Thursday, September 03, 2020

From Ian:

BESA: The Israel-UAE Agreement’s Greatest Achievement: Little Arab Protest
To the surprise of Iranian and Palestinian leaders, the Arab public did not protest the Israel-UAE peace agreement—but they continue to protest Iranian meddling in Iraqi and Lebanese affairs. The lack of protest against the Israel-UAE breakthrough is a sign of political maturity as Arab and Muslim populations clamor for reform at home rather than destructive ideological visions.

Lively analysis has taken place over the possible ramifications of the Israel-UAE peace agreement. Some have rightly noted that while this is the third peace treaty Israel has signed with an Arab state, it is the first to contain the promise of a warm peace. This is in sharp contrast to Israel’s relations with prior accord partners Egypt and Jordan, which are limited to very narrow personal, diplomatic, and security relations. With Egypt, the peace treaty has rarely reached even that threshold.

Hosni Mubarak, throughout his 30 years of ruling Egypt, never made an official visit to Israel, which is less than an hour’s flight away. Nor has King Abdullah of Jordan. In over a decade of rule, Abdullah has abstained from visiting Israel despite meeting several times with PA head Mahmoud Abbas in nearby Ramallah.

Israel has been at peace with Egypt for nearly a half a century, but not one Egyptian soccer team has ever played against an Israeli team either in Israel or anywhere else. Not one delegation from an Egyptian university has ever visited an Israeli counterpart, let alone engaged in a joint program. Not one Egyptian cultural ensemble or group has ever visited Israel. On the rare occasions when individual Egyptian artists have come to Israel, they did so primarily to appear before Israel’s Arab citizens. For that gesture they were met with opprobrium and threats. Such was the power of the Arab world’s boycott against “normalization.”
Dore Gold interviewed by Jenni Frazer: Israeli and Arab Interests "Have Begun to Coalesce"
In 2015, Dr. Dore Gold, a former director-general of Israel's Foreign Ministry, opened a small Israeli economic office in the UAE and is better placed than most to judge the pace of Israel's outreach to the Arab world. He told the Jewish Chronicle this week that other Arab countries are quietly falling into line behind the UAE, driven not only by fear of Iran, but also by concern at the machinations of Turkey, where President Erdogan is trying to revive the status of the Ottoman Empire.

As far back as 1996, when he first came into government as foreign policy adviser to Prime Minister Netanyahu, "I visited a number of countries, including Qatar and Oman," Gold said. He also went to Paris that year for a meeting with a senior Saudi diplomat.

When he served as Israel's ambassador to the UN between 1997 and 1999, "there was an African country with a Muslim majority, whose ambassador was head of the committee for the inalienable rights of the Palestinians." After a fire-and-brimstone speech to the General Assembly, "he came up to me and asked, 'Dore, maybe you could take me for lunch at one of your kosher restaurants?'" Today, Israel and the country have full diplomatic relations.

"The point here is that countries are driven by a keen understanding of their interests. If their interests lead them to closer ties with Israel, they will pursue them. First perhaps in a hidden way, but later in an overt way....Our vital interests and those of the Arab world have begun to really coalesce. And that makes great opportunity for dramatic breakthroughs. I am optimistic with respect to what can be done."
Col. Richard Kemp: A Great Step Forward for World Peace - and Who Seems Determined to Ignore It
Some months ago, in talks with leaders in Saudi Arabia as part of a delegation from former Canadian Prime Minister Stephen Harper's Friends of Israel Initiative, together with their Executive Director and former Spanish National Security Adviser Rafael Bardaji, I heard first-hand how open the Saudis were to the prospect of embracing Israel in the future.

Of far greater significance, however, is the looming threat to the region from Iran and, to a lesser extent, Turkey. Most Arab countries see common interests with Israel in the face of the mullahs in Tehran with their imperial aggression in Lebanon, Syria, Iraq, Yemen and beyond, coupled with insatiable nuclear ambition.

Notwithstanding the economic, technological and security imperatives that lie behind the evolving Middle East relationships, great credit must go to the men behind the Abraham Accord.... Mohammed bin Zayed... [and] Benjamin Netanyahu... know only too well that such actions carry with them serious risks to themselves personally and to their nations.



Jonathan S. Tobin: Is America isolated on the world stage?
That the Europeans oppose or are unenthusiastic about Trump’s efforts on Middle East peace and Iran says more about the craven nature of their approach than about the president’s alleged foolishness.

Seen from that perspective, it ought to be obvious that the increased closeness between the United States and Israel, as well as the Arab states that also felt slighted by Obama, deserves applause as opposed to criticism.

Trump has not abandoned NATO but strengthened it by forcing allies to invest in their own defense. And although he is widely depicted as a puppet of Russia, U.S. policy towards Russia has actually been much tougher than that of Obama. Trump gave military aid to Ukraine that Obama refused and placed sanctions on Moscow. It should also be remembered that in 2012, Obama famously mocked opponent Mitt Romney for his insistence that Moscow was America’s chief geopolitical foe.

As Obama proved, the admiration of Europeans and intellectual elites did nothing to enhance American security or that of our allies, let alone advance the cause of peace. Trump engages in sometimes-foolish discourse about foreign policy and foreign despots. Yet in practice, his deeds have advanced traditional U.S. goals while acknowledging that most Americans don’t wish to be dragged into more unwinnable wars. And as the criticism of his efforts to isolate Iran from people like Fox News host Tucker Carlson indicates, his “America First” philosophy is not truly isolationist, but instead embodies a smarter and more cautious exercise of U.S. power than of those previous presidents, whose approach was cheered by establishment figures who have been wrong about virtually every issue for decades.

Despite his obvious shortcomings, Trump has proved that it’s better for America to be loved in Jerusalem and Abu Dhabi than in London, Paris and Berlin. That won’t change the minds of those who look down on him; still, a return to applause from the establishment will be bad news for American interests and those of Israel. If America’s current predicament is isolation, then it’s preferable to a return to Obama-style popularity.
UAE's crown prince wants visit to Jerusalem after historic deal - report
The United Arab Emirates' Crown Prince Mohammed bin Zayed wants to visit Jerusalem in person as he seeks a "comprehensive peace" with Israel, a senior UAE official has told All Arab News.

A visit by the crown prince would underscore the historic nature of the normalization deal recently hammered out between Israel and the United Arab Emirates, indicating not only that the Gulf state wants a state of peace between the nations, but a "warm" peace of mutual cooperation – of a sort thought unimaginable in the Middle East for decades.

Speaking to All Arab News on Tuesday, Dr. Ali Rashid al Nuaimi, chairman of the Defense, Interior and Foreign Affairs Committee at the UAE’s Federal National Council, explained the crown prince's strategy. "Our crown prince is a visionary person. And he has the courage to make the hard decision," al Nuaimi said.

"He believed that we as a nation, the UAE, should carry the mission of counter-extremism in the region and in the world," al Nuaimi said. "In order to achieve that, we had to promote peace, and look for a partner who believed in peace. And, you know, if you want to have peace in the region, you have to create peace with Israel. This is the first step; this is the strong message."

The message coming from the UAE is one of inclusivity, al Nuaimi said, with recognition that the Middle East as a region is home to many groups, all of which have a legitimate claim to exist there. "Jews and Christians – their roots are in this area and this region," he said. "They belong here."
Security and business: Israel charts potential of ties with 3 more Gulf states
In the wake of Israel’s speedily progressing normalization process with the United Arab Emirates, the Intelligence Ministry has analyzed the potential of future ties with three additional states in the region and found fertile ground for robust cooperation, especially in the fields of security and trade.

“The emerging agreement with the UAE may open the door for the advancement of ties with additional Arab Gulf countries, primarily (in order of probability) Oman, Bahrain and Saudi Arabia,” according to a new ministry report, a copy of which was obtained by The Times of Israel.

The ministry determined, for instance, that Riyadh’s security concerns closely align with Jerusalem’s, paving the way for cooperation.

“The kingdom’s network of threats largely overlap with Israel’s network of threats, which may serve as the basis for military and intelligence cooperation in a bilateral framework or as part of regional alliances,” the report said.

At the civilian level, the Saudi “Vision 2030” program outlining the country’s long-term goals, including the hope of diversifying the Saudi economy, presents “opportunities in the areas of technology exports, trade channel development, and cooperation in energy and electricity, agriculture, food and water, aviation, tourism and employment,” according to the report.

The “moderate and quiet rapprochement” between Israel and Saudi Arabia that has taken place over recent years was made possible by political and economic changes in the world, among them the election of US President Donald Trump; the 2015 Iranian nuclear deal; fluctuating oil prices; wars in Syria, Iraq and Yemen; the decreasing importance of the Palestinian question; and the rise of the Saudi crown prince, Mohammed bin Salman, the ministry’s researchers posited.

The future king has advanced a policy of “growing openness toward Israel,” according to the report, which cited his willingness to open Saudi airspace to Air India planes en route to Tel Aviv, and his support for Trump’s so-called deal of the century.
Report: Bahrain next to announce normalization with Israel
Bahrain is expected to become the next Gulf kingdom to formally normalize ties with Israel, an Israeli official told Kan public broadcaster Wednesday.

According to the report, the kingdom is expected to announce the move after an accord between Israel and the United Arab Emirates is signed.

The official is cited as saying that Washington seeks to host Israeli and UAE officials at the signing ceremony at the White House in mid-September before the Jewish New Year.

Bahrain was one of the countries that US State Secretary Mike Pompeo visited during his recent Middle East tour centered on the Israeli-UAE normalization.

Bahrain leaders reportedly told Pompeo that it was committed to the creation of a Palestinian state in talks, implicitly rejecting The U.S. top diplomat's push for Arab countries to swiftly normalize ties with Israel.

Mike Pompeo meets with Bahraini Foreign Minister Abdullatif bin Rashid Al-Zayani in August
Latest events prove: Saudi Arabia wants to talk peace
It seems that one can't quite keep up with the pace of events. A day after the historic flight from Abu Dhabi to Tel Aviv passed through Saudi airspace, the official state outlet in Riyadh announced that all flights to the UAE would be able to fly over the kingdom, including Israeli carriers.

We have waited dozens of years for this development to take place. Saudi Arabia is not just any other country. It is much bigger and much more conservative than other Gulf states and its de facto ruler, Crown Prince Mohammed Bin Salman, considers himself to be the leader of the Sunnis. Thus, a Saudi green light for Israeli overflights is no ordinary thing; it is a clear message that reverberates from Tehran to Rabat and from Ankara to Pretoria, and may have implications for many years to come.

The Arab boycott on Israel was imposed in 1945, even before the state was born. And now, 75 years later, the ruler of the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia is effectively saying that the era of boycotts is over.

Let's stop and think about what all this means. There is peace with Egypt and Jordan; Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and his ministers have already visited Oman and the UAE; there have been breakthroughs in relations with Chad and Sudan, and now the queen mother of the Sunni world, the author of the Saudi Peace Initiative and the bankroller of many regimes in the region, has said it loud and clear: The Star of David can fly over our territory. For the time being this is just about overflight rights, but there will come a time when Israelis will be able to actually set foot in the kingdom. One thing is abundantly clear: Saudi Arabia wants to talk peace with Israel.

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, who is the architect of this breakthrough, said on Wednesday that this will have enormous implications for Israel's economy, by lowering airfare for those who want to fly east, as well as in other aspects.

Netanyahu gets credit to promoting the idea that Israel can get closer ties to the Arab world without necessarily making concessions to the Palestinians. But it is Jared Kushner and his team who have made this into reality under the leadership of President Donald Trump, using his newly revealed peace plan.
Israeli ‘Fauda’ Star Tells UAE Fans ‘We Can’t Wait to Come Visit Your Beautiful Country’ Before Blessing Them in Arabic
“Fauda” star and Israeli singer-songwriter Idan Amedi has shared on Twitter a video message to all his fans in the United Arab Emirates following the recently‐announced normalization agreement between the Jewish state and the UAE.

“If I can speak for all Israelis, we all think peace is a good thing. It’s the right thing and we can’t wait to come visit your beautiful country. Hopefully you [will] come to Israel as well,” Amedi, 32, said.

He then blessed those watching from the UAE, telling them in Arabic, “I hope all of us will live in peace and prosperity.”

The video message included a clip that showed Amedi’s music being played on the radio in the UAE, which he called a “kind gesture” that made him “very excited.”
American Jewish Committee Will Open Office in the United Arab Emirates
American Jewish Committee (AJC), which for more than 25 years has advanced understanding and fostered cooperation between Arab states and the Jewish people, today announced its plans to open an office in the United Arab Emirates.

The move comes in the wake of the historic announcement Aug. 13 by President Donald Trump, His Highness Crown Prince Mohammed bin Zayed Al Nahyan, and Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu that the UAE and Israel would establish full diplomatic relations.

"The establishment of diplomatic relations between the UAE and Israel realizes a vision that AJC has helped to pursue for decades," said David Harris, AJC CEO. "By moving forward on our plans to open an office in the Emirates, AJC hopes to expand on our decades of bridge-building and create a wider network of stakeholders in the new relationships made possible on Aug. 13."

Planning for an AJC office in the UAE -- the 13th overseas outpost of the U.S.-based global Jewish advocacy organization and its first in the Arab world -- has been underway for nearly a year. AJC delegations have visited the UAE at least annually for more than 20 years and consulted regularly with senior officials, business and interfaith leaders, diplomats, and policy analysts there and in the United States. AJC Chief Policy and Political Affairs Officer Jason Isaacson has led the agency's Arab outreach efforts.

With its move to open a UAE office, AJC also looks forward to deepening its ties with the expatriate Jewish community of the Emirates -- a community AJC played a role in helping establish through repeated visits and introductions over the years.
World Zionist Organization to Send Permanent Emissaries to UAE Jewish Community
The World Zionist Organization (WZO) has selected a young couple as pioneer permanent emissaries to the Jewish community in Dubai.

According to the Israeli Prime Minister’s Office, which said that it received an update on this from WZO, Yaacov and Zolty Eisenstein will establish and run a kindergarten to educate Jewish kids about the heritage of their people and the State of Israel.

The Eisenteins also will create an ulpan for the study of Hebrew, and will organize community events during Jewish holidays.

Their mission is part of the “Ben Ami ” program of the WZO Center for Religious Affairs in the Diaspora, which has 36 emissaries operating in 23 countries. The Eisenteins have the distinction of becoming the first emissaries sent to a Jewish community in an Arab country.

“This is an important milestone in the history of the Zionist movement through all its years of existence,” said WZO Chairman Avraham Duvdevani.

The “milestone” was made possible by the US-brokered Abraham Accord that normalizes relations between Israel and the United Arab Emirates, the PMO stated, claiming that the subject of Jewish emissaries to the Gulf state was even discussed during meetings in Abu Dhabi this week between members of the Israeli delegation to the UAE, headed by National Security Council head Meir Ben-Shabbat, and their Emirati counterparts.


El Al to Fly First Cargo Flight to Dubai by an Israeli Carrier
El Al Israel Airlines said on Thursday it would operate the first cargo flight to Dubai by an Israeli carrier on Sept. 16.

The first flight, using a Boeing 747 jet, will travel to Belgium and from there to Dubai, carrying agricultural and high‐tech products. It will later become a weekly flight, leaving Israel every Wednesday and returning to Israel on Fridays.

El Al, Israel’s flag carrier, said the new route will be an “import and export” link to Dubai and further east.

An Israeli delegation visited Abu Dhabi on a historic trip earlier this week to finalize a pact to open up relations between Israel and the United Arab Emirates (UAE).

El Al flew the delegation and received permission from Saudi Arabia, which does not have diplomatic relations with Israel, to cross over its territory en route to the UAE’s capital of Abu Dhabi.

On Wednesday, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said Israeli airliners will be allowed to fly directly to the UAE, shortly after Saudi Arabia opened its airspace to all flights to and from the UAE.


Palestinians lead Arab artists to boycott UAE culture events after Israel deal
The United Arab Emirates’ move to pursue normalization with Israel has prompted a backlash from Arab artists and intellectuals, with several boycotting Emirati-backed cultural awards and events to support the Palestinian cause.

“I announce that I am withdrawing from your exhibition,” Palestinian photographer Mohamed Badarne wrote to the Sharjah Art Foundation, based in one of the seven emirates that make up the UAE.

“As a people under occupation, we must take a stand against anything to do with reconciliation with the (Israeli) occupier,” Berlin-based Badarne told AFP.

The UAE agreed last month to establish full diplomatic ties with Israel in a US-brokered deal, making it the first Gulf state and only the third Arab country to do so.

The agreement was denounced by Palestinians as “a stab in the back,” and sparked protests.

Many Palestinians see the deal as a betrayal, breaking a consensus that normalization with Israel should come only after the Palestinian question has been resolved.




Time Is Running Out for the Palestinians
I am addressing this article to the Palestinian Authority with a warning — having missed so many opportunities in the past to settle their conflict with Israel, it has now reached a point of no return. The mutual recognition between the UAE and Israel does not impede any prospect for resolving the Israeli-Palestinian conflict based on a two-state solution. In fact, it makes such a solution possible, provided that the Palestinians understand that their intransigence will only further undermine rather than enhance their prospects of establishing an independent state of their own.

The fact that the UAE conditioned its recognition of Israel on freezing any further annexation is very important. It offers the Palestinians the opportunity to move forward and enter into unconditional negotiations now. Even though Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said the halt on further annexation is temporary, once the Palestinians agree to negotiate in good faith, they will make it impossible for any Israeli government to annex any territory without risking normalization of relations with other Arab states.

The Palestinian Authority ought to understand that other Arab countries, such as Bahrain and Oman, will sooner rather than later follow the UAE’s initiative, and they too will insist that Israel forego annexing further Palestinian territory. At this juncture, the Palestinians cannot stop other Arab states from normalizing relations with Israel, as they in principle have decided that their national interest precedes that of the Palestinians’, although they will still push and promote the idea of establishing a Palestinian state.

It is time now for the Palestinian Authority and Hamas to understand that there are certain realities they are facing today, which they can no longer change under any circumstances.

Israel is a dominant power and it is becoming stronger rather than weaker relative to the Palestinians and other countries in the region. Furthermore, without peace, the Palestinians will continue to depend on Israel in a number of ways – especially economically and in freedom of movement – for as far as the eye can see.
The Palestinians Are Now on Their Own
Israel and the United Arab Emirates are taking another important step towards peace.

The announcement that the UAE was canceling its economic boycott of Israel, that the first commercial flight departed for the UAE from Ben Gurion International Airport on Monday, and that the start of practical negotiations for implementing peace all show that the Emirati leaders are determined to make sure the agreement includes real content. The goal is to maintain warm ties with Israel and cooperate with it on economic ventures, rather than just defense.

The Palestinians could have been the first to enjoy the fruits of said cooperation, but they aren’t interested in normalization or a warm peace, even if these could bring both Israel and the Palestinians prosperity. It’s no wonder that the Palestinians greeted the news of peace between Israel and the UAE with a cry of desperation and rushed to condemn the Emirati “betrayal” of the Palestinian cause.

But it seems as if what’s bothering the Palestinians isn’t the declaration of peace or the fact that most Arab countries welcome and support it — in fact, a few are even signaling that they will soon follow suit. The Palestinians have been left on their own, and the Arab world, which was supposed to fight their battles for them, is now lining up to make peace with Israel.

Basically, only Iran and Turkey took a stand against the Israel-UAE peace deal, and even they didn’t do so for the sake of the Palestinians, but because they see the deal as hurting their own status in the region, and possibly even as a challenge to their attempts to gain influence and control throughout the Arab world.

The deal could have helped the Palestinians promote their own vital interests. It gives the UAE the power to act to implement calm and regional stability, and even mediate between the two sides to help them reach understandings, which would improve the Palestinians’ economic situation and living standards. After all, aid like this is better than the money the Qataris are throwing on the conflict like gasoline on a fire, which merely goes to feed radicalism and terrorism.
Honduran Official: Embassy Relocation to Jerusalem Moving Forward
Honduras’s plan to relocate its Israeli embassy to Jerusalem was delayed by COVID-19 but will move forward in the coming days, the country’s government said on Wednesday.

Honduran Foreign Minister Lisandro Rosales Banegas told local media that the move would be taken in conjunction with the arrival in Honduras of an Israeli ambassador, which he said was expected soon.

The announcement comes amid a reorganization carried out in Tegucigalpa, involving new postings in embassies around the world.

Honduras under President Juan Orlando Hernández has pivoted toward closer technological and economic ties with Europe, as well as with Israel, resulting in a series of key ambassadorial appointments.

Hernández announced the opening of a trade mission in Israel’s capital in March 2019, and later in September that year arrived in Israel to inaugurate it.
Cyprus Ready to Serve as Israeli Businesses’ Treasure Island
As one of Israel’s closest neighbors, both from a geographic and a friendship standpoint, and with ever-strengthening cooperation, Cyprus is shaping up to be one of Israel’s most promising trade partners.

The collaboration between the two countries manifests itself in a multitude of sectors, such as energy, defense, business, tourism, research and innovation, health, and more. Over the past five years, bilateral relations have also served as a foundation for regional and international strategic partnerships, including the establishment of the Trilateral partnership between Cyprus, Greece, and Israel (with the participation of the US) and the formation of the Eastern Mediterranean Gas Forum (EMGF).

Israel ranks as Cyprus’ fifth-largest trading partner, with the Israeli market mainly serving as a destination for significant volumes of Cypriot industrial products of mineral origin (such as cement and gypsum) as well as fish products resulting from aquaculture activities (such as farmed seabass and seabream).

Cyprus on the other hand, serves as one of the most important export markets for Israel’s refined petroleum products industry. In all, Israeli exports to the country increased by more than 30% from 2017 to 2018, closing on $950 million.








IDF: Palestinian who entered Israel from Gaza had bomb, knife
The Israel Defense Forces on Thursday said a Palestinian man who crossed the border from the southern Gaza Strip a day earlier was in possession of a bomb and knife.

The military said the arrest of the suspect late Wednesday night “foiled an attempted terror attack,” and confirmed that the so-called suspicious object found nearby was a bomb.

An eight-inch knife was also found in the area, the army said.

The suspect infiltrated into Israel near the community of Ein Hashlosha. He was arrested near the security fence, the military said.

The IDF said the suspect was being interrogated by troops.

The incident came two days after Israel and terror groups in the Strip agreed to a ceasefire, following weeks of low-level violence along the border and retaliatory strikes by the IDF.


Arabic media: Israeli airstrikes made on strategic T-4 airbase in Syria
Syrian air defense confronted an attack on the strategic T-4 airbase in the Homs province of Syria, Arabic media reported Wednesday night. The base is located in the desert, near the ancient city of Palmyra, and is an important station for the planes and weapons systems of the Syrian regime and Iran. Iran has allegedly moved drones and air-defense systems to T-4 in the past.

Syrian state media and Arabic media have accused Israel of numerous strikes on the location. This was the second airstrike in two days on the country, according to Syrian social media. The other one, on September 1, was near Damascus.

Sources described air defenses being activated over T-4 in an effort to stop airstrikes, Russia’s Sputnik news reported. Social media accounts claimed the strikes came from the south and that the flight path was over an area called Tanf base, which is used by the US.

Monday’s airstrikes allegedly killed five members of pro-Iranian militias, including three non-Syrians. Rumors even indicated a high-level Iranian officer was killed. Social-media reports said it might have been Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps Quds Force head Esmail Ghaani, who replaced Qassem Soleimani in January.

Ghaani has been to Syria at least once. Iranian sources indicate he was not harmed and that anti-Syrian regime activists spread the rumors.









Hamas in Lebanon meets Islamic Jihad ahead of possible Hezbollah meeting
Hamas members were hosted in Beirut by members of the Palestinian Islamic Jihad (PIJ) in a meeting of arch-terrorist masterminds that included a meal at what appeared to be a nice restaurant or villa. Hamas leader Ismail Haniyeh is on a regional tour after being given a red carpet in Ankara by Turkey’s President Recep Tayyip Erdogan.

It appears that Hamas is seeking to up its notoriety after the UAE and Israel announced normalization. Haniyeh is also trying to present himself as a regional leader. Al-Arabiya TV channel says that he and the Hamas delegation are also meeting with Hezbollah officials.

The meeting in Beirut came after other meetings Hamas held with Lebanese officials. Beirut suffered a massive explosion in August that killed more than 150 people. Despite Lebanon being in mourning and financial distress, Hamas and Islamic Jihad appeared to toast their success. PIJ
has been confronting Israel over the last two years after Hamas launched its “March of Return” in 2018.

The secretary-general of Islamic Jihad, Ziyad al-Nakhalah, is intensely interested in the meetings because they are supposed to be the lead up to a video conference with Palestinian groups in the West Bank as well. Hamas also met in Beirut with the Democratic Front for the Liberation of Palestine, as well as with Lebanese parliament speaker Nabih Berri and Lebanese government caretaker head Hassan Diab. He complained about Lebanon’s treatment of Palestinian refugees as well, and discussed Israel’s threats to “annex” areas in the West Bank.






FDD: Iran imposes double execution on champion wrestler for peacefully protesting regime
Courts in the Iranian city of Shiraz slapped a champion wrestler with a shocking penalty of two death sentences and whipping for protesting in 2018 against the Islamic Republic of Iran’s disastrous economic policies.

The sentencing against 27-year-old Navid Afkari has triggered widespread outrage from human rights activists, Iranian-Americans and a decorated American wrestler, who are demanding Tehran’s clerical rulers to stop the execution.

Afkari was reportedly part of the hundreds of protesters who took to the streets in anti-government demonstrations in several cities in August 2018. They were protesting the country’s worsening economic situation and inflation.

The news website Iran International reported on Saturday that Iran imposed two death sentences on Afkari as well as six years and six months in prison and 74 lashes.

One death sentence was imposed by a criminal court and one by a “revolutionary court.”

“This is what the Islamic Republic of Iran does to a mother. Her name is Behieh Namjou,” Masih Alinejad, a prominent Iranian dissident and journalist, tweeted to her more than 200,000 followers. “The regime has sentenced her son Navid Afkari to death for a simply protesting [sic]. Her other sons are unjustly imprisoned. She’s gone from a cheerful and happy mother into a sad and gloomy mother.”
Ex US intel head urges Olympics to probe Iran’s execution of wrestler
The former US acting director of national intelligence Richard Grenell on Wednesday urged the organizers of the Olympics to intervene in the slated execution of an Iranian national champion wrestler.

“The Tokyo organizers of the Olympics should inquire about this athlete’s case,” Grenell wrote to The Jerusalem Post on Wednesday.

The Post reported last week on the case of the wrestler Navid Afkari, whose death penalty sentence was confirmed by the Islamic Republic of Iran's Supreme Court for his 2018 peaceful protest against the regime in Tehran.

Iran’s regime alleged that Afkari killed a security man in Shiraz, Fars Province at the time of the summer 2018 protests against the mismanaged Iranian economy. Afkari said he was tortured into making a forced confession.

According to an audio from August 30, 2020, Navid spoke about his injuries in the Medical Examiner’s Office in Shiraz that were a result of the torture.

“The evidence is there if the court wants to investigate [the acts of torture] … There is not one shred of evidence in this damned case that shows I’m guilty. But they don’t want to listen to us. I realized they are looking for a neck for their rope,” Navid said.

“Death sentences from a judicial system that ignores evidence, denies due process and tortures its detainees into false ‘confessions’ are nothing less than murder,” said Hadi Ghaemi, executive director of the Center for Human Rights in Iran (CHRI).


Amnesty International Accuses Iran of Widespread Rights Abuses Against Protesters
Amnesty International accused Iran‘s clerical establishment on Wednesday of presiding over widespread abuses of human rights in a security crackdown on nationwide protests last year touched off by fuel price rises.

The London-based human rights group issued a report including allegations of “rape, enforced disappearance, torture and other ill-treatment” of those detained for involvement in the November 2019 unrest that buffeted the Islamic Republic.

The protests began over fuel price hikes but turned broadly political when thousands of mainly working-class demonstrators across the country demanded top officials step down.

“Those arrested included peaceful protesters and bystanders, among whom were schoolchildren as young as 10 years old,” said Amnesty’s report, citing what it called credible reports by witnesses and victims’ families, verified videos and information from human rights activists.

Iranian authorities said some 200,000 people took part in the protests, while the head of parliament’s national security committee said at least 7,000 were arrested. Rights groups said the figure was in the thousands. The judiciary said in January that the majority of detainees had been released.

Amnesty’s report said Iranian security services used torture against detainees including “waterboarding, beating, flogging, electric shocks, pepper-spraying genitals, sexual violence, mock executions, pulling out nails and solitary confinement, sometimes for weeks or even months.”




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