Wednesday, February 24, 2021

From Ian:

Jpost Editorial: Why is KKL-JNF's plan to buy Palestinian land in West Bank controversial?
KKL-JNF, which was established in 1901 to buy and develop land for Jewish settlement and is famous for the millions of trees it has planted throughout Israel, serves as the Jewish people’s custodian for some 15 percent of the land in the country. In this role, it has in the past purchased land in Judea and Samaria and been involved over the Green Line since the 1967 Six Day War, buying at least 65,000 dunams across the West Bank including in the communities of Itamar, Alfei Menashe, Einav, Kedumim, Givat Ze’ev and Otniel. In other words, buying land is what it does.

While it may be true that KKL-JNF’s expansion of activities in the West Bank could complicate Israel’s ties with the Biden administration, as critics of the plan have claimed, this is a question for the government of Israel of what it wants to do. Indeed, State Department spokesman Ned Price said in response to the plan, “It is critical to avoid unilateral steps that exacerbate tensions and undercut the efforts to achieve a two-state solution. This includes annexation, settlement building, demolitions, incitement and payments for terrorists.”

But while the State Department is voicing the views of the US, the KKL-JNF plan is in line with existing Israeli government policy which is not aimed at unilaterally establishing new facts on the ground, but rather at expanding and developing existing Jewish communities. This is something that Israel has always done and will need to continue doing to enable a quality of life for residents of existing communities in Judea and Samaria.

Although the Israeli government – under pressure from the US – can freeze settlement expansion as it has in the past, it cannot prevent existing communities from meeting the needs of their growing populations. This was once termed “natural growth,” and has been largely accepted by the international community, including the US, as legitimate and not in violation of the status quo. We do not expect the Biden administration to adopt the peace plan put forth by the Trump administration under which all settlements were meant to remain and the land to be annexed by Israel, but natural growth of existing communities should not be impaired.

KKL-JNF has the right to approve the plan, and instead of criticizing the organization, Zionist groups should see it as a way to better the everyday lives of Israelis living in the land of Israel, something KKL-JNF has done since its inception.

Blinken: US to run for UNHRC seat, abolish anti-Israel bias
The United States plans to run for a seat on the United Nations Human Rights Council, Secretary of State Antony Blinken said Wednesday as he decried the 47-member body's bias against Israel and called for its Agenda Item 7 to be abolished.

"I’m pleased to announce the United States will seek election to the Human Rights Council for the 2022-24 term," Blinken said as he spoke at the virtual high-level meeting of the 46th session which opened Monday and ends on March 23.

Former US president Donald Trump exited the UNHRC in 2018, abandoning the US seat, to protest the council's bias against Israel, which is the subject of more resolutions than any other country.

US President Joe Biden rejoined the council, but as a participant and not a voting member. The US can regain its seat only through elections held annually by the UN General Assembly in New York.

"We humbly ask for the support of all UN member states in our bid to return to a seat in this body," Blinken said.

He lauded the UNHRC for its important work in highlighting global human rights abuses, but chastised it for its treatment of Israel.

"We urge the Human Rights Council to look at how it conducts its business. That includes its disproportionate focus on Israel," Blinken said.

"We need to eliminate Agenda Item 7 and treat the human rights situation in Israel and the Palestinian territories the same way as this body handles any other country," he said.

CFI hold 'robust' talks with the Middle East Minister to address 'on-going' concerns over Iran
The Conservative Friends of Israel's parliamentary group have held talks with Middle East Minister James Cleverley to address “ongoing concerns” around issues involving Israel, the United Nations and Iran.

The virtual meeting – attended by MPs and peers attend including CFI parliamentary chairs Stephen Crabb MP, Lord Pickles and honorary president Lord Polak - saw what was described as a “robust exchange "of views and a call for the UK Government to support Israel in votes in UN institutions.

CFI confirmed they received a commitment from the minister to vote against permanent agenda Item 7 which singles out Israel for criticism at the UN Human Rights Council.

The CFI delegation also urged the government to voice objections to the announcement by the International Criminal Court that it is to open a probe into allegations of war crimes in the West Bank, Gaza and East Jerusalem.

Also discussed was the situation with Iran – including the recent conviction of an Iranian diplomat in France who plotted an attack on an opposition rally which had been attended by British MPs, including three at the meeting with Mr Cleverley.

Speaking afterwards, Theresa Villiers, the MP for Chipping Barnet, said, “Too often, UN bodies single out Israel for disproportionate and unfair criticism.

"For years, I have been pressing ministers to ensure the UK always votes against this kind of unbalanced anti-Israel resolution.
Senate Confirms Linda Thomas-Greenfield as Next US Ambassador to UN
Recently, the Biden administration announced that it would rejoin the UN Human Rights Council as an observer. The Trump administration had left the UNHRC, citing its singling out of Israel for criticism while ignoring human-rights violations elsewhere.

At the same time, the United Nations has continued to be a forum for anti-Israel bias.

During her confirmation hearings, the longtime diplomat pledged to fight bias against Israel at the world body, assuring that “I look forward to standing with Israel, standing against the unfair targeting of Israel, the relentless resolutions proposed against Israel unfairly.”

Thomas-Greenfield added that she’s eager to work “with Israel to develop a strategy with them for engaging with countries that would appreciate having Israel’s expertise to support their development efforts.”

She also said she would work to prevent Iran from obtaining a nuclear weapon and expressed opposition to the BDS movement, calling it “unacceptable,” that it “verges on antisemitic” and that “it’s important that they not be allowed to have a voice at the UN, and I intend to work against that.”

Israeli Ambassador to the United Nations Gilad Erdan welcomed Thomas-Greenfield’s confirmation, saying he is looking forward to working with her.

“I am excited to work by your side to tackle global challenges such as climate change and racism, widen the circle of peace in the Middle East, as well as deepening the US-Israel relationship at the UN,” he said.
Anti-Israel Activists Defend Biden State Dept. Nominee
An anti-Israel publishing group is defending its former employee, a current top Biden nominee, for contributing to its book on the nefarious influence of "Jewish Power" over U.S. Middle East policy, following a report by the Washington Free Beacon last week.

As a staffer at the Washington Report on Middle East Affairs, Uzra Zeya compiled research for the a book that argues "the Israel lobby has subverted the American political process to take control of U.S. Middle East policy" by establishing a secret network of "dirty money" PACs that bribe and extort congressional candidates into taking pro-Israel positions.

Zeya, who worked for the Washington Report and its publishing group, the American Educational Trust, in 1989 and 1990, is President Joe Biden's choice for undersecretary for civilian security, democracy, and human rights.

The executive editor of the Washington Report defended Zeya’s work on the organization’s book, Stealth PACs: How Israel's American Lobby Took Control of U.S. Middle East Policy, in an email to the Free Beacon on Monday.

"That book thoroughly documents attempts by foreign lobbying groups to influence our legislature," wrote executive editor Delinda Curtiss Hanley, who is the daughter of the Washington Report‘s late founder Richard Curtiss. "It is a ‘must read' for American citizens who are interested in understanding how the interests of a foreign entity can sometimes compromise the values of the American Constitution."

"Seventeen years later, Professors John J. Mearsheimer and Stephen M. Walt published another book, The Israel Lobby, which also disturbed Israel and its U.S. supporters," added Hanley. The Israel Lobby and U.S. Foreign Policy, published in 2007, has been criticized by Jewish groups for promoting anti-Semitic tropes.

Hanley said Zeya, who was in her early 20s when she worked at the Washington Report, was encouraged by its founders to get a job in U.S. diplomacy.
Report: Left-Wing US Jews Ask Biden to Revoke Labeling Settlements’ Products ‘Made in Israel’
J Street, the New Israel Fund, Partners for Progressive Israel, Ameinu, Americans for Peace Now, and T’ruah: The Rabbinic Call for Human Rights, are demanding that President Joe Biden revoke a Trump administration policy that permits products made in Jewish communities in Judea and Samaria to be labeled “Made in Israel” when they reach US stores, Huffington Post reported Wednesday (Key Jewish Groups Ask Joe Biden To Revoke Trump’s Parting Gift For Israel’s Netanyahu).

The six anti-Israel Jewish groups sent a letter to Homeland Security Secretary Alejandro Mayorkas on Tuesday warning the Biden administration against the new regulation which “would worsen tensions in the Middle East if allowed to go into effect.”

Yes, the planet will become extinct should Samaria wine be sold alongside Carmel Mizrahi in your favorite liquor store.

One day before Christmas, on December 24, 2020, US Customs and Border Protection announced that an order requiring goods made in “Israeli-controlled areas of the West Bank to be labeled as ‘Made in Israel'” had taken effect.

After the signing of the Oslo accords, the US required products made in Judea, Samaria, and Gaza to be labeled according to their locations. This was reiterated in 2016 by the Obama administration, which established fines to vendors who sold those products as “made in Israel” – as they had been labeled in the US before 1995.

Quincy Institute Fellow Denies China’s Genocide of Uighur Muslims
A fellow at the Quincy Institute said the charge that China is committing genocide is a "far-right" talking point, the latest pro-China comment from an isolationist think tank with a history of downplaying China's threat to the United States.

China's horrendous treatment of its Uighur Muslim population has led to bipartisan agreement that the Chinese government is committing genocide against the ethnic minority group. Almost no one in the West buys China's denials—except for Joshua Landis, a nonresident fellow at the Quincy Institute for Responsible Statecraft who cited an article from a conspiratorial, far-left website to cast doubt on the genocide designation in a now-deleted Saturday tweet.

"Pompeo's and Blinken's accusation of China ‘genocide' relied on data abuse by far-right ideologue," Landis wrote, referring to the secretaries of state for the Trump and Biden administrations. "Between 2010 & 2018, the Uyghur population in Xinjiang grew by a 25%, faster than the growth of the Han Chinese."

Landis's position echoed that of the Chinese government, which also denies a genocide in Xinjiang. Chinese foreign minister Wang Yi doubled down on the claim Monday, saying Xinjiang is a "shining example" of China's human rights progress despite multiple press accounts of mass detention, mass sterilization, and systemic rape of Uighur Muslims.

Landis is the only Quincy fellow so far to deny outright the existence of an ongoing genocide in China, but his comments are consistent with the think tank's history of pedaling pro-Beijing viewpoints that are grossly out of step with the bipartisan consensus. Even as Democrats and Republicans have come to believe in a more muscular China policy, the isolationist think tank continues to pump out research that downplays China's threat and calls for American cooperation with the authoritarian country.
Sadiq Khan's statue diversity appointee resigns over antisemitism claims
A recently appointed member of the Mayor of London’s statue diversity commission resigned on Wednesday after being accused of antisemitism.

Activist Toyin Agbetu was among the 15 people recently appointed by Sadiq Khan’s Commission for Diversity in the Public Realm, which has been set up to review the capital’s landmarks.

But in social posts seen by the JC, Mr Agbetu had previously claimed there was an “immoral hierarchy of suffering” which Jews benefit from and black people do not.

Mr Agbetu had also praised the academic Tony Martin, the author of a book called ‘The Jewish Onslaught’ which claimed that Jews played “an integral role in the slave trade” and featured a description of “how Jews control the media.”

A spokesperson for London Mayor Sadiq Khan confirmed on Wednesday that “Toyin Agbetu has today resigned from the Commission for Diversity in the Public Realm and the Mayor believes this is the right course of action.”

In a blog, Mr Agbetu paid tribute to Professor Tony Martin as “a first class historian.”

But The Jewish Onslaught was condemned by Professor Martin’s own faculty members as antisemitic when it was released in 1994.

Mr Agbetu wrote in 2007: “His alleged ‘crime’ was being the author of a book that explored the role of Jews in the Maafa.”
Amnesty International revokes Navalny's 'prisoner of conscience' status
Amnesty International no longer considers jailed Kremlin critic Alexei Navalny a "prisoner of conscience" due to past comments he made that qualify as advocacy of hatred, the group said.

Amnesty, however, still believes that Navalny should be freed from jail, that he has committed no crime and that he is being persecuted for his campaigning and outspoken criticism of President Vladimir Putin and his government, it said.

The 44-year-old Russian opposition politician was flown to Germany last August to recover from a near-fatal poisoning in Siberia with what many Western nations said was a nerve agent.

He was arrested on his return to Russia last month and sentenced to jail for parole violations he called trumped-up. He is set to spend just over two-and-a-half years behind bars. The West has demanded his release; Russia says that is meddling.

"Amnesty International took an internal decision to stop referring to ... Navalny as a prisoner of conscience in relation to comments he made in the past," the group said in a statement sent to Reuters on Wednesday.

"Some of these comments, which Navalny has not publicly denounced, reach the threshold of advocacy of hatred, and this is at odds with Amnesty's definition of a prisoner of conscience," it added.
IDF searches for suspect after reported stabbing attempt in West Bank
Israel Defense Forces troops launched a manhunt after an Israeli man reported that someone tried to stab him at a northern West Bank junction on Wednesday morning, the military said.

The Israeli citizen said he was attacked at the Yitzhar Junction south of Nablus.

“The citizen was not injured, and the terrorist fled the scene,” the IDF said.

“IDF troops are searching for the suspect,” the military added.

Surveillance camera footage of the incident was shared on social media, showing the moment that the Palestinian man, holding an unidentified object in his hand, tried to stab the Israeli man, Binyamin Cohen from the Beit El settlement.

Cohen could be seen fighting back, kicking the man and screaming, before running away and calling the police.

According to Palestinian media, Israeli forces closed off the entrances to Palestinian villages in the area as they search for the suspected assailant.

UK research group’s accusation of ‘extrajudicial killing’ of Palestinian rebutted as ‘speculation'
The Israeli thinktank NGO Monitor has dismissed claims made by a London-based research group that the killing of a Palestinian whose car crashed into a West Bank checkpoint was an “extrajudicial execution”.

Forensic Architecture disputes the Israeli police account that Ahmed Erekat, 26, who was shot by Israeli soldiers between Jerusalem and Bethlehem in June, had deliberately plunged the vehicle into the checkpoint.

But NGO Monitor discounted the report by Forensic Architecture’s Palestine Unit and the Palestinian human rights group Al Haq as “based on speculation”.

The report says that use of “3d-modelling, shadow analysis and open-source investigation” to analyse video footage and witness accounts of the footage raise doubts about official Israeli claims.

According to the family of Mr Erekat, a nephew of the late Palestinian Authority negotiator Saeed Ereket, was “driving to run errands for his sister’s wedding” taking place that day, the Forensic Architecture report says.

His car veered into a booth at the checkpoint and hit a soldier. He was shot after getting out.

“The military claimed that it was an intentional attack, but produced no evidence that the crash was not the result of an error or a vehicle malfunction,” the report says.

Lebanese-Palestinian terrorist al-Naqqash dies from COVID-19 age 70
Anis Naccache, a Lebanese-Palestinian former guerrilla fighter who was part of the team led by Carlos the Jackal that kidnapped oil ministers in 1975, was buried in Beirut following his death two days ago in Syria at the age of 70 from COVID-19, witnesses said. His body was draped in the Lebanese and Palestinian flags and mourner included officials from Lebanon's Hezbollah and radical Palestinian factions.

Naccache took part in the 1975 OPEC conference hostage-taking in Vienna led by Venezuelan guerrilla fighter Carlos the Jackal in which three people were killed.

He was later jailed in France after he was found complicit in an attempted assassination of Iran's former Prime Minister Shahpur Bakhtiar in Paris in 1980. He and his accomplices were pardoned by former President Francois Mitterrand in 1990.

Naccache, who died in a Damascus hospital from the novel coronavirus, was a staunch supporter of Syrian President Bashar al Assad's bloody crackdown against peaceful protesters at the start of a 10-year conflict that descended into a civil war which has killed hundreds of thousands of civilians.

Seth Frantzman: Video shows Russian armed drones were used in Syria in recent years
A video and reports this week indicated that Russia deployed its stealthy Okhotnik drone to the Tiyas base in Syria near Palmyra. This may have happened several years ago but it also shows an increase in Russian drone activity in Syria. Russia’s Orion drone and its S-70 Okhotnik ("Hunter") drone are seen in the video.

Thomas Newdick at The Drive notes that, “while part of the purported combat sequence shows the Orion carrying four small weapons on underwing pylons, these areas have been deliberately obscured.” He notes that investigations online concluded that the “video was made sometime between December 2017 and early April 2019, which would coincide with the previously reported in-theater trials.”

The video was shown on Russia’s Channel One. The Orion drone, sometimes called Inokhodets, is Moscow’s answer to US armed drones such as the Reaper. Russia has been lagging behind the US in drone production, and has been trying to catch up. The deployment of the S-70 is interesting because Russia is not thought to have many of these wing-shaped stealth drones.

Russian drone design is not revolutionary. It has appeared to learn from elements of the US Predator program. The S-70 has elements of the US Sentinel and the X-47 prototype that Northrop Grumman made in the early 2000s.
Germany convicts Syrian agent of state-sponsored torture in landmark trial
A German court on Wednesday convicted a former Syrian intelligence service agent for complicity in crimes against humanity, in the first court case worldwide over state-sponsored torture by Syrian President Bashar al-Assad’s government.

Eyad al-Gharib, 44, was found guilty over his role in helping to arrest at least 30 protesters and deliver them to the Al-Khatib detention centre in Damascus after a rally in Duma in autumn 2011.

Almost 10 years since the Arab Spring reached Syria on March 15, 2011, the judgement is the first in the world related to what judge Anne Kerber called “widespread and systematic repression” of protesters by the regime in Damascus.

The conviction was hailed as a “ray of hope” by Syrian Wassim Mukdad, a plaintiff who suffered torture in the Al-Khatib center, also named “Branch 251.”

“This is just the beginning and the day will come when Bashar al-Assad and his cronies, the army and intelligence generals are put on trial,” said Mukdad, who testified at the trial.

Gharib, a former low-ranking member of the intelligence service, hid his face from the cameras with a folder as the verdict was read out, arms folded and wearing a medical mask.
Netanyahu Sends Message to White House, Iran: ‘We Are Not Pinning Our Hopes on Any Agreement With an Extremist Regime’
Netanyahu Sends Message to White House, Iran: ‘We Are Not Pinning Our Hopes on Any Agreement With an Extremist Regime’ avatar by Benjamin Kerstein

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu gives a statement as Israel imposes nightly curfews in dozens of towns and neighborhoods to stem the coronavirus disease (COVID-19), in Beit Shemesh, Israel, Sept. 8, 2020. Photo: Alex Kolomoisky / Pool via Reuters.

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu appeared to send a message to both Iran and the White House on Tuesday, pledging that Israel will prevent Iran from gaining nuclear weapons even if Iran concludes a deal with the US.

Messages from Israel over the last month on its approach to the Iran nuclear issue have been mixed, with some reports indicating that Israel might work with the Biden administration as it seeks a new deal with Iran.

In his Tuesday speech, Netanyahu struck a more unilateral note.

Addressing Iran’s leaders directly, he said, “We will not allow your extremist and aggressive regime to attain nuclear weapons.”

“We have not made the journey of generations, of thousands of years, to return to the Land of Israel, to allow the delusional regime of the ayatollahs to end the story of the revival of the Jewish people,” he pledged.

He hinted that Israel was prepared to act on its own against Iran, saying, “We are not pinning our hopes on any agreement with an extremist regime such as yours. We have already seen the quality of agreements with extremist regimes such as yours in the past century and in this one.”

Netanyahu cited North Korea, which concluded nuclear agreements with Western countries and then violated them, as an example.

“With or without agreements, we will do everything so that you will not arm yourselves with nuclear weapons,” Netanyahu asserted.
IDF prepared to take action to stop Iran from obtaining nukes - Gantz
The IDF is preparing in case it needs to take action against Iran, Defense Minister Benny Gantz said at a graduate ceremony for new IDF officers on Wednesday.

“The IDF is currently working to build up our forces and is preparing itself for any scenario, including one in which we would need to take operative action to prevent Iran from obtaining nuclear weapons,” he said.

Gantz emphasized the need for Israel to work with its allies to counter the Iranian threat.

“Iran is a global and regional problem before anything else, although, it certainly also threatens Israel,” he said. “That’s why we need to work together with our allies; with the US, with Europe, and with our new partners in the Middle East.”
Iran announces start of new restrictions on UN nuclear inspections
Iran has officially begun restricting international inspections of its nuclear facilities, Iranian state TV reported Tuesday.

The state TV report gave little detail beyond confirming that Iran had made good on its threat to reduce cooperation with International Atomic Energy Agency inspectors in a bid to pressure European countries and US President Joe Biden’s administration to lift economic sanctions and restore the 2015 nuclear deal.

Iran has said it plans to cease its implementation of the “Additional Protocol,” a confidential agreement between Tehran and the IAEA reached as part of the landmark nuclear accord that grants the UN inspectors enhanced powers to visit nuclear facilities and examine Iran’s program.

It remains unclear exactly how access will be limited. Iranian Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif said the IAEA would be blocked from accessing its network of surveillance cameras at nuclear sites. The Atomic Energy Organization of Iran, Tehran’s civilian nuclear agency, has promised to keep the footage for three months, then hand it over to the IAEA — but only if granted sanctions relief.

Nearly three years ago, former US President Donald Trump unilaterally withdrew America from the nuclear accord and reimposed sanctions on Iran that have crippled its economy.
Israel: Iran’s nuclear actions require immediate international response
With Iran moving to limit some UN inspections of its nuclear facilities, Israel on Wednesday said the Islamic Republic’s actions threaten regional stability and require an immediate international response.

“Iran is crushing the last vestiges of oversight by the International Atomic Energy Agency and continues to challenge and threaten regional stability,” Foreign Minister Gabi Ashkenazi said in a statement.

“Iran’s extreme steps necessitate an immediate international response,” he said. “The Iranian policy is a statement of intentions as to its desire to continue to clandestinely develop nuclear capabilities.”

“Israel sees this step as a threat and it must not go by without response. We will never allow Iran to control the capability to acquire a nuclear weapon.”

Iran on Tuesday began limiting the International Atomic Energy Agency’s access to sites and other information in response to Washington’s refusal to lift sanctions imposed by former president Donald Trump after he pulled the US from the 2015 nuclear deal Iran signed with world powers.
IAEA deeply troubled by possible nuclear material at Iran site flagged by Israel
The UN’s atomic watchdog said Tuesday that it was “deeply concerned” by the possible presence of nuclear material at an undeclared site in Iran that Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu has declared was a “secret atomic warehouse.”

“The agency is deeply concerned that undeclared nuclear material may have been present at this undeclared location and that such nuclear material remains unreported by Iran under its safeguards agreement,” a report from the International Atomic Energy Agency seen by AFP said.

“After 18 months, Iran has not provided the necessary, full and technically credible explanation for the presence of the nuclear material particles,” the report said.

The site in question is in the Turquzabad district of Tehran, previously identified by Israel as an alleged site of secret atomic activity.

Inspectors from the International Atomic Energy Agency visited the site several times after Netanyahu identified it in a 2018 address to the UN General Assembly, took soil samples, and later definitively concluded that there were “traces of radioactive material” there, Channel 13 news reported in 2019.

Sources told AFP Tuesday that there is no indication the site has been used for processing uranium, but that it could have been used for storing it as late as the end of 2018.

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