwellian title of “trusted reporters” — to report any cases of “xenophobia” or “hate speech” to Facebook for immediate deletion.

Trump says ‘no place in society’ for anti-Semitism

Donald J.Trump condemned the flurry of anti-Semitic rhetoric and invective stirring among some supporters of his presidential bid on Thursday.
Addressing a number of incidents online in which his avowed supporters have targeted Israel, Jewish figures and journalists, Trump said in a statement that “anti-Semitism has no place our society, which needs to be united, not divided.”
The Republican presidential nominee was repeating a statement he made last month to The New York Times after controversy first stirred over his views of David Duke, a former leader of the Ku Klux Klan who warned of “Jewish extremists” thwarting his candidacy.
But some Jewish figures, pro-Israel organizations and media commentators have questioned whether Trump’s original condemnation was sufficient, given the sheer volume of anti-Semitic attacks lobbed on the Internet against Jews at all critical of Trump.
“He didn’t just say, ‘I denounce it,’ which is a good statement but doesn’t go far enough,” Jason Greenblatt, Trump’s top adviser on Israel and the Jewish world, told the Post. “What he instead said is, anti-Semitism has no place in our society, and we need to have a unified society. That to me is a statement that a leader should make.”
The Democratic National Committee has targeted Trump and Greenblatt for a campaign response they characterized on Thursday as “cowardly.”

Donald Trump’s anti-Semitism controversies: A timeline

Presumptive Republican presidential nominee Donald Trump is facing growing accusations that his campaign is countenancing anti-Semitism – if not encouraging it outright.
Trump’s foreign policy slogan, “America First,” echoes the World War II-era non-interventionist movement championed by a notorious anti-Semite. During the height of the primary campaign, Trump delayed disavowing the support of white supremacist David Duke. And the candidate has failed to condemn the recent anti-Semitic vitriol directed by supporters against journalists who have written critically of Trump, including New York Times reporter Jonathan Weisman and GQ writer Julia Ioffe.
In his defense, Trump and his supporters cite the fact that his daughter, son-in-law and three grandchildren are Jewish (Ivanka Trump underwent an Orthodox conversion before she married Jared Kushner in 2009) [also daughter in law Lara Yunaska], that Trump was the grand marshal of the 2004 Salute to Israel Parade and that he has many Jewish friends.
“He’s not Hitler,” Melania Trump said of her husband in an interview last month after being told the comedian Louis C.K. compared the candidate to the Nazi leader.
Many, however, remain unconvinced of the defense.

Former Israeli and US officials unveil security-based proposals for two-state solution

Former Israeli and US security and diplomacy officials unveiled two proposals for achieving a two-state solution between Israelis and Palestinians, based on systems that would satisfy Israel’s security needs in the West Bank while providing Palestinians the sovereignty they require.
The proposals, which were facilitated and coordinated by the Israel Policy Forum, were developed by the Center for a New American Security (CNAS), an independent nonpartisan research institution, and Commanders for Israel’s Security (CIS), a coalition of some 200 former heads of the IDF, Shin Bet, Mossad and Israeli police forces who advocate in support of a two-state solution.
The CIS report, entitled “Security First” aims to be a “plan of action to extricate Israel from the security dead end and to improve its security situation and international standing.”
To do so, the group believes certain security measures are necessary including: completing the construction of the West Bank security fence; implementing a strict border control along the fence; continued military control over the West Bank until a permanent agreement is reached; freezing settlement building; restoring law and order in East Jerusalem and tackling illegal infiltration into Israel.

Experts Question Omission of Islamic Extremism in State Dept. Plan to Fight Terrorism

The State Department’s new strategy for fighting terrorism has been criticized by experts for failing to specifically mention the threat of Islamic extremism.
The Joint Strategy on Countering Violent Extremism, which was published last week, outlines the government’s official diplomatic anti-terror plan. In his introduction to the document, which was co-written with USAID, the U.S. government’s foreign aid bureau, Secretary of State John Kerry hailed the report:
Today we take another step forward. The Department of State and USAID have produced a proactive international strategy recognizing immediate needs, utilizing our strengths, and demonstrating our will to comprehensively address the challenge of violent extremism, including the root causes. Together, we are building organizational structures needed to pursue a more aggressive and integrated approach to this challenge. This is a generational struggle, but we must begin now.
But a memo by the Henry Jackson Society, a London-based think tank, pointed out that “the word ‘Islam’ does not once appear in the US government’s CVE [Countering Violent Extremism] document. Neither does ‘Islamism’, ‘Islamist’, ‘radical-Islam’, ‘radical-Islamist’ or any other such formulation.”

The US Deletes Inconvenient Words — From Arafat to Iran

The US State Department’s admission that it altered an embarrassing video exchange about its nuclear negotiations with Iran is disturbing — but it’s not the first time that the Obama administration, or some of its predecessors, have tampered with words that it deemed politically inconvenient.
State Department spokesman John Kirby confessed this week that part of a 2013 video recording in its archive had been deliberately removed. In that portion of the video, then-State Department spokeswoman Jen Psaki confirmed to a reporter that the department had sometimes lied to the press in order to hide information about its dealings with Iran. For the past three weeks, the State Department had claimed the deletion of Pskai’s statement had been caused by a technical “glitch.” Kirby, however, in admitting this week that the deletion was deliberate, claimed that the person involved “could not remember” which government official had ordered him to delete it.
The late Palestinian leader Yasser Arafat was another beneficiary of political editing. It happened in September 1995, when Arafat traveled to Washington, DC, to meet with president Bill Clinton. The Israeli government had just agreed to withdraw from significant portions of the disputed territories, and many Israelis were nervous about the possibility that the concessions could lead to a Palestinian state.
When Arafat arrived at the White House, reporters asked him if he expected the latest developments would lead to a Palestinian state. According to Reuters, “Arafat was quite emphatic…Reporters clearly heard Arafat say ‘definitely’…A tape recording of the exchange shows that Arafat said ‘definitely’ twice.” The official White House transcript, however, omitted Arafat’s “definitely” reply. The gap in the transcript “raises the possibility that some diplomatic editing had taken place,” Reuters noted at the time.
In another instance, it was a president himself who benefitted from the State Department’s protective editing. At the 1945 Yalta conference, president Franklin D. Roosevelt mentioned to Joseph Stalin that he would soon be seeing Saudi Arabian leader Ibn Saud. The Soviet leader asked FDR if he intended to make any concessions to the king. Roosevelt replied — according to the official American note-taker — “that there was only one concession he thought he might offer and that was to give him the 6 million Jews in the United States.”
But when the Yalta transcripts were published by the State Department in 1955, Roosevelt’s remark about the Jews was replaced by a line of asterisks. Eventually, in 2011, a State Department researcher revealed that then-assistant secretary of state Walter Bedell Smith had instructed the typesetter, “Delete this — it is not pertinent history.” Translation: Smith, who worked closely with the FDR’s inner circle and frequently briefed Roosevelt during World War II, likely wanted to protect the president’s reputation by hiding his unpleasant “joke” about Jews.

Arab activist: ‘Palestinians would love Israeli annexation’

Palestinian human rights activist Bassem Ayyad, a former investigator for the radical leftist NGO B’Tselem, surprised a conference of Judea and Samaria researchers at Ariel University on Thursday when he revealed unofficial Palestinian views.
Arutz Sheva got the chance to speak with Ayyad about how Palestinian Arabs view the Palestinian Authority (PA), and learned he thinks most would in fact love to see Israel annex Judea and Samaria.
Ayyad explained that “the Palestinians have become frustrated by the attitude and the behavior of the Palestinian Authority.”
He noted that since the PA was created in the 1994 Oslo Accords, Arabs living under the organization only hear about corruption from it, and he emphasized that the PA hasn’t built a single kindergarten in Judea, Samaria or Gaza in its entire existence.
If you were to secretly poll Palestinians, Ayyad asserted that “99.9% would ask to be under the Israeli authority rather than under the Palestinian Authority.”
According to Ayyad, Palestinian Arabs living under the PA want something different, and they “would love to see themselves tomorrow annexed to Israel.”

Israeli Arab Pundit Urging Louis C.K. to Cause Trouble on Jerusalem Visit

As preparations have begun for the single concert trailblazing comic Louis C.K. will perform in Jerusalem on August 18, Arab journalist, humorist and screenwriter Sayed Kashua is already upset because he fears the comic will betray the Palestinian cause—even though the comic has never declared his political views about the Middle East, other than to compare Israel and the Arabs on SNL to his two daughters having a tantrum fight. Or as Kashua put it on Friday, in his Ha’aretz column: “If he doesn’t cause a political scandal — me and Louis C.K. are finished.”
With brisk sales for the one-time event, and with prices reaching almost $200, Kashua already detects signs that the most innovative and popular American comic of the day is selling out the Arabs: he first announced his Israel concert on the Howard Stern radio show, Howard Stern whom Kashua calls “the shallow racist who thinks that if he were Israel he’s have eliminated all the citizens of Gaza in five minutes. Who claims that the Jews arrived at a totally empty place, that there were no inhabitants in that desert.”
Kashua sees the Louis C.K. visit as far more than a cultural event — to him this is a political event which legitimizes Israel’s policy, especially in Jerusalem, although the Pais Arena, where the concert is scheduled to take place, is just inside the ancient “green line” separating the pre- and post-1967 eternal city.

Like Mother, Like Son

The details of last month’s stabbing of two elderly Israeli women have finally been released, and they include several troubling revelations.
On May 11, the two women, ages 82 and 86, were stabbed by two Palestinian terrorists on the popular Haas Promenade in Jerusalem’s Armon Hanatziv neighborhood. We already knew, from one of the victims’ friends, that Arab workers standing nearby refused her pleas to call an ambulance.
But now we also know—from the details that the Israeli police recently released—that the attackers discussed their plans for the attack on their Facebook pages, and that after the attack, they also communicated via WhatsApp. Remember when we used to think that economic advancement, and the availability of modern technology, would lead the Palestinians to become more moderate? Remember the idea that if the Arabs personally experienced the benefits of the modern world, they would not risk losing it by resorting to terrorism? Instead of Facebook and WhatsApp leading to moderation, young Arabs are using them in the service of extremism and violence.
The most disturbing revelation about the May 11 attack is that the two attackers were only 16 and 17 years old, and the mother of one of them was herself recently arrested for attempting to stab Jews near Jerusalem.

Israel Steps Up Efforts to Locate Terror Tunnels Inside Gaza

The Israeli military has stepped up its efforts to locate terror tunnels inside the Gaza Strip in the last week, Walla reported Thursday.
Despite claims to the contrary by Hamas, Israeli authorities said they never agreed to stop using bulldozers or other heavy equipment on the Gazan side of the border fence as long as the threat of tunneling persisted. The IDF is also turning up the soil near the perimeter fence, preventing the growth of vegetation that could obstruct its views of Hamas activities and the placement of IEDs.
Hamas leader Moussa Abu Marzouk claimed last month that the IDF had pulled its troops out of Gazan territory as part of an Egyptian-mediated deal.
Tensions flared earlier in May after Israel announced the discovery of two Hamas terror tunnels that extended into its territory. Hamas responded to the IDF’s efforts to uncover and destroy the tunnels near the border fence by firing mortar rounds. Israel announced that it had intercepted a Gaza-bound shipment of material that could be used for building rockets and tunnels shortly afterwards.

Palestinians to flood Temple Mount on Jerusalem Day

Palestinian Arab organizations are planning to flood Al-Aqsa Mosque on the Temple Mount with Arab visitors for Jerusalem Day this coming Sunday.
Jamal Amru, an “investigator of Jerusalem affairs,” spoke to the Hamas paper Palestine on Thursday about the preparations.
He said the Palestinians are preparing to take in a large number of visitors at Al-Aqsa Mosque on Sunday from all over “Palestine,” indicating sovereign Israel, Judea, Samaria and Gaza.
Amru estimated that there will likely be clashes between Muslims and Jews at the Al-Aqsa Mosque on Sunday evening, when the Muslims perform their tarawih prayer at the start of Ramadan even as Israelis take part in the traditional Rikudegalim flag parade.
The annual Rikudegalim flag dance celebrates the liberation of the 3,000-year-old ancient Jewish capital in the 1967 Six Day War by waving Israeli flags and singing songs on Jerusalem Day.

Palestinian reality show underscores democracy woes

The winner of this “election” for Palestinian president was a 24-year-old lawyer from East Jerusalem, who defeated a woman and a Christian from Bethlehem. But this was reality television — not real life — and the vote came on a TV show called “The President” that is meant to educate young Palestinians about politics.
In reality, Palestinians haven’t had a chance to cast an actual ballot for president in over a decade.
The spirited competition among the three young finalists has drawn attention to the shortcomings of the Palestinians’ experiment with democracy, complicated by Israeli military rule, now in its 50th year, and two decades of failed peace efforts.
The last time the Palestinians in the West Bank and Gaza Strip elected a leader was in January 2005, when current President Mahmoud Abbas won by a large margin. Now polls indicate widespread discontent with Abbas and the long-ruling entrenched leadership around him.
“This show was an opportunity for the Palestinian youth to raise their voice and deliver their message,” said Waad Qannam, the winner of Thursday night’s finale, who was awarded a new car and is expected to meet Abbas.

Why is Shi’ite Iran backing Sunni Hamas?

Hamas politburo member Mussa Abu Marzouk recently touted the “natural” ties between his Sunni terrorist organization and Shi’ite Iran, the leading state sponsor of terror in the world.
Speaking to the Turkish Anadolu Agency, Marzouk claimed there was no contradiction in the ties – even though Iran is fighting Sunni factions in Syria, Iraq and Yemen, and has killed hundreds of thousands of Sunni Muslims directly or through its regional proxies in recent years.
Marzouk said Hamas has connections with all the sources in the region regardless of their ethnicity or religious approach, in a stance based on the interests of Hamas and the “Palestinian nation.”
It goes without saying that Hamas’s approach does not extend to Jews, given that the terror group’s charter calls for a genocide of the Jewish people.

Hamas Requires Chaperones for Female Student Drivers

Hamas has decreed that female student drivers must be accompanied by a chaperone when taking lessons, NPR reported Wednesday.
Driving schools were informed of the new rule by the government last fall.
One driving instructor, Mohammad al-Hatta, described being pulled over by police last fall with a single female student in the car, even though in his decade as an instructor he had never heard of the law. The police confiscated his identification papers. When he returned the next day to retrieve them, he was forced to sign a declaration that he would never again take a female student driving alone.
Due to the infraction, Hattab was temporarily suspended from his job by the police. He objected that finding a chaperone for female drivers is “complicated” and an unnecessary burden. “You can’t punish hundreds of instructors for the mistakes of a few,” he declared.
Driving schools now often book two female student drivers for simultaneous lessons so that they can chaperone each other. At least one school has hired a woman to work full-time as a chaperone.
The association of driving schools in Gaza has petitioned the government to stop enforcing the law. The matter will now be decided by a religious judge, who will issue a fatwa, a religious ruling, on the law’s acceptability.

The White House Spin, J Street, and Iran

J Street, usually critical of Israeli policies, sought to disarm criticism of its acceptance of the White House spin by asserting that it worked to advance the deal out of the belief that the important agreement contributed greatly to Israeli security, and that it blocked Iran’s path to a nuclear weapon for some years.
But that is not necessarily true. It is possible that the path of Iran to nuclear weapons may be limited for a short time with closer international inspection. It is equally possible that the deal may lead to better relations between the U.S. and Iran.
But already the U.S. Government Accountability Office in a report in February 2016 suggests that the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) may have problems in monitoring and verifying Iran’s implementation of the nuclear deal, regarding nuclear materials and activities. Iran in the past has failed to notify the IAEA of some of its activity.
Observers may legitimately differ about Iran’s adherence to the nuclear agreement, but there can be no disagreement about Iran’s continuing provocative behavior. Iran’s missile program is proceeding with full support from its leaders, and its ambition to become the hegemonic power in the Middle East is clear, especially to Saudi Arabia. The PF group, in its obeisance to White House spin, have neglected the reality that Iran is a dangerous power. This is shown by its missile launches and testing of ballistic missiles, its support for the Assad regime in Syria, its support of Hizb’allah, its involvement in Yemen, and its detention of U.S. sailors.
In the bible, Isaiah 2:4, says “they shall beat their swords into ploughshares.” Ploughshares Fund by its acceptance of misleading official propaganda and its funding of organizations not usually regarded as advocates of peace in the Middle East nor concerned with the security of Israel has not been helpful in turning Iranian “spears into pruning hooks.”

Key Obama Ally Secretly Bankrolled ‘Funny or Die’ Video Mocking Iran Deal Critics

As the battle over the Iran deal waged in Washington in the summer of 2015, the comedy video website Funny or Die released a video called “The Dealbreakers” mocking the GOP opposition. In the video, benign-looking representatives of Iran and the United States peacefully make a mutually beneficial deal, before war-mongering Republican Senators run in and destroy it with guns and explosives. “You think we can’t get away with this sh*t again?” asks one Republican as another cackles, “Who’s going to stop us?”
It was amusing, crude, over-the-top, certainly insulting of the GOP senators in question… and secretly funded by an organization that the Obama administration has identified as one their top surrogates.
The actual video provides little evidence of who exactly funded it, only directing viewers to visit the generic-sounding url to sign a petition. The Huffington Post exclusive unveiling the video likewise didn’t mention that it was funded by an outside group. But a press release released shortly afterwards by an organization called New Security Action revealed that they had paid for the video as part of a digital advertising push.
That alone isn’t shocking. While Funny or Die has always had a leftward tilt, its full-throated advocacy for liberal political issues kicked up a notch in 2014 when they partnered with the White House to raise awareness for Obamacare enrollments. Since then, they’ve opened a D.C. bureau headed by former Obama White House staffer Brad Jenkins. The bureau’s bread and butter: making humorous videos funded by liberal action groups to promote issues like the minimum wage, gay marriage, and yes, the Iran deal.

U.S.: Iran Still Main State Sponsor of Terrorism

The U.S. said the number of global terrorist attacks declined slightly between 2014 and 2015, although the Islamic State group expanded its reach. Iran remained the leading state sponsor of terrorism despite sealing a nuclear deal with world powers, the State Department said in its annual survey of worldwide terrorism released Thursday.
The department reported a 13 percent decrease in attacks in 2015 from the year before — the first such decline since 2012 — but said the threat from extremists keeps evolving as groups exploit lawlessness in ungoverned areas and seize on corruption to recruit members.
“The global terrorist threat continued to evolve rapidly in 2015, becoming increasingly decentralized and diffuse,” it said. “Terrorist groups continued to exploit an absence of credible and effective state institutions, where avenues for free and peaceful expression of opinion were blocked, justice systems lacked credibility, and where security force abuses and government corruption went unchecked.”
Statistics compiled for the report by researchers from the National Consortium for the Study of Terrorism and Responses to Terrorism showed that there were 11,774 attacks that resulted in 28,328 deaths in 2015, compared with 13,463 attacks in 2014 that killed 32,727 people. Of those killed in 2015, 19 were private American citizens, compared with 24 in 2014.

Israeli ambassador blasts Vienna mayor for Iran visit

Israel’s top diplomat in Austria, Talya Lador-Fresher, took to Twitter to criticize Vienna’s Mayor Michael Häupl for his visit to Iran.
“For a high-ranking Austrian politician during an Iran visit Israel is ‘no issue,’” Ambassador Lador-Fresher wrote on her Twitter feed on Wednesday. Lador-Fresher’s tweet to denounce the mayor’s indifference to Israel’s security interests is a new form of reaching the public in Austria for the embassy.
Häupl also faced criticism from the anti-Iran regime group Stop the Bomb in Vienna. The group said “a Social Democrat (SPÖ), traveled to Iran to meet with high-ranking regime officials like Tehran’s mayor, although a Holocaust denial event is currently taking place in Tehran and despite the persecution of labor activists.
The Iranian regime on a regular basis threatens Israel and Vienna’s sister city, Tel Aviv, with annihilation.”

No Starving People in Besieged Syria, Says Sanctioned Assad Official in D.C. Event

A top spokeswoman for Syrian President Bashar al-Assad claimed that there was no starvation in besieged parts of Syria while remotely participating in a Washington D.C. press conference on Thursday.
The event, hosted at the National Press Club by a group that seeks to pressure the United States to ally with Syria against the Islamic State, ended up focusing on the Assad regime’s various human rights violations. Dr. Bouthaina Shaaban, a close confident of Assad’s who was sanctioned by the Department of the Treasury in 2011, spent much of her time on the panel refuting reports of humanitarian crises and dodging questions about the regime’s well-documented abuses.
The rebel-held city of Daraya, which has been under a tight government siege since 2012, is actually “producing peas and beans and food and wild berries, and that is enough for the entire city. It is very fertile land, and nobody is starving in Daraya,” said Shaaban via Skype.
Some 8,000 people are currently living in Daraya—formerly a bustling Damascus suburb of 80,000—without access to running water and electricity. A group called Women of Daraya warned in April that the city has a severe food shortage, with some residents eating “soups made purely of spices in order to stave off hunger.”

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