January 20, 2021

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07/07 Links Pt1: Mossad said to foil Iranian attacks on Israeli embassies in Europe; UN expert: US drone strike which killed Iran’s Soleimani was ‘unlawful’; Will Pres Trump bring King Abdullah to heel?


From Ian:

Meet the Law Professor Laying Out the Facts on Annexation
Kontorovich’s latest battle is destroying the myths surrounding the Israeli government’s plans to apply sovereignty over (aka annexation of) Judea and Samaria. The term annexation in international law refers to the forced appropriation of one state’s territory by another state, Kontorovich said, explaining that in this case, applying Israeli law to those areas — some 30% of the land as delineated in President Donald Trump’s administration’s peace proposal — is simply a realization of a long-held right.

Close to 500,000 Israeli Jews living in the settlements are governed by a mish-mash of military rule and archaic Ottoman laws that makes implementing any changes to the area — such as building roads, schools and basic infrastructure — a bureaucratic nightmare that takes at least twice as long as anywhere else in Israel, Kontorovich said.

The reason that it is still this way decades on, he explained, is because of Palestinian intransigence. He added that in 1967, when Israel captured the area from Jordan occupation in a war of self-defense, the belief was that a final status solution would be hashed out quickly with the Palestinians. “This was supposed to be temporary until the Palestinians quickly came to the table, which didn’t happen,” he said. “But in the Middle East, nothing is as permanent as the temporary.”

According to Kontorovich, several offers of Palestinian statehood have been proposed but not one has been accepted. For the past 53 years, he said, settlers “have been held hostage to Palestinian rejectionism,” and every peace agreement before Trump’s was based on the notion that there would be population transfers of Jews living in those areas.

“Israel is not going to play along with this game, and neither will America,” he said, “that the Palestinians should only get a state that was pre-cleansed of Jews.” That idea, he noted, is “morally repugnant.”

Applying Israeli law now “underscores that Israel is not going to accept a situation in which it has indefensible borders [as well as] the notion that Jewish presence there is illegal and is so reprehensible that it needs to be reversed. The communities there are a reality,” Kontorovich said, “and they’re not going anywhere.”

Mossad said to foil Iranian attacks on Israeli embassies in Europe, elsewhere

The Mossad spy agency recently foiled planned or attempted Iranian attacks on Israeli diplomatic missions in Europe and elsewhere, according to a report Monday.

The report by Channel 12 said the names of the countries where attacks were prevented remain under censorship, but cooperation with them helped to thwart the attacks.

“Frustration is growing fast in Iran,” the report said.

No other details were available, and no sources were named.

In 2012, Iran and its Lebanese proxy, the terror group Hezbollah, seemingly attempted to carry out a number of attacks against Israeli diplomatic missions in India, Georgia, Thailand, and elsewhere.

Monday’s Channel 12 report also said that an attack on the Natanz nuclear facility in Iran, credited to Israel, had managed to set back Tehran’s uranium enrichment program by two years, citing Western intelligence estimates.

A report by Channel 13 on Sunday claimed the attack only set back the work by a single year.

UN expert: US drone strike which killed Iran’s Soleimani was ‘unlawful’

The January US drone strike in Iraq that killed top Iranian general Qasem Soleimani and nine other people represented a violation of international law, a UN human rights investigator said on Monday.

The United States has failed to provide sufficient evidence of an ongoing or imminent attack against its interests to justify the strike on Soleimani’s convoy as it left Baghdad airport, said Agnes Callamard, UN special rapporteur on extrajudicial, summary or arbitrary executions.

The attack violated the UN Charter, Callamard wrote in a report calling for accountability for targeted killings by armed drones and for greater regulation of the weapons.

“The world is at a critical time, and possible tipping point, when it comes to the use of drones. … The Security Council is missing in action; the international community, willingly or not, stands largely silent,” Callamard, an independent investigator, told Reuters.

Callamard is due on Thursday to present her findings to the Human Rights Council, giving member states a chance to debate what action to pursue. The United States is not a member of the forum, having quit two years ago.

Soleimani, leader of the Revolutionary Guards’ Quds Force, was a pivotal figure in orchestrating Iran’s campaign to drive U.S. forces out of Iraq, and built up Iran’s network of proxy armies across the Middle East. Washington had accused Soleimani of masterminding attacks by Iranian-aligned militias on US forces in the region.

Civil Rights Group to Pelosi: Don’t Break the Law to Appease Israel Haters

A civil rights group is warning congressional Democrats that their opposition to an Israeli plan to take over land in the contested West Bank area may violate U.S. law and constitutes “a clear and present danger to American national security interests in the Middle East.”

The Lawfare Project, a nonprofit legal group that combats anti-Semitism, wrote to House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D., Calif.) late last week to express opposition to a recent Democrat-led letter warning Israel over its impending decision to extend sovereignty into Jewish areas of the West Bank. Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez (D., N.Y.) and a group of fellow Democrats warned Israel that the move could jeopardize critical U.S. aid money. That letter was backed by multiple organizations that promote boycotts of the Jewish state and traffic in anti-Semitic rhetoric, the Washington Free Beacon first reported last week.

The Lawfare Project letter, sent to Pelosi on July 1 and provided exclusively to the Free Beacon, argues that Israel’s plan is not tantamount to an annexation of territory, as Ocasio-Cortez and her Democratic colleagues argued. Israel, the group maintains, has the proper international legal standing to extend its sovereignty into areas it already controls. So far, Pelosi has remained silent on both Israel’s plan and Ocasio-Cortez’s letter.

Israel’s plan has sparked public outrage from leading Democratic lawmakers and their anti-Israel supporters, primarily groups that back the anti-Semitic Boycott, Divestment, and Sanctions movement, which seeks to wage economic warfare on Israel. As Democrats amplify their criticism of Israel—threatening longstanding bipartisan support for U.S. aid to the country—groups like the Lawfare Project are at the forefront of a push by the pro-Israel community to ensure the facts about the situation remain clear. The group hopes to pressure Pelosi into reestablishing her party’s support for Israel.

“With this letter, The Lawfare Project reminds Congress that it has a legal obligation to recognize Israel’s sovereign right to reunify its own territory,” said Gerard Filitti, senior counsel for the Lawfare Project. “This obligation cannot be discarded in favor of political activism.”

Congressional opposition to Israel’s territorial takeover may violate U.S. law, which clearly recognizes Israel’s possession of land in the West Bank area, according to the Lawfare Project. By not recognizing Israeli sovereignty over territory in the West Bank, Democrats could be in violation of legally binding U.S. agreements granting Israel control of this land.

AIPAC opposes act prohibiting Israel from using US funds for annexation

An amendment sponsored by Sen. Chris Van Hollen politicizes US support for Israel’s security and should be opposed, the American Israel Public Affairs Committee (AIPAC) said Monday.

Last week, a group of 13 Senate Democrats filed an amendment to the Fiscal Year 2021 National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA) to prohibit Israel from using US security assistance funds for the annexation of parts of the West Bank.

Van Hollen (D-Maryland) spearheaded the amendment. He was joined by senators Elizabeth Warren (D-Massachusetts), Bernie Sanders (I-Vermont) and Chris Murphy (D-Connecticut), among others.

“This amendment contradicts the Obama-Biden MOU and goes far beyond current law in ways that damage American interests, risk Israel’s security, and make peace less likely,” AIPAC said in a statement.

“Senator Van Hollen wants to ensure no US funds are used for annexation. But that’s already law,” the statement reads. “Aid can only be used for ‘internal security, for legitimate self-defense.’ This amendment goes far beyond current law in ways that jeopardize Israel’s security.”

“It’s dangerous to weaken Israel’s defenses,” AIPAC said, noting that the amendment also restricts where Israel can place lifesaving missile-defense systems such as Iron Dome.

“As Iran expands its missile program, and Hamas and Hezbollah possess over 150,000 rockets and missiles, it is dangerous to threaten Israel’s ability to fully utilize these defenses,” AIPAC said.

“Threats to its security embolden Israel’s enemies and cause ordinary Israelis to question the wisdom of taking further risks for peace,” it added. “Our only stable, democratic ally in the Middle East faces unprecedented threats and challenges. America must stand with our ally, and Congress must not politicize US security assistance to Israel.”

House Appropriations Subcommittee approves $3.3 billion to Israel security

The House Appropriations Subcommittee on State, Foreign Operations, and Related Programs approved by voice vote its fiscal year 2021 bill on Monday that will provide funds to Israel security in addition to giving aid to the Palestinians.

The bill next heads to the full committee for markup. It will provide the funds according to the Memorandum of Understanding (MoU) on military aid between the US and Israel.

“It keeps the commitments of the United States at Camp David in 1979 to promote peace in the Middle East by providing $3.3 billion in aid for Israel security, as well as assistance for Egypt,” said House Appropriations Subcommittee chairwoman Nita Lowey.

She added that the bill also seeks to restore humanitarian and development assistance to the Palestinians, “to continue the viability of a two-state solution by providing resources to organizations working in the West Bank and Gaza.”

The bill includes $225 million “to help address the needs of the Palestinian people, which may include support for UNRWA,” the House Appropriations Committee said in a statement. It is unclear what the chances of that article to pass the Senate are.

How fear of a US retreat from the Mideast is driving Netanyahu toward annexation

Why is Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu so keen on annexation? Theories range from the psychological — he’s seeking a legacy — to the political — to distract the public from his corruption trial — to the ideological — he’s an expansionist ideologue empowered by a right-wing American administration.

Some have spoken about the “window of opportunity” represented by the remaining months of the Trump presidency — assuming, as most Israelis do, that Donald Trump is not reelected.

The question is a good one, if only because the downsides of annexation are so glaring and significant. For example, a unilateral annexation will make it harder for Israel’s longtime defenders to continue to insist that the Jewish state seeks peace with intransigent Palestinians. Israel, its detractors will say, was only ever interested in expanding its hold in the West Bank and has no intention of letting the Palestinians live free of Israeli control.

That sudden advantage for the anti-Israel side could have a real effect: hurting Israel’s diplomatic standing and weakening its regional alliances, International Criminal Court investigations of some Israeli officials, political isolation and even the threat of economic or diplomatic sanctions, a prospect made more dire by an economy already ravaged by the coronavirus.

Given the high potential costs, none of the usual run of explanations seems adequate. Even the “window of opportunity” theory is hard to understand. An annexation amounts to an Israeli declaration about the status of some territory. Trump may recognize that declaration, but would a President Joe Biden uphold that recognition in six short months? And if the latter does not recognize the declaration, what has Israel achieved by making it? Does it matter that even the Trump White House seems less than thrilled?

Netanyahu has done an exceedingly poor job explaining his thinking, which may be responsible for the proliferation of theories trying to explain it. There’s also the fact that his insistence on such a dramatic step is wildly out of character for the prime minister, who has built his reputation and much of his popularity over the last decade on his overriding caution in matters of land, peace and war.

If the benefits seem elusive and the potential costs high, why now? Why pursue a policy so vehemently opposed by many Democrats and now so closely identified with a Republican administration unlikely to survive the November race?

New Poll Shows Uncertainty Among Israelis on West Bank Annexation

A new survey shows a sharp divide among Israelis on the issue of annexing parts of the West Bank, with proponents and opponents almost evenly divided, along with a large number of undecided.

According to the poll conducted by the Israel Democracy Institute, 25% of Israelis oppose annexation in any form, 24.5% support annexing the entirety of the West Bank and 28.5% “don’t know.”

Another 14% support annexing only the large settlement blocs and 8% support annexing just the Jordan Valley.

Views break down, of course, along partisan lines. On the left, 66% of respondents oppose annexation in any form. On the right, 43% support complete annexation. The center is ambivalent, with 25% opposing any annexation and 22% supporting annexation only of the large settlement blocs.

Supporters of annexation were also asked whether they would still support annexation if the price of doing so was the creation of a Palestinian state. 49% said they believed annexation should proceed under such circumstances. 38% disagreed and 13% did not know.

However, 55% of Israelis stated they believed the chances that annexation would actually happen were low or very low, up from 49.5% in April.

Regarding the political status of the Palestinian residents of annexed areas, 18% of Israeli Jews said they should be given Israeli citizenship, while 36% felt they should keep the same status they had now.

Yisrael Medad: Fake News

I saw this

but not trusting headlines, I read further:
According to the Committee Against the Wall and Settlements in Bethlehem (CAWSB), the High Planning Committee of the Israeli Civil Administration approved the construction of 164 housing units in Neve Daniel settlement in southern Bethlehem.

Let’s get that on a map:

All clear now?

Not “in” at all.

Why the joint statement matters: Jordan, Egypt close ranks on annexation?

An important joint statement by foreign ministers of Egypt, France, Germany and Jordan has sought to unify their positions on Israel’s proposed annexation of parts of the West Bank, while also discussing “fruitful engagement” that could aid the peace process. The joint statement was made by a video conference, Reuters reported Monday.

The text of the statement is not surprising. The countries say they won’t recognize changes to the 1967 borders that are not agreed upon by both parties of the conflict. The rest of the statement presents annexation as creating an obstacle to achieving peace. It could harm stability in the region. Much of this is well known and is the official position of Jordan and Egypt as well as their partners in the region. This has also been the position of the Arab Peace Initiative going back to 2002.

Jordan had previously warned Israel in even more harsh terms about annexation. There were hints it could harm the 1994 peace deal and that it upsets the status quo in Jerusalem, which Jordan holds dear. Jordan’s former foreign minister Marwan Muasher has even suggested that if Israel continues down the road of annexation, Palestinians will seek a “one state” solution of full citizenship in Israel.

Egypt has been the more quiet of the two countries and the first that achieved peace with Israel. Today, Egypt is focused on a conflict in Libya where a Turkish-backed offensive threatens stability. Additionally, Egypt is concerned about a dam being built on the upper Nile River by Ethiopia that would threaten its water supply. Egypt is also fighting ISIS in the Sinai.

As such, Egypt does not want any changes to the status quo. Egypt has tried hard to keep any problems in Gaza from affecting the Sinai, and it has sought to achieve security in the area. The Egyptian army has suffered difficult loses fighting terrorism in recent years as well. The country also must deal with the COVID-19 crisis, where there are thought to be 76,000 cases of coronavirus and some 4,000 deaths.

Will Pres Trump bring King Abdullah to heel?

King Abdullah knows President Trump is nowhere near as forgiving as previous US administrations have been when it comes to terrorism supporters, especially those who call themselves America’s friends.

Abdullah’s tactic is to keep dragging the issue out in the hopes that President Trump will lose the 2020 Presidential Elections and that America forgets.

As for the court’s ruling against Al-Tamimi’s extradition, the king is the head of the judiciary authorities in Jordan. According to the constitution he could override any Court decision.

Jordanians had not exhibited any support for Al-Tamimi in social media or on the streets. For the vast majority of them, she was a non-issue, but there has been an explosion of support for her and her need to stay free of US justice since April and the letter from the seven GOP lawmakers.

The sudden arousal of Jordanian concern at the time has been documented. And it’s gotten stronger since then – see, for example: “14-May-20: In Jordan, they stand with confessed bomber Tamimi. And they’re worried…” and also “16-May-20: The friends of Jordanian fugitive Ahlam Tamimi, including her lawyers, are speaking up. But not all of them.”

On the other hand, Jordanians have protested against the king as well.

The king himself breaks the law, violates the constitution and provokes Jordanians every day by trying civilians before the State Security Court, a martial court deemed illegal by the Jordanian constitution and even international law. Every week, this court sentences critics of the king to jail and has sentenced people to lengthy jail sentences for things like issuing bad checks. Additionally, this court has ordered executions.

Al-Tamimi is not the only killer of Americans the King is protecting. He is also protecting Muarek Abu Tayeh.

Abu Tayeh was the Jordanian airman who killed three US Green Berets in cold blood in November 2016. The Americans have always insisted on interrogating Abu Tayeh independently, and the king has rejected this request on multiple occasions. The king and his government protected him, and at first, even promoted his military rank.

Thanks to the victims’ families’ pressure and lobbying in DC; the king eventually agreed to have Abu Tayeh prosecuted for the lesser crimes of second degree murders. He was eventually sentenced to 15 years in prison for killing three people. Abu Tayeh has continued to claim during and after his trial “I have carried out the orders” – hinting he was asked to do what he did.

Nevertheless, the FBI has not been allowed to interrogate him independently. Simply put, Abu Tayeh has a story to tell that may involve his commanders, and the king does not want the Americans to hear it. If the USG seeks to have him extradited, that could be another pandora’s box opening in the king’s face.

How long can the King refuse to cooperate? Is the Trump administration determined to bring him to heel?

We shall see.

Khamenei Calls on Hamas, PA to Unify to Fight Israel’s Sovereignty Bid

Iran’s Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei on Monday commended Hamas political leader Ismail Haniyeh for his actions to thwart Israel’s plan to apply Jewish sovereignty to the Jordan Valley and parts of Judea and Samaria.

“Dear mujahid brother Mr. Ismail Haniyeh … I thank God for the resistance movement’s successful efforts in defeating the US and the Zionist regime and in bringing dignity to the Islamic nation,” tweeted Khamenei.

“The abject Zionist enemy who has suffered irrevocable defeats in military fields pursues its strategy through the economic siege of Gaza and the trickery of negotiations and compromise. But, the brave Palestinian nation continues its path of dignity and honor via wisdom and experience,” he continued, adding that it was essential for Hamas to join forces with the Palestinian Authority to frustrate Israel’s intentions.

The Trump administration’s “Peace to Prosperity” plan stipulates that Washington will endorse an Israeli decision to apply sovereignty to about 30 percent of Judea and Samaria as long as Israel commits to holding good-faith negotiations with the Palestinians and avoids construction in certain areas that could become part of a Palestinian state. That state will only be established four years after negotiations begin and only if the Palestinians fully renounce terrorism and carry out major reforms, and only if they are no longer considered a threat to Israel.

“Certainly maintaining vigilance, unity and harmony among the Palestinian people and movements will play an effective role in the nullification of the enemy’s plots and will bring about divine assistance,” Khamenei concluded, vowing that “Iran, just like before, and based on its religious and human duty, will not spare any effort to support the oppressed people of Palestine and to revive their rights as well as to repel the evil of the fake, usurping Zionist regime.”

PreOccupiedTerritory: 2050: Annexation To Happen Any Day Now, Assures Bibi (satire)

Israel’s prime minister sought today to allay his political base’s fears that the much-anticipated application of Israeli law to certain parts of territory gained in 1967 from Jordanian occupation will again see delays, asserting that the controversial move will take place “in the coming weeks.”

Binyamin Netanyahu addressed the nation this afternoon from the Official Residence of the Prime Minister, to mark his fifty-first consecutive year as premier. The ninety-nine-year-old Netanyahu has consistently outmaneuvered, outfoxed, outrun, or simply outlived rivals from within his Likud Party and from elsewhere, enabling him to form numerous governments – most of which have failed to last the requisite four-plus years. Netanyahu used the occasion to repeat a venerable promise to the electorate: that only continued political support for him and his government can guarantee that the application of sovereignty to the Jordan Valley will in fact occur.

“I ask you to continue to place your trust in my leadership,” he stated, with his fourth wife, Suzy, and their two children, Ben-Tzion and Tzipi, at his side. “Only by holding together against the dangerous onslaught of those who would forfeit our strategic interests for the sake of dubious promises can we maintain and build on what we have achieved. Cyber.”

Israel’s elder statesman paused, a look of relief on his lined face after almost going three minutes without mentioning the term.

The Coronavirus Is Killing Off American Jewish Institutional Life

Shortly after the 2018 massacre at the Tree of Life synagogue in Pittsburgh, Washington, D.C.’s Metropolitan Police Department conducted a security survey of the city’s Jewish institutions, counting every synagogue, nonprofit organization, advocacy group, senior home, and kosher restaurant in need of protection against a potential mass shooter. The final number of such potential Jewish target across the 68 square miles of the District of Columbia, recalled a local synagogue board member who had served as a liaison with the police department, was 95—ranging from GatherDC’s alternative Yom Kippur services, usually held in a bar’s backroom, to the day school that the president’s granddaughter attends.

In Washington, and in America more generally, a sprawling organizational infrastructure sustains that notional and constructed thing referred to as “Jewish life”—an ever-endangered concept that’s believed to be an essential element of one’s selfhood and well-being. Those 95 institutions reflect an American conviction that something so tenuous and yet so important as Jewish identity cannot be left to the traditional channels of Judaic socialization, like the family or the synagogue. The association-building of American Jews has left behind summer camps in Mississippi, rabbinical schools in Cincinnati, and three Jewish community centers in the Washington metro region alone.

In March of 2020, the institutionalism of the American Jewish community met the raw power of the coronavirus. The American vision of Judaism hadn’t exactly been thriving prior to the horrors of March—the communal power and emotional pull of American Jewish religious movements and other mainline organizations had been waning for years. But the pandemic did something that terrorism, anti-Semitism, financial crisis, intermarriage, the BDS movement, and other real and imagined enemies of the American Jewish community could never accomplish: It wiped out everything, in one blow, all at once. Everything American Jews had built, along with seemingly everything else in a once-open and dynamic country of 350 million people, wilted before a disease that couldn’t be stopped. All certainties vanished at once.

“How do we start reimagining what the Jewish community is going to look like post-COVID?” Gil Preuss, CEO of the Jewish Federation of Greater Washington, wondered this past May. “Because we’re not going back to the way it was before. And the impact that it’s had, not just on our operations but on how people connect to Jewish community, how identity is transmitted from one generation to another—all of these things are going to change in ways that we may or may not be able to predict.”

Some 250,000 olim likely to arrive because of pandemic

The ongoing global pandemic is likely to lead to a wave of Jewish immigrants to Israel that would amount to hundreds of thousands of new olim, the Jewish Agency for Israel Chairman Isaac Herzog said on Monday.

Speaking at Knesset hearing, Herzog said that over that past seven decades, the agency has helped bring some four million Jews from over 45 countries and that in the wake of the COVID-19 crisis, “we expect a particularly large wave that would amount to some 250,000 olim over the course of the next three to five years.”

Herzog said that most of the olim will likely be younger than in previous waves. “This is a historic challenge and we must harness this opportunity,” he said. “The government must rise to the occasion and prepare a national program to integrate the olim in this wave,” he continued.

According to Herzog, Jewish Agency officials have been flooded with calls of prospective olim, with a rise of some 50% in queries from English-speaking countries and 50% from French-speaking countries.

Israel Nationalizes El Al – 17 Years After Privatization

17 years almost to the day following the 2003 privatization of Israel’s national carrier El Al, El Al’s board of directors decided on Monday afternoon to adopt the Finance Ministry’s rescue plan, according to which the company will receive a $250 million loan with a state-provided 75% loan guarantee, along with the issuance of $150 million shares to the general public. The state will pledge to buy the shares that the public will not buy, which would facilitate the de facto nationalization of the company.

The deal is conditioned on El Al signing collective bargaining agreements with its employees that reflect efficiency measures required by the Finance Ministry, as well as the approval of the government and the Knesset Finance Committee.

Calcalist pointed out Tuesday that the move was made necessary because El Al’s controlling owner, Knafaim Holdings, which is controlled by the Borowitz family, does not have the will or the ability, or a combination of the two, to inject new capital into El Al. But in order to emerge out of its current slow slide into an open grave while all around the airline industry is fighting for its life, El Al cannot be schlepping a heavy debt on its back. And so the Israeli government is giving it a life saver: $150 million through shares to a company worth about $70 million, plus $250 million in a loan, now start swimming.

It should be noted that if the good reader were looking for a good investment for its Bar Mitzvah bonds that just matured, El Al is not the place for you. The company is worth about 14% of its value three and a half years ago, and is mired in labor disputes, which it solves and reneges on periodically. But Israel must have a national carrier, if only because no one else would fly out to rescue those Israelis who get stuck on a mountaintop in Peru or in a swamp in Bangladesh.

On July 1, El Al Israel Airlines canceled all its flights and suspended operations indefinitely, having reported massive losses over the first half of 2020 and with its pilots refusing to fly over a labor crisis. CEO Gonen Usiskhin ordered all of El Al’s aircraft to return to Israel.

Brother, can you spare $400 million?

Why did US report on Palestinian terrorism get the numbers wrong?

Data published by the US State Department about the number of Palestinian acts of violence against Israelis in 2019 cites only about one-tenth the number of incidents that Israel reports for the same period.

According to the State Department Israel 2019 Human Rights Report, published in March, Palestinians committed 101 acts of violence against Israeli civilians in the West Bank, “primarily stonethrowing .”

However, the number of incidents recorded by the IDF and the Shin Bet security agency for 2019 is much higher. The IDF reported that over the course of 2019, there were 290 incidents of Palestinians throwing Molotov cocktails at Israelis and 1,469 stonethrowing incidents. The Shin Bet reported a total of 1,327 Palestinian terrorist acts for 2019.

The data about Palestinian attacks on Israelis has been collected by the group Boomerang, which advocates for Israel and publishes a weekly report on terrorism statistics. At the start of 2020, Boomerang head Azri Tubi sent the US Embassy in Jerusalem a detailed report that documented all attempts by Palestinians to harm Israelis in Judea and Samaria throughout 2019. However, the information does not appear to have influenced the State Department’s report.

Tubi contacted the embassy staff member who authored the US report and asked why the report appeared to ignore the figures his organization had supplied. He also questioned the staff member about why the embassy was willing to accept data provided by left-wing organizations, but not Boomerang.

Tubi was told in response that the report was indeed compiled “selectively.”

“Our report is not intended to serve as a catalog of all claims of human rights violations in the given year, but rather as a document describing facts relevant to concerns about human rights,” an embassy representative told Tubi.

Court rejects appeal against construction on Jaffa Muslim cemetery

The Tel Aviv District Court on Tuesday rejected a petition by the Jaffa Islamic Council against the construction of a shelter for homeless people on a plot that was found to be an old Muslim cemetery.

The construction atop the cemetery sparked days of demonstrations in Jaffa, a predominantly Arab city that is part of the Tel Aviv municipality.

Judge Limor Bibi canceled a previous injunction against work at the site, which will continue immediately. She also ruled that the Islamic Council must pay the Tel Aviv-Jaffa municipality and the Tel Aviv Foundation NIS 7,500 each for legal costs.

The cemetery, known in Arabic as Maqbarat al-Isaaf, is one of Tel Aviv’s few Muslim burial sites. The graveyard had gone unnoticed for many years until the city decided to build a three-story homeless shelter on its grounds. When bulldozers demolished the structure that was atop the cemetery to make way for the shelter, the bones of at least 30 people were discovered to have been buried in the structure.

The Islamic Council began organizing residents to prevent the demolition, but the municipality rejected the claims that the site constituted a place of special significance to Jaffa’s Muslim community, noting that it had been abandoned for decades, if not centuries. The municipality also argued that the project would be conducted with sensitivity to the remains at the site, which will be moved only “the minimum necessary.”

“It is impossible in Jaffa to look and not find,” Tel Aviv-Jaffa Mayor Ron Huldai said, indicating that in a city with a history as rich as Jaffa’s, ruins and remains might lie under every sidewalk and building.

PMW: PA takes pride in using terror against Israel

The PA and Fatah continue to tell Palestinians that the source of their pride is the terror they have committed for decades against Israel. In an episode of the five-minute documentary program Lexicon of the Revolution, PA TV emphasized “the armed struggle,” highlighting Fatah’s nature as a terror organization:

Official PA TV narrator: “[Fatah’s] military activity was expressed through operations (i.e., terror attacks) and armed struggle… in the first Intifada… [and] the second Intifada (i.e., long terror waves murdering 1,300 Israelis). The doctrine of military activity, armed struggle, and a lengthy people’s war constituted an important means for Fatah to mobilize the capabilities of the public and the Palestinian people.”
[Official PA TV, Lexicon of the Revolution, May 29, 2020]

Palestinian Media Watch has exposed numerous times that this is what Abbas’ institutions repeatedly choose to highlight and remind their people.

Recently, Fatah Revolutionary Council member Muhammad Al-Laham reiterated that Fatah is prepared to use “armed struggle” against Israel. He even took pride in the fact that Palestinians “are always creative when it comes to finding effective tools to hurt the occupation.” The preparedness to engage in terror was also emphasized by other officials who claimed the PA is allowed to do so under international law.

Fatah Revolutionary Council member Muhammad Al-Laham: “Our message to the occupation and the world: We’ll fight to defend every grain of soil with all possible means… We’re not fleeing from any form of struggle! We’ve had situations even of armed struggle… All possible forms. We must discuss [it], and let’s not limit our creativity. Our people are always creative when it comes to finding effective tools to hurt the occupation… The Fatah Movement is the backbone of the Palestinian revolution… Fatah still exists in the sphere of struggle in all its forms.”
[Official PA TV Live, June 22, 2020]

The U.S. Must Halt Unconditional Aid to Lebanon

In October 2019, an unprecedented wave of pan-sectarian protests broke out in Lebanon. Individuals of all religious backgrounds—Christians, Druze, Shiite Muslims and Sunni Muslims—denounced rampant corruption among the political class, which stands accused of running the country’s affairs at the behest of Iran and Syria and at the expense of the Lebanese people. The Iran-bankrolled terror group Hezbollah—the major political stakeholder in Lebanon—was met with particular indignation from protestors, who chanted “terrorists, terrorists, Hezbollah are terrorists.”

One of the Trump administration’s chief goals in the Middle East is to counter Iranian aggression. It is therefore disappointing to see a tepid reaction by the United States to protests in Lebanon. On the eve of Lebanon’s 100th birthday, the country defaulted on its debt of $1.2 billion. Facing a perilous financial crisis exacerbated by COVID-19, with a 70 percent decline in the value of its currency, Lebanon will look to the International Monetary Fund (IMF) for a multi-billion-dollar bailout. As Hezbollah tightens its grip on the Lebanese government—Prime Minister Hassan Diab is backed by Hezbollah and welcomed Hezbollah into his cabinet—it is time for the U.S. to act. The U.S. is the largest contributor to the IMF and separately donates approximately $724 million in direct aid to Lebanese institutions each year. The Trump administration has the duty and the capability to counter Hezbollah’s influence in the country.

Instead, the United States thus far opts to provide unconditional aid to Lebanese institutions that only serve to strengthen Hezbollah’s treacherous activities. Consider the Lebanese Armed Forces (LAF). The State Department describes U.S. assistance to the LAF—to the tune of $218 million in combined aid in 2019—as “a key component of U.S. policy in Lebanon and aims to strengthen Lebanon’s sovereignty, secure its borders, counter internal threats, disrupt terrorist facilitation and build up the country’s legitimate state institutions.” But the LAF has not only stood by as Hezbollah gained a preponderance of force in southern Lebanon—it has actively partnered with the Iran-backed group.

The LAF and the UN Interim Force in Lebanon are jointly charged with enforcing UN Security Council (UNSCR) Resolutions 1559 and 1701, which maintain that all militias in Lebanon should be disarmed and barred from the area between the Litani River and the Blue Line—a stone’s throw from Israel. But since Hezbollah’s bloody conflict with Israel in 2006, under the LAF’s watch it has amassed up to 150,000 rockets, missiles and mortars stationed on the border with Israel for a future war, according to analysis by the Washington Institute for Near East policy. In addition, a recent UN report reveals that the LAF impeded the UN’s access to areas where Hezbollah is active, under the guise of a phony environmental NGO, Green Without Borders.

“UNSCR 1701 mandates that the UN Interim Force in Lebanon and the LAF work together to prevent any military activity by Hezbollah south of the Litani River,” Tony Badran, research fellow at the Foundation for Defense of Democracies explains. This partnership has failed. “There is not just military activity, but cross-border military activity, infiltrating into Israel.” These cross-border tunnels dug into Israel by Hezbollah are only the beginning.

The notion that the LAF is a reliable agent for securing Lebanon’s sovereignty is demonstrably false, Badran says. “If you are a stakeholder—however minor—in the system, the LAF is likely not to move against you unless there is political cover for it to move against you.” The LAF is under the control of the Lebanese government, itself in the grasp of Hezbollah. Indeed, there is evidence that the Lebanese military fought alongside Hezbollah in the Syrian Civil War—for example, in battles near Arsal on the border between the two countries.

MEMRI: Article In Qatari Daily: The Rothschild Family Is An Example Of The Jews’ Takeover Of The World’s Power-Centers And Economies Since Medieval Times

On June 3, 2020 the Qatari daily Al-Raya published an antisemitic article by journalist Khalifa Aal Mahmoud, titled “The Rothschild Family or Rothschild State,” which was later removed from the daily’s website. In the article Aal Mahmoud claimed that, over the course of history, the Jews developed manipulative financial abilities by means of which they gained power and took over the world. This began, he says, when Medieval Jewish traders traveling between countries created the banking system to keep their wealth safe from highway robbers. This enabled them to infiltrate the main power centers in various countries for generations, and to shape the decision-making in accordance with their own interests; they were also involved in numerous regime overthrows.

Aal Mahmoud presents the Rothschild family as an example of this. He explains that the members of this family initially spread throughout Europe’s strongest countries, took over their economies and profited from the wars among them, for example by spreading false rumors to destabilize their stock markets and profiting from this instability. The Rothschilds also took advantage of various countries that needed their loans, using this to increase their grip on these countries. This power, he claims, also enabled the family – which he says controls the price of gold, the media and the important banks to this day – to play a key role in realizing the Jews’ dream to establish their state.

Explosions damage site at Iranian missile complex and nuclear facility

Over the last two weeks, explosions have taken place at the Khojir missile production complex in Tehran and the Natanz nuclear complex. While Iranian officials have downplayed the events, it is likely that both blasts at the facilities were acts of sabotage.

In the morning hours of June 26, Iranian social media users reported a bright light emanating from east Tehran followed by the sound of an explosion.

Iran’s Fars News Agency blamed the explosion on an “industrial gas tank” and the event “had nothing to do with the military installations in the area.”

However, the information published by Fars News was not accurate. Analysis of commercial satellite imagery confirmed the explosion took place inside the Khojir missile production complex. The site is located near the Parchin military base which has been subjected to United Nations scrutiny for suspected weapons-grade nuclear activity.

Following the explosion, local media was allowed access to the site of the blast to film what remained of the industrial gas tanks that were destroyed in the incident.

Less than a week later, an explosion at the Natanz nuclear complex was reported in the morning hours of July 2.

“A building within the Iranian Natanz nuclear complex was damaged after a fire on Thursday morning with no casualties,” the semi-official news agency Tasnim said.

The Atomic Energy Organization of Iran, which is the main government agency responsible for operating nuclear energy in Iran, minimized the event saying the fire affected an under-construction “industrial shed.”

Explosion near Iran’s capital kills two, damages factory – IRNA

At least two people were killed and three others injured in a large explosion at the Sepahan Boresh factory in the city of Baqershahr near Tehran on Monday night, according to Iranian and foreign reports.

The explosion was caused by “negligence in filling oxygen tanks,” the Kahrizak district governor told Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty on Tuesday. The walls of the Saipa Press Company, located next to the factory, were damaged by the explosion as well.

“Human error was the cause of the blast in a factory … Two people were killed and three others were injured,” said local official Amin Babai, adding that the explosion happened in “an industrial zone” at Baqershahr near Tehran.

“The explosion that was caused by some workers’ negligent handling of oxygen tanks…. was so powerful that the walls of a factory nearby were also totally destroyed.”

A large explosion was reportedly heard by residents of areas south of Tehran and in the Kahrizak area.

Iran says nuclear program ‘unstoppable,’ warns Israel not to strike

Iran vowed on Tuesday to maintain its nuclear program despite Israel’s alleged efforts to sabotage it, stressing that the recent explosion at the Natanz nuclear enrichment center was not going disrupt its pace.

Iran has recently reactivated key parts of its nuclear program in response to US President Donald Trump’s withdrawal from the 2015 nuclear deal. As a result, its uranium enrichment levels have increased in both volume and quality, stoking fears that this might shorten its path to a bomb.

“The Israeli regime should be aware that creation of norm-breaking narrative on any attack against our nuclear facilities, even if it’s only propaganda, is considered as stepping in the path of violating red lines of global peace and security,” government spokesman Ali Rabiei said on Tuesday according to the Tehran Times. He was referring to the incident in the Natanz nuclear site last week, which Iran has publicly suggested could be attributed to the US or Israel.

Israel has not commented on last week’s attack on Natanz, but The New York Times has quoted a Middle Eastern intelligence official who confirmed that Israel planted a device and that the incident led to major damage to the advanced centrifuges.

Rabiei vowed that nothing would stop Iran’s nuclear program.

“This incident has not had any effect on the process of uranium enrichment, and the Natanz facilities are active as before; Iran’s nuclear activities are peaceful and despite hostilities of enemies, it is unstoppable,” he said. “After the incident, some media outlets tried to create a powerful image for the Israeli regime and attributed the incident to it while officials of the usurper regime have refused to accept responsibility,” the government spokesman added.

MEMRI: Iranian Foreign Minister to Iranian Majles: You Call Me a Liar, But Khamenei Has Praised Me

On July 5, 2020, Iranian Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif spoke before the Iranian Majles. In an exchange of raised voices, Zarif said that he is humbly coming before the representatives of the Iranian people even though they belittle him, insult him, and call him a liar, and even though Supreme Leader Khamenei has said he is brave, revolutionary, and sincere. One of the Majles members shouted at him: “We don’t like hearing lies!” Zarif’s remarks were interrupted by shouts and criticism several times. He said that he used to meet and coordinate on a weekly basis with IRGC Qods Force Commander Qasem Soleimani, who was killed in a U.S. airstrike in January 2020, and he warned the Majles: “We are all in the same boat… America does not distinguish between liberals, reformists, conservatives, revolutionaries, and non-revolutionaries, [and Israel] opposes Iran in its entirety.” The video was uploaded to the Iranian website akharinkhabar.ir.

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