May 31, 2020

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12/03 Links Pt1: For third time, ICC prosecutor refuses to open probe into Gaza flotilla incident; Chief Advisor To Erdoğan: ‘The Islamic World Should Prepare An Army For Palestine From Outside Palestine’

From Ian:

For third time, ICC prosecutor refuses to open probe into Gaza flotilla incident
The chief prosecutor of International Criminal Court on Monday refused for the third time to open an investigation into the 2010 Gaza flotilla incident, saying any crimes allegedly committed during the raid were not severe enough to merit such a probe.

Fatou Bensouda reiterated her position that there is no reason to launch an investigation into the matter “because there is no potential case arising from this situation that is sufficiently grave, to reconsider a case that she had repeatedly sought to close due to lack of gravity,” her office stated.

On May 31, 2010, Israeli commandos killed 10 Turkish citizens aboard the Mavi Marmara, one of several vessels that was aiming to break the Gaza blockade. Israel said its soldiers were violently attacked by activists armed with clubs and metal bars when they boarded the vessel.

Israel has imposed a blockade on Gaza since 2007, when the Hamas terror group ousted the Palestinian Authority from the Strip, in a bid to prevent Hamas and other terrorists from importing arms and weapons into the enclave.

Israel did not immediately comment on the prosecutor’s decision, though officials in Jerusalem have long argued that the court was wasting its limited resources on a frivolous suit in a manner that reflected poorly on other outstanding cases.

The Lawfare Project, a New York-based pro-Israel group that had been involved in efforts to convince Bensouda to close the case, on Monday welcomed her decision.

“We’re extremely pleased the Prosecutor agreed with our analysis and reaffirmed her decision,” said Brooke Goldstein, the organization’s executive director. “It’s refreshing to see an international institution doing the right thing and standing up for law and justice rather than bowing to anti-Israel political pressure.”

The Hague’s six-year engagement with the Gaza flotilla incident started in May 2013, when the Comoros, a small Muslim-majority nation in the Indian ocean, asked the ICC’s prosecutor to investigate the Israeli raid on the Gaza-bound Mavi Marmara three years earlier, during which troops clashed with pro-Palestinian activists.

Ten Turks (including one Turkish-american) were killed and a number of Israeli soldiers were injured.

Israeli UN Mission to call for recognition of Jewish refugees

Israeli Ambassador to the United Nations, Danny Danon, will announce later today (Tuesday) his intention to file a resolution recognizing Jewish refugees from Arab countries, The Jerusalem Post has learned.

Danon will announce the resolution during a General Assembly discussion to mark 72 years since the November 29 partition plan.

During the event on Tuesday, the Palestinian representative to the UN is said to introduce a series of pro-Palestinian resolutions, including a resolution supporting the Palestinians’ right of return. A similar session with similar resolutions will be taking place every year.
According to the Israeli Mission to the UN, the new resolution, asking the United Nations to recognize the 800,000 Jewish refugees from Arab countries and Iran, is aimed to undermine the proposed Palestinian resolutions.

The Israeli Mission will also host an event to formally launch the new initiative in New York on Wednesday, featuring US Special Envoy to Combat Anti-Semitism Elan Carr.

MEMRI: Chief Advisor To Turkish President Erdoğan: ‘The Islamic World Should Prepare An Army For Palestine From Outside Palestine’

Retired Turkish general Adnan Tanrıverdi is founder of Turkish security firm SADAT International Defense Consulting[1] and has been a chief advisor to Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan since August 2016. Tanrıverdi spoke at the “International Israel Ethnic Discrimination Conference: Dimensions, Applications, And Methods Of Struggle,” which took place on November 29-30, 2019, at the Mariott Hotel in the Şişli district of İstanbul and was organized by the Islam Dünyası STK’ları Birliği (“Union Of NGOs Of The Islamic World”).[2] According to a report in Turkey’s state-run news agency Anadolu Ajansı, in his speech at the conference, Tanrıverdi “emphasized that it was not possible for the Islamic world to give up on Jerusalem,” and that “Israel governed 85 percent of Palestinian land.” Tanrıverdi said: “The Islamic world should prepare an army for Palestine from outside Palestine. Israel should know that if it bombs [Palestine] a bomb will fall on Tel Aviv as well.”[3]

Adnan Tanrıverdi’s Background
Adnan Tanrıverdi served in the Turkish army’s Artillery Corps and headed the Home Front Command in northern Cyprus. He is an expert on asymmetric warfare and was dismissed from the Turkish military in 1996 for his Islamist leanings. Former Turkish army officer Ahmet Yavuz described Tanrıverdi as “an enemy of Atatürk,” referring to Mustafa Kemal Atatürk, founder of the Republic of Turkey, who organized the state on secular principles. Yavuz also said that Tanrıverdi’s dismissal from the army was not surprising. Tanrıverdi later became chairman of the board of the Association Of Justice Defenders (ASDER),[4] which, through its Justice Defenders Strategic Research Center (ASSAM),[5] made recommendations about the restructuring of the Turkish military. Some in the press have said that the changes to the Turkish military following the July 2016 attempted coup are similar to the changes that ASSAM recommended.[6]

Adnan Tanrıverdi is chief advisor to President Erdoğan.
Tanrıverdi can be seen in a photo taken at a high-level meeting in January 2018 ahead of Turkey’s invasion of northern Syria in that month, one aim of which was to take the city of Afrin, Syria. In the photo, from left to right, appear: Presidential Press Secretary İbrahim Kalın; then Undersecretary to the Prime Minister and now Vice President Fuat Oktay; then Defense Minister Nurettin Canikli; Foreign Minister Mevlüt Çavuşoğlu; then deputy Prime Minister Bekir Bozdağ; then Prime Minister Binali Yıldırım; President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan; then Chief of the General Staff and now Defense Minister Hulusi Akar; then Deputy Prime Minister Recep Akdağ; Interior Minister Süleyman Soylu; Secretary General of the Presidency Fahri Kasırga; Hakan Fidan, head of the Milli İstibahrat Teşkilatı (MİT), which is Turkey’s national intelligence organization; Chief Advisor Adnan Tanrıverdi; and then Chief Advisor and now Minister Of Industry And Technology Mustafa Varank.

American Grand Strategy, Why Kissinger Got Peacemaking Right and Carter Got It Wrong, and Israel’s Turkey Problem

In a wide-ranging interview by Alan Johnson, Michael Doran criticizes the failures of U.S. grand strategy since the end of the cold war, expounds upon his essay from the beginning of this year on the Trump administration’s Middle East policy, and discusses Washington’s complex relations with Turkey and the Syrian Kurds. Doran also addresses the situation of Israel in historical perspective, comparing two competing American approaches to peacemaking that date back at least to the Eisenhower administration:

The U.S. understood Israel’s defeat of Egypt in 1967 as a victory for the West against the Soviet Union. A different understanding [of the Israeli-Arab conflict] developed under the Johnson and Nixon administrations, part of a more realistic understanding of Israeli power as an asset to the U.S., able to put pressure on Soviet proxies such as Egypt. The U.S. then made clear that while it could act as a mediator between Egypt and Israel, the price of American mediation was for Egypt to disengage itself from the Soviet sphere of influence. The Sinai disengagement agreements of 1973 and 1974 are the first successes you can attribute to that strategy.

Using Israeli power as an adjunct of U.S. power was Henry Kissinger’s strategy and it was successful. But here is the thing—it was the Carter administration that then reaped the biggest benefit of Kissinger’s strategy in the form of the 1978 Israel-Egypt peace agreement: the greatest U.S. diplomatic achievement in the Middle East. . . . The Carter administration, not understanding the basis of its own achievement, returned to the older notion that Israel was a liability not an asset to U.S. interests.

Although the Carter conception of [peacemaking] was pie in the sky, devoid of an understanding of how the world works, it returned in a big way in the 1990s. We once again came to believe that if only the U.S. would pressure Israel enough, the region’s bad guys would melt away.

Arguing that Washington should seek to repair its relations with Turkey’s anti-Semitic and Hamas-supporting president Recep Tayyip Erdogan, Doran acknowledges Jerusalem’s concerns about such a policy while seeking to put them in perspective:

[A]ny threat to Israel from Erdogan pales in comparison to the threat posed by Iran, which has spread militias with precision-strike capabilities around the region; that is a strategic threat. Erdogan is a threat, sure, but he is separated from Israel by Syria, and his primary concern is the Kurdish question, not aiming rockets and missiles at the Jewish state. I think that the true level of threat posed by Erdogan is minuscule in comparison to the threat posed by Iran. . . . It is similar to the kind of threat that Israel faced historically, in, say, the 1980s and 1990s from Saudi Arabia. It was a problem for Israel, but a manageable problem.

Turkey is trying to take over the Mediterranean, through Libya

One of the governments in Libya controls only a small percentage of the country and the capital of Tripoli, but in need of Turkish support it signed a bizarre deal with Ankara over who controls the Mediterranean. Turkey says the deal that it signed is historic and that it has “proven its capabilities to the world in a manner that is compatible with international law but also signaled its future intentions in the region.” Greece is outraged, threatening to take the dispute to international bodies and complain to NATO. It has larger ramifications also for Egypt, Cyprus and Israel as Turkey seeks a vast swath of sea to control as an economic zone.

Turkey met with Fayez al-Sarraj, the head of the Presidential Council of Libya’s Government of the National Accord in Tripoli. Sarraj was in Istanbul, but it is understood that his weak government has been in discussions with Turkey for some time about an agreement that would give Turkey access to an economic zone across the Mediterranean. Turkey’s Daily Sabah says this deal is “mutually beneficial.” The real story is buried in the report. Turkey is trying to assert itself across the swath of Iraq, Syria and now all the way to Libya, with its eyes set on having power not seen since the Ottoman Empire more than 100 years ago. The reports claim that Turkey now sees its control of the Mediterranean from the “three-dimensional viewpoint” and this “maximizes the country’s maritime boundaries and shows that Turkey’s border districts of Marmaris, Fethiye and Kas are actually neighbors with Libya’s Derna, Tobruk and Bardiya districts.”

Turkey calls this the “blue motherland,” or “Mavi Vatan” in Turkish. It has launched major naval exercises in the last year to show off its power. Turkish Defense Minister Hulusi Akar has referred to this “motherland” as the 462,000 square kilometer area from the Black Sea to Aegean. Turkey openly says in its media, which is all pro-government, that it is deploying naval assets as a “show of force” and that it is angered by drilling being conducted by other states. In short, it will begin more drilling and more pushing out its boundaries. Future deals are in the cards.

Greece to ask for NATO’s help in maritime dispute with Turkey

Greece’s prime minister said Sunday he will ask other NATO members at the alliance’s London summit to support Greece, in the face of fellow member Turkey’s attempts to encroach on Greek sovereignty, notably last week’s agreement with Libya delineating maritime borders in the Mediterranean.

Kyriakos Mitsotakis told the ruling conservative New Democracy party’s congress Sunday that NATO cannot remain indifferent when one of its members “blatantly violates international law” and that a neutral approach is to the detriment of Greece, which has never sought to ratchet up tensions in the area.

Cyprus, Egypt and Greece have all condemned the Libyan-Turkish accord as contrary to international law. The foreign ministers of Egypt and Greece, Sameh Shoukry and Nikos Dendias, discussed the issue Sunday in Cairo.

Spokesman Ahmed Hafez said in a statement after the meeting that the two ministers agreed that the Turkey-Libya deal was “illegal” and that Libyan Prime Minister Fayez Sarraj does not have the right to sign memorandums with other countries outside (the scope of) the UN-brokered deal that established his government.

“We agreed that Mr. Sarraj most likely lacks the mandate to sign [two agreements with Turkey], which anyway function as destabilizing factors in the area,” Dendias said after the meeting. “We also agreed with [Shoukry] to accelerate talks between teams of experts to define and delineate Exclusive Economic Zones between Greece and Egypt,” Dendias added.

While Greece and Egypt are across from each other in the Mediterranean Sea, as are Greece and Turkey, Libya is geographically further from Turkey and the waters between the two countries are mostly those between Greece and Egypt.

It Is Time for Europe to Take NATO Seriously

In May 2017, the new $1.23 billion NATO headquarters was inaugurated in Brussels, in the presence of US President Donald Trump. With its state-of-the-art facilities, it was supposed to be “an emblem of a strong, adaptable Alliance… a 21st century headquarters for a 21st century Alliance”, according to NATO Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg.

In November 2019, in an explosive interview with The Economist, French President Emmanuel Macron declared NATO to be “brain dead”, thereby triggering a flood of angry reactions.

Macron is wrong. Not only was NATO highly successful in deterring the Soviet threat for half a century, it still has a key role to play in an unstable world. It is true, however, that the 70-year-old organization, which holds a summit this week in London, faces several major challenges.

The first one is the strength of the transatlantic Alliance and trust among allies. In 2014, at the Wales Summit, all NATO members pledged to meet a target of spending 2% of their GDP on defense by 2024. At that time, only three countries — the US, Greece and the UK — met this requirement. Five years later, despite an increase in the defense budgets of many European countries, only seven of the 29 NATO allies are currently reaching the agreed target of 2% of GDP.

Although then US President Barack Obama also criticized NATO members’ defense spending, the current US President Donald J. Trump has made it a central theme of his foreign policy — but with limited success.

Yes, Good Borders Make Good Neighbors

Yesterday, during Daily Wire Editor-in-Chief Ben Shapiro’s must-watch “Sunday Special” podcast conversation with prominent Israeli political philosopher Yoram Hazony, the author of “The Virtue of Nationalism” made a biblically grounded argument that “good borders make good neighbors.”

It is perhaps difficult to think of a less politically correct thing to say to a bipartisan American ruling class still hooked on the post-Immigration and Nationality Act of 1965 nostrums of porous borders and a classical liberalism-inspired freer flow of cross-border labor, but Hazony — a personal friend, in the interest of full disclosure — is nonetheless absolutely correct. And it ought not to be too difficult to understand why.

The fundamental premise of Hazony’s award-winning 2018 tome is to lay out two competing visions for the governance of global affairs, and to argue in favor of one vision over the other. Those two visions are imperialism, which favors a globally oriented governance of monolithic rule via transnational institutions, and nationalism, which favors a a nation-state-centric governance of disparate rule via sovereign nation-states.

There are a myriad of reasons for preferring the latter to the former, and the deepest and most existentially meaningful reasons are those that grasp at human nature itself. It is fundamentally inimical to human nature for people to outsource their sovereignty and self-determination to the whims and caprices of those external actors with whom those people do not share undergirding mutually interdependent bonds of loyalty. Those bonds of loyalty can only be nourished and sustained when the relevant polity shares some semblances of a common culture: Language, customs, traits, religious tradition, legal tradition, and so forth. Put even more simply, those bonds of loyalty can only be nourished and sustained when the relevant polity is a true nation, properly understood.

Visiting Israel, Irish FM says he’s open for ‘new thinking’ on peace process

Ireland’s foreign minister on Tuesday said he was in favor of “new thinking” about the Israeli-Palestinian peace, acknowledging that the realities on the ground have changed since the Oslo Accords in the mid-1990s.

At the same time, Simon Coveney, who is visiting the region for the fourth time since becoming foreign minister in 2017, stressed his government continues to call for progress in the peace process and stressed that he sees a two-state solution as the only possible outcome.

In an interview with the Kan public broadcaster, Coveney reiterated Dublin’s opposition to a bill that would criminalize the import of settlement products into Ireland, saying that his government has “effectively blocked” the proposal from advancing.

“We will continue to advocate, yes, for new thinking, because I think a solution now is probably not the same as what a solution looked like 20 years ago. A lot has happened in that time,” Coveney said, in response to a question whether there is a need for new ideas given the ongoing stalemate in the peace process.

“But it’s got to be a negotiated solution, as opposed to an enforced solution on Palestinians because they’re in a weaker negotiating position, perhaps, than Israel is,” he added.

Brazil to open trade mission in Jerusalem later this month

Brazil is set to open a trade office in Jerusalem next month, Israeli officials said Monday.

Honduras, which already operates a trade mission in the capital, is expected to transfer its embassy to the city in the coming weeks, the officials added.

On December 15, the Brazilian Trade and Investment Promotion Agency, known as Apex-Brasil, which operates under the auspices of the country’s foreign ministry, will officially open a trade office in Jerusalem’s Har Hotzvim hi-tech park.

However, as opposed to the Jerusalem trade offices of Hungary and Honduras, the Brazilian office will not have diplomatic status, Apex-Brasil’s Clarissa Furtado told The Times of Israel.

Three people — one Brazilian and two local hires — will work from the new Jerusalem office, she said.

Italian politician offended after Holocaust survivor said Jesus was Jewish

A local Italian politician said that he felt offended because a Holocaust survivor and senator for life noted that Jesus was Jewish, Italian media reported on Friday.

Fabio Tuiach, a member of the municipal council of Trieste, made the comment ahead of a council vote on a motion proposing to award Auschwitz survivor Liliana Segre the city’s honorary citizenship.

As can be seen in a video of a November 18 meeting published by the Italian daily La Repubblica, Tuiach called Segre a “nice little granny,” and said that he would be willing to invite her over for tea “like [right-wing League leader Matteo] Salvini did.” He added that he had the highest admiration for her considering that she witnessed one of the ugliest pages in history.

“As a devout Catholic, I was confused and also a little offended by the fact that she said that Jesus was Jewish,” he then said, slightly mumbling as he added that “he was the son of God, he was God for me; therefore I will abstain.”

In the video, it is possible to hear other council members roaring in the background.

Netanyahu, Benny Gantz meet for coalition talks as third election looms

No agreement was reached between Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and Blue and White leader Benny Gantz as they finished talks at the Kirya in Tel Aviv about forming a coalition within about 45 minutes on Tuesday, eight days until the deadline for forming a government.

The Likud complained after the meeting that Gantz did not permit Netanyahu to go first as prime minister even for a short period of time.

“In order to avoid unnecessary elections, Prime Minister Netanyahu offered to pass creative legislation that would set rules for the rotation in the prime minister’s office that would prevent either side from violating them.”

The Likud said that, “despite our significant concessions, Blue and White continues to prevent a unity government.”

The party also blamed Gantz’s No.2, Yair Lapid.

Bennett signs executive order placing economic sanctions on terrorists

Defense Minister Naftali Bennett has signed the first executive order placing economic restrictions on members of terrorist organizations in Israel and around the world, placing a limit on the ability of individuals to use their assets to promote terrorism.

A statement released by the Defense Ministry said the “targeted economic sanctions” will be an effective deterrent by placing a limit on the ability of terrorist activists to use their assets to promote and finance terrorist organization in Israel and abroad.

The order signed by Bennett on Tuesday placed sanctions on Mohammad Jamil, a Hamas activist who was deported by Israel to Lebanon in 1992 and who has lived in Britain in recent years.

According to the Defense Ministry, Jamil heads the Arab Human Rights Organization in the United Kingdom, a branch of the Gaza-based Hamas terrorist organization in the United Kingdom.

“This is the first of its kind in Israel during the war to finance terrorism, and is the first in a chain of orders for other activists to be signed by the defense minister soon,” the statement read. “The people against whom the orders will be signed will be added to the list in the security system, which is accessible to everyone, so that dozens and later hundreds of members belonging to the terrorist organizations Hezbollah, Hamas and others are marked across the world.”

Trial opens for Israeli man charged with crossing into Jordan illegally

The trial of an Israeli man held in Jordan, who has been charged with illegally crossing into the Hashemite Kingdom, commenced on Monday.

Konstantin Kotov confessed to illegally crossing into Jordan, but pleaded not guilty to a second charge that he possessed drugs with the intent of using them, the Jordanian state-run Petra news agency reported Monday.

Kotov, who Jordan’s authorities have said crossed into its territory on October 29, is being tried by the Jordanian State Security Court.

Judge Ali Mubeedeen said the indictment against Kotov details that a sum of $421 and NIS 27,190, and a marijuana joint, were found in a bag he was carrying after he crossed the border.

Mubeedeen quoted Kotov, who spoke through a translator, as saying that he has used marijuana in Israel, where he claimed it was legal.

While Israel permits Israelis with specific illnesses to use medical marijuana, it bars recreational use.

Jordan to reopen Aaron’s Tomb after closure due to ‘illegal’ Jewish prayer

Aaron’s Tomb, located in Jordan, will be reopened to Israeli visitors after being closed in August when Israeli tourists were filmed performing “Jewish rituals” at the site, according to Maariv.

President Reuven Rivlin notified Foreign Minister Israel Katz about the decision to reopen the site, as part of talks that began in London last week during a meeting with Prince Ghazi bin Mohammed, personal envoy and chief adviser to King Abdullah II for Religious and Cultural Affairs. Talks continued in Jordan after the meeting, and the decision was made to reopen the site where the High Priest Aaron is believed to be buried.

Rivlin asked Katz to instruct the relevant diplomats to continue to coordinate the understandings that will allow Israeli groups to visit the site if arranged earlier and with a security escort and guide at the site.

In an interview with Ynet, tour guide Roni Ayalon, who was with the group of tourists, described being subjected to humiliating treatment by Jordanian authorities.

“They just stripped down all of us,” he said. “They took off the women’s head scarves. All the boys’ yarmulkes were taken off. They took off everyone’s shirts to see if they had tzitzit under their clothes and took [the tzitzit] off them. They confiscated any religious symbols they found on us.

“If there was this kind of humiliation of an Arab on our side who wanted to enter Jerusalem and they would dare to tell him to take off his shirt or confiscate his Koran, there would be a world war,” Ayalon said. “All the Arabs would jump up. But they can do whatever they want to us.”

Purported photos of Jewish tourists at the site which circulated through Jordanian media showed them praying with a Torah scroll.

Jordan Bars Dozens of Jewish Community Officials from Entering with Yarmulke, Tzitzit and Jewish Symbols

Deputy mayors from around Israel who are assembled in Eilat, had planned a tour of the mystical red rock city of Petra in Jordan Tuesday morning, but at the border crossing, the Haredi delegates in the group were told to remove their yarmulkes and Tzitzit (fringed religious garments), Kikar Hashabat reporter Itzik Ohana twitted.

Most delegates refused to remove their Jewish articles of clothing, and most of the Haredi members made their way back to their hotel in Eilat.

But a number of delegates removed their yarmulkes and tzitzit and entered Jordan.

Jerusalem Deputy Mayor Yossi Deitch told Radio Kol Chai Tuesday morning on the phone from the Israeli-Jordan border: “We arrived, all the deputy mayors, for a trip in Petra, and they demanded that we remove the yarmulkes and tzitzis. It was shocking to see the pile of yarmulkes and tzitzis over here. It’s anti-Semitic and humiliating.”

Deputy mayors Yossi Deitch, Zvika Cohen, Israel Kellerman, Haim Cohen, Avi Stern, Ya’akov Muelimi, Eliezer Rauchberger and Itzik Brenner managed to get across the border before the Jordanian authorities decided to stop the entry of Jews wearing religious articles of clothing, but they were stopped and returned to Israel a short while later.

Palestinians criticize joint Israel-Gaza medical ‘voluntourism’

A U.S. charity building a tent hospital in the Gaza Strip is causing Palestinian unease by offering foreign medical volunteers the opportunity of weekend tourism in Israel, just across the volatile border.

The facility, to be operated by the U.S. evangelical Christian group FriendShips, had won rare joint support from Gaza’s Islamist rulers Hamas and their enemy, Israel, which maintains a blockade along its frontier with the enclave.

Now, however, eyebrows are being raised in Gaza over a Holy Land pilgrimage pitch on the Louisiana-based organization’s website that is promoting an endeavor to improve health services strained by years of conflict.

The 50-bed encampment in northern Gaza across from Israel’s Erez border crossing “will offer a wonderful opportunity to work in an important and productive project and, at the same time, to see and enjoy the Biblical sites of Israel,” the website said.

Volunteers at the facility would be expected to work and live onsite Monday through Thursday, but they “will be free to go to Israel and tour” on their days off, it said.

Khaled Abu Toameh: How Palestinian Leaders Sabotage Palestinians’ Interests

The new field hospital in the Gaza Strip is currently being built with the help of Friendship, a US NGO, as well as partial funding from Qatar. The hospital, which is being constructed near the Gaza-Israel border, will provide medical services to thousands of Palestinians in the Gaza Strip.

Jamal Nasr, a representative of the Palestinian Democratic Union (FIDA) party went as far as claiming that the new hospital will serve as a center for spying on the Palestinians in the Gaza Strip. “This is a suspicious project,” Nasr said. “It can’t have any humanitarian purposes. It’s actually a base for intelligence gathering.”

As with the hospital, the PA leadership has also come out against the proposed artificial island port, which aims to improve the situation in the Gaza Strip. This is the same PA that has been repeatedly condemning Israel for imposing a “blockade” on the Gaza Strip. Instead of welcoming the Israeli initiative, PA officials are denouncing it as another “conspiracy” against the Palestinians.

Abbas and his senior officials are seeking to prolong the suffering of their people in the Gaza Strip so they can continue to blame Israel alone for the crisis there. By calling the hospital a “spying center,” they are also endangering the lives of the volunteers and medical staff, whose sole “crime” is providing medical treatment to Palestinians.

The next time anyone talks about the harsh conditions in the Gaza Strip, the world needs to realize that those who are trying to block aid to their people are the Palestinian leaders.

PMW: Herzl wanted to send Palestinians “to Africa, so wild animals [would] eat them,” and Balfour was “an anti-Semite,” according to top PA official

In a recent sermon, a top PA religious official demonized two leaders who were instrumental in bringing about the creation of the State of Israel. PA’s Supreme Shari’ah Judge and Chairman of the Supreme Council for Shari’ah Justice, Mahmoud Al-Habbash, who is also a former advisor to PA Chairman Abbas, claimed that in the time before the creation of the State of Israel, then British Foreign Secretary Arthur Balfour was an “anti-Semite,” and then leader of the Zionist movement Theodor Herzl wanted to “empty Palestine” of Palestinians and send them “to Africa, so that the wild animals [would] eat them”:

“When Herzl came to Palestine, he found in it a people, culture, and progress and said: ‘How can the Jews immigrate here? How can the state of the Jews be established here? There is a people here. We want a land without a people. Therefore, we, and Britain, and the Western states must act to empty Palestine of its residents, its people, and throw them into the desert. And we can take them to Africa’ – thus he said – ‘so the wild animals will eat them and we will be rid of the so-called Palestinian people, so that Palestine will become “a land without a people for a people without a land.”’” [Official PA TV, Nov. 1, 2019]

Al-Habbash denied any presence of Jews in the Land of Israel, stating that Lord Balfour was an “anti-Semite” who wanted to “be rid of the Jews” and therefore brought “foreign people with no connection to the land” and “planted them as thorns” in Palestine. Al-Habbash’s demonization of Herzl and Balfour is part of the PA’s false narrative, which claims that only Palestinians have a history in the Land of Israel, and that the Jews and the British conspired to empty the land of Palestinians to create a homeland for the Jews and a colonial stronghold for the British in the Middle East. To create a rationale for the British support of “Palestine” as a homeland for the Jews, Al-Habbash – and the PA narrative in general – turn Balfour and the British at large into anti-Semites who wanted to get rid of the Jews:

MEMRI: Palestinian ‘Al-Hayat Al-Jadida’ Daily Publishes Post By Hebron Resident Thanking Palestinian Authority For Making Regular Payments To His Family For Two Of His Brothers Who Were Involved In Terrorist Operations

The back page of the December 1, 2019 issue of the Palestinian Authority (PA) daily Al-Hayat Al-Jadida features a post from the personal Facebook account of Thair Al-Haymouni, a Palestinian from Hebron, in which he thanks the PA for the payments it makes to his family. According to the post, the payments are made for two of Al-Haymouni’s brothers, Hamas activist Ghazi Al-Haymouni, who was killed in 1994 while attempting to carry out a stabbing attack near the Cave of the Patriarchs,[1] and Fatah activist Mu’taz Al-Haymouni, who is in prison for recruiting the terrorist ‘Andalib Taqatqa and planning the attack she carried out in a Jerusalem marketplace on April 12, 2002, in which 6 people were killed and 80 were wounded.[2]

Al-Haymouni’s Facebook post appears on the paper’s back page unaccompanied by any explanation, but its publication is likely related to a recent protest by a group of released Hamas prisoners who claim that the PA stopped making them payments in 2007.[3] The post backs up the PA’s claim that it has never stopped making payments to Palestinian prisoners and to the families of martyrs, regardless of their organizational affiliation. An editorial in the same issue of the daily indeed states that the PA makes payments to “thousands of Hamas prisoners.”[4]

It should be mentioned that, since its founding, the Palestinian Authority has been making payments to prisoners, released prisoners and the families of martyrs, including those involved in deadly terror attacks against civilians. These payments have continued despite international pressure to stop them on the grounds that they encourage terrorism. PA officials, headed by Palestinian President Mahmoud ‘Abbas, repeatedly state that making them is a national duty of the first order and that they will never be stopped. For example, at an August 2017 meeting with President Trump’s advisor and son-in-law Jared Kushner, ‘Abbas said that he would never stop the payments to the families of prisoners, released prisoners, and martyrs, even if he was forced out of office as a result.[5] About one year later, ‘Abbas said at a Ramallah ceremony in honor of prisoners, “We will neither reduce nor prevent [payment] of allowances to the families of martyrs, prisoners, and released prisoners, as some seek, and if we had only a single penny left, we would pay it to families of the martyrs and prisoners.”[6]

Hamas-affiliated analyst calls for dialogue with US

Ibrahim al-Madhoun, a Palestinian political analyst affiliated with Hamas, on Tuesday called for launching dialogue with the US.
“The dialogue with America is required and important,” al-Madhoun said on Twitter. “There is a collective recognition of Washington’s bias towards Israel and its blatant support for the continuation of the Zionist entity. America is a force that cannot be ignored and, if possible, we should have a dialogue with it on the basis of our people’s rights. All countries want to be friends with America.”

In another statement on Twitter four days ago, al-Madhoun wrote: “Why shouldn’t Hamas have a relationship with America? Why is the Palestinian Authority afraid of the openness of the resistance to the world?”

Madhoun’s remarks came as Hamas leader Ismail Haniyeh arrived in Cairo for talks with senior Egyptian intelligence officials on the possibility of reaching a long-term ceasefire with Israel.

Palestinian Preacher Al-Makharze: Allah Wants Girls to Be Married off When They Start Menstruating

In a sermon that was uploaded to the Internet on November 10, 2019, Palestinian Islamic scholar Sheikh Yusuf Al-Makharze expressed criticism of infidels and Arab governments, including the Palestinian Authority, that signed the 1979 Convention on the Elimination of all Forms of Discrimination Against Women (CEDAW). He criticized the Arabs for “jumping on the bandwagon of absolute equality and liberation that infidels desire for women.” Pointing out that Allah had permitted the Prophet Muhammad to marry Aisha when she was only nine years old, Sheikh Al-Makharze said that menstruation is Allah’s way of saying: “This woman is ready for marriage, so marry her off!” Sheikh Al-Makharze added that the leaders who are “preventing” girls from getting married want the girls to commit obscene acts, like the infidels do.

Trump Administration Lifts Hold on Lebanon Security Aid

US President Donald Trump’s administration has lifted a mysterious “hold” on more than $100 million in security aid for Lebanon, congressional and State Department officials said, more than a month after lawmakers learned the funds were being blocked.

As first reported by Reuters, the US State Department told Congress on Oct. 31 that the White House budget office (OMB) and National Security Council had decided to withhold $105 million in foreign military assistance, without providing any explanation.

As lawmakers demanded answers from the administration about why the aid had been withheld, some compared it with a similar decision from the administration to withhold nearly $400 million in security assistance to Ukraine that also had been approved by Congress.

That decision has been at the center of an impeachment inquiry into Trump.

Members of Congress and US diplomats had strongly opposed the move to withhold the aid to Beirut, saying it was crucial to support Lebanon’s military as it grappled with instability within the country and the region.

Congressional aides said on Monday the administration had still provided no explanation for the decision to withhold the money, which had been approved by Congress and the State Department.

They said the OMB released the hold last Wednesday and the administration had begun to “obligate” it, or finalize contracts for how it should be spent.

Eli Lake: Why Is Europe Bailing Out Iran’s Regime Now?

The dissonance of the moment for Europe was captured Monday in a tweet by the U.K.’s ambassador to Iran, Rob Macaire. “Surprised by the tone of some reactions to this statement,” he wrote. “We continue to express concern about the human rights situation in Iran. But Instex shows we will work to support trade — which benefits all Iranians — as long as the JCPOA continues.”

Those last two sentences (the JCPOA is the Iran nuclear agreement, which Europe still honors but which the U.S. does not) amount to the kind of feel-good cliche many Westerners have been using for decades to justify trade not just with Iran but with other repressive regimes. It doesn’t stand up to scrutiny. Consider Iran’s banking crisis. Corruption and cronyism were causing bank failures as early as 2017 — before President Donald Trump’s administration re-imposed the crippling sanctions on Iran’s economy. Investment in Iran too often goes to the regime’s elites, not those who suffer from its mismanaged and now sanctioned economy.

But corruption is only part of the story. Iran also diverts its wealth to its foreign interventions. The U.S. State Department estimated in 2018 that Iran has spent $18 billion since 2012 in Iraq, Syria and Yemen, including paying the salaries of thousands of non-Iranian militia fighters. Iranians know this, too. A popular slogan among protesters is: “No Gaza, No Lebanon, Our Lives Are for Iran.”

It’s too soon to say whether the latest protests in Iran are the beginning of the end of the Islamic Republic. What’s clear, however, is that the current government is facing a crisis of legitimacy. Ten years ago, when hundreds of thousands of supporters of Mousavi took to the streets, it was largely the urban, educated classes expressing their fury about a stolen election. Today, the unrest in Iran has spread to the working poor. Even Kurdish parties — which have traditionally pursued their own agenda — are now working with organizers of the national movement.

Mousavi himself captured this crisis in legitimacy with his statement last weekend, comparing the widespread shootings of demonstrators to the 1978 killings that preceded Iran’s 1979 Islamic revolution. “The murderers of ’78 were representatives of a non-religious government and the shooters of 2019 are representatives of a religious regime,” Mousavi said. “There the chief commander was the shah and here today is the supreme leader with absolute powers.”

Perhaps Europeans believe the supreme leader has more staying power than the shah did. But if history is any guide, Iranians will not soon forget the violence and torment their regime has inflicted on them. Nor will they forget those foreign powers that offered that regime an economic lifeline.

Seth Frantzman: IRGC: ‘Great Satan’ US, ‘Zionist’ Israel behind protests in Iran

While the Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps (IRGC) was concerned that the rise in fuel prices could lead to protests, they were unprepared for the extent of unrest that began in mid-November and led to the deaths of hundreds of Iranian demonstrators. IRGC commander Esmaeil Kowsari said over the weekend that the protests were part of the “dirty goals of the Great Satan and the Zionists.” The “Great Satan” is a term the Iranian regime uses for the United States.

It is one of the first major comments in which Iran directly blamed Israel, though the Islamic Republic had already blamed foreign forces for stirring up the protests.

Kowsari is a soldier and politician who is deputy chief of the Sarallah headquarters, which deals with security during times of civil unrest.
This means he was key to suppressing the protests. According to his interview with Tasnim news, also reported by Radio Farda, he said that some of the rioters who were arrested had “confessed to connections with Israel.” Iran has been accused of torturing the protesters into confessions. “When the authorities say it, there is definitely evidence. These individuals accepted this charge when they were interrogated.”

JCPA: The United States and the Iranian Policy of Escalation

The wave of demonstrations in Iran following the regime’s decision to raise the price of gasoline by 50 percent is the most important manifestation of the impact of the “Maximum Pressure” policy of the United States toward Iran. It reflects the shortage of resources available to the regime due to the shrinking of its oil exports income and the widespread animosity of the Iranian people toward the Islamic regime, and it adds to the challenges Iran is facing in maintaining its grip over two of its most important assets would-be colonies, Iraq and Lebanon.

Even if the Iranian regime manages to repress the popular outrage against it on all fronts, the recent events, combined with Israeli continuous attacks on Iranian military targets in Syria and allegedly also in Iraq and in Lebanon, and the imposition of even more American sanctions on Iran, put the Mullahs’ regime in Tehran under unprecedented pressure, vulnerability, and concern.

The harsh Iranian response was revealed in the impressive military attack on the Saudi oil facilities in Abqaiq and Khurais on September 14, 2019, and the resumption of uranium enrichment in the Fordow deep underground facility. The Iranian offensive steps reflected the Iranian leadership’s frustration after the failure of its escalating brinksmanship policy. That desperate policy included attacks against American allies such as Israel, adopted after the “maximum pressure” sanctions were applied in May 2019 in an attempt to force the United States out of the “comfort zone” of a tough sanctions regime.

After the attack on the Saudi oil facilities, the United States understood the nature of this familiar Iranian trap and its twisted logic and was careful to avoid retaliation. This American policy, which seemed to many as counterintuitive, earned President Trump considerable criticism, including from Israeli Prime Minister Netanyahu.

As the policy of escalating brinksmanship backfires on Iran, and with the growing tensions with the IAEA after the agency confirmed Israeli claims about the presence of unaccounted for and undeclared enriched uranium in Turquzabad, it is not clear what decisions will be taken by the Iranian leadership. The extreme radical elements in it may call on Iran to take even higher risks. On the other hand, the realistic radicals in the Iranian regime, led by President Rouhani, may advocate a resumption of negotiations with the United States, fearing that as time goes by, the opening position of Iran – that is already weak – may become even weaker.

Iranian Protests Were Not about the Price of Gas

Things are different now. During the height of the recent protests, Secretary of State Mike Pompeo tweeted: “After 40 years of tyranny, the proud Iranian people are not staying silent about their government’s abuses. We will not stay silent either. I have a message for the people of Iran: The United States hears you. The United States supports you. The United States is with you.”

In 2009, protesters chanted, “Where is my vote?” and “Give us our votes back.” Now there are reports of people shouting, “We don’t want the ayatollahs!” and “Death to the dictator!” and of people pulling down anti-American banners and billboards. Rioters have burned government buildings, banks and police stations. November 2019 in Iran looked like the revolutionary zeal that brought down Mohammad Reza Pahlavi’s reign over 40 years ago — except now the anger is directed at those responsible for taking down the shah. In fact, some protesters reportedly shouted: “Oh, Shah of Iran, come back to Iran.”

Iranian President Hassan Rouhani may have pronounced the protests over and his regime victorious, but he shouldn’t rest too easily. Even President Trump’s critics concede that his maximum-pressure sanctions are causing serious pain in Iran, and many believe the regime is in the greatest danger of falling since its inception.

Every day that people openly defy the mullahs in the streets of Iran makes it harder for the clerics to maintain control. If the anti-regime protests continue throughout the winter, can a “Persian Spring” be far behind?

Videos from Iran filter online, revealing scope of bloody crackdown

Videos showing harrowing scenes of bleeding protesters, burning roadblocks and snipers on rooftops have emerged after Iran lifted a near-total internet blackout, opening a window onto what analysts say was one of Tehran’s bloodiest crackdowns.

This repression “was harsher” than during previous protests in Iran, Kamran Matin, senior lecturer in international relations at Sussex University in Britain, told AFP in Nicosia.

“All the videos I have seen from before the internet was shut down show that from the moment of the gathering of people to ‘shoot to kill’ was very short.”

The protests that broke out across the country from November 15 were ignited by a price hike on fuel — a heavily subsidized commodity in one of OPEC’s largest producers — as part of an effort to ease pressure on the sanctions-hit economy.

But global insight into the protests and most Iranians’ access to those outside the country was quickly cut off when authorities clamped down on internet access, according to NetBlocks, which monitors internet disruptions.

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