Friday, June 28, 2019

From Ian:

U.N. pays lipservice to Holocaust (while promoting antisemitism)
"The United Nations Wednesday hosted a special session on the fight against anti-Semitism and other forms of hatred at which Israel's U.N. ambassador urged world powers to "declare war" against anti-Semitism.

Danny Danon recommended that the U.N. produce an annual investigative report on anti-Semitism, that the U.N. Secretary-General appoint a special envoy for combatting anti-Semitism and that the global body add 'ending anti-Semitism' to the list of so-called 'sustainable development goals' it has set itself. The U.N. currently has set itself 17 such goals to meet by 2030, including climate action, education, zero poverty levels, and full gender equality...

U.N. Secretary-General Antonio Guterres reminded the audience that the Holocaust was 'only as far back as a single average human lifespan' and noted that while Adolf Hitler and Nazi Germany had been defeated in World War II, 'anti-Semitism has not been extinguished. Far from it.'...

However, Anne Bayefsky, the director of the Touro Institute on Human Rights and the Holocaust, told Fox News that the Guterres must do more to address anti-Semitism, which she said goes largely unchecked throughout the global organization.

'The U.N. Secretary-General paid the usual U.N. lip-service to the Holocaust, and then declared the United Nations fights the ills of bigotry and anti-Semitism as a matter of its very identity,' Bayefsky said. 'That's false. The U.N. provides a global platform to promote anti-Semitism dressed-up as anti-Zionism, the hatred of Israel, and falsehoods about Israeli crimes.'

'I fear the truth is that as long as we believe that the United Nations - an organization controlled by forces antithetical to human rights,' she added, 'is part of the solution to limiting the reach of anti-Semitism, the less likely we will ever get there.'"

For Hitler, Anti-Semitism, Anti-Capitalism, and Anti-Americanism Were All Connected
Reviewing two new biographies of Hitler, one by Peter Longerich and the other by Brendan Simms, Daniel Johnson takes stock of the connection between the dictator’s hatred of the Jews and his hatred of the West:

While Longerich places the main emphasis of his book on a comprehensive account of how Hitler exercised power, Simms is more interested in the question of why. Both agree that he saw the war as an existential struggle against “the Jews,” especially from 1941 onward. Longerich shows that Hitler himself was responsible for the radicalization of the war against the Soviet Union into one of racial extermination. But this process was part of Hitler’s need to implicate an often reluctant German nation not only in his pitiless bid to reverse the unexpected defeat of 1918 but also in his genocidal project, above all the annihilation of European Jewry, thereby deliberately incriminating his compatriots and allies.. . . .

When Hitler declared war on the U.S., in one of the last of his Reichstag speeches on December 11, 1941, he claimed that Roosevelt, like Woodrow Wilson before him, was “mentally disturbed” and that his long tenure in office could only be explained by the sinister “power” behind him of “the eternal Jew.” Simms gives this speech prominence in his account: there Hitler set out in detail his claim that “the American president and his plutocratic clique” intended to establish “an unlimited economic dictatorship” over the world. The world was now, he declared, at war—a war between the German Reich and the “Anglo-Saxon-Jewish-capitalist world.” . . .

To this day, here in Britain, there are politicians who combine anti-Americanism, anti-capitalism, and anti-Semitism. They peddle the politics of resentment, of the “have-nots” against the “haves.” They call themselves socialists and their enemies Nazis, but they often turn a blind eye to mass murder and they like to make scapegoats of the “Zionists.” We all know who they are. And we British, of all people, ought to know better than to lend them our votes.

The Fatal Flaw in the Israeli-Palestinian Peace Plan
The economic part of the new Israeli-Palestinian peace plan is nation-building on steroids. It's big, it's bold and it's comprehensive. There's just one problem. As we've learned repeatedly since World War II, development doesn't buy peace in ethnic and religious wars because social and economic issues aren't driving the conflict.

The Israeli-Palestinian war is not an ideological war, nor is it a politico-economic war where development and governance are required for peace and stability. It's a religious war. Only strength can secure stability there, and only future generations will find a way to peace.

I spent a lot of time on the ground in the West Bank and Gaza in the 1990s, working on USAID road, water, housing, business, trade and other economic development projects. The projects did some good, but no one was living under the illusion that they would significantly change the calculus for peace.

The Palestinians will happily take every nickel of U.S. taxpayer money, but trade, investment and economic development won't incentivize them to moderate their hatred for Israel. That hatred is too much a part of their cultural identity. The ugly truth is that you don't get to either peace or stability in religious wars through economic development. Especially Islamic wars. Instead, the U.S. should focus on military strength and help Israel protect itself from our common enemies.
(Extracts) Tom Gross, Ali Abunimah, Debra Shushan on Bahrain Trump peace plan, TRT (26.6.19)
Tom Gross: The poor starving millions in Yemen, or the Syrian Sunnis, or the Yazidis or the Rohingya Muslims could only dream of such aid and attention. Tom Gross, Ali Abunimah and Debra Shushan debate today’s Bahrain conference, the first part of the US-Arab states $50 billion peace and prosperity plan for the Palestinians, on TRT World (26.6.19)

Haaretz: Sunni Arab States Discuss Peace Against the Wishes of the Palestinians
The "Peace to Prosperity" economic workshop in Bahrain is important, not because it will lead to peace: it won't. But for the first time, official representatives of a significant number of Sunni Arab states attended an international conference - hosted by and in an Arab country in public - on resolving the conflict between Israel and the Palestinians, and they did so against the express wishes of the Palestinians. Just by taking place, the economic workshop has moved the needle in a major way.

As far as most Arab leaders are concerned, the main obstacle to closer relations with Israel is the fear of a possible public backlash. If it wasn't for that, they would have come out into the open years ago. There is no question that, from their perspective, a security alliance with Israel against Iran - preferably with American backing - coupled with trade and tech sales, are more important than any notion of solidarity with the Palestinians. Bahrain is important as another sign of Arab leaders bringing the burgeoning secret relationship into the open.
Haaretz: Notes from the Economic Workshop in Bahrain
At the economic workshop in Bahrain, the Palestinian leadership received a very clear message from every direction that they are like a bone stuck in the throats of very influential parties in the region and are preventing progress on cooperative security, technological and economic projects. In conversations with representatives from Arab countries at the conference, Ha'aretz heard criticism of the Palestinian Authority's actions, Hamas' leadership and the funding they receive from Iran and Qatar.

On the other hand, every single Arab at the event made it clear that the Palestinian issue still stands between them and full peace with Israel. The general message was that we are making progress in slow steps with Israel, but this progress also has limits.

At the same time as U.S. and Arab finance ministers were holding a concluding panel at the economic workshop, Israeli Finance Minister Moshe Kahlon met in his office in Jerusalem with Palestinian Finance Minister Shukri Bashara and Civil Affairs Minister Hassan al-Sheikh to address "ongoing civil and economic issues." These meetings have been going on regularly and routinely - even during times when the disconnect between the Palestinians and Israelis is supposedly worsening.
Israel’s Ex-US Envoy Says Jewish State at ‘Special Time in History’ Due to ‘Very Good Relationship’ With Trump Administration
Former Israeli Ambassador to the United States Zalman Shoval has lived the Jewish state’s short history as fully as almost any man. Born in Danzig in 1930, he made aliyah with his family to what was then British Mandatory Palestine when he was eight years old. After studying at, among other places, the University of California Berkeley, Shoval served in Israel’s Foreign Ministry and later the Knesset, where he helped found not one but two political parties: David Ben-Gurion’s Rafi, and then the far more successful Likud, which created an upheaval in Israeli society when in 1977 it broke Labor’s decades-long hold on power.

Shoval’s career hit its peak during his two terms as Israel’s ambassador in Washington, DC, always a prestigious and coveted position given the importance of the alliance with the US. He held the post during the administrations of Presidents George H.W. Bush and Bill Clinton, and took part in the high-profile and contentious Madrid Conference in 1991 between Israel, Arab states and the Palestinians; as well as the equally-controversial Wye River Conference in 1998.

In his new book, Jerusalem and Washington: A Life in Politics and Diplomacy, Shoval gives the inside story of these and many other extraordinary events in his life and career.

Seated in his spacious office in the heart of Tel Aviv, Shoval has the air of a man far younger than his almost 90 years. He is quick-witted, energetic, humorous and cautiously analytical, drawing on his extraordinary lifetime of experience to assess Israel’s present and future.

Both of these, Shoval believes, are at a pivotal point, brought about in part by Israel’s relationship with the Trump administration, giving the country a unique opportunity to advance its interests.
Greenblatt says he prefers to call settlements ‘neighborhoods and cities’
US President Donald Trump’s Middle East peace envoy said on Thursday that he prefers to call Israeli settlements “neighborhoods and cities,” and that they are not the main impediment to peace.

Discussing Washington’s efforts to broker a peace deal between Israelis and Palestinians at the “Israel Hayom Forum for US-Israel Relations” in Jerusalem, Jason Greenblatt said, “We might get there if people stop pretending settlements, or what I prefer to call ‘neighborhoods and cities,’ are the reason for the lack of peace.”

During his speech, the Trump envoy admonished the Palestinian Authority for not attending the US-led Peace to Prosperity workshop in Bahrain earlier this week, during which Washington introduced the economic component of its long-awaited peace plan.

“It is a shame that the Palestinian Authority chose not to attend and tried to convince others not to attend. They distorted our message and attempted to undermine our progress but they did not succeed,” Greenblatt said.

The choice to refrain from criticizing Israel on settlements while panning the PA for “miss[ing] a real opportunity” was consistent with the approach the Trump envoy took in a CNN interview on Wednesday. During that interview, asked why he has never publicly denounced the Israeli government as he has the PA, Greenblatt responded, “I haven’t found anything to criticize that goes over the line.”
Panning Bahrain workshop, Abbas says national rights are not a real estate deal
Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas continued to push back Thursday against a US-led economic conference, saying that Palestinian political aspirations could not be bought or sold.

Abbas made the comment at a press conference in Ramallah alongside visiting Chilean President Sebastian Pinera, a day after the conclusion of the “Peace to Prosperity” workshop in the Bahraini capital of Manama.

“We say that national rights are not pieces of real estate that are purchased and sold and that arriving at a political solution that guarantees freedom, dignity, independence and justice for our people must precede any economic programs or projects because that will create stability and security for everyone,” Abbas said. “For that reason, the State of Palestine did not participate in the American workshop that took place two days ago in Manama.”

The PA president and other Palestinian officials made similar comments in the run-up to the conference, which took place on Tuesday and Wednesday.

The conference focused on the economic portion of the US administration’s peace plan to resolve the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, which includes proposals for more than $50 billion of investment over the next 10 years in the West Bank, the Gaza Strip and neighboring Arab countries.
Senior Hamas official lashes out at Bahraini FM over comments to ToI
A senior Hamas official lashed out at Bahraini Foreign Minister Khalid bin Ahmed Al Khalifa on Thursday over comments the Gulf official made to The Times of Israel regarding Israel’s legitimacy and the attitudes of other Arab countries to the Jewish state.

In a wide-ranging interview on the sidelines of the US-led Peace to Prosperity conference in Manama on Wednesday, Khalifa told The Times of Israel that Israel’s existence is a fact, and that Bahrain would like peace with it. “Israel is a country in the region… and it’s there to stay, of course,” he said. “Who did we offer peace to [with] the [Arab] Peace Initiative? We offered it to a state named the State of Israel, in the region… We do believe that Israel is a country to stay, and we want better relations with it, and we want peace with it.”

These and other comments by Khalifa draw a complaint from Moussa Abu Marzouk, a member of the Hamas Politburo. An Islamist terror group, Hamas seeks to destroy Israel.

“The foreign minister of Bahrain calling on the Arab states through ‘The Times of Israel’ newspaper to recognize Israel as a state that will remain affirms that the goal of the workshop is to erase the Palestinian right and normalize the existence of the occupation as a part of the region’s fabric,” tweeted Abu Marzouk. “We affirm our rejection of the conference and this proposal. These [people] are the ones who fought us, spilled our blood and removed us from our homes.”

In his interview, Khalifa did not explicitly call on Arab states to recognize Israel. What he said was, “We do believe that Israel is a country to stay, and we want a better relation with it, and we want peace with it.” He also reiterated his stance that Israel has a right to defend itself from aggression.
Baghdad Protesters Storm Bahrain Embassy, Take Down Flag Over Trump Peace Conference
More than 200 demonstrators broke into the courtyard of Bahrain’s Embassy in Baghdad and took down the kingdom’s flag on Thursday night to protest a US-led meeting in Bahrain on Israeli-Palestinian peace.

Police used live rounds to disperse the crowd, police sources told Reuters, with no injuries reported.

“We used our vehicle loudspeakers to encourage protesters to leave the compound,” a police officer stationed near the embassy said. “After they refused, police had to fire into the air.”

One protester, who identified himself as a member of the Islamic Resistance Groups, a term usually used by Iranian-backed Shiite militias, said they wanted to send a strong statement.

“We took down the Bahraini flag to send a clear message to all those who participated in the Bahrain conference, that we strongly reject normalizing relations with the Zionist occupiers and will never abandon our support of Palestinians,” said the protester, who identified himself as Abu Murtadha al-Moussawi. “We are ready to fight for this.”

Bahrain recalled its ambassador to Iraq for consultations on Thursday after the protests.

“The Ministry of Foreign Affairs of the Kingdom of Bahrain condemns the attack on the Embassy of the Kingdom of Bahrain to the Republic of Iraq by the demonstrators (which) led to sabotage in the embassy building,” a statement on the ministry’s website said.
Iraqi denounces ‘attack’ on Baghdad’s Bahrain embassy by peace confab protesters
Iraq on Friday denounced an “attack” by protesters on the embassy of Bahrain that prompted Manama to recall its ambassador from Baghdad.

Protesters stormed the Bahraini embassy compound in Baghdad Thursday night, removing the flag from above the building and replacing it with a Palestinian banner in protest against a US-led economic conference held in the Gulf nation to push Washington’s Israeli-Palestinian peace plan.

Iraqi Foreign Minister Mohammed Ali al-Hakim on Friday phoned his Bahraini counterpart Sheikh Khaled bin Ahmed Al-Khalifa to say Baghdad “condemns the attack.”

Hakim also expressed hope that the incident would not “undermine diplomatic relations” between the two countries, the Iraqi foreign ministry said in a statement.

Bahrain’s Foreign Ministry condemned the attack and said the kingdom was recalling its ambassador, Salah Ali al-Maliki. It added that Iraqi authorities have a responsibility to protect the embassy in Baghdad.

The attack on the embassy could affect relations between Iraq and nearby gulf nations at a time when they have been improving in recent months since Iraqi Prime Minister Adel Abdul-Mahdi took office. The assault was believed to have been carried out by supporters of Iran-backed Iraqi militias.
Netanyahu seeks joint U.S., Russia, Iran exit plan from Syria
Israel wants an agreement on an Iranian exit plan from Syria, now that there is a common understanding between the Jewish state, Israel and Russia on that end goal, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said on Thursday night.

“I am looking for a zone of agreement in Syria – because all of us agree on the end goal of getting Iran out of Syria, [which] is an important starting point,” Netanyahu said.

He spoke in advance of an important week in Israel with regard to the country’s security, in which a trilateral meeting was held between Israeli, Russian and American national security advisers. That encounter came in advance of a meeting to be held this weekend between Russian President Vladimir Putin and US President Donald Trump. It is expected that security in the Middle East and Iran will be among their topics of conversation.

At a forum held by the Israeli newspaper Israel Hayom, Netanyahu spoke with the paper’s editor Boaz Bismoth about the meeting.

The very fact that it occurred, Netanyahu said, “is one hell of a change” in Israeli diplomatic relation.

“Israel sat and talked with the US and Russia about how to get Iran out of Syria” he said.

“We will not let Iran entrench itself militarily in Syria.”

The prime minister explained that Israel had an important role to play in Middle East security, adding that if Israel was not here, the region would collapse.
Is Israel on the verge of normalizing ties with the Persian Gulf?
The most illuminating moment for me during the two-day “Peace to Prosperity” workshop here came, oddly enough, during a seven-minute phone interview back to Israel with a haredi media platform called Hadashot Hascoopim.

Earlier in the day I had posted a short video that went viral of about 10 men at the synagogue in Manama – including White House chief mediator Jason Greenblatt – wearing their tallitot and tefillin and, hand in hand, dancing around the bimah after morning services singing “Am Yisrael Hai” (The People of Israel Lives).

The interviewer began the segment by asking for a description of the “services that took place this morning in Bahrain, in an ancient synagogue, with unbridled joy and the singing of ‘Am Yisrael Hai,’ joined by the Chabad emissary and Jason Greenblatt, the haredi Jew who is Trump’s Mideast envoy.”

And while the moment was indeed moving and unusual – it was the first morning minyan in memory held in the small synagogue – some perspective is needed.

First of all, the Bahraini synagogue is not “ancient.” It was built just over 100 years ago to serve the small Jewish community in the kingdom, mostly immigrants from Iraq. Secondly, the singing of “Am Yisrael Hai” there, though poignant, was not exactly done with unbridled joy. Happy, yes; unbridled joy? That’s an exaggeration. And, finally, it is questionable whether Greenblatt would agree with his being characterized as a haredi Jew.

What is telling here is how the interviewer opted to portray the event, to play it up. Earlier in the day, in an interview with Army Radio, the minyan and the dance were also highlighted, though the presenter was more accurate in his description.

Why is this significant? Because it shows how we want things to be.
Old City site discovery to be visited by top U.S. officials, NGO disapproves
The United States Ambassador to Israel David Friedman accompanied by the White House envoy to the Middle East Jason Greenblatt and other Israeli ministers will be involved in an inaugural ceremony dedicated to the discovery of Pilgrim's Road in the Old City of Jerusalem - a site believed to be dated back to the Second Temple period.

The expected presence of American officials at the event will be the first time the United States will recognize Israeli sovereignty within areas of the Old City Basin.

Emek Shaveh, an Israeli NGO that works to "defend cultural heritage rights and to protect ancient sites as public assets that belong to members of all communities, faiths and peoples," believes that the event is an act by Israeli government to strengthen their presence in these conflicted areas through "extensive tourism development and archaeological excavations in Silwan and the Old City."

"This [event] is a further step in American support for the pro-settlement policy in Jerusalem, and particularly the touristic-settlement projects," said Emek Shaveh in a statement.

The NGO believes the consistent use of archaeology to "entrench" Israeli sovereignty over the Old City and shape it's historic landscape can produce dangerous outcomes to both the Israeli and Palestinian people.

"It is inexcusable to ignore the Palestinian residents of Silwan, carrying out extensive excavations of an underground city and to use such excavations as part of an effort to tell a historic story that is exclusively Jewish in a 4,000 year-old city with a rich and diverse cultural and religious past," the NGO wrote.
France must give back the Tombs of Kings to Israel
Just this week in Jerusalem, the Tomb of Kings reopened its doors to the public The French consulate in Jerusalem announced the reopening. This funeral site, closed since 2010, is the subject of complex political and religious claims.

The re-opening to visitors of this remarkable example of Jewish funerary architecture in Roman times has given rise to tension and great confusion.

France had decided to limit access initially to 15 visitors, with reservations needed, for two mornings per week hour by hour. They intended to ensure a peaceful operation,.but had hinted that the operation could be called into question depending on events. By now, about fifteen visitors will have discovered the vast staircase leading to a huge courtyard overlooking the mausoleum architrave carved in limestone. Inside, hypogeum rooms contain 31 tombs, closed by a rare example, still in place, of rolling stone.

“The graves are no longer accessible for security reasons » declared the French consulate."

"Pay to pray"?

This is a holy place for Jews," said one of the Orthodox Jews there, David Maimon, 40 years old. "Anywhere else in the world, when Jews or people of another religion want to go to pray in a holy place, they can do it." "We should not have to pay to pray, all we want is to enter, pray 10 or 15 minutes, and leave".
'Transfer all of the Palestinians to Jordan'
Right-wing Dutch lawmaker pushes alternative to Trump's Mideast peace plan, calling for transferring Arabs from Judea & Samaria to Jordan.

A right-wing Dutch parliamentarian is calling for the transfer of Palestinian Authority residents from Judea and Samaria to Jordan, offering the plan as an alternative to the US-backed ‘Deal of the Century’ Middle East peace plan.

Geert Wilders, chairman of the rightist Party for Freedom (PVV), said Thursday in response to this week’s US-backed economic summit in Bahrain that President Donald Trump’s Mideast peace plan was part of a futile effort to maintain the Palestinian Authority, which he called a “bottomless” well the international community has been “throwing money into in vain”.

Speaking with Dutch reported Ernst Lissauer Thursday, Wilders offered his own plan, first unveiled in 2010, as an alternative to the US plan.

“A fifty-billion dollar plan for the Palestinians was presented to the world by the US this week in oil state Bahrain,” Wilders said.

“For more than two years, work has been done on a Middle East peace plan that should end, among other things, the Palestinian-Israeli conflict. The financial part of the plan was presented to the world in Bahrain this week. A 'Marshall plan' that should put an end to the bottomless Palestinian well into which the UN has been depositing money in vain for sixty years.”

But, Wilders continued, there seems to be little support for the plan in the European Union, with the money being “coughed up mainly by rich Arab states.”

“In The Hague there is hardly any interest in this Trump project. My plan, the Wilders plan, is a better plan; all Palestinians back to Jordan.”

Report: 28,000 Illegal Arab Structures Erected in Area C, Ushering Palestinian State
Following months of intensive mapping work, the Regavim movement on Friday revealed new, worrisome data regarding the Palestinian Authority’s takeover of land in Area C in Judea and Samaria, with Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s tacit cooperation.

According to the Oslo agreement, Area C is under complete Israeli control, both in terms of military and civilian rule. Initially it comprised 74% of the “West Bank,” but under the 1998 Wye River Memorandum, Israel withdrew from an additional 13%, officially reducing Area C to about 61% of the land between the Jordan River and the 1949 armistice line.

According to Regavim, the Palestinian Authority with support from the European Union is creating facts on the ground across Israeli-controlled Area C with zeal and decisiveness reminiscent of the Zionist settlers of the 1930s and ’40s.

In essence, the Arabs have been applying former PA prime minister Salam Fayyad’s plan for territorial contiguity for the establishment of a future Palestinian state, which suggests that statehood “is something that will grow on both sides as a reality […] creating a belief that this was inevitable through the process, a convergence of two paths […] from the bottom up and the top down.”
Israeli official confirms concessions to Hamas in deal to end arson attacks
An Israeli official confirmed Friday that the country had agreed to a number of economic concessions for the Gaza Strip in exchange for an end to arson attacks and other violence along the border.

“In response to a request from the United Nations and Egypt, Israel will return the fishing zone [to 15 nautical miles] and the flow of fuel, in light of a promise that Hamas will stop the violence against Israel. If Hamas will not abide by this commitment, Israel will reinstate sanctions,” said the official, who spoke on condition of anonymity.

On Friday, despite the agreement, an incendiary device disguised as a book was sent into Israel on a bunch of balloons, while other balloon-borne incendiaries caused several fires in the border region.

Israel does not officially recognize ceasefire deals with Hamas, which rules Gaza, or publicly acknowledge dialogue with the terror group.

The UN and Egyptian-mediated agreement, which was reported early Friday morning by the Gaza-based Sawa news outlet, came after a rash of incendiary balloons were launched into Israel throughout the week.

Thursday alone saw at least 30 fires, likely the largest number started by Gazan balloons in a single day since Palestinians began launching the airborne incendiary devices over a year ago.
Gantz: Deal to end Gaza arson attacks shows Netanyahu ‘filling Hamas’s balloons’
Blue and White party leader Benny Gantz railed against Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu on Friday over an agreement to end arson attacks from the Hamas-ruled Gaza Strip, joining a chorus of opposition criticism over the premier’s policy toward the Palestinian enclave.

“Netanyahu is filling up Hamas’s fire balloons with helium,” Gantz told reporters in a burnt field in southern Israel. “The truce agreement… again proves it is Hamas dictating things to Netanyahu.”

Gantz, a former IDF chief under Netanyahu, called for “strong attacks” on Hamas in response to incendiary balloon launches from Gaza.

“If there is no strong response, there is no deterrence. If there is no deterrence, there is no calm,” he said.

Gantz has frequently attacked Netanyahu over Gaza on the campaign trail, but has given few details on what he would do differently if he were prime minister.
Islamic Jihad hints it may strike Israel in case of US-Iran war
The Iranian-backed Palestinian Islamic Jihad terror group suggested Friday it could attack Israel if a war breaks out between the United States and Iran.

Tensions have spiked recently between the US and Iran amid the deepening impact of sanctions tied to US President Donald Trump’s withdrawal from the 2015 international deal meant to curb the Iranian nuclear program.

Since the deployment to the Persian Gulf last month of an American aircraft carrier strike group, the US has accused Iran of orchestrating attacks on tankers sailing in the area, raising concerns over the possibility of a military conflict in the region.

Iran also downed a US military drone last week it said was in its airspace. The US has denied that claim, saying the drone was in international skies, and Trump ultimately decided against launching retaliatory strikes.

“Our action against Israel will remain limited to restituting Palestinian rights like the return of Palestinian refugees, getting Jerusalem back, freeing the detainees and liberating the occupied Palestinian territories,” Al-Monitor quoted an unnamed “prominent leader” in the Gaza-based PIJ as saying.

“But if Israel decides to ally with the US to engage in a military confrontation against Iran, we will take a different stand, which we will reveal in good time.”
Booby-trapped book: Terror attack in the Gaza vicinity foiled
A police sapper neutralized an explosive device attached to a cluster of balloons that landed in an agricultural field in the Eshkol Regional Council on Friday.

The explosive device was hidden in what looked like a book with the Hebrew inscription "Love Stella."

"The attached suspicious object was a book with a Hebrew inscription. The book was booby-trapped - the assumption is that the goal was that the book would detach from the balloons and appear like an innocent-looking Hebrew book," an Eshkol Council spokesperson said.

"Therefore, it is very important - in any case of identifying any suspicious object even if it's not attached to balloons - don't touch. You should move away and report it to the local IDF security coordinator," the spokesperson stressed.

Two fires broke out this morning in the Gaza perimeter, in grazing land on the kibbutz in Shaar Hanegev and in the Be'eri Forest. The fires were apparently caused by incendiary balloons.

MEMRI: UAE Businessman Khalaf Ahmad Al-Habtoor: Lebanon Needs New Politicians, Who Do Not Capitulate To Hizbullah
In a June 12, 2019 column in the English-language Kuwaiti daily Arab Times, titled "Wanted – A Fresh Crop of Lebanese Sunni Politicians," UAE businessman Khalaf Ahmad Al-Habtoor wrote that Lebanon needs new Sunni leaders to replace the current ones, who capitulate to Iran's proxy Hizbullah that has taken over the country. Lebanon's present leaders, says Habtoor, are so intimidated by Hizbullah that they have given up the struggle against it in favor of an "if you can't beat them, join them" mentality. As an example he presents Lebanese Prime Minister Sa'd Al-Hariri, who recently stated that Hizbullah has a right to keep its weapons. Al-Habtoor concedes that Al-Hariri may have no choice but to accept the reality of Hizbullah's weapons, but asks why he felt the need to "publicly announce that a terror group is free to maintain a private arsenal." He urges the Lebanese people to replace "the failed old guard" with leaders who place the good of the country before their own interests.

The following are excerpts from his column:
"There was a time when I considered Beirut as my second home. It was one of my favorite vacation destinations, and I was more than happy to invest heavily in a place I believed had enormous potential. But, that was before it evolved into an Iranian satellite hiding beneath the façade of a confessional democracy.

"Looking at the mess poor Lebanon is in today, I can only cherish wonderful memories and pray for a solution capable of smashing Hezbollah's suffocating chains. However, I am seriously disappointed to note that the opposition, in particular the Sunni parties, appear to have given up the struggle.

"There used to be a fine balance between the political influence of Sunnis and Shi'ites who together makeup an estimated 52 percent of the country 6.9 million population. The precise demographical statistics are unknown. There has been no census since 1932 because the issue is thought to be too sensitive yet for sure Shiite militias with the cooperation of certain Christian and Druze capitulators have seized the upper hand.
The Republic of Kosovo designates Hezbollah a terrorist organization
The World Jewish Congress President Ronald Lauder said on Thursday: “The global community has been terrorized for more than three decades by Hezbollah and its operatives, who have executed their violent actions under the patronage of the Islamic Republic of Iran across nearly every continent.“

According to the Gazeta Express, a Kosovo news portal, Kosovo's government adopted the EU ban on Hezbollah's so-called military arm."

He added, ”yet, several top international organizations, including the United Nations, still refuse to recognize Hezbollah in its entirety as the terrorist entity that it is.”

The US, Canada, the Arab League, Israel, the Netherlands and the United Kingdom have already designated Hezbollah's entire movement a terrorist entity. The EU and Germany have merely outlawed Hezbollah's so-called military wing.

Hezbollah's "political wing" operates in the EU and Germany. Hezbollah's leadership considers its organization to be a unified movement without political and military wings.
Iran on Course to Exceed Nuclear Pact Limit Within Days, Diplomats Say
Iran is on course to breach a threshold in its nuclear agreement with world powers within days by accumulating more enriched uranium than permitted, although it has not done so yet, diplomats said, citing the latest data from UN inspectors.

France, one of the European powers caught in the middle in an escalating confrontation between Washington and Tehran, said it would ask US President Donald Trump to suspend some sanctions on Iran to allow negotiations to defuse the crisis.

A week after Trump called off air strikes on Iran minutes before impact, world leaders are trying to pull the two countries back from the brink, warning that a mistake on either side could lead to war.

“I want to convince Trump that it is in his interest to re-open a negotiation process (and) go back on certain sanctions to give negotiations a chance,” French President Emmanuel Macron said in Japan, where he is due to meet Trump on the sidelines of a summit in coming days.

A move by Tehran that clearly breached its 2015 nuclear agreement with world powers would transform the diplomatic landscape and probably force European countries to take sides.

Macron said he had two priorities: de-escalating military tension and keeping Iran from violating the accord, which European countries still hope to save even though Trump ignored their advice and quit it last year.
United States will sanction any countries that import Iranian oil
The United States will sanction any country that imports Iranian oil and there are no exemptions in place, the U.S. special envoy for Iran said on Friday.

U.S. President Donald Trump targeted Iranian Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei and other top Iranian officials with sanctions on Monday, taking an unprecedented step to increase pressure on Iran after Tehran’s downing of an unmanned American drone last week.

"We will sanction any imports of Iranian crude oil," Brian Hook said when asked about the sale of Iranian crude to Asia, adding that the United States would take a look at reports of Iranian crude going to China.

"There are right now no oil waivers in place," Hook told reporters in London. "We will sanction any illicit purchases of Iranian crude oil."

Tehran has been selling increased volumes of petrochemical products at below market rates in countries including Brazil, China and India since the United States reimposed sanctions on Iranian oil exports in November, Reuters reported this month.
Iran draws the line, says Vienna is 'last chance' to save nuclear deal
Iran said Friday's meeting in Vienna between the remaining signatories of the nuclear deal was the "last chance" to save the accord after the US withdrawal last year and warned Tehran would not accept "artificial" solutions to US sanctions.

Iran is threatening to exceed the maximum amount of enriched uranium allowed it by the deal, in retaliation for crippling US economic sanctions imposed in the past year.

It is just days away from that limit, diplomats say, and going over it could unravel the accord.

Senior officials from Iran and the deal's remaining parties will meet with the aim of saving the pact. But with European powers limited in their ability to shield Iran's economy from US sanctions, it is unclear what they can do to provide the large economic windfall Tehran wants.

On Friday, Iran's Fars news agency quoted foreign ministry spokesman Abbas Mousavi as saying, "I think this meeting can be the last chance for the remaining gather and see how they can meet their commitments towards Iran."

Mousavi said that despite supporting Iran's stance in several statements, the remaining signatories - Britain, China, France, Germany and Russia - had failed to take any action.
Al-Baghdadi Disappoints at First Caliphate Debate (satire)
SIS Caliph Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi’s disappointing performance in the first Caliphate debate has opened the door for the other candidates in the 2020 Caliph race, as Baghdadi was hammered by his opponents for his soft stands on religious minorities, execution and women’s rights.

Baghdadi, who entered the debate with a large lead in the polls after restoring the Islamic Caliphate, touted his success in his first term in office.

“Are you better off now than you were four years ago?” Baghdadi asked in his opening remarks. “Unless you’re Shia, Kurdish, Yazidi, Christian, secular or Jihadi John, the answer is emphatically ‘Yes.’”

The other candidates on the crowded stage, however, took aim at the frontrunner.

“This so-called Caliph destroys some tiny statues, and then posts it all over the internet as if it’s some big deal,” said former Taliban leader Mullah Omar, whose appearance at the debate dispelled rumors of his death. “Well let me tell you, when I was Caliph in Afghanistan, I destroyed statues fifty times as large as anything Baghdadi has ever seen.”
San Francisco Friday Sermon: Morsi Was Murdered by Zionist Agents Who Are Working for Satan
Dr. Hafiz Mohammed Khalid Sidiqqi said in a June 21, 2019 Friday sermon at Masjid Darussalam in San Francisco, which is the largest mosque in downtown San Francisco and which is managed by the Islamic Society of San Francisco, that former Egyptian President Mohamed Morsi, who died recently, had been murdered by Zionist agents. He said that there are many of these agents in the Muslim world working for Satan. Dr. Siddiqi said that Morsi had only been trying to help humanity by spreading the truth of Islam and its message of justice throughout the world, but that the "forces of evil" did not allow it and will not allow it until the Muslims "connect" with each other and "establish the kind of unity that is required." Dr. Siddiqi's website says that he has been serving the Bay Area and the U.S. since 1983. It says that he currently lectures in Islamic Studies and Arabic at Chabot College, at Mission College, at Ohlone College, and at the Graduate Theological Union's Center for Islamic Studies, and that he is the Director of the Islamic Education and Information Center and the founder of the Islamic Law Council. Dr. Siddiqi holds a PhD in Quranic Studies from the University of London and a Master's in Quranic Exegesis from Al-Azhar University in Egypt. The video was uploaded to a YouTube page called IqraTube, which is run by Dr. Siddiqi.

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