Wednesday, January 11, 2023

From Ian:

Too Far Right—and Too Jewish : The Real Reasons for Europe's Demonization of Netanyahu
In the liberal media and among the intelligentsia and the European political class there reigns an untroubled unanimity on the subject of Israel: it is no longer a democracy because its new government is of the Right. Too far to the right. I have no particular sympathy for Benjamin Netanyahu, but I must observe that the manner of his election was perfectly legitimate. Nor have I any sympathy—far from it—for the extremist Jewish parties that have entered into the government coalition, but they, too, were elected. Thus, I cannot see on what grounds the objecting Europeans allow themselves to denounce Israeli democracy. I am reminded of a famous proposal by Bertolt Brecht: “Since the people vote against the government, the people must be dissolved.” As it happens, a majority of Israelis consider themselves represented in Netanyahu’s new government, and the minority will take back power in a few more years. Such are the mechanics of universal suffrage.

Therefore, before diabolizing Netanyahu, Europe’s finest should ask themselves about his repeated electoral successes and record for longevity, both of which bring to mind Margaret Thatcher, Angela Merkel, and José María Aznar. The voters know what they’re doing: under Netanyahu, Israelis have experienced their greatest security, and never has their economy been more prosperous. It was thus not by chance that Netanyahu was reelected, but as a reward for his success and his good fortune (in politics, luck and success are indissociable). Has he threatened democracy in the past, and will he distort it this time in order to please his integralist allies? This may be doubted, since the person who could make the Israelis shut up would not be of this world. The Hebrews quarreled with God; the Jews argue ceaselessly among themselves, and that includes the Israelis. The media are free and will remain so, as are the parties and the judges. The Israeli army does not accept orders from without. As for the rabbis, there are as many points of view among them as there are synagogues.

What, then, is the source of this Western condemnation of the new Israeli government and these dark prophecies concerning democracy? First, there is ignorance. What European scribbler inquires into the problems Netanyahu faces? We prefer to condemn him from afar, for fear of being contradicted by reality. But let’s state the essential: the despair displayed by the European Left comes from the fact that its adherents judge Israel from the standpoint of the Palestinians. It’s true that Netanyahu and his allies don’t believe in the viability of a Palestinian state; the Israeli government is not the Palestinian government, and it defends the interests of Israelis before those of the Palestinians. We may bemoan the fate of the Palestinians, but whose responsibility is that, really? In 1947, the United Nations divided Palestine into two territories, one Jewish and the other Arab. Who is it that refused this division into two states, as demanded today by the Arabs, the Palestinians, and the “international community”? From the moment of the UN’s announcement of the partition, the Arab armies of Jordan, Syria, and Egypt attacked the Israeli colonies. The Israelis of that day, against all expectations, much like today’s Ukrainians, resisted and conquered a territory larger than what the UN had assigned. Since then, the Arabs have never ceased attacking Israel, including launching wars in 1967 and in 1973. They have lost every time.
Gil Troy: Israel's democracy is fine - beware Left, Right doom-and-gloomers
Just as bullies overstep when unrestrained in schoolyards, political thugs overstep, too. Israel is neither “Haredi-stan” nor “Putin-grad.” Imposing a narrow vision of Judaism and Israeli security on a majority with different views risks triggering a backlash. Likud voters won’t stand in traffic on Sunday so haredim can boast about ending railroad repairs on Saturday. Israeli taxpayers won’t bankrupt themselves to subsidize freeloaders. And most Israelis – including the prime minister – prefer building ties to the United Arab Emirates to humiliating Palestinians unnecessarily. Ultimately, arrogant excesses could end the ultra-right and ultra-religious dominance in politics rather than cementing it.

The Left won’t benefit from the backlash if liberals treat every coalition proposal as a contract kill targeting Israel’s soul. Liberals fear an aggressive majority imposing a vision of Israel on all Israelis. That nightmare reflects deep insecurity, ignoring the many social, cultural and political revolutions that have modernized, diversified and democratized Israel, even without judicial intervention. The totalitarian, socialist Johnny-one-note Israel of the Left-dominated 1950s no longer exists. Israelis have different lifestyles, tribal affiliations and ideologies while remaining far more intertwined and united than most Westerners.

Just as democratic Israel wasn’t built overnight, it can’t be dismantled so easily. From the sacred right to denounce the government, to ever-expanding minority civil liberties and growing public profiles, Israel’s democracy is far more resilient today than ever. That was the message Benjamin Netanyahu broadcast and most foreign reporters overlooked when he allowed Amir Ohana’s LGBTQ+ family to upstage his return to power.

Ultimately, Israel’s on-the-ground realities should calm the panic-mongers on the Left and the Right. Listen to the song of the Israeli street and see how Israelis live day-to-day. Taste the freedoms we take for granted but won’t relinquish easily and feel our eternal, transcendent sense of community uniting us in so many ways, despite our passing political divides.

We cannot be complacent. The powerful, sometimes countervailing forces that keep Israel alive and thriving as a Jewish-democratic state require constant maintenance and updating. But we secure our future by trying to understand our fellow citizens’ fears, compromising when possible and accepting losses along with victories as necessary while trusting the historical processes and enduring Jewish-democratic values that sustain us.
Ruthie Blum: An Israel Prize laureate’s anti-government stance reveals a sinister view of the Jewish state
Gently reminded that the public opted for this government and the policies it promised to implement, he stated, “I say to the public, ‘Pardon me, you determine who your representatives in the parliament are; you don’t determine what democracy is [just as] you don’t determine what constitutes proper medicine or successful science. … Your role in a democracy is to elect your representatives in the parliament, which elects the government. You don’t have a mandate to tell us what democracy is.”

Even the liberal interviewer sounded uncomfortable with that bit. Her ill ease didn’t put a dent in his train of thought, however. Instead, it guided the conversation to a disparagement of the Israeli populace as a whole—excepting the elitist minority that deems itself better equipped intellectually to rule the roost from on high.

“If we were actually to ask the people, in a ballot, what they think about freedom of speech for Arabs, freedom of movement for LGBTQs and especially freedom for women to live as they please, we’d get a terrible picture,” he argued. “[This is why] we don’t ask the people what civil rights are. We ask them only to select the representatives who have to reach collective decisions for them.”

Never mind that the public actually did cast its ballot, a mere two and a half months ago, in a—yes, truly democratic—election. In his eyes, the rest of the bloc to which he belongs must “take to the streets” to counteract the undesirable result.

“I’m not saying that they should break the law while doing that; I’m telling them to abide by the law in the meantime. … [T]hink of Russia, Poland and Hungary, during their communist regimes. Does a citizen have to obey a totalitarian law?”

Kasher’s epithets and accusations—among them “mutations of the Jewish people,” “dictatorial nationalism,” “haredi parasitism” and “moral collapse”—would make a BDS activist salivate. They also meet the criteria of the International Holocaust Remembrance Alliance (IHRA) “working definition” of antisemitism, adopted by dozens of countries, including Israel.

The IHRA specifies that one manifestation of what the late historian Robert Wistrich called the “longest hatred” is the “applying [of] double standards” to the Jewish state “by requiring of it a behavior not expected or demanded of any other democratic nation.”

Kasher won’t be called out as an antisemite. Discrediting his attitude will have to suffice. And at least it’s on display for illustrative purposes.

Foreign Policy Forecast for the Middle East in 2023
Will Iran pursue its goal to cross the nuclear threshold and master a nuclear device and long-range missiles capable of hitting Israel? Could this development trigger a nuclear arms race in the Arab Middle East, especially since we are witnessing the development of an Arab front in opposition to the Iranian hegemony?

Israel is concerned over the future of the Palestinian Authority (PA), with one issue centering on what to expect after the demise of Mahmoud Abbas, the chairman of the PA who will be 88 in 2023.

Are Iranian drones the latest threat to international stability, and what is the significance of Iran emerging as an actor in the Russia-Ukraine war?

What role will new technologies such as lasers and cyber warfare play in Middle East conflicts?

Hizbullah, Hamas, and the Islamic Jihad – with the active assistance of Iran – have been concentrating on turning their arsenal of thousands of missiles into precision-guided munitions (PGM) with sophisticated electronic systems designed to overcome Israel’s formidable array of counter-missile systems.

What is the likelihood of an outburst of Palestinian violence on the scale of the Second Intifada, with Hamas and the Islamic Jihad joining forces against Israel and possible intervention from Hizbullah in Israel’s northern border?
Saudi leaders tell Jewish group they’re ready to normalize with Israel, but first need to normalize with US
Could 2023 be a year for a dramatic breakthrough that could effectively bring the Arab-Israeli conflict to an end and open up a new era of peace and prosperity in the Middle East?

As Israel heads into the 75th anniversary of its miraculous and prophetic rebirth, I’m increasingly optimistic and urge the world’s 600 million Evangelical Christians to “pray for the peace of Jerusalem” like you’ve never prayed before.

Here is why I believe a major breakthrough is increasingly close at hand.

Two years after the signing of the Abraham Accords – and for the first time in history – the senior leadership of the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia say they are, in fact, now ready to normalize relations with the State of Israel.

But first, the Saudis say, they need to normalize relations with Washington, which are more strained and tense than any time in the eight decades since the U.S.-Saudi alliance began.

The Saudis insist they cannot take the risk of making peace with Israel – especially in the face of grave and growing threats from the Iranian regime – without strong and dependable security and economic ties with Washington.

This is no small development.

The Saudis’ willingness to negotiate a full peace treaty with Israel is extraordinary.

Even more extraordinary is that senior Saudi leaders expressed these comments to a Jewish delegation that recently visited Riyadh.
Israel and Jordan: Between Friends and Foes
It is clear that Israel and Jordan have had a complex relationship for over 70 years.

While they were in an official state of war for almost 50 years, both countries maintained communication for almost that entire time and covertly cooperated on shared interests that benefited both states.

Now that Israel and Jordan enjoy peaceful relations and are continuing to grow and cooperate together, fault lines in the relationship continue to be exposed and threaten to undo all that has been accomplished over the past 30 years.

Though it may seem contradictory that Israel and Jordan had “friendly” relations before 1994 and now seem to exhibit hostile attitudes following the signing of the peace agreement, it can be surmised that both sets of relations extend from the same source.

Jordan occupies a tenuous position in the Middle East. A creation of the British Empire, the Hashemite Kingdom is one of the few Middle Eastern countries to never experience the overthrow of its royal family or have suffered coups throughout its century-long history.

Unlike states such as Syria or Iraq, Jordan also never came under the rule of socialist or pan-Arabist governments.

Thus, throughout the Cold War, Jordan’s positive relationship with the West and complicated relationship with the Palestinian Arabs made it a focal point of hostility from surrounding Arab nations and was seemingly always under the threat of attack from one of its neighbors. Therefore, while officially being in a state of war with Israel, Jordan relied on the Jewish state to help surreptitiously maintain its stability in the region.

Now that Israel and Jordan officially share peaceful relations, the Hashemite Kingdom still seems to find itself in the position of having to prove itself within the Middle East and the wider Arab world.

Therefore, while it might seem odd that one of Israel’s few Middle Eastern allies can be so publicly hostile towards it, this is a symptom of the current state of affairs and may not reflect the Hashemite Kingdom’s true feelings towards the Jewish state.

As one Israeli official noted in April 2022, “Jordan plays a double game with Israel, and is harsher in public than in private.”
A step toward normalization? Indonesian education shows Israel in positive light
Could Indonesia follow the UAE's education model to bring normalization closer to reality?

With a focus on tolerance, Marcus Sheff breaks down how Indonesians could reconcile their support for Palestinian issues while normalizing ties with #Israel

Bravo Smotrich: Illegal Arab Villa in Area C Coming Down
It appears that Finance Minister and Adjunct Minister in the Defense Ministry in charge of the Civil Administration in Judea and Samaria Bezalel Smotrich has hit the ground running in the new government’s first full week in office. Smotrich and Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu on Wednesday evening (7:30 PM), will hold a press conference to present their plan for dealing with the rampant price increases. And under his other hat, Smotrich is bulldozing illegal Arab construction in Area C.

On December 12, 2022, on Hanukkah, a group calling itself Our Place IL posted the above picture, depicting an illegal villa that lit up the gloomy night. It was a magnificent sight, unless one considered the fact that this villa had been under a court-issued demolition order, and that it was being erected––practically finished––at the heart of a nature preserve. According to Our Place IL, on Wednesday morning the enforcement of the law was finally carried out for an illegal villa that was being built for four years on the Tsreda ridge near Pdeul in southwestern Samaria.

“We thank the security forces and look forward to the destruction of the rest of the illegal structures around the one that was destroyed this morning,” Our Place IL tweeted, promising to keep tracking illegal Arab expansion into western Samaria.
New Israel Fund admits financing protests against Netanyahu government
The New Israel Fund, a U.S.-based NGO that provides financial support to progressive and anti-Israel groups, sent an email to supporters on Tuesday taking credit for recent protests against the government.

“The New Israel Fund assisted with a special grant to the many civil society organizations that took part in the production of the huge demonstration on Saturday night in Tel Aviv,” the email quoted by Channel 14 stated, referring to a protest in the city’s Habima Square attended by more than 10,000 persons.

“Shatil from the New Israel Fund took part in coordinating and synchronizing the various parties that participated in the show of force,” it continued.

Shatil is the operating arm of the New Israel Fund in Israel. According to Shatil’s website, “We support organizations and activists working to strengthen democratic society, offering cutting-edge capacity building, training, and guidance.”

Channel 14 described the email as “precedent-setting,” as the New Israel Fund generally keeps a low profile and “works behind the scenes.”
As I explained yesterday at @Riklin10 In @Now14Israel The new trend in progressive circles in the United States is to define Zionism as anti-Semitic. "Authentic" Jews, in the new version, are anti-Zionist Jews. Zionism is an alien plant that has entered like a cancer into a healthy anti-Zionist Jewish body. Here is an Israeli oppressor Peter Beinhart promoting the matter.

JPost Editorial: Ben-Gvir goes too far in banning Palestinian flags
It should be noted that before the Oslo Accords were signed 30 years ago, the Israeli government considered the red, green and white Palestinian flag to be a symbol of terrorism, but the peace deals signed between Israel and the PLO effectively ended the ban.

Legal experts said Ben-Gvir’s order is unlikely to withstand legal scrutiny and could even be ruled illegal. Channel 13 News reported that police had sought advice from government legal counselors on how the order could be carried out.

According to the Attorney-General’s Office, Palestinian flags can be removed only when there is a high probability that “waving the flag will lead to serious disruption of the public peace.”

The issue of the Palestinian flag is a kind of litmus test for the new Netanyahu government, and ultimately should be ruled on by the prime minister himself.

On one hand, backing Ben-Gvir’s ban could help turn the issue into a cause célèbre for the Palestinian Authority, which has already received support from the United Nations in its challenge against Israel at the International Court of Justice. Israel’s punitive measures against the PA – including the withholding of tax revenues – have already drawn condemnation and concern from Jerusalem’s allies, including the United States.

On the other hand, this could be an opportunity for Netanyahu to show Ben-Gvir who is really in charge. While he might understand the motivation for the move, the prime minister could make it clear that it is legally questionable and practically not enforceable. Pictures of Israeli police tearing down Palestinian flags will not help Israel. But most importantly, it will make Israel look like it is not interested in respecting civil rights – and this includes the right to wave Palestinian flags, whether we like it or not.
The Guardian Fans Flames of Conflict in Wildly Misleading ‘Analysis’
However, what Holmes fails to tell readers is that the flashpoint area is more than just a “sacred mosque compound” — it is the holiest place in Judaism and the site of the First and Second Temples built by King Solomon and Zerubbabel respectively. Furthermore, Jews are allowed to visit the site albeit without engaging in prayer, a rule that Ben-Gvir’s 13-minute walk, during which he stuck to a narrow route, did not violate.

For Holmes, however, the Temple Mount is purely a Muslim site, playing into the justification used by Palestinian leaders to incite violence against Jews under the pretense of “protecting” the Al-Aqsa Mosque against non-existent threats.

Additionally, the suggestion that the late Israeli Prime Minister Ariel Sharon sparked the Second Intifada is demonstrably wrong.

Palestinians themselves have admitted that the intifada was planned long before Sharon’s visit, including former PA Communications Minister Imad Al-Faluji in 2001 and Yasser Arafat’s wife Suha who revealed that her husband had declared his intention to carry out an intifada after the Camp David negotiations ended in stalemate in July 2000 — months before Sharon went to the compound.

Lastly, Holmes’ assertion that Israel’s judiciary is “leaning to the hard right” is bizarre. He admits the current right-wing government is attempting to “gut” the judiciary — but not for being a “thorn in the side” of maniacal Israeli politicians as Holmes contends, but rather because the Israeli Supreme Court is perceived by some as too left-wing.

Likewise, the bold claim that every Israeli politician is essentially right-wing is baffling. Apparently, in Holmes’ mind, all Israelis are just one homogenous mass, nefariously pursuing a hidden agenda that might even be at odds with any of their publicly-stated principles.

But why should facts matter to The Guardian’s editors who seem hellbent on fanning the flames of conflict in a country thousands of miles away from their cozy London office?
PreOccupiedTerritory: Democracy And Palestinian ‘Teen’ Both Killed By Israel For 45th Time (satire)
Media reports and commentary noted this week the growing number of times Israeli security forces have killed the same rioter described in Palestinian sources as a “youth” and the increasing occurrence of Israeli democracy dying with the launch of a Netanyahu-led government, both of which figures reached the mid-forties Wednesday.

Israeli military activity in and around this Palestinian-ruled city – of late lawless even by dismal Palestinian standards – claimed the lives of two more armed militants last week, plus, according to Palestinian NGO and media reports, the life of 30-year-old teenager Ahmad Shukri, marking the forty-fifth time he has met his violent death at the wrong end of an IDF gun barrel, artillery shell, or airstrike. Human rights organizations have counted each death as a separate case.

At the same time, Binyamin Netanyahu swore in his new government last week, inaugurating the forty-fifth death of Israeli democracy. Israeli democracy ends permanently each time a right-wing party comes to power, even more permanently when the Likud-led government partners with more right-wing parties in a coalition that reminds pundits of 1930’s Germany, which was famous for allowing Jews to exercise power and defend themselves from enemies sworn to destroy them.

The first death of Israeli democracy occurred in the late 1970’s when Likud first rose to power, and it died again forever each time a Likud-led government won an election, formed a coalition, implemented a policy, made ministerial appointments, or campaigned for election. Similarly, Shukri’s first death occurred during Gaza border fence riots several years ago, a short time before his second death, a spectacle recorded on video for international media, which failed to edit out his miraculous resurrection moments after an IDF sniper’s bullet allegedly struck him in the head, leaving no mark.
Israel Should Join the U.S. and Its Other Allies in Policing Regional Sea Lanes
Last week, the U.S. Navy intercepted a fishing vessel in the Gulf of Oman loaded with thousands of AK-47s, which it was bringing from Iran to Houthi militants in Yemen. The interdiction underscores the importance of policing these waters, a task often shared by the Combined Maritime Task Force, a U.S.-led league of 34 countries that includes such Middle Eastern states as the UAE, Bahrain, Jordan, and Egypt. Bradley Bowman and Ryan Brobst argue that Israel should be invited to join:

Iran has repeatedly attempted to seize American unmanned surface vessels (USVs). On August 29, 2022, the U.S. Navy detected an Iranian ship in the Persian Gulf towing an American USV. When U.S. forces responded, the Iranian vessel cut the line towing the USV and departed. Two days later, another Iranian ship seized two USVs that had been operating in the Red Sea for more than 200 days without incident. Two U.S. Navy guided-missile destroyers responded quickly, seeking to recover the USVs. The Iranian crew refused to release them for approximately eighteen hours, eventually relenting the next morning.

Israel shares an interest in countering smuggling and other malign activity in the Red Sea, and it previously conducted naval exercises with Bahrain, the UAE, and the U.S. in those waters focused on “visit, board, search, and seizure tactics.”

The Israeli navy is one of the more capable in the region and has a naval base at Eilat located on the Red Sea’s Gulf of Aqaba. . . . Israeli naval assets also include dozens of patrol boats operated by crews experienced in detecting and interdicting smuggling operations, especially those conducted by Iranian proxies.

Festival celebrates history of Sephardic Jews in Turkey
An annual festival celebrates the Sephardic Jewish history of Izmir with food, music and lectures. We learn all about it from Rabbi Mendy Chitrik.

Famous Kuwait singer makes surprise visit to Israel Despite disguising the trip as one to Palestinian Territory, says our senior correspondent Owen Alterman says her visit is one of cautious optimism in broadening relations with Israel's Arab neighbors.

Prosecutors Request Life Plus 21 Years for Terrorist Murderer of Ori Ansbacher
Prosecutors asked the Jerusalem District Court on Wednesday to sentence Palestinian terrorist Arafat Irfaiya to life in prison plus 21 years for the 2019 killing of Ori Ansbacher.

Irfaiya, from Hebron, brutally raped and murdered the then-19-year-old Ansbacher, who at the time was performing national service at the Yealim Center for at-risk boys and those with special needs in the Ein Yael area of Jerusalem. She entered a forested area near the capital’s Biblical Zoo on the morning of Feb. 7, 2019, where Irfaiya identified her as Jewish and decided to kill her.

Ansbacher tried to fight off her attacker but he overcame her, assaulted her and stabbed her a number of times using the knife he had on his person, the 2019 indictment stated. Ansbacher died as a result of her stab wounds.

Irfaiya later confessed to and reenacted the crime, saying he had purchased a kipah, which was found following the attack, to allow him to carry out his plan of murdering a Jew. He and his family support Hamas.

He entered the Jerusalem area on foot through a 200-meter-wide gap in the security fence near Beit Jala. In 2015, the High Court of Justice accepted a petition against the construction of the fence at the site and ordered the government to find an alternative solution. The directive was not carried out and the gap remained.
Israeli moderately injured in Judea stabbing attack
An Israeli man aged about 30 years old was moderately wounded in a stabbing attack at Havat Yehuda, located near Shim’a in the South Hebron Hills region of Judea, on Wednesday.

Magen David Adom paramedics treated the man, who was conscious, on the scene for injuries to his upper body and then evacuated him in stable condition to Soroka Medical Center in Beersheva.

The terrorist was shot, apparently by the victim, and wounded. The attacker later died 0f his injuries.

The victim has since been identified as Elyashiv Nahum, according to Israeli media.

Earlier Wednesday, Palestinian gunmen opened fire on the Salem military base and a nearby checkpoint in Samaria No one was injured.

Border Police returned fire at the assailants, who fled in the direction of Jenin.

Meanwhile, a Palestinian gunman was shot dead during clashes with Israeli troops in Nablus in the early hours of Wednesday, according to the IDF.

Israeli forces exchanged fire with gunmen after entering the Balata area to arrest Palestinians suspected of terrorist activity.
Jerusalem Students Invent Manhunting App Mapping Footage from Multiple Cameras in Real Time
A team of six Jerusalem College of Technology (JCT) students this week won first prize at the school’s 7th annual Great Minds Hackathon for their unique system that automatically analyzes footage taken from several security cameras and maps the route of an escaping terrorist in real-time.

The students were inspired in part by last April’s terrorist attack on a pub in Tel Aviv that killed three Israelis and injured six. The attack was followed by a city-wide manhunt for the gunmen that lasted many hours as live TV cameras depicted the utterly confused security forces rushing from one apartment building to another on Dizengoff Street, clearly without any clue as to the terrorists’ whereabouts.

The winning students created Mappyloc, a system that automates data collection while cross-referencing information from many different cameras. The system––responding to a challenge by Rafael Advanced Defense Systems––then maps out the precise route taken by the wanted individual or an object he or she had used.

“We wanted to develop a solution where instead of having to watch hundreds of different tapes from different cameras, you can run them through a program that tells you where a certain person or object on the video went and displays the route on a map,” said Yehuda Shani, a 3rd-year computer science major and a member of the winning team. “It’s estimated that today there are over a billion security cameras deployed in the world, and the amount of information we get from cameras today is astronomical. Our program offers a way to use the data we have much more efficiently, saving tons of time, resources, and potentially even lives.”

Israeli and international Orthodox and Haredi students attend JCT, studying electronics, electro-optics, computer science, software engineering, industrial engineering, and business. And they all labored tirelessly throughout the 48-hour hackathon competition, responding to challenges that were presented by Rafael, United Hatzalah, Rassini, AlphaTAU, FlyTech, and SpotReality.
PA security forces disperse protesters supporting Lions’ Den leader
Palestinian Authority security forces in Nablus on Tuesday used force to disperse hundreds of Palestinians who demanded the release of Mosab Shtayyeh, one of the founders and commanders of the Lions’ Den armed group.

The forces fired tear gas and assaulted a number of protesters, who chanted slogans in support of the Lions’ Den and against the continued detention of Shtayyeh and other “political” detainees. Some protesters threw stones at PA security vehicles.

Shtayyeh, a member of Hamas, was arrested in September 2022 by the PA security forces in Nablus. The arrest sparked violent protests in the city during which one Palestinian was killed.

Shtayyeh was recently transferred from the PA-controlled Jericho Prison to the Beitunia Detention Center near Ramallah. His lawyer, Mustafa Shatat, said he was able to visit him on Tuesday in the detention center. “His health condition is stable,” the lawyer said.

PA security forces prevent journalists from covering protests
Eyewitnesses said the security officers also prevented a number of journalists from covering Tuesday’s protest. In one video, the officers are seen asking photojournalist Mohammed Turkeman to stop filming the protest. The officers also briefed seized his mobile phone.

Shtayyeh’s father, Akef, expressed regret over the “assault” by the PA security forces on the protesters. He repeated his appeal to the PA to immediately release his son from prison.

Hamas slams 'sin' of Negev Forum meeting in Abu Dhabi

American Aid May Be Financing the Taliban. It Shouldn’t Be
Since its retreat from Afghanistan in 2020, the U.S. has sought to continue providing humanitarian aid to the country’s citizens, who need it more desperately than ever. Dovid Efune and Benny Avni report that much of the money appears to be going into the Taliban’s coffers:
Last year the Taliban-controlled central bank, known as Da Afghanistan Bank, began posting on its Twitter account photos of pallets of an estimated $40 million in small-denomination Federal Reserve notes. They were packed in casings and sat at the Kabul airport’s tarmac. In the tweet, the bank thanked those who have sent the cash, meant to “help the needy.”

The photographed delivery was part of an infusion of cash arriving monthly at the airport last year. . . . A new delivery was expected this week. The Biden administration has “stonewalled” inquiries about $1.1 billion in humanitarian aid that has been spent “to support the Afghan people since the Taliban’s takeover,” the American special inspector-general for Afghanistan reconstruction, John Sopko, wrote in a recent report.

The son of the martyred sheikh Ahmad Shah Massoud—known as the Lion of Panjshir—a longtime American ally, Ahmad Massoud believes that cash deliveries to the Kabul airport come from America, and that they supply his enemies with “a lifeline.” Without them, “the Taliban will not survive,” Mr. Massoud says.

Separately, the United Nations humanitarian operation in Afghanistan is financed with money from the UN’s annual budget, nearly a quarter of which is funded by America. The UN sends cash to Afghanistan because the country’s central bank has been cut off from the international system. Hard-to-trace cash deliveries meant for various UN agencies and “partners,” however, go to Taliban-controlled banks, making it easy to finance Taliban pet projects and favored allies.

‘It’s Time for a Plan B’: War Crimes Accusation May Indicate Biden Admin Iran Policy Shift, Experts Say
US National Security Advisor Jake Sullivan on Monday told reporters that Iran may be “contributing to widespread war crimes” in Ukraine, a shift in rhetoric which experts say could signal an attempt by the Biden administration to hold the regime accountable for how Russia uses Iran’s weapons.

The State Department has said that Iran has become Russia’s most important supplier of security assistance, including the provision of drones and other weapons that Russia has used in indiscriminate attacks against Ukrainian cities and civilian infrastructure.

Henry Rome, a senior fellow at the Washington Institute for Near East Policy, told The Algemeiner that this is the first time the Biden administration had explicitly accused Iran of complicity in war crimes in Ukraine.

“This is mainly a sharpening of US rhetoric aimed at deterring Tehran,” Rome said. “It could also potentially be a trial balloon for Iran’s inclusion in future war-crimes related investigations, such as the one that the European Commission has proposed.”

In November, the European Commission presented options to EU member states on holding Russia to account for war crimes in Ukraine, including a special independent international tribunal. Neither Russia nor Iran have ratified the Rome Statute — the treaty that established the International Criminal Court (ICC) — ruling out an ICC trial
Report: IDF thwarting Iran's effort to establish aerial defense network in Syria
Israel has been frustrating Iran's effort to establish a comprehensive aerial defense network in Syria, which includes equipment and personnel being sent to the war-torn Arab nation, "an intelligence source from a nation allied with the United States" told Newsweek in an exclusive report.

According to the source, Israeli airstrikes against the Iranian consolidation effort in Syria began in late 2017 when Iran's presence began to pick up. Israel's attacks have been directed at "Iranian military assets and interests in the Syrian territory that threaten Israel," the source said.

Syria has often blamed Israel for such strikes and the IDF has acknowledged certain operations in the past. The source revealed that Iran has shifted its strategy over the past two years, "promoting the deployment of aerial defense capabilities on its behalf in Syria at a cost of tens of millions of dollars in order to deal with the Israeli airstrikes." The source further added, "The promotion of these capabilities is carried out as a project shared with the Syrian army and possibly even with the aim of enabling independent Iranian operation of the aerial defense systems from within parts of Syria." In fact, the source said, "the Iranians assisted the Syrians in upgrading their radar array, designed to aid in detection and prevention of Israeli attacks – mainly against the Iranian establishment in Syria."

The source noted that Iran has even deployed the Sayyad (Hunter) 4B solid-propellant missile, which Iran says has a range of more than 186 miles with a radar range of more than 280 miles. In what could be an implied warning, the source noted that Syrian personnel were "at risk" as a result of the Iranian activities and the Israeli counterefforts.
MEMRI: Iran-Backed Conference In Damascus On The Topic Of Israel's Demise: Israel Is A Malignant Tumor That Will Be Eliminated Thanks To The Syrian Armed Forces, And The Lebanese And Palestinian Resistance
A conference recently held in Damascus, Syria, was devoted to the topic of Israel's demise. Organized by the Al-Quds International Institute, which is affiliated with Hamas,[1] the conference was attended by senior members of this institute and by representatives of Palestinian organizations and factions in Syria, such as Isma'il Al-Sindawi, the coordinator of the Palestinian Islamic Jihad (PIJ) in Syria. Also present were Iranian and pro-Iranian figures, such as Amin Shokravi, a representative of the Iranian embassy in Syria, and Muhammad Al-Buhaisi, chair of the Iranian-Palestinian Friendship Society.

The conference participants stated that Israel was a temporary phenomenon and that the struggle against it would eventually lead to its collapse. The main lecture, delivered by Syrian researcher Shadi Diab, presented data allegedly indicating that Israel is bound to disappear, and stressed the importance of Palestinian resistance in achieving this objective. Diab called on the Palestinians to take advantage of Syria's and Iran's support in order to continue the resistance.

It should be noted that this is not the first conference held by the Al-Quds International Institute in Syria in the recent years with the participation of Iranian representatives.[2] Events of this sort are part of the efforts to promote the agenda of the Iranian regime in Syria, a regime which places the elimination of Israel at the heart of its ideology and supports terrorist organizations such as Hizbullah, Hamas and the PIJ in order to achieve this aim.

This report reviews some of the statements made at the conference.

Conference Chair: The Steadfastness Of The Palestinian People Is The Basic Factor In The Elimination Of Israel
The conference was chaired by Yousuf As'ad, member of the executive council of the Al-Quds Institute's Syria branch, who also delivered the opening address. He said: "The Israeli occupation, which represents global Zionism, does not have the characteristics of a state, and any state that lacks such characteristics is necessarily temporary… The steadfastness of the Palestinian and Arab people is the basic factor in the elimination of 'Israel,' on whose [survival] the West has wagered. Generations that believe in the Palestinian cause are the most important condition for [achieving] the disappearance of this oppressive entity."[3]

Syrian Researcher At The Conference: The Zionist Entity Will Collapse Sooner Or Later; Palestinians Should Take Advantage Of Syria's And Iran's Help In Order To Eliminate It From The Region

According to the Syrian state daily Al-Thawra, the first lecture at the conference, delivered by Syrian researcher Shadi Diab, presented data indicating Israel's inevitable demise. He said: "[The first] piece of data is the demographic problem facing the [Israeli] entity, and its failure to achieve harmony among its [Jewish] residents, who immigrated [to it] from different parts of the world and have different identities, cultures and languages, different circumstances and widely differing goals. This entity never managed to achieve a consensus among these sectors, who came from all over the world, and this disparity is evident in the struggle and fierce competition that currently prevail in the political arena and in the government of this entity, between the various political, ethnic and religious sectors, such as the Ashkenazi, Sephardi and Haredi [Jews], between right and left, between religious and secular people, between the civilian and military sectors, etc.

"The Zionist media conceals these struggles and disagreements and prevents [the publication of] any information about them inside and outside the [Zionist] entity. The emigration of the entity's residents in times of crisis and war is one of the most prominent facts indicating that these residents feel no sense of belonging to Israel and do not believe in its future. Nothing is keeping them there except interests and their luxurious lifestyle, and when these disappear they quickly leave the entity in favor of their original homelands or any other country where they can realize their interests."[4]
UK probing uranium bound for Iranians in Britain
British counter-terrorism forces have opened an investigation after confiscating an undeclared shipment of uranium at Heathrow airport on Dec. 29 bound for Iranian nationals in the United Kingdom, authorities announced on Wednesday.

The undeclared nuclear material originated from Pakistan and arrived in the hold of a passenger flight from Oman, according to reports.

The package was detected by scanners at the London airport and contained potentially lethal amounts of uranium. It was then transferred to a freight shed, in the process triggering alarms and causing security personnel to converge on the scene and isolate the unregistered shipment in a dedicated radioactive room.

Police have reportedly homed in on an Iran-based firm with premises in the United Kingdom, where the uranium was destined for unidentified Iranians.

Authorities have not ruled out the possibility that the uranium could have been used to build a so-called dirty bomb, a type of improvised nuclear device, said the reports.

No arrests have been made.
Iran Says Face Recognition Will ID Women Breaking Hijab Laws
Last month, a young woman went to work at Sarzamineh Shadi, or Land of Happiness, an indoor amusement park east of Iran’s capital, Tehran. After a photo of her without a hijab circulated on social media, the amusement park was closed, according to multiple accounts in Iranian media. Prosecutors in Tehran have reportedly opened an investigation.

Shuttering a business to force compliance with Iran’s strict laws for women’s dress is a familiar tactic to Shaparak Shajarizadeh. She stopped wearing a hijab in 2017 because she views it as a symbol of government suppression, and recalls restaurant owners, fearful of authorities, pressuring her to cover her head.

But Shajarizadeh, who fled to Canada in 2018 after three arrests for flouting hijab law, worries that women like the amusement park worker may now be targeted with face recognition algorithms as well as by conventional police work.

After Iranian lawmakers suggested last year that face recognition should be used to police hijab law, the head of an Iranian government agency that enforces morality law said in a September interview that the technology would be used “to identify inappropriate and unusual movements,” including “failure to observe hijab laws.” Individuals could be identified by checking faces against a national identity database to levy fines and make arrests, he said.

Two weeks later, a 22-year-old Kurdish woman named Jina Mahsa Amini died after being taken into custody by Iran’s morality police for not wearing a hijab tightly enough. Her death sparked historic protests against women's dress rules, resulting in an estimated 19,000 arrests and more than 500 deaths. Shajarizadeh and others monitoring the ongoing outcry have noticed that some people involved in the protests are confronted by police days after an alleged incident—including women cited for not wearing a hijab. “Many people haven't been arrested in the streets,” she says. “They were arrested at their homes one or two days later.”

Although there are other ways women could have been identified, Shajarizadeh and others fear that the pattern indicates face recognition is already in use—perhaps the first known instance of a government using face recognition to impose dress law on women based on religious belief.
House Unites in Support for Iranian Protesters
The Republican-controlled House is rallying around a resolution that expresses solidarity and support for Iranian protesters who are risking their lives to demonstrate against the hardline regime.

As one of its first legislative efforts on Tuesday, the House is poised to pass the resolution, which commends the "bravery, courage, and resolve of the women and men of Iran demonstrating in more than 133 cities and risking their safety to speak out against the Iranian regime’s human rights abuses," according to a copy of the measure obtained by the Washington Free Beacon.

Led by Rep. Claudia Tenney (R., N.Y.), the resolution has the initial backing of 34 members, including 22 Democrats. Congressional sources who spoke to the Free Beacon said the resolution was formally introduced on Tuesday and is expected to pass in the coming weeks with broad bipartisan support. The widespread support for the efforts sends a message that Congress is closely watching the protests in Iran and stands with the anti-regime dissidents as they try to topple the hardline government.

"While the Iranian regime continues to violently crack down on peaceful protests and slaughter its own people, Congress must take a clear and unequivocal stance against this brutality," Tenney told the Free Beacon in a statement. "The United States must support and stand alongside the brave Iranians calling for basic human rights and demanding justice for the murder of Mahsa Amini and countless other innocent Iranians." Amini is the 22-year-old woman who sparked the protest movement last year after she was murdered by Iran’s morality policy for improperly wearing her head covering.

The measure is a signal the new Congress wants to track and identify human rights abuses carried out by the Iranian regime so it can pursue further sanctions and other measures in response to the Iranian government’s violent crackdown. In addition to codifying public information on the number of Iranians imprisoned and killed as a result of the protests, the measure urges the Biden administration and international allies "to impose human rights sanctions on officials and entities that are responsible for the repression of current protests and involved in violating the human rights of the Iranian people." It also calls for "transparent accountability for all killings of protesters by Iranian security forces."

It also includes provisions that could help lay the groundwork for the United States to increase efforts aimed at bolstering internet access for Iranians. As the protests continue, Iranian leaders have attempted to shut down the internet and block messaging apps that are helping protesters coordinate. Congress, along with the U.S. State Department, can help "provide support for VPNs and other alternatives that can be used to bypass attempts by authoritarian governments to censor internet access during times of protest," according to the measure.

The resolution calls on the Biden administration to "immediately impose, under existing authorities, additional human rights sanctions on officials and entities responsible for the repression of the current protests."

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