Monday, October 12, 2020

From Ian:

Study Finds Majority Support for Ties With Israel in Saudi Arabia, UAE, Jordan and Egypt
A study published in the United Arab Emirates over the weekend shows growing support for establishing ties with Israel in some Arab countries.

The poll, conducted by US-based Zogby Analytics, found majority support in four Arab states for normalizing relations with Israel and that the driving force behind this shift is a desire to stabilize the political and military situation in the Middle East.

According to Sky News Arabia, the poll included 3,600 Arab respondents living in Saudi Arabia, the UAE, Jordan, Egypt and the Palestinian Authority, and was supervised by James Zogby, founder and president of the Arab-American Institute.

Sky News Arabia was the only media outlet reporting on the results of the survey.

According to the survey, 59 percent of Jordanians and Saudis, along with 58 percent of Egyptians and 56 percent of the residents of the UAE support normalization agreements between Israel and the Arab world, citing primarily regional stability and economic prosperity. In sharp contrast, the poll said that 61 percent of Palestinians opposed normalization.

A recent study by Israel’s Strategic Affairs Ministry, however, found that overall, Arab social media users were less enthused about the Abraham Accords than the UAE poll might suggest. The ministry’s data suggests that a whopping 90 percent of all Arabic social media discourse on the recent rapprochement between Israel, the UAE and Bahrain is negative.

The report shows that between August and September, 95 percent of Arabic social media posts commenting on the issue slammed the UAE, with 45 percent of the posts calling the agreement a “betrayal.”

Other allegations against the UAE focused on the ban on signing agreements with the “Zionists” (27 percent), Abu Dhabi’s “hypocrisy” and its “capitulation” to the United States (5 percent).

But not all was negative: 61 percent of the posts favoring the deal cited security benefits, 33 percent noted economic potential and 6 percent said the accords simply made an existing situation official.


Australia halves UNRWA funding
The Australian Government has quietly halved its contribution to the United Nations Relief and Works Agency for Palestine Refugees (UNRWA).

The cut to UNRWA funding was not formally announced by the Morrison Government, but was listed in the 2020-21 Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade budget papers. In 2020-21, Australia will contribute $10 million to UNRWA, down from $20 million in 2019-20.

It is important to note that despite budgetary pressures due to COVID-19, the Australian Government has not made significant reductions to its contributions to other global humanitarian organisations, including UN agencies.

Support for the UN High Commission for Refugees (UNHCR) has remained the same, support for the World Health Organisation and UN Children’s Fund is constant, but there was a drop in support for the World Food Programme. UNRWA is the only organisation of its type whose funding was halved by the Australian Government in this Budget.

This decision marks the end of a period when Australia, beginning under then-foreign minister Bob Carr, became one of UNRWA’s most significant funders. In 2012. Carr announced a five-year $90 million funding deal for UNRWA. This was topped up with an additional $4.5 million in 2013. By 2017, Australia was UNRWA’s 12th largest donor.

The Coalition Government extended UNRWA funding, contributing, on average, $20 million a year until 2019-20.

However, there have been calls for the Australian Government, including from the Australia/Israel & Jewish Affairs Council (AIJAC) to carefully consider whether supporting UNRWA is truly in Australia’s national interest or whether Australia should be making its funding contingent on reforms to UNRWA. It should be noted that the United States withdrew its funding of UNRWA in 2018 due to concerns over its effectiveness and neutrality.


Khaled Abu Toameh: Saudi Arabia: We, Too, Are Fed Up with the Palestinians
[M]any Saudis and other Gulf citizens expressed support for Prince Bandar bin Abdulaziz's criticism of the Palestinians, with some saying the time has come for a new Palestinian leadership that prioritizes its people's interests and does not pocket the financial aid sent to them by the Arab countries and the West.

"Palestinian leaders stole the aid sent to the Palestinian people and built mansions in Washington, Paris and London, while ignoring the suffering of their people." — Saudi political analyst Abdel Rahman Al-Mulhem, Al-Yaum, October 9, 2020.

According to Fahd Al-Shoqiran, a Saudi researcher and columnist, Palestinians "must be reminded that the hundreds of billions of money their leaders received to support their cause from Saudi Arabia throughout its history were capable of building the Palestinians huge cities." Instead, Al-Shoqiran said, Palestinian leaders used the money to buy private planes and luxurious buildings in Europe and the US... "The prince's speech was clear, direct, accurate and frank. The speech is a wake-up call. Things have changed...."

What is evident, meanwhile, is that, where Saudi Arabia is concerned, the Palestinians are on very thin ice. In fact, they may wake up to discover that the ice is melting all over the Arab world.
BESA: Will They Or Won’t They? Saudi Recognition of Israel Is the $64,000 Question
Will the Saudis formalize relations with Israel or will they not? Odds are that Saudi Arabia is not about to formalize relations with Israel—but the kingdom, its image tarnished by multiple missteps, is seeking to ensure that it is not perceived as the odd man out as smaller Gulf states establish diplomatic relations with the Jewish state.

Bahrain’s announcement that it would follow in the footsteps of the United Arab Emirates was as much a Bahraini move as it was a Saudi signal that it is not opposed to normalization with Israel.

Largely dependent on the kingdom since Saudi troops helped quash mass anti-government protests in 2011, Bahrain, a majority Shiite Muslim nation, would not have agreed to establish diplomatic relations with Israel without Saudi consent.

The Bahraini move followed several other Saudi gestures intended to signal the kingdom’s endorsement of Arab normalization of Israel even if it was not going to lead the pack.

The gestures included the opening of Saudi air space to Israeli commercial flights, as well as publication of a Saudi think tank report praising Crown Prince Muhammad bin Salman’s stewardship in modernizing the kingdom’s religious education system and encouraging the religious establishment to replace “extremist narratives” in school textbooks with “a moderate interpretation of Islamic rhetoric.”

They also involved a sermon by Abdulrahman Sudais, imam of the Grand Mosque in Mecca—the world’s largest mosque, which surrounds the Kaaba, Islam’s holiest site. The sermon highlighted the Prophet Muhammad’s friendly relations with Jews.
Netanyahu and UAE crown prince agree to meet ‘soon’ as cabinet okays treaty
Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and the de facto leader of the United Arab Emirates have agreed to meet in the near future, the premier’s office said Monday as his government gave initial approval to a historic treaty between the countries.

Netanyahu and Crown Prince Mohammed bin Zayed Al Nahyan spoke over the weekend and agreed to meet “soon,” according to a readout of their conversation provided by the Prime Minister’s Office.

The conversation was the first between the two since the agreement to normalize ties between the states was announced on August 13.

The readout did not specify where the meeting would take place, but Netanyahu said that he was looking forward to hosting a senior UAE delegation in Israel.

This would be “a reciprocal visit” following the August 31 trip to Abu Dhabi by an Israeli delegation headed by National Security Adviser Meir Ben Shabbat, the prime minister said.

Netanyahu told ministers at Monday’s weekly cabinet meeting that he had spoken to bin Zayed, describing him as a friend.

“I invited him to visit Israel, he invited me to visit Abu Dhabi,” he said.
Smotrich to PM: Release UAE-Israel agreements regarding Temple Mount
The details of any agreements between Israel and the United Arab Emirates regarding the Temple Mount must be released before Thursday's Knesset vote on the peace treaty, Yamina MK Bezalel Smotrich wrote in a letter to Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu.

Smotrich pointed out that Israeli, American and Emirati officials said that visits by Muslims to the Temple Mount were part of the agreements. However, that matter is not part of the published text.

"In order to stand for the Israeli-Jewish interest at the holiest site in the world for Jews, I ask to receive all of the agreements between the sides, written or oral, connected to the Temple Mount, its diplomatic and property status, its administration and visitation and prayer arrangements for Jews and for those who are not," Smotrich wrote last week.

The MK added that it is "a basic condition in a democratic country for the public and MKs to know what they are being asked to authorize in their vote...in the plenum."

The cabinet unanimously approved the peace treaty between Israel and the UAE on Monday.

The August 13 statement announcing peace between Israel and the UAE, posted on US President Donald Trump's Twitter account, said: "All Muslims who come in peace may visit and pray at Al-Aksa Mosque."
Sovereignty Movement calls for clarity ahead of UAE peace deal vote
Ahead of the cabinet vote on Israel's peace agreement with the United Arab Emirates on Monday, the Sovereignty Movement put out a call for ministers to hold a genuine and clear discussion before the expected ratification of the Abraham Accord.

The Sovereignty Movement's call for clarity and depth in the discussion leading up to the vote was made out of concern for the potential ramifications that ratifying the agreement could have.

"The movement lists a number of matters that demand transparent and serious consideration before the ministers and members of Knesset determine their position on the agreement," a Sovereignty Movement statement said.

According to the movement’s co-chairwomen Yehudit Katsover and Nadia Matar, the security ramifications of the agreement are the highest concern and include subjects such as "the deal on the F-35 jets, rights granted to the United Emirates to the Temple Mount, a suspension or cancellation of plans for Israel to apply sovereignty in Judea and Samaria, the content of the concealed appendices in the agreement and other matters."

They note that despite "the political, diplomatic and security importance of friendly and courageous relations with the Trump administration," elected Israeli officials must not be a cause for a "vain and shallow" discussion on the agreement.
Israeli gov't delegation to visit Bahrain
An Israeli government delegation is expected to go to Bahrain on Sunday, the first such visit since the countries announced they were making peace and normalizing ties last month.

They will be joined by US officials, as Israeli officials were in the first visit to Abu Dhabi after normalization with the United Arab Emirates.

Israel and Bahrain announced normalization on September 11, 2020, less than a month after the UAE announcement, and signed a declaration of peace on the White House lawn several days later.

Bahrain has long been relatively open to Israel compared to other countries in the region. It stopped boycotting Israel in 2005, and allowed its citizens to visit Israel in 2017.

In 2019, Bahrain hosted a US-backed economic workshop meant to benefit the Palestinians, whose officials boycotted the event. Six Israeli journalists were invited to report on the workshop.
Palestinian two-state support at 39% after Israel-UAE deal, Shikaki says
Palestinian support for the two-state solution has hit a nine-year low, dropping to 39% in the aftermath of the announcement of the Israeli-United Arab Emirates normalization deal, political scientist Khalil Shikaki told The Jerusalem Press Club on Monday morning.

The data, he said, was based on a poll of 1,270 Palestinians done on September 9-12 – just prior to the Washington signing – which had a margin of error of 3%.

A similar poll done in June of Palestinians in the West Bank, Gaza and east Jerusalem showed 45% support for two-states. In 2011, Shikaki said, 55% of Palestinians favored two states. If one goes back a decade earlier, support was over 70%, he said.

Simultaneously, he said, support for a one-state solution in June 2020, increased to its highest point in that same period, 37%.

In 2011, he said, 27% of Palestinians supported a one-state resolution, compared to 55% who favored two states, said Shikaki, who directs the Ramallah-based Palestinian Center for Policy and Survey Research.

“There is no doubt that we see a correlation” between Palestinian perception with regard to the two-state solution and the Arab normalization deals with Israel, he said.
First maritime cargo shipment from UAE enters Haifa Port
The first ship carrying cargo from the United Arab Emirates to Israel entered the Haifa Port on Monday. The ship carried iron, firefighting equipment, cleaning equipment and electronic equipment. It will bring cargo from the Emirates on a weekly basis.

The shipment marks a new trade line between Israel and the UAE. Exports from Israel to the Emirates are also being considered, according to Port2Port.

The cabinet is set to vote on Israel’s peace agreement with the UAE on Monday, ahead of a Knesset debate and vote on Thursday.

The ship that entered Haifa on Monday, the MCS Paris, covers a route between India, Israel and other Mediterranean ports.

"This is an exciting and historic event. It is symbolic that the first ship with cargo from the Emirates arrives exactly at the same time as the approval of the historic agreement in the Israeli government," said Eshel Armony, chairman of the Haifa Port Company board of directors, according to Port2Port.

"The Haifa Port proves time and time again its importance to the Israeli economy, and we are convinced that this importance will only intensify at the end of the privatization process in which we are now," he said.
New Middle East trade route cemented as cargo ship from Dubai docks in Haifa
The ship-to-shore crane paused above the cargo ship just arrived from Dubai, then set its load down on the pier in Israel.

One after another, eight containers filled with electronics, cleaning supplies, iron and firefighting equipment were unloaded off the MSC Paris, one of the first cargo ships to make the journey between the United Arab Emirates and Israel.

Just a few months ago, such a journey from Dubai's Jebel Ali port to Haifa would have been unthinkable.

The countries announced a normalization deal in August which laid the ground for a potentially profitable new trade route.

The diplomatic breakthrough stemmed from a strategic realignment of Middle East nations, in particular Israel and Gulf Arab nations led by Sunni rulers, who face what they perceive as a shared threat from Iran.

But it is also grounded in economics and potential collaborations in the fields of business, investment and technology.

Israeli officials have estimated bilateral trade could reach as much as $4 billion a year – and nearly all goods will have to travel by sea.

"This is very exciting, "said Eshel Armony, chairman of the board at Haifa Port. "This is a new era in the Middle East, and I'm sure this will bring more and more trade," he said.

"We're going to see this line once a week by MSC and, who knows, later on maybe we'll have even more ... I hope that will happen quickly," Armony said.
Lebanese Journalists: Lebanon Must Advance Towards Peace With Israel
In two recent articles on Saudi media, Lebanese journalists urged their country to follow the example of the UAE and Bahrain and advance towards peace with Israel. Shi'ite Lebanese journalist Nadim Koteich addressed this issue in a column titled "When Will There Be Peace between Israel and Lebanon"? in the London-based Saudi daily Al-Sharq Al-Awsat. In the column, published on September 15, the day of the signing of the peace agreement between Israel, the UAE and Bahrain, he wrote that the only thing preventing peace between Lebanon and Israel is Hizbullah, which has taken over Lebanon's decision-making, and whose survival depends on perpetuating the conflict with Israel. He then reviewed the alleged points of contention between Israel and Lebanon, and argued that none of them are real problems that cannot be resolved. This includes, for example, the issue of the Shab'a Farms, a small disputed area on the Israel-Lebanon border. Koteich stated that this issue once served as a pretext for preserving Syria's military presence in Lebanon, and today it serves as a pretext for preserving Hizbullah's weapons. He concluded by saying that "attaining peace today is better than attaining it later."[1]

Writing on the English-language website of the Saudi Al-Arabiya network, Lebanese journalist and researcher Makram Rabah focused on the economic losses that may be inflicted on Lebanon by Israel's peace agreement with the UAE. He wrote that Israel's rapprochement with the Gulf allows it to fill an economic position previously held by Lebanon and the Lebanese: While the Gulf states previously hired Lebanese experts to provide various services, such as help build schools, hospitals and firms, now they may turn to Israelis instead. Hence, he said, it is in Lebanon's interest to rethink its position vis-à-vis Israel and adapt itself to the regional trends. Stating that many Lebanese secretly long for peace with Israel, he concluded that "Beirut’s refusal to readjust its policy toward Israel is neither smart nor constructive, and claiming neutrality while actually serving as a pawn in Iran’s regional strategy is a losing game."

Similar arguments were made by Lebanese politicians and journalists in televised interviews. Former interior minister Sejaan 'Azzi, for example, said that Israel does not pose a threat to Lebanon and that it has never had ambitions to occupy Lebanese territories, and journalist Rami Na'im said that the upcoming negotiations for dem
Hizbullah's Secrets Explode - and Are Covered Up - Again
On Sep. 29, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu addressed the UN General Assembly by video, revealing the existence of a "secret arms depot" in Beirut's Janah neighborhood. The IDF published details about two other Hizbullah manufacturing sites for precision-guided missiles in the Laylaki and Choueifat neighborhoods, both sheltered beneath residential buildings.

In addition to recalling the Aug. 4 blast in Beirut port, Netanyahu recalled the Sep. 22 explosion in Ain Qana. The UN also reported on explosions in Khirbet Selim in July 2009, Tayr Filsay in October 2009, Shahabia in September 2010, and Tayr Harfa in December 2012. Seven weeks before the Ain Qana incident, a Norway-based journalist tweeted in Arabic that the village was home to Hizbullah's engineering unit, and that the group had been using several residences to manufacture explosive charges and store tons of explosive material since 2008, using a dairy as cover.

Lebanon and the international community must still reckon with the fact that Hizbullah maintains its own military arsenal and foreign policy outside the government's control; embeds its forces and weapons in populated areas, thereby exposing civilians to safety hazards and turning them into human shields; and persists in developing precision missiles and other advanced threats that risk provoking Israel to take preventive action.
How the Arab world turned against Hezbollah
Opposition to Hezbollah is building back home. Its reputation among its traditional Shia support base is suffering as a result of the country’s ongoing financial crisis. The Lebanese lira has lost more than three-quarters of its value since October 2019, causing the price of imported goods to rocket. Hundreds of thousands of people were losing their jobs even before the coronavirus pandemic. A dollar shortage caused banks to impose arbitrary limits on withdrawals last autumn. Although not proven to be directly responsible, and whether fairly or not, Hezbollah is being blamed for the Beirut port explosion, which killed nearly 200 people and left hundreds of thousands homeless. The party is part of the political elite in Lebanon, and as such is seen to shoulder some responsibility for the general neglect and corruption that allowed thousands of tons of improperly stored and highly explosive materials to lie in the port for years. After the disaster, protestors carried gallows through Beirut, complete with noosed models of political leaders, including Hassan Nasrallah of Hezbollah. (At the time of writing, investigations into the blast are ongoing.)

While Hezbollah members and fighters receive salaries in US dollars, its ordinary supporters are bearing the brunt of the debauching of Lebanon’s currency along with everyone else. The party’s access to a supply of fresh dollars—from where exactly remains unclear—pits the Hezbollah haves against the have-nots. “Their non-full-timers don’t get paid in dollars—even the Hezbollah fans—and they’re struggling, really struggling,” said Lamia. “They’re not the people’s party anymore.”

On the ground just as much as in the popularity stakes, Hezbollah’s ambitions can lead to the running of risks. By building connections with local smugglers, businessmen and communities along the porous Syria-Lebanon border—near Al-Qusayr, the town Hezbollah took from Syrian rebels much earlier in the war—and by creating its own security network, including detention centres, Hezbollah is today dedicated to consolidating its own control as an end in itself. Through “relationships with strong local entities in Syria,” explained analyst Nawar Shaban, Hezbollah has “now secured their presence for a couple of years, or even more.” And if this strategy works militarily, it potentially does so at the cost of human lives: “Before this,” said Shaban, chanelling the thoughts of the group’s opponents, “I knew that to target Hezbollah in Syria, I needed to target Hezbollah locations. But now that Hezbollah is depending on local entities, how to know which to attack?” All this creates “very complicated, and very dangerous” confusion.
Amb. Alan Baker: Israel-Lebanon Maritime Boundary Negotiations – Some Unique Aspects
After a rift of over 30 years since any meaningful negotiations took place between Lebanon and Israel, the two countries have now agreed to conduct negotiations on their mutual maritime border, with the U.S. as mediator and facilitator.

The most important factor in pushing both states towards negotiating is the potential economic benefits to Lebanon and Israel of cooperation in the extraction and marketing of natural gas. According to an estimate of the U.S. Geological Survey in 2010, unexplored potential reserves in the Levant Basin amount to 1.7 billion barrels of recoverable oil and 122 trillion cubic feet of recoverable gas - the world's largest gas finds in decades.

However, unlike routine border negotiations between neighboring states at peace with each other, a prevailing atmosphere of hostility, suspicion, lack of trust, and a long history of armed conflict and terror, renders this particular dispute as unique.

Lebanon's political leadership have, up to the present, represented the two countries as being in an ongoing state of armed conflict. Yet on May 17, 1983, the two countries agreed to formally end the state of war between them and grant mutual recognition of each country's sovereignty and territorial integrity. Moreover, in the context of the 1991 Madrid Conference, more than a dozen rounds of bilateral talks were held between Israel and Lebanon in 1991-1993.

As Amb. Freddy Eytan noted in the Times of Israel (in French) on October 4: "Of course, this is not a peace agreement with the country of the Cedar because Hizbullah refuses any direct contact or compromise with the 'Zionist enemy.' [Yet] for the first time, Lebanese leaders such as the Shiite President of the National Assembly, Nabih Berry, no longer use the term 'enemy' when referring to the State of Israel." "The new negotiations, although limited in time and space, present a de facto "recognition" of the existence of the neighboring Israeli state."
The Struggle between Israel and Hizbullah, 1982-2020
Preface Amb. Dore Gold

There is no adversarial state in the Middle East as challenging to understand as Lebanon. Unlike Israel’s other Arab neighbors, Lebanon is a state with a Shiite Muslim plurality. In fact, it is a state within a Shiite state headed by Hizbullah. As a result, for many years now, Lebanon has had special ties with Iran, as well as Iraq, and with other states containing substantial Shiite populations. Understanding the complexity of Middle Eastern politics in the context of the Lebanese state requires far more than mastering current events. It requires a deep understanding of all the dimensions of Lebanon as a whole.

Brig.-Gen. (ret.) Dr. Shimon Shapira is one of the rare scholars who has been able to truly understand the struggle that transpired between Israel and Lebanon since 1982. He works with original sources in Arabic and Farsi. He understands the significance of Shiite practices, many of which have little similarity to the ceremonies practiced in Sunni Islam. It is no wonder that as Israel’s engagement in Lebanon grew, his scholarship served as an important source to help the Israeli security establishment understand the state with which they had become engaged. Most importantly, for those who incorrectly saw Hizbullah as chiefly a local Lebanese phenomenon, Shapira’s analysis provides an important corrective that stresses the role of Iran and brings its quest to create a Middle Eastern empire into correct proportion.

The Struggle between Israel and Hizbullah 1982-2020 by Brig.-Gen. (ret.) Dr. Shimon Shapira

Iran Views Lebanon as Part of Its Territory At the root of the struggle between Israel and Hizbullah, already being waged for almost four decades, stands Iran. It views Lebanon as part of the territory of the Islamic Republic, which is led by the velayat-e faqih (Rule of the Jurisprudent) – first Ayatollah Ruhollah Khomeini, subsequently Ali Khamenei. From the Iranian revolutionary perspective, geographical borders are of no significance. The strategic depth that protects the Islamic Republic extends from Iran in the east to the shores of the Mediterranean Sea in the West and includes Iraq, Syria, and Lebanon, as well as Yemen and the Persian Gulf states in the south.

Iran seeks to establish its Islamic empire among the Shiite populations of the region while denying any importance to the national component, instead granting these populations collective expression in the form of movements, parties, and organizations whose task is to challenge the nation-states in which they operate and to shape them by building a fighting Islamic society with military capabilities that is exclusively loyal to the leader of Iran, and that affords Iran active involvement in the jihad against Israel.

Lebanon was the Islamic empire’s first target. Over the past decade it has fallen like a ripe fruit into Iran’s hands. Through Hizbullah, Iran has taken control of the institutions of the Lebanese state and turned it into a failed state whose stability has collapsed amid severe economic and political corruption that threatens its demise. Meanwhile, Iraq and Syria have fallen, and Iran is using Yemen’s territory to wage the struggle against Saudi Arabia, whose legitimate control of the Islamic holy places Iran has put in question.
Prominent Advocates for Kurdish Rights Publish NY Times Ad Urging Break With Turkey’s Erdogan
Marking the first anniversary of Turkey’s invasion of northern Syria, the advocacy group Justice for Kurds (JFK) ran a double-page advertisement in Friday’s print edition of The New York Times urging the severing of links with Turkey’s president, Recep Tayyip Erodgan.

Published under the banner “It’s Time to Break With Erdogan,” the ad noted that over the last year, “the Kurds’ daily reality remains one of darkness.”

Numbering almost 30 million, the Kurds are the largest stateless minority in the Middle East. About 14 million Kurds live in Turkey, where the PKK Kurdish militia has fought a war against the government in Ankara since the 1970s.

Last year’s Turkish incursion over the border into northern Syria, which is home to more than 2 million Kurds, was intended to crush Kurdish aspirations for self-determination in that region.

“Nowhere has such a tragic plight been more strongly evidenced than by the aggressive and murderous offensive carried out by the Turkish government against the Kurds of Syria,” the Times ad declared.

It concluded with the assertion that Erdogan, who is closely allied with the wealthy Gulf emirate of Qatar, “constitutes a threat to the region on a par with Iran.”
Turkey’s online social media army increasingly slams UAE and Israel
Any journalist or commentator who is critical of Turkey’s foreign policy or who appears to cover groups such as Kurds has gotten used to being subjected to social-media abuse, particularly on Twitter, by pro-Turkish accounts over the past few years.

Most of these accounts appear to be fake, have only a few dozen or hundreds of followers and tend to retweet the same information, usually speeches of the president of Turkey or militarist slogans.

In June, more than 7,000 Twitter accounts were linked to Turkey’s ruling party. Since then, the army of social-media accounts that cheer Turkey’s invasions and threats against Israel, the UAE, Greece, Armenia and other countries appears to have grown again. Evidence for the number of these accounts shows the systematic harassment of reporters who follow Turkey, dissidents from Turkey and anyone who is critical of the president of Turkey or the recent involvement of Ankara in the war against Armenia.

The accounts have certain commonalities. Most include images from Turkey’s history, including sultans such as Abdul Hamid II or sometimes symbols linked to far-right groups in Turkey such as the Grey Wolves. The accounts almost always include Turkish flags as symbols, similar to right-wing pro-Trump Twitter users who use the American flag in their tweets and profiles on social media.

A new trend in Ankara’s troll army is that the users will include Azerbaijani flags and those of other countries they consider allies, namely, other Muslim states that have a similar crescent flag as Turkey, such as Libya. They don’t seem to use the Malaysian flag because it includes stripes similar to the America’s Stars and Stripes.
Erdogan on Azerbaijan-Armenia Fighting: Struggle Will Continue Until Nagorno-Karabagh Is Liberated

Analysis, guidance, some pleading: How an Arab Israeli city is crushing COVID-19
In early September, municipality officials in Kafr Qasim realized they had a crisis on their hands: in only a few weeks, the coronavirus pandemic in their city had spiraled out of control.

“We had days where we watched 50% of tests in the city come back positive,” said Kafr Qasim mayor Adil Badir.

With a population of around 25,000, Kafr Qasim lies east of Tel Aviv just inside the Green Line separating Israel and the West Bank. While the first wave of coronavirus in Israel had spared Kafr Qasim, months later the city was facing 170 coronavirus infections per 10,000 residents, the second-highest rate in the country.

“Looking back, we saw that several large weddings had made us not just a red city, but an exceptionally red city,” said city manager Ayal Kantz. “That’s all it took.”

Kantz is a rarity in Israel: a Jewish city manager of a major Arab municipality. He spent years working for Injaz, a nonprofit that supports Arab local governance, before becoming city manager of Kafr Qasim.

Kafr Qasim was far from alone: Before Israel’s second lockdown came into force almost a month ago, Arab citizens of Israel, one-fifth of the country’s population, constituted around 30% of Israel’s cases — the most significant sector for contagion along with the ultra-Orthodox.

Large weddings, traditionally held in summer, were often blamed as the source of the outbreak in the Arab sector. “There is no doubt that mass gatherings and weddings had an enormous impact on the Arab sector. For us, weddings can be seven-, or even ten-day affairs, with thousands of attendees,” said Dr. Fahd Hakim, the director of the English Hospital in Nazareth.


PMW: PA Mufti: Sharia’h obligates every Muslim to wage Jihad against what the PA calls “the thieving Jews”
Referring to previous Islamic religious rulings that “obligate” Muslims to “fight ‎against the thieving Jews,” a host on official PA TV interviewed the PA Grand ‎Mufti on the aspects of Sharia’h law in connection with the UAE and ‎Bahrain’s recent peace agreements with Israel.‎

The PA Mufti stressed that “if an inch of the Muslims’ lands is stolen, Jihad ‎becomes a personal religious commandment for everyone.” The PA defines ‎all of the State of Israel as stolen Islamic land – a waqf – which is an ‎inalienable religious endowment in Islamic law. Therefore, according to the ‎PA Mufti, Shari’ah law prohibits Palestinians from recognizing Israel in any borders and commands that every Muslim has a personal duty to ‎wage war against Israel until the “Muslim” land is freed. He further stated that the UAE and Bahrain are ‎‎“twisting” these religious rulings, noting that this is “forbidden” and that they will ‎have to answer to Allah for this:‎

Official PA TV host: “All the religious rulings that were issued by the ‎nation’s religious scholars obligated fighting against the thieving ‎Jews, and they don’t disagree on banning normalization with the ‎Zionists. But some (i.e., the UAE and Bahrain) reinterpret these texts ‎and welcome the normalization…”‎

PA Mufti Muhammad Hussein: “The texts clearly say that if an inch of ‎the Muslims’ lands (i.e., including all of Israel) is stolen, Jihad ‎becomes a personal religious commandment for everyone who is ‎capable of it. This is the Shari’ah law that the religious legal scholars ‎have followed from the beginning, from the days of the companions ‎‎[of Prophet Muhammad]. The fact that the Muslims cannot – in some ‎of the Islamic lands, or in some of the Arab lands –restore [their lands], ‎doesn’t mean that the ruling has changed. No, the religious ruling is ‎firm, valid, and present. The minimum we demand from those (i.e., the ‎UAE and Bahrain) who are trying to twist the texts is that they read the ‎texts correctly and not distort them… [It is forbidden] for them to make ‎religious legal rulings while changing the texts and twisting the texts, ‎according to the whims of this or that ruler (i.e., the UAE and Bahrain). ‎This is forbidden for them, and Allah will ask them about this.”‎
[Official PA TV, Fatwa, Sept. 18, 2020]


OK to murder Israeli civilians because they are all “criminals” - Hamas’ message in TV series
Caption: Restaurant in Tel Aviv
Visual: A scene is shown of a terror attack at a restaurant in Tel Aviv, in which an armed terrorist is seen shooting at diners.
Woman under investigation: “If you know everything, then what do you want me to say?”
Israeli investigator: “No. When it is told by a heroine, the story is better and more beautiful. Are you not a heroine? Didn’t you set out to murder innocents in Tel Aviv?”
Woman: “We’re not criminals like you and we’re not murderers. Our religion [Islam] forbids us from murdering civilians!”
Investigator: “So who did you set out to murder?”
Woman: “I set out to murder criminals like you!”
Investigator: “Murderer!”
[Al-Aqsa TV (Hamas), Aug. 25, 2020]
This TV series is called Self-Sacrificing Fighter (Fida’i) and was produced by Al-Aqsa TV in 2015


PLO Executive Committee member Hanan Ashrawi tests positive for COVID-19
PLO Executive Committee member Dr. Hanan Ashrawi, 74, has contracted the coronavirus, the PLO Department of Pubilc Diplomacy and Policy announced in a statement on Sunday evening.

Ashrawi contracted the virus only a few days after PLO Executive Committee Secretary General Saeb Erekat. Ashrawi has no known background illnesses.


Lifting the Embargo on Arms Sales to Iran
The embargo imposed by the UN Security Council on the sale of weapons to Iran will expire on October 18, 2020. Its shopping list will probably include Russian Sukhoi S-30 aircraft and S-400 advanced air defense systems. Yet Russia is no longer prepared as it once was to supply its clients with arms on long-term credit.

Over the last two decades, Iran has had to abandon or postpone many of its purchasing plans because it was unable to pay for new systems. Today Iran's economic position is even worse, due to U.S. sanctions, its investments in consolidating its intervention in Syria, and the severe damage caused to its economy by the coronavirus pandemic.

Iran also recognizes that the U.S. will exert financial pressure to prevent the supply of strategic arms to Iran, including threats of imposing sanctions on countries and companies that do so. This pressure could deter Russia, China and European countries from supplying problematic weapons to Iran.


IAEA: Iran Lacks Sufficient Uranium for Nuclear Bomb
International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) director Rafael Grossi told the Austrian daily Die Presse on Saturday that Iran still lacks enough enriched uranium to produce a nuclear bomb.

This, said Grossi, is in spite of the fact that “the Iranians continue to enrich uranium, and to a much higher degree than they have committed themselves to. And this amount is growing by the month,” according to Reuters.

Regarding how long it would take for Tehran to produce a nuclear weapon, Grossi said, “In the IAEA, we do not talk about breakout time. We look at the significant quantity, the minimum amount of enriched uranium or plutonium needed to make an atomic bomb. Iran does not have this significant quantity at the moment.”

Meanwhile, Reuters reported, the Iranian rial fell to a new low against the dollar on Saturday as its economy struggles under the coronavirus and new US sanctions.

The dollar was selling for 304,300 rials on the unofficial market, according to the foreign-exchange site Bonbast.com.





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