Ten New York Times Journalists Accuse Israel of ‘Possibly a War Crime’
The Times article concludes by claiming that Najjar “has become a symbol, perhaps not of what either side had hoped, but of a hopeless, endless conflict and the lives it wastes.”
That’s a dodge, because the gist of the rest of the piece is that it’s not the “conflict” that killed her, but an Israeli sniper, in what was “possibly a war crime.” And now, thanks to the work of at least ten Times journalists and whatever editors decided to set them loose on this story and to give it prominent play, her life isn’t a “waste,” but rather has become a valuable propaganda tool for the Palestinian Arabs, who can now use her death to depict Israel to the Times audience as reckless murderers, and Israelis as war criminals, or at least “possibly” war criminals.
None of this is to say that the Israeli troops defending the border with Gaza performed perfectly, or that there isn’t room for journalism that can help Israel do a better job at it going forward. No human is perfect. US police and American troops accidentally kill people, too, and Palestinian Arab terrorists intentionally kill people. For whatever reason, though, the Times has decided that this Gaza death is worth the time of ten journalists and three pages of the Sunday newspaper, while the death of an Israeli American, Ari Fuld, wasn’t deemed fit to print by the Times at all.
If one were to take a Timesian approach, one would write it with a question headline: “Times Pays More Attention To a Palestinian Death Than to an Israeli American One. Was It an Accident?” And then one would weasel around the issue: “the Times journalism appears to have been careless at best, and possibly a blood libel.” But I’ll reject that approach and be more direct and forthright. The New York Times “investigation,” for all its dignified trappings, is just the same old Israel-bashing you can get for free on any extreme right or extreme left Internet site or social media feed. Save yourself the time and the money and the heartburn and skip it.
The Israeli military on Sunday responded to a New York Times report that questioned its use of live fire in an incident along the Gaza border on June 1, in which a Palestinian medic, 21, was killed when a soldier fired into a crowd of protesters.
The IDF said the army’s internal investigations body is “probing to clarify the reasons behind the death of Razan al-Najjar. The results of the investigation will be sent to the military advocate general upon their completion.”
For its investigation, The Times analyzed over 1,000 photographs and videos of the incident, interviewed over 30 eyewitnesses, spoke to Israeli and Palestinian officials and ballistics experts, and worked with the Israeli-run company Forensic Architecture to build a 3D rendering of the shooting, which also integrated drone and cellphone footage.
“The bullet that killed her, The Times found, was fired by an Israeli sniper into a crowd that included white-coated medics in plain view. A detailed reconstruction, stitched together from hundreds of crowd-sourced videos and photographs, shows that neither the medics nor anyone around them posed any apparent threat of violence to Israeli personnel,” it said.
“Though Israel later admitted her killing was unintentional, the shooting appears to have been reckless at best, and possibly a war crime, for which no one has yet been punished,” the report added.
According to The Times, the bullet that killed Najjar also injured two other medics.
To the consternation of many, the US government will no longer provide $350 million a year to the UN Relief and Works Agency for Palestine Refugees in the Near East (UNRWA), and the Trump administration says that it may cut more money for Palestinians in the West Bank and Gaza Strip. Some analysts and pundits claim that this decision will cause more hardship and violence in Gaza and the West Bank, and plunge other areas of the Middle East into unrest. This is unlikely to occur.
The prophets of UNRWA’s impending doom underestimate its political usefulness. UNRWA, which was founded in 1949, is simply too valuable a political asset to fail. Its existence guarantees that Palestinian refugees and the contested right of return remain a generational and prioritized political fixture in international fora. Consequently, Arab and other states use the demise of the Palestinians to generate political capital by lambasting Israel for its subjugation of the Palestinians, and for instigating a “humanitarian disaster” in the Gaza Strip.
These states have a vested political interest in UNRWA, and there are already early indications that the EU, Ireland, Jordan, and Germany will pledge further support to make up for the current budgetary pitfall.
Much of UNRWA’s and its backers’ achievement in generating this political capital derives from their strategic interest to maintain the Palestinian right of return, and the Palestinian refugee, on the international political agenda. Former Commissioner-General to UNRWA Karen Abu-Zayed has stated that “Palestine refugees are the focus of the Agency’s thinking, planning and activities. Promoting their interests as individuals with rights and entitlements under international law and ensuring their well-being and long-term human development are the engines that will continue to drive all aspects of UNRWA’s activities.”
What is surprising is how UNRWA has ingeniously manipulated commonly accepted international humanitarian law and the 1951 UNHCR Convention definitions of a refugee. Why? Because by changing the definition of a Palestinian refugee, they have ensured that the Palestinian refugee issue can never be solved. This has turned UNRWA’s original temporary relief mandate into a quasi-governmental and permanent political fixture in the West Bank and Gaza.
A Palestinian court in Ramallah sentenced a Palestinian-American to life in prison with hard labor on Monday, after finding him guilty of selling a house in the Old City of Jerusalem to a Jewish Israeli organization.
The man was identified as Issam Akel, a resident of east Jerusalem, who was arrested by Palestinian Authority security forces in October.
The story of the incarceration of the 53-year-old Akel, a US citizen, was first reported by The Jerusalem Post earlier this year.
The Palestinian Grand Criminal Court found Akel guilty of “attempting to cut off a part of the Palestinian land and adding them to a foreign country.”
The verdict was issued after a one-week trial.
Akel worked for one of the PA ministries and a hospital in east Jerusalem, according to Palestinian sources.
It remains unclear how he was arrested by PA security forces. As a resident of east Jerusalem, he holds an Israeli ID card that gives him immunity against being arrested or prosecuted in a PA court.
Some reports said that Akel was arrested while he was staying in Ramallah. Other reports, however, claimed that he had been kidnapped from east Jerusalem and taken to Ramallah.
For Israel, 2019 will likely bring great achievements but also great disappointments.
The achievements will include: continued growth of Israel’s innovation economy; increased tourism; and development of a broad range of new inventions, along with drugs and devices to help people deal with many severe health issues.
The disappointments will include: continued Iranian-induced terrorist attacks and looming threats of war; endless hostility from the halls of the United Nations and the European Parliament; and the continued Boycott, Divestment, and Sanctions (BDS) movement — waging asymmetrical economic and cultural warfare – seeking to demonize, isolate, and ultimately eliminate the Jewish state.
Despite the best efforts of President Trump, his senior advisers and son-in-law Jared Kushner to come up with a peace plan acceptable to the Palestinians and Israelis, they are taking on an impossible task at a time of new elections and political upheaval in Jerusalem, and an aging, corrupt, and unrepresentative Palestinian leadership in Ramallah.
Make no mistake: Israelis yearn for the day when their 18-year-olds no longer have to devote two years of their young lives to put themselves in harm’s way. They want to live in peace with their Arab neighbors.
Israel today provides its Arab citizens, who comprise nearly one-fifth of the population, with more rights and a higher living standard than are enjoyed in Arab nations. But continuing Palestinian terrorism at its southern and northern borders — and in the West Bank — forces Israel to take significant security precautions, as any nation would when faced with similar threats.
Israel and the United States are slated to leave the United Nations Educational, Cultural and Scientific organization today over its anti-Israel bias.
Israel’s Foreign Ministry is expected to make an announcement on the matter later today.
Israel has been a member state of UNESCO since 1949. In the last 17 years, the global cultural body has registered nine sites within the country on its World Heritage List.
But it’s pro-Palestinian stances has created increasing friction with both countries.
In 2011, both countries halted payment of their annual fees after UNESCO became the first UN body to recognize Palestine as a state in 2011. Israel now owes UNESCO $8.5 million.
Both countries lost voting rights in the organization in 2013 over their failure to pay dues, but maintained all other participation rights.
The situation intensified in 2016 after the Palestinian Authority and the Arab states pushed forward resolutions at the United Nations Executive Board that ignored Jewish ties to the Temple Mount and the Western Wall, describing the most holy sites in Judaism solely by their Muslim names of al-Haram al-Sharif and the Buraq Plaza. They also passed texts disavowing Israeli sovereignty over Jerusalem.
In addition in 2017, the World Heritage Committee voted to inscribe Hebron’s Old Town and the Tomb of the Patriarchs to the state of Palestine. The inscription focused heavily on the city’s Muslim history after the year 1250, in spite of the city’s Biblical and Jewish roots.
US State Dept: U.S. Confirms Israel’s “Right to Self-Defense” Against Iran
The United States fully supports Israel’s right to defend itself against Iranian regional actions that endanger Israeli national security and the safety of the Israeli people. Iranian support of and supply to terrorist groups in Syria and across the region that have the clear intent and capability to strike Israel are unacceptable. The United States fully supports Israel’s right to defend itself against the Iranian regime’s aggressive adventurism, and we will continue to ensure that Israel has the military capacity to do so decisively. The commitment of the Trump Administration and the American people to ensuring Israel’s security is both enduring and unshakable.
Iran’s Ayatollah Ali Khameini predicted on Monday that the Palestinians would soon be able to “establish a government in Tel Aviv.”
Hosting the head of the Palestinian Islamic Jihad in Tehran, the Iranian supreme leader also hailed the Palestinian “resistance” against Israel, arguing that the most recent exchange of violence between Israel and terrorists groups in Gaza, which ended with a ceasefire, heralded Israel’s imminent demise.
“Palestine will strongly persist, and by the grace of God, the Palestinian nation’s ultimate victory will come true in the near future,” the ayatollah told Ziad al-Nakhala, who became PIJ’s leader in late September.
“As for the recent years, the victory of the Palestinian people has not meant being able to establish a government in Tel Aviv;— of course that will come true by God’s help,” Khameini added, according to a readout of the meeting posted on his official website.
“However, the main victory has been the fact that the Zionist regime — which Arab armies failed to defeat — was brought to its knees by the Palestinian people and the resistance; and by God’s will, you will achieve greater victories.”
Khameini chose to refer to Tel Aviv, when the seat of Israel’s government is Jerusalem. Many in the international community refuse to recognize the city as Israel’s capital, but expect it to become the shared capital of Israel and a future Palestinian state.
Iran has denounced Monday plans by Brazil’s newly elected president to move his country’s embassy to Jerusalem.
Foreign Ministry spokesman Bahram Ghasemi said that such a move “will not help with peace, stability, security and retrieval of the Palestinian people’s rights.” He added, however, that “relations with Brazil will eventually be continued.”
Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, who is visiting Brazil, said Sunday that Brazil’s incoming president had told him it was only a matter of time until Brazil moved its embassy to Jerusalem. “It’s not a question of if, just a question of when,” the prime minister said.
Netanyahu had announced his trip to Brazil following a November 1 tweet from Jair Bolsonaro indicating he intends to move the Brazilian Embassy from Tel Aviv to Jerusalem, following in the footsteps of US President Donald Trump. Bolsonaro later backtracked by saying “it hasn’t been decided yet.”
Jerusalem’s fate is one of the most divisive issues in the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. Nearly all countries maintain embassies in Tel Aviv, and the US decision to move its embassy earlier this sparked visceral opposition from the Palestinians.
Iran could use its growing clout in Iraq to turn the Arab country into a springboard for attacks against Israel, the top Israeli intelligence official said on Monday.
Israel sees the spread of Tehran’s influence in the region as a growing threat, and has carried out scores of air strikes in civil war-torn Syria against suspected military deployments and arms deliveries by Iranian forces supporting Damascus.
Iraq, which does not share a border with Israel, is technically its enemy but was last an open threat in the 1991 Gulf war. After a US-led invasion in 2003 toppled Iraqi dictator Saddam Hussein, a Sunni Muslim, Israel has worried that the country’s Shi’ite majority could tilt to Tehran.
“Iraq is under growing influence of the (covert Iranian foreign operations unit) Qods Force and Iran,” Major-General Tamir Hayman, the chief of Israeli military intelligence, told a conference in Tel Aviv.
With US President Donald Trump signaling he sought to disengage from the region, Hayman said, the Iranians may “see Iraq as a convenient theater for entrenchment, similar to what they did in Syria, and to use it as a platform for a force build-up that could also threaten the State of Israel.”
Ukranian President Petro Poroshenko is scheduled to visit Israel in mid-January, at a time of complicated relations between Israel and Russia due to Russia’s presence in Syria.
The foreign ministry announced Poreshekno’s visit on Monday. The Ukrainian president, whose country is in confrontation with Russia over Crimea, will be making his third visit to Israel as president.
He came in 2014 for a state visit and again in 2016 for the funeral of former prime minister Shimon Peres.
In mid-December, Israel for the first time voted against Russia, in favor of Ukraine, in a resolution dealing with the Crimean issue. The resolution “voiced “grave concern over the progressive militarization of Crimea” and called on Moscow to “end its temporary occupation of Ukraine’s territory.”
Belgium is being flooded by migrants from Gaza, according to reports posted on Joods Actueel, a Belgian (Flemish) Jewish website.
According to the reports, Belgium’s former Secretary of State for Asylum and Migration, Theo Francken stated in a video message on Facebook that he ‘understands the reaction of the Jewish community when it comes to the massive influx of Palestinians from Gaza to our country.’
“One hundred and ninety-one asylum seekers were admitted today,” Francken wrote. “The largest group of young single men from Gaza. I want my quota to be reinstated and my removal campaign to be put back online. Please share this.”
Francken accused his successor, Maggie De Block, of raising his former quota of 50 asylum requests per day, and denounced the termination of the social media removal campaigns. Since his video was posted about a week ago, it has been viewed more than 366,000 times and shared nearly 11,300 times.
As the number of migrants from Gaza is rising, so too is the number of anti-Semitic incidents in Belgium. (h/t Elder of Lobby)
A ban on kosher slaughter by the Flanders region of Belgium will go into effect tomorrow, after legislation prohibiting animal slaughter without pre-stunning was passed in the region’s parliament in July 2017.
Slaughter according to Islamic law will also be banned under the new law.
The Wallonia region of southern Belgium passed legislation banning kosher slaughter in May 2017 that will go into effect in September 2019.
Jewish law requires that an animal be healthy and uninjured before slaughter, but pre-stunning injures the animal and therefore cannot be used.
“That provinces within Belgium, the law-making capital of Europe, have passed this type of anti-religious measure is an affront to the European values we all hold so dear,” said Rabbi Pinchas Goldschmidt, President of the Conference of European Rabbis and Chief Rabbi of Moscow.
“Time and again, the Jewish community is told by senior EU officials that there is no Europe without the Jews, [but] these bans undermine those statements and put Jewish life at risk. We urge EU leaders to address this directly to the governments of member states. Words are weak when actions hurt. We will continue to make those points to officials when we bring together hundreds of rabbis for our biennial conference in Belgium this spring.”
Goldschmidt said the ban should serve as “a wake-up call” to Jewish communities across Europe to the necessity of building ties with national governments.
One thousands rockets and mortars were fired from the Hamas-run Gaza Strip into southern Israel over the past year, a dramatic rise from the past three years when there were less than 100 in total.
According to statistics released by the IDF on Sunday, of the 1,000 rockets and mortars fired from the Strip, 250 were intercepted by Israel’s Iron Dome Missile Defense System and 45 projectiles fell in urban areas.
The majority of the rockets and mortars were fired into southern Israel in late November after a botched IDF commando raid in the southern Gazan city of Khan Younis. In the span of 48 hours, close to 500 rockets and mortars were launched, including a Kornet anti-tank missile fired at a bus.
The IDF has struck Gaza a total of 865 times over the past year in response to the firing of rockets towards southern Israel.
While almost every year since Hamas took control of the Gaza Strip in 2007 the number of rockets fired towards Israel was in triple digits, 2018 has seen the most serious peak of violence between Israel and terror groups in the strip like Hamas and Palestinian Islamic Jihad (PIJ) since the end of Operation Protective Edge in 2014.
In comparison, a total of 35 projectiles were fired towards Israel in 2017, 15 the previous year, and 21 in 2015 for a total of 71 rockets launched from the coastal enclave by terrorist groups.
The Jerusalem District Court on Monday convicted a Palestinian man for the murder of a British exchange student in an attack on Jerusalem’s light rail in April 2017.
Jamil Tamimi stabbed to death 21-year-old Hannah Bladon, who was in Israel as part of a study abroad program at the Hebrew University of Jerusalem.
According to the plea bargain, Tamimi will serve 18 years in prison, instead of a life sentence, and admit to his guilt while being exempted from paying Bladon’s family financial compensation, the Kan public broadcaster reported.
The family was said to have expressed outrage at the arrangement with Tamimi.
Prosecuting attorney Sagiv Ozeri told Kan that Bladon was not killed in a terror attack and that medical experts said he was mentally ill.
“This is a shocking murder, without any nationalist element, carried out by a mentally ill person,” Ozeri said.
“We know that no punishment will give succor to or heal a suffering family,” said Ozeri. “Accordingly, in view of the severity of the offense, and after the family members did not object to it, the prosecution proposed 18 years in prison, which would ensure that the defendant spends all, if not the majority of the remainder of his life, behind bars.”
Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas’s Fatah faction claimed on Monday that Hamas has arrested 500 of its activists and officials in the Gaza Strip.
Fatah spokesmen said the arrests were designed to prevent the men from celebrating the 54th anniversary of the launching of its first attack against Israel.
“Our sons have been arrested [by Hamas] because of their insistence on celebrating this anniversary,” said Atef Abu Seif, a senior Fatah official in the Gaza Strip. Hamas, he added, was “kidnapping Fatah men from the streets, raiding their homes and confiscating posters and other material that were supposed to be used during our rallies.” He also accused Hamas of torturing some of the detainees.
Recently, the PA security forces used force to disperse Hamas supporters who took to the streets of Hebron and Nablus to celebrate the 31st anniversary of the founding of Hamas.
Jamal Muheissen, another senior Fatah official, said the Hamas crackdown will not stop the faction from proceeding with its plan to hold rallies throughout the Gaza Strip.
Fatah officials in the West Bank on Monday accused supporters of deposed Fatah leader Mohammed Dahlan of helping Hamas in its crackdown on their members.
Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu asked US President Donald Trump in a recent phone call to ensure that the withdrawal of US troops from Syria will be done gradually and over an extended period of time, a senior diplomatic official said Monday in Rio de Janeiro.
The phone call came just a couple days before Trump’s surprise announcement last month that the US would withdraw its 2,000 troops from Syria.
The official said that Netanyahu will be meeting US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo in Brasilia on Tuesday and discuss the Syrian issue. The two men will be attending the inauguration of Brazilian president-elect Jair Bolsonaro.
Netanyahu is also expected to meet US National Security advisor John Bolton in Jerusalem on Sunday to discuss the same matter. Bolton will be on a regional tour that will also take him to Turkey.
Seth Frantzman: Why eastern Syria matters to everyone in the Middle East
The Kurdish success in eastern Syria is also seen as a threat. Turkey views the area as a center of PKK activity which matters to Ankara because since 2015 Turkey has been fighting against a PKK insurgency. Turkey has sought to strike at PKK members in northern Iraq, to reach around behind eastern Syria and cordon off the area. Turkey also intervened in northern Syria and Afrin in northwestern Syria to prevent the YPG from expanding. Turkey now wants to intervene in eastern Syria as a final part of its campaign against the PKK. The US prevented this with its presence.
For Russia, eastern Syria is important because it is one more area that it can help the Syrian regime return to Damascus control and a place it can play a role as a mediator, which increases Moscow’s prestige in the region. Russia helped mediate between Iran and Turkey at Astana, Sochi, Geneva and Idlib. In each place, Russia grew in influence as the one country everyone can go to, replacing the role the US used to play in the region. Eastern Syria would be another feather in Moscow’s cap.
For Iran, eastern Syria may also be important. It has militias that it backs along the Euphrates river. It would like to have influence and also to prevent an ISIS-resurgence. Already Humam al-Hamoudi, a member of the Islamic Supreme Council of Iraq has claimed the US withdrawal will fuel ISIS resurgence. He didn’t say this to encourage the US to stay, but rather to encourage Iraq and Iran to play a greater role. Press TV in Iran highlighted this. Soon Iran’s media will be pushing for more involvement, via Iraq, part of its desire to carve out a corridor of influence across Syria.
The US appears to be walking away, but there are voices in the US who want to continue to wield US influence in eastern Syria. In addition US allies such as the UAE, Saudi Arabia and the Kurdish region in northern Iraq will want to play a role. The Gulf countries are re-establishing relations with Damascus, which might lead them to play a financial role in rebuilding eastern Syria. It’s clear that media in the UAE and Saudi Arabia are concerned about what might happen as Turkey, Russia and Iran angle for control.
For Syria the end game is clear. It wants eastern Syria back. Initially in some kind of agreement with the SDF or YPG, it will seek to slowly gobble up the area after being surprised by the speed with which the US appears to be leaving. This doesn’t mean the SDF or other entities, such as the YPG, connected to it are finished. The area is of great importance and these groups have had almost half a decade to put down roots openly, after years of living in the shadows under the Assad regime. It also doesn’t mean the extremist networks of ISIS or the networks of the Syrian rebels are finished. ISIS still holds territory and many of these areas have lived free of the regime for almost eight years. None of this will go quietly into the night.
A senior Republican US senator said he emerged from a White House meeting with President Donald Trump on Sunday reassured that Trump is committed to defeating Islamic State even as he plans to withdraw American troops from Syria.
Senator Lindsey Graham had warned that removing all 2,000 US troops from Syria would hurt national security by allowing Islamic State to rebuild, betraying US-backed Kurdish fighters of the YPG militia battling remnants of the militant group, and enhancing Iran’s ability to threaten Israel.
During a morning television interview, Graham said he would ask Trump to slow down the troop withdrawal, which was announced earlier this month and drew widespread criticism.
An ally of Trump, although he has opposed some of his foreign policy decisions, Graham was more upbeat after the meeting.
“We talked about Syria. He told me some things I didn’t know that made me feel a lot better about where we’re headed in Syria,” Graham, an influential voice on national security policy who sits on the Senate Armed Services Committee, told reporters at the White House.
“We still have some differences but I will tell you that the president is thinking long and hard about Syria — how to withdraw our forces but at the same time achieve our national security interests,” Graham said.
Amb. Robert S. Ford (WaPo): The U.S. Withdrawal from Syria Is Essentially Correct
Many observers have asserted that the U.S. withdrawal from Syria gives victory there to Russia, Iran and the Syrian government. That’s absurd. Bashar al-Assad’s regime already controls two-thirds of Syria, including all of the major cities.
The portion of Syria that U.S. forces control alongside their Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF) allies is mostly either desert or drought-prone plains. The oil fields there produce high-sulfur, low-value crude, and production has long been diminishing. In sum, holding northeastern Syria would not have enabled Washington to leverage any important concessions from Damascus, Tehran or Moscow.
The Syrian Kurds have always allowed Damascus to keep its security offices open in northeastern Syria. If anything, the Syrian Kurds prefer the deployment of Syrian government forces along the Turkish border to deter Ankara. Agile Russian diplomacy should be able to secure the deal for a deployment of Syrian government forces into the region formerly controlled by the U.S.
Nor will the U.S. withdrawal be a game changer for Israeli security. Already, Maj.-Gen. (res.) Yaakov Amidror, a former chief of the research division of Israeli military intelligence, noted that the U.S. troops’ contribution against the Iranian forces in Syria was “marginal to zero.”
If Iran tries to build a land bridge from Tehran to its allies in Lebanon, the Israeli Air Force is more than capable of interdicting those convoys.
Critics also warn that the U.S. withdrawal could lead to a resurgence of the Islamic State. This is possible, but U.S. troops can’t destroy the Islamic State ideology, and restraining future recruitment by the extremist group requires more than some infrastructure rehabilitation projects. Only Syrians, not U.S. troops and stabilization teams, can deal with Syria’s underlying societal problems that spurred Islamist extremist recruitment.
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