Thursday, March 07, 2019

From Ian:

How Influential Is AIPAC? Less Than Beer Sellers, Public Accountants, and Toyota
AIPAC has a somewhat unique model that a simple dollar comparison might miss. AIPAC-linked activists often begin donating to future members of Congress early in their political careers, thus encouraging other pro-Israel donors to fund and otherwise support candidates with long-term promise. Pro-Israel activists are a political force, but the reasons apparently go beyond sheer spending power or the influence of AIPAC-linked networks. According to the Center for Responsive Politics, pro-Israel donors were’ the 34th largest-giving interest group to members of Congress in 2018, slightly behind the nonprofit sector and slightly ahead of building-trades unions, neither of which are generally thought of as the invisible hand guiding American policy.

Even a large and impactful donor network is fairly useless without a Washington operation that can translate its priorities into actual legislation. The way AIPAC is talked about, you’d think they’d be a lobbying juggernaut, surely one of the largest in the nation’s capital.

Wrong again: For the period between 1998 and 2018, AIPAC didn’t make a dent in the Center for Responsive Politics’ list of the top-spending lobbying groups. The US Chamber of Commerce spent $1.5 billion during that span, with the National Association of Realtors coming in a distant second, at $534 million. In 2018, top spenders included Google parent company Alphabet, which spent $21.7 million in Washington, and Facebook, which shelled out over $12 million to lobbyists that year. The third-largest spender of 2018 was the Open Society Policy Center, a project of the notably Israel-critical billionaire George Soros, which ran up a $31.5 million tab in its attempts to influence the federal government. That nearly doubled the organization’s $16 million in spending in 2017, another year that AIPAC failed to crack the top 50, unlike such notorious civic menaces as American Amusements and AARP.

In 2018, total pro-Israel lobbying spending was around $5 million, of which AIPAC accounted for $3.5 million. In contrast, Native American casinos spent around $22 million that year. By Tablet’s count, AIPAC was the 147th highest-ranked entity in terms of lobbying spending in 2018. Their expenditures were about the same as International Paper, a company which is seldom tweet-stormed or even written about. The American Association of Airport Executives and Association of American Railroads outspent AIPAC by nearly a million dollars each—sensible, given the rivalry between the respective modes of transportation whose interests they represent. It’s $2 million behind both American Airlines and the Recording Industry Association of America, entities whose malign influence has gone regrettably underexamined over the years.
Khaled Abu Toameh: Palestinians: Arresting, Torturing Journalists
Under both the PA and Hamas, Palestinian journalists are expected to serve as faithful soldiers and mouthpieces for both their leaders and their people. In the world of the Palestinians, a journalist who dares to criticize his leaders is typically denounced as a "traitor" or "Zionist agent." That is undoubtedly the reason Palestinian journalists living under the PA and Hamas are afraid to report anything that would reflect negatively on Palestinian leaders.

In the world of the Palestinian Authority and Hamas, the only "good" journalists are those who report negatively about Israel. Independent journalists therefore find themselves forced to seek work in non-Palestinian media organizations, including some in Israel. Even then, these journalists, especially those who live under the PA and Hamas, engage in massive self-censorship.

The PA and Hamas crackdown on journalists is not a new practice and does not come as a surprise. On the contrary, the surprise would be the day we see a Palestinian journalist living in Ramallah open his or her mouth concerning Abbas or any of his top officials.

What is hard to understand are the continued closed mouths of the international community and media towards this ongoing assault on the freedom of the media in the West Bank and Gaza Strip. Had Nasser and Abu Arafeh been arrested by the Israeli authorities, their "plight" would have been splashed over headlines across the globe.
What Declassified Vatican Archives Might Reveal about the Church and World War II
On Monday, Pope Francis announced his intention to open in their entirety the Vatican archives of Pius XII, who served in the papacy from 1939 to 1958. Even after the publication of thousands of documents in the 1960s and 1970s, Pius’s wartime activities have remained the subject of intense controversy, with one author dubbing him “Hitler’s pope” while others have argued that he saved hundreds, if not thousands, of Jewish lives. David Kertzer, a scholar of the wartime church, explains why the archives matter:

Less noticed in initial accounts of the announcement is the fact that Francis’s opening of the Pius XII archives makes available not only the seventeen million pages of documents in the central Vatican archives, but many other materials in other Church archives. Not least of these are the archives of the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith (formerly known as the Holy Office of the Inquisition) and the central archives of the Jesuit order. They, too, are likely to have much that is new to tell us. . . .

In an effort to respond to critics, the Holy See commissioned four Jesuits to plow through the archives and publish a selection of documents shedding light on the controversy. The result, over a sixteen-year period beginning in 1965, was twelve thick volumes containing thousands of documents. Although skeptics suspected the Jesuit editors of selecting out documents unflattering to the Church, the volumes are far from a simple whitewash of this troubled history. . . .

[In 1999], the Vatican announced the creation of an unusual interreligious historical commission, composed of three Catholic and three Jewish scholars, tasked with shedding light on the role played by the Vatican as the Holocaust unfolded. After examining the twelve volumes of documents that had earlier been published, its members concluded that they could not draw any adequate historical conclusions without access to the archives themselves. When the Vatican refused to grant their request, the members decided to suspend their work, a decision that generated both embarrassment and polemics. . . .

MEMRI: Article In Saudi Daily: The Jews Spread Antisemitic Propaganda In Arab World To Cause Arabs To Fear Them
An article in the Saudi government daily Al-Watan, by the daily's columnist Muhammad Al-Sa'idi, claimed that the Jews deliberately promote the publication and circulation of antisemitic literature in Arab countries that describes them as secretly running the world. This, in order to convince the Arabs of their power and thereby demoralize and frighten them. When the same literature appears in the West, he added, the Jews fight it in order to maintain their positive image there and present themselves as victims. Al-Sa'idi claimed further that Israel's real foreign policy is the opposite of what its officials present: it maintains close ties with its alleged enemies, such as Iran and Qatar, while pretending to be friendly with countries that actually have no ties with it, like Saudi Arabia.

The following are excerpts from the article:
"The book Pawns in the Game, by William Guy Carr,[i] was published in Arabic in several versions, one of them titled The Jews Are Behind Every Crime... [In this book, Carr] explains that the disasters that befell Europe in the early modern era and spread to the rest of the world were all caused by the Jews, and that even developments in Western history that many people regard as positive, such as the French Revolution, were [actually bad developments] that the Jewish media beautified and misrepresented, presenting them as glowing achievements while concealing [their] sordid facts and even more sordid outcomes – and all this just in order to serve the global interests of the Jews.

"The author managed, with great intelligence and skill, to tie the Jews to all these events and present them to the reader as possessing a power so remarkable that it cannot be withstood. This caused some people to observe that the book served as excellent propaganda for global Zionism in the 1940s [sic][ii] and 1950s and they did not rule out that the author intended this, and that he was forced to carry out this task [i.e., write the book] at a time when the Jews needed the peoples and the governments, especially the Muslim ones, to fear them. Indeed, the idea put forth in the book had its effect, so that most of the scholars, intellectuals and leaders that comprise the elites in the Arab world believe that the Jews run everything in the world and that the world is a mere toy for Israel to play with...
MEMRI: Mauritanian Cleric Muhammad Ould Dedew: Jews Are Allah's Enemies; Jews – And Christians, Who 'Are Not Like The Christians Of The Past' – Are Behind All Usury, Banks, Casinos, Insurance Companies; When Zionist Dream 'Does Not Come True They Will Go Back... To Russia And To Their Countries Of Origin'
Mauritanian cleric Muhammad Ould Dedew said in a February 12 show on Dorar TV (Sudan) that the Jews are the enemies of Allah and of economy and that they use false means to plunder the wealth of others. He said that they are behind insurance companies, casinos, lotteries, and usurious banks. He also said that the Christians are arrogant and haughty by nature. In a February 5, 2019 show on Al-Aqsa TV (Hamas/Gaza), Dedew said that there will be two great wars with the Jews in which they will be the followers of the Antichrist and in which the rocks and the trees will call out to Muslims saying that there are Jews hiding behind them. In addition, he said that the Zionists are a wretched people and that Jerusalem will be liberated soon.

February 5, 2019 On Dorar TV – "To This Day, [The Jews] Behave Just Like Their Ancestors, The Enmity Towards Allah Is Ingrained In Them – They Are The Enemies Of Allah Among His Creatures"

Muhammad Ould Dedew: "The minds of some Muslims have become weak. Some of those corrupt tyrants thought that if they allowed the Pope to hold a mass in the Arabian Peninsula, and if they invited him and built an 'Abrahamic House' for him, this would change Islam, just like Judaism and Christianity had been changed. But this plan was doomed to fail before it began. Islam cannot be changed.
"To this day, [the Jews] behave just like their ancestors. The enmity towards Allah is ingrained in them. They are the enemies of Allah among his creatures.
"In addition, they are the enemies of economy and they spread corruption upon the land. They have always enabled unlawful trade. Whenever they could, they would plunder people's wealth using false means. The institutions they established are the basis for the world economy. Who invented the usurious banks?"

Interviewer: "They did."
Muhammad Ould Dedew: "Did these banks emerge from Greek, Roman, Persian or Byzantine civilization? No, they were invented by the Jews. The casinos and lotteries..."

Interviewer: "And the cinemas and fashion houses..."
Muhammad Ould Dedew: "Who founded them? The Jews did. Who invented the insurance companies? The Jews did. They were all invented by the Jews. We should never be ashamed to say things as they are. The same applies to the Christians. Many of today's Christians are not like the Christians of the past.
Ngo-Monitor: Analysis: B’Tselem Hires Radical American Campaigner
Zimmerman is a co-founder of IfNotNow (INN), a US-based fringe group using highly polarizing tactics in attacking American Jewish institutions citing supposed “support for occupation.” In February 2019, group members went so far as to picket Shabbat prayer services at the University of Texas-Austin, which included a scheduled talk by an IDF veteran. In addition to staging noisy protests and sit-ins, the group has gained notoriety for harassing Birthright participants and staging publicity stunts during Birthright trips.

Although largely rejected or ignored by the mainstream Jewish community, INN has cultivated links with radical Palestinian groups. It’s “Liberation Syllabus” includes books by the late Ghassan Kanafani, a spokesperson for the Popular Front of the Liberation of Palestine (PFLP), designated as a terrorist organization by the US, EU, Canada, and Israel.

Zimmerman also very, very briefly served as “national Jewish outreach coordinator” for US Senator Bernie Sanders’ 2016 presidential campaign. She was dismissed as a result of profanity-laced social media posts, accusing Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu of sanctioning “the murder of over 2,000 people” during the 2014 Gaza War.

In her new position, Zimmerman will expand B’Tselem’s efforts to shape “soft power” pressure against Israel, adding to the efforts of Executive Director Hagai El-Ad and other B’Tselem staffers. The new anti-Israel members of Congress are prime targets for B’Tselem’s strategy, as well as increasing lobbying with UN and other international frameworks for international intervention against Israel.

The addition of Zimmerman “to amplify B’Tselem’s voice among U.S. policymakers and the broader public,” is additional evidence that the Israeli organization has eschewed genuine human rights work vis-à-vis Israeli audiences, in favor of fringe political advocacy that seeks to add to the polarization in both Israel and the American Jewish community.

In turn, given B’Tselem’s reliance on funding from European governments (approximately two-thirds of the NGO’s total annual budget) the hiring of Zimmerman is likely to sharpen the conflict between Israel and Europe over the latter’s role in promoting NGO interference. As B’Tselem seeks to further polarize the relationship between Israel and the Jewish community in the US, the criticism of European funding will become even more salient than it has been already.
Honest Reporting: Jewish Ties to the Temple Mount – What’s the Story?
Much of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict is about land. There are strong Christian, Muslim and indeed Jewish ties to the region. But there’s one particular parcel of land that is fraught with history, symbolism and meaning, not just to the Jews and Palestinians living in Israel, but to people around the world.

The Temple Mount.
This trapezoid-shaped esplanade is the most sensitive 37 acres in Israel, maybe even in the world. Most prominent is the iconic glittering golden-roofed Dome of the Rock. Inside is the Foundation Stone, which many believe is the location of the Holy of Holies. Sitting on the southern edge of the plaza is the Al-Aqsa Mosque. At the bottom of the western side of a retaining wall surrounding the Temple Mount is the Western Wall.

On any given day, pilgrims from all over the world come to Jerusalem looking for God, or at least some kind of spiritual experience. Within walking distance of the Temple Mount are Mount Zion, the Mount of Olives, the Church of the Holy Sepulchre, the Via Dolorosa, Siloam’s Pool and Hezekiah’s tunnel and other sites associated with the Bible.

With so many holy and historical sites, why is the Temple Mount the one place that arouses so much more passion?
New poll: Americans’ support for Israel falls to lowest point in a decade
Support for Israel in the American public is at its lowest point in a decade, according new Gallup poll released Wednesday, with a whopping decline among self-identified Republicans who said they sympathized more with Israelis than Palestinians.

Whereas 65 percent of Americans said they were “more sympathetic” to Israel over the Palestinians in 2018, 59% said the same in 2019, marking a six point drop. That decline is the biggest over a one-year period in the history of the poll, which began in 2001. The number of Americans who said they sympathized more with the Palestinian, however, went unchanged over the last year, remaining at 21 percent.

The 2019 survey found that the decline in sympathy for Israel extended to both Democrats and Republicans. While support for Israel among Democrats dropped by 6%, Republican support declined by 13%, a staggering figure in light of Republican President Donald Trump’s cultivation of an intensely close relationship with Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu.

“The percentage of Republicans saying they sympathize more with Israel in the conflict fell from an all-time high of 87% in 2018 to 76% today,” the poll said.

The percentage of people who identified as political independents remained the same over the last year, with 60% sympathizing more with Israel.

Last year’s survey came as the administration was preparing to relocate the US embassy from Tel Aviv to Jerusalem, which infuriated Palestinians.

NY Times Reporter David Halbfinger Editorializes Israel as "Brutal"
Israel, according to the New York Times, is a brute.

A March 3 news analysis piece—not an opinion piece—by the newspaper's Jerusalem bureau chief David Halbfinger uses that word when broadly charging the Jewish state with "brutal treatment of the Palestinians":

Running as Israel's indispensable man, Mr. Netanyahu argues that he is the only one who can keep Israel safe when Iran is making aggressive moves from nearly every direction. Because of him, he says, Israel's tech sector has become the envy of much of the world, formerly hostile capitals have opened to Israeli diplomats, and a thorough debunking has been administered to the idea that Israel, with its brutal treatment of the Palestinians, had to choose between its security and international acceptance.

This isn't reporting, and certainly isn't reporting "without fear or favor," as the newspaper repeatedly promises. It's anti-Israel activism.

It is true that, ever since its independence, Israel has been mired in a longtime conflict with neighboring countries and with violent terror organizations committed to the destruction of the state. Yes, it has fought wars with Hamas in Gaza in order to stop relentless rocket attacks on Israeli towns and cities. Wars are indeed destructive.
USAID Chief Open to Fixing Law That Closed Operations in the West Bank and Gaza
US Agency for International Development administrator Mark Green said last week that USAID is open to Congress amending the Anti-Terrorism Clarification Act, which enabled last month’s cessation of the agency’s operations in the West Bank and Gaza.

“We welcome the chance to continue discussions with you on the future of West Bank/Gaza assistance,” said Green in a hearing at the House Committee on Oversight and Reform’s subcommittee on State, Foreign Operations and Related Programs.

“But as a result of the passage of that law, we’ve been directed by attorneys at the State Department and at USAID, and again, at the specific request of the Palestinian Authority, to cease assistance,” he continued.

The act, signed into law in October and scheduled to take effect in January, provides protections for American victims of international terrorism.

The chairwoman of the subcommittee, Rep. Nita Lowey (D-N.Y.), slammed the agency for stopping its operations in the Palestinian areas.

“In my judgement, this is a decision that doesn’t make any sense,” she said. “It reverses more than two decades of bipartisan support for humanitarian, economic and security assistance, and I have long argued that such funding with stringent conditions plays a critical role in improving the lives of Palestinians.”

WJC Calls on Belarussian Municipality to Halt Work Near Mass Jewish Grave
The World Jewish Congress has called on the municipality in the Belarussian city of Brest to cease construction at an uncovered mass grave of more than 1,000 Jews who were shot by the Nazis during the Holocaust.

“The construction project underway in Brest is an affront to the memories of the Jewish residents of the city who were shot and murdered in cold blood at that very site,” said WJC CEO and Executive Vice President Robert Singer. “The municipality had the very clear responsibility to carefully examine the land in question prior to issuing a building permit, particularly when it is known by historians and eyewitnesses that the Jewish population was subjected to mass executions there.”

“We urge the municipality of Brest to do its due diligence and order all construction ceased until it is able to carry out a full forensic investigation at the site and ensure that the remains of human bodies are removed and given a proper burial,” he continued. “If it emerges that this was indeed the location where hundreds of Jewish women, children and the elderly were killed, then we trust that the municipality’s decision on how to proceed will take into consideration respect for the Jewish community and the tragic history that befell it.”

Currently, at least 730 bodies have been unearthed by Belarusian soldiers in a pit at a building site in Brest, a city along the Polish border. Brest was the location of the Union of Brest and Treaty of Brest-Litovsk.

“We will not allow the building of anything on bones of people,” said Gov. Alexander Rogachuk.
Mordechai Kedar endorses Bennett's 'New Right'
The New Right party on Wednesday morning published a video clip featuring Middle East expert Dr. Mordechai Kedar explaining why he supports New Right Chairman Education Minister Naftali Bennett and Justice Minister Ayelet Shaked.

In the video, Kedar explains that there are two types of people involved in Israeli politics - "those who know the political quarrel-mongering well" and "people who are leaders, who think big and have a goal other than surviving in politics, people who see a future."

Bennett, Kedar says, "is of the second type."

"The New Right has two leaders - Naftali Bennett and Ayelet Shaked. Naftali is a man who says 'after me.' He doesn't say 'run ahead,' he says 'after me' - that's his personality. And she is a lady who speaks the truth. Bennett and Shaked, in my opinion, are a winning team."

He also noted that the two are "people who are connected to Jewish tradition, proud of it, and willing to sacrifice themselves and their time on the altar of the nation." (h/t Elder of Lobby)
The Left is disguising itself as Right
The Blue and White party's platform reminds me of a field trip to the city of Safed in the sixth grade. During the trip we visited a museum, where our teacher showed us an oil painting of a woman's face and convinced us that regardless of where we stood the woman would appear to be looking at us, smiling and winking.

Blue and White's platform is trying to wink at everyone, on the Right, Left and Center. My impression is that the platform was concocted by publicists and former media members, much like the speech party chairman Benny Gantz delivered in English at the Munich Security Conference on February 17.

Upon closer examination, it looks like it was copy-pasted from previous platforms presented by Labor, Yesh Atid and Kadima. Due to its considerable length, we can't touch on every detail here. We should, however, address the core issues prepped for the party's four co-leaders, who boast their 117 years of combined military experience. I only wonder if they also included Yair Lapid's military experience at Bamahane, the IDF magazine, as he is slated to be prime minister on rotation if they win – not to mention the zero total years of political and parliamentary experience for the person who would serve first in that rotation, Gantz.
Former TV News Anchor Set to Become First Druze Woman in Israel’s Parliament
With Israel’s election just over a month away, a Druze former television news anchor is poised to become the first woman from her Arabic-speaking minority to serve in the Israeli parliament.

Gadeer Mreeh, who is running for the centrist Blue and White party led by former armed forces chief Benny Gantz, is all but guaranteed a seat in the Knesset in an election system where voters choose from a list of candidates. Gantz is the main opponent of Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu.

Mreeh, a former anchor with Israel’s public broadcaster, said her life has been a series of firsts for minority women in the country.

“I was the first non-Jewish woman to anchor a Hebrew-language news broadcast,” Mreeh, 34, said from her village of Daliyat al-Karmel, a major population center for the Druze, who practice an offshoot of Islam and are one of Israel’s most integrated minorities.

Rising through the ranks of Israeli media wasn’t easy, Mreeh said, citing among other factors criticism from some in her conservative community who see journalistic work as unsuitable for women.
Far-Rightists Cleared for Israel Election, Arab Party Blocked
Israel‘s election board has approved far-right Jewish candidates accused by rivals of racism for next month’s election while disqualifying an Arab party that Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said supported terrorism.

The Central Elections Committee’s decisions, taken late on Wednesday, were unlikely to be implemented before court appeals, but stoked an already acrimonious race for the April 9 vote.

Facing a corruption case and a merger of centrist parties that could defeat him, the conservative Netanyahu has allied with an ultra-nationalist list that includes the Jewish Power party to boost his chances.

The elections committee, made up of members of the outgoing parliament, struck down motions that had sought to bar as racist Jewish Power’s Michael Ben-Ari and Itamar Ben-Gvir, who are adherents of late extremist Rabbi Meir Kahane.

Left-wing party Meretz said it would appeal, along with center-left Labor, to the Supreme Court against the decision to let the Jewish Power candidates stand.

The committee also voted 17-10 to bar Arab party Balad from the election in accordance with a motion filed by Netanyahu’s ruling Likud party. Likud says Balad wants to eliminate Israel as a Jewish state and backs Palestinian and Lebanese militants.
Ex-IAF chief: Future conflicts will bring 'widespread missile fire'
All of Israel's future conflicts will see major enemy fire on the civilian homefront, meaning that air defense is more crucial than ever, a former Israel Air Force chief has told JNS following the start of an Israeli-American joint exercise.

In recent days, the Israel Defense Forces and the U.S. military's European Command (EUCOM) announced that for the first time, the United States has brought over its Terminal High Altitude Area Defense (THAAD) system to Israel.

The unprecedented move is part of a joint missile defense drill.

The exercise could be seen as a signal to Iran and its proxies of Washington's commitment to help Israel defend its air space in the event of a future war.

According to foreign media reports, Iran has hundreds of ballistic missiles in its arsenal, while its proxy, Hezbollah, has an estimated 130,000 projectiles, including long-range rockets and missiles that can strike any point in Israel.

Maj. Gen. (ret.) Eitan Ben-Eliyahu, who commanded the IAF from 1996 to 2000, told JNS that "from here on out, in any combat scenario, whether it is local or regional, there will be widespread use of rockets and missiles [by the enemy].

Even if the IDF conducts a highly successful offensive strategy, this may not be sufficient to suitably protect the fighting forces, and it especially will not suitably protect the homefront. Hence, there is no choice but to combine between offense and active defense at the same time."
Three IDF soldiers convicted of abusing Palestinian prisoners
Three Israeli soldiers from the religious Netzah Yehuda Battalion were convicted Thursday of abusing two Palestinian prisoners, after accepting a plea deal with military prosecutors.

Under the agreement, the servicemen pleaded guilty to aggravated abuse in the January incident and will receive 190 days in prison, a demotion in rank, and probation, but will avoid more serious assault charges.

Their sentencing hearing, where a final decision will be made regarding punishment, has been scheduled for Sunday.

The three soldiers were part of a group of five servicemen of the Kfir Brigade’s Netzah Yehuda Battalion who were arrested in January and charged with severely abusing two Palestinian suspects believed to have assisted a terrorist who had killed two of their comrades in a shooting attack at a bus stop.

The two other soldiers indicted in January have yet to reach similar plea agreements with military prosecutors, but the two sides were still working to negotiate one, a military official said.
Reuters, AFP Captions Misidentify Bombed Hamas Base as ‘Under-Construction Seaport’
Both Israeli and Hamas sources confirm that an Israeli airstrike last night hit a Hamas base in the southern Gaza Strip, but that fact did not stop two leading photo agencies – Agence France Presse and Reuters – from publishing numerous captions falsely claiming the bombed Hamas site is an "under-construction seaport."
Hamas has itself acknowledged that the site, which the IDF bombed after Gazans fired a mortar shell at Israel, belongs to the organization. Hamas' Shehab News Agency reported that the Israeli airstrike hit "a site belonging to the Palestinian resistance in the city of Khan Younes" (ie, Hamas).
The Palestinian Maan news site accordingly reported: "Israeli warplanes carried out airstrikes, targeting two Hamas movement sites, located in central and southern Gaza." Indeed, AFP itself has reported:

Israeli fighter jets later struck several sites belonging to Gaza's Islamist rulers Hamas in southern Gaza, an army statement said.

An army statement said the strikes were "in response to the balloons carrying explosive devices and the projectile that were launched from the Gaza Strip at Israeli territory earlier this evening."

A Palestinian security source said a Hamas base was struck in southern Gaza, causing damage but no injuries.
Jordan jails 2 for plot to attack Israeli troops over US embassy move
A Jordanian court on Wednesday sentenced two men to 10 years in prison with hard labor for planning an attack against Israeli forces on the kingdom’s border with the West Bank.

The state security court in Amman ruled that the men, Jordanians both in their 20s, had planned to target Israeli soldiers with a Kalashnikov assault rifle and a pistol.

They had hatched the plan last year after US President Donald Trump announced his controversial decision to recognize Jerusalem as capital of Israel, sparking outrage among Palestinians, a court document said.

One of those convicted planned “to carry out an armed terrorist operation… after (Trump’s) decision to move the American embassy to Jerusalem and over the abuses against Palestinians by the Israeli army,” it said.

The two men from the city of Madaba, 30 kilometers (20 miles) south of Amman, admitted they had also planned to open fire on Jordanian forces if they were intercepted, the charge sheet said.

They were intercepted by Jordanian border guards in May last year, before they could cross the border and reach Israeli forces.
IDF Demolishes Home of Terrorist Who Killed Two Soldiers, Wounded Civilians
The home of Asem Barghouti, who shot and killed two Israeli soldiers in December at a bus stop in Givat Asaf and assisted his brother in an attack that led to the death of a newborn baby, was razed to the ground by Israel Defense Forces in the early morning hours on Thursday.

Unlike some demolitions, in which Israel breaks the homes of terrorists but leaves them reasonably intact, the demolition of Barghouti’s house in Kobar, near Ramallah, reduced the two-story house to a pile of rubble.

Barghouti was arrested in January for the Dec. 13 attack that killed Cpl. Yosef Cohen and Sgt. Yovel Mor Yosef, and seriously injured soldier Netanel Felber and civilian Shira Sabag.

He was also charged with aiding his brother, Salih Barghouti, in committing an attack on the Ofra bus stop on Dec. 9, which injured seven Israelis, including Amichai and Shira Ish-Ran, who was seven months pregnant. Shira was evacuated to a Jerusalem hospital in critical condition and underwent an emergency Cesarean section to attempt to save the life of her baby, who died days later.

Salih Barghouti was shot and killed by Israeli troops while attempting to evade arrest on Dec. 12.
Palestinian charged with rape and murder of Israeli teen Ori Ansbacher
The suspect in the rape and murder of Israeli teen Ori Ansbacher was charged Thursday at the Jerusalem Magistrate’s Court.

Arafat Irfaiya, a 29-year-old resident of Hebron, was charged with rape and murder in the context of a terrorist act, for brutally attacking 19-year-old Ansbacher in a Jerusalem forest on the evening of February 7.

The legal proceedings will resume at a later date. The court remanded him in custody until March 17.

According to the indictment, Irfaiya entered Israel from the West Bank illegally in early February armed with a knife.

“He came across Ansbacher and decided to kill her because she was Jewish,” the charge sheet said. “He attacked Ori with violent cruelty, and though she tried to fight him off, he overpowered her. He stabbed her with a knife multiple times throughout her body, causing her death.”

The Jerusalem District Prosecutor’s office said no further details about Ansbacher’s murder would be revealed.
Israeli aircraft strike Hamas naval base after mortar fire sets off Iron Dome
Israeli warplanes bombed a Hamas naval post in the Gaza Strip early Thursday, hours after a mortar shell was fired from the Palestinian enclave at southern Israel, the army said.

“Fighter jets and aircraft struck several military targets in a Hamas compound in the southern Gaza Strip,” the Israel Defense Forces said in a statement.

Palestinian media reported that the target was a Hamas naval commando base. A Palestinian security source confirmed a Hamas base was struck, causing damage but no injuries. The Hamas-linked Shehab news site said the site was northwest of Khan Younis.

The strike came as Gaza’s Hamas-run health ministry announced that a 15-year-old boy had succumbed to wounds sustained during clashes with Israeli forces at the border fence Wednesday night.

The army said the strike, at about 1:30 a.m. was in response to a projectile fired from the Palestinian enclave and an explosives-laden balloons launched at Israel Wednesday night.

Hours earlier the army said that it had fired an Iron Dome air defense missile in response to the incoming mortar shell from the Strip.
Hamas conveys deescalation message to Israel amid fresh violence — report
The Hamas leadership has reportedly conveyed to Israel it is not interested in further escalating tensions in the Gaza Strip, but warned it will not accept any additional punitive measures against the Palestinian territory which it claims are designed to boost the popularity of Israeli political parties ahead of elections.

Unidentified Israeli sources quoted by the Saudi-owned daily Asharq al-Awsat said Hamas officials on Tuesday spoke to a visiting delegation of Egyptian intelligence officials, who then passed the message on to Jerusalem. The terror group also demanded that Israel abide by the terms of the informal truce agreement struck between the sides late last year.

“We are not willing to accept suffering and hunger in Gaza because of electoral considerations in Israel,” the report quoted Hamas officials as saying.

On Monday, Hamas leader Ismail Haniyeh said that in November Israel and Hamas reached understandings whereby Israel would extend Gaza’s fishing zone, increase the territory’s electricity supply and allow Qatari cash into Gaza for its public servants in exchange for calm on the border. But, he claimed, Israel breached the deal by staging an undercover raid in Gaza, which he said undermined understandings on broader issues “as if they never existed.”
PA warns: 'Without terrorist salaries we will nix Paris Protocol'
Israel has one week to reinstate funds it has deducted from the taxes it collects on behalf of the Palestinian Authority, otherwise, the PA will seek to reopen the Paris Protocol, the office of Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas warned in a statement Wednesday.

The Paris Protocol was an amendment to the Oslo II Accord of 1995.

As a reminder, last month the Israeli cabinet authorized a deduction of some 500 million shekels from the PA due to its longstanding policy of paying monthly stipends to convicted terrorists and their families.

The PA's finance minister wrote in a letter to Finance Minister Moshe Kahlon, among other things, that "the cuts to the PA taxes that Israel collects for the [PA] are intolerable and contravene the Oslo Accords and the economic amendations signed in Paris."

It should be noted that according to the PA, Israel also deducted funds earmarked for various other services for which the Palestinians rely on Israel, such as electricity, water and other infrastructure.

PA Foreign Minister Riad Malki, meanwhile, has asked international bodies to pressure Israel to return the deducted funds, which puts considerable strain on the PA's monthly budget.

The taxes Israel collects on the PA's behalf amount to 60% of its overall budget.
Debating pay-to-slay at the UN
At the request of Kuwait, the United Nations Security Council will discuss the decision of the Israeli government to stop providing the Palestinian Authority with the funds it then uses to pay financial rewards to Palestinian terrorists who murdered Israelis, attempted to murder Israelis or were otherwise involved in terrorism against Israel and Israelis. A fundamental stipulation and Palestinian commitment of the Oslo peace process was to abandon the use of violence as a means to achieve the Palestinian goal of self-determination.

This commitment included the provision that "both sides shall take all measures necessary in order to prevent acts of terrorism, crime and hostilities directed against each other" (Art. 25 of the Israeli-Palestinian Interim Agreement on the West Bank and the Gaza Strip); that each side will "actively prevent incitement to violence, including violence against the other side or persons under the authority of the other side"; and "apprehend, investigate and prosecute perpetrators and all other persons directly or indirectly involved in acts of terrorism, violence and incitement" (Art. 2 of Annex 1).

In order to provide the PA with the financial means with which to meet its obligations, Israel agreed to collect a range of different taxes – predominantly import taxes – on behalf of the PA.
Al-Aqsa TV: Death to Israel, turn them into body parts, roast them
"Declaring Al-Asqa TV a terror organization is a precise labeling," said Itamar Marcus, director of Palestinian Media Watch (PMW), a media watchdog group, commenting on Netanyahu's decision to declare the Hamas-affliated Al-Aqsa TV channel a terrorist organization on Wednesday.

"Al-Asqa TV promotes all the components of Palestinian terror, including murder of Jews, suicide bombings, kidnapping of soldiers, bombing our cites and destruction of Israel," Marcus continued.

"It uses all the means available on TV to make its messages compelling to the Palestinian population, including religious sermons, children's programs and even music videos celebrating murder."

PMW recorded the words of a Hamas music video aired on the channel: "Strap on an explosive belt... O Martyrdom seeker, respond to Al-Aqsa's call... send them to Hell... Let fire burn them, turn them into body parts, roast them."

Rights Groups Slam Iran for Promoting Cleric Implicated in Mass Executions to Head Judiciary
Rights groups and the United States government criticized Iran for appointing a cleric who has been implicated for his role in mass executions in the 1980s to head its judiciary, the Voice of America reported Wednesday.

Ebrahim Raisi was the deputy prosecutor in Tehran in 1988 when the regime carried out thousands of summary executions of dissidents.

While the VOA reported that although “Iran’s Islamist leaders have ignored or denied the existence of such mass executions,” in 2016, the regime jailed the son of Grand Ayatollah Hossein Ali Montazeri for releasing recordings of his father objecting to the death sentences.

Mahmood Amiry-Moghaddam, the director of the Oslo-based group Iran Human Rights (IHR), described the appointment of Raisi as a show of defiance by Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei against both foreign and domestic critics.

Shadi Sadr, director of Justice for Iran, told VOA Persian that the appointment would protect Raisi from prosecution. However, she said that the international community could still act against the cleric, by imposing a travel ban on him as a human rights violator.
Iran bypassing sanctions, secretly smuggling oil, Netanyahu claims
Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu on Wednesday accused Iran of secretly smuggling oil to get past economic sanctions, and called on the international community to take action against the activity.

“Iran is trying to bypass the sanctions on it through the covert smuggling of petroleum via the sea,” the prime minister said at a graduation ceremony for an Israeli Navy cadets course, held at the Haifa naval base. “As these attempts expand, the navy will have a more important role in efforts to block these Iranian actions.

“I call on the international community to halt, by any means, Iran’s attempts to bypass the sanctions via the sea,” Netanyahu said.

Israel, he added, constantly carries out sea-based operations against its enemies, “most of [which] are unknown.”

Last May the US pulled out of the landmark 2015 nuclear deal that saw stiff economic sanctions on Iran lifted in return for the dismantling of the weapons-capable elements of its nuclear development program. US President Donald Trump has said the deal, known as the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action, doesn’t go far enough in preventing Iran from obtaining nuclear weapons and does not restrict the Iranian missile development program.
NATO Member Turkey Announces Joint Military Operation With Iranian Regime Against Kurdish Fighters
Turkey and Iran are planning joint military operations against the Kurdistan Workers’ Party (PKK), Turkish Interior Minister Suleyman Soylu announced Wednesday, according to the Anadolu state news agency.

“God willing, we will carry out a joint operation against the PKK together with Iran,” Soylu was quoted as saying.

Designated as a terrorist organization by Turkey, the United States and the European Union, the PKK has waged an armed struggle over several decades for greater Kurdish political and cultural rights in Turkey. It is allied in Iran with PJAK, an armed group based in Iran’s Kurdish minority.

About half of the Middle East’s 30 million Kurds live in Turkey, with another 12 million in Iran and the remainder in Iraq and Syria.

Soylu did not specify which PKK bases the planned operation would target, but Turkey has frequently struck at Kurdish strongholds in Iraq and Syria.
US Should Not Sell F-35 Jets to Turkey Unless It Drops Russian System, American General Says
The top US general in Europe said on Tuesday that he would recommend that the United States should not sell Lockheed Martin Corp F-35 jets to NATO ally Turkey if Ankara does not drop plans to buy S-400 surface-to-air missile defense systems from Russia.

Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan has said it is committed to buying the Russian system, despite warnings from the US-led alliance that the S-400s cannot be integrated into the NATO air defense system.

“My best military advice would be that we don’t then follow through with the F-35, flying it or working with an ally that’s working with Russian systems, particularly air defense systems, with what I would say is probably one of most advanced technological capabilities,” US Army General Curtis Scaparrotti, the head of US forces in Europe, said during a Senate Armed Services Committee hearing. Scaparrotti is also the NATO Supreme Allied Commander Europe.

US officials have said that if Turkey proceeds with the S-400 purchase, Washington will withdraw its offer to sell a $3.5 billion Raytheon Co Patriot missile package.
Europeans, Canada, Australia Issue First Rebuke of Saudi Arabia at UN Rights Forum
Three dozen countries, including all 28 EU members, called on Saudi Arabia on Thursday to release 10 activists and cooperate with a UN-led investigation into the murder of journalist Jamal Khashoggi at its Istanbul consulate.

It was the first rebuke of the kingdom at the UN Human Rights Council since it was set up in 2006 and came amid growing international concern about Saudi violations of basic freedoms such as freedom of expression.

“It is a success for Europe to be united on this,” an envoy of an EU country told Reuters.

The unprecedented joint statement, also backed by Canada and Australia but not the United States, was read out by Harald Aspelund, Iceland’s ambassador to the United Nations in Geneva. There was no immediate Saudi reaction.

“We are particularly concerned about the use of the counter-terrorism law and other national security provisions against individuals peacefully exercising their rights and freedoms,” Aspelund said, reading the text.

Activists can and should play “a vital role in the process of reform which the Kingdom is pursuing,” it said.
Syrian Refugee in Greece: How Can I Keep Saying Israelis are the Enemy?
With a strong Israeli and Jewish presence offering assistance to refugees from Syria and other war-torn nations on the Greek islands, one native of Aleppo asked, “How can I keep saying you are the enemy?” Ynet reported Monday.

Thousands of refugees from Syria, Iraq, Iran, Afghanistan, and other Middle Eastern countries have made their way to the Greek islands with hopes of eventually settling elsewhere in Europe. In 2015, more than a million refugees crossed the Mediterranean, often in rickety boats, with the hopes of reaching wealthier nations where they could be absorbed.

There are an estimated 60,000 Syrian refugees in Greece, 14,000 of whom live on the Greek islands.

H. is a 20-year-old native of Aleppo, who lives in a refugee camp on the island of Lesbos.

“My whole life, all through my childhood in Syrian schools, I was taught that the Israelis are the enemy, and then the first thing I see when I approach the Greek coast is the Star of David on the shirts of Israelis who reach out and place me on the ground,” H. recalled of his arrival at the island.

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