Monday, February 26, 2018

From Ian:

Dr. Mordechai Kedar: Hamas: Full steam ahead to nowhere
The Arab nationalist movements have sunk into the deep morass of despotism. Not one of them has managed to establish and maintain a democratic nation-state on the lines of Israel. The Zionist movement succeeded exactly where the Arab nationalist movements failed, and the Hamas movement was supposed to offer an alternative religious ethos that could unfurl its flag over all the tribal and religious groups living in "Falestin": Muslims, Christians, Cherkassim, Achmadim. The religious movement failed dismally, one of the reasons being its inability to abandon the principle of Jihad long enough to join up with the PLO and establish a Palestinian Arab state alongside Israel until the time is ripe to destroy the Jewish State. Hamas does not see a way to accept the Jewish states' existence, even on a temporary basis, and is obligated to maintain a constant state of war with Israel. Let me emphasize: not an active war but a state of war. Waging a war would lead to the destruction of Gaza and topple the heads of the Hamas leaders, while a state of war gives them justification for the sad state the movement and the Gaza Strip have reached. The residents of Gaza are the albatross hanging on the neck of Hamas, weighing it down as it tries in vain to navigate a stormy sea.

The situation in Gaza provides another proof, for anyone who is still in need of one, of the inability of an Islamic movement to establish and maintain a modern state that can live in peace with its neighbors and tolerate ideologies that differ from its own.

The schism dividing the PLO and Hamas is a cultural divide expressed by means of political conflict. There is no way to create unity or a true, long-lasting reconciliation between the two groups, so that anyone counting on one unified Palestinian Arab state had better align his expectations with bitter Middle East reality, widely different from what we have become accustomed to in Europe, America and Australia.

The PLO failed because the secular nationalist ideology that does so well in Europe, cannot make a go of it in the Middle East. It has failed in every country that tried to base its existence on that kind of ideology – Iraq, Syria, Libya, Yemen, Sudan are the exemplars. The Hamas movement is a failure because fundamentalist Islam cannot maintain a modern state with European democratic standards based on human laws. Turkey, while returning to Islam since the nineties, is also distancing itself more and more from the accepted Western model of a constitutional democracy.

The conclusion all this leads to is completely clear: There is neither a religious or secular basis for establishing a Palestinian Arab state. The only solution is the natural base of Middle Eastern society: The tribe. Only emirates in Judea and Samaria based on local families, - like those in the Gulf emirates – can operate legitimately in this region.
Melanie Phillips: The UK Needs Another Churchill to Confront Iran
Recently, there have been extraordinary scenes in cinemas throughout the United Kingdom. People have leapt to their feet in standing ovations, and grown men have been weeping. The source of the emotion? The wartime speeches of Winston Churchill in the movie, The Darkest Hour.

It’s not just because of Gary Oldman’s tremendous performance as the former prime minister. No — the movie has touched something very deep in the British psyche: the call to summon all one’s courage and resolution to defend their nation.

Showing how the UK’s previous prime minister, Neville Chamberlain, vainly tried to appease Adolf Hitler, the movie illustrates the catastrophic error of trying to compromise with a regime whose agenda brooks no compromise.

During the 1930s, the United Kingdom didn’t acknowledge this until it was almost too late. Churchill — the lone voice warning that the county needed to re-arm to deal with the Nazi threat — was scorned as a warmonger. People didn’t seem to realize that the choice before them was not between war and peace, but between war from a position of strength and war from a position of weakness.

When Hitler invaded Czechoslovakia in March of 1939, Chamberlain’s response was to return from meeting the German dictator in Munich and announce “peace in our time.” Only when Hitler invaded Poland in September of that year did Britain finally go to war.

Victory over fascism was accordingly a close-run thing. But the point is that Britain launched a pre-emptive strike. It realized that the attack on Poland showed Hitler posed a direct threat to its own nation, and that it needed to destroy that threat before the Nazis got any closer.

Palestinians: Israel is One Big Settlement
Let us be clear about this: When Palestinians -- and some of their supporters in the international community, including Europe -- say that they want an end to the "occupation," they mean they want to see an end to Israel's existence, full stop. They do not want to throw the Jews out of their homes in the settlements; rather, they want Jews to be expelled from the whole country.

The conflict, as far as the Palestinians are concerned, did not begin in 1967, when east Jerusalem, the West Bank and Gaza Strip came under Israeli control. In the eyes of the Palestinians, all Jews are "settlers" and "colonialists." All the land, they argue, stretching from the Jordan River to the Mediterranean Sea, is Muslim-owned land, and no Muslim is entitled to give up any part of it to a non-Muslim. For the Palestinians, accepting Israel's "right to exist" with Jews is seen as an act of treason.

What is really bothering the Palestinians is that Israel, with Jews, exists, period. The Palestinians want all of Jerusalem. They want all of "Palestine." They want Israel removed from the planet. It is time to listen carefully to what the Palestinians are saying -- in Arabic -- to understand that the conflict is not about Jerusalem and not about settlements.

PMW: The PA: Trump is a racist Zionist
Official PA daily op-ed portrayed Trump as a "racist" and "Zionist":
"His political decisions... stem from a complex, impulsive, unbalanced, and mentally unstable personality, and in our opinion these are the main characteristics of the racist personality."

"He is not only aggressive, rude, and controlling, but a combination of a mentality of theft with the negation and denial of the rights of others, and these are exactly the characteristics of the Zionist personality."

The Palestinian National Council "demanded that the Arab and Islamic nation defend Jerusalem and its holy sites, and harness their full abilities and connections in order to prevent the execution of this decision."

Following the US State Department's announcement last week that the US embassy will be opened in Jerusalem on May 14, 2018, the official PA daily reprinted the cartoon above accusing US President Donald Trump of "killing peace." The cartoon shows Trump standing in an open grave, aiming a handgun at the head of a dove. [Official PA daily Al-Hayat Al-Jadida, Feb. 24, and Feb. 6, 2018]

A Fatah official described Trump as a "racist" and a "Zionist" in an op-ed in the official PA daily. Muwaffaq Matar, who is a member of Fatah's Revolutionary Council and a regular columnist for the paper, wrote that Trump's political decisions - and especially those dealing with the Palestinian-Israeli conflict - are the result of "a complex, impulsive, unbalanced, and mentally unstable personality." Matar interpreted these as "the main characteristics of the racist personality." [Official PA daily Al-Hayat Al-Jadida, Feb. 25, 2018]
JPost Editorial: Ban Hezbollah
In July 2013 European Union governments agreed to blacklist the armed wing of Hezbollah as a terrorist organization. For years the US and Israel had been urging Europeans to ban Hezbollah, but it was only after Hezbollah carried out a terrorist attack on European soil that the EU was moved to act.

The attack on an Israeli tour bus in Burgas, Bulgaria, in 2012, which resulted in the deaths of five Israelis and their Bulgarian Muslim bus driver and the wounding of another 32 Israelis, forced the Europeans to recognize the obvious: Hezbollah is not a legitimate political movement; it is a terrorist organization that has no qualms about targeting innocent civilians.

Yet even after the EU agreed to designate Hezbollah a terrorist organization, it was careful to make a distinction between the “military” arm of Hezbollah and the “political” arm, as though there was a difference between the two.

The thinking among European politicians was that singling out Hezbollah, considered a legitimate political party inside Lebanon, would result in diplomatic blowback abroad and damaged relations with Muslims at home. Indeed, many European politicians – particularly on the Left – are convinced that Hezbollah is so popular that such a designation would be seen as a declaration of war against Islam itself.

The truth is that it is absolutely essential that the EU make a critical distinction between Islamists – those who adhere to a totalitarian ideology advocating the most brutal of methods for the advancement of their goals – and the majority of Muslims, who, given a choice, would opt for a version of Islam that does not call for the massacre of innocent civilians.
Saudis, Turks, China Join to Block U.S. Efforts to Designate Pakistan Global Terror Group
Some Republicans in the U.S. Congress have introduced legislation for the American government to add Pakistan to the United States list of state-sponsors of terrorism.

U.S. President Trump has already frozen nearly $2 billion in security aid until Pakistan takes decisive action against terrorist groups fighting American troops and their allies in Afghanistan, namely the Taliban and the Haqqani Network, but Islamabad continues to refuse.

Islamabad has long denied harboring jihadist groups.

Diaa Hadid, an Islamabad-based reporter for National Public Radio (NPR), notes that it “would make it harder for Pakistan to obtain international loans and for investors to come here. That would be a punishment for Pakistan because the economic situation right now is quite precarious.”
Official: U.S. only permanent UNSC member against full Palestinian UN membership
The United States is the only permanent member of the UN Security Council that opposes full UN membership for the Palestinians, said Nabil Shaath, international affairs adviser to Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas.

Last Tuesday, Abbas told the Security Council in a speech that the Palestinians plan to step up their efforts to gain full membership at the UN.

“All of the permanent members of the UN support our efforts to become full members of the UN except the United States of America,” Shaath told The Jerusalem Post on Sunday. “The US is really the sole obstacle in our way to achieving full membership.”

The US and Israel have historically held that the Palestinians should not make efforts to gain full membership at the UN before a resolution to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict has been achieved.

In order to achieve full membership at the UN, the Palestinians need at least nine members of the Security Council including all the permanent members to vote in favor of them becoming a full member.

The five permanent members of the Security Council include the US, France, the UK, Russia and China.
Danny Danon: The Palestinian leadership is the problem, not the solution
PA Chairman Mahmoud Abbas' address to the UN Security Council was a unilateral declaration by the Palestinians that when it comes to possible peace with Israel, their current leadership is no longer seeking a solution.

Speaking in January, Abbas claimed that the Zionist movement, which returned the Jewish people to their historic homeland, was a colonialist plot. He even claimed that Jews welcomed anti-Semitism as an excuse to advance their national goals.

These are not the words of a Palestinian leader ready to accept the legitimacy of the world's only Jewish state and enter into serious negotiations. His declaration that he is now boycotting American mediation all but ensures a state of prolonged and unresolved conflict.

Attempts by Abbas to lay the blame for the diplomatic impasse on the Americans' announcement regarding Jerusalem amounts to nothing more than an excuse to avoid the negotiating table.

Israelis are an optimistic people. We weathered four bloody wars with Egypt while waiting for a leader of Anwar Sadat's caliber to come forward and courageously visit Jerusalem. It took decades of talks with Jordan until King Hussein entered into a "peace of the brave" with Israel. We have no doubt that the day will come when the Palestinian people will be blessed with such leadership as well.

This will be a leadership that ends the despicable practice of incentivizing murder by paying monthly salaries to terrorists. It will be a leadership that educates its people towards tolerance instead of peddling anti-Semitism. It will need to be a leadership that recognizes that Israel is the national homeland of the Jewish people.
The Palestinians' failed gamble
Apart from Israeli Ambassador to the U.N. Danny Danon's remarks and a short response from Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu following Abbas' U.N. speech, Israel has also moved on from the issue. While Israel may have its own suggestions as concerns the conflict with the Palestinians, it will not make them public before Trump announces his peace plan, which according to U.S. Ambassador to the U.N. Nikki Haley will be made public soon.

Ever since the joint U.S.- Russia initiative to establish the Geneva Conference in 1973, Moscow has not played a significant role in the Palestinian issue, and despite conflicting reports, does not appear to have shown any interest in doing so. Nevertheless, the important role it plays in the Middle East today as a result of its deep involvement (alongside the U.S. and Iran) in Syria means Russian President Vladimir Putin could play a role in the Israeli- Palestinian conflict, if only to neutralize possible dilemmas that concern the conflict simmering between Israel and Iran in Syria and Lebanon.

Only a fool would try to predict how matters will progress in Syria. Although Syrian President Bashar Assad appears to have succeeded, with the help of Russia and Iran, in maintaining control of the government, it will be a long time before peace and stability are restored in that country, if at all. Once improbable, a diplomatic settlement between Syria and Israel now appears to be less likely still. But that is precisely why good relations between Netanyahu and Putin could play an important role in putting out fires in Syria. Indeed, the quiet understandings between the two leaders on Israel's (relative) freedom of action in Syria have proved beneficial in recent days, as when Israel responded to the incursion of an Iranian drone into its territory with airstrikes, and they could also prove important when it comes to the conflict with the Palestinians.
Government okays bill that advances West Bank annexation
In the newest push toward de facto annexation of the West Bank, the Ministerial Committee for Legislation approved a bill on Sunday that would expand the jurisdiction of Israeli courts over Area C of that region.

If passed, the bill would minimize the role of the High Court of Justice with regard to cases involving property rights, building and construction, freedom of information and restraining orders.

Lawsuits against actions taken by Israeli authorities in Area C on these topics would be handled in the same way as cases within sovereign Israel.

The authorities subject to most of the lawsuits in the area are the Civil Administration and the IDF.

Instead of automatic petitions to the High Court, such issues would be adjudicated by the district courts. While the option could still exist to appeal cases to the High Court of Justice or to the Supreme Court, doing so would be limited and much more expensive.

The legislation put forward by Justice Minister Ayelet Shaked (Bayit Yehudi) is designed to reduce the High Court’s caseload and to normalize life for Israeli citizens living in Judea and Samaria, ensuring that there should be no legal difference between them and those living within the Green Line, according to a statement put out by her office.

The statement explained that one of the primary goals here “is the de facto elimination of the Green Line in all matters relating to legal issues.”
Legal Expert: U.S. Embassy Move Would be a “Tangible Rejection” of Anti-Israel UN Resolution
The proposed move of the United States embassy to Jerusalem, announced Monday by Vice President Mike Pence before Israel’s Knesset, would serve as a “tangible rejection” of United Nations Security Council Resolution 2334, which characterized Israel’s presence in the Old City of Jerusalem and other areas captured by Israel in 1967 as “illegal,” according to an assessment written last year by legal scholar, Eugene Kontrovich.

Kontorovich, a professor at Northwestern University School of Law and director of the Kohelet Policy Forum ‘s International Law Department, wrote that if the Trump administration would choose to relocate its embassy from Tel Aviv to the U.S. Consular Section in Jerusalem’s Arnona neighborhood, it would mark the “most tangible rejection” of 2334’s declaration that Israel’s presence in any area captured in 1967 is illegal. The Arnona neighborhood, Kontorovich wrote, “is a few hundred meters over the imaginary line across which the United Nations says Jews may not go.”

In addition to marking a rejection by the U.S. of resolution 2334, moving the embassy to Arnona, Kontorovich explained, “would also fulfill the Republican Party platform of moving the embassy to ‘indivisible’ Jerusalem, and be in accordance with the 1995 Jerusalem Embassy Act, which calls for moving the embassy to a ‘unified’ Jerusalem, i.e., including those parts which were reunified in 1967.”

Minister claims Israel warned 30 countries about specific terror plots in 2017
In a stunning claim that would suggest far-reaching worldwide reliance on Israel’s intelligence agencies, Economy Minister Eli Cohen (Kulanu) on Sunday said that Israel warned 30 countries worldwide about specific terror plots in the course of 2017.

“You all heard last week that Australia got a phone call from the state of Israel [with a specific warning that terrorists] intend to blow up a plane. Actually, 30 countries got phone calls from Israel in 2017, in which the State of Israel called them, and said to them: You need to know, this and that [are being planned], in this and that place, pay attention, there’s going to be an attack,” he said, in a recording (Hebrew) of his speech aired by Army Radio on Monday morning.

Cohen made the remarks at a law conference at Tel Aviv University in the wake of reports that Israeli military intelligence foiled an Islamic State attempt to bomb flight from Australia last year. The event was well-attended and open to the public, the radio report noted.

Cohen’s claim, however, was immediately refuted by Environmental Protection Minister Ze’ev Elkin, who is a member of the high-level security cabinet.
Two Arab Israelis charged with plotting IS-inspired attack on Temple Mount
Two Arab Israeli men were indicted on Monday for planning to carry out an Islamic State-inspired suicide attack, with the target being Jerusalem’s Temple Mount holy site, a Tel Aviv synagogue or a central Israeli city with few Muslim residents.

The two suspects, who were arrested last month, were also charged with failing to report having knowledge of another group of Arab Israeli men who were also planning to carrying out a shooting attack on the Temple Mount in Jerusalem in September, similar to one conducted in July that killed two Israel Police officers.

That cell was arrested in September before it could carry out its Temple Mount attack.

The suspects indicted on Monday were identified as Muhammad Jabarin, 20, whose brother was a member of the cell broken up in September, and a 16-year-old who cannot be named as he is a minor, the Shin Bet security service said. A third suspect, Imad Jabarin, 20, was also arrested by the Shin Bet in January, but was not charged on Monday.

The security service said that he too was involved in the planning of the thwarted attack.

All three of them are residents of the predominantly Arab town of Umm al-Fahm in northern Israel, the same town that the Temple Mount attackers in July came from.
IDF arrests nine in Nebi Saleh raid, including cousin of soldier-slapper Tamimi
The Israeli military conducted a predawn raid in the restive Palestinian village of Nebi Saleh on Monday, arresting nine residents, the army said.

According to the left-wing B’Tselem human rights group, among the detainees was 15-year-old Muhammad Tamimi, who was apparently shot in the face with a rubber bullet by an IDF soldier late last year and whose cousin Ahed Tamimi is currently on trial for slapping an IDF soldier in December.

According to the army, in a total of nine suspects were arrested from the village for participating in violent demonstrations or taking part in “popular terrorism,” a catch-all term used by Israel to signify throwing rocks and Molotov cocktails at Israeli troops or roadways.

The army said the raid was conducted “in light of the increase in the number of riots and popular terrorist acts coming from the village of Nebi Saleh.”

Elsewhere in the West Bank, IDF forces arrested seven other Palestinian suspects believed to have taken part in violent protests or rock throwing attacks and seized thousands of shekels in the city of Bethlehem earmarked to fund terror activities, the army said.

The military would not confirm that Muhammad Tamimi was among those arrested.
Public security minister nixes PA education minister’s East Jerusalem visit
Public Security Minister Gilad Erdan on Monday barred the Palestinian Authority’s Education Minister from visiting a private Christian school in Jerusalem’s Old City, saying the Israeli-Palestinian Oslo Accords prohibited any official activity by the PA in Jerusalem.

Sabri Saidam had planned to visit the Terra Sancta School, where he would deliver an address and speak to the media, Erdan’s office said in a statement, crediting Jerusalem police intelligence for the information.

He was set to come with Samir Jibril, who is responsible under the PA for schools in East Jerusalem and additional senior PA officials, the statement said.

“In light of this grave case, and in accordance with his authority to prevent all official activity by the PA in the sovereign territory of Israel, Minister Gilad Erdan decided to sign an injunction preventing the visit.”

Erdan’s office said that the planned visit was part of the “continuing attempts by the PA to strengthen its status in Jerusalem and demonstrate its presence on the ground.
IDF imposes four-day closure on West Bank, Gaza Strip for Purim
The IDF has imposed a four-day closure of the West Bank and Gaza for Purim, the army has announced.

The closure is scheduled to be in effect from Tuesday through midnight Saturday and will see all crossings shut “with the exception of humanitarian, medical and exceptional cases” approved by the Coordinator of Government Activities in the Territories, or COGAT, the IDF said in a statement.

Tens of thousands of Palestinians who work legally inside Israel on a daily basis will be affected by the closure. Those who work in Israeli settlements in the West Bank will not be affected.

The army usually imposes a closure on the West Bank prior to all major Jewish holidays. Closures have not historically been imposed over Purim, however, this is the third year in a row for a Purim closure.

An uptick in tensions and violence have often occurred during holidays. Several terrorist attacks have been launched during Purim, including a deadly suicide bombing in 1996, in which a Palestinian suicide bomber blew himself up outside Tel Aviv’s Dizengoff Center and killed 13 Israelis, including five children, and wounded 130 more.

In 2015, Israel’s Shin Bet security service broke up a Hamas cell that was planning terrorist attacks against IDF targets in Abu Dis near Jerusalem on Purim.
IAF probe finds crew error to blame for F-16's downing by Syria
The downing of an Israeli F-16 fighter jet earlier this month by a Syrian anti-aircraft missile was the result of a "professional error" by the Israeli crew, the Israeli Air Force said on Sunday.

An IAF investigation found that an anti-aircraft missile shot down the Israeli warplane while it was returning from a bombing raid on Iran-backed positions in Syria on Feb. 10. The incident was triggered by an Iranian drone incursion into Israeli airspace and was the most serious confrontation yet between Israel and Iranian-backed forces in Syria.

The drone was shot down by an Apache helicopter, and Israel swiftly launched warplanes to target the drone's mobile control ground station in Syria.

A senior IAF officer told reporters that out of a number of jets that took part in the mission, one plane did not deploy countermeasures and was hit. It crashed in northern Israel after the pilot and navigator ejected from it.

"In the operational theater, there were a number of planes that did indeed defend themselves against the Syrian [fire] while completing their mission. One of the planes that did not defend itself was hit," the officer said.

A summary of the investigation released by the military said that the crew had chosen "to complete the mission and not defend themselves sufficiently. Their actions did not correlate with standard procedure while under enemy fire."
JCPA: Jibril Rajoub vs. Muhammad Dahlan to Replace Mahmoud Abbas
The “bombshell” that Jibril Rajoub, secretary-general of Fatah in the West Bank, dropped during an interview on the BBC’s Arabic service on February 17, 2018, is still reverberating throughout the Arab world and the territories.

During the interview, Jibril Rajoub attacked Egypt for supporting his bitter political rival Muhammad Dahlan. He said: “It is not acceptable for Egypt to support Muhammad Dahlan. He was expelled from the Fatah movement, and Egypt knows why. They were part of this process. It’s not honorable for Egypt as a nation to support someone who is against the Palestinian problem and his own nation. We are talking about a wrongful precedent and step for Egypt.”

Jibril Rajoub has a terrible relationship with Egypt. Last year, he was deported from Egypt shortly after he arrived in Cairo to take part in a political conference as a representative of Fatah. Soon after his plane touched down, Egyptian security officers put him on another plane and ordered him to leave the country because he had criticized the Egyptian president in the media.

According to Fatah sources, Jibril Rajoub suspects that PA Chairman Mahmoud Abbas will soon retire from political life. As Rajoub believes he is the most suitable candidate to succeed Abbas as chairman, he launched an attack on his rival Muhammad Dahlan. Dahlan has the backing of the Arab Quartet (Egypt, Saudi Arabia, Jordan, and the United Arab Emirates) for the position of the next chairman of the Palestinian Authority.

Unsurprisingly, the Hamas leadership is supporting Muhammad Dahlan. Khalil al-Hayya, a member of the Hamas political bureau, stated on February 20, 2018, that, “Muhammad Dahlan is a major Palestinian figure. His stance is clear regarding reconciliation, and we thank him for his steadfastness for the Gaza Strip.”
Egyptian mediators in Gaza press Palestinians to reconcile
A team of Egyptian officials is in the Gaza Strip to renew efforts to push for reconciliation between the rival Fatah and Hamas factions.

Hamas seized control of Gaza from Fatah in a military coup in 2007. The two rivals have attempted to reconcile several times since then, to no avail. The most recent agreement, brokered by Cairo, was signed on Oct. 12, but its implementation has proved as challenging as ever.

Two Egyptian intelligence officials and a diplomat arrived in Gaza on Sunday, along with several government ministers from the Fatah-led Palestinian cabinet in the West Bank.

In November, the Hamas terrorist group handed over control of Gaza's border crossings to the Palestinian Authority. It was the first tangible concession in years of Egyptian-brokered reconciliation talks. But negotiations have bogged down since then.

A delegation of Hamas leaders has been in Egypt since Feb. 9 in what is believed to be a stepped-up Egyptian pressure campaign on the group.
Gaza hotel tiff highlights power struggle between Qatar and Egypt
Senior Egyptian security officials who arrived in the Gaza Strip on Sunday were forced to search for new accommodation after discovering that a Qatari envoy was staying at the same hotel.

While the official reason was that the Qatari delegation had taken over the entire Al Mashtal Hotel in Gaza City, with none of the 250 rooms free for the Egyptians, other sources said the Cairo delegation was refusing to bunk under the same roof as the Qataris.

The Egyptian delegation arrived in the Gaza Strip in yet another bid to salvage the Egyptian-brokered agreement that was signed between Hamas and Fatah in November 2017.

Sameh Nabil and Abd al Hadi Faraj of Egypt’s General Intelligence Apparatus are heading the delegation, which is also negotiating with Hamas officials the possibility of reopening the Rafah border crossing on a permanent basis.

The hotel brouhaha serves to highlight the tensions between the Egyptians and the Qataris, both of who are vying to be the main player in Gaza.

According to some reports, the Al Mashtal Hotel in Gaza City informed the Egyptians that they would have to search for another place to stay because all 250 rooms of the hotel had been reserved.
Hamas calls for uptick in ‘al-Quds intifada’ over Jerusalem church tax quarrel
As the Church of the Holy Sepulchre remained closed for a second day amid a dispute with the Jerusalem municipality over canceled tax exemptions, the Hamas terror organization called Monday for an escalation of the “al-Quds Intifada” against what it called Israel’s “religious war on the Palestinians and their Islamic and Christian holy sites.”

On Sunday, church leaders announced that they were closing the venerated house of prayer until further notice to protest Jerusalem Municipality efforts to charge churches back taxes on properties not used for worship, as well as draft Knesset legislation to confiscate church land sold to private developers.

Fawzi Barhoum, a spokesman for Hamas, which controls the Gaza Strip, said in a statement that the quarrel between the churches and Israeli authorities illustrated the “dangerous repercussions of US President Donald Trump’s decisions and the policies of his administration,” adding that these “target the Palestinian existence and the Palestinian rights, as well as reinforce the racist and extremist Jewish state.”

In December, Trump announced that the US embassy would move from Tel Aviv to Jerusalem. Last week, Washington announced the move would take place in May.

On Sunday, the Palestinian Authority also linked the Church of the Holy Sepulchre’s closure to the US plan to move its Israeli embassy.

“It’s time for President Trump and his administration to realize the consequences of their encouragement for the Israeli policies of occupation and exclusivity in Jerusalem,” Palestine Liberation Organization head Saeb Erekat said after the churches’ decision was announced.
PreOccupiedTerritory: Hamas Fart Becomes ‘Israel Uses Poison Gas On Gaza Tunnels’ In Media Reports (satire)
News outlets conveying developments in this coastal Palestinian territory transformed an incident in which an Islamic militant training in an underground passageway emitted a burst of malodorous flatulence into allegations that the Israeli military had deployed poison gas to counter the tunnel threat.

The Associated Press, Agence-France Presse, Reuters, and the British Broadcasting Corporation, among others, reported the intestinal-gas-emission event Sunday morning as an instance of Israel chemical warfare, sparking outrage and confusion among human rights groups, politicians, and diplomats. Arab states called for an emergency session of the United Nations Security Council to address the alleged crime against humanity, and rival Palestinian factions scrambled to make political hay of both the incident and the publicity fiasco surrounding it.

Shortly before 4 AM Sunday, according to witnesses reports, a five-man team of Hamas commandos began an exercise in a subterranean passage linking two bunkers, when the lead fighter in the group passed gas. Others in the group remarked on the flatulence, and the group’s communications devices carried their comments to commanders in one of the bunkers. At that point a communications breakdown occurred, experts believe, as mention of the fumes was construed by an NGO employee on the scene as indication of a chemical attack. The human rights worker informed his colleagues of the alleged attack, and media such as CNN, BBC, and AP took that version of the report at face value.

“It never occurred to any journalist there to question the veracity of a story accusing Israel of an atrocity,” recalled a shrugging Ali Latdam, a stringer for The New York Times who wrote an uncritical article based on the report. “That’s the industry standard.”
Iran files UN grievance against Israel over PM's 'threats' (not satire)
Iran has filed a grievance against Israel with the U.N. Security Council over Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu's speech at the Munich Security Conference last week, saying it constitutes a direct threat to the Islamic republic.

In his speech to the prestigious symposium, Netanyahu criticized Iran for its interference in Middle East affairs.

The speech came on the heels of an Iranian drone incursion into Israeli airspace. Israeli fighter jets struck Iranian assets in Syria in retaliation, and an Israeli F-16 was downed by Syrian anti-aircraft fire. Although both sides refrained from any subsequent escalation, the incident remains the most serious confrontation to date between Israel and the Iranian-backed forces in Syria.

Holding up a fragment of a downed drone during his speech, Netanyahu warned that "Israel will not allow Iran's regime to put a noose of terror around our neck. We will act if necessary, not just against Iran's proxies that are attacking us but against Iran itself."
Haley slams Human Rights Council for inviting Iran rights abuser to speak at UN
US Ambassador to the United Nations Nikki Haley lashed out at the Human Rights Council on Sunday, saying it should be “ashamed” for inviting an Iranian minister notorious for his human rights abuses to address the body’s annual meeting in Geneva this week.

Iran Justice Minister Alireza Avaie’s slated remarks along with some 100 government ministers and other dignitaries from around the world have already elicited outrage from Iranian and international activists.

Haley said his appearance bolsters the Trump administration’s criticisms of the UN and threats to cut US aid to the orginization.

“The Human Rights Council should be ashamed to allow Mr. Avaei to address its membership,” the South Carolina native said in a statement.

“Yet again the Council discredits itself by allowing serial human rights abusers to hijack its work and make a mockery of its mandate to promote universal human rights. This does nothing but reinforce the United States’ call for much needed reforms at the Council for it to be viewed as a good investment of our time and money,” she said.
Russia sets stage for UN veto of Western bid to rebuke Iran
Russia has laid the groundwork for a likely veto on Monday of a British, U.S. and French bid for the United Nations Security Council to call out Iran over its weapons falling into the hands of Yemen's Houthi group.

The 15-member Security Council has to renew its targeted sanctions on Yemen on Monday. Russia has proposed a rival resolution that would simply extend the mandate of the regime for one year and not mention Iran.

The United States has been lobbying for months for Iran to be held accountable at the United Nations, while at the same time threatening to quit a 2015 deal among world powers to curb Iran's nuclear program if "disastrous flaws" are not fixed.

Britain drafted a resolution in consultation with the United States and France that initially wanted to condemn Iran for violating an arms embargo on Houthi leaders and include a council commitment to take action over it.

The latest British draft drops the condemnation and instead expresses concern that U.N. experts monitoring the sanctions reported Iran had violated a targeted arms embargo by failing to stop missiles and unmanned aerial vehicles reaching the Houthis.

A proxy war is playing out in Yemen between Iran and U.S. ally Saudi Arabia. A Saudi-led coalition intervened in Yemen in 2015, backing government forces fighting Iran-allied Houthi rebels. Iran has denied supplying the Houthis weapons.
Trump Admin to Reverse Obama Deal to Loosen Sanctions on Iranian Terrorists
U.S. officials are finalizing a new effort to crackdown on Iran's top terror organization as part of an effort to reverse sweeping sanctions originally granted by the Obama administration as part of a little known deal to enrich entities tied to the powerful Revolutionary Guard Corps, or IRGC, according to sources familiar with the effort.

In late fall of 2016, the Obama administration loosened prohibitions on doing business with companies tied to the IRGC—which is responsible for the deaths of hundreds of Americans—by publishing new language on what constituted IRGC "control" of these entities.

This back-door concession to Iran sparked outrage from lawmakers and pro-Israel groups and later fueled a Trump administration push to declare the IRGC a terror organization.

A new congressional bid will now seek to revise that standard for IRGC "control," reversing a portion of Obama-era sanctions relief that has helped Iran fund its massive military intervention in Syria and other regional hotspots. The push is already said to be gaining support from the American Israel Public Affairs Committee, or AIPAC, the United States's leading pro-Israel lobbying group, which will support the new effort during its annual policy conference in Washington, D.C., next month.

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Elder of Ziyon - حـكـيـم صـهـيـون

This blog may be a labor of love for me, but it takes a lot of effort, time and money. For over 14 years and 30,000 articles I have been providing accurate, original news that would have remained unnoticed. I've written hundreds of scoops and sometimes my reporting ends up making a real difference. I appreciate any donations you can give to keep this blog going.


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