Sunday, March 14, 2021

03/14 Links: Why Europe "Will Remain Hostile to Israel"; Phyllis Chesler: Tehran on My Mind; South Africa’s Chief Justice Confronts the Apartheid Analogy

From Ian:

Rafael Bardaji on Why Europe "Will Remain Hostile to Israel"
Rafael Bardaji, executive director of the Friends of Israel Initiative and Spain's former national security advisor, spoke to participants in a February 15 Middle East Forum webinar (video) about the persistent "clash of interests ... between the European Union (EU) and the Israeli government" likely to endure for the foreseeable future.

According to Bardaji, three points of friction between the EU and Israel are prominent this year. The first is the decision by the International Criminal Court (ICC) and its former prosecutor, Gambian lawyer Fatou Bensouda, to "accept the Palestinians as a national state ... able to ask for investigation, prosecution and indictment of a non-state-member of the ICC," namely Israel. "The Europeans are very well attached, by heart, to the ICC despite all violations of international law regarding this decision." Bardaji said the most effective way to counter the ICC's illegal action is to approach those European powers opposed to Bensouda's decision and persuade them to defund the ICC.

The second point of friction concerns Iran. Despite Tehran's violations of the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA), the EU is eager to "keep it afloat" and press the U.S. to lift its sanctions imposed under Trump in order to resume their own trade with Tehran. The Biden administration's clear desire to reach out to Iran for a new agreement will encourage the Europeans to "offer even more concessions to Iran" to hasten a deal.

The third point of conflict is European eagerness to "pull the Palestinians back into the center stage" of the Middle East peace process, despite the fact that their longstanding belief that "without them, nothing can be done in the region" has been proven wrong. The Abraham Accords established as a result of Trump's "thinking out of the box" bore results, but the Biden administration has expressed "doubts about nurturing new countries" to join the accords, which will cause the Europeans to stiffen their own resistance.

Honest Reporting: NYT, CNN Ignore Former ‘Moderate’ Palestinian Authority PM’s Apparent Radicalization
Former Palestinian Authority prime minister Salam Fayyad recently stated his belief that in order to run in prospective Palestinian legislative and presidential elections or, more generally, be a member of any Palestinian political entity, one need not accept the three guiding principles of the Quartet — a body made up of representatives from the United States, European Union, Russia and the United Nations.

The Quartet was established to facilitate peace negotiations and laid out basic criteria for the Palestinian leadership to abide by as a basis for talks: namely, to recognize the State of Israel, respect previous diplomatic agreements signed with Jerusalem and renounce violence.

Yet, the New York Times, CNN and other major news organizations that had once praised Fayyad as the personification of a new, moderate, conciliatory Palestinian political echelon have not reported on his apparent rejection of Israel’s right to exist or the need for the Palestinians to adhere to the Oslo Accords and end their support for attacks on Israelis. New York Times: Fayyad as a Model of Palestinian Moderation

Salam Fayyad is no obscure figure.

Last week, he announced that he would be submitting a list of independent candidates who will run in the May 22 elections for the Palestinian Legislative Council. Fayyad served as the Palestinian Authority finance minister under Yasser Arafat from 2002 to 2005 and, following Hamas’ takeover of the Gaza Strip in an internecine war, was sworn in as prime minister of an emergency West Bank-based Palestinian government on June 15, 2007.

PA President Mahmoud Abbas reappointed him to the position in 2009, a post he held until 2013.

He has been lauded by the media as an economic reformer who cracked down on corruption, while his views on the Israel-Palestinian conflict were deemed a welcomed breath of fresh air.

During Fayyad’s tenure, former New York Times Jerusalem Bureau Chief Steven Erlanger quoted the PA prime minister expressing ostensible support for co-existence with the Jewish state:
It is obvious that Israelis and Palestinians need to live together, he [Fayyad] said. “There should be no question in anybody’s mind in Israel that this is what this is about, in a way that leads to us living like them, as free people, in a country of our own, right next door to them. It’s not that we have to; we want to.”
Thanks to Jordan, Jews can't pray on the Temple Mount - analysis
In the 1994 peace agreement between Israel and Jordan, Israel stated that it “respects the present special role of the Hashemite Kingdom of Jordan in Muslim Holy shrines in Jerusalem.” In other words, the Jordanian Islamic Trust, known as the Wakf, would be responsible for the day-to-day administration of the Al-Aksa Mosque.

Jordan has taken that to mean that it can demand things like the removal of metal detectors from the site, installed immediately after a terrorist attack in which Muslim Israelis murdered two Druze Israeli police officers.

Plus, Jordan thinks it is within its rights to demand that high-profile Israelis not visit the Temple Mount, despite the agreement stating that “there will be freedom of access to the places of religious and historical significance.”

King Abdullah also declined to allow Israel to continue to lease small pockets of farmland from Jordan, as detailed in the peace agreement, further contributing to the decline of relations.

Beyond that, he’s done nothing to counter the coldness of the peace between Israel and Jordan, and rampant anti-Israel sentiment in society. Jordan has blocked the extradition to the US of Ahlam Tamimi, one of the masterminds of the 2001 suicide bombing in a Sbarro in Jerusalem, in which 15 were killed and 122 injured; she has since become a TV star in Jordan.

A 2019 study by IMPACT-se, which analyzes the content of textbooks in the region, found "minimal recognition of Israel and the peace treaty," which it called "cause for concern." Official textbooks warn of the "Zionist Danger," and describe Israel as "a Zionist entity with no rights." One textbook expresses a "wish to see Palestine liberated from the Zionist Occupation;" another compares Zionism to Nazism and fascism.

But not letting the prince have as many armed guards as he wants at Temple Mount is the real problem in Jordan-Israel relations.

Maybe Prince Hussein can talk to Oprah about it.

Jason Greenblatt: Saudi Arabia Is an Indispensable Middle East Ally for the United States
Messrs. Miller and Sokolsky boil down the U.S.-Saudi relationship to that of competing oil suppliers and partners in counterterrorism and imply that since we are not getting much out of the Kingdom, there is little value in having them as an ally. But this approach disrespects the Saudi people. The relationship between our two countries has much more breadth, depth and scope.

I believe that today's Saudi Arabia is more important to us than ever. The region is fighting a battle of good versus evil, terrorism and chaos versus stability. The Kingdom and others in the region are seeking ways to realize a brighter future for their young populations.

My first trip to the Kingdom was in 2017, as an observant Jew in a land that was strange to me. Today I feel at home there and I see a region that is so very different in many, positive ways. I see people excited about their future. The Saudis that I am meeting recognize what the crown prince is trying to achieve and support his efforts, his dream and his vision.

Ultimately, the logic used by Messrs. Miller and Sokolsky would suggest that the Arab world should shun me and everything I stand for. After all, I am a proud, outspoken supporter of Israel. Yet, I am able to continue to have deep and meaningful ties with the people of Saudi Arabia and others in the region because we all understand that while we may disagree on certain major issues—sometimes deeply so—we have so much more in common, and we want to build a better future for all.

Politics, diplomacy and so much else in life is not just black and white. Unless we behave and speak in a nuanced manner and recognize the differences we may have with our friends, partners and allies, while also understanding that we will only move our societies forward if we work together where we can and respect each other, we will fail to achieve the progress we strive for.

I firmly believe that the intent of King Salman and the crown prince is to build a brighter future for Saudi Arabia and the broader region. Our goal should be to work closely and cooperatively with our friends and allies, and to continue to improve lives, step by step, day by day, issue by issue, to pave a brighter path for the next generation. We owe it to them.
Kosovo opens embassy in Jerusalem after establishment of diplomatic ties
Kosovo opened an embassy to Israel for the first time on Sunday, making it the third country with an embassy currently in Jerusalem. "A truly proud and historic moment for Kosovo-Israel relations," Kosovar Ambassador Ines Demiri tweeted. "The greatest honor of my life is to have this opportunity to open the embassy and proudly serve my country in Israel."

Demiri shared several photos of herself in front of the new embassy. Kosovo's Foreign Ministry tweeted that "the pledge given in the Oval Office today is finally fulfilled."

The Israeli Foreign Ministry said it "warmly welcomes the opening of the Embassy of Kosovo in Jerusalem today, a natural development of the relations and a realization of the Washington agreement." Kosovo and Israel officially established diplomatic relations last month, in a ceremony held over video conference. Kosovar Foreign Minister Meliza Haradinaj-Stublla submitted a formal request to open an embassy in Jerusalem during the ceremony.

Europe mulls blocking Israel, UK from quantum, space research programs
The European Union is moving to block Israel, along with few other countries, from cooperating in its quantum computing and space research programs under the Horizon Europe research fund, Science Magazine has reported.

The proposal has yet to be approved by the 27 EU member states. If it passes, researchers from numerous countries would be shut out from these programs.

This development occurred despite Horizon Europe's 2018 promise, when the program was initiated, that it would be "open to the world," the magazine reported.

Horizon Europe is the latest iteration of the European research programs, which began in 1984 and are renewed every seven years.

However, this promise of renewal has been strained in recent months, with policymakers in Brussels arguing about what the EU should "safeguard" among their strategic assets and interests, and whether they should domestically produce components for quantum and space technologies. Essentially, this means that the EU estimates that such technologies will become increasingly important for national security in the near future, according to Science|Business.
Netanyahu pledges to legalize West Bank settler outposts if re-elected
Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu pledged to authorize illegal West Bank settler outposts should the results of the March 23 election allow him to create a right-wing government.

"I swear to you: If I create a strong right-wing government without a rotation, I will take care of the settlements and the authorization of the young settlements [outposts]," Netanyahu said during a visit to the Givat Harel outpost in the West Bank's Binyamin region.

The event was closed to the media and his remarks were publicized by the Young Settlements Forum, whose representatives met with him at the outpost.

The outpost visit is part of a larger trip that marks the first time Netanyahu has campaigned in the settlements during this fourth election cycle.

Netanyahu had already pledged to support the authorization of the outposts prior to the fall of the government.

At the time he had supported an initiative for government ministers to issue a declaration of intent to legalize the outposts, but Alternate Prime Minister Benny Gantz had kept the issue off the government's agenda.
Israel unveils the 'Iron Sting' laser, GPS-guided mortar munition
As the IDF completes preparations for possible combat in both the southern and the northern fronts — where it is expected to encounter a smarter, well-organized enemy —the Defense Ministry, the IDF’s Ground Forces and Elbit Systems have revealed a precise, laser and GPS guided mortar munition: the “Iron Sting.”

The 120 mm mortar has recently undergone final trials in a testing site in southern Israel. The completion of testing enables the start of serial production ahead of the system’s supply to the IDF, the Defense Ministry said in a statement on Sunday.

The body in charge of development of the system in the Defense Ministry is the Directorate of Defense R&D (DDR&D).

The series of tests was carried out using two networked "Cardom" mortar systems developed by Elbit: a “Cardom” system, mounted on an M113 APC and a “Cardom Spear” system, mounted on a Hummer 4X4 SUV.

The ministry said in a statement that Iron Sting is designed to engage targets precisely, in both open terrains and urban environments, while reducing the possibility of collateral damage and preventing injury to non-combatants. Its operational use will revolutionize ground warfare and equip battalions with organic, accurate and effective firepower.

Following the announcement, Defense Minister Benny Gantz said that "the technology made available to the IDF by Israeli industries changes the battlefield and provides our forces with more accurate and effective means.

"The integration of ‘Iron Sting' into the IDF corresponds to the vision presented in the military’s ‘Tnufa’ multi-year plan,” he said. “It also fulfills the IDF’s needs, adapting combat capabilities to contend with enemies hidden within civilian, urban environments, while meeting the legal and moral standards set by the State of Israel.”
US Air Force receives first F-15EX fighter jet
The US Air Force officially accepted the first Boeing F-15EX last week, Boeing said Sunday in a press release.

The fighter jet is a two-seat aircraft that is operable by a single pilot. It has fly-by-wire flight controls, digital cockpit displays and advanced avionics systems, including the Eagle Passive/Active Warning and Survivability System, an electronic warfare upgrade that is also being fielded on F-15E models.

“This is a big moment for the Air Force,” said Col. Sean Dorey, F-15EX program manager with the Air Force Life Cycle Management Center’s Fighters and Advanced Aircraft Directorate, responsible for the acquisition, modernization and sustainment of the aircraft.

“With its large weapons capacity, digital backbone and open architecture, the F-15EX will be a key element of our tactical fighter fleet and complement 5th-generation assets,” he said. “In addition, it’s capable of carrying hypersonic weapons, giving it a niche role in future near-peer conflicts.”

This progress in the F-15EX program also has an effect on the Israel Air Force.

Indictment: Syrians wanted woman who crossed border to lead them to IDF troops
After an Israeli woman crossed the border into Syria last month, the Syrians who interrogated her demanded she lead Syrian troops to an IDF military outpost to capture Israeli soldiers, according to Saturday reports.

The woman refused the demand and was sent to a Damascus prison where she was held for 16 days, said the reports, citing her indictment document.

The woman’s crossing became a major international incident and she was returned to Israel via Russia after over a week of diplomatic wrangling. Her return came at a steep cost and included the release of Syrian captives in Israel, and reportedly involved Israel buying vaccines for Syria.

She was indicted for her actions last month on charges including illegally exiting the country.

The woman, whose identity is barred from publication, has reportedly suffered from mental ill-health in the past. She is reported to be a 25-year-old from Modiin Illit who left the ultra-Orthodox community and speaks Arabic.

The court allowed part of her indictment to be published this week.

Hebrew media reports based on the indictment said the woman had served in the Israeli military in some capacity in 2019. After she finished her service, she adopted a nomadic lifestyle in Israel and did not have a fixed address.
100,000 Israelis who got first COVID shot reportedly haven’t returned for second
A hundred thousand Israelis who received their first COVID-19 vaccine shot have not returned for the second dose, according to a Saturday report.

Ministry officials quoted by Channel 12 news attributed the reluctance to get the second shot to two factors — wariness over side effects after the first dose and misinformation about the vaccines.

The network said health workers were among those who got a first dose but did not come back for the second, but at a lower percentage than the general population.

According to the latest Health Ministry figures, 5,128,212 Israelis have received at least one vaccine dose. The 100,000 people who reportedly have not gotten a second dose account for just under 2 percent of this group.

The number of people who have received both shots stood at 4,128,807.
Israel lets soccer fans back into stadiums for 1st time since start of pandemic
Soccer fans were allowed back into stadiums over the weekend for the first time since spectators were barred from attending games early in the pandemic about a year ago.

Authorities allowed 1,500 fans into stadiums, but children under the age of 16, who are not eligible for vaccinations, were not let in.

Professional sports had continued during the pandemic, but without a live audience.

Games were held in Tel Aviv, Jerusalem, Haifa, Netanya and Kiryat Shmona.

Fans were only allowed in with a “green pass” showing they have been vaccinated or recovered from COVID-19.

“I counted the days. We didn’t know what to do with ourselves at home,” one fan told Channel 12.

“I couldn’t even sleep last night. Really, it’s crazy. To not be at the field for a year. Someone who’s a stranger to the game can’t understand it,” said another. “Even during big wars we would go to games.”

Israel Vaccinates Over 50,000 PA Arabs Against COVID-19 in Week
Israel has vaccinated over 50,000 people in the first week of its operation to inoculate workers from the Palestinian Authority (PA) who work in Israel against the Coronavirus (COVID-19).

The operation, which commenced Monday, is being led by the IDF’s Central Command, the IDF’s Coordination of Government Activities in the Territories (COGAT), the Ministry of Health, and the Crossings Authority, and includes the establishment of dedicated vaccination complexes at several crossings and in industrial areas throughout Judea and Samaria.

From the beginning of the operation until Thursday, more than 50,000 Palestinian Authority workers with employment licenses in Israel have so far been vaccinated with a first vaccine.

Some 120,000 PA Arabs will be vaccinated by Israeli medical teams with Moderna vaccines, which have been allocated by the state, at eight different locations throughout Judea and Samaria.

Israel is footing the bill, regardless that the obligation to vaccinate PA citizens falls exclusively on the Palestinian Authority, which refuses to live up to any of its obligations to its own citizens and the Oslo Accords.

Hizbullah Responds to the Publication in Israel of Nasrallah’s “Secret File”
On March 12, 2021, the Israeli newspaper Yediot Ahronot published what it purported to be a secret profile of Hizbullah head Hassan Nasrallah, prepared by a research team from the IDF’s Intelligence Branch that follows Hizbullah’s secretary-general 24/7. Below is an excerpt:
Nasrallah is a megalomaniac, paranoid, and obsessed with the media in Israel who reads every word written about him. A narcissist and liar. The coronavirus makes things worse, but he rejects vaccines made by the enemy, America. He is not going to retire anytime soon, and he is not grooming an heir.

Hizbullah responded immediately to the Israeli article, “Nasrallah’s Secret File,” in a column in the Al-Akhbar newspaper, written by editor Ibrahim al-Amin who is close to Nasrallah.2 The response was stinging. The article was described as a “professional insult” because “a student at the Faculty of Mass Communication” would have produced a better article about the man considered to be “the most prominent enemy of Israel, Hassan Nasrallah.”

Al-Akhbar published Yediot Ahronot’s article in total, and in his accompanying article, Ibrahim al-Amin paid back in full the journalists who wrote it and “fell for it” without asking questions about the reliability of the information and its intelligence value. The article was primarily intended to glorify the Israeli military intelligence, the Nasrallah associate charged. In this context, al-Amin reflected a debate in the Israeli media, exemplified by Israel’s Channel 11, where some commentators pointed to the arrogance behind the publication of “Nasrallah’s Secret File.”
Syria's first lady facing prosecution in UK for encouraging terrorist acts
The first lady of Syria, 45-year-old Asma Assad, might lose her British citizenship and could face prosecution charges in the UK for being an "influential actor" in inciting and encouraging acts of terrorism, Sky News reported on Saturday.

Allegations have been directed at the wife of Syrian President Bashar Assad, prompting a Metropolitan Police investigation.

Sky News noted that if the "desert rose" of the Middle East – as she has been called – is charged, the UK could seek her extradition to stand trial.

According to the report, Guernica 37 International Justice Chambers accuses her of being among a number of "influential actors" who encouraged and incited acts of terrorism and international crimes.

This month of March marks a full decade since the Syrian civil war began. The death count today is estimated at around 500,000 people, with more than 6.5 million having been displaced.

"This is an important step in holding senior political officials accountable for their acts," the legal team behind the charges told Sky News, emphasizing the importance of not just extradition, but of prosecution. "This is an important process and it is only right that justice is served before an English court."

Asma Assad – born as Emma Akhras – is a native of a London suburb who had worked as an investment banker for JPMorgan in the 1990s, which is around the time when she met her future husband, Bashar. He became president in July 2000; they were married a few months later in December.

Phyllis Chesler: Tehran on My Mind
Khomeini viewed Israel as the relentless aggressor. Khomeini condemned the Shah’s doctrine of equal rights for men and women. Khomeini wondered what the “real relationship between the Shah and Israel” could be. “Can it be that the Shah is an Israeli? Does the [Israeli] secret service believe him to be Jewish?”

Paranoia and megalomania do not begin to describe this cleric’s mind — and yet, he prevailed and returned in triumph from his exile in France 16 years later.

The late great Robert Wistrich noted that, by the mid-1970s, Khomeini had expanded his enemy list to include the United States, Great Britain, and Russia. He writes:
After the Iranian Revolution of 1979, the Koranic motifs sharply increased in importance, along with virulent anti-Americanism. In the Islamic demonology, both America and Israel are firmly bonded together as “Satanic forces” that threaten core identity, values, and existence of Islam. … Uncle Sam has coalesced with Shylock into a terrifying specter of globalization (“Americanization”) threatening to swamp the world of Islam.

I suggest that all the well-meaning diplomats who sincerely do not want Iran to become a nuclear power must also understand with whom, and what kind of regime, they are dealing. As independent Middle East analyst Nevet Basker has said: “A comprehensive problem should be addressed with a comprehensive solution, not a piecemeal one (e.g. only the nuclear piece). Iran is an immediate threat to its neighbors and to the broader Middle East.”

This is 2021, not 2015. Things have changed on the ground — e.g., the Abraham Accords have led to peace between Sunni Arab countries (Bahrain, Morocco, Sudan, the UAE) and Israel. Saudi Arabia was and still may be on the brink of joining these accords. Indonesia was potentially also in play. This is historic — but it may make Iran even more ruthless, since these accords will be seen as acts of aggression toward Iran.

We are at a very worrisome turning point. The Biden administration is again threatening and hobbling both Israel and Saudi Arabia’s ability to defend their countries from rampant Iranian aggression. If undertaken, such “military action” will be seen as “anti-American.” This strongly suggests that the new American administration expects the Saudis and Israel to accept Iranian and Palestinian aggression. Iran’s vision remains that of a Shia caliphate, ruling over as much land as it can conquer. This is primarily a religious holy war, not part of a rational political plan. Think of it as a theological cult which is religiously forbidden to compromise, but which can deceive as necessary. Perhaps Western counter-terrorism experts already know this, perhaps not. But what about government leaders who believe they can appease Iran, pay them off, trust them, believe them, invest in their country — and negotiate with them in good faith?

Please know with whom you are dealing, and act accordingly.
IDF Chief, Israeli President to Lobby European Leaders Against Iran Deal Starting Tuesday
IDF Chief of Staff Lt.-Gen. Aviv Kochavi will reportedly lobby European leaders against the Iran nuclear deal during a scheduled trip this week to the continent, according to the Jerusalem Post.

The seasoned military veteran will also be joined by Israel’s President Reuven Rivlin, with the two traveling on Tuesday to France, Germany, and Austria.

According to the Post, citing senior IDF sources, Kochavi is expected to center his talks on security-related issues, including the Iranian nuclear deal and the military threat posed by Lebanon-based terrorist group Hezbollah.

Kochavi, the sources said, will highlight the failures of the current nuclear deal — which world powers and Tehran agreed to in 2015 — along with the ICC’s recent decision to open an investigation into Israel’s actions in the West Bank, Gaza, and east Jerusalem.

On Friday, US National Security Adviser Jake Sullivan said that officials in the Biden administration initiated indirect talks with Iran through intermediaries and are now waiting for a response from the Islamic republic.

“There are communications through the Europeans and through others that enable us to explain to the Iranians what our position is, with respect to the compliance-for-compliance approach,” Sullivan told reporters.
Iranian teachers ordered to identify Baha’i students in effort to convert them
A leaked document from September ordered authorities in the northern Iranian city of Sari to “conduct strict patrols” to monitor the Baha’i and identify students to “bring them to Islam,” said the League for the Defence of Human Rights in Iran (LDDHI) and the International Federation for Human Rights (FIDH).

The document was issued by the Commission on Ethnicities, Sects and Religions in Sari, which operates under the aegis of Iran’s Supreme National Security Council, a body chaired by Iran’s president.

It contains a directive that adopts a “detailed plan” to ensure that members of the Baha’i community is “rigorously controlled,” including their “public and private meetings” as well as “their other activities,” the Associated Press reported.

“These measures reflect the Iranian government’s intensifying persecution against followers of the Baha’i faith,” said LDDHI president and FIDH honorary president Karim Lahidji.

“In contravention of Iran’s international legal obligations, the authorities consider them heretics, ban their religion, and view the practice of the Baha’i faith as a subversive act,” he charged.
Crowd attacks Iran coast guard station after patrol shoots dead fuel smuggler
Protesters attacked a coast guard station in southern Iran after a patrol from the force shot and killed a fuel smuggler, the semiofficial Fars news agency reported Saturday.

The report said the attack happened Friday when coast guard patrols shot at vessels smuggling fuel to neighboring countries, killing at least one smuggler.

Fars didn’t identify the person killed but said he was a 31-year-old man aboard one of the vessels allegedly smuggling fuel.

Gen. Hossein Dehaki, chief of the coast guard in southern Hormozgan province, was quoted in the Fars report as saying an undetermined number of people later attacked the coast guard station in the Kouhestak district. He said several coast guard members were injured and the crowd damaged cars, vessels and equipment.

Dehaki said calm was restored to the district, located some 1,120 km (694 miles) south of the capital Tehran, by late Friday afternoon.

The violence came some two weeks after at least three alleged fuel smugglers in neighboring Sistan and Baluchestan province were killed in clashes and a crowd of people attacked the local governor’s office in the town of Saravan near the border with Pakistan.
South Africa’s Chief Justice Confronts the Apartheid Analogy
Against this wider background, it doesn’t seem completely unreasonable that South Africa’s judicial overseers would want to reign in a chief justice who strays into areas well outside of his remit, like public health protocols or foreign policy. More basically, in South Africa as in any democratic country, judges who loudly and casually opine on policy matters violate the spirit, if not the letter, of the separation of powers that keeps our institutions independent and accountable.

But this limited perspective misses the elemental point that what stood out in the case of Mogoeng’s Israel comments was the politically loaded fury underlying the response to them. The South African Jewish academic Milton Shain expressed it well in a recent opinion piece for Business Day. Arguing that legal experts would legitimately debate whether or not Mogoeng had contravened the judicial code, Shain asserted that “what seems to be drowned out by the surrounding noise is the vehemence with which his words were greeted at the outset, as opposed to the relative silence around his comments on the Covid-19 vaccine — not to mention the unusual alacrity with which the judicial conduct committee has acted on the matter.”

Why? Because Mogoeng was talking about Israel positively while shining a light on the double standard in South African foreign policy that enables its government to cozy up to repressive regimes around the world, from Iran to China, while depicting Israel as a rogue apartheid state. In doing so, he struck at the heart of the Cold War-era, ideological dogma that still informs the ruling ANC’s view of the world — in this case, that Zionism is a form of racism and that anyone who questions that slanderous notion must themselves be a racist.

Whether or not Mogoeng abused his position as chief justice — and as I said, my view is that members of the judiciary making political statements is not something we should encourage — the impact of his comments has again exposed the moral rot at the heart of South African foreign policy. Sadly, many of the leaders of the anti-apartheid struggle have openly encouraged the false application of this term to Israel, despite the glaring absence of the key monstrosities — no right to vote for black people, deliberately restricted educational opportunities for black people, a ban on inter-racial relationships, draconian laws to punish those who spoke out against the system, and much else — that defined apartheid in South Africa. In confronting this falsehood, Mogoeng was also speaking for thousands of Christian black South Africans who loathe their government’s policy towards Israel as a consequence of their spiritual identification with the Jewish state.

If Mogoeng continues with his refusal to parrot a scripted apology, the next step for the pro-Palestinian lobby will be to press for his dismissal. That will involve a bitter struggle that will divert South Africans from more pressing matters, like defeating the coronavirus pandemic and combating mass unemployment. Then again, as has frequently been demonstrated by anti-Zionist campaigns inside and beyond South Africa, for the pro-Palestinian lobby, “Palestine” always comes first, no matter the price.
Head of Harvard University Hillel Blasts Student Petition Supporting Academic Cornel West as ‘Anti-Jewish Conspiracy Theory’
The head of the Harvard University Hillel strongly criticized a petition in support of prominent Harvard professor Cornel West that echoes the scholar’s claims that he was denied tenure because of his attacks on Israel and Zionism.

The Harvard Crimson reported Thursday that Rabbi Jonah C. Steinberg, the executive director of Harvard Hillel, sent an email to Hillel affiliates saying the petition promulgated “an anti-Jewish conspiracy theory” and that West had “egged students on” in promoting it.

The petition — which has been signed by more than 1,800 people and endorsed by over 90 campus organizations — cited West’s claims that he was denied tenure because of his attacks on Zionism, which it listed alongside “white supremacy” and “racial capitalism” as targets of the professor’s work.

Steinberg said, “It is painful to see representatives of so many student organizations maneuvered into signing a petition that attaches itself to a long chain of demonizing anti-Jewish libels through the centuries.”

“Student leaders who have signed the petition likely do not realize how the words ‘Israel’s occupation of Palestine’ are used to suggest that the entire country of Israel is illegitimate, and perhaps they are not sensible of how eliding ‘white supremacy, racial capitalism, Zionism, and the military-industrial complex,’ as the petition does, is a dangerous ethnic slander,” he added.

A member of the student coalition that wrote the petition, Jeremy Stepansky, told the Crimson that the petitioners “vehemently reject the conflation of the Zionist state of Israel with the Jewish people.”

San Diego State University Reacts to Swastikas Found on Student Housing
Officials at the San Diego State University are expressing their solidarity with the school’s Jewish community after reports that swastikas were painted on a student housing building.

“Speech and use of symbols that are antisemitic or encourages hatred of a particular group are reprehensible and counter to the environment we support at SDSU,” said school officials in a statement on Thursday. “Such base acts are full of cowardice. Antisemitism and other hate-motivated actions have no place at or near or home at SDSU, or anywhere.”

The statement was signed by J. Luke Wood, vice president of student affairs and campus diversity; Jessica Nare, assistant vice president for community and belonging; and Christian J. Holt, Associated Students president.

The Daily Aztec, a university newspaper, reported that the swastikas were found on South Campus Plaza North Tower and that university police were investigating. According to information on the school’s website, the building has retail outlets on the bottom floors with student housing above.

“Acts of hate like this are disgraceful and cowardly; that swastikas vandalized a home of Jewish students is especially reprehensible. This demonstration of hate, bigotry and intolerance will not be tolerated,” SDSU’s Jewish leaders wrote in a joint statement. “We stand in solidarity with our Jewish students and the entire Jewish community, and will continue to strive for a more inclusive and positive climate for all SDSU students.”
Project to rebuild Hamburg shul opposed by Jews for hiding Nazi past
The Jewish community in the German city of Hamburg has raised concerns regarding the rebuilding of a synagogue destroyed by the Nazis in 1938 during Kristallnacht, claiming it's an attempt to hide Germany's past, as reported by the Jewish News on Friday.

Once the largest in northern Germany, the Hamburg synagogue was dedicated in 1906 and had a capacity of 1,200 people. The synagogue was later destroyed during Kristallnacht, when Nazis throughout Germany initiated a pogrom against German Jews that resulted in the deaths of dozens and the wide scale destruction of synagogues and Jewish-owned stores.

The municipality of Hamburg, following objections from the local Jewish community, allegedly demanded the community pay for demolishing the remains of the synagogue, prior to selling the land back to the municipality.

The synagogue was originally located at Joseph Carlebach Platz, but was once known as Bornplatz in the Grindel neighborhood, the location of the city's Jewish community prior to the Holocaust.

As of 2021, some 2,500 Jews live in Hamburg, where support for the rebuilding project is largely emanating from local and national government, but with strong opposition from local Jews and those with connections to the pre-Holocaust Jewish community of Hamburg.
COVID-19 postpones revival of Cologne Jewish Carnival tradition ended by Nazis
Looking over an old family scrapbook several years ago, Laura Chanin saw a puzzling photograph of her paternal great-grandfather, Max Solomon, wearing women’s clothes. She had questions.

“What is this? Why is he in drag?” Chanin, the 53-year-old mother of one from California, asked about the experience.

The discovery led Chanin, who works at a logo printing business, to discover that Solomon was among the founders of the first Jewish group to officially participate in the Carnival of his native Cologne.

Carnival, a weeklong event to celebrate Lent, the 40-day period that precedes Easter, is one of the German city’s most cherished traditions. Hundreds of thousands of revelers wear colorful clothes and consume massive amounts of alcohol on the street.

The culmination is a parade in which registered groups compete and show off the creations they had toiled on throughout the year — floats, often with paper mache caricatures satirizing politicians or phenomena. The makers ride or march alongside wearing their costumes and displaying their dance routines.

A reincarnation of Solomon’s group was poised to join the festivities this year, with a float for the first time in decades — since the Nazis banned the club from Carnival in 1933. But the COVID crisis intervened and the event has been canceled.