Monday, March 09, 2020

03/09 Links Pt1: What we know about Iran five years after Netanyahu’s speech to Congress; Palestinians Revive Blood Libels as Israel Saves Their Lives

From Ian:

What we know about Iran five years after Netanyahu’s speech to Congress
American nuclear negotiations with Iran began in secret, behind Israel's back. None of the countries that Iran threatened most was told that talks were taking place. We were aghast to learn from intelligence that our greatest ally was secretly bargaining with our greatest enemy about the gravest threat facing the Jewish state. When asked directly about the meetings, our American colleagues did not reply truthfully.

Five years ago, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu addressed a joint meeting of Congress about the nuclear deal then taking shape with Iran (the JCPOA), and warned of three dangers:

- First, he argued that "Israel's neighbors, Iran's neighbors, know that Iran will become even more aggressive and sponsor even more terrorism when its economy is unshackled."
- Second, leaving Iran with an expansive and expanding nuclear infrastructure unnecessary for a peaceful energy program, as its advanced centrifuge research and development went untouched, would put Tehran "weeks away from having enough enriched uranium for an entire arsenal of nuclear weapons" when the deal's restrictions were lifted after 10 to 15 years.
- Third, the deal would be "a farewell to arms control" because Iran's neighbors would insist on having the same capabilities for themselves, potentially leading to a regional nuclear arms race.

Deal advocates bet that an engaged, enriched Iran would moderate before the deal's restrictions would expire. Today, we know that an increase in Iran's aggression throughout the region accompanied the implementation of the deal. A financially flush Qasem Soleimani led Iran's stepped-up efforts to sow discord, terror and bloodshed in Yemen, Syria, Iraq, Lebanon, Gaza and in the region's waterways.

After the deal went into effect, Iran's defense budget increased by 30-40%. The funds Iran gave to Hizbullah, Hamas and other terrorist groups climbed to nearly $1 billion annually. The Revolutionary Guards began trying to establish a permanent military presence in Syria, from which they launched drone and missile attacks on Israel. Houthi attacks on Saudi Arabia, using Iranian missiles, accelerated.

By the time the U.S. withdrew from the deal in May 2018, it was abundantly clear that rather than buying Iran's moderation, the JCPOA had funded Iran's aggression.

Khaled Abu Toameh: Palestinians Revive Blood Libels as Israel Saves Their Lives
Earlier, the Israeli authorities announced that they had facilitated 105,495 humanitarian crossings for Palestinians to receive medical treatment in Israel during the last week of February.

Yet, rather than showing gratitude toward the Israeli authorities for their assistance, the Palestinian Authority and its media outlets and officials are continuing their campaign of incitement against Israel.

If, as the Palestinians claim, the Jews have been using wild boars for the past two decades, why has no one snapped even one photo of an Israeli truck carrying the animals into Palestinian villages?

What about the hundreds of thousands of Jews living in the West Bank? How come they too have not been attacked by wild boars? And how are these wild boars able to distinguish between Arabs and Jews?

While this sort of perverse Palestinian payback is nothing new, it nonetheless ought to interest anyone in the international community who is considering contributing to the Palestinian cause.

Israel's Aggressive Response to the Coronavirus Will Save a Lot of Lives
We are likely nowhere near the peak of the coronavirus crisis, doctors believe. Like almost everything else in Israel, the strict policy requiring a two-week self-quarantine for Israeli citizens who have visited certain countries has become a matter of spirited debate. Is it really necessary?

It is without question the right policy - and will end up saving a lot of lives, as well as a lot of money. It is a shining example of how to do health policy right. The greatest danger to the population - and the economies - of countries affected by coronavirus is not the mortality rate but the transmission rate.

Until a vaccine is developed, the only treatment for coronavirus is helping patients weather the disease, which involves, in the more difficult cases, hooking them up to a ventilator and isolating them in a hospital quarantine zone. Imagine if half the population was exposed, 10% became infected and 10% of those became acutely ill. Could any healthcare infrastructure provide the tens of thousands of hospital beds - and ventilators - to treat these patients?

Keeping potential carriers of coronavirus under quarantine will slow the spread of the disease in Israel, allowing the healthcare system to cope with the few dozen cases that might appear each week, instead of a massive influx of thousands or tens of thousands at once.
"Israel Is the Best Place to Be in an Emergency"
Quarantine for everyone arriving to Israel is a foregone conclusion, a leading immunologist said Sunday, after Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu announced that the government was still deciding whether or not to apply the measure.

“I believe that they will ask everyone coming from abroad to go into quarantine for 14 days,” Cyrille Cohen, head of the immunotherapy laboratory at Bar-Ilan University, told The Times of Israel. “That’s the smart thing to do right now.”

He said: “I truly believe that within a few hours or days we will get a more general statement.”

Netanyahu and Health Minister Yaakov Litzman spoke at a press conference amid speculation that Israel would limit travel from the United States, where infections have been spiking.

No restrictions were announced for Americans, and Netanyahu declared: “If we take more steps, it will be on all countries.”

“We are not talking about closing our gates, we are are talking about quarantine for those who come from abroad,” he clarified.

Israel is already quarantining or refusing entry to people arriving from a slew of European and Asian countries, and the step being considered would make it a blanket policy. Litzman said that the slow spread of the virus in Israel compared to some other countries vindicates the measures that government has already put in place.

“This shows that the policies we enacted are right,” he said: “People thought we were exaggerating, that we were playing politics for elections — in fact we were right.”

Speaking after the politicians, Health Ministry director-general Moshe Bar Simon-Tov said that Israelis should be prepared for things to get worse. He insisted that Israel is doing its best to contain the situation as other countries lose control of the virus.
Myths and Facts: The Right of Return and UN Resolution 194
In contrast, Jewish society in Palestine, or the Yishuv as it was called in Hebrew, had established its own civil society over the span of three decades under the Mandate. The Yishuv created its own representative political bodies and social and economic institutions, including health and welfare services, a public transport network, and a thriving sophisticated marketing system for manufactured goods and food – in short, a state-in-the-making. It was best described by the 1934 British report to the League of Nations:

“During the last two or three generations the Jews have recreated in Palestine a community, now numbering 80,000, of whom about one-fourth are farmers or workers upon the land. This community has its own political organs, an elected assembly for the direction of its domestic concerns, elected councils in the towns, and an organization for the control of its schools. It has its elected Chief Rabbinate and Rabbinical Council for the direction of its religious affairs. Its business is conducted in Hebrew as a vernacular language, and a Hebrew press serves its needs. It has its distinctive intellectual life and displays considerable economic activity. This community, then, with its town and country population, its political, religious and social organizations, its own language, its own customs, its own life, has in fact ‘national’ characteristics.”

And as time passed:
“Those characteristics have been strengthened and magnified in the course of the following twelve years. To-day there are in Palestine almost 300,000 Jews. There is a constantly flowing stream of men and money, new industries are being established, citriculture is expanding, new settlements are springing up, towns are being enlarged by suburb after suburb.”

During that same period, the Arabs in Palestine, however, had invested all of their energies into fighting any form of Jewish polity-in-the-making. Although the British encouraged creation of an Arab Agency parallel to the Jewish Agency that had orchestrated and financed development of the Jewish sector, a similar Arab organization failed to develop.

So it was no surprise that when the British departed, the Palestinian Arabs remained unorganized and ill-prepared not only for statehood (which they rejected in any case), but also for sustained conflict with their Jewish adversaries. In the end, the war caused horrific casualties for the Jews and left thousands of Palestinian Arabs without their homes.

JCPA: The End of Settlement Freezes in the Jerusalem Area
There are two strategic building plans for Jerusalem. Givat Hamatos, only 300 meters from the Green Line, will prevent the possibility of a wedge dividing Jerusalem from the south. E-1, between Maaleh Adumim and Jerusalem, will strengthen Israel's east-west contiguity to the Dead Sea and perhaps stymie north-south Palestinian territorial contiguity.

In February, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu ended the construction freeze on these two neighborhoods. Construction in Givat Hamatos has been frozen for seven years, while E-1 has been frozen for 15 years. Givat Hamatos is one of the last land reserves available for construction in Jerusalem. Increased construction in the nearby Arab neighborhood of Beit Safafa was also approved.

E-1 will connect Maaleh Adumim - a city of 48,000 residents east of Jerusalem established 45 years ago - with the Mount Scopus neighborhood of Jerusalem. All Israeli governments, from the time of Yitzhak Rabin to today, have supported this plan. Israel is very concerned about Palestinian attempts to impose a separation between Maaleh Adumim and Jerusalem.
SecState Pompeo Confronts UN Secretary General Guterres on UN Blacklist
Secretary of State Michael R. Pompeo met on March 6th with United Nations Secretary General Antonio Guterres at UN headquarters in New York. Secretary Pompeo took the opportunity to condemn the UN’s highly biased pro-Palestinian decision to release its blacklist of companies doing business with Israeli firms operating in disputed areas of the West Bank and East Jerusalem, which includes several U.S. companies.

According to the State Department’s readout of the meeting, Secretary Pompeo “reiterated his outrage at the decision by UN High Commissioner for Human Rights Michelle Bachelet to publish a database of companies operating in Israeli-controlled territories.” The U.S. statement added that Secretary Pompeo “made clear that the United States will continue to engage UN officials and member states on this matter, will not tolerate the reckless mistreatment of U.S. companies, and will respond to actions harmful to our business community.”

As usual, the UN Secretary General tried to paper over significant objections to the UN’s moral failures with diplomatic niceties. His office’s readout of the same meeting made no mention of the blacklist controversy. “The Secretary-General expressed appreciation for the continued engagement of the United States in the United Nation,” the UN statement said. It ticked off as topics of discussion “a range of situations around the world, including Afghanistan, Syria, Yemen, the Sahel and the questions related to the implementation of the host country agreement.” The reference to the host country agreement implementation may have alluded to a dispute over the denial or delay of visas issued by the U.S. to UN diplomats from certain countries, principally Russia and Iran, seeking to attend UN meetings in New York. However, the statement completely sidestepped the substance of the issue. Nothing was even hinted regarding any other differences between the United States and the United Nations.

Secretary Pompeo, representing the UN’s biggest financial contributor by far, was not willing to be a part of such play-acting. What Bachelet did, with the Secretary General’s evident concurrence, blatantly undermines real human rights. The UN blacklist promotes the agenda of the anti-Semitic Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions (BDS) movement, which discriminatorily singles out the Jewish State for economic punishment because of its “settlements” activities. Turkey, which illegally occupied Northern Cyprus in 1974, has since sent thousands of Turkish settlers and occupation troops to Northern Cyprus without a whimper of objection by UN officials.

David Singer: Three Politicians Can Make 3000-Years-Old Jewish Dream a Reality
Netanyahu’s ability to find the support of another 3 of his 47 Jewish political opponents is complicated by the fact that he has been indicted by the Attorney-General in three cases alleging fraud and corruption and is due to appear in court on 17 March.

Four of Netanyahu’s 47 political opponents reportedly could switch their allegiance to Netanyahu to enable him to make this dream a reality.

Given this once in 3000 years opportunity of restoring Jewish rights in Judea and Samaria – it would be strange if many more of the remaining 43 politicians – including Liberman’s 6 Yisrael Beiteinu bloc – were not prepared to put the national interest of the Jewish People before their personal hatred of Netanyahu.

Restoring sovereignty would also fittingly complete the political process begun 100 years ago at San Remo in April 1920.

Netanyahu should not be written off just yet.

A fourth election beckons if Netanyahu fails.

The Jewish People’s long-held dream – if unrealized – could then turn into a debilitating nightmare – resulting in unprecedented political upheaval, civilian demonstrations and unrest.
Blue and White demanding MKs resign if they don't back minority govt
Heavy pressure is being exerted on Blue and White MKs Tzvi Hauser and Yoaz Hendel by the party leadership to back the formation of a minority government with the external support of the Joint List of Arab parties.

The two right-wing MKs vehemently oppose such a government and are adamant in their refusal to allow it.

Sources in Blue and White told The Jerusalem Post on Monday that it was highly unlikely that either Hauser or Hendel would change their mind on this issue.

On Monday, senior Blue and White MK Moshe Ya'alon reportedly demanded that Hendel and Hauser either support the minority government or resign from the Knesset, according to Channel 13 News.

Sources in Blue and White told the Post that there was indeed a threat to demand that Hendel and Hauser quit if they do not back a minority government, as well as a threat to remove the two from the party list in the event there are fourth elections.
Gantz reaches out to Arab leaders, but not Balad
Blue and White leader Benny Gantz called the leaders of three of the four parties that make up the Joint List on Monday and vowed to form a government that would serve both Jews and Arab citizens and prevent a fourth election.

Gantz called Ayman Odeh of the Joint List's Hadash Party, Ahmad Tibi of the Ta'al Party and Mansour Abbas of the United Arab List. But he made a point of not reaching out to the more extreme Balad Party, which is led by MK Mtanes Shehadah.

Shehadah said he was not surprised that Gantz neglected to call him. He said he would remain part of the Joint List, which cannot be divided.
The three MKs of Balad oppose recommending to Rivlin that Gantz form the next government, Balad MK Heba Yazbak said on Monday.

Gantz had what he termed a positive meeting with Yisrael Beytenu leader Avigdor Liberman at Ramat Gan’s Kfar Hamaccabiah Hotel on Monday, discussing terms for a minority government.

"We talked about our principles and agree to cooperate in forming a government in order to remove Israel from the mud it is in and prevent a fourth election," Gantz said after the meeting.
Yamina, ultra-Orthodox parties pledge never to join Gantz gov't
Members of Knesset belonging to the right-wing religious and ultra-Orthodox parties have pledged not to join a government led by Blue and White leader MK Benny Gantz, either at the beginning or during the course of his coalition-forming process.

Although he is yet to be tasked by the president, Gantz is currently trying to formulate a minority government comprising his party, Labor-Meretz-Gesher and Yisrael Beytenu, and to possibly seek the support of the Joint List of Arab parties to support it externally without joining the coalition.

The purpose of such a government would be to oust Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu from the premiership in the hope that once this is achieved, some of the religious-Zionist and ultra-Orthodox parties might join and form a more stable coalition.

Those parties have now declared that they will not join such a government even after Netanyahu would no longer be prime minister.

“We MKs will not join, now nor in the future, a dangerous minority government headed by Benny Gantz, and will work with all our power to topple such a government and to establish a government headed by Benjamin Netanyahu which will protect Israel’s security and the Jewish and democratic character of the state,” reads the text of a letter jointly signed individually by the Yamina and Shas MKs.

Qatari cash for Hamas will backfire on Israel
The issue of Qatari financing of the Gaza Strip and Hamas rule has returned to the news after it was revealed that the head of the Mossad and the chief of the IDF Southern Command had visited Qatar. Qatar has been sending exorbitant funds to the Gaza Strip for eight years, since 2012. According to various estimates, the total amount sent Hamas in Gaza amounts to $1 billion.

There is no dispute that without the Qatari financial aid, which serves as a lever of influence over Hamas leadership in Gaza, Israel might have faced either a humanitarian disaster in Gaza or been forced into massive military conflict with Hamas. Ever since the Palestinian Authority's refusal (beginning March 2019) to make payments to the various apparatuses of life in Gaza, Hamas leadership and the Palestinian population in Gaza effectively have had no way to maintain even a basic lifestyle. Given that no real diplomatic agreement between Israel and Hamas is possible, Israel's decisionmakers have attempted to reach arrangements between it and the terrorist entity ruling Gaza to ensure some quiet.

Nevertheless, the current policy is problematic since it is based on the generosity of Qatar, which in the past decade has served as the key financier of radical Islamist terrorist organizations, including Al-Qaeda, the Islamic State and Hamas. Through the financing it provides, Qatar has brought about the killing of more civilians than any other terrorist-supporting state, including Iran. Israeli decisionmakers should be cognizant of this fact, both regarding its strategic implications and in its moral dimension.

Israel was one of the first countries in the world to understand that denying sources of finance to terrorist organizations is a key tool in the war on terror. This understanding became a policy mainstay of prime ministers Ariel Sharon, Ehud Olmert and Benjamin Netanyahu. Israel applied this approach in the unprecedented economic campaign against Iran and its nuclear endeavors. For two decades, Israel also has waged an unrelenting war to drain the sources of finance of Hamas, the Islamic Jihad and Hezbollah. The campaign led to the closing of dozens of charitable associations worldwide, the arrest of dozens of couriers and financiers, the shutting down of financial channels, and a long list of clandestine operations carried out in global collaboration with others in the international arena.
PMW: Corona virus "is one of Almighty Allah's soldiers... He is unleashing it on those who attack His believers," says preacher on official PA TV
Before Corona broke out in the PA, a preacher on official Palestinian Authority TV taught that the virus is "one of Almighty Allah’s soldiers" and that Allah is punishing the sinners - "those who attack His believers":
Unidentified preacher: "The true meaning of the epidemics is a trial from Almighty Allah and a punishment. A trial for the believers and a punishment for the sinners… If they have stood firm and place their trust in Allah, then they will receive an enormous reward, and whoever dies in the epidemic merits the reward of Martyrdom… If the epidemic harms non-believers, from among the abusers and the aggressors, then that is punishment… This [Corona] virus is one of Almighty Allah’s soldiers, and He is unleashing it on those who attack His believers…"
[Official PA TV, Feb. 28, 2020]

The unidentified preacher further explained that epidemics are "a trial for the believers and a punishment for the sinners." To underscore this religious view – that epidemics are a punishment - the preacher quoted Islam’s Prophet Muhammad and his uncle Ibn Abbas who both explained that plagues are the punishment for people in places where "abomination" and "corruption" occur:
"The Sunna (i.e., Islamic tradition) has indicated that acts of abomination and corruption cause epidemics. Prophet [Muhammad] said: 'An abomination has not appeared among a people… without plague and suffering breaking out...' And Ibn Abbas (an uncle of Islam’s Prophet Muhammad and an early Quranic scholar –Ed.) said: 'Corruption has never appeared among any people without mass death reaching them.'"

However, since Muslim believers are also dying from Corona the preacher added that believers who die from the epidemic are being tested and "if they have stood firm and place their trust in Allah, then they will receive an enormous reward, and whoever dies in the epidemic merits the reward of Martyrdom."

PA premier suggests Palestinians may ask Israel to close Allenby crossing
Palestinian Authority Prime Minister Mohammad Shtayyeh suggested on Monday that the Palestinians may be compelled to ask Israel to close down the Allenby border crossing.

He made the comment at a weekly cabinet meeting in which he focused his remarks on the outbreak of the coronavirus in the West Bank.

“We may be forced to close the bridges in the coming days,” Shtayyeh said, noting that any such move would be done in coordination with Israel and Jordan. “We hopefully will not need to do that.”

Ibrahim Milhem, Shtayyeh’s spokesman, said in a text message that the premier was specifically referring to the Allenby border crossing between the West Bank and Jordan.

Israel controls the West Bank side of Allenby but Palestinians and some foreigners travel through it to go to Jordan or enter the West Bank.

The Palestinians would need Israel to implement any decision to shut down Allenby.

Shtayyeh added: “For the second time, I am affirming this matter. The reason is so that anyone on the other side who wants to return to Palestine can do what he needs to do and anyone who is here and needs to travel can do what he needs to do.”

PreOccupiedTerritory: Palestinian Authority Tries To Spin Gang-Rape Of Tourist As Anti-Corona Measure (satire)
Failure of an effort to suppress the news of a Dutch woman subjected to repeated forced sex by a group of city residents last week has led local and national leaders to begin reframing the incident instead as part of a bold new initiative to prevent the spread of a deadly virus.

Initial attempts to prevent word of the gang rape from reaching international or social media fell flat, prompting officials in Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas’s Ramallah office to abandon the spin operation and explain the attack as an audacious operation to keep coronavirus from infecting more people in Palestinian autonomous territories.

Recordings of the incident, in which a gang of five Palestinian men lured a tourist from the Netherlands to a deserted area of Bethlehem, which is under Palestinian control, then robbed and raped her while beating her tour guide, emerged on social media in the days following the crime, short-circuiting local law enforcement efforts to keep it under wraps lest the incident prove embarrassing and adversely affect tourism. Palestinian officials executed a quick rhetorical pivot, asserting that only such vigorous measures can contain the disease, which has already infected an unknown number of Palestinians.

“We will show zero tolerance toward the coronavirus,” declared Palestinian Deputy Minister of Health Annas Annas. “This type of vehement response is exactly what every government should be implementing. Perhaps if authorities in China, Iran, Italy, South Korea, and elsewhere had resorted to our methods sooner, the world would not see its current level of crisis.”
JCPA: Saudi Arabia Puts Hamas Activists on Trial for Supporting Terrorism
In Saudi Arabia, the trial of 68 Hamas members has begun. They were arrested in April 2019 in Saudi Arabia; most of the members were Palestinians from the Palestinian territories who immigrated to Saudi Arabia, and some of them were Jordanian civilians.

Hamas officials claim the accused members were tortured in two of the jails where they were held in Riyadh and Jeddah.

This is a lengthy trial that will last for several months. The trial is being held publicly, and Saudi authorities have permitted members of the accused’s families to be present at the first hearing.

Among the accused are students, academics, and businessmen who have been held in solitary confinement in recent months without the possibility of meeting with lawyers or their families. Their funds held in their Saudi bank accounts have been confiscated by the authorities.

Among those pending trial are Mohammed al-Khodari, an 81-year-old doctor, and his son Hani. Mohammed al-Khodari has been Hamas’ official representative in Saudi Arabia since 1988, before which he was a military hospital director in Kuwait and held the rank of colonel in the Kuwaiti army.

The public trial of Hamas members in Saudi Arabia is enraging Hamas activists in the West Bank, the Gaza Strip, and among Hamas supporters throughout the Arab world.

UN atomic agency urges Iran to ‘cooperate immediately’ with nuclear deal
The head of the UN’s atomic watchdog on Monday urged Iran to “cooperate immediately and fully” with a landmark nuclear agreement with world powers that is hanging by a thread.

The agency called on Iran to provide access to two locations, and said Tehran had failed to engage “in substantive discussions” to clarify the agency’s questions, said Rafael Grossi, the new chief of the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA).

Grossi said the IAEA had raised questions “related to possible undeclared nuclear material and nuclear-related activities at three locations that have not been declared by Iran.”

He added that the lack of access to two of the three sites and Iran’s failure to engage in talks was “adversely affecting the agency’s ability… to provide credible assurance of the absence of undeclared nuclear material and activities in Iran.”

An IAEA report last week revealed that Tehran refused the agency access in January to the two sites.
Iran’s nuclear deal breaches mean breakout time could be mere months — experts
Tehran’s nuclear program is back under the spotlight after the UN’s nuclear watchdog revealed the extent of Iran’s uranium enrichment drive and reprimanded it for denying access to two locations.

The revelations may lead to heated exchanges at the International Atomic Energy Agency’s (IAEA) latest quarterly board of governors meeting which starts on Monday in Vienna.
Which limits is Iran breaking?

Since May 2019, Iran has announced successive breaches of the deal struck four years earlier with world powers which restricted its nuclear program in exchange for sanctions relief.

The breaches were in reaction to US President Donald Trump’s withdrawal from the agreement in 2018 and reimposition of harsh sanctions on Iran.

The latest announcement came in January, when Iran said it was no longer bound by any restrictions on its nuclear program.

An IAEA report issued on March 3 said that the announcement itself did not lead to any noticeable changes, but also revealed the cumulative effect of Iran’s previous breaches.

There has been a dramatic increase in Iran’s uranium stockpile, which now stands at over 1,000 kilograms — more than five times the limit fixed in the deal.
U.S.: Soleimani's Killing Dealt Big Setback to Iranian Terrorism
Two months after a U.S. drone strike killed preeminent Iranian general Qasem Soleimani, U.S. Defense Secretary Mark Esper told the Senate Armed Services Committee on Wednesday that "taking him off the battlefield has set back the [Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps] and the Iranian government with regard to spreading their malign activity through the region."

"I think at the same action, we have restored deterrence to a degree. And so, for all those things, I still believe it was the right call."

Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff Gen. Mark Milley said, "I believe that I, Secretary Esper, the president and many others would have been culpably negligent had we not taken the action we did...because I think many Americans would have died as a result."

"I believe it was the right thing to do then, and I still believe that. And I believe we contributed to reestablishing deterrence of aggressive action from Iran."
Coronavirus Kills 237 in Iran, 7,161 Infected: Health Ministry
Iran has had 237 deaths from coronavirus and 7,161 infections, Health Ministry spokesman Kianush Jahanpur said on state TV on Monday.

The figures included 595 new infections and 43 new deaths within the past 24 hours.

Iran has had one of the highest death rates from the illness outside of China, where the virus originated.
Iran’s regime pushes antisemitic conspiracies about coronavirus
Iran’s Press TV, which represents the regime’s English-language propaganda, has been pushing antisemitic conspiracies about the coronavirus to distract from the mullah regime’s mishandling of the pandemic.

On Sunday, Iran’s Health Ministry reported 49 new coronavirus deaths, the highest single-day toll of those killed by COVID-19 in the country since mid-February. As of press time, Tehran has acknowledged 194 Iranians have died from the fast-spreading disease. But observers believe the true number may be far higher.

Over the last several days, Iran has pushed several reports claiming that “Zionists” were behind the coronavirus. Press TV also quoted the same website that was at the center of an antisemitic article from 2017 that claimed “America’s Jews are driving America’s wars.”

On March 5, Press TV claimed that “Zionist elements developed a deadlier strain of coronavirus against Iran.” Although the report claimed to reference a foreign “academic,” it fits the pattern of Iran using foreign experts to give the regime’s own views a patina of authority. The agenda of Tehran has been three-fold since the coronavirus outbreak began to affect Iran in mid-February. Iran initially denied that there was a virus outbreak so that it could increase voter turnout for the February 21 election.

In late February, it turned out that some of Iran’s leading politicians and key insiders were infected because the virus had spread from the holy city of Qom to Tehran. To make up for the initial cover-up, the regime shifted its narrative to blaming US sanctions for its inability to control the virus. Already regime leaders were beginning to compare the virus to sanctions.

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