Sunday, December 12, 2021

12/12 Links: Is the Biden Administration at War with Israel?; Bennett takes off to UAE for first Israeli PM visit; Three dead at funeral of Hamas member killed in Lebanon explosion

From Ian:

"Is the Biden Administration at War with Israel?"
"The US does not want to open a consulate merely to have a place for diplomatic connections with the PA [Palestinian Authority]. If that is all they wanted, they could easily do this by opening a mission in Abu Dis or Ramallah -- where most other countries conduct their relations with the PA... the purpose of opening the consulate is to recognize Palestinian claims to Jerusalem." — Eugene Kontorovitch, professor, George Mason University, Antonin Scalia School of Law, Israel Hayom, December 5, 2021.

The 1963 Vienna Convention on Consular Relations states that "a consular post may be established in the territory of the receiving State only with that State's consent". In other words, reopening the consulate may be done only with the consent of the Israeli government.

All this cannot be dissociated from the general hostile attitude of the Biden administration towards Israel from the moment it came to power.

Earlier in March, an internal memo from the US State Department was leaked to The National, a daily newspaper in Abu Dhabi, United Arab Emirates. The National reported that "The Biden administration memo recommends voicing US principles on achieving Israeli-Palestinian peace under a two-state solution framework 'based on the 1967 lines'".

The author of the memo is Hady Amr, Deputy Assistant Secretary for Israeli-Palestinian Affairs and Press and Public Diplomacy in the Biden administration, and also in charge of US negotiations with Israel and Palestinian organizations. It is hard to imagine that Amr was chosen as an "honest broker". Amr has a long history of anti-Israeli activities.

Amr also is the lead author of a report published by the Brookings Institution in December 2018 in which some proposals are made that could be regarded as disturbing. The report says that the United States must "reconnect" with Hamas, a fundamentalist terrorist group; seek "to create a Palestinian unity government integrating Hamas", and "compel Israel to make major concessions", even if it may "endanger Israel". The report never defines Hamas as a terrorist group, and never says that Hamas's goal is to destroy Israel. The report adds, "should Israel prove uncooperative with American efforts, the United States could signal it will move ahead anyway."

The behavior of the Biden administration towards Israel is all the more worrying in that at the same time, it places itself in a weak position regarding negotiations with Iran and seems ready to make a deal with the mullahs' regime at any price, in a resolution that has already been called "less for less", or, worse, "less for more".
Defense Min. Benny Gantz presents Iran attack timeline to US officials
Defense Minister Benny Gantz updated American officials that he has set a deadline for when the IDF will need to complete preparations for an attack against Iran.

The Americans did not voice opposition to the Israeli preparations when presented with the date by Gantz on Thursday, a senior diplomatic source said the following day.

“There was no veto,” the source said.

The IDF has intensified planning for an attack against its arch enemy. Last week, American sources revealed that Austin and Gantz were expected to discuss joint military preparations, and a report on Kan said that the IDF was planning a massive mock strike aerial drill for this summer.

Gantz met with Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin and Secretary of State Antony Blinken on Thursday. The conversations focused mainly on Iran and its continued pursuit of nuclear capability, but some of the US officials also brought up Israeli settlement activity and their concern that building in the West Bank will block a future two-state solution.

Jerusalem consulted with Washington on two previous strikes on Iran: one in June against a facility producing centrifuges in Karaj, and another on a missile production site outside Tehran, The New York Times reported.

Melanie Phillips: Speaking to the wider world
I appeared last week on Inside the News on Sky News Australia, where Rowan Dean and I discussed my argument that deep green environmental ideology was essentially pagan and anti-human. After that, we turned to the no-less enormous question of why the west persistently and catastrophically fails to understand the rest of the world — a topic which had to be dealt with in under two minutes! You can watch Sky’s video clip of the second item here, although you’ll have to battle through some advertising to get to it. Alternatively, you can listen to it by clicking the audio link above.

I was also the guest in an hour-long webinar hosted by Peter Kurti, research scholar at the Centre for Independent Studies in Sydney, on the west’s crisis of reason and its onslaught upon its own culture. I had actually brought together the various strands of this crisis in my 2010 book The World Turned Upside Down: the Global Battle over God, Truth and Power — which Peter was kind enough to describe as “prescient” — and we talked about some of the most significant markers along my journey to the view that the west is in big trouble. We also discussed the current epidemic of antisemitism, whether the precipitous decline of reason in the west was now irreversible and, if not, what we could do to turn the situation round.

Bennett takes off to UAE for first Israeli PM visit
Prime Minister Naftali Bennett departed to Abu Dhabi on Sunday to meet with Crown Prince Sheikh Mohammed bin Zayed al Nahyan, on the first trip by an Israeli prime minister to the United Arab Emirates.

“I’m happy to be taking off for a historic visit, the first of its kind, to the United Arab Emirates,” Bennett said on the tarmac at Ben-Gurion Airport. “The trip is meant to deepen the cooperation between the countries in all areas.”

Bennett said that Israel-UAE relations are “excellent and extensive,” and called to “nurture and strengthen them, and build the warm peace between the two nations.”

Bennett is set to meet with MBZ, as the Emirati leader is known, on Monday, as well as with other ministers and senior officials.

Relations between Israel and the UAE were officially established in August 2020, in what became known as the Abraham Accords.

The meeting comes at an important juncture for relations between the countries, which grew closer in the years before the accords were signed, over shared concern about the Iranian nuclear threat.

World powers returned to negotiations with Iran over its nuclear program two weeks ago, and Western parties to the talks have lamented an impasse, with Iran presenting unrealistic proposals.
Jared Kushner, NGO leaders sign Abraham Accords memorandum in Abu Dhabi
A memorandum of understanding resolving to build upon the foundation of the Abraham Accords was overseen by former US presidential advisor Jared Kushner and signed by representatives from the Abraham Accords Peace Institute (AAPI) and the Sharaka NGO in Abu Dhabi on Wednesday.

The groups agreed to promote cultural and economic ties among Abraham Accord states, which includes bringing influencers across different fields and expertise to experience their fellow Accord countries.

The MoU holds that new areas of cooperation will be explored, including academic exchanges and work with universities, high schools and youth groups. The leaders also expressed interest in further environmental and athletics cooperation between the Accords countries.

The memorandum, signed by Sharaka co-founder and CEO Amit Deri and AAPI Executive Director and President Robert Greenway, aimed to further strengthen ties between the signatories of the Abraham Accords. Besides Kushner, senior figures in the Emirati policy community were also present.

“The agreement is an extension of the Abraham accords, meant to help spread peace as a model for others to emulate," said co-founder of Sharaka and UAE CEO, Dr. Majid Al Sarrah. "Our brave leaders took the historic decision of pursuing peace for a better and more prosperous future and we must continue these efforts. The Abraham Accords Peace Institute is a key player in continuing to promote these historic accords. By cooperating, we can help spread this message to all and show them the beauty of what can be achieved through peaceful relations.”
Israel-Morocco military cooperation agreement is historic
Defense Minister Benny Gantz arrived in Morocco on November 24 to sign a military cooperation agreement between the two countries. To date, no other Arab state has publicly signed a military agreement with Israel. Even Egypt and Jordan, as well as other Arab states that maintain security cooperation with Israel, do so clandestinely.

Turkey and Iran (until the 1979 revolution) also maintained close military ties with Israel, but always in secret. It was only after an agreement with Turkey was leaked to the media in 1996 that Israeli-Turkish cooperation became public, but it was severed in the early years of the 2000s.

Israel’s relationship with Morocco is long, rich and multidimensional, consisting of diplomatic, intelligence, military and civilian cooperation. While official ties were conducted in secret, the civilian ones were partly public and even expanded and deepened in recent years. Cooperation goes back to the 1960s against the backdrop of shared threats, first and foremost from Egypt under former president Gamal Abdel Nasser.

Israel also helped Morocco against another shared enemy, Algeria. Arranging the clandestine Jewish immigration from Morocco to Israel also led to closer security ties. The cooperation was led by the Mossad’s Tevel department that maintains ties with countries with which Israel does not have diplomatic relations. What is more, from the 1970s, King Hassan II, father of the current monarch, mediated in secret between Israel, Egypt, Syria and the PLO. Other than the mediation with Egypt that led to then-president Anwar Sadat Sadat’s Jerusalem visit, his other mediation efforts failed.

Israel and Morocco are not known to have cooperated widely on military affairs. Israel is known to have helped Morocco in its struggle against the Polisario movement fighting for independence of Western Sahara. Israeli aid consisted mostly of advice on erecting a security fence in the Sahara area of which Morocco took control. Former prime minister Ehud Barak was one of the officers known to have visited the Sahara. Israel lobbied the US Congress and administrations for years to advance recognition of Morocco’s annexation of Sahara, but to no avail.

Three dead at funeral of Hamas member killed in Lebanon explosion
Armed clashes broke out on Sunday between Hamas and Fatah members in the Burj al-Shemali Palestinian refugee camp in Tyre, Lebanon, Lebanese media reported.

Three were killed and ten others were wounded, some critically, in the clashes. They were rushed to Hiram, Jabal Amel and the Italian Lebanese hospitals.

The violence broke out during the funeral of Hamas member Hamza Ibrahim Shahine, who died in Friday's explosion at the refugee camp, caused by a fire at a Hamas weapons depot.

The state-run National News Agency (NNA) reported an unspecified number of deaths from the explosion, but local media and civil defense workers on scene said there had been no fatalities.

The clashes come as tensions between Hamas and Fatah are rising due to the Palestinian municipal elections taking place in the West Bank. Despite Hamas' boycott of the elections, Hamas-affiliated candidates contested the elections and won seats in several councils, as some Palestinians described the results as a “major defeat” for Fatah.

This Christmas, head to Gaza for PlayStation 5
PlayStation 5, the much sought-after video game console, has proven elusive for many American shoppers, due to high demand and supply-chain issues. But if you are really desperate to put one under the tree this Christmas, there is one place you can find them: Gaza.

According to a report in the UK’s Guardian newspaper, the Sony console has been a difficult sell in the poverty-stricken enclave, leaving some stores with excess stock.

With the average monthly wage in Gaza being roughly $247, according to the Israeli human rights organization, Gisha, a new PlayStation 5 (which goes for nearly $500 in the United States) is often well beyond the means of most Gazans.

More than half of Gaza’s population lives under the poverty line, according to statistics from the World Bank, and the Palestinian Central Bureau of Statistics has pegged the unemployment rate at 43.1 percent.

On top of that, prices for the PS5 in Gaza are often inflated, due to the difficulty of importing electronics into the territory. The consoles can often go for more than $1,000 now, and they cost north of $1,500 when they first came out.
'Mossad' gets Hezbollah media outlet suspended from Twitter
A Hezbollah-run media outlet, Al-Ahed news, had their Twitter account suspended on Saturday after a popular Mossad-themed parody account reported and showcased the outlet's tweets supporting and glorifying terrorism.

On Friday "The Mossad: The Social Media Account," which has almost 200,000 followers on Twitter, documented and reported to Twitter that Al-Ahed news had tweeted that "Zionist media reports that an 'Israeli' settler has been critically injured after a heroic stabbing operation by a Palestinian lady in Sheikh Jarrah Neighbourhood," in reference to a Wednesday terrorist attack that left one mother injured. "At first I didn't know it was a Hezbollah-owned account," the operator of the parody Mossad account told The Jerusalem Post. "I reported the original tweet because they called the stabbing of a mother dropping her kids off at school a 'heroic stabbing.'"

While the fake Mossad didn't ask followers to report Al-Ahed's Twitter account, "the original tweet got enough exposure that I'm sure many reported it anyway," and was consequently was suspended on Saturday.
Iranian MP: Enmity between Zionists, Iran goes back to Purim
The enmity between Israel and Iran has a "long history," dating back to the story of Purim, an Iranian parliamentarian stated that in an interview with the Iranian Fars News Agency on Sunday.

"The Zionist regime is the sworn enemy of Iran and Iranians, and this enmity, without any connection to the ruling regime in Iran, has a long history, so that the Zionists still celebrate Purim every year on the anniversary of the brutal massacre of the Iranian people," said Zohreh Lajevardi, Tehran's representative in the Iranian parliament, also known as the Majles. "But with the victory of the revolution, this enmity became so public, so much so that a brief look at the events of the last 40 years proves well that this vicious regime is the sworn enemy of Iran and Iranians."

The Purim story took place in the Persian Empire in the city of Shushan, identified as the modern Iranian town of Shush in western Iran. The Scroll of Esther tells how Haman, a high-ranking minister in the kingdom of Ahasuerus, attempted to destroy the Jews in the Persian Empire, and how he was thwarted by Mordechai and his relative Esther, who married Ahasuerus. The exact timing and identity of the characters in the story is debated by historians.

The tomb of Esther and Mordechai, where Iranian Jews believe the two are buried, is located north of Shush in Hamedan, Iran.

Last year, the tomb was torched by unknown assailants and in the past, threats have been made to damage or tear down the tomb.

This isn't the first time that Iranian officials and press have used the Purim story for political purposes or to spread antisemitism.

In a Fars article in 2011, the head of the Student Basij Organization in Hamedan referred to the Purim story as an "Iranian holocaust," saying the "corrupt" Esther massacred about 75,000 "innocent" Iranians. Throughout the article, the Student Basij Organization head linked Esther and Mordechai to the "Zionists" and used the terms "Zionist" and "Jew" interchangeably.
Britain Tells Iran: Still Time for a ‘Last Chance’ Nuclear Deal
Britain told Iran on Sunday that there was still time for Tehran to save the nuclear deal but that this was the last chance for Iranian negotiators to come to the table with serious proposals.

“This is the last chance for Iran to come to the negotiating table with a serious resolution to this issue, which has to be agreeing the terms of the JCPOA,” British Foreign Secretary Liz Truss said.

“This is their last chance and it is vital that they do so. We will not allow Iran to acquire a nuclear weapon.”

New York Times Corrects After Erasing Bahrain-Israel Normalization
CAMERA’s Israel office yesterday prompted a New York Times correction after the paper egregiously erased last year’s historic normalization agreement between Bahrain and Israel. Perhaps reflecting wishful thinking, international correspondent Mona El-Naggar falsely reported (in print, and online here, “Sundays Off: U.A.E. Changes Its Weekend to Align With West“):
One landmark moment [reflecting top-down decision making] came in September 2020 when the emirates announced they would normalize relations with Israel, a step that most other Arab countries — and all other Gulf States — have opposed, or at least been reluctant to take.

It is absolutely false that all other Gulf States opposed or were at least reluctant to normalize with Israel. In particular, Bahrain, a second Gulf State, also normalized with Israel shortly after UAE’s step. (See “Bahrain Will Normalize Relations With Israel, in Deal Brokered by Trump,” Sept. 11, 2020, Michael Crowley and David Halbfinger).

Saudi Arabia, another Gulf state, responded optimistically to UAE’s announcement. As Associated Press reported (“Saudi Arabia cautiously welcomes UAE, Israel normalization“):
Saudi Arabia’s foreign minister on Wednesday cautiously welcomed an agreement between its close ally United Arab Emirates and Israel to establish full diplomatic ties and exchange embassies.

Prince Faisal bin Farhan said the deal, which also halted unilateral annexation by Israel of West Bank territory sought by Palestinians, “could be viewed as positive.”
Experiences of antisemitism brought me closer to the faith of my family
Going for drinks and desperate to build contacts, a staffer had asked about my background, and I’d shared I studied an MA in Jewish History.

Before I’d even finished speaking she had grabbed my jaw, tilted my head to the side to look at my nose and spat out “you don’t look Jewish”.

Her friends told me not to report it, stressing I was new and they could be useful.

This was a Tory staffer grabbing me in public to judge my Jewishness, at a time it was supposedly only the Labour party that had a problem.

It took place during the Corbyn years, when antisemitism cases in the Labour party became the new normal, in a tenure that broke friendships and made whataboutery an acceptable excuse for racism.

So many apparent progressives did not care, deciding their ideology was worth more than the experiences of Jews.

It was a depressing, draining time, with the avalanche of antisemitism on Twitter a constant in my life both personal and professional.

Growing up in rural Somerset, there were no Jews that I knew of, yet the word managed to exist as a slur among my peers.
How Scottish football became a cauldron of hate for Israel
They may pride themselves as being the best fans in the world but the Tartan Army has seen its reputation tarnished on the international stage following incidents involving the Israeli national football team.

World football governing body Fifa fined the Scottish FA £8,000 last month after Israel’s national anthem was booed by Scotland fans ahead of a World Cup qualifier at Glasgow’s Hampden Park in October.

The sanction was also applied over an “inappropriate” emblem, believed to be a Palestinian flag, that was waved at the game.

However, this was just the latest in a series of incidents involving Israeli players north of the border — where Jews make up just 0.1 per cent of the population — leading the country’s main anti-racism charity to conclude that such abuse is in danger of becoming “normalised” at the country’s football grounds.

For example, one so-called Scotland fan took to Facebook ahead of the Israel game to ask fellow supporters: “Is it OK to sing ‘We Hate England More Than Jews’?”

The Celtic player and Israeli international Nir Bitton, who has just completed a landmark 250 games for the Glasgow club, received horrific treatment at the hand of trolls at the beginning of this year after he was sent off in a vital game against rivals Rangers, which Celtic went on to lose.

How European Jewish refugees wined and dined Nazi prisoners for US Army intelligence
There was something unusual about the five men who walked into the Jewish-owned Lansburgh Bros. department store in Washington, DC, one December day in 1946. Four wore long leather coats and Tyrolese hats, and spoke German to the fifth man, saying they wanted to buy Christmas gifts for their families — sweets for their children and unterwasche, or undergarments, for their wives.

They started a mild altercation after becoming frustrated with their inability to communicate with the staff, and in a climate where World War II was still on everyone’s minds, the local military police were called in to arrest them. Ultimately, the five were brought back to where they had come from — a clandestine prison camp in northern Virginia known only by its address: PO Box 1142.

What no one knew — least of all the many Jews who frequented Lansburgh Bros. — was that the quartet in German dress were actually high-ranking Nazis who had been apprehended by the United States during the war, including Hitler’s chief rocket scientist, Wernher von Braun.

The military brass at PO Box 1142 believed that if its Nazi prisoners received lenient treatment, they would divulge top-secret scientific information that would benefit the US in the Cold War against its new enemy, the USSR. The prisoners’ request to go Christmas shopping in the capital’s largest department store went all the way to the Pentagon.

Not only was the request accepted, but the quartet got $1,000 in spending money and an escort — a guard named Arno Mayer. In the strangest part of the story, Mayer and many of the guards playing “good cop” at the camp were young Jewish refugees who had fled an increasingly antisemitic Europe.

The guards’ little-known narrative is spotlighted in a new animated Netflix short film, “Camp Confidential: America’s Secret Nazis,” directed by the Israeli husband-and-wife duo Daniel Sivan and Mor Loushy. The 35-minute film premiered on September 24.
'I never hid my family's Nazi history, and never will'
Anna-Suzette Pfeiffer managed to hold back her tears throughout our entire interview, except for one time. When she spoke of how the Nazi regime murdered Germans with disabilities before World War II in Tübingen, southwest Germany, just half an hour away from her hometown.

"The Nazis thought these people did not deserve to live," she said, in tears. "And this happened only half an hour away from my house. The Nazis were so pleased with how smoothly the process went, and how easy it was to kill people, that they decided to replicate the project in extermination camps."

Anna-Suzette, only 19 years old, is shocked by the atrocities her people committed against the Jews. But she is also shocked by the history of her own family: her great grandfathers were senior Nazi officials, two of whom participated in the extermination of Jews. One was an engineer who built the gas chambers and the electric fences around the Auschwitz camps, the other – an SS sniper, who killed Jews and partisans in the Netherlands.

"They were part of this machine, part of this terrible killing," Anna-Suzette said. "These are my people. My nation. And that is what brings me here."

I met with Anna-Suzette in the beautiful garden of the ADI rehabilitative village in the Negev, where she has volunteered for almost a year, working with children with physical disabilities and on the autism spectrum. She first came to volunteer here in October last year, as part of the March of the Living project.
Israeli study finds 2 Pfizer shots fail to neutralize Omicron, but booster effective
People who were vaccinated with Pfizer shots six months ago or more have “almost no neutralizing ability” against the Omicron variant, while those who received boosters are in reasonably good shape, an Israeli study has found.

Prof. Gili Regev Yochay of Sheba Medical Center said that her research is “very worrisome” due to its implications for people who have had just two shots and had more than a half-year pass since their most recent vaccination — which applies to many of the world’s Pfizer vaccinees. However, it gives cause for “optimism” regarding the power of boosters to fight Omicron, albeit less effectively than they fight Delta.

“The fact that Omicron is somewhat resistant to the vaccine is very much apparent when you’re only with two doses, and much less substantive after a third dose,” she told a media briefing on Saturday night.

She acknowledged that the study was small, involving 40 people, but said that she thinks its results are reliable and significant.

Regev Yochay detailed the research, which is expected to be published in the New England Journal of Medicine after peer review, saying: “What we have done, and we finished lab work today, is look at the ability of serum from vaccinated healthcare workers at the Sheba Medical Center, and we compared two groups.
Israeli researchers print an ear implant - and it works
Tissue engineering, 3D printing and a lot of hope were the keys for researchers at the Technion - Israel Institute of Science and Sheba Medical Center to engineer an ear.

What does it take to make an ear? Researchers developed an efficient technology to allow the production of functional, customized aesthetic implants for the rehabilitation of improperly developed ears.

This breakthrough will greatly help children suffering from microtia, a condition where the ear doesn’t fully develop in utero and therefore is small and malformed. This phenomenon occurs in about 0.1% to 0.3% of births. Sometimes, in addition to aesthetic distress, this phenomenon also involves hearing impairments.

Microtia is usually restored using rib cartilage tissue taken from the patient's chest area. This method involves pain and discomfort, as well as the risk of further complications. Moreover, the creation of an ear that is exactly similar to the other ear is dependent on the surgeon's creative skills and advanced surgical abilities, and therefore isn’t always possible. In the current study they tried to find a new, effective and less painful method.

The researchers, whose work was published in the journal Biofabrication, were able to meet this goal by incorporating new tissue engineering technologies, developed at the Levenberg Laboratory led by postdoctoral fellow Dr. Shira Landau, where they developed a biodegradable skeleton which grew an ear.
Israeli Who Lost Both Hands Aged 13 Takes Gold at World Para Taekwondo Championships
Israeli competitor Assaf Yasur won a gold medal on Saturday at the World Para Taekwondo Championships, held in Istanbul.

Yasur, 19, who lost both his arms below the elbow six years ago, kicked his way to victory over a Turkish rival in the Men’s under-58 kilogram weight category. He beat Qli Can Ozcan by 57-42 points to claim the medal.

“I still haven’t absorbed it,” Yasur said after his victory, noting he had faced five different competitors in bouts during the day to win the final. In the semi-final, he defeated the European champion.

“I am happy, and I am the happiest person for the path I chose, for the medal, and for this crazy day,” Yasur said.

Culture and Sports Minister Chili Tropper congratulated Yasur on his achievement, saying in a statement that he is “a wonderful young man for whom the sky is the limit.” Yasur had shown once again that “he is a gift to the country when he took the gold medal” which led to the playing of the national anthem, Hatikva, Tropper wrote.

Second ancient synagogue found in Migdal alters ideas of Jewish life 2,000 years ago
A 2,000-year-old synagogue from the Second Temple Period was recently uncovered at Migdal, on the northwestern edge of the Sea of Galilee, making it the second such synagogue found in the ancient community, the University of Haifa said on Sunday.

It is the first time that two synagogues have been found within the same settlement from the period when the Jewish Temple was still functioning in Jerusalem, a discovery that researchers said is changing their understanding of religious life at the time.

Archaeologists had assumed that as long as the temple was still standing there was not such a great need for synagogues, Prof. Adi Erlich of the University of Haifa said in a statement.

Dina Avshalom-Gorni of the University of Haifa, who assisted in the administration of the dig, said the discovery of a second synagogue gives insight into the daily religious life of Jews in the Galilee at the time and testifies to “the need for a dedicated building for study, reading the Torah and social gatherings.”

The location of the two synagogues, less than 200 meters apart, with the first in an industrial area and the second on a residential street, shows they were built “within the social fabric of the settlement,” Avshalom-Gorni said.

The recently discovered synagogue is of basalt and chalk, and comprises a main hall and two side rooms. A stone bench was also found. Six pillars held up the roof and the bases of two of those were also found. The walls were covered in plaster and colorfully decorated. A small room at the south end of the main hall had a shelf that may have been used to store scrolls, the statement said.