Tuesday, June 29, 2021

From Ian:

Yisrael Medad: Syro-Palestine
My blog has multiple posts documenting that the Arabs residing in the territory of what was to become the League of Nations Mandate for Palestine viewed themselves not as "Palestinians" but "Southern Syrians" and did not reognize "Palestine" as a separate geo-political entity.

Have you heard of the 1921 Syro-Palestinian Congress?

It was founded on August 25, 1921 in Geneva by a group of Arabs from Greater Syrian, including Palestine and even the Syrian National Society based in Boston, under the auspices of the Syrian Unity Party. The main aim of the congress was to try to influence the terms of the proposed League of Nations mandate over the region that would be awarded to France.

Its formation followed the July 1919 "Pan-Syrian" Syrian National Congress.

On September 21, after almost a month of deliberations in the Plainpalais Assembly Hall , a public statement to the League of Nations was issued demanding:

Recognition of the independence and national rule (al-Sultan al-Qawmi) of Syria, Lebanon and Palestine; Recognition of the right of these countries to unite in the framework of a civilian government, responsible to a parliament elected by the people, and in association with the other Arab lands; Immediate annulment of the Mandate; Departure of the French and British forces from Syria, Lebanon and Palestine; and the annulment of the Balfour Declaration.
David Singer: The UN should start focusing on the Jordan-Israel two-state solution
United Nations Secretary General – Antonio Guterres – was at it again this week repeating the failed decades-old UN mantra supposed to end the 100 years old Jewish-Arab conflict:
“I remain committed to supporting Palestinians and Israelis to resolve the conflict and end the occupation in line with relevant United Nations resolutions, international law and bilateral agreements in pursuit of achieving the vision of two States – Israel and an independent, democratic, contiguous, viable and sovereign Palestinian State – living side by side in peace and security within secure and recognized borders, on the basis of the pre-1967 lines, with Jerusalem as the capital of both States.”

The Secretary-General’s “vision of two States” – the creation of a new Arab State between Israel and Jordan for the first time in recorded history – is nothing but a mirage.

This UN backed solution is not based on historic, geographic or demographic foundations – but on a fiction invented in 1964 with the creation of the Palestine Liberation Organisation (PLO).

Article 24 of the PLO’s founding Charter expressly denied any claims to such an independent state:
“This Organization does not exercise any regional sovereignty over the West Bank in the Hashemite Kingdom of Jordan, on the Gaza Strip or the Himmah Area”

The PLO clearly had no interest in establishing an independent state in any area that had been occupied by another Arab state since 1948 which then included east Jerusalem and the Al-Aqsa Mosque.

It was only after the 1967 Six Day War that the concept of an additional Arab State – with Jerusalem as its capital - was dreamt up by the PLO – and promoted at the UN with the formation in 1975 of the Committee on the Exercise of the Inalienable Rights of the Palestinian People - spewing out a fictitious narrative on the Arab-Jewish conflict.

MEMRI: Jordanian Journalist To Palestinians: Forget The Delusion Of A Palestinian State From The River To The Sea And Seize The Historic Opportunity To Realize The Two-State Solution
In a May 26, 2021 article on the liberal website Elaph.com, Jordanian journalist and former culture and information minister Saleh Al-Qallab urged the Palestinian Authority (PA) to adhere to the two-state solution, namely a Palestinian state in the 1967 borders alongside Israel, instead of the tired slogans that are brandished by populist elements and by those who live in various Arab states and are loyal to Iran. Al-Qallab added that today there is a golden opportunity to realize the two-state solution because the U.S. and other world powers are serious about promoting it. "When a historic moment like this comes along," he wrote, "the Palestinians must stop chasing beautiful delusions" like the notion of a Palestinian state from the river to the sea, which have only caused many Palestinians to lose their lives or become refugees over the past decades.

The following are translated excerpts from his article.[1]
"The Palestinians must adhere to what U.S. State Secretary Antony Blinken said to Palestinian President Mahmoud 'Abbas (Abu Mazen) during their meeting in Ramallah, namely to 'the two-state solution, that is, a Palestinian state alongside the state of Israel,' and must not miss another historic opportunity that may never recur if they continue to adhere to slogans like 'from the river to the sea,' which the populists are so fond of brandishing. It is clear and certain that the Americans, and also most if not all of the influential countries in the West and the East, are serious about resolving this issue, which has been hanging by a thread all these long years, during which the Palestinians sacrificed a steady stream of righteous martyrs and continued to produce wave after wave of refugees who settled in the Arab countries, far and near, and all around the globe.

"An Arabic, and perhaps universal, proverb says, 'grasp all, lose all.' True, [all of] Palestine, from the river to the sea, is dear to the Palestinians and to most of the Arab nation. But when a historic moment like this comes along, the Palestinians must stop chasing beautiful delusions, as they have been doing all these years since the Nakba of 1948, while the Israelis have continued to put down roots in what is left of Palestine and in territory belonging to the Arab states, like the Syrian Golan Heights.

"The Palestinian leadership, namely the leadership of the Palestinian Authority, headed by President Mahmoud 'Abbas (Abu Mazen), will surely encounter [opposition from an entire] procession of populists uttering tired slogans and by those who live lives of luxury in the capitals of various Arab countries and in the state of the Iranian Jurisprudent. However, the Palestinian leadership – including the leadership of Fatah and of the other Palestinian factions that support it – is now clearly determined about this issue [of implementing the two-state solution] and will [surely] seize this moment rather than miss it, because this time it is clear that the U.S. is really serious, as are all the European states and all the influential countries in the world.
PreOccupiedTerritory: Man Figures If He Kills Enough Jews Allah Will Change Mind About Land Belonging To Israel (satire)
A local activists believes that despite statements in Islamic sacred texts that assign the Holy Land to the followers of Moses, he can alter the divine attitude toward the disposition of that piece of real estate by shedding the blood of numerous such followers of Moses, the activist disclosed today.

Itbah al-Yahud, 33, hopes to kill enough Jews so that the almighty Allah will retract His promise to grant the land of Israel to the people of Israel, with the argument that if he kills enough, God will change His mind because Mr. al-Yahud carries such vehemence to his efforts.

“I’m not saying God is wrong,” he assured. “I just think that ultimately we’ll reveal a deeper truth if we engage in this holy work, the deeper truth being we haven’t killed enough Jews, and we have to do a better job of accomplishing that holy task.”

“I appreciate the efforts of our brethren in Gaza, and the occasional pushes from members of the Islamic Umma in Europe,” he continued, referring to terrorist attacks on Jews both in Israel and abroad, especially Europe. “But it’s become harder and harder to get the numbers up where they once were. The whole Allah-giving-Israel-to-Israel has made it much, much harder to kill Jews, which is one important argument in favor of undoing the giving of Israel to Israel.”

JPost Editorial: Holocaust restitution: For Poland, none is too much
Let’s put it all on the table.

Before the Holocaust, Poland was home to more than three million Jews and was one of the largest Jewish communities in the world. However, the majority of Jewish Poles were murdered in ghettos, death camps and concentration camps run by Germany in occupied Poland – including Auschwitz-Birkenau, the largest of the Nazi concentration camps and extermination centers.

Over the weekend, Polish Prime Minister Mateusz Morawiecki pledged that his country would not pay restitution to Holocaust survivors for German crimes committed against them on its territory during World War II.

He spoke after Poland’s Lower House of Parliament – the Sejm – passed a draft bill on Thursday introducing a 30-year statute of limitations on claims for the restitution of property, thus making all Holocaust-era claims ineligible.

“I can only say that as long as I am the PM, Poland will surely not pay for the German crimes. Not a zloty, not a euro, not a dollar,” Morawiecki said on Friday.

While most post-Communist countries have sought to right historical wrongs and address the issue of stolen Holocaust-era Jewish property, Poland has lagged behind, claiming it was the Germans, not them, who are responsible for the atrocities against Jews in the Holocaust.

In fact, in 2017, Warsaw enacted a law making it illegal to accuse Poland or the Polish people of being responsible for World War II or the Holocaust. Many Israeli officials condemned the law, including President Reuven Rivlin, who said that Poland and the Poles “had a hand in the extermination” of the Jews in the Shoah.

The Sejm’s new legislation will make it impossible for Jewish claimants or their descendants to recover or be compensated for what was taken from them in Poland.

Foreign Minister Yair Lapid quickly and correctly criticized the law and its affront to the Jewish state and the families of the victims who perished on Polish soil.

“No law will change history,” Lapid said. “The Polish law is immoral and will severely harm relations between the countries. Israel will stand as a bastion protecting the memory of the Holocaust and the dignity of Holocaust survivors and their property.

“Poland, on whose ground millions of Jews were murdered, knows the right thing to do,” the foreign minister added.
Phyllis Chesler: Gratuitous cruelty in WWII Poland
And so, the Polish government no longer wishes to be held responsible for German Nazi crimes committed on occupied Polish soil. In 2018, Polish President Andrzej Duda signed legislation that threatened up to three years imprisonment for anyone who “publicly and untruthfully assigns responsibility or co-responsibility to the Polish Nation or the Polish State for Nazi crimes.”

The Polish parliament has approved passage of a draft bill that is likely to severely limit the ability of Polish Jews and their descendants from reclaiming property lost during the Holocaust.

And yet, historical accounts of Polish-on-Jewish atrocities abound, both before and after the Holocaust. In addition, there are personal accounts, in books and on film, which recount details. These personal memoirs are detailed, chilling, haunting, and trustworthy.

Last month, Tonia Rotkopf Blair’s son sent me a letter together with the book written by his mother, a woman who survived the Lodz ghetto as well as the most notorious of death camps. When people later asked her where she went to High School or College she sometimes answered: “Auschwitz,”—which may have shut the conversation down.

Blair, (her married name), wrote her Memoir, Love at the End of the World: Stories of War, Romance, and Redemption, much later in life, and it has literally just been published. However, it is an invaluable contribution to our understanding of the Holocaust and of trauma in general. There are galleries of family photographs (how in God’s name did she find and keep them?). Her sons, Doniphan and Nicholas, both wrote Afterwords as did Tonia’s writing teacher. Tonia’s entire family accompanied her back to Poland where they made a movie of their visit: Our Holocaust Vacation.

Tonia weaves back and forth in time, as if in a dream, a nightmare perhaps, in a series of brief chapters, plainly but deftly written, each with a hidden sucker-punch to the reader’s gut. Tonia introduces us to her beloved Polish family, and shows us how Poles—not the German Nazis, the indigenous, Catholic, Poles—behaved with gratuitous cruelty towards their Jewish neighbors.

Some Poles? Not all Poles? Surely not most Poles? Well, even the righteous Christians were only able to rescue a precious handful of Jews. Many more hid their Jewish neighbors but only for money, then turned them in when their money ran out.

We need these stories. We need the details. Even then, we will never know it all.
Lapid inaugurates UAE embassy on 1st official visit, thanks Netanyahu and Trump
Foreign Minister Yair Lapid officially inaugurated Israel’s embassy in the UAE Tuesday afternoon, hailing the “historic moment.”

“We are standing here today because we chose peace over war, cooperation over conflict, the good of our children over the bad memories of the past,” said Lapid.

“Agreements are signed by leaders but peace is made by people.”

Lapid went out of his way to thank former prime minister and political rival Benjamin Netanyahu, whom he called “the architect of the Abraham Accords and who worked tirelessly to bring them about.”

He also thanked former US president Donald Trump and current President Joe Biden.

“Israel wants peace with all its neighbors,” Lapid declared.

“We aren’t going anywhere. The Middle East is our home. We’re here to stay,” he said. “We call on all countries of the region to recognize that, and come talk to us.”

UAE Culture and Knowledge Development Minister Noura Al Kaabi spoke after Lapid, saying, “It is essential that we prepare ourselves and our children toward a new world.”

She noted her country’s collaboration with Israel on AI, smart cities, COVID-19, trade, and tourism.

First Bahraini ambassador to Israel formally appointed
Bahraini monarch Hamad bin Issa Al Khalifa on Tuesday officially appointed the Gulf kingdom’s first ambassador to Israel, following last year’s agreement between the countries to normalize diplomatic ties.

Khaled Yousef al-Jalahmah will serve as Bahrain’s envoy to the State of Israel, official Bahraini state media reported.

“His Majesty, may God preserve him, congratulated Ambassador Khaled Youssef Al-Jalahma, and His Majesty expressed his lofty directives to the ambassador, wishing him success in promoting Bahrain’s noble message of peace and the values of tolerance and peaceful coexistence,” state media said.

Israel’s Foreign Ministry signed off on al-Jalahmah’s appointment in March. Al-Jalahmah previously served as deputy ambassador to the United States among other senior posts in the Bahraini diplomatic service.

Bahrain and Israel signed a normalization agreement last September as part of the Abraham Accords, an American-led initiative to normalize ties between Jerusalem and its Arab neighbors. The other Arab states to join the accords were the United Arab Emirates, Sudan and Morocco.

Bahrain has yet to establish an embassy in Israel and no date has been set for al-Jalahma’s posting to the Jewish state. Israel already has an operating embassy in Manama, the Bahraini capital.
Pakistani official denies visiting Israel
Sayed Bukhari, an advisor to Pakistani Prime Minister Imran Khan, took to Twitter on Monday to deny a report in Israel Hayom that he had visited Israel and held meetings with high-ranking officials.

On Sunday, Israel Hayom reported that Bukhari had arrived in Israel in November 2020, quoting a Pakistani source, who said that the advisor – who lives in Britain – had flown to Ben-Gurion International Airport from Islamabad via London, and travelled on his British passport. The report said that he was taken to Tel Aviv, where he met with Foreign Minister officials, to whom he delivered messages from Khan, and with outgoing Mossad director Yossi Cohen, to whom he delivered a message from the head of Pakistan's military.

The source who spoke to Israel Hayom said the visit took place after heavy pressure on Pakistan from the United Arab Emirates.

"DID NOT go to Israel," Bukhari tweeted.

"Funny bit is Pakistani paper says I went to Israel based on 'Israeli news source' and Israeli paper says I went to Israel based on a 'Pakistani source' – wonder who this imaginative Pakistani source is," Bukhari's tweet read.
Israel Has Seen Just One Death From COVID-19 in Past Two Weeks Despite Rise in Cases
Israel’s vaccination program appears to be working in preventing hospitalizations and deaths during the latest outbreak of COVID-19 that saw a rise in daily cases due to the highly contagious Delta variant being brought into the country.

During the past two weeks, there has been just one COVID-19 death in Israel and the number of serious illnesses stands at just 22 nationwide.

The number of new confirmed cases topped 100 on June 21, staying above the century mark for consecutive days for the first time since April and prompting the government to reimpose the indoor mask mandate that was lifted on June 15 along with other new restrictions.

A total of 114 new cases were identified in the last 24 hours and the positivity rate for screening tests is around 0.4%.

The low hospitalization and death rate could be the result of more people being vaccinated and the local outbreaks affecting young people, although Prof. Nadav Katz, a coronavirus statistician at the Hebrew University, which advises the government, said that there is a 10-day window between a rise in cases and an increase in hospitalized patients.
Trial opens for alleged masterminds of Rina Shnerb terror murder
Nearly two years after the terrorist murder of Rina Shnerb, the Judea Military Court on Tuesday opened the trial of the main five defendants in the case.

Although Shnerb was murdered on August 23, 2019 and the defendants were indicted in December 2019, the case against the five main defendants has been muddled in pretrial documents and evidentiary disputes.

The main five defendants include: Samer Arbid, Walid Hanatshe, Abed el-Razeq Faraj, Yzaen Majames and Kasem Shibli.

One major issue debated before the court on Tuesday and which it has yet to decide is to what extent the five defendants will have their cases heard by different panels.

Because some of the defendants incriminated each other during their interrogations, creating conflicts of interest between them and the potential for judicial prejudice, a procedural protection for them would be to split them into separate cases.

Another issue raised was a petition by defendants to remove the seal on aspects of the evidence and handling of their interrogations which are currently classified, based on national security concerns.
NYT Hatchet Job: ‘Investigation’ Into Israeli Wartime Strikes Leads to Vicious Insinuations… But Zero Conclusions
The New York Times on June 24 published a visual “investigation” titled, “Gaza’s Deadly Night: How Israeli Airstrikes Killed 44 People.” The 15-minute video insinuates that the Israel Defense Forces caused the collapse of apartment buildings in the Gaza Strip by carelessly deploying bombs in an attempt to destroy underground terrorist infrastructure built by Hamas in an urban center. That the NYT never concludes that the bombs were directly responsible for the tragedy in and of itself suggests that the title was devised with a view to smearing the Jewish state.

This is further reinforced by the one-sided view of the 11-day conflict in May, as well as the fact that only two external sources are directly cited throughout the video — a member of the Red Cross and another from Amnesty International. The latter recommends, without concrete evidence of what caused the event, that Israel be referred to the International Criminal Court in The Hague for having committed a potential war crime.

That Hamas “likely” breached international law by placing military assets in a populated area is, by contrast, for the most part minimized.

No Evidence That Israel Targeted the Buildings
The NYT “investigation” focuses on the IDF’s May 16 operation that targeted Hamas military infrastructure built below the Rimal neighborhood of Gaza City, the ostensible “seat of government” of the US-designated terrorist organization that rules the Palestinian enclave. In the aftermath of what the IDF confirmed were precision strikes — with the NYT itself explicitly noting that there is “no evidence that Israel struck or directly targeted the apartment buildings” — three adjacent residential structures nevertheless somehow collapsed.

Irrespective of the fact that the NYT never proved causation between the two events, the video opens with the assertion that, “An Israeli airstrike has just taken down three apartment buildings in Gaza, killing 44 people.” It then casts doubt (time code: 00:30) on Israel’s commitment to protecting civilians by suggesting that, “Israel said [its campaign] targeted Hamas, the group that governs Gaza.”

Rivlin: Gaza rehabilitation dependent on Israeli captives' release
Gaza can only be rebuilt if Hamas returns the bodies of two soldiers and frees the two Israeli citizens it is holding, President Reuven Rivlin told US President Joe Biden when he met him in the White House on Monday.

"The rehabilitation of Gaza would only be possible when it was understood that the issue of Israel’s missing soldiers and civilians, held by Hamas, needed to be resolved," Rivlin stressed.

The White House did not mention the captives in its summary of the conversation, although it speaks generally of Gaza.

"The leaders also discussed recent developments in Gaza and the West Bank, and the President emphasized the importance of Israel taking steps to ensure calm, stability, and to support greater economic opportunities for the Palestinian people," the White House said of the meeting.

At issue are the bodies of Lt. Hadar Goldin and St.-Sgt. Oron Shaul, presumed to have been killed during the 2014 Gaza war, and the fate of two Israeli citizens, Avera Mengistu and Hasham al-Sayed, who crossed into Gaza in 2014 and 2015 respectively.

On Monday, Leah Goldin, Hadar's mother, met with US Ambassador to the UN Linda Thomas-Greenfield and asked her to work to secure the release of the captives.
Family of PA critic vows to reject commission conclusions on his death
The family of Palestinian Authority critic Nizar Banat, who died in PA custody last week, said Monday that it will not accept the results of an official commission on his death.

Banat, a prominent critic of PA President Mahmoud Abbas, was allegedly beaten by Palestinian officers during his arrest. His death on Thursday sparked rare protests in Hebron and Ramallah calling for an end to Abbas’s 16-year rule.

The commission is composed of Justice Minister Mohammad Shalaldeh and a representative from the PA’s intelligence services. A representative from the Banat family and from the Independent Commission on Human Rights, a leading Palestinian civil society group, both withdrew from the investigation, calling it slanted.

The government’s committee is expected to deliver its conclusions to Abbas on Tuesday, the official PA Wafa news agency said Sunday.

PA Prime Minister Mohammed Shtayyeh has said that those responsible for Banat’s death “will be held accountable,” according to Wafa.

According to an autopsy, Banat was beaten on the head, chest, neck, legs, and hands, with less than an hour elapsing between his arrest and his death.
Amid West Bank protests, journalists ask UN for protection against PA
About 50 Palestinian journalists demonstrated in Ramallah on Monday in the name of freedom of the press in the West Bank and called on the UN to "protect" them following an outbreak of violence during a number of rallies against the Palestinian Authority.

The death of Palestinian human rights activist Nizar Banat while in Palestinian Authority detention last week has sparked anger in the West Bank.

The demonstrations of recent days have been punctuated by clashes between protesters and the police.

Journalists also reported having been assaulted by the police, which has been mobilized en masse.

In view of the violations of journalists' freedom to cover the rallies, a letter was submitted to the United Nations, which called on the international body to take "necessary and immediate measures" to protect local journalists, said Naila Khalil, a Palestinian reporter for the Al-Arabi Al-Jdid newspaper.

Also present in front of the UN premises in Ramallah, Mohammed Gharafi, a journalist for the news site Ultra Palestine, said that he was threatened by Palestinian security forces with having his phone confiscated if he did not stop filming them.

Earlier footage taken by Gharafi shows in particular female journalists being attacked by men in civilian clothes, suspected of belonging to the police.

MEMRI: Hizbullah Secretary-General Hassan Nasrallah On U.S. Government Seizure Of Web Domains Of Iran-Affiliated Media Outlets: This Proves The Falsehood Of U.S. Claims Of Championing Freedom Of Expression, Opinion, And Belief
Hizbullah Secretary-General Hassan Nasrallah said that the recent U.S. seizure of web domains used by Iran-affiliated media outlets proves the falsehood of American claims of championing the freedom of expression, opinion, and belief. He made these remarks in a public address which aired on various media outlets on June 25, 2021. Nasrallah said that it is "no coincidence" that the websites that were seized belonged to parties and media outlets that "played a major role" in the recent "Sword of Jerusalem" war with Israel and opposed the "Zionist entity" and "American hegemony in the region." On June 23, the United States government seized U.S.-owned domains of dozens of media outlets connected to Iran.

"It Is No Coincidence That All These Websites... Oppose The Zionist Enterprise [And] American Hegemony In The Region"

Hassan Nasrallah: "I must talk about the recent step by the American government, that confiscated, seized, deleted, and banned dozens of websites [belong to] dozens of media outlets in the countries of the region. It is no coincidence that all these websites belong to parties and media outlets that played a major role and manifested great solidarity with the Palestinians in the recent 'Sword of Jerusalem' war.

"They oppose the Zionist enterprise and the Zionist entity, as well as the American hegemony in the region, the strife, the terrorism — and the takfiri terrorism in particular... It is noteworthy that some of these media outlets are purely religious and do not get involved in politics. Nevertheless, they were added to that list.

"This Is Further Evidence [Of The] False Claims By Consecutive U.S. Administrations... To Champion Freedom Of Expression... These Are All Lies, Deception, And False Claims"

"In any case, this is further evidence, to our people and to the free people of the world, regarding the false claims by the consecutive U.S. administrations, which claim to champion freedom, freedom of expression, freedom of opinion, freedom of belief... These are all lies, deception, and false claims. The consecutive U.S. administrations have presented new evidence, every day, for the falsehood of these claims."

Seth Frantzman: Will US airstrikes be a gamechanger for Biden’s Mideast policy? - analysis
The larger point Knights is making is that drone and rocket attacks have increased this year, and the new threat includes at least 10 attacks with several types of drones. If the US rate of response is only two retaliatory rounds of strikes in response to dozens of attacks since January, then the US is not deterring the pro-Iran groups.

Along with Crispin Smith, Knights wrote an article at the Washington Institute for Near East Policy regarding the drone threat.

This leaves a major question mark over whether Biden will go further and whether more strikes will occur. It is clear the Biden administration is attempting to justify the strikes to Congress. However, Iran appears to feel it has the impunity to attack the US, striking secret sites and targeting air defenses and other sensitive areas.

While some pro-Iran claims of attacks may be disinformation, the reality is that they appear to have the upper hand. The US is not prepared to do what the Trump administration did, which was to target Qasem Soleimani and Abu Mahdi al-Muhandis, key leadership figures of the Islamic Revolutionary Guards Corps and Popular Mobilization Forces, respectively.

This means the strikes may be more of an example of doing something just so that the US can say it did something. That would not be a game changer, and Iran will likely know that.

This then puts the Pentagon and White House in a bind: They know what needs to be done to deter Iran, but they may not want to increase tensions.

Instead, the US is withdrawing air-defense systems from the region, officials have told The Wall Street Journal. That is not a good message to an Iran that increasingly wants to push the US out of the way.

In addition, during the 11-day conflict between Israel and Hamas in May, a drone was launched from Iraq or Syria and flew into Israeli airspace before being shot down. This means the threats in Iraq to US forces also run parallel to emerging threats to Israel in the region.
Biden to Rivlin: Iran will never get a nuclear weapon on my watch
US President Joe Biden, in a meeting on Monday with Israeli President Reuven Rivlin, said that Iran will never get a nuclear weapon as long as he’s in office.

“Iran will never get a nuclear weapon on my watch,” Biden said.

He also addressed Sunday’s airstrikes against Iranian-backed militias in Syria and Iraq: “I directed last night’s airstrikes targeting sites used by Iranian-backed militia groups in response to recent attacks on US personnel in Iraq,” he said.

“I just wanted to thank the president for being here,” said Biden at the beginning of their conversation at the Oval Office.

Biden assured Rivlin that his commitment to Israel “is iron-clad” and that he has an “unwavering commitment to [Israel’s] self-defense.”

“My team and I are already working closely with the Israeli government that took office earlier this month,” he said. “I am looking forward to hosting Prime Minister [Naftali] Bennett at the White House very soon.”
Amb. Alan Baker: Israel’s Unique Public Diplomacy Dilemma
Despite an internationally recognized right to defend itself against terror attacks, Israel’s public diplomacy fails to convince the international and Western media and political elements, which, for many and varied reasons, demonstrate an ingrained propensity to prejudge Israel negatively.

The initial few days of international sympathy and understanding for Israel’s right to defend its population inevitably and rapidly metamorphosed into a wave of condemnation and accusations. The change came with the deliberate propagation of a false and distorted equivalence between a terror organization blatantly violating humanitarian norms and a democratic state legitimately defending itself against terror.

In so doing, the media chooses to ignore the Palestinian use of its civilian population as human shields and the blatant abuse of hospitals, schools, mosques, private homes, public buildings as rocket emplacements and weapons storage facilities, and the hundreds of kilometers of offensive, strategic tunnels under Gaza that endanger civilian life above.

Israel’s public diplomacy could better rely on credible international military expertise, on vocal support by local and foreign Arab experts, as well as the real-time provision of accurate information to diplomatic missions and Jewish communities.

Public diplomacy should bring to the attention of the international community the extensive and illegal use and abuse of children by Hamas for military and propaganda purposes, as well as the illegal use of incendiary balloons and other anti-environment and anti-ecology weapons to destroy Israel’s agriculture and to pollute its environment.

Public diplomacy must seek to annul the artificial linkage that Hamas is attempting to generate, into which the international media is buying, between events in the Gaza Strip and the daily civil governance of Jerusalem. Pursuant to the PLO-Israel Oslo Accords, Hamas has no standing regarding Jerusalem and cannot artificially manipulate the international community into accepting any such a false linkage.
Seth Frantzman: U.S. Strikes on Pro-Iran Militias Reveal Iran's Arms Trafficking Hub
The 2018 airstrike targeted a similar area as the ones over the weekend. This reveals the extent to which Iran has come to influence control over this key border area. Albukamal is strategic because it sits on the Euphrates River and it has long functioned as a hub for terrorist groups moving back and forth between Iraq and Syria. Support for Saddam Hussein's regime was strong in this area on both sides of the border. After the U.S. invasion of Iraq in 2003, the Assad regime in Syria enabled fighters to travel to Iraq through the area. And after ISIS was defeated, Iran began to view this as part of its desire for a road to the sea that stretches from Tehran through Baghdad to Damascus and Beirut.

To secure Albukamal and the border area, Iran turned to pro-Iranian militias in Iraq. These militias, with names like Kataib Hezbollah, resemble the Hezbollah terror army in Lebanon, but they are official paramilitary forces of the Iraqi government called Popular Mobilization Units. These units, such as Brigade 14 of Kataib Sayyid al-Shuhada, which was struck on June 28, are close to the nefarious Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps (IRGC) in Iran.

Iran began moving ballistic missiles to Iraq in 2018 and it began building a base next to Albukamal to facilitate weapons transfers. This was a threat to Israel. Reports emerged showing satellite photos of the Iranian presence in 2018 and 2019, and the site was targeted numerous times in airstrikes that Syrian media reported were carried out by Israel. The airstrikes on Albukamal coincided with a major rise in tensions in Iraq between the U.S. and pro-Iran groups. This culminated in dozens of rocket attacks on U.S. forces, the killing of an American contractor and January 2020 airstrikes by the Trump administration that killed IRGC Quds Force head Qassem Soleimani and Kataib Hezbollah leader Abu Mahdi al-Muhandis.

Muhandis had warned the U.S. in June 2018 that the U.S. would pay a price for attacking pro-Iran bases in Albukamal. "To the Americans, we say...we will not be quiet about this attack." In the end it was Muhandis who was killed, but the Albukamal bases remained and they continued to build up influence. These groups have amped up their attacks against U.S. facilities in Iraq, increasingly using drones. They used drones to target on June 27 an area near the site for the new U.S. consulate under construction around Erbil. The White House and Pentagon singled out the drone threat as the reason for targeting Albukamal. It remains to be seen if the airstrikes will actually deter Iran and its proxies.

What is important is that the airstrikes have once again pinpointed how Iran seeks to dominate Syria and Iraq through control of this key border area. Indeed, it is a key to the whole region for Iran's network of proxies. The pro-Iranian militias in Iraq operate on both sides of the border, and groups like Hezbollah in Lebanon have moved forces to Syria in recent years, taking advantage of their alliance with the Syrian regime and the weakness of the Syrian and Iraqi governments.

Iran's use of Iraqi, Syrian, Lebanese and Yemeni soil to carry out attacks across the region, using missiles and drones, is a major challenge for Washington and regional partners such as Israel and the Sunni Gulf states. It's unclear if the Iraqi state will ever be able to reduce the role of the pro-Iranian militias, who now have an octopus-like hold on the government and its institutions. A recent summit between Egypt, Jordan and Iraq notwithstanding, Iran appears to have put down roots in places like Albukamal that will be difficult to remove. In the absence of the ability to remove them, airstrikes against Iranian weapons trafficking and its drone bases amount to the only way to keep Tehran in check.
UN Expert Backs Probe Into Iran’s 1988 Killings, Raisi’s Role
The UN investigator on human rights in Iran has called for an independent inquiry into allegations of state-ordered executions of thousands of political prisoners in 1988 and the role played by President-elect Ebrahim Raisi as Tehran deputy prosecutor.

Javaid Rehman, in an interview with Reuters on Monday, said that over the years his office has gathered testimonies and evidence. It was ready to share them if the United Nations Human Rights Council or other body sets up an impartial investigation.

He said he was concerned at reports that some “mass graves” are being destroyed as part of a continuing cover-up.

“I think it is time and it’s very important now that Mr. Raisi is the president (-elect) that we start investigating what happened in 1988 and the role of individuals,” Rehman said from London, where he teaches Islamic law and international law.

A probe was in the interest of Iran and could bring closure to families, he said, adding: “Otherwise we will have very serious concerns about this president and the role, the reported role, he has played historically in those executions.”

Raisi, a hardline judge, is under US sanctions over a past that includes what the United States and activists say was his involvement as one of four judges who oversaw the 1988 killings. Amnesty International has put the number executed at some 5,000, saying in a 2018 report that “the real number could be higher.”

Raisi, when asked about allegations that he was involved in the killings, told reporters: “If a judge, a prosecutor has defended the security of the people, he should be praised … I am proud to have defended human rights in every position I have held so far.”


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