Prepared for the Conference of Presidents
January 17, 2020
News Resources - North America, Europe, and Asia:
In his first public sermon in eight years, Iran's supreme leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, 80, told tens of thousands of chanting worshipers on Friday that God's backing had allowed his country to "slap the face" of the U.S. "We delivered a slap to U.S.' image as a superpower."
He spoke at Tehran's Grand Mosalla, an indoor and outdoor complex used as a communal prayer center for Muslim holidays and as an arena for election campaigns. American flags were spread on the floor in the entrances so that worshipers could tread on them. Banners inside read, "Death to America." (New York Times)
The U.S. treated 11 of its troops for concussion after an Iranian missile attack on an Iraqi base on Jan. 8, the U.S. military said on Thursday, after initially saying no service members were hurt. (Reuters)
Two thousand Syrian fighters have traveled from Turkey to fight in Libya on behalf of the Tripoli government of Fyez al-Sarraj. An initial deployment of 300 men from the Syrian National Army (SNA), an umbrella of Syrian rebel groups funded by Turkey, left Syria on Dec. 24, followed by 350 more on Dec. 29. They were flown to Tripoli, where they have been posted to frontline positions. Another 1,350 men crossed into Turkey on Jan. 5.
SNA sources said the fighters will earn 1,500 pounds a month, compared to the 52-72 pounds a month they earned in Syria. All have been promised Turkish nationality as well. Last month, the Guardian reported that 3,000 Sudanese had been sent to Benghazi to fight for rebel leader Khalifa Haftar, joining 600 Russian mercenaries. (Guardian-UK)
On Jan. 15, Israel's Iron Dome anti-missile system intercepted two rockets fired from Gaza and another two fell in open areas. Israel believes the rockets were launched by Islamic Jihad, but held Hamas responsible for all violence emanating from Gaza.
After the previous rocket attacks from Gaza on Dec. 25, Hamas conveyed a message to Israel via Egypt, saying the firing had been carried out by rogue activists and promising to take action so that such "missteps" would not recur. But the Hamas pledge of calm lasted only three weeks. The IDF's response on Hamas targets stemmed from an assessment that Hamas was complicit in the launches - whether by turning a blind eye or being involved.
All Hamas promises do not hold for long. After every launch, they come up with an excuse to mitigate their responsibility. In October, Hamas even blamed a rocket launch at Beersheba on a lightning strike that triggered the launcher. (Al-Monitor)
65% of Israeli young people between 20 and 35 and 52% of their Palestinian counterparts said they expect the conflict between their peoples "will never end," according to a survey published Thursday by the International Committee of the Red Cross. (AFP-Arab News-Saudi Arabia)
Iranian international chess referee Shohreh Bayat, 32, one of the most prominent Iranian women in international chess, said she is afraid to return home after a photograph was published in which her headscarf was not visible. "There are many people in prison in Iran because of the headscarf. It's a very serious issue," she said, claiming she was in fact wearing a headscarf. (Telegraph-UK)
News Resources - Israel and the Mideast:
Several hundred Arabs began to chant nationalistic slogans and to cause disturbances at Jerusalem's Temple Mount on Friday morning. Israel Police responded by dispersing those involved. On Thursday, Hamas called for Palestinians to protest against Israeli "violations" at religious sites in Jerusalem. (Jerusalem Post)
Several incendiary balloons launched from Gaza into Israel exploded when police inspected them, a police spokesperson reported on Thursday. No casualties were reported. (Jerusalem Post)
See also More Incendiary Balloons from Gaza Land near Ashdod Friday (Jerusalem Post)
Israeli Military Intelligence believes the killing of Iranian general Qasem Soleimani represents a significant opportunity to counter Tehran's growing aggressiveness in the region. The IDF believes Soleimani's death has the potential to allow Israel to curb or halt Iran's efforts to entrench itself militarily in Syria and its continued attempts to transfer technology needed for Hizbullah to produce its own precision-guided missiles within Lebanon.
Access to large numbers of highly accurate missiles would represent a significant threat to Israeli national security, second only to the danger posed by an Iranian nuclear weapon, Israeli officials have said.
On the nuclear front, the IDF does not believe that Iran is currently interested in rapidly "breaking out" and developing an atomic bomb as quickly as possible. (Times of Israel)
Global Commentary and Think-Tank Analysis:
Tehran's propaganda tries to sell Soleimani as a kind of superman who, almost single-handedly, brought Iraq, Syria, Lebanon, Gaza and parts of Afghanistan and Yemen under Iranian control. Facts, however, offer a different portrait of the late general. Soleimani joined the Islamic revolution in 1980 at age 27. With no proper training, Soleimani found himself in command of a division of raw recruits. Under his command, Iranian forces suffered three of their biggest defeats in operations Al-Fajr 8, and Karbala I and Karbala II.
However, Soleimani, demonstrating his genius for networking and self-promotion, scored a lasting victory when he attached himself to Ali Khamenei, the mullah who was to become the Islamic Republic's "Supreme Guide." Thanks to Khamenei's support, Soleimani succeeded in securing an independent fiefdom in the Quds Force which, though formally part of the Revolutionary Guard, has its own separate budget and chain of command and is answerable to no one but Khamenei.
Soleimani seized control of Tehran's foreign policy in Arab countries, Afghanistan, North Korea, South America, and even Russia. Inside Iran, Soleimani built a state within the state. The Quds Force operates 25 jetties in five Iranian ports for its "imports and exports," with no intervention by the relevant authorities. A levy on imports of foreign cars is reserved for a special fund, controlled by the Quds Force, to cover expenditures in Iraq, Syria and Lebanon and help pro-Iran Palestinian groups.
Hundreds of Iranian and Arab militants have enrolled in Western universities with scholarships from the Quds Force. The Quds Force runs banks, several shipping lines and an airline. Some analysts in Tehran believe that Khamenei was planning to make Soleimani president of the Islamic Republic in 2021. The writer was the executive editor-in-chief of the daily Kayhan in Iran from 1972 to 1979. (Asharq Al-Awsat-UK)
While the peoples under the rule of the Islamic regime in Iran are showing unprecedented courage and resolve in their effort to get rid of their oppressor and gain their freedom, Europe ignores them, continuing to support the reactionary and destabilizing Islamic regime. Reuters' report about the killing of 1,500 demonstrators and the injuring and arrests of thousands also made no impression on the EU.
How come the liberal democracies, who pretend to hold the moral high ground, are ready to be complicit in this repression? How come there is no outcry from the noble guardians of human rights about the ongoing slaughter of innocent people trying to have their voices heard and their vote count in free and democratic elections? The writer, former head of the Research Division of IDF Military Intelligence, is Director of the Project on Regional Middle East Developments at the Jerusalem Center for Public Affairs. (Times of Israel)
See also American Jewish Community "Stands with the Iranian People" - Rachel Wolf
On Tuesday, Arthur Stark, Chairman, and Malcolm Hoenlein, Executive Vice Chairman/CEO, of the Conference of Presidents of Major American Jewish Organizations, issued a statement of solidarity with the Iranian people protesting against the regime. "We stand with the Iranian people as they engage in peaceful protest against the oppression of Iran's extremist regime. The brutal treatment of innocent Iranians in recent days is unacceptable and must be forcefully condemned by the international community and all who value human and civil rights." (Jerusalem Post)
Qasem Soleimani was the leader of the Quds Force ("Jerusalem Force") of Iran's Islamic Revolutionary Guards Corps (IRGC). The mission of the Quds Force was to fulfil Ayatollah Khomeini's declared goal of exporting the Iranian Revolution in order to "liberate Jerusalem." The Quds Force has been responsible for training thousands of operatives from Hizbullah, Hamas and Palestinian Islamic Jihad. It has also provided logistical support as well as weapons and explosives.
Since his appointment as commander of the Quds Force in 1998, Soleimani extended the scope of its attacks to Jews and Israelis on a global scale. Over the past decade, it has targeted Israeli diplomats, including a 2011 plot to bomb the Israeli embassy in Washington, a bombing in India in 2012 that injured an Israeli diplomat's wife, an attempted bombing of an Israeli diplomat's car in Georgia, and a failed plot in Thailand. Other incidents included foiled plans to attack Israeli diplomats in Turkey and Kenya, and a plot to attack Israeli interests in South Africa.
In 2012, the Quds Force and Hizbullah bombed a tour bus in Burgas, Bulgaria, killing five Israelis and the Bulgarian driver. That same year, they conducted surveillance in preparation for attacks on Israeli tourists in Cyprus and on a synagogue in Bulgaria. A plan to attack Israeli interests in Nigeria was foiled in 2013. In 2014, a Hizbullah operative was arrested in Peru who sought to target the Israeli embassy, Israeli tourists and Jewish communal institutions.
Israel and Jews worldwide must take note of the Iranian leadership's declared intentions to march in Soleimani's murderous path. The writer is a research fellow at the Institute for the Study of Global Antisemitism and Policy in New York. (JNS)
Hamas and Islamic Jihad were quick to mourn the "martyr" Qasem Soleimani, describing his death as a "big loss for Palestine and the Palestinian resistance." They set up a mourning tent for Soleimani in Gaza and the heads of the two groups traveled to Iran to attend his funeral. Their reaction is proof that these groups have long served as Iran's proxies.
To justify their public mourning of Soleimani, Hamas and Islamic Jihad have revealed that the Iranian military commander played a major role in helping them develop their military capabilities, particularly regarding the thousands of rockets that were fired into Israel from Gaza in the past decade. Ahmed Abdel Hadi, Hamas' "ambassador" to Lebanon, said on Jan. 9 that thanks to Soleimani's support, rockets fired from Gaza were able to send one million Israelis into bomb shelters.
Senior Hamas official Mahmoud Zahar said Soleimani "gave the Palestinian armed groups all that they needed to develop their military capabilities. He gave Palestine more than one can imagine," providing Hamas and Islamic Jihad with money and weapons since the early 1990s.
By openly aligning themselves with Tehran, Hamas and Islamic Jihad are spitting in the face of Sunni Muslims who view Iran and its Shiite proxies as the true threat to stability in the Middle East. These Arabs claim that Hamas and Islamic Jihad have demonstrated that they care nothing for the thousands of Arabs and Muslims killed by Soleimani's Quds Force.
The ongoing cooperation between Iran and the Gaza-based groups poses an imminent threat to Israel, the PA, Egypt, and other Arabs who are opposed to Tehran's expansionist schemes. (Gatestone Institute)
Satellite photographs of Ain al-Asad, an air base in western Iraq currently used by American forces, showed the aftermath of an Iranian ballistic-missile strike on Jan. 8. They were pictures of precision. The missiles scored six direct hits against evacuated aircraft hangars.
"The most important takeaway from Iran's strike is just how precise their short-range ballistic missiles were," says Vipin Narang of the Massachusetts Institute of Technology. "The accuracy revolution is real....This has huge implications for modern conflict." Similar precision was on display in an attack on Saudi Arabian oil facilities on Sep. 14. (Economist-UK)
Documents compiled by the Washington-based Syria Justice and Accountability Center could help identify individuals responsible for atrocities during ISIS' four-year reign of terror and lead to criminal prosecutions. The report is based on dozens of documents obtained by SJAC from inside Syria and collected by a local activist from abandoned ISIS offices in Raqqa province. (AP-Stars and Stripes)
See also Text - Judge, Jury and Executioner: The ISIS Bureau of Justice and Grievances (Syria Justice and Accountability Center)
Public trust in Islamist political parties in the Middle East and North Africa has plummeted since the beginning of the Arab Spring. A survey for BBC Arabic found that since 2012-13, in Egypt, Morocco, Libya, Tunisia, Jordan, the Palestinian territories, Sudan and Iraq, such support has declined from nearly 40% to less than 20%. The survey found a similar decline in trust for religious leaders. In Gaza, public trust in Hamas fell from 45% to 24%.
In Erdogan's Turkey, the state employs 100,000 imams, 40,000 Quran teachers, 3,000 religious orators and 1,250 muftis. Yet according to a survey by Ipsos, only 12% of Turks trust Islamic clerics. (Gatestone Institute)
With the death of Sultan Qaboos Al Said of Oman, at the age of 79, Israel lost a long-time friend and strategic partner. Britain initiated diplomatic ties between Israel and Oman during the 1970s, when Oman was dealing with an invasion from Yemen into the southern part of the country. Following the Egyptian-Israeli peace treaty of 1979, Oman, along with Sudan, were the only Arab League members not to boycott Egypt over normalizing relations with Israel.
In 1994, Qaboos hosted then-Israeli Prime Minister Yitzhak Rabin in the first known trip by an Israeli leader to an Arab Gulf state. In 1996, Qaboos invited then-Prime Minister Shimon Peres to inaugurate an Israeli trade office and the Middle East Desalination Research Center in Muscat. He also introduced Peres to the then-Emir of Qatar. In 2018, Qaboos invited Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu to Muscat. (Ha'aretz)
Sufferers of Israel Derangement Syndrome (IDS) don't rationally advocate for Palestinians and criticize Israeli policies in the same way they'd criticize other states. They are doctrinaire cultists possessed of an unadulterated, unhinged hatred for Israel, which they see as a uniquely evil state that must be eradicated. In indulging in the delusion that the end of Israel will eventually occur, they are complicit in perpetuating the conflict.
They'll excoriate Israel (never Egypt) for the blockade on Gaza and the poverty of its people, but ignore the fact that, despite the blockade and poverty, Hamas spends tens of millions building sophisticated tunnels under Israel and firing thousands of rockets at it, instead of building hospitals. (Spectator-Australia)
Growing up, my brothers and I often teased my mom for having what we thought was an irrational fear of being identified as a Jew. She painted over the Star of David on a duffle bag because when we were traveling, she didn't want people "to know." She taught us not to say Jewish things too loudly in public.
My mother grew up in Baghdad, watching as Jewish life there came crashing down around her. My grandmother and my aunt shared tales of my great-grandfather, who built Iraq's first cinema and movie studio. Jews in Iraq were jurists and government officials; one was even the minister of finance.
Then in June 1941 the "Farhud" pogrom killed nearly 200 Jews and injured hundreds more. By the 1950s more than 3/4 of Iraq's Jews had fled the country. My mother remembers when they imprisoned her father along with other Jews.
The story my mother remembers is that no matter how comfortable we as Jews may feel today, it only takes a small group of people (and a large group of people to sit idly by) to turn everything on its head. The wave of anti-Semitic attacks over the past year are instilling the seeds of fear into many millennial American Jews for perhaps the first time. (New York Times)
There is no easy solution to prejudice because it is an irrational sentiment. The word Prejudice means to pre-judge, to decide what a person's qualities are long before meeting the person.
If a person with blond hair were to do you wrong and you, as a result, condemned all people with blond hair, everyone would no doubt think it absurd. Why then, if a Jew or a person of color does you wrong, do we not think anti-Semitism or racism absurd?
Anti-Semitism has certain unique characteristics that set it apart from other hatreds. First of all, it is a conspiracy theory. Those who subscribe to these theories tend to rely on familiar "enemies" - e.g., Jews - to give events that may seem inexplicable an intentional explanation. Secondly, unlike other prejudices, anti-Semitism comes from the right and from the left.
This fight might be one that can never result in total victory. The roots of this hatred may be too deeply embedded to ever be fully eradicated. However, we must act as if we will be able to achieve that victory. The costs of not doing so are too great.
The writer is Professor of Holocaust History at Emory University. This is from her testimony to the U.S. Commission on International Religious Freedom on Jan. 8, 2020. (Forward)
Last week's flood disaster in Israel exposed the reality of actual daily life between Jews and Arabs in the Galilee. The Arab "tractorists" - the heavy machinery operators who live near Nahariya - jumped into their vehicles, of their own personal volition, and rushed to help the Jewish residents of Nahariya. No one asked them to do so, nor were they summoned by the emergency services. They simply stepped forward to help friends in need, and this show of solidarity helped save lives, rescue residents trapped in the flood, and open roads.
There are many Arab communities around Nahariya whose residents interact with the city on a daily basis. Arabs and Jews are intertwined in all aspects of life. Look, for example, at the hospital in Nahariya, the Galilee Medical Center. Jews are treated by Arab medical staff - and vice versa - and the hospital is managed by Dr. Masad Barhoum, an Arab.
The Galilee region can provide an important lesson in co-existence, tolerance and mutual aid. In contrast to the polarizing political discourse, the images emanating from Nahariya last week are a much more accurate reflection of reality. (Israel Hayom)
Political polarization is not exclusively an Israeli problem. In 1995 Americans were asked to identify themselves politically, left or right, and then asked if they could identify with at least 20% of the opinions of the opposing camp. Roughly 35% said they could see the light with a part of the ideas of the other side. By 2015, this had dropped to less than 10%.
In 1994 Americans were asked to identify themselves politically, and then asked how they feel emotionally towards the other side. Both left and right responded with a temperature of 45 out of a hundred. Twenty years later, the average temperature is 8 for the right, 6 for the left. You start hating people for having different views than yourself and intellectually you're not curious about their worldviews anymore. Before you learn about them, you already know what you think about them. You know they are wrong.
In Jewish law, the Mishnah is a recording of disagreements. The Jews canonized disagreements. Jewish tradition has a model of a culture of healthy disagreement, an expectation to have curiosity that breaks the boundaries of your opinions, an expectation to have an intellectual world that contains ideas and opinions that you'll never live by. The Jews understood something very deep: the power of conversation, the power of talk, the power of disagreements.
Dr. Micah Goodman is the founder and director of the Ein Prat Midrasha in Alon, where secular and religious Israeli young adults study together. He is also a research fellow at the Shalom Hartman Institute in Jerusalem and the author of Catch-67: The Left, the Right, and the Legacy of the Six-Day War (2018). Goodman spoke at the Memorial Lecture in honor of Prof. Daniel J. Elazar, z"l, founding president of the Jerusalem Center, on Jan. 9, 2020. (Jerusalem Center for Public Affairs)
Israel's CAPS Medical has innovated Cold Atmospheric Plasma (CAP) technology, usually used to treat superficial solid tumors, to now target solid internal organ tumors. They have now created a device small enough to administer the CAP treatment on solid tumors inside the body, using small-diameter disposable catheters. CEO Ilan Uchitel notes that CAP "is able to selectively fight cancer cells while preserving the surrounding healthy cells." (Jerusalem Post)
Masala Tagnia, manpower officer of the IDF's Galilee Division, is the first Ethiopian-Israeli woman to achieve the rank of Lt.-Col., Mako reported. Coincidently, she is the sister of Channel 12 reporter Brahano Tagnia. (Jerusalem Post)
Holocaust survivor Josef Konigsberg, 95, is the only living person in Germany able to recount firsthand the bravery of Helmut Kleinicke, who was posthumously awarded the designation of Righteous Among the Nations at the Israeli Embassy in Berlin on January 14. Kleinicke's daughter, Juta Scheffzek, accepted the certificate on her father's behalf.
Kleinicke, a Nazi party member, took advantage of his position as a senior official in charge of construction in Chrzanow, Upper Silesia, to "claim" Jews as workers. Kleinicke also sheltered Jews in his basement and alerted Jews about upcoming roundups. Konigsberg said that Kleinicke personally snatched him out of the transport line to Auschwitz when he was 16. (Times of Israel)
Italian Opposition Leader Salvini Seeks to Combat Anti-Semitism - Lahav Harkov (Jerusalem Post)