Wednesday, April 18, 2018

From Ian:

Dore Gold: Israel at 70: Flourishing against All Odds
The rebirth of Israel is nothing short of a miracle. It involved dedication and commitment of a national movement that began with the establishment of Zionism, which is the national liberation movement of the Jewish people. That movement brought the energies of a people back together and allowed for the Declaration of Independence by David Ben-Gurion in 1948.

At its birth, Israel was attacked by multiple Arab armies around it. Territorially, Israel is a country with little or no strategic depth. It takes only four minutes for a jet fighter to cross from the Jordan River to the Mediterranean Sea, giving Israel very little early warning time. Ten thousand square miles. You could drop Israel into the Great Lakes, and you wouldn't even hear the splash. Our Arab neighbors have 650 times the amount of territory. That gives them a distinct strategic advantage.

That's the miracle that Israelis will think about when they consider what the meaning is of the country being 70 years old. There was this extraordinary commitment to innovation. Every time our adversaries threw at us another strategic challenge, we had an answer.

Recently, we've been facing this threat of rocket fire from Lebanon and Gaza. So Israel develops the first really working rocket defense system. To replace the rockets, our adversaries develop tunnels to allow terrorists to come in their hundreds into Israeli territory and kill innocent civilians. So Israel makes the first anti-tunnel system in the world.

Israel also developed a formula for integrating diverse immigrants into our society - people from backgrounds like the Soviet Union, Ethiopia, Germany, the United States, India, Great Britain - and despite many flavors of Israeli society we became one. That determination, that commitment to making the Zionist experiment work, gave us enormous strength for facing every challenge that was hurled against us.

People like to ask, is Israel closer to being a Sparta, a military powerhouse, or an Athens, a country with art, poetry, and excellent universities? Frankly, Israel has to be both. You can't have an Athens in a dangerous Middle East unless you have some qualities of being a Sparta, which is able to defend itself. Since the days of its founding in 1948, Israel developed a doctrine that it must defend itself by itself.



Hamas "Press Office": Truth Finishes Last
In this regard, the Palestinian Journalists Syndicate (PJS), a body dominated by Hamas's rivals in Fatah, seems fully to agree with Hamas. In a statement published in Ramallah, the PJS accused Israeli journalists of being "complicit in crimes and killings." It also claimed that Israeli journalists were part of the Israeli army's propaganda machine.

Such incitement against Israeli journalists should be taken with utmost seriousness. It endangers the lives of reporters who cover Palestinian issues and often travel to Palestinian cities and villages.

Hamas's incitement against Israeli journalists is predictable. But when the incitement originates from a Fatah-affiliated institution in the West Bank, and controlled by President Mahmoud Abbas's loyalists, it gives pause. Isn't Fatah supposed to be the "moderate" Palestinian faction that ostensibly believes in the two-state solution and peace with Israel? Isn't Mahmoud Abbas supposed to be the "moderate" and "pragmatic" Palestinian leader with whom Israel is supposed to make peace? Aren't Fatah and Abbas receiving financial aid from the US and EU because of their presumed support for a peace process with Israel? Why should the Americans and Europeans be supporting a Palestinian faction whose journalists openly incite against their Israeli colleagues?

The incitement by Fatah and Hamas is an attempt to intimidate and silence not only Palestinian journalists, but their Israeli colleagues as well. It is an attempt to force Israeli journalists to toe the line and endorse the Hamas and Fatah narrative not only regarding the "March of Return," but also the entire Palestinian cause. Apparently in agreement with Hamas and Fatah, international human rights organizations and advocates of free media around the world do not seem bothered at all by the life-threatening attacks on Israeli journalists.

Finally, the Hamas "Press Office" instructed Palestinian journalists to focus on the "humanization" of the stories of the Palestinians who are killed or injured during the mass demonstrations. The journalists are required to highlight the "various personal and social aspects" of the Palestinian victims. Translation: If the "victim" is a Hamas terrorist, the journalists are to avoid mentioning that and instead report about his having been a beloved husband, father, and community member.

Again, this is part of Hamas's effort to lie to the world and present the Palestinians killed and injured during the riots as unarmed innocent civilians. The truth, however, is that Hamas has sent hundreds of its militiamen to take part in the demonstrations disguised as civilians.
MEMRI: Column In Jordanian Daily: Trump And Netanyahu Are Worse Than Hitler; It's Possible That Some Of The Deeds Attributed To Hitler Never Actually Took Place
In his January 1, 2017 column in the Al-Ghad daily, headed "How Are Trump and Netanyahu Any Different from Hitler?" Jihad Al-Mansi claimed that "the behavior of [U.S. President] Trump and [Israel Prime Minister] Netanyahu is much worse than anything done by Hitler." He writes that some claims about Hitler's actions may be untrue, or else exaggerated in order to win world sympathy. Al-Mansi adds that if Hitler had won World War II, the world wouldn't have called him a Nazi or a fascist, but would have respected him while remaining silent about the burning of the Jews.

The following are translated excerpts from his column:[1]
"The U.S. sees itself as the leader when it comes to humanitarian values and tolerance based on freedom, justice, and equality, and the denunciation of hatred. But when its president [Donald Trump], speaks in a racist, fascist manner about countries in Central America and Africa, and views them as 'shitholes,' and when he is the one who has declared in the past that Muslims will be denied entry to the U.S., that many will be deported, that a wall will be built along the border with Mexico, and that women who have abortions will be punished, why, these types of statements surpass the racism and fascism of Hitler and Mussolini...

"And what about the racist declarations by Benjamin Netanyahu, the head of the oppressive Zionist entity, who said that the murder of any person by a Jew cannot be compared to the murder of a Jew by a non-Jew, or who, for example, described the UN as 'a house of lies' when the General Assembly was set to vote on a draft resolution calling on the U.S. to withdraw its recognition of Jerusalem as Israel's capital, and who said that Israel is totally opposed to this vote and that Jerusalem is the capital of the oppressive entity, despite all the international decisions that oppose this, in other words, in defiance of the UN and the entire world? Such statements are not very different from Hitler's ideology that the world later referred to as Nazi, extremist, and racist.

"The enlightened world, devoid of racism and fascism, did not call Hitler a Nazi, a racist, or other terrible names just because he burned the Jews, but also because of the horrifying deeds that he perpetrated in Paris and in other countries [sic], and because of his hostile declarations about the peoples of the world. Therefore, I insist that the deeds of Trump and Netanyahu are far graver than the deeds committed by Hitler, some of which may have happened, but others perhaps never occurred, [or else] have been exaggerated so as to garner world sympathy for some cause or another. Why, burning [people] is not very different from the collective slaughter perpetrated against the Palestinian people by Zionism over the years, starting with Deir Yassin, Qibya and Al-Dawayima, continuing with Bahr el-Baqar, Sabra and Shatila, and Qana, and dozens of other barbaric massacres in which the number of women and children killed is much higher than the number of men. And if we count the number of martyrs who fell at the hands of Zionist terror gangs, it is possible that their number is higher than the number [of people] that were allegedly burned by Hitler – especially since the number of those burned is not known and there is no clear number, and since some claim that it was actually a very limited number that was inflated for various unknown reasons. Others say that the number is slightly higher, and there are those who totally doubt the veracity of these stories.



It’s good to live for our country
People don’t yearn for the highlights of their life, and they don’t even yearn for the events they won’t get to experience with their loved one. They endlessly miss the ordinary days, the little moments they had almost despised.

Once, after an event focusing on “Brother's Keeper” (the IDF search operation to find kidnapped teens Naftali Frenkel, Gil-Ad Shaer and Eyal Yifrah), I was approached by a person I didn’t know, who asked me: “Which one of you said that thing about the Priestly Blessing? I have to thank him.”

I knew what he was talking about. The three teens’ fathers were asked in a radio interview what they missed the most. Ofir, Gil-Ad’s father, talked about the custom of letting the children gather under the prayer shawl during the Priestly Blessing and about Gil-Ad’s painfully tangible absence in those moments.

The man standing in front of me wasn’t referring to the heartbreaking aspect of that story, but to the celebration of life. He was given a gift—he always used to bless his own children that way, but those moments just passed by him. He nearly missed them. Now, he cherished them very much. They became moments of gratitude and magic. The essence of life. This applies to one’s personal life and it applies to the entire society. The skill is to raise the price of the good, and in light of the price—to make life even better.

My Memorial Day has hardly changed. It has always been mine, ours, the closest thing to sanctity that can be created by a secular calendar. It has never been perceived as a gesture towards the bereaved family, as a show of respect and goodwill, a gesture towards the victim. It’s coming together around the loss we are all experiencing. One doesn’t have to lose a close relative, God forbid, to feel that this date is part of Israel’s personal and familial calendar.

But our memorial days have never been a veneration of the dead. This isn’t a culture of martyrs. We will always favor, appreciate and celebrate life over death. It is good to live for our country, it is good to live. It is good to raise the price of life.
New Website Allows Users to Remember and Honor Israel’s Fallen
In anticipation of Yom Hazikaron, Israel’s Memorial Day, which will be commemorated Tuesday night and Wednesday, two organizations in partnership with Israel’s Ministry of Diaspora Affairs have established a website to allow users to remember and honor the 23,632 soldiers and security forces who have died defending the land of Israel.

The website, Yizkereim, (Hebrew for “Remember them”), was produced by Olami, an organization seeking to connect Jewish students with their heritage, and the Afikim Foundation, which attempts to connect Diaspora Jewry to Israel. The two educational organizations partnered with Israel’s Ministry of Diaspora Affairs.

The website allows users to search through a database of names. Each name is accompanied by a biography and an account of the circumstances under which the hero died. When a user chooses to honor one of the heroes, he or she can register and choose to perform a good deed, study religious texts, say Psalms, or give charity (Tzedaka.) The user can also send a message to the hero’s family.

Yizkereim will store the names of all of users of the website who commit to honor the fallen heroes, as well as the action they volunteered to perform. A record of the users and their actions will be stored digitally at the new Memorial Hall of Israel’s Fallen on Mt. Herzl.




Report: Arab students at TAU disrespect Memorial Day siren
A number of Arab students living in the dormitories at Tel Aviv University refused to honor the one-minute siren that sounded on Tuesday evening to mark the beginning of Memorial Day for Fallen Soldiers and Victims of Terrorism, several students reported.

According to the students, some of the Arabs expressed joy during the somber minute of silene in memory of Israel's fallen. Others continued riding their bikes or kept up conversations, rather than standing silently as is the custom nationwide for the duration of the siren.

A post published on the dormitory Facebook page was directed at the students who violated the minute of silence.

"You, who couldn't stand for one minute. Show respect for one minute. It was so important for you to keep smoking, riding your bikes, or talking with your friends while walking. Remember, without those who are no longer with us, you wouldn't have a country," it said.

Jewish students called the failure to observe the minute of silence a demonstration of blatant contempt. Arab students, meanwhile, wrote posts in which they claimed that Jewish students do not honor Nakba ("Catastrophe") Day, which commemorates the displacement of Palestinian refugees during Israel's War of Independence.
From 1950s rationing to 21st century high-tech boom: An economic success story
From a war-torn nation struggling for survival and lacking natural resources, the biblical land of milk and honey has become a technological powerhouse which has seen economic growth for 15 consecutive years.

“We can stop and look back with satisfaction” at the “amazing achievements made by the Israeli economy in the 70 years of the State’s existence,” Bank of Israel Governor Karnit Flug said at a press conference in Jerusalem in March.

Israelis’ standard of living has risen from 30 percent of Americans’ standard of living at the time of the state’s founding to 60% today.

Israel’s economy has experienced a yearly average growth of 3.3% since 2000, higher than in many OECD countries, partly driven by a strong population growth. Its labor market is close to full employment and the unemployment level is the lowest it has been in decades.
David Ben-Gurion, flanked by the members of his provisional government, reads the Declaration of Independence in the Tel Aviv Museum Hall on May 14, 1948. (Israel Government Press Office)

Israeli tech firms raised record funds in 2017 and the year saw $23 billion worth of company exits, defined as merger and acquisition deals and initial public offerings of shares. The nation has some 94 companies listed on the Nasdaq exchange.

The country’s population surged from 806,000 at the founding of the nation to 8.84 million today, and the state has absorbed some 3.2 million immigrants over the years. Life expectancy for Jewish men jumped to almost 81 years from 65 in 1949, and for women to just over 84, compared with just below 68 in 1949. The nation is ranked the 11th-happiest country in the world, and, to top it all, it has also found natural gas reserves off its shores, which will help lead the tiny country to energy independence. (See related story for economic data.)

If you look at the “big picture, at the perspective of 70 years,” the Israeli economy by and large “clearly did very well,” said Omer Moav, professor of economics at the University of Warwick in Coventry, UK, and at the IDC Herzliya, in a phone interview.

The country has gone from a “chronic balance of payments,” huge debt, and runaway inflation to “a balance of payments surplus, a surplus of assets over liabilities, and inflation that we would like to be a little higher,” Flug said.
The blooming of the desert: Key stages of Israel’s economic growth
The establishment of the state in 1948 and the absorption of immigrants: Israel declared its independence in May 1948. Since its founding the nation’s population has surged from 806,000 to 8.84 million today, and the state has absorbed some 3.2 million immigrants over the years.

(See related story for Israel’s transition from struggling economy to global tech powerhouse.)

Financial institutions and fiscal restraint: Israeli leaders set up economic institutions including the central bank, commercial banks, the Israel Securities Authority, and the Finance Ministry that would safeguard the economy and shield it from crises. In the past 20 years, Israel’s governments have adhered to a policy of fiscal restraint that gives the nation credibility with foreign investors and lowers financial costs.

The stabilization plan of 1985 that reined in inflation and cut spending: Hyperinflation hit the Israeli economy in the early 80s and in 1984 it reached 445 percent. This disrupted the functioning of the economy. In 1985 a stabilization plan was set up, led by finance minister Shimon Peres together with US secretary of state George Shultz and IMF economist Stanley Fischer, which aimed to reduce public debt, curb government spending, and privatize government-owned companies. This process, and other liberalization steps the nation undertook in the 1990s, made Israel a member of the global economy.

The growth of Israel’s tech industry: In the 1990s the government set up a program called Yozma, which helped create a local venture fund industry that invested in burgeoning Israeli technologies. The internet boom combined with a surge in highly educated immigrants from the former Soviet Union, plus a determination to solve problems that seem unsolvable, led to a flourishing local tech scene. Today Israel is a technological powerhouse with products that are impacting the world.

The tech industry in numbers: In the 20-year period of 1997-2017, 16,000 high-tech companies were set up, of which 8,000 are currently active. The nation has 505 cybersecurity companies, which have raised some $5.6 billion; there are 1,487 life sciences companies that have raised $13.5 billion.
IsraellyCool: Seneca Nation Proclaims Israel Independence Day on Their Territory
The Seneca Nation is a federally recognized Seneca tribe based in western New York consisting of over 8,000 members.

They just informed the Israeli Embassy in New York that they have proclaimed Israeli Independence on Thursday on their territory (hat tip: Yoel)

Fantastic.

Independence Day terror attack said foiled as troops find hidden bomb
Officials said a large-scale terror attack planned for Independence Day had been averted after security officials arrested a Palestinian at a checkpoint in the northern West Bank on Wednesday with a “powerful explosive device” stashed in his truck.

The truck was stopped at the Reihan crossing by security inspectors, who found it also carried merchandise intended for use in Israeli settlements, with the bomb hidden “in its roof,” the Defense Ministry said in a statement.

Police sappers were dispatched to defuse the bomb, the statement said.

Defense Minister Avigdor Liberman praised the “vigilance and professionalism” of the Crossings Authority personnel, which “led to the exposure of an explosive device and to the thwarting of a large-scale terror attack on our 70th Independence Day.”

“We will chase down the bastards who planned to harm our celebration,” he wrote on Twitter, vowing to quickly lay hands on those responsible and bring them to justice.
IDF fires at 5 Palestinians, one of them armed, at Gaza border
Five Palestinians were injured by Israeli artillery fire early Wednesday morning east of Khan Younis in the southern Gaza Strip, the Hamas-run health ministry said.

The Gaza health ministry said the Palestinian men were on a base belonging to the military wing of Hamas when they were struck.

The Israel Defense Forces, in a statement, confirmed it targeted a group of five Palestinians who approached the border fence.

At least one of the Gazans was armed, the army said.

The Hebrew-language Walla news website cited an unnamed army source as saying security forces had thwarted an attempt by the group to plant an explosive device along the border fence.

On Tuesday evening, the Israeli military said it fired tank shells at a Hamas post in the southern Gaza Strip, after gunmen opened fire at Israeli troops operating near the border. There were no Israeli casualties in that incident. A military spokeswoman noted that the clash occurred in an area which has seen recurrent violence during recent weeks’ protests near the border.
Arab Israeli indicted for planning Islamic State attack in Tel Aviv
Prosecutors on Wednesday indicted an Arab Israeli teenager who confessed to trying to join the Islamic State terrorist group, attempting to recruit others, and declaring his willingness to carry out a suicide bombing or drive-by shooting attack on Israeli soldiers near the defense headquarters in Tel Aviv.

Charges were filed against Kamel Abu Amarah, 19, from Jaffa, for contacting an enemy agent as well as membership in a terror group and activities on its behalf, the Justice Ministry said in a statement.

The documents submitted to Tel Aviv District Court claimed Amarah voluntarily joined the organization by sending IS operatives a video of himself pledging allegiance to its leader Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi.

He is also accused of actively working on behalf of the terrorist group as well as trying to recruit more members, including a member of his family and a friend. In addition, prosecutors said, he tried to buy a pistol through an acquaintance he believed had criminal contacts.
Egypt invites Hamas leaders for talks on Gaza protests, reconciliation
A senior Hamas delegation was scheduled to arrive in Cairo on Tuesday amid reports that Egypt has been exerting pressure on the Palestinian terror group to halt the weekly “March of Return” mass demonstrations along the Israeli border.

Hamas leaders Saleh al-Arouri and Moussa Abu Marzouk will head the delegation, which is expected to hold talks with Egyptian officials regarding the protests as well as the ongoing dispute between Hamas and Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas’s ruling Fatah faction.

According to an unconfirmed report, the Hamas officials are also scheduled to meet with Fatah leaders in Cairo. If true, it would be the first meeting between the two rival factions since an assassination attempt on PA Prime Minister Rami Hamdallah during his visit to Gaza last month.

The report said that a Fatah delegation headed by Mahmoud al-Aloul, deputy chairman of the faction, has also been invited to Cairo.

The Egyptians fear the weekly demonstrations along the border between Gaza and Israel could spin out of control and lead to another military confrontation between Israel and Hamas, a Palestinian Authority official in Ramallah said on Sunday.

On the eve of the visit to Cairo, Mahmoud al-Zahar, a senior Hamas official in the Gaza Strip, said that his group was prepared to “study any advice given to it, and would accept any advice that serves Palestinian interests.”
Report: Israel targeted advanced Iranian air defense system in Syria strike
An alleged Israeli strike on an air base in central Syria on April 9 targeted a soon-to-be-deployed Iranian advanced air defense system and a drone hangar, the Wall Street Journal reported Wednesday.

The article also confirmed that several days beforehand Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu alerted the White House of the IDF’s plans to carry out the strike on the T-4 air base, which killed at least seven Iranian soldiers, including a senior officer, and sparked a near unprecedented level of public threats between Tehran and Jerusalem.

The target of the April strike was a Russian-made Tor missile defense system, which is designed to “destroy aircraft, helicopters, drones, guided missiles and other precision weapons flying at medium, low, and extremely low altitudes, in difficult air and jamming environments,” according to its manufacturer.

If deployed, this relatively modern air defense system, first purchased by Iran in 2007, could make it more difficult for Israel to conduct air raids in the areas where it is deployed.

The airstrike also destroyed a hangar that was being used for the Iranian Revolutionary Guard Corps’s drone program, according to the report.

Intelligence officials cited in the Wall Street Journal said that Iran sought the Tor missile defense system in response to an Israeli airstrike on the T-4 base earlier this year.
IDF Distances Itself From Claim In NYT That Israel Carried Out Airstrikes In Syria
The IDF on Monday distanced itself from an unnamed senior official quoted in the New York Times that Israel was behind an airstrike on an Iranian military facility in Syria in which at least seven Iranians were killed.

“It was the first time we attacked live Iranian targets — both facilities and people,” the unnamed military source told the Times columnist Thomas Friedman (pictured).

However, Friedman, who wrote the article entitled “The Real Next War in Syria: Iran vs. Israel” from the Golan Heights, later updated it to include a response from the IDF Spokesman’s office.

“After the story appeared, the Israeli Army’s spokesman’s office disputed the characterization and accuracy of the raid by my Israeli source, and emphasized that Israel maintains its policy to avoid commenting on media reports regarding the raid on the T4 airfield and other events. He would not comment further,” the update from Monday said.

The update does not clarify if the IDF issued a denial regarding the officer’s acknowledgement that Israel was behind the attack.
Amid regional tensions, IAF pulls F-15s from international exercise
The military on Tuesday confirmed that the Israeli Air Force has decided to pull its fleet of F-15 fighter jets from an international exercise scheduled to take place in the United States next month.

An IDF official said the decision stemmed from the rising tensions between Syria, Iran and Israel, aggravated over last week's strike on the T4 air base in Homs, where an Iranian drone unit was destroyed.

The F-15s will remain in Israel in case they are needed to ward off an Iranian retaliation attempt, the official said.

The Israeli jets were due to participate in "Red Flag," an international military drill set to take place in Alaska, where they were to train with U.S. and other warplanes.

"Red Flag," the biggest aerial exercise in the world, is held up to four times a year. The 10-day drill includes unique air maneuvers, training pilots to operate in harsh weather conditions, including snow and ice storms, and features air-to-air and surface-to-air combat scenarios.

The IDF Spokesperson's Unit said that other IAF aircraft, such as cargo planes and refueling tankers, would take place in the international drill as planned.
JCPA: Why France Attacked Syrian Chemical Weapons Facilities
In Paris, a stormy debate on the Syrian issue took place in Parliament, but there was no vote. This kind of debate is not new in France. In 1956, at the time of “Sinai Campaign” with the “Three Musketeers,” as France, the United Kingdom, and Israel were called, and also afterward, during the Algerian war, there was stiff internal French opposition to any military action against foreign countries because of violations of international law. (In France, some officials believed that even Operation Entebbe, carried out by the IDF in 1976 to save the hostages on an Air France plane, deserved harsh criticism for the same reason.)

Nonetheless, according to French law and since the time of General Charles de Gaulle, the president is the head of the entire military, and he is also the administrator and personally responsible for foreign policy. In this capacity, the president of France can take military action without parliamentary approval.

From the political and diplomatic angle, the opposition is also critical of France getting dragged into President Trump’s “adventures,” which could backfire against French interests. The French foreign ministry also sent some of its representatives around the world warnings against the possibility of terror attacks on French citizens and institutions.

In conclusion, the recent attack on Syria proves that President Macron is determined to be a senior member of the western coalition with the United States, leading the free world. Macron will not allow, from the ethical point of view, the continued production and usage of chemical and non-conventional weapons. He is taking many risks because there is a reasonable possibility that in the near future, acts of revenge and terror may occur against French targets.

Deputy Hezbollah leader Sheikh Naim Qassem 'Iran must stop Israel from limiting its movements in Syria'

The Lebanon-based terrorist group Hezbollah said on Monday that Iran should prevent Israel from "setting rules that limit Iran's movement in Syria."

Deputy Hezbollah leader Sheikh Naim Qassem told pro-Syrian government television channel al Maydeen that he expects a response by Iran to the deaths of at least seven Iranian military personnel in the April 9 missile strike on the T4 air base near Homs, which Iran has blamed on Israel.

"This deliberate killing that took place. Iran must take the right stand and decision to prevent Israel from setting rules that limit Iran's movement in Syria, based on an agreement between Iran and Syria," Qassem said.

"Therefore we expect something. So, it is an attempt by Israel to draw borders that save it from waging a war and prevent the other side from moving forward. This will not happen."

Israel has long said Iran is expanding its influence in a belt of territory that stretches across Syria from the Iraqi border to the Lebanese border.

Israel maintains that it will not allow Iran to entrench its military in Syria and is believed to have carried out multiple airstrikes on convoys carrying potentially game-changing weapons from Syria to Hezbollah in Lebanon over the years.

As Iran's efforts to tighten its grip on Syria increase, Israel has been accused of hitting several Iranian assets in the war-torn country.
Watch: Stop the War protester – ‘Assad is a good man – he’s a doctor for heaven’s sake
After Theresa May authorised targeted military strikes in Syria without seeking Parliament’s approval, the Prime Minister has received a mixed response. One group particularly angry about recent events are Stop the War. The anti-war campaign group – of which Jeremy Corbyn is a supporter – gathered this evening to demonstrate against the government response.

Only Mr S isn’t sure the demonstration will win everyone round to their way of thinking. In an interview with Paul Brand for ITV news, one attendee explains why Assad – whose regime is thought to be behind the chemical attack which sparked the recent turn of events – is a good man. After all, he is a doctor:

PB: You believe Assad over Theresa May?
Attendee: I do, yes
PB: You believe a murder over the Prime Minister of Britain?
A: He’s not a murderer, he’s a president of a country for god’s sake.
PB: So he hasn’t murdered anyone then?
A: What do you mean? Personally, no. But Theresa May gave the order to bomb Syria without anyone’s say so
PB: Is President Assad responsible for the deaths in Syria of his own people.
A: No he’s not – the Opposition is and Britain is and France is and America is
PB: Is President Assad a good person?
A: Yes he is. He’s a very good man and he’s a doctor for heaven’s sake.
Jared Kushner, Ivanka Trump mull attending Jerusalem embassy opening
US President Donald Trump’s senior adviser and son-in-law Jared Kushner, and Kushner’s wife, White House adviser Ivanka Trump, are considering traveling to Israel next month to inaugurate the US embassy in Jerusalem, The Times of Israel has learned.

On May 14, the US will hold an official dedication ceremony for the US embassy in Jerusalem’s Arnona neighborhood.

Kushner, one of Trump’s top aides, and his wife, whose official title is assistant to the president, have been asked to represented the US administration at the celebrations surrounding the embassy inauguration, according to officials in Jerusalem and Washington.

However, the Jewish power couple has not finalized travel plans, the officials added.
PA official: We won't accept peace plan without Jerusalem
Husam Zomlot, the Palestinian Authority (PA) envoy to Washington stressed on Monday that the PA will not accept any Trump administration peace plan that does not include eastern Jerusalem or address the issue of “refugees”.

Zomlot spoke at the J Street conference and was quoted by Haaretz.

"We remain steadfast in our vision of peace and self-determination. Two states on the 1967 borders with a state of Palestine with East Jerusalem as its capital [and] a just solution to the problem of refugees," he stressed.

"That vision would have to include a state of Israel, with final and secured, internationally recognized borders, and with neighborly relations with us," said Zomlot.

Referring to the Trump administration's upcoming peace plan, he said the Palestinians will not accept a "state minus" or a "state in provisional borders." He also stressed they will not accept a state "with one Israeli soldier on its soil."
EU resolves to nix intolerant content in Palestinian textbooks
The European Union’s parliament on Wednesday advanced legislation geared to prevent content deemed hateful in Palestinian textbooks.

“The European Parliament… insists that educational material financed by Union funds, including PEGASE (Mécanisme Palestino-européen de Gestion de l’Aide Socio-économique), comply with the common values of freedom, tolerance and non-discrimination through education adopted by education ministers of the Union in Paris on 17 March 2015,” the legislation reads.

The PEGASE fund is the main source of EU funding to the Palestinian Authority.

The motion passed Wednesday in the form of amendments to two general reports on EU budgets. The first amendment demands that the European Commission ensure that EU funds “are spent in line with Unesco-derived standards of peace and tolerance in education.”

In the second amendment, the European Parliament also “insists that teaching and training programmes [to the PA] that are financed from Union funds such as PEGASE should reflect common values such as freedom, tolerance and non- discrimination within education.”
Sweden slammed for inviting ‘mastermind’ of 1979 Iranian hostage crisis
Iranian dissidents this week condemned Sweden’s invitation to Masoumeh Ebtekar, the Islamic Republic’s vice president for women and family affairs, who was actively involved in the storming of the US embassy in Tehran 40 years ago.

Ebtekar, 57, was “an organizer and participant” in the hostage crisis, according to a statement signed by more than a hundred expat Iranians from across the globe.

“Mrs. Ebtekar has never expressed regret for that act,” according to the statement. “And yet the Swedish government, through Foreign Minister Margot Wallstrom, has invited her to Sweden.”

In November 1979, Iranian students supportive of the Islamic Revolution, which had taken place a few months earlier, took American diplomats and citizens hostage and kept them captive for 444 days.

Ebtekar has been hosted by the European Union and individual European governments before. In 1979, she served as the Iranian hostage-takers’ spokesperson to the international media. She later wrote a book about her role in the event, known as the longest hostage crisis in modern history.
Diplomat's wife snubbed - just for being Israeli
Jeanne Hirschson, wife of Israel's Ambassador to Senegal Paul Hirschson, was asked by the wife of the French ambassador in Senegal not to attend a meeting for diplomatic spouses, Ynet reported on Tuesday.

The club of diplomatic spouses includes women and men who are married to diplomats now serving in Senegal, and is led by Marieme Faye Sall, wife of Senegalese President Macky Sall.

Up until a month ago, Miss Hirschson was so active in the club of diplomatic spouses she served as the vice president of the club.

In protest against her work in the club, Arab spouses quit, and the membership dropped to half of what it used to be.
Hamas leader says prepared to reach prisoner swap deal
Hamas is prepared to reach a prisoner exchange agreement with Israel through a third party, Ismail Haniyeh, the leader of the terror group that rules the Gaza Strip, said on Tuesday.

“We in Hamas are ready to start negotiations to achieve a deal through a third party mediator,” Haniyeh said in a speech marking the Palestinians’ annual Prisoners’ Day.

“The day will come when the occupation will pay the price and release our prisoners,” he said. “The freedom of the prisoners is the responsibility of all of us.”

Hamas, he said, will do its utmost to secure the release of prisoners held by Israel and “end their suffering.”
Iranian general: 'Date set' for destruction of Israel
An Iranian general stated that a date has been set for the destruction of Israel.

Brigadier General Kioumars Heydari, the commander of the Iranian ground forces, said in a speech that Iran's army is "much stronger than in the past" and that Israel can no longer threaten the Islamic Republic.

The Iranian news agency Mehr reported that the general said that "the date has already been set" for the destruction of Israel.

Heydari delivered his speech ahead of Iran's "Army Day", which will begin tomorrow (Wednesday), on the same day Israel celebrates its Independence Day. He stressed that unlike Saudi Arabia and other countries in the region, which import weapons from the West, his country produces its own weapons.

Iran's military budget for 2017 was $15.9 billion, an increase of almost 65% from 2014. The Revolutionary Guards budget showed the greatest increase of any Iranian military branch, rising from about $4.5 billion in 2016 to about $7 billion last year.

Iran's Defense Minister, Brigadier General Amir Khatami also stressed on Sunday that Iran has reached the point where it produces its own military weapons and even exports them.
EU fails to agree on new Iran sanctions as Trump deadline nears
The European Union failed to agree on new sanctions against Iran on Monday amid fears that punishing Tehran for its missile program and regional actions would not stop U.S. President Donald Trump from abandoning a separate nuclear deal.

Speaking on the sidelines of EU foreign ministers' discussions in Luxembourg, some diplomats said the outcome meant the EU might not make the U.S. president's May 12 deadline to "fix" the 2015 nuclear accord.

The EU is eager to safeguard the pact, under which Tehran agreed to curb its nuclear ambitions for at least a decade, but Trump has been a fierce critic.

He has threatened not to extend U.S. sanctions relief on Iran related to the agreement, under which the West has mostly lifted extensive sanctions in exchange for the Islamic republic curbing its nuclear program.

Seeking to respond to Trump's criticism of the nuclear accord and Tehran more broadly, France, Britain and Germany proposed directing sanctions at Iranian "militias and commanders" fighting on behalf of Syrian President Bashar Assad.
The European Union’s Nonsensical Quest to Preserve the Iran Deal
In recent weeks, the EU’s foreign minister Frederica Mogherini has been engaged in a campaign—traveling as far afield as Burma—to pressure the U.S. not to jettison the nuclear agreement with Iran. Current and former German, French, and British diplomats have joined in. Surveying the arguments put forth in favor of maintaining the deal, Amir Taheri finds them, to say the least, lacking:

The first [argument] is that discarding the “deal” could damage the credibility of “major powers”—that is, Britain, France, Germany, and the U.S., which signed it along with China and Russia. . . . However, the EU’s argument about “respecting signatures” [is unconvincing] because nobody signed anything. The so-called Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA), [as the agreement is formally known], is no more than a press release stating a set of desirable moves by Iran and the other parties—which, incidentally, didn’t include the EU as such. Moreover, there are significant differences between the JCPOA’s English and Persian versions, making various imaginative re-readings, à la Roland Barthes or Jacques Derrida, possible. . . .

The second argument is that the deal is working and, thus, the dictum “if it ain’t broke don’t fix it” applies. That assumption is not borne out by the facts. Iran and the other parties have either tried to circumvent or have brazenly broken their promises. [For instance], the Germans and the French still refuse to issue export guarantees to firms seeking trade with Iran. Huge memorandums of understanding are signed but put on the back-burner as Iran remains subject to sanctions by the United Nations, the EU, and U.S. . . .
Iran to Unveil New Missiles During Military Parades
Iran is set to unveil new advanced ballistic missiles during an upcoming military parade this week, a move that flouts international restrictions on such activity and complicates ongoing efforts by the Trump administration and European allies to crack down on Iran's missile production, according to regional reports.

Iranian military leaders disclosed on Monday that the Islamic Republic is set to unveil a new short-range missile capable of striking targets more than double the distance of current versions of the missile.

Iran is expected to deploy the weapon to warzones in the region to combat what Iranian officials described as "regional threats."

The unveiling of these new missiles is likely to complicate ongoing efforts by the Trump administration and European allies to solidify a range of fixes to the landmark Iran nuclear deal that would crack down on Iran's ongoing ballistic missile program and research into nuclear arms.

Iranian Army Airborne Commander Yousef Qorbani announced the production of the new missile on Monday and said it would formally be introduced to the nation during military parades on April 18, Iran's "military day."



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