Monday, January 16, 2023

01/16 Links Pt1: Bipartisan US Bill to Sanction Hamas Backers; Iranian Imam Paid Secret Visit to Israel, Met with Netanyahu Officials; What’s life like under Hamas? ‘Whispered in Gaza’ offers unique, courageous testimony

From Ian:

Bipartisan Bill Introduced to Sanction Hamas Backers
There’s a reason why we call Israel our strongest ally. We share the same ideals of freedom, democracy, and mutual respect for all people. That’s why I fight for policies in Congress that will strengthen Israel and, in turn, bolster our own national security.

One of the biggest threats to Israel - and to those shared values - is Hamas.

Hamas has launched tens of thousands of missiles into Israel, indiscriminately killing hundreds of men, women, and children. The continued aggression has rightly earned Hamas a global terrorist organization designation from the United States.

That, however, does not go far enough to neutralize the threat these Islamic extremists pose to Israel. That is why today, I introduced a bipartisan bill that would sanction all financial backers of Hamas, the Palestinian Islamic Jihad, or their affiliates: the Hamas International Financing Prevention Act. Any person, group, or government who supports Hamas is complicit, and the U.S. should not reward them with aid or access to our economy.

This bill, cosponsored by Congressman Josh Gottheimer, passed the House in the previous Congress as a part of the National Defense Authorization Act, but was unfortunately removed from the bill by the Senate. However, the bipartisan support it has received in the House shows us that we have the momentum to get it to the President’s desk to become law.

The Hamas International Financing Prevention Act sends a strong message that the United States will not tolerate anybody who supports these terrorists. It’s about confronting hate and standing with our allies. Period.
Jews have indigenous rights to the Temple Mount - opinion
In what parallel universe could the visit of a Jewish politician to Judaism’s most holy site be considered controversial?

To those uninitiated in the Orwellian fantasy world of Palestinian politicking, a Jew praying at the site of Israel’s ancient temples seems as natural and unremarkable as the wetness of water or the Catholicness of the Pope. But to those indoctrinated into the Palestinian narrative, the visit of an Israeli politician to the holiest site in Judaism is seen as highly provocative, risking a violent Palestinian reaction and deserving of a special meeting of the United Nations Security Council (UNSC) – the world body tasked with monitoring the world’s sensitive hotspots.

UNSC meets over Ben-Gvir's Temple Mount visit over other important issues
While the violent uprising did not occur, the UNSC did indeed meet. Never mind the Russia-Ukraine War, the deteriorating human rights situation in Iran or nuclear weapons development by Iran and North Korea. All these were apparently trumped by an Israeli politician having the audacity to visit Judaism’s most holy site.

Israel’s new right-wing National Security Minister Itamar Ben-Gvir’s 13-minute peaceful visit to the Temple Mount was described by Arab states as ‘“storming the Al-Aqsa Mosque courtyard.” The false accusation that the visit was an attempt to change the status quo and the general outrage directed toward the incident ignores the fact that Jews have a right to visit the Temple Mount according to the agreement between Israel and Jordan following the 1967 war.

Israel had gained control of the Temple Mount but her leaders chose to preserve the status quo regarding Al-Aqsa compound, thus giving custodianship responsibilities for administration and religious arrangements to Jordan, while retaining responsibility for security and public order. Many now regard this concession, offered in the hope of alleviating the conflict, as a mistake.

Jews are only allowed to visit the Temple Mount at specified times, taking a predetermined route. They must be accompanied by security. Jews are prohibited from praying at the site considered the center of Judaism. These restrictions are not only absurd but highlight the fact that an outdated, discriminatory system is being imposed on Jews in a way that can only be seen as antisemitic.

Ambassador Alan Baker, director of the Institute for Contemporary Affairs at the Jerusalem Center and the head of the Global Law Forum, points out, “A status quo that perpetuates an ancient and outdated social structure that no longer exists, that practices religious discrimination and denies or restricts rights of worship, is blatantly incompatible with accepted international norms and concepts of equality, human rights, freedom of religion and worship, interreligious and intercultural dialogue, tolerance, understanding and cooperation.”
Netanyahu: Israel Cannot be Swept Away by ‘Inflammatory’ Slogans
Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu on Sunday defended his government’s judicial reform plan and called on opposition leaders to stop threatening “civil war” and speaking of “the destruction of the state.”

Netanyahu began his remarks to Sunday’s Security Cabinet meeting by noting that in November “there was a huge demonstration, the mother of all demonstrations. Millions of people went into the streets in order to vote in the elections. One of the main topics that they voted on was reforming the judicial system.

“In recent days, I have heard about an attempt to claim that the public did not know what it was voting for. Then here is a quote, one of many, from me and my colleagues during the election campaign. This is my quote: ‘We will make the necessary changes in the judicial system, prudently and responsibly. We are going to change the system, to save it and not destroy it.’”

Words to this effect had been uttered in the past by both right- and left-wing governments, he continued, “and nobody thought then that it was the ‘end of democracy.’”

The true aim of the reforms is to “restore the balance between the authorities that existed in Israel for 50 years, and which is maintained today in all western democracies,” he continued.

“I must say that when we were in the opposition, we did not call for civil war and did not speak about the destruction of the state, even when the government made decisions that we vociferously opposed. I expect the leaders of the opposition to do the same,” he added.

Netanyahu urged opposition leaders to instead engage in “in-depth and serious dialogue” on the proposals in the Knesset and its associated committees, while urging the public to not “be swept away by inflammatory slogans about civil war and the destruction of the state.”

Iranian Imam Paid Secret Visit to Israel, Met with Netanyahu Officials
i24NEWS has learned that an Iranian Shiite imam, a well-known critic of the Iranian regime, recently paid a secret visit to Israel and met with officials close to Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu.

A source close to Netanyahu who attended the meeting confirmed the imam’s visit to the channel. The imam, whose name is known to i24NEWS but will remain nameless at his request out of fear that Iranian authorities will persecute him due to his secret visit, is known for his harsh criticism of Tehran’s regime.

The imam is frequently a guest of American right-wing circles. Additionally, he is a former student of Iran’s Supreme Leader Ali Khamenei.

In a conversation with i24NEWS, the imam did not deny the visit and noted his friendship with an official close to the prime minister.
US senators on regional tour aim to expand ‘unprecedented’ successes of Abraham Accords
A bipartisan group of U.S. lawmakers is currently touring Abraham Accords signatory countries, having already visited Morocco and Bahrain ahead of stops in the United Arab Emirates and Israel.

The Trump administration-brokered agreements normalized relations between the Jewish state and those three Arab countries, in addition to Sudan.

The delegation, led by Sens. Jacky Rosen (D-Nev.) and James Lankford (R-Okla.), also includes Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand (D-N.Y.), Michael Bennet (D-Colo.), Dan Sullivan (R-Ark.), Mark Kelly (D-Ariz.), and Ted Budd (R-N.C.).

In Bahrain on Sunday, the senators met with U.S. Navy Vice Adm. Brad Cooper, the commander of the U.S. 5th Fleet, which is headquartered in Manama.

Bahraini King Hamad bin Isa Al Khalifa also welcomed the delegation at Al-Safriya Palace.

On Friday, King Mohammed VI of Morocco hosted the senators at a dinner at the royal palace in Rabat. Andre Azoulay, a senior advisor to the king, and Serge Berdugo, the Secretary General of the Council of Jewish Communities of Morocco, were also in attendance, according to Moroccan media.

The day prior, the American lawmakers held talks with senior Moroccan government officials, including Foreign Minister Nasser Bourita.

The senators are seeing firsthand how the Abraham Accords have led to unprecedented regional integration and cooperation, and are discussing ways in which the agreements can be strengthened and expanded to bring in other countries, according to a statement released ahead of the trip.
For the UAE and Others, It’s Business as Usual with Israel
For the United Arab Emirates, it’s business as usual as Israeli Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu’s newly formed government is generating controversy at home and abroad.

The UAE made that clear, when it welcomed an Israeli delegation to Abu Dhabi last week to discuss security, energy, tourism, education, tolerance, and water security. The Israelis flew to the Emirati capital days after a hard-line member of Netanyahu’s cabinet, Itamar Ben-Gvir, paid a provocative visit to the Temple Mount, a sacred place for Jews and Muslims.

The 20-person delegation, representing different ministries and headed by Foreign Ministry Director-General Alon Ushpiz, was in Abu Dhabi to prepare for a second Negev summit scheduled for the spring in Morocco. The first summit of foreign ministers of the UAE, Bahrain, Morocco, Egypt, and Israel met last year in the Israeli Negev town of Sde Boker to identify joint initiatives.

Last week, the four Arab states condemned Ben-Gvir’s visit. The UAE, together with China, asked the United Nations Security Council to discuss the visit, and postponed rather than cancelled a visit to Abu Dhabi by Netanyahu.

The UAE, Bahrain, and Morocco established diplomatic relations with Israel in 2020, while Egypt became the first Arab country to sign a treaty with the Jewish state in 1979.

The recent Israeli visit to the UAE, which started the same day that Israel slapped a travel ban on Palestinian foreign minister Riyad Maliki, signal that the UAE and other states are going through the motions with their protests about Israeli actions rather than telling Israel there will be serious consequences.
Netanyahu Predicts Israel to See Massive Surge in Immigration From US
Prime Minister says Israel’s economic growth is set to outpace that of the United States

Israel will experience a massive increase in immigration from Western countries, including the United States, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu told cabinet ministers on Sunday.

According to Israel Hayom, the prime minister predicted that Israel’s economic growth is set to exceed that of the United States. Netanyahu also suggested that Israel’s future entry into the US.

Visa Waiver Program combined with the Jewish state’s strengthening economy will attract many more Jewish American immigrants.

“Israel’s economy is getting stronger; we will overtake the United States, and we have already overtaken Europe,” the prime minister said.

“We will arrange Western aliyah (immigration of Jews to Israel) for prospective immigrants wishing to improve their (financial) well-being. Of course, there is also the rise of antisemitism, but this will not be the only driving force for settling in Israel,” he assured.
Alongside new IDF chief, PM vows Israel will not 'wait for sword to be placed on our neck'
Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu warned the ayatollah regime in Tehran on the occasion of the IDF chief handover ceremony Monday that his government will not hesitate to defend Israel if its security was at stake.

The comments were made at the special gathering at the Prime Minister's Office event, during which Lt. Gen. Aviv Kochavi was given a sendoff as his replacement Maj. Gen. Herzi Halevi got promoted to the highest-ranking position, just hours before a ceremony at General Staff headquarters in Tel Aviv.

"Today the Israeli government has identified the danger and has given the IDF the directive to make contingencies to counter our existential threat," Netanyahu said. "The Iranian regime is threatening to wipe us out, and we will not wait for a sharp sword to be placed against our neck; the IDF, together with the Shin Bet security agency and the Mossad, will do their utmost to respond in kind to our enemies." Netanyahu added that Israel will not be "dragged into pointless wars" but if forced to do so, it will "fight for what is essential and necessary."

Against the backdrop of Iran's continued advances in its nuclear program and the ongoing efforts to establish a foothold on Israel's northern border, Netanyahu noted that "Iran is responsible for 90% of the Middle East's problems."

Just days before the event, the departing chief of staff told Israel Hayom that during his tenure, the military prepared three different plans to attack Iran, including one that would "neutralize" its nuclear program.

Hamas releases video purportedly of Israeli captive
Hamas on Monday released an undated and unverified video purportedly of Israeli captive Avera Mengistu, who crossed into the Gaza Strip on his own accord in 2014.

“I am the prisoner Avera Mengistu. How long will I remain a captive here, I and my comrades, after the long and painful years?” says the individual in the video.

“Where are the State and the People of Israel regarding our fate?” he adds.

Mengistu’s brother Ilan Mengistu said in a subsequent interview with Channel 12 that he was not 100% certain that the man in the video was Avera.

“The State of Israel is investing all of its efforts and resources in bringing home its captive and missing sons,” said a statement from the Prime Minister’s Office in response to the video’s release.

The statement cited anonymous Israeli officials as denouncing Hamas for “being busy with arrogant videos instead of helping the residents of the Gaza Strip.”

The Palestinian terrorist group also included a message in the short clip to outgoing IDF Chief of Staff Lt. Gen. Aviv Kohavi and to Lt. Gen. Herzi Halevi, who assumed the post on Monday.

Israel drafts law revoking citizenship of terrorists

What’s life like under Hamas? ‘Whispered in Gaza’ offers unique, courageous testimony
This article, the first in a series of three, presents eight short, animated interviews with residents of the Gaza Strip.

Produced by the Center for Peace Communications, a New York nonprofit, they are being published by The Times of Israel because they represent a rare opportunity for ordinary, courageous Gazans to tell the world what life is like under the rule of Hamas.

The Times of Israel’s French site is carrying a French edition of the clips. An Arabic-language edition is being presented on, a Persian edition via the newspaper Kayhan, a Spanish edition on Infobae, and a Portuguese edition on RecordTV.

The short clips — none of them longer than two and a half minutes — offer poignant insights into day-to-day life in the Strip, an area that most outsiders cannot reach and whose residents directly suffer from the consequent lack of understanding.

We meet ordinary people telling authentic stories about common problems that are drastically exacerbated by Hamas’s control, ordinary people with expectations and aspirations and dreams — from running a pharmacy to working as a journalist to simply dancing — that they are forbidden from realizing.

All names have been changed, and CPC employed animation and voice-altering technology to protect speakers’ identity.

The participants consented to be interviewed for the sake of relaying their ideas and experiences to an international audience, noted CPC president Joseph Braude, adding, “They want these stories to be heard.”
Whispered in Gaza - "My Brother is Gone"
“Fatima’s” brother used to work as a street vendor, selling vegetables his mother grew. But Hamas police in Gaza would confiscate his wares, demanding bribes to let him work and threatening him with jail, beatings, and worse.

Whispered in Gaza - "With Stones ... Again"
When Hamas police came to cut off power to “Ahmed”’s home, his cousin, a child with Down syndrome, tried to stop them. They beat him and fired live ammunition at his house. After “Ahmed” uploaded footage of the incident to social media, the clip went viral. He spent the next three days on the run from Hamas authorities.

Whispered in Gaza - "Bermuda Triangle"
Billions in foreign aid have poured into Gaza. But as far as “Isma’il” is concerned, the sea might as well have swallowed it. “Gaza is like the Bermuda Triangle,” he says. “Everything that enters, vanishes.”

PMW: “My weapon has emerged” - Fatah celebrates anniversary with song promoting violence
Official PA TV broadcast of a song as a filler in between programs in honor of the 58th anniversary of the Intilaqa, “the Launch” of Fatah, counted from its first terror attack against Israel

Lyrics: “From my wounds, my weapon has emerged
Oh, our revolution, my weapon has emerged
There is no force in the world that can remove the weapon from my hand
There is no force in the world that can remove the weapon from my hand
My weapon has emerged
My weapon has emerged”
[Official PA TV, Dec. 31, 2022]

This song contains additional lyrics encouraging Martyrdom that were not aired in this TV broadcast:
“He who offers his blood does not careif his blood flows upon the ground.As the weapon of the revolution is in my hand,so my presence will be forced [upon Israel].”

Text on screen: "’My weapon has emerged’ - this anthem, which was written by poet Salah Al-Din Al-Husseini and composed by artist Mahdi Sardanah, who was given the nickname ‘composer of the songs of the revolution’ - is one of the songs of the revolution.”

PreOccupiedTerritory: Palestinian Tax Hike: Each Family Must Sacrifice 20% Of Children As Martyrs (satire)
The cash-strapped Palestinian Authority, reeling from a sharp drop in international donations and from its commitment to paying the families of terrorists a generous lifetime pension, has embarked on an effort to combat the scarcity of resources from within its borders, by mandating that one fifth of each household’s minor residents be drafted into service confronting IDF soldiers or attacking Israelis, so as to invite a lethal response or preventive action and maintain international focus on Israeli brutality to help ensure that at least some international aid money still flows to the Swiss accounts of Palestinian officials.

President Mahmoud Abbas, now in the eighteenth year of his four-year first term, issued the decision yesterday following consultation with Treasury officials and Fatah faction loyalists, the former of which are a subset of the latter. A notice announcing and explaining the new policy appeared in Arabic on the Fatah website, on posters throughout self-rule areas, and various social media accounts associated with Abbas.

“Zionist machinations and economic doldrums stemming from the COVID-19 epidemic have restricted the amount of money that supporters of the Palestinian cause can or will continue to provide,” the statement read. “Therefore, His Excellency has been forced to rely more directly on the Palestinian people themselves, who have never wavered in the intensity of their devotion to freeing their people and land from the usurping occupier. Beginning March 2023, households with three or more residents under the age of eighteen will be required to supply the Resistance with at least one minor as a violent demonstrator, a fighter, or a human shield.”

"Iran Sending Hezbollah Terrorists to Ukraine to Assist Russia with Drone Attacks"
Iran is reportedly planning on sending Hezbollah fighters to Ukraine to aid the Russians in operating Iranian-made drones.

A source associated with the Syrian opposition reports that Iran is planning on sending 150 Hezbollah militants currently stationed in Syria to Ukraine to assist the Russians in operating the Iranian-made drones.

According to the source, the militants who are set to depart to Ukraine have gathered at the village of al-Dimass, located west of Damascus near Syria’s border with Lebanon (in case anyone needs to know where they are).

Telegraph Editorial: A Revived Iran Deal Would Be Dangerously Stupid
For a decade, Western diplomats have tried to bring the warped Iranian regime in from the cold - even as it militarily supported Syria's Assad, Hizbullah in Lebanon, the Houthis in Yemen and Shia militants in Iraq. The pinnacle of the West's stunning naivete was the nuclear deal that America signed in 2015 and withdrew from in 2018. To revive the Iran deal now would be beneath contempt.

Sunset clauses would take effect after a few years, while the regime could pocket billions in sanctions relief. This might actually rescue the mullahs at the very moment when courageous Iranian dissidents are risking (and losing) their lives to challenge it. This is dangerously stupid. Britain should have nothing to do with it. The time has come for the West to acknowledge the scale of the threat posed by Iran to its neighbors and to its own people.
JCPA: Hamas Spies on Israel for Iran from Istanbul
Several senior leaders of Hamas and their families now live permanently in Turkey, and some received Turkish passports. In addition to engaging in terrorism, they have also established their own businesses. The intelligence branch of the military wing of Hamas continues to operate unhindered in Istanbul, with the approval of Turkish intelligence, despite Israel's protests.

According to senior Israeli security officials, the Hamas branch in Istanbul collects intelligence on Israel for Iran in exchange for large sums of money. Hamas terrorists who learned Hebrew in Israeli prisons, along with Hamas cyber experts, monitor the communication networks and phone calls of the IDF, social networks, and computer communications. This information is then passed on to Iranian intelligence.

Security officials in Israel say that Turkish intelligence, led by Hakan Fidan, is a professional organization with accurate information about everything that happens in the Hamas branch in Istanbul. However, as long as President Erdogan gives backing to Hamas, nothing can be done. Israel has committed to Turkey not to act against Hamas operatives on Turkish soil, even though they engage in terrorist activities against it.

MEMRI: Iranian Religious Scholar Naser Naghavian: Over 50% of Iranians Oppose the Regime’s Policies
Iranian religious scholar Naser Naghavian said in an interview that was uploaded to the website on November 28, 2022 that at least 50% of Iranians are object to the policies of the regime, and that the regime has deeper problems than women not wearing hijabs. He said that the regime should use its morality police to fight the incompetence, inefficiency, and bribery in the government agencies, and he pointed out that there has never been a referendum to determine the Iranian people’s preferred policy towards the United States, which might in fact be conciliatory. In addition, he suggested that the next time a Supreme Leader is selected, his term should be limited like the president’s. For more about Naser Naghavian.

France backs Iran protests with rally, Eiffel Tower display for Mahsa Amini
Activists gathered Monday near the EU Parliament in the French city of Strasbourg in support of Iran’s anti-government protesters as Paris prepared an Eiffel Tower tribute to Mahsa Amini, whose death in September prompted the demonstrations.

The Strasbourg march comes after over 100 members of the international parliament signed a letter last week calling on the European Union to take a firmer stance against Iran.

The European Parliament’s plenary session is to debate the EU’s response this week to the protests and executions in the Islamic Republic. A non-binding resolution is to be voted on Thursday.

The MEPs’ letter to Josep Borrell, the EU’s High Representative for Foreign Affairs, called on the bloc to designate the Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps “in its entirety as a terrorist organization.”

The IRGC was designated a foreign terrorist organization by the US in 2019.

Paris City Hall said in a statement that the words “Woman. Life. Freedom.” and “#StopExecutionsInIran” will be displayed on the Eiffel Tower on Monday and Tuesday evening to mark four months since the death of Mahsa Amini, in a “homage to those who are bravely fighting for their freedom as the [Iranian] regime is continuing executions of protesters.”

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