Saturday, December 05, 2020

12/05 Links: The Time Is Now for Saudi Arabia To Normalize Relations With Israel; ‘Israel has tape of slain Iran nuke chief talking about building five warheads’

From Ian:

Richard Goldberg: The Time Is Now for Saudi Arabia To Normalize Relations With Israel
Here's a news flash for Saudi Arabia: Presumptive President-elect Joe Biden is looking to fundamentally restructure the U.S.-Saudi relationship. The only way for Riyadh to stop what's coming might be to normalize relations with Israel right now.

Biden's nominee for secretary of state, Tony Blinken, reportedly held regular calls with far-left foreign policy activists during the presidential campaign and expressed an openness to cutting off arms sales to Saudi Arabia. In an interview shortly before the election, Blinken announced that a Biden administration would "undertake a strategic review of our bilateral relationship with Saudi Arabia to make sure that it is truly advancing our interests and is consistent with our values." Translation for Riyadh: Buckle up for a rough ride.

Absent a seismic shift—like a normalization agreement with Israel—the Saudis should prepare for the worst. Congress has the votes to send a bill to the president's desk to halt U.S. arms sales to the kingdom. Such a bill passed the Senate just last year, when Republicans held a wider margin than they will in 2021—and before the kingdom angered a number of oil state Republicans by crashing the price of oil and pummeling the U.S. energy industry. This time around, when that same bill reaches the Oval Office, there will be nobody to veto it.

The incoming State Department brass will also likely reopen an investigation into the 2018 killing of journalist Jamal Khashoggi at the Saudi consulate in Istanbul to determine whether U.S. human rights sanctions should be imposed on Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman, or "MbS," as he is known. To preserve the bilateral relationship, the Trump administration shielded MbS from direct sanctions retribution in 2019—a decision likely to be reversed in a Biden administration.

Against the backdrop of a complete reset in U.S.-Saudi relations, President-elect Joe Biden is also making it clear that he will press for a full re-entry into the Iran nuclear deal without any preconditions. He could very well turn back the clock four years and flood the Islamic Republic with billions of dollars in sanctions relief, which would enable Tehran to recapitalize both its Revolutionary Guard and its sprawling terror operations throughout the Middle East. Biden could renew American support for the enrichment of uranium on Iranian soil and acquiesce to the expiration of international restrictions on transferring advanced arms to the mullahs.
Seth Frantzman: Saudi Arabia at Bahrain conference: Normalization with Israel possibility
Saudi Arabia said it remains open to fully normalize ties with Israel and join the Abraham Accords. According Saudi Arabia Foreign Minister Prince Faisal bin Farhan it was critically important to get Palestinians and Israelis back to the negotiating table that delivers a Palestinian state within the “lines that are globally understood to eventually constitute a Palestinian state.” The remarks were made at the International Institute for Strategic Studies Manama Dialogue Conference which is taking place from December 4 to 6.

Saudi Arabia’s foreign minister says that Palestinian statehood would deliver peace and noted the King Fahad peace initiative at Fez in 1982 and 2002 Saudi plans have suggested full normalization in the past with Israel. “Israel will take its place in the region but in order for that too happen and for that to be sustainable we need for the Palestinians to get their state and settle that situation.”

The remarks were made at the annual and important conference that is held in Bahrain. The conference took place this year at the Ritz Carlton in Manama. Israel participated openly for the first time with several participants and press releases from the conference said Foreign Minister Gabi Ashkenazi was scheduled to address the event virtually.

According to Al-Arabiya the remarks by the foreign minister are part of the speculation that Saudi Arabia could follow the United Arab Emirates and Bahrain to join the Abraham Accords. In November reports indicated that Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu travelled to Saudi Arabia, although Riyadh denied he met the Crown Prince. Saudi Arabia is seeking to repair its image in Washington with the incoming administration of President-elect Joe Biden. It has also hinted that it may be open to some mending of fences with Turkey and Qatar. Turkey and Qatar are allies and Saudi Arabia led other Gulf states to break relations with Doha in 2017. Turkey sent troops to Qatar. Turkey has been openly opposed to Saudi Arabia and Qatar has used its media to try to undermine global support for Riyadh.
Jonathan S. Tobin: Biden makes the Netanyahu-Gantz divorce necessary
This isn’t what Israelis want to hear right now, but it’s nonetheless true. They need to hold another election. The prospect of a new administration in Washington is cause for concern, even if it may not prove to be the end of the world. But the challenge that this will pose requires Jerusalem to speak with one voice.

An Israeli government with the prime minister’s office at odds with both the defense and foreign ministries is a luxury the Jewish state might have been able to afford as long as President Donald Trump was in the White House, and the U.S.-Israel relationship was one rooted in close cooperation and a common vision about strategic issues. But with President-elect Joe Biden about to take office with a foreign-policy team committed to the failed Middle East policies of the Obama administration, Israel’s margin for error is about to be reduced. Even if that means that Israelis must suffer through the agony of a fourth election inside of two years, a divorce between unity government partners Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and Defense Minister Benny Gantz has become a necessity.

After having held three inconclusive elections inside of a year, yet another trip to the ballot box would seem to be the last thing the Jewish state needs. In April and September of 2019, and then again in March of this year, Israelis headed to the polls to elect a Knesset. Each time resulted in a stalemate with neither Netanyahu nor his chief rival—Blue and White Party leader Gantz—able to muster a majority.

The standoff finally ended in April of this year, when Gantz split his party by joining a unity government with Netanyahu. Doing so made no political sense for him since the only point of Blue and White was to topple the prime minister rather than to enact different policies. Indeed, on all of the important war and peace issues, Gantz tried to run to the right of Netanyahu. But realizing the futility of the continued stalemate and responding patriotically to the crisis that the coronavirus pandemic presented to the nation, he decided that throwing in with his nemesis was the right thing to do.

Trump should let the Quartet die with James Wolfensohn
James Wolfensohn, the former president of the World Bank Group, passed away on Nov. 15, and in the conclusion of his obituary, The New York Times quoted his “mission impossible” quip about his envoy experience with the Quartet on the Middle East.

“The Middle East turned out to be my mission impossible,” claimed Wolfensohn. He was tasked with working on Israel’s so-called disengagement from the Gaza Strip.

During the ill-fated disengagement, American Jewish donors bought more than 3,000 successful greenhouses from Israeli owners expelled from Gaza, to ensure their being left there intact, at a cost of $14 million, and transferred them to the Palestinian Authority. Former World Bank President James Wolfensohn, who brokered the deal, put up $500,000 of his own cash in hopes of helping Gazans set up their economy. Within days, Palestinian Arabs, including Gazan police, looted the greenhouses, walking off with the computers, irrigation hoses, water pumps, plastic sheeting and more, making them unusable.

Former British Prime Minister Tony Blair would succeed Wolfensohn in leading the Quartet and be the last leader of the Quartet to have any gravitas on the world stage.

The Quartet has outlived both the involvement of Wolfensohn and Blair, who ended his own involvement with his 2015 resignation and now has outlived Wolfensohn himself. But it has also quite literally outlived its usefulness, if it ever had any at all.

It’s almost never in the news, and yet still exists and still has U.S. involvement. As a reminder, the Quartet was established in Madrid in 2002 and is comprised of the United Nations, the European Union, the United States and Russia, according to its website.

A review of the Quartet’s website is instructive in examining just what’s wrong with the body. Its failures—and they are plentiful—stem from its entire approach to Israel.
The Classicist with Victor Davis Hanson: The Case for a Cynical Biden Foreign Policy
Victor Davis Hanson describes the foreign policy challenges facing the incoming Biden Administration, analyzes the makeup of the incoming national security team, and prescribes a formula for the new president’s success in international affairs: change the rhetoric, not the policies.
Transforming trauma: How Jewish voices from Iran and Arab lands can be a bridge for peace
With just the clothes on their backs and a few belongings hurriedly thrown into a sack, thousands of Jewish families were forced to flee from their homes after the declaration of the Jewish state on May 14, 1948.

This week marks the anniversary of this demographic shift and human tragedy. In 2014, the Knesset adopted a law that designates Nov. 30 as an annual, national day of commemoration for the 850,000 Middle East and North African Jewish refugees who were expelled from Muslim and Arab countries more than 70 years ago.

Israeli parliamentarian Knesset member Michal Cotler-Wunsh of the Blue and White Party hosted an online conference on Monday that brought together a group of activists to share their experiences and thoughts on how to further the cause of these refugees and their descendants.

A common thread among all of the speakers was that Mizrahi Jews—both the refugees and their descendants—can play a particular role in furthering Israel’s relationship with Arab and Muslim countries.

Cotler-Wunsh is the daughter of Irwin Cotler, Canada’s former Justice Minister and the founder and chair of the Raoul Wallenberg Centre for Human Rights. She also has Iraqi grandparents, whom she said shaped a big part of her identity and political and legal understanding of the Jewish refugee issue.

She emphasized the need to bring this issue to the fore, especially now when the Abraham Accords have brought Israel even closer with Arab states in the Gulf.

“The acknowledgment of Israel’s right to exist and the imperative to recognize the legitimacy of Israel to exist as Jewish and democratic is paramount in order to create negotiation and ultimately peace,” she said.

“With it, of course, we bring the opportunity we seek in the United Arab Emirates and Bahrain in teaching tolerance, engaging people to people; this is an incredible opportunity,” she continued. “When I speak of a bridge for peace, I think of the shared values the Abraham Accords signify by their very name. The focus on all that binds us together, rather than what separates us, and the opportunity for the power of moderation.”

According to Israel’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs, “Jews had lived in the Arab lands for thousands of years, and many of their communities preceded the advent of Islam and Christianity. But with the rise of Arab nationalism and the conflict in British Mandate Palestine, the new Arab regimes began a campaign of massive violations of the rights of their Jewish citizens. Arab states expropriated the property of their native Jews, and denaturalized, expelled, arrested, tortured and murdered many of them.”
Seth Frantzman: Israel's new Gulf relations give Biden's team a new Middle East hub
November became a turning point for Israel’s new ties with Gulf states. It began with Secretary of State Mike Pompeo announcing a $23 billion deal that included advanced F-35 warplanes and drones for the United Arab Emirates (UAE), and ended with important delegations from Bahrain to Israel. Together, these bookends represent just two facets of multifaceted diplomatic relations. The new ties that the Trump administration helped broker among Israel, the UAE and Bahrain were part of a push for normalization and peace, but they are rapidly growing into a relationship with cultural, trade and academic ties and ramifications for strategic defense concerns.

In retrospect, it seems natural that the real symbol of new Israel-Gulf ties would not be in the hard politics of diplomacy, but rather in trade. Tel Aviv, the city that always seems to have a new tower under construction along the main Ayalon freeway when I visit, and Dubai are perfectly placed to plug in to one another. Both are centers of trade and commerce, and only COVID-19 has set them back from setting new record years of growth.

Speaking at a recent first Israel-Dubai conference, Israeli President Reuven Rivlin said on Nov. 25 that “this is not something I was sure I would see in my lifetime.” Rivlin met with a delegation from Bahrain’s King Hamad Global Center for Peaceful Coexistence the next day, and he has invited the King of Bahrain for a visit.

It’s difficult to keep track of all the visits taking place and the new academic partnerships, hi-tech initiatives and first flights plying their way between the UAE and Israel. This hive of activity comes despite the pandemic that has slowed down basically everything else. It is evidence of how quickly these countries want to move to cement their new relationship. This is in contrast to the usually cold peace that exists between Israel, Egypt and Jordan, where there are almost never major public visits or people-to-people meetings.

The resulting ties appear to present the incoming U.S. administration with a robust new hub in the Middle East that links Israel, the UAE and Bahrain. This is important because Washington’s strategic footprint in the Middle East is already anchored in Israel and the Gulf. The U.S. has bases in the UAE, Bahrain and Qatar. In Israel, the U.S. role is different; instead of having major bases, the U.S. is closely linked to Israel in other ways, such as the Iron Dome air defense system and Trophy tank defense system that the U.S. Army has acquired. The potential F-35 sales to the UAE would make it the second country in the region to fly the advanced plane. So far, only Israel uses the American aircraft in the Middle East.
Seth Frantzman: Oman and Jordan push peace, regional stability at Bahrain conference
Jordan’s Minister of Foreign Affairs Ayman Safadi said that Jordan has paid attention to the recent Abraham Accords and that in the Jordanian view “success very much depends on what Israel does next.”

Israel and the new peace agreements with Bahrain and the United Arab Emirates were a central point of discussion by Middle East foreign ministers who attended the International Institute for Strategic Studies Manama Dialogue Conference which is taking place from December 4 to 6.

Saudi Arabia’s Foreign Minister Prince Faisal bin Farhan said the Kingdom was open to normalization with Israel if a Palestinian State was created based on the 2002 Saudi peace initiative. Jordan indicated that Israel should show flexibility and willingness to embrace these discussions about peace. This shows that across the region many countries want Israel to do something in exchange for the recent peace deals. The UAE said that it went forward with normalization because it wanted to prevent annexation. Abu Dhabi has also indicated in a recent interview with Jamal al-Musharakh, director of the UAE Foreign Affairs and International Cooperation Ministry’s Policy Planning Department. He said that it was important to see progress on the Palestinian issue.

The IISS Manama Dialogue conference is an important forum for gathering Middle East officials, diplomats and opinion makers, as well as people from across the world, to discuss global and regional problems. The conference took place this year at the Ritz Carlton in Manama. The hotel is the first to offer kosher cuisine in Bahrain. Israelis also participated at the conference this year. US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo address the confab virtually on Friday. Israel’s Foreign Minister Gabi Ashkenazi is scheduled to speak. Saturday included important discussions, some of which focused on Israel. This shows how much Israel has become less of a taboo subject in the region since the 2018 Manama conference. That year’s event came after Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu made a surprise visit too Oman. Oman has pushed for more acceptance of Israel. Oman also works closely with Iran, which makes it interesting. Meanwhile Kuwait is pushing to end the Gulf crises between Qatar and Saudi Arabia and Trump administration insider Jared Kushner was recently in Doha.
Saudi Arabia says end to years-long boycott of Qatar is ‘in reach’
Saudi Arabia’s top diplomat said Friday that an end to the years-long boycott of Qatar by Saudi Arabia and three other Arab nations “looks in reach” for all involved, though he offered no details on how this feud would be resolved.

The remarks by Saudi Prince Faisal bin Farhan followed comments earlier in the day from Kuwait, which has been mediating in the dispute and which said that ongoing talks over the crisis have been “fruitful.”

Resolving the dispute could restore calm among nations at the heart of American defense strategy in the Middle East, especially as tensions remain high with Iran and as US President-elect Joe Biden is poised to enter the White House next month.

However, the other three nations boycotting Qatar — Bahrain, Egypt and the United Arab Emirates — did not immediately acknowledge this burst of optimism. Over a year ago, a similar hope for an end to the dispute quickly faded.

The boycott has torn apart the typically clubby Gulf Cooperation Council, a six-nation group comprised of Bahrain, Kuwait, Oman, Qatar, Saudi Arabia and the UAE.

Qatar, an energy-rich nation that is scheduled to host the 2022 FIFA World Cup, has seen its state-run Qatar Airways blocked from the boycotting nations’ airspace and its only land border to Saudi Arabia shut over the crisis.

Speaking to Italy’s annual Mediterranean Dialogues, Prince Faisal, who is also the kingdom’s foreign minister, said: “We’ve made significant progress in the last few days.” He thanked Kuwait and US President Donald Trump by name.

France charges suspect in deadly 1982 terror attack on Paris Jewish restaurant
A suspect in a 1982 terror attack on a Jewish neighborhood in Paris that killed six people was on Saturday charged and remanded in custody by French authorities after his extradition from Norway, judicial sources said.

Walid Abdulrahman Abu Zayed was charged with murder and attempted murder by a Paris magistrate specializing in terror crimes, said a judicial source, who asked not to be named.

He had appeared before the magistrate after arriving late Friday at Paris’ Charles de Gaulle airport from Oslo, where he had been living since 1991.

Abu Zayed was arrested in September in the town of Skien southwest of Oslo and Norway approved his extradition on November 27.

The bombing of a Jewish restaurant in the Marais area of the French capital, which also injured 22 on August 9, 1982, has been attributed to the Abu Nidal Organization, which splintered from the militant Palestinian Fatah group.
Hezbollah claims to fly drone into Israel undetected, film border bases
Lebanese terror group Hezbollah on Friday claimed to have flown a drone into Israel and filmed two military bases near the border.

Hezbollah’s television channel al-Manar said the aerial video was filmed during the “Lethal Arrow” drill held by the Israel Defense Forces in October, which included a simulation of a war in the north against the terror group.

The drone returned to Lebanon without being exposed, Hezbollah claimed.

The bases identified in the video appeared to be the Biranit camp near the border and a military outpost in the Har Dov area.

There was no response from the IDF regarding either the video or Hezbollah’s claims about the drone.

Last month, the IDF said it downed a drone operated by Hezbollah after it entered Israeli airspace. The military said it tracked the drone “throughout the incident” and that it didn’t pose a danger to troops or nearby communities.

There were no details about the drone and whether it was armed or carrying surveillance devices.

Israeli medical delegation enters Gaza to provide essential COVID-19 care
A delegation of Israeli doctors entered the Gaza Strip on Thursday morning to provide free treatment for hundreds of Gazans impacted by the coronavirus pandemic.

The medical delegation — organized by Physicians for Human Rights – Israel — is the first of its kind from Israel to the coastal enclave since the beginning of the pandemic nine months ago.

The twelve doctors, all of whom are Israeli Arabs, will conduct surgeries, medical training, and instruction for Palestinian medical teams, the rights group said.

The delegation will bring some medical equipment and drugs with which to help combat the pandemic. But the doctors’ chief focus will be on other urgent cases that have been delayed as Gaza’s hospitals have filled with coronavirus patients.

The delegation includes senior doctors, orthopedists, neurologists, heart surgeons, and mental health experts, according to PHRI. The doctors have also opened a mobile medical facility in the southern Gaza town of Khan Younis to accept patients.

“The treatments will not deal with coronavirus, but rather with the chronically ill and other emergency cases whose treatment has been delayed because of coronavirus,” said Ran Yaron, a spokesperson for PHRI.
‘Israel has tape of slain Iran nuke chief talking about building five warheads’
Israel intelligence managed to recruit an Iranian official close to the recently assassinated Mohsen Fakhrizadeh and recorded the nuclear scientist speaking about his efforts to produce “five warheads” on behalf of the Islamic Republic, according to a Friday report in the Yedioth Ahronoth daily.

This top-secret recording was played in 2008 by former prime minister Ehud Olmert for then-president George W. Bush during a visit by Bush to Israel and was a key element in convincing the Americans to step up efforts to combat Iran’s nuclear program, the report said.

The report quoted several unnamed Israeli and Middle Eastern intelligence officials, along with recollections from former prime minister Ehud Barak, who was then serving as Olmert’s defense minister.

It said Olmert was so concerned about safeguarding the source of the recording that he refused to play it while anyone else was in the room, including Bush’s national security adviser Stephen Hadley.

Fakhrizadeh, the scientist said by Israel and the US to head Iran’s rogue nuclear weapons program, was killed in a military-style ambush last Friday on the outskirts of Tehran. The attack reportedly saw a truck bomb explode and gunmen open fire on Fakhrizadeh.
Iran’s Zarif says nuclear deal ‘will never be renegotiated,’ rules out new talks
Iranian Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif said Thursday his country won’t agree to renegotiate elements of the international accord limiting its nuclear program, as US President-elect Joe Biden says he’ll reenter the deal if Tehran returns to full compliance.

“It will never be renegotiated. Period,” Zarif told a conference in Italy, speaking remotely.

He said Iran won’t agree to any curbs on its missile program or backing of regional proxies unless Western countries stop their “malign behavior” in the Middle East.

“As long as they’re not able to put up, they have to shut up,” Zarif said.

Meanwhile, Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu doubled down on his stance that Biden’s plan to re-enter the nuclear deal would be misguided.

“It’s a mistake to go back to the JCPOA. You shouldn’t go back to that flawed agreement,” he said in a televised interview with the DC-based Hudson Institute’s Michael Doran.

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu at a news conference in Jerusalem, November 19, 2020. (AP Photo/Maya Alleruzzo, Pool)

Netanyahu said the deal is what gave Iran the funds to establish itself in Syria and Iraq as well as fund proxies around the region.

Asked by Doran whether he was worried of the US pulling out of the Middle East with recently announced troop withdrawals, the premier responded: “Yes of course. I think it would be a great misfortune for us but also for the United States. For us and our newfound Arab allies. We have peace breaking out now and I think the United States has a vested interest to expand that peace.”
Iranian panel okays bill to end UN nuclear inspections, increase enrichment
A key Iranian panel on Wednesday signed off on a bill to suspend UN inspections and boost uranium enrichment, sending it to Iran’s President Hassan Rouhani, who opposes the measure.

Iranian state TV says the constitutional watchdog, the Guardian Council, approved the bill and formally sent it to Rouhani who now has five working days to officially sign off on a bill to make it executable.

Rouhani earlier on Wednesday expressed his opposition to the bill approved by parliament the previous day, saying it would be “harmful” to diplomatic efforts aimed at restoring the 2015 nuclear deal and easing US sanctions.

The tug-of-war over the bill, which gained momentum after the killing of a prominent Iranian nuclear scientist last month, reflects the rivalry between Rouhani, a relative moderate, and hard-line lawmakers who dominate parliament and favor a more confrontational approach to the West.

The bill would suspend UN inspections and require the government to resume enriching uranium to 20% if European nations fail to provide relief from crippling US sanctions on the country’s oil and banking sectors. That level falls short of the threshold needed for nuclear weapons but is higher than that required for civilian purposes.

Speaking at a cabinet meeting, Rouhani said his administration, “does not agree with that and considers it harmful for the trend of diplomatic activities.” He implied the lawmakers were positioning themselves ahead of elections planned for June.

“Today, we are more powerful in the nuclear field than at any other time,” he added.
Germany Wants Broader Iran Nuclear Deal: Foreign Minister
Germany said Friday that a new broader Iran nuclear accord must be reached to also rein in Tehran's ballistic missile programme, warning that the 2015 deal was no longer enough.

"A form of 'nuclear agreement plus' is needed, which also lies in our interest," German Foreign Minister Heiko Maas, whose country currently holds the EU presidency, told Spiegel magazine in an interview.

"We have clear expectations for Iran: no nuclear weapons, but also no ballistic rocket programme which threatens the whole region. Iran must also play another role in the region."

"We need this accord because we distrust Iran," he added.

The 2015 nuclear deal -- known formally as the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action, or JCPOA -- gave Iran relief from sanctions in return for curbs on its nuclear programme.

The European Union and the United States were key signatories in the deal, but US President Donald Trump unilaterally withdrew from the accord in 2018 and has reimposed crippling sanctions on Tehran as part of a "maximum pressure" campaign.
Saudi FM: Biden must consult Gulf states on rejoining Iran nuclear deal
The Gulf states must be consulted if a US nuclear accord with Iran is revived, Saudi Arabia’s top diplomat said Saturday, warning it is the only path towards a sustainable agreement.

US President-elect Joe Biden has signaled he will return the United States to a nuclear accord with Iran and that he still backs the 2015 deal negotiated under Barack Obama, from which Donald Trump withdrew.

A return to the agreement, known formally as the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA), would delight US allies in Europe, but concern the Gulf states, who have criticized US engagement with Tehran.

Biden has indicated he will bring Iran’s US-allied Arab neighbors, such as Saudi Arabia, which sees Iran as its arch-rival, into the process.

“Primarily what we expect is that we are fully consulted, that we and our other regional friends are fully consulted in what goes on vis a vis the negotiations with Iran,” Saudi Foreign Minister Prince Faisal bin Farhan told AFP.

“The only way towards reaching an agreement that is sustainable is through such consultation,” he said on the sidelines of a security conference in Bahrain’s Manama.

“I think we’ve seen as a result of the after-effects of the JCPOA that not involving the regional countries results in a build up of mistrust and neglect of the issues of real concern and of real effect on regional security.”

Did Cuomo and De Blasio learn anything from the SCOTUS decision?
The worst thing you can say about Governor Andrew Cuomo and Mayor Bill de Blasio is that despite having aides who are members of the Jewish community, at the end of the day, they just do not understand the mechanics and complexities of what makes us tick.

It is an extreme simplification to say that either or both of them have picked on or specifically targeted the Orthodox Jewish community for discriminatory treatment — in particular when it comes to their arbitrary policies on whether or when our shuls and yeshivas should be closed due to the pandemic numbers.

Another critical thing you might be able to say about them is that they fail to grasp the relationship between observant Jews and their shul or their children’s yeshiva.

However, one thing you really can’t say is that they are indulging in antisemitic behavior. They are not antisemitic. They are not too sharp or smart about the matter, but are they Jew haters? Absolutely not. Do their actions make it look like they are indulging in anti-Semitic behavior? Yes. Are they aware of it? I don’t think so.

These leaders of areas of the United States that have such a dense Jewish population should be more sensitive to the history of persecution that is in the collective memory of so many Jewish families. According to the ADL, last year 22% of all bias attacks targeted Jews, while we are just about 2.7% of the American Jewish population. In 2019, there was an increase of 56% in bias attacks on Jews and Jewish institutions. Certainly, the governor and the mayor singling out the Orthodox Jewish community for criticism contributed to that increase.

Last week, after a contentious and frustrating half-year in which our shuls and yeshivas, along with other religious institutions, were often arbitrarily singled out and ordered shut, the U.S. Supreme Court finally weighed in and effectively chided the governor for his audacious and foolhardy behavior in this area.

Rashida Tlaib condemns death of Palestinian child by IDF near Ramallah
Ali Abu Alia, a teenage Palestinian from the West Bank, was shot and killed by the IDF on Friday, leading to international denunciation, including from US Congresswoman Rep. Rashida Tlaib.

Tlaib is a Palestinian-American politician who has faced accusations of antisemitism in the past and is known as a fierce critic of Israel and supporter of the Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions (BDS) movement.

Abu Alia's untimely death on Friday has drawn criticism and international attention, with Tlaib sharing Abu Alia's picture and story in a tweet and writing: "No child deserves to die like this."

Abu Alia attended a protest in the village of Al-Mughayyir near Ramallah on Friday. The protest was organized after plans were made to establish a new Jewish settlement in the area. The protest quickly turned into a violent confrontation between protesters and IDF troops, despite the fact that the protest was not held anywhere near the planned settlement, protesters told Haaretz.
Kanye West Campaign Gives $100K to Anti-Israel Rapper
Kanye West's failed 2020 presidential campaign disbursed $100,000 to a rapper known for his hostility to Israel, according to Federal Election Commission filings.

West's campaign spent the money on "communications consulting" from Lavonne Alford, also known under his rapper name M-1, who is one half of the popular duo Dead Prez. It is unclear how Alford's services were used in late October, when the payment was made. West no longer has a press secretary, and sources close to his campaign said they were unaware of Alford's role.

Alford is a pro-Palestinian activist, raising the cause in his music and other work.

Following a 2011 trip to the Palestinian West Bank territories, Alford decried the "unsanctioned settlements that have been thieved under the hands of the Israel military state," according to an interview with the San Francisco Bay View National Black Paper. He also criticized U.S. security aid to Israel and dismissed concerns about Palestinian terrorists launching missiles at Israeli civilians.

"Now if you count the bombs that may have come from Hamas side, it would equal how many people die from peanut butter allergies in Israel every year," he said.

He also promoted unfounded claims the United States and Israel attack Palestinians with "depleted uranium," claiming it has led to "deformity and almost irreparable land destruction."

Alford also praised Palestinian terrorist Leila Khaled, the first female Palestinian airplane hijacker, who continues to promote violence against Israel.

Telegraph quotes fringe Jewish anti-Zionist group on Yad Vashem row
Earlier today, we complained to Telegraph editors over the decision by their Beirut-based Middle East correspondent Campbell MacDiarmid to quote the anti-Zionist Jewish group ‘Jewish Voice for Peace’ (JVP) in an article about Israel’s Holocaust museum, Yad Vashem.

The article (Israel nominates controversial right-wing figure to head Holocaust memorial, Nov. 29) focused on the row concerning the nomination of Effie Eitam to lead the venerable institution.

Though the MacDiarmid correctly reports that the nomination of Eitam, a retired brigadier general and former politician who once called for the expulsion of Palestinians, has sparked outrage in Israel and the wider Jewish world, the introduction of JVP – the sole Jewish organisation mentioned – in the following sentences is, we argued, extraordinarily misleading and highly inappropriate:
Jewish Voice for Peace, an American activist organisation, called his nomination “sickening”.

“We are appalled at the repeated desecration, distortion, and instrumentalisation of Holocaust memory to support the violent actions and words of people like Effie Eitam,” the group wrote.

As CAMERA has demonsrated, JVP is an extremely marginal, US-based anti-Zionist group which promotes BDS, praises terrorists who’ve carried out deadly attacks, employs antisemitic tropes and even blamed Israel and American Jewish groups for racism and police brutality in the US.
US Supreme Court to decide whether disputed Nazi art case stays in America
Jed Leiber was an adult before he learned that his family was once part-owner of a collection of centuries-old religious artworks now said to be worth at least $250 million.

Over a steak dinner at a New York City restaurant in the 1990s he had asked his mother about his grandfather, a prominent art dealer who fled Germany after Adolf Hitler came to power. “What was grandpa most proud of in his business?” he asked.

“He was very, very proud to have acquired the Guelph Treasure, and then was forced to sell it to the Nazis,” she told him.

That conversation set Leiber, of West Hollywood, California, on a decades-long mission to reclaim some 40 pieces of the Guelph Treasure on display in a Berlin museum. It’s a pursuit that has now landed him at the US Supreme Court, in a case to be argued Monday.

For centuries, the collection, called the Welfenschatz in German, was owned by German royalty. It includes elaborate containers used to store Christian relics; small, intricate altars and ornate crosses. Many are silver or gold and decorated with gems.

In 2015, Leiber’s quest for the collection led to a lawsuit against Germany and the Prussian Cultural Heritage Foundation. The state-run foundation owns the collection and runs Berlin’s Museum of Decorative Arts, where the collection is housed. Germany and the foundation asked the trial-level court to dismiss the suit, but the court declined. An appeals court also kept the suit alive.

Top English Soccer Club Under Fire for Not Endorsing International Antisemitism Definition
Top-flight English soccer club Sheffield United took a hammering from British Jewish leaders on Friday, after a UK newspaper reported that its management had not signed up to the definition of antisemitism adopted by the Premier League earlier this week.

According to The Sun, Sheffield United was the only club in the 20-strong Premier League — the elite upper tier of English soccer — not to individually sign up to the International Holocaust Remembrance Alliance (IHRA) working definition of antisemitism.

The IHRA definition explains that antisemitism “is a certain perception of Jews, which may be expressed as hatred toward Jews.” These manifestations can include attacks on Israel’s right to exist alongside more traditional antisemitic tropes. Hundreds of governments, associations and civic organizations across the globe have adopted the definition as the basis of their efforts to counter antisemitism.

In a statement to The Sun, Sheffield United said it “acknowledged” the Premier League’s decision and “supported it as a shareholder.” It did not address speculation that the club’s reluctance to sign up individually to the IHRA definition was linked to the fact that its owner was Prince Abdullah Al Saud, a member of the Saudi royal family.

Jonathan Metliss — founder of Action Against Discrimination, which combats racism, antisemitism and discrimination in English soccer — said that he hoped the club would change its stance.

“Sheffield United and its supporters do not have a history nor record of antisemitism or antisemitic behavior, but it would be better to have them on board,” Metliss noted.

The Board of Deputies of British Jews (BoD) similarly urged Sheffield United to adopt the IHRA definition.
‘Jesus Wins’ spray-painted on synagogue and Holocaust monument in Greece
An unidentified man spray-painted the words “Jesus Wins” in black on the walls of a synagogue in Greece and a nearby Holocaust monument.

The incident Thursday in Larissa, in northern Greece, was reported immediately to police but the man fled before he could be apprehended. Witnesses described the man as middle-aged, and said he was holding up a sign with Christian religious symbols.

Police are looking for the man, the Jewish Community of Larissa reported on its website.

In 1944, Nazi occupation forces rounded up the Jews of Larissa and nearby Trikala and imprisoned them in a military garage. They and the Jews of Ioannina were sent to be murdered at Auschwitz-Birkenau. Only a handful of Larissa Jews survived, according to Yad Vashem, Israel’s Holocaust museum.
Holocaust novel on Dutch rescue of hundreds of Jewish kids slammed for errors
It was meant as an ode to one of the most courageous yet little-known rescue efforts of Jews during the Holocaust.

But a week after its publication, a Dutch-language historical novel is at the heart of a controversy over whether the author twisted the historical record in ways that risk distorting public understanding of the genocide.

Critics say “The Nursery,” which is based on a daring rescue operation to smuggle hundreds of Jewish children out of Amsterdam and describes itself on its cover as a “real-life story,” contains dozens of historical inaccuracies. Chief among them is its description of the Jewish Council, a body created by the Nazis to assist in the murder of Dutch Jews but the book describes as an organization established to “make Jews strong together.”

Esther Gobel, a staffer at the National Holocaust Museum of the Netherlands and the author of several nonfiction books on the Holocaust, termed that mistake “just awful” in an interview published Thursday in the Het Parool daily.

“The Jewish Council was set up by the Nazis as a tool to carry out anti-Jewish measures,” Gobel told the newspaper.

Gobel said she welcomed the effort to expose new audiences to the story, “but it needs to happen in the right historical context and accuracy, especially amid rising Holocaust denial and anti-Semitism.”
The Czech arms that saved Israel
One day after the State of Israel was declared on May 14, 1948, a military coalition of Arab countries attacked the new state. David Ben-Gurion had expected the attack, and as the Jews in Mandatory Palestine desperately lacked arms, he had begun to seek them long before the UN November 1947 decision to establish the Jewish and Arab states. An international arms embargo was in force, and the only country willing to sell arms to a nascent Israel was cash-strapped Czechoslovakia, which also offered to train Israeli pilots and other specialists. The first deal between the Yishuv and Czechoslovakia was signed in January 1948 – and it was not cheap.

The Israelis obtained some 400 tons of mortars and other heavy machinery, aerial bombs, rifles, ammunition, machine guns, flamethrowers, explosives, tanks, and combat vehicles from the Czechs. A separate deal promised twenty-four Czech-built Avia S-199 fighters, a lesser version of the German Messerschmitt. After his first flight, Lou Lenart, an American fighter pilot and volunteer, said the plane was “the worst piece of crap I have ever flown.”

The first Israeli pilots and foreign volunteers arrived in Czechoslovakia before the Arab invasion, on May 11, 1948. The training was far from over when the War of Independence broke out; the fighter planes had to be hastily disassembled, sent to Israel, and reassembled.

In late May, the “Sakinim,” as the Israelis dubbed the Czech Messerschmitt, saved Tel Aviv. Six thousand Egyptian troops were advancing on the city when pilots Lou Lenart, Ezer Weizman, Modi Alon, and Eddie Cohen took off in their “Sakinim” and bombed the invaders. They inflicted only minimal damage but caused an enormous shock – the Egyptians had no idea that Israel had an air force. The Jewish ground troops attacked them, and Egypt withdrew. By the fall, Czechoslovakia also offered its World War II-surplus Spitfires and sold 61 fighters to Israel. In the end, the Israelis stopped the enemy.
Gal Gadot signs 8-figure deal to star in Heart of Stone
Gal Gadot has signed an eight-figure deal to star in the upcoming spy thriller, Heart of Stone, the website Deadline reported late last week.

This payday puts her at the top end of the pay scale for Hollywood actresses and it is reportedly for even more money than the $10 million she was paid for Wonder Woman 1984, the follow up to Wonder Woman, and the $20 million she received for the Netflix film, Red Notice, with Dwayne Johnson and Ryan Reynolds, which just finished shooting after a pandemic-induced delay.

The Israeli actress has moved up through the star ranks since she received a mere $300,000 to star in the first Wonder Woman movie.

According to Deadline, the movie will be the first in a series that will put a “female spin” on such action franchises as Mission: Impossible and the James Bond films. Heart of Stone will be produced by Skydance Media, with Gadot and her husband, Jaron Varsano, also producing through their Pilot Wave production company.

Daveed Diggs releases ‘Puppy for Hanukkah’ song
There’s a long history of Jewish artists releasing parody songs for Hanukkah, but this year’s most catchy addition to the holiday canon may be Daveed Diggs’ new rap, “Puppy for Hanukkah.”

The song — about a kid hoping to receive a puppy as a present — is set against a klezmer-style clarinet melody and includes a recitation of the blessing over the menorah.

“I don’t know what it means but I learned it phonetic,” Diggs says after reciting the blessing in Hebrew.

Diggs is best known for his starring roles as the Marquis de Lafayette and Thomas Jefferson in the original cast of the megahit musical “Hamilton,” which also premiered in a recorded stage version on Disney+ this summer. Diggs is Jewish and attended Hebrew school as a kid.

“My mom is a white Jewish lady and my dad is black,” Diggs told in 2015. “The cultures never seemed separate — I had a lot of mixed friends. When I was young, I identified with being Jewish, but I embraced my dad’s side, too.”

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