Sunday, January 03, 2021

From Ian:

The Arab-Israeli conflict may finally be over
The dawn of the new year is rising on a world that would have been unrecognisable 12 months ago. The scourge of Covid, the fall of Trump, the resolution of Brexit; all have carved history in unpredictable ways. But nowhere has seen greater changes than the Middle East, where, for the first time, people are daring to believe that the Arab-Israeli conflict is over.

In January 2020, Israel was as isolated as ever in the region. Its ‘cold peace’ agreements with Egypt and Jordan, which were not matched by affection on the street, were as good as it got. The Arab League’s notorious threefold rejectionism — no to peace, no to recognition, no to negotiation — seemed unmovable.

Trump’s peace plan was dismissed out of hand by the Palestinians in February, and things hit a new low in May. When a new Knesset considered annexing parts of the West Bank, an impotent Palestinian Authority suspended all security co-operation. Then, with unprecedented masochism, it refused to accept more than half a billion pounds of Israeli tax revenues. Overnight, the Palestinian Authority deprived itself of 60 per cent of its budget, setting it on a course for self-imposed bankruptcy and impoverishing tens of thousands of its own citizens.

The act of self-harm brought to mind Mohamed Bouazizi, the despairing Tunisian street vendor who burned himself to death on the streets of Sidi Bouzid as a desperate act of protest. But the Palestinian Authority's immolation did not trigger an Arab Spring. Instead, a different kind of regional revolution was already underway, one that would put the Palestinians and Israel in closer proximity to reconciliation than they had been for a quarter-century.

For years, Benjamin Netanyahu — that caricatured bogeyman of the western left — had been quietly pursuing an ‘outside in’ strategy for peace. The first stage was to build bilateral links with countries outside the region, like India, Brazil and Japan. The second was to achieve normalisation with the Arab world. Finally, the theory went, with the Palestinians boxed in on all sides by cordiality, the last piece of the puzzle would slot into place.

UN Watch: “Arc of History Bends Toward Peace“ — Hillel Neuer to UNHRC

Sign Petition: Help Reveal the True Number of Palestinian Refugees
Dear Friends,

For decades, Israel has been blamed for the failure of peacemaking attempts while Palestinian intransigence has been widely ignored and underplayed. Even now, as historic normalization agreements have been struck in recent months, Israel is portrayed as perpetuating Palestinian suffering while, in fact, the Palestinian Authority is supporting violence to achieve the Right of Return and rewarding terrorism with life-long pensions.

Together, we can reshape the narrative to more truly reflect reality.

The United Nations treats Palestinians differently from any other group of refugees. All other refugees are looked after and usually resettled by the UN’s High Commissioner for Refugees. But, the Palestinians are under the auspices of UNRWA which has reinvented the concept of refugee as an inherited characteristic. Sign Petition: Help Reveal the True Number of Palestinian Refugees

Today, therefore, they count four generations of refugees, all the descendants of the original 750,000 Palestinians who fled during the 1948 war.

These now total over five million people all of whom are counted as refugees, even those who have been resettled. In every other conflict around the world, refugee populations decrease over time. Only here do the numbers continue to rise – a phenomenon which weaponizes the concept against Israel. The Palestinian Authority and UNRWA now declare that these 5 million Palestinians should be granted the “right of return” to their homes in what is now the State of Israel, a member of the UN.

Clearly this distorted, unfair figure precludes any talk of genuine peace.
Vaccine rollout inspires Jews to move to Israel and Israelis to return
The coronavirus crisis has accomplished what decades of government ad campaigns did not do — it has brought hundreds of thousands of Israelis back from abroad and made the country more enticing as a home for American Jews.

As of July, more than 190,000 Israelis had returned to Israel from abroad, including more than 6,000 who had been away from the country for over half a year, according to data released by the Foreign Ministry. Many of those who returned early in the pandemic had been Israelis working in China, where the effects of the virus were first felt. Israeli embassies and consulates abroad have issued approximately 10,000 travel documents, including issuing new passports (often for children of Israelis born abroad who had not been in Israel yet) and renewing and extending passports for Israelis planning to come back since the beginning of the pandemic.

While Israel has had its challenges handling the pandemic, it still has a notably lower mortality rate from the disease than many countries around the world where Israelis tend to live, notably the US, which has had over 1,000 deaths per every million of the population, as opposed to Israel, with 370 deaths per million. Areas where many Israelis live, including such cities as New York, have been hit particularly hard. For example, there have been over 7,700 deaths in the borough of Brooklyn alone since the pandemic began, many of them in the Jewish community.

And now, with the vaccination campaign in Israel bringing the Pfizer vaccine to more than one million Israelis in less than two weeks, Israel is looking more attractive than ever as a place to live, both to Israelis who have been living abroad and American Jews who are thinking of moving to Israel.

“We have no idea when we are getting vaccinated,” said Manhattanite Shira Dicker, a freelance writer and public-relations consultant. Although she is 60, her husband is 71 and they have private insurance, “We just don’t know.” She was recently approached by someone she calls a “nominal friend,” with a suggestion about “how we could jump the line” for getting vaccinated, an offer she calls “sleazy” but which she sees as a sign of the times, following the ParCare fraudulent vaccine scandal in New York.
Blair Calls for Israeli Approach to Vaccine Distribution
In a move that is bound to once again upset the left of the Labour Party, Tony Blair is calling for a vaccination strategy overhaul, following the likes of Israel with impressively rapid coverage. Appearing on Sky News this morning, the former Prime Minister (who has been worryingly sensible about the need to end lockdowns through rapid vaccination) said that the limit on pharmacy distribution must be abolished, all GP practices should be distributing, and occupational health workers must be deployed. The UK got off to a good start but things now appear to be lagging…

Blair went on to say that “We are not yet at the stage where we are using every single piece of infrastructure that we could.” Given the cost of lockdown is over £1 billion a day, it is staggering that the Government has not put the country on a total war footing to deliver these vaccines faster. Israel has is right, and we should copy them.

Jonathan Van-Tam has this morning written in today’s Mail on Sunday outlining a shift in approach from the Government with regard to temporary single dose vaccines, saying “it’s better to give two grandparents 89% protection than to give one 95% – and the other none at all.” Clearly the Government has form on listening to the free market think tankers and Tony Blair who called for this…

Israel’s one millionth vaccine given to man jailed for manslaughter
The man who received Israel’s one millionth coronavirus vaccine and was pictured Friday at a celebratory event in Umm el-Fahm with Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu was a man jailed for manslaughter, KAN News reported Sunday. Muhammad ‘Abd al-Wahhab Jabarin, 66, was convicted of stabbing a man to death nearly 40 years ago and served 14 years in prison until his release in 1992.

Sources in the city told KAN that they were surprised by the decision and guessed that the organizers of the vaccination did not know about Jabarin’s past.

“They want to fall on Netanyahu as if he had a meeting with me, as if I had planned the meeting with him, I paid my debt and threw everything behind,” Jabarin told KAN. “I have children and grandchildren. I came to get vaccinated, and the attending physician told me, ‘You are the millionth vaccinated. Netanyahu will say hello and ask how you are and that’s all.’

“I was asked to come and get vaccinated and I got vaccinated,” he continued. “I am an elderly and sick man and whoever wants to attack Netanyahu should not do it through me.”

The man said that he “sat in jail, like a million people who sat in jail since the establishment of the state,” in a separate interview with Army Radio. “I was not convicted of murder. I’m going to sue whoever said that. They used me to bash the prime minister.”

Several Arab politicians in fact used Jabarin’s public vaccination as an opportunity to put down Netanyahu.

The 10 Most Widely Read Middle East Forum Articles of 2020
Below are the ten most frequently viewed articles of 2020 in descending order. Traffic to the original sites of publication, where applicable, is not counted.

The selections reflect heightened reader concerns about Iran, Islamists, and the COVID-19 pandemic. All are worth a (re)read.
1. Phyllis Chesler on the Fight against Honor Killings (May 27)
2. Itai Bloch on Israel's COVID-19 Vaccine (March 14)
3. Pakistani Doctor in Minnesota Indicted for Jihadi Plot (May 5)
4. Turkey's President Erdoğan Underwent Surgery for Cancer, Suffers from Epilepsy (May 24)
5. Conspiracy Theories in a Time of Virus (March 17)
6. The Unthinkable: Soleimani Executed in Iraq (January 3)
7. Camel Urine: Islam's 'Best Cure' for Coronavirus (April 28)
8. "Godless Saracens Threatening Destruction": Premodern Christian Responses to Islam and Muslims (Winter 2021)
9. The Islamist Takeover of George Floyd (July 26)
10. Trump Just Enabled Israel to Attack Iran's Nuclear Sites (March 4)

Metulla declared a closed military zone
Should Iran wish to avenge the death of its top nuclear scientist Mohsen Fakhrizadeh or IRGC Quds Force major-general Qasem Soleimani, it would do so itself and does not need help from its proxies, Hezbollah director-general Hassan Nasrallah said on Sunday.

Speaking at an event to commemorate one year to Soleimani’s assassination, Nassrallah said: “Iran is a strong country… If it will want to attack, it doesn’t need to rely on others.

“I want you to know,” he said, “Iran does not need its proxies — its friends and allies. It will respond in the right place and time, and however it wants,” he said.

Throughout Sunday, ceremonies and protests were held near the Israeli-Lebanese border to commemorate the assassination.

At some point, the IDF declared Metulla, a town adjacent to the border, a closed military zone.

The restrictions were lifted two hours later.

According to the IDF, the declaration was made due to overcrowding at the Lebanese side of the border.
Israeli woman seriously injured in West Bank rock attack
A woman in her 40s was seriously injured near the West Bank settlement of Neve Tzuf on Sunday afternoon after rocks were thrown at her car.

The army said in a statement that “a civilian was injured as a result of stone-throwing near the village of Deir Deir Nidham.”

Israel Defense Forces were “in pursuit of the suspects,” the statement added.

Hebrew-language media reports said IDF troops were encircling the nearby Palestinian village of Deir Nidham in an attempt to apprehend the suspects.

The Magen David Adom ambulance service said medics treated the injured driver, who was conscious, before taking her to Sheba Medical Center in Ramat Gan for treatment for a head injury.

Reports said two of the woman’s children were in the car at the time of the attack but were unharmed.

The Kan public broadcaster named the victim as Rivka Tytell, wife of Jewish terrorist Jack Tytell, who was convicted in 2013 for a string of nationalistically motivated murders and terror attacks spanning a decade.

Jack Tytell is serving two life sentences and an additional 30 years in prison for murdering two Palestinians, two other attempted murders, placing a bomb next to now-deceased far-left academic Zev Sternhell, and other offenses.

Sunday’s rock-throwing incident came amid a period of heightened tensions in the West Bank.
Throughout the month of December 2020, twenty-eight written or filmed reports relating to Israel and/or the Palestinians appeared on the BBC News website’s ‘Middle East’ page, some of which were also published on other pages and six of which were carried over from the previous month.

21.4% of the reports appearing on the BBC News website’s ‘Middle East’ page throughout December concerned events in Iran which – as was the case the previous month – were tagged ‘Israel’ despite there being no proof to date of Israeli involvement. While one rare item relating to internal Palestinian social affairs appeared towards the end of the month, audiences as usual saw considerably more coverage of Israeli internal affairs.
After triple homicide, Israel lets PA police sweep East Jerusalem for suspects
Large numbers of armed Palestinian Authority police entered the East Jerusalem neighborhood of Kafr Aqab on Saturday following a shootout that left three Palestinian residents dead and eight wounded.

Israel officially bans the Palestinian Authority from operating inside the Jerusalem boundary and regularly cracks down on its activities in the capital. Saturday’s scenes, therefore, were highly unusual, with dozens of officers of the Palestinian security forces entering Kafr Aqab in armored jeeps before fanning out along the neighborhood’s main thoroughfare.

“Israeli authorities initially refused to allow us in. After the third death [in Kafr Aqab], however, they decided to let us enter,” a spokesperson for the Palestinian Authority police said in a phone call.

Kafr Aqab, a bustling Palestinian neighborhood of East Jerusalem, has been separated from the rest of Jerusalem since 2005 by the security barrier. The neighborhood’s Palestinian residents have long argued that the city fails to provide even basic public services to residents beyond the wall.

Israel Police rarely operate beyond the security barrier, and then only with approval from the Israel Defense Forces. The lack of police presence has given Kafr Aqab a reputation for lawlessness and anarchy, exemplified by the triple homicide in the East Jerusalem neighborhood on Saturday.
PMW: PA PM insults Christianity by comparing Jesus to murderers and suicide bombers
In a speech at a Christmas dinner, the PA’s Prime Minister, Muhammad Shtayyeh, repeated the PA’s historically false narrative, turning Jesus into a “Palestinian.” He further insulted Christianity saying that Jesus was “the first Palestinian self-sacrificing fighter” and the one who taught Palestinians “Martyrdom-death”:
PA Prime Minister Shtayyeh: “Our lord Jesus, peace be upon him – the first Palestinian self-sacrificing fighter from whom we learned Martyrdom-death, and who paid for his mission with his life.”
[Official PA daily Al-Hayat Al-Jadida, Dec. 28, 2020]

The Prime Minister’s categorizations of Jesus are insulting to Christians and Christian tradition in many ways:
1. PA PM Shtayyeh: “Jesus… the first Palestinian self-sacrificing fighter”
The PA uses the expression “self-sacrificing fighter,” (Fida’i) for terrorists who have been fighting and murdering Israelis since 1965, including the most loathsome murderers. For example, Palestinian terrorist Ashraf Na’alwa shot and murdered his 2 Israeli coworkers, Kim Levengrond-Yehezkel, a young mother of a one-year-old infant, and Ziv Hajbi, a young father of three. Fatah glorified the murderer repeatedly including this post on its official Facebook page, which called him: "The legend, the heroic self-sacrificing fighter (Fida’i) Ashraf Na'alwa" [Official Fatah Facebook page, Dec. 13, 2018]

Defining Jesus who preached non-violence (see Matthew 5:39: “Do not resist an evil person. If anyone slaps you on the right cheek, turn to them the other cheek also") as a "self-sacrificing fighter" in the category with Palestinian murderers is a desecration.

2. PA PM Shtayyeh: “Jesus … from whom we learned Martyrdom-death.”
The PA’s presentation of Jesus as one who taught Palestinians “Martyrdom-death,” is a grave insult to Christians as well, since the PA promotes Martyrdom-death as something to be aspired due to the rewards in Paradise, among which according to Islam’s tradition the “Martyr” marries 72 dark-eyed virgins. For example, this popular music video has been broadcast on Fatah and PA TV since 2017 right through 2020:

Palestinian DJ said released by PA after her arrest for rave at Muslim holy site
Palestinian authorities have reportedly released a disc jockey who was arrested last week after organizing a dance event at a Muslim religious site near the West Bank city of Jericho.

Palestinian Authority police arrested Sama Abd al-Hadi, 30, last Sunday, the day after she performed at Nabi Musa, the traditional burial place of Moses under Islamic tradition.

According to the Kan public broadcaster, al-Hadi was released Sunday, though she was banned from leaving the country and must report weekly to Palestinian police until the end of an investigation.

Ammar Dweik, director of the Independent Palestinian Commission for Human Rights, last week asked the PA to release al-Hadi, saying she had received permission to perform at the venue.

“Nabi Musa is not only a religious site but also a tourist site,” he said. “If electronic music was not appropriate for it, the ministry should not have given its authorization.”

Shawan Jabarin, general director of Palestinian rights group Al-Haq, slammed the “arbitrary arrest.”
French man receives jail time for threats against TV host Valerie Benaim
A 33-year-old man with a mental disability was convicted of attempted assault on Jewish TV host Valerie Benaim by a French court earlier this week, according to Inspired Traveler.

The assailant, Samir E., allegedly was inspired by French rapper Freeze Corleone, and showed up to the television station to "do battle with the Jews," while hurling antisemitic insults, as well as death threats at Benaim.

He received a two-month suspended prison sentence for his wrongdoing.

The man was drawn to action following Benaim’s stark review of the French rapper, as she detailed his hate-filled lyrics, such as, "I arrive determined like Adolf in the 1930s,” and "Every day I f*** Israel like I live in Gaza,” according to the Algemeiner.

Following the review, Benaim received numerous threats, including those from the convicted assailant. He is reportedly considered "as cotorep," meaning he currently has a disability and is receiving government assistance to be reintegrated into society, which he undergoes daily monitoring for.

Freeze Corleone's lyrics are being investigated for "provocation to racial hatred" and Holocaust denial. His debut album is reportedly riddled with "antisemitism, conspiracy theories, and apologies for Hitler, the Third Reich and [Afghan Taliban commander] Mullah Omar,” according to the Algemeiner, citing a French watchdog organization.
Caribbean environmental disaster meets Israeli innovation
The famous beaches of the Caribbean nations, badly struck in recent years due to the Great Atlantic Sargassum Belt, which stretches each summer from the Gulf of Mexico to the West Coast of Africa, will enjoy massive improvement thanks to an Israeli innovation.

A type of algae, Sargassum leads to heartbreak for the many tourists who expect to enjoy white beaches and a clear ocean but instead endure the reek and filth of the decomposing seaweed. The reek means the algae has some caloric value, Maof Holdings CEO Ygdal Ach told The Jerusalem Report.

He should know. This happened to him during a 2018 vacation in the Dominican Republic. When he asked hotel workers what they do with the seaweed after they clean the beach, they informed him they just burn it.

“I brought some of that stuff with me to Israel and had it sent to a lab,” he said. “The results were encouraging. The algae these workers were burning could be used to create green energy.”
Archaeological dig in Jaffa unearths 3,800-year-old baby buried in a jar
Israeli archaeologists excavating a site in Jaffa found a 3,800-year-old jar, the contents of which contained the skeleton of a baby, according to Live Science.

Researchers from the Antiquities Authority (IAA) unearthed the set of remains buried 10 feet below the surface while surveying the city ahead of planned construction, and detailed their findings in the journal Atiqot - joining 50 other archaeological studies based in Jaffa.

Live Science notes that the practice of encasing infants in jars before burial is not uncommon, and that it has existed since the Bronze Age and even continued up until the 20th century.

"You might go to the practical thing and say that the bodies were so fragile, they felt the need to protect it from the environment, even though it is dead," IAA archaeologist Yoav Arbel told Live Science. "But there's always the interpretation that the jar is almost like a womb, so basically the idea is to return [the] baby back into Mother Earth, or into the symbolic protection of his mother."

The jar was found in the Old City section of the 4,000-year-old port town, considered one of the oldest in the world.

"We're talking about a city that was ruled by a lot of different people," Arbel said to Live Science. "Let's say that a lot of flags flew from its mast before Israel's flag of today."
Israel delivers 2nd Iron Dome battery to US
Israel has delivered a second Iron Dome system to the US military, in accordance with the terms of a deal between the Defense Ministry and the US Department of Defense.

The second system arrived over the weekend.

Defense Minister Benny Gantz said that "Delivering the Iron Dome to the US military once again proves the close ties between Israel's Defense Ministry and the US Department of Defense, the efficacy of the system's against various threats, and the excellent technological capabilities of Israeli industry.

"I am certain that the system will help the US military defend American soldiers against ballistic and air threats, and against the threats that are being developed in placed where forces are deployed on various missions," Gantz said.

In August 2019, the Defense Ministry and the US Department of Defense signed an agreement for Israel to supply US military forces with two Iron Dome systems. The first was delivered in September and is being installed in the US. Both systems were delivered on time.

Israel's Rafael Advanced Defense Systems develops and manufactures the Iron Dome system in conjunction with Israel Aerospace Industries ELTA Systems, which developed and manufactures the system's MMR radar; and MPrest, which supplies Iron Dome's control and monitoring systems.

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