Friday, January 24, 2020

From Ian:

Why is the European Left so angry?
Israel's primordial sin, according to progressives, is in its definition as a Jewish state and its close ties with the US. The disregard Israel has toward international organizations that are obsessively anti-Israel only makes this "sin" worse.

Had Israel heeded their advice, Israel would have had to commit suicide because they consider its self-defense as fascism and its Jewish character as racist.

The claim that Israel is a colonialist and apartheid regime could not be farther from the truth. It is designed to promote the Jewish state's delegitimization and compensate for the guilty feelings Europeans have over their own colonialist past and early support for Jewish statehood.

The clash between Israel and the progressive Left is a structural one. Israel's success has threatened the latter's very core.

It "brutal" approach and successful wars against its enemies and terrorists upended the notion that they should be appeased. And Israel's thriving economy has pulled the rug from under those who have tried incessantly to boycott and marginalize Israel.

Likewise, it's successful diplomatic stature despite the ongoing condemnations from international bodies, and its ties with Arab states, have shown the European Left to be feckless and pathetic.

Thus, it is clear why the Left in Europe is angry at us, for we have proved it wrong time and again. But what is sad is the anti-Semitic undertones alongside this anger.

In fact, the anti-Semitic attacks on the supposed evil of the Jewish state help those elites explain to themselves and others why Israel has succeeded and defied gravity.

Israel is strong enough to ignore those anti-Semitic attacks. European society should worry though.
Misrepresenting Zionism
On Jan. 15, ABC published "The moral case against Zionism" by Salman Abu Sitta, who argued that racism is intrinsic to Zionism. To dismiss an entire national liberation movement as racist - thereby calling into question its very existence - is extraordinary. Zionism is Jewish national self-determination.

Not only is national self-determination a universally-recognized right, but every national liberation movement in history has sought to create a state for their nation in their national homeland. Zionism is no different in this regard. If one thinks one national liberation movement is intrinsically racist, then, to be ethically consistent, one must consider all racist.

The Palestinian National Charter and the draft constitution of the future Palestinian state make clear the position of Arab Palestinians over any other people in the desired state. Either Palestinian nationalism and Zionism are both intrinsically racist, or neither are.
You can’t be a feminist and not be a Zionist
In the same way Zionism necessarily demands that Jews become the masters of their own fate. So too, does feminism. Feminism is the belief in the equality of the sexes, the notion that women too can be masters of their fate. That women need not be reliant on a man for their safety, success and happiness. It is for this reason that Zionism and feminism are upsetting to so many people: because equality is radical, indeed threatening, to those who hold power over others.

If the idea of a woman or a Jew being equal in society makes you feel uncomfortable, you should think twice about your own biases. If your “commitment” to the social order includes arranged marriage, female genital mutilation, domestic violence, excusing or diminishing domestic violence, sexual harassment or assault (also covering it up), victim-blaming, disrespecting or demeaning women, a media that berates women (more than men) for their appearance, legal systems that prevent women from coming forward when they are attacked, unequal pay, or demonizing “feminists,” you are enabling bigotry.

Similarly, when you hold double standards against Jews, support or protect organizations or individuals who demonize the only Jewish state, or that call for terrorism against the Jewish state or Jews, you are, intentionally or not, aligning yourself with antisemites.
Someone who believes in equality, believes in equality for all. It is for that reason that you cannot be a feminist who believes in equality for all, and not be a Zionist as well. Feminism and Zionism are two sides of the same coin.



Evelyn Gordon: Jordanian Vote Shows Why Defensible Borders Still Matter
To understand the true obstacle to Mideast peace, look no further than the Jordanian parliament's unanimous approval last week of a bill to ban natural-gas imports from Israel, just days after the gas began arriving. Energy-poor Jordan needs a stable, affordable fuel supply, which the Israeli deal provides. When it was signed in 2016, the Jordanian government said it could save the country $500 million a year and let the kingdom redirect significant amounts of money to some of its crying needs.

But that doesn't interest Jordanian lawmakers. What they care about is that this is "the gas of the enemy," despite the fact that Jordan and Israel signed a peace treaty 25 years ago. As last week's vote made clear, every single Jordanian lawmaker still views Israel as an enemy. That stance is wildly popular: Almost all Jordanians have an unfavorable view of Jews.

Western peacemaking efforts have consistently underestimated the depth of Arab hatred for Israel, and therefore failed to grasp that this is the principal obstacle to peace. The Jordanian vote shows that neither peace nor prosperity is a prime motivator for many people in this part of the world, whereas hatred is a very powerful motivator.

Another Western fallacy is that peace obviates the need for defensible borders. Granted, the Jordanian and Egyptian borders are both currently peaceful and will likely remain so as long as the current rulers hold power. But as the Arab Spring made clear, no Mideast autocrat's reign comes with a long-term guarantee. And given the enormous public hostility to Israel in both Jordan and Egypt, there's also no guarantee that a new government wouldn't scrap their treaties.

Israel can't afford to assume any treaty is permanent. It must be prepared to defend itself if a new Arab government scraps the treaty. Indeed, even Israel's main center-left party insists on retaining the Jordan Valley in any deal with the Palestinians. The Jordanian vote is a reminder that hatred is strong and peace is fragile. Any treaty will have to include defensible borders.
'Israeli-American alliance is essential for the future of the world'
Texas Governor Greg Abbott visits Israel to see first hand just how Israel and Texas, despite being so different in size, are very much alike in everything else.

Any Israeli visiting Texas will immediately feel at home.

It could be because of the weather, the flora, the diversity, and multiculturalism, but it could also be because of that unrelenting, even rebellious spirit, Texans have, which is so similar to the Israeli mindset.

In fact, in Hebrew slang, when you want to call someone a native Israeli, you say he is a sabra, which means prickly pear.

The prickly pear cactus happens to be the official state plant of Texas.

Texas Governor Greg Abbott visited Israel last week to see first hand just how Israel and Texas, despite being so different in size, are very much alike in everything else.

"There is a similarity, whether it be religious beliefs, whether it is our core of facing challenges and overcoming them. No one has really dealt with that more than the Jewish people over the span of centuries. This is the same thing that Texas was made out of from our very beginning," Abbott, 62, said in an interview with Israel Hayom during his visit.

"Overcoming the loss of the Alamo, going on to win the Battle of San Jacinto and becoming our own country … ever since then, we have been a state that has overcome challenges. And interestingly we are the Lone-Star State, and that is what Israel is," Abbott noted with pride.

Both Israel and Texas have a single star on their national flags. Israel's has a Star of David in blue on a white background, whereas the Texas flag has a five-point star on a blue background (next to red and white stripes).

Abbot said he learned a lot from his visit to Israel, but more importantly, he was awed.
Reclaiming Jewish Life After the Nightmare of Communism
Although Jewish organizations like JDC and ORT rushed in to help as Bulgaria’s economic collapse deepened, Schwartz never lost his sense of optimism. In September of 1990, when I asked him how Shalom was going to overcome its difficulties, he said, “We have around 4,000 Jews in this country. Out of that we have 10 composers, 10 poets, 150 journalists, 12 theater directors, 200 full professors, six members of parliament with, of course, three on each side, 70 lawyers and nearly 100 doctors. So when it comes to tackling our problems, I’d say we have the right people to do it.”

The Jewish communities in Czechoslovakia and Bulgaria were the first to make serious changes during and after the fall of Communism in 1989, but they would not be the last. In 1991 the Soviet Union collapsed and communities in Lithuania, Latvia, and Estonia started rebuilding Jewish life with an enthusiasm that belied their meager numbers. Then came Russia, Ukraine, Belarus, and Moldova.

Well over a million Jews would leave the Soviet Union as soon as they could, but that is a topic of another discussion, as is the story of how 150,000 opted to move to Germany, where they have given that community something it did have in the 1980s: a future.

The Central European Jewish communities, the ones wedged between Germany and what had been the Soviet Union, were all about to face a difficult road, a road they are still traveling three decades later. Except for the city of Budapest, where well more than 50,000 Jews live, no Jewish community in this region has a long-term future. The numbers, the critical mass, just isn’t there.

But that is not the point. Starting 30 years ago, when 1990 began, the Jewish communities of Central and Eastern Europe started grabbing back a future that had been denied them for far too long. And they were throwing off the mantle of “remnant” like a garment that no longer fit. It is, after all, not a story about numbers. It’s about the dignity of the effort.
Arab Countries Say “We Miss the Jews”
Having persecuted and purged their Jews as punishment for the rebirth of Israel, many Arabs now realize they shot themselves in the foot.

A million Jews lived in Arab countries in the 20th century. Today, just a few thousand are left, mostly in Morocco and Tunisia.

The purging of the Jews caused a crisis in almost every Arab country from which they came. Despite their relatively limited numbers, the Jews’ impact on society, culture, economy, and trade was crucial to the development of those countries, and their loss was felt. After the Jews were evicted from Iraq and Egypt, for example, those countries experienced crisis after crisis.

There is now a palpable longing in most Arab states for the Jews to return. Many believe that only with a Jewish presence will their countries blossom and develop as they did in the past.

The Jewish contribution to Arab states was significant. In Egypt, the gold market flourished with a Jewish presence and continues to do so to this day, even though the Jews were thrown out and their stores ransacked. Jewish symbols like the Magen David remain engraved on Egyptian shops, in markets, and on buildings. The older generation still remembers the prosperity of the time when Jews were in possession of their stores.

It is no coincidence that Cairo has decided to invest tens of millions of dollars in the restoration of synagogues throughout Egypt. The most recent is the renovation of the once magnificent Eliyahu Hanavi (Elijah the Prophet) Synagogue, in which $6 million is being invested.
The arriviste Democrats undermining the values of America’s traditional statecraft
The elimination of Soleimani brought out of the woodwork the reservists of the Democratic party –even retired ones. Former Secretary of State John Kerry might as well have been Iran’s Foreign Minister in his frequent television appearances commenting on the incident. On the other hand, Ben Rhodes, an Obama staffer infamous for gloating that he set up an “echo chamber” to promote the Iran Deal, has been tireless in his efforts to discredit and undermine President Trump’s Iran policy while glorifying Obama’s appeasement of the Iranian regime.

As the majority of the proponents of Obama’s Iran deal lost hope in its resurrection, Ben Rhodes continued to promote it like a guard dog left behind in an abandoned house.

After the killing of Soleimani, Iran’s Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei described the Iranian Revolutionary Guards Forces as a humanitarian organization. And some critics of Soleimani’s killing began to sound like they were describing the assassination of an aid worker.

The descent of some Democrats to defending Iran and Soleimani is a reflection of deep rifts within the party, between a traditional school that sees America as a vanguard of a global liberal order, and reckless, radical arrivistes who have not only abdicated political and moral responsibility but actively served as instruments of influence to defend characters with dark and bloody histories.

We must not forget that US President Franklin Delano Roosevelt rescued the world from the evils of Nazism and that his Democratic successor Harry Truman cemented the foundations of the new world order within which we have been living for the past 70 years. And lest we forget, it was the Democrats of more recent years, like Madeleine Albright, who said, “If we have to use force, it is because we are America. We are the indispensable nation. We stand tall. We see further into the future.” Even more recently, we heard echoes of this doctrine when former National Security Advisor to President Obama, General James Jones said: “What the Trump administration did in the Soleimani case was absolutely correct.”

This school of thought lost traction after a group of political newcomers in the Obama administration began to exercise influence on US foreign policy. These new staffers even systematically blocked veteran US diplomat Richard Holbrooke, the president’s then-envoy to Afghanistan, from seeing the Commander-in-Chief. Former US Defense Secretary Robert Gates offered scathing criticism of President Obama in his memoirs, writing, in reference to Obama’s Afghanistan policy, that the President “doesn’t believe his own strategy, and doesn’t consider the war to be his. For him, it’s all about getting out.”

What we see today is the extension and prosperity of this camp’s worldview empowering social media pundits and inexperienced analysts who are, in growing numbers, undermining the values of America’s traditional statecraft while echoing Iran’s propaganda.
Trump plan said to give Israel sovereignty throughout Jerusalem, all settlements
The Trump administration’s Israeli-Palestinian peace plan — to be presented next week at the White House to Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and his rival Blue and White party leader Benny Gantz — provides for full Israeli sovereignty throughout Jerusalem, for Israel to annex all West Bank settlements, and for no significant “return” to Israel of Palestinian refugees, Israeli TV reported Thursday night.

The plan constitutes “the most generous proposal” ever presented to Israel, the report said. US President Donald Trump subsequently dismissed as “purely speculative” reports on the details of the plan and the timing of its release.

It ultimately provides for a Palestinian state but under conditions that no Palestinian leader could conceivably accept, the TV report said. Channel 12 reported that Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas does not know the details of the plan, and that it is regarded in Ramallah as “dead on arrival.” The PA has had no substantive dealings with the US administration since Trump recognized Jerusalem as Israel’s capital in December 2017.

Hinting at the imminent unveiling of the plan, US Vice President Mike Pence, who is in Israel for the World Holocaust Forum, said Thursday evening that Trump would host Netanyahu and Gantz next week to discuss the prospect of “peace in the Holy Land.”
Trump to Unveil Long-Awaited Peace Plan Ahead of Israeli Leaders’ Visit
Speaking to reporters on Air Force One en route to the Miami area for a political event, Trump said Palestinians might react negatively to his plan at first, but that “it’s actually very positive for them.”

“It’s a great plan,” said Trump, who will meet with Netanyahu at the White House on Tuesday. “It’s a plan that really would work.”

Vice President Mike Pence, on a visit to Jerusalem, extended an invitation to Netanyahu and Gantz to make the visit. It was not immediately clear whether Trump would meet the two leaders separately or together.

The Trump peace proposal is a document, dozens of pages long, that addresses in detail the thorny political issues between Israel and the Palestinians, such as the status of Jerusalem.

US officials made no mention of inviting the Palestinians, and Nabil Abu Rudeineh, a spokesman for Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas, said: “We warn Israel and the US administration not to cross any red lines.”

Trump indicated his administration had spoken “briefly” to the Palestinians and would speak to them again “in a period of time.”

Netanyahu said he had accepted the American invitation. His office said he would fly to the US on Sunday. A Gantz spokesman did not respond when asked whether Gantz had accepted Trump’s invitation.
'These are historical days – Israel's borders may change'
According to the senior officials, Israel was on the precipice of a historic development on the scale of the Six-Day War that could very well change the borders of the country – if the government makes the necessary decisions.

If Israel applies its sovereignty over the Jordan Valley and parts of Judea and Samaria, as the US administration will apparently allow it to do, the officials said, it would mean the end to the idea of a Palestinian state and "a death blow to the Palestinian national movement."

One Israeli official said the "deal of the century" would essentially not require Israel to make any concessions. According to the information currently available to Israeli officials, for the time being, the US administration doesn't expect the Israeli government to recognize a Palestinian state, only to express willingness to discuss it in the future, and only if the Palestinians meet the American demands.

As of Friday morning, the Palestinian Authority had not been apprised of the peace plan's roll-out and PA President Mahmoud Abbas had not been invited to Washington.
Caroline Glick: Trump's invitation has changed the stakes of the elections
The problem is that the left-leaning majority of his party cannot accept Trump’s rejection of the PLO veto. The likes of MKs Yael German and Ofer Shelah, who represent the majority of his party members have made clear that they will not accept any deviation from the Oslo line. They accept the anti-Israel narrative of the post-Zionist left and the "international community" which places all the blame on Israel for the absence of peace.

They believe that Israel must appease the PLO by giving up all – or nearly all – of Judea and Samaria and half of Jerusalem, even if that means mass expulsions of hundreds of thousands of law-abiding Jews from their homes. Moreover, as German made clear this week, as far as she and her colleagues are concerned, if the PLO won’t agree to a deal, then Israel should repeat its 2005 unilateral withdrawal from Gaza in Judea and Samaria. The fact that Hamas was quick to seize control over the Gaza Strip after Israel’s withdrawal is of no concern to her.

For Gantz to accept Trump’s peace plan, he will have to break away from the anti-Israeli narrative of the post-Zionist Left, held by the majority of his party members. Doing so would help him win the election. But it will also unravel his party.

If Gantz chooses instead to reject Trump’s plan and stand with Garmen and Shelah and the rest, if he rejects the administration’s pro-Israel approach which negates the notion that Israel’s enemies get to decide if Israel can assert its rights and secure its interests as a sovereign state, Gantz’s chances of winning the elections will diminish.

It’s hard to know how Gantz will respond. What we know for sure is that Trump's abrupt invitation changed the face of the election.

Until Thursday evening, the third election in a year was nothing more than an annoying beauty pageant where Israelis, already weary and fed up with our politicians, were expected to choose from a list of unattractive options. After Thursday evening, the March 2 vote was transformed into a referendum about national sovereignty and Zionism.

While we still don’t know what the Trump plan entails, we know for sure that things just got a lot more interesting.
'Deal of the Century?' Netanyahu just got the gift of the century - analysis
Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu received the gift of the century on Thursday when Vice President Mike Pence invited him and Blue and White leader Benny Gantz to the White House for talks next Tuesday about the long-awaited peace plan, otherwise known as the “Deal of the Century.”

It is a gift for a number of reasons. First, on Tuesday, the Knesset is scheduled to hold a fateful vote on Netanyahu’s request for immunity from prosecution for his alleged crimes of bribery, fraud and breach of trust. Will Blue and White now back down from its request to hold the hearing due to the summit in Washington or will it stick to its guns?

Either way, the nation’s attention will be on what is happening in DC and not on what is happening in the Knesset. There, President Donald Trump and the peace team led by his son-in-law Jared Kushner are expected to present details of the plan to Netanyahu and Gantz and then pave the way for the annexation of the Jordan Valley and possibly even more.

The timing for Netanyahu could not have been more perfect. On Thursday, he met with Russian President Vladimir Putin and closed what seems to be a deal to secure the release of jailed Israeli Naama Issachar. Then, he went to Yad Vashem and spoke before some 50 heads of state. After that ceremony, he drove to the Western Wall together with Pence and then, afterwards, in a meeting at the US Embassy in Jerusalem, received the official invitation from the White House.

Immunity? Indictment? A third election? Who even remembers that anymore? This is all about Netanyahu the statesman, the diplomat and the world class leader.
Blue and White debating whether Gantz should reject White House invite – reports
The Blue and White party is reportedly considering rejecting an invitation from US President Donald Trump for leader Benny Gantz to visit Washington next week for a meeting on the long-awaited Middle East peace plan.

Gantz and Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu were invited to the White House next Tuesday, the day the Knesset is set to vote on establishing the committee that will weigh the premier’s request to be protected from corruption charges in three criminal cases.

Senior officials from the party told Hebrew media that they are “having second thoughts” about accepting the invitation on the grounds that it could help Netanyahu’s re-election campaign.

Gantz is expected to make a statement on the latest developments at 7:30 p.m. on Saturday.

According to Channel 12 news, lawmakers from Blue and White have been told to withdraw their participation from public events on Saturday where they may face questions.

Yisrael Beytenu head Avigdor Liberman on Friday slammed the timing of the likely release of the plan.

“I have no doubt that the peace program that the US president intends to present will include quite a few positive elements,” Liberman wrote on his Facebook page.
Mark Regev: Direct Peace Talks Are Still the Only Way Forward for Israel and the Palestinians
Dr. Saeb Erekat, secretary-general of the Palestine Liberation Organization, opines that the unilateral recognition of a Palestinian state will advance peace. Rather inconveniently for him, the exact opposite is true. In making his demand, Erekat has knowingly reneged on the Palestine Liberation Organization's peace process commitment to solve all outstanding matters through negotiations with Israel. If the Palestinian leadership can receive international recognition for a declaratory state without directly negotiating, why would they ever seek genuine talks and reconciliation?

The global community has long agreed that direct peace talks are the only way forward, and Israel remains willing to discuss all the contested issues. Despite this, the Palestinian leadership has consistently refused to engage in such talks and has instead sought to bypass them. For the Palestinians, there is always an excuse to avoid negotiations.

Unilateral recognition will only prolong the Palestinians' delusion that progress is possible without direct talks. Erekat's proposal may be a useful distraction from the Palestinian Authority's failing leadership and its past rejection of numerous serious opportunities for reconciliation. If implemented, it would only serve to undermine peace and condemn his own people to the perpetuation of the status quo.
Avi Issacharoff: Who needs the deal of the century right now? Only two people
This coming week’s expected presentation of the Trump administration’s “Deal of the century” comes during one of the strangest periods that the West Bank / Judea and Samaria have known for decades.

The West Bank has been relatively tranquil — everything is always relative — on both the Palestinian and the Israeli sides, with the level of friction and violence at something of a low.

This raises the question: Who benefits from the publication of the administration’s peace plan at precisely this moment?

The answer is clichéd and clear. Only two people really need this plan, at this time: Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and US President Donald Trump.

As for the Palestinians and the West Bank settlers, it’s doubtful that the plan will improve the situation on the ground. Quite the reverse.

Let’s look first at the Jewish side. Soon, maybe even this year, the number of Jewish settlers in the West Bank (excluding East Jerusalem) will reach 500,000. Not so many years ago, the notion of half a million settlers would have sounded like a pipe dream. Today, even the vision of a million settlers appears attainable. The settlements, large and small, including the major cities, are growing. The sense of security among residents is improving, even though there is always the danger of attacks and attempted attacks.

What of the Palestinian side? Here, there is of a mixture of public apathy and relative economic stability — what Palestinians have come to see as “normalized occupation.”

There are, for instance, no roadblocks within Palestinian Authority areas of the West Bank. A resident of Jenin traveling to Hebron will not be stopped at a roadblock en route — something that until recently would have seemed like a distant fantasy. Ninety five percent of young Palestinians have smartphones. The groceries are full of produce. New hotels and restaurants are opening. Real estate has been on the rise for years.
Poll: Only a third of Israelis support unilateral annexation of Jordan Valley
A poll released hours after US President Donald Trump said that he’ll likely announce his long-awaited Middle East peace plan before his meeting early next week with Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and Blue and White party chief Benny Gantz, showed that just one-third of Israelis support the unilateral annexation of the Jordan Valley.

The poll commissioned by the Walla news site and carried out prior to Trump’s announcement, found that 35 percent of respondents supported unilateral annexation of the Jordan Valley, while 30% oppose it and 35% said they didn’t know.

According to the survey, only 48% of those who self-identify as being on the right of the political spectrum would support the move with 21% saying they don’t support it and 31% responding that they do not know.

The poll found that of those who identify themselves as among Blue and White’s centrist base, only 20% support Israel applying sovereignty, 44% do not support, and 36% do not know.

According to Walla, the high level of respondents saying they do not know how they feel about the Jordan Valley question, could show a lack of understanding of the issue and its implications.

Gantz vowed on Tuesday to annex the Jordan Valley “in coordination with the international community” if he wins the upcoming election.
Palestinian Authority warns Israel, US ‘not to cross the red lines’
Palestinian officials said on Thursday that US President Donald Trump’s decision to release his Middle East peace plan was aimed at helping Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu before the March elections in Israel.

The officials repeated their rejection of Trump’s plan on the pretext that its main goal is to “liquidate” the Palestinian cause.

Nabil Abu Rudaineh, spokesman for the PA presidency, warned the US administration “against taking any step that is in violation of international legitimacy.”

“We warn Israel and the US administration not to cross the red lines,” Abu Rudaineh said. “We affirm our position calling for ending the Israeli occupation of the land of the State of Palestine on the 1967 borders, including its capital, East Jerusalem.”

The PA spokesman said that the Palestinians reject what has been published about Trump’s plan. “The Palestinian leadership will announce a series of measures to preserve our legitimate rights and we will demand that Israel assume its full responsibilities as an occupation authority,” Abu Rudaineh added.
Jordan’s FM warns annexation would end chances for Israeli-Palestinian peace
Jordanian Foreign Minister Ayman Safadi warned on Thursday that Israeli annexation of the Jordan Valley would spell the death of the two-state solution and terminate all opportunities to achieve peace between Israel and the Palestinians.

“Israel annexing the Jordan Valley and the northern Dead Sea in the occupied Palestinian territories will totally undermine the foundations of the peace process, kill the two-state solution and end all chances to achieve peace,” Safadi told the Jordanian state-run Petra news agency.

Safadi’s comment came after Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu vowed on Tuesday to apply sovereignty over the Jordan Valley as well as every settlement in the West Bank “without exception.”

Since September, the prime minister has frequently said that if he succeeds in forming a new government, he will annex the Jordan Valley.

The top Jordanian diplomat’s statement also came after Benny Gantz, Netanyahu’s main rival, promised on Tuesday to apply sovereignty over the Jordan Valley “in coordination with the international community.”
Apartheid road signs
It just slips blithely off the tongue, doesn't it, hidden in a seemingly rational statement. Take the recent quote from William Byatt, treasurer of the Miami-Dade Democratic Party which runs as follows: “What I will NEVER do is pretend that honest criticism of Israeli apartheid policies is anti-Semitism…”

At first glance, this seems like quite a reasonable statement. Everyone has a right to voice criticism, particularly when it refers to an entire country, where there are usually a whole lot of things to find fault with. As a citizen of the great USA, it’s my right to do my best to improve things in my own country, and sometimes this means protesting. The question for Mr. Byatt is not his right to speak out against someone or any country on the planet. It’s rather his description of “Israel apartheid policies.” What apartheid policies? Is this a fair association?

My wife and I ushered in the new year and decade with a two-week trip to the holy land, aka – Israel. Throughout the year I teach some graduate college courses in south Florida. Being on a university campus in the USA, it’s unfortunately, not an infrequent event when Israel is accused of Islamophobia, racism, and apartheid. Because of that, many of our college youth throughout the world are exposed to these ideas. Some universities even allow an annual “Israel Apartheid Week.”

But how accurate are these claims? It had been 18 years since my last visit there and I wondered if things had changed so tht any of these anti-Israel sentiments were true. I decided to travel throughout Israel and find out first-hand.




Hezbollah-dominated government emerges in Lebanon for the first since 1990
For the first time since the departure of Syrian troops from Lebanon in 1990, the latter country has a government in which only Hezbollah and its allies are represented. This is likely to have a significant negative effect on Beirut’s efforts to engage international partners and donors in order to alleviate the acute financial crisis facing the country. It will also impact on Israeli strategic planning vis-à-vis Hezbollah.

The new government is the product of escalating popular protests under way since October 15. The protests are in response to Lebanon’s dire economic state. Demonstrators were demanding the formation of a government of “technocrats” qualified to address the urgent issues facing the country and untainted by contact with Lebanon’s enormously corrupt political parties.

The new government appears to be an attempt to create the superficial appearance of such an administration. Its 20 ministers were presented by Prime Minister Hassan Diab as “specialists,” nonpartisan and without loyalties to this or that political bloc.

Few Lebanese are likely to be convinced by this claim. The “specialists” in question are individuals whose names were put forward by the political parties. The composition of the new government emerged in a process of wrangling and horse trading between these parties.

But, crucially, parties and movements broadly associated with the West and with Saudi Arabia stayed out of the negotiations. Individuals linked to prominent pro-Western and anti-Iranian political trends, such as the former prime minister’s Mustaqbal (Future) Movement and the Christian Lebanese Forces, are not to be found among the new ministers. The Progressive Socialist Party of Lebanese Druze leader Walid Jumblatt is also not represented.
'Million-Man March' in Baghdad against US presence in Iraq - WATCH
Iraqi demonstrators filled the streets of Baghdad on Friday to take part in a "million-man march" calling for the US to end its military presence in Iraq.

The protest was called by Iraqi Shia cleric Muqtada al-Sadr. "The skies, land and sovereignty of Iraq are being violated every day by occupying forces," tweeted Sadr, who called for a "peaceful, unified demonstration to condemn the American presence and its violations."

The initial march appeared not to gather further steam, however, largely dissipating after several hours. Some protesters headed to join separate anti-government demonstrators at Baghdad's Tahrir Square, and others boarded buses to go home.

Throngs of marchers started gathering early on Friday at al-Hurriya Square in central Baghdad and near around the city's main university, Reuters witnesses said. Marchers avoided Tahrir square, symbol of mass protests against Iraq' ruling elites.

Some were wearing symbolic white robes indicating they're willing to die for their country while others sat looking out over the square from half finished buildings, holding signs reading "No, no, America, no, no, Israel, no, no, colonialists."

It is unclear if the march will end up at the gates of the US Embassy, the seat of US power in Iraq and the scene of violent clashes last month when militia supporters tried to storm the compound.
MEMRI: Iraqi Shi'ite Reactions To Iraqi President Saleh's Meeting With President Trump In Davos
On January 22, 2020, Iraqi President Barham Saleh met with U.S. President Donald Trump at the Davos Economic Forum in Switzerland, despite the threats made a day earlier by leaders of Iraqi Shi'ite militias[1] to expel him should he meet with President Trump or any U.S. official attending the forum.

The meeting was the first between a U.S. and Iraqi official since the escalation between Washington and Tehran erupted following the Soleimani assassination.

Before the meeting, Saleh said in a speech before the forum that Iraq "seeks good relations with all sides, and our interests do not lie in being drawn into conflicts that are not of our making." He also attributed the violence against Iraqi protesters to what he described as "outlawed armed groups," and further pledged to hold these groups accountable.

After the meeting, senior leaders in the Popular Mobilization Units (PMU) in Iraq issued statements condemning Saleh, saying his meeting with the President Trump represents a "betrayal" of the Iraqi people.

Nasr Al-Shammari, the spokesman of the Al-Nujaba Movement, a PMU group, dubbed Saleh a "separatist" in a tweet,[2] saying that he [Saleh] has "destined himself to humiliation."

He further said that "Iraqis will no longer be honored to have one like him who scorns the blood of their martyrs. Leave, you separatist."

Nasr Al-Shammari's tweet.

Bashar Al-Saadi from the Al-Nujaba Movement's Media Office shared several tweets, including one that has a photo from the meeting in Davos showing President Trump and President Saleh shaking hands. The text in the tweet reads: "The Kurdish dagger [Saleh] rests in the back of the revolutionaries [Anti-U.S. protesters]."
US sanctions global network backing Iran’s petrochemical and petroleum sectors
The United States on Thursday sanctioned several companies and senior executives allegedly part of the international network supporting Iran’s petrochemical and petroleum industries.

The four international petrochemical and petroleum companies have collectively transferred the equivalent of hundreds of millions of dollars’ worth of exports from the National Iranian Oil Company, an entity instrumental in Iran’s petroleum and petrochemical industries, which help to finance Iran’s Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps’ Quds Force and its terrorist proxies, said the US Treasury Department in a statement.

"Iran’s petrochemical and petroleum sectors are primary sources of funding for the Iranian regime’s global terrorist activities and enable its persistent use of violence against its own people," said US Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin.

Thursday’s action targets Triliance Petrochemical Co. Ltd., a Hong Kong-based broker with branches in Iran, United Arab Emirates, China and Germany.

In 2019, Triliance ordered the transfer of the equivalent of millions of dollars to NIOC as payment for Iranian petrochemicals, crude oil and petroleum products shipped to the United Arab Emirates and China after the expiration of any applicable significant reduction exceptions, according to the Treasury Department

In facilitating these shipments, Triliance worked to conceal the Iranian origin of these products and also facilitated the sale of millions of dollars’ worth of petroleum products involving Naftiran Intertrade Company, a subsidiary of NIOC, to companies in China, according to the department.
MEMRI: Muqtada Al-Sadr, Shi'ite Militia Leaders Ramp Up Calls For Anti-U.S. March
On January 23, 2020, Shi'ite cleric Muqtada Al-Sadr issued a new statement aimed at mobilizing more people to participate in Friday's planned one-million-man march to end the presence of U.S. troops in Iraq. Under the title "A Thought," Al-Sadr's message asked Iraqi men, women and children to answer "the call of the homeland... the time to reform Iraq's system and to evict invaders is now... Hasten to support the beloved [homeland], as it is calling to you, and do not renege on your vow."

The previous day, January 22, Al-Sadr's spokesman Salah Al-Obaidi told the state-run Al-Iraqyia TV[1] that "the instructions given by Al-Sadr last week regarding his proposed march underline that the participation of militias, including those who targeted the U.S. Embassy, is not wanted."[2]

On January 23, Saleh Mohammad Al-Iraqi, an affiliate of Al-Sadr, tweeted a poster titled "It has to be a million," in reference to the number of participants the organizers aim to mobilize.

The previous day, the Iran-backed Popular Mobilization Units (PMU), whose leaders had met with Al-Sadr in Qom earlier this month,[3] issued statements and messages to ramp up calls for a unified position against the U.S. presence in Iraq.

On January 22, Qais Al-Khazali, the secretary-general of the PMU group Asa'ib Ahl Al-Haq, appeared in a video message in which he called on Iraqis from all religions and sects to join the anti-U.S. demonstration. Referring to the Iraqi parliament's decision to expel the U.S. forces, he said: "In Iraq, the fighters of the Popular Mobilization Units are the ones who defeated the American terrorist takfiri scheme of ISIS. These same fighters are the now the heroes of the resistance [movement]. They are at the highest levels of readiness should the U.S. continue to reject the political and public decision."
MEMRI: IRGC-Affiliated Strategist Abbasi: 'Every Navy Patrol... Should Catch 10-20 Americans' For Ransom – To Solve Our Economic Problems
IRGC-affiliated strategist Hassan Abbasi said in a video that he uploaded to aparat.com on January 17, 2020 that the IRGC should "generate income" by capturing Americans and demanding a ransom for their return. Abbasi, who was speaking at the city of Noushahr, gave the example of the $1.7 billion that Iran received for the return of Jason Rezaian and the $3 billion that Iran, he claims, received from Qatar because the aircraft that killed Qassem Soleimani had taken off from Qatar. He said that the way to solve Iran's economic problems is to capture one American per week and thus "raise" $50 billion per year. He also mocked the anti-regime protesters, saying that rallying 5,000 protesters isn't nearly enough to topple Iran's regime. The audience chanted: "Allah Akbar! Khamenei is the Leader! Greetings to the warriors of Islam! Peace upon the martyrs! Death to America! Death to England! Death to the hypocrites and infidels! Death to Israel!"

"When The IRGC Martyr Hajj Qassem Soleimani Was Hit, The Government Received $3 Billion From Qatar As Redemption Money"

Hassan Abbasi: "Look how the IRGC generates income for its budget. The IRGC grabs a spy – Jason Rezaian. America begs to get him back, but [the IRGC] says: 'No. You have to pay for him.' Then the government receives $1.7 billion in exchange for that spy. By catching a single spy, the IRGC earns the $1-2 billion that the government is supposed to allocate for it.

"When the IRGC martyr Hajj Qassem Soleimani was hit, the government received $3 billion from Qatar as redemption money, because [the planes that killed] Qassem [Soleimani] came from Qatar."
[...]
"Every Navy Patrol That Sets Out Once A Month Should Catch 10-20 Americans... For Each And Every One Of Them, You Will Get $1 Billion"

"Be honest. Was a similar income generated by means of the JCPOA? $3 billion [from Qatar] and $1.7 billion [for Rezaian]. Guys, this is the way. Give it a break. One of them said yesterday: 'I don't know how to resolve our economic problems without maintaining ties with the West.' This is the way. Do you want to resolve the problems caused by the sanctions?




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