Monday, March 27, 2017

From Ian:

JPost Editorial: Britain's pro-Israel pivot
The passage of UN Security Council Resolution 2334 on December 23 was a low point in Israel’s relations, not just with the US, but also with Britain.
The UK was said to have played a key role in drafting and passing the resolution that describes Israel’s settlements in Judea and Samaria and east Jerusalem as “illegal” and “an obstacle to peace with the Palestinians.”
At the time, the Jewish Chronicle quoted an unnamed British political source who claimed the UK’s “yes” vote was part of UK Prime Minister Theresa May’s new strategy toward Israel, according to which the Jewish state’s friends have to take a stand against settlements for Israel’s own good.
What seemed to be a continuation of this hardline policy against Israel was Britain’s backing of a French-hosted Middle East conference that took place on January 15 that was seen by Israel as an attempt to force upon it a territorial arrangement with the Palestinians.
But, it has emerged since that Britain’s December vote in the UN Security Council was not an accurate reflection of British policy toward Israel.
Since Resolution 2334, May’s government has made a concerted effort to demonstrate to Israel and the world that it will be adopting a more pro-Israel stance.
Ron Prosor: Why the UK had to crack down on the UN’s anti-Israel hypocrisy, duplicity and dishonesty
Israel’s former UN Ambassador Ron Prosor dismantles the UN Human Rights Council
The UK’s statement on Friday, calling out the United Nations Human Rights Council (UNHRC) for its “disproportionate focus on Israel” was an uncharacteristically forceful and public statement of truth on the issue.
It slammed “Agenda Item 7”, the structural, institutionalised mechanism singling out Israel at the Council.
Human rights in every other country are debated under “Agenda Item 4”; only Israel has an entire agenda item of its own. The result, noted Britain’s Ambassador Julian Braithwaite, is that of 135 country-specific resolutions adopted by the Council, 68 have targeted Israel.
This partly explains why in the past decade, although more than 300,000 civilians have been killed in Sudan, 55,000 children killed in Syria and more than 3,000 people executed in Iran, Israel has received more condemnation than those countries combined.
The UK did vote for two of the five resolutions against Israel and abstained on two more, which is not ideal. But whether prompted by the FCO or by Downing Street, it decided there must be limits to the Council’s hypocrisy, duplicity and dishonesty.

U.S. Diplomat Accuses UN of Bias Against Israel
The Trump administration is strongly condemning what it calls a systemic anti-Israel bias at the United Nations, arguing Friday that U.N. monitoring of West Bank settlement activity allowed by the Obama administration is the latest example.
Michele Sison, the No. 2 U.S. diplomat at the United Nations, spoke against what the United States says is the unfair singling out of Israel during a closed session of the U.N. Security Council on Friday. There and elsewhere, the Trump administration is arguing that the United Nations has allowed valuable time and attention to be hijacked for bashing Israel.
Sison spoke during the session to hear the first U.N. report issued under a resolution condemning settlements that the Obama administration allowed to take effect in December. In a pointed and highly unusual critique of Israeli actions, the United States had abstained, allowing the resolution to pass, instead of vetoing it as U.S. envoys have done in the past.
The change in U.S. administrations, and the shift in positions on Israeli settlements flavored the discussion Friday.
“It is clear from what the U.S. representative said today that the U.S. administration is continuing to develop its thinking on some of the points of detail” about settlements and a peace negotiation, British U.N. Ambassador Matthew Rycroft told reporters.

JCPA: Does the Assassination of a Senior Hamas Member in Gaza Mean Escalation?
The likelihood that Hamas will start firing rockets at Israel in response is low, since Hamas is busy with internal elections and rebuilding in Gaza. In recent days, the Palestinian government has begun to distribute $40 million, which Saudi Arabia has donated, to hundreds of families in Gaza to enable them to rebuild their homes that were damaged in the 2014 war. Rocket fire into Israel would result in a strong Israeli response and another round of fighting that is not currently in Hamas’ interest.
Therefore, it is reasonable to assume that the military wing of Hamas will respond with terrorist acts perpetrated by its “dormant cells” in the West Bank, in attacks against Israelis living there or inside the Green Line. This underlines the importance of tightening the security coordination between Israeli and Palestinian security forces.
The Israel Defense Forces are preparing, in any case, for the possibility of attacks ahead of the Passover holiday, and now it is essential to be vigilant.
Hamas believes that collaborators with Israel in Gaza aided in the assassination. So it is quite possible that in the coming days we will see executions of suspected collaborators, in order to send a message of deterrence and demonstrate that Hamas security forces are in control of the situation and are able to capture the collaborators.
Hamas is also speaking for the first time about a response that would include harming a senior Israeli figure or a senior IDF officer on the border with Gaza.
Moreover, one should pay attention to statements made by senior Hamas figure Ahmad Bahar, who warned that “all fronts are open to Hamas’ military wing, which will respond in the right place and at the right time.” This could mean that it is quite possible that in order to surprise Israel with a successful attack, Hamas will deviate from its policy and carry out a revenge attack against Israeli or Jewish targets abroad, just as Hizbullah has done.
Analysis Israel's new approach to Hamas
If, indeed, Israel can assassinate Hamas leaders in Gaza and abroad without leaving its fingerprints, it shows a more aggressive approach.
It’s worth noting that the new head of the Shin Bet, Nadav Argaman, has spent all his professional life in the special operations wing of his organization.
And the new Mossad chief, Yossi Cohen, aspires to make his agency more “operational.”
When there is precise intelligence and operational feasibility, Israel has an itch to execute such operations, but it is a dangerous game that can get out of control.
Hamas spokesmen promise to avenge the killing of their member, but the organization still doesn’t want to be dragged into a new confrontation, because it feels it has not yet recovered from its loss in the last war in 2014 and is not yet ready militarily.
Therefore, Hamas most probably will try to avenge the killing of Fuqaha – not directly from Gaza, but indirectly from the West Bank or Jerusalem – without leaving its own prints.
Israeli Defense Minister Lieberman Hints at Keeping Previous Vow to Assassinate Former Hamas PM Haniyeh
“Talk to me about [former Hamas Prime Minister Ismayil] Haniyeh at the end of my term,” Israeli Defense Minister Avigdor Lieberman told Facebook followers on Sunday, during a live chat with the public, Israel’s Channel 2 reported.
Lieberman was responding to a social media user’s challenge about why he hadn’t kept his promise that as soon as he took over the Defense Ministry last May, Israel would eliminate the terrorist organization official. “The trick is to act responsibly,” Lieberman replied. “We have been conducting a new policy against Hamas in a responsible and determined way. Anyone observing our responses [to Hamas actions] can see that…”
Lieberman was apparently hinting at Friday night’s assassination in Gaza of Mazen Fuqaha, a top commander of Hamas’ military wing, the Izz ad-Din al-Qassam Brigades, who was killed outside his Gaza City home by a bullet to the head. Hamas immediately accused Israel of being responsible and threatened retaliation, but Israel has refrained from comment.
New details reveal stealthy, professional hit on Hamas terror leader
The gunmen who killed Hamas military leader Mazen Faqha Friday night had broken into his garage, and lain in wait for hours, before carrying out the assassination, which left no trace but the dead body, a Palestinian daily reported on Sunday.
According to the report in Al Quds, Faqha — a former prisoner in Israel who oversaw Hamas’s efforts to instigate terror attacks in the West Bank — drove home around 6 p.m., with his wife and daughter in the car.
They had been away from home for a few hours. The two family members exited the car at the front door, and the Hamas leader went to park the car alone.
He was killed almost immediately after the electric garage door closed behind his vehicle.
Earlier reports said Faqha was killed outside his home in Tel el-Hawa, a neighborhood in southwestern Gaza City.
The gunmen used weapons equipped with silencers, and shot him four times, Sunday’s report said.
Hamas partially reopens Erez crossing between Israel, Gaza
Hamas authorities in the Gaza Strip partially reopened the Erez crossing on Monday morning, a day after authorities closed the crossing to all Gazans except for “humanitarian cases” returning to the small coastal enclave.
The Hamas-controlled Interior Ministry said in a statement that while everyone is now permitted to return to the Strip, only certain groups, including families of prisoners, the ill, and the three Gaza-based Palestinian Authority ministers can enter Israel.
However, the Interior Ministry clarified that all men in the identified groups between the ages of 15 and 45 are still forbidden to enter Israel, whereas all women in the said groups are permitted.
In its statement on Sunday, the Interior Ministry in Gaza said Hamas authorities decided to shutter the crossing for security reasons following the assassination of Mazen Fuqaha, who was a senior Hamas militant.
Fuqaha was assassinated by unidentified gunmen in front of his home in the Tel al-Hawa neighborhood of Gaza City late Friday night.
Hamas has blamed Israel for Fuqaha’s assassination and threatened to exact revenge.
Israeli officials have not commented on the incident.
In Wake of Assassination of Senior Hamas Commander, IDF Instructs Israeli Farmers Not to Approach Gaza Border Fence
Farmers in southern Israel were instructed by the IDF not to go near the security fence along the Gaza border, the Hebrew news site nrg reported on Sunday, quoting an anonymous defense source from the area.
According to the source, the directive was issued in the wake of the assassination two days ago of a senior Hamas commander and sporadic rocket-fire into Israel over the past few weeks.
“This is just a precautionary measure,” the source told nrg, claiming that in all other respects, business is being conducted as usual among residents of the border communities. “We are always keeping our fingers on the pulse; we’re not closing our eyes to anything.”
Mazen Fuqaha, a leader of Hamas’ military wing, the Izz ad-Din al-Qassam Brigades, was killed outside his Gaza City home late Friday night by a bullet to the head. Hamas immediately accused Israel of carrying out the assassination, but Jerusalem has not commented on the matter.
Fuqaha, who had been sentenced to life in prison for planning a suicide bombing on an Israeli bus in 2002, which left nine dead and 38 wounded, was released in the 2011 swap for abducted IDF soldier Gilad Schalit, held for five years in Hamas captivity.
Who killed up to 100 civilians in Iraq and the tragedy's lessons for Israel
Hundreds of civilians have been killed in the battle for Mosul in Iraq. One particular incident that occurred on March 17 left dozens dead. Locals in Mosul’s Jadida neighborhood initially said 200 had been killed. They alleged a coalition airstrike had killed the people who were sheltering in a building.
As the US-led coalition and its Iraqi allies sort through the rubble to figure how the tragedy unfolded, they face similar problems Israel had to weigh in Gaza or Lebanon in previous wars. The US has not practiced the “double-tap” procedure Israel used, but the Iraqis did drop hundreds of thousands of leaflets over Mosul urging people to flee. 200,000 have fled, but several hundred thousand are estimated to remain in the pocket of ISIS control.
The US Defense Department’s Central Command responded to allegations the civilian deaths had been caused by the coalition on March 25: “Strike data from March 16-23 indicates that, at the request of the Iraqi Security Forces, the Coalition struck ISIS fighters and equipment, March 17, in West Mosul at the location corresponding to allegations of civilian casualties.” They stressed that their goal is “zero civilian casualties,” and noted that ISIS was using “human shields” and fighting from schools and civilian neighborhoods. General Joseph Votel released a statement on March 26th saying the incident would be investigated.
The coalition is taking it seriously because the US Department of Defense Civilian Casualty Assessment said in November 2016 that “as many as 64 civilians” had been killed in one year of fighting ISIS in Iraq and Syria. More were killed in one day in Mosul in March than in all of 2016. Civilians told The Guardian’s Martin Chulov conflicting information, including that an ISIS sniper was on the roof and that some civilians may have been forced into one of the homes, while others asserted the people sheltered in a basement thinking it was safe.
Benjamin Netanyahu Trump has already turned words of support for Israel into actions
The Trump administration has already turned its strong words of support for Israel into concrete actions, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said Monday during an address via satellite to the AIPAC conference in Washington.
This support, he said, has been reflected in UN Ambassador Nikki Haley “standing up for what's right for Israel and the truth at the United Nations,” he said. He said it was also reflected in the budged request submitted by US President Donald Trump.”
This budget, Netanyahu said, leaves military aid for Israel fully funded even as the fiscal belt is pulled tighter, "and we appreciate that. Israel is deeply grateful for the generous support of the president, the congress and the American people."
During a 10-minute address filmed from his office in Jerusalem and broadcast live to the 18,000 delegates to the AIPAC conference, the premier said that Israel's hand is extended to all its neighbors in peace.
“We teach peace to our children, and its time the Palestinian Authority does the same,” he said. “It must stop teaching hatred to its children. It must stop paying terrorists. It must stop denying our legitimacy and our history. It must, above all --once and for all – recognize the Jewish state.” Full text of Netanyahu’s AIPAC 2017 speech
At AIPAC confab, Pence goes high on enthusiasm, low on details
US Vice President Mike Pence took the main stage at AIPAC’s Police Conference event on Sunday night with one clear assignment: fire up the audience about the Trump administration’s commitment to supporting Israel.
It is not an unusual duty for a vice president — his predecessor Joe Biden also made appearances before the annual confab.
In Pence’s case, it seemed to be a pretty easy sell. He was high on passion but low on details during the keynote speech before an enthusiastic crowd at the plenary.
Pence strategically wove his lengthy pro-Israel Washington bona fides – decades of work with AIPAC, multiple trips to Israel – together with name-drops of his boss, US Donald Trump, whom he described as “a true friend of Israel and courageous defender of freedom.”
AIPAC is traditionally a venue for administration officials to trumpet their pro-Israel actions and agenda. In Pence’s case, he stressed his pride over Trump’s condemnation of anti-Semitic threats and incidents, and repeatedly referred to the efforts of US Ambassador to the United Nations Nikki Haley, who spearheaded a US protest boycott of the United Nations Human Rights Council for anti-Israel bias.
It was, in fact, Haley’s mention that garnered the most enthusiastic applause in Pence’s speech, although the thousands of attendees at Washington’s Verizon Center also applauded Pence’s multiple references to the president.
Ex-British PM Tony Blair at AIPAC Conference: If Iranian Regime Were Benign, All Problems in Middle East Would Be Resolvable
“If you had a benign regime in Iran, all of the problems in the Middle East would be resolvable,” ex-British Prime Minister Tony Blair said on Sunday.
Speaking at the opening session of the American Israel Public Affairs Committee’s annual policy conference in Washington, DC, Blair called for a tough line against the Islamic Republic.
“We have to push back hard,” Blair said.
Regarding the Israeli-Palestinian peace process, Blair — a former Mideast Quartet envoy who still travels often to the region — expressed his view that a “new way forward” was needed.
“We’re not going to reach peace in the old way,” Blair said. “Up to now, people thought if you do a peace deal, then the circumstances will change. I think it’s the other way around.”
Israel and many Arab countries, Blair noted, share numerous “common strategic interests.”
“The key to transforming the Middle East,” according to Blair, “is to have relationship between Israelis and Arabs which can be open, above the table, acknowledged in which Israel’s existence is accepted and Israel works closely with Arab states.
'BDS the most serious threat to Israel'
Former Canadian Prime Minister Stephen Harper on Sunday addressed the 2017 AIPAC policy conference and discussed his support for Israel during his time as Prime Minister.
“What is the difference between our values and Israel’s? None. What is the difference in the threats we face? The only difference is that Israel is much closer to these threats than we are,” Harper said.
“We have one choice: We stand by Israel and we stand against those threats or we watch those threats come to our own shores,” he continued.
“I was the first Canadian Prime Minister ever to speak to the Knesset,” Harper said, discussing his biggest achievements in terms of the Canada-Israel relationship.
“The government I led, we consistently refused to be bullied into signing one-sided international resolutions against the State of Israel, and I’m proud of that because it was the right thing to do…I noticed that over time, other countries ceased to try to change my point of view.”
Asked what could be done against these one-sided anti-Israel resolutions, Harper replied, “The United Nations is not a group of democratic nations. The United Nations is the one forum in the world that includes everybody – the good, the bad and the ugly.”
PreOccupiedTerritory: Trump Envoy In Talks With Bibi Over Whether US May Build In Washington (satire)
Political and diplomatic sensitivities revolving around construction on land taken from indigenous peoples have US President Donald Trump exercising caution before his administration approves development projects in the country’s declared capital, White House sources reported today, and the president has dispatched a special envoy to negotiate with Israeli Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu over the proposed construction.
Jonathan Greenblatt spent the weekend in Jerusalem clarifying for the prime minister the Trump administration’s intentions regarding the construction projects, which are slated to occupy land the United States took from native tribes. Construction of that nature has riled indigenous rights activists in the past, and the president aims to reach an understanding with Netanyahu over the projects to prevent Israeli objections to the building, objection that might carry diplomatic or economic consequences.
American officials with knowledge of the talks reported that no progress had been made on an understanding. “These are the closest of allies, and allies can disagree. The key is frank discussion and the realization that the friendship, he alliance, is stronger than any one issue, however strategic,” explained State Department spokesman Mark Toner. “But we and Mr, Netanyahu will continue our talks so that we do not end up advancing any construction that he feels is contrary to his interests. It’s the dialogue here that is critical, regardless of the specifics of any understanding we reach.”
'The Palestinians are evading the truth'
Deputy Foreign Minister Tzipi Hotovely addressed the AIPAC conference in Washington and said that the direction taken by the American administration regarding the UN signifies a new era. She praised the impressive work of America's UN ambassador Nikki Haley and added: "The situation in which the UN Human Rights Council is run by dictators is absurd."
With regard to a possible solution to the Arab-Israel conflict Hotovely said that the source of the conflict is the Palestinian conviction that they are refugees since 1948. "The Palestinian ethos is built on negating the right of Israel to exist and therefore 25 years of attempts [at peace] have failed because they did not address the real issue."
The deputy minister presented a number of new ideas regarding the possibilities of peace in the region including the concept of a regional solution in which Egypt and Jordan also take part in a comprehensive peace plan.
Hotovely will meet with congressional representatives during the rest of Monday.
Friedman likely won’t become ambassador to Israel until June
US President Donald Trump’s appointed ambassador to Israel, David Friedman, who was confirmed by the Senate on Thursday, will likely take up his post fully only in June.
“This week, it will be my high honor to administer the Oath of Office to Ambassador David Friedman,” Vice President Mike Pence told thousands of delegates at the annual policy conference of the pro-Israel lobby AIPAC Sunday night. “David is an unabashed advocate for a stronger Israel-America relationship and our friendship will be stronger after he gets sworn in as ambassador. And I got to tell you, I just can’t wait.”
But so far, no date has been set yet for Friedman’s arrival in Israel, the US Embassy in Tel Aviv told The Times of Israel on Monday. According to Israeli sources, the bankruptcy-attorney-turned-diplomat is not likely to hand his letter of credence to President Reuven Rivlin before June. Until that ceremony, he will not officially be considered Washington’s ambassador to Israel.
Friedman, whose appointment was controversial due to his past support for West Bank settlements and his derogatory remarks about liberal American Jews, was confirmed Thursday in the Senate by a 52-46 margin, the most closely contested vote on an envoy to Israel ever.
Shmuley Boteach: No Holds Barred: AIPAC must reach out to President Trump
Last month, Haley joined other Trump forces in Washington in blocking UN secretary-general Antonio Guterres from selecting Salam Fayyad, a former Palestinian prime minister, to run the UN mission in Libya.
She remarked that “for too long the UN has been unfairly biased in favor of the Palestinian Authority to the detriment of our allies in Israel,” adding that the US “does not currently recognize a Palestinian state or support the signal this appointment would send within the United Nations.”
Just last week, the Trump administration solidified its stance on Israel by pressuring the UN into dismissing a report by rabid Israel hater Rima Khalef, chairman of the UN Economic and Social Commission for Western Asia (UNESCWA). The report, drafted at the request of 18 Arab countries, depicted Israel as “an apartheid regime that dominates the Palestinian people as a whole” and went on to claim that Israel was “designed” for this purpose.
Khalef, who refused to repudiate her Israel-bashing report, has since resigned. Ambassador Haley’s response: “When someone issues a false and defamatory report in the name of the UN, it is appropriate that the person resign.”
In an op-ed for CNN, Richard Roth summed it up perfectly: “Memo to critics of Israel inside the UN system: Prepare to pay a price.”
Just months into his term, Trump already has the track record to earn AIPAC’s respect and applause. The organization should do everything in its power to mend fences with the president. They ought to take advantage of their premiere event this year to try and mend what is undeniably their most critical relationship.
Watch: Pro-Israel activists confront anti-Israel demonstrators
Pro-Israel activists faced off against demonstrators protesting the annual AIPAC conference in Washington DC on Sunday.
Anti-Israel radicals formed a human chain, blocking the entrance to the conference, while others gathered nearby, chanting anti-Zionist slogans and holding placards condemning Israel, Jewish communities in Judea and Samaria, and AIPAC itself.
Supporters of the Jewish state also rallied outside of the conference, holding counter-protests against the pro-BDS demonstrators and expressing their support for Israel.
One Israel backer said he travels every year from Tennessee to the AIPAC conference to make a public show of support.
"I like to show support for the Israeli people and a connection that the United States has as an ally and a friend,” he told Arutz Sheva. “Israel is a very close ally of the United States and I come up every year to show my support and to protest the protesters."

Pro-Israel Palestinian Arab confronts anti-Israel Jews
Anti-Israel demonstrators associated with the IfNotNow organization protested outside of the AIPAC conference in Washington DC on Sunday, blasting the Netanyahu government, Jewish communities in Judea and Samaria, and AIPAC’s support for Israel.
The protesters included a large contingent of far-left Jewish radicals, including IfNotNow founder Simone Zimmerman, who served as Jewish outreach coordinator for Bernie Sanders’ Democratic primary bid in 2016.
A counter-demonstration of pro-Israel activists faced off against the IfNotNow protesters and included delegations from across the US and Canada.
One pro-Israel demonstrators who traveled from Toronto to show her support for Israel and challenge the anti-Zionist agitators was Sandra Solomon, a self-described pro-Israel Palestinian.
A Canadian human rights activist born in Samaria and raised in Saudi Arabia, Solomon was born into a religious Muslim family, but has since left the faith, becoming an advocate against Islamism and the spread of radical Islam.
IsraellyCool: Unabashed Antisemitism Takes Center Stage At This Year’s Anti-AIPAC Protest
When I attended AIPAC last year, I remember encountering a throng of protesters speaking against Donald Trump, calling Israel an Apartheid State, calling for an end to the occupation, and that was about it.
The protestors last year were careful to avoid blatant antisemitism. However, this year, at AIPAC 2017, they are far more emboldened and empowered. Out, proud, and shameless antisemitism at levels unseen since the Second World War have emerged from the latest wave of leftist anti-Zionism, blaring from megaphones and written on signs.
In a country where a convicted terrorist and a terrorist sympathizer were allowed to take center stage in the very mainstream anti-Trump movement, successfully tying opposition to Trump to anti-Zionism and making one appear impossible without the other as part of a crackpot twist on Kimberlé Crenshaw’s intersectionality theory, it shouldn’t surprise me but watching these videos still did.
Vacationing Israelis warned of ‘immediate’ terror threat in Sinai
Israel intensified its warning against citizens traveling to the Sinai Peninsula on Monday for fear of an imminent terror attack by the Islamic State, with the knowledge that thousands will spurn their advisory and travel to the area in the coming months.
The annual travel warning from the Israeli Counter-Terrorism Bureau came two weeks ahead of the Passover holiday, marking the unofficial start of the travel season.
Eitan Ben-David, the head of the Counter-Terrorism Bureau, told reporters that the Sinai, which has seen a years-long, bloody conflict between an Islamic State affiliate and Egyptian forces, already bears his agency’s highest level warning, indicating a concrete threat.
Ben-David said that in light of the threat in Sinai, Israel “has considered the possibility of closing the Taba border with Egypt, but right now we have no intention of doing so.”
Israelis were also warned away from Turkey, which was given the agency’s second-highest warning, in light of the terror attacks in Istanbul and other Turkish cities in recent months, including one in January in which an Israeli teenager was killed and another in March 2016 in which three Israelis were killed.
Terror attack foiled in Samaria
Security forces foiled an attempted terror attack in Samaria Monday morning at a bus stop near the IDF Menashe Region command center outside of the town of Har Bracha, near the Arab village of Hawara.
The attempted stabbing attack was prevented by alert soldiers at the scene, who overpowered the terrorist and took him into custody before he was able to cause harm. No shots were fired during the capture of the terrorist.
United Hatzalah EMT Joseph Amir, who witnessed the incident, described the attempted stabbing attack.
"It was unclear who the intended victim was; whether it was one of the soldiers or one of the civilians at the bus stop."
"The terrorist put a bag down about 50 meters from the bus stop and approached in a suspicious fashion, wielding a weapon. One young woman alerted the soldiers to the terrorist's approach and the soldiers subdued the terrorist without shooting him. Thankfully no one was hurt in the incident."
Liberman: Hamas has ‘far fewer’ than 15 tunnels into Israel
Defense Minister Avigdor Liberman on Sunday dismissed a recent report saying there are 15 Hamas attack tunnels reaching into Israel from the Gaza Strip.
“There are not 15 tunnels that cross into Israel,” he said in a Q&A session on Facebook Live. “If there are any tunnels at all, there are far, far fewer.”
Liberman’s comments contradicted a February report by Channel 2, which quoted unnamed sources in the high-level security cabinet as saying that Hamas, the Gaza-based terror group, has at least 15 tunnels that extend into Israeli territory.
The report came just days before the release of the State Comptroller report on the 2014 Gaza war, which was highly critical of the army’s failures to prepare adequately for the threat of Hamas tunnels, and also chastised the political leadership for improperly managing the war effort.
MEMRI: Palestinian Authority (PA) Criticized For Restricting Freedom Of Expression After Banning Novel For 'Indecency'
In early February, PA attorney general Ahmad Barak banned the novel Crime in Ramallah by author and journalist 'Abbad Yahya, and ordered to remove it from all bookshops on the grounds that it "contains texts and terms that threaten decency and morality and could harm the public, especially minors and children." The novel, first published in October 2016, tells the story of three young people from Ramallah, one of them a homosexual who speaks of his sexual orientation and also describes his religious family, some of whose members belong to Hamas.
This content sparked criticism of the book and its author on social media, which apparently led to the authorities' ban, and in Nablus the district governor and municipality also prohibited to hold a conference on the book.
The attorney general's decision to ban the book sparked a public debate. Many Palestinian intellectuals and institutions opposed the ban on the grounds that it violates freedom of expression. They also argued that banning the book would only increase people's curiosity about it and cause more people to read it, especially since in this age of internet and social media it is virtually impossible to prevent the circulation of texts.
In light of the public debate, the PA Culture Ministry issued a statement on February 16 clarifying that the attorney general had not banned the book but had only suspended its distribution pending a review by a team of literary experts. The statement said: "Appealing to [literary] critics and professionals is a wise way to handle this matter objectively and professionally without compromising freedom of expression and opinion or the rules and regulations relevant to the matter."
Fatah: Recruit tens of thousands to fight Israel
In an article published by the Palestinian Authority daily Al Quds, Fatah official Abbas Zaki called on the terror organization to "recruit tens of thousands Fatah activists to rise up against Israel."
Palestinian Authority Chairman Mahmoud Abbas is also a Fatah member.
According to Zaki, if Fatah recruits members and begins an uprising (intifada) against Israel, the other terror organizations will act similarly, and Fatah will be returned to the leadership position it held in 1967, when it returned "the Arabs' national hope" by means of "revolutionary acts."
In his article, which was translated by MEMRI, Zaki wrote, "The sword continues to be aimed, and the gun continues to precede the olive leaf."
He also called on Arab officials to continue their attempts to harm Israel in international courts.
"We need to wake up and do something concrete to integrate tens of thousands of Fatah activists into our civilian uprising against the settlers and the occupation's forces," Zaki wrote. "The numbers of these activists will immediately double, when other national and Islamist organizations join them, together with civilians of our great nation.
"This is because what binds us is the fight against Israel, and not the dialogue with Israel, which has already lost its efficiency in every way.
Turkish mosque minaret broadcasts porn
Loudspeakers used to call the faithful to prayer broadcast audio from a porn movie in a city in northern Turkey, according to reports, leading to calls for an official probe.
Instead of the traditional Adhan, people in Kuzeykent, a suburb of the northern city of Kastamonu, were woken at 1 a.m. last Wednesday by the soundtrack from a pornographic film being played at high volume from the mosque loudspeakers, UPI reported.
Kastamonu Mayor Tahsin Babas vowed to launch an investigation into the incident after a video went viral on YouTube.
“The indecent provocations heard from a specific point in the Kuzeykent neighborhood has nothing to do with our institution,” he posted on Facebook in Turkish. “Our investigations showed that the broadcast was made from a special speaker system. We will launch a legal process against those who wish to associate this immoral action with our institution soon as possible.”
Local security officials claimed that hooligans had hijacked the system.

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