Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas rejected a peace initiative proposed by U.S. Vice President Joe Biden on Wednesday, according to the Palestinian newspaper Al Quds.
The dismissal of Biden’s offer, if true, follows an almost 20-year history of Palestinians rejecting peace offers. In July 2000 at Camp David, former Palestinian leader Yasser Arafat rejected Israeli Prime Minister Ehud Barak’s offer of 92% of the West Bank and all of the Gaza Strip, along with a capital in East Jerusalem. President Bill Clinton made it clear that Arafat was to blame for the failure of the Camp David Summit. Moreover, Arafat responded to the offer by launching the Second Intifada. In 2008, Israeli Prime Minister Ehud Olmert presented Abbas with a proposal for a peace agreement. It was also rejected. In an interview a year later, Abbas said he refused the offer because “the gaps were wide.” In March 2014, Israel accepted Secretary of State John Kerry’s framework for continued peace negotiations and agreed to proceed on the basis of it, while Abbas rejected it and the next month formed a unity government with Hamas. In September 2015, Netanyahu stated that he is willing to restart talks at anytime without preconditions. The chief Palestinian negotiator, Saeb Erekat, responded by calling Netanyahu’s bid a “PR stunt” and rejected the offer.
On Tuesday, when Biden first arrived in Israel, Palestinian terrorists carried out a spate of attacks, injuring 13 and killing an American tourist. These attacks come amidst a current wave of violence that has been triggered by incitement from Palestinian leaders across society. The incitement has come from the Palestinian Authority and its president, Mahmoud Abbas, as well as members of Abbas’s Fatah Party. Abbas failed to condemn Tuesday’s attacks, while Fatah celebrated the killing of the US Army veteran on its Facebook page. At a press conference on Wednesday, the Vice President criticized the Palestinian Authority for not condemning the attacks, stating, “The United States of America condemns these acts and condemns the failure to condemn these acts.”
Following this week’s ballistic missiles tests by Iran, which came after President Hassan Rouhani ordered his military to step the development of the weapons, an editorial (Google link) in The Wall Street Journal observed that “moderation, Iranian-style, is relative.”
“Tehran’s show of force—it also tested missiles on Tuesday—are not the work of the usual ‘hardline’ suspects. Iran tested ballistic missiles last fall in violation of a U.N. Security Council resolution,” the editorial noted on Thursday. “[In] January Mr. Rouhani publicly ordered his defense minister to speed up missile testing and production,” again in defiance of a United Nations Security Council resolution.
Rouhani’s order to accelerate Iran’s ballistic missile program in December breached the terms of UN Security Council resolution 2231, which implemented the nuclear deal and “[called] upon Iran not to undertake any activity related to ballistic missiles designed to be capable of delivering nuclear weapons, including launches using such ballistic missile technology.”
In August, a month after agreeing to the nuclear deal, Rouhani expressed his opposition to any internationally imposed restrictions on Iran’s development of ballistic missiles, declaring, “We will buy, sell and develop any weapons we need and we will not ask for permission or abide by any resolution for that.”
Iran carried out ballistic missile tests in both October and November of last year. A UN panel found that the October launch violated UN Security Council resolution 1929, which stated that Iran “shall not undertake any activity related to ballistic missiles capable of delivering nuclear weapons, including launches using ballistic missile technology.”
Early on in the negotiations over Iran’s nuclear program, an American diplomatic delegation sought to discuss Iran’s ballistic missile program with Iran’s chief negotiator, Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif, another so-called moderate. Zarif “merely laughed and ignored the remarks,” according to a Reuters report published at the time.
Iran’s Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps announced on Tuesday that it had test-launched ballistic missiles at sites across the country, marking the third time that it violated UN Security Council bans on such tests in five months. Iran revealed on Wednesday that it had fired two more ballistic missiles, which it claimed had the phrase “Israel must be wiped off the face of the world” written on them in Hebrew.
Ambassador Wendy Sherman, the former U.S. lead negotiator with Iran, dispelled the notion that Rouhani was truly a moderate during a talk last month at Duke University’s Sanford School of Public Policy. “There are hardliners in Iran, and then there are hard-hardliners in Iran,” Sherman said. “Rouhani is not a moderate, he is a hardliner.” (via TheTower.org)
Donated blood can be refrigerated and stored for six weeks. But donated organs have a very short shelf life. A heart or lung can be kept viable for transplantation for only six hours, a pancreas or liver for 12 hours and a kidney for less than 30 hours. Any donated organ that is past its prime ends up going to waste instead of saving lives. Freezing organs, rather than just refrigerating them, seems like a logical solution, but in practice it doesn’t work. When organs are frozen, ice crystals form and cause irreversible damage to the cells. “The ability to freeze organs and to then thaw them without causing damage to the organ itself would be revolutionary in terms of our chances to save lives,” says Prof. Ido Braslavsky from the Institute of Biochemistry, Food Science and Nutrition at the Robert H. Smith Faculty of Agriculture, Food and Environment in The Hebrew University of Jerusalem. Together with his Hebrew University team, Braslavsky is contributing significantly to the effort to perfect cryopreservation – the process of preserving cells, tissues and organs in sub-zero temperatures. This would enable long-term banking of tissues and organs and efficient matching between donor and patient, eventually saving lives of millions of people around the world. (via Israel21c)
At a press conference on Wednesday with Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, Vice President Joe Biden criticized the Palestinian Authority (PA) for its failure to denounce terror attacks against Israelis, stating that the U.S. “condemns the failure to condemn these acts." He also urged an end to incitement, stating “the kind of violence we saw yesterday, the failure to condemn it, the rhetoric that incites that violence… has to stop." Biden remarked that his wife and his grandchildren were having dinner on the beach “a hundred meters or a thousand meters" away from the Jaffa stabbing attack yesterday, and that his family’s proximity to the attack “brings home that it can happen, it can happen anywhere, at any time." Biden also stressed that the U.S. “stands firmly behind Israel’s right to defend itself.”
Prime Minister Netanyahu emphasized Israel’s and America’s shared values, and stated that when it comes to the fight against terrorism, “we have no better partner than the United States of America.” Biden said he believed it was important to bring along his grandchildren to Israel and noted that “the relationship between the United States and Israel is more than the relationship of two governments. It's a bond between people, forged a link by successive generations and grounded in an abiding commitment to Israel's security.”
The PA’s official TV news station called the terrorist responsible for the stabbing attack in Jaffa a “martyr.” The station also referred to the victims of the attack as “settlers” although the attack took place outside of the West Bank and its victims included American and Russian tourists as well as Arab-Israelis. One of the tourists, Taylor Force, an American graduate student who had served combat tours in both Afghanistan and Iraq, was killed in the attack. Fatah, Abbas’ political party, posted a drawing on its Facebook page of a hand clutching a knife over a map of Israel and the Palestinian territories. The text on the arm reads "the heroic martyr," and the terrorist’s name is written on the map. Hamas also praised the terrorist attacks, calling them “heroic.”
A day after Iran announced that it tested a number of ballistic missiles across the country, in defiance of a United Nations Security Council ban, the Islamic Republic launched two more missiles marked with the threat “Israel must be wiped off the Earth” in Hebrew, CNN reported on Wednesday. The missiles, which are capable of reaching Israel from Iran, were launched on the second day of countrywide defense exercises.According to CNN, the phrase they were marked with is attributed to Iran’s first Supreme Leader, Ayatollah Ruhollah Khomeini. Lieutenant Commander of Iran’s Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps, Brigadier General Hossein Salami, boasted on Wednesday that Iran has “tens of times” more missiles than the Iran-backed terrorist group Hezbollah, which he claimed has an arsenal of over 100,000 missiles, according to the IRGC-affiliated Tasnim News Agency.
“We will transfer all our experiences and achievements to our brothers in the Muslim world and the Resistance front against the US, Israel, and their regional allies,” Salami added. The two ballistic missiles, called Qadr-H and Qadr-F, were reported to have traveled some 1,400 kilometers (870 miles) from the Alborz Mountains near Tehran to targets on Iran’s southeastern coast.
IRGC commander Major General Mohammad Ali Jafari said that Iran’s enemies are “shivering from the roar of Iranian missiles,” Iran’s state news agency reported on Tuesday. Jafari left little doubt as to which enemy he was referring, adding that “[since the] Zionist regime is within reach of Iranian missiles, it is quite natural that they should be more concern.”
Iran has consistently refused to negotiate limits to its development of ballistic missiles, even though its program has been subject to UN Security Council resolutions for years. The Pentagon reported in June that Iran was developing ballistic missiles that “could be applicable to nuclear weapons.”
UN Security Council resolution 2231, which undergirds the nuclear deal Iran reached with global powers last year, calls on the country not to develop ballistic missiles. Despite this, Iran repeatedly announced that it would ignore the ballistic missile elements of the resolution, and conducted missile tests last October and November. Despite Iran’s defiant stance regarding its ballistic missile program, Tehran committed in the nuclear deal (.pdf) to “make every effort to support the successful implementation of this [deal] including in their public statements.” (via TheTower.org)
Palestinian terrorists launched a spate of attacks on Tuesday as U.S. Vice President Joe Biden arrived in Israel for a two-day visit. The Vice President met with former Israeli President Shimon Peres at the Peres Center for Peace in Tel Aviv, where he strongly condemned the terrorist attacks, saying there is no justification for terrorism, and expressed his deepest condolences. Biden stated unequivocally, “We have absolutely, total unvarnished commitment to the security of Israel.” White House Press Secretary Josh Earnest seconded this strong condemnation, while asserting that the Vice President’s trip to Israel was a testament to the strong relationship between the United States and Israel, which he described as “unshakeable.” Biden will meet with Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and President Reuven Rivlin on Wednesday in Jerusalem, and with Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas in Ramallah.
Near Jerusalem’s Damascus Gate, a Palestinian shot two members of the Israeli Border Police in a drive-by shooting. Both men are in serious condition, with one at serious risk of losing his life. The Damascus Gate has been the site of several attacks during the terror wave, which began last October – during that time period, at least 28 Israelis have been killed. In Petah Tikva, a Palestinian terrorist stabbed a Haredi man several times in the upper body. The victim, 39-year-old Yonatan Ezriyahav, was able to remove the knife from his own neck and then stabbed his assailant, killing him. At Jaffa port, a Palestinian went on a stabbing rampage, killing 29-year-old American Taylor Force, a graduate student at Vanderbilt University, and wounding at least 10 others, including Force's wife. Five people were left in critical condition, including a pregnant woman and a Russian tourist. The terrorist ran down the popular boardwalk there, stabbing people as he did so, and also ran into the street, stabbing motorists in parked vehicles. The attack took place as Biden met with Peres less than one mile away at the Peres Center. Hamas spokesman Sami Abu Zuhri lauded the attacks, calling them “heroic operations” whose perpetrators were “martyrs” who had “ascended.” In another incident, a 50-year-old Palestinian woman attempted to stab police officers in the Old City of Jerusalem and was fatally shot; Hamas claimed responsibility for this attack.
Iran’s Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps (IRGC) announced that it had test-launched several ballistic missile tests at sites across the country on Tuesday, the third time that it has violated UN Security Council bans on such tests in five months.
“Our main enemies are imposing new sanctions on Iran to weaken our missile capabilities…but they should know that the children of the Iranian nation in the Revolutionary Guards and other armed forces refuse to bow to their excessive demands,” IRGC aerospace commander Brig. Gen. Amir Ali Hajizadeh said.
State Department spokesman Mark Toner said that the U.S. would seek an “appropriate response” to the incident at the UN. “We also continue to aggressively apply our unilateral tools to counter threats from Iran’s missile program,” he added, an apparent reference to the imposition of new sanctions against Iran.
The missiles that were tested, according to the IRGC-linked website Tasnim News, are called Qiam, and were fired as part of drills called “Might of Velayat.” Velayat-e Faqih, meaning “rule of the jurisprudent,” is the form of government instituted by Ayatollah Ruhollah Khomeini, the first Supreme Leader of Iran.
UN Security Council 2231, which undergirds the nuclear deal Iran reached with global powers last year, calls on the country not to develop ballistic missiles, which are capable of delivering nuclear warheads. Despite this, Iran repeatedly announced that it would defy the ballistic missile elements of the resolution, and conducted missile test last October and November.
The White House’s inaction after the October launch prompted 11 Democratic senators to write a letter to Secretary of State John Kerry expressing their “profound concern,” adding that they were “convinced that the launch is an attempt to test the world’s will to respond to Iranian violations of its international commitments.” Sens. Mark Kirk (R-Ill.) and Kelly Ayotte (R-N.H.) wrote an open letter to President Barack Obama in December criticizing his administration’s lack of response to both launches and emphasizing the threat that Iran’s advanced missiles pose to the United States and its allies.
The terms of the nuclear deal prevent the U.S. from imposing new nuclear-related sanctions on Iran, but Kerry told a Senate hearing in July that the Iranians agreed that “that we have all other kinds of authorities” to impose sanctions for non-nuclear violations, such as those related to ballistic missilse.
The administration announced sanctions on Iran at the end of last year after the UN determined that the launch had been in violation of its resolutions, only to delaythem until January after Iran complained. Even so, the sanctions, which targeted a dozen businesses and individuals, were described by experts as the “bare minimum.”
A video purporting to show the launch of a ballistic missile from an underground IRGC “missile city” has been uploaded to YouTube. Note that at the beginning of the video, the floor of the underground facility appears to be decorated with an Israeli flag. (via TheTower.org)
- Head of IAEA: Nuclear deal reduced IAEA’s public reporting requirements of Iran’s nuclear activities
On Wednesday, the head of the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) stated that the nuclear deal with Iran has limited the types of Iranian nuclear activities on which the IAEA is required to publicly report. When asked why the IAEA is “not giving enough details for the international community to follow the process and review” of Iran’s compliance with the nuclear deal, the Director General of the IAEA, Yukiya Amano, explained that the basis for reporting changed under UN Security Council (UNSC) Resolution 2231 and the December IAEA Board of Governors resolution. UNSC Resolution 2231 authorized the nuclear deal with Iran and replaced previous UN Security Council resolutions on Iran. Amano asserted, “as the basis is different, the consequences are different.”
The journalist’s question was prompted by several analyses by nuclear experts who observed that the IAEA was publicly reporting on fewer aspects about Iran’s nuclear program than previous reports, and that the IAEA’s first report on Iran’s compliance with UNSC Resolution 2231 provides insufficient information on Iranian nuclear activities that are pertinent to effective verification and monitoring. Aspects not covered in the report include the exact amount and forms of Iran’s 3.67% enriched uranium; the amount of near 20% low-enriched uranium Iran currently possesses (the nuclear deal mandates that Iran have none); the numbers and types of centrifuge rotors and bellows which are essential to calculating Iran’s breakout time; and whether Iran has given the IAEA appropriate access to certain sites under the Additional Protocol (AP).
The administration has repeatedly argued that the nuclear deal is based on transparency and verification. However, regarding the IAEA’s latest report, Olli Heinonen, a former Deputy Director at the IAEA, remarked that “less-detailed reporting, after all, fails to provide the transparency required for the JCPOA’s verification.” President of the Institute for Science and International Security and former weapons inspector David Albright, along with his colleagues Serena Kelleher-Vergantini and Andrea Stricker, asserted that by failing to provide the public with information that is key to judging Iranian compliance with the nuclear deal, the IAEA “risks undermining public transparency and confidence in the agreement.”
Osama bin Laden ordered his al-Qaeda deputies not to attack Iran, which he called a “main artery” for his terror organization’s operations, recently-disclosed documents from his Pakistan compound reveal. The order was part of a collection of 112 letters taken from bin Laden’s compound by U.S. special ops forces after he was killed in 2011. The collection was made public Tuesday by the Office of the Director of National Intelligence.In a 2007 letter, bin Laden criticized an operative for threatening to attack Iran. “We expect you would consult with us for these important matters, for as you are aware, Iran is our main artery for funds, personnel, and communication, as well as the matter of hostages,” he wrote. Ties between Iran and al Qaeda have been reported for years, with numerous ways by which Iran served as al-Qaeda’s “main artery.”The Weekly Standard reported in 2012 on the trial of an al-Qaeda terrorist who had been caught while planning terror attacks in several European cities. The plans were inspired by the November 2008 terror attacks and siege in Mumbai, which had been ordered by bin Laden.
In testimony before the court, [Ahmad Wali] Siddiqui described how he and his co-conspirators planned different travel routes in order to avoid suspicion beginning in early 2009. But their travels had a common theme: Iran was their principal gateway to jihad.
According to Siddiqui, two of his co-conspirators—Rami Makanesi and Naamen Meziche—traveled from Vienna to Tehran in order “to not get caught.” Their trip was booked in a Hamburg travel office by an unknown Iranian. Siddiqui explained that the pair could not travel directly to Pakistan because they are Arabs. Pakistani authorities would have questioned the duo’s intentions and perhaps detained them, but by traveling through Iran they avoided such scrutiny.
Although [ISIS spokesman Abu Muhammad al-Adnani] didn’t explicitly state that al Qaeda had a deal with Iran “to safeguard its interests and supply lines,” the U.S. government has said it has evidence of such an agreement. The U.S. Treasury Department noted in the July 2011 designation of six al Qaeda operatives who were based in Iran that the Iranian government had a “secret deal with al Qaeda allowing it to funnel funds and operatives through its territory.”
That same designation declared that Iran is “a critical transit point for funding to support al Qaeda’s activities in Afghanistan and Pakistan.
“By exposing Iran’s secret deal with Al Qaeda allowing it to funnel funds and operatives through its territory, we are illuminating yet another aspect of Iran’s unmatched support for terrorism,” Treasury under-secretary for terrorism and financial intelligence David S. Cohen said when the Treasury made its 2011 announcement.
Other government and news sources have also reported on ties between Iran and al-Qaeda. The Canadian government announced in 2013 that two suspects in a plot to attack a passenger train had been supported by members of al-Qaeda who were based in Iran. An spokesman for ISIS, an offshoot of al-Qaeda, said in 2014 that al-Qaeda did not target Iran so that it could leave its network inside Iran intact. The pan-Arab newspaper a-Sharq al-Awsat reported in February of last year that Saleh al-Qarawi, a senior member of al-Qaeda who operates in Iran, had been targeting American interests in the Gulf since 2007. (via TheTower.org)
The Iranian elections did not result in the victory of moderates or reformists, several analysts have argued. Reuel Marc Gerecht, a senior fellow at the Foundation for Defense of Democracies (FDD), explained that true reformers were wiped out by the regime in 2009 – they “were silenced, imprisoned, exiled, murdered and banned from politics.” He continued, “What we have left in the Islamic Republic’s theocratically managed democracy, in which parliament has no real power, are regime-loyal laymen and mullahs who are all Islamic revolutionaries.” When there were student protests in 1999, Iranian President Hassan Rouhani, who has been touted as a moderate and reformer, “gave a firebreathing speech threatening the students with death.” Karim Sadjadpour, a senior associate at the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace, said of the elections, “The forces of darkness remain pretty firmly entrenched. We shouldn’t underestimate the population’s will for change or underestimate the means of the Iranian regime to crush change seekers.”
Saeed Ghasseminejad, an associate fellow at FDD, wrote on Friday that the more important of the two elections that took place was that for the Assembly of Experts, a body that appoints the Supreme Leader, and not for the Iranian parliament, whose bills must go through the Guardian Council, an unelected body dedicated to preserving the revolution and answerable to the Supreme Leader. Eighty percent of candidates for the Assembly, most of whom were self-described reformers, were disqualified by the Guardian Council and hardliners won 75% of the Assembly’s seats. Within the parliament, reformists, who had 99% of their candidates disqualified, were so desperate that they filled their party lists with hardliners, severely weakening any supposedly reform list. Ghasseminejad continued, “Labeling radicals as ‘moderates’ or ‘reformists’ does not make them so.”
Ray Takeyh, a former Iran advisor to former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, wrote before the elections that “Iranian politics have been reduced to a coalition of hardliners and centrists who agree far more than they disagree. On crucial foreign policy issues, such as projection of power in the Middle East and aiding the regime of Bashar al-Assad in Syria, there is a rough consensus across the political spectrum.” Takeyh makes clear that even the Assembly of Experts has limited impact and that, ultimately, real power in Iran lies with unelected bodies and individuals, such as the Guardian Council and Supreme Leader Ali Khamenei.
Indeed, last month former Under Secretary of State Wendy Sherman, the lead negotiator for the United States in the Iran nuclear deal, made it explicitly clear that in Iranian politics there are no moderates: “There are hardliners in Iran, and then there are hard-hardliners. Rouhani is not a moderate, he is a hardliner.”
The highest-ranking Muslim officer in the IDF wrote in an op-ed Thursday in the British paper Jewish News that his life story is a direct counter to claims of Israeli racism during “Israeli Apartheid Week,” which is occurring across the UK.
Maj. Alaa Waheeb dismissed the common charge that Israel is a racist state. “Forget for a second (BDS supporters would like you to forget permanently!) that 20 percent of Israelis are non-Jewish, have full rights, and are represented throughout society,” he wrote. “It’s one thing, after all, to have Arab politicians, Christian voters, and Muslim doctors – although we do have them, and quite a few at that. But a non-Jewish army Major? Someone who has not only fought alongside Jewish soldiers, but now trains them too? Would a truly racist state allow me to play such an integral role in our nation’s defences?”
Waheeb also defended the actions of the IDF, writing that his job is to save lives, not end them. Waheeb explained that one of his guiding principles is found in a phrase in the Quran: “If anyone killed a person, it would be as if he killed the whole of mankind; and if anyone saved a life, it would be as if he saved the life of the whole of mankind.” When Hamas fires rockets at Israel or when Fatah incites stabbing attacks, he and the IDF “are here to protect the lives of all Israeli citizens, Jewish and non-Jewish.”
He also rejected the idea that a boycott of Israel was an effective way to bring about peace, as peace requires building bridges, but the BDS movement “wants to build walls.”
Waheeb concluded by emphasizing, from his own experience, how he contributes to building bridges:
During my time in the UK, I spoke alongside a fellow soldier, a medic who has treated both Israeli soldiers and Palestinian terrorists without distinction. We were the Muslim who protects Jewish lives, and the Jew who saves Muslim lives. There’s only one country in the Middle East that could produce a couple like that – and it sure as hell isn’t an apartheid state. (via TheTower.org)
Israel and the U.S. are currently conducting a joint exercise that “represents a final test before Israel begins to deploy one of the most sophisticated missile defense systems in the world,” according to The Washington Post on Thursday. The current exercise under way, named Juniper Cobra 16, involves more than 1,700 U.S. soldiers and 1,500 Israeli soldiers from Israel’s Air Defense Command. The purpose is to conduct defense drills to exercise “ballistic missile defense capabilities.”
The advanced missile system is a “coordinated system of radars, launchers and interceptors.” It includes the Iron Dome, which protects Israel from short-range rockets, like those launched by Hamas in the Gaza Strip; David’s Sling, which intercepts short-and-medium range missiles; Arrow-3, which is designed to “repel” long-range missiles; and the X-band radar system. David’s Sling, according to The Post, will be delivered over the next several weeks and is designed to handle the missiles built by Iran and Russia that have been given to Hezbollah. The X-band radar system will allow Israel to “detect incoming missiles 500 or 600 miles out, vs. 100 miles, the current limit of their radar tracking systems.”
The defense system will be “far superior” to anything in the Middle East and could surpass those used in the United States and Europe. The United States has contributed $3.3 billion to the project over the past ten years, and to complete the development, Israel’s defense establishment has partnered with U.S. firms, including Raytheon, Boeing and Lockheed Martin.
Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff Gen. Joseph Dunford Jr. met with Israeli Defense Minister Moshe Ya’alon on Thursday and both said a strong U.S.-Israel relationship is needed to combat the “instability in the region.” In a statement made to reporters, Gen. Dunford recalled his trip to Israel in October and reiterated his statement that “[t]he relationship between our two countries is about much more than just the military to military relationship, but I believe that’s one of the foundational elements.”
A soft-spoken 30-year-old with a Star of David tattooed on his neck, Feili says he wishes to continue his life in Israel, which he calls an “interesting, beautiful and amazing” place.
“For me, it’s not just another country,” he told Time on Wednesday. “For me it’s like a fairytale place.”
Feili has authored nine books, though only a censored edition his first work, a collection of poetry written when he was 19, was published in Iran. His subsequent works were barred by Iran’s Ministry of Culture and Islamic Guidance, and were instead published abroad. Feili, however, had never left Iran until two years ago.
“Actually, I didn’t live in Iran,” he reflected. “I lived my life inside my room. That’s where life would happen.” Feili was detained several times over the years due to his sexuality and public admiration for Israel, and decided to flee to Turkey in 2014, after Iranian agents tortured and confined him to a shipping container for 44 days.
In Istanbul, Feili finally had the opportunity to meet some of the Israelis with whom he had been corresponding online for years. After expressing his wish to travel to Israel in 2015, an Israeli friend offered to stage Feili’s latest published work—I Will Grow, I Will Bear Fruit… Figs, a novella narrated by a homosexual boy. Feili later obtained a tourist visa to see the Hebrew translation of the play with the assistance of Israel’s Ministry of Culture.
Feili currently resides on Tel Aviv’s trendy Lilienblum Street, which is dotted with dance clubs and bars, and has been embraced by the city’s gay community, according to The New York Times.
He said that he developed an interest in Israel after watching films about the Holocaust at a young age, and found the country to be “exactly as I expected and even better and more beautiful.”
“Long before I left Iran,” he said during a Jerusalem press conference earlier this week, “I thought that the only other place in the world I could live was Israel.”
Artists and intellectuals routinely face persecution in Iran. Officers from Iran’s Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps detained poet and songwriter Yaghma Golrouee in December for filming a video criticizing the regime’s treatment of women. Golrouee, whose work features social commentary and reflections on love, had criticized authorities for barring his books from publication.
The Associated Press reported in October that the regime arrested and sentenced two Iranian poets to 99 lashes each “for shaking hands with members of the opposite sex.” The AP added that at least 30 journalists were imprisoned in Iran at the end of 2014. In November, after the regime’s arrest of five Iranian journalists, United Nations officials warned that Iran “should not silence critical or dissenting voices under the guise of vague and unsubstantiated national security concerns.” (via TheTower.org)
United Overseas Bank Limited (UOB) today announced Asia’s first strategic partnership with OurCrowd’s global equity crowdfunding platform. The collaboration will see UOB making a $10 million investment in OurCrowd. And the accredited investors among UOB’s clients will now have an opportunity to broaden their investments into OurCrowd’s portfolio companies. “UOB has partnered with OurCrowd, to connect smart ideas with smart money,” said Janet Young, Head of Group Channels and Digitalization, UOB. “The UOB OurCrowd partnership represents a huge step forward for OurCrowd and the Asian tech ecosystem. Together, we will empower scores of new entrepreneurs and match them with global investors and mentor networks. The beauty of crowdfunding OurCrowd style is that the investor in Asia can now access quality deal flow in Israel, Silicon Valley, and beyond, while a Singapore entrepreneur can easily gain top notch global backing,” said OurCrowd Founder and CEO Jon Medved. Meanwhile, cybersecurity startup enSilo, the leading provider of a real-time data protection platform focusing on preventing data tampering and exfiltration, has announced the closing of a $9 million second tranche of its Series A financing. The funding was led by Rembrandt Venture Partners with previous investors Carmel Ventures and Lightspeed Venture Partners participating. enSilo has raised $21 million in total funding. (via Israel21c)
The Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC) labeled the Iranian proxy group Hezbollah a terrorist organization on Wednesday. The move comes on the heels of Saudi Arabia’s decision to halt $4 billion in military aid to Lebanon due to its domination by Iran through Hezbollah, as well as Saudi government warnings to its citizens not to travel to Lebanon. Those decisions followed Lebanon’s refusal to join the Arab League in its condemnation of the attack on the Saudi embassy and a consulate in Iran in January, which prompted Saudi Arabia and its allies to sever or downgrade diplomatic relations with the Islamic Republic.
In its statement, the GCC’s secretary general declared that its members “consider the actions of Hezbollah militias in GCC countries, and the terrorist actions and incitements it conducts throughout Syria, Yemen, and Iraq… a threat to Arab national security.” Hezbollah has played a crucial role in bolstering the Assad regime in Syria, assisting it in fighting opposition groups, many of which are backed by Saudi Arabia and other Gulf states. Iran has reportedly provided weapons, money and training to the Houthi militia in Yemen, often channeling its support through Hezbollah operatives. The GCC frequently accuses Tehran of fomenting domestic unrest in its member countries. In January, both Bahrain and Kuwait uncovered Hezbollah and Iran-linked plots to carry out attacks in their respective countries. Iran and its proxies are also smuggling armor-piercing explosive devices to Shiite cells in Bahrain and Saudi Arabia.
Israel, the US, and the EU already consider Hezbollah to be a terrorist organization. The group is responsible for killing more Americans than any terrorist group other than Al Qaeda. Israel and the GCC are both increasingly concerned about Iran’s expanding regional influence, and last June, Israel and Saudi Arabia acknowledged they have been engaged in secret, high-level talks aimed at thwarting Iran’s regional ambitions. At the Munich Security Conference last month, Israeli Defense Minister Moshe Yaalon noted that any entity in the Middle East that is willing to help stabilize the region will find a partner in Israel, including countries that don’t have relations with the Jewish State, a reference to the Gulf states.
An open letter by a disgruntled ISIS fighter to the self-proclaimed caliphate’s leader, Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi, revealed extensive ties between the group’s affiliate in the Sinai Peninsula and the Palestinian terror organization Hamas.The letter, written by Abu Abdallah al-Muhajir, a jihadist from Gaza who now fights for ISIS in Syria, complained that ISIS-Sinai Province, the group’s Egyptian affiliate, was collaborating with Hamas through weapons smuggling, explosives manufacturing, communications and logistical assistance, and hospitalization for injured fighters. ISIS officials frequently visit Gaza and attend “lavish banquets” at the homes of Hamas leaders, al-Muhajir alleged. Al-Muhajir asked al-Baghdadi to stop this collaboration because Hamas was insufficiently pure.The letter was leaked to the group messaging app Telegram and discovered and translated by the Middle East Media Research Institute. A pro-ISIS media group responded with its own statement on Telegram, where they criticized al-Muhajir for airing the group’s dirty laundry, but never denied any of his specific claims.
Al-Muhajir listed five specific areas of cooperation in his letter:
1. Sinai province is smuggling weapons for Hamas in Gaza, because of the province’s fighters’ expert knowledge of the [smuggling] routes from Libya, Sudan, and Egypt.
2. Sinai province depends very much on Hamas and Al-Qassam [Hamas’ militia] for weapons and for explosives and ammunition. There are direct and continuous supply routes from Hamas to Sinai province. The Al-Qassam factories operate assembly lines for manufacturing explosive devices and bombs for the Sinai province, but do not stamp the Al-Qassam logo on them, as they usually do.
3. Sinai province leaders are regularly visiting the Gaza Strip, and holding cordial meetings with Hamas and Al-Qassam leaders, even [Hamas] government [representatives]. Animals are slaughtered for them, feasts are held, and they are embraced in Gaza.
4. Hamas and Al-Qassam are accepting all wounded Sinai province [fighters], and they are treated in Gaza Strip hospitals under Al-Qassam’s direct protection.
5. Hamas is providing wireless communication hubs for Sinai province, because of the difficulty of operating them in Sinai and because they are vulnerable to swift destruction by the Egyptian army.
Al-Muhajir also wrote that “Hamas and Sinai province are maintaining warm relations and direct lines of communication around the clock.” Many Palestinians have crossed the border into Egypt to fight for Sinai Province, but when those fighters die in battles against the Egyptian army, ISIS claims that they have died fighting for other ISIS branches in Syria or Libya, so as not to embarrass the Palestinian terror group by creating more honorable martyrs. (via TheTower.org)
The new Egyptian ambassador to Israel met with Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu on Monday in Jerusalem. The Prime Minister’s Office released a statement that “the two discussed, among other things, relations between Israel and Egypt, regional issues and the diplomatic process with the Palestinians.” The ambassador, Hazem Khairat, presented his credentials to Israeli President Reuven Rivlin last Thursday. On that occasion, Rivlin said that Khairat had told him “that he is very happy and very proud to be in Israel and that he hopes that his presence here will bring about a situation in which the friendship between the Jewish people and the Arab people in general, and between the countries of the region, will be such that we can live in peace.”
An Egyptian member of parliament, Tawfiq Okasha, publicly invited Israel’s ambassador to Egypt, Haim Koren, to dinner at his home last Tuesday night. That same day, Koren addressed the Egyptian media, saying that “the neighborly relations and cooperation between us are very good. I love the Egyptian nation. As you all know, there is a mutual interest between Egypt and Israel, as there is a mutual interest between Israel and the Arab world in general – be it Saudi Arabia, Jordan, or the other countries in the Arabian Gulf.”
There has been increasing military and intelligence cooperation between Egypt and Israel. Egyptian Presidential Abdel Fatah al-Sisi told The Washington Post’s Lally Weymouth last March that he speaks with Netanyahu “[a] lot.” Israeli journalist Ben Caspit wrote on Monday that “Egypt’s higher stratums – from the president to the regime’s high echelons, the military, intelligence and the elites – view Israel as an important, powerful ally in regional struggles.” The two nations share concerns about the Sinai branch of ISIS as well as Hamas. ISIS-Sinai has bombed a Sinai hotel; carried out attacks in El Arish; assaulted military checkpoints in northern Sinai, leading to over 100 deaths; attacked an Egyptian naval vessel in the Mediterranean Sea; and claimed responsibility for the downing of a Russian plane in October of last year, which killed 224 people. In addition, it has fired rockets into southern Israel. ISIS-Sinai has smuggled arms to Hamas in the Gaza Strip. Egypt has demolished and flooded underground tunnels along its border with Gaza and Sisi has ordered the construction of a buffer zone along the Egypt-Gaza border to prevent smuggling.
Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu announced the formation of a new Israel-Africa Knesset caucus and confirmed that he will be traveling to the continent this summer, The Jerusalem Post reported on Tuesday.Netanyahu, who will be the first sitting Israeli Prime Minister to visit Africa since Yitzhak Shamir in 1987, is set to arrive in Uganda and Kenya around the 40th anniversary of Operation Entebbe, when Israeli commandos rescued over 100 hostages held by pro-Palestinian terrorists in Uganda’s Entebbe airport.The announcement was made during a Knesset meeting that was attended by 13 African ambassadors, five honorary consuls, and a number of Israeli lawmakers.
“Israel is coming back to Africa; Africa is coming back to Israel,” Netanyahu told the gathered diplomats. “It’s happening in a big way. It’s happening now, but it should have happened a long time ago. It’s happening now because it’s so clear that this is good for Africa and it’s good for Israel. We face a multitude of challenges and opportunities.”
Netanyahu spoke of the deliberate “African strategy” pursued by his government, and emphasized the importance of “overcoming the dark forces of militant Islamic terrorism and seizing the opportunities of the future with technology and everything else we can bring… to bear. What I’d like to see is the closeness of our relationship reflected also in the voting pattern of the African Union.”
In addition to stressing the shared security interests between Israel and African nations, he offered Israeli assistance “in every way – in agriculture, in health care, in water, in irrigation, in science, in technology, in investment, tourism, cyber.”
Knesset Speaker Yuli Edelstein also addressed the diplomats, observing that Israel sought to build relations with African nations since the 1960’s. “I believe that if we want to base relations between our countries on a solid platform, it is important to strengthen it on the level of parliaments,” he observed.
Caucus chairman MK Avraham Neguise (Likud), a native of Ethiopia, added that “The Jewish people and the people of Africa have a sense of sharing a common destiny, because both have suffered from discrimination and foreign rule…. This struggle can bring us together.” Neguise also emphasized that Israeli help in agriculture has benefited many in Africa, saying, “Israeli technologies have raised the quality of life and saved countless lives.”
Henri Etoundi Essomba, Cameroon’s ambassador to Israel, thanked Netanyahu for meeting with the diplomats and “brainstorming how best we can confront the challenges the prime minister just mentioned together.” Essoma hailed Netanyahu’s emphasis on ties between Israel and Africa, adding, “We welcome this initiative and would like to be as instrumental as possible to strengthen and give opportunities to both sides, Israel and Africa.”
Augostino Njoroge, the Kenyan ambassador to Israel, said that President Uhuru Kenyatta considered his trip to Israel last week to be his best international trip, while South Sudan’s Ambassador Ruben Marial Benjamin expressed hope that Netanyahu would visit his nation, as such a trip could “unite the divided tribes and bring peace and an end to bloodshed.” Benjamin added, “The African attitude towards Israel has changed and the time has come to look at our shared interests. The people of South Sudan love Israel.
Kenyan Foreign Minister Amina Mohamed said on a state visit to Israel last week that most African countries see Israel as “a very close friend,” but added that high-level trips, such Netanyahu’s planned visit, would “enhance” diplomatic ties even more. (via TheTower.org)
Iran’s elections on Friday reinforced the power of Iranian hardliners, which was ensured by the disqualification of the vast majority of candidates by the country’s conservative, unelected Guardian Council. The Wall Street Journal Editorial Board concluded on Sunday, “The political reality in Iran is that the Ayatollahs, backed by the Revolutionary Guards, remain firmly in control.” The elections were for the Majlis, the Iranian parliament, and the Assembly of Experts, the clerical body responsible for selecting the next supreme leader. The Journal explained, “Like all Iranian elections, the vote was a carefully stage-managed process. Iranians picked from among candidates prescreened for ideological orthodoxy by the unelected Guardian Council and various security agencies.” In the run-up to the elections, hardliners ensured a mathematical inevitability that they would maintain their hold on power. In January, Iran’s Guardian Council, the 12-member body that vetted the candidates, disqualified nearly 50% of all those who registered to run for a seat in the parliament. The Council disqualified 80% of those seeking election to the Assembly of Experts. Out of the 800 candidates seeking election, only 166 were allowed to run. Some of those disqualifications were later overturned but the exact figures have not been made public.
In the end, due to the number of candidates disqualified, many hardliners were added to so-called reformist lists. Both Bloomberg View columnist Eli Lake and The Journal’s Editorial Board listed some of the hardline candidates who are projected to win in both the Majlis and the Assembly of Experts that ended up on other lists. Lake named Kazem Jalali, a hardliner, who was endorsed by so-called reformists. Yet, he “called for sentencing to death” two leaders of Iran’s 2009 Green Movement, a movement that advocated for more significant political and social changes. Those two leaders remain under house arrest. Mostafa Kavakebian, who also appears on a so-called reformist list and is projected to win a seat in the Majlis, is the General Secretary of Iran’s Democratic Party. According to The Journal, in 2008 he said, “The people who currently reside in Israel aren’t humans, and this region is comprised of a group of soldiers and occupiers who openly wage war on the people.”
Bipartisan American support for Israel remains at historically high levels, according to the latest Gallup poll released on Monday.
The survey found that 62% of Americans had sympathy for Israel, while only 15% sympathized more with the Palestinians. The remaining 23% were sympathetic to neither or both sides, or had no opinion.
While majorities in both the Democratic and Republican parties have long sympathized with Israel, Gallup noted that overall sympathy for the Jewish state sharply increased after the terrorist group Hamas won the Palestinian legislative elections in 2006. (Hamas’ victory followed Israel’s withdrawal from the Gaza Strip a few months earlier.) Support for Israel has since grown among members of both parties, though less dramatically among Democrats. Notably, Democratic sympathies for Israel increased by 4% since 2015, and grew by 18% since 2000.
A separate Gallup poll also found that 71% of all Americans have a favorable view of Israel, showing “increased favorability toward Israel compared with 2000.” In contrast, only 19% of Americans regard the Palestinian Authority positively.
These attitudes are consistent with the results of a study published in The Washington Post in November, which also found growing bipartisan support for Israel. Dina Smeltz, a senior fellow at the Chicago Council on Global Affairs, which conducted the surveys cited in the report, noted that 53% of Americans would support U.S. military intervention if Israel were to be attacked by an enemy, a figure that “is currently at the highest level recorded among […] Republicans, Democrats and Independents.”
A poll commissioned by The Israel Project in 2014 revealed that American voters overwhelmingly held the Palestinian Authority responsible for a breakdown in peace talks, with over two-thirds of respondents agreeing that Jerusalem couldn’t be expected to negotiate with a Palestinian unity government that includes the designated terror group Hamas. Another survey commissioned by The Israel Project later that year, during Operation Protective Edge, found that 65% Americans agreed that Hamas is a terrorist organization and must be stopped. The Israel Project publishes The Tower. (via TheTower.org)
Israeli archaeologists are celebrating the discovery of a 3,400-year-old statue, recently uncovered by a seven-year-old boy on an archaeological mound at Tel Rehov in the Beit She’an Valley. The clay figurine portrays a naked standing woman, which was prepared by pressing soft clay into a mold. “It is typical of the Canaanite culture of the 15th–13th centuries BCE. Some researchers think the figure depicted here is that of a real flesh-and-blood woman, and others view her as the fertility goddess Astarte, known from Canaanite sources and from the Bible,” said Amihai Mazar, professor emeritus at Hebrew University and expedition director of the archaeological excavations at Tel Rehov. “It is highly likely that the term trafim mentioned in the Bible indeed refers to figurines of this kind,” said Mazar, after examining the figurine. “Evidently the figurine belonged to one of the residents of the city of Rehov, which was then ruled by the central government of the Egyptian pharaohs.” The young Indiana Jones to find this statue is Ori Greenhut, from the communal settlement of Tel Te’omim, and who went out on a trip earlier this week with friends, accompanied by the father of one of the children. While they were climbing up the archaeological mound at Tel Rehov, Ori came across a stone that had shifted and suddenly saw an image of a person covered with soil. (via Israel21c)
The enemies of Israel—the enemies, effectively, of the Jews, let’s make no bones about it—stop at no distortion of history or corruption of the mind to achieve their goal of demonizing the Jewish state. The whole “washing” concept, which attempts to turn, via alchemies of linguistic play and theoretical inversion, virtues into villainies, exemplifies this intellectual corruption: Israel’s proud history of gay rights, for example, is denounced as “pinkwashing,” while other “washings” attempt to make every liberal good of Israeli society, its belief in freedom and tolerance, into a covert form of oppression. And like so many who have done so much ill before them, these demonizers of the Israeli state and traducers of Judaism think that what they do is good. They imagine they improve the world. They are soldiers for “peace and justice.” And in modern American history, there is no soldier for peace and justice—no Christian soldier—greater than Martin Luther King, Jr. So King, in just one more in a parade of historical distortions, must be posthumously turned against Israel.
In fairness to “critics” of Israel (which one offers out of regard not to them, but to oneself), where King very narrowly is concerned, they do not appear to have initiated the debate. However, contention over just what King’s relationship was to Jews and Israel, his stance in regard to Zionism, and what might be his position on the Israeli-Palestinian conflict today, does not arise out of a vacuum. It is one aspect of the modern history of the relationship between Jews and African-Americans, as well as more contemporary ideological contentions.
Many Jews rightly feel a special connection to black Americans and their struggle for civil rights. Jews were prominent in the founding and—for decades—the leadership of the NAACP, and were substantial supporters of many other black-led civil rights organizations. Their participation in the civil rights movement was greater than any group except African-Americans themselves. From there, the relationship becomes more complex, from black accusations of Depression-era ghetto exploitation and growing post-‘60s Jewish middle-class racism to Jewish grievances over African-American anti-Semitism among more radicalized Afro-centric organizations, as well as the mainstream post-King leadership, and in academia and the arts. As good and balanced an article-length overview of all these issues as one is likely to find can be read at the Jewish Virtual Library.
One can divide this dispute into two separate but related conflicts. One is the presence of two minority and historically oppressed cultures located in adjacent social spaces. This proximity produces social alliance, but also competition. A disparity in progress produces tension and conflict. This is a phenomenon seen all over the world. If the social alliance has been profound, the historical oppression intense, long, and enduring for both, and the contact continual, as is the case between African-Americans and Jews, the relationship can easily become contentious.
The second conflict has origins of its own, but is fed by the former, and that is post-colonialism—not just the theory, but the historical reality that gave rise to the theory.
These developments, particularly the latter, have led to a decrease in African-American support for Israel among those far-Left progressives most influenced by post-colonialism. This alienation is promoted by far-Left organizations—including some Jews—such as Students for Justice in Palestine, who attempt to tie campaigns like the current Black Lives Matter movement and anti-Israel agitation to the legacy of the Civil Rights movement. One defensive response to this among some Jews has been to grasp at the mantle of King and his documented support for Israel, his condemnations of anti-Semitism, and even his warning against attempting to mask anti-Semitism with anti-Zionism. The public record of King’s opposition to anti-Zionism, however, is slight. Thus, every year at the time of King’s birthday, controversy over the issue erupts anew.
To continue reading, click here for The Tower Magazine.
As Iranians go to the polls, hardliners are expected to consolidate their control, having ensured their victory through the selection of candidates for both the parliament and the Assembly of Experts, the clerical body responsible for selecting the next Supreme Leader. Iran’s Guardian Council, which vets candidates, has disqualified 75% of the candidates seeking to run for a seat on the Assembly of Experts. The Guardian Council also excluded almost two-thirds of all the candidates who applied to run in Iran’s parliamentary election. The administration hoped that the nuclear deal’s economic benefits would strengthen more moderate elements like President Hassan Rouhani who advocated in favor of the agreement. But following the deal, hardliners moved to consolidate their power, disqualifying moderates ahead of the elections, arresting dual nationals, and cracking down on poets, filmmakers, and journalists. According to Bloomberg View columnist Eli Lake, the dominance of these hardliners call into question gambling on a transformation of Iranian leadership in 10-15 years when the nuclear deal’s restrictions expire, as the nature of the regime will likely remain the same, only emboldened with a legitimized, industrial-sized nuclear infrastructure and a revamped military.
Iran analysts argue that the results of the elections are not as significant as widely thought. This is because, Sohrab Amari writes, “the regime’s popular branches are subservient to its unelected institutions,” in particular the Supreme Leader, the Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps, and the Guardian Council. Furthermore, Ray Takeyh, a former Iran advisor for former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, explains that the Assembly of Experts simply “rubber stamps” a Supreme Leader already chosen by more powerful Iranian officials.
According to both Amari and Takeyh, there is in any case little difference between the moderates and hardliners as the moderates offer small improvements in personal freedoms but remain committed to an anti-Western foreign policy. The leaders of the 2009 Green Revolution, reformists who promoted more significant change, remain under house arrest. Rouhani, often portrayed as a moderate and an outsider, served in the Supreme National Security Council, the top decision-making body in Iran. Human rights abuses have worsened under his authority. Takeyh asserts, “Since the purges of 2009, Iranian politics have been reduced to a coalition of hardliners and centrists who agree far more than they disagree.”
In a speech broadcast to over 2,000 attendees at Microsoft Israel’s annual Think Next event, Microsoft founder Bill Gates said that Israeli contributions to technology fields such as analytics and security are “improving the world,” The Times of Israel reported on Thursday. Gates, who addressed the Tel Aviv audience on a video call, also congratulated Microsoft’s Israeli research and development center on its 25th anniversary, wishing it “a happy birthday.”The center initially opened in 1991 when a number of Microsoft’s Israeli engineers wished to return home. “We decided to open the center – it was our first one outside the US – and I think the technology they have produced over the years more than justifies our decision,” he said.
Gates also acknowledged long-standing rumors that major components of Microsoft’s Windows operating system were developed in Israel, which the company confirmed, though he did not identify which ones. “I have been very impressed with what they have done in the past 25 years, and I can’t wait to see what they come up with in the next 25,” he added.
Microsoft’s annual Think Next event originated in Israel and has since expanded to other Microsoft locations, including in India, China, and the United States. “This event is held in the framework of Microsoft’s efforts to promote high-tech in Israel, and especially in the start-up sector, where Microsoft holds various promotion and cooperation activities with some 1,000 startups,” the Times wrote.
Zack Weisfeld, who heads the start-up accelerator Microsoft Ventures, said the company is particularly proud of the program’s development since its 2012 launch in Israel. “Worldwide we have had 454 graduates, who have raised $1.78 billion,” said Weisfeld of Ventures, which has opened six other accelerators since its Tel Aviv launch. “We’ve had 29 exits and 3 IPOs, and on average companies that graduated from the program received $4.9 million in funding in the first year after they graduate from the accelerator. That’s enough to make us the number one corporate accelerator in the world.”
Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu on Thursday met with Microsoft CEO Satya Nadella, seen in the video embedded below, to discuss matters including cyber-security. “Israel is a center of great technological innovation,” said Netanyahu. “Microsoft is a great technological company. It’s a marriage made in heaven, but recognized here on earth.” Nadella responded, “It’s a real pleasure to be in Israel, and as you said, the 25 years have been a fantastic 25 years, and we look forward to 25 more.”(via TheTower.org)