Friday, October 25, 2019

From Ian:

Colder than ever: 25 years on, Israel and Jordan ignore peace treaty anniversary
Twenty-five years ago, on October 26, 1994, Israel and Jordan ended decades of enmity and bloody wars when they signed a “Treaty of Peace” in the Arava Valley on the Israeli side of the border.

The next day, before King Hussein flew back to Amman, his Royal Jordanian plane, escorted by Israeli F-15 jets, circled over Jerusalem several times. The king and his wife were said to have been very moved as they looked at the Old City from above.

Nearly five years later, in January 1999, the king visited Israel again, and when he left, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu decided to honor the monarch by having two Israel Air Force fighter planes escort his aircraft in what the Foreign Ministry at the time called “a special salute fly-past.”

Royal visits have long since stopped, and so have grand gestures celebrating the bilateral relationship.

Netanyahu is again prime minister, but a quarter century after the historic peace agreement between the Jewish state and the Hashemite Kingdom was signed neither country is doing anything remotely significant to celebrate the historic milestone.

Among the Jordanian public, the so-called Wadi Araba Treaty was always largely regarded with resentment and suspicion. “It is a cold peace, and our relationship is getting colder,” Hussein’s son and heir King Abdullah II acknowledged in an interview 10 years ago.

But even Israel, where the accord is widely appreciated, and where the government often cites its peace with the Hashemite Kingdom as a blueprint for future interest-based agreements with other Arab states, has not organized any events to mark the anniversary.

Book Review: Spies in the Basement
The prime minister’s chief of staff asked me to mark off Oct. 26. “Leave it free. Don’t make any appointments that day,” he instructed.

“It’s a long time off,” I said. “The Messiah might arrive between now and then.”

“Did you hear what I said?” his voice bellowed, and Halevy added that just as I had kept silent in London, so must I seal my lips now. “Not a word to your wife or friends, Be’er,” Haber commanded.

Chapter 4. A few months later the news arrived with great fanfare: Peace with Jordan! A treaty with the Hashemite Kingdom would be signed at the Arava Valley border crossing on Oct. 26, 1994. The very date Haber had told me to reserve in my diary! Things began to become a bit clearer, but I hadn’t heard a thing from him or his office. At 2 a.m. on the night between the 24th and 25th of October a military police motorcycle screeched to a halt in front of our home, just like in an old thriller. The courier hand delivered an envelope from the prime minister, addressed to my “eyes only,” with a personal invitation to the Peace Treaty ceremony.

Epilogue. Standing by the edge of the stage, before the ceremony began, Efraim Halevy was once again engrossed in whispered conversation with the short, solid, broad-shouldered, mustachioed, Levantine-looking man. The very same man I had seen him with 15 years earlier in the London basement. It was Crown Prince Hassan bin Talal, brother of King Hussein. His back was a bit more stooped, and his hair now had a touch of gray. As soon as I could get Halevy alone I approached him with a warm greeting. He asked why I thought he and Haber had found me worthy of an invitation to this historic event, which capped countless secret meetings held over many years. “Why, indeed?” I answered his question with one of my own, in inimitable Jewish fashion. Halevy answered, “Because on that very day in London you were witness to the first contact between me and Prince Hassan, and on that afternoon at Café Apropos you caught me fresh from my return from Amman where the king and his brother and I settled on the date to sign the peace treaty. Since I didn’t want to inform the prime minister by telephone—everything was still secret, and you know how things leak—I made a date to pass the information via Eitan, who lives near the café. By fate’s guiding hand you were there at the start and also at the finish line. That’s why we thought it was only right to invite you to be here today.”
What Jordan’s plans for Naharayim mean for the Israelis near the border
Although the loss of Naharayim is painful, he has focused on what he considers to be the most important element here – that the peace has held between Israel and Jordan.

“It is a good relationship. We will not allow anyone to harm this relationship. When the ceremonies end and the politicians leave, we will still go out and work in the fields, and the Jordanians farmers will go out and work in their fields,” Grinbaum said.
Both sides will have to work together and share scarce resources, such as water.

“This is the most important thing,” he added. “There is no holiness in the land. Life is much more important than the land.”
Fifty years ago, Jordanians stood on the other side and shot at Israelis. Now the lights twinkle peacefully on the other side at night, he said.
So if leaving Naharayim is the painful price that has to be paid to maintain the peace, he is willing to pay it.

But, he added, there is a cautionary note here for those considering the details of a future peace plan with the Palestinians.
“I believe that the late King Hussein and the late Yitzhak Rabin, both of whom are not with us, when they signed the peace agreement in 1994, they never imagined that after 25 years [Naharayim] would become an issue,” he said.

When it comes to the Trump administration’s “Deal of the Century,” he said, people should ask themselves: If we do a great deal today, who will know what will happen 25 years from now?

“Consider what you sign and with whom,” he said, adding that Naharayim “should be a lesson for all of us.”

Israeli Security Officials Warn of Looming Iranian Threat
Israel's political-defense echelon is speaking with one voice about the threat posed by Iran. Despite the multiple blows to Iran's interests by Israel's "campaign between the wars," the downing of the American drone and the attacks on Saudi oil facilities (along with Iran's persistent progress on the nuclear track) have shown that Tehran is actually upping its ante. Iran is increasingly audacious in the Gulf, and we can only assume it will act the same against Israel.

Over the past two years Iran attempted to attack Israel four times. The current assessment is that Iranian strikes could be direct or, more likely, circuitous: from Syria or from Iraq; via terrorist attack, missile fire or drone strike, similar to the one in Saudi Arabia.
Israel has good intelligence about Iran's plans, but it isn't perfect. Israel's physical defenses against these potential threats are solid, but not hermetic.

The operational challenge posed by Iran is significant and requires special preparations in the immediate term.

It also means Israel must prepare for the consequences: If it sustains a serious blow, Israel could respond on Iranian soil, and this could boil over into a multi-front campaign against Hizbullah, and perhaps elements in Syria and Gaza as well.

We mustn't view all this as an indication of impending war. Israel can do quite a lot to prevent it: from intelligence-diplomatic efforts; to major preventative action to disrupt Iran's machinations and exact a steep price; to making Tehran understand that Israel is prepared to go all the way, so that the ayatollah regime knows it will pay dearly if Israel is harmed.
Jews Could Swing the 2020 Election
The left has also produced the most anti-Semitic presence in Congress in recent history, notably from the much exposed “squad” of far-left congresspeople, sometimes linked to terrorist groups like Hamas and those spreading blood libels. They have joined longtime Israel bashers like Georgia’s Hank Johnson, who is part of an anti-Israel faction in Congress that reaches as high as 70 members; these are not from the backwoods of Georgia, but from the biggest, most racially diverse cities, deep blue states like Vermont and college towns. Universities, here and abroad, are among the largest centers of anti-Israel agitation.

As we head into what will no doubt be a divisive, dirty, and likely outright disgusting political season, the Democrats’ increasingly anti-Israel orientation and insidious acceptance of anti-Semitic attitudes will provide what some Republicans consider a golden opportunity. Trump’s low ratings among Jews actually offer his supporters some hope since he has a lot of room for growth.

Of course, no one expects Jews to start voting like evangelical Christians. And even if they turned to Trump, many states with the highest percentages of Jewish voters, notably New York, New Jersey, Massachusetts, Connecticut, and Maryland, are so Democratic that Trump would lose the state under any conceivable circumstance. But in a handful of critical “battleground” states with larger-than-average Jewish populations—notably Florida, Nevada, and Pennsylvania—a shift of 5% or 10% percent, or even Jews avoiding voting at all, toward Trump could prove critical. Most important, of course, is Florida, which, with 3% Jewish population is the seventh-most-Jewish state in the union. The greater Miami area is now the second-most-heavily Jewish region in the country, with over 8% of residents Jewish. Florida’s Jewish population skews older than the national average, which usually means more strongly identified with Israel, and thus, despite its traditional Democratic bona fides, could be more willing to defect in a landscape where Jews have become a wedge issue.

The chance for Republicans to score here is strongest among older and Orthodox Jews, as well as Russian and Iranian immigrants, whose numbers equal at least 50,000 . Communist anti-Semitism is no myth to those roughly half million who come from the former Soviet Union and those who fled the Muslim world—two-thirds of Persian Jews came to America—have tended to be somewhat suspicious of alliances with countries like Iran. These communities could help Trump turn the tide in several states, where the race is projected to be very close. California and New York, where immigrant Jews are also concentrated, are far too committed to the Democrats for any hope of GOP victory, but substantial populations in South Florida and Philadelphia could provide the margins that make the difference in a tight race in November.

More important still could be Orthodox Jews. While the Orthodox are concentrated in New York, over 20,000 live in southern Florida and as many as 12,000 in Philadelphia. Orthodox Jews supported Trump in 2016 by 54% compared to well less than half that among other branches of Judaism and the nonaffiliated.

Israel-Kazakhstan Relations Continue to Expand and Diversify Under New President
Ties between Israel and Kazakhstan, a former Soviet republic, continue to be strong and are expanding under new President Kassym-Jomart Tokayev, according to Israeli ambassador Liat Wexelman.

Tokayev, 66, who took office in March, is the handpicked successor of Nursultan Nazarbayev, who led the country for nearly 30 years.

“Israel is an important partner of Kazakhstan in the Middle East, and we are working to enhance the close bilateral ties, especially in such matters as commerce, innovation, education and public diplomacy,” Wexelman told JNS.

Asked about the situation for the Jewish community in the Muslim-majority country in light of ongoing tensions in the Middle East, the ambassador responded that “the Jewish community and the limited number of Israelis residing in Kazakhstan are enjoying a safe life.”

She said government authorities and the Jewish community have warm ties going back in history to when waves of Jews were evacuated to the country.

“The political tensions in the Middle East are not reflected in any way on these positive ties,” added the Israeli ambassador.

Seth J. Frantzman: Syria’s Kurds, Jewish suffering - history of powerless
The stark choices that greeted Kurds in eastern Syria in the opening days of the Syrian civil war have now ended with bombings and massacres at the hands of America’s “NATO ally” Turkey and the far-Right religious extremist proxies it is using in Syria. The tragedy by which a peaceful area of Syria recovering from the ISIS war, where people had believed working with the US would help them gain security, is one that echoes Jewish history.

Like Kurds, Jews were historically a stateless minority with large populations across the Middle East and in Central and Eastern Europe. Not long ago, cities and towns across Ukraine, Belarus, Lithuania and Poland had sizable Jewish minorities, and in some cases, majorities. They lived unstable lives at the whim of whichever great power ruled over them – from the Russian Empire to the Austro-Hungarian Empire. From time to time, they received news of new rights being granted to Jews in other parts of Europe, such as in revolutionary France.

However, they knew that with every revolution comes uncertainty and a stark choice. New rights of citizenship might be offered but at the expense of no longer being a community. On the other hand, powers like the Russian Empire sought to eradicate Jewish tradition by drafting men for decades of army service. In the absence of empire and order, pogroms and attacks by extremists flourished.

Shoehorned into this impossible situation, the Jewish community made different choices. Some embraced new radical social movements, becoming secular and communist or socialist. Some booked passage for America, as some of my ancestors did in the early part of the 19th century; others chose Zionism and the desire for a state of their own.

Kurds have been hammered into the same stark choices, betrayed both by empires and by the social movements they adopted. The European powers that colonized Iraq and Syria sought to sideline Kurds in favor of Arab leaders. This eventually gave way to the even more oppressive and genocidal Arab nationalism of Saddam Hussein’s Ba’ath Party and the Ba’ath Party in Syria that denied many Kurds citizenship. Other countries were happy to use Kurds when it might help them against neighboring enemies, much as Iran used Kurds in its fight against Iraq, or Syria hosted members of the PKK to antagonize Turkey.

Much like Jews were told that if they wanted equal rights and freedom they should not be a nation apart, Kurds were told by nationalist Turkey that they were not even Kurds but “Mountain Turks.” At each juncture there were attempts to dilute their identity, erase their villages or Arabize their lands in places like Iraq. It’s no surprise that some of these authoritarian ethno-fascist regimes borrowed heavily from fascism and Nazism in Europe.
Amnesty says Turkey deporting Syrians to planned "safe zone" region
Turkey is forcibly sending Syrian refugees to an area of Syria near the border where it aims to set up a "safe zone" even though the conflict there has not ended, Amnesty International said in a report published on Friday.

Turkey currently hosts some 3.6 million refugees who fled Syria's eight-year-long civil war. But, with Turkish public sentiment towards them souring over time, Ankara hopes to resettle up to two million in the planned safe zone in northeast Syria.

Ankara says more than 350,000 Syrian refugees have already voluntarily returned to their country.

In its report, Amnesty said refugees it had spoken to complained of being threatened or physically forced by Turkish police to sign documents stating that they were voluntarily returning to Syria.

"In reality, Turkey put the lives of Syrian refugees under serious danger by forcing them to return to a war zone," the British-based human rights group said.

Amnesty said it believed the number of forced returns in recent months to be in the hundreds, based on interviews it conducted between July and October, but said it was able to confirm 20 cases.

Seth J. Frantzman: Despite setback, Kurds appear ready for spotlight
While Moscow’s sudden appearance in eastern Syria as the arbiter appeared to humiliate Washington last week, it now appears that the US and the SDF might have an avenue to speak to the Russians about some shared interests. This is because the SDF now has signed agreements with the Syrian regime while Moscow has signed an agreement with Ankara.

Turkey is ostensibly an American NATO ally. Turkey’s main concern was to remove the SDF from the border, and it has accomplished this. It has also provided Turkey’s government a way to pretend it won, and to funnel some unsavory jihadists into Syria so Turkey doesn’t have to deal with them in Idlib province. Turkey wants to dump as many Syrian extremists back into Syria as possible to cage them in and dilute them. Ankara didn’t commit many of its own forces to fighting the SDF between October 9 and 17, seeking instead to use the Syrian rebel groups as cannon fodder. Now that the fodder has been used, Turkey and Russia signed their deal.

For the Syrian Kurds, there are still many hurdles. They have lost direct control over many of their towns along the border. Up to 300,000 have fled, including 7,000 who fled to the Kurdistan region of Iraq. It is unclear if Mazlum will be able to help them go back. But if the SDF’s goal now is to increase its role on the international stage, it has momentarily accomplished that. It appeared finished on October 13 when it rushed to sign a deal with Damascus to slow the Turkish advance. But days later it has a new lease on life.

The SDF has been excluded by the US from the Geneva process aimed at ending the Syrian conflict, but depending on what it does next, it could find that it receives more open doors in both Moscow and Washington. This is a tight-rope to walk because the US wants the SDF to keep control of ISIS detainees. This serves a legal fiction in Washington: Since the SDF is not a state, the US is therefore not handing ISIS members over to a state, and is not responsible for them. This enables the SDF to control ISIS members, and no countries need to take responsibility for them.

It’s unclear how long this can continue. But America wants it to continue, at least for now – and the SDF is the key to that. But some wonder whether the US will leave Syria anyway in coming months.
Lee Smith: 10 Questions To Ask About Trump’s Removal Of Troops From Syria
The Defense Department fought withdrawals from Iraq and Afghanistan as well as Syria because the anti-ISIS campaign helps feed the Beltway—the defense industry and the various other agencies, contractors, and nongovernmental organizations whose missions are shaped by an open-ended campaign abroad to fight Sunni Arab irregulars—that is, ISIS and anyone Iran and its proxies designate as ISIS.

Trump simply saw U.S. support for the PKK for what it was: America fighting and paying to advance the interests of someone else, in this case U.S. adversaries, like Iran, Assad, and Russia. The complaint of Trump critics that the withdrawal will, conversely, benefit all warring sides—Iran and ISIS, Ankara and Moscow, etc.—is impossible to reconcile with the logic of conflict.

That Trump’s withdrawal showed more strategic clarity than the foreign policy establishment is hardly surprising. He ran against Washington’s post-9/11 foreign policies in the Middle East, in particular novelty items like Bush’s freedom agenda and Obama’s Iran deal.

From Trump’s perspective, those policies defined the divide between the Beltway bubble and the rest of the U.S. public that saw no wisdom in enriching an Iranian regime at war or spending American lives and money to promote democracy in places like Iraq, Lebanon, or the Palestinian territories where elections were certain to empower anti-American forces.

Partnering with a terrorist faction of a sub-state actor at war with a NATO member is in the same category of objectively foolhardy and self-defeating policies. That many Republicans appear to have learned nothing in the last 19 years and chose to join Democrats in protest against the withdrawal shows that the divide is much more profound than even Trump had imagined. It is not only the American public from which the Beltway establishment is separated, but reality.
Don’t be surprised, Donald Trump will recognize a sovereign Kurdish state
The Kurdistan Regional Government in Erbil held an independence referendum in September, with 92.7% of the 3.3 million votes cast in favor of secession. Voter turnout was just over 72%. The Kurds in Erbil carried flags to show their support prior to the vote. The central government in Baghdad does not want Iraqi Kurdistan to secede. This has resulted in limits being instituted on the Kurds, i.e., Baghdad taking control of the region’s airspace, as well as authority at border crossings connecting Iraqi Kurdistan to neighboring countries.
President Trump loves to say “Merry Christmas,” so don’t be surprised if he announces a Christmas gift for the Kurds. A sovereign Kurdish state on Iran’s border, coupled with US military might, would be checkmate – not only to Iran but also to the Iraqi government, which has treated America with such disdain.

There’s no question in my mind that Trump has no respect for Erdogan. If you recall, it was the president who threatened Turkey’s economy because it refused to release American pastor Andrew Brunson.

There’s absolutely no love lost between the Turks and the Sunni Gulf states, especially Saudi Arabia, or between Turkey and Israel. I believe that President Trump has given Turkey what they wanted before he recognizes a sovereign Kurdish state.

Evangelicals elected Donald Trump by a landslide – because they get him, and he gets them. When he makes this decision, the passion among Evangelicals will be greater than on the Fourth of July. The same can be said for the State of Israel: He understands that nations need to be free.
BESA: The Impact on Iran of the Turkish Invasion in Syria
Iranian President Rouhani condemned Turkish President Erdogan's decision to invade Kurdish territory in Syria. Large-scale protests by the Iranian Kurdish minority (estimated at eight million) broke out against Turkish institutions throughout Iran. Yet Tehran does not want to risk its relationship with Ankara, which allows it to circumvent U.S. sanctions and constitutes an essential channel for the supply of Iranian gas to major European countries.

The Turkish invasion challenges the wish of Iranian policymakers to expand Tehran's "strategic depth" in Syria. Moreover, there are quite a few Salafist-jihadist militias on the ground alongside the Turkish army, some of which originated in al-Qaeda, that perceive Iran's Shiite Islam as a heresy and its practitioners as worthy of persecution. For Iran's security establishment, the deployment of Salafist militias operating under a Turkish umbrella is intolerable. Deployment of Sunni militias could limit Iranian maneuverability in northern Syria.

The Iranian regime has high hopes that the international community will turn its eyes to the Turkish aggression and divert attention from Tehran's attempts to expand its strategic depth.
The incredible story of the IDF's Iraqi Arabic instructor
Throughout the history of the Israel Defense Forces, the IDF has frequently drawn on the services of new immigrants to Israel. Many have been called to the colors before they were fully acclimated to the country or even spoke fluent Hebrew. Like so many others, Command Sgt. Maj. V. was still a new arrival when she was called on to serve, but unlike most, she received the call precisely because of her knowledge and experience from her previous life in the Diaspora.

Command Sgt. Maj. V. serves as an Arabic instructor in the IDF's Intelligence Corps. She is responsible for teaching Arab culture and mentality as well as the Arabic language to intelligence personnel, for whom the knowledge is vital.

According to what her comrades in her unit say, V. has become something of a legend, not only because she is admired as a teacher or because she spent a long time in an operational unit, but mostly because of her personal story. Her family was one of the last Jewish families in Iraq and finally made aliyah after years of living in fear.

Israel Hayom meets with V. on an IDF base in central Israel. She arrives in uniform and as we sit down, she takes me through her incredible story, step by step.

V. was born to a Jewish family in Iraq. At the time, Iraq's Jewish community was a shell of its former glory and only a few thousand out of a community that once numbered 120,000 remained in the country.

The Iraqi Ba'ath regime persecuted the Jews who remained and saw them as spies. A few were even hanged to death on suspicion of espionage. The authorities' behavior convinced the Jews that it was time to leave – including V.'s family. But then the ax fell.
Number of Arab University Students in Israel Doubled in 10 Years
The number of Arab university students has doubled in Israel over the last decade, jumping from 24,000 in 2008 to 51,000 this year, according to figures published by Israel's Higher Council for Education on Monday to mark the beginning of the new academic year.

The number of Arab students constitutes 18 percent of the total number of university students in Israel, which this year is 313,000.

There are 51,000 Arab university students in Israel this year, 61 percent of whom are females. However, this number does not include Arab university students from Palestinians of the 1948 territories, of which 10,000 are pursuing their education in Jordan and about 9000 in Palestinian universities.

Also, Arabs outperformed Jews in education performance, according to a source at the Higher Education Council.

The number of Arab students pursuing Master's degree has risen from 2,855 students, representing 4 percent of the total number of students in Israel in 2008, to 9,274 students last year, representing 14 percent.
Courting Blue and White, Joint List opposes Zionism but supports ‘compromise’
Senior Joint List MK Mansour Abbas said on Thursday that while his alliance of four Arab-majority parties opposes Zionism, it believes in finding solutions to inequality between Arabs and Jews in Israel and the Israeli-Palestinian conflict.

“Of course, we are against the Zionist movement. However, from a pragmatic perspective, we are ready for a compromise between the Zionist movement and Palestinians,” Abbas, who heads the Ra’am party, told The Times of Israel.

“We believe that compromise should entail full citizenship for Palestinians in Israel including civil and national rights and the establishment of a Palestinian state in the West Bank, Gaza Strip and East Jerusalem,” he said.

“We know that Zionism and Palestinian nationalism are ideologically not in harmony with each other, but we believe this compromise is something that can work for both sides. We know there is no absolute justice, but we believe the solution should be as close as we both can get to that,” Abbas added.

Abbas made the comments hours after top Joint List MK Ayman Odeh called on Blue and White leader Benny Gantz on Channel 12 to form a minority government with the support of the Joint List, saying that even if it would quickly fall, such a “courageous” move would be worth it for the single purpose of ousting Benjamin Netanyahu as prime minister.

Odeh also told Army Radio on Thursday that he views such a scenario as immensely important for Arab Israelis, one that would pay a critical role in “legitimizing” the community in Israeli public discourse.
Arab-Israeli violence has claimed 77 lives this year
As Arab-Israeli protests against gun violence escalate, 36-year-old Taysir Salem from Acre who was shot to death on Thursday makes the list as the 77th Arab Israeli to be killed since the beginning of the year.

Earlier this month, Arab-Israelis launched a series of protests across the country to protest gun violence, blocking major roads and calling upon the police to take on organized crime and illegal arms trade, as it did successfully in Netanya, which, being home to some of Israel's greatest mobsters, was once considered to be the capital of the state's organized crime.

Another resident of Acre – a city that saw no less than three murders in the past few months – told Israeli media site Ynet that "gun violence endangers us and makes us stay in our homes so we won't get hurt. It can't be that in such a short period of time, three people have lost their lives."

"Where is police? Where are the Sulh people (Arab reconciliation brokers) and the Arab leadership? It is time we finish the conflicts," she said. "Don't settle for mere speeches and meetings with police; we want you in the field."

According to Israeli media sources, data shows that since the beginning of this year, 4,017 illegal arms have been discovered, including 526 handguns, 435 assault rifles and 268 grenades – a 21% increase since 2018. The amount of illegal arms discovered in Arab cities and villages stands around 3,600. In 2018, the overall amount of arms confiscated until late October stood at 3,314 items. 137 machine guns and missiles were also found.
Qatari official said to arrive in Gaza to deliver cash payments
A Qatari envoy reportedly arrived in the Gaza Strip overnight Thursday-Friday to distribute another round of cash payments to 100,000 Palestinian families in the enclave.

It is the latest in a succession of financial aid delivered by Qatari envoy Mohammed al-Emadi meant to cover fuel for electricity, salaries and assistance for needy families in the Strip from Qatar, which has budgeted some $330 million for the program launched last year.

The individual $100 stipends will be handed out on Friday, reports said.

Qatar announced on May 6 that it would send $480 million to the West Bank and Gaza to “aid the brotherly Palestinian people in obtaining its basic needs.” PA officials later said that Doha would deliver $300 million, primarily in loans, to Ramallah’s accounts and $180 million to Gaza.

In recent months, Israel has quietly provided some relief as part of an unofficial, Egyptian-brokered truce with Hamas, in exchange for reduced rocket fire from the territory and the scaling back of weekly protests along the border. It has allowed Qatar to deliver millions of dollars in cash to allow Hamas to pay its civil servants and has allowed the United Nations to step up aid efforts.
Hamas Arrests Dozens in Bid to Deter Gaza Protests
Over the last few days, Hamas police units have arrested dozens of Palestinian activists in the Gaza Strip to prevent protest attempts in the wake of the ongoing anti-government demonstrations in Lebanon.

The activists arrested are affiliated with left and center political factions in Gaza, among them the Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine, the Democratic Front for the Liberation of Palestine and Fatah.

Calls for a protest on Thursday evening were voiced for the last few days on social media, promoted with the tagline "enough, we are tired!"

The focus of the protest organizers – whose identity is still unknown – was to promote a similar civil protest to the one that occurred in Gaza in March. That protest, focusing on the social and economic strife endured by Gazan citizens, was brutally put down by Hamas.

Palestinian sources told Ynet that a feeling of fear hangs over the Gaza Strip due to the arrests, and it was very clear that people are afraid to take to the streets.

These sources also pointed out that the organizers made sure to distance themselves from the Hamas regime and tried to give the protest a civil and apolitical tone.
The Dark Night of Anti-Semitism in Turkey
Erdogan’s consolidation of presidential power in 2017 was momentous. He is a political disciple of former Turkish prime minister Necmettin Erbakan, whose undisguised antisemitism was pervasive throughout his career. Not since Ataturk has one man gained so much power in the Turkish Republic, and never behind a religious base.

“Antisemitism is one of the pillars of Turkish xenophobia, that century-old hatred of ‘outsiders,’ paradoxically instigated by ideas imported from the West,” wrote Kaya Genç in an email, drawing from research for his most recent book, The Lion and the Nightingale. “There is so little criticism of antisemitism in the Turkish press you’d think it does not exist in Turkey. I think people have just become myopic and can’t see beyond their own concerns.”

In my first year in Istanbul, I frequently traveled up the Golden Horn to Balat, a rapidly gentrifying neighborhood bordering the city’s most conservative Muslim community. The vine-covered stone facade of the Istipol Synagogue stands across from former Jewish homes. Stars of David are visible beneath their abandoned, ramshackle balconies. An alleyway leads behind the building, where a wood relief of a Star of David remains intact.

I sat under it and reflected on the histories of my Jewish ancestors, who lived without American privilege in Ottoman Greece, Austro-Hungarian Galicia and elsewhere for 2,000 years, as second-class subjects of emperors, czars, sultans and kings.

I would return home to a village-like neighborhood on the Anatolian side of the Bosphorus called Kuzguncuk. Locals are proudly nostalgic of its multi-ethnic, ecumenical past. They have a saying: “After the Armenian dinner, make love to a Greek woman in a Jewish bed.” In one reading, minorities are hospitable – in another, the dominant pervade.
Baton-wielding Hezbollah backers clash with anti-government protesters in Beirut
Hundreds of Lebanese protesters set up tents, blocking traffic in main thoroughfares and sleeping in public squares on Friday to enforce a civil disobedience campaign and keep up the pressure on the government to step down.

By early afternoon, clashes broke out in the epicenter of the protests in central Beirut, when supporters of the powerful Lebanese terror group Hezbollah entered the area in response to chants calling on their leader, Hassan Nasrallah, along with other politicians, to step down.

“Nasrallah is more honorable than all of them,” the pro-Hezbollah supporters chanted. They attacked the protesters who were previously in the square until riot police tried to break up the fight. The incident came shortly before Nasrallah was due to speak.

Anger has been building among Hezbollah supporters because the protesters named Nasrallah, along with other corrupt politicians. At least two protesters were injured in the scuffles. The riot police encircled the pro-Hezbollah protesters, who carried batons, separating them from the other protesters.

But tension returned when the protesters moved down the main road, lobbing stones and at one point attacking a TV crew from a station aligned with a Hezbollah rival. Some protesters chanted for calm.
Eli Lake: Arms Embargo on Iran Due to Expire in 2020
The concession wasn’t to Iran so much as to China and Russia, two great-power rivals that participated in the nuclear negotiations. In the 1990s, China and Russia sold Iran a variety of weapons systems, which the Iranians then reverse-engineered. By this time next year, America’s two most potent geopolitical rivals will have a green light to sell advanced missiles to the world’s leading state sponsor of terrorism.

It would be bad enough if Iran kept those weapons for itself. But if past is prelude, there is a good chance Iran’s numerous proxies in the Middle East will benefit as well.

Last week, in little-noticed testimony before the Senate Foreign-Relations Committee, the U.S. special representative for Iran, Brian Hook, shared information from newly declassified U.S. intelligence assessments. Since mid-2017, he said, Iran has “expanded its ballistic-missile activities to partners across the region.” That includes Hizballah, Palestinian terrorist groups and, as of mid-2018, Shiite militias in Iraq.

Taken together, this information underscores not only the need to extend the United Nations arms embargo, but also the limits of the current U.S. strategy of “maximum pressure.” While crippling sanctions on Iran have made it much harder for groups such as Hizballah and Shiite militias to pay salaries, they have not put a dent in Iran’s broader quest to arm those proxies with weapons capable of hitting U.S. allies.
BESA: Why No Deal with the Islamic Republic of Iran Will Ever Last
No deal with the Islamic Republic is likely to last, no matter who is proposing it. The reasons lie in the ruling ideology of the Islamic Republic, which is dedicated to exporting the revolution abroad as a central tenet of the resistance.

The Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps (IRGC) is responsible for "fulfilling the Islamic mission of Jihad in God's way and of struggling for the cause of extending the sovereignty of God's law throughout the world." As declassified CIA documents from 1980 show, Iran has looked for ways to create an empire based on Khomeini-ist Shiite principles since the fall of the Shah. The regime has never veered from this course.

The targets at risk in the Gulf today, including Bahrain, Iraq, and the Levant, have been the targets of Iran's ideological outreach and strategy since the early post-revolutionary days. As Tehran's ideology is driven by an apocalyptic vision and a sense of divine mission, no pragmatic consideration can ultimately deter it from its goals, and "deals" are seen as no more than temporary stopovers on the way to the fulfillment of that mission.

Iran sees the IRGC not as a terrorist tool but as a force carrying out a divine undertaking: first enforcing the way of jihad among Muslims (who have thus far been the primary targets), and then anyone else who refuses to bow before it.

No BBC Sport report on judo disciplinary decision against Iran
The BBC did not clarify that the ban it reported in that article was provisional pending investigation by the International Judo Federation (IJF).

On October 22nd the IJF published the results of that investigation and the decision of its disciplinary commission.

“To pronounce against the Iran Judo Federation a suspension from all competitions, administrative and social activities organized or authorized by the IJF and its Unions, until the Iran Judo Federation gives strong guarantees and prove that they will respect the IJF Statutes and accept that their athletes fight against Israeli athletes”

The Iran Judo Federation – which in the meantime has claimed that the allegations were false – has 21 days in which to appeal the indefinite ban, during which the previous provisional suspension remains in force.

BBC audiences have to date not seen any coverage of this latest development.
Two Iranian teen players refuse to face Israelis at World Chess Championships
Two young Iranian chess champions have refused to play against Israelis at the 2019 World Youth and Junior Chess Championships, according to Iranian semi-official Mehr news agency.

The tournaments are taking place in Mumbai and Delhi, India, this month, and several hundred athletes from all over the world are participating in them.

Iranian Grandmaster Mohammad Amin Tabatabei and International master Arian Gholami did not show up to the matches where they were supposed to face Israeli opponents.

According to a report by Chess24, a specialized website and blog founded by Grandmaster Jan Gustafsson, Gholami did not show up at the Championships any more after forfeiting the game against Israeli Master Alexander Zlatin, while Tabatabei, who was supposed to play International Master Or Bronstein, managed to stay in the competition by pledging that the next time he would play.

All the chess players involved in the incidents are 18.

Iran consistently pressures its representatives in all international competitions to avoid facing Israeli opponents.

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