Wednesday, March 08, 2017

From Ian:

MEMRI: Palestinian President 'Abbas Meets With Terrorists And Terrorists' Families
Palestinian President Mahmoud 'Abbas met recently with Palestinians who carried out terrorist attacks and with the family of a terrorist. On March 5, 2017 he received in his office in Ramallah the family of Muhammad Al-Jallad, who died of his wounds after being shot while attempting to carry out a stabbing attack at a checkpoint in November 2016. 'Abbas also met with 14-year-old Osama Zaidat, who was shot while attempting to stab civilians in Kiryat Arba in September 2016 and who was recently released from detention, as well as with 'Imad 'Asaf, a member of Fatah's military wing, the Al-Aqsa Brigades, who took part in the Second Intifada in 2000 and was recently released from prison.
In one of the meetings 'Abbas said: "The aggression of Israel's arrest and murder [of Palestinians] will not keep the Palestinian people from adhering to its well-deserved rights and from establishing an independent state with Jerusalem as its capital... The Palestinian leadership will make every effort to end the suffering of our heroic brothers and release them from the occupation's prisons so they can take part in building the homeland for which they sacrificed."
It should be noted that 'Abbas often stresses the importance he ascribes to freeing the prisoners and emphasizes that the Palestinian leadership is making every effort to secure their release. For example, at an August 8, 2017 reception in Ramallah for the released prisoner Shadi Al-Baba of the Al-Qassam Brigades, he said: "The issue of the prisoners will continue to be a top priority for the [Palestinian] leadership, [which will act] to free all the prisoners and detainees. He made similar remarks in a December 28, 2017 meeting with Muhammad and Mahmoud Balboul, who were released from administrative detention following a 28-day hunger strike. At the Seventh Fatah Conference on December 1, 2016, he praised the Palestinian prisoners, especially senior Fatah and Popular Front operatives who were behind terrorist attacks, including the assassination of Israeli minister Rehavam Zeevi, saying: "We remember the martyrs, the wounded and the prisoners and their record... We salute our brave prisoners and respect them. We will not forget our fighting comrades Marwan Al-Baghgouti, Ahmad Sa'dat and Fouad Shubaki, or [our] glorious woman prisoners."
MEMRI: The Western Plot To Treat Muslims As Dangerous Children
One of the bizarre features of today's academic life in the West is the treatment of young adult college students as children. And not just any children, but fragile, delicate creatures who are easily upset by disconcerting ideas or words. The disparaging word "snowflake," originally taken from a Chuck Palahniuk novel, which is used to describe these sensitive people has itself now quickly become an outworn cliché.
This exaggerated care for the exquisite feelings of others has now even bled into the field of counterterrorism among a few experts, and among rather more non-expert journalists and pundits positing variations on the theme of "Trump is helping ISIS" or "Trump's policies will help ISIS's recruitment." Some of those making such an argument are important scholars worthy of respect. But used permissively by others with a political agenda, it actually demeans Muslims, as if they are easily swayed yet dangerous children susceptible to becoming terrorists because of immigration policy or harsh words that supposedly hurt their feelings.
Lacking in much of this coverage is the realization that the process of actual terrorist mobilization is a rather complex one. Any honest person with even a superficial exposure to the research would caveat any sort of sweeping charge with a bit of humility. After all, the great rise of the Islamic State itself and its explosive growth in 2013-2015 occurred with a Democrat in the White House and a Socialist in the Elysee Palace. And even earlier, the announcement of an organization called Al-Qaeda, and its first spectacular acts of mayhem, preceded Guantanamo or the 2003 invasion of Iraq or the rise of right-wing populism in the West. Al-Qaeda meticulously planned 9/11 in the era of President Bill Clinton – which should give us pause about glib claims of causality.
Caroline Glick: Avigdor Liberman vs. Israeli democracy
Defense Minister Avigdor Liberman is in over his head.
Few had high hopes for Liberman when he was appointed to his post, but most observers on the political Right were willing to swallow the pill of having a man with an understanding of military and strategic affairs that began and ended with applause lines because his appointment solved two pressing political problems.
Liberman’s appointment to serve as defense minister brought his Yisrael Beitenu party into the government, which increased the size of the coalition from its razor-thin 61-seat majority to a more healthy 66 seats. Moreover, by appointing him, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu was able to remove Moshe Ya’alon from the Defense Ministry. Ya’alon had become unacceptable to Likud voters due to his rush to convict IDF Sgt. Elor Azaria as guilty of criminal wrongdoing last March when Azaria killed a downed terrorist who had stabbed a fellow soldier in Hebron.
Monday morning Liberman showed that concerns about his suitability for his position were spot on.
Speaking to reporters at the Knesset, Liberman said that growing discussion among leading members of the coalition about applying Israeli law to parts of Judea and Samaria must stop.
“Anyone who wants to apply Israeli sovereignty to Judea and Samaria needs to understand that such a step will bring immediate repercussions from the new US government,” Liberman alleged.
He added, “We received a direct – not indirect – message: ‘Apply sovereignty and you will be cutting ties with the new administration.”
Liberman’s statement was both ignorant and damaging.
Ben-Dror Yemini: Israeli rightists can stop celebrating
Op-ed: Defense Minister Lieberman’s statement, which was likely coordinated with Prime Minister Netanyahu, makes it clear that even the Trump administration is beginning to understand the catastrophe of the ‘one state’ vision.
Lieberman did not say that as an instantaneous whim. He knew what he was saying and why, and he wasn’t speaking on his own behalf alone. He was speaking on Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s behalf as well, and the statement was likely coordinated between them. Netanyahu does not always favor the national interest over the political interest, but it happens sometimes, even if through a messenger. And it’s a good thing when that happens.
There is something unfortunate in the fact that Israel needs the American administration in order to protect itself from the fulfillers of the nightmarish “one state” vision, and there is no comfort in the fact that the Right is fulfilling the vision of Israel’s enemies. The common lie is that “that’s what the people chose.” That’s not true. There is no majority among the public or in the Knesset in favor of marching towards one state. That is neither the vision of the Kulanu party nor of the ultra-Orthodox parties, and it’s not Lieberman’s vision either.
And one more thing. The two-state solution is not on the agenda due to the Palestinian rejectionism. But it’s even more clear that the fact that the Palestinians are rejecting the two-state-for-two-people formula should not lead to the conclusion that we have to do what they want—in other words, one state. The American administration, it seems, is beginning to understand that. We can calm down.

Netanyahu: Israel can normalize ties with Arab states if 'we act wisely'
Israel is the strongest country in the Middle East and should use its stance as leverage, said Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu on Wednesday.
Speaking to the Knesset Foreign Affairs and Defense Committee, Netanyahu stressed that both diplomatically and militarily, Israel is strong and only getting stronger. Netanyahu added that by understanding regional interests, Israel could achieve diplomatic ties with regional Arab countries.
In his address, the prime minister mentioning the ad hoc regional coalition that is being consolidated against Iran and could open doors for normalizing Israel's relations with its neighboring countries.
"I believe in nurturing these interests," he said. "In my opinion, if we act wisely, it could assist us normalizing ties with countries in the region and opening new diplomatic streams – that could be more efficient – between us and the Palestinians."
Reports: Jordanian Kingdom’s Collapse Imminent
Israeli ambassador to Jordan Einat Shlain was pessimistic about the situation in the Hashemite Kingdom when she briefed IDF Chief of Staff Lt. Gen. Gadi Eizenkot last October, according to a report in Ha’aretz Wednesday.
Citing an anonymous senior Israeli official, the report said the chief of staff later told a closed forum that he was disturbed by the ambassador’s assessment and that the IDF should be ready to support King Abdullah II should things get out of hand across the Jordan River.

Israel has been urging both the Obama and Trump administrations to support Jordan economically and militarily, which has absorbed more than a million Syrian refugees since the beginning of the Syrian civil war. But despite the increase in American support, Ambassador Shlain was worried about mounting opposition to the king outside his relatively small camp of Bedouin loyalists, who number less than 20% of the population.
Pundit Daniel Pipes, who returned from a week’s visit in Jordan, wrote in the Washington Times on Tuesday (Jordan at the precipice) that, on top of its strategic troubles, faced with the relentless threat of ISIS and the collapse of trade relations with both Syria and Iraq, Jordan continues to suffer from the unresolved core issue of identity.
Jordanian who killed 7 Israeli schoolgirls in 1997 set for release
An official in Jordan’s government says a Jordanian soldier who killed seven Israeli schoolgirls visiting the country on a class trip will be released after serving 20 years in prison.
Spokesman Mohammed Momani said Tuesday that Ahmed Daqamseh is to be freed next week, possibly Monday, after completing his term.
Daqamseh killed the girls in a 1997 shooting rampage at the “Island of Peace” border post at Naharayim.
A military court deemed him mentally unstable and sentenced him to life in prison, which in Jordan typically means 25 years. Jordanian lawmakers lobbied in the past for his early release.
King Hussein, Jordan’s ruler in 1997, paid a rare visit to Israel to express his condolences to the girls’ parents.
The shooting came three years after Israel and Jordan signed a peace treaty.
US, Israel discussing settlement restrictions — State Department
The United States is in discussion with Israel about holding back on settlement construction, acting State Department spokesperson Mark Toner said Tuesday.
Toner referred to US President Donald Trump’s statement at a joint press conference with Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu in February, in which he asked Israel to rein in settlement expansion. “We’re in discussions with Israel about how exactly that would look like that,” he said. “It’s under consideration.”
Regarding the peace process, Toner said the new administration is still “looking at the situation and looking at next steps.” The State Department will definitely play a role, he said.
Earlier on Tuesday, a US official in remarks to the Times of Israel emphasized Trump’s call on both sides to act reasonably.
Danon: investigate UNRWA connections to Hamas
Israel's Ambassador to the United Nations, Danny Danon, sent a letter to the ambassadors of countries who donate to UNRWA Tuesday calling on them to investigate the connections between the organization and Hamas.
Ambassador Danon wrote the letter following the election of Suhail al-Hindi, the Chairman of the UNRWA Staff Union in the Gaza Strip and the principal of the UNRWA Boys' Elementary School for refugee children, and Muhammad al-Jamassi, from UNRWA's engineering department, to Hamas' Political Bureau.
"It is time to put an end to the absurd reality in which UNRWA staff, who are expected to provide humanitarian assistance, are instead acting on behalf of terror organizations. These incidents are yet another manifestation of the way terrorist organizations are abusing foreign aid," wrote Ambassador Danon.
"Alarmingly, this is not an isolated incident, but part of an established and ongoing phenomenon. The fact that a senior UNRWA employee is working on behalf of Hamas, and apparently has been doing so for many years, should raise serious questions about the agency’s monitoring and vetting process," the Ambassador continued in his letter. "In light of these disturbing revelations, it is crucial to conduct a thorough investigation of the organization's operations in order to ensure that no employee who is involved in terror play any role in UNRWA or the UN. It is essential that UNRWA establish a thorough and transparent screening process," Ambassador Danon concluded.
UN report to cite Israeli annexation, urge ending trade with territories
A new United Nations report on the settlements is due to be made public. Ynet found that the report is said to blame Israel for acting to annex the disputed territories in the West Bank, as well urge companies to end trade and business agreements with Judea and Samaria, east Jerusalem and the Golan Heights. The report was written by United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights and Jordanian Prince Zeid bin Ra’ad Zeid al-Hussein. It is also said bereft of any mention of Palestinian terrorism in the West Bank or in general.
The report notes that 2017 marks 50 years since the Six Day War (the text describes this period as 50 years of Israeli occupation of Palestinian Land). It additionally states that Israel's activities in the West Bank have brought on a consistent growth of the settler population and a unilateral takeover of widespread areas of land, in opposition to international law.
"With the Israeli occupation of the Palestinian territory now in its 50th year, the illegal settlement enterprise continues to advance apace. Through unabated expansion of illegal settlements and parallel efforts to consolidate Israel’s control over the West Bank, successive Israeli governments since 1967 have overseen the steady growth of the settler population and the unilateral takeover of large swaths of the west bank’s land reserves, in clear violation of international law.
The report goes on to state that Israel's actions have dire effects on Palestinian human rights in the West Bank and east Jerusalem.
UN rights chief: US not doing enough against anti-Semitism (not satire)
UN High Commissioner for Human Rights Zeid Ra’ad al-Hussein said on Wednesday that US President Donald Trump needs to do more to combat anti-Semitism and racism in the US.
“Greater and more consistent leadership is needed to address the recent surge in discrimination, anti-Semitism, and violence against ethnic and religious minorities” in the US, he said at a meeting of the Human Rights Council in Geneva.
Zeid’s comments were made a day after a number of Jewish community centers and Jewish institutions received threats in the sixth such an incident since the start of the year.
Liberman tells Pence he expects to see the US embassy in Jerusalem soon
On his first official visit to the United States since President Donald Trump was inaugurated in January, Defense Minister Avigdor Liberman met with his US counterpart Gen. James Mattis and Vice President Mike Pence on Tuesday to discuss shared security issues in the Middle East.
During Liberman’s meeting with Gen. Mattis, who were meeting for their second time at the Pentagon, they discussed regional issues as well as Iran, Syria, and Lebanon.
Israeli-American cooperation is critical not only for Israel’s security, but also for the security and stability of the entire Middle East, Lieberman continued. He said the global axis of evil currently extends from Iran to North Korea.
According to the Defense Ministry, Liberman expressed particular concern regarding Lebanese President Michel Aoun's recognizing Hezbollah as part of the Lebanese military system, therefore transforming it into another branch of the terror group. Mattis and Liberman agreed on the need to act to strengthen moderate forces in the region and create an anti-terrorism coalition.
Liberman said that the “global axis of evil currently extends from Iran to North Korea,” and therefore the strategic cooperation between Israel and the US is "essential and critical not only for the security of Israel, but for security and stability throughout the Middle East, and this has implications on global security.”
US envoy at UN makes bid for reviving Israeli-Palestinian talks
US Ambassador Nikki Haley on Tuesday discussed reviving Israeli-Palestinian peace negotiations during her first meeting with the Palestinian envoy to the United Nations.
Haley tweeted after her talks with Ambassador Riyad Mansour that the Palestinians should “meet with Israel in direct negotiations rather than looking to the UN to deliver results that can only be achieved through the two parties.”
Mansour told AFP that during the 45-minute meeting Haley “raised the desire to see the two parties engaging in negotiations” and indicated that the United States was considering a fresh bid to revive talks.
“I don’t know at what level they want to do that, but once we receive a request to that effect, we will respond to it accordingly,” he said.
The Middle East peace process has been comatose since former US secretary of state John Kerry’s efforts to broker a deal collapsed in April 2014.
UK’s Johnson, in Ramallah, urges 2-state solution, says Trump brings fresh approach
British Foreign Secretary Boris Johnson said Wednesday his government remained committed to a two-state solution to the decades-old Israeli-Palestinian conflict, as he visited the region for talks with leaders from both sides.
“The policy of our government in the UK is absolutely unchanged,” Johnson told reporters in Ramallah, standing next to Palestinian Authority Foreign Minister Riyad al-Malki on a podium near a “State of Palestine” seal.
“We remain committed to a two-state solution, to that vision, for the resolution of this conflict. You know, I really think it is possible,” he said.
President Donald Trump, in a break from his predecessors, has sent mixed signals about whether the United States still supports a two-state solution.
Rivlin invites British royal family to visit Israel
President Reuven Rivlin on Wednesday extended an invitation to the British royal family to visit Israel.
The president asked visiting British Foreign Secretary Boris Johnson to relay the invitation to the monarchs to mark the upcoming centennial anniversary of the 1917 Balfour Deceleration, which expressed the British government's support for a Jewish homeland in Holy Land.
"This is a very important year in the history of the relations between Israel and the United Kingdom," Rivlin said in a meeting in Jerusalem with Johnson. "We will mark 100 years since the Balfour Declaration and I am greatly honored to extend an official invitation to the Royal family to visit Israel to mark this event."
The WikiLeaks CIA disclosure A warning for Israel's intelligence agencies
We shouldn't have been surprised this week when tens of thousands of CIA documents were released, revealing the organization's cyber warfare methods and its operations to break into and attack computers and smart phones. Even the fact that a Samsung refrigerator can be used as a listening device that records voices in its vicinity is not new. The Korean company itself issued a warning saying as much to its customers more than a year ago.
We shouldn't have been surprised because we have already known for years that we live in a "Big Brother" society. Every move we make and every sound we utter is liable to be filmed, recorded and documented.
And still, we are shocked anew each time that we see evidence of the extent to which our lives are exposed and we have no privacy.
The astonishment this time stems from the fact that the document dump is from an organization which is considered one of the most technologically advanced in the world. Furthermore, the infiltration into the CIA's computers comes after several breaches of classified data by WikiLeaks and other whistle-blowers, fighting for transparency and against corruption.
Report: 121 Released Gitmo Detainees Have Returned to Terrorism
The Office of the Director of National Intelligence released a report on Tuesday finding that 121 of the 714 Guantanamo Bay detainees released from the military prison over the past 15 years have reengaged in terrorism.
An overwhelming majority of the men who recidivated were transferred under former President George W. Bush, who created the prison in 2002 following the Sept. 11, 2001 terrorist attacks.
According to the DNI, 113 of the former detainees released under the Bush administration are "confirmed" to have reengaged in militant activity while just eight transferred under the Obama administration have returned to terrorism.
The DNI suspects that another 87 of the 714 released detainees have reengaged in terrorist activity.
President Donald Trump tweeted Tuesday morning: "122 vicious prisoners, released by the Obama Administration from Gitmo, have returned to the battlefield. Just another terrible decision!" Trump was apparently citing DNI numbers released in September, according to the Hill.
Viral Damage: Assaf Harel’s Apartheid Video
Israeli comedian Assaf Harel just got lucky. Thousands of people who’ve never laughed at even one of his comedy sketches are sharing a video of him going off on a political rant. In the video, taken from the last episode of his late night TV show (which was just discontinued due to poor ratings), Harel encourages Israelis to “wake up’ and smell the “apartheid.”
His show may not have been popular, but Harel decided to go out with a bang and the video of his rant has gone viral.
I get why so many people on the left are sharing his video. After decades of Israeli left-wing leaders speaking without passion, here’s someone using some choice words to attack the right and get some people on the left excited.
But as Harel adopts a controversial stance to make his point and then speaks down at the people, there are two groups who are going to benefit from this video: BDS (more about that later) and the right wing in Israel.
Vladimir Putin’s Plan to Upend the Order in the Middle East Is Working
While many Western analysts, policymakers, and experts have routinely misunderstood or downplayed Russia’s strategic ambitions—or even denied that Moscow has a grand strategy at all—Steven A. Cook argues that President Putin has been doggedly pursuing a fixed set of goals since his first day in office, and that his plans for the Middle East are already coming to fruition:
Putin seems to be the kind of person who holds on to a grudge. The beef that seems to keep him up at night plotting revenge is the humiliation of Christmas Day 1991. At 7:32 that evening, the hammer-and-sickle banner was taken down over the Kremlin. . . . It is not so much that the Russian president is an unreconstructed Soviet Communist as that the dissolution of the Soviet Union and the subsequent decline of Russia’s relative strength seem to have been particularly painful for this Russian nationalist. . . .
[W]hat does this all mean in the Middle East? It was not that long ago that the United States was the predominant power in the region. In many ways it still is, given Washington’s continued diplomatic, military, and commercial influence, especially when it comes to arms sales. Even so, Russia has reestablished itself as a power in the region. At the very least, the reliably pro-American Arab Gulf states understand that they must now take into account Russian interests and objectives. This is something they have not had to do for 25 years.
Don’t Exaggerate the Mistakes of the Gaza War
For the past few weeks, the big news in Israel has been the state comptroller’s much-awaited report on the 2014 war in Gaza, which was generally understood as a damning account of the government’s conduct. To Gershon Hacohen, public discussion of the report has “blown out of proportion” two of its claims: that the IDF and the Israeli government did not treat the threat of attacks via tunnels with enough seriousness, and that the diplomatic-security cabinet acted in a disorganized fashion, in part due to poor management by Benjamin Netanyahu himself. Hacohen suggests a different perspective:
The tunnels are a tactical threat, [not, as the report implies, a strategic one,] to which even today, despite significant advances, there is only a complex and incomplete response. It is true that the tools our forces had at their disposal during the operation were far from perfect. [But it] is not because of [specific mistakes] that there is [now the] potential for public panic over the tunnel threat.
[Rather, Israelis] have trouble recognizing that there are threats for which we cannot provide an impenetrable security solution. We need to examine how we developed the overreaching expectation of the national leadership and the security forces that they manage wars with complete responses for every threat. . . .
Hamas’s grip on Gaza is the real strategic threat
After 50 days of war, Hamas was therefore able to achieve a number of major strategic successes:
  • A terrorist organization, physically and politically isolated, numbering no more than 20,000-30,000 militants, managed to stand up to the powerful IDF without a breakdown of morale
  • Hamas’s military strategy in the subterranean field proved itself as the IDF did not dare enter deeper into the Gaza Strip for fear of numerous casualties
  • Launching long-range missiles that sent the majority of Israel’s population to take cover in shelters even if it did not cause many casualties
  • Restricting the freedom of movement of Israel’s main international airport
  • Many Israeli residents near the Gaza border abandoned their homes, practically transforming them into internal refugees
  • Damage to Israel’s economy estimated at about 20 billion shekels
  • The process of rebuilding the civilian infrastructure of Gaza continued to be controlled by Hamas
I concluded then that Hamas’s achievements would have major resonance in the Palestinian street and negative strategic implications for Israel. And indeed, Palestinians took to the streets in the cities and towns of the West Bank and Gaza to celebrate what they saw as a Hamas victory. The movement’s leaders came out of their bunkers to boast of their achievements.
Beitar Illit man stabbed by Palestinian hitchhiker
A 40-year-old resident of Beitar Illit came to a checkpoint for medical treatment after being stabbed in the shoulder by a Palestinian man who was driving with him.
MDA paramedics tended to the man and his condition is listed as stable and lightly wounded.
According to the victim's testimony, he took his car to get serviced at a garage in al-Walaja, near Jerusalem. After the he finished, he picked up a Palestinian hitchhiker, who stabbed him in the shoulder before the two arrived at a checkpoint.
Beitar Illit residents frequently enter nearby Arab villages, such as Husan, to make use of goods and services, despite warnings from the IDF and police.
Police are investigating the incident and are not ruling out any motive, whether it be criminal or nationalistic in nature.
Suspect detained for fire at Jerusalem’s Ascension Church
One person was arrested Wednesday on suspicion of breaking into a landmark Jerusalem church and trying to set it on fire earlier in the day, police said, noting that the incident did not appear to have been a religiously motivated attack.
A guard at the Russian Orthodox Church of the Ascension on Jerusalem’s Mount of Olives reported that the building had been broken into and damaged, apparently by a fire.
Police confirmed that the door to the church entrance had been broken through and that extensive soot suggested attempted arson.
However, police said it appeared to be motivated “by a local dispute.” They did not elaborate.
Israeli Security Forces Uncover, Dismantle Weapons-Smuggling Network
A months-long joint operation between the Israel Defense Forces, the Shin Bet security agency and the Israel Police to bring down a vast Palestinian terrorist weapons-smuggling network in the West Bank and Gaza concluded Tuesday, with Israeli forces seizing of hundreds of illegal or restricted weapon parts and combat accessories as well as arresting nine people.
The operation, which began last summer, was initiated after Israeli customs officials uncovered packages holding weapon parts. The smugglers had labeled the packages as “plastic parts” or “cloth manufacturing.”
According to Israeli authorities, the smugglers ordered equipment online from undisclosed countries and shipped the materials to the Ashdod port in Israel. From there, the parts were sent by mail or other delivery systems to recipients in the Balata or Casbah refugee camps in Nablus, Yedioth Ahronoth reported.
In total, security forces said they seized three M16s, hundreds of bullets, 25 scopes, several laser scopes for sniper rifles, one M4, about 200 small weapon parts, dozens of tactical combat vests and more.
Hamas Cancels International Women’s Day Holiday
The Palestinian terrorist organization Hamas, which runs the Gaza Strip, has cancelled a public holiday to celebrate International Women’s Day, which takes place on Wednesday.
The Palestinian Authority issued the holiday declaration, which included a day off from school, from its capital in Ramallah. But Hamas, which has ruled Gaza since conquering it in a coup nearly ten years ago, refused to implement the measure.
Wednesday is expected to be a normal work day and schools will be open, though the first hour of classes will include “discussions about women’s role in the Palestinian national struggle,” the Associated Press reported.
The AP added that since Hamas took over the Strip, “Gazan society has grown increasingly conservative, with Hamas imposing a dress code on female lawyers, principals harassing students who don’t wear headscarves and occasionally banning women from smoking in cafes.”
As drugs flood into Gaza, Hamas to get tougher on smugglers
Marijuana and prescription painkillers are flooding into the Gaza Strip as never before, prompting officials from the ruling Islamist group Hamas to seek tougher punishments for smuggling drugs into the coastal enclave.
The quantity of drugs seized in Gaza in January was as much as for the whole of 2016, officials said. Eight major dealers were arrested in one of the biggest police stings to date.
Palestinian and Egyptian gangs move marijuana and an opioid painkiller called tramadol from Egypt into Gaza, where 2 million Palestinians live and where four in 10 young men have no job, pushing some toward drugs.
"They think tramadol will change the reality and will make them feel at peace," said Fadel Abu Heen, a psychiatrist. "They want to lose awareness and any feeling of reality."
In their latest raid, police seized more than 100 kilograms (220 pounds) of marijuana, worth as much as $5 million on the streets of Gaza, and 250,000 tablets of tramadol, which sells for between 130 and 170 shekels ($35-$46) for 10 pills.
PreOccupiedTerritory: Hamas Forms New Combat Brigade Made Entirely Of Human Rights NGO Volunteers (satire)
The Rachel Corrie Brigade will be formally inaugurated this coming Monday.
In pursuit of the advantages of diversified manpower, the militant organization that governs the Gaza Strip and several strongholds in the West Bank has established a new unit of about 4,000 personnel, all of whom are activists in various human rights organizations.
The Rachel Corrie Brigade, named for an American activist who was killed when she stepped in front of an IDF bulldozer in 2003, will be formally inaugurated this coming Monday, on the fourteenth anniversary of her death. Like its namesake, the members of the Rachel Corrie Brigade hail primarily from numerous international organizations that monitor or try to impede Israeli security operations, under the pretext of defending Palestinian human rights.
That combination of experience, intelligence, and dedication is exactly what Hamas is looking for in recruits, confirmed Mahmoud al-Zahar, a Hamas spokesman. “This opportunity has been staring us in the face forever,” he admitted, with evident chagrin. “We finally realized how perfectly aligned these activists are with our vision, and set up a recruiting and training program. It’s been tremendously successful – even a bunch of journalists have signed up.”
Of the estimated nine thousand human rights volunteers in the country, one third have already registered. “We have some logistical concerns, of course,” explained al-Zahar. “The volunteers in Gaza cannot easily train with their counterparts in Hebron, Nablus, Jenin, Qalqiliya, or Tulkarm. That means the term ‘brigade’ is more of a formality than an organizational reality, but as every one of our new recruits knows, if we say it’s true, it’s true. That’s holds whether we’re talking stories of Israeli atrocities and war crimes or the fact of the Rachel Corrie Brigade.”
Yes, Iran’s Revolutionary Guard Is a Terrorist Organization
When, last month, the Trump administration announced that it was considering adding the Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps (IRGC)—the Iranian political paramilitary force—to the State Department’s official list of foreign terrorist organizations, it was warned that doing so would unnecessarily provoke the Islamic Republic. Mark Dubowitz and Ray Takeyh disagree.
From the IRGC’s inception in 1979, terrorism has been its defining feature. The 125,000-strong force has always been commanded by reactionary religious ideologues. During the 1980s, the IRGC conducted vicious campaigns against all forms of [internal] dissent as well as against ethnic minorities, especially the Kurds and the Baluchis. . . . In 1999, Supreme Leader Ali Khamenei unleashed the IRGC to crush student protests, a move that President Hassan Rouhani, then the secretary of the Supreme National Security Council, had passionately supported. . . .
Yet it has been the IRGC’s terrorism abroad that has garnered the most attention. In the early 1980s, it combined various Lebanese Shiite groups to form Hizballah, which has become Iran’s most dependable and lethal proxy. At Iran’s behest, Hizballah bombed a U.S. Marine compound in Beirut in 1983, killing 238 U.S. service members. Since then, the IRGC has continuously trained and armed non-Iranian Shiite radicals, often dispatching them against Americans. The 1996 Khobar Tower bombing in Saudi Arabia, which killed nineteen American service members, was an Iranian-directed proxy attack. Since 2003, Iranian-supplied munitions and Iranian-trained paramilitary forces have lacerated U.S. troops in Iraq.
Iran Tests Two Ballistic Missiles, Harasses U.S. and UK Ships in Straits of Hormuz
Iran test-fired two short-range ballistic missiles over the weekend, while its Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps harassed American and British ships in the Straits of Hormuz, Fox News reported Tuesday.
The two Fateh-110 Mod 3 ballistic missiles used in the launches were outfitted with “active seeker” technology, allowing them to more accurately target sea-borne vessels, two anonymous U.S. officials said. The first missile, fired on Saturday, missed its mark but landed “in the vicinity” of its target, one official said. The second missile was fired a day later and successfully hit a floating barge located 155 miles away.
“It’s a concern based on the range and that one of the missiles worked,” one official told Fox.
The missile launches came days after Iran claimed that it successfully tested its new Russian S-300 air defense system.
A U.S. official told Reuters on Monday that multiple fast-attack Iranian boats harassed a U.S. navy ship, which was accompanied by three British Royal Navy vessels, in the Strait of Hormuz on Saturday. The Iranian boats came within 600 yards of the USNS Invincible, then stopped, forcing the American and British ships to change direction.
The official said that efforts were made to contact the Iranian boats, but no response was received. The official described the incident as “unsafe and unprofessional.”
Trump Admin Blasted for Continuing Obama Admin Effort to Sell Iran Planes
The Trump administration is under increasing criticism from Republican lawmakers for continuing Obama-era policies to provide material support to the Iranian regime, including airplanes, which many have warned could be used to illegally ferry weapons across the Middle East on behalf of the Islamic Republic's war effort, according to lawmakers and veteran congressional insiders who spoke to the Washington Free Beacon.
The Trump administration's Treasury Department informed the Free Beacon on Monday that it would continue to grant licenses to companies such as Boeing so that they can pursue multi-billion dollar deals with Iran.
This policy, started by the Obama administration as part of the nuclear deal with Iran, is opposed by many on Capitol Hill and runs counter to campaign trail promises by President Donald Trump to end such agreements.
Iran announced in February that it had found a "foreign company" to finance the country's purchase of at least 77 new planes from Boeing and Airbus.
US Jewish Group Calls on UNESCO to Reconsider Honor of Iraqi Musician as ‘Artist of Peace’ Due to ‘Belligerent’ Anti-Israel Statements
A leading US-based Jewish human rights group is calling on UNESCO to reconsider its recent naming of Iraqi musician Naseer Shamma as an “Artist for Peace” due to “belligerent” statements he has made about Israel.
“If the award was granted based upon an incomplete enquiry to substantiate his merit, UNESCO must strip this hypocritical warmonger of his undeserved ‘Artist For Peace’ award,” Dr. Shimon Samuels — the Simon Wiesenthal Center’s director for international relations — said in a letter to UNESCO Assistant Director-General For Culture Francesco Bandarin.
After a picture was published last month of Shamma shaking hands with Israel’s UNESCO envoy Carmel Shama-Hacohen, the Iraqi issued a statement on Facebook, in which he emphasized that he did not know the Israeli’s identity when the encounter took place.
In October 2014, according to the Simon Wiesenthal Center, Shamma said during an Egyptian television appearance, “Even if the occupied territories are returned (to the Palestinians) I will never normalize (with Israel) till the last day of my life, I am against this usurping entity.”
Iranian rocker who performed in Israel ‘I’m willing to die for peace’
Najafi told various outlets that he was taught to hate Israelis while growing up in Iran.
Iranian musician Shahin Najafi could be getting a new round of death threats any day now.
That’s because the singer performed in Tel Aviv last Thursday with Israeli rock star Aviv Geffen in a politically charged concert.
Najafi — who has lived outside his native country since 2004, when Iranian authorities threatened to imprison him for his music — sang part of Geffen’s “Hope Song” in Farsi to a crowd of 6,000 at the Israel Trade Fairs & Convention Center.
He also read a note addressed to President Donald Trump, Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, and other politicians with a predilection for “walls.” The note drew a raucous round of applause, according to NBC News.
“Stop the violence between people before it’s too late,” Najafi said. “Let’s stop dividing people.”

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