September 26, 2020

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06/03 Links Pt1: Tens of thousands of New Yorkers march to celebrate Israel; ‘Deal of the century’ must address Jewish refugee issue; White House tells Russia it backs Israeli strikes in Syria

From Ian:

Tens of thousands of New Yorkers march to celebrate Israel
Tens of thousands of Israel supporters gathered in Manhattan on Sunday for the 55th annual Celebrate Israel Parade – the largest celebration of Israel in the world.

Beginning on Fifth Avenue and 57th Street and making their way up to 75th Street, marchers embraced this year’s theme of “Only in Israel” from the 1970s Hebrew classic “Rak B’Yisrael.”

The parade, which began in 1965, has been organized by the Jewish Community Relations Council (JCRC) of New York since 2011.

“Celebrate Israel brings the Jewish community together in support of Israel. From center right to center left, we set aside our differences and truly celebrate Israel as the democratic state that it is,” Michael Miller, CEO and executive director of JCRC told The Jerusalem Post.

Around 40,000 participants took part in this year’s event, from organizations including Birthright Israel, UJA-Federation of New York, El Al, Maimonides Medial Center and many Jewish youth movements and schools. Thirty of the participating organizations designed a float with colorful banners and costumes. Six volunteers were appointed grand marshals of the parade.

“It was an immediate yes for me to take part in a more official way this year as a grand marshal,” fashion blogger Elizabeth Savetsky, who has attended the parade for the last seven years, told the Post. “The best way to combat antisemitism is by showing pride. Supporting the magic of Israel is the best way to fight for it.”

Israel Celebrates Jerusalem Day

Prime Minister Netanyahu told the Cabinet on Sunday:

“We are marking 52 years since Jerusalem was unified in the Six-Day War. The war changed the fate of Israel. It removed us from a chokehold and danger of destruction, turned us into a strong regional power and – in effect – began the process of reconciliation, the continuing fruits of which we see developing today.”

“It brought one more thing: The unification of the capital of Israel. We returned, I remember personally, I returned, to Jerusalem, the cradle of our people, our culture and our faith, between the walls, and this moved the entire nation, all of its parts.”

“Of course, from then until today, Jerusalem has changed, it is almost unrecognizable. We are building it up. We are strengthening it. We are concerned for its future and are developing it into a prosperous city that can also be a focus of not only spirituality and a renewal of Israel’s tradition and heritage, but also a city that is being renewed with global technology.”

“Jerusalem is ranked as one of the more quickly developing cities. This is the right combination of heritage and science – and this is our strength. On this we built the State of Israel. This is the guiding idea of Zionism.”

Ari Fuld Remembered on Jerusalem Day

The Ari Fuld Project dedicated to his memory decided to ensure he was still present in spirit at the march and volunteers handed out stickers and wristbands to the participants of the Jerusalem Day Flag Parade in Ari’s memory, “to make Ari’s presence felt at the parade this year, as it was felt every year in the past,” as the organization explained.

The volunteers distributed items to the tens of thousands of Israelis who marched along the parade route through Jerusalem’s center and throughout the Old City.

“Keeping Ari Fuld’s memory alive!!! Handing out Ari Fuld bracelets!! He loved his country, he loved Jerusalem, he loved the truth and he loved celebrating Jerusalem Day!!” Avi Abelow, Fuld’s close friend, wrote on Facebook.

“It was very important to us that Ari’s presence be strongly felt at the Jerusalem Day parade, and I think we succeeded. Our wonderful volunteers handed out some 5000 stickers and another 5000 wristbands, and we could have easily handed out twice that amount,” Stephen Leavitt, Director of The Ari Fuld Project, told TPS.

‘Deal of the century’ must address Jewish refugee issue

It can be argued that before there can be peace, there must be truth, justice, and reconciliation. Perhaps nowhere is this more relevant than with regard to the over 100-year-old Israeli-Arab conflict.

In an article titled “Resolution 242: After 20 Years,” the late Arthur J. Goldberg, former U.S. ambassador to the United Nations and one of the chief drafters of U.N. Security Council Resolution 242, argued that when the resolution used the term “refugees” it “refers to both Arab and Jewish refugees.”

Resolution 242 has formed the basic foundation of all peace talks and negotiations surrounding the future of the territories seized by Israel in the Six-Day War. It is also the only resolution on the conflict that was placed under Chapter VI of the U.N. Charter, meaning it is legally binding, even if not legally enforceable.

However, with few exceptions, almost every time the term “refugees” has been brought up in the context of the Israeli-Arab conflict, it has been used purely in reference to Palestinian refugees.

In fact, while Palestinian refugees have a whole U.N. agency – the United Nations Relief and Works Agency for Palestine Refugees in the Near East – with a large annual budget and a substantial international consensus surrounding their plight, the over 850,000 Jews driven from their homes in the Middle East and North Africa during the middle of the 20th century have received scant attention.

Even in Israel, the issue has only recently started to be dealt with in a serious fashion. In 2014, a law was passed for a Day of Commemoration for the Jewish Refugees from Arab Countries, marked on Nov. 30 each year, and an annual event is now held by the Israeli Mission to the U.N. There has also been an attempt by the Israeli Foreign Ministry and international partners like Justice for Jews from Arab Countries to employ an international accountancy firm to undertake a forensic assessment of communal and personal assets lost and stolen in the exodus of Jews from the Middle East and North Africa.

Kushner: Uncertain if Palestinians can govern themselves

White House senior advisor Jared Kushner said in an interview broadcast on Sunday that the Palestinians deserve “self-determination,” but stopped short of backing Palestinian statehood and expressed uncertainty over their ability to govern themselves.

Kushner, President Donald Trump’s son-in-law and an architect of the White House’s yet-to-be-released Middle East peace plan, told the “Axios on HBO” television program it would be a “high bar” when asked if the Palestinians could expect freedom from Israeli military and government interference.

The Palestinian leadership has boycotted a diplomatic effort that Trump has touted as the “Deal of the Century.” Although Kushner has been drafting the plan for two years under a veil of secrecy, it is seen by Palestinian and some Arab officials as tilting heavily in Israel’s favor and denying them a state of their own.

Kushner again avoided saying explicitly whether the plan would include a two-state solution, the bedrock of US policy for decades, calling for a Palestinian state in the West Bank and Gaza Strip, with its capital in east Jerusalem.

But he said: “I do think they should have self-determination. I’m going to leave the details until we come out with the actual plan.”

Sisi Says Egypt Will Not Accept Anything Against Palestinian Wishes

Egyptian President Abdel Fattah al-Sisi, speaking about the unannounced US Mideast peace plan, said on Sunday that his country would not accept anything undesired by the Palestinians.

Speaking after breaking the Ramadan fast at a hotel in Cairo, Sisi also appeared to dismiss suggestions that Egypt might make concessions as part of the US plan.

The blueprint, still in draft form and billed by US President Donald Trump as the “deal of the century,” jettisons the two-state solution to ending the conflict between Israel and the Palestinians, according to Palestinian and Arab sources.

It envisages an expansion of Gaza into parts of northern Sinai, under Egyptian control, Palestinian officials have told Reuters.

Referring to the US plan, Sisi said that “Egypt will not accept anything that the Palestinians do not want.”

“You are asking what’s the story and what does Sisi have in mind, and will he give up anything to anyone,” apparently referring to reports that Egypt could be required to allow areas in Sinai adjacent to the Gaza border to be part of the deal.

California Democrats reject anti-Israel language at State Convention

Six highly controversial anti-Israel resolutions introduced at the California Democratic Conference have been rejected. The resolutions were effectively emasculated in Committee, and were ultimately disowned by the original authors.

Press release from the Progressive Zionists of California
(Sunday, June 2, 2019, San Francisco, California) —

Progressive Zionists of California (PZC) commends the California Democratic Party for rejecting numerous anti-Israel resolutions this weekend. In particular, we are pleased with the numerous rewrites of particularly troubling resolutions in the Resolutions Committee. The resolutions as amended were so odious to their authors that they withdrew their names as authors. We commend the Resolutions Committee in particular for their thoughtful discussion, and commitment to dialogue.
Additionally, PZC co-founder Paul Kujawsky was crucial in defeating five requests to support anti-Israel bills or oppose pro-Israel bills in the Legislative Committee. He argued effectively for this committee in particular to adopt “no position” for four of five bills, saying of the weekend, “This is a total defeat for anti-Israel activists this weekend. I could not be prouder of our efforts to combat extremism in the party.”

Discrepancy In Slotkin’s Resumes On Israeli-Palestinian Work

Two resumes from Rep. Elissa Slotkin (D., Mich.) offer different accounts of an early point in her career, raising questions about which version is most accurate and if there are political reasons why the two CVs do not match exactly.

Taken together, the resumes portray Slotkin as working both for a pro-Palestinian organization as well as an Israeli organization at a time marred by the emergence of the “Second Intifada,” a wave of violence between Palestinians and Israelis.

The LinkedIn profile gives little description into the work for Isha L’Isha.

In the 2012 resume, she listed her title with FUCAE as the director of development, adding:

“Served as lead grant-writer and spokesperson for a Palestinian civil rights organization during the second intifada. Travelled regularly between Israel and the West Bank reporting on the civil rights status of Palestinians and Arab-Israelis, produced reports on conditions on the ground, briefed NGO, U.N. and international delegations on fast-changing events, and strategized with Israeli and Palestinian leaders and other non-profits on how to advocate more effectively for civil rights.”

Rabbi Steve Burg, CEO for the pro-Israel group Aish HaTorah, said he finds Slotkin’s work for FUCAE troubling, saying the group exposed themselves as anti-Israel just a handful of years later when the “High Follow-up Committee” published a manifesto.

“Included in the manifesto—the first ever produced by the community’s supreme political body, known as the High Follow-Up Committee—are calls for Israel to be reformed from a Jewish state that privileges its Jewish majority into ‘a state of all its citizens’ and for sweeping changes to a national system of land control designed to exclude Palestinian citizens from influence,” said a report from Al-Ahram.

“Rarely Reported by the Media Anymore”: Persecution of Christians, March 2019

When it comes to violence between Muslims and non-Muslims, March news was dominated by the Christchurch massacres in New Zealand, where, on March 15, an Australian man killed 51 Muslims in two mosques. A statistical report that did some number-crunching, however, found that “a Christian living in a majority Muslim country is 143 times more likely to be killed by a Muslim for being a Christian than a Muslim is likely to be killed by a non-Muslim in a Western country for being what he is.”

The report — citing that “at least 4,305 Christians … were murdered by Muslims because of their faith in 2018” and that “300 million Christians, overwhelmingly in the majority-Muslim countries, were subjected to violence” — refers to the persecution of Christians by Muslims as “the most egregious example of human right violations in today’s world. The report also found other, similar disparities. In France, for example, “Frenchmen are exactly ten times more likely to be murdered by a Muslim than a Muslim being killed by a non-Muslim terrorist anywhere in the Western world.”

Syria says Israeli missiles target Iran-linked base near Homs; 5 reported killed

Syrian state media reported that Israel attacked the T-4 airbase near the northern city of Homs just after midnight Sunday, killing one soldier and wounding two others. A watchdog group said 5 people were killed.

The attack comes after the IDF carried out airstrikes on several military targets in Syria in the predawn hours of Sunday morning, reportedly killing 10 in response to two rockets that were fired from the country at the Golan Heights the night before.

Military officials told SANA that the attack targeted and destroyed a weapons storage facility and several other buildings at the base. Israel has attacked the T-4, or Tiyas, air base on multiple occasions. They said one Syrian soldier was killed and two wounded.

The Britain-based Syrian Observatory for Human Rights reported five killed, including one Syrian soldier. It said the attack also destroyed a rocket warehouse.

In addition to the Syrian army, Iranian fighters and Hezbollah forces are also stationed at the airbase, according to the monitor.

SANA also claimed that Syrian air defenses destroyed two of the incoming missiles.

TV report: White House tells Russia it backs Israeli strikes in Syria

A senior official in the Trump administration says the US has made it clear to Russia several times in recent months that America supports Israeli attacks in Syria as long as Iranian forces are operating in the country, Channel 13 reported Sunday.

The unnamed official was quoted as saying the US had told the Russians that Israel has America’s complete support for attacking targets in Syria.

“We told them [Russia] that all the Iranian forces should leave, and this is not only an Israeli demand, but also an American demand,” the source reportedly said.

The revelation came after Israel retaliated for an attack a day earlier in which rockets were fired from Syria at Mount Hermon, with one explosion damaging a ski-lift.

Reports said seven “foreign fighters” were among the 10 killed in the Israel Defense Forces airstrikes Sunday on several military targets in Syria.

IDF troops to get special devices to identify terrorists on time

Terrorist attacks by lone-wolf perpetrators in Judea and Samaria have become an ongoing problem for security forces.

Recently the Israel Defense Forces launched a new initiative aimed at streamlining the flow of intelligence aimed at improving the readiness of forces for such situations by harnessing new technology.

The goal is to let troops get the most up-to-date and pinpointed information on ongoing terrorist plots and perpetrators before they can execute their attacks.

The measure comes amid a review of the past year’s terrorist incidents that showed that only 12 of the 19 major terrorist attacks in the area ended with terrorists being neutralized at the scene.

A special watch-like device that will be distributed among fighters over the coming weeks will let fighters know what is going on around them. The device will alert them in real time on suspicious movements nearby, allowing them to properly assess their surroundings and confront the would-be attackers before it is too late.

Hebrew U professor calls Israeli activists ‘Nazi dogs,’ refuses to teach them

A professor from the Hebrew University called right-wing Israeli activists “Nazi dogs,” after they launched a website publicizing professors as “anti-Israeli,” Makor Rishon, an Israeli religious newspaper, first reported.

“The Nazi dogs at Im Tirtzu can’t do anything to me,” Professor Amiram Goldblum, a chemistry professor at Hebrew University and a left-wing activist in the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, wrote. “Now I promise – I will photograph every scum of Im Tirtzu on campus and will publicize their names as much as I can, so that teachers know who they shouldn’t accept to advanced degrees.”

Goldblum is a former spokesperson for Peace Now and on the board of the New Israel Fund. He was angered by the Canary Mission style website Im Tirtzu activists set up. The website lists at least 85 Israeli professors who were involved with ‘anti-Israel’ work, which includes promoting an academic boycott or accusing IDF soldiers, or Israel, of war crimes.

Im Tirtzu took a screen shot of the the comments Goldblum wrote online in response to a Haaretz article reporting on the website.

The Canary Mission is a website publicizing “anti-Israel” activists on US campuses.

Palestinian officials in hot water over Ramadan meal with Israelis

The PLO Committee for Interaction with Israeli Society on Monday defended its decision to send Palestinian officials to Jaffa to attend a Ramadan iftar meal with Israelis.

The committee, which is responsible for holding contacts with Israelis and organizing visits by Israelis to Ramallah, denied charges that it was engaging in promoting “normalization with the occupation.”

Many Palestinians have taken to social media to condemn the PLO committee for attending the iftar meal in “occupied Jaffa.”

In a statement, the committee said: “We need to distinguish between normalization with the occupation and its tools – which is unacceptable and condemned by Palestinians – and working on the internal Israeli front for dialogue and debate with Israeli society and its various aspects.”

Dismissing widespread criticism over Palestinian participation in the Jaffa iftar as “irresponsible,” the committee said that its activities were being held in the context of efforts to relay the Palestinian position and vision to the Israeli side. These activities, the committee said, “do not constitute identification or normalization with the occupation.”

PMW: Why is the PA suddenly hiding its financial expenditures?

Since 2014, the PA Ministry of Finance had been publishing an annual anticipated budget in the first part of the year as well as monthly reports of actual expenditures in each budget category. Based on the PA’s 2018 monthly reports, Palestinian Media Watch was able to expose that the PA spent at least 502 million shekels on salaries and other benefits to terrorist prisoners and released prisoners in 2018. A short time later the Israeli government announced that in order not to fund PA terror support, it was deducting the 502 million shekel from the tax transfers to the PA, divided into 12 monthly deductions of 42 million shekels.

Having understood that the financial transparency was used by PMW and then the Israeli government to see the precise amount the PA was spending to reward terrorist prisoners, the PA decided to hide these figures from the international community. The website of the PA Ministry of Finance, in place of the financial reports now has this announcement:

“Due to the contingency law and legal dependencies with the Israeli side, the financial reports were temporarily suspended.”

This notice has appeared for at least 2 months.

Significantly, the donor countries to the PA have demanded full financial transparency as a condition for giving the PA financial support. Currently, the PA is suffering from a self-imposed financial crisis due to its refusal to accept hundreds of millions of dollars a month that Israel has been sending it, and has turned to the international community asking them for additional financial aid.

David Collier: The Al Quds demonstration 2019 gets the blue and white treatment

The blue and white counter protest

A few counter demonstrators had taken a position directly opposite the Al Quds crowd. Some waved the Israeli flag:

As the demonstration moved, these pro-Israelis started to march in front of them. From this point on, the first anyone saw of yesterday’s demonstration, were Israeli flags, accompanied by pro-Israeli activists singing and dancing. Their small number was ridiculed by the crowd. That derision was not going to last long – reinforcements were coming.

There were two main counter protest groups. The static counter protest, organised by the Zionist Federation, was waiting at Whitehall, near the endpoint of the Al Quds demo. However, the days of passive Jewish opposition are behind us. Sitting and playing ‘polite’, resulted in a loss of the narrative and Jeremy Corbyn as Labour leader. Today’s activists are refusing to make the mistakes of the past. A second counter protest group intended to take the protest directly to the demonstrators, making their presence felt. This type of action had worked quite successfully over the last three years – and this year they had doubled their size. About 150 counter protestors waited along the route.

The Israeli flag is flying
As the demonstration reached Millbank and turned towards Westminster, the blue and white flag began to fill the street:

The pro-Israelis did not come unprepared. At a certain point, blue and white smoke filled the air:

My favourite image of the day came as the Israeli flag was marched past the Houses of Parliament. The flag of the only democracy in the Middle East, flying alongside that stunning symbol of British democracy:

This ‘us’ vs ‘them’ theme is not imaginary. Look at this ‘partners in war crimes’ Inminds poster from the demonstration:

Linking the UK and Israeli flag together. This isn’t just an antisemitic demonstration, nor a pro-Iranian one. It is anti-British, anti-western and stands against all those values and freedoms both Israel and the UK cherish. For this reason, there was added poignancy to the sight of the Israeli flag flying alongside the British Parliament buildings. The entire main part of the procession was overtaken by the counter-protest. The pace, the image, the street – all visibly belonged to the pro-Israelis. The Al Quds demonstration became subdued, many of the participants looked as if they didn’t even want to be there.

“Al Quds Day” parade stripped of Hizballah flags, but marchers told “Zios” plot antisemitism “smears” at workshops run by Israeli embassy

Nearly 1,000 people have marched at the “Al Quds Day” parade in central London today. Volunteers from Campaign Against Antisemitism’s Demonstration and Event Monitoring Unit went into the thick of the protest to gather evidence.

The march saw open antisemitism from attendees, who marched under banners declaring that it is a “crime” or “racism” to support Zionism, the movement to grant Jews the same right to self-determination as all peoples are granted under Article 1 of the United Nations Charter. Some compared Zionism to Nazism.

Mick Napier the Secretary of the Scottish Palestine Solidarity Campaign (SPCC) told protesters that Peter Willsman should not have been suspended for saying that the Israeli embassy was behind allegations of antisemitism in the Labour Party. He declared that not only was the Israeli embassy behind “phoney” antisemitism “smears”, but that it also held workshops around the UK where “Zios” (an antisemitic slur word) plotted to orchestrate the “smears”. In 2017, Mr Napier was found guilty of aggravated trespass at a protest outside a cosmetics store in Glasgow during the 2014 Gaza war. The SPCC has previously been exposed over many of its supporters’ extremely antisemitic views.

The entire march was led by a banner calling for “Victory to the resistance”. “The resistance” is the name often used to refer to various terrorist organisations including Hamas, Palestinian Islamic Jihad and Hizballah, all of which seek the murder of every Jew worldwide.

Protesters frequently chanted the rhyme: “From the [Jordan] river to the [Mediterranean] sea, Palestine will be free”, which only makes sense as a call for the destruction of the Jewish state and its replacement with a Palestinian state, and is thus an attempt to uniquely deny Jews the right to self-determination.

The “Al Quds Day” marchers did not have the streets to themselves, however. A group of anti-terrorism activists waving Israeli flags confronted the marchers and engulfed them in a cloud of blue and white smoke.

Recent Iranian Attacks on the U.S. and Its Allies Signal a New Strategy to Which Washington Must Respond

In recent weeks, Tehran and its proxies have, apparently, attempted to sabotage commercial oil tankers in the Persian Gulf, conducted drone attacks against Saudi oil pipelines, and launched a rocket at the American embassy in Baghdad. To John Hannah, these provocations suggest that the Islamic Republic has given up on trying to wait out the tightening U.S. sanctions and is now responding with military pressure. He writes:

The Trump administration’s challenge is to demonstrate that Iran’s Plan B, escalation, will be as much of a dead end as was Plan A, running out the clock [until a Democratic president repeals the sanctions]. But . . . managing deterrence against an adversary like [Iran’s elite] Quds Force that operates in the shadows using proxies, terrorism, and other asymmetric means is far easier said than done. The United States will need its own broad menu of punitive responses, the will to implement them, and the skill to contain unwanted escalation. Further economic sanctions, cyberattacks, covert operations, and limited air and missile strikes against Revolutionary Guard assets should all be considered part of the suite of U.S. retaliatory options.

The risks of a broader conflagration must of course be taken seriously and guarded against. But . . . war is far from inevitable should the United States need to respond militarily to Iranian provocations. Israel has attacked hundreds of Iranian targets in Syria over the past two years, probably killing scores of Iranian troops in the process—all without triggering a wider war. It’s clear that Iran’s regime has no interest in getting into a major conflict with Israel, much less with the United States, which has the most powerful military in the world. . . .

The real danger for Washington is not general war but the gray zone—the murky area between peace and war—in which the Quds Force has perfected the art of acting surreptitiously and through proxies to inflict escalating costs on U.S. interests without incurring significant retaliation. Think Lebanon in the early 1980s or Iraq in the 2000s: a slow but steady bleeding, where no individual attack on its own seems to merit the risks and costs of a forceful U.S. response.

Russia Rejects Iran’s Request for S-400 Missile Defense System

Russia has rejected an Iranian request to buy S-400 missile defense systems, concerned that the sale would stoke more tension in the Middle East, according to two people with knowledge of the matter, including a senior Russian official.

The request was rebuffed by President Vladimir Putin, the people said on condition of anonymity because they’re not authorized to discuss the matter. Iranian Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif visited Moscow May 7.

Russia’s Foreign Ministry didn’t reply to a request for comment, and Iranian officials couldn’t be reached for a response. Iran’s weekend starts Thursday.

Read: Turkey Mulls Role for Russian Missiles in Mediterranean Gas Push

Sales of the missile systems are controversial in the Middle East. Turkey, a NATO member and a U.S. ally, is risking punitive measures by the Trump administration for agreeing to buy the batteries.

Russia’s reaction to Iran’s request reflects the delicate balance of power in the Persian Gulf, where a showdown is brewing between the Islamic Republic on one hand, and the U.S. and its Gulf Arab allies on the other. President Donald Trump agreed this month to send more U.S. troops to the region after the U.S. blamed Iran for attacks on Saudi oil installations as well as four ships.

PreOccupiedTerritory: Assad Just Killing Off Civilians So None Get Hurt When He Attacks Rebels (satire)

Syrian forces have targeted noncombatants in the country’s eight-year-old civil war to endure that when strikes take place against rebel targets no civilians remain who can become casualties, a spokesman for the armed forces reported today.

Colonel Mustafa Falasi of the Syria Arab Army told a group of regime-approved journalists that the extensive barrel bombing, chemical warfare, indiscriminate artillery shelling, and other offensive operations hitting civilians aim to clear the areas in question of noncombatants so that when such attacks take place against insurgent positions, no noncombatants are still alive to be killed as collateral damage.

“Syria takes its human rights obligations seriously,” intoned the colonel. “As such, we are taking painstaking measures, assisted by our allies from Russia and Iran, to eliminate all civilians from combat zones, lest they get maimed or killed when fighting occurs later on.”

“These measures are for the civilians’ own good,” he continued. “We do regret that often they do not perceive the benefits of not being around when an offensive takes place, and they raise a public outcry that the media then echo. Nevertheless, our efforts to remove them from the combat areas will continue until there are none left. Unfortunately, the international news media, controlled by our enemies, will ignore this commitment to the laws of armed conflict, and continue to portray our noble efforts as barbaric.”

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