Saturday, April 10, 2021

From Ian:

Seth J. Frantzman: Will This be the Last Anti-Israel Generation?
For the past several decades discussion of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict has been driven by full-time anti-Israel researchers and writers. This coterie of academics and authors, from Noam Chomsky to Peter Beinart, constantly popped up on panels and had their ideas amplified. Today's Middle East realities, with new peace agreements and concerns about China's emerging role, has less time to focus on the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. Consequently we are likely seeing the last generation of professional Israel critics.

Anyone who grew up in the 1990s and early 2000s, the period of the Oslo Accords and Second Intifada, got used to the idea that Israel's existence was up for debate. It was taken for granted that there was something called "opposition to Israel" and no shortage of ink was spilled on the question of Israel's "right to exist." Only those stuck in the era of the Oslo Accords and earlier, when harsh conflict between Israel and the Arab states was the norm, could suggest that the whole country of Israel might not exist one day. Now, with 70 years' hindsight, it is clear that Israel does exist like some 200 other countries and it isn't going to be fundamentally changed.

Nevertheless, in the U.S. and some other Western countries there are still academic and activist panel discussions about the "one-state solution," usually involving only non-Palestinians who sit and discuss whether Palestinians in Gaza and the West Bank can be shoehorned into some kind of Frankenstein-like state that combines Israel with the autonomous Palestinian Authority and Hamas-run Gaza. Why do people even discuss this? They don't discuss turning India, Pakistan and Bangladesh into "one state" or combining Croatia, Serbia, Bosnia and Kosovo back into "one state." Only with Israel is one-state solution activism given credence, though primarily in Western academic and far-left journalistic circles.

The reason this discussion—which would be laughable if a bunch of Western academics sat in a room and talked about combining Japan and China into one state, without asking Japanese and Chinese residents what they think—has received any acceptability in discussions on Israel is because of the network of professional Israel critics that emerged in the last decades. But these activists, who we got used to seeing at the anti-Israel Durban conference in 2001 and again in the "boycott, divestment and sanctions" movement, are growing older and becoming less relevant.
Richard Kemp: Can We Win in the 'Gray Zone'?
The gray zone is the space between peace and war involving coercive actions that fall outside normal geopolitical competition between states but do not reach the level of armed conflict.... They usually seek to avoid a significant military response, though are often designed to intimidate and deter a target state by threatening further escalation.

[B]ut do liberal democracies in the 21st Century have the political will to do the dirty work that is necessary to win?

Western nations have multiple pre-emptive and reactive options to respond to gray zone actions directed against them or their allies, most effectively involving multilateral coordination. The objective should be to frustrate or deter, avoiding escalation that might lead to all-out conflict. Broadly, options fall into four categories: diplomatic, informational, economic and military.

Democracies' fear of escalation is a significant deterrent against the use of violent military options in the gray zone, and that is exactly the fear that authoritarian states like Iran wish to instil.....[F]ear of escalation is not the greatest obstacle to the use of a military option — transparency is.

Deterrence is not down to the military option alone. Where possible, diplomatic, informational and economic actions are preferable in providing the necessary punishments. But gray zone opponents who are willing to use military action must also be confronted with a credible military jeopardy to them, and not just a paper capability which will quickly be seen for what it is.

How confident can we be that liberal democracies mean business in the gray zone? When British troops were being killed and maimed in large numbers in Iraq by Iranian proxies... more than a decade ago, the UK government would not even consider any form of gray zone military action, even non-lethal, against Iran, despite a clear capability to do so. Instead they relied on diplomatic démarches -- and the killings continued. The consequences of such weakness are still being played out in Iran's widespread gray zone aggression. If back then — in the face of the slaughter of dozens of their own troops — political leaders' fear of escalation and political fallout caused such paralysis, how likely is it that they will seriously contemplate violent gray zone operations today...
35 years after El Al bomb plot, security staff recount stopping unwitting bomber
On April 17, 1986, an El Al flight from London to Tel Aviv was almost the target of a bombing attack that could have killed everyone on board, including the unsuspecting pregnant woman carrying the explosives. Thirty-five years later, two of the security officers that foiled the attack spoke of their experience in a television interview that aired Friday.

On the date of the bombing attempt, El Al Flight 016, originating in New York, had stopped at London’s Heathrow Airport before a final planned leg to Israel.

Yossi Orbach, then a security officer with El Al in London, told Channel 13 that “it was a normal day in April in London,” describing the warming weather and thoughts of a quiet day ahead at work. “We had no intel warnings and no preparation for what was about to happen.”

Security officers, like Orbach, began the check-in process, questioning the new travelers boarding the flight to Israel.

Anne-Marie Murphy, a 32-year-old Irish woman in her 6th month of pregnancy, arrived at the check-in area.

“She arrived fairly early, relatively speaking, for the flight. The check-in [area] as far as I remember was almost empty,” said Ofer Argov, another security official at the time.


Seth J. Frantzman: Israel’s Iron Dome: Ten Years In Action and 2,500 Rockets Destroyed
Israel’s Iron Dome Defense system is celebrating ten years of operations and 2,500 interceptions. The announcement on April 7, 2021 reveals the success that the system has had in protecting Israel from rocket threats and increasingly from other types of threats, such as drones and mortars, as well.

Iron Dome was developed by Rafael Advanced Defense Systems. “Iron Dome’s development began in December 2007, and was completed in less than 3 years,” said Rafael in a statement.

Rafael’s President and CEO, Maj. Gen. (Ret.) Yoav Har-Even praised the system on the anniversary. “Iron Dome is a household name in Israel, and has become synonymous with excellence. We are proud of our teams of scientists and engineers who developed this extraordinary system and are continuing to do so on a daily basis. Thanks to them, Iron Dome’s capabilities are light years beyond its original design.”

The system has changed how Israel fights because it allows decision makers to wait and decide rather how to react than be immediately driven to war as missiles rain down on Israel. Had the 2,500 interceptions not taken place Israel would be a very different country today. “We are thankful to our teams, to the Israeli Ministry of Defense and to the IDF, to our partner industries ELTA, our subsidiary mPrest and others. We are especially thankful to current and past American administrations for their support in the manufacturing of the system,” said Har-Even on April 7.

Iron Dome saw its first success ten years ago just a month after being deployed. On the evening of April 7, 2011, a rocket that was launched from the Gaza Strip and was detected by Iron Dome’s radar. Within seconds, the data transmitted to the Battle Management Center (BMC) was processed, and the battery operators needed to decide whether to activate an interceptor against the threat, the company noted in a statement. “With precise impact location provided by the BMC, pointing to the southern Israeli city of Ashkelon, with a population of more than 130,000 civilians, the crew decided to launch an interceptor, and made combat history by intercepting the threat, preventing civilian injuries and significant damage to property.”

The system performed well during hostilities with Hamas in 2012 and continued to serve the country in conflicts in 2014 and flare-ups ever since. The system can now confront a larger variety of threats, from very short-range munitions to precision guided munitions, drones and cruise missiles. This is relevant because Iran, an adversary of Israel, has used drones and cruise missiles in attacks. The system is also relevant globally because of increased threats from drones and short-range rockets. In fact, America has acquired two Iron Dome batteries from Israel due to the threats U.S. forces face such as rocket threats in places like Iraq.
Iron Dome developers set the record straight on its evolution
Iron Dome’s unrivaled success on the battlefield – which has even made it, in many people’s eyes, the most important Israeli innovation in the country’s 70 years of existence – has produced countless articles, interviews, books and television programs on the path to develop the system and its progress over the years.

For the sake of history, those who made the decisions and developed the system, and for the purpose of drawing effective lessons for the future, it is essential that the record be set straight, and that the factual truth, albeit subjective, be known, as it primarily appears in the State Comptroller’s report 59A.

Deciding to develop Iron Dome
In 1996, Israel and the United States agreed to collaborate on Project THEL (Tactical High-Energy Laser), mistakenly dubbed Nautilus (America’s earlier adventure in this technological field). From the start, the project was developed as a technological demonstrator. In 2001, a series of tests was completed proving a laser beam can intercept a threat, but concluded that a chemical laser-based interception system was not suitable for operational deployment in Israel. Low operational preparedness (technological reliability), complex logistics (size, availability, repairs and transfer from site to site) and environmental concerns were only a few of the many significant reasons why.

Israel and the US decided to plan another system, smaller and more portable, named MTHEL (Mobile THEL). From this decision, it can be understood that the cessation of the THEL program was not in any way caused by Israel’s exit from Lebanon, as some have argued.

From 2001 to 2005, Israel and its American counterpart worked on the new collaboration but decided to discontinue it in 2005 while still in the planning stages, as per advice from the Defense Ministry’s Directorate of Defense Research and Development (DDR&D) director Shmuel Keren and assessments shared by numerous experts. It was believed this project would not lead to an operational weapons system given that there was no foreseeable future for a chemical laser-based system. It was clear that any future laser-based interception system would be based on a solid-state laser, but such technology would not be available for – what proved to be optimistic – at least another decade.
Biden brings out Obama's echo chamber, puts Israel on defense - opinion
In March 2012, unnamed US diplomats and military intelligence officials exposed IDF and Mossad activities in Azerbaijan, a Muslim country that borders Iran. “The Israelis have bought an airfield,” a senior administration official was quoted as telling Foreign Policy magazine, “and the airfield is called Azerbaijan.”

This Obama-administration orchestrated leak – the “outing” of Israel’s covert capabilities in Azerbaijan – was meant to scuttle the possibility of an Israeli air strike on Iran’s nuclear facilities from former Soviet air bases near Baku, only 500 km. from Tehran. Of course, Azerbaijan was forced to deny any Israeli presence and then scale back whatever intelligence or military basing Israel had there.

It was an ugly and underhanded move by the Obama administration.

This was followed by the “Bibi-sitting project,” a hand-holding exercise that saw senior American officials visiting Israel every month to keep tabs on the Netanyahu government’s thinking and planning, and to reassure Israel that Washington was taking Israel’s security interests into account. It wasn’t. It was babysitting Israel (“Bibi-sitting”) to make sure that Israel did not interfere with Obama’s rotten accord-making with Iran.

As the contours of the controversial Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA) nuclear deal with Iran later emerged, the Obama administration launched a hostile whispering campaign about Israel and its Jewish allies in the US (orchestrated by then-president Obama’s aide, deputy national security adviser Ben Rhodes).

Israel was standing in the way of an “amicable nuclear deal” with Iran and “dragging the US into war” – it was alleged. American Jews, Republicans, and others opposed to the soft deal with Iran were accused of disloyalty to America; of favoring Israeli interests over crucial US security interests.

The pro-Iran-deal chorus was mobilized to repeat these messages. Rhodes himself braggingly highlighted the “echo chamber” he created for this purpose, which encompassed journalists, left-wing think tanks, and other opinion leaders. Rhodes boasted that he snowed the “know nothing” media and the American public with a misleading narrative about the timeline of Washington’s negotiations with Tehran and other key facets of the deal.
Ruthie Blum: Joe Biden crawls back to the Iran nuclear drawing board - opinion
IN HER daily briefing on Tuesday, White House Press Secretary Jen Psaki perfectly exhibited the administration’s floundering on this issue. When questioned by a reporter about US leverage in the negotiations with Iran, other than the threat of war, she stumbled.

“What it – what would Iran want out of it? Is that what you’re asking?” she replied, either genuinely puzzled or stalling to come up with a rational response in the absence of one.

“No,” the reporter answered. “I’m saying, ‘What’s the stick?’ You’re coming with a carrot, right? Which is, you know, ‘We’ll bring you back in and so on if you dismantle all this stuff.’ And, you know, ‘We’ll eventually give you sanctions relief.’ That’s pretty clear. But they withstood the sanctions under the Trump administration. And, you know – and they – the effect only increased the activity in the nuclear field. So, what – what is left?”

Taking a breath, Psaki explained, “Well, if you... go back historically, just a few years before the Trump administration, to the Obama-Biden administration, sanctions were put in place which incentivize, in many ways, getting them to the table to have the discussion about the Joint Plan of Action. So, look, I would say at this point: Today is the first day of discussions... and they are happening through our European counterparts and partners. We expect them to have difficult portions [sic]. We expect this to be a long process. And we, you know, continue to believe that a diplomatic path is the right path forward, and there are benefits to all sides.”

She concluded by accusing Biden’s predecessor of making matters worse.

“When the Trump administration pulled out of the Joint Plan of Action, what they left us with is a far-decreased visibility of Iran’s nuclear capability, of inspections at their sites, of an understanding of how close they were to acquiring a nuclear weapon,” she asserted. “That’s not in anyone’s interest, certainly not [that of] the American people.”

In other words, despite acknowledgment that Iran was lying about its nuclear program being “peaceful,” and allowing for clauses in the JCPOA that enabled Tehran to perpetuate the deception, former president Barack Obama and then-second-in-command Biden obsessively pushed for the deal anyway. Now that Biden is in charge, things are no different.

His appointment of Robert Malley as special envoy to Iran means picking up where Obama left off and then some. Malley, who left his position as head of the International Crisis Group NGO to accept the post, was a key negotiator of the JCPOA in the first place. Nobody could be better suited for the job of appeasing the ayatollahs than the “conflict resolution” addict who advocates engagement with Hamas and the Muslim Brotherhood.
Austin Makes First Trip to Israel as Defense Secretary
The Pentagon announced Thursday that Secretary of Defense Lloyd Austin will visit Israel next week. Austin likely wants to reassure Israel as the White House seeks to re-enter the deeply flawed Iran nuclear agreement – but he should also use the visit to further strengthen the U.S.-Israel bilateral security partnership.

The trip represents Austin’s first to the Middle East since becoming defense secretary, and it is notable that Israel will be the only country he visits in the region. Austin is set to meet with Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and Defense Minister Benjamin Gantz on a trip that also includes visits to Germany, NATO’s Belgium headquarters, and the United Kingdom.

The Pentagon’s press release emphasized that the visit to Israel will enable Austin “to continue close consultations on shared priorities, and reaffirm the enduring U.S. commitment to the U.S.-Israel strategic partnership and Israel’s Qualitative Military Edge.”

More directly, Austin’s primary goal is almost certainly to assure Jerusalem that the Biden administration stands with Israel as Washington engages in negotiations regarding the Iran nuclear agreement.

Some of the feedback from his Israeli interlocutors will likely be, shall we say, candid.

Israel, after all, understandably views the possibility of a nuclear-armed Iran as an existential threat. The Islamic Republic of Iran, a regime with the well-earned reputation as the world’s leading state sponsor of terrorism, has long pursued a nuclear weapons capability. Despite Tehran’s unwillingness to come clean on the previous military dimensions of its nuclear program, the Biden administration is moving to rejoin the deeply flawed Iran nuclear agreement.

The Biden administration seems undeterred by the deal’s weak inspection regime, failure to address Iran’s ballistic missile program, and sunset clauses. To convince Tehran to stop its nuclear blackmail, the White House seems prepared to grant sanctions relief – providing billions of dollars that the Islamic Republic will once again use to arm its proxies so they can more effectively kill Americans and our allies.
Left-Wing Jewish Groups Defend Justice Department Nominee Accused of Anti-Semitism
Left-wing Jewish groups are defending embattled Justice Department nominee Kristen Clarke against charges of anti-Semitism related to an event she sponsored for an anti-Jewish conspiracy theorist.

The National Council of Jewish Women and other groups say those accusing Clarke of anti-Semitism are misrepresenting her record. This defense is unusual for the NCJW, which has traditionally been vocal in opposing nominees for past views. Clarke, who President Joe Biden tapped to lead the department's civil rights division, will appear before the Senate Judiciary Committee on Wednesday.

The battle over Clarke's record comes amid a broader debate over the Biden administration's commitment to Israel. Secretary of State Antony Blinken announced the resumption of tens of millions of dollars in aid for Gaza and the West Bank on April 7 that will likely benefit the Palestinian Authority.

As an undergraduate at Harvard University in 1994, Clarke hosted an event with Wellesley College professor Tony Martin. Just one year earlier, Martin published a book called The Jewish Onslaught, which purported to show the global slave trade was controlled by Jews. The book accused Jews of attacking black scholars and undermining community leaders. A majority of Martin's faculty colleagues condemned the book as anti-Semitic.

Clarke invited Martin in her capacity as president of the Black Students Association. The decision deeply divided the campus and was covered at length in the campus newspaper, the Harvard Crimson. A letter to the editor from a Jewish student, Martin Lebwohl, who attended the event noted that Martin "lavished praise" on Clarke "who, he said, had courageously invited him ‘in the face of enormous pressure from the forces of reaction.'"


In Israel, vaccine passports are already redundant
Millions of Israelis downloaded their green passes after the government rolled them out. There was a massive PR campaign encouraging us to use them, but there was little guidance on how to enforce them. Officially, it’s the responsibility of businesses and venues to ensure that only those with the passes are allowed in. ‘No one told me how I was supposed to police the green passes,’ one Tel Aviv bar owner told me. ‘I’m leaving it to my customers. I hope no one who hasn’t been vaccinated comes in but it’s not my responsibility.’ Police and local authority inspectors have been discreetly ordered not to enforce the regulations either.

‘The truth is that the green pass was never really meant to be a condition for getting into places,’ one senior public health expert admitted to me. ‘It was meant as an incentive so younger people would feel they were going to get something out of being vaccinated.’ Israel’s quick vaccine rollout has indeed been the envy of the world, but at one point, when about a third of the population had been jabbed, the daily rate of vaccinations began to plummet. It turned out that while those over 60 were eager to be vaccinated and reunite with their families, -younger Israelis were in less of a hurry. It was the government’s promise of a green pass which would allow their favourite haunts to finally reopen that got them off their backsides and in to the vaccination centres.

It did the trick. Nearly all Israeli adults now have a vaccine passport, which means there’s no need to inspect them. Some workplaces have made them a condition of returning to the office, even though the legality of such a requirement is far from clear. But all you’re asked to provide is a screenshot or photocopy of your pass for your personnel file. No one checks whether it’s authentic.

Unlike in Britain, where the idea of vaccine passports is still anathema, Israelis are used to being required to carry -identity cards with them wherever they go. If the government here was serious about vaccine passports, they could enforce them. But the green pass did its job as a way of encouraging people to get their vaccine. Nearly everyone took up the offer, infection rates have been steadily going down and Israel’s economy has been able to reopen. It’s now almost impossible to get a table in the better restaurants without a week’s advance reservation. A green pass won’t help you there.
Sensitive IDF operation leaked to foreign media - Haaretz
A sensitive IDF operation was leaked to foreign media by an individual involved in its planning, Haaretz reported on Friday.

According to the report, the individual who leaked the operation’s details asked the reporter to wait with its publication, after the defense establishment had decided to postpone it by one day.

The operation was reportedly classified as high-risk for the soldiers involved and was planned as part of a wider strategy by the Defense Ministry to prevent Iran’s further establishment in Syria and elsewhere in the Middle East.

The fact that such a sensitive operation was leaked raised concerns among Israel’s top security officials, which stressed that publishing any information about the operation beforehand would put lives at risk.

Eventually, the operation was successfully carried out a day after its original date. Its details were then published by the media outlet that originally received the leaked information.

Earlier this week, The New York Times reported that Israel notified the US that it is responsible for Tuesday’s attack on an Iranian cargo ship affiliated with the Islamic Revolutionary Guards Corps.
Palestinians ‘optimistic’ about resumption of peace process
The Palestinians are optimistic regarding the prospects of reviving the peace process with Israel in light of the US administration’s renewed commitment to the two-state solution, a senior Palestinian official, said on Saturday.

Azzam al-Ahmad, a member of the PLO Executive Committee and the Fatah Central Committee, said that the Palestinian leadership has received many indications about an “upcoming political move” to resume international efforts to resolve the Israeli-Palestinian conflict.

Ahmad told the Palestinian Authority’s Voice of Palestine radio station that efforts were being made “at the international level” to resume the peace process and “find a comprehensive solution” to the conflict.

He said his optimism was based on a change in the level of reactivating the work of the Quartet, comprising the US, the United Nations, the European Union and Russia.

Ahmad underlined that the US administration has resumed its contacts with the other Quartet members to discuss ways of resuming the stalled Israeli-Palestinian peace process.

The Quartet members, including US representatives, met virtually two weeks ago to discuss relaunching their efforts to resume peace negotiations.


Never forget Iran's Holocaust denial
As we marked Yom HaShoah (Holocaust Remembrance Day) this week, parties to the 2015 Iran nuclear deal began talks toward seeing America and Iran return to the accord.

It remains crucial that the Iranian regime, which seeks to finish Hitler’s work with its declared desire to eliminate the Jewish state of Israel, be held accountable for its denial of the Holocaust. Don't take my word for it. Take Iran's.

In 1998, former Iranian President Ali Akbar Hashemi Rafsanjani opened a rally to commemorate Al-Quds (Jerusalem) day by labeling the fact that 6 million Jews were killed in the Holocaust as "Zionist propaganda."

In early 2001, writers for the government-run Tehran Times offered falsehoods about the Holocaust, with one saying that just 150,000 prisoners died at Auschwitz (at least 1.1 million prisoners died at the concentration and death camp) and that most deaths were due to disease. Another writer claimed that there’s no proof "even one human being in a German camp" was gassed. The writer added that German documentation "directly refute" the "Holocaust story" (even though there is overwhelming proof, even from German documents at the time, that proves that the Holocaust happened).

The following April, Iranian Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei told a conference in Tehran that "exaggerated numbers" of Jews killed during the Holocaust were "fabricated to solicit the sympathy of world public opinion, lay the ground for the occupation of Palestine, and justify the atrocities of the Zionists." In January 2005, the Tehran Times ran a piece by Hossein Amiri titled "Lies of the Holocaust Industry." The following December, then-Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad remarked, "Some European countries are insisting on saying that Hitler burned millions of oppressed Jews in crematoria. They insist so much on this issue that if someone proves the opposite, they convict him and throw him into prison." In his 2014 new year speech, Khamenei said that "the Holocaust is an event whose reality is uncertain, and if it has happened, it’s uncertain how it has happened."
UN atomic watchdog reports new Iranian breach of nuclear deal
The UN atomic watchdog on Friday flagged a new breach by Iran of its nuclear deal with major powers on the day those powers met to revive the agreement , a report by the agency seen by Reuters showed, likely raising tensions with Western powers.

The International Atomic Energy Agency avoids saying Iran has breached the deal. At the same time, it generally only issues such ad hoc reports to member states in the event of a breach. Two diplomats told Reuters what the report described amounted to a fresh breach.

The breach has to do with what counts officially towards Iran's stockpile of enriched uranium, a highly sensitive issue since that stockpile could be enriched further to weapons-grade material suitable for nuclear bombs if Iran chose to do so. It denies seeking such weapons and says its aims are entirely peaceful.

After the deal was reached in 2015 the parties to it defined what should count towards the stockpile, and excluded items such as scrap fuel plates with uranium enriched to near 20% fissile purity, which were deemed "unrecoverable." Friday's report, however, said Iran had recovered some of that material.

"On 7 April 2021, the Agency verified at the Fuel Plate Fabrication Plant at Esfahan that Iran had dissolved six unirradiated scrap fuel plates for the TRR (Tehran Research Reactor) containing 0.43 kg of uranium enriched up to 20% U-235," the report said.

"A uranyl nitrate solution was extracted and converted into ammonium uranyl carbonate," the report said, adding that Iran aimed to process that further to produce molybdenum, which has many civilian uses including in medical imaging.

While the amount of enriched uranium extracted is small, it amounts to a fresh breach at a delicate stage, since Tehran and the United States are holding indirect talks in Vienna on how they could fully return to the deal.
On its ‘National Nuclear Technology Day,’ Iran starts up advanced centrifuges
Iran announced on Saturday that it has started up advanced IR-6 and IR-5 centrifuges that enrich uranium more quickly, in a new breach of its undertakings under the troubled 2015 nuclear agreement.

It also said it has begun mechanical tests on an even faster nuclear centrifuge: The output of Iran’s IR-9 centrifuge, when operational, would be 50 times quicker than the first Iranian centrifuge, the IR-1. Iran’s nuclear program is also developing IR-8 centrifuges.

President Hassan Rouhani officially inaugurated the cascades of 164 IR-6 centrifuges and 30 IR-5 devices at Iran’s Natanz uranium enrichment plant in a ceremony for National Nuclear Technology Day on Saturday broadcast by state television.

The broadcast aired no images of the cascades but broadcast a link with engineers at the plant who said they had introduced uranium hexafluoride gas to the cascades after receiving the order from Rouhani.

The IR-5 and IR-6 centrifuges allow uranium to be enriched more quickly and in greater amounts than Iran’s first-generation devices, which are the only ones that the 2015 deal allows it to use.
Iran boasts of '133 nuclear achievements' after Vienna talks
Iran says that it has unveiled 133 new nuclear achievements made by the country’s experts in different areas of the nuclear industry.

The claim came amid a call from President Hassan Rouhani in which he “unveiled the nuclear achievements in the provinces of Tehran, Markazi, Isfahan, Alborz and Qom to mark the 15th anniversary of National Nuclear Technology Day,” Iran’s Press TV said. The achievements included quantum, enrichment, heavy water and deuterium compounds, radiopharmaceuticals, lasers, and other astounding successes, the Islamic Republic says.

“On Rouhani’s order, Iranian experts began injecting gas into a new generation of centrifuges at Natanz enrichment facility. Iran also began the mechanical testing of IR-9 centrifuges and launched an assembly line for its new generation of centrifuges,” Tehran says.

This is a major message to the US after the Vienna talks in which Tehran and Washington agreed to establish working groups. America could try to return to the 2015 JCPOA "Iran Deal" but Iran is driving a hard bargain. It has violated the deal through enrichment while the US walked away in 2018.

“Iran showed to the world the peaceful nature of its nuclear program by signing the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA) with six world states – namely the US, Germany, France, Britain, Russia and China – in 2015,” it says. "The nuclear deal was also ratified in the form of a UN Security Council Resolution: 2231."
Iran Orders 10-day Shutdown Amid 4th Wave of Coronavirus Pandemic
Iran imposed a 10-day lockdown across most of the country on Saturday to curb the spread of a fourth wave of the coronavirus pandemic, state media reported.

The lockdown affects 23 of the country’s 31 provinces, health ministry spokesman Alireza Raisi said. Businesses, schools, theatres and sports facilities have been forced to shut and gatherings are banned during the holy fasting month of Ramadan that begins on Wednesday.

Iran’s coronavirus cases have surpassed 2 million with a new daily average of over 20,000 infections over the past week, according to the health ministry. It has reported more than 64,000 fatalities.

“Unfortunately, today we have entered a fourth wave,” President Hassan Rouhani said in televised remarks. He blamed the surge foremost on the variant that first emerged in the UK which spread to Iran earlier this year from neighboring Iraq.

Other factors included widespread travel, weddings, and celebrations during the Iranian New Year holidays that began on March 20, he said.

The UK variant is now predominant in the country, and 257 cities and towns are in red alert, Raisi said.

Iran has been the epicenter of the pandemic in the Middle East. In February, it closed several crossing points with Iraq in an effort to stem the spread of the UK variant.
EXCLUSIVE: GMB union rocked by ‘rich b****** Jews’ speech claims
One of the UK’s biggest trade unions faces claims it failed to properly investigate allegations of antisemitism in a speech by a senior official, Jewish News can reveal.

A former senior official within the GMB union is alleged to have made a speech to colleagues at a function openly dismissing claims of antisemitism in the Labour Party and saying “rich bastard Jews” were responsible for the continued prominence of the issue.

The GMB’s acting general secretary Warren Kenny is understood to be so concerned about the way the investigation into the claims was handled that workplace dispute experts ACAS have now been brought in to conduct a thorough review of the case.

The alleged antisemitic speech was made in November 2019 at the GMB Southern Region Christmas Party which was held at the Holiday Inn in Guilford, Surrey.

Making reference to looming general election at the end of 2019, the union official, who has since left the role, told the audience he hoped Jeremy Corbyn’s chances of becoming prime minister were not harmed by what he said were false allegations of antisemitism.

The official is then alleged to have put the blame for the allegations on those “rich bastard Jews”.

There were around 40 people present at the function – mainly GMB office staff, but also some lay officials.

Following the speech several union members who were present at the function lodged official complaints about the alleged antisemitic remarks to a manager who had himself previously been outspoken in his opposition to all racism.


Teachers’ Union Head Under Fire for Anti-Semitic Comments
Civil rights groups are condemning teachers' union president Randi Weingarten for accusing Jewish Americans of depriving others of opportunity in their bid to reopen schools.

Weingarten has already found herself in the middle of multiple battles over reopening schools since the union she heads, the American Federation of Teachers, pushed back on CDC guidance about physical distancing guidelines in school. Her comments about American Jews unleashed a firestorm of condemnations from groups that accused Weingarten of trafficking in anti-Semitic tropes.

Rabbi Aryeh Spero, president of the Conference of Jewish Affairs, accused Weingarten of "denouncing her own people and inciting others against Jews in order to be the darling of the Left."

"She took legitimate criticism of her union’s refusal to go back to work as a way to demonize the Jewish community. Historically this was labeled ‘scapegoating,'" Spero said. "She understands that today power is achieved by those who scapegoat Jews."

Weingarten made the comments in an interview with the Jewish Telegraphic Agency where she responded to a question about the perception that teachers' unions are trying to keep schools closed. She pivoted to criticizing American Jews as part of the "ownership class" who "want to take that ladder of opportunity away from those who do not have it."

Weingarten defended herself against accusations of anti-Semitism by pointing to her marriage to a rabbi. "My entire life is dedicated to promoting Jewish values like tikkun olam (repairing a broken world)," she wrote on Twitter. She also retweeted another rabbi who defended her as "talking about her disappointment when Jews don't support unions."

But her defense was not sufficient for groups that fight anti-Semitism.
Concordia University Student Union Apologizes to Jewish Community for Campus Culture of ‘Fear’
The student union at Montreal’s Concordia University issued a letter of apology to the Jewish community on its Facebook page Tuesday, admitting to “indifference” in the face of antisemitism on campus and calling for training and other procedures to combat anti-Jewish sentiment.

“More than anything else, this is embarrassing for us. It is embarrassing for us because even trying to verbalize our mistakes only serves to highlight how ridiculous they are,” said the Concordia Students Union in its “Letter of Apology to the Jewish Community.”

It said that its indifference had “assisted in fostering a campus culture where Jewish students are afraid to openly identify as Jewish.”

“Instead of choosing to tuck their Star of David necklaces under their shirts out of fear of having insults hurled at them for things they do not control and are not responsible for,” the letter continued.

The CSU has previously drawn criticism from some Jewish students for a 2014 student referendum endorsing the Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions (BDS) campaign. In 2020, the CSU voted down a motion which — in an effort to highlight the “impracticality” of the prior BDS endorsement — would have called on the body to cease using products and services with operations in Israel.

In 2017, the CSU faced backlash from Jewish groups for “hijacking” the Passover holiday, by providing space for a “Passover Against Apartheid” event.
UPenn Student Government Rejects Internationally Accepted Definition of Anti-Semitism
The University of Pennsylvania's student government abandoned a resolution endorsing an internationally recognized definition of anti-Semitism, bowing to pressure from pro-Palestinian campus activists who worried the measure would make it harder to criticize Israel.

Seniors Yarden Wiesenfeld and Samuel Kim earlier this week introduced a resolution calling on university officials to adopt the International Holocaust Remembrance Alliance's definition of anti-Semitism. Members of the student-led Penn Against the Occupation objected to the measure, which they feared would bar students from condemning the "apartheid" state of Israel, the Daily Pennsylvanian reported.

Neither the resolution nor the proposed definition of anti-Semitism mentions Israel. The Undergraduate Assembly did not respond to a request for comment, but President Mercedes Owens told the Daily Pennsylvanian that student leaders lack the necessary authority "to define systems of inequality" at the university.

The International Holocaust Remembrance Alliance defines anti-Semitism as "a certain perception of Jews, which may be expressed as hatred toward Jews." Twenty-nine countries, including the United States, have adopted the definition, as have the United Nations and several American universities.

Wiesenfeld and Kim proposed adopting the definition as a way to help students determine when criticism of Israel constitutes anti-Semitic speech, Wiesenfeld told the Washington Free Beacon.

"It is not legally binding, does not censor, and does not provide policies for how to address anti-Semitic incidents," Wiesenfeld said. "It was very disappointing that all [Undergraduate Assembly] members who spoke at the meeting took a neutral stance on the resolution, which led it to being tabled. It is never appropriate to be neutral when it comes to racism and hate speech."
Leading Dutch philosopher: Diaspora a ‘blessing’ because it kept Jews from power
The Netherlands’ foremost philosopher called the dispersal of Jews in the Diaspora a “blessing” because it prevented them from achieving the power they have in Israel today that has resulted in “religiously motivated violence.”

Hans Achterhuis, the first recipient of the prestigious and royally recognized title of “thinker of the Fatherland,” made the remarks in an interview on the role of religion in the modern state for Trouw, which the paper published on Thursday, Israel’s national Holocaust memorial day.

“As terrible as the story of the Jews has been, it was still in a certain sense a blessing that they were dispersed in the Diaspora. They had no power and therefore no possibility of exercising religiously motivated violence. And one sees how it can go wrong if that power does exist, in the State of Israel,” Achterhuis said.

His comment provoked outrage by Jewish community representatives and Israel’s ambassador to the Netherlands, Naor Gilon, who wrote on Twitter: “Shameful article in @Trouw on the day we remember the 6 million #Jews murdered in #Europe. History taught us that having a Jewish state – #Israel is the only way to survive #NeverAgain.”

Trouw told the Jewish Telegraphic Agency that the interview was not intentionally timed to run on Israel’s Holocaust memorial day, Yom Hashoah.

The Center for Information and Documentation on Israel, or CIDI, the Dutch Jewry watchdog on anti-Semitism, accused Achterhuis of racism toward Jews.
Polish university calls anti-Semitic blood libel claims ‘scientific discourse’
A Polish lecturer who said that Jews had practiced “ritual murders” will not be reprimanded because his claims are the subject of “scientific discourse,” the university that employs him said.

An internal ethics panel made the decision not to take disciplinary action against Tadeusz Guz, a priest and faculty member at the Catholic University of Lublin, for a second time after again reviewing complaints over a 2018 speech he gave in Warsaw.

“We know, ladies and gentlemen, that the facts of ritual murder cannot be erased from history. Why? Because we, the Polish state, in our archives, in the surviving documents, have evidence spread across centuries when Jews lived together with our Polish nation,” he said.

Ritual murder by Jews is an ancient blood libel that was common throughout Europe in the Middle Ages. Such libels served as the pretext for multiple deadly pogroms and anti-Semitic murders.

The Polish Council of Christians and Jews, a nonprofit that promotes dialogue, asked the university to discipline Guz, who has not apologized for the statements. The university’s ethics panel decided not to punish Guz, citing among other things the fact that the lecture was extracurricular.

The council appealed, leading to the decision last week by the panel, which said Guz “merely referenced scientific positions on this issue.”
Director of Warsaw Jewish Museum Calls on Polish Catholic University to Take Action Against ‘Blood Libel’ Priest
The director of the widely-celebrated, multi-million dollar museum of Jewish life in Warsaw has denounced Poland’s leading Catholic university for failing to discipline a professor who claimed that Polish Jews had historically engaged in ritual murder — one of the deadliest antisemitic falsehoods to have persisted over the centuries.

In an open letter this week to the rector of the Catholic University of Lublin (KUL), Zygmunt Stępiński — director of the POLIN Museum of the History of Polish Jews — charged that Fr. Tadeusz Guz, an ordained Catholic priest who teaches in the university’s philosophy department, had engaged in hateful rhetoric reminiscent of “Nazi or Stalinist propaganda” as well as the notorious antisemitic forgery, “The Protocols of the Elders of Zion.”

During a May 26, 2018 public lecture in Warsaw, Guz falsely alleged that Jews in Poland had engaged in the slaughter of Christian children — the “blood libel” — for ritual purposes.

“We know, dear people, that the facts of ritual murder cannot be erased from history,” Guz told his audience. “Why? Because we, the Polish state, in our archives, in the surviving documents, have had over the centuries — when Jews lived together with our Polish nation — we have legally valid sentences for ritual murders.”

After a complaint was filed by the Polish Council of Christians and Jews, both the Archdiocese of Lublin and the academic authorities at KUL distanced themselves from Guz, but notably refrained from taking further measures against him. “The lecture activities of Fr. Guz outside the university are undertaken and carried out by him on his own responsibility, and the theses he proclaimed are not the position of his superiors,” a joint statement from the two institutions proclaimed at the time.
Bipartisan ‘No Hate Act’ Introduced in US Congress to Combat Tide of Bigoted Violence
US Jewish groups praised the reintroduction on Thursday of bipartisan legislation to fight the rising tide of hate crimes against Asian-Americans and other groups, through better reporting systems and more law enforcement training.

The No Hate Act is led in the House by Representatives Don Beyer (D-VA), Fred Upton (R-MI), Judy Chu, (D-CA) and Vern Buchanan, (R-FL), along with Senators Richard Blumenthal (D-CT) and Jerry Moran (R-KS), who will introduce it on Monday in the Senate.

It will implement improved standards for reporting hate crimes, help law enforcement agencies better identify hate crimes, establish state-based hate crime hotlines, and allow judges to require offenders to undergo community service centered on the community targeted by the crime.

“With antisemitism on the rise, the United States needs to send a clear message that this odious form of hatred will not be tolerated,” said Rep. Buchanan.

“The Asian American community was raising the alarm about a horrifying wave of hate crimes across the country long before Atlanta,” said Rep. Beyer, referring to the March 16 shooting spree that left eight dead, including six women of Asian descent.

“The past decade has also seen high profile murderous incidents that specifically targeted Black Americans, Latinos, Jews, Muslims, Sikhs, and many other groups. Too many of these hate crimes are never reported to the FBI, and it is more urgent than ever that Congress take action to strengthen the national response,” he continued.
On Holocaust Remembrance Day GOP delegate likens mental health bill to Nazi laws
Daniel Cox, a Maryland Republican in the state legislature, said he would mark Yom Hashoah, Israel’s Holocaust Remembrance Day, by voting against a bill that would allow children to consent to mental health care.

Cox said his mask had a picture from the Nuremberg trials printed on it, and compared the bill to the Nazis’ infringement on “the rights of parents.”

“One of the things that was interesting and very sad in the Nuremberg trials, was the fact that medical professionals interfered with parental rights. And what was the result of those trials? Well, the European Union passed the European Commission on Human Rights, guaranteeing that never again will the state and the healthcare community interfere with the rights of parents, and the rights of family,” he said Thursday. “That’s what this bill does.”

The outrage followed immediately. Barely a minute into Cox’s remarks, Shane Pendergrass, a Democratic delegate, asked to be able to speak from a “point of personal privilege” as a Jew.

“I am enormously affronted as a Jew when you in any way compare this bill to the Holocaust, especially today,” she said. “Shame on you.”

Cox protested that he was not comparing the bill to the Holocaust, but to Nazi legal practices.
Cops in British Columbia Investigate ‘Kill Jews’ Graffiti Scrawled Outside Chabad Center
Canadian Police are investigating antisemitic graffiti that was discovered on a Jewish community center in Victoria, the capital city of British Columbia.

Staff at the Chabad Center for Jewish Life and Learning on Glasgow Street in Victoria called police to report that they had discovered the hateful messages, the Victoria Police Department said in a news release.

The center’s staff moved quickly to remove the messages and review surveillance video, police said, adding that two suspects were caught on camera tagging the centre.

Police are asking the public to help identify the suspects, and the department’s hate crime investigator is looking into the incident, CTV News reported on Friday.

A photo of the graffiti posted on social media showed that the slogans “Gas Jews” and “Kill Jews” had been scrawled in purple marker underneath the building number plate for the Chabad center.

“Jewish children have a right to feel safe in places of learning and recreation, and should never have to come across such hateful slogans when coming to the Chabad Center in Victoria,” the Center for Israel and Jewish Affairs declared in a statement on Twitter condemning the vandalism.

Noting that the vandalism coincided with Yom HaShoah, the annual commemoration of the Nazi Holocaust, the Friends of the Simon Wiesenthal Center (FSWC) said it had been “extremely shocking and sickening to see such graffiti.”
Groundbreaking ‘Made in Israel’ treatment may offer cure for blood cancer
A groundbreaking treatment developed by an Israeli team might offer a cure against multiple myeloma, a type of blood cancer.

Multiple myeloma is a relatively common type of cancer which targets white blood cells producing antibodies. As a result of the disease, those cells start to multiply indefinitely in the blood and can accumulate in the bones as well.

“The causes of this cancer are not clear, but it can lead to bone lesions, anemia, kidney failure, and it exposes the patients to infections, since their immune system is weakened,” Prof. Cyrille Cohen, head of the immunotherapy laboratory at Bar-Ilan University, told The Jerusalem Post.

Currently, the disease is considered treatable but not curable, with a survival rate of about 50% five years after the diagnosis. The state-of-the-art treatment is based on chemotherapy, a type of treatment that is often burdensome on the patient.

Cohen and his colleagues, including Prof. Polina Stepensky and Dr. Moshe Gatt from the Hadassah-University Medical Center, developed a bio-based alternative which aims at “reprogramming” the patient’s own blood cells.
$1 Billion in a Single Day – Israeli Tech Sets New Investment Record
Over just one day, Israeli tech companies announced on Wednesday that they had raised over $1 billion. Some $950 million of that sum came from two companies: retail analytics company Trax Image Recognition, which raised $640 million; and database software developer Redis Labs, which raised $310 million.

Around $500 million of that sum didn’t go into company accounts, but rather to those of investors, employees, and executives via secondary deals. Two additional Israeli companies announced significant funding rounds on Wednesday, with WhiteSource and Blue dot raising $75 million and $32 million, respectively.

One investor that stood out on Wednesday is SoftBank, which used its new fund, Vision Fund 2, to invest hundreds of millions in Trax and Redis. Trax founder and chairman Joel Bar-El and Redis co-founder and CEO Ofer Bengal told Calcalist that despite the blows suffered by SoftBank in recent times, they were more than happy to take its money.

“It is true that SoftBank suffered a serious blow in the WeWork saga, but this is a massive fund which has wonderful companies and has invested in some of the leading companies in the US,” said Bengal. “They are a good partner due to their connections in the Far East, in particular in Japan and China, markets which we plan to enter and in which they can help us a lot. None of the investors has a controlling share and we saw no problem in raising money from them.”

“SoftBank invests in many high-growth tech companies and at the end of the day is the largest tech investor in the world. Our connection to them will impact our success going forward,” noted Bar-El. “I think that SoftBank provides us with a strategic component that no one else can. These sums can create a market and cause disruption that VC funds just aren’t able to. Their aggression, if channeled correctly, can really help growth companies.”

SoftBank’s investment in both companies was at a significantly higher valuation compared to their previous funding rounds. It is estimated that SoftBank poured a total of $300 million into both companies. Trax raised funds at a $2.25 billion valuation compared to $1.1 billion in its previous round, while Redis saw its valuation double from around $1 billion to $2 billion.
Before Helen Mirren plays Golda Meir: 7 stars who played Israeli prime ministers
A mere 43 years after her death, Golda Meir is ready for her close-up.

Just a month after it was announced that the Israeli star Shira Haas would portray Meir in a TV series, The Hollywood Reporter revealed this week that Oscar winner Helen Mirren would portray Israel’s only female prime minister in an upcoming biopic.

While Haas, who is best known for her star turn in the miniseries “Unorthodox,” is Jewish, Mirren is not. But she did win international acclaim (and the Academy Award) for her performance as another historic leading lady: England’s Queen Elizabeth II in 2006’s “The Queen.”

It won’t be the first time that Meir has been portrayed in a big production. But Israeli prime ministers beyond Meir haven’t exactly hogged screen time in Hollywood productions over the years, even with the rash of Israeli-themed content that has flourished on Netflix and other streaming platforms over the past decade.

Here are seven other stars — Jewish and not — who have played Israeli prime ministers.

Anthony Hopkins
Yitzhak Rabin in “Victory at Entebbe” (1976)
“Victory at Entebbe,” a TV film that aired on ABC, was the first of three 1970s movies based on the Israeli army’s rescue mission of over 100 hostages from a Ugandan airport in 1976. (Another was made in 2018 — see below.)

Terrorists hijacked a plane that was heading from Tel Aviv to Paris and held nearly 250 hostages for a week before Israeli commandos flew in on a July night, killing the terrorists and dozens of Ugandan soldiers who supported the hijacking.
73 fun facts about Israel
1 Israel has the highest number of altruistic kidney donations per capita in the world: 1,005 in the past 11 years, and counting.
2 The oldest tree in Israel is a jujube tree in Ein Hatzeva on the road to Eilat, which is thought to be between 1,500 to 2,000 years old.
3 Scientists in Israel managed to grow fresh dates from sixth century seeds found at Masada and Qumran.
4 The Israel Postal service has a special Letters to God department, for all the letters arriving in Jerusalem from around the world addressed to God. They are opened and placed into the cracks of the Western Wall.
5 About 1 million notes are left in the Western Wall every year.
6 At the Church of the Holy Sepulchre an old wooden ladder has been propped up against a window since the 18th century. No one can move it because the building is managed by six different churches and none can agree on who owns the ladder.
7 Israel is the only country to have revived a dead language and made it the national language.
8 The hottest temperature ever recorded in Israel was 54 degrees Celsius (129.2 Fahrenheit) in 1942 at Kibbutz Tirat Zvi in the northern Jordan Valley. (The highest temperature ever recorded worldwide is 56.7 °C in Death Valley in 1913.)
9 While Jerusalem has snow storms every few years, and even the Negev desert gets occasional snow, Tel Aviv has only had one snow storm in its history. In 1950 it snowed 12-18 cm., thrilling locals, many of whom had never seen snow before.
10 More than half the landmass of Israel is desert, but it still has an Olympic bobsled and skeleton team.







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This blog may be a labor of love for me, but it takes a lot of effort, time and money. For over 14 years and 30,000 articles I have been providing accurate, original news that would have remained unnoticed. I've written hundreds of scoops and sometimes my reporting ends up making a real difference. I appreciate any donations you can give to keep this blog going.

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