Thursday, February 20, 2020

From Ian:

Evelyn Gordon: What Crimes Do the Companies on the UN Blacklist Engage In?
What horrendous activities do the 112 companies on the UN blacklist engage in? There are several supermarket chains which sell groceries to both Israelis and Palestinians in the West Bank. There are several fuel companies which operate gas stations where both Israelis and Palestinians fill up their cars. There are several bus and rail companies, which provide public transportation used by Israelis and Palestinians alike.

There are phone companies, banks, and a water company, which provides drinking water and sewage solutions. There are also several food and clothing manufacturers, like General Mills, Angel Bakeries and Delta Galil, whose crime seems to be the fact that their cereals, bread and underwear can be found on supermarket shelves in the West Bank.

In short, almost all the companies on the blacklist simply provide the most fundamental human necessities - food, water, transportation, communication. Some of these are defined by the UN itself as inalienable rights.

Only three were involved in providing "surveillance and identification equipment," which sounds sinister if you don't realize that such equipment is intended to prevent terrorists from slaughtering children in their beds.

Syrian and Russian soldiers have been slaughtering civilians in Syria on an almost daily basis for nine years now; the death toll is more than half a million and counting. Does anyone think the supermarkets that sell these soldiers food or the water company that supplies their bases with water are engaged in "activities that raised particular human rights concerns"?

Precisely because most of the targeted companies are basic service providers, the economic impact of the blacklist will likely be small. Most of these companies neither export and nor attract much foreign investment. And since their businesses depend almost exclusively on selling or providing services to Israelis and Palestinians, the only way to boycott them would be for the boycotters to actually move to Israel.
Clifford D. May: United Nations Human Rights Council delegitimizes Israel
Such boycotts harm Palestinians at least as much as Israelis. A study by Palestinian Media Watch found that “Palestinians prefer to work for Israeli employers” because Israeli employers provide wages four times higher than Palestinian employers, as well as health benefits and vacation time on a par with those Israelis enjoy.

Orde Kittrie, a legal scholar and senior fellow at FDD, points out that any boycotts spurred by the blacklist would likely “run afoul of some or all of the two dozen U.S. state laws that require divestment from companies that boycott Israel.” In addition, Congress is on record opposing “politically motivated actions that penalize or otherwise limit commercial relations specifically with Israel, such as boycotts of, divestment from or sanctions against Israel.”

Mr. Kittrie notes, too, that “international law does not prohibit business in disputed territories.… That is the official view of the United Nations, expressed in a document titled ‘Guidance on Responsible Business in Conflict-Affected and High-Risk Areas: A Resource for Companies and Investors.’”

Congress could make its disapproval of the U.N.’s latest assault on Israel clearer. The most convenient vehicle would be the Israel Anti-Boycott Act, which updates existing U.S. anti-boycott laws to include not just boycotts initiated by nation-states, but also those fostered by international organizations.

I’m betting that won’t happen because such far-left and anti-Israeli members of Congress as Ilhan Omar and Rashida Tlaib now routinely intimidate many of their moderate Democratic colleagues.

President Trump could do more, too, building on other steps he’s taken to repair the damage done to Israel in recent years by the U.N.

The broader problem is the continued existence of such an Orwellian institution as the UNHRC. The U.N. was supposed to help prevent the “scourge of war and advance human rights and dignity.” Seventy-five years after its founding, it generally impedes both — at considerable expense to American taxpayers.
UN sinks to a new low with BDS-inspired blacklist
The stench of anti-Semitism always hovers over Switzerland's Lake Geneva when the United Nations Human Rights Council (UNHRC) is meeting there. The foul emanations reached a new nadir last week with UNHRC's publication of a "database" of companies doing business in the disputed territories in Israel.

Following the publication of the list, Bruno Stagno Ugarte, deputy director for advocacy of NGO Human Rights Watch, stated, "The long-awaited release of the UN settlement business database should put all companies on notice: To do business with illegal settlements [sic] is to aid in the commission of war crimes."

Ponder that: For the 112 companies on the list – including 18 foreign companies, like General Mills, Airbnb and Expedia – to do business in Judea and Samaria (the "West Bank" to the UN) is a war crime.

But what exactly is the crime here? Employing 20,000 Palestinian Arabs as managers, software engineers and in other capacities for triple the pay offered by local Arab businesses, and with far better health and other benefits?

Or perhaps it is a war crime for the wily Israelis and others to have Palestinian Arab and Jewish Israeli workers learn to view each other as colleagues and friends, rather than as adversaries.

PMW: Terrorist murderers are Palestinians' "honor" and "crown" says senior Fatah official
Terrorist murderers continue to be the role models of Abbas’ Fatah Movement. Senior Fatah official Tawfiq Tirawi stressed this ideology in a recent speech when he singled out three Palestinian terror leaders as “a crown on all of our heads”:

- Arch-terrorist Abu Jihad who was responsible for the murder of at least 125 Israelis;
- Terrorist Abu Iyad who headed the terror organization Black September and planned the murder of 11 Israeli athletes at the Munich Olympics in 1972;
- Terrorist Abu Ali Iyad who was head of Fatah’s military operations in 1966 and responsible for several terror attacks

Fatah Commissioner and Central Committee member Tawfiq Tirawi: “They want us to renounce Abu Jihad, Abu Iyad, and Abu Ali Iyad? How? These are Martyrs! They are the head of our cause. They are our honor and they are our crown, these same Martyrs and prisoners! They are a crown on all of our heads! We will not renounce any one of them!”
[Facebook page of Fatah Central Committee member Tawfiq Tirawi, Feb. 2, 2020]

In the same speech, Tirawi singled out two female terrorists as role models for Palestinain women:
- Dalal Mughrabi who led the murder of 37 Israelis, among them 12 children
- Fatima Barnawi who placed a bomb in an Israeli movie theater

Tirawi: "The Palestinian women, with their history of struggle, and as half of society, have a central role alongside their brothers, the men. Remember Fatima Barnawi – the first female Palestinian prisoner (i.e., terrorist, placed bomb in theater). Remember Dalal Mughrabi (i.e., terrorist who led murder of 37, 12 of them children). Remember Intisar Al-Wazir ‘Um Jihad’ (i.e., widow of arch-terrorist Abu Jihad Khalil Al-Wazir, responsible for murder of 125). Remember that all of you are female fighters on the ground, at home, and everywhere."

Similarly to Tirawi, a Fatah leader in Gaza described terrorists who were killed while attacking Israelis as “the crown on the head of the Palestinian revolution”:

ICC grants most requests to weigh in on Palestinian statehood
The International Criminal Court on Thursday granted the request of over 40 parties – countries, NGOs and experts – to weigh in on whether Palestine is a state and what ICC jurisdiction would look like in territorial terms.

The upshot is that the ICC appears to be taking the issue very seriously and wants to present to the world the picture of being even-handed.

Last week, the Czech Republic, Germany, Australia, Austria, Brazil, Hungary and Uganda, as well as a large number of NGOs and experts, filed arguments saying that Palestine is not a state and that the ICC must dismiss any war crimes charges against Israel.

The Organization of Islamic Cooperation and the Arab League, representing dozens of states as well as many other NGOs and experts, weighed in on the Palestinian side, pressing for a war crimes probe.

All of these parties may now file fuller legal briefs on the relevant issues until March 16. But the ICC did warn the parties not to bring in arguments besides the jurisdictional question. Some countries have argued that going after Israel is not in “the interests of justice” and that it will harm the ICC’s name globally.

On December 20, ICC Prosecutor Fatou Bensouda announced her blockbuster decision to recognize a State of Palestine over Israeli objections, as well as her desire to probe Israelis and Hamas members for a variety of alleged war crimes.

If the pro-Israel side fails to convince the ICC Pretrial Chamber to drop the case, the IDF and the Israeli settlement enterprise could be in legal jeopardy.

Only states may refer a case to the ICC so the question of whether Palestine is a state is crucial.
The Triangle Area in the “Deal of the Century”
The “Deal of the Century” suggests that a triangle of Israeli Arab communities that were disputed by Israel and Transjordan during the 1949 armistice negotiations can become part of the state of Palestine at such time as the state is established. This suggestion has raised the ire of Israeli Arabs and Jews who view it as an attempt at population “transfer”, though no residents due to come under Palestinian jurisdiction will be required to leave their homes. It is also historically suspect, as it depends on a faulty reading of the history of the armistice negotiations.

The “Peace to Prosperity” document, published by the White House on January 28, 2020, contains a suggestion for an area it calls the “Triangle Communities”:

The Triangle Communities consist of Kafr Qara, Ar’ara, Baqa al-Gharbiyye, Umm al Fahm, Qalansawe, Tayibe, Kafr Qasim, Tira, Kafr Bara and Aquila. These communities, which largely self-identify as Palestinian, were originally designated to fall under Jordanian control during the negotiations of the Armistice Line of 1949, but ultimately were retained by Israel for military reasons that have since been mitigated. The Vision contemplates the possibility, subject to agreement of the parties, that the borders of Israel will be redrawn such that the Triangle Communities become part of the State of Palestine. In this agreement, the civil rights of the residents of the Triangle Communities would be subject to the applicable laws and judicial rulings of the relevant authorities.

Not surprisingly, this “vision” drew harsh criticism—not only from Israeli Arabs, but also from Israeli Jews. The proposition smacks of an attempt at “transfer”; i.e., an attempt to “get rid of” a substantial number of Arabs who hold Israeli citizenship.

Much of the Arab-Israeli community identifies as Palestinian, but only a marginal percentage of that community actively supports the Palestinian struggle in contrast to the fiery rhetoric of their Knesset representatives.

Whether or not the American suggestion is a welcome one to the Israeli Arabs who live in the “Triangle”, it is based on a faulty reading of history.
PM says he’s lifted freeze to build Givat Hamatos neighborhood in East Jerusalem
Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu announced on Thursday that he had lifted restrictions against the construction of the controversial Givat Hamatos neighborhood in East Jerusalem, saying that 3,000 homes would be built for Jewish residents there, in addition to another 2,200 housing units for Jews in the nearby Har Homa neighborhood.

The significance of Netanyahu’s approval was not immediately clear, given that the final authorization for construction in Givat Hamatos had been given by his office six years ago.

The plan for construction in Givat Hamatos was first brought forward in 2012, earning widespread condemnation in the international community over its cutting off of the Palestinian neighborhoods of Beit Safafa and Sharafat from the West Bank, in a manner that critics said placed a nail in the coffin of a two-state solution based roughly on the pre-1967 lines.

Thursday appeared to have been the first time Netanyahu publicly admitted to having placed a building freeze on the Givat Hamatos plan, explaining that he had been under immense pressure from countries abroad not to build there.

Addressing reporters in front of Har Homa along with Jerusalem Mayor Moshe Lion and Tourism Minister Yariv Levin, Netanyahu said that in addition to the 2,200 units he had signed off on for the neighborhood behind him and the 3,000 units for Givat Hamatos, he had also green-lit 1,000 homes for Palestinians in the neighborhood of Beit Safafa, which has long suffered from a housing crisis.

“Coexistence in Jerusalem,” he declared. “Jerusalem is being built and expanded. We are connecting all parts of the united Jerusalem. I have removed all the restrictions, and now Jerusalem is being built under my authority.”
In Talk to American Jewish Leaders, Sa’ar Throws Water on Idea of Palestinian State
Likud Knesset Member Gideon Sa’ar said on Wednesday that while the Trump administration’s Mideast peace plan is better than any proposal Israel has seen in decades, a Palestinian state just miles from Israeli population centers “is not part of my vision.”

Speaking at the Conference of Presidents of Major American Organizations on Wednesday morning, Sa’ar, a member of the Knesset Defense and Foreign Affairs Committee, was asked about the importance of the so-called “deal of the century” and the challenge for Israel to see the plan implemented under its current caretaker government.

“We have a very important opportunity to implement sovereignty over the Jordan Valley and areas of Judea and Samaria,” said Sa’ar, adding that “it is better to be coordinated with the American administration.”

He expressed his hope that Israel’s March 2 election would result in a right-wing government, saying that a left-wing one would unlikely be capable of extending Israeli sovereignty over the areas noted above, as envisioned by the US plan.

“I hope we will have a right-wing government after the elections, so we will be able to grasp this opportunity,” he said. “I cannot see how a left-wing government—supported by parties who reject the idea of Jewish or even Israeli sovereignty over these areas—will be able to implement sovereignty and promote this important step.”

On the issue of the potential creation of a Palestinian state, the MK said that while “this plan is better than previous plans of previous administrations or the international community—anything we have seen over the last decades—I must emphasize that a Palestinian state just a few miles from Israeli population centers is not part of my vision. Isolated Jewish settlements in the middle of Palestinian territory is not part of my vision.”
British MP: Palestinians must bring more to table than a sympathy plea
The Palestinians must show they are serious about peace by seizing the “Deal of the Century” as a vehicle for progress rather than rejecting it on the presumption that the international community has endless patience for their plight, visiting British Member of Parliament Stephen Crabb told The Jerusalem Post.

“The understanding we are coming to is that the Palestinians have to bring something more to the table than just a plea for sympathy and cash. There has to be a pragmatic decision to talk the language of peace and to engage in a genuine and real process,” said Crabb who chairs the British parliamentary group Conservative Friends of Israel (CFI) for the House of Commons.

“Patience is running out,” he added.

Crabb visited the region with a delegation of five CFI parliamentarians from the House of Commons and one CFI parliamentarian from the House of Lords. During their visit they meet with Israelis and Palestinians as a way of furthering their knowledge of the conflict.

On Wednesday, the group traveled to Ramallah, Rawabi and Jericho, where they met with PLO Secretary-General Saeb Erekat. They discussed US President Donald Trump’s peace plan, which was unveiled in January. The Palestinians have rejected the plan, which offers Israel 30% of the West Bank and most of Jerusalem. They want a plan based on the 1949-1967 armistice line, which would place all of the West Bank and east Jerusalem within the final borders of their future state.

Britain has welcomed Trump’s efforts while holding to its acceptance of a two-state solution at the pre-1967 line.
PreOccupiedTerritory: Isaiah Hopes Temple Mount Police Don’t Find ‘A House Of Prayer For All Nations Except Jews’ Early Draft (satire)
Israel’s leading prophet during the latter First Temple period disclosed today his concerns that law enforcement authorities many centuries from now might get hold of the wrong version of his visions about universal worship of the one God, and misapply his not-finalized phraseology to prevent his people from engaging in said worship at the one location on Earth dedicated to it.

Isaiah, son of Amotz, admitted feeling some anxiety over the language he used in an earlier draft of prophecy that in its authorized form reads, “I will bring them to My holy mount; I will gladden them in the house of My prayer; their burnt offerings and their sacrifices will be welcomed on My altar, for My house will be called a house of prayer for all the nations.” The earlier draft adds the phrase, “except Jews,” a textual quirk that the seer attributes to a moment of distraction. If future police find the earlier version, he fears, they might seize on it to keep Jews from praying at their holiest site despite the fulfillment of his other prophecies regarding the restoration of Jewish sovereignty over all of Jerusalem and the Holy Land.

“Not sure what I did with the first draft of chapter fifty-six,” muttered the prophet to no one in particular. “Hope I disposed of it properly; wouldn’t want it falling into the wrong hands.”

Game changer? Legal action taken against alleged illicit 'voter turnout' campaign
Days after Israel Hayom revealed that the seemingly neutral organization Israeli Alliance that wants to drive voter turnout may in fact be helping the Left through illicit campaigning, the Likud petitioned the Central Elections Committee on Thursday asking for its intervention.

In 2017, the Likud successfully passed a new law in the Knesset dubbed the V15 Law that requires politically active organizations to register as a political entity with the State Comptroller's Office as if it was a party, and hence be subject to various campaign finance disclosure requirements and regulations if its activities are valued at more than NIS 102,000 ($28,000).

As far as Israel Hayom can tell, the Israeli Alliance has not registered as a political entity and has not disclosed its financial records in full despite meeting the threshold set by the V15 Law.

The organization may not be required to register as a political entity because it is technically not backing any particular party or political affiliation, but it appears that it may very well be targeting only specific voters through various tools that distribute ads on social networks to specific audiences, and that could be in violation of the law.

This could mean that while it is not in violation of the law in its official activities, it is, in fact, helping drive up turnout in specific areas in a way that increases the chances of victory for certain parties.

In its petition on Thursday, the Likud said that the "Israeli alliance is fully coordinating its activities with Blue and White and other civil society organizations on the Left." It further said that "following a query that has been filed with the State Comptroller's Office, it appears that the Israeli Alliance has not properly registered as political entity that is involved in electioneering, as is required by Israel's campaign finance laws, and this means that its activities in this election campaign are illegal."
Father of terrorist who killed Ron Kukia asks for forgiveness
The father of the terrorist who killed IDF soldier Ron Kukia in 2017 told a press conference that his son committed a "deplorable" act and that he wanted to go to Kukia's family and apologize, according to Channel 12.

Odeh Abu Judeh, the father of Khaled Abu Judeh who killed Kukia in the southern city of Arad, said on Thursday that, "in the name of the Abu Judeh family, I ask for forgiveness. We condemn all physical and verbal violence. We ask forgiveness from the Kukia family.

"We are loyal to the state, we have cousins who died for the state," Odeh continued. "This was a deplorable act by a deplorable person. We didn't believe that from our house came a person that killed a soldier. A whole sector didn't do this. The state blames all of us, and we have been loyal since its founding."

Nahal Brigade soldier Sgt. Ron Yitzhak Kukia, 19, was stabbed in the throat while waiting for a bus outside an Arad shopping mall. His Tavor assault rifle was also taken by the attackers.

The two suspected attackers, Arab citizens of Israel, were arrested the day after the attack. The two men, Khaled and Zawin Abu Judeh, were residents of an unrecognized Bedouin village in the Negev. While they had no criminal record, the investigation revealed that Khaled identifies with various terrorist organizations and that he harbors extremist beliefs.
High Court approves demolitions of homes of killers of Rina Schnerb
The High Court of Justice on Thursday approved the IDF's demolition orders of the houses of Rina Schnerb's killers, despite the impact it will have on uninvolved family members and their neighbors.

Bian Hanatashe, Halmi Hamdan and Sana'a Magamus, family members of Schnerb's killers, had all petitioned the High Court to block the IDF demolition orders.

Justices Hanan Melcer, Daphna Baraz-Erez and Yael Wilner voted unanimously to endorse the demolitions, saying that, despite the harm to the family members who would lose their home, they were critical for deterring future terrorist attacks by people like the killers who murdered Schnerb last August.

The court said that it was satisfied that there wasn't any less extreme action that could be taken to achieve deterrence, and that the IDF would work hard to ensure that only the homes of the killers would be demolished, not homes of unrelated neighbors.

Melcer said that at the hearing on the petitions, he had asked the petitioning family members to condemn the actions of their relatives who were involved in Schnerb's murder.
Criminal probe launches against 'Haaretz' writer for incitement to terror
The attorney-general's office ordered a criminal probe against Haaretz writer Jonathan Pollak on Thursday for incitement to terror and to violence, just as that same office froze a special private criminal-style proceeding against Pollak by the right-wing NGO Ad Kan (Until Here).

There is no probe against Haaretz itself.

The decision to open a criminal probe was made by Avichai Mandelblit's top deputy, Raz Nizri, since Mandelblit is currently out of the country.
Nizri reached the decision after Pollak published several controversial pieces in the newspaper, as well as basing it on allegations of violent or illegal actions he has done in the field.

Pollak has also been the head of digital graphics for Haaretz.

He has been in detention for over a month, having refused to present himself to the court dealing with the Ad Kan case, since he says he does not recognize Israel's courts as legitimate because of what he views as unequal treatment of the Palestinians.

Ironically, Pollak is expected to be released from detention since it was connected to the now-frozen Ad Kan case, whereas there is no basis to continue detaining him for the new state prosecution probe.
PA removes Israeli calf ban, Israel removes Palestinian agriculture ban
Defense Minister Naftali Bennett and the Coordinator of Government Affairs in the Territories (COGAT) have notified the Palestinian Authority of the resumption of agricultural imports from the West Bank to Israel, after the PA ban on calf imports from Israel was removed on Thursday.

COGAT head Maj.-Gen. Kamil Abu Rokon and the head of Civil Administration Brig.-Gen. Ghassan Alian spoke with the PA along with Agriculture Minister Tzachi Hanegbi and reached an agreement in which the PA would remove the ban on calf imports from Israeli livestock breeders and Israel would remove the agricultural trade limitations implemented by Bennett in response.

Earlier this month, Bennett ordered a stop to agricultural imports from the Palestinian territories into Israel following the boycott of Israeli calves by the Palestinian Authority, which severely affected livestock farmers. Agricultural exports originating from the West Bank were also not permitted through the Allenby crossing, which connects Jordan to Palestinian territory.

The ban on importing calves from Israel was made in September by PA Prime Minister Mohammed Shtayyeh as part of his plan to achieve “gradual economic disengagement” from the Jewish state.

The move angered both Israeli and Palestinian farmers, who complained that they were suffering major financial losses as a result of the decision.

The Palestinian Authority confirmed on Thursday that it has reached “understandings through international mediation” with Israel to end the “trade war” between the two sides.

PA Minister of Agriculture Riad Al-Atari said that the under the terms of the understandings, the Palestinians would be permitted to freely import calves from abroad. The understandings, he added, require the Palestinians to establish infrastructure for the quarantine of the calves, provided that the first batch of cattle is imported within 40 days.

Coronavirus scare sparks riot, tire burning in Jericho
The Palestinian Authority on Thursday denied rumors that cases of coronavirus diseases have been discovered in Jericho.
The rumors sparked panic in the city and prompted Palestinians to stage a protest outside a hospital in Jericho.

PA governor of Jericho, Jihad Abu Al-Assal, strongly denied the rumors, noting that the PA has decided to establish a quarantine area near Jericho for Palestinians returning from China through Allenby Bridge. “That does not mean that there are cases of coronavirus infections in Jericho,” he said. “Many countries have set up quarantine areas for people returning from China.”

Al-Assal said that some Palestinians who recently returned from China have been checked by doctors who found them clear of the virus. “There’s a state of panic and fear among the people because of the rumors,” he added.

Scores of Palestinians demonstrated in front of the Jericho hospital on Wednesday night and attempted to block its main entrances with burning tires.

“Why are they bringing us people suspected of being infected with the coronavirus?” asked one of the protesters. “We heard that there are five cases of people who have been infected with the virus inside the hospital. I was inside the hospital and I saw the patients.”
PLO Movie ‘European-cheered Parasite’ Wins Oscar for Best Fake News Special Effects (satire)
The PLO movie ‘European-cheered Parasite’ shocked the movie industry by winning the Oscar for “Best Fake News Special Effects.” CNN, which was involved in the PLO movie project, won the Oscar for “Best Supporting Actor.”

An impressed Steven Spielberg told The Mideast Beast: “I’ve done ‘Jaws’ and ‘Indiana Jones’ but nobody beats PLO in staging massacres and faking ancient civilizations. Infidelity-friendly Hollywood infidels can learn a great deal from Jihad-friendly Pallywood.”

Self-described progressive singer turned Middle East expert John Legend concluded, “I can’t tell the difference between Hamas and Hummus but progressives must support Pallywood’s impressive special effects manipulations. Madonna, stop crying for Argentina and start shedding crocodile tears for “occupied Palestine”. PLO’s cinematic ‘Death to Jews’ has a universal appeal among peace-loving Zionist-critics worldwide.”

A moved PLO chief Mahmoud Abbas, who won the Oscar for ‘Best Joker Actor’, spoke to The Mideast Beast from his European-funded Ramallah movie studio. “Despite racist Zionist occupation, archeological digs reveal that PLO’s movie industry has thrived for over ten thousand years. Long before Jewish-occupied Hollywood spread Zionist propaganda with ‘E.T. phone home’, Pallywood was entertaining the ancient world from China to Mesopotamia.”

Egypt begins building concrete wall along Gaza border
Egypt has begun building a concrete wall along its border with the Gaza Strip, AFP journalists and a Palestinian security official from the Hamas terror group said Wednesday.

Dozens of workers aided by cranes could be seen erecting the structure, which will stretch some three kilometers (two miles) from Gaza’s southeastern tip at Karem Shalom to the Rafah crossing with Egypt, the only gateway out of Gaza that does not lead into Israel.

The wall is being built along the lines of an old, lower barrier that includes an underground structure designed to curb smuggling tunnels between Gaza and Egypt.

Contacted by AFP, Egypt’s military declined to comment on the new structure.

A Hamas security source told AFP that the goal was “to complete (the wall) as quickly as possible.”

“The important thing for us is to control the border and prevent any illegal activity there,” including any cross-border trafficking, the source said.
In Northern Syria, Currency Switch Shows Turkey’s Influence
Last month Hussam Shamo, a baker in northern Syria, stopped selling his bread in Syrian pounds after the latest slump in the currency forced him to push up prices yet again.

Taking his lead from the local council in his town of Azaz, which proposed ditching the Syrian currency when it slumped to one-twentieth of its pre-war value, Shamo started charging his customers in Turkish lira.

The move is a practical one. The Turkish currency is relatively stable and Shamo’s bread now sells for a convenient 1 lira per bundle of flat loaves, instead of a fluctuating price in hundreds of Syrian pounds.

But the switch to Turkish money is also another sign of Ankara’s growing influence in a region of northern Syria seized by Turkish troops and their Syrian rebel allies more than three years ago from Islamic State fighters.

While Turkish and Syrian troops face off in neighboring Idlib province, the isolated rebel and insurgent-held enclave that is home to an estimated three million people, Turkey’s presence in the Syrian border region further east quietly grows.

In towns like Azaz, al-Bab and Jarablus, taken over by Turkey in the 2016 military incursion, children study Turkish in school and Turkish universities are opening branches. Turkey has helped rebuild a hospital and train police.

Now Syrians in Azaz are paying for their daily bread, the gas to cook their food, clothes and even gold jewelry in Turkish currency after the Syrian pound, which traded at 47 to the US dollar before Syria’s conflict erupted in 2011, crashed through 1,000 to the dollar last month.

While the government in Damascus threatened jail sentences for anyone using foreign currency in commercial transactions, local authorities in Azaz took the opposite view, embracing what they saw as the safety of the dollar and the Turkish lira.
Iran Has Become a Burden to Its Allies in Syria
If Israel continues to bomb Iranian positions in Syria, Iran will eventually leave. The Iranian forces and militias are not responding to the Israeli attacks, and their ally, Russia, has expressed objections only through media statements. The U.S. targeting of Maj.-Gen. Qasem Soleimani, the head of Iranian military operations in Syria, was also meant to help kick Iran out of Syria.

We do not see the Damascus regime being eager to defend its Iranian ally, nor is Russia, so an isolated Iran is left to fight alone. For Damascus and Russia, Iran's role is over. It has financed the war and fought to protect the regime from total collapse, but now Iran has become a burden to its allies.

Iran wants to turn Syria into another Lebanon - a satellite state and a military platform against Israel - in addition to using it to secure its presence in Iraq. If Iran was expelled from Syria, its influence in both Iraq and Lebanon would also be weakened.
MEMRI: The Recurring Scam Of Allegedly Democratic Elections In Iran: The 11th Majlis Elections – A Continuation Of Khamenei's Dictatorship Through His Councils

The Iranian regime is gearing up for the elections for the 11th Majlis, which are set for Friday, February 21, 2020. The regime takes pride in the fact that these will be the 37th elections since the establishment of the Islamic regime in the country in 1979. It also prides itself on the high voter turnout – averaging 65% – for the elections for elected bodies – the Majlis, the presidency, and the local councils – that it diligently holds every four years.

However, while disguising itself as a democracy based on the people's votes, the regime in fact retains absolute and dictatorial control by means of its councils – Guardian Council, Assembly of Experts, and Expediency Council – that are appointed by Iranian Supreme Leader Ali Khamenei. The Guardian Council has the authority to disqualify any candidates deemed undesirable by the regime, and rejects thousands in the run-up to every presidential or Majlis election on various pretexts[1] (see Appendix: MEMRI Reports On Iran's Presidential And Majlis Elections, MEMRI Special Dispatch No. 6282, Iranian Pragmatic Camp Leaders Protest Against Regime's Mass Disqualification Of Thousands Of Pragmatic Camp Candidates For February 2016 Majlis Elections, January 28, 2016).

Indeed, the Guardian Council has even disqualified figures as prominent as Hashemi Rafsanjani. Rafsanjani, former Expediency Council secretary, veteran Assembly of Experts member, president of Iran from 1989 to 1997, leader of the pragmatic camp, and right-hand man of Islamic Revolution founder Ayatollah Ruhollah Khomeini, was disqualified as a presidential candidate in 2013. He had criticized Khamenei's policy and fought for a different approach, but the reason given for his disqualification was his advanced age.

For these upcoming Majlis elections, the Guardian Council has rejected thousands of candidates identified as reformists or moderate conservatives – about 60% of the candidates and including all current Majlis members affiliated with these camps. This is a continuation of the sweeping disqualification of reformist and moderate conservatives, such as today's supporters of Iranian President Hassan Rouhani, and, in the past, supporters of Rafsanjani, supporters of president Mahmoud Ahmadinejad who were labelled "the deviant stream," and anyone else who might threaten Khamenei and his grip on the regime.

As in all Iranian elections, the mass disqualification of 60% of reformist and moderate candidates has enraged their respective circles. President Rouhani publicly expressed harsh criticism of the Guardian Council's authority to widely reject these candidates, and his statements angered ideological circles. These circles argued that those disqualified, including current Majlis members, had been involved in financial corruption but that candidates from all camps, even lesser-known ones, had been approved. Senior regime officials, headed by Khamenei and Rouhani themselves, appealed to the public to vote as a religious and national duty.
MEMRI: Statue Of Qassem Soleimani Put Up By Hizbullah In South Lebanon Sparks Criticism: It Is An Expression Of Iran’s Patronage Over Lebanon
On February 15, 2020, Hizbullah unveiled in the village of Maroun Al-Ras in South Lebanon a large statue of Qassem Soleimani, the commander of the Qods Force in the Iranian Revolutionary Guards Corps who was killed in an American airstrike on January 3, 2020 in Baghdad. The statue, which stands near the Lebanon-Israel border, shows Soleimani pointing towards Israel while a Palestinian flag flies behind him. The unveiling ceremony was attended by Soleimani's children and by many Hizbullah officials and supporters.[1]

Hizbullah’s erection of the statue sparked considerable criticism from Lebanese public figures, politicians, journalists and citizens, who described it as yet another expression of Iran’s patronage over Lebanon by means of its proxy, Hizbullah. They accused this organization of being Iranian rather than Lebanese and of ignoring the existence of the state. Some also criticized the Lebanese leaders, who they said allow Hizbullah to do as it wishes in Lebanon and never hold it to account.

In response to the criticism, a Hizbullah MP defended the decision to erect the statue, and asked why Beirut could have streets named after French WWI generals, yet a statue of the fighter Soleimani sparks objection.

It should be noted that this is not the first time Hizbullah has honored Iranian officials and Hizbullah commanders who were involved in terrorism by memorializing them in public places in Lebanon. The previous instances likewise sparked public criticism.
What explains Germany’s persistent, quixotic friendship with Iran?
At the World Holocaust Forum at Yad Vashem in Jerusalem on Jan. 23 marking the 75th anniversary of the liberation of Auschwitz, German President Frank-Walter Steinmeier declared: “Germany’s responsibility does not expire. We want to live up to our responsibility. By this, you should measure us.”

On Feb. 5, his office sent, by mistake, a congratulatory telegram to the Iranian regime on the occasion of “Islamic Revolution’s Victory Day” on Feb. 11.

According to a spokesperson from Steinmeier’s office, the error resulted from a coordination issue with the German embassy in Tehran. The spokesperson added that the text of the telegram erroneously sent also contained critical remarks, although it has not been publicly released.

The intent to mark the founding of a regime that pledges to wipe Israel off the map is just a small string of German actions vis-à-vis Iran that prompt pro-Jewish and human-rights activists to measure Germany’s contrition over the Holocaust unfavorably.

Germany’s relationship with the Iranian regime has come under further scrutiny following the Trump administration’s Jan. 3 drone strike at the Baghdad Airport that killed Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps’ (IRGC) Gen. Qassem Soleimani, Iran’s chief architect of past and imminent terrorist attacks. Iran retaliated with strikes against two military bases in Iraq that housed U.S. soldiers, resulting in injuries to more than 100 American service members. It also threatened to no longer abide by the 2015 Iran nuclear deal intended to curb its nuclear ambitions. At the same time, the government violently cracked down on Iranian citizens who took to the streets in protest of current economic stagnation and more.

Germany is diligently seeking to preserve the deal and bypass American sanctions, despite the U.S. withdrawal.

MEMRI: British Islamist ‘Abu Haleema’: Islam Was Sent to Be Made Superior over All Other Religions
A British Islamist known as "Abu Haleema" said in a video that was uploaded to the Internet on December 10, 2019 that the Prophet Muhammad had praised one of his companions for reciting poetry about how to the infidels, the tidings of Islam are a "strike that removes the head from the shoulders." Abu Haleema said that Allah sent Islam so that it could be made superior to all other religions and systems of government, and he accused Muslims who used to speak about openly practicing Islam but who no longer practice it openly of being polytheists whom Allah will slowly expose. In a video that was uploaded to the Internet on February 4, 2020, Abu Haleema said that Allah had said He would strike terror into the hearts of the infidels because they illegitimately commit polytheism and associate partners with Allah. He also said that Allah gave Muslims the authority to make takfir on tyrants and anyone who commits polytheism, and he emphasized that Muslims are obligated to do so even if those polytheists claim to be Muslims. In addition, Abu Haleema said he makes takfir on those who talk about Jihad for the sake of Allah but who do not truly know the creed of Islam.

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Elder of Ziyon - حـكـيـم صـهـيـون

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