Saturday, June 01, 2019

From Ian:

Ruthie Blum: Right from Wrong: Electing to defend Israel from Iran
Since replacing Olmert in 2009, then, Netanyahu has had to greenlight airstrikes on these convoys. Oh, and on Iranian targets in Syria, as well.

While on the subject of the Islamic Republic, Iranian Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif on Monday tweeted a characteristic attack on the Trump administration, accusing it of “economic terrorism [that] is hurting the Iranian people and causing tension in the region.”

He began his assault with a lie, of course, claiming that Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei “long ago said we’re not seeking nuclear weapons – by issuing a fatwa [religious Islamic decree] banning them.”

The story of this alleged fatwa was created by Iranian honchos for consumption by Western patsies as far back as 2005, and was reiterated prior to every summit held with and about Tehran. Former US president Barack Obama not only lapped it up, but spread it repeatedly to justify his appeasement of and capitulation to the mullah-led regime.

In 2015, mere months before reaching the deal with the devil, Obama declared: “Since Iran’s Supreme Leader has issued a fatwa against the development of nuclear weapons, this framework gives Iran the opportunity to verify that its program is, in fact, peaceful.”

Yet, the Middle East Media Research Institute (MEMRI) had written six exhaustive reports – one of which was released days before Obama made that statement – proving that such a fatwa never existed.

Luckily, Trump is not Obama. He believes what he sees, not the lying eyes of wishful thinkers and evildoers. And what he is witnessing are Iranian warships in the Persian Gulf threatening American interests.

Trump might not have needed a push from Netanyahu to grasp the gravity of a nuclear Iran, especially one with long-range ballistic missiles at the ready. But he appreciates the existence of a steadfast ally on the front lines, fending off Iran’s proxies on a daily basis.

Netanyahu’s adversaries at home and abroad are gleefully trying to portray Israel’s current political crisis as a failure of his leadership – or an attempt on his part to escape possible indictment – rather than what it is: an electoral system sorely in need of reform.

Indeed, Netanyahu’s critics refuse to acknowledge the real reason that he has been prime minister for the past decade. No other party chair on the scene at the moment inspires confidence that, under his or her watch, the country would be secure enough externally to withstand its internal strife.
Douglas Murray: Why this year’s al-Quds Day march could be different
This weekend might provide an interesting spectacle. On Sunday the annual al-Quds Day march sets off in London from outside the Home Office. Of course al-Quds Day is the day inaugurated by the late bigot Ayatollah Khomeini, and his initiative allows peace-loving Khomeinists to stroll along the streets of London (among other capital cities) calling for the destruction of the Jewish state.

Historically the event has always attracted controversy, not just because it is organised by the farcically misnamed ‘Islamic Human Rights Commission’ but because the speakers and organisers routinely make their intentions perfectly clear. Two years ago one of the speakers on the Al-Quds Day platform declared that ‘Zionists’ were responsible for the then very recent tragedy at Grenfell Tower. This is par for the course. The only people who would be attracted to the Al-Quds Day march are Muslim and non-Muslim anti-Semites. Those who it has attracted in the past have included the leader of Her Majesty’s Opposition, Jeremy Corbyn.

But the reason why this year is interesting is because of a rare positive development in the UK. In February I wrote about the British government’s announcement that it was intending to proscribe the terrorist group Hezbollah in its entirety. Up until then the British government had attempted to insist that there was a distinction between the political and military wings of Hezbollah, which is like pretending that there is a difference between the military and social action wings of ISIS.
Remember the Farhud, 78 years on
On the 78th anniversary of the Farhud on 1 and 2 June 1941, we recall the most traumatic event in the collective memory of Iraqi Jewry. It took place on the Jewish holiday of Shavuoth: 180 people were brutally murdered, thousands were wounded and raped, and shops and synagogues were plundered and destroyed. Here is an account prepared by the Museum of the Jewish People (Bet Hatfutsot) and reproduced in Haaretz:

The attack on the city's flourishing, peaceful Jewish community is usually referred to as the trigger for the Iraqi aliyah to Israel. But seldom is the question asked: How could such a pogrom have occurred in the first place in Iraq – a place where Jews had lived in peace for centuries, a country that did not seem to suffer anti-Semitic norms?

An examination of the historical background reveals the Farhud's causes: the opposing interests of the Iraqi government and the British Empire, Nazi Germany's influence, internal Arab movements, and a struggle between groups of Iraqi intellectuals. The unfortunate Jews were caught in the middle.

Historian Nissim Kazzaz has researched Iraqi Jewry and managed to put the Farhud in its historical context. Until the 1920s there was no significant evidence of anti-Semitism in Iraq. Old restrictions from the Ottoman era were abolished during the 20th century and the establishment of the British Mandate after World War I soon changed the Jews situation for the better.

Yet World War I had other outcomes as well. The Iraqi elite were introduced to "The Protocols of the Elders of Zion, a forged text that was partly translated from the original Russian into Arabic. New movements were rising in that period in Iraq, some of which argued that as long as the Jews did not hold national inspirations, they were part of the Iraqi nation without obstacles.



Jerusalem Day: How it all began
“Jerusalem Day,” or “Jerusalem Reunification Day,” is an officially recognized national holiday in Israel which enjoys broad acceptance in the country today. But, it has not always been so. In the year following the reunification of Jerusalem in the Six-Day War, the Prime Minister of Israel and the Mayor of Jerusalem openly objected to the creation of the holiday. It was only after the public itself made its opinion clear in favor of a new national holiday that the municipal and governmental institutions followed suit.

Following Israel’s War of Independence in 1948, Jerusalem was a divided city. For 19 years, West Jerusalem belonged to Israel, while East Jerusalem was held by Jordan. It was only in 1967, or more precisely, on the third day of the Six-Day War, that the soldiers of the IDF Paratroopers Brigade, commanded by Col. Motta Gur (a future Chief of Staff), broke through the Jordanian defenses and took the Old City and East Jerusalem. The reunification of Jerusalem was completed with Motta Gur’s now famous declaration “The Temple Mount is in our hands!”

Following the war, a desire emerged to establish a special day dedicated to the unified city of Jerusalem, the capital of the State of Israel. The first initiative came from the Chief Rabbinate on the first anniversary of the city’s reunification. The heads of the Rabbinate sought to establish the 28th day of the Hebrew month of Iyar as a day of thanksgiving for the miracles that resulted in the city’s unification under Israeli control.

The Jerusalem Municipality followed up on the rabbinical initiative, announcing its celebrations to mark the new Jerusalem Day holiday, but the Israeli government immediately attempted to have the decision cancelled, refusing to offer any funding for the ceremonies being planned.

Even Jerusalem’s mayor, Teddy Kollek, requested that his own municipal authorities cancel their plans for fear that the festivities would offend the Arab population of East Jerusalem. Prime Minister Levi Eshkol was also reluctant to hold the ceremony in its intended format. The Office of the Prime Minister released a statement that Eshkol would decline the “honorary citizenship” that the Jerusalem Municipality intended to award him at the ceremony. (h/t IsaacStorm)
Jerusalem: The Beating Heart of Jewish History
I studied at a yeshiva in Jerusalem in the late 1980s. At the time, it was just over 20 years since reunification, and the city was a bustling metropolis, with lush public parks and modern suburbs situated alongside updated and upgraded older neighborhoods.

The Old City — which had languished terribly under Jordanian rule — was accessible and fresh, with access to the holy sites available to Jew and Gentile. Already then, tens of thousands of visitors came from all over the world each year, able to stay in world-class hotels and take advantage of this ageless jewel, a city that was as invigorating as it was safe.

What a sea change from the Jerusalem of history, so aptly described by one 19th-century visitor, Frederick Henniker, in an 1823 published account of his visit there:

“The streets of [Jerusalem] are narrow and deserted, the houses dirty and ragged, the shops few and forsaken; and throughout the whole [city] there is not one symptom of either commerce, comfort, or happiness.”

Today, 30 years since my time in yeshiva, Jerusalem has further exceeded itself — it is a thriving city with every modern amenity, and a public transport system that outclasses many in the Western world.

Moreover, Judaism and Jewish life, including a vast range of Torah institutions and countless synagogues to cater to Jews of every shade and stripe, have at no point flourished over our long history as they do in Jerusalem today. (h/t IsaacStorm)
Jerusalem Day: Has U.S. Embassy move impacted world’s view on capital?
Dore Gold, who believes there is a objective change for the better in the world’s attitude toward Israel, said that some countries are waiting on the fence regarding an embassy move to see whether Trump is a “passing phenomenon.” If the president wins re-election in 2020, he predicted, “you might see a real wave of embassy relocations.”

Gold argued that the US step was significant, because it was the “first move that had consequence for the territories that Israel captured in the 1967 Six Day War. Up until now the situation with respect to all those territories was that they were in limbo, pending a negotiated outcome.”

Trump’s subsequent recognition of Israel’s sovereignty over the Golan Heights was another such step, he said.

The international community, according to Gold, has been stuck in a “time warp” regarding Jerusalem not only since 1967, but as far back as the UN acceptance of the Partition Plan in 1947 that envisioned the city and nearby Bethlehem as a corpus separatum, placed under an international regime with a special status because of its religious significance.

Diplomats from some European countries have since 1967 continued to talk about Jerusalem in terms of a corpus separatum, Gold said. “So by recognizing Jerusalem, not just by moving the embassy, the US helped put to rest these unrealistic scenarios,” he maintained.

Gold also noted that when people look at the source of international law on any particular issue, “what is critical is not just some international resolution in the UN General Assembly, but actual state practice. When the United States establishes an embassy in Jerusalem, it serves as the first significant step in state practice that can affect others and has consequences.”

Michael Oren, who served as Israel’s envoy to Washington during part of president Barack Obama’s term, said that if Obama – and not Trump – had moved the embassy as mandated by the US Congress, then “There is no question that other countries would have moved as well.”

He said the fact that Trump – who is so toxic is many capitals – made the move added another level of opposition in some quarters. In those quarters, he said, the opposition to the principle of Israeli sovereignty in Jerusalem is now compounded by another layer: opposition to the embassy move precisely because Trump is the one who initiated it.

While Oren believes that the move has had only marginal impact on the status of the city, he thinks it has had an impact on the diplomatic process.

“I think this has sparked the Arab world to realize that there is not unlimited time,” Oren said. “With Obama you had eight years of the most pro-Palestinian president, and the Arabs and Palestinians just sat on sidelines, because they knew they could just sit on the benches and eat popcorn while the US and Israel slugged it out. No one had to do anything. Now comes a president who says, if you don’t come to the [negotiation] table I am going to exact a price, and I am going to begin to give things to Israel.”

While this is obviously beneficial for Israel, he said, what is less helpful are some of the half-moves to set up honorary consulates or trade, cultural or defense offices in the capital – as the Romanians, Hungarians, Czechs and Australians have done, and which Brazil has declared it will do.

This, Oren said, provides a comfortable alibi to those countries for not moving the embassy. In addition, he said that when Australia recognized – as Moscow did – west Jerusalem as Israel’s capital, this did Israel’s claim of sovereignty over the whole city more harm than good.

Saying that he does not think this was Canberra’s intention, Oren said that recognizing only half of Jerusalem as Israel’s capital is basically a pro-Palestinian position, because “by recognizing west Jerusalem as Israel’s capital you are effectively recognizing east Jerusalem as a Palestinian capital and dividing the city.”
For first time, U.S. Embassy July 4th event to be held in Jerusalem
The United States Embassy’s annual July 4th reception will be held for the first time this year in Israel’s capital: Jerusalem.

For years the reception, attended by hundreds of government officials, diplomats and business people, was held at the home of the US ambassador in Herzliya. Last year, some two months after the US moved its embassy to Jerusalem and eight months after US President Donald Trump recognized Jerusalem as Israel’s capital, the event was held in Airport City near Ben-Gurion Airport.

Invitations sent out on Friday, however, announced that this year the event marking the US’s 243rd Independence Day will be held on Tuesday, July 2, at the International Convention Center in Jerusalem.

This comes following the relocation of the embassy to the former US consulate in the Jerusalem neighborhood of Arnona; the merger of the historic Jerusalem consulate offices on Agron Street into the embassy, and the establishment of a Palestinian Affairs Unit instead of using the Jerusalem consulate as an informal embassy to the Palestinians; and turning the consulate-general’s residence at the site into the ambassadorial residence.
EU slams Israel’s planned East Jerusalem construction as ‘obstacle to peace’
The European Union on Saturday criticized plans for new construction in Jewish East Jerusalem neighborhoods, saying that Israel’s policy was an “obstruction to peace.”

“The policy of settlement construction and expansion in East Jerusalem continues to undermine the possibility of a viable two state solution with Jerusalem as the future capital of both states, which is the only realistic way to achieve a just and lasting peace,” the statement read.

“The European Union is strongly opposed to Israel’s settlement policy, including in East Jerusalem, which is illegal under international law and an obstacle to peace,” it continued.

On Thursday, the Housing Ministry published tenders for the construction of 805 housing units in the neighborhoods of Ramot and Pisgat Zeev, the first building to take place in Jewish neighborhoods in East Jerusalem in a year, according to the left-wing NGO, Peace Now.
EU criticizes Israel over planned auction of seized West Bank aid
The European Union on Friday criticized Israel over apparent plans to sell aid given to Bedouin villages in the West Bank which was seized by Israeli authorities.

The tents and other humanitarian structures will be put up for auction within days by COGAT, the Defense Ministry unit which oversees civilian activities in the Palestinian territories, according to the EU’s spokesman in Jerusalem.

The supplies include “two school structures that had been consigned to Ibziq community; and two tents and three metal sheds to the al-Hadidiya community,” Shadi Othman said in a statement.

The aid was seized in October and November by Israeli authorities and is worth 15,320 euros ($17,100), according to Othman.

COGAT did not immediately respond to confirm a May 6 advertisement in the Maariv newspaper which detailed the sale of “seized property” from the West Bank.

“In the case where the owners of these seized assets have not proceeded to request the return of their property within 30 days of the publication of this notice, the assets will be sold,” it said.

The EU made an official request for the return of the structures but received no response, Othman said.
PA praises Arab, Muslim leaders' support of Palestinians in U.S. standoff
The PA on Saturday praised Arab and Muslim leaders for supporting the Palestinians in their standoff with the US administration.

The Palestinian Authority said the leaders who met in Mecca over the weekend “endorsed” the Palestinian position and “sent a strong and clear message to the US administration and Israel that the only way to achieve a just and comprehensive peace was through international resolutions,” said Nabil Abu Rudaineh, spokesman for the PA presidency in Ramallah. “Everyone must understand peace has only one clear path and its address is the legitimate leadership of the Palestinian people, and not fake deals or economic schemes that are not worth the ink they are written with.”

The Palestinian leadership, Abu Rudaineh said, “has not given a mandate to anyone to speak on its behalf or on behalf of the Palestinian people. We will not accept any deals or conferences whose goal is to undermine the rights of our people.”
The PA spokesman was referring to the summits held in Mecca over the weekend by the Supreme Council of the Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC) and the 57-member Organization of Islamic Cooperation (OIC).

“The resolutions of these summits are a victory for the Palestinian stance,” Abu Rudaineh added.

The GCC, however, made no reference to the Palestinians in its final communique that was issued after the meeting. Instead, it focused on the Iranian threat to Gulf states and strongly condemned the Iran-backed Houthi militias in Yemen for launching terrorist attacks on Saudi Arabia. The GCC also condemned the sabotage attacks that targeted four commercial ships in the territorial waters of the United Arab Emirates.

The OIC, on the other hand, condemned countries that have made the “illegal and irresponsible decision” to recognize Jerusalem as Israel’s capital.


Merkel allows al-Quds Day march amid rising Jew-hatred
German Chancellor Angela Merkel’s administration declined to stop the annual pro-Iranian regime al-Quds Day march in downtown Berlin on Saturday amid growing antisemitism in Germany.

Merkel’s inaction means that march went ahead, including with the participation of Hezbollah members. The march calls for Israel’s destruction.

Israel’s Ambassador to Germany, Jeremy Issacharoff, spoke at a demonstration on Saturday against the al-Quds march. He wrote on Twitter: “Speaking in Berlin against the Al Quds Day and its Iranian sponsors. This blatantly antisemitic and hateful event should be banned. Iran as the leading sponsor of terror, a serial abuser of human rights that seeks to undermine any chance for ME [Middle East] peace has no place in Berlin.”

Gitta Connemann, an MP of Merkel’s Christian Democratic Union Party, told The Jerusalem Post on Friday that all of Hezbollah should be banned in Germany because the entity is a “terrorist organization.”

She wrote on Twitter: “Tomorrow al-Quds March in Berlin: Islamists and left-wing radicals will march through Berlin unified in antisemitism, hate against Israel. A coalition of horror. And Berlin is watching. A shame. Berlin must act and prohibit the assembly.”
Hundreds of anti-Israel protesters, counter-protesters face in Berlin
Several hundred pro-Palestinian activists demonstrated against Israel in Berlin Saturday, as part of al-Quds Day events, the Arabic name for Jerusalem, while hundreds of others held counter-protests in support of the Jewish state.

The annual al-Quds Day events established by Iran see anti-Israel protests held around the world in solidarity with the Palestinian cause on the last Friday of the Muslim holy fasting month of Ramadan.

Around 2,000 people had been expected to take part in Berlin, but actual turnout was apparently at around 1,000 lower.

Meanwhile, around 800 people were protesting in support of Israel in two separate rallies, including several politicians, according to local press.

Some protesters at the rally chanted “Free Palestine” and “Child murderer Israel,” according to one journalist at the scene. Other chants included “Palestine will be reborn!” or “Free Gaza!” Some waved Iranian flags.

One car sported a poster declaring that “Nothing is more anti-Semitic than Zionism.”

At the counter-protests, people waved Israeli flags and called for solidarity with the Jewish state.

The German news agency dpa reported that the government’s anti-Semitism commissioner, Felix Klein; the Israeli ambassador in Germany, Jeremy Issacharoff; and Berlin’s top security official, Andreas Geisel, attended the pro-Israel rally.
Anti-Semitism czar asks Germans to wear kippa publicly in solidarity with Jews
Germany’s anti-Semitism commissioner on Monday called on Germans to wear kippas in public to show solidarity with Jews.

“I call on all citizens in Berlin and everywhere in Germany to wear the kippa on Saturday, when people will agitate unbearably against Israel and against Jews on Al-Quds Day,” Felix Klein said in an interview with the Funke media group.

Klein added that people should participate in pro-Israel rallies on that day instead, German outlet Deutsche Welle reported.

Al-Quds Day, so called for the Arabic name for Jerusalem, is marked by demonstrations throughout the Muslim world and in some European cities. The Iran-initiated annual day of worldwide protest usually features flags of the Iran-backed terror group Hezbollah and sees calls for Israel’s destruction from speakers and activists.

Germany’s most-read tabloid, Bild, printed a cut-out kippa over the weekend for readers to wear in solidarity with their Jewish neighbors.

“If even one person in our country can’t wear a kippah without putting themselves in danger, the only answer is that we all wear a kippah,” Bild’s editor-in-chief Julian Reichelt tweeted on Sunday. “The kippah belongs to Germany! That’s why tomorrow the kippah will be printed for cutting out on page one.”
IDF: 2 projectiles fired at Mt. Hermon from Syria; no injuries reported
Two rockets were fired from Syria toward Israel’s Mount Hermon in the Golan Heights on Saturday night, the military said.

There were no immediate reports of injuries or damage. The Israel Defense Forces said it was still investigating the matter.

It was not immediately clear if both projectiles landed inside Israeli territory. The military was also checking if the rocket fire was intentionally directed at Israel and if so by whom. There has been no fighting reported in the area around the Syrian-Israeli border in recent days, indicating this was not likely the result of errant fire from internal battles.

The incoming rockets did not trigger alert sirens. These alarms are typically only activated in cases where a projectile is heading toward a populated area, rather than an open field.

The launches came less than a week after a limited clash between Israel and Syria.

On Monday, a Syrian anti-aircraft battery fired at an Israeli fighter jet that was flying within Israeli airspace. Shortly afterward, in response, the IDF attacked the battery and destroyed it, reportedly killing a Syrian officer and soldier. A military vehicle was also said damaged in the attack.


Islamic Jihad chief says Gaza groups can fire 1,000 rockets a day at Israel
The head of the Palestinian Islamic Jihad in Gaza warned Friday that terror groups in the Strip have the ability to fire 1,000 rockets a day into Israel for a month and have some missiles that can carry a half-ton explosive warhead.

Speaking in an interview with the Lebanese Hezbollah’s Al-Manar television station, Ziad Nakhaleh said that his group and Hamas were improving their capabilities on a daily basis, giving the large warheads as an example.

“In the last round of fighting we restrained ourselves and only fired 700 rockets into Israel over two days,” Nakhaleh said, adding that they also held back from targeting some cities deep in Israel.

“In the next round of fighting, we will not only fire at Tel Aviv, but at all the cities, whatever may happen,” he said, claiming they could sustain a rate of fire of 1,000 rockets per day for a full month.

A tense calm has prevailed since the weekend of violence at the beginning of the month, during which Hamas and Palestinian Islamic Jihad fired nearly 700 rockets at Israel.

A ceasefire deal was brokered as Israel sought to end the fighting before its Independence Day celebrations and the hosting of the Eurovision song contest.

Since then Israel has sought to ease or impose restrictions depending on the level of violence emanating from the Strip, particularly arson balloons.
Hamas leader thanks Iran for long-range rockets, threatens Tel Aviv
Hamas leader Yahya Sinwar on Thursday thanked Iran for providing his terror group the rockets it used to strike deep into Israel and warned the Jewish state that Tel Aviv would be struck again in response to any offensive against the Gaza Strip.

“Iran provided us with rockets, and we surprised the world when our resistance targeted Beersheba,” Sinwar said in a live TV address, referring to the weekend of violence at the beginning of the month, during which Hamas and Palestinian Islamic Jihad fired nearly 700 rockets at Israel.

“Had it not been for Iran, the resistance in Palestine would not have possessed its current capabilities,” Sinwar said.

The Hamas leader then went on to warn that if Israel “resumes its aggression,” his group would strike Tel Aviv and other cities with twice as many rockets.

Israel has long charged Iran with trying to arm Palestinian terror groups in Gaza and maintains a blockade of the Strip to try and stop the import of sophisticated weapons systems.
Hezbollah Isn’t Broke. So Why Is Everyone Claiming Otherwise?
In early March, shortly after the United Kingdom blacklisted the entirety of Hezbollah, Nasrallah addressed his supporters in a speech marking the 30-year anniversary of the Islamic Resistance Support Association, a Hezbollah fundraising organization. Nasrallah explained that the U.S. was waging a financial war against the group and against Iran, and that more American sanctions were to be expected. After recalling the association’s past work, Nasrallah went on to say that “today, the ‘resistance’ needs this popular support and embrace.”

American media reports highlighted these select, decontextualized quotes, and the conventional wisdom took form: Things were so bad that Hezbollah was begging for donations. In turn, U.S. officials saw in Nasrallah’s remarks evidence of desperation caused by the economic pressure on Iran. Indeed, Nasrallah’s speech became the centerpiece in the public briefings of U.S. officials, as the best exhibit for the success of the pressure campaign on Iran. “Nowhere better can the impact of our efforts be seen than in the statements of Hezbollah’s secretary general,” said Assistant Secretary of the Treasury for Terrorist Financing Marshall Billingslea. “In fact, he’s stooping to new lows, recently resorting to exploiting charitable donations and diverting that funding to its fighters.” Meanwhile, U.S. special representative for Iran, Brian Hook, declared, “The leader of Hezbollah made a public appeal for donations and it was the first time in history they’ve had to do that.”

Even Secretary of State Mike Pompeo joined in, citing Nasrallah’s speech during his visit to Beirut: “Our pressure on Iran is simple. It’s aimed at cutting off the funding for terrorists, and it’s working,” Pompeo said. “On March 8th, Hassan Nasrallah begged Hezbollah supporters to make new contributions.”

Since officials and analysts have relied heavily on Hezbollah’s rhetoric, it’s useful to begin by reexamining what Nasrallah actually said, in context. Nasrallah’s line about popular support for the “resistance” began with an exposition of the work of the Islamic Resistance Support Association and Hezbollah’s changing needs, based on circumstances, in previous years. Between 1982 and 2000, and right up to 2006, he said, there was a dire need for support. Then after 2006, he continued, Iran, especially, increased assistance. As a result, Nasrallah explained, he had told association activists at the time “that we might not need money, but continue your work to provide room for participation for those who want to perform jihad with their money.”

In other words, Nasrallah was saying that the association’s donations drives were taking place even during the period when Iran’s funding was increased, after the 2006 war with Israel. That is to say, these fundraising drives are not an indicator of the group’s financial health.
Is the U.S. funding of Lebanese Army strengthening Hezbollah?
The Trump administration is boosting its “maximum pressure” policy against Iran, but the US remains the main benefactor of the Lebanese Armed Forces, despite it having been penetrated and influenced by Hezbollah, the powerful and loyal proxy of Tehran in Lebanon. This paradoxical situation is based on a misconception, and as such it must be stopped.

During the first few months of 2019, the US imposed new sanctions targeting fund-raising sources of Hezbollah, listed by Washington as a terror group in 1997 and responsible for the killing of hundreds of Americans, as well as posing a severe military threat to Israel.

At the very same time, under the radar, shipments of American advanced military equipment have landed in Beirut, suggesting that the current administration is continuing the strategy of its two predecessors to strengthen the military forces of the Middle Eastern country: Since 2005, the US has provided the Lebanese army with aid valued at $2.3 billion – including tanks, light aircraft, and drones – thus becoming the source of about 80% of its equipment, in addition to training more than 30,000 Lebanese soldiers. While no one is deluded that the Lebanese army could confront and disarm Hezbollah, the military support is presumably supposed to turn the army into a strong governmental force that would pose a moderate counterweight to Hezbollah within the Lebanese arena. This is a very simple and logical rationale, but its only flaw is that it belongs in the past.

The hard truth is that Hezbollah and the Lebanese state are, in fact, no longer two different entities. The radical Shi’ite organization, which has both military and civilian branches, has turned to politics over the years, and has gradually become an intrinsic part of the Lebanese political system.

During the 2006 war between Israel and Hezbollah, the Lebanese government had disavowed the organization. Today, however, Hezbollah is not just a part of the government, but even its local opponents – headed by Prime Minister Saad Hariri – have accepted its legitimacy as both an armed group and political component.
Obama’s Pro-Iran Echo Chamber Still Secretly Talks With Terrorist Regime And Insists It’s ‘Normal’
The Daily Beast further noted how the Obama officials seem to have a clear motive: Discerning whether the possibility exists of the U.S. re-entering a new Iran nuclear deal in a post-President Donald Trump world. "Separately, some former Obama officials are trying to keep the roots of the Iran nuclear deal alive by taking the pulse of lawmakers on Capitol Hill to gauge whether they are in favor of restarting talks in the future," the outlet stated.

Conservative, anti-Iran national security hands had a field day with the report.

Omri Ceren, national security advisor for Sen. Ted Cruz (R-TX), tweeted: "Former Obama officials have been working with Iran and friends on the Hill to isolate the Trump admin. Their most recent contacts were a couple weeks ago. They told [the Daily Beast] that them secretly talking to Iran is 'normal.'"

Foreign policy consultant Jason Epstein tweeted: "I’m old enough to remember when war veteran Tom Cotton and his GOP colleagues were cursed as 'traitors' for merely penning a letter to Khamenei explaining how the Senate worked."

Epstein was referring to Cotton's decision to spearhead a March 2015 letter sent, on behalf of 47 total U.S. senators, to the terrorist-supporting ruling mullahs of the Islamic Republic of Iran. Quite presciently, the letter noted how the Iran nuclear deal, structured as it was as an "executive agreement," could easily be altered or terminated in the future.

"The next president could revoke such an executive agreement with the stroke of a pen and future Congresses could modify the terms of the agreement at any time," the letter read. "We hope this letter enriches your knowledge of our constitutional system and promotes mutual understanding and clarity as nuclear negotiations progress," it concluded.
Saudi Arabia Says Firm Stand Needed to Deter Iran
Saudi Arabia’s King Salman told an emergency Arab summit on Friday that decisive action was needed to stop Iranian “escalations” following attacks on Gulf oil assets, as US officials said a military deployment had deterred Tehran.

The right of Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates to defend their interests after the attacks on oil pumping stations in the kingdom and tankers off the UAE were supported in a Gulf Arab statement and a separate communique issued after the wider summit.

Tehran denies any involvement in the attacks and in a sign of regional tensions, Iraq, which has good ties with neighboring Iran and Washington, said it objected to the Arab communique, which stated that any cooperation with Tehran should be based on “non-interference in other countries.”

“The absence of a firm deterrent stance against Iranian behavior is what led to the escalation we see today,” King Salman told the two consecutive meetings late on Thursday.

The ruler of the world’s top crude exporter said Shi’ite Iran‘s development of nuclear and missile capabilities and its threats on world oil supplies posed a risk to regional and global security.

US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo said on Thursday that attacks on four vessels near a major bunkering hub, just outside the Strait of Hormuz, were “efforts by Iranians to raise the price of crude oil around the world.”


After backlash, Chicago school pulls support for ‘Teaching Palestine’ course
A high school district with a large Jewish population has withdrawn its recommendation for an optional training opportunity for teachers called “Teaching Palestine” after local teachers, synagogues and national organizations protested.

The training was one of several offered to high school teachers in a section of north suburban Chicago. One of the schools, Niles North High, is the primary high school serving Skokie, a local Jewish population center.

“The course presented an extremely one-sided view of a very complex situation,” said Rabbi Ari Hart of Skokie Valley Agudath Jacob Synagogue. By using the phrase “occupation of Palestine,” he said, the course’s language implied “that a Jewish state in our ancestral homeland is illegitimate.”

The training opportunity does not offer continuing education credit, does not depend on accreditation from a school district and is open to teachers throughout the Chicago area, according to one of its designers, who characterized it as more of a discussion group. The training will still take place.

Offered by a group called Teachers for Social Justice, the course was open to “critical educators who want to teach about Palestine and the Palestine liberation struggle,” according to a May 22 email to teachers obtained by the Jewish Telegraphic Agency. It promised to teach both about how to develop curricula on Palestinian history, as well as how to counter objections from Zionists.
Tom Gross: The role of MEMRI in Mideast, coverage (Turkish TV)
Mideast commentator Tom Gross and Berkeley Univ. Professor Hatem Bazian (the founder of Students for Justice in Palestine) debate the role of Memri. Discussion on the Turkish government TV channel TRT (May 30, 2019)


Sex and the City's Sarah Jessica Parker arrives in Israel for week-long tour
Sex and the City's Sarah Jessica Parker arrived in Israel Friday with her family as a part of private visit touring the country.

Parker, known for her role as Carrie Bradshaw on the wildly popular television series Sex and the City, was spotted at the airport as well as eating dinner with Nadav Peretz, owner of the gay tourism company "Outdoors," according to Ynet and i24News. Parker will be visiting the country's historical sites over the next week accompanied by Peretz's organization.

Her father, Stephen Parker, a Jewish entrepreneur and journalist, is a native of Brooklyn and comes from a family from Jewish descendants of Eastern Europe.

The famed actress has appeared in numerous television series and movies throughout her extensive career - such as Footloose, Sex and the City, Hocus Pocus, Glee and Failure to Launch.
Dutch museums will return 2 Nazi-looted paintings to Holocaust survivor’s family
Two museums in the Netherlands have agreed to return two Nazi-looted paintings to the descendants of a Holocaust survivor.

The Central Museum in Utrecht will return to the family of Jacob Lierens the painting titled “Pronkstilleven” by Jan Davidsz, which the Jewish collector was forced to sell under duress, the news site jonet.nl reported last week. He survived the Holocaust and died in 1949.

The Frans Hals Museum in Haarlem will give back to the same family a painting titled “Banquet with Musicians and Bench Players in an Interior” by Dirck Hals and Dirck van Delen.

The decision to return the paintings, which are worth thousands of dollars, followed a recommendation by the Advisory Committee on the Assessment of Restitution Applications for Items of Cultural Value and the Second World War, a government body set up in 2002.

The committee has identified and returned hundreds of stolen items.

But it has also faced criticism over its recommendations to keep some Nazi-looted art, citing “public interest” in keeping them on display — a reasoning that according to a 2018 expose by the NRC Handelsblad daily sets the commission apart from its counterparts elsewhere in the world.



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