North Korea launched a long-range rocket over the weekend, fueling fears over continued Iranian-North Korean cooperation on nuclear and ballistic missile-related work. North Korea used the launch, which came only a month after its fourth nuclear test, to put a satellite in orbit. Ilan Berman, Vice President of the American Foreign Policy Council, has argued that for decades Iran and North Korea have forged a “formidable alliance – the centerpiece of which is cooperation on nuclear and ballistic-missile capabilities.” The Daily Beast’s Gordon Chang explained that the satellite launched this weekend, along with the one launched in 2012, “are about the same weight as a nuclear warhead, and that was the point of these elaborate exercises.” The purpose of the launches is to test its ballistic missile technology “under the guise of a civilian rocket program.” On Iran’s role, Chang wrote, “When we examine evidence of the most recent crisis…we will probably learn the North Koreans in fact tested their new 80-ton booster, which they have been developing for at least two years. It is almost certain Iran has paid for its development.”
The Foundation for Defense of Democracies published a paper in January on the Iran-North Korea nuclear relationship and drafted a series of questions of concern that need to be answered. Authors Ali Alfoneh and Scott Modell explained that “[t]here is significant reason to believe Iran-North Korea nuclear cooperation is closer than commonly recognized.” They conclude that despite the number of critical questions that should be answered, “[t]he signs of military and scientific cooperation between Iran and North Korea suggest that Pyongyang could have been involved in Tehran’s nuclear and ballistic-missile program, and that state-run trading companies may have assisted in critical aspects of Iran’s illicit nuclear-related activities.”
Experts have documented evidence of Iran’s attempts to use North Korea to advance its nuclear and ballistic missile programs. According to Alfoneh and Modell, “[a] top Iranian official overseeing Tehran’s nuclear program” was in attendance at North Korea’s third nuclear test in 2013. Berman explained that North Korea sent “hundreds of nuclear experts” to work in Iran, while making “key nuclear software” available to Iranian scientists. Larry Niksch, Senior Associate at the Center for Strategic and International Studies, in his testimony before Congress in July, noted that in 2011, North Korean scientists reportedly trained Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps members and other officials on a certain computer program, which, “[a]ccording to the German newspaper, Suddeutsche Zeitung, ‘western secret services sources’ described … as ‘vital’ for the development of nuclear warheads.”
The fire that engulfed a makeshift West Bank synagogue and destroyed Torah scrolls on Friday was caused by arson, likely by suspects from the nearby Palestinian town of Halhul, an Israeli investigation determined.
The scrolls were housed in a tent next to Karmei Tzur that was used as a synagogue and gathering place for local children. The synagogue was named after three Israeli teenagers—Eyal Yifrah, Gil-ad Shaar, and Naftali Fraenkel—who were kidnapped and murdered by Palestinian terrorists in June 2014.
Residents said that the texts were gathered in a pile and set on fire. No injuries were reported in the incident, though the scrolls and tent were badly damaged.
“We are in the midst of a hard battle between those who seek coexistence and peace and those who want war and blood,” said Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, adding that the arson was the result of ongoing Palestinian incitement.
“The sight of the burned Torah scrolls in the Etzion bloc is heartrending,” said President Reuven Rivlin. “The assault on our people’s holy items hurts all the more when it is done at the place that commemorates Eyal, Gil-ad and Naftali, who were murdered by a cruel hand… I am certain and confident that the security forces will bring the perpetrators to justice swiftly.”
The suspected arson comes amid months of near-daily Palestinian terrorist attacks against Israeli civilians and security officials, leading to 31 deaths over 300 injuries. Leading Palestinian officials, including Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas, have been accused of inciting the violence and glorifying Palestinians terrorists who carry out attacks against Israelis.
Abbas consoled families of terrorists—including the relatives of a man who hacked a Jerusalem rabbi to death in October—during two separate meetings last week, calling the attackers “martyrs.” The first meeting took place hours after three Palestinian men gunned down an Israeli policewoman in Jerusalem. Fatah, the party led by Abbas, praised the shooters as “role models” on Wednesday.
The PA also joined the terrorist organizations Hamas and Palestinian Islamic Jihad in honoring an Arab-Israeli gunman who killed three people in Tel Aviv on New Year’s Day, saying he was “one of the most precious martyrs whose name has been inscribed with his pure blood that watered the soil of our free land.” Fatah similarly hailed the man, who died during a shootout with authorities, writing, “may Allah receive you in Heaven.” (via TheTower.org)
It’s Game Day and that means the best brands are set to tackle one another for the title of Best Commercial at Super Bowl. Israel’s do-it-yourself website builder platform, Wix.com, is hoping to score another touchdown with its new 30-second ad. This year’s Super Bowl commercial is actually in collaboration with DreamWorks Animation. The commercial – which is being promoted under the hashtag #StartStunning — promotes the recent release of Kung Fu Panda 3 and uses its characters to show how easy it is for businesses to create a beautiful website using the Wix platform. Wix is hoping to cash in on previous Super Bowl commercial hits by parodying them. In just 30 seconds, the Israeli team skewers (in a friendly way) 2015’s Carl’s Jr. Too Hot For TV, 1995’s Budweiser Frogs and 2010’s Old Spice The Man Your Man Could Smell Like ads. Last year, Wix aired its first-ever Super Bowl spot to great acclaim. “We did pretty good in terms of the amount of money we got back from the campaign we did,” said chief marketing officer Omer Shai in an interview with Fortune. “It gave us great confidence in doing it [another Super Bowl ad] again.” The new commercial is reported to have cost $5 million to make. The ad has scored over three million views in four days on YouTube. (via Israel21c)
When Arielle Mokhtarzadeh and Ben Rosenberg arrived at University of California, Berkeley on November 6 to attend the annual Students of Color Conference, they had no way of knowing that they would be leaving as victims of anti-Semitism.
The University of California Student Association’s “oldest and largest conference,” the Students of Color Conference (SOCC) has maintained a reputation for 27 years as being a “safe space” where students of color, as well as white progressive allies, can address and discuss issues of structural and cultural inequality on college campuses. Students who attend are encouraged to be cognizant of their language while exploring topics that directly affect students from marginalized communities: the school-to-prison pipeline, sexual violence, decreased funding to ethnic and LGBT studies departments, racially insensitive speech, and perhaps most importantly, a “disquieting trend” of hate crimes on university campuses statewide.
It was this disquieting, yet growing, trend of hate speech and crimes directed towards Jewish students within the UC system that spurred Mokhtarzadeh and Rosenberg, both Jewish sophomores at UCLA, to attend the conference. Their freshman year was punctuated by incidents of anti-Semitism that were both personal and met with national controversy. They were shocked during their first quarter in school, when students entered the Bruin Cafe to see the phrase “Hitler did nothing wrong” etched into a table. Months later, Mokhtarzadeh’s friend, Rachel Beyda, was temporarily denied a student government leadership position based solely on her Jewish identity, an event that made news nationwide. Throughout the year, they saw the school’s pro-Palestinian group, Students for Justice in Palestine (SJP), issue criticism of Israel that overstepped into anti-Semitic rhetoric and hate. The campus was supposed to be their new home, their new safe space—so why didn’t they feel that way?
Mokhtarzadeh applied to the Students of Color Conference with the hope “of learning more about the experiences of communities of color at the UC… [and] sharing with those communities the experience of my own,” she told me. As an Iranian Jew, she believed her identity as both a religious and ethnic minority granted her a place to belong and thrive at the SOCC. Rosenberg (who requested a pseudonym so that he could speak freely about campus issues without fear of potential retaliation) said that growing up in the Bay Area had taught him to be an active member of social justice movements and progressive communities. “I was always encouraged to take initiative on issues and movements that didn’t directly affect me,” he said. “I wanted to learn more about the struggles that my fellow students were going through.”
But their experiences as Jewish students at the SOCC would soon inspire a rude awakening: the campus progressives who were fighting for justice on college campuses for students of color weren’t only ignoring anti-Semitism and attacks on Jewish identity—they were sometimes the ones perpetuating it.
This was quickly made clear on the first day at a session called “Existence is Resistance,” hosted by leaders of UC San Diego’s SJP chapter. Students discussed the boycott of Israel as an issue of urgency for students of color. Rosenberg and Mokhtarzadeh told me that they originally had no intention to engage in dialogue about Israel at the conference, but they were horrified at how attacks on Israel soon devolved into attacks on the Jews. “The session went way beyond the boundaries of what was appropriate or truthful at the SOCC,” Rosenberg recalled.
For example, they said that Israel was poisoning the water that they sell into the West Bank, and raising the price by ten times. Any sane person knows that this is not true. They also said that when Jewish-American students go on Birthright trips, the Israeli government offers you money to live on a settlement. A number of things like that.
Rosenberg also stated that “There was also no mention of the Holocaust when talking about the history of Israel. They said that in the late 19th century, Jews decided to move into this land and take over it. They completely white-washed our history as a people.”
Mokhtarzadeh was also horrified by the rhetoric used during the session.
Over the course of what was probably no longer than an hour, my history was denied, the murder of my people was justified, and a movement whose sole purpose is the destruction of the Jewish homeland was glorified. Statements were made justifying the ruthless murder of innocent Israeli civilians, blatantly denying Jewish indigeneity in the land, and denying the Holocaust in which six million Jews were murdered. Why anyone in their right mind would accept these slanders as truths baffles me. But they did. These statements, and others, were met with endless snaps and cheers. I was taken aback.
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