Wednesday, March 06, 2019

From Ian:

Ruthie Blum: Nothing new in Ramallah
Abbas clearly intends to adhere to this fatwa, as he made clear during a trip to Egypt in January.

"I will not end my life as a traitor," he told reporters in Cairo. "I can say 'no,' and I have a people that can say 'no' beside me. … The doors are closed to the U.S. As long as it does not retract its decisions against the Palestinian people, no Palestinian should meet with the American leadership, no matter what their role is."

More recently, on a visit to Iraq on Monday, Abbas told leaders in Baghdad that the Trump administration "is encouraging Israel to be a state above the law," as well as "biased and not suitable to be a sponsor of peace talks."

So much for the "deal of the century," whose details have yet to be revealed. So much for the fantasists in Israel and abroad who continue to harbor any hope.
Honest Reporting: Debunking the ‘Disproportionate Force’ Charge
It’s unequivocal that greater numbers of Palestinians than Israelis have been killed or injured during periods of intense conflict. This has repeatedly led to accusations that Israel has employed “disproportionate force” for security measures and during military operations over the years.

The term has has been abused by activists, journalists, non-governmental organizations and politicians who have employed it without bothering to research precisely what disproportionate actually means in terms of international law. One thing it does not mean an imbalance in casualty figures proves Israeli disproportionate force.

So what does it mean? Here are some explanations.

Operation Cast Lead

The UN’s Goldstone Report into the 2008-09 Operation Cast Lead, later recanted by its author Judge Richard Goldstone, asserted that Israel had launched a “deliberately disproportionate attack designed to punish, humiliate and terrorize a civilian population, radically diminish its local economic capacity both to work and to provide for itself, and to force upon it an ever increasing sense of dependency and vulnerability.”

Back in 2011, former commander of UK forces in Afghanistan, Colonel Richard Kemp stated in response:

no one has been able to tell me which other army in history has ever done more to safeguard the rights of civilians in a combat zone.

In fact, my judgments about the steps taken in that conflict by the IDF to avoid civilian deaths are inadvertently borne out by a study published by the United Nations itself, a study which shows that the ratio of civilian to combatant deaths in Gaza was by far the lowest in any asymmetric conflict in the history of warfare.

The UN estimate that there has been an average three-to one ratio of civilian to combatant deaths in such conflicts worldwide. Three civilians for every combatant killed.

That is the estimated ratio in Afghanistan: three to one.

In Iraq, and in Kosovo, it was worse: the ratio is believed to be four-to-one. Anecdotal evidence suggests the ratios were very much higher in Chechnya and Serbia.

In Gaza, it was less than one-to-one.
Critics of America's Support for Israel Cannot Escape History
Certain of our recently elected congressional representatives view U.S. support for Israel as inexplicable. They are dismissive of explanations of shared values or strategic importance. They ask what reason other than a malignant influence could possibly explain why the U.S. has supported Israel and Zionism.

They fail to appreciate the extent to which the restoration of the Jewish people to sovereignty in their ancient homeland has been deeply ingrained in the religious, political and social fabric of America.

Even before there was a U.S., our Founding Fathers and even their forefathers longed to restore the Jews to their ancient homeland. The Puritans saw themselves as a "New Israel." Increase Mather, the Puritan leader, taught his followers that one day the "Jews would return to their homeland and establish the most glorious nation in the world." The Yale University coat of arms is adorned with the Hebrew words meaning "light and perfection."

Benjamin Franklin recommended that the Great Seal of the United States be an illustration of the Hebrews fleeing Egypt for their homeland. John Adams wrote in 1819: "I really wish the Jews again in Judea an independent nation." This all occurred when the Jews in America numbered only in the thousands.

Abraham Lincoln wrote of "restoring the [Jews] to their national home in Palestine" and that relieving their oppression was "a noble dream and one shared by many Americans." This support was echoed by Teddy Roosevelt, Woodrow Wilson and Herbert Hoover.

While recent congressional critics of America's support of Israel might dismiss this history, they cannot escape it.
Gallup: Americans still overwhelmingly support Israel, antisemitic conspiracy mongers hardest hit
The Democrat Party is trying to come to grips with the antisemitic agitation by Minnesota Rep. Ihlan Omar, backed by Reps. Rashida Tlaib and Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, that Americans who support Israel do so for money and have pledged allegiance to Israel.

These dual-loyalty and disloyalty accusations are echoed by left-wing and Islamist Democrat activists.

We have made the point in the past that support for Israel was at historical highs, as measured by Gallup. When Gallup released its results in March 2018, Gallup: Americans’ support for Israel increases to historical high:

These findings reinforce a point I’ve made many times. The so-called “Israel Lobby” is the American people.

Gallup just released its 2019 report, and finds that support for Israel over the Palestinians has dropped slightly, returning to the level in 2009. This drop was largely due to a drop in support among Republicans, which is hard to understand. So we’ll have to see if this is a blip, or a long-term trend. As other polling has showed, the weakest support for Israel comes from liberal Democrats.

Gallup reports, Americans, but Not Liberal Democrats, Mostly Pro-Israel:
The majority of Americans remain partial toward Israel in the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, with 59% saying they sympathize more with the Israelis whereas 21% sympathize more with the Palestinians. While still widespread, sympathy toward Israel is down from 64% in 2018 and marks the lowest percentage favoring Israel since 2009. Meanwhile, the 21% sympathizing more with the Palestinians, statistically unchanged from a year ago, is the highest by one point in Gallup’s trend since 2001.

These results are based on Gallup’s annual World Affairs survey, conducted each February. The 2019 poll was conducted Feb. 1-10 prior to Minnesota Rep. Ilhan Omar’s recent remarks questioning U.S. support for Israel and suggesting that some supporters of Israel are pushing for “allegiance to a foreign country.” ….



Hen Mazzig: Mizrahi Jewish spies built Israel, their descendants meet racism there
In 1951, my great-grandfather was executed in the city of Baghdad, Iraq. He was accused by the government of being an Israeli spy.

My grandmother always told us things were never the same following the Farhud, a two-day pogrom filled with vandalism and violence against the Jewish population of Baghdad that took place during Shavuot in 1941. Every Iraqi Jew was viewed as an Israeli agent.

While America had closed its gates to the Jews of the Middle East, my family heard word of a safe haven for the Jewish people: Israel. Soon after, Israeli spies and Israeli security forces came to rescue them on planes, around the same time that my father’s parents arrived to Israel from Tunisia, likewise forced out of their country. Tunisia was not as violent toward its Jews as Iraq, but the oppression and the institutionalized discrimination against the Jews was unbearable. So both sides of my family took a chance on the new state that emerged promising a safe refuge for all Jews.

The majority of Israeli Jews, like my family, came from Arab and Muslim countries, an inconvenient fact for some critics of the State of Israel today. Far from being a white colonialist entity, the truth is that Jews in Israel have suffered from oppressive and racist governments just as much as other “brown” peoples throughout the world.

However, along with being kicked out of their home countries – where my family truly felt they belonged but were never “Arab enough for the Arabs” – Mizrahi Jews have also often felt like second-class citizens in Israel. Many Mizrahi Jews weren’t seen as being “Israeli enough” for the Ashkenazi founders.

Indeed, most tellings of the story of Israel’s founding focus on Ashkenazi figures like David Ben-Gurion and Chaim Weizmann, all with roots in Eastern and Western Europe.

This is also the dominant narrative in modern-day Israel – that’s why Matti Friedman’s new book is long overdue.
Jpost Editorial: A welcome announcement
Monday’s announcement in Vatican City by Pope Francis – that documents from the Vatican’s secret archive regarding Pope Pius XII’s actions during the Holocaust era will be open to scholars in March of next year – is an important step in setting the record straight and shedding light on a dark period for the Vatican, the Catholic Church and, of course, the Jewish people.

The documents are expected to include various letters and messages between the pope and other Vatican officials at the time, with Catholic clergy throughout Europe, as well as communications between the Vatican with pious Catholics who served as senior military or government officials, and with Catholics of lesser rank who may have provided reports to church officials about what was happening in Nazi-controlled territories.

The light that could be shed by such documents may prove how much Pius and the Catholic leadership were aware of genocide of the Jewish people taking place at the hands of the Nazis, and what considerations took place in their public statements and behind-the-scenes actions.

Pius was pope from March 2, 1939, until October 9, 1958, and his role during the Holocaust has always been a subject of controversy. Some critics claim that he didn’t lift a finger to help Jews who were sent to their deaths, but the Vatican maintains that he was conducting quiet diplomacy behind the scenes.

The Vatican points to the rescue of many Jews in monasteries and convents in Rome and elsewhere in Europe, as well as the pope’s intervention on behalf of Hungarian Jews in 1944, a step which proved helpful in stopping the deportations to Auschwitz.
A public relations stunt
It would be a surprise if the Vatican archives on the actions of World War II-era Pope Pius XII tell us anything new. In 1980, Walter Laqueur wrote in his book "The Terrible Secret: Suppression of the Truth about Hitler's Final Solution" that he tried gaining access to the Vatican archives. Laqueur was told by Cardinal Agostino Casaroli, the Vatican's foreign minister at the time, that the archives would remain sealed but that all the relevant information could be found in the "Acts and Documents of the Holy See Relative to the Second World War," which was published in 11 volumes.

"If this is indeed the case, we can only assume that most of the messages, reports, letters, memorandums and the like, which were transmitted between the Holy See and his envoys across Europe, and foreign governments, have been lost. We can only hope and pray that this loss isn't final," Laqueur wrote caustically.

The main question is what Pius knew about the mass murder of the Jews during the Holocaust. His actions during the war are still a matter of dispute – what could he have done, and what did he actually do. In the early 1960s, German playwright Rolf Hochhuth's drama "The Deputy" first appeared in theaters. The play gained worldwide acclaim and effectively cemented Pius' reputation as a Nazi collaborator. It was a successful attack on the Catholic Church.
Belgian mayor defends carnival float featuring Jews with money and a rat
The mayor of the Belgian city whose annual parade featured puppets of Jews and a rat atop money bags has defended the display, telling local media that “In Aalst it should be allowed.”

Mayor Christoph D’Haese defended Sunday’s float at the Aalst carnival from passionate condemnations by Jewish groups and disapproval by international organizations, including the European Commission.

“It is unthinkable that such imagery is being paraded on European streets, 70 years after the Holocaust,” a spokesperson from the Commission, which is the executive branch of the European Union, told reporters on Tuesday, according to Het Laatste Nieuws newspaper.

Also Tuesday, B’nai B’rith International issued a statement saying the organization is “is disgusted with the anti-Semitic puppets” that were on display Sunday. The Simon Wiesenthal Center’s director for international relations, Shimon Samuels, wrote to a Belgian cabinet minister a letter stating that his group is “sickened” by the display.

But Mayor D’Haese told Het Laatste Nieuws on Monday that “it’s not up to the mayor to forbid” such displays, and that “the carnival participants had no sinister intentions.”


JCPA: Jordan and the Palestinian Authority Seek to Sabotage the Trump Peace Plan
Muslim leaders are calling for a new intifada - the Sha'ar a-Rahma (Gate of Mercy [Golden Gate]) uprising. Palestinian social networks are full of calls for Muslims to come to the Temple Mount in Jerusalem this Thursday to prevent "the settlers" from entering the new mosque at the Gate of Mercy. Hamas has called on Muslims to demonstrate in Jerusalem this Friday.

Jordan and the Palestinian Authority are well aware of that fact that sensitive issues on the Temple Mount are instantaneously combustible. They are seeking to throw a wrench into the works as the proclamation of Trump's "Deal of the Century" approaches. They aimed to signal that sovereignty on the Temple Mount belongs to Jordan and the PA and not to Israel or Saudi Arabia or any international Arab body.

The solution lies in dialogue with Jordan, which oversees the Waqf Council and can restore calm. Israel can always resort to force and impose the law, but every effort should be made to avoid an escalation on the Mount in light of what is happening along the Gaza border and in the PA.
Islamic Waqf Refuses Order of Israeli Court to Withdraw From Temple Mount ‘Gate of Mercy’
The Islamic Waqf Council, the Jordanian-led Muslim religious body that shares control of the Temple Mount with Israeli authorities, openly refused an Israeli court order to close an area Arab rioters opened by force last month.

The court ordered that the “Gate of Mercy” (Sha’ar HaRachamim) be closed by next Monday.

However, Waqf Council chairman Sheikh Abdelazeem Salhab refused, not only vowing the area would “remain open for Muslims to pray,” but demanding that Israeli permit the Waqf to renovate the site. He also demanded that Israeli revoke orders against dozens of Waqf officials and guards who have been banned from the Temple Mount.

Jordan’s Royal Committee for Jerusalem Affairs, which oversees the Waqf in Jerusalem, decreed that the Israeli court order was an “escalation of the attack on Bab al-Rahma [the gate’s name in Arabic],” with the committee head calling it “aggression against Jerusalem and holy sites for electoral purposes.”

Israeli authorities sealed the “Gate of Mercy” in 2003 due to the managing group’s ties to Hamas and illegal excavation by the Waqf, which resulted in the destruction and loss of priceless antiquities and archaeology. Critics of the crude tractor work at the world’s holiest site for the Jewish people accuse the Islamic organization of undertaking the project to deliberately eradicate evidence of the Holy Temples and Jewish history at the location.
The U.S. peace plan plans to divide Jerusalem - Saudi reporter
A senior reporter for the Al Riyadh, one of Saudi Arabia's most prominent newspapers, claimed that the US President Donald Trump's "Deal of the Century" will divide Jerusalem.

The reporter Hadeel Oueis wrote on her twitter account that "The Old City of Jerusalem will be divided in half: the Arab and Christian quarters will go to the PA [Palestinian Authority], while the Jewish and Armenian quarters will fall under Israeli control."

Oueis further tweeted that "Arab areas adjacent to Palestinian Area A and B will go to a future Palestinian capital in East Jerusalem."

Saudi Arabia has been in touch with the US administration regarding the peace initiative, as it was reported that the deal will include recognition of Israel by surrounding Arab countries.
Time for the U.S. to Recognize Israeli Sovereignty in the Golan Heights
The future of the region in coming decades seems destined to suffer recurring geopolitical earthquakes that could reshape it slowly but surely. This will be a long process influenced, among other things, by battles for control over territory and by cultural, ethnic, and religious struggles, a process one could not bring to an end applying artificial measures. Israel and the United States must remove any possibility of an Israeli withdrawal from the Golan Heights from both their domestic and the international agendas.

Yet while Russia, Turkey, and Iran identified the arc of geostrategic opportunity and updated their regional playbooks, Israel chose to wish both sides good luck and get drunk on tactical military achievements, some of them spectacular but none of them lasting. By elevating narrow tactical considerations and feel-good PR to the level of strategic considerations, while ignoring real strategic opportunities and threats, Israel missed a historic opportunity to speed up necessary changes in border arrangements set arbitrarily at the end of World War I.

The departure of American forces from Syria now obliges Israel to exert its fullest influence to convince its ally, the United States, to acknowledge Israel’s sovereignty as a supplemental step to the coming withdrawal of American forces. There is no other horizon for the Golan Heights save for the Israeli horizon, and any Israeli withdrawal to the shores of the Kinneret guarantees a structural instability which, sooner or later, will require American military intervention.

Israel and the United States must therefore act as soon as possible to achieve international recognition of Israel’s sovereignty in the Golan Heights, not as a gesture of goodwill but out of a clear understanding that it is a strategic security interest that both nations share.
‘End the Charade,’ Israeli NGO Tells UN Human Rights Council, as Publication of Economic ‘Blacklist’ Is Again Delayed
Nearly three years after voting for the creation of a blacklist of companies conducting business with Israeli communities in the West Bank, the United Nations Human Rights Council (UNHRC) on Monday announced yet another delay in its publication, citing the “legal, methodological and factual complexity” involved in complying with the demand.

The UNHRC had widely been expected to publish the blacklist during its 40th session, currently being held at UN Headquarters in Geneva. But in a letter on Monday to Coly Seck, the president of the UNHRC, the recently-appointed high commissioner for human rights, Michele Bachelet, implied that she had not made sufficient progress to proceed with the blacklist.

A former president of Chile who assumed the high commissioner’s role last September, Bachelet wrote that she had consulted extensively with various “stakeholders” about the implementation of the list since taking office. Bachelet told Seck that while she was committed to implementing the resolution — originally passed on March 24, 2016 — “given the novelty of the mandate and its legal, methodological and factual complexity, further consideration is necessary to fully respond to the Council’s request.”

Bachelet did not provide a precise date for the publication of the list, promising only to “devote requisite attention to the matter, with a view to finalizing this mandated activity in the coming months.”

One of the Israeli NGOs that has led opposition to the blacklist said on Tuesday that Bachelet’s letter had vindicated its repeated protests since 2016.
UN rights chief criticizes Israel’s ‘immediate dismissal’ of report on Gaza
The United Nations’ new human rights chief on Wednesday said she was disappointed with Israel’s “immediate dismissal” of a report about deadly violence by its security forces against protesters in Gaza last year.

The comments by Michelle Bachelet, a former president of Chile, came during her first annual address to the Human Rights Council in Geneva since her appointment in September as UN high commissioner for human rights.

The report commissioned by the council alleges that Israeli soldiers intentionally fired on civilians and may have committed crimes against humanity in crackdowns that killed 189 people and wounded 6,000 by sniper fire.

“The end of this month will mark one year since the start of demonstrations which – as the Council’s Commission of Inquiry reported – have been met with deadly, disproportionate force by the Israeli Security Forces, leading to a very high toll of killings and injuries,” she said.

A transcript of Bachelet’s speech made no mention of Palestinian violence and breaches and destruction of the Israel-Gaza border fence during the protests. An Israeli soldier was killed by a Palestinian sniper near the border.
Jewish museum suspect Nemmouche says he was ‘tricked’ into carrying out attack
A Frenchman on trial for murdering four people at the Jewish museum in Brussels on Tuesday said during his final court testimony that he had been “tricked.”

“Ladies and gentlemen of the jury, I was tricked,” said Mehdi Nemmouche, the alleged gunman in the May 24, 2014 shooting spree.

“My lawyer (Sebastien) Courtoy, explained to you the reasons why I have been silent from the beginning,” said the French suspect, who has rarely spoken during the eight-week trial.

“It’s not a disrespectful attitude on my part, I really didn’t want to offend,” he added.

“If I could change it, I would change everything,” he said, without further clarification.

His comments seemed to refer to arguments made by defense lawyers that Nemmouche, 33, was not to blame for the coldblooded slaughter, claiming he was caught up in some kind of plot targeting the Israeli intelligence agency Mossad.
What is the THAAD missile defense system doing in Israel?
Mere hours after the Americans deployed the THAAD in Israel, the Pentagon announced a $1 billion payment from Saudi Arabia toward its acquisition, reflecting both countries' concerns about Iran’s continued missile program.

The American Terminal High Altitude Area Defense (THAAD) system arrived in Israel on Tuesday along with some 200 troops from US European Command (EUCOM) for a month-long drill between the two allies.

According to the IDF, the purpose of the tactical deployment of the THAAD is to “practice rapid deployment across the globe of complex systems, and to enhance cooperation with the IAF’s Air Defense Systems,” adding that “the IDF is working in cooperation with US forces to enhance coordination between the two militaries and to strengthen the ability to defend Israeli airspace.”

Israel’s air defenses currently include the Iron Dome, designed to shoot down short-range rockets, the Arrow system, which intercepts ballistic missiles outside of the Earth’s atmosphere, and the David’s Sling missile defense system, designed to intercept tactical ballistic missiles, medium- to long-range rockets, as well as cruise missiles fired at ranges between 40 to 300 km.
Report: Israel Tells Hamas to Rein in Border Violence or Face Military Action
Israel is reportedly warning Palestinian terror organization Hamas that it faces widespread military action if it does not rein in violence along the country's border with the Gaza Strip, the neighboring coastal enclave that it rules.

The two sides are in the midst of indirect negotiations mediated by Egypt meant to consolidate a ceasefire arrangement after months of escalating tensions between the two sides, the London-based, Arabic-language newspaper Asharq al-Awsat reported Wednesday.

According to Lebanon's Al-Akhbar newspaper, Israel said that although the government is willing to amend the terms of the agreement in line with Hamas demands, if the terror group persists with the border violence, a wide-scale military operation in the Strip would be inevitable.

The Israeli warning comes amid an especially close elections campaign in Israel, which sees the issue of security take center stage as Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu attempts to win reelection against a party headed by former military chief Benny Gantz, which appears to be ahead in the polls. Gantz's Blue and White Party is also the political home of fellow former IDF heads Gabi Ashkenazi and Moshe Ya'alon.
Senior Gaza official downplays winds of war between Hamas and Israel
"The Egyptian delegation is doing everything it can to lower tension and prevent war in the Gaza Strip," said a senior Gaza official to The Jerusalem Post's sister paper Maariv. "I think the Israeli side is also not interested in war on the eve of elections."

An Egyptian delegation headed by General Amr Hanafi, entered Israel via the Erez border crossing after meeting with senior Hamas leader Ismail Haniyeh and Hamas leader in the Gaza Strip Yahya Sinwar on Tuesday evening.

The delegation discussed a truce with Israel and Hamas's demands to implement an agreement reached four months ago at a meeting with Egypt, the United Nations and Qatar. According to the agreement, Israel must implement the ceasefire in three stages.

The first and most immediate one, is quiet for quiet. The second is the expansion of the fishing area and the entry of various goods into the Gaza Strip. The third stage is to transfer 150 megawatts of electricity to the Gaza Strip, as well as to create projects to provide jobs for the unemployed and open negotiations over maritime passage.

Top Palestinian sources reported that the Egyptian delegation may return with Israeli responses that could lead to an agreement between the sides and reduce the escalation on Israel's southern border.
Two balloon bombs from Gaza explode over southern Israeli community
Two explosive devices attached to bunches of balloons were launched from the Gaza Strip on Wednesday and detonated above a community in the southern Israeli Eshkol region.

The blasts caused neither injury nor damage, the Eshkol Regional Council said in a statement.

“There are no special safety instructions for residents besides showing increased awareness and reporting all suspicious objects,” the council noted.

The incident came after the Israel Air Force carried out airstrikes on several targets in the Gaza Strip Tuesday night, in response to balloons with explosives flown into Israel earlier that day. One of the bombs went off between two buildings in a Gaza border community, without causing injury or damage.


EU court upholds freeze on Hamas funds, keeps group on terror blacklist
A European Union court on Wednesday upheld a freeze on Hamas funds as it rejected the Palestinian group’s appeal against its EU listing as a terrorist organization.

The General Court’s ruling amounted to the latest rejection of Hamas’s efforts to be struck from an EU blacklist created in 2001 based on a UN resolution following the 9/11 attacks in the United States.

“In today’s judgment the General Court looks into each of the arguments made by Hamas and rejects them in their totality,” the Luxembourg-based court said in a statement.

As a result, “the decision to extend the freezing of Hamas funds is confirmed.”

The court upheld an EU 2015 decision to keep Hamas on the blacklist, saying it accepted a British finding that Hamas was still carrying out terror acts between 2011 and 2014.

The court recalled Hamas argued the updated 2015 blacklist was based on errors in “the materiality of the facts” and in assessing the organization’s “terrorist character.”
Israel blacklists Hamas station said to use on-air cues to recruit terrorists
Israel on Wednesday officially designated as a terror organization a Hamas-run Palestinian television network accused by the Shin Bet security service of using on-air cues to direct terror attacks and recruit terrorists in the West Bank.

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, who is also defense minister, signed a decree proscribing Al-Aqsa TV in accordance with Israel’s counter-terror law, his office said in a statement.

“This decision comes at the recommendation of the Shin Bet and the Defense Ministry’s National Bureau for Counter Terror Financing, after the Shin Bet revealed terror group Hamas’s use of the satellite channel ‘Al-Aqsa’ to recruit operatives,” the statement said.

The Shin Bet last month accused the broadcaster and Gaza-based journalists of acting as agents of Hamas’s military wing, and passing clandestine messages to terror operatives in the West Bank and East Jerusalem by using quotes from the Quran or subtle gestures by the presenters. The Shin Bet named two presenters who it said conveyed messages from Gaza via signals on air.

The Shin Bet said the plot was a key factor in the decision made by the Israel Defense Forces to bomb Al-Aqsa TV’s headquarters in Gaza in November.
How Islamic "Aid" Organizations in Turkey Feed Jihadists in Syria
Turkish police recently raided the homes of, and detained, more than a dozen nationals suspected of "joining conflicts in Syria, providing logistics and money, and recruiting for [terrorist] organizations."

Four days after the raids, which were carried out on January 13, all thirteen detainees were released -- eleven of them pending trial and the other two on judicial control. The Turkish government-run Anadolu Agency, which reported on the detentions, later removed the story from its website and social media pages.

Among the detainees was Hasan Süslü, president of the NGO Fukara-Der (Aid and Solidarity Association for the Poor), suspected of aiding Hay'at Tahrir al-Sham (HTS) -- a coalition of al Qaeda-affiliated groups, formerly known as the al Nusra Front, and currently the dominant jihadist force in Idlib in northern Syria.

Ankara says it wants to establish a "buffer zone" around Idlib to prevent a Syrian government attack on the country's last major jihadi-held area. The raids and brief detentions of HTS suspects in Turkey came three days after HTS reportedly "sealed its grip on northern Idlib. HTS signed a ceasefire with what was left of a rival alliance that sees it confirm its supremacy and unites the region under a jihadist-led administration."

According to analyst Sam Heller from the International Crisis Group, now HTS "can present itself to Turkey and others as an indispensable interlocutor in any non-military solution to Idlib."
Germany’s celebration of Iran’s murderous regime is nothing new
The Islamic Republic recently celebrated the 40th anniversary of the revolution that brought it into being. While many Iranians may have felt this nothing to celebrate, the German government—fond though it is of speaking of its commitment to human rights on the international stage—eagerly rushed forward with its congratulations. Michael Rubin comments:

The German president Frank-Walter Steinmeier sent a congratulatory telegram to the Iranian president Hassan Rouhani. Both the state minister of the foreign office Niels Annen and an Iran desk officer attended the celebrations [in Tehran]. The irony, of course, is that [their superior], Foreign Minister Heiko Maas, has said he went into politics “because of Auschwitz” and now celebrates a regime whose official position is to deny the Holocaust occurred and that has repeatedly stated its goal to eradicate the Jewish state. . . .

What explains Germany’s enthusiasm for ties to one of the world’s most murderous regimes? . . . The answer is simple: for German authorities across the political spectrum, human rights are only a tool with which to dress the country’s foreign-policy rhetoric. The German public may care about human rights, but few [members of the German political elite], from the right or from the left, do. For German authorities, the primary goal is commercial benefit. The execution of gays, repression of Jews and other minorities, and terrorism are inconveniences to ignore. . . .

It was the German foreign minister Klaus Kinkel who, in 1992, entered office trumpeting human rights while simultaneously seeking to expand trade with the Islamic Republic. At the time, most European countries stood in solidarity against Iran due to the contract the regime had issued on the life of author Salman Rushdie. By promising to tie trade with a substantive discussion of human rights, Kinkel provided an excuse to return German firms to the Iranian market.
U.S. State Department designates HAN and its members terrorists
The United States Department of State on Tuesday designated the Iranian proxy group Harakat al-Nujaba (HAN) and its leader, Akram 'Abbas al-Kabi, as Specially Designated Global Terrorists (SDGTs) under Executive Order (E.O.) 13224.

“Today’s designations seek to deny HAN and al-Kabi the resources to plan and carry out terrorist attacks,” the Department of State said in a statement.

As a result of this new designation, all of HAN and al-Kabi’s property and interests in property subject to US jurisdiction are blocked. Americans are prohibited from engaging in any transactions with them.

HAN was established in 2013 by al-Kabi. The organization is an Iran-backed Iraqi militia funded by, but not under the control of, the Iraqi government. HAN operates out of loyalty to the Iranian Supreme Leader Ayatollah Khamenei and, according to the Department of State, al-Kabi has publicly claimed that he would follow any order, including overthrowing the Iraqi government or fighting alongside the Houthis in Yemen, if Ayatollah Khamenei declared it to be a religious duty.

HAN likewise has close ties with IRGC-QF Commander Qassem Soleimani and Hezbollah Secretary-General Hassan Nasrallah. Both Soleimani and Nasrallah are Specially Designated Global Terrorists.

The Department of the Treasury designated al-Kabi in 2008 under E.O. 13438 for planning and conducting multiple attacks against coalition forces, including mortar and rocket launches into the International Zone.
Holland recalls envoy from Iran in escalating murder plot row
The Netherlands said Monday it had recalled its ambassador from Tehran after Iran expelled two Dutch diplomats in an escalating dispute over an alleged plot to assassinate regime opponents.

Dutch authorities accused Iran in January of involvement in the murder of two dissidents on Dutch soil in 2015 and 2017, and the European Union slapped sanctions on Tehran over the killings.

Foreign Minister Stef Blok said in a letter to the Dutch parliament that the government “has decided to recall the Netherlands’ ambassador to Tehran for consultations” over the row.

Iran’s decision to expel the Dutch officials — which was not previously announced in public — was “not acceptable and is negative for the development of the bilateral relationship,” Blok said.

He said Iran’s move was itself a tit-for-tat response to the Netherlands’ expulsion of two Iranian embassy workers in June 2018 “due to strong indications from (Dutch intelligence) that Iran has been involved in the liquidations on Dutch territory of two Dutch people of Iranian origin.”



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The Israel Situation:The Elder manages to write so many great, investigative posts that I am often looking to him for important news on the PalArab (his term for Palestinian Arab) side of things."
Tikun Olam: "Either you are carelessly ignorant or a willful liar and distorter of the truth. Either way, it makes you one mean SOB."
Mondoweiss commenter: "For virulent pro-Zionism (and plain straightforward lies of course) there is nothing much to beat it."
Didi Remez: "Leading wingnut"

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