Thursday, December 31, 2020

From Ian:

Honest Reporting: Does UNRWA Violate International Law?
UNRWA’s definition of refugee technically violates international law, as it contradicts the 1951 UN Convention and Protocol Relating to the Status of Refugees.

Article 1 of the Convention defines a refugee as:
…a person who is outside his/her country of nationality or habitual residence; has a well-founded fear of persecution because of his/her race, religion, nationality, membership in a particular social group or political opinion; and is unable or unwilling to avail himself/herself of the protection of that country, or to return there, for fear of persecution.

Under Article I(c)(3), a person is no longer a refugee if, for example, he or she has “acquired a new nationality, and enjoys the protection of the country of his new nationality.”

UNRWA’s definition of a Palestinian refugee, which is not anchored in any treaty and thus does not carry the weight of international law, includes no such provision. In fact, UNRWA defines “Palestinian refugees” to include all offspring of male Palestinian refugees from 1948, including legally adopted children, regardless of whether they have been granted citizenship elsewhere.

The United Nations claims on its website that UNRWA’s unusual practice does not violate international law and norms, by pointing out that there are other conflicts in the world where refugee status has continued for successive generations (eg. Afghanistan and Somalia).

However, the United Nations’ claim is not only misleading but objectively wrong. Under the 1951 Convention (1967 Protocol, Article IV Section B), successive generations have refugee status only if it is necessary to maintain what is called “family unity.” For example, imagine that a couple escaped Afghanistan, became refugees in Pakistan, and then had a child. Even though that child never lived in Afghanistan, he or she would nevertheless be granted refugee status in order to keep the family unit from being broken apart by potential developments.

However, under UNRWA’s rules, there is no “family unity” limitation. To the contrary, unlimited future generations may inherit refugee status even when there is no living family connection to pre-1948 British-ruled Palestine and, consequently, there is no danger of tearing apart any family unit. This is no subtle distinction: UNRWA has, knowingly or not, created a financial incentive for host countries to deny Palestinians citizenship, so that the nations in question can benefit from the international aid that comes with hosting people who maintain refugee status in perpetuity.

According to a 2012 report by the United States Senate, under the terms of the 1951 Convention, which applies to all other people in the world, the number of real Palestinian refugees living today is only about 30,000. Yet, according to UNRWA, the number of “refugees” is over 5 million, making Palestinians the only group in the world whose refugee population has increased — and dramatically — over time.

Israel’s 2 top int’l law officials take on ICC: Is Gaza ‘occupied’?
Two of Israel’s top international law officials have published a rare public article to challenge the International Criminal Court prosecution and others who say that Israel still illegally occupies Gaza.

The article, published in the journal Iyunei Mishpat (Legal Studies) recently but being reported now for the first time in English, is important both regarding addressing cases of alleged Israeli war crimes in ongoing fighting with Hamas, as well as regarding what humanitarian obligations Jerusalem has to Gaza, during coronavirus and other periods.

These issues ultimately have major long-term implications at the national security and diplomatic levels, including whether Israel’s naval blockade and other periodic closures of Gaza are legal.

Just as important are the authors: Deputy Attorney-General (International Law) Roy Schondorf and IDF International Law Division chief Col. Eran Shamir-Borer, two officials who have led much of Israel’s handling of ICC issues and humanitarian dilemmas with Gaza.

Schondorf rarely writes publicly or appears in public with the exception of specific conferences or at the Knesset, and Shamir-Borer appears even less often.

It seems that the impetus for their article was to address prior statements by ICC Prosecutor Fatou Bensouda as well as a current article by prominent Israeli prof. Eyal Gross in the same journal, declaring that Israel still legally occupies Gaza, despite having withdrawn in 2005.
Senate Investigation Finds Obama Admin Knowingly Funded al-Qaeda Affiliate
Non-profit humanitarian agency World Vision United States improperly transacted with the Islamic Relief Agency (ISRA) in 2014 with approval from the Obama administration, sending government funds to an organization that had been sanctioned over its ties to terrorism, according to a new report.

Senate Finance Committee Chairman Chuck Grassley (R., Iowa) recently released a report detailing the findings of an investigation his staff began in February 2019 into the relationship between World Vision and ISRA.

The probe found that World Vision was not aware that ISRA had been sanctioned by the U.S. since 2004 after funneling roughly $5 million to Maktab al-Khidamat, the predecessor to Al-Qaeda controlled by Osama Bid Laden.

However, that ignorance was born from insufficient vetting practices, the report said.

“World Vision works to help people in need across the world, and that work is admirable,” Grassley said in a statement. “Though it may not have known that ISRA was on the sanctions list or that it was listed because of its affiliation with terrorism, it should have. Ignorance can’t suffice as an excuse. World Vision’s changes in vetting practices are a good first step, and I look forward to its continued progress.”

The investigation was sparked by a July 2018 National Review article in which Sam Westrop, the director of the Middle East Forum’s Islamist Watch, detailed MEF’s findings that the Obama administration had approved a “$200,000 grant of taxpayer money to ISRA.”

Government officials specifically authorized the release of “at least $115,000” of this grant even after learning that it was a designated terror organization, Westrop wrote. (h/t MtTB)
From 2009 Tom Getman of World Vision talking to Stephen Sizer (antisemetic priest) about the incoming Obama administration.

Set to amend ‘pay to slay,’ PA hopes Biden will shun law deeming PLO ‘terrorist’
With just three weeks until US President-elect Joe Biden enters the White House, the Palestinian Authority (PA) is putting together a strategy for a reset of ties with Washington after three years of boycotting the Trump administration.

The centerpiece of the effort will be convincing the Biden administration to designate as unconstitutional congressional legislation from 1987 that labeled the Palestine Liberation Organization (PLO) “and its affiliates” a terror group, senior Palestinian officials told The Times of Israel.

They hope that doing so will set the stage for a renewed bilateral relationship — one in which Ramallah is viewed as a more equal partner, and that isn’t entirely tied to the peace process with Israel.

PA President Mahmoud Abbas severed relations with the Trump administration after US President Donald Trump recognized Jerusalem as Israel’s capital in December 2017 and moved the US embassy there from Tel Aviv in May 2018. He also preemptively rejected Trump’s January 2020 “vision” for Israeli-Palestinian peace. The administration, while repeatedly urging Abbas to reengage, drastically reduced state funding for the Palestinians.

Senior Palestinian officials told The Times of Israel that a fresh willingness to alter the way it pays stipends to Palestinian security prisoners, as well as the families of terrorists and others killed by Israelis, is aimed at laying the groundwork for the new diplomatic push.
With Best Intentions Bipartisan Initiative Pours $250 Million into Anti-Israel NGO Coalition
A Ben Samuels report in Haaretz Wednesday night should give pause to any rightwing Jew, in Israel and the US, on two counts: one, because it represents yet another attempt by US Jews to fix Israel; and, two, because of its disturbing Kumbaya note, the likes of which we have been spared for a while, thank God.

Samuels was gushing about the opportunity to finally achieve real peace, the kind of peace made possible only by direct contact between real human beings on either side of the fence (I mean, read the head and subhead: Joe Biden Will Enjoy One Advantage No President Ever Had on Israel-Palestine – A new fund approved by Congress will give his administration the ability to invest tens of millions of dollars in peacebuilding efforts on the ground). It’s like every time a new twist on the Oslo Accords descends into a new catastrophe, a new one pops its cheerful, fuzzy head.

First, the facts. The Nita M. Lowey Middle East Partnership for Peace Act of 2020, which was enacted as part of the Consolidated Appropriations Act of 2021, “establishes two special funds to support programs encouraging peaceful co-existence and expand economic cooperation between Israelis and Palestinians.”

The Nita authorizes $50 million a year for five years divided among the two funds to support joint programs. And don’t you worry, because “all funds will be subject to applicable US laws governing Palestinian assistance programs—including the Taylor Force Act,” so no terrorist hanky panky, and “no funds may be provided to governments, the Palestinian Authority, the Palestine Liberation Organization, groups involved in terrorist activity or members of foreign terrorist organizations.” So, like, it’s covered, only good people need apply.

Here’s the thing, though: according to Samuels, the Nita was the brainchild of the Alliance for Middle East Peace (ALLMEP), “an umbrella organization of groups working in Israel and the Palestinian territories,” which spent almost a decade “advocating for such a fund and finally achieved the bipartisan support needed for making it into law.” They tried and tried and every time they thought they were there, somebody, usually a Republican, became suspicious and walked away. Ten years – you must hand it to the folks at ALLMEP, theyre nothing if not persistent.
Caroline Glick: What Explains Turkey's Sudden Charm Offensive on Israel?
After a decade of unadulterated hostility, over the past few weeks Turkey's Islamist president Recep Erdogan and his advisors have been waging a charm offensive on Israel. How are we to understand this sudden turn of events?

In the 1990s, aside from the U.S., Turkey was Israel's closest strategic ally. The alliance between the two countries was felt in everything from tourism to weapons sales, from business ties to joint training exercises. Following Erdogan's initial rise to power in 2002, things began gradually shifting. Fashioning himself a new Ottoman sultan on a mission to rebuild the lost Ottoman Empire, Erdogan began warming up to the Muslim Brotherhood, and particularly to its Palestinian branch—the Hamas terror organization.

Turkey led the line of governments that condemned Israel for killing Hamas's terror chief Ahmed Yassin in 2004. Ankara's support for Gaza continued to expand over the years until 2009, when Turkey openly supported Hamas against Israel in its 2009 mini-war. In 2009 and 2010, Turkish television broadcast two openly anti-Semitic drama series that depicted Israelis as baby killers, kidnappers and terrorists.

Also in 2010, Turkey began serving as Hamas's operational headquarters. That year, IHH, an al-Qaeda-associated non-governmental organization in Turkey organized a flotilla to Gaza in an effort to break Israel's maritime blockade of the terror-controlled territory. When Israeli naval commandos boarded the main ship—the Mavi Marmara—they were attacked by an organized force armed with iron bars, knives and guns. In the ensuing fight, nine of the Turkish attackers were killed. Seven Israeli soldiers were wounded.

What still remained of Israel's strategic alliance with Turkey disappeared after the Mavi Marmara incident. Weapons sales ended. Israeli tourism to Turkey dried up after Israeli tourists were harassed at Istanbul airport. Turkey intervened with NATO to keep Israel out of joint exercises.
Is Anti-Israel Sentiment Diminishing at the UN?
Countries that support Israel by voting with it or abstaining at the UNHRC or UNESCO, do not necessarily follow that trend in New York.

Resolutions with language neutralized in Geneva or Paris, such as ignoring Jewish ties to Jerusalem’s Temple Mount, known to Muslims as al-Haram al-Sharif, are still approved by the UNGA.

The Trump administration’s strong advocacy on behalf of the Jewish state at the UN, combined with the work of Israel’s Foreign Ministry, former ambassador Danny Danon and the current Ambassador Gilad Erdan were not able to stem the tide of anti-Israel sentiment, but they have been able to diminish it slightly.

Here are eight things to know about these texts.

1. Number of anti-Israel resolutions dropped
There were 17 texts pro-Palestinian or anti-Israeli resolutions approved this year, down from 18 last year and 21 in 2018. This does not reflect a change in attitude toward Israel. Rather, it is a testament of success of the Israeli argument that there are too many resolutions against Israel with redundant texts.

Of the 17 texts, only 13 dealt with the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. One called for Israel to give up its undeclared nuclear weapons. A second spoke of Israeli culpability in a 2006 oil spill along the Lebanese shore. Two others call for Israel to withdraw from the Golan Heights, which it captured from Syria during the 1967 Six-Day war and on which it applied sovereignty in 1981. The Trump administration has recognized that sovereignty.

Among those on the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, only three specifically deal with Israeli actions against the Palestinians.

Others deal with Palestinian sovereignty and financial assistance to the Palestinians. One affirms the work of the UN Relief and Works Agency for Palestinian Refugees and four others affirm the work of pro-Palestinian committees at the UN.

All the pro-Palestinian resolutions operate out of the context that Israel “occupies” the territory over the pre-1967 lines and that it must withdraw from that territory.
UN Watch: UNESCO Elects Assad-Linked Syrian Charity to Cultural Heritage Body
A Syrian charity created by Syrian first lady Asma al-Assad to enrich the regime has been elected by a 24-nation UNESCO committee to a world body that protects intangible cultural heritage, sparking outrage among activists who cited the Assad regime’s role in destroying heritage sites during its decade-long civil war.

The Syria Trust for Development, a proxy for the Syrian regime, was elected to the Evaluation Body of UNESCO’s Intergovernmental Committee for the Safeguarding of the Intangible Cultural Heritage, in a secret ballot held during its 15th Session, held in the week of December 14-19 2020.

According to the UNESCO committee’s meeting document for establishing the Evaluation Body for the 2021 cycle, the Syria Trust was competing in a regional electoral group against two other NGOs from Saudi Arabia and Morocco for one available position. (See video above for announcement of the new members of the Evaluation Body.)

“It’s a disgrace,” tweeted the Syria Campaign. “The Assads have crushed swathes of Syria’s cultural heritage. Whole cities, towns and villages have been destroyed.”

International human rights activists also slammed the UNESCO decision.

“Inviting the Syrian regime to protect cultural heritage is asking the foxes to guard the chickens,” said Hillel Neuer, executive director of UN Watch, an independent Geneva-based human group that monitors the United Nations. “It’s absurd, and sends absolutely the wrong message to millions of Syrians victimized by the Assad regime.”

As expected, the regime’s state-run news agency hailed “the Trust’s victory,” saying it “carries great importance in terms of representing Syria in a large international forum.”

U.S. Proposal to Stop U.N. Funding for Commemoration of Antisemitic Durban Conference Fails
Draft decision on Programme budget implications relating to the programme budget for 2020: comprehensive implementation of and follow-up to the Durban Declaration and Programme of Action

The draft decision was adopted by the Fifth Committee on December 30, 2020, by consensus, with Israel and the United States disassociating from consensus. A proposed amendment by the United States to delete funding relating to the Durban Conference and Durban Declaration and Programme of Action failed by a vote of 2 in favor (Israel, the United States), 105 in favor, 50 abstentions (Albania, Andorra, Armenia, Australia, Austria, Belgium, Bosnia-Herzegovina, Botswana, Bulgaria, Canada, Croatia, Cyprus, Czech Republic, Denmark, Estonia, Finland, France, Georgia, Germany, Greece, Hungary, Iceland, Ireland, Italy, Japan, Latvia, Lithuania, Luxembourg, Malta, Monaco, Montenegro, Netherlands, New Zealand, North Macedonia, Norway, Papua New Guinea, Poland, Portugal, Republic of Korea, Republic of Moldova, Romania, San Marino, Serbia, Slovakia, Slovenia, Spain, Sweden, Ukraine, United Kingdom, Uzbekistan)
Bahraini and Emirati activists in Israel express feeling ‘like family returning home’
Israel welcomed a delegation of leaders and activists from Bahrain and the United Arab Emirates earlier this month, following the success of the Abraham Accords that have normalized relations between Gulf and Muslim countries with Israel.

Under the auspices of a newly established organization named Sharaka (Arabic for “cooperation” or “partnership”), which “aims to lead social initiatives that bring Israel’s voice to strengthen familiarity with the State of Israel in the Arab world and create cooperation between young people in Israel and Arab states,” the group visited historical and cultural sites in Israel and meet with Israeli activists and leaders.

The partnership was born after Israelis visited the UAE and decided to jump-start a joint project that focuses on people-to-people encounters. Participating activists included professionals in academia, art, literature, politics, education, activism and the hospitality industry.

“We want a warm peace, where people will connect,” said Sharaka founder Amit Deri (who is also the founder and CEO of Reservists on Duty). “When leaders make a peace agreement, that’s one thing, but people-to-people connections are another. We want Emiratis to feel comfortable walking the streets of Tel Aviv in their traditional clothes, and Israelis want to feel comfortable walking the streets of Manama or Abu Dhabi with Israeli and Jewish symbols,” he told JNS.

As they lit candles at the Western Wall during Hanukkah, recalled Deri, “they felt like they were rock stars, with thousands cheering for them.”

Emirati delegation member Dr. Majid Al Sarrah, 37, told JNS that “it was a very spiritual and blessed moment, and we could feel the positivity all around us.”
Man of the Year 2020: Crown Prince Mohammed Bin Zayed
In a November 20, 2020 letter to the Nobel Committee, Former First Minister of Northern Ireland Lord David Trimble, himself a Nobel Peace Prize laureate, nominated Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and Abu Dhabi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Zayed Al Nahyan for the 2021 Nobel Peace Prize. Lord Trimble explained that he was nominating Netanyahu and bin Zayed “in recognition of their historic achievements in advancing peace in the Middle East.”

A few months earlier, on August 13, Netanyahu left a coronavirus cabinet meeting unexpectedly and in great haste, telling his ministers he had to take care of a “national emergency.” A short while later, the world’s view of the Middle East was altered: the United Arab Emirates Minister of State for Foreign Affairs Anwar Gargash signed his country’s agreement to normalize relations with Israel.

It was not the first peace agreement between Israel and an Arab country: Egypt and later Jordan have ended their state of war and launched diplomatic relations with the Jewish state decades earlier. But while those two Arab states have maintained a cold peace with Israel, with almost zero cultivation of a neighborly friendship and nothing but hate from their popular media outlets, the message from Abu Dhabi was radically different.

A joint statement issued by President Donald Trump—who brokered the move, Netanyahu, and Bin Zayed read:
“This historic diplomatic breakthrough will advance peace in the Middle East region and is a testament to the bold diplomacy and vision of the three leaders and the courage of the United Arab Emirates and Israel to chart a new path that will unlock the great potential in the region.”

It was followed, besides the formal ceremony on the White House lawn, by a storm of economic and cultural endeavors: tourism, shopping, television interviews of excited men and women from both countries, news of a thriving Jewish community under UAE rule, with a synagogue, two schools, kosher restaurants, a Chabad emissary, and Chanukah parties.
US Justice Department ‘Stands Ready’ to Try Daniel Pearl’s Murderer Should Pakistani Efforts Fail
The US Justice Department has said that it would be willing to try the terrorist convicted in Pakistan of the murder of journalist Daniel Pearl in an American court.

The announcement followed last week’s decision by the High Court in the Sindh region of Pakistan to release four men accused of orchestrating the 2002 kidnapping and murder of Pearl, an American Jew and Wall Street Journal correspondent. The group included the main suspect who was earlier sentenced to death for masterminding the killing, British-born Ahmed Omar Saeed Sheikh.

In a statement on Tuesday, Acting Attorney General Jeffrey Rosen noted that Pakistani officials were trying to appeal decisions overturning Omar Sheikh’s murder conviction and ordering his release, but that his department will step in should those efforts fail.

“We understand that Pakistani authorities are taking steps to ensure that Omar Sheikh remains in custody while the Supreme Court appeal seeking to reinstate his conviction continues. The separate judicial rulings reversing his conviction and ordering his release are an affront to terrorism victims everywhere,” Rosen said.

“We remain grateful for the Pakistani government’s actions to appeal such rulings to ensure that he and his co-defendants are held accountable,” Rosen continued. “If, however, those efforts do not succeed, the United States stands ready to take custody of Omar Sheikh to stand trial here. We cannot allow him to evade justice for his role in Daniel Pearl’s abduction and murder.”

An attempt to bring Sheikh to the US would need the active cooperation of the Pakistani authorities.

FDD: Implications for the U.S. of Israel's Recent Missile Defense Test
The Israel Missile Defense Organization and U.S. Missile Defense Agency this month completed a series of tests of Israel's multilayered missile defense system. The tests simulated a variety of advanced threats, including low-altitude cruise missiles, long-range ballistic missiles, and unmanned aerial vehicles. It was the first time Israel deployed the David's Sling, Iron Dome and Arrow systems simultaneously.

The Israeli navy will soon equip its Sa'ar 6-class corvettes with Iron Dome to protect natural gas rigs against cruise missiles. Israel tested its tactical laser system - still in development - as an alternative to Iron Dome interceptors for lower-tier threats. The tests also demonstrated for the first time Israel's ability to intercept a salvo of precision-guided munitions which Iran's proxy, Hizbullah, has been stockpiling.

Iran and its regional proxies have repeatedly attacked U.S. personnel and partners in the Persian Gulf. On Jan. 8, Iran launched short-range missiles at two Iraqi bases hosting U.S. troops. Unfortunately, the current American Patriot systems are at best only a partial solution to such threats.

After Israel's recent missile defense tests, Washington has little choice but to look closer at Israel's proven air defense systems. Israel's Skyceptor interceptor, developed for David's Sling, can be fired from Patriot batteries and can intercept low-altitude, maneuverable cruise missiles and drones.
2020 sees fewest soldiers, civilians killed in war or terror in Israel’s history
The Israel Defense Forces on Thursday released a heap of statistics illustrating its activities over the past year, including the number of targets struck in Syria (about 50), fighter jet sorties flown (1,400) and calls answered by the Home Front Command’s coronavirus information call center (1.4 million).

Despite the pandemic, the West Bank remained a significant source of concern for the IDF — on par with recent years — though there were some areas of improvement and some of regression. In 2020, the number of stabbings decreased by a third, from 12 in 2019 to nine. The number of shooting attacks, however, increased significantly, from 19 in 2019 to 31, though this was similar to the number of shootings in 2018 — 33 — and in 2017 — 34.

In total, the IDF said the West Bank saw 60 terror attacks in 2020, up from 51 in 2019, but down from 76 in 2018 and 75 in 2017.

In response to these attacks and as part of ongoing efforts against terror groups in the West Bank, the military conducted 2,277 arrests over the past year, a slight decrease from the previous years: 2,328 in 2019; 3,173 in 2018; and 3,627 in 2017.

Though not included in the statistics released by the military Thursday, the year 2020 also saw the lowest number of soldiers and civilians killed in war and terror attacks in the country’s history. As of Thursday, three people — two civilians and one soldier — were killed in security-related attacks, including Esther Horgen, who was killed earlier this month in a brutal assault outside the northern West Bank settlement where she lived, Tal Menashe.
IDF intercepts 93% of rockets fired from Gaza in 2020, report finds
There has been an uptake in terrorist activity in 2020, a new report published by the IDF reveals. According to the data, 60 terror incidents happened this year, compared to the 51 that occurred the year before.

Judea and Samaria saw a slight increase in the number of stone-throwing incidents: 1,500 this year compared to 1,469 in 2019.

Some 2,277 Palestinian terror suspects have been arrested across the West Bank, compared to the 2,328 last year. There was an uptake in shooting accidents: 31 incidents this year and 19the year before. Some 50 workshops closed in 2020, compared to the 14 that closed in 2019.

There was a decrease in the number of illegal weapons seized: 541 this year compared to the 603 weapons in 2019. Altogether, 229 firebombs were thrown at vehicles and settlements in 2020, compared to the 290 the year before.

The report reveals some positive changes as well.

There was a decrease in terror funding: from 972,000 shekels ($300,000) last year to NIS 675,000 ($209,000) this year.

The Border Police thwarted 38 infiltration attempts. One Hamas tunnel was exposed, and 300 targets in the Gaza Strip were destroyed. Some 176 rockets were fired at Israel this year; of those that targeted cities, 93% were intercepted.
IDF: 50 Targets Were Attacked in Syria in 2020
The Israel Defense Forces (IDF) recently revealed that it launched 50 attacks on targets located in Syria over 2020.

Released in an annual statistics report Thursday, the Israeli military said that most of the strikes targeted Lebanese terrorist group Hezbollah or Iran-backed military units in the war-ravaged country.

Israel's population nears 10 million mark as country enters 2021
Israel will grow to 10 million people in the coming years, the Central Bureau of Statistics said on Thursday, on the eve of the new year of 2021.

With a total of 151,000 new additions in 2020, Israel’s general population stands at nearly 9.3 million, including 6,870,000 Jews (73.9%), 1,956,000 Arabs (21.1%) and 465,000 people (5%) belonging to other ethnic groups.

In other words, Israel’s population grew by 1.7% in 2020. Some 84% of that was due to natural population growth, subjected to the number of overall births and deaths, while 16% was due to international migration into the country.

Data released by the Central Bureau of Statistics before have previously indicated that the country’s population will reach 10 million by the end of 2024, 15 million by 2048 and 20 million by 2065.

Births and deaths
In 2020, some 176,000 babies were born in Israel. Some 73.8% of the newborns were born to Jewish families, 23.4% to Arab families and 2.8% to other ethnic groups. While Jewish births corresponded to the population, Arabs had over 2% more births relative to their population, taken from other ethnic groups that had more than 2% less.

Some 50,000 people died in Israel during 2020. In July, as Israel struggled to contain the spread of coronavirus, the percentage of deaths caused by the virus spiked. However, it has been steadily declining since the end of October.
Khaled Abu Toameh: ‘Number of Jews and Palestinians will be equal at end of 2022’
The worldwide Palestinian population today is estimated to be 13.7 million, according to the Palestinian Central Bureau of Statistics (PCBS).

PCBS president Ola Awad reported that 5.2 million Palestinians live “in the State of Palestine” – the West Bank, Gaza Strip and east Jerusalem. About 6.2 million Palestinians live in Arab states and another 738,000 live in foreign countries.

The figure includes about 1.6 million Arab citizens of Israel, whom the PCBS refers to as “Palestinians who live in the 1948 territories.” Altogether “PCBS estimates indicate that around 6.8 million Palestinians are living in historical Palestine at the end of 2020,” she said in a report published on the PCBS’s official website. By the end of 2022 she estimated, “The number of Palestinians and Jews (living between the Mediterranean and the Jordan River) will be equal at about 7.1 million each.”

The number of Palestinians living in the West Bank is estimated at 3.1 million, Awad added. An estimated 2.1 million Palestinians live in the Hamas-controlled Gaza Strip, she said.

The percentage of refugees in 2017 reached 42% of the total number of Palestinians living in the West Bank and Gaza Strip, according to Awad. She also pointed out that the total fertility rate among Palestinians between 2017 and 2019 has declined to 3.8 births, compared to 4.6 births in 1999; 3.8 in the West Bank and 3.9 in the Gaza Strip.

Awad also noted that there has been a decline in the average household size among Palestinians, 5.1 individuals in 2019, compared to 6.1 individuals in 2004; 4.9 in the West Bank and 5.5 in the Gaza Strip.
Fatah to celebrate first attempted terrorist attack in Israel
The Palestinian political party and organization Fatah is planning to commemorate its first attempted terrorist attack in light of the New Year, according to a Palestinian Media Watch (PMW) report Thursday.

On Friday, January 1, Fatah will commemorate the 56th anniversary of terrorist attacks against Israeli targets, including infrastructure and civilians, when they attempted to blow up Israel’s National Water Carrier in 1965.

The commemoration is part of its annual recognition of its legacy of terrorism and "armed struggle," which was most prominent at the organization's launch in 1964, and from the 1970s to early 2000s. Although no parade has actually taken place now, Palestinian Media Watch reports that Fatah, which is headed by Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas, released a video of a parade from the previous year. The video described by PMW shows Fatah members parading with weapons and the political movement's yellow flag, along with people dressed in fighters' garb.

The video also featured a girl as young as 13 holding a gun.

Other videos were also shared in a series of Facebook posts from Fatah, with one paying tribute to Hamama Al-Dalki, a female fighter who tried to perpetrate the 1965 attack.

"Today, Wednesday [Dec. 16, 2020], Fatah eulogized fighter Hamama Hussein Al-Dalki, sister of the commander of the Eilabun squad, Martyr Hussein Al-Dalki," the post read.
PMW: Armed struggle - Fatah’s focus for 2021
These days, Abbas’ Fatah Movement is busy highlighting its upcoming 56th anniversary. “The Launch” of Fatah is counted from its first terror attack against Israel, when the movement attempted to blow up Israel's National Water Carrier on Jan. 1, 1965.

In line with earlier years’ celebrations and anniversary posters and logos, Fatah this year too focuses on the “armed struggle” and its continued uncompromising attitude towards peace with Israel.

The central image on Fatah’s poster above is a line of masked men holding Kalashnikov assault rifles, while text glorifies “the revolution.”
Text at bottom of image: “Long live the anniversary of the outbreak of the modern Palestinian revolution
Revolution until victory”
Posted text: “The anniversary approaches
#Intilaqa” (i.e, “The Launch”)
[Official Fatah Facebook page, Dec. 17 and 21, 2020;
Facebook page of Fatah Deputy Chairman Mahmoud Al-Aloul, Dec. 21, 2020]

The poster also carries a logo made for Fatah’s 56th anniversary. At the bottom it includes the PA map of “Palestine” that presents all of Israel together with the PA areas as “Palestine.”

Another Fatah anniversary logo – presented by Fatah as “the official logo” - includes the barrel of a rifle (above the digit 6 in “56” and the PA map of “Palestine” (behind the number “56”):
Palestinian flag carrier to shut down after 25 years
According to the report, the decision to ground the airline, announced by the Palestinian Transport and Communications Ministry, was not surprising: in September, the airline offered its two remaining Fokker 50 aircraft for sale.

The operations of Palestinian Airlines had been growing increasingly limited for years. Its tiny fleet has been leased to other airlines, and its least two planes are currently sitting one at Cairo International Airport in Egypt and the other in Amman, Jordan.

Palestinian Transport and Communications Undersecretary Ammar Yassin told PNN that the PA has not received offers on the plane parked in Amman and that the one parked in Cairo had been leased to an airline in Nigeria but the contract was suspended over the global pandemic.

Palestinian Airlines was founded in 1995 and became operational in 1997. Its fleet included the two Fokker 50 aircraft donated by the Netherlands and a Boeing 727 donated by Saudi Arabia.
Hamas arrests Gaza man for tearing down poster of slain Iranian commander
Hamas’s Internal Security Force on Thursday arrested Sheikh Majdi al-Mughrabi, an extremist Muslim Salafi jihadist, on suspicion he tore down a poster of Qassem Soleimani, the commander of Iran’s Quds Force who was killed in a US drone strike in Iraq on January 3, 2020. The arrest of Mughrabi, a resident of Rafah in the southern Gaza Strip, came hours after Palestinians posted on social media platforms a video and photos of a man tearing down the poster of Soleimani.

Mughrabi is one of the leaders of the Islamic State (ISIS)-inspired Palestinian Salafi group in the Gaza Strip.

His brother, Musa al-Mughrabi, confirmed the arrest in a post on Facebook. “My brother, Sheikh Majdi al-Mughrabi, has been arrested by the Internal Security Force,” the brother wrote. “He was arrested for tearing down the picture of a murderer. Why?”

A large poster of the slain Iranian commander appeared in the Gaza Strip earlier this week as Hamas and several Palestinian armed groups carried out a joint military drill in preparation for a possible confrontation with Israel.

Twenty-Two Killed in Attack on Aden Airport After New Yemen Cabinet Lands
At least 22 people were killed and dozens wounded in an attack on Aden airport on Wednesday, moments after a plane landed carrying a newly formed Saudi-backed cabinet for government-held parts of Yemen.

Prime Minister Maeen Abdulmalik said all members of the cabinet were “fine.” But the attack underlined the difficulties facing a government intended by Saudi Arabia to unite two of its allies in the war against the Iran-aligned Houthi movement.

Hours after the attack, a second explosion was heard around Aden’s Maasheq presidential palace where the cabinet members including Maeen, as well as the Saudi ambassador to Yemen, Mohammad Said al-Jaber, had been taken to safety, residents and local media said.

In the airport attack, loud blasts and gunfire were heard shortly after the plane arrived from Riyadh, witnesses said. A local security source said three mortar shells had landed on the airport’s hall.

The cabinet gave the death figure on Twitter, citing the interior minister, and said 50 people were wounded. Medecins Sans Frontieres aid group had earlier said 17 people were treated for wounds at its hospital in Aden.

There was no immediate claim of responsibility.

Seth Frantzman: Will Iran’s threat to Israel from Iraq increase?
The overview of Iraq’s role in Iran’s operations in the region and the brief period of alleged airstrikes in the summer of 2019 raise many questions about what might come next. Iran’s use of Iraq as part of its road to the sea, a corridor of arms trafficking to Syria and Lebanon, increased from 2016 to 2019. Militia-controlled warehouses in Iraq and Syria serve as storage facilities for Iranian weapons. In 2020 it appears the number of Iranian IRGC members in Syria was slightly reduced. It is not clear if Iran’s overall footprint and access to bases, as well as entrenchment using arms warehouses and airstrikes, has diminished. Iran’s role in Iraq is central to its alliance with Iraqi political parties, such as the Fatah Coalition and pro-Iranian groups such as Badr, Kataib Hezbollah, Asaib Ahl al-Haq, Harakat Hezbollah al-Nuajaba and most recently groups such as Rab’Allah. These groups appeared to have shifted their focus increasingly to targeting U.S. forces and getting the U.S. to leave Iraq since tensions grew in May 2019.

This is a slight shift for these groups because some of them, such as Kataib Hezbollah, had played a visible role in the Syrian civil war and set up bases in Syria. In addition AAH leader Qais Khazali travelled to Lebanon in Sept. 2017 to showcase Iraqi Shi’ite militia support for Hezbollah. After the killing of Soleimani and Muhandis in Iraq the focus shifted as Hezbollah sent Mohammad al-Kawtharani to Iraq to support unity among Iraqi-based militias. This appears to indicate Iran shifted focus to opposing the US role in Iraq in the fall of 2019 and early 2020, and the tensions with the alleged Israeli airstrikes ended in Sept. 2019. That also coincided with the eruption of massive protests in Iraq in Oct. 2019 which led to the fall of Iraqi Prime Minister Adel Abdul Mahdi. This chaos in Iraq could have served Iran’s ability to transfer weapons to Syria, but it also meant the powerful militias needed for those transfers were focused domestically.

The fall of 2020 found Iran considering responses to the killing of Fakhrizadeh and awaiting the outcome of the U.S. election. Overall Iran’s posture since its Abqaiq attack on Saudi Arabia in Sept. 2019, has shifted to less high profile attacks. It showed its capability in Sept. 2019. Israel’s air defense drills in Dec. 2020 illustrate that Israel can confront the types of threats Iran displayed last year. Iraq’s will continue to play a potential role in basing those types of threats, from ballistic missiles to serving as a conduit for weapons flowing to Syria. Iran and its allies in Iraq and Syria are also focused on the diminished presence of the US in Iraq and questions about the continued U.S. role in Syria. This shapes Iran’s calculations about shifting weapons and routes of trafficking through Iraq and Syria.
Iran’s Zarif says Trump trying to fabricate ‘pretext for war’
Trump said last week said he would hold Iran “responsible” for any fatal attack on Americans in Iraq after accusing Tehran of being behind a rocket strike on the US embassy in Baghdad on December 20.

Zarif at the time warned the US president against any “adventurism” before leaving the White House on January 20, and said, “putting your own citizens at risk abroad won’t divert attention from catastrophic failures at home.”

The US embassy in Iraq and other foreign military and diplomatic sites have been targeted by dozens of rockets and roadside bomb attacks since later 2019.

Trump unilaterally withdrew the US from a landmark nuclear deal with Iran and world powers in 2018 and launched a “maximum pressure” campaign against Tehran, reimposing and reinforcing crippling sanctions.

The two countries have twice come to the brink of war since June 2019, especially following the killing of Soleimani.

Tensions with Iran further escalated with the killing in November of Mohsen Fakhrizadeh, an Iranian scientist named by the West as the leader of the Islamic Republic’s disbanded military nuclear program. Iran has blamed Israel for the killing, but US officials are concerned that any Iranian retaliation could hit US interests.

UN condemns Iran’s ‘appalling’ execution of young offenders
The UN voiced outrage at the Thursday execution of a man in Iran who was only 16 when he committed his alleged crime, marking the fourth juvenile offender put to death in the country this year.

The UN human rights office said that Mohammad Hassan Rezaiee was executed early Thursday.

It did not provide further details about Rezaiee or the crime he was convicted of, allegedly committed when he was 16.

But according to Amnesty International, he was arrested in 2007 in connection with the fatal stabbing of a man in a brawl and had spent more than 12 years on death row.

“The execution of child offenders is categorically prohibited under international law and Iran is under the obligation to abide by this prohibition,” UN rights office spokeswoman Ravina Shamdasani said in a statement.

The UN High Commissioner for Human Rights, Michelle Bachelet, “strongly condemns the killing,” she added.

Shamdasani said the rights office was dismayed that the execution had taken place despite its efforts to engage with Tehran on the case.

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