Wednesday’s “News in Review” Round-Up

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Contents:  Weekly Quotes |  Short Takes On Topic Links



Download a pdf version of today's Isranet Daily Briefing.pdf


On Topic Links


The Salafi Menace in Sinai Goes After a Soft Target: Yaakov Lappin, Jerusalem Post, Feb. 17, 2014

Syria Peace Plan: Kenneth Bandler, Jerusalem Post, Feb. 3, 2014

The Shame of Princeton: Sohrab Ahmari, Wall Street Journal, Feb. 14, 2014

Oxfam’s Middle East Blinders: Gerald M. Steinberg, National Post, Feb. 14, 2014




"Our goal is to prevent Iran from having the capacity to manufacture or put together nuclear weapons."—Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu. They don't need enrichment for peaceful nuclear energy. They don't [need] a heavy water reactor for that. They don't need ICBMs, long range inter-continental ballistic missiles…they don't need a weaponization program that Iran of course refuses to open to inspection. They don't need any of these things, but these are precisely the things that Iran insists on. And they're precisely the elements that they have to be denied.” (Israel Hayom, Feb. 18, 2014)


"The Islamic Republic of Iran's defensive issues are neither negotiable nor subject to compromise. They are definitely among our red lines in any talks." —Iran's deputy foreign minister, Abbas Araghchi, on Iranian state television on Sunday. "We won't discuss any issue other than the nuclear dossier in the negotiations." Talks on a permanent Iran nuclear accord opened Tuesday with the U.S. pressing Tehran to agree the deal should encompass caps on its expanding ballistic missile capabilities. But Iran says the missiles are part of its defense establishment and beyond the limits of nuclear talks. Last week, Iran's elite military unit, the Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps, successfully test-fired what state media described as two domestically made ballistic missiles. The missiles are estimated to have ranges of at least 1,500 kilometers (900 miles) and could be capable of striking Israel and American military targets in the Middle East, though military experts question their accuracy. (Wall Street Journal, Feb. 18, 2014)


"I have said before … I am not optimistic about the negotiations. It will not lead anywhere, but I am not opposed either." —Iran's Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei on Monday. Khamenei told a large crowd during a visit to the northwestern Iranian city of Tabriz he was not optimistic about upcoming nuclear talks with world powers: "What our foreign ministry and officials have started will continue and Iran will not violate its (pledge) …but I say again that this is of no use and will not lead anywhere." (Israel Hayom, Feb. 18, 2014)


“Everyone must know that America’s enmity is with the core of the Islamic Revolution and with Islam. This enmity will not end with the negotiations.” —Khamenei added on Monday. (New York Times, Feb. 17, 2014)  


“…American action in World War II came too late to save countless millions of innocent lives…Hitler’s rise and conquest of Europe did not come as a surprise. We must not repeat the same mistake by reducing our preparedness, accepting the notion that we are one of many or ceding global leadership to others.” —Rep. Eric Cantor, the House majority leader, in a speech Monday to the Virginia Military Institute citing the lateness of American actions against the Nazis in critiquing President Obama’s foreign policy. Cantor said that “evil and hateful ideologies still exist in the world,” citing as perhaps the most evident Iran’s “determined march” to produce nuclear weapons. “I can imagine few more destabilizing moments in world history than Iran on the threshold of being a nuclear power,” he said. “An America that leads is an America that must work to restore the badly eroded international pressure on Tehran,” Cantor said, adding that “we should lay the groundwork now for additional sanctions in the event Iran violates the terms of the interim agreement.” (Jewish Press, Feb. 18, 2014)


"Israel is saving the lives of those who have been wounded in the daily slaughter that is being perpetrated in Syria." —Benjamin Netanyahu. "This is the true face of Israel," he added. "The bad part is that Iran is arming those who are carrying out the slaughter. This is the true face of Iran. All of the children who have been injured, to say nothing of those who have been killed, were injured as a result of Iran's arming, financing and training the Assad regime in the massacres that it is perpetrating." Israel's prime minister met with wounded Syrians treated at an Israeli hospital Tuesday and blamed Iran for bloodshed in neighboring Syria as world powers meet in Vienna for talks over Tehran's nuclear program. Netanyahu visited a hospital in the Golan Heights where Israeli doctors treat Syrians wounded in the civil war raging across the border. Although Israel and Syria are enemies having fought several wars, Israel provides medical treatment and humanitarian aid for wounded Syrians that reach its border. (Montreal Gazette, Feb. 18, 2014)


“Right now, Bashar al-Assad has not engaged in the discussions along the promised and required standard that both Russia spoke up for and the regime spoke up for.” —U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry, during a press conference in Jakarta. Kerry said Assad’s team “refused to open up one moment of discussion” of a transitional government to replace Assad’s regime. “It is very clear that Bashar Assad is trying to win this on the battlefield instead of coming to the negotiating table in good faith,” Kerry said. Peace talks last week in Geneva ended with no progress toward breaking the impasse in the nearly 3-year-old conflict in Syria. Kerry also had harsh words for Assad’s allies in Moscow: “Russia needs to be a part of the solution and not be contributing so many more weapons and so much more aid that they are in fact enabling Assad to double down.” The U.N.’s human rights office said in January it has stopped updating the death toll from the war, confirming that it can no longer verify the sources of information that led to its last count of at least 100,000 in late July. Millions have been driven out of their homes, seeking shelter in neighboring countries and in safer parts of their homeland. “The talks themselves are taking a recess for the moment,” Kerry said Monday, “but all of us need to remember that there is no recess for the people of Syria who are suffering.” (Washington Times, Feb. 17, 2014)


"If you want to prevent this region from falling into chaos that will not end for decades, stop the war on Syria." —Hezbollah leader Sayyed Hassan Nasrallah, addressing all political forces in the Arab world. "Get the fighters out of Syria, let the Syrians reconcile," the leader of the Iranian-backed movement said. "Of course if that happened, we would not remain in Syria either." Hezbollah fighters helped turn the tide for Syrian President Bashar Assad in the military struggle against rebels last year. Assad now has a firm hold on much of central Syrian territory around the capital and the Syrian-Lebanese border. The Syria conflict has had a destabilizing effect in Lebanon, which is still recovering from its own 1975-1990 civil war. Earlier on Saturday, security forces found an explosives-rigged car that was headed to Beirut, an army statement said. Nasrallah said his Lebanese opponents, including Hariri's Future movement, could also be targeted by Sunni militants. "If these groups won, would there be a future for the Future party in Lebanon?" he asked. "All of us will be treated the same and the proof is what has happened in Syria…in Afghanistan or Pakistan or Somalia," Nasrallah said, referring to countries where al-Qaida-linked Islamist groups have at times seized territory. Nasrallah said Hezbollah could not allow rebels to win in Syria, characterizing them all as Islamist radicals, and asked his followers for more sacrifice and patience. "The people who died in these bombs – women and children, young and old – are just like our men who have been martyred in Syria," he said. "Is this part of the battle worthwhile? Yes it is worth it." (Jerusalem Post, Feb. 17, 2014)


“Pashtuns are the rulers and owners of Afghanistan; they are the real inhabitants of Afghanistan.” —Gen. Abdul Wahid Taqat, a former intelligence official. Taqat added that “Afghanistan means ‘where Pashtuns live.’ ” The words ignited protests in Kabul in December. To contain the uproar, President Hamid Karzai, a Pashtun, had General Taqat arrested and chastised the news media for trying to whip up hatred, something he said many outlets were increasingly doing. 

      "Ethnic tension is limitless.” —Sharifullah Safai, a police officer in East Kabul. “I don’t see a future of stability…the Afghan Army and police will not be able to prevent the Taliban from taking over,” Safai added. “The rise of the Taliban will be a precursor to an ethnic civil war.” (New York Times, Feb. 18, 2014)


"I think the most eerie thing, the most disgraceful thing, is to have people on the soil of Europe talking about the boycott of Jews. I think that's an outrage, but that is something that we're re-encountering." —Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu. "In the past, anti-Semites boycotted Jewish businesses, and today they call for the boycott of the Jewish state and, by the way, only the Jewish state," he continued. "Now, don't take my word for it. The founders of the BDS movement make their goals perfectly clear. They want to see the end of the Jewish state. They're quite explicit about it." Netanyahu said. "And I think it's important that the boycotters must be exposed for what they are…they're classical anti-Semites in modern garb. And I think we have to fight them. It's time to delegitimize the delegitimizers." The Palestinian-led movement of boycott, divestment and sanctions (BDS) has been growing recently, mainly in Europe, where some businesses and pension funds have cut investments or trade with Israeli firms they say are connected to West Bank settlements. (CBN News, Feb. 18, 2014)



HAMAS BLOCKS TEXTBOOKS THAT PROMOTE RIGHTS (Gaza) Gaza’s Hamas authorities have blocked a UN refugee agency from introducing textbooks promoting human rights into local schools, saying it ignores Palestinian cultural mores and focuses too heavily on “peaceful” means of conflict resolution. Motesem al-Minawi, spokesman for the Hamas-run Education Ministry, said Thursday that the government believes the curriculum does not match the “ideology and philosophy” of the local population. He said the textbooks, used in grades 7 through 9, did not sufficiently address Palestinian suffering and did not acknowledge the right to battle Israel. “There is a tremendous focus on the peaceful resistance as the only tool to achieve freedom and independence,” he said. Hamas, which has killed hundreds of Israelis in suicide bombings and other attacks, says that “armed resistance” is a key component of its struggle against Israel. (National Post, Feb. 13, 2014)


RICHARD FALK’S FINAL REPORT ACCUSES ISRAEL OF “INHUMAN ACTS” & “APARTHEID” (Geneva) A controversial United Nations human rights investigator is accusing Israel of “inhuman acts,” and calling on the body world to support a “legitimacy war” against the Jewish state. A new report by Richard Falk, which he will present next month to the UN Human Rights Council as its special rapporteur on the Palestinian territories, demands that the world court examine whether Israel is guilty of the international crimes of “apartheid” and “ethnic cleansing,” and urges the UN to investigate corporations that profit from “unlawful Israeli activities.” Falk has been condemned by world leaders on multiple occasions for antisemitic acts such as his endorsement of a book that praises Adolph Hitler. As in years before, the upcoming March session is expected to enact half of all its condemnatory resolutions against Israel. Falk’s report is only one of four against Israel. By contrast, there will be no special reports or resolutions on systematic human rights violations committed by major abusers such as China, Cuba, Russia and Saudi Arabia. On the contrary, all four of these dictatorships were just elected as members. Likewise, fellow UNHRC members states Algeria, Pakistan, Venezuela and Vietnam will also enjoy immunity. (UN Watch, Feb. 18, 2014)


EGYPT: MILITANT GROUP BEHIND DEADLY TOURIST BUS ATTACK (Cairo) An Egyptian Islamist militant group that has carried out months of deadly assaults on the police and the military has claimed responsibility for the bombing of a tourist bus that killed four people in the Sinai Peninsula on Sunday. The assertion by the group, Ansar Beit al-Maqdis, signaled an ominous turn in a battle militants have waged against the government since the military ouster of President Mohamed Morsi in July. The bombing, in the Sinai town of Taba, was the first attack against tourists in years. Three South Korean citizens and an Egyptian bus driver were killed. In a statement posted on jihadist websites late Monday, Ansar Beit al-Maqdis said that the bombing was part of an “economic war against this regime of traitors.” (New York Times, Feb. 18, 2014)


EGYPT PROSECUTOR CHARGES 4, INCLUDING 2 ISRAELIS, WITH SPYING (Cairo) Egyptian authorities on Tuesday charged two Israelis and two Egyptians with forming an espionage ring for Israel, the second such trial to be called for in a month. Prosecutor General Hisham Barakat alleged that the two Israelis are Mossad officers, and that two Egyptians, including a woman, helped provide them with information. Prosecutors alleged in a statement that the Egyptian man had offered his services to Israel in 2009, and the Israeli officers provided training on gathering information and the use of sophisticated technology to send information to Israel. Earlier this month, the trial of eight people including five Israelis and three Egyptians on similar charges began in a court in the Suez Canal city of Ismailia. The trials are taking place amid near-daily reports of plots in the media, with foreign parties regularly accused of conspiring with the Islamist Muslim Brotherhood group to destabilize Egypt. (Montreal Gazette, Feb. 18, 2014)


IRAQI CLERIC, EXITING POLITICS, URGES OTHERS TO KEEP SERVING (Baghdad) Moktada al-Sadr, the influential anti-American Shiite cleric, reaffirmed in a speech in Najaf on Tuesday that he was withdrawing from Iraqi politics, telling his followers in Parliament to continue to serve but not on his behalf. The speech disappointed supporters who hoped that his retirement, announced Saturday on his website, was a tactical move that he would soon reverse, as he had before. But it was welcomed by many political analysts, who said the country would benefit from greater separation between religion and politics. Sadr criticized the current Maliki government, saying it was behaving like a dictatorship and was using the army against the people. “Iraq is under a black cloud, bloodshed and wars, killing each other in the name of law and religion,” Sadr said, adding that the country had “no life, no agriculture, no industry, no services, no security and no peace.” Sadr’s withdrawal “is the first modern, unique step from a religious leader to put religion away from politics,” said Saad Saloom, a professor of political science at Al Mustansiriya University. (New York Times, Feb. 18, 2014)


PAKISTAN: EXECUTIONS THREATEN GOVERNMENT'S TALKS WITH TALIBAN (Peshawar) The Pakistani government’s improbable bid to negotiate a truce with Islamist insurgents verged on collapse Monday after reports that militants had executed 23 paramilitary soldiers held captive since 2010. Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif condemned the “heinous, criminal act” and government negotiators canceled scheduled talks with Islamist representatives. A militant group operating in the Mohmand tribal area, in northwest Pakistan near the Afghan border, issued a statement late Sunday claiming responsibility for the killings of the Frontier Corps paramilitary soldiers, believed to have been captured in an attack on a checkpoint in 2010. The militant group, which operates under the umbrella of the outlawed Pakistani Taliban, said the soldiers were executed in retaliation for the deaths of the group's supporters in military custody. (Los Angeles Times, Feb. 17, 2014)


DENMARK BANS KOSHER SLAUGHTER (Copenhagen) Kosher slaughtering becomes illegal in Denmark starting Monday, and the move has stirred the ire of Jewish organizations in that country and worldwide. "Animal rights precede religious rights, I am for religious slaughter, but it must be done in a way that does not bring pain to the animal. This can be accomplished only by stunning," Danish Food and Agriculture Minister Dan Jorgensen told reporters, after approving the law. European Jewish Association Chairman Rabbi Menachem Margolin called on Danish Prime Minister Helle Thorning-Schmidt to lift the ban. The Jewish population in Denmark stands at around 6,000, largely centered in Copenhagen. Speaking to EU officials, Margolin said the Danish government's decision contravened EU laws protecting religious freedom to slaughter animals according to religious guidelines, and that he was calling on Denmark to provide an explanation. (Israel Hayom, Feb. 14, 2014)


HUNGARIAN NATIONALISTS HOLD RALLY IN FORMER SYNAGOGUE (Budapest) Hungary’s far-right Jobbik Party held a political rally in a former synagogue, despite protests. The rally by the party, whose ultra-nationalist platform is laced with antisemitism and anti-Roma policy, was held Saturday night in the former synagogue in the town of Esztergom, located 29 miles north of Budapest. The building currently is operated by the local government as a cultural and meeting center. Several hundred demonstrators protested the meeting. They stood outside the former synagogue during the Jobbik rally reading the names of the 500 Holocaust victims who were deported to Auschwitz from the town in 1944. Jobbik party leader Gabor Vona told the demonstrators that “there is an atmosphere of hysteria due to the Holocaust Memorial Year in Hungary, which wants to make Hungarians feel guilty.” (Kosher Press, Feb. 16, 2014)


HUNGARIAN JEWISH COMMUNITY DISCOVERS 100 HOLOCAUST-ERA TORAH SCROLLS CONFISCATED IN WWII (Budapest) Budapest’s Unified Hungarian Jewish Congregation (EMIH) on Monday said it will announce details regarding the discovery of more than 100 Holocaust-era Torah Scrolls that had been confiscated during World War II. In a statement, EMIH called a press conference for Tuesday at Budapest’s Obuda Synagogue, where Executive Rabbi Shlomo Koves “will announce a historic discovery of the largest single collection of priceless confiscated sacred property of the Hungarian Jewish community in the Holocaust.” (Algemeiner, Feb. 17, 2014)


ISRAELI START-UP VIBER PURCHASED FOR 900M BY ELECTRONICS GIANT (Tel Aviv) The Israeli-founded voice and video communications app Viber has been purchased for $900 million by the Japanese electronics giant Rakuten. Hiroshi Mikitani, the Japanese billionaire who controls Rakuten, said Viber will help provide a distribution channel for his company’s digital products. Viber has more than 300 million users of its instant messaging and free Internet phone services. The purchase of Viber is the third major takeover of an Israeli start-up company in the past year. In June 2013, Google acquired the social networking traffic app Waze for close to a billion dollars, while IBM acquired the cyber-security company Trusteer in August. (Jewish Tribune, Feb. 18, 2014)


ISRAEL PRODUCES "LASER BEAM" DEFENSE TECHNOLOGY (Tel Aviv) Dubbed the "Iron Beam," the system users fast-acting laser technology to shoot down incoming rockets at close range. "It's exactly like what you see in 'Star Wars,' " said Amit Zimmer, a spokesman for the Rafael Advanced Defense Systems company producing the beam, told the Associated Press. "You see the lasers go up so quickly, like a flash, and the target is finished." The Iron Beam is designed to take down short-range missiles too fast to be targeted by Israel's wildly successful Iron Dome system. Rafael Advanced Defense Systems is the same company working with the US to develop the David's Sling and Arrow 3 defense systems. (Virtual Jerusalem, Feb. 16, 2014)


2,300-YEAR-OLD VILLAGE UNEARTHED ON ROAD TO JERUSALEM (Jerusalem) Israeli archaeologists have discovered the remnants of a 2,300-year-old rural settlement near the "Burma Road" that leads to Jerusalem. The Israel Antiquities Authorities recently completed excavations at the site ahead of the construction of a 25-kilometer-long natural gas pipeline, which will run from the coast to the outskirts of Jerusalem. The route of the pipeline will now bypass this archeological site. The excavation uncovered 750 square meters of a settlement with stone houses and a series of narrow alleyways that were occupied for an estimated two centuries during the Second Temple Period, from 530 BCE and 70 CE. (Ha’aretz, Feb. 18, 2014)


On Topic Links


The Salafi Menace in Sinai Goes After a Soft Target: Yaakov Lappin, Jerusalem Post, Feb. 17, 2014—Salafi jihadist terrorists based in Sinai struck again on Sunday, but unlike most of their recent targets, this time it was foreign tourists who were at the receiving end of their fanatical violence.

Syria Peace Plan: Kenneth Bandler, Jerusalem Post, Feb. 3, 2014—Does Syria have a future or is this Arab country doomed? The answer is not any clearer following the Geneva II peace talks.

The Shame of Princeton: Sohrab Ahmari, Wall Street Journal, Feb. 14, 2014—No matter how deep into the political fever swamps some scholars wade, it seems, progressive academe won't shun them.

Oxfam’s Middle East Blinders: Gerald M. Steinberg, National Post, Feb. 14, 2014—Global humanitarian aid and human rights groups, such as Oxfam, which have massive budgets and large staffs, wield a great deal of power.




Rob Coles, Publications Editor, Canadian Institute for Jewish Research/L'institut Canadien de recherches sur le Judaïsme, Tel: (514) 486-5544 – Fax:(514) 486-8284.





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Media-ocrity of the Week


…It is important to note that the last time the question of Palestinian statehood took center stage at the General Assembly, the question posed to the international community was whether our homeland should be partitioned into two states. In November 1947, the General Assembly made its recommendation and answered in the affirmative. Shortly thereafter, Zionist forces expelled Palestinian Arabs to ensure a decisive Jewish majority in the future state of Israel, and Arab armies intervened. War and further expulsions ensued.… We go to the United Nations now to secure the right to live free in the remaining 22 percent of our historic homeland because we have been negotiating with the State of Israel for 20 years without coming any closer to realizing a state of our own. We cannot wait indefinitely while Israel continues to send more settlers to the occupied West Bank and denies Palestinians access to most of our land and holy places, particularly in Jerusalem.… Once admitted to the United Nations, our state stands ready to negotiate all core issues of the conflict with Israel.…”—Excerpts from Palestinian Authority president Mahmoud Abbas’s NY Times op-ed, entitled The Long Overdue Palestinian State, calling on the “peace-loving,” third world dictatorships of the world to support his unilateral bid for Palestinian statehood at the UN General assembly in September, and affirming that the creation of “Palestine” is now a precondition for future negotiations with Israel. In response to Abbas’s distorted historical account, the Atlantic’s Jeffrey Goldberg wrote, “There is no particular reason to hope for a successful peace process when the leader of the Palestinians is selling a false history of Israel’s independence.… Mahmoud Abbas cannot bring himself to note that the Jews accepted the partition plan, while the Arabs rejected it, and went to war to extinguish the new Jewish state in the cradle, and then lost their offensive war.… If only he…could find a way to avoid rehearsing old grievances and instead work toward a future in which [he] doesn’t get all that [he] wants, but gets enough to live.” (NY Times, May 16 & Atlantic, May 17.)



Weekly Quotes

We must stop beating ourselves up and blaming ourselves.… We saw what happened along the borders of Israel yesterday. Thousands thronged against our fences in an attempt to invade our territory and challenge our sovereignty.… What were they yelling in Gaza yesterday? They were shouting that they want to return to Jaffa. What were they crying in Syria yesterday? They were chanting that they want to return to the Galilee. What did the leader of Hamas say yesterday? ‘We want to see the end of the Zionist agenda,’ the very same words used by his patrons in Iran.… My friends, the root of this conflict never was a Palestinian state, or lack thereof. The root of the conflict is, and always has been, their refusal to recognize the Jewish state. It is not a conflict over 1967, but over 1948, over the very existence of the State of Israel. You must have noticed that yesterday’s events did not occur on June 5, the anniversary of the Six Day War. They occurred on May 15, the day the State of Israel was established. The Palestinians regard this day, the foundation of the State of Israel, their nakba, their catastrophe. But their catastrophe was that they did not have a leadership that was willing to reach a true historic compromise between the Palestinian people and the Jewish people.”—This is not a conflict about 1967, this is a conflict about 1948, about the State of Israel’s very existence. You must have noticed that yesterday’s events did not take place on June 5, the day the Six Day War erupted, they took place on May 15, the day the State of Israel was established.”—Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, in an address to the Knesset plenum as part of “Herzl Day”, reaffirming that neither “borders” nor “settlements” are the root cause of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, but rather Israel’s very existence, as evidenced by the fact that “Nakba Day”—the yearly Palestinian commemoration marking the “catastrophe” of Israel’s birth—is celebrated on Israel’s Independence Day. (PMO Website, May 16.)


Today, as the Palestinians and their supporters commemorate their so-called ‘Nakba’, it is imperative that the catastrophe that befell the Jews from Arab lands be remembered and recognized. While the Arabs in 1948 were involved in hostilities against the Jews, the Jews of the Middle East and North Africa were not present in a theater of war, yet overnight their citizenship was revoked, their assets stolen and they were expelled or forced to flee. There is also a massive disparity in numbers, while the Arabs refugees numbered just over half a million, the Jewish refugees numbered over 900,000 and because they were urban and wealthy, their assets accounted for almost double those of the more rural Arabs. In any future agreement with the Palestinians, the issue of the Jewish refugees should be recognized and those who fled, and their descendants, ought to receive redress.… The Palestinian refugee narrative has been allowed to stand uncontested, too few people know about the real ‘Nakba’, that saw the dispossession of almost a million Jews, and it is about time for this to change.”—Israeli Deputy Foreign Minister Danny Ayalon, exposing the tyranny perpetrated by Arab nations against their Jewish citizens following Israel’s creation, which resulted in the forced expulsion of nearly one million Jews, and committing to fight the predominant and patently false narrative that only Palestinians were displaced during Israel’s defensive War of Independence. (Independent Media Review and Analysis, May 15.)


Nazism was defeated, but the Nazi ideology and its anti-Semitic roots are still nested in many places around the world. We, the Jews, certainly can not ignore it, when Mein Kampf and The Protocols of the Elders of Zion are still available to anyone in many languages, and when a state that calls for the destruction of a nation is still a member of the UN. We can not stay complacent when faced with calls for genocide, and we will not be silent about the tragedies of other nations.”—Knesset Speaker Reuven Rivlin, in a special Knesset Plenum to commemorate the 66th anniversary of Nazi Germany’s defeat, warning that although Nazism was vanquished its anti-Semitic ideology persists, and, as such, the Jewish people must be vigilant in the face of new existential threats posed by the likes of Iran. (Jerusalem Post, May 18.)


It would be a natural move for Iran to open an embassy or representative office in Gaza. Gaza is now a region almost free of occupation and Iran can have an active embassy in Gaza as it will have the same kind of mission in Egypt in future. Iran was the first government which recognized Palestine and allowed opening of the Palestinian embassy and today the Palestinian ambassador is active in Iran”—Representative of the Palestinian Islamic Jihad Movement in Tehran, Nasser Abu Sharif, calling on Iran to open a Mission in Hamas-ruled Gaza, in order to foster bilateral relations with the Palestinians. Palestinian Ambassador to Tehran Salah al-Zawawi echoed Abu Sharif’s statement and commended the “Iranian nation and government’s support for the victory of Palestine.” (Independent Media Review and Analysis, May 11.)


While no trial can bring back those that were murdered, holding those responsible to justice has an important moral and educational role in society. The conviction today of Demjanjuk underscores the fact that even though the policies of the ‘Final Solution’—the systematic murder of six million European Jews—were set and carried out by the German Nazi regime, the murder could not have taken place without the participation of myriads of Europeans on many levels. Their role was also criminal.”—Chairman of Israel’s Yad Vashem Holocaust Memorial Museum Avner Shalev, praising the conviction of John Demjanjuk for his role in orchestrating the murder of 27,900 Jews during the Nazi Holocaust. Nazi hunter Efraim Zuroff of the Simon Wiesenthal Center asserted “The conviction today of death camp guard Ivan Demjanjuk, who actively participated in the mass murder of tens of thousands of Jews in the Sobibor death camp, sends a powerful message that those responsible for Holocaust crimes can still be held accountable even though decades have passed since they were committed.” (Jerusalem Post May 12.)


Where is terrorism? [Hamas] entered into the elections and after the elections this is how they were reacted, I mean, calling them terrorists, this would be disrespect to the will of the Palestinian people.”—Turkish Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan, in an interview with U.S. talk show host Charlie Rose, discrediting the notion that Hamas is a terrorist organization, and affirming Turkey’s support of the Fatah-Hamas unity pact, which Erdogan views as a sign of progress that will bring peace to the region. (Jerusalem Post, May 12.)

Short Takes

AL-QAEDA NAMES NEW LEADER—(New York) According to reports, Egyptian Saif al-Adel has been appointed as "caretaker" leader of al-Qaeda, following the death of Osama bin Laden. The decision comes as a surprise, as many expected bin Laden's longstanding deputy, Ayman al-Zawahiri, to fill in for the slain leader. Al-Adel is a former Egyptian Special Forces soldier, and, according to the FBI, he is wanted in connection with the 1998 U.S. embassy bombings in Kenya and Tanzania. The 50-something al-Adel has a bounty of $5 million on his head. (Associated Press, May 18.)


US MIDEAST ENVOY MITCHELL RESIGNS—(Washington) U.S. Middle East peace envoy George Mitchell has shocked the Obama administration by handing in his resignation, a move that reflects his frustration with the White House’s shifting and incoherent mid-east policy. Mitchell, a former U.S. senator who helped broker the Northern Ireland peace deal, was one of the first members of Obama’s foreign policy team to be announced and has shuttled extensively between Washington and Middle East capitals trying to set up new negotiations. Direct peace talks resumed briefly last year but broke down when the Palestinians demanded that pre-conditions over settlement construction in the West Bank. (Reuters, May 13.)


U.N. SAYS IRAN VIOLATED ARMS BAN—(United Nations) According to a new United Nations report, Iran has been shipping weapons to Syria in violation of a U.N. arms-export ban. Of the nine reported violations, six arms shipments from Iran were to Syria, whose government is conducting a deadly crackdown on anti-regime protesters. In all such incidents, the arms were found to be “carefully concealed” to avoid inspection and hide the identity of the end user. The report also said Iran continued “willful” circumvention of sanctions through the use of “front companies, concealment methods in shipping, financial transactions and the transfer of conventional arms.” (Wall Street Journal, May 12.)


AHMADINEJAD’S MENTOR CRITICIZES HIM—(Tehran) The spiritual mentor of Mahmoud Ahmadinejad has harshly criticized the Iranian president for his role in an internal power struggle that has split the country’s hard-liners, indicating that Ahmadinejad’s own support base is fraying. The cleric is the latest high-profile figure to censure Ahmadinejad, who sparked a political confrontation last month by firing his intelligence minister without consulting the country’s Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei. The president’s mentor, Ayatollah Mohammad Taqi Mesbah Yazdi, said Ahmadinejad is increasingly turning friends into enemies and demonstrating what he called “illogical and cheap” behavior. The showdown is being interpreted as further evidence of a growing rift between Ahmadinejad and the ruling theocracy and a sign that Khamenei is seeking to tighten his grip on political affairs before parliamentary elections next year and a presidential election in 2013. (Washington Post, May 14.)


SYRIANPRESIDENT SAYS SECURITY FORCES MADE MISTAKES—(Beirut) Syrian president Bashar Assad has admitted that his security forces made mistakes during the uprising against his regime, blaming poorly trained police officers for a crackdown that has killed more than 850 people over the past two months. Assad’s comments come following a brutal attack on the western town of Talkalakh, which left more than 27 dead. Syrians pouring over the Lebanon border in recent days described horrific scenes in Talkalakh, including execution-style slayings and lifeless bodies littering the streets. Western powers continue to threaten the Assad regime with sanctions, while maintaining the hope that Assad will implement reforms. (Washington Post, May 17.)


WAR-CRIMES PROSECUTORS SEEK GADHAFI’S ARREST—(Tripoli) The International Criminal Court’s chief prosecutor is seeking arrest warrants for Col. Moammar Gadhafi, his son Saif al-Islam as well as Abdullah al-Senussi, a senior intelligence officer. According to chief prosecutor Luis Moreno-Ocampo “The evidence shows that Moammar Gadhafi personally ordered attacks on Libyan civilians. [He] committed these crimes with the goal of maintaining his authority.” If indicted by ICC judges, Col. Gadhafi will be subject to an international arrest warrant, to be enforced by all members of the United Nations. An adviser to the rebels’ National Transitional Council called the announcement “a huge boost for morale.” (Associated Press & Wall Street Journal, May 16.)


THOUSANDS OF EGYPTIANS PROTEST AGAINST ISRAEL—(Jerusalem) Thousands of Egyptians have staged mass demonstrations outside the Israeli Consulate in Alexandria and the Israeli embassy in Cairo. Mobs of chanting dissenters—“With our souls, with our blood, we redeem you Palestine.”—descended on the Israeli Missions to push their military rulers to cut ties with Israel, and do more to help Palestinians. Egyptian riot police fired tear gas and live ammunition to disperse the protesters, and a security official confirmed that at least 185 demonstrators were arrested. Egypt's Health Ministry said at least 353 people were hurt. (Associated Press, May 16 & Jerusalem Post, May 13.)


TALIBAN LAYS CLAIM TO DEADLY PAKISTAN BLAST—(Islamabad) A pair of suicide bombers have struck paramilitary recruits at a training center in volatile northwestern Pakistan, killing at least 80 people. The Pakistan Taliban claimed responsibility, saying the attack was its first to avenge the slaying of Osama bin Laden by U.S. forces. The bombers, wearing explosive vests packed with nails and ball bearings, targeted a poorly equipped and trained force that was leaving a center at the Shabqadar Fort in the town of Charsadda. The bombing is likely to deepen the anger in Pakistan over the U.S. raid against bin Laden, which was launched without Pakistan’s knowledge. (Wall Street Journal, May 13.)

ITALY WILL/WILL NOT RECOGNIZE PALESTINIAN STATE—(Rome) According to Italian Prime Minister Silvio Berlusconi, Italy will never recognize a unilateral declaration of a Palestinian state. During a speech at a reception to mark Israel’s Independence Day, Berlusconi praised the Jewish state as the only democracy in the Middle East, and affirmed “there is no other course [to solving the Israeli-Palestinian conflict] other than an agreement between the two states.” Five days later, Italy’s president Giorgio Napolitano announced during a news conference in Bethlehem with Palestinian Authority president Mahmoud Abbas that Italy was upgrading its Palestinian delegation to full diplomatic status. (JTA, May 12 & 17.)


SUSPECTS ARRESTED IN ALLEGED NEW YORK SYNAGOGUE TERROR PLOT—(Jerusalem) Ahmed Farhani and Mohamed Mamdouh have been arrested for buying a gun, ammunition and a grenade as part of a plan to blow up a New York synagogue. Ferhani, a 26-year-old Algerian, and Mamdouh, a 20-year-old U.S. citizen of Moroccan descent, have been arraigned on initial charges including conspiracy as a crime of terrorism, a rarely-used state law. An undercover detective had secretly recorded both men ranting about their hatred of Jews and discussing a synagogue attack, according to prosecutors. Both deny the allegations. (Haaretz, May 18.)


OBAMA’S HALF BROTHER VISITS ISRAEL—(Jerusalem) U.S. president Barack Obama’s half brother, Mark Ndesandjo, has visited Israel for the first time in order to reconnect with his Jewish roots. Ndesandjo, 45, was born to Barack Obama Senior’s third wife, a Jewish American kindergarten teacher and the daughter of Lithuanian immigrants. One of the main purposes of Ndesandjo’s visit was to meet with the Ashkenazi chief rabbi of Israel, Yona Metzger, to receive a blessing and a letter for his mother, Ruth Nidesand. According to reports, Metzger asked Ndesandjo to do “a noble favor for the Jewish people,” by convincing Obama to release Jonathan Pollard, who has been serving a life sentence in the U.S. since he was convicted of spying for Israel in 1986. Ndesandjo agreed. (Ynet News, May 11.)


BELGIAN JEWS SHOCKED BY JUSTICE MINISTER’S CALL TO ‘FORGET’ NAZI PAST—(Jerusalem) Belgian Justice Minister Stefaan De Clerck has stunned the country’s Jewish community by voicing support for an initiative to provide amnesty to Nazi collaborators during WWII, and for his suggestion that it may behoove the government to “forget” its Nazi past. Eli Ringer, council member of the Forum of Jewish Organizations (FJO) said that he was dismayed when he heard about the amnesty proposal, which was raised before the French speaking parties in Belgium. Ringer added that there would be a big problem if the proposal was accepted by the government, and that it is incomprehensible that the government would implement a law that would wipe out the lessons of the past. (Haaretz, May 17.)


SWEDEN’S QUEEN TO PROBE FATHER’S ‘NAZI TIES’—(Jerusalem) Sweden’s Queen Silvia is investigating her late father’s activities in Germany and Brazil during World War II to clarify reports about possible ties to Nazis. Walther Sommerlath’s alleged links with Germany’s Nazi party were first reported in 2002 by Swedish media, which claimed he joined the party in 1934 and took over a business from a Jew in 1939 under unclear circumstances. Royal Court spokesman Bertil Ternert said the investigation was launched in reaction to the “Kalla Fakta” (“Cold Facts”) TV program that aired in November. The results of the investigation are expected this fall. (Ynet News, May 17.)



Israel’s Cabinet has allocated more than $2.5 million to promote the candidacy of the Dead Sea as one of the New 7 Wonders of Nature. The Dead Sea is one of 28 entries to have reached the finals of the competition; other candidates include the Grand Canyon, the Amazon rainforest and the Great Barrier Reef. Approximately 1 billion people are expected to vote to determine the winners, which will be revealed on November 11, 2011. According to Israel’s Ministry of Tourism, the selection of the Dead Sea as one of the New 7 Wonders of Nature could lead to a significant increase in the number of tourists visiting Israel. (JTA, May 9.)