Monday, December 28, 2020

From Ian:

'Abrahamic' instead of 'Judeo-Christian'
Upcoming elections in the Netherlands and Germany in 2021 will test the strength of the radical right, which has a distinct vision of European identity. In contrast to those who view democratic values as essentially secular and universal, and not tied to specific cultural or religious roots, radical right parties typically say these values are anchored by the heritage of European or western civilization. And they claim that this heritage is being threatened by non-European cultures, particularly Islamic culture.

My research into the international political world views of radical right parties reveals their widespread references to the "Judeo-Christian" roots of European values. The manifesto of the Alternative for Germany declares that the party:

"Opposes Islamic practice which is directed against our liberal-democratic constitutional order, our laws, and the Judeo-Christian and humanist foundations of our culture."

Comparable claims can be found from Marine Le Pen in France and Nigel Farage in the UK.

What do these politicians mean by Judeo-Christian? This term's definition is fuzzy at best, and historical analysis shows that it has long been used and abused for political ends.

Though the Jewish roots of Christianity are clear, Jews were pariahs in pre-modern Christian Europe. As Europe gradually left behind the identity of "Christendom" from the 18th century onwards, efforts to make Jews a legitimate part of European society were a political struggle, resisted by religious conservatives and anti-Semites. In 19th-century Europe, Jews were still commonly grouped with Muslims as non-European "Semites" or "Orientals."

It was in mid-20th century America, especially after the Holocaust, that the idea of the west as Judeo-Christian gained wide acceptance. When President Dwight Eisenhower referred to the Judeo-Christian roots of "our form of government," he chose words that embraced different Christian denominations and Jews within a shared civic identity – one which contrasted with anti-Semitic and godless ideologies of fascism and communism.
Seth Frantzman: Understanding the lobby against Israel’s new relations in the Gulf
THE CAMPAIGN against Israel’s relations with the Gulf uses several talking points. Initially, they claimed that the new relationship was somehow aiding “authoritarians.” This talking point was used by people who don’t condemn “authoritarians” in Doha, Tehran or Ankara. This illustrates how much charlatanism is behind the “authoritarians” talking point. Ankara’s regime is the largest jailer of journalists in the world and sentences opposition politicians to decades in prison on mythical “terror” charges. If there is an authoritarian axis in the Middle East it is the Tehran-Ankara axis and its allies.

Another argument against the Israel-Gulf ties is made by those who oppose Saudi Arabia. Of particular interest here is that most of those who make this argument are not people who historically cared that Saudi Arabia was an absolutist monarchy and conservative Kingdom. Their dislike of Riyadh is primarily anger at palace intrigue in which their allies in the Kingdom were pushed out when Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman rose to power.

The arguments against Saudi Arabia don’t stand up to scrutiny because they are ostensibly made by people on “human rights” grounds when those very same voices didn’t speak out about human rights as recently as five years ago. Thus, “human rights” and “authoritarianism” became methods of critique of the new Israel-Gulf ties by those who are silent about authoritarian human rights abuses throughout the region.

The critique of Israel-Gulf ties hangs on several interrelated issues. First, the anti-Israel agenda of the 1960s and 1970s has not gone away. The dispute between the UAE, Saudi Arabia, Egypt and the Brotherhood, backed by Turkey and Qatar, is another layer. The Gulf crisis between Saudi Arabia and Qatar in 2017 is part of the issue. In addition, the pro-Iran crowd opposes the peace deals. These voices have ample platforms, from pro-government media in Turkey to Qatar, which mostly serve as English-speaking or Arabic platforms to influence the region and the world.

The emptiness of this critique, which reveals its more complex agenda, hangs on the fact that in no other case in the world are “authoritarian” regimes critiqued for merely having diplomatic relations with other states. For instance, the same voices who have poured cold water on the new peace deals, don’t have an issue with the UAE or Israel having relations with Denmark or China. They just don’t think the UAE and Israel should have relations with each other because they are hostile to both the UAE and Israel and have had to find some reason to excuse that hostility to make it appear legitimate.

The campaign against the peace has had its effect, either by downplaying the importance of the new peace or by sniping at it from various angles. An unprecedented level of new engagement between Israel and the UAE, in particular, has not received the attention it deserves partly because of ingrained biases against both states. Understanding the reasons for this is important because it helps explain some of the challenges that these countries – and their allies – face in the region and globally.
Moroccan delegation arrives in Israel
A Moroccan diplomatic delegation was in Israel on Monday for the first time since normalization between the countries was announced earlier this month.

The delegation, which landed in Israel on Sunday night, plans to work towards reopening the Moroccan liaison office in Tel Aviv, which it has held onto for the past 20 years since Rabat cut official ties. Israel has also retained its closed office in Morocco.

During last week’s visit to Rabat by the Israeli-US delegation led by National Security Advisor Meir Ben-Shabbat and White House Special Adviser Jared Kushner, the countries committed to reopening the offices within two weeks, which would mean next week.

Morocco is also expected to prepare for a high-level delegation to come to Israel at a later, yet to be determined date.

The Moroccan diplomats have meetings scheduled at the Israeli Foreign Ministry, but they do not have any public events or statements on their agenda.

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu invited Morocco's King Mohammed VI to visit Israel, in a phone conversation over the weekend.

Jerusalem Symphony Orchestra records Moroccan national anthem
Immediately following the announcement of the Israel-Morocco normalization agreement, the Jerusalem Symphony Orchestra (JSO) recorded the National Anthem of Morocco in honor of the historic agreement.

Arranged for the symphony orchestra and choir by Israeli composer and conductor Nizar El-Khater, the rendition of the anthem was performed at the Jerusalem Theater.

The Jerusalem Symphony and the Israeli Kehilot Sharot choir were joined via teleconference by Moroccan singers, a truly unique experience in honor of the normalization deal between the two countries.

3 VOIX De L’espoir (Three Voices of Hope), a Moroccan musical collective helped produce the event.

JCPA: Can Israel-Palestinian Negotiations Begin when Joe Biden Takes Office?
As Joe Biden’s inauguration and entry into the White House near, speculation grows over the nature of the “peace process negotiations” the United States will choose to conduct between Israel and the Palestinians. However, after examining Palestinians’ comments and attitudes, it is not at all clear whether they even desire a new process. Perhaps they prefer to retain the current process – the status quo – and do not wish to change anything about it. For example, the Palestinian Authority has expressed interest in an international conference under the guardianship of the “Quartet” – the UN, United States, European Union, and Russia. No longer would the United States lead the talks as in the days of President Barack Obama and Secretary of State Kerry; the negotiations would be conducted by an amorphous international entity without leadership or agenda. In other words: no process, no framework, and no agreement. The United States would be only one member of the Quartet with a diminished international status as a world power.

Sources suggest that this was precisely the crux of the disagreements during the recent meeting of Palestinian Authority Chairman Mahmoud Abbas with President Sisi in Cairo. Sisi rejected the Palestinian suggestions and made it clear to Abbas that Egypt would not support any change of existing signed agreements and the processes. Egypt wants the United States to lead the peace process alone.

It is likely that Biden is well-acquainted with the reasons that led to the failure of the Kerry and Obama efforts. Mahmoud Abbas’ stubbornness and perhaps the experience of his evasive tactics may lead the U.S. Administration to delay the resumption of negotiations with Israel at this time.
Report: Israel to approve new housing in east Jerusalem ahead of Biden inauguration
Israel is expected to greenlight construction of new housing units in the eastern part of Jerusalem ahead of US President-elect Joe Biden's swearing-in on Jan. 20, the Kan public broadcaster reported on Saturday night.

The Defense Ministry unit responsible for authorizing the construction of settlements in Judea and Samaria is expected to meet within the next two weeks to move construction projects forward.

The civil administration planning subcommittee could meet as early as Thursday, according to Kan, which did not specify how many housing units would likely be approved.

But according to the Jerusalem Municipality, the subcommittee is expected to approve the construction of 108 housing units in the Ramat Shlomo neighborhood.

During a trip to Israel in 2010, then-Vice President Biden denounced the construction of 1,600 housing units in eastern Jerusalem, arguing it "undermines the confidence in which we have need and goes against the constructive discussions I have had here."

The senior civil administration planning sub-committee usually meets four times a year. In October, after a seven-month hiatus, the subcommittee approved the construction of more than 5,000 homes.
Thomas Friedman: UAE-Israel Peace Agreement Has Created a New Mood in the Middle East
New York Times columnist Thomas Friedman told the Arab Media Forum on Wednesday that the recent UAE-Israel peace agreement "may give rise to new aspirations for the people of the Middle East and a shift from old ideologies and political strategies in the region....People saw a really successful Arab state get together with a really successful non-Arab state and if you're in Beirut right now see successful states getting're saying why am I not part of that."

"There's a new mood....People on the street actually want to be part of the world. They're tired of the old games. Abu Mazen (Mahmoud Abbas) has to wake up to that and so do the Iranians."

"The Middle East only puts a smile on your face when it starts with the parties out there because that meant it was in their own interests, it was self-sustaining. I see America much more in an amplification role rather than one stomping around diplomatically or militarily."

Seth Frantzman: Ankara’s media spin on 'reconciliation' with Israel continues - analysis
Turkey continues to feed stories to media outlets about wanting reconciliation with Israel. It is a reconciliation built on three pillars.

First, appointing an anti-Israel envoy to Israel who has accused Zionism of being racist and accused Israel of massacres. Second, Turkey demands that Israel ruin relations with Greece, Cyprus and the UAE, isolate itself and become dependent on Ankara for energy trade, betraying Israel’s new Gulf and Mediterranean friends. Third, Turkey wants to see Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu lose the next election.

This is the “reconciliation” that reads more like a wolf in sheep’s clothing than normal state-to-state relations.

Even though Turkey has a regime that jails opposition politicians for decades and has made almost all media in Turkey toe the government line, foreign media are still willing to take Ankara’s spin at face value. Instead of questioning regime stories about “reconciliation” with Israel, one after another media outlet has printed this story without even looking at the text of the “reconciliation” that Ankara has proposed to Israel.

The spin continued this week, for the third week in a row, as Ankara keeps talking about better relations with Israel. But Ankara’s government, led by the ruling AKP Party, hosts Hamas terrorists, and it destroyed relations with Israel.

This began around a decade ago when Turkey slammed Israel for the 2009 war in Gaza. Instead of condemning Hamas terrorist rockets, Ankara blamed Israel. Turkey also then mobilized Muslim Brotherhood-connected activists to sail to Gaza, creating another crisis.
Israel Suspicious of Erdogan's Overtures
Turkish President Erdogan cannot harbor Hamas terrorists and try to forge closer ties with Israel, a senior diplomatic source said Sunday, amid reports of a change in Turkey's approach to Israel.

Erdogan "has a system" by which he tries to bolster economic ties between Israel and Turkey while supporting Islamist extremists who attack Israel. "He can't have it both ways," the source said.

Turkey and Israel were allies for decades, but those relations have frayed in recent years. Turkey under Erdogan has close ties with the Muslim Brotherhood and his AKP party has repeatedly compared Israel to Nazi Germany.

Turkey has also criticized the Abraham Accords for peace between Israel and Arab countries.

The Foreign Ministry denied reports that Erdogan had appointed a new ambassador to Israel.
PMW’s initiative edges closer to ending the PA’s terror reward payments
On Dec. 31, the provisions of Israel’s Anti-Terror Law that outlaw financial remuneration as a reward for the commission of terror crimes, comes into force in Judea and Samaria) i.e., the West Bank), including in the areas under the control of the Palestinian Authority. The new law provides an additional source to define the PA salary payments to the terrorist prisoners and released terrorists as illegal payments.

The 2016 Israeli Anti-Terror Law was first adopted in Judea and Samaria in February 2020 and was set to come into force on May 9. According to the provision, any person who carries out a transaction with property that “supports, promotes, funds or rewards” the commission of defined terror crimes, will be subject to a prison sentence of up to seven to 10 years (depending on the nature or severity of the offence for which the property was given).

Three weeks prior, Palestinian Media Watch took the initiative applying the new law to the PA’s payment of monthly salaries to the terrorist prisoners and released terrorists.

In a letter to all the banks operating in the PA, PMW warned them that if they did not cease assisting the PA to pay terror rewards to the terrorist prisoners, the banks would potentially face both civil and criminal repercussions, Israeli forces could cease the terror funds directly from the banks, and the banks’ employees would also face potential criminal proceedings.

The Association of Banks in Palestine responded to PMW’s warning by writing to the PA Minister of Finance saying that “all of the banks hereby ask Your Honor to stop transferring any sums into these accounts. The banks will transfer the balances in these accounts to the Ministry of Finance’s account.” [Wattan, independent Palestinian news agency, May 8, 2020]

PMW’s warning letter and the response of the PA banks created turmoil for the PA that suddenly found itself without the ability to pay the tens of millions of shekels it pays every month to thousands of imprisoned and released terrorists.

Israeli rabbis teach kids to “kill everyone who is not Jewish” says Palestinian “expert”
Official PA TV “military expert” Wasef Erekat: The Israelis train their children to carry weapons. Our children don’t carry weapons… They train them with weapons and train them based on the principle: “Kill everyone who is not Jewish.” The rabbis implant this indoctrination in the children of Israel: “Kill everyone who is not Jewish.” [Official PA TV, PLO - Conventions and Agreements, Dec. 16, 2020]

PA: Dahlan loyalists seeking to undermine Abbas
The Palestinian Authority believes that deposed Fatah operative Mohammed Dahlan, who is currently residing in the United Arab Emirates, is continuing his efforts to undermine PA President Mahmoud Abbas.

On Sunday, PA security forces arrested Hani Salloum, a Fatah activist suspected of supporting Dahlan. Five years ago, Salloum was arrested by the PA after naming his newborn son after Dahlan.

Salloum, who is being held at the PA’s Jericho Prison, previously served as director of the office of Majed Abu Shamala, a former Fatah member of the Palestinian Legislative Council who is also closely associated with Dahlan.

In the past few weeks, Dahlan supporters in some refugee camps in the West Bank have staged protests against Abbas and the PA leadership, a senior PA official said.

“Dahlan has become very active, especially after the signing of the peace agreement between Israel and the United Arab Emirates,” the official added.

Dahlan, who has been keeping a low profile since the Israel-UAE normalization agreement, reportedly serves as a top adviser to Sheikh Mohammed bin Zayed, the crown prince of the Emirate of Abu Dhabi and deputy supreme commander of the UAE Armed Forces.
FDD: Palestinian Joint Operations Room announces upcoming military maneuver
Palestinian militant groups who comprise most of the Joint Operations Room (JOR) announced Wednesday they will be conducting a joint military exercise on Dec. 29.

The JOR – also known as the Common Room – is a grouping of Palestinian militant factions in Gaza that operate as a quasi-army against Israel.

Palestinian factions have been heavily promoting the event by publishing material detailing the militant groups involved in the exercise including the creation of a Telegram channel dedicated to the upcoming event.

According to Hamas’ al-Qassam Brigades, the military maneuver dubbed ‘Strong Supporter’ – which is taken from a verse in the Quran – is the first of its kind and is an effort to ready Palestinian militant groups against a potential military conflict against Israel.

“The maneuver comes within the framework of strengthening cooperation and joint action between the resistance factions, and the embodiment of its efforts to raise its combat readiness permanently and continuously,” al-Qassam Brigades stated on their website.

The upcoming drill is a first for Palestinian groups, however, the JOR has already fought several short lived conflicts against Israel in 2018 and 2019.

Nasrallah Claims to Have Doubled Stock of Precision-Guided Missiles
Hezbollah Secretary General Hassan Nasrallah said on Sunday that the terrorist organization has twice as many precision-guided missiles in its arsenal today as it did a year ago.

Speaking with Beirut-based Al-Mayadeen TV, Nasrallah said that Israel’s efforts to thwart its acquisition of the missiles had failed and that the group now has the ability to strike anywhere in the Jewish state, according to the AP.

He also claimed that Israel had threatened through a US official to target a Hezbollah facility in the Bekaa region, and that in response the organization had threatened retaliation.

Nasrallah also said, according to the report, that Hezbollah is being careful during the last few weeks of Donald Trump’s presidency, because the outgoing president is “angry” and “crazy.”

The Hezbollah leader warned that Iran and its allies would avenge the Jan. 3 assassination by the United States of Iranian Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps commander Qassem Soleimani in Iraq and the killing of a Hezbollah fighter in Syria earlier this year.

“That revenge is coming no matter how long it takes,” he said, with a picture of Soleimani next to him.

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.”
Yemeni Official Warns Against ‘Any Stupid Action by Zionist Regime,’ Reports Iranian Media
Iranian media on Sunday quoted an official at the Foreign Ministry of the Yemeni National Salvation Government as threatening Israel.

The official was referring to Israel’s reported monitoring of the situation in Yemen, where Tehran is backing the Houthi rebels leading a civil war against Saudi-backed forces.

Iran’s state-run Mehr news agency quoted the Yemeni official as warning the “Zionist regime against any reckless action.”

“The Zionist regime seeks excuses for its hostile moves through which [it] tries to cover up its continuous aggression against the Palestinian people and to encourage more countries to normalize their relations with it,” the official reportedly stated, adding, “The Zionist regime should monitor the situation in the areas that have been illegally occupied in the Palestinian Territories and stop threatening the countries of the region by talking about a war.”

The Yemeni official further stressed that the situation in Yemen “has nothing to do with the Zionist regime,” warning that “any stupid action by the regime would lead to a full-scale war and that the Zionist Regime would be the first loser.”

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