Tuesday, March 16, 2021

From Ian:

FDD Podcast: The UN and the Illiberal International Order
With the defeat of the Axis Powers in 1945, the United States emerged as the strongest nation on earth. But rather than emulate hegemons of the past, American leaders envisioned a new and different world order.

Their goal was to organize an “international community,” establish “universal human rights,” and a growing body of “international law.”

This project required new institutions, in particular the United Nations.

Three quarters of a century later, it requires willful blindness not to see that the UN and many other international organizations have become bloated and corrupt bureaucracies, increasingly serving the interests of despots.

To discuss what’s gone wrong and what might be done to prevent the UN and other international organizations from drifting further into the clutches of authoritarians host Clifford D. May is joined by Richard Goldberg, Orde Kittrie, and Emma Reilly.
Emily Schrader: Biden must abandon negotiating with Iran, UNHRC, UNRWA - opinion
Since President Biden came into office, he’s made it a goal for the United States to restore relations for diplomatic purposes with a host of entities, from the United Nations to the Palestinian Authority to UNRWA to the Iranian regime. Sadly, these well-intended initiatives are all misguided. The UN will not be any better for the United States being involved, the PA will not suddenly have a desire to make peace with Israel, and Iran is most certainly not going to stop its hostile actions in five – yes five – different countries, nor will they halt their booming nuclear program.

In 2018, the US officially withdrew from the UN Human Rights Council, a body plagued with corruption and anti-Israel obsession, whose members today include Russia, Cuba and even China. Ironically, China is simultaneously committing genocide against Chinese Muslims and violating the human rights of countless other Chinese, Tibetan and Hong Kong residents in the area. It is precisely because of sickening hypocrisy like this that the US withdrew its participation under former president Trump, and why even president Bush was hesitant about joining the council when it was established in 2006. While the intent of the Biden administration may be noble – to “work from within” to change the corruption of the UNHRC – US participation prior to president Trump did nothing to stamp out the corruption, so it is naïve to think that would be different today.

Similarly, the US cut funding to the UNRWA, the UN body responsible for Palestinian refugees (exclusively), due to the fact the mere existence of UNRWA is an obstacle to resolving the Palestinian refugee issue. UNRWA has faced criticism for perpetuating refugee status for generations and preventing Palestinians from resettling. Incidentally, the agency also has had numerous scandals with UNRWA textbooks teaching violence and terrorism in Palestinian schools. The agency itself is also the single largest employer of Palestinians in the Palestinian territories, meaning if they solved the refugee issue, these Palestinians would be out of jobs.

The US was the world’s single largest funder of UNRWA, amounting to over $360 million annually, until president Trump cut funding in 2018, calling the agency “irredeemably flawed.” Since then, throughout the pandemic, UNRWA was found once again to have incitement to violence in their textbooks teaching children in Gaza blood libels and glorifying “martyrs.” These textbooks were condemned by the European Parliament, among others. In a report issued at the beginning of 2021, the Institute for Monitoring Peace and Cultural Tolerance in School Education (IMPACT-SE) found that UNRWA materials are even more extreme than some of the textbooks issued by the PA itself. Yet at the same time this report confirms the problem of UNRWA, the Biden administration is talking about restoring $360 million in funding to it.
Josh Hammer: Israel’s New Election: No One Else but Bibi
For American friends of Israel buoyed by both the intrinsic moral dignity of an enhanced Israeli alliance and that alliance’s concrete national security benefits in repelling both Iranian hegemony and Sunni jihad, the thought experiment as to who ought to next lead Israel amounts to the following: “Which candidate for prime minister would be best in sustaining Israel’s marked geopolitical and diplomatic progress, centered around but hardly limited to the Trump-Netanyahu doctrine of Middle East peace, amidst the headwinds of what promises to be an anti-Israel administration redolent of the Barack Obama presidency?”

The question practically answers itself. Of course, Netanyahu is best-suited to continue leading Israel at the present moment.

Netanyahu’s now-decade-plus second stint as prime minister largely overlapped with the most anti-Israel U.S. administration in the Jewish state’s history, that of former President Barrack Obama. Netanyahu proved himself admirably adroit and courageous during those tumultuous years, developing a knack for when to strategically appease Obama (for example, the ten-month “settlement” freeze of 2010), mustering the fortitude to loudly confront him when need be (for example, Netanyahu’s spellbinding March 2015 speech before Congress, in opposition to the Iran nuclear deal), and prudently hedging his nation’s decades-long wager on the U.S.-Israel alliance by advancing the Jewish state’s diplomatic interests across Asia, Africa, and Central and South America to hitherto unforeseen heights. Netanyahu, in short, has already weathered the storm of an anti-Israel Democratic presidency without suffering serious blows to Israel’s geopolitical clout, and there is no reason to think he cannot ably do so again.

But the greatest diplomatic breakthrough for Israel over the last four decades, and quite possibly over the course of its national history, was undoubtedly the signing of the Abraham Accords with the United Arab Emirates, Bahrain, Sudan, and Morocco. Those peace agreements would not have been possible without the vision and leadership of Prime Minister Netanyahu, whose skill in selling Israel’s value as a diplomatic, geopolitical, and military ally on the world stage helped land the Jewish state not merely closer defense ties with New Delhi or a new Guatemalan embassy in Jerusalem, but affirmative normalization agreements (and all the beautiful accouterments such agreements necessarily entail) with the very heart of the Arab world itself.

Netanyahu has established himself as a transformative leader. He has overseen both unprecedented diplomatic success overseas and tremendous economic growth and technological innovation at home. In the annals of Israeli political history, he is surpassed by no one other than perhaps preeminent founding father David Ben-Gurion himself. That is not to say Netanyahu is flawless; on the contrary, despite his resoluteness on the Iranian threat, he has too often lacked the courage of his convictions as it pertains to Palestinian-related issues, such as sovereignty in Judea and Samaria and the perennial thorn in the side of the modern Jewish state that is the Hamas-run Gaza Strip. There have been missed opportunities, from a conservative Zionist perspective.

But there is simply no feasible alternative at the present moment. Some conservative Zionists and longtime supporters of Netanyahu’s, frustrated with the inherent political instability that comes with four national elections in just two years and the reality of Netanyahu’s legal travails at the behest of an opportunistic legal fraternity, have urged Netanyahu that now is the right time to finally step aside. But even ignoring the largely frivolous nature of Netanyahu’s specific legal troubles, to say nothing of the fact that it is puerile to necessarily expect awe-inspiring personal virtue from our political leaders, such speculation falls flat when one considers a blunt but crucial reality: There is simply no one else who can take Netanyahu’s place.
Israel Pursuing Four More Peace Deals, Bibi Says
Israel is pursuing four more peace deals with countries in the region and elsewhere, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said on Tuesday.

"I brought four peace agreements, and there are another four on the way," Netanyahu said. "I talked about one of them yesterday." He added that one such regional leader spoke with him by phone Monday night. The prime minister did not dispel rumors of other peace agreements in the works with nations such as Niger, Mauritania, and Indonesia.

The longtime Israeli leader also touted the four other agreements he forged last year with Muslim-majority countries in the Middle East and Africa—Bahrain, United Arab Emirates, Morocco, and Sudan—which thawed decades of cold relations.

Israel is inching toward normalizing relations with Saudi Arabia, a key partner in the coalition against Iran due to its size, wealth, and military force. Netanyahu met with Saudi Arabian crown prince Mohammed bin Salman in November. Under the Trump administration, senior officials hinted at prospects of budding relations between Riyadh and Jerusalem in the wake of the historic Abraham Accords signed in August 2020.

Normalization with gulf countries has already borne significant fruit for Israel. Tourism and trade continues to grow apace between Israel and the UAE, with some even remarking that they feel safer wearing traditional Jewish clothing in Dubai than in France now.

The Trump administration furthered such agreements between Israel and regional partners as a senior broker by strongly backing Israel and pressuring Iran. The realignment in the Middle East was appraised by former secretary of state Henry Kissinger as "brilliant." He emphasized that the Biden administration must build on the progress made in peaceful regional ties by continuing Trump-era policies in the region.

Russia and the New Middle East - the last 20 years, inching toward a Grand Bargain
Coalition against Iran and Turkey
Russia's improvement of relations with Israel coincided with Russia and Israel's growing alliance with Saudi Arabia, Egypt and the United Arab Emirates. Both have common opposition toward neo-Ottomanism initiated by Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan, both countries are also fighting proxy wars with Turkey in Caucasus, North Africa and the Middle East.

Israel has largely sided with Russia against Turkey in recent years, and Israel has provided silent support for Russian intervention in Syria in opposition to Iran and Turkey, although Israel objects to Russia's relations with Turkey. Israel maintains relations with Azerbaijan, a strong Turkish ally, to go against Iran.

In 2018, Israel had also suggested, alongside Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates, that U.S. President Donald Trump improve relations with Russia and rethink sanctions relating to the Ukrainian crisis, as Ukraine is Turkey's ally. Putin continues to have positive relations with Erdogan.

When a normalization agreement was signed by Serbia and Kosovo in 2020, Russia and Israel openly supported the deal which would allow Serbia to move its embassy to Jerusalem while Kosovo would establish relations with Israel. In response,

In August 2020, following the Abraham Accords in which Israel normalized relations with the United Arab Emirates and Bahrain, Russia did not endorse the deal but quietly approved the efforts by Israel to normalize the relations, whileTurkey opposed both moves.

However, Russia continues to have strong economic and political relations with both Iran and Turkey, and Russia continues to be skeptical about Israel's special relations with the United States.

Russia supports two-state solution for the Israeli–Palestinian conflict and has relations with several Palestinian political parties. Russia does not consider Hamas a terrorist organization and continues to diplomatically negotiate with them. Iran, Russia, and Turkey all voted in favor of United Nations General Assembly resolution ES-10/L.22 to declare the status of Jerusalem as Israel's capital to be "null and void." Russia continues to seek multilateral relations in the Middle East with both Israel's allies and rivals.

Russia obviously has its own interests and remains loyal to longtime friends including the PA. At the same time, Russia cooperates with Israel and enables her to pursue her security interests - and Israel refrains from criticizing Russia.
Honest Reporting: Why are Israeli Settlements the ONLY ‘Obstacle to Peace’?
A review of dozens of AP articles over the last few years shows that the organization typically broaches the subject of Israeli communities in the territories by mentioning that settlements are considered illegal by much of “the international community,” and stories have repeatedly mentioned the phrase “obstacle to peace” in the context of a specific party regarding Israel’s settlements as such.

For example, an AP article in November 2020 declared the “Trump administration’s acceptance of Israeli settlements, which the Palestinians and most of the international community view as a violation of international law and a major obstacle to peace.”

Another AP article from the same month described the “Trump administration’s acceptance of Israeli settlements, which the Palestinians and most of the international community view as a violation of international law and a major obstacle to peace.”

Similarly, an AP article in February of that year stated, “The Palestinians view the settlements in the West Bank and annexed east Jerusalem — territories seized by Israel in the 1967 war — as a major obstacle to peace. That position is held by much of the international community, which views the settlements as illegal.”

But what, however, constitutes an obstacle to peace? A Google search of the AP website for the term “obstacle to peace” yields thousands of results, yet few, if any, appear to discuss a Palestinian policy that might be regarded in the same light as Israeli settlements.

This is of real significance because public perceptions of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, specifically, and of the Jewish state, more broadly, are informed by this kind of framing. Indeed, there are numerous other issues that the AP could reasonably describe as an obstacle to peace, or at the very least describe them as being regarded as obstacles by Israel, foreign governments or the international community.
Arab Activist Defends Israel at UN Human Rights Council
Representatives from Iran, Qatar, and the Palestinian Authority on Tuesday once again exploited the United Nations Human Rights Council (UNHRC) 46th session to condemn Israel’s policy of vaccinating its population against the Coronavirus (COVID-19), and received a rebuttal from an Israeli-Arab.

Yoseph Haddad, an Israeli-Arab social activist, attacked the representatives who claimed Israel’s program was racist because it allegedly was meant for Jews only, saying that “any attempt to claim that Israel’s vaccination policy is racist is a blatant attempt to defame Israel and distract from the corruption of some countries in this council.”

Haddad, speaking on behalf of UN Watch, noted that he is an Arab from Nazareth who has been vaccinated.

“Accusations have been made against Israel that its vaccination program is racist and that is not true. Like me, my family, friends and hundreds of thousands of other Israeli Arabs have been vaccinated,” he shared.

“The State of Israel is campaigning in Arabic to encourage us Israeli Arabs to get vaccinated and Israel’s Magen David Adom National Rescue Organization, which consists of Jews and Arabs, works directly with Arab communities to vaccinate its residents,” he said.

Haddad also responded to claims that Israel is responsible for vaccinating the Palestinians but is failing to do so, saying that “although we are not obliged to vaccinate them under the Oslo Accords, we are helping. Israel, and not the Palestinian Authority, has vaccinated thousands of Palestinians. And while the Palestinian Authority used vaccines to vaccinate only its associates, it was Israel that established vaccine centers for Palestinians.”

Israel has vaccinated over 50,000 PA citizens in the first week of its operation to inoculate workers from the PA who work in Israel against the Coronavirus (COVID-19).

A year into pandemic, Israel’s COVID death toll surpasses 6,000
Israel’s coronavirus death toll since the start of the pandemic surpassed the grim milestone of 6,000 on Sunday.

According to the Health Ministry, 6,008 have died from COVID-19 since the outbreak of the virus last March — an increase of 16 since the figure was last updated on Sunday morning.

The ministry said 640 people were in serious condition, 221 of them on ventilators. Another 466 virus cases — or 2.8 percent of all samples tested — had been diagnosed since midnight.

However, there was also reason for optimism as active cases dropped below 30,000 for the first time since September, hitting 27,974.

Figures also showed that the basic reproduction number, or R0, representing the average number of people each virus carrier infects, had fallen to 0.78 — the lowest point since October.

Over 4.1 million Israelis have been fully vaccinated, the Health Ministry said, and over 5.1 have received the first dose. Just 1,128,000 Israelis over the age of 16 still need to be vaccinated, 256,000 of whom are above the age of 50.

Health Ministry figures also pointed to the vaccine’s effectiveness. Seventy-four percent of those hospitalized are unvaccinated and just eight percent of patients have received both doses. Of the 41 people in serious condition and hooked up to ECMO machines, 82% have not been vaccinated at all. Of the 38 pregnant women in the hospital due to the coronavirus, none is fully vaccinated.
Israel has spent $788m on vaccines, could double sum — Health Ministry
Israel has spent NIS 2.6 billion ($788 million) so far on coronavirus vaccines and expects to pay a similar amount for more doses in the future, the Health Ministry said Tuesday.

The information, which has not been publicized previously, was revealed after Knesset Finance Committee chairman MK Moshe Gafni asked the ministry to provide the figures.

A Health Ministry representative told the panel that the country has paid NIS 2.6 billion to various vaccine manufacturers and that another NIS 2.5 billion has been allocated to pay for more units in the future.

Gafni, of the ultra-Orthodox United Torah Judaism party, praised the ongoing vaccine campaign, saying Israel “is ahead of all the countries in the world, thank goodness. We are glad that the vaccines work and that it is possible to begin a return to normal.”

Israel has bought some 15 million doses of the Pfizer-BioNtech vaccine, and the committee heard that some will not be used. Last month, Israel suspended shipments of surplus coronavirus vaccines to a group of friendly nations as authorities examine whether it was within Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s authority to order the move.

Previous reports have indicated Israel has paid $23.5 per Pfizer-BioNTech vaccine dose, while the new sum appeared to indicate the cost has been much higher. The reason for the discrepancy wasn’t immediately clear.
Netanyahu vows no further COVID lockdowns after elections
Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu on Tuesday pledged there would not be another lockdown to curb the spread of coronavirus following the general elections on March 23.

“There will unequivocally not be another lockdown,” Netanyahu said in an interview with the Ynet news site.

However, the premier then said new mutated strains of the virus could lead to a lockdown.

The government has imposed three national lockdowns since the pandemic began last year, the most recent of which has been gradually eased since early February amid a continued drop in morbidity and the country’s successful vaccination campaign.

“If people think at the moment we are planning another lockdown after Passover and the elections, I want Israeli citizens to know that when we say ‘getting back to life,’ this is what is happening,” Netanyahu said.
Settler head urges vaccinating Palestinians, paid for by tax revenues sent to PA
A prominent settler leader on Monday called on Israel to vaccinate Palestinians in the West Bank and pay for it by deducting the cost from the tax revenues Jerusalem transfers to Ramallah.

The statement from David Elhayani, who chairs the Yesha umbrella council of settler mayors, followed a meeting he held in his office at the Jordan Valley Regional Council with Muhammad Arif Masad, an anti-Palestinian Authority activist who heads a union representing Palestinian workers in Israel and the settlements.

“On behalf of both of us, I call on the Israeli government to vaccinate the Palestinians. We live together, both in Judea and Samaria and in the State of Israel, and it is time to vaccinate everyone,” Elhayani said.

“I came here to make it clear to everyone that the future of our children is in our hands,” Masad told Elhayani, according to a Yesha press release.

“Either we will establish a future for them that is without bloodshed or we will leave them with the same fate we have endured — like predatory animals,” Masad continued.

“We are here to maintain your health and the health of our people. The vaccine, just as it is important to us and will maintain our health, so too it will also maintain your health,” he added.

Masad has become a marginalized figure among Palestinians in the West Bank due to his willingness to cooperate not just with Israelis within the Green Line but with settler leaders as well.
HonestReporting: Should Israel Remain Shuttered Because of Palestinian COVID-19 Mismanagement?
Israel has expanded its successful COVID-19 vaccine campaign to include some 100,000 Palestinian laborers. But news outlets are seemingly intent on finding new angles to promote a months-old libel. A recent Reuters article juxtaposed the situation in the West Bank with Jerusalem’s decision to reopen restaurants and other venues. Easing restrictions on economic activity was made possible because a majority of Israelis has received at least one dose of Pfizer’s COVID-19 vaccine.

Reuters is engaging in what is known as “transfer” — painting a negative image of Israel while deflecting attention away from the PA’s responsibility to care for its population’s medical needs. In fact, the Palestinian leadership has for years been seeking international recognition of a “State of Palestine,” while simultaneously shifting blame onto Israel for its own bad governance.

The Reuters story is the latest transmutation of the vaccine libel. HonestReporting has challenged the faulty narratives and will continue to do so as media outlets attempt to distort reality.

PreOccupiedTerritory: Protesters Struggle To Envision Life Without Bibi Against Whom To Protest (satire)
A group of demonstrators who have dedicated their Saturday nights to cacophonous marches through the streets of Israel’s capital, bellowing their demand that the country’s incumbent prime minister step down, or calling on the public to vote him out next week, acknowledged in interviews today that they have not given thought to what happens under the not-implausible scenario in which the premier in fact loses the privilege of forming the next government, which would deprive the demonstrators of the raison d’être of their most cherished preoccupation.

Enthusiastic participants in the “Lekh” campaign – the imperative “Go away!” rendered in the typeface of Binyamin Netanyahu’s Likud Party logo – conceded in conversation with a journalist that they refuse to consider what happens if, as they insist, Netanyahu fails to attract enough votes to represent a credible core around which to form a coalition, and they, the chanting marchers, must find some other activity on Saturday nights.

“I haven’t thought about it,” admitted Albi Pistoff, 28. “It’s been so long since there’s been anything to do except protest that I haven’t yet wrapped my head around what it means for someone other than Netanyahu to form and lead a government. I mean, there are teenagers alive today who wouldn’t remember a time before Bibi at the helm; it’s been, what, almost twelve years of all Bibi, all the time? You can understand it’s not so easy to get used to the idea of someone else in office, and I’m having trouble visualizing what that means for the country, yes, but mostly what I’m going to do with my time. I just can’t see myself demonstrating against a Prime Minister Yair Lapid, the guy who basically embodies Anyone But Bibi.”
Israel Says Tanker Owned by Syrian Family Caused Oil Spill
The owners of the Emerald, the tanker believed to have spilled massive amounts of oil off the Israeli coast in February, have been identified, Israel’s Environmental Protection Ministry revealed Sunday.

According to an independent investigation by the private intelligence agency Black Cube, the tanker — registered in the Marshall Islands — is owned by a company called Emerald Marine LTD.

Black Cube discovered the owners of the tanker by using international shipping depots, according to the agency, and based on the information said it recorded a senior captain working for Emerald Marine LTD and a brother of one of the company’s owners.

The information provided by Black Cube indicates that the tanker is owned by Oryx Shipping, its address is registered in Piraeus, Greece.

The company is believed to be owned by the Syrian Malah family. Its ships are insured by the Islamic P&I Club, known as one of the only companies in the world to agree to insure Iranian ships.
Israel's three defense giants lead world in arms industry
International arms transfers are going strong in the Middle East, even if they are leveling off in other regions, according to the Stockholm International Peace Research Institute, a group that monitors arms transfers.

SIPRI says its Arms Transfer Database is the only public resource that provides consistent information and estimates on all international transfers of major arms.

“International transfers of major arms stayed at the same level between 2011-15 and 2016-20,” it said in a report on Monday. “Substantial increases in transfers by three of the top five arms exporters – the USA, France and Germany – were largely offset by declining Russian and Chinese arms exports.”

Middle Eastern arms imports increased 25%. Saudi Arabia, Qatar and Egypt were leaders in the last four years, with Doha increasing its purchases by a whopping 361%, the report said.

Israeli exports represented 3% of the global total between 2016 and 2020. Israel’s big three defense giants, Elbit Systems, IAI and Rafael Advanced Defense Systems, are world leaders in the industry.

Israel’s exports were 59% higher over the past five years than in the 2011-2015 period. For example, IAI is cashing in on new interest in loitering munitions.

Elbit Systems is picking up contracts in Europe, and Rafael’s Iron Dome and Trophy are getting new recognition. Iron Dome was sent to the US, and Trophy is now being used by Germany. Both systems celebrate 10 years of operation in Israel this year. In addition, Israeli companies have made major inroads in India and other countries.
In ‘technological leap,’ Iron Dome tackles multiple complex threats at once
Israel’s Iron Dome missile defense system has completed a “technological leap” in recent months, with a series of upgrades that have improved its ability to deal with multiple complex threats, the Defense Ministry announced Tuesday.

During recent tests, the Iron Dome “dealt with difficult and complex scenarios, striking down test threats… simultaneously shooting down several unmanned aerial vehicles, missile salvoes and rockets,” according to a Defense Ministry statement.

“Ten years after the first operational use of the Iron Dome, today we are completing a qualitative technological leap in the system’s abilities. In three series of experiments in just a few months, we have upgraded the capacities of the Iron Dome to the next generation of threats,” said Defense Ministry official Moshe Pattal.

Defense Minister Benny Gantz also hailed the successful tests, which were performed in southern Israel by the Defense Ministry’s Missile Defense Organization and defense contractor Rafael.

“The Israeli technological superiority provided by the Iron Dome and the multilayer defense system is a cornerstone of our defense system and Israel’s security. It is critical for the security of our country in the face of changing and diverse threats from our enemies,” said Gantz.

Israel and the UAE to Exchange Official Permanent Police Representatives
Israel and the United Arab Emirates will exchange official permanent representatives of their respective police forces, Walla reported on Monday.

The Israeli envoy will hold the rank of chief superintendent, which is the customary rank for such representatives around the world.

He will have responsibility for contact with the local police and coordination between the two countries’ police forces if necessary, and cooperation between their law enforcement establishments.

The agreement to exchange envoys was concluded between Israel’s Minister of Public Security Amir Ohana, and the UAE’s Interior and Deputy Prime Minister Saif bin Zayed Al Nahyan. The initiative was presented by Ohana and agreed to by Nahyan.

Ohana said that normalization between Israel and the UAE has “deepened our ties and cooperation in a variety of areas related to internal security.”

“The Israeli police representation on UAE soil will strengthen and deepen these ties, for the benefit of both sides and for the welfare of the countries’ residents,” he said
PMW: PA presents the PLO Charter as currently calling for Israel's destruction
As part of a TV series entitled “Lexicon of the Revolution” official PA TV broadcast a filler about the 1964 Charter of the Palestine Liberation Organization (PLO).

While presenting the historical overview of the Charter, the PA chose to cite the Charter’s declarations denying Israel's right to exist and the PLO’s goal of destroying Israel, even claiming that it is supported by the UN. For example:
“The Palestinian Arab people is the one with the legitimate right to its homeland”

“The 16th clause [of the Charter] states that the liberation of Palestine, from an international perspective, is a defensive operation necessitated by self-defense, as determined by the UN Charter.”

[Official PA TV, Aug. 10, 2018; March 6 (twice) 2021]

This second message is stated both by the narrator and reinforced by a slide on the screen.
Text: "Clause 16 states that the liberation of Palestine, from an international perspective, is a defensive operation necessitated by self-defense, as determined by the UN Charter” alongside the old Fatah logo that includes crossed rifles and the map of “Palestine” that includes all of Israel, together with this text: "Al-Asifa – the Palestinian National Liberation Movement"

What was left out of the PA TV broadcast is just as significant as what was included. Most specifically, there is no reference to the fact that the PA obligated itself to cancel all the clauses of the PLO Charter calling for Israel's destruction, under the terms of the Oslo Accords.

The narrator’s introductory explanation likewise denies Israel's right to exist – saying Israel exists on Arab “stolen homeland” and therefore “returning it” is an act of “self-defense”:
“The Charter… is based on the right to self-defense and to the return of the stolen homeland in its entirety; and it is a right that the international conventions and norms confirm.”
Mahmoud Abbas suspends funding to Yasser Arafat Foundation - report
Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas has decided to cut off funding to the Yasser Arafat Foundation, a nonprofit organization headed by Nasser al-Kidwa, a nephew of the former PLO leader, the London-based Al-Araby Al-Jadeed media outlet revealed on Monday. Last week, Abbas dismissed Kidwa from the ruling Fatah faction because of the latter’s decision to form his own list to contest the upcoming Palestinian general elections.

Abbas accused Kidwa of violating Fatah’s internal regulations by deciding to run outside of the faction’s official list.

Kidwa recently announced that he would run in the elections as part of a new list named National Democratic Forum. He invited jailed Fatah leader Marwan Barghouti and other Palestinian activists to join his list.

Barghouti was sentenced to five life terms in Israeli prison for his role in terrorist attacks against Israel during the Second Intifada. Palestinian sources said that Abbas was also considering dismissing Barghouti from Fatah should he run in the elections on a separate list.

The fall of Lebanon is a question of when, not if - opinion
The collapse of the Lebanese state is not a presumption anymore. It is a question of time, unless drastic steps will be taken. At the outburst of the civil war in 1975, spreading damage and despair all over the country, the Lebanese army disintegrated. Druze officers joined the Druze forces; the Christian officers, the Christian camp; and the Shi’ites and Sunnis did the same, in a paroxysm of chaos.

The Taif Agreement in 1989 put an end to the civil war, adopted steps to make the army more united, coherent and the guarantor to stability. Today, the army does not fear the specter of fragmentation.

Today, the danger is poverty. The soldiers are not receiving their salaries, for lack of currency. This danger might lead to the disintegration of the military institution from within. Corruption, political stalemate, foreign interference – these are the main causes of Lebanon’s maladies.

Hezbollah enjoys the financial assistance of Iran and can preserve its political and military positions. The other groups don’t have such privilege. Therefore, the terrorist organization won’t hesitate to push Lebanon into the abyss. If this will occur, the organization will complete its “mise de main” over all of Lebanon, and behind it stands Iran.

In that case, the situation is no longer a domestic Lebanese problem. It is regional and, what is more, international.

Attention President Biden: Yemen's Houthi Rebels are Iranian-backed Terrorists
[T]he Houthis have also used the sophisticated weaponry they have received from Iran, such as drones and ballistic missiles, to broaden the conflict into neighbouring Saudi Arabia, which is leading the coalition military campaign to re-establish Yemen's democratically-elected government.

[US sanctions were] promptly denounced by humanitarian and aid agencies, which claimed that designating the Houthis as terrorists would impede the global effort to help Yemen's starving population, an argument that appears perverse as the Houthis control most of the key aid supply routes, and regularly steal aid supplies to sell on the black market and fund their terrorist operations.

So far this month the Houthis have launched more than 20 drone and missile attacks against predominantly civilian targets in Saudi Arabia. In the most high profile attack, the Houthis used an explosive-laden drone and a ballistic missile against the Saudi petroleum plant at Ras Tanura, prompting global oil prices to rise above $70 a barrel earlier this week, its highest in more than a year.

Mr Biden has indicated he is keen to revive the controversial nuclear deal with Iran and, by easing the pressure on the Houthis, whose success on the battlefield is entirely due to the weapons and support they receive from Tehran, the White House was hoping to send a message to Iran that it was serious about having a constructive dialogue with Tehran. Instead, in the weeks since Mr Biden lifted the FTO, the region has seen a significant increase in Houthi activity.

[B]y helping to facilitate these attacks by providing the Houthis with sophisticated weapons, Tehran is showing that, far from seeking improved relations with the new US administration, it remains committed to pursuing an uncompromising policy of aggression throughout the Middle East, one that is unlikely to result in the resumption of talks on the problematic issue of Iran's nuclear programme anytime soon.
Time for UN accountability on Iran - opinion
In her Senate confirmation hearing to serve as President Joe Biden’s ambassador to the United Nations, Linda Thomas-Greenfield described the world body’s indispensable role in advancing peace and human rights, but “only if America is leading the way.” She’s right – and nowhere will US leadership matter more at the UN than on demanding accountability from the Islamic Republic of Iran.

Here are five key steps to achieve that:
The first place to start is at the UN General Assembly, which adopts an annual resolution on Iran that, while containing many strong points, opens with no less than nine separate sections of undue praise for the oppressive regime.

Absurdly, the text adopted on December 16, 2020, commended Iran’s “reduction in number of executions” even as it recently executed wrestlers Navid Afkari and Mehdi Ali Hosseini for protesting the regime, and hanged dissident journalist Ruhollah Zam in what France called a “barbaric” act.

The UNGA’s Iran resolution also “welcomed” the regime’s commitment to “improving the situation of women.” Someone may want to ask human rights lawyer Nasrin Sotudeh, condemned to 38 years in prison for defending women who removed their headscarves in defiance of the regime’s compulsory hijab law, for her opinion.
Congressional Republicans push barrage of Iran legislation
Republican lawmakers in the Senate and House have introduced a surge of legislation in recent weeks seeking to further crack down on Iran and put the brakes on the Biden administration’s efforts to rejoin the 2015 nuclear deal.

The eight pieces of legislation address issues including tightening sanctions enforcement, expressing disapproval of the 2015 Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA), opposing easing sanctions on Iran and seeking to block the U.S. from reentering the JCPOA entirely.

Some of the measures have gained minimal traction, but others have found support among GOP lawmakers.

In the Senate, a bill sponsored by Sen. Bill Hagerty (R-TN) seeking congressional oversight over sanctions reductions has gained 27 cosponsors. A resolution introduced by Sen. Tom Cotton (R-AR) opposing any form of sanctions reduction that does not address both Iran’s nuclear program and its other provocations — such as its recent attack on U.S. personnel in Iraq and its exporting of terrorism through its Middle East proxies — has gained 31 cosponsors. The House companion legislation to Hagerty’s bill and Cotton’s resolution have 24 and 30 GOP sponsors, respectively.

Rep. Michael McCaul (R-TX), who sponsored the House version of Hagerty’s bill, told JI that the legislation seeks to give congressional oversight on sanctions relief in order to give the American people a voice in the process.

“I don’t want to see us again fall back into the scheme of Tehran blackmailing us and extorting us and us giving up sanctions for really very little of anything,” Hagerty said in an interview with Jewish Insider last week. “The concern I’ve got is that the Biden administration wants to roll back our sanctions, just in exchange for reentering the deal. It took us a long time to get the sanctions in place. We’ve got pressure on Iran now that is like never before. And this is not the time to be backing off.”

Rep. Andy Barr (R-KY), who introduced a House bill that seeks to compel the Biden administration to submit any replacement agreement for Senate consideration as a treaty, offered a similar argument.

CAMERA Op-Ed Iran’s ‘Nuclear Fatwa’ is Nuclear Nonsense
In 1962, President John F. Kennedy observed that “The great enemy of the truth is very often not the lie, but the myth—persistent, persuasive and unrealistic.” When it comes to Iran’s nuclear weapons program there is no shortage of either lies or myths. And regrettably, in the West, there is no shortage of those who are willing to disseminate them.

Among the most persistent myths is that of the so-called Iranian nuclear fatwa.

In recent reports, mainstream news outlets like AP have claimed that a “fatwa, or religious edict” by Iran’s “Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei states that nuclear weapons are forbidden.” A Washington Post dispatch uncritically quoted Mahmoud Alavi, the regime’s intelligence minister, who asserted: “Our nuclear program is peaceful, and the fatwa by the Supreme Leader has forbidden nuclear weapons.” However, Alavi, warned, “if they push Iran in that direction, then it wouldn’t be Iran’s fault but those who pushed it.”

Iran’s spy chief is doing more than threatening the United States and those who seek to prevent the regime’s development of illegal nuclear weapons. Alavi is also engaged in a longstanding, and recently renewed, disinformation campaign.

As the Middle East Media Research Institute (MEMRI) noted in an April 6, 2015 report: “such a fatwa has never been issued, and to his day no one has been able to show it.” Indeed, in a November 27, 2013 column, the Washington Post’s own Fact Checker warned, “U.S. officials should be careful about saying the fatwa prohibits the development of nuclear weapons, as that is not especially clear anymore.”

What is clear, however, is that Tehran has long used claims of a nuclear fatwa as part of its propaganda campaign.

Indeed, the regime has been doing so for years.
7 rockets target Iraq base housing US troops; 5 hit nearby village
Seven rockets targeted an Iraqi airbase housing US troops north of Baghdad on Monday, a security source said, the latest in a string of attacks Washington routinely blames on Iran-linked factions.

The evening attack on Al-Balad did not cause any casualties or damage inside the base, the security official said.

The other five rockets crashed into a nearby village, he added, noting that all seven were fired from a separate village in the neighboring province of Diyala, east of the base.

There was no immediate claim of responsibility.

There have been several such attacks in recent weeks targeting locations where US forces operate.

On March 3, an American sub-contractor was killed in a similar attack against another airbase, Ain Al-Assad, in Iraq’s western desert.

That came days after the US bombed a border depot in neighboring Syria which the Pentagon said was used by Iran-backed Iraqi armed militia that have been tied to the rocket attacks.

US President Joe Biden described the February 25 raid as a “warning” to Iran.
Iran to Nuclear Inspectors: “Sorry, All Our Reactors have COVID-19!” (satire)
While the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) is responsible for inspecting all of Iran’s nuclear sites, the process has proven difficult, especially since the outbreak of COVID-19. What many nuclear inspectors have found surprising is the fact that every single nuclear site is reportedly testing positive for the virus, rendering them impossible to investigate.

A chief IAEA nuclear inspector described the experience. “I was really impressed with their honesty. To no benefit of their own, they told me about the COVID-19 outbreak that had occurred in every single one of their nuclear facilities. They explained, in no uncertain terms, that if I were to thoroughly inspect their nuclear sites, I would surely contract the disease, and then die alone…in an Iranian hospital…with no ventilator.”

While some have criticized the move as a ploy to avoid oversight, others have praised this as the next great legal maneuver. Attorneys around the world have begun invoking the “COVID defense” as a means of preventing access to areas, documents, and even digital files.


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