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MEDIA-OCRITY OF THE WEEK: “On my visit here to the Negev, I faced two Israels. One is the thriving democracy that many of us admire, the one that gives disgruntled Arab citizens free speech and ballots, that treats the wounded Syrians brought across the border, that nurtures a civil society that stands up for the Bedouin. This is the Israel that anyone can support without risking harm to Arabs. Any of us would plant a tree in this Israel…Yet the other Israel has been gaining ground. It’s more nationalistic, more militaristic, more determined to push Palestinians off land in the West Bank, more eager to dispatch the United States to bomb Iranian nuclear sites. This is the Israel that Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu will represent in his address to Congress scheduled for this week. This is also the Israel that antagonizes many Europeans and Americans. Hard-line policies under Netanyahu are turning support for Israel’s government from a bipartisan issue to a Republican one. A poll of Americans published in December found that 51 percent of Republicans wanted the United States to lean toward Israel, but only 17 percent of Democrats agreed (most didn’t want to lean either way). Increasingly, the constituency in America that most reliably backs the Israeli government may be not Jews but Evangelical Christians. With the Netanyahu speech coming up, American politicians will be strutting and jostling to prove their “pro-Israel” credentials. So this is a moment to remember that the better question is which Israel to support,” — Nicholas Kristof (New York Times, Feb. 28, 2015)
PM Netanyahu addresses AIPAC 2015 (Video): Youtube, Mar. 2. 2015
Heading Toward the Election Broadcasts: Manfred Gerstenfeld, CIJR, Mar. 3, 2015
5 Important Points in Netanyahu’s Speech to Congress: Daniel Greenfield, Frontpage, Mar. 3, 2015
U.S. and Israel: The Manufactured Crisis: Elliott Abrams, Weekly Standard, Feb. 26, 2015
“Absent a dramatic change, we know for sure that any deal with Iran will include two major concessions to Iran. The first major concession would leave Iran with a vast nuclear infrastructure, providing it with a short break-out time to the bomb…According to the deal, not a single nuclear facility would be demolished. Thousands of centrifuges used to enrich uranium would be left spinning. Thousands more would be temporarily disconnected, but not destroyed. Because Iran's nuclear program would be left largely intact, Iran's break-out time would be very short — about a year by U.S. assessment, even shorter by Israel's…the second major concession creates an even greater danger that Iran could get to the bomb by keeping the deal. Because virtually all the restrictions on Iran's nuclear program will automatically expire in about a decade. Now, a decade may seem like a long time in political life, but it's the blink of an eye in the life of a nation. It's a blink of an eye in the life of our children. We all have a responsibility to consider what will happen when Iran's nuclear capabilities are virtually unrestricted and all the sanctions will have been lifted. Iran would then be free to build a huge nuclear capacity that could product many, many nuclear bombs…That's why this deal is so bad. It doesn't block Iran's path to the bomb; it paves Iran's path to the bomb,” —Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, in an address to a joint meeting of U.S. Congress on Tuesday. (Read the complete transcript of his remarks here—Ed.).
“Prime Minister Netanyahu has not provided any kind of viable alternative that would achieve the same verifiable mechanism to prevent Iran from getting a nuclear weapon,” —U.S. President Barack Obama, who took time out from a meeting with Defence Secretary Ashton Carter to tell reporters the speech was “theatre.” “When we shaped that interim deal [in 2012], Prime Minister Netanyahu made almost that precise same speech about how dangerous that deal was going to be, and yet over a year later even Israeli intelligence officers and in some cases member of the Israeli government have to acknowledge that, in fact, it has kept Iran from pursuing its nuclear program…The bottom line is this, we don’t yet have a deal. But if we are successful negotiating, then … this will be the best deal possible for preventing Iran from obtaining a nuclear weapon. Nothing else comes close. Sanctions won’t do it. Even military action would not be as successful as the deal that we have put forward,” Obama added. (National Post, Mar. 3, 2015)
“Did Netanyahu offer an alterative to the president’s policy? The answer is yes. The administration is right when they say Netanyahu offered nothing new, but that was the point. After belatedly adopting sanctions, the administration quickly gave up on them just at the moment in 2013 when they were starting to bite. By toughening sanctions, as the Kirk-Menendez bill currently before Congress would do, and increasing the political and economic pressure on the regime, the U.S. has a chance to reverse Obama’s concessions and bring Iran to its knees. The West must insist that Iran change its behavior before sanctions are lifted, rather than afterward,” —Jonathan S. Tobin (Commentary, Mar. 3, 2015)
“I was near tears throughout the Prime Minister’s speech – saddened by the insult to the intelligence of the United States as part of the P5 +1 nations, and saddened by the condescension toward our knowledge of the threat posed by Iran and our broader commitment to preventing nuclear proliferation,” — House Democratic leader Nancy Pelosi, in a statement after Netanyahu’s address. The partisan divide was evident inside the chamber. Most Republicans kept their seats as Netanyahu began his speech by praising Obama’s commitment to Israel. Most Democrats kept their seats when Netanyahu declared, “This is a bad deal. It’s a very bad deal. We’re better off without it.” (Politico, Mar. 3, 2015)
“What’s striking is that Netanyahu had to remind us of the nature of the Iranian regime in the first place. One of the problems with the current public discourse around Iran in this country is the tendency to normalize the regime, and to elide or ignore its fundamental violations of basic human rights. Iran even has its apologists, like the left-wing Jewish pundit Peter Beinart, who outright lied in a column for The Atlantic with this claim that, “Iran isn’t doing truly reckless things like invading a Saudi ally in the Persian Gulf or launching chemical or biological weapons at Israel.” Really? Iran now controls Yemen and, to an ever-greater extent, Iraq. It is the main sponsor of Hezbollah. And it is the primary reason that the Assad regime in Syria, which has used chemical and biological weapons against its own populace, remains in power,” — Ben Cohen (Algemeiner, Mar. 3, 2015)
“I think that it’s important for Congress and the American people to let Israelis know through our presence in the chamber that we stand united with them in this critical hour,” — Rep. Lee Zeldin of New York, the lone Jewish Republican in Congress. For the nearly 30 Jewish members of Congress, only one of whom is a Republican, the fight over the speech has presented an uncomfortable mix of religion, political tension, and the traditionally bipartisan imperative of support for Israel. The result for some Democrats has been a tough decision over whether to skip the speech, potentially provoking the ire of Jewish supporters, or to attend it, giving the appearance of backing Netanyahu’s expected criticisms of the Obama administration. (Wall Street Journal, Feb. 27, 2015)
“No one in this room can deny the bias against Israel in the U.N. Human Rights Council,” —Secretary of State Kerry, addressing a meeting of the U.N. organization shortly before he was scheduled to join envoys from five other world powers to resume nuclear talks with Iran. “It must be said: the HRC’s obsession with Israel actually risks undermining the credibility of the entire organization,” Kerry added. “It has the potential to limit the good we can accomplish.” Kerry promised that the U.S. would work to defeat anti-Israel resolutions it considers “arbitrary…Not just in the U.N. Human Rights Council, but wherever it occurs.” Kerry’s vigorous defense of Israel came just hours before Netanyahu was scheduled to speak at the annual meeting of AIPAC. (Washington Post, Mar. 2, 2015)
“There are probably several thousand of these individuals of concern, and the numbers are rising as more people go to Syria and Iraq and are radicalized out there,” —John Sawers, the former chief of Britain’s foreign intelligence service, MI6. Mohammed Emwazi was identified on Thursday as the masked I.S. fighter called “Jihadi John.” How and when he was radicalized, and whether the British intelligence services were at fault — either dealing with him too harshly or not identifying him as a serious threat soon enough — are already the subjects of hot debate. The question for security services is the same all over the West, whether in Britain, France or the U.S., as some young Muslims are becoming radicalized or seeking to join a jihad. Given important constitutional and legal protections, how do counterterrorism and police officials draw the line when they find enough evidence to suspect someone, but do not have enough to prosecute them, or even to keep them under legal surveillance? “No one is talking about rounding up all these people or keeping 100 percent coverage of them; there is just not the resources for that and it would be contrary to our principles of human rights to do that,” Sawers said. (New York Times, Feb. 27 & New York Times, Feb. 26, 2015 )
“We saw what happened in Iraq in 2003…Our people were left alone, with no autonomy, no army that could defend them…Most of our people have emigrated, thanks to attacks from al-Qaeda and other groups. They couldn’t defend themselves. We learned that lesson and have prepared ourselves,” —Kino Gabriel, a member of the Christian minority that in both Syrian and Iraqi wars has tried desperately to stay on the sidelines. No longer. Christian militias have existed for a number of years, sometimes patrolling neighbourhoods, sometimes venturing further afield. But now they are engaged in their first major battle. For the last week, they have been fighting the jihadists of the Islamic State across a major front in north-west Syria, in alliance with the YPG, the Kurdish defence forces. (Telegraph, Feb. 28, 2015)
“This attack is far more than a cultural tragedy — this is also a security issue as it fuels sectarianism, violent extremism and conflict in Iraq,” — Irina Bokova, the head of Unesco (United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization). On Friday, archaeologists and historians in Iraq and around the world studied a video posted by I.S. showing millenniums-old artifacts being smashed by sledgehammers. The destruction took place in Mosul, in one of the most important museums in the Middle East. Mosul’s treasures were mainly from two eras, the Assyrian Empire and the kingdom of Hatra, a trading city from the first and second century A.D., whose ruins are in the desert about 60 miles southwest of Mosul. The smashing of the antiquities — described as “idols” by an Islamic State spokesman in the video report titled “The Promotion of Virtue and the Prevention of Vice #1 — Nineveh Province” — seemed to echo the destruction of the Great Buddhas of Bamiyan by the Afghan Taliban in 2001. (New York Times, Feb. 27, 2015)
“The most difficult question for Russia is what kind of revolution you will get – orange [the colour of Ukraine’s 2004 revolution] or brown or red. There is a very big danger for Russians and for the world because, unfortunately, nationalists and fascists are very popular in this country,” —Boris Nemtsov, veteran Russian opposition leader, and one of Vladimir Putin’s harshest critics. Nemtsov, 55, was shot four times in the back as he walked across a bridge in Moscow near the Kremlin with a friend. Nemtsov was a key speaker and organizer in the protests of 2011 and 2012 that ephemerally rattled Putin’s hold on power, and he was an outspoken supporter of last year’s pro-Western revolution in Ukraine. But in interviews, he worried Russia was headed somewhere even darker if and when Putin was forced out of the Kremlin. (Globe & Mail, Feb. 27, 2015)
“I came because I respected Boris Yefimovich a great deal,” —Mikhail Gabay, using the polite form of Boris Nemtsov's name. Thousands of mourners, including Gabay, queued for hours to pay their respects to Boris Nemtsov at his funeral in Moscow, four days after the Russian opposition politician was shot dead near the Kremlin. “ I shared his views: that we need to build a more open, democratic, human state with normal courts, normal police and normal investigators who would solve this kind of murder, which of course they never will,” Gabay added. (Telegraph, Mar. 3, 2015)
POLL: DUST-UP WITH OBAMA HAS NOT COST NETANYAHU U.S. SUPPORT (Washington) — Prime Minister Netanyahu’s favorability rating among the US public is at a near-record high, according to a Gallup poll released on Monday. The results of the poll showed that tension with the Obama administration over his address to Congress on Tuesday has not harmed his image with the U.S. public. The most recent poll found that 45 percent of the American public views Netanyahu favorably, a statistical tie with his 1998 rating – when 46% had a positive opinion of him – and 10 percentage points more than in 2012. (Jerusalem Post, Mar. 2, 2015)
ARAB COMMENTATORS STRONGLY BACK NETANYAHU ON CONGRESS SPEECH (Washington) —Leading Arab opinion makers weighed in on the controversy surrounding Netanyahu’s address to Congress and expressed strong support for his stance on the Iranian nuclear threat. In an op-ed for the Saudi Arabian daily Al-Jazirah, columnist Dr. Ahmad Al-Faraj asserted that Netanyahu is justified in his campaign against the proposed nuclear deal with Iran. “I believe that Netanyahu’s conduct will serve our interests, the people of the Gulf, much more than the foolish behavior of one of the worst American presidents,” Al-Faraj wrote. (Algemeiner, Mar. 3, 2015)
PM TO GET BRONZE CHURCHILL FOR SPEECH (Washington) — House Speaker John Boehner plans to give Netanyahu a bust of Winston Churchill when he speaks to Congress. The gift was chosen because Netanyahu and the former prime minister of Britain are the only foreign leaders who have addressed Congress three separate times. Netanyahu plans on giving Boehner a menorah and scroll of Esther, the latter tied to the upcoming holiday of Purim. The bust of Churchill, whom Netanyahu has said he admires, may also carry a subtext of a stab at Obama’s gaffe with the British during his first term. Shortly after Obama was sworn in, the White House returned a bust of Churchill to the British embassy, which had loaned it to George W. Bush. (Times of Israel, Mar. 2, 2015)
HOUSE COMMITTEE TO SUBPOENA CLINTON’S E-MAILS (Washington) — A House investigative committee is preparing to send out subpoenas to gather a deeper look into former secretary of state Hillary Clinton’s nearly exclusive use of personal e-mails to do her official business as the government’s top diplomat. The House Select Committee on Benghazi, which first discovered Clinton’s use of a personal e-mail based on a home server in its inquiry into a fatal 2012 terrorist attack on a U.S. diplomatic compound in Benghazi, Libya, is asking for all e-mails related to the attack from all Clintonemail.com accounts and any other staff members’ personal accounts. The move escalates the panel’s conflict with Clinton and could complicate her expected run for president. (Washington Post, Mar. 4, 2015)
EGYPT DECLARES HAMAS A 'TERRORIST ORGANIZATION' (Cairo) —An Egyptian court declared Hamas a "terrorist organization," further isolating the blockaded rulers of the Gaza Strip once openly welcomed by the country's toppled Islamist-dominated government. The move underlines Egypt's increasing hostility to Hamas, which the court blamed for violence in the country's restive Sinai Peninsula. The secretive terrorist movement, founded in Gaza in 1987 as an offshoot of the region's Egyptian-originated Muslim Brotherhood, faces a growing cash crunch and has yet to lay out a strategy to extract Gaza from its increasingly dire situation. (Huffington Post, Feb. 28, 2015)
AMERICAN BLOGGER HACKED TO DEATH IN BANGLADESH (Dhaka) — A Bangladeshi-born American blogger, known for his criticism of Islamic fundamentalism, was hacked to death by machete-wielding attackers in the Bangladeshi capital on Thursday. Authorities said Avijit Roy, a 42-year-old self-described atheist whose Mukto-Mona blog championed secularism and opposed religion in politics, was assaulted by a group of men when returning home from a book fair. A group calling itself Ansar Bangla 7 appeared to claim responsibility in a Twitter post saying: “Anti-Islamic blogger US-Bengali citizen Avijit Roy is assassinated in capital #Dhaka due to his crime against #Islam.” (Wall Street Journal, Feb. 27, 2015)
SAUDI AWARD GOES TO MUSLIM TELEVANGELIST WHO HARSHLY CRITICIZES U.S. (Riyadh) — He has publicly declared that “the Jews” control America, that apostates can be killed, that the U.S. is the world’s “biggest terrorist” and that the Sept. 11 attacks were an “inside job” by President Bush. But last weekend, Dr. Zakir Naik, a Muslim televangelist from India, appeared at a ceremony in Saudi Arabia, where the new monarch, King Salman, gave him one of the country’s highest honors. The award for “service to Islam” highlighted the conflicted position of Saudi Arabia as an American ally that continues to back Islamists who espouse hatred of the West. Regarding Osama bin Laden, Naik said he supported him if he was fighting the U.S. “If he is terrorizing America the terrorist, the biggest terrorist, I am with him…Every Muslim should be a terrorist.” (New York Times, Mar. 2, 2015)
ISLAMIC STATE IS SELLING LOOTED SYRIAN ART IN LONDON TO FUND ITS FIGHT (London) — Almost 100 Syrian artifacts looted by I.S. have been smuggled into Britain and sold to raise money for the extremist group’s activities. The items, allegedly being sold in London, include gold and silver Byzantine coins as well as Roman pottery and glass worth hundreds of thousands of dollars. Michael Danti, an archaeologist with the Syrian Heritage Initiative, said that I.S. was known to be involved. “We see heavy looting in ISIS-controlled areas,” Danti was quoted as saying. “Also, common sense: ISIS controls smuggling.” The smuggling is thought to take place via Turkey, Jordan and Lebanon, routes also known for smuggling people, guns and drugs. (Washington Post, Feb. 25, 2015)
MEIN KAMPF TO BE REPUBLISHED IN GERMANY FOR THE FIRST TIME SINCE WWII (Berlin) —With the copyright set to expire at the end of the year, Adolf Hitler’s Mein Kampf will be republished in Germany for the first time since World War II. The new edition, at 2,000 pages with commentary and annotations, is being produced by the Institute of Contemporary History. Hitler’s original publishing house was captured by the Americans, and the copyright on his manifesto reverted to the German state of Bavaria, which forbade its publication in Germany since the end of the war. Bavaria’s copyright expires in December. Mein Kampf was written by Hitler while he sat in a Bavarian jail in 1923. The book outlines Hitler’s racist views on the world, laying the groundwork for the Holocaust. (Breaking Israel News, Mar. 3, 2015)
TURKEY COMMEMORATES JEWS KILLED IN 1942 ‘STRUMA’ TRAGEDY (Istanbul) — For the first time, the Turkish government hosted a commemoration event for 768 Jews killed on the Struma refugee ship. The Struma, chartered by the Revisionist Movement’s New Zionist Organization and the Betar Zionist youth movement, left Romania in December 1941 with 769 Jewish “illegal immigrant” passengers on its way to pre-state Israel. The vessel arrived in Istanbul, towed there as its engine had failed, but the Turkish government refused to allow the refugees in because they did not want to become a haven for Jews as it saw the U.K. as not allowing them to continue on to Israel. Turkish authorities towed the Struma out into the Black Sea without fuel or food and after a few hours the ship was accidentally torpedoed by a Soviet submarine and sank, killing all but one of the passengers. (Jerusalem Post, Feb. 25, 2015)
JORDAN, ISRAEL SIGN HISTORIC RED SEA-DEAD SEA RESCUE DEAL (Jerusalem) — Jordanian and Israeli officials signed a multi-million dollar deal to rescue the Dead Sea from oblivion. The historic project began with a memorandum of understanding signed in Washington by Israeli, Jordanian and Palestinian Authority leaders in 2013. The $800 million agreement authorizes the construction of a 65 to 80 million cubic meter capacity desalination plant in Aqaba, Jordan. The plant is to produce potable water that will benefit both nations. A 200-kilometer pipeline will supply Red Sea saltwater to replenish the shrinking waters of the Dead Sea, also benefiting both Israel and Jordan, whose borders share the shorelines of the lake on each side. (Jewish Press, Feb. 27, 2015)
THE JEWISH ROOTS OF LEONARD NIMOY (New York) —Nimoy first saw what became the famous Vulcan salute, “live long and prosper,” as a child, long before “Star Trek” even existed. The placement of the hands comes from a childhood memory, of an Orthodox Jewish synagogue service in Boston. The man who would play Spock saw the gesture as part of a blessing, and it never left him. Nimoy, who died on Friday, spoke about the Jewish roots of the famous gesture for an oral history project documenting the lives of Yiddish speakers, of which Nimoy is one. “This is the shape of the letter shin,” Nimoy said in the 2013 interview, making the famous “V” gesture. The Hebrew letter shin, he noted, is the first letter in several Hebrew words, including Shaddai (a name for God), Shalom (the word for hello, goodbye and peace) and Shekhinah, which he defined as “the feminine aspect of God who supposedly was created to live among humans.” (Washington Post, Feb. 27, 2015)
PM Netanyahu addresses AIPAC 2015 (Video): Youtube, Mar. 2. 2015
Heading Toward the Election Broadcasts: Manfred Gerstenfeld, CIJR, Mar. 3, 2015— The election campaign will move forward to its next phase on March 3rd, with the start of the national TV broadcasts.
5 Important Points in Netanyahu’s Speech to Congress: Daniel Greenfield, Frontpage, Mar. 3, 2015 —Netanyahu delivered a solid speech and a solid case, but here are four points worth highlighting.
U.S. and Israel: The Manufactured Crisis: Elliott Abrams, Weekly Standard, Feb. 26, 2015—The crisis between the United States and Israel has been manufactured by the Obama administration.
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