Thursday, March 19, 2020

From Ian:

Rattled World ‘at War’ With Coronavirus as Deaths Surge in Italy, France
Hundreds of millions of people faced a world turned upside down on Wednesday by unprecedented emergency measures against the coronavirus pandemic that is killing the old and vulnerable and threatening prolonged economic misery.

“This is a once-in-a-hundred-year type event,” said Australian Prime Minister Scott Morrison, warning the crisis could last six months as his nation became the latest to restrict gatherings and overseas travel.

The fast-spreading disease that jumped from animals to humans in China has now infected over 212,000 people and caused 8,700 deaths in 164 nations, triggering emergency lockdowns and injections of cash unseen since World War Two.

“We have never lived through anything like this,” Spain’s Prime Minister Pedro Sanchez told a parliament chamber nearly empty with more than 90% of lawmakers staying away and a masked and gloved cleaner wiping handrails between speeches.

“And our society, which had grown used to changes that expand our possibilities of knowledge, health and life, now finds itself at war to defend all we have taken for granted.”

There was particular alarm in Italy, which has experienced an unusually high death rate — nearly 3,000 from 35,713 cases. It has called on student and retired doctors to help an overwhelmed health service.

On Wednesday Italy reported 475 new deaths, the biggest increase since the outbreak started and the highest one-day total posted by any nation.

France also reported a spike in deaths — rising by 89, or 51%, to a total of 264 in 24 hours.
Eli Lake: China’s Ghastly Blame Game
Amid the tsunami of dread and panic this week regarding the coronavirus, on Monday Secretary of State Mike Pompeo took time to lodge an official complaint with China: Stop blaming the pandemic on America. In a phone call to the director of China’s office of foreign affairs, Pompeo “conveyed strong U.S. objections” to China’s efforts “to shift blame for Covid-19 to the United States,” according to the State Department.

Pompeo’s complaint did not come out of nowhere. In the last two weeks, Chinese officials and state organs have promoted the theory that the coronavirus was brought to their country in October when a group of U.S. army officers visited Wuhan for the world military games. It’s one element of a wider propaganda campaign by the Chinese Communist Party. The regime takes umbrage at labeling the virus as something from China or Wuhan, while presenting its mass quarantines as a model of public health and offering medical aid to countries now coping with the virus.

Like all effective propaganda, there is a grain of truth in China’s messaging. After bungling the initial response, including some truly chilling abuses of power, the regime now appears to have the outbreak under control (assuming the Chinese statistics are correct). There has also been an uptick in racist incidents against people of Chinese origin all over the world, including in the U.S. President Trump and others are wrong to stoke nativism in a national crisis by continuing to call the disease “the Chinese Virus,” even though it’s true that past pandemics were labeled by the World Health Organization were named by their place of origin.

At the same time, says Joseph Wu, Taiwan’s foreign minister, China is acutely aware of the stakes. “The Chinese understand that its national reputation suffered tremendously in the last few months because of the coronavirus,” he told Hugh Hewitt’s radio program on Monday. “And what it’s trying to do is trying to overturn that kind of situation.” China’s campaign, Wu said, is “like trying to turn black into white.”

For Beijing, this is a pattern. Whether it’s the treatment of Uighur Muslims or the construction of artificial islands in the South China Sea, China’s government demands that the world believe its narrative over the reality of its own government’s failures and aggression.
Eugene Kontorovich: To fight coronavirus spread, Israel is using cellphone technology – Could US do the same?
Israel's government this week approved the use of people's cellphone location information to help battle the coronavirus epidemic.

This has raised serious - and legitimate - concerns about privacy and governmental intrusion in the form of unseen surveillance. Placing such sweeping data about people's movements in the hands of the government is not to be taken lightly.

But in an epidemic or pandemic where strong public health measures are required, some rights will inevitably be restricted. Measures like Israel's can, on balance, be a lesser evil for individual rights. If they help contain the spread of the disease, they save lives and reduce the scope and duration of far greater restrictions, like quarantines.

Israel is using cellphone data to find out who a coronavirus patient may have exposed to the virus when asymptomatic. The vast trove of metadata allows public health workers to see where the patient went and what other cellphone users were in the same place. Those people can then be warned, limiting their unwitting ability to pass on the virus.

The broad use of cellphone data to track the movements of people infringes on the privacy of individuals and should not normally be tolerated. But the particular circumstances of a contagious and life-threatening pandemic make this an appropriate response.

Individual rights cannot come at the expense of others' rights. Individual rights are not absolute when their exercise creates significant risk for others. That is why measures are permitted in such circumstances that would otherwise be unthinkable.

Coronavirus - A diplomatic opportunity Israel shouldn’t miss
Despite all the challenges Israel is facing in light of the coronavirus crisis, there are opportunities to be had in the diplomatic field, Yaniv Cohen, CEO of Abba Eban Institute for Diplomacy at the Interdisciplinary Center Herzliya said on Thursday.

“We are in a situation that diplomacy and international relations are encountering for the first time in hundreds of years – there are no conferences or personal meetings,” Cohen said. “This is a challenge for us, but my argument is that this is a big challenge, but it’s an opportunity.”

Cohen identified three ways in which the Foreign Ministry could be improving Israel’s international standing.

First is in coordinating research efforts between countries.

“Israel does serious work in the world of research dealing with these matters, such as in the Institute for Biological Research in Nes Ziona, and the Weizman Institute, where people are working tirelessly on vaccines and medicines,” Cohen said. “The job of the foreign service is to connect the researchers with other countries doing similar things.”

Cohen pointed to the Mossad’s operation in which it brought 100,000 coronavirus tests to Israel, which lacked a component Magen David Adom was missing.

“It shows how complex this issue is. It’s a classic problem in coordination that the [foreign relations] professionals need to take care of,” he argued.

The second area in which there are diplomatic opportunities is Israel’s vast experience in disaster relief in general, and its relatively successful response to this specific pandemic.
Victor Davis Hanson: China ‘Ruined Their International Brand’ With COVID-19 Pandemic
As Americans feel the full effect of COVID-19 strangling the economy, many have put their focus on the Chinese Communist Party (CCP) and the role it played in the global pandemic. Speaking with Brian Kilmeade on Wednesday, Hoover Institution Fellow Victor Davis Hanson argued that the country “ruined their international brand.’

“[China] knew that that virus was not only epidemic but infectious and could be deadly to older people. They didn’t tell anybody. They didn’t tell us. In fact, they did something far worse — they accused us of causing it and then they threatened to cut off supplies of medical needs and pharmaceuticals,” Hanson said, as reported by Fox News.

Going forward, Hanson said that companies in countries like Italy or Switzerland will think twice before tying up business in China.

“You think if you’re Italy or Switzerland or Germany or Australia, you really want to have your antibiotics produced in China when this is all over?” said Hanson. “If you’re a tourist and you went to China and somebody said there’s a virus contained but don’t worry, it’s contained — would you believe that?”

“Anybody in their right mind would know that the existential threat is China,” he added.

In recent days, reports have increasingly shown how the Chinese government’s response to the outbreak in Wuhan has helped create a global crisis, which included aggressively tamping down on whistleblowers trying to raise awareness about the COVID-19 outbreak. Beyond that, the Chinese government’s hands-off approach to the so-called “wet market” animal trade has also come under severe scrutiny.

Timeline: The early days of China's coronavirus outbreak and cover-up
Axios has compiled a timeline of the earliest weeks of the coronavirus outbreak in China, highlighting when the cover-up started and ended — and showing how, during that time, the virus already started spreading around the world, including to the United States.

Why it matters: A study published in March indicated that if Chinese authorities had acted three weeks earlier than they did, the number of coronavirus cases could have been reduced by 95% and its geographic spread limited.

This timeline, compiled from information reported by the Wall Street Journal, the Washington Post, the South China Morning Post and other sources, shows that China's cover-up and the delay in serious measures to contain the virus lasted about three weeks.

Dec. 10: Wei Guixian, one of the earliest known coronavirus patients, starts feeling ill.
Dec. 16: Patient admitted to Wuhan Central Hospital with infection in both lungs but resistant to anti-flu drugs. Staff later learned he worked at a wildlife market connected to the outbreak.
Dec. 27: Wuhan health officials are told that a new coronavirus is causing the illness.
Dec. 30:
Ai Fen, a top director at Wuhan Central Hospital, posts information on WeChat about the new virus. She was reprimanded for doing so and told not to spread information about it.
Wuhan doctor Li Wenliang also shares information on WeChat about the new SARS-like virus. He is called in for questioning shortly afterward.
Wuhan health commission notifies hospitals of a “pneumonia of unclear cause” and orders them to report any related information.
Dec. 31:
Wuhan health officials confirm 27 cases of illness and close a market they think is related to the virus' spread.
China tells the World Health Organization’s China office about the cases of an unknown illness.
Mini Documentary Explains ‘Why New Diseases Keep Appearing In China’
A mini documentary released this month from the liberal publication Vox explains the likely origin of the coronavirus in China, and how a combination of laws and prioritization of luxuries for the rich and powerful in China likely contributed to the outbreak.

In 1998, China’s communist government enacted the Wildlife Protection Law, which designated the animals as “resources owned by the state,” and protected people engaged in the “utilization of wildlife resources,” the documentary states. The law encouraged the domestication and breeding of wildlife, which led to a large scale industrialization of the industry.

“Bigger populations [of rare and exotic animals] meant greater chances that a sick animal could spread disease,” the documentary states. “Farmers were also raising a wide variety of animals. Which meant more viruses on the farms. Nonetheless, these animals were funneled into the wet markets for profit. While this legal wildlife farming industry started booming, it simultaneously provided cover for an illegal wildlife industry.”

The documentary highlights that these wet markets led to the outbreak of the SARS virus in 2002, and that China reopened the wet markets after the outbreak was over.

Peter Li, Associate Professor at the University of Houston, told Vox, “The majority of the people in China do not eat wildlife animals. Those people who consume these wildlife animals are the rich and the powerful – a small minority.”

“It’s this minority that the Chinese government chose to favor over the safety of the rest of its population,” the documentary adds. “Soon after the coronavirus outbreak, the Chinese government shut down thousands of wet markets and temporarily banned wildlife trade again. Organizations around the world have been urging China to make the ban permanent.”

How China Corrupted The World Health Organization
After numerous blunders and consistent attempts to praise and back China despite the country’s misleading information about the novel coronavirus, WHO’s handling of the situation has sparked criticism. Even the Council on Foreign Relations (CFR), a non-profit think tank, bashed the organization over its “weak response to China’s mishandling” of the novel coronavirus.

“The WHO Director-General (DG) Dr. Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus has been an outspoken advocate for the Chinese government’s COVID-19 response,” a writer at the CFR’s blog wrote in February. (RELATED: NBC News Correspondent Says Coronavirus ‘Is A Bat Virus, Not A China Virus’)

“Despite growing evidence of China’s mishandling of the outbreak and rising domestic Chinese outrage over the government’s censorship, Tedros remains unmoved.”

CFR suggested that WHO’s newfound love for China could be attributed to money. The article noted that China’s contributions to the organization has grown by 52% since 2014. It added that the country was one of Tedros’s allies during WHO’s 2017 election.

“The day after his electoral victory, Tedros confirmed to Chinese state-media that he and the WHO will continue to support the ‘One China’ principle, which recognizes the government in Beijing as the legitimate Chinese government,” according to CFR. “Three years later, Tedros’ enduring support of China’s response to COVID-19 shows that their early support for him is still paying dividends.”

Whether it is because of China or for other reasons, WHO’s handling of the novel coronavirus spread has been troubling. In addition to repeating false claims about the virus from the very country where it began, WHO only named coronavirus as a global pandemic March 11 – months after the virus had very clearly spread across the world.

Following this response, the virus has infected all 50 states in America with at least 140 reported deaths across the country. Over 1,000 new cases were announced in New York alone Wednesday, according to the NYT. Still, WHO has continued to praise and push claims from the country who has perhaps been one of the most dishonest regarding this deadly virus.

“China’s bold approach to contain the rapid spread of this new respiratory pathogen has changed the course of a rapidly escalating and deadly epidemic,” a February 2020 report from WHO reads. “This decline in COVID-19 cases across China is real.”

ICC on lockdown, decision on anti-Israel probe delayed
The International Criminal Court's decision on whether to launch a full-scale investigation into alleged war crimes will be delayed for at least a month, as the ICC has suspended its actions over the coronavirus pandemic.

According to a Wednesday report in the Jerusalem Post, ICC Chief Prosecutor Fatou Bensouda has filed for an extension on the matter until April 30 citing the global health crisis.

Bensouda has argued that there was a "reasonable basis" to open a war crimes probe into Israeli military actions in the Gaza Strip as well as Israeli settlement construction in the West Bank. She has asked the court to determine whether she has territorial jurisdiction before proceeding with the case.

The question of jurisdiction is key as The Hague only has power over countries that are signatory to the Rome Statute.

Israel is not an ICC member. The Palestinian Authority joined the treaty empowering The Hague in 2015, with the explicit purpose of dragging Israeli officials before the international court.

The core issue at this time remains whether the ICC Pretrial Chamber will view "Palestine" as a state, and what territory it would say it has jurisdiction over. As there is no official "State of Palestine," the ICC would in theory be required to deny the petition.

How the European Union Turned the Coronavirus into a Pandemic
The EU's failure to address the coronavirus issue earlier has resulted in the Schengen Agreement, which stipulates that the citizens of any EU state can travel freely throughout the union, becoming null and void.

Perhaps the most shameful episode concerning inter-EU relations since the start of the coronavirus outbreak was Germany's refusal to allow the export of much-needed face masks and ventilators to Italy after the Italian government made a direct appeal to the rest of the EU for help. Instead of demonstrating the so-called solidarity that is supposed to underpin the EU's founding ethos, the German government issued a ban on the export of the equipment to Italy.

The EU's handling of the coronavirus has not just been incompetent. It raises serious questions as to whether it is about to become yet another victim of the deadly pandemic.
Coronavirus is greatest challenge since World War II, Merkel warns
In a national address with no precedent in her 14 years as chancellor, Angela Merkel said Germany now faces the gravest challenge since World War II.

What she’s saying: “Take it seriously. Since German unification, no, since the Second World War, there has been no challenge to our nation that has demanded such a degree of common and united action," Merkel said, per DW.

Not one for dramatic statements, Merkel’s elevated warnings come with French President Emmanuel Macron declaring his country now “at war” and U.K. Prime Minister Boris Johnson noting that the societal changes underway are unprecedented in peacetime.
Merkel had never before made a televised address to the nation beyond her annual New Years' address, per Reuters.
Driving the news: Cases of coronavirus jumped 9% in Germany on Wednesday alone, to 12,000. The country has experienced relatively few deaths, with 28 to date.
Coronavirus: Germany Whips Up Anti-Americanism
The attempt to whip up anti-Americanism appears to be an effort by the German government to blunt public criticism of German Chancellor Angela Merkel and her cabinet for their lackadaisical response to the coronavirus epidemic.

The story was quickly picked up and uncritically disseminated by print and broadcast media throughout Europe — and America. Nearly all quoted the Die Welt article verbatim without confirming the story on their own.

"To make it clear again on coronavirus: CureVac has not received from the US government or related entities an offer before, during and since the Task Force meeting in the White House on March 2. CureVac rejects all allegations from press." — Statement by CureVac, March 16, 2020.

U.S. Ambassador to Germany Richard Grenell denied the allegations. "Not true," he tweeted. "The Welt story was wrong. But Business Insider, Reuters and others went with it anyway despite not having their own sources. Now everyone is back peddling."

The newspaper Frankfurter Allgemeine, in an article titled, "CureVac Has Not Received an Offer from the U.S. Government," described the Welt article as "Fake News" concocted by CureVac in order to secure government funding. The paper suggested that the German government helped to promote the lie...

"A German minister, who heard from another German minister, that a German journalist, who was not there, reported that the U.S. president offered $1 billion for a company that has not yet developed a vaccine against COVID-19.... For my taste, much hearsay, the striving of Die Welt for many clicks, the fueling of resentment against Trump and perhaps intelligent marketing by the company for public funding in times of the corona crisis." — Reader comment in Die Welt, March 17, 2020.
Clinical Trial Raises Hopes That Malaria Drug Could Be Coronavirus Cure
The results of a clinical trial in France and studies conducted in lab settings are building hope that a drug usually used to treat malaria and arthritis can treat and possibly cure coronavirus patients, though scientists say more data is needed before drawing a firm conclusion.

“It has a lot of potential, though we’re not going on a lot of data yet,” Dr. Peter Hotez, the dean for the National School of Tropical Medicine at the Baylor School of Medicine, said of early studies of hydroxycholoroquine, a malaria drug developed in the 1940s.

President Donald Trump asked the White House’s coronavirus task force about possibly using the drug, task force coordinator Dr. Deborah Birx said Wednesday.

Birx said that the drug is being studied “very carefully,” as are several other potential therapeutics.

On Tuesday, a team of French scientists released the first results of a clinical study of the use of hydroxychloroquine on 24 coronavirus patients from southeast France.

The research team, led by Didier Raoult, a renowned infectious disease expert from l’Institut Hospitalo-Universitaire in Marseille, administered the drug for 10 days along with azithromycin, a common antibiotic.

Israeli Researchers Develop Corona Test for People without Symptoms
A new and more efficient method to diagnose the coronavirus was successfully tested by Israeli researchers at Technion University and Ramban Health Care Campus. The new testing method will dramatically increase the rate at which tests can be done for the deadly virus.

The current testing method in Israel, and most of the rest of the world, has been to only focus on people with specific symptoms. This new testing method is not only able to allow testing of people with no symptoms, but allows for dozens of tests to be carried out at once, ultimately accelerating efforts in curbing the virus.

"This experiment conducted by Technion and Rambam researchers is complex, and under normal circumstances would take months," according to Technion's president Prof. Uri Sivan. "This is a remarkable example of the mobilization of an outstanding team in a time of crisis. The initial experiment was completed in less than four days."
Brushing aside doubts, Health Ministry, Netanyahu praise Mossad test kit caper
The Health Ministry on Thursday said that thousands of coronavirus test kits brought to Israel by the Mossad overnight from an undisclosed country were “important” and “necessary,” after a top official in the ministry downplayed their relevance to the efforts against the disease.

In a statement Health Ministry director general Moshe Bar Siman-Tov thanked Mossad, as well as all other defense branches helping confront the medical crisis. He said the test kits received Thursday were “important and functional kits which we require for coronavirus tests.” He thanked Mossad chief Yossi Cohen personally for aiding health officials in the matter.

Confirming the Mossad’s involvement in bringing the kits to Israel, the Prime Minister’s Office also dismissed claims that the equipment was not required by the Health Ministry.

“The equipment that arrived in Israel was needed and critical,” the office said.

The comments came after Bar Siman-Tov’s deputy Itamar Grotto told the Ynet news site that the kits did not particularly help with shortages being experienced by medical officials.

“Unfortunately what has arrived at the moment is not exactly what we are missing. Meaning there are various components in the kit and [what we got] is not what we’re missing. Our problem is we’re missing swabs,” he said.

Channel 12 news reported that the spy agency had brought in some 100,000 kits, though the numbers were not confirmed by officials. The channel said the Mossad was planning to bring in some four million more kits from a number of countries in the coming days.

The Prime Minister’s Office, which oversees the Mossad, refused to comment on any other aspects of the operation — including the exact number of test kits, where they were acquired from and why the spy agency was needed.

According to Channel 13 news, the kits came from two countries that do not have diplomatic ties with Israel.
IDF to join MDA in testing Israelis for coronavirus
Israel’s Defense Minister Naftali Bennett on Thursday ordered the IDF’s Homefront Command to establish a national emergency center to assist the public due to the ongoing coronavirus pandemic.

Bennett ordered the Homefront Command along with various government ministries and volunteer organizations to immediately establish the center which will serve as a focal point for managing civilian assistance during the coronavirus crisis.

The center-which will assist local authorities and the general public in terms of food, medical assistance, mental support, transportation and more- will open next week and will be run by troops from the Homefront Command.

The IDF will be testing Israelis for the coronavirus along with crews from Magen David Adom, Army Radio reported on Thursday.

Starting this morning, some 100 crews will be travelling to the homes of Israelis across the country who are suspected of carrying the virus. An MDA paramedic will be part of each crew and will be taking samples from the patients.
Israel, Palestinians set up joint operations room to combat coronavirus
Israel and the Palestinian Authority have set up a joint operations room to combat the coronavirus pandemic, PA government spokesman Ibrahim Milhem revealed.

A Defense Ministry official confirmed that a joint operations room has been set up with the Palestinians, but declined to provide further details.

“Our shared borders and relations do not leave room for hesitation to take severe measures and cooperate on the highest levels to prevent the spread of the virus,” Milhem said on Tuesday.

His revelation did not surprise Palestinians, particularly those living in the Bethlehem area, who said that they have been aware of the Palestinian-Israeli cooperation since the first coronavirus cases were discovered at the Angel Hotel in Beit Jala earlier this month.

The PA announced on Wednesday that the number of confirmed coronavirus cases has risen to 44. It said three cases were discovered in Beit Sahur, east of Bethlehem, on Tuesday, prompting the Palestinian security forces to impose a curfew on the town.
Israel, PA deny rumors about coronavirus cases among Palestinian prisoners
The Israeli authorities and the Palestinian Authority on Thursday denied rumors that Palestinian prisoners in Israeli prisons have been diagnosed with the coronavirus.

The Israel Prison Service said that four inmates held at Megiddo Prison have been isolated after they were suspected of having been in contact with an ill prisoner last week. It said the four inmates did not show any symptoms of the disease, but were nevertheless placed in isolation as a precautionary measure in accordance with the guidelines published by the Ministry of Health.

The Palestinian Prisoners’ Commission also denied the rumors and said no cases of coronavirus have been confirmed among the prisoners held by Israel.

Kadri Abu Bakr, head of the commission, said his group was told by the Israeli Ministry of Health that the rumors were baseless. He called on the Israeli authorities to increase precautionary measures in the prisons to protect the inmates. Abu Bakr also urged the Israeli authorities to release ill prisoners, women and minors.

The rumors about the coronavirus cases in Megiddo Prison appeared on a number of Palestinian social media platforms. The rumors are apparently aimed at pressuring Israel to release Palestinian prisoners in light of the outbreak of the virus.

PMW: Poem read in the name of Abbas calls for violence and Martyrdom
At a Fatah rally in Nablus in January, Nablus District Governor Ibrahim Ramadan read “the words of his honor the President Mahmoud Abbas,” which included a poem calling on Palestinians to take up arms and die as Martyrs:

Speaker on stage: “And now to the words of His Honor the President Mahmoud Abbas, presented by brother Ibrahim Ramadan, District Governor of Nablus.”

Nablus District Governor Ibrahim Ramadan:
"O Martyr, Allah's mercy upon you.
If I fell on the land while covered in my wounds
And my blood flowed from me and my weapon lay by my side
This is the path of my struggle, therefore my brother, complete my struggle.
This is what the Martyr tells [us]."
[Official PA TV, Reporters in the Field, Jan. 6, 2020]

The event celebrated Fatah’s 55th anniversary and its first terror attack against Israel in 1965.

At a different event celebrating “Martyrs’ Day,” held under the auspices of Abbas at his headquarters, Abbas’ Fatah deputy Mahmoud Al-Aloul emphasized what Palestinian Media Watch has documented as Fatah’s and the PA’s policy of honoring terrorists and among them the so-called “Martyrs” who died while carrying out attacks against Israelis. Speaking on behalf of Abbas, Al-Aloul stressed that the “Martyrs” are “the most honorable and noble of people and the greatest in self-sacrifice”:

Al-Aloul: “Martyrs’ Day is an event that carries with it strong emotions, because we are talking about the most honorable and noble of people and the greatest in self-sacrifice and altruism, since they have sacrificed their lives so that we would live and for the freedom of their people and homeland… they are the salt of the earth and the sustenance of the soul; they are the noblest revelation, and they have redeemed their people at the cost of their lives.”
[Official PA daily Al-Hayat Al-Jadida, Jan. 9, 2020]

Abbas’ deputy also stated that “the leadership adheres to what the Martyrs have sacrificed for,” and referenced arch-terrorist Abu Jihad, who was responsible for the murder of at least 125 Israelis, saying:
“I believe in the prophesy of [Khalil Al-Wazir] ‘Abu Jihad’ that victory will undoubtedly arrive.”

PMW: PA compares Israel to the Corona virus; after weeks of silence finally mentions cooperation with Israel
Despite Israel's cooperation with the Palestinian Authority in fighting the Coronavirus, the PA has made statements comparing Israel to the deadly virus itself and for weeks didn’t mention Israel's help at all.

Just two days ago, the official PA daily published the above cartoon showing an Israeli tank with spikes protruding from its turret shaped like the peplomers on the Coronavirus viral envelope. The tank’s main gun, which is also in the shape of a peplomer, is pointed at a Palestinian holding a baby and walking away from the tank. [Official PA daily Al-Hayat Al-Jadida, March 16, 2020]

An editorial in the paper compared Israel to “all of nature’s viruses,” stating it is “more dangerous”:

“Just as we will overcome the Coronavirus, we will certainly overcome the occupation’s viruses that are more dangerous than all of nature’s viruses.”
[Official PA daily Al-Hayat Al-Jadida, March 11, 2020]

Two weeks ago, PA Prime Minister Muhammad Shtayyeh stated that the PA was dealing with both “the Corona virus and the occupation virus”:
PA Prime Minister Muhammad Shtayyeh: “On behalf of my brothers in the [PA] government, I call on all of the organizations to prioritize the good of the homeland and prioritize dialogue over a strike, because in practice we are at a critical and difficult stage that is not connected only to disease and the Coronavirus or the occupation virus.”
[Facebook page of PA Prime Minister Muhammad Shtayyeh, March 3, 2020]

PreOccupiedTerritory: New IDF Drone Intercepts Hamas Sneezes (satire)
Israel’s Combat Means Development Authority has produced a prototype device to interdict viral particles expelled by respiratory systems of the terrorist group that governs the neighboring Gaza Strip, military sources disclosed today.

The unit, known by its Hebrew acronym RAFAEL, deployed the first two experimental flightless vehicles earlier this week to the area abutting the Gaza Strip, from where Islamists from Hamas and allied Islamist militias have long fired rockets and artillery at Israeli communities. The additional threat of coronavirus, a spokesman for the unit explained, prompted RAFAEL to speed development and field testing of a device to prevent sneezes or coughs from reaching people on the Israeli side of the border.

“Hamas and its allies have for some time been trying to develop unconventional weapons,” noted RAFAEL spokesman Afozen Garon. “But coronavirus presents them with an opportunity that requires much less in the way of technological requirements to make that a reality. Sneezes propel particles at great speed, and pose a significant risk to anyone in the vicinity. Fortunately, we have revamped Trophy, Iron Dome, and other interception technology to detect, identify, locate, and neutralize malign sneezes and coughs before they reach Israeli airspace.” Trophy refers to a vehicle-mounted system that intercepts anti-tank missiles fired at the vehicle; Iron Dome intercepts ballistic missiles and artillery.

Garon declined to provide details on the technology that locates and identifies coronavirus pathogens from a safe distance, but independent experts surmise the airborne system uses a combination of spectrometry and other diagnostic imaging techniques. “Temperature, mass, and other properties can be sensed remotely, as can certain chemical compounds,” observed Dr. Dibburmeha Yashvan of Gujjarat State University. “From there it’s a relatively simple process to design an interdiction mechanism. The most challenging part of that would probably involve developing a way to trap and neutralize the pathogen from a distance, but Israel has overcome more imposing technological hurdles. Just look at how they control the media but somehow that media do nothing but criticize them. It’s uncanny.”
Clifford D. May: Iran's Hezbollah virus infects Lebanon while attacking the world
COVID-19, the virus from Communist China, has not yet hit Lebanon harder than other nations, but no one will be surprised if it does. A small country sandwiched between shattered Syria and dynamic Israel, Lebanon is in failing economic health. Among the symptoms: Rising debt, spiraling inflation, soaring unemployment, falling foreign currency reserves and an eroding Lebanese pound.

Electricity and water do not flow reliably. The country’s hospitals are short on funds for salaries and medical supplies.

This month, for the first time, Lebanon failed to repay a $1.2 billion Eurobond. “How can we pay the creditors while there are people in the streets without the money to buy a loaf of bread?” asked Prime Minister Hassan Diab. About 40 percent of Lebanese are now poor. That could soon rise to 50 percent, according to the World Bank.

Lebanon might not be in such terrible shape today were it not infected by Hezbollah, the disease-causing agent of the Islamic Republic of Iran.

In the early 1980s, Iran’s rulers created Hezbollah, providing funding and 1,500 Revolutionary Guards to train fighters for the “Party of God.” Hezbollah’s power has been growing ever since. It’s appetite for blood-letting has remained constant. I’ll mention just a few instances.

In 1983, on orders from Tehran, Hezbollah bombed the U.S. Embassy and U.S. Marine barracks in Beirut, killing 258 Americans.

In the 1990s, Hezbollah, again instructed by Tehran, bombed Jewish targets in Argentina. Hezbollah operatives have boasted about it.

In 2005, Hezbollah used 2,200 tons of TNT to assassinate former Lebanese Prime Minister Rafic Hariri along with 21 others traveling in his motorcade in Beirut. A U.N. Special Tribunal confirmed that conclusion.
The Tikvah Podcast: Richard Goldberg on the Future of Iran Policy
Over the past two decades, the Islamic Republic of Iran has financed terrorism, civil war, and repression throughout the Middle East—and even in Europe and Latin America—while working to develop nuclear weapons. What can the U.S. do to pressure Iran to stop? And how can it do so without involving American forces in a costly and dangerous military confrontation?

In this episode of the Tikvah Podcast, we are joined by Richard Goldberg, a senior advisor to the Foundation for Defense of Democracies (FDD). He looks at the future America’s Iran policy, and focuses in particular on one tool in the American arsenal: economic sanctions. Goldberg and our guest host, Tikvah alumna Talia Katz, discuss how the Trump administration’s sanctions build on the foundations laid by previous administrations and how President Trump’s approach differs from that of his predecessor.

For an overview statement of Goldberg’s ideas, you can have a look at his January 24 New York Times essay, “Trump Has an Iran Strategy. This Is It.”

One more note: this podcast was recorded prior to the massive disruptions caused by the spread of COVID-19 throughout the world, and especially in Iran. We’ll be releasing another podcast on that subject in the next few weeks.

We have lots of ideas, but we need more resources to be even more effective. Please donate today to help get the message out and to help defend Israel.


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


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