Friday, January 27, 2023

From Ian:

Return to Jenin
"The history matters here," noted the BBC's Jerusalem correspondent, Tom Bateman, in a report on the Israel Defense Forces (IDF) operation in the West Bank city of Jenin last Thursday that resulted in the deaths of nine Palestinians – eight of them men affiliated with terror groups, one of them a woman civilian.

In the annals of anti-Zionist demonization of the State of Israel, Jenin occupies a special place. The city was the location, in April 2002, of one of the most treacherous myths about Israel's military conduct that spilled over into open antisemitism.

As Bateman summarized it, back then "Israel launched a full-scale incursion – known as the Battle of Jenin – in which at least 52 Palestinian militants and civilians and 23 Israeli soldiers were killed. It had followed a campaign of Palestinian suicide bombings in Israel, many of which involved perpetrators from the city." That wording is technically correct and marks a vast improvement of the BBC's original 2002 reporting of the "Battle of Jenin," which the broadcaster described as a "massacre" perpetrated by the Israelis.

The reality is that the IDF suffered heavy losses as it battled Palestinian gunmen precisely because it was unwilling, out of concern for the city's civilians, to take more drastic measures like aerial bombardment to pacify Jenin – the sorts of measures that Russia, Iran or China would take without blinking an eye. But within 24 hours of the alleged massacre, the late Sa'eb Erakat, the Palestinian Authority's principal negotiator with Israel, was fabricating lurid stories about the IDF's operation. "They want to hide their crimes, the bodies of the little children and women," Erakat told The Guardian without a shred of evidence to support this monstrous claim.

Other Palestinians in positions of authority told similar lies. The director of the main hospital in Jenin alleged that the Israelis had deliberately destroyed its west wing – a wing that never existed – as well as its water and power supplies. "IDF soldiers took care not to enter its grounds even though we knew that it was serving as a refuge for several wanted fugitives," a former IDF officer, David Zangen, wrote over one year later in November 2003. "We guarded the water, electricity and oxygen supplies to the hospital all throughout the fighting and assisted in setting up an emergency generator after the city's electrical system was damaged."

Nevertheless, the myth of a massacre persisted, not just in the Arab media, but in Western outlets too. The massacre that wasn't became a new blood libel for the 21st century, one that took painstaking efforts by Jewish groups to counter effectively. In the process, Jewish communities were confronted with a form of antisemitism that took spurious assertions as uncontested facts, rooted in turn in an antisemitic mindset that encouraged the worst beliefs about Jews.
Caroline Glick: The Israeli Left Begs the World To Protect Its Power
In 2007, then-editor of Israel's far-left Haaretz newspaper David Landau implored then-Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice to "rape" Israel. Landau told Rice that Israel "wants to be raped by the United States" into making territorial concessions to the Palestinians.

Landau's statement, which was widely reported at the time, was and remains shocking. But over the past quarter-century, it has become common practice for the Israeli Left to turn to foreign governments and other international actors for help subverting democratic processes in Israel.

In 1977, Israel's Left lost its political majority forever when working-class Israelis abandoned it for the political Right. Over the past 46 years, the Left has held power for a total of just under 13 years.

To compensate for its loss of political power, the Israeli Left expanded the power of Israel's already powerful bureaucracy, which its members controlled. Over the past 30 years, using its control over the Supreme Court and the attorney general's office, the Left enacted a judicial revolution that transformed the unelected justices into the most powerful arm of government, with no checks on its power or accountability to the public. Through judicial fiat, the justices and their allies in the attorney general's office have clipped the wings of Israel's elected leaders, and made all policies and laws dependent on their prior or retroactive approval.

As the years passed, more and more Israelis fell victim to the legal fraternity, which rules in accordance with its leftist values and political interests. And as more Israelis became aware of the problem, the issue of legal reform became increasingly salient in elections. In last November's elections, the right-religious bloc won 64 seats to the Left and center-left's 46. The central campaign issue of both sides was legal reform. Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu's ruling Likud party, and its three coalition partner parties all ran on platforms that laid out detailed plans for judicial and legal reform.

On the other hand, opposition leader Yair Lapid's Yesh Atid party and his partners on the political Left all ran on platforms that rejected judicial and legal reform.

The election results constituted the first real prospect that the legal fraternity's unlimited powers would be checked, and actual power restored to the government and Knesset. The Left's response to this turn of events has been unhinged from reality, but disciplined. All elite groups in Israeli society have gathered as one to warn of the impending destruction of democracy, the rise of fascism, the collapse of minority rights, and the destruction of judicial independence. With the lockstep participation of the media, the Left has gathered in mass protests on successive Saturday nights. This week, hi-tech workers blocked traffic and assaulted motorists, and several companies declared a one-hour strike.

What Benjamin Netanyahu’s Strategic Vision Owes to David Ben-Gurion’s
The past several years have seen remarkable diplomatic achievements for the Jewish state: not only the Abraham Accords, but also, inter alia, close relations with Greece and Cyprus thanks to natural-gas exploration and the IDF’s inclusion in the U.S. military’s Central Command. Eitan Shamir explains how these recent developments grow out of a longstanding Israeli grand strategy set in motion by the country’s first prime minister:
David Ben-Gurion, aware of Israel’s isolation in the region, sought to [ensure] the country’s security by formulating basic tenets that would ultimately serve the country for decades. These included, among other things, a commitment to developing and maintaining Israel’s human qualitative and technological superiority while securing a strong alliance with a superpower. Ben-Gurion believed that through Israeli patience and perseverance, Arab resolve would gradually erode until the monolithic Arab wall facing Israel eventually crumbled.

During this early period, Israel tried to find ways to ease its diplomatic isolation. Ben-Gurion attempted to advance a “periphery alliance” between Israel and moderate pro-Western Muslim countries such as Turkey and Iran, as well as national minorities like the Kurds in Iraq. Israel offered its agricultural expertise to third-world countries in Africa and Asia in a further attempt to build diplomatic bridges. But in view of the confines of the cold war and the fact that Israel was a poor country with little to offer, these attempts came to little. Israel had to rely on its own military power; support from its main ally, France; and more modest support from other Western countries, such as the U.S. and Germany.

But all that has changed dramatically, and the results are precisely what Ben-Gurion hoped for:
Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu . . . has stated that “a country that exports things that are crucial for the surroundings or for other countries has far more power. . . . Alliances are made with the strong, and in the end peace is made with the strong.”

Israel should give credit to Ben-Gurion’s vision. At a time when Israel was isolated and boycotted, he asserted that Israel could survive if it focused its energy on developing its qualitative edge: science, technology, and above all, its human talent.
Caroline Glick: Juniper Oak, the JCPOA and ‘Zero Surprises’
Last August, the U.S. made a supposedly “final” offer to Iran. Iran rejected it. The U.S. didn’t take it off the table though. According to an analysis by the Washington-based Foundation for Defense of Democracies, if Iran agrees to the U.S. offer, it will receive $275 billion within the first year of the restoration of the JCPOA and a trillion dollars by 2030. The restrictions on Iran’s nuclear activities under the U.S. offer will end in 2025 and 2030.

But since Iran is already a nuclear threshold state, the limitations are in any case meaningless and unenforceable.

So even as it sends U.S. forces to train with Israel for a possible strike on Iran, the Biden administration remains to be completely committed to and actively pursuing a policy that will empower Iran militarily, economically and diplomatically against Israel and the Sunni Arabs.

On Wednesday, the Financial Times reported that the U.S., E.U. and U.K. believe that “there are no credible alternatives to the accord.”

The notion that they could provide real support to the Iranian people who are seeking the overthrow of the regime, rather than weakly cheer them on while empowering the regime through nuclear diplomacy, appears to have never occurred to them. They don’t want to turn to sanctions, because that was Trump’s policy. Military action appears to be so far off the table that they don’t even remember it could be an option.

And so we return to the Juniper Oak exercise. As he observed U.S. and Israeli forces training side by side, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said, “This exercise expresses the unshakeable strategic partnership between Israel and the U.S., and constitutes an additional stage in building up Israeli military strength. Israel will always defend itself with its own forces, but – of course – welcomes the deepening cooperation with our greatest ally.”

Given the U.S.’s actual policy towards Iran, “Israel will always defend itself with its own forces” was the most important phrase in Netanyahu’s statement. The great distinction between Netanyahu and his successors Naftali Bennett and Yair Lapid is that Netanyahu never subordinated Israel’s actions in Iran to U.S. approval. Bennett and Lapid surrendered Israel’s independence of action on Iran as soon as they entered office, when they committed to a policy of “zero surprises” to the Biden administration.

If he hasn’t already, Netanyahu should use the opportunity of Secretary of State Antony Blinken’s visit next week to inform him that the zero surprises policy is over—or simply surprise him. Israel should reinstate the policy of aggressive actions it employed to great effect during Netanyahu’s last government. It should augment its actions against nuclear installations with support for the revolutionaries.

The U.S. remains Israel’s greatest ally. But in light of Biden’s commitment to appeasing Iran, under his leadership, America is not a credible partner for preventing Iran from becoming a nuclear-armed state.

IAC’s 8th National Summit celebrates ‘unbreakable bond’ between Israel and the US
The Israeli-American Council’s (IAC) 8th National Summit in Austin, Texas, last week served as an opportunity to celebrate the relationship between Israel and the American heartland.

“It really is a privilege to get to welcome and participate in the Israeli American Council event that you are hosting here in Austin,” said Texas Governor Greg Abbott during the summit’s “Plenary in White” session on Jan. 20. “I’m proud to have the opportunity to get to visit with such steadfast advocates for the Jewish community in America as well as the Jewish community in Israel.”

Abbott went on to laud the “strong and enduring bond” between the peoples of Texas and Israel.

“We share the blessings of liberty but also the burdens of vigilance,” Abbott said. “Texans were forged in fire at the Battle of the Alamo. Just like Jewish people have been forged from some of the most epic struggles in the history of the entire world.”

The Texas governor went on to say that the history of Texans and Israelis share a common heritage of excellence, but also a burden of vigilance. Abbott relayed that the Texas and U.S. constitutions have their roots in the Ten Commandments.

As the Attorney General of Texas, Abbott successfully argued the case in front of the U.S. Supreme Court on behalf of then-Governor Rick Perry to keep the Ten Commandments monument on Texas capitol grounds.

“Not on my watch will I allow the Ten Commandments to be torn down off of the Texas capitol grounds,” Abbott said as he was met with thunderous applause. “If it’s good enough for the Supreme Court [in reference to the courtroom frieze of Moses over the Supreme Court building], it’s good enough for the State of Texas!”
How Should Israel Be Discussed in the Public Sphere?
Jerusalem Center for Public Affairs President Dan Diker and Talia Sasson, past Board President of the New Israel Fund, talked about how Israel should be discussed in light of current efforts to reform the judicial system, at the Jerusalem Post Democracy 2023 Conference on Tuesday. Diker said, "If Israel delegitimizes itself by using language that its harshest enemies have used against it, it will inflame antisemitism abroad and increase Israel's isolation in international organizations. Israel should be careful about its rhetoric and be very vigilant about what its enemies are saying about it."

"When we use the language of Israel's harshest enemies - from the Iranian regime, Hizbullah, Hamas and the PA, which have accused Israel of being fascist - we are engaging in self-annihilation. In political warfare that has been foisted on Israel for decades, words are weapons and Israel must not become the 'weapons supplier' of its enemies."

"Israel is a vibrant democracy. The question at hand is what the balance of the democracy should be. It is not as if there will be or won't be democracy. At the end of the day, it is important to speak loudly and confidently about our rights and our responsibilities as the democratic nation-state of the Jewish people. Stand up for freedom and stand up for democracy."
Senators say U.S. should encourage Arab states to join Abraham Accords

Noah Rothman: You’re on Your Own
That description of Republican attitudes and actions does not apply to Omar because she most certainly does suffer from “a real ethical or character issue.” It’s one that Democratic leadership tried to censure her over, failing only due to the objections of her party’s most progressive members. That was in 2019, after Omar made a third highly publicized, blatantly anti-Semitic remark, ensuring that Democrats could no longer look past this trait. Moreover, it was one for which she refused to apologize. Her party’s leadership didn’t want to have to censure one of its own members, as the initiative’s failure attests. But her “real ethical or character issue” forced their hand.

So what does this have to do with Omar’s capacity to serve on congressional committees such as the influential House Foreign Affairs Committee, where she served under Democratic leadership? Omar herself has explained precisely how she wants to see her outlook on the world applied to the conduct of America’s affairs abroad.

“When I think about foreign policy,” she told reporters with the Chicago Tribune in 2019, “we need something equivalent to the Green New Deal.” By this, she meant a wholesale renovation of American foreign policy to reimagine its allies as its adversaries and its adversaries as its allies. The Congresswoman agonized over alleged human-rights abuses in Brunei while advocating a thaw in relations with Iran. After all, the “same people who falsified intelligence before the Iraq War are now beating the drums for war with Iran.” Justifying the appeasement of a rogue state and sponsor of terrorism by invoking an utterly addled conspiracy theory would suggest that the congresswoman suffers from deficiencies of judgment.

Likewise, in Omar’s view, the only reason why Venezuela’s repressive and violent regime is repressive and violent is that the United States made them do it. “A lot of the policies that we have put in place has kind of helped lead the devastation in Venezuela,” she averred in an interview with Democracy Now! Omar is confused. She has reversed the order of events, attributing Venezuela’s violence against and mistreatment of its citizens to American actions. In fact, much of the sanctions regime the Trump administration inherited from Barack Obama’s White House was a response to Caracas’s violent crackdown on anti-regime protests.

Between the serious lapses in judgment, the regular anti-Semitic episodes, and the precedent justifying Republican actions, Omar does not have a serious case to make in her defense. She is not a victim of forces beyond her control. Republicans are amply justified in doing what they can to prevent Omar from having the power to pursue her conspiratorial ambitions. As they should.
These Two Republicans Are Standing With Ilhan Omar in Push To Stay on Foreign Affairs Committee
The vote to remove Omar will require a majority voting in favor, but with Mace and Spartz defecting, and Democrats expected to unanimously back her, the vote could fail if any other Republicans switch sides. Further complicating matters, Rep. Greg Steube (R., Fla.)—the author of a 2019 resolution condemning Omar’s numerous anti-Semitic remarks—is currently in the hospital after suffering a fall at his Florida home.

Omar’s place on the Foreign Affairs Committee has long rankled Republicans, pro-Israel lawmakers, and Jewish advocacy groups, all of whom see her as pushing an anti-Israel agenda on a committee that has historically stood shoulder-to-shoulder with the Jewish state.

Omar, in 2012, claimed that "Israel has hypnotized the world," adding, "May Allah awaken the people and help them see the evil doings of Israel." In 2018, she claimed "drawing attention to the apartheid Israeli regime is far from hating Jews," though such claims are used by Israel’s detractors to foster anti-Semitism.

Omar also has attacked the American Israel Public Affairs Committee, or AIPAC, the most well-known pro-Israel advocacy group in America. "It’s all about the Benjamins baby," she tweeted in 2019 about the group. These comments were quickly condemned by Republicans, Democrats, and pro-Israel organizations across the political spectrum due to their anti-Semitic nature. Claims that wealthy Jews control politics are a hallmark of anti-Semitic rhetoric and are routinely employed by white nationalist groups and terrorist organizations.

Omar also is accused of marrying her own brother and lying about it to the media. The FBI said in 2020 that it was investigating these claims. Attempts to reach the man she married for comment were unsuccessful.

Ivy League Lawyer Who Firebombed Cop Car Will Spend a Year and a Day in Prison
An Ivy League-educated lawyer who firebombed a cop car during the 2020 George Floyd riots was sentenced on Thursday to just a year and a day in prison, concluding a pair of cases marked by surprising leniency from the Biden Justice Department.

Colinford Mattis's sentence was the second of its kind delivered by U.S. District Judge Brian Cogan of the Eastern District of New York after Urooj Rahman, a public interest lawyer who joined Mattis in the firebombing, was sentenced in November to 15 months. In a pre-sentencing memo, prosecutors said they viewed "Mattis's conduct here as equally culpable to Rahman's conduct" and recommended a sentence of 18 to 24 months—well beneath the initial guideline of 10 years. Mattis's attorney, Sabrina Shroff, declined to comment.

Mattis and Rahman leveraged their prestigious degrees, left-wing legal advocacy, and personal connections—including with one former Obama administration official who posted Rahman's $250,000 bail—to curry favor with the Justice Department. Liberal media outlets like NPR and New York magazine produced fawning coverage of the two after their arrest.

Trump administration prosecutors had sought a 10-year sentence with a domestic terrorism enhancement for the pair, which was dropped after President Joe Biden and Attorney General Merrick Garland took office. Mattis and Rahman in June scored a sweetheart deal with Department of Justice prosecutors, pleading guilty to lesser arson and explosives charges that warranted a mere five-year sentence. New York State announced before Rahman's sentencing that both she and Mattis had been disbarred.

James Trusty, a former federal prosecutor, told the Washington Free Beacon in November that the DOJ's treatment of the two was "extraordinarily unusual." Both Mattis's and Rahman's attorneys requested sentence commutations before they appeared in court, pushing for each to be released on time served.
George Santos made 'offensive comments' on Jews, Black people on social media - sources
New York Republican congressman George Santos reportedly joked about Hitler and made "deeply offensive" comments about Jewish people and Black people in an old Facebook comment, multiple sources reported on Thursday.

The resurfaced statements by Santos were reportedly nearly 12 years ago, according to exclusive screenshots that were obtained by Patch media.

The news outlet stated that they verified and received the screenshots through a former friend of Santos. A former roommate of the New York politician told Patch that the now congressman would make offensive jokes about Jews regularly.

The story was also picked up by Vanity Fair and Business Insider.

Santos's attorney claimed that the comment is fake in an email to Patch.

The congressman deleted his Facebook late last year.

Nonpartisan organization StopAntisemitism commented on the incident, saying that they are "disgusted to learn that Congressman George Santos, who lied about being Jewish during his campaign, had previously posted vile comments about Adolf Hitler and Jewish and Black people."
Is the Jenin gunfight between IDF, Palestinians the start of a bigger war? - analysis
All of this sounds like the IDF and Israel have lost control in 2022. But the IDF want us to look at trends in arrest numbers.

Breaking down the arrests of Palestinians by month, the high for the year was 411 in March, which was the start of the ongoing series of waves of terrorism of 2022, with 336 in August, in parallel to Operation Breaking Dawn with Gaza, but down to the 200s in recent months and down to 170 in December.

According to IDF sources, fewer arrests did not mean the IDF got weaker, but rather that the end of 2022 showed the IDF putting terrorists more on the run, with fewer Palestinians involved in terrorist actions or plots, thus requiring fewer IDF arrest operations. Recently, the IDF even returned three battalions to other places in the country that had been temporarily added to help with the West Bank uproar.

If the IDF is right about this, some of the turnaround would not only be because of aggressive IDF dives into Palestinian areas to arrest and kill terrorists, but also from ongoing progress toward 50 km. of new sensors to the West Bank security barrier being installed, with a completion target date of the end of 2023.

But again, all of this is treating the situation in the West Bank as a sort of linear story operating in a vacuum.

After the Jenin battle, the Palestinian Authority is again threatening to cut off all security coordination with Israel.

Hamas and Islamic Jihad are both threatening revenge, leading southern Israeli communities to preemptively cancel public events, lest they be caught unprotected as rocket fire breaks out.

If either of these dramatic changes takes place, the Jenin operation will be looked back on as a small-minded move in a bigger and more complex chess game.

The PA may back down, or it may only briefly pause the security coordination with Israel.

Gaza’s terrorist rulers may also back down from starting a bigger war because they are still licking their wounds from the beating the IDF gave them in May 2021 and August 2022.

But nearly all Israeli intelligence officials say the 2014, 2021 and 2022 Gaza conflicts were all unintentional from both the Israeli and Palestinian sides.

Even if Thursday’s Jenin operation does not lead to an overreaction on the Palestinian side this week, it could bring the PA, Hamas and Islamic Jihad all months or years closer to the next conflict – when their anger boils over and overpowers their fear.

What this means is that any time Israel undertakes a major operation, it cannot just consider the success of an operation in a sterile vacuum about whether the specific mission makes sense in the latest of the short-term weekly events, but whether the mission makes sense, taking into account a period of months and years.

Gaza terrorists fire rockets into Israel, prompting IDF retaliatory strikes against Hamas
Palestinian terrorists fired a barrage of rockets from the Gaza Strip at Israeli communities overnight Thursday, prompting retaliatory strikes by the IDF against Hamas assets.

The exchange came after nine Palestinians were killed during heavy clashes between Palestinian Islamic Jihad and Israeli troops in Jenin in northern Samaria Thursday morning.

At midnight, two rockets were fired from Gaza towards the southern city of Ashkelon, with both being intercepted by the Iron Dome air defense system.

A few hours later, three more rockets were fired towards Israeli communities located along the border with Gaza. One of the rockets was intercepted by Iron Dome, a second struck in an open area and the third fell short in the Strip, according to the IDF.

The military conducted retaliatory strikes on targets that included a military camp belonging to Hamas in northern Gaza that served as one of the terror organization’s most important focal points of activity.

The IDF said that it had caused “significant” damage to Hamas’s efforts to arm and strengthen itself, and reiterated Israel’s policy of holding the largest Gaza-based terrorist group responsible for any attacks emanating from the enclave it controls.

Palestinian Authority promotes homes on Jewish archeological site
The “Forum for the Struggle for Every Dunam” recently acquired official documents from the Palestinian Authority’s Ministry of Local Authorities. They showed construction plans for dozens of units on Mount Ebal in Samaria near the historic Altar of Joshua.

Following the news that the P.A. is actively marketing the parcels at the site, Samaria Regional Council Chairman Yossi Dagan is now demanding action.

“This is the ultimate chutzpah. It’s absolutely brazen. I call on the government to intervene to halt this disgrace immediately,” said Dagan, reported Arutz 7.

“Joshua’s Altar is a site with historical significance, one of the sole remains dating all the way back to the period when the Children of Israel first settled the Land,” he said.

Dagan added, “This crime is not to be blamed on the murderous Palestinian Authority, whose intentions are known, but rather on the Israeli government and every official who could be stopping it and isn’t.”
Seth Frantzman: How Turkey’s authoritarianism has roots in Hamas, Iran and Taliban era
Turkey is holding elections in a few months. Once again the ruling AKP party will try to extend its seemingly endless rule.

The party came to power in 2003 but it has increasingly placed a stranglehold on the country, arresting opposition members and silencing critical media. It has also used a strategy borrowed from Putin’s Russia and Jinping’s China, extending the rule of the “leader” forever through changes to established norms.

The Economist recently warned about Ankara’s drift towards authoritarianism in an article arguing that Turkey “could be on the brink of dictatorship.” A recent Tweet by the publication noted “when he first became prime minister in 2003, Recep Tayyip Erdogan held out much promise for Turkey. The longer he has been in power, however, the more autocratic he has grown.”

Turkey’s changes matter to the region, to Europe, and to Israel. In 2018 and 2019 Erdogan slammed Israel and compared the country to Nazi-era Germany. Ankara’s drift towards authoritarianism has thus coincided not only with the downturn in relations with Israel which began in 2009 but has also been part of the rise in authoritarianism and religious extremism in other places.

Even though Ankara and Jerusalem appeared to be reconciled last year, it’s entirely possible relations could sour again.

Authoritarians are sometimes seen as reliable partners because, if you have good relations with them they tend not to leave office, but they can also be erratic. While some policymakers in Israel over the last decade have believed Israel could former closer relations with authoritarians from Russia to Hungary to China, overall that policy has proven problematic.

As an authoritarian state, Turkey has also become closer to Russia and Iran and Ankara hosted Hamas for many years, even rolling out the red carpet for the group in 2020.

Western democracies are waking up to the threat of authoritarians and Israel is part of the Western alliance system, so it matters what Turkey does in this respect.

Ankara is currently blocking Finland and Sweden, two democracies, from joining NATO.

Ankara also threatens Greece and Israel. Israel and Greece have become closer friends. That means recent eastern Mediterranean naval drills and other issues are affected by Turkey’s shifts. In essence, Turkey was a more reliable partner when it was more democratic, secular and liberal in the late 1990s and early 2000s.
Chemical weapons watchdog blames Syria’s air force for deadly 2018 chlorine attack
An investigation by the global chemical weapons watchdog established there are “reasonable grounds to believe” Syria’s air force dropped two cylinders containing chlorine gas on the city of Douma in April 2018, killing 43 people.

A report published Friday by a team from the Organization for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons offered the latest confirmation that the regime of Syrian President Bashar Assad used chemical weapons during his country’s grinding civil war.

“The use of chemical weapons in Douma – and anywhere – is unacceptable and a breach of international law,” OPCW Director-General Fernando Arias said.

The organization said that “reasonable grounds to believe” is the standard of proof consistently adopted by international fact-finding bodies and commissions of inquiry.

Syria, which joined the OPCW in 2013 under pressure from the international community after being blamed for another deadly chemical weapon attack, does not recognize the investigation team’s authority and has repeatedly denied using chemical weapons.

Despite the latest findings, bringing perpetrators in Syria to justice remains a long way off. Syria’s ally Russia has, in the past, blocked efforts by the UN Security Council to order an International Criminal Court investigation in Syria.

“The world now knows the facts – it is up to the international community to take action, at the OPCW and beyond,” Arias, a veteran Spanish diplomat, said.

The report said there are “reasonable grounds to believe” that during a government military offensive to recapture Douma, at least one Syrian air force Mi8/17 helicopter dropped two yellow cylinders on the city.
Iran is still in the Holocaust denial biz – big time
On January 20, 2022, the United Nations General Assembly passed a resolution that condemned the denial and distortion of the Holocaust. To no one’s surprise, the Islamic Republic of Iran chose to be the only country in the world that condemned and rejected this resolution.

The UN passed the resolution one month after Iranian President Ebrahim Raisi cast doubt on the Holocaust during an interview on CBS News’s 60 Minutes.

One year later, on the eve of International Holocaust Remembrance Day, the eyes of the world are on the sustained protests on the streets of Iran, and the global community must continue to hold the Iranian regime accountable for its systemic denial of the Holocaust and the disrespecting of its victims.

To date, on three occasions, the Iranian regime has held Holocaust cartoon competitions. The first one was held in 2006, soon after Mahmoud Ahmadinejad took the presidential office. For the second one held in 2016, Supreme Leader Ali Khamenei sent a personal message of praise to the organizers. On New Year’s Day in 2021, Iranian officials, acting with the support of Khamenei, released the full results of Iran’s third major collection of political cartoons aimed at promoting Holocaust denial.

Meanwhile, the Iranian regime continues to cynically use the Holocaust to attack the West. It does so by stating that claims of freedom of speech in Western countries are lies because Western governments disallow and punish Holocaust denial.

This was evident recently, soon after the French satirical magazine Charlie Hebdo published caricatures of Supreme Leader Khamenei.

In an article published on January 7, 2023, in the Iran-based Khabar Online, former Iranian diplomat Mohsen Pakaein used the ban against Holocaust denial in France to claim that what allowed the caricatures to be published was not free speech laws in France, but Islamophobia sanctioned by the French government. Describing the Holocaust as a “doubtful” event, Pakaein went on to state that the laws preventing investigations into the Holocaust had caused many European Christians to hate Zionists. He further claimed that these laws also made antisemitism an “inseparable part of Europe’s Christian culture,” ignoring the many centuries before the establishment of the modern state of Israel, during which antisemitism was part and parcel of Christian Europe.

Limited Liability Podcast: Jacob Nagel
On this week's episode, Rich and Jarrod are joined by Jacob Nagel, a senior fellow at the Foundation for Defense of Democracies and former Israeli acting national security advisor, for a conversation on Iran, the war in Ukraine, Israeli foreign policy and U.S. National Security Adviser Jake Sullivan’s recent meetings with Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu.

Gunman kills security chief at Azerbaijan Embassy in Iran
A man armed with a Kalashnikov-style rifle stormed the Azerbaijan Embassy in Iran’s capital Friday, killing the head of security at the diplomatic post and wounding two guards, authorities said.

Tehran’s police chief, Gen. Hossein Rahimi, blamed the attack on “personal and family problems,” according to Iranian state television. However, the assault comes as tensions have been high for months between neighboring Azerbaijan and Iran.

Video purportedly from the scene of the attack showed an empty diplomatic police post just near the embassy, with one man apparently wounded in an SUV parked outside. Inside the embassy past a metal detector, paramedics stood over what appeared to be a lifeless body in a small office as blood pooled on the floor beneath.

A statement from Azerbaijan’s Foreign Ministry said that “an investigation is currently underway into this treacherous attack.” The ministry also described the attacker as destroying a guard post with assault rifle fire before being stopped by the wounded guards, whom authorities described as being in a “satisfactory” condition after being shot.

Iranian state TV quoted Rahimi as saying the gunman had entered the embassy with his two children during the attack. However, surveillance footage from inside the embassy released in Azerbaijan, which matched details of the other video of the aftermath and bore a timestamp matching the Azerbaijan Foreign Ministry’s statement, showed the gunmen burst through the embassy’s doors alone.

Those inside tried to push through metal detectors to take cover. The man opens fire with the rifle, its muzzle flashing, as he chases after the men into the small side office. Another man bursts from a side door and fights the gunman for the rifle as the footage ends.

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Elder of Ziyon - حـكـيـم صـهـيـون

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