Saturday, December 26, 2020

From Ian:

Normalizing with Israel, Arab states look to gain powerful ally in Washington
Israel’s perceived muscle in Washington’s halls of power was already legion in some circles before the Trump administration’s transactional approach to international relations put it on steroids. Suddenly arms, support for controversial moves, or other types of backing could be had for the price of normalization with Israel, or even just talks.

A source who served as an adviser to President-elect Joe Biden’s campaign said that Arab state’s understanding of Israeli clout in Washington “is a little exaggerated,” but that the Trump administration “did little to dispel the perception” by tying the United States’ bilateral relations with other countries to the question of Israel normalization.”

David Makovsky, a scholar at the Washington Institute for Near East Policy, said that Arab states realized that the Trump administration’s approach meant that they could get top dollar for normalization, even on matters unconnected to Israel. Plus, by going with Israel, they were “purchasing… political risk insurance [for] a post-Trump era because peace with Israel has broad support.”

Jerusalem wasn’t only happy to come along for the ride, but may have even been in the driver’s seat, lobbying Washington on behalf of Arab states willing to make nice.

According to an Axios report, it was a team of former Israeli officials who first came up with the proposal offering US recognition of Moroccan sovereignty in the disputed territory of Western Sahara in exchange for Rabat agreeing to normalize ties with the Jewish state.

The news site also reported that Israeli officials lobbied their US counterparts in favor of Washington removing Sudan from its blacklist of state terror sponsors in exchange for Khartoum agreeing to establish diplomatic relations with Israel.

Saudi Arabia, which has thus far held off on normalizing with Israel, may also be looking to take advantage of the opportunity to get Israel in its corner, the Arab diplomat who spoke to The Times of Israel speculated.

He referenced recent reports that during Netanyahu’s covert visit to Saudi Arabia last month, Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman pushed the Israeli premier to assist in Riyadh’s efforts to smooth over its ties with Washington, seemingly dangling normalization with the Jewish state in exchange.

However, Makovsky argued that normalization with Israel will not be “a get-out-of-jail-free card because these countries will still have to answer for their [human rights-related] issues.”

“It’s helpful, but not necessarily decisive,” he said, suggesting that Biden would move away from the Trump formula for pushing Arab states to normalize with Israel.
2020: The year Sudan ended its isolation and looked to peace with Israel
For Sudan what was important was being removed from US sanctions and being listed as a country that had hosted or supported terrorists. In the 1990s the US carried out airstrikes against an alleged Al Qaeda linked site in Sudan. IN the last decades there were also accusations of weapons trafficking by Iran and Hamas-affiliates through the country. Hamas is supported by Iran and Turkey’s regime and has roots in the Brotherhood.

“Sudanese circles expect the final peace agreement between Khartoum and Tel Aviv [sic] in Washington to be signed soon, following two military and political visits by Israeli-American delegations to Sudan, which settled the terms of the expected treaty,” the article says. These visits have not been widely reported. The article quoted political analyst Jamil al-Fadil, saying that the transitional authority has taken a bold and courageous step in peace with Israel, given the complications in the internal domestic level. This is “punctuated by disparities resulting from old psychological ideological positions that are outdated and overtaken by the Palestinians themselves.” What this means is unclear although it implies that the old guard of Brotherhood-linked groups oppose the deal.

The analyst believes that Sudan has gone down the right path and it is in line with the reality of the transformations taking place in the region. Of interest the article asserts that this new posture in the region was the result of “the emergence of a new alliance imposed by the Turkish-Iranian expansion in the region.” Sudan was once the site of the Arab League meeting after the 1967 war that put forward the infamous “three nos” against Israel, saying there would be no recognition of Israel. Now that is changing and stability will increase, the article says.

“Political analyst, Hajj Hamad Muhammad Khair, said he believes that the basis of international relations is common interests, so where are they found, the parties will go forward to establish them,” the article notes. Muhammad Khair said, "Sudan and Israel do not have common borders or previous relations, and are now proceeding to establish new relations. Therefore, we commend the steps taken by the transitional government to that end." He added, "The government succeeded in separating the path of the relationship with Israel from the file of removing Sudan from the list of terrorism, and it linked peace with Tel Aviv [sic] with the approval of Parliament. This is a correct way and position." Nevertheless any international agreement needs to be approved by the legislative bodies, in addition because there is an internal law to boycott Israel that needs to be canceled by Parliament. Expectations are that parliament will move to cancel it.

This will complete the “episodes of breaking the international isolation for Khartoum, as it was preceded by a decision to remove the country from the list of countries sponsoring terrorism, as well as the positive interaction of the international community with Sudan following the success of its popular revolution, which in turn contributed in this direction.” Sudan is now on a new path, the article illustrates.
Netanyahu has ‘friendly’ call with king of Morocco, invites him to visit Israel
Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu spoke on the phone with Morocco’s King Mohammed VI on Friday for the first time since the two countries agreed to re-establish diplomatic relations earlier this month.

The two leaders congratulated one another on the agreement brokered by US President Donald Trump, which included the White House agreeing to recognize Moroccan sovereignty over the disputed Western Sahara region.

During the “warm and friendly” conversation, Netanyahu extended an invitation for King Mohammed VI to visit Israel and the two agreed to continue contacts in order to advance the normalization agreement in the weeks ahead, the Prime Minister’s Office said.

“The leaders congratulated each other over the renewal of ties between the countries, the signing of the joint statement with the US, and the agreements between the two countries,” according to the statement from Netanyahu’s office.

“In addition, the processes and mechanisms to implement the agreements were determined,” it added.

The Moroccan king’s royal office issued a statement saying that, in his conversation with Netanyahu, the monarch recalled “the strong and special ties” between the Jewish community in Morocco and the monarchy, and reiterated “the consistent, unwavering and unchanged position of the Kingdom of Morocco on the Palestinian issue and the pioneering role of the kingdom in promoting peace and stability in the Middle East.”

On Wednesday, Morocco’s tourism minister announced that direct flights will begin operating between Israel and Morocco within two or three months.
Moroccan delegation to visit Israel to advance normalization deal
A delegation from Morocco will visit Israel next week to work on advancing diplomatic ties, following the countries’ recent agreement to establish full relations, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said Saturday.

The sides will discuss reopening liaison offices, establishing embassies and launching direct flights between the countries, Netanyahu said in a video statement.

The delegation will touch down in Israel on Sunday, according to the Walla news site.

Seth Frantzman: How Israel, the US combined media, military power to prevent war
Trump’s warning on December 23 was to keep Iran from striking at Americans as the anniversary of Soleimani’s death arrives. Iran has plastered Iraq with martyr posters of Soleimani. Tensions are high. The US has sent the USS Georgia, a large guided-missile submarine, to the region. In November the US sent B-52s back to the Middle East as well.

“WE ARE hearing more and more threats against Israel coming from Iran,” Kochavi said on December 21. He said Iran would pay a heavy price for any attack. Reports said that an Israeli submarine was also on the way toward Iran, through the Suez Canal, as a kind of warning. Tensions between Israel and Iran are similar to the US-Iran tensions.

Israel had carried out 1,000 airstrikes on Iranian targets, according to a January 2019 interview. That was a lot more than in 2016. In 2017 Israel used its Arrow system for the first time to stop an Iranian S-200 missile. In 2018 the David’s Sling was used for the first time. Iran has fired salvos from Syria. Iran tried to move the 3rd Khordad system to Syria in April 2018 and flew a drone into Israeli airspace in February 2018. It has trafficked arms through Iraq to Syria, including ballistic missiles. It has built tunnels at the Imam Ali base in Albukamal.

In addition tensions with Hezbollah have risen. In the fall of 2019, Israel uncovered Hezbollah tunnels, and tensions rose again in July 2020 when Hezbollah claimed Israel killed one of its members in Syria.

Israel has warned Iran, increasingly since December 2018, not to entrench in Syria. Iran hasn’t listened, but it did withdraw dozens of IRGC members from Syria. When Iranian nuclear engineer Mohsen Fakhrizadeh was killed in November, Iran vowed revenge. It also vowed to track down those responsible for July 2020 sabotage in its Natanz nuclear facility.

THIS IS what built up to this week’s messaging from Israel and the US.

Iran doesn’t want a conflict on the eve of the Biden administration. It knows the new US administration has hinted at a return to the Iran deal and engagement with Iran. Tehran has no reason to burn those bridges.

It does want to show it can strike at the US in Iraq. But its foreign ministry and leaders of Iraqi militias, such as Qais Khazali, claim they didn’t attack the US Embassy on Sunday.

This is the dance of messages between Washington, Tehran and Jerusalem. The question is when the music will stop.
Ex-Mossad agent's agency reveals secrets, stories behind undercover ops.
Avner Avraham, former Mossad agent of 28 years, speaker, film consultant, artist and museum curator, was about to pursue his dream of moving to New York when the pandemic suddenly brought the world to a screeching halt. Film premieres, exhibits and speaking engagements he had lined up were suddenly canceled, so he started thinking of what he could do professionally that could come to life virtually. He decided to bring stories of espionage, adventure and inspiration to a homebound audience longing for excitement and escape.

Avraham’s new agency, Spy Legends, is the first-ever company whose focus is on people who work in espionage and undercover intelligence operations. Speakers include former heads of the Israeli National Security Council and Shin Bet (Israel Security Agency), a former deputy Mossad chief, a former FBI special agent, a neo-Nazi turned human rights activist, CIA officers, war-zone experts, and prominent authors, actors, directors and musicians from all over the world.

Sami Steigmann is a Holocaust survivor based in New York who is an integral part of the agency. He is both a speaker and consultant and works tirelessly to keep the website running smoothly on a daily basis.

Avraham is widely known as the chief Mossad consultant for the Hollywood film Operation Finale, starring Ben Kingsley. He curated a highly acclaimed museum exhibit for which the movie is named that features original documents relating to the capture of notorious Nazi and Holocaust organizer Adolf Eichmann. Avraham uncovered this information while working as a Mossad agent. He explains that after a certain number of years have passed, he is permitted to disclose some information about his covert Mossad missions, which up until now have never been revealed to the public. This is why the more than 200 speakers signed to Spy Legends can finally shine a light on parts of their lives previously kept hidden away in the shadows.
Over quarter million Israelis said vaccinated; another 3,994 virus cases found
Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said Saturday he sought to reach a vaccination rate of around 150,000 people a day within a week, and to have inoculated over 2 million Israelis by the end of January.

Though the Health Ministry had yet to issue updated figures after Shabbat, Channel 12 News reported that some 266,000 people had gotten the first of two shots by the end of the first week of Israel’s vaccination push.

Israel has vaccinated some 266,000 people against COVID-19 since kicking off a national vaccination drive this week, Channel 12 News reported Saturday.

At a pace of 150,000 vaccines administered a day, Netanyahu said that within a month 2.25 million Israelis could receive both doses of the vaccine.

He also said he’d spoken over the weekend with the heads of pharmaceutical firms, asking them to increase the pace at which they’re supplying the vaccine in order to allow the increased rate. Netanyahu, who didn’t specify which pharma executives he spoke with, said the officials told him they believed they could do so.

“This is the critical stage… because this is the entire at-risk population: All the medical teams, all the people over 60. Within this stratum is 95 percent of the mortality. Once we finish this stage, within 30 days we can get out of the coronavirus [pandemic], open the economy and do things that no other state can do,” he claimed, echoing an assertion he made Thursday.
Israel hopes to start vaccinating general public in 7-10 days, top official says
Israel aims to begin vaccinating the general public within 7-10 days, a top Health Ministry official said Friday night.

Dr. Sharon Alroy-Preis, the acting head of the Health Ministry’s public health services, told Channel 12 news that the ministry intends to move quickly to vaccinations 24/7, and “we hope in 7-10 days” to start vaccinating the general public.

Over 200,000 Israelis were vaccinated this week — with the focus on healthcare workers, people aged over 60 and at-risk groups — placing Israel second in the world in vaccinations per capita, after Bahrain, according to the University of Oxford-run Our World in Data.

In the course of next week, the ministry aims to reach a daily rate of 100,000 vaccinations, meaning that the vast majority of the population should be vaccinated by the end of March if that rate is maintained. Israeli hospitals are to join the vaccination effort next week, and hundreds of IDF medics will also participate, to help expedite the process.

Asked on Channel 12 whether this meant Israel would essentially have completed its vaccination drive by March 23’s election day, Alroy-Preis carefully avoided a direct answer but stressed that the ministry was doing everything in its power to expedite the arrival of sufficient vaccine doses and to accelerate the inoculation program. The Pfizer vaccines which Israel is using require two doses, three weeks apart.

Alroy-Preis also said vaccinations in elderly care facilities should be largely completed by the end of next week.
Regavim Asking High Court to Repeal Racist Jordanian Law in Judea and Samaria
The Jordanian law banning the sale of lands to non-Arab foreigners, which is currently the accepted law of the land in the liberated territories, is racist and discriminatory, according to a petition the Regavim movement submitted to Israel’s High Court of Justice under the heading “Petition to remove disgrace from the State of Israel, Makor Rishon reported on Friday.

Meanwhile, Yamina MK Bezalel Smotrich, who was among the founders of the Regavim movement, this week rebuked Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu for conducting underhanded deals with his pals in the Southern Islamic Movement to regulate hundreds of illegal Bedouin settlements in the Negev, while leaving in the cold some 70 Jewish settlements in Judea and Samaria.

Regavim is asking the court to order the state to annul the law in its entirety.

According to the petition, the declared aim of the Jordanian “Law no. 40”, legislated by the Hashemite Kingdom in 1953, was to prevent the transfer of lands to non-Arab entities, more specifically – revoke the right of Jews to receive or purchase ownership of lands in the region. The law specifies that, other than current Jordanian citizens, “any foreign person who at one time held a Jordanian or Palestinian citizenship and is of Arab origin is permitted to own real estate.”

After the 1967 liberation of Judea and Samaria, the IDF, which has been the legal sovereign there for more than 50 years, in 1972 issued a decree allowing registered Jewish-owned corporations to purchase land in Judea and Samaria – amending but not annulling the original Jordanian law. As a result, to this day, individual Jews are not permitted to purchase land in Judea and Samaria, only Jewish companies.

“To remove any doubt, the requested remedy of this petition is the erasure of the racist law,” wrote Regavim attorney Boaz Arazi. “We request a clear declaration that there is no room for this law under Israeli rule.”

The plaintiffs are trying to avoid the predictable court response that since Israel has not annexed the territory in question, the court cannot intervene in the jurisdiction of the IDF civil government, as if the IDF is some foreign entity – even though the “I” in IDF stands for “Israel.”
Palestinian suspected of killing Esther Horgen reenacts murder
The detention of the Palestinian suspected of the murder of the late Esther Horgen was extended on Saturday morning in the Jerusalem Magistrate Court.

Before the court extended his detention, the suspect reenacted the murder in front of Shin Bet and police cameras, describing how he threw the stone at Horgen's head.

The Shin Bet is still investigating the motives of the suspect and the circumstances which led to the murder while the local police unit is still investigating, as well, in order to locate aides and accomplices to the murder.

Using technological means, the two bodies are investigating the suspect's conduct in the days before and after the incident. The family members of the suspect were reportedly also among those interrogated.

On Friday morning, IDF forces conducted a mapping of the suspect's house in the small village of Tura. The mapping was done in order to prepare for the house's future demolition.

The head of the Samaria Regional Council, Yossi Dagan, then called on Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu to order the intensification of construction in the Binyamin region in northern Samaria, to expand the settlement of Tal Menashe – where Horgen's family resides – and to establish another settlement to commemorate her memory.
Two rockets fired from Gaza shot down over southern Israel
Two rocket fired from the Gaza Strip on Friday evening were shot down by the Iron Dome anti-missile system. There were no known immediate injuries or damage.

The Israeli military confirmed that the projectiles fired into Israel were intercepted by soldiers operating the air defense system.

Sirens warning of the incoming rockets blared in several southern Israeli communities near Gaza, sending residents into shelters. The Red Alert sirens sounded in Ashkelon, Zikim, Netiv Ha’asara and nearby towns in the Hof Ashkelon Regional Council.

Last month, two rockets fired from Gaza struck open areas along the coast — one near the city of Ashdod and the other on Palmachim Beach, south of Tel Aviv — causing no significant damage or injuries.

Soldiers operating the Iron Dome air defense system attempted to shoot down the rocket fired toward Palmachim Beach firing at least two interceptor missiles at the projectile, but did not shoot it down. Fragments of an interceptor missile landed in the nearby city of Bat Yam, causing minor damage.

The rocket fire last month came days after the one-year anniversary of the killing of Palestinian Islamic Jihad commander Baha Abu al-Ata.
IDF strikes Gaza in response to earlier rocket attacks
The IDF struck targets belonging to Hamas terrorists in the Gaza Striplate Friday night in response to rockets fired from Gaza into Israeli territory earlier in the night.

During the IDF operation, a rocket weapon production site was targeted, in addition to underground infrastructure and a Hamas military post. The IDF Spokesperson’s Unit said after the strike that “the IDF condemns any kind of terror attacks against Israel, and it is ready and prepared to act in determinations against attempts to harm Israeli citizens and against Israeli sovereignty.

“Hamas is responsible for the actions carried out from and inside the Gaza Strip, and it will bear the consequences for all terror emanating from Gaza against Israeli citizens,” it said.

Two Palestinians were reportedly lightly injured as a result of the attack. According to Ynet, a source in Gaza said that shrapnel caused by the bombing hit a hospital for children and a center for disabled persons situated in the coastal enclave.

“Attacks by the IDF won’t break the will of the Palestinian people, but strengthen their resolve to insist on their rights,” a Hamas statement released after the attacks read.

Hamas: Israeli strike hit Gaza hospital; IDF blames blasts from weapons stash
The Hamas terror group on Saturday denounced as “barbaric” overnight strikes by the Israel Defense Forces — in response to rocket fire from the Gaza Strip — that it said damaged a children’s hospital in the Palestinian enclave. The military flatly denied hitting the hospital, but said exploding Hamas munitions may have.

The IDF said it struck three Hamas targets in the predawn hours of Saturday morning, including a rocket manufacturing site, underground infrastructure and a military post, after two rockets were fired from Gaza earlier in the evening.

The Ynet news site on Saturday, citing Palestinian sources, reported that the rocket factory targeted in the strikes was a major facility for the terror group, used to improve the capabilities of its munitions.

Gaza’s Hamas ruler said in a statement that the strike on the site, which was also located next door to a Pepsi factory, had damaged a nearby children’s hospital and a center for people with special needs. Medical sources in Gaza said the strikes “lightly wounded” two civilians, including a child.

The Israeli army, however, insisted on Saturday afternoon that it did not strike the hospital.

“Secondary explosions, which were identified from the strike on the Hamas rocket manufacturing site, are suspected of causing the damage to the nearby hospital,” an army statement said.

Hamas “deliberately places military targets at the heart of densely populated areas,” while the Israeli army “takes all possible precautions to avoid harming civilians and civilian buildings,” the statement added.

El Al plane diverted during air strike on Syria to avoid anti-aircraft fire
Cypriot air traffic control reached out to an El Al plane en route to Tel Aviv and helped it divert from the Syrian and Lebanese coasts as airstrikes attributed to Israel against Iran-backed militias in the area were taking place early Friday morning.

The diversion of El Al flight LY66 carrying cargo from Shanghai was spotted by Ynet reporter and flight tracker Itay Blumenthal, who posted footage of the Dreamliner detouring on its way to Tel Aviv.

The plane landed safely without further incident at Ben Gurion Airport at 1:40 a.m. as Syrian state media said Israel carried out airstrikes in the central province of Hama moments earlier.

Syria’s official news agency SANA said the attack occurred near the town of Masyaf and that the missiles were fired from Lebanese territory.

The Syrian Observatory for Human Rights, a pro-Syrian opposition organization, claimed the strikes hit positions of Iran-backed militias and killed at least six foreign paramilitaries. The claim could not be verified.

It said the strikes targeted the Iran-backed groups’ arms depots and facilities for manufacturing short-range missiles.
Satellite images show airstrike damage to weapons facilities in Syria
Four weapons manufacturing facilities were destroyed in northwestern Syria early Friday morning in a series of airstrikes attributed to Israel, according to satellite images released by a private Israeli intelligence firm.

Syria’s official news agency SANA said the attack occurred near the town of Masyaf and that the missiles were fired from Lebanese territory.

The Syrian Observatory for Human Rights, a pro-Syrian opposition organization, claimed the strikes hit positions of Iran-backed militias and killed at least six foreign paramilitaries. The claim could not be verified. The group has regularly been accused by Syrian war analysts of inflating casualty numbers, as well as inventing them wholesale.

The Observatory said the strikes targeted the Iran-backed groups’ arms depots and facilities for manufacturing short-range missiles. Satellite images purporting to show damage to a weapons facility outside Masyaf, Syria, in December 25, 2020 airstrikes attributed to Israel, released by ImageSat International. (ImageSat International)

According to the satellite imagery analysis company ImageSat International, the airstrikes Friday destroyed four weapons production buildings “that were probably used for mixing and casting components of missile engines and warheads.”

The targets appeared to be part of a factory complex whose primary mission is the production of “missile engines, rockets and warheads,” the satellite company said, citing open-source reports. One of the destroyed buildings had been rebuilt following a previous attack, the company indicated.

IDF: Our subs sail everywhere; Iran: Our response to any attack will be strong
After an Israel Defense Forces spokesman told a Saudi newspaper on Friday that Israeli submarines were quietly operating “everywhere,” an unnamed Iranian official told Al Jazeera Saturday that “Tehran’s response to any attack on national security will be strong and wide.”

The anonymous source claimed that Israel “is looking for excuses to drag the region into tension that will create chaos” in the final days of US President Donald Trump’s term.

And the top naval commander in the Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps warned that Iran was ready to defend itself and was prepared for any scenario.

“Forces, systems and equipment are at the desired level of readiness to defend the water borders, the interests and security of our country,” said IRGC Navy Commander Admiral Alireza Tangsiri.

Tangsiri’s comments came after IDF Spokesperson Hidai Zilberman told the Saudi Arabian Elaph news outlet that Israel was tracking Iranian movements around the region, and that Israeli submarines were quietly “sailing everywhere.”

Zilberman gave the interview after an Israeli submarine reportedly openly crossed the Suez Canal last week in a show of force directed at Iran. The move was approved by Egypt, according to the Kan public broadcaster, which cited Arab intelligence sources. The submarine reportedly surfaced and faced the Persian Gulf, which lies on the other side of Saudi Arabia. The intelligence sources said the move was meant to “send a message” to Iran.

Police searching for culprits who burned down Christmas trees in Sakhnin
Two Christmas trees were set on fire in Sakhnin on Saturday morning, police reported.

The Christian residents of the Arab city woke up on the day after Christmas to discover, to their dismay, that the two large trees that were placed in public areas had been set on fire during the night.

Police received two complaints early on Saturday morning, one from the Catholic church and one from the Orthodox church in the city, each stating that the Christmas tree that it had placed outside during the night was set on fire and completely burnt to the ground.

Police officers arrived at the scene and gathered evidence, treating the incident as suspected arson.

“The Israel Police treats incidents of damaging religious symbols and severely offending believers very seriously, and will use all tools at its disposal to apprehend the culprits,” a police statement noted.
Minister orders prisons: Don’t start vaccinating Palestinian inmates yet
Public Security Minister Amir Ohana on Saturday instructed prison officials not to begin vaccinating Palestinian inmates against COVID-19 until further notice, after a Palestinian official said security prisoners were expected to soon begin getting shots.

A statement from Ohana’s office said he’d ordered the Israel Prisons Service to only vaccinate prison staff at this stage and that security prisoners shouldn’t be given vaccines without permission. The prisoners will be vaccinated “in accordance with the progress of vaccinating the general public,” the statement said.

Ohana, a member of the ruling Likud party, issued the statement after Qadri Abu Bakr, the chairman of the PLO’s Prisoners Affairs Commission, said the prisons service had told Palestinian prisoners that they would start being vaccinated in the coming days.

Abu Bakr told the Palestinian Authority’s official Wafa news agency that inoculation will be optional and not compulsory, with some prisoners having announced their intention to receive the vaccine. He called for doctors from other countries to supervise the vaccinations.

According to Wafa, 140 security prisoners have been infected with coronavirus since the start of the pandemic.

Jewish leaders respond to antisemitic cyberattack on NY Jewish school
New Yorkers remain on edge following the antisemitic cyberattack that took place at a Jewish high school in Great Neck on December 14. As the FBI continues its investigation, Jewish leaders are speaking out about proactive ways to mitigate further incidents.

“Nothing like this has ever happened in my hometown. I’ve never experienced antisemitism before,” Dina Silberstein told The Jerusalem Post. Silberstein, 37, is an alumna of North Shore Hebrew Academy, a Modern Orthodox yeshiva in Nassau County. On the fifth night of Hanukkah, the academy’s website was hacked, compromising students’ private information and targeting the community with antisemitic threats and slurs.

On the school’s homepage, the North Shore logo was replaced with a swastika, the background image was changed to a Nazi concentration camp and the school’s name was modified to “North Shore Hebrew Concentration Camp.” Its address was changed to that of Auschwitz-Birkenau.

On another page, the hackers posted a picture of Hitler titled “Der Fuhrer Adolf Hitler,” and changed the school’s mission statement to read: “[At the] North Shore Concentration Camp… we believe in executing our Jews, not merely deporting them… we don’t want our Jews to continue being rats to finally erasing them from this Earth is much preferred.”

Silberstein, the granddaughter of Holocaust survivors, said she learned about the attack when her sister texted photos. “We knew we had to do something, so I reached out to the ADL right away. They told me they had just heard and were in the process of organizing a webinar in response.”

Takoma Park mayor says swastika vandalism is 'deeply disturbing'
Takoma Park Mayor Kate Stewart condemned the recent vandalism of a car in the city in which a swastika was spray painted on the back of a vehicle, calling the incident "deeply disturbing" in a statement released on Thursday.

The vandalism had occurred the previous Friday when Takoma Park Police were called to a vehicle which had a swastika spray painted on the back of it, as mentioned. The investigation is looking into the incident as a hate crime, according to a report by Source of the Spring, a local news agency.

Stewart said in her statement that the local police is still investigating the incident and that it was passed on to the county's hate crimes unit.

"We know that there has been a recent rise in deadly attacks and historical violence toward Jewish people, and to have this happen in our own community is deeply disturbing," Stewart said. "As a City, we strongly denounce [antisemitism], Holocaust denial, and distortions about Judaism and Jewish life and culture."
Spanish Authorities Urged to Capture and Convict Vandals Who Daubed Jewish Cemetery With Hateful Antisemitic Slogans
Spain’s leading anti-racist organization has urged the hate crimes prosecutor in Madrid to charge the perpetrators of the antisemitic vandalism of a Jewish cemetery near the Spanish capital with a crime against fundamental rights, which carries a sentence of up to four years in prison.

Graffiti declaring “good Jew dead Jew” and “murdering Jews we will hang you” were spray-painted on Wednesday night at the entrance to the small Jewish section at the cemetery in Hoyo de Manzanares, a northern suburb of Madrid. The gate was daubed with the word “Raus” — German for “out” — and a crossed out Star of David.

The culprits for the outrage have not yet been identified.

On Thursday, Esteban Ibarra — president of the Movement Against Intolerance, a Spanish anti-racist group — filed a complaint with the Madrid Public Prosecutor’s Office in which he called for stepped-up efforts to apprehend the vandals. Ibarra argued that the vandals had committed a crime against fundamental rights, which is punishable under the Spanish criminal code with up to four years in prison.

Ibarra also expressed concern that the vandalism could have been carried out by a “clandestine neo-Nazi organization.” He emphasized that the authorities should view the crime — which took place in the same week that a synagogue in Bulgaria and a Jewish monument in the German city of Halle were targeted by antisemitic vandals — within the context of growing antisemitism in Europe.
Oldest Synagogue in Bulgaria Vandalized With Anti-Zionist Slogans Urging Destruction of Israel
The oldest still-operating synagogue in Bulgaria was vandalized with antisemitic and anti-Zionist graffiti earlier this week, to the great shock of the Balkan nation’s Jewish community.

Slogans reading “Free Palestine” and “Israel = Nazis” were daubed on the gates to the Zion Synagogue in the city of Plovdiv alongside an anarchist symbol and the words “Antifa Bulgaria.”

In a statement, Shalom — the communal organization representing Bulgarian Jews — called for the “perpetrators of the vandalism to be found and punished appropriately.”

The group underlined that the messages conveyed by the vandalism were antisemitic under the International Holocaust Remembrance Alliance (IHRA) definition of the problem, which has been adopted by the Bulgarian government along with dozens of other nations, including the US. The IHRA definition makes clear that certain attacks on the State of Israel — such as comparing the Jewish state with Nazi Germany or advocating its elimination — are rooted in hatred of Jews.

Built in 1886-1887 and expanded in 1922, the Zion Synagogue in Plovdiv was constructed on what is believed to have been the site of an earlier synagogue dating from the early 18th century. The synagogue underwent a further modernization 15 years ago that was partly funded by the US government.
20 reasons 2020 WASN’T the worst year in history
This was the year we learned a whole new vocabulary – lockdown, PPE, furlough, Covid-19. It was the year that the facemask went from being inconceivable to being ubiquitous.

It was also the year where businesses and industries crashed, unemployment rose dramatically, events were canceled, airports ground to a halt, and loneliness and separation became a way of life for people everywhere. It was a year dominated by recession, sickness and death. It was the year of corona.

There is absolutely no denying it — 2020 was a horrible year.

And if all the heavy global disruptions of the pandemic weren’t enough, it was also possibly the worst year yet in terms of climate change as massive wildfires swept Australia and the United States, once-in-a-century storms and extreme weather events became increasingly common, and climatologists discussed the possibility of force 6 hurricanes.

But it wasn’t all bad. Truly.

2020 shouldn’t be consigned to the scrap heap of history, because despite it all, many amazing things did happen.

Here are a few of them. Read them and take heart. Humanity is often at its best during adversity.

Suddenly things are getting normal in the Middle East
In the space of just a few months, normalization deals were announced between Israel and the United Arab Emirates, Bahrain, Sudan, and then Morocco and Bhutan. And still more are expected.

Flocks of Israelis celebrated by flying directly to Dubai for the first time in their lives – 50,000 reportedly this month alone – and a flurry of cooperation agreements have followed in health, education, technology, disaster response and even shoes, and everything in between.

Initially it seemed the agreements would merely formalize what had been going on in an unofficial capacity for years, but it soon became apparent something much bigger was happening here. There’s genuine excitement and optimism on all sides.

No one can keep up with the huge number of new deals and partnerships being created. Life in the conflict-ridden Middle East is suddenly looking entirely different and the consequences of these agreements are likely to be felt not just here, but all over the world, for many years to come.

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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Elder of Ziyon - ุญู€ูƒู€ูŠู€ู… ุตู€ู‡ู€ูŠู€ูˆู†

This blog may be a labor of love for me, but it takes a lot of effort, time and money. For over 18 years and 38,000 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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