Saturday, April 17, 2021

From Ian:

Diplomatic Arson in the Middle East
The Biden administration says it intends to engage less in the Middle East. Several senior officials and surrogates repeated this point during the new presidency’s first 100 days. Yet the administration went out of its way in its first few weeks to make three consequential moves in the Middle East that may backfire on America for years to come.

On February 4, the White House announced that the Pentagon would cease its support for Saudi Arabia’s military campaign against the Iran-backed Houthi militia that has terrorized Yemenis and Saudis for the better part of a decade. Two weeks later, on February 16, the State Department rescinded the Foreign Terrorist Organization (FTO) designation of the Houthis (also known as Ansar Allah). Ten days after that, the Biden administration instructed the Office of the Director of National Intelligence to release a report that confirmed the Saudi government’s responsibility for the brutal 2018 murder of journalist Jamal Khashoggi at the Saudi consulate in Istanbul, Turkey.

Democrats have criticized the Saudi-led military campaign in Yemen for years, pointing to air strikes that have killed large numbers of civilians, including children. They steadfastly opposed, ostensibly on humanitarian grounds, the Trump administration’s January 11 FTO designation of the Houthis only days before Biden was set to take office. And since Khashoggi’s killing, they have sought to hold Saudi Arabia accountable for the horrific assassination and mutilation of a U.S. resident because it was approved by the Saudi government at the highest levels.

Nonetheless, these three moves were surprising because of their close proximity in time and just how quickly they happened. Taken together with announcements that the U.S. is removing military assets from the Kingdom and re-entering diplomacy with Saudi Arabia’s arch-rival Iran, Riyadh today must feel a frigid wind blowing from Washington.

Now, the Saudis undoubtedly have made terrible mistakes in recent years. But the long-term impact of the Biden administration’s actions could be wide-reaching and deleterious to American interests, especially given the extraordinary changes the region has seen in just the past year.

ON AUGUST 13, 2020, Israel, Bahrain, and the United Arab Emirates made history and peace at the same time with the signing of the Abraham Accords. The Accords marked the culmination of years of quiet cooperation and diplomacy between Israel and the Gulf States that was steadily drawn out of the shadows by the Trump administration. Shortly after the White House ceremony, Sudan and Morocco followed suit. Other Arab League states such as Oman and Mauritania could still follow.

It is no secret that these states found common cause with Israel not out of a deep commitment to Zionism but rather because they all believe in the necessity of opposing Iranian and Sunni extremism. They also want a politically stable and prosperous Middle East, with a prominent role for the region’s traditional monarchies and nondemocratic regimes that increasingly view Palestinian nationalism as less than a core national interest.


NGO Monitor: Analysis of the 2021 McCollum-NGO Anti-Israel Bill
Representative Betty McCollum (D-MN) has announced that, on April 15, 2021, she will introduce the “U.S. Commitment to the Universal Human Rights of Palestinians Living Under Israeli Military Occupation Act.” This is McCollum’s third such bill in recent years – written in conjunction with anti-Israel non-governmental organizations (NGOs), and meant to advance BDS (boycotts, divestment, sanctions) and demonization of Israeli companies and defense forces.

NGO Monitor has analyzed the draft bill and notes the following fundamental failings. Some of them were included in the 2017 and 2019 versions of the legislation and were highlighted in our earlier analyses, but McCollum chose to nonetheless retain the false claims. Involvement of NGOs, including terror-linked actors

Like McCollum’s previous bills filled with false allegations regarding Israeli treatment of Palestinian children, the current version relies on Defense for Children International-Palestine (DCI-P), as acknowledged by a DCI-P official in a March 9 2021 webinar. These have been, essentially, DCIP projects under McCollum’s name.

DCI-P is linked to the Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine (PFLP), a terror organization as listed by the US and other governments. To date, NGO Monitor has identified 11 current and former DCI-P board members, officials, and employees linked to the PFLP – some of whom have been convicted of terror offences such as planning and carrying out attacks targeting Israeli civilians (for more details, see Appendix 1 below and NGO Monitor’s report “Defense for Children International – Palestine’s Ties to the PFLP Terrorist Organization”).

On the basis of this information, financial institutions such as Citibank, Arab Bank, and Global Giving have acted to close DCI-P’s accounts. Additionally, in March 2019, the City University of New York (CUNY) launched an investigation into a partnership between CUNY Law and the Palestinian group.

Moreover, members of DCI-P’s board have utilized social media to glorify terrorists who murdered Israeli civilians, including a baby. Such vile celebration of violence is incongruous with the façade of human rights activity that the NGO presents. (For more details, see Appendix 1 and NGO Monitor’s report, “DCI-P’s New Board: Celebrating Terrorists.”)
David Singer: Jordan reaches 100 as its ruling Hashemite dynasty implodes
Jordan continues to be the stumbling block to ending the 100 years old conflict between Jews and Arabs as it celebrated its founding 100 years ago on 11 April 1921 - whilst simultaneously 100 years of unbroken rule by the Hashemite dynasty has been publicly imploding.

Initially called the Emirate of Transjordan - the Hashemites - hailing from the Hejaz - now called Saudi Arabia – were anointed as Transjordan’s future rulers by Britain at the 1921 Cairo Conference as part of the machinations between Britain and France in the carve up of the territory of the defeated Ottoman Empire in World War 1.

99.99% of Ottoman-liberated territory was designated for Arab self-determination under the French Mandate for Syria and Lebanon and the British Mandate for Mesopotamia - whilst the remaining 0.01% was to be set aside for the reconstitution of the Jewish National Home in the area today called Israel, Jordan, Gaza and Judea and Samaria (West Bank) pursuant to the British Mandate for Palestine.

Two and a half of the twelve tribes of Israel had settled in Transjordan: Gad, Reuben and half the tribe of Manasseh:

Transjordan – 78% of the territory comprised in the Mandate - was however completely excluded as the site for any part of the future Jewish National Home - when Article 25 was inserted in the Mandate document unanimously endorsed by the League of Nations on 22 July 1922.

Transjordan’s exclusion from future Jewish settlement came after the exchange of the following telegrams between Britain’s State Secretary for the Colonies – Winston Churchill – and British Colonial Administrator – John Schuckburgh in March 1921:


UNRWA Caught Teaching Terrorism, Jew Hatred as Biden Admin Resumes Taxpayer Funding
The United Nations’ Palestinian refugee agency is promoting violence against Israel and using educational materials that call for the Jewish state’s destruction, according to video evidence and copies of lesson plans being taught to children before and during the coronavirus pandemic.

The U.N. Relief and Works Agency (UNRWA), which is in charge of providing education to scores of Palestinian children, has done little to root out anti-Semitism and the glorification of terrorism from its official lesson plans, although it has repeatedly pledged to do so.

The Biden administration moved almost immediately to restart U.S. funding for UNRWA despite underlying concerns about the agency’s radical educational materials—fears that have been raised by U.S. lawmakers on both sides of the aisle in recent years. After aid was resumed earlier this month, UNRWA promised the Biden administration it will root out violence and anti-Semitism, though officials could not explain precisely how the agency would do this after decades of using anti-Israel materials.

A State Department spokesman told the Washington Free Beacon that UNRWA uses the Palestinian Authority's curriculum and works "to address the problematic content and provides instructions for its staff to educate students about why the content is problematic." UNRWA, the official said, "must respect neutrality, exclude anti-Semitism, and oppose violence."

"The United States is completely committed to working with UNRWA to ensure that any inappropriate material is identified and removed," the spokesman said. "Our resumption of assistance will allow us to serve as a partner to UNRWA to uphold the highest level of neutrality and commitment to tolerance in its educational materials."

The State Department spokesman did not address UNRWA’s decades-long failure to better police its content despite the organization's repeated promises to do so.
US source to Palestinian paper: Washington will understand election postponement
Washington would not object to a Palestinian Authority decision to postpone the legislative elections set for next month, an unnamed US source told the Palestinian Al-Quds newspaper Friday, adding that the potential boost to Hamas’s power could end prospects for a two-state solution.

The newspaper said voices in the PA calling for the postponement of the May 22 election were growing.

The anonymous “informed” source told the outlet: “Certainly, the United States supports and encourages free, fair, transparent and periodic elections everywhere if possible.”

But it was also aware of various challenges faced by the Palestinians, including the coronavirus pandemic, economic problems and the duality of rule between the West Bank, dominated by the PA, and the Gaza Strip, which is ruled by the Hamas terror group.

He said he believed the Biden administration “will look with understanding at the possibility of postponing the elections for some time.”

In reference to Hamas, which is running in the elections, the source warned that “the rise of Palestinian forces that reject the two-state solution, reject abandoning violence, and refuse to stop the anti-Israel and US rhetoric, or abandon incitement — the rise of such forces to the decision-making position will complicate, or even completely dispel, prospects for the two-state solution.”


In Trump-era rollback, US recognises all UN registered Palestinian refugees
The US recognises all Palestinian refugees registered as such by the UN, the country’s ambassador to Jordan said on Monday in comments that roll back the previous government’s questioning of the numbers.

Henry Wooster's statement was a rejection of the suggestion by former US president Donald Trump's administration that only those who originally fled Israel should be counted as refugees, not their descendants.

“Irrespective of any administration, US policy can only count those refugees who are registered with the United Nations,” Mr Wooster told reporters during a visit to a US-funded clinic in the Baqaa refugee camp on the southern outskirts of Amman.

“This is the number we use,” he said, referring to at least 5.6 million UN-registered Palestinian refugees, mostly living in Jordan, Gaza, Syria and Lebanon.

The majority are now descendants of Palestinians who fled conflicts with Israel since it was created as a UN-recognised state in 1948.

UNRWA Commissioner General Philippe Lazzarini, who attended the visit alongside the US ambassador, welcomed the resumption of US support for the agency. (h/t Zvi)


Palestinian Authority head Mahmoud Abbas to address J Street conference
Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas will deliver a prerecorded address to J Street’s annual conference, a signal of the determination among progressives to place the Palestinian issue at the forefront of US policy, Abbas will thank President Joe Biden for resuming assistance to the Palestinians cut off by President Donald Trump, according to The Times of Israel, which first reported Abbas’ plans, as well as criticize what he will say are Israeli obstructions to peace, including settlement expansion.

J Street, a liberal Jewish Middle East policy group, is spearheading a bid to keep Biden to his promise of restoring US relations with the Palestinians, and to advance from there to the resuscitation of Israeli-Palestinian peace talks.

There have been reports that Biden, while eager to roll back Trump’s marginalization of the Palestinians, is not enthusiastic about returning to the Obama-era focus on getting to a peace deal unless the initiative comes organically from the Israelis and Palestinians. Foreign policy progressives, led by J Street, are determined to keep Israeli-Palestinian peace an administration initiative.

The J Street conference, which will be held virtually Sunday and Monday, will feature leaders of Israeli parties advocating for Palestinian engagement and top progressive Democrats in Congress. Also, senior administration officials, including UN Ambassador Linda Thomas-Greenfield and Cedric Richmond, the top Biden official directing outreach to minority and special-interest groups.


Kristen Clarke, Bigot and Liar
Having sworn to answer all questions truthfully, in an appearance Wednesday before the Senate Judiciary Committee, President Joe Biden's nominee to lead the Department of Justice's Civil Rights Division offered a series of answers that strained credulity and veered into outright falsehood.

The most bald-faced of the lies Kristen Clarke offered in her own defense relates to her activism while a Harvard University undergraduate in the 1990s.

Pressed about a 1994 letter published in the Harvard Crimson making the case that blacks are intellectually and physically superior to whites, Clarke waved it off as a "satirical" attempt to refute The Bell Curve, which came out the same year.

Everybody knew she was joking, she said, when she wrote that "black infants sit, stand, crawl and walk sooner than whites," and, in a demonstration of scholarly rigor, pointed to the work of the writer Carol Barnes to assert that "human mental processes are controlled by melanin—that same chemical which gives Blacks their superior physical and mental abilities."

The letter concluded: "It is completely naive to say that Blacks have achieved economic equality with whites. It seems that whites have grown tired of hearing about racism." Was that a joke, too?

In Wednesday's hearing, Clarke assured lawmakers that "contemporaneous reporting by the campus paper made very clear" she harbored no racist views.

False. The editors of the Crimson called on her to retract her claims. In an editorial titled, "Clarke Should Retract Statements," they wrote: "We searched in vain for a hint of irony in Clarke's letter." She had, they concluded, "resorted to bigotry, pure and simple."

Five days after the editorial was published, a student columnist wrote: "By disseminating racist theories of her own—however ambiguously—Clarke has done nothing to refute what she abhors and has done much to poison the atmosphere further."


Phyllis Chesler: The Tragedy of Leaving Afghanistan
However, are we morally responsible to do that which cannot be done, namely, educate the Taliban to respect all human life, including that of girls, boys, and women — as well as infidel lives? Can we successfully impose a Western view of human rights there — or in neighboring Pakistan or Iran — even as we are condemned as racist imperialists and colonialists, often by Western “progressives”?

How much more blood and treasure must we continue to expend in the effort to do so? We have lost more than 2,300 US personnel who were killed there since 2001. Currently, the Taliban, wealthy opium traffickers, surround 10 cities; their promises cannot be trusted.

Upon our withdrawal, said retired US Army Col. Chris Kolenda, the Taliban will decide that “the West cannot be trusted and they’ll decide to go on an all-out offensive … The Taliban is likely to gain some serious momentum.” If America tears up the peace agreement that the Trump administration signed, the Taliban will “look to Russia and China for aid.”

What will that mean in terms of anti-West terrorism being allowed to flourish in Afghanistan? How will our withdrawal affect the decisions of other NATO countries who have troops on the ground?

But how much more must we sacrifice in what may be a doomed attempt to shore up a failed state and to prevent anti-Western terrorism from festering and flourishing in these beautiful Badlands?

According to Lisa Curtis, who served as the top Afghanistan official on President Trump’s National Security Council — we should stay.

“There are costs associated with keeping US troops,” she said, “but the risks of going completely to zero far outweigh the costs of keeping a small number of troops there. I think the question is this: Is the US willing to spend $5 billion annually, which means a small US force presence of about 2,500? Is that worth it, as an insurance policy to prevent another 9/11-style attack?”

However, she admits that such a small force will not be able to stave off an inevitable civil war — and worse. Terrorists worldwide will “converge … and it’s likely to be a worse terrorist safe haven than it was before 9/11.”

Our presence is enabling about 8,500 NATO troops to remain.

These honorable experts are not focused on the costs to human rights if American and NATO forces pull out. I cannot help thinking about those women. I was once one of them.


Rocket fired into Israel from Gaza for 2nd night in a row; IDF hits Hamas sites
Palestinian terrorists in the Gaza Strip on Friday evening fired a rocket toward Israel, the Israeli military said.

Media reports indicated the rocket landed in Israeli territory, but in an uninhabited area. There were no reports of injuries or damage.

The rocket triggered warning sirens in the southern Gaza border communities of Holit and Sde Avraham, hours after the start of Shabbat.

In response, Israeli aircraft hit a series of Hamas targets in Gaza, the IDF said. It also issued a video of some of the strikes.

Among the targets bombed included a Hamas training camp, an anti-aircraft position that was being constructed and a factory producing cement to be used in constructing attack tunnels.

The army said it holds Hamas responsible for all violence emanating from the Strip.

The launch came a day after a rocket fired by Gaza-based terrorists struck a field northeast of the Strip. In response, IDF aircraft struck targets linked to the Hamas terror group, which rules Gaza.

The targets included an armaments production facility, a tunnel for smuggling weaponry and a Hamas military post, according to the IDF.


Seth Frantzman: Hezbollah prepares parallel state in Lebanon using food weapon
‘To be able to shop in these supermarkets, you have to have a card issued by Hezbollah,” said a Hezbollah official, who asked not to be named in a recent France24 report on Lebanon. A few paragraphs later the official clarified his point, “anyone in need can shop with us, regardless of their religious affiliation and even if they are not Hezbollah supporters,” an official told France 24.

Hezbollah, an armed terrorist group that also has a political wing and seeks to control Lebanon and use it as a base of operations in the region, is now creating new facts on the ground for its parallel economy. As Lebanon’s economy has faltered, Hezbollah has sought to thrive, strangling Lebanon and increasingly digesting the country. Out of that digestion comes a new chain of supermarkets controlled by the extra-paramilitary armed group. It sells “Syrian, Iraqi and Iranian products at reduced prices that are accessible with a party-issued card,” the report says.

What that means is that Lebanese who shop at Hezbollah’s markets can buy from other Iranian-occupied countries. In short, Hezbollah now owns a country called Lebanon and is outsourcing Iranian products to it so Hezbollah and Iran can profit. The more Lebanon falls apart, the greater Hezbollah becomes.

This situation was largely created, or at least tolerated, by the international community that rubber-stamped the idea that Lebanon would have a parallel armed state unlike any other country in the world. No other country has members of parliament from an illegal armed militia that does not answer to the state. Only Lebanon, recipient of US aid and western largesse, has such a situation. Hezbollah was once a smaller sectarian movement that thrived off claiming it was “resisting” Israel. When Israel left it occupied southern Lebanon and didn’t hand over its weapons, even though other armed militias had been demobilized by the Taif agreement in 1989. After the 2006 war that Hezbollah brought on Lebanon by attacking Israel it grew in importance, using its power over reconstruction funds to build up apartments.
There is a leadership crisis in Iraq - opinion
Iraq as a democracy has largely failed. The Iraq war was seen as a turning point that would usher in an era of freedom and opportunities. That thesis proved wrong. Iraq has since seen instability and chaos with little peace and calm to offer its citizens. It has suffered huge problems, like the emergence of ISIS, and came to a near-total collapse.

A major reason for all this is the failure of the political leaders to run the country effectively. Celebrated that it would turn into a functioning democracy, it has fared very poorly. The failure may be attributed to the dominant political factions currently having the political clout to run the country’s affairs. An even bigger quagmire is the support of consecutive US administrations for the Iraqi ruling elites.

Since 2003, consistent governments have seen rampant corruption. Transparency International spotlights worldwide corruption via its flagship research project, Corruption Perceptions Index. Iraq was placed at 160 out of 180 countries it reported on. It means that Iraq was considered one of the worst corruption-riven countries. In 2019, the National Democracy Institute (NDI), a nonprofit organization working to promote democracy, released an extensive poll. It said 82% of Iraqis had concerns about corruption at the highest levels of government, while 83% thought that corruption is getting worse.

There is another reason that clarifies why there are no checks on the activities. As one Iraqi leader put it, “There is no solution. Everybody is corrupt, from the top of society to the bottom.” That is the situation the Iraqi people are facing. Harvard Humanitarian Initiative surveyed the people of the Mosul region, and it found that they saw corruption as a primary reason for the emergence of ISIS. The mechanism under which the Iraqi people operate is a very sinister one, known as Muhasasa Tai’fa.
Seth Frantzman: Are the central tenets of the Iran Deal both wrong? - analysis
A KEY question revolves around the concept that argues there will be “war” if there isn’t a new Iran deal. War between whom? Iran has already sent proxies in Iraq to carry out dozens of attacks on the US and has killed hundreds of Americans in Iraq and Afghanistan since 2003. On April 14, pro-Iran militias in Iraq used a drone to strike at US forces in Erbil. Iran has sent drones and missiles to proxies in Syria, Iraq, Lebanon and Yemen, carrying out attacks on Saudi Arabia and Israel. In recent months, it was accused of three attacks on Israeli-owned ships. Tehran has also blamed Israel for attacks in Iran.

There is already a kind of war taking place. Iran can’t afford a real conventional war, which is why it has never launched one and is careful to only escalate using proxies. So the argument that there must be a deal to avoid war appears to rest on faulty foundations.

Similarly, the deal doesn’t prevent Iranian enrichment toward a bomb, as is evidenced by the fact that the Islamic Republic continues to enrich even with numerous countries remaining in the deal. Even under the 2015 deal, Iran would eventually get to enrich uranium: it just had to wait ten to fifteen years to do so.

The central tenets of the Iran deal relate to a threat of war and a threat that Iran will build a bomb. Both tenets deserve some re-appraisal, six years after the original deal was signed. Even with the US outside the deal framework, Iran was supposed to not enrich uranium and the concern about “war” was supposed to have increased. However, Tehran has largely shown that it is afraid of a major conflict and that it will enrich uranium anyway, mostly as a way to get concessions.

It is not clear if Iran is closer to an actual nuclear device. Enriching uranium is only one aspect of creating a nuclear weapon. Without those central pillars of the “deal,” some of the reasoning behind it appear flawed. However, Iran appears to have sold the deal differently to China and Russia and it may be worth understanding what those countries think they get out of it.
Report: Tens of Thousands of Allied Fighters Serve as Iran’s Four-Pronged Network of Proxy Forces
Iran “exerts near-complete control” over a network of tens of thousands of close allied fighters across the Middle East and has ties to tens of thousands more, posing the Islamic Republic’s most formidable challenge to the US, according to a new a research report by non-profit think tank the Rand Corporation.

The report describes that the so-called Iran Threat Network (ITN) — a force of tens of thousands of fighters from non-Iranian, non-state proxy and other groups, in places including Syria, Yemen, Iraq and the Palestinian Territories — has become a much larger and more mobile network, and will continue to threaten US interests.

“The ITN is presently — and likely to remain well into the future — Tehran’s primary means of power projection and preferred instrument of influence in the region, including to deter and counter the US,” the authors Ariane M. Tabatabai, Jeffrey Martini, and Becca Wasser wrote in the report. “As the US and many of its regional partners, such as Israel and the United Arab Emirates, increase their conventional military capabilities, Iran will concurrently seek to strengthen its asymmetric capabilities through the ITN.”

“From Iran’s perspective, the ITN allows it to pursue its objective of imposing costs on the US in the region without escalating the confrontation to a conventional war,” they added.

The ITN, which is primarily coordinated by the Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps (IRGC), has grown from a few groups in Iraq and Lebanon to roughly a dozen groups in 2019. By some accounts, the total number of the broader network is estimated at about 200,000. The Rand research found that Iran has also shown more flexibility in collaborating with groups of different ideologies and identities, to include non-Shi’a actors and even adversarial ones, such as al-Qaeda and the Taliban. Recent examples of the actions carried out largely by Iranian proxies are maritime provocations and rocket attacks on US installations in Iraq in the spring and fall of 2019.

“Iran has leveraged the ITN to raise the costs of perceived US hostile policies, most recently in response to the Trump administration’s maximum pressure campaign. Without a clear understanding of the ITN and its scope, the US cannot devise a coherent strategy to counter its threat,” the report suggested.
US pressuring Israel to stop commenting on Iran - report
The Biden administration has turned to Israel several times in the past few days, asking that it stops commenting on Iran, N12 reported Friday evening.

According to the report, the Biden administration feels "uneasy" regarding the recent Israeli operation in Natanz, referring to recent Israeli chatter regarding the attack as "dangerous" and "embarrassing."

The White House repeated the message several times, claiming that the constant reports from Israeli officials regarding Iran have hindered the negotiations taking place between the Washington and Tehran on a possible new nuclear agreement.

Israeli security officials have reportedly been troubled by the response, realizing that this dilemma could possibility put pressure on the United States.


Biden Says Iranian Enrichment to 60% Unhelpful, but Glad About Talks
US President Joe Biden on Friday called Iran’s enrichment of uranium to 60% purity unhelpful but said he is pleased Tehran is still in indirect talks with Washington about both countries resuming compliance with the 2015 Iranian nuclear deal.

Iran on Friday said it had begun enriching uranium to 60%, its highest level ever and a step closer to the 90% that is weapons grade, at its Natanz plant, where an explosion occurred earlier this week that Tehran blamed on Israel.

“We do not support and do not think it’s at all helpful that Iran is saying it’s going to move to enrich to 60 percent,” Biden told reporters in Washington during a joint news conference with Japanese Prime Minister Yoshihide Suga.

“We are, though, nonetheless pleased that Iran has continued to agree to engage in discussions – indirect discussions – with us and with our partners on how we move forward and what is needed to allow us to move back into the (nuclear deal) … without us making concessions that we are just not willing to make,” Biden added.

Iran had in recent months already raised enrichment to 20% purity, a level at which uranium is considered to be highly enriched and a significant step toward weapons-grade.
Rouhani: If we want, we can enrich uranium to 90%
Officially, talks held over the weekend in Vienna were held between Iran and the countries still party to the 2015 nuclear deal, but a majority of efforts there were invested in European efforts to mediate between Tehran and Washington and find a path to full compliance with the accord.

The ongoing talks have taken place against the background of the "mysterious mishap" at the Iranian nuclear facility in Natanz, which led to accusations Israel was behind the act. Tehran said it would exact revenge for the incident that it referred to as "nuclear terrorism."

While officials had said thousands of centrifuges had been damaged in the event, this week, Iranian lawmaker Alireza Zakani revealed that 150 kilograms of explosives had been placed inside the nuclear facility ahead of the explosion, which shut down the electrical system there.

Following the incident, Tehran informed the International Atomic Energy Agency it planned to ramp up uranium enrichment to 60%.

According to former IAEA Deputy Director-General for Safurgards Olli Heinonen, who is now a distinguished fellow at the Washington-based Stimson Center: "There is no civilian plan for this kind of enrichment."

Speaking to Israel Hayom, Heinonen said, "A sudden power cut sends centrifuges to an uncontrolled stop destroying many of them. Resulting shrapnel and dust damages valves and cascade pipework requiring extensive cleaning and in some cases replacement, which will take several months.

"There are also reports that not only the electric cabling but also subsystems distributing electric power and its backup were damaged. These are likely not from the shelf products, which require separate manufacturing.

He said, "Iranian media states that the IR-1 centrifuges got badly damaged. In that case, It might be attractive for Iran to just leave them for the time being as they are, and install more advanced centrifuges, if available. For example, 1500 newly installed IR-2ms, if available, is sufficient to restore enrichment capacity back to what it was before the damage. Depending on the availability of equipment needed, that should be achievable in a few months' time.
Iran state TV airs footage of supposedly normal operations at Natanz site
Iranian state TV aired footage from what it said were regular operations at the Natanz nuclear facility on Saturday, following an April 11 explosion that is said to have caused considerable damage to the plant, including its various kinds of uranium-enriching centrifuges.

In response to the attack, which it blames on Israel, Iran said it has begun enriching a small amount of uranium up to 60 percent purity at the site — its highest level ever, and a short step from weapons-grade.

The TV spot aired a short interview with an unnamed worker at the site who said that the staff was working around the clock to resume uranium enrichment.

“What you hear is the noise of the machines working normally. We are fixing all the centrifuges that have been affected, and with the help of our dedicated, excellent staff, we are working to fix all the damaged parts,” said the worker.

It was unclear when the footage was filmed.

Israeli and American media have reported that a 150-kilogram bomb early Sunday morning took out Natanz’s main and backup power supplies and caused damage setting back the enrichment process by months.
Seth Frantzman: Why has Iran named a suspect in Natanz attack?
Iran has named a suspect in the attack on its Natanz nuclear facility. It claims he fled the country even before the attack. Iran’s state television claims the suspect is a 43-year-old man named Reza Karimi. It has even put a passport photograph up, claiming he was born in Kashan, Iran.

Iran, however, also claims that the Natanz attack has been amplified by false foreign reports. It claims that the attack actually helped it replace old centrifuges. So how can the explosion at the site be both “fake” and also have a suspect.

Iran says that a delegation of members of the National Security and Foreign Policy Commission of the parliament went to the Natanz site. Iran seems to admit the power supply to the centrifuges was harmed by a “limited explosion.” It claims there was “no cyber attack.”

Now Iran says that “the perpetrator of this sabotage was identified by the efforts of the Ministry of Intelligence and that the necessary measures to arrest and return him to the country are being implemented.” The Ministry of Intelligence and its agents, sometimes abbreviated MOIS are known as the “unknown soldiers of Imam Zaman” or “anonymous soldiers,” the Ministry is called in Farsi: Vezarat-e Ettela’at va Amniat-e Keshvar.


Upper West Side is too white and Jewish, City Council candidate manager says
The campaign manager for an Upper West Side candidate for the City Council is in hot water for saying the neighborhood is too white — and Jewish.

Quinn Mootz, who is running Sara Lind’s council bid, is catching flak for her April 13 comments on Twitter, which have since been deleted — but not before critics took screen grabs.

“Jews are not POC [People of Color] for just being jewish. sorry,” Mootz tweeted, using the handle “Quinn Mootz says Hot Girls Hate The Filibuster.”

Mootz also tweeted, “As of 2018: 10.8% of the population is Asian, 4.1% black, 14.1% hispanic, and 68.4% white. So yeah ima go ahead and say the UWS has a diversity problem.”

“Of your 191,000 residents…. 130,795 are white,” she said.

Mootz also also lambasted “sh–ty people” who refer to “homeless people as zombies and think anyone to the left of you is too woke. You f–king moron.”

Neighborhood critics slammed Mootz — who happens to be white and Jewish — for what they saw as a swipe at Jews.

Her remarks also drew unfavorable coverage in the Jewish Press.

Upper West Side resident Steven Dzik said, “I have to assume the campaign manager’s views reflect the candidate’s. Mootz’s comment shows contempt for the residents of the neighborhood she hopes to represent.”
David Unterhalter and BDS: Not the first campaign against Jews being judges
BDS says that somebody connected to his Jewish community cannot be a judge because the values of his community are incompatible with the values of his country.

If a Jewish person cannot be a judge, can they be a doctor or a teacher? Can they be a writer or a social worker? Can they even be tolerated as a fellow citizen?

You might think that an organisation which teaches South Africans to regard most Jews and their communal organisations as racist and therefore evil, might be shy to enter a discussion about antisemitism.

Jews have been targeted before by movements which said that Jewish values were incompatible with the values of the wider community around them. This is not the first time that people campaigned against Jews being judges. This is not the first time that people looked at Jewish judges and saw only representatives of "the Jews" wearing the robes, rather than judges who happened to be Jewish. This is not the first time that Jews have been subject to boycott campaigns.

Having defined our Zionism, the BDS campaign proceeds to attempt also to define the antisemitism that we experience.

Most people would think that if you want to understand antisemitism, you should start by asking the institutions of the Jewish community for help. But BDS says that Jewish communal institutions cannot be trusted, that they lie, even about antisemitism. BDS says that Jewish talk about antisemitism in this context should be understood as a cunning trick, an attempt to de-legitimise criticism of Israel by pretending that it is antisemitic. The BDS campaign says that if you want to understand antisemitism, you should listen only to the small minority of Jews who agree with them that ordinary Jews are racists, loyal to apartheid Israel and alien to South African values. It turns out that there are some Jews who are willing to endorse the BDS campaign's attempt to define Jewish identity, Zionism and even antisemitism.
Dutch shop fined for omitting ‘settlement’ from West Bank wine label
Dutch government inspectors fined a store for labeling wine made in an Israeli settlement as “a product from an Israeli village in Judea and Samaria.”

The Israel Products Center near Amsterdam received the $2,514 fine last week following its refusal to replace the label with one acceptable to the Netherlands Food and Consumer Product Safety Authority, which requires such labels read “Product from the West Bank (Israeli settlement).”

The Israel Products Center, a shop and importer run by the pro-Israel group Christians for Israel, has had legal problems over labeling since 2019. The center’s director, Pieter van Oordt, wrote in a statement that he was “shocked” by the government’s actions, which he said were discriminatory.

At least four Dutch political parties have accused the Netherlands Food and Consumer Product Safety Authority of singling out Israeli products and ignoring controversial labels on products from other disputed areas, including Western Sahara and Northern Cyprus.

Medical Care Minister Tamara van Ark has rejected the claim, saying last year that the policy of enforcing EU regulations on labels is being applied across the board. However, the Center for Information on Documentation on Israel, a Jewish community watchdog, said Wednesday that it had no information on any action taken on country-of-origins labels on products that were not made by Israelis.
Twitter doesn’t care that it’s a cesspit of Jew hate
You need a strong stomach to be a Jew on Twitter. For every genuinely warm feeling you get from someone wishing you Shabbat Shalom, or the fun you’ll have arguing over whether that round doughy thing is pronounced baygel or beigel, you’ll be exposed to ten messages of hate. They come from the far right and they come from the far left and all sorts of random places in between.

From the former you’ll get a constant diet of Holocaust denial. You’ll get anonymous accounts like a new one under the name Dunarote Brandon. His pinned post — the one everyone can see as soon as the look at his profile — says: “The Holocaust is pure propaganda. You have better luck demonstrating Enron as a proper biz model.” He writes: “The only person Jews hate more than Hitler is Jesus”, “Porn is very Jewish” and “Jews justify pedophilia [sic] through their culture/ religion.”

The far left tends to be a little more subtle. They often bait rather than bite. You have people such as Kerry-Anne Mendoza, editor of a hard-left blog, who has compared Israel to the Nazi regime, equated Brexit with the words stated on the gates of the Auschwitz death camp and called the Labour antisemitism crisis “a smear campaign against one of Britain’s finest MPs on behalf of Tories and anti-Palestinian racists”.

Their stock answers to every allegation of Labour antisemitism is to call Jews smear merchants and apartheid-loving, baby-killing whores who are just upset that Jeremy Corbyn couldn’t be bought with their shekels. Then you have black preacher Louis Farrakhan calling Jews termites, Iran’s Supreme Leader Ayatollah Khamenei calling American Jews “filthy Zionist agents” and insisting on the destruction of Israel, adding: “The only remedy until the removal of the Zionist regime is firm, armed resistance.”

All of these people merrily tweet their hatred without, it seems, any sort of punishment at all — despite activists making daily complaints about their activity.
Touched by an Angel
In this excerpt from ‘The Touch of an Angel,’ Henryk and his family have just arrived in the town of Tarnów by train after surviving a massive roundup operation and ...

We had to reach the ghetto as quickly as possible because while we were on the Aryan side, without any identification documents, we were in constant danger. At any moment we could be recognized as Jews and handed over to the Germans.

My father knew the way to the ghetto, and at first we thought we just needed to cross a few streets to get there. There were a lot of people on the streets, and it didn’t appear as if anyone was paying attention to us. None of us had typical Jewish facial features, and we were walking at the same pace as everyone else, trying not to show any anxiety. My parents were talking to each other in Polish and smiling at each other. They gave the impression of a married couple out for a walk with their children.

Suddenly we heard someone say, “Just a moment.” A policeman in a navy-blue uniform was standing in front of us. He was short and thin with a pale face on which there was the flicker of a smile.

“Are you just taking a stroll, or are you headed somewhere?” he asked politely.

“A stroll,” answered my father.

The policeman’s smile became slightly ironic, but his voice was still polite.

“Since when do Jews go for strolls on the Aryan side?”

My parents understood we’d been recognized, and there was no point pretending to be non-Jews. Without Aryan documents, we didn’t have a chance.

My father answered him, “Please let us go because we’ve just had some very difficult days. God will repay you.”

“I’ll gladly do it, but first you have to buy yourselves from me.”

“We would do that, but we don’t have any money,” my father replied helplessly.

“In that case, I have to take you to the gestapo because it’s my duty. Are you going to pay me or not?”
New study suggests Sweden was uninterested in Raoul Wallenberg's release
In two new studies researchers argue that the Swedish government’s extreme passivity in the case of Swedish diplomat Raoul Wallenberg – who vanished from Budapest, Hungary in January 1945 – seems to have been a conscious decision by Swedish officials who placed Sweden’s broader economic and political interests (as they defined them) over the need to rescue their own diplomat. Members of Wallenberg’s family are now calling for a new, independent investigation into the official handling of his fate.

In the spring of 1946, Swedish officials missed several crucial opportunities to resolve the disappearance of 32-year-old-Swedish diplomat and businessman Raoul Wallenberg from Budapest, Hungary. In the second half of 1944, Wallenberg had managed to protect the lives of tens of thousands of Budapest’s Jews from Nazi persecution. In January 1945 he was detained by Soviet military counterintelligence and disappeared. Soviet officials repeatedly denied any knowledge about Wallenberg’s whereabouts.

Then suddenly, by late April 1946, the Soviet leader Joseph Stalin signaled his willingness to make important concessions to Sweden if Sweden and the Soviet Union were to conclude a $300 million dollar Soviet-Swedish credit and trade agreement before the end of the year. However, even when such a pact was signed in record time in October 1946, Swedish officials did not raise the subject of Wallenberg’s disappearance with the Soviet leadership.

In a new analysis, the Swedish historian Peter Axelsson argues that Swedish officials, in particular the Swedish Foreign Minister Östen Undén, were so eager to take advantage of Stalin’s surprising gesture to improve Swedish-Soviet relations, that they apparently felt they could not do two things at the same time, namely, conclude the planned trade agreement and at the same time press for answers about Raoul Wallenberg’s disappearance.
Last-Ditch Appeal Denied for Men Convicted of Firebombing New Jersey Synagogues, ‘Terrorizing’ Jewish Communities
A state appeals court upheld the convictions on Thursday of two men previously convicted for a monthlong spree of antisemitic crimes in northern New Jersey, including the firebombing of two synagogues.

Aakash Dalal and Anthony Graziano, now in their late 20s, were found guilty in separate trials of more than a dozen counts, for a string of 2011-2012 attacks that also included throwing Molotov cocktails into a rabbi’s home as he and his family slept.

The court rejected the pair’s arguments for suppressing a confession by Graziano — in which he admitted to targeting the synagogues because of his hatred of Jews — and evidence from a search of Dalal’s jail cell. Their crimes also included vandalizing other synagogues, with spray paint messages such as “Jews did 9/11.”

Their lawyers also argued that the New Jersey Anti-Terrorism Act was unconstitutionally vague, which the court rejected.

“A jury could reasonably conclude that defendants engaged in a campaign of actions to instill fear in the Jewish community,” the court wrote, in upholding the application of the anti-terrorism law. “Defendants were on clear notice that such a campaign would be correctly perceived as terrorism because its purpose was to instill fear in people of the Jewish faith.”

“The Jews got what they deserved tonight,” Dalal messaged Graziano after one night of vandalism, according to court documents. After the pair set fires at Temple Beth El in Rutherford, Graziano wrote, “i would of killed them … if i had a torch lighter, they would of been dead … i like molotovs though” [sic].

Dalal and Graziano are both already serving 35-year sentences in state prisons.
Steven Spielberg Launches Foundation to Fund Jewish-themed Documentaries
Steven Spielberg has launched a film foundation called Jewish Story Partners to fund documentaries that “tell stories about a diverse spectrum of Jewish experiences, histories, and cultures.”

It’s funded by the Righteous Persons Foundation, which Spielberg and his actress wife Kate Capshaw founded after Spielberg’s experience making “Schindler’s List” in 1993. Two Jewish philanthropies — the Maimonides Fund and the Jim Joseph Foundation — also contributed funds. (Both organizations also help fund 70 Faces Media, the Jewish Telegraphic Agency’s parent company.)

“We are especially proud to help establish this initiative — which will make visible a fuller range of Jewish voices, identities, experiences, and perspectives — at a time when social divisions run painfully deep and mainstream depictions too often fail to reflect the Jewish community in all its complexity,” Spielberg and Capshaw said in a statement Thursday announcing the foundation.

The organization, which starts with $2 million, will soon announce its first round of grantees, who will receive $500,000 in total this year. It is already taking applications for a second round of grants and says it hopes to ramp up its funding over time.

The project’s director is Roberta Grossman, a filmmaker who has specialized in Jewish-themed documentaries. Caroline Libresco, a longtime Sundance Film Festival programmer, will be its artistic director. And “Friends” creator Marta Kauffman is a board member.

“I’m looking forward to helping create a stable and lasting funding organization that can fill the funding gap for independent filmmakers who want to tell a Jewish story,” Kauffman said in a statement.

Spielberg’s Righteous Persons Foundation has funded a range of Jewish initiatives beyond the film world, including the USC Shoah Foundation, which has created an archive of recorded Holocaust survivor testimonies.
The Australian-Israeli relationship: Where roots continue to blossom
April 25 is commemorated, in both Australia and New Zealand, as Anzac Day (ANZAC being the acronym for Australian and New Zealand Army Corps).

On this day, back in 1915 in the midst of the First World War, the Australian Imperial Force – which included a number of Jewish officers and soldiers who later became part of the British Army’s Jewish Legion – together with New Zealand soldiers landed in Gallipoli; the aim was to capture the Peninsula thereby opening the Black Sea for the Allied navies. However, faced with fierce resistance by the Ottoman Army, the bold action planned to knock out the Ottomans from the war, dragged on for eight months resulting in the deaths of 8,709 Australians and 2,721 New Zealanders.

The 25th of April became the day on which Australians and New Zealanders gather at cemeteries, memorials, parks and cenotaphs to remember the sacrifice made by those who died in the war. In Israel the date is commemorated annually with a ceremony at the Jerusalem War Memorial on Mount Scopus. The last ceremony in Israel was held in 2019 as COVID-19 prevented this impressive ceremony from being held in 2020.

The Magazine decided that commemorating ANZAC was an appropriate time to interview Australia’s relatively newly arrived Ambassador to Israel, H.E. Paul Griffiths.

A warm and dynamic personality, Griffiths’s education covered a broad spectrum. With a bachelor’s degree in psychology, he then studied law where – in his words – “I stumbled on a passion for international law and human rights first entering the diplomatic service based on my legal qualifications but haven’t worked a day as a lawyer since! I found myself doing trade jobs – often with a legal bent – moving on to more politically-focused jobs specifically in Jakarta and Washington.”









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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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