Experts and Israeli leaders condemn EU decision to label Israeli goods from across the ‘67 lines

Experts and Israeli leaders from across the political spectrum have denounced the EU’s decision to label Israeli goods originating across the Green Line, calling it discriminatory and counter-productive. Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said, "The EU decision is hypocritical and constitutes a double standard; it singles out Israel and not the 200 other conflicts around the world.” Similarly, law professors Eugene Kontorovich and Avi Bell claimed that despite the existence of 200 territorial sovereignty disputes, many of which involve the settlement of disputed territory, the “EU has never unilaterally adopted a regulation requiring geographic labelling.” Last week, Israeli Opposition Leader Isaac Herzog stated that labeling goods from Israeli settlements “serves only one purpose – continuing the hate and regional conflict. Marking these products is an act of violence by extremists who want to further inflame the situation and the EU is falling into their trap.”  A spokesman for Germany’s Social Democratic Party rebuked the decision, calling it a “mistake.”

In a conference call with The Israel Project, David Simha, president of the Israeli-Palestinian Chamber of Commerce and Industry, which aims to enhance economic ties between Israelis and Palestinians, noted that the economic impact of the EU’s policy will be very small, estimating that settlement products make up only 0.1% of total Israeli exports. Like Netanyahu, Simha warned that those most directly harmed would be Palestinian workers employed by Israeli companies who could lose their jobs if business slows, negatively impacting the Palestinian economy.

Additionally, the EU’s decision could undermine efforts to reach a peace agreement between Israelis and Palestinians. Just a few days before the EU decision, 36 Senators, led by Senators Kirsten Gillibrand (D-NY) and Ted Cruz (R-TX) wrote a letter to the EU urging it not to implement the labeling policy, cautioning that it is “unwarranted, dangerous, and damaging to the prospects of a negotiated solution to this conflict.” The Senators also wrote that they were concerned the policy “would lead to the broader boycott of Israel.” The Israeli Foreign Ministry predicted that the decision would “reinforce the PA’s refusal to conduct direct negotiations with Israel.” The American Jewish Committee declared, “Today's decision will play into the hands of those determined to demonize the Jewish state; offend mainstream Israelis who favor territorial compromise and encourage maximalist Palestinian positions.”

 

Ahmed Shaheed and David Kaye, respectively the UN’s Special Rapporteurs for the human rights situation in Iran and for the right to freedom of opinion and expression, called on Iran to stop intimidating journalists “as the country prepares for parliamentary elections early next year,” in a statement released Wednesday. The statement appears to have been prompted by the arrest of five journalists, including Afarine Chitsaz, Ehssan Mazandarani, Saman Safarzai, and Issa Saharkhiz, earlier this month. According the statement, Iranian media reported that the reasons for their detainment were “suspicion of taking part in an infiltration network, seeking to influence public opinion and undermine the Islamic Republic on behalf of western governments.”

Shaheed warned that the, “Increasing intimidation of journalists is hindering their ability to operate freely in the country,” and added that, “The government of Iran should not silence critical or dissenting voices under the guise of vague and unsubstantiated national security concerns.”

Kaye similarly emphasized that, “Public participation in any electoral process is virtually impossible if the media and civil society are so frequently affected by arrests and prosecution,” and noted that UN experts had raised similar concerns before the 2013 elections in Iran. He also called on the Iranian regime to guarantee “a greater space for free exchange of ideas in the run-up to elections.”

Iran’s crackdown on journalists is the continuation of an aggressive campaign to limit civil liberties and dissent by the Iranian Revolutionary Guard Corps (IRGC), whose influence is only expected to grow a result of the nuclear agreement signed between the regime and the P5+1 nations in July. (via TheTower.org)

 

The Emek Hamayanot Regional Council has published tenders for the construction of a new bridge across the Jordan River, the Ministry for Regional Cooperation announced this week. The bridge – part of the Jordan Gateway project — will connect Israeli and Jordanian industrial zones. “The Jordan Gate project is one of the most important in the relations between Israel-Jordan and will greatly contribute to improving the relations between the two peoples,” said Deputy Minister for Regional Cooperation MK Ayoub Kara. Kara said the bridge development could improve ties between Israel and Jordan. “I am happy that the tenders are published specifically at this period, as it is proof that the peace between Israel and Jordan is stronger than any extremists who are trying to drive a wedge between the countries and damage our joint attempts to bring a better future to the peoples of the area.” The Jordan Gateway project bridge will be the fourth crossing point between the two countries – there are already crossings in Aqaba/Eilat, Irbid/Beit She’an, and near Jericho. The new bridge will be used for factories on either side to host the other, and will be used as a base for transferring goods from port to port. (via Israel21c)

 


Netanyahu emphasizes importance of U.S.-Israel relationship, Israel’s progressive values at D.C. think tank

 

In a conversation at the Center for American Progress (CAP), Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu emphasized the importance of the U.S.-Israel relationship and the progressive values that Israel holds dear. Netanyahu said, “I think it’s vital to understand how important it is for me that Israel remain an issue of bipartisan consensus. It’s crucial. The relationship with the United States, all parts of the United States, and the American people, is a strategic asset to our national security and our future.” He explained that his session with President Barack Obama on Monday was “a very good meeting...He’s had more meetings with me than any other leader. And I deeply appreciate that. The time he has invested, the importance he attaches to this relationship, I think is unique. We’ve had our disagreements, particularly over Iran, that’s clear. But I think we have no disagreement now about what we need to do moving forward.” With regard to Israel’s progressive and democratic values, Netanyahu said, “If you look at all the values and all the rights that you [progressives] deem important – I’m talking about the rights of women or the rights of gays or the rights of minorities, the rights of Arabs, the rights of Jews, the rights of people – these are enshrined in an imperfect society…one that is facing incredible odds with incredible successes. It safeguards those values in a very, very troubled area.” With regard to the inclusion of gays in the military, the Prime Minister said that whereas the U.S. had " ‘don’t ask, don’t tell’…You know what we have? ‘We don’t care.’…It’s not an issue.” He also praised female fighter pilots, combat soldiers, and Mossad analysts. CAP President Neera Tanden said that these, among others, were areas “where we, progressives, can learn lessons, Americans can learn lessons from Israel.”

Earlier in the day, Netanyahu spoke at the General Assembly of the Jewish Federations of North America in Washington, D.C. “Israel has no better friend than America, and America has no better friend than Israel,” he said. “Despite our disagreement over the nuclear deal with Iran, I believe that America and Israel can and should work together now to ensure Iran complies with the deal, to curb Iran’s regional aggression and fight Iranian terrorism around the world.” On Monday, Israel’s Channel 2 reported that Obama and Netanyahu had tentatively agreed to an increase in American military aid to Israel as well as the formation of a joint task force to enforce the Iran nuclear deal.

 

Iranian state media reports that the regime has stopped dismantling inactive centrifuges at two uranium enrichment plants, Reuters wrote on Tuesday.

 

“The (dismantling) process stopped with a warning,” Ali Shamkhani, Secretary of the National Security Council, was quoted as saying by the ISNA student news agency.

 

Only decommissioned centrifuges were being dismantled to begin with, of which there were about 10,000 at Natanz and Fordow, the Atomic Energy Organisation of Iran has said.

 

Shamkhani did not specify what he meant by “warning”, but the head of parliament’s nuclear deal commission, Alireza Zakani, told Mehr news agency that the dismantling had stopped in Fordow because of the lawmakers’ letter to Rouhani.

Reuters reported that 20 Iranian parliamentarians sent a letter to President Hassan Rouhani last week demanding that the process of dismantling centrifuges be slowed down. Their demand was apparently made in accordance with the dictates of Iranian Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, who has indicated that “the deal should only be implemented once allegations of past military dimensions (PMD) of Iran’s nuclear program had been settled.”

Last month, Khamenei attached conditions to the implementation of the nuclear agreement, including that sanctions be removed even before Iran had complied with its obligations and scaled down its nuclear program.

This is contrary to the plain reading of the nuclear deal (.pdf), which states that the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) must verify Iran’s compliance with the deal’s requirements while the European Union simultaneously terminates, and the U.S. suspends, nuclear-related sanctions on the Islamic Republic.

On Monday, Iran’s Fars news agency reported that Shamkhani told Belgian Foreign Minister Didier Reynders, “Any unconstructive behavior or continuing the trend of threat and hostility will prevent expansion of mutual cooperation and it will result in a revision of our policies.”

Fars also reported that Reza Najafi, Iran’s ambassador to the IAEA, said that Tehran had complied with all obligations in regard to its past nuclear work, and that “the IAEA can now close the case concerning the Islamic Republic’s past and present nuclear activities forever.”

The nuclear deal bound Iran to reduce its stockpile of enriched uranium, redesign its heavy water reactor at Arak to produce less plutonium, and reduce the number of its installed centrifuges from an estimated 19,000 to 6,000. Iran has about 10,000 centrifuges currently enriching uranium. According to the nuclear deal, 5,000 centrifuges located at the Natanz enrichment facility will continue to enrich uranium, while 1,000 centrifuges in the reinforced, underground facility at Fordow will be producing isotopes for scientific research.

Senior administration officials have emphasized that Iran must comply with its obligations in order to receive sanctions relief. When the deal was announced in July, Secretary of State John Kerry said that Iran would need to reduce its stockpile of enriched uranium and remove the core of its heavy water reactor before sanctions would be lifted.

And the relief from sanctions will only start when Tehran has met its key initial nuclear commitments – for example, when it has removed the core from the Arak reactor; when it has dismantled the centrifuges that it has agreed to dismantle; when it has shipped out the enriched uranium that it has agreed to ship out. When these and other commitments are met, the sanctions relief will then begin to be implemented in phases.

An unnamed senior administration official reiterated these conditions in a September briefing.

So starting on adoption day, about October 18th, we expect that Iran is going to need to make major changes to its Natanz enrichment facility. That will involve taking out thousands of centrifuges and putting them into IAEA-monitored storage. It will also involve taking out a very large amount of infrastructure, specifically some of the pipework and electrical infrastructure that allows for the enrichment process to work. All of this is going to take a lot of effort and probably a fair amount of time. But the key point in this action that the Iranians will undertake as well as the others is that the ball is really in Iran’s court. It’s difficult for us to fully predict how long it’s going to be until sanctions relief is implemented because we can’t offer that relief to the Iranians until they take all of these steps at Natanz, at Fordow, at the Arak reactor. And so we really structured the deal in such a way that they are required to do all those things before sanctions relief. So at Natanz, they need to do those things. (via TheTower.org)

 

Officially, London Mayor Boris Johnson is in Israel on a trade mission to boost business and technology partnerships. But he’s also having a ton of fun. “Both London and Tel Aviv share the values of innovation and tolerance, and it is no surprise that so many tech startups choose Tel Aviv as their home. We look forward to working together to enhance both of our tech communities,” Johnson said. The London mayor was accompanied by 15 London tech firm representatives on his three-day tour here, and got to ring the opening bell at the Tel Aviv Stock Exchange. At the Google Campus in Tel Aviv – a lively hub for entrepreneurs – Johnson outfitted himself with Oculus Rift virtual reality goggles and barked at journalists as he demonstrated dog simulation. He scooted around the streets of Tel Aviv on an Inu, a foldable two-wheeled electric and battery-operated scooter made by Haifa company Green Ride. Johnson joined Tel Aviv Mayor Ron Huldai for a bike ride – on the city’s rentable Tel-O-Fun bikes — along Rothschild Boulevard, the city’s most famous startup thoroughfare. Johnson definitely played here but also took matters seriously. He said a trade embargo on Israel would be “completely crazy” and noted that only “corduroy-jacketed, snaggletoothed, lefty academics” in the UK support such a notion. “London is the natural tech partner for Israeli firms looking to expand,” Johnson declared. “With access to a world-class talent pool and a booming digital economy, it is no surprise that Israeli tech companies are making London their home and choosing the London Stock Exchange as their international market for expansion.” Johnson met with former president Shimon Peres and with current President Reuven Rivlin, laid a wreath at Yad Vashem Holocaust memorial in Jerusalem and also planned to visit Ramallah before heading back to London. (via Israel21c)


Israeli PM meets with President Obama; both reassure strong US-Israel relationship

 

In a reaffirmation of strong U.S.-Israel ties, Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu kicked off his visit to Washington, DC with a meeting at the White House on Monday, which will be followed by a speech at the left-wing think tank, the Center for American Progress on Tuesday. He will receive the Irving Kristol Award, the American Enterprise Institute’s highest honor, on Monday evening. In his opening remarks with U.S. President Barack Obama, Prime Minister Netanyahu said, “I want to thank you for this opportunity to strengthen our friendship, which is strong; strengthen our alliance, which is strong. I think it’s rooted in shared values. It’s buttressed by shared interests. It’s driven forward by a sense of a shared destiny.” President Obama opened the session stating, “There’s no foreign leader who I’ve met with more frequently, and I think that’s a testimony to the extraordinary bond between the United States and Israel.”

President Obama also reiterated the close military and intelligence cooperation that exists between the two states, declaring that the cooperation is closer “than any two administrations in history.” Much of the bilateral meeting, President Obama said, would focus on negotiating a new memorandum of understanding (MOU), since the current one is set to expire in fiscal year 2018. In the current MOU, reached in 2007, the U.S. and Israeli governments agreed to a $30 billion “military aid package” for 10 years. For decades, the U.S. has had a policy of ensuring that Israel maintain its qualitative military edge to deter or counter any military threat.

President Obama also condemned the recent wave of violence in Israel and the West Bank, telling reporters that “we condemn in the strongest terms Palestinian violence against innocent Israeli citizens.” On November 3, 2015, a bipartisan group of senators, including Sens. Chuck Schumer (D-N.Y.), Marco Rubio (R-Fla.), and Ben Cardin (D-Md.) submitted a resolution “in support of Israel and in condemnation of Palestinian terror attacks.” In addition, last week members of the U.S. House of Representatives unanimously passed a resolution condemning the Palestinian Authority’s incitement against Israel. Ranking Member of the Middle East and North Africa subcommittee of the House Foreign Affairs Committee Ted Deutch (D-Fla.) said that the terror attacks are a “direct result of incitement by Palestinian leaders” who spread lies that Israel is changing the status quo on the Temple Mount. He continued, “These false accusations send a dangerous message that violence and acts of terrorism are acceptable and even justified.”

 

Despite political differences, bipartisan American support for Israel remains strong and is growing, according to a study written by Dina Smeltz, a senior fellow at the Chicago Council on Global Affairs, which was published Monday in The Washington Post.

Survey trends show Americans’ favorable views of Israel have not been much affected by these recent events. Some partisan differences exist, but those partisan divides have been there for some time.

Overall, the Chicago Council on Global Affairs’ surveys find that Americans tend to view Israel favorably (giving Israel an average of 59 out of a possible 100 favorability rating), on par with their feelings toward France (61 out of 100). There is a partisan hue to American feelings, as the figure below shows.

But in fact, favorable views of Israel actually rose across the political spectrum when last asked this question in 2014.

A paper cited and co-written by Smeltz, which was also released Monday, provided more details supporting her observation:

But if the past is any indication of the future of the US-Israel relationship, public opinion trends suggest the relationship will continue to be a warm one. Results from the 2014 Chicago Council Survey show that favorable feelings toward Israel have increased among supporters from both parties in recent years. Republicans’ favorable views of Israel have increased 12 percentage points since a low point in 1998. A majority of Democrats also continue to feel favorably toward Israel, up from a low point of 50 percent in 2002. Gallup surveys conducted in 2014 and 2015 corroborate these trends. In both years, seven in ten Americans expressed favorable views of Israel, suggesting that events over the last year did not affect American support for Israel.

In her Post study, Smeltz further noted that a majority of Americans would support U.S. military intervention to defend Israel if it was attacked by an enemy, a figure that “is currently at the highest level recorded among […] Republicans, Democrats and Independents.”

Smeltz concluded by observing:

Regarding partisanship among the public in support for Israel, there are some differences between Democrats and Republicans on the depth of their support. But when placed into context over time, these differences are neither revelatory nor unique to the tenures of Netanyahu or Obama.

A poll released this past February found that a plurality of Americans were in favor of Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s plan to address Congress on the dangers presented by a nuclear Iran. Last year, a poll 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 unity government that includes the designated terror group Hamas. (via TheTower.org)

 

Processing trauma. Managing anxiety. Talking to children about fear and safety. These are skills many Israelis are seeking to learn in the face of the current wave of terror attacks often perpetrated by teenage Arab assailants with kitchen knives. Many of the victims also are young, including a two-year-old walking with his parents and a 13-year-old riding a bike in Jerusalem. According to the Israel Trauma Coalition (ITC), Israeli parents are feeling the anxiety most acutely because unlike during wartime, stabbing attacks are not preceded by red alert sirens, cannot be foiled by the Iron Dome missile-defense system and cannot be escaped by running to a bomb shelter. And nowhere seems totally safe; while the attacks are more prevalent in the Jerusalem area, they are happening in other parts of Israel as well. Jerusalem-based ITC has devised a range of responses including trauma guidance workshops for parents, working together with partner agencies and funds from the Jewish Federations of Los Angeles and New York. So far, about 18 training sessions have been offered in nine Jerusalem neighborhoods – and an online session on Facebook — according to Ravid Nevo, Jerusalem Regional Training Center Manager for ITC. One workshop was for parents of children in the Sieff & Marks (Ziv) School in Jerusalem after the headmaster’s father was killed in a stabbing and shooting attack on a public bus on October 13. Another was specifically for Ethiopian parents and another is scheduled for parents who are blind or visually impaired. “We get a lot of requests because parents don’t feel they have the ability and tools to deal with the anxiety and stress their kids are experiencing,” Nevo tells ISRAEL21c. “Many parents are suffering from extreme anxiety and we know from experience that their reaction is to close ranks, to refuse to let their children leave the house, and as a result, the children experience their own raised level of anxiety. Helping parents helps children and as such, we are providing parental guidance groups nationwide.” (via Israel21c)

 

As boat after boat arrives at the Greek island of Lesbos, the refugees aboard are met by a cacophony of languages from aid workers offering help. But there is only one team of aid workers from the Middle East that can talk to these refugees from Syria, Iraq, and elsewhere in their own language. To their surprise, it is the Israeli team.

“It feels like I dreamed it,” said a bemused 26-year-old man from Damascus. “I never thought an Israeli would treat me.” His wife had just received medical help from IsraAID, a humanitarian aid agency that started working on the European refugee crisis in September. It currently has a team in Lesbos and another on the Serbia-Croatia border.

The Israeli team checked his wife, who is nine months pregnant, as she stepped off the boat, and took her to the hospital for emergency treatment. “I wouldn’t have known that she was not okay, and because of them I knew to get her attention,” he said.

Lesbos lies on a stretch of Greek coastline that faces Turkey. And it is from Turkey that the refugee boats are dispatched by cynical human traffickers. They will pack 50 people into a boat meant for 20 and take U.S. $1,700 from each. Then they designate a driver from among the refugees, and take no further interest in whether they survive or sink. Piles of abandoned boats and lifejackets give a sense of just how many thousands of refugees have passed through here in recent weeks.

Two members of the IsraAID team—a nurse and a doctor—are stationed on the shore night and day, and race to meet every boat that arrives. If the weather is bad and the boats stop 10 to 20 meters from shore, they wade out to carry children and help the elderly. If the weather is good, they wait on shore with blankets and food. Then they give IV drips to the dehydrated and treatment to the injured. The refugees are usually relived to find aid workers who speak Arabic, and bombard them with questions about the Greek bureaucracy’s procedures for refugees.

To continue reading, click here for The Tower Magazine.


Terror wave continues as Palestinian terrorists carry out shooting and stabbing attacks against Israelis

 

Four terrorist attacks rocked Israel Friday in the latest installment of the current wave of violence. There were two shooting incidents in Hebron – a 19-year-old Israeli was seriously wounded in one attack, and in the other, two Israeli teenagers, a 16-year-old and an 18-year-old, were shot near the Cave of the Patriarchs. The 16-year-old was seriously wounded. In another attack a Palestinian woman attempted to ram her vehicle into Israeli soldiers before being shot close to the Halhul Bridge near Hebron. In Sha’ar Binyamin, north of Jerusalem, a Palestinian stabbed an Israeli man outside of a grocery store. The perpetrator, who fled the scene of the attack, claimed responsibility for the attack in a video uploaded to Facebook. He is an activist of the Al Aqsa Martyrs Brigades, the military wing of Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas’ Fatah Party. The terrorist said he was motivated to carry out the attack in order to protect the Al Aqsa Mosque. Earlier in the day, Israeli police arrested a Palestinian woman on the Allenby Bridge, which connects Jordan to the West Bank, who was caught carrying a knife. In addition, Palestinians threw fire bombs at Israeli vehicles near Hebron.

The terrorist attacks, centered on Hebron, are taking place just as the annual Shabbat Chayei Sarah festivities are to begin in that city this Shabbat, November 6-7. The pilgrimage commemorates Abraham’s purchase of the Cave of the Patriarchs, the second holiest site in Judaism, which according to Jewish tradition is the burial place of Abraham, Sarah, Isaac, Rebecca, Jacob, and Leah. This week’s Torah portion describes the purchase. Thousands of Jews from Israel and around the world have arrived in Hebron to take part.

The wave of terrorism against Israelis has now lasted for several weeks, driven by Palestinian incitement over the Temple Mount and the Al Aqsa Mosque, which lies on the esplanade in Jerusalem’s Old City. The Arab Israeli journalist Khaled Abu Toameh tweeted on Friday that Abbas had told Fatah activists, “Israel’s attempts to divide Aqsa Mosque won’t succeed.” In September, Abbas declared that Jews “have no right to desecrate” the Al Aqsa Mosque with their filthy feet, and that “each drop of blood that was spilled in Jerusalem is pure blood.” Last week, Secretary of State John Kerry emphasized the need “for Palestinian leaders to cease the incitement of violence.”

 

The global financial giant Deutsche Bank was fined $258 million for violating American sanctions against Iran, Syria, and other nations, The New York Times reported Thursday.

It is the latest in a string of settlements over sanctions violations as regulators take aim at banks for doing business with blacklisted countries. Still, criminal investigations by the Manhattan district attorney and the United States attorney’s office in Manhattan were continuing, people briefed on the matter said. …

 

The activity under investigation occurred from 1999 to 2006, according to regulators. Deutsche Bank handled 27,200 dollar-clearing transactions, valued at over $10.86 billion, for customers in Iran, Libya, Myanmar, Syria and Sudan. Regulators said bank employees had developed ways to hide the nature of the transactions from internal controls intended to flag problematic payments.

 

The regulators pointed to emails among various Deutsche Bank employees. One said, “Let’s keep this email strictly on a “need-know’ basis, no need to spread the news.”

According the Times, Deutsche Bank is one of several large European-based banks under investigation. Two French banks have also been forced to pay fines: Crédit Agricole agreed to pay $787 million, and BNP Paribas, France’s largest bank, paid $8.9 billion, a record.

The Times reported last year on how a lawsuit filed against Iran by Stephen Flatow, whose daughter was killed by Iranian-sponsored terrorists, led prosecutors to uncover the methods banks used to hide their dealings with Iran.

The prosecutors soon discovered that Credit Suisse and Lloyds, two of the world’s most prestigious banks, had acted as Iran’s portal to the United States financial system. To disguise the illicit transactions — the United States is closed for business to Iran — Credit Suisse and Lloyds stripped out the Iranian clients’ names from wire transfers to the Fifth Avenue charity and affiliated entities. The findings led the Manhattan prosecutors and the Justice Department in Washington to announce criminal cases against both banks.

In The Central Pillar Supporting the Iran Deal Has a Big Crack In It, which was published in the July 2015 issue of The Tower Magazine, Emanuele Ottolenghi explained that the banking sanctions against Iran were an important factor in getting Iran to negotiate.

It took years of patient and tenacious U.S. diplomacy to prod a reluctant international community into agreeing and then enacting the complicated sanctions regime in place since March 2007, when the United Nations Security Council approved Resolution 1737. In particular, getting the United Nations Security Council’s stamp of approval for non-proliferation sanctions proved extremely difficult. Though this approach eventually bore fruit—six binding resolutions under Chapter 7 of the UN Charter were approved between July 2006 and June 2010—it also showed its limits.

 

Since the Security Council passed the last of these resolutions, Russia and China have shown no desire to expand sanctions further. As a result, the measures that are most credited for bringing Iran into serious negotiations—the banking and financial restrictions passed between 2010 and 2012—were mainly autonomous U.S. and European Union sanctions. Globally, large corporations and financial institutions grudgingly went along with them. In addition, the painful fines inflicted on HSBC, BNP Paribas, and Standard Chartered had a chilling effect on the business world. Few dared question, let alone challenge the administration’s willingness to use economic pressure as its principal tool of coercive diplomacy. Who wants a $8.9 billion fine, after all?

 

Global compliance left Iran cut off from financial markets. Its energy sector rusted, while its oil sales plunged to a quarter of its production abilities. Its economy teetered on the brink of the abyss. But these achievements rested largely on three assumptions: The Obama administration was determined to enforce sanctions, come what may; America’s allies mostly supported or at least acquiesced to Washington’s punitive actions; and Iran had no effective recourse. Today, on the eve of a nuclear agreement, none of this is true any longer. (via TheTower.org)

 

The world’s tiniest Bible — the Nano Bible produced on a microchip at the Russell Berrie Nanotechnology Institute at the Technion-Israel Institute of Technology in Haifa, Israel – is the newest item in the collection of the Smithsonian Libraries in Washington, DC. Smithsonian Secretary David J. Skorton accepted a Nano Bible from Technion President Peretz Lavie on October 30 for safekeeping in the Dibner Library of the History of Science and Technology at the National Museum of American History. Engraved on a gold-plated silicon chip the size of a grain of rice, the biblical text consists of more than 1.2 million letters carved with a focused beam of gallium ions. The words are readable only when magnified 10,000 times. “We are excited to enrich the Libraries’ collections with this marvelous gift, which marries one of the world’s oldest and most significant texts with one of the newest technologies of the 21st century,” said Nancy E. Gwinn, director of Smithsonian Libraries. “As one of our principal values is to share our collections with the public, it is appropriate that the only copy in the United States be located here, as part of the national collections.” The Nano Bible can be viewed by the public by appointment; call 202-633-3872. The first of two copies of the Nano Bible, made by Prof. Uri Sivan and Dr. Ohad Zohar at the Technion, was presented to Pope Benedict XVI during his visit to Israel in 2009.“ The Nano Bible exhibition is a fascinating confluence of history, culture, and cutting-edge science — where the Land of the Bible meets the Start-Up Nation,” said Lavie. (via Israel21c)


"Surge" in cyber attacks, latest in a series of Iranian aggressions since the nuclear deal 

 

The news of a “surge” in the number of Iranian cyber attacks in recent weeks comes amidst a series of aggressive Iranian actions that have lawmakers urging the Obama administration to respond. On Wednesday, The Wall Street Journal reported that since the arrest of the Iranian-American businessman Siamak Namazi by an intelligence unit in Iran’s Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps (IRGC), the number of cyber attacks against U.S. government personnel, academics, and journalists has increased, including the targeting of the email and social media accounts of administration officials.

When the nuclear deal was reached in Vienna, White House officials maintained that since the nuclear issue had been resolved, the U.S. could push back against Iran’s regional aggression, support for terrorism, and human rights abuses. In his testimony following the deal, Secretary of State John Kerry said that new sanctions for terrorism and human rights abuses could still be imposed, telling members of Congress, “We are free to add those.” However, in the days after the nuclear deal, in a letter to the UN Security Council, Iran intimated that it would consider any new sanctions as grounds to stop implementing the nuclear deal.

After the news of the arrest of Siamak Namazi, U.S. lawmakers began calling for a variety of responses: sanctions targeting IRGC members responsible for the detainment of U.S. persons, a renewal of the Iran Sanctions Act, or designating the IRGC as a Foreign Terrorist Organization (FTO). The Wall Street Journal reported on Wednesday that these proposed actions would be “a move that Mr. Khamenei has said would violate the nuclear deal.” Rep. Michael McCaul (R-Texas) wrote a letter to President Obama last week urging that the IRGC be listed as an FTO but has not yet received a response. The White House has also been unclear on its support for the renewal of the Iran Sanctions Act.

Moreover, following the nuclear deal, the White House also hoped that it would “boost cooperation” between the U.S. and Iran. In the months since the deal, however, Iran has increased its anti-American activity by arresting two U.S. persons, convicting a U.S. citizen on false charges, imprisoning two other U.S. citizens, and holding anti-American rallies. Iran has also increased its number of international sanctions violations. It test-fired a guided ballistic missile, violated international travel bans, exports weapons to Syria and Yemen, and supports terror abroad.

 

A lecture at the University of Minnesota Law School on Tuesday by renowned Israeli scholar Moshe Halbertal was marred when anti-Israel protesters repeatedly shouted down his remarks. The protesters delayed the lecture by half an hour with repeated shouts and interruptions from the audience, before continuing to chant outside the room in which the event was held, making it difficult for Halbertal to be heard.

Halbertal, a professor at both New York University and the Hebrew University of Jerusalem, was scheduled to give a presentation on the ethics of war as part of the John Dewey Lecture in the Philosophy of Law, an annual law school event. Halbertal helped write the Israel Defense Forces’ code of ethics, though the prepared topic of his lecture, “Protecting Civilians: Moral Challenges of Asymmetric Warfare,” was not specifically on the subject of Israel.

The protests were endorsed by the campus branch of Students for Justice in Palestine and was organized by the Minnesota Anti-War Committee, who tweeted before the event asking followers to “help shut down” Halbertal’s lecture. An article by Anti-War Committee spokesperson Meredith Aby-Keirstead in FightBack!, a local radical paper that has previously expressed support for the convicted Palestinian terrorist Rasmea Odeh, indicated that their intention was to prevent Halbertal from being heard. “Before the moderator got three words out, the first interruption came,” Aby-Keirstead bragged, adding that “speakers rose from the audience, one after another, making it impossible for Halbertal’s talk to proceed.” The protesters systematically stood up one by one and yelled pro-Palestinian slogans, only for another to start up chanting again when someone was removed from the hall by university police. Protesters even interrupted law school staff explaining the rules of decorum for the event. The police were eventually forced to lock the doors to prevent more protesters. Three protesters were arrested on charges of disorderly conduct and trespassing before being released.

Protesters referred to Halbertal, who argued that soldiers should bear increased risks to decrease the risks to civilians in combat, as a “baby-killer.” One of the protesters’ chants was “from sea to sea, Palestine will be free”—a reference to the creation of a Palestinian state across the entire area (and thus the destruction of the Jewish state of Israel). Such chants “mean nothing less than the murder or expulsion of over six million Jews,” said Steve Hunegs, executive director of the Jewish Community Relations Council of Minnesota and the Dakotas, who attended the event.

“It was evident from the very start that they had no interest in anything he had to say,” sophomore Sami Rahamim, who also attended the event and is the president of the campus advocacy group Students Supporting Israel, told The Tower. “They were just there to yell and scream these chants that don’t do anything to bring the conversation closer to peace, to bring the two sides closer together. It’s a complete rejection of free speech.”

“It’s been pretty contentious all year with Students for Justice in Palestine,” he added. “They promote a campus environment where no one should feel threatened or harassed, and all these platitudes about free speech for everyone, but clearly that only applies to people who agree with them.”

Hunegs called for “a thorough and swift investigation into yesterday’s illegal and shameful disruption of the free exchange of ideas at the University of Minnesota” and asked the university “to publicly denounce these bullying tactics.” Similarly, Dale Carpenter, a University of Minnesota professor who recounted the event for The Washington Post, stated that “The freedom to present a lecture is threatened in this way at a public university is appalling, calling not only for punishment of violations but for a clear statement by university officials defending the free exchange of ideas.”

David Wippman, dean of the law school, issued a statement today addressing the incident:

Yesterday, the Law School hosted Professor Moshe Halbertal, a well known, widely respected expert on ethics and the law of war, for the annual Dewey Lecture on law and philosophy. Unfortunately, the start of Professor Halbertal’s lecture was delayed for over 30 minutes by protesters shouting slogans and denouncing the Law School for inviting a speaker whose views they chose to caricature but not to hear.While it is regrettable that the protesters (none, I believe, from the Law School) chose to deny themselves the opportunity to engage and learn from a speaker of Halbertal’s distinction, it is unacceptable that they should seek to deny other students and community members their own opportunity to hear an invited guest speak. Values of free speech and academic freedom are central to the University’s mission; we disregard them at our peril.

The protesters were eventually removed from the building by campus police, who handled the situation with great professionalism and restraint. After the lecture concluded, audience members, including some quite critical of Israel, had an opportunity to ask questions and engage Professor Halbertal in discussion. Ironically, the central theme of Professor Halbertal’s talk was that the military should be prepared to accept greater risks to its own forces in order to enhance protections for civilian non-combatants, not something one would expect to generate much protest.

But whether a speaker’s views are controversial is beside the point. As members of a University community, we should welcome—indeed, insist—on hearing a wide range of viewpoints, and we should condemn any efforts to silence free speech through protests of the sort that took place at the Law School yesterday. The Law School will continue to do both.

Following the arrest, the Anti-War Committee intimated that it was in fact their First Amendment rights, rather than Halbertal’s, that were under threat, repeatedly tweetingthat there was “no free speech for #FreePalestine.” But, as Hunegs pointed out in a statement, “there were individuals—who were identifiable as critics of Israel—who sat through the lecture without interrupting and respectfully engaged with Dr. Halbertal at a reception afterwards.”

“That’s the way to behave in an academic setting,” Rahamim said. “If you’re going to get up and just start screaming before the lecture has even begun, and then claim that your freedom of speech is being impeded, it’s laughable to me, and it just shows a clear one-sidedness, a clear disconnect from any willingness to hear the other side.”

“If [the protesters] had stayed and listened, they might have actually heard something they agreed with,” Wippman told the Minnesota Daily. (via TheTower.org)

 

Unleashing the power of plants to purify wastewater — without pipes, pumps or anything else manmade — has proven a winning proposition for Israel’s Ayala Water & Ecology for the past 26 years. Ayala’s phytoremediation systems are built into the landscaping at hundreds of industrial, residential, agricultural and recreational sites in Israel, India, Chile, Mexico, France, Germany, Greece, Singapore, the United States and Canada, with future projects planned for the Philippines and the United Kingdom. Now this green, sustainable solution is hotter than ever, as evidenced by the enthusiasm generated by Ayala’s display at the recent WATEC Expo in Tel Aviv. CEO and founder Eli Cohen tells ISRAEL21c that many of the visitors seeking information on using plants to clean water came from California, where a severe drought has spurred intense interest in Israeli water technologies. The Haifa native explains that he left a high-tech career in 1988 and bought farmland in Moshav Tzipori in the central Galilee to raise and export organic aquatic plants as ornaments and natural filters for marine aquariums. Cohen soon realized he could offer a technology- and energy-free way to create a balanced water-purifying ecosystem that needs no maintenance aside from pruning as with any garden. “We call it ‘active landscaping.’ You can treat your own sewage in the park or garden and use the purified water to irrigate,” says Cohen. “You can produce high-quality water from nature if you create the right environment of plants, gravel and soil, and special natural additives for specific problems such as heavy metals and radioactive elements. If you do it in a natural way, it can last forever.” (via Israel21c)


Iran commemorates takeover of US embassy in 1979 with state-sponsored anti-American rallies

 

On Wednesday, Iran celebrated the 36th anniversary of the seizure of the US embassy in Tehran with state-sponsored protests that drew thousands of Iranians who chanted Death to America and burned American flags. 36 years ago, Iranian students stormed the US embassy and took 52 Americans hostage for 444 days, causing a rupture in US-Iranian diplomatic relations. The protests on Wednesday were held outside the building where the US embassy used to stand. President Hassan Rouhani lauded the Iranian students responsible for the hostage crisis and declared, “The US embassy takeover formed the foundation of the country's independence and fight against the arrogant powers by Iran." Iranian protesters issued a resolution at the end of their rallies, condemning the US for creating and supporting terrorist groups, including ISIS.

Administration officials and analysts in favor of the Iran deal hoped that increased integration with the international community would moderate Iran and lead to improved US-Iranian relations. Instead, there has been a backlash against America in Iran. Iran recently convicted Washington Post reporter Jason Rezaian, who has been held by the regime longer than the American hostages in 1979. Iran has also arrested two businessmen with ties to America who were visiting Tehran. There are now a total of six US persons detained or missing in Iran. The backlash has also manifested itself in arrests of journalists, activists, and poets.

At the rally on Tuesday, Iran’s State Prosecutor Ebrahim Raeisi announced, "Under no circumstances will we allow penetration of Americans in economic, social and cultural areas, " which echoed Supreme Leader Ali Khamenei’s comments in August, “We waste no efforts to shut ways of infiltration into the country. We'll allow neither economic, nor political, nor cultural intrusion of US.” Khamenei’s top advisor Ali Akbar Velayati also recently declared, "Iran will not cooperate directly or indirectly with the United States," in the fight against ISIS.

 

Two bipartisan resolutions, one condemning incitement by the Palestinian Authority against Israel and the other raising concerns about anti-Semitism in Europe, passed unanimously in the United States House of Representatives this week. The resolution condemning Palestinian incitement was sponsored by Representatives Ileana Ros-Lehtinen (R – Fla.) and Ted Deutch (D – Fla.), The Times of Israel reported Wednesday. On Tuesday, The Hill reported that the House unanimously passed a resolution calling on Europe to fight anti-Semitism and provide more security for its Jewish population.

On Tuesday, The Hill reported that the House unanimously passed a resolution calling on Europe to fight anti-Semitism and provide more security for its Jewish population.

Rep. Ed Royce (R – Calif.), chairman of the House Foreign Affairs Committee, said, “The slaughter of these people, their persecution, leaves for humanity the thought: Have we learned nothing from the Holocaust? European leaders must unequivocally send this message to their people and act to provide greater protection for their Jewish citizens.”

The Jerusalem Post reported that Rep. Steny Hoyer (D – Md.), minority whip, endorsed both measures:

Terror against Israelis and anti-Semitic attacks around the world must not be met with silence from the international community, and the two resolutions the House passed this week reflect the need to speak out and make clear where our nation stands.

Much work remains in the fight to root out hatred against Jews in their ancient homeland or in their diaspora communities. Nothing can ever justify the murder of innocents or the spreading of fear among peaceful communities.

I will continue supporting measures like those the House approved this week to make it unambiguously clear that a bipartisan majority in Congress stands united in solidarity with Israel and the Jewish people against violence, hatred, and terror.

In October, the House Foreign Affairs Committee unanimously approved a resolution condemning the PA and President Mahmoud Abbas, “for praising the killers of Israelis as “heroes,” for labeling Jews a “contaminating” presence on the Temple Mount (Haram al-Sharif) and for encouraging bloodletting in Jerusalem.”

According to Israel’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs, the emergency medical service Magen David Adom reported that Palestinians have carried out 58 stabbings, 5 shootings, and 7 car ramming attacks between October 1 – November 2. These attacks, which various Israeli security experts and Palestinian activists have attributed to incitement, have claimed the lives of eleven people and wounded 158. (via TheTower.org)

Actor Ashton Kutcher and talent manager Guy Oseary’s venture capital firm, Sound Ventures, has announced an investment in the Israeli Moovit transit app. Moovit, which dubs itself as the top transit app in the world with service in over 700 cities, says it will use this investment to advance its growth in promising markets like India and China. “We’re extremely proud to have Sound Ventures behind us as we continue to grow rapidly,” said Nir Erez, CEO of Moovit. “Investments like these help us to bring more public transit options to markets in need, like India and China, as well as to continue to strengthen our active community of editors around the world.” Sound Ventures launched at SXSW in Austin, TX in March of this year. The company has invested in numerous other successful technology companies, including Airbnb, Uber, Spotify, Houzz and Zenefits. Moovit says it is expecting to launch three more cities in India before the end of the year and is now also publicly launching four cities in China: Hong Kong, Shanghai, Guangzhou and Beijing. (via Israel21c)

 


Iran arrests another businessman with US ties, accuses him of being US spy

 

A Lebanese citizen based in Washington, with permanent US residency status, was arrested in Iran on espionage charges, making it the second arrest of a visitor with American ties in one month, according to a report by the Associated Press on Tuesday. The Lebanese businessman, Nizar Zakka, who reportedly disappeared in Tehran on September 18, was attending a state-sponsored conference on entrepreneurship in Tehran. Siamak Namazi, the Iranian-American who was arrested in Iran last week, is also a businessman. He was attempting to establish stronger economic ties between the US and Iran. There are now a total of six US persons detained or missing in Iran.Following the arrests of Namazi and Zakka, The Wall Street Journal reported that, "Tehran's moves have fueled concern that hard-line political forces are cracking down on individuals and groups seeking a more open political and business environment." Washington Post Beirut bureau chief Liz Sly remarked, “It’s open season [on visitors with US ties].”

The new arrest comes amidst a flurry of condemnations from Capitol Hill regarding Iran’s detainment of Namazi and other US citizens.  Lawmakers are urging the administration to take stronger action to punish Iran. They are advocating for actions that range from sanctioning individuals in the Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps (IRGC) responsible for the detainment of Namazi, to listing the entire IRGC as a Foreign Terrorist Organization, and reauthorizing the Iran Sanctions Act of 1996.

Administration officials had expressed hopes that the nuclear deal would moderate Iran’s behavior, however, in the months after the deal was signed, Tehran has convicted Washington Post reporter Jason Rezaian of espionage, test-fired a ballistic missile in violation of UN Security Council resolutions, and increased its efforts to shore up the Assad regime in Syria, pouring around 1500 Iranian troops as well as arms into the country to participate in renewed assaults on Syrian opposition fighters.

Several experts, including Aaron David Miller, a former advisor to both Republican and Democratic Secretaries of State, predicted that the nuclear deal would not moderate the Islamic Republic. Ray Takeyh, a former State Department official, similarly argued that rather than softening the regime, the deal would allow it to consolidate power and Iran would likely become “a more hawkish theocracy.”

 

Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas indicated that he considered all of Israel to be occupied Palestinian territory while speaking before the United Nations Human Rights Council in Geneva last week, Palestinian Media Watch reported on Monday.

In his statement, Abbas asked the council, “Mr. President, ladies and gentlemen, haven’t you wondered: For how long will this protracted Israeli occupation of our land last? After 67 years [i.e., Israel’s creation], how long? Do you think it can last, and that it benefits the Palestinian people?”

Abbas later added, “[The] holy sites which have been desecrated every other second again and again for seven decades now, under an occupation that does not quit killing, torturing, looting and imprisoning…”Abbas’ reference to 67 years or seven decades indicates he was speaking about the time of Israel’s founding in 1948, rather than the Six Day War in 1967, when it assumed control of the West Bank and the Gaza Strip.

PMW observed that while it’s common for official Palestinian media and schools to claim that all of Israel is occupied, “it is rare that Abbas himself says this in an international forum.” The watchdog group also noted that the PA was careful not to reprint Abbas’ characterization of Israel as an occupied Palestinian territory in any official transcript.

Abbas has recently come under heavy criticism for inciting violence against Israel. In September, he called on Palestinians to protect Jerusalem’s holy sites from the “filthy feet” of Jews and blessed “every drop of blood” spilled for the city. Last month, he accusedIsrael of “executing” a teen terrorist who, along with his cousin, had stabbed and critically injured an Israeli teen, despite the fact that the terrorist was recovering in an Israeli hospital.

Abbas’ comments are often echoed by senior Palestinian officials. Last week, Mahmoud al-Habbash, Abbas’ advisor on Islamic affairs, referred to Israel as “Satan’s project.” In October, after a terrorist killed one Israeli and wounded 11 more at a Beersheba bus station, Jibril Rajoub, a senior Palestinian official who heads the Palestinian Football Association, called the attack an “act of heroism.” (via TheTower.org)

 

“Chronic Fatigue, Sun and Immune System at the Dead Sea” will be the topic of the ninth medical workshop organized by the Norwegian Dead Sea Foundation at the lowest spot on Earth, November 23-25. The Dead Sea’s unique solar and mineral properties draw thousands of medical tourists every year from across the world seeking natural relief from chronic skin, respiratory and joint conditions. Dr. Marco Harari, head of the Dead Sea’s DMZ Medical Center – which specializes in individualized regimens of natural-light phototherapy and balneotherapy (bathing in salt water) – is the main organizer of the congress. He cofounded the Norwegian Dead Sea Clinic with Dr. Elisabeth Dramsdahl, which over the past 12 years has treated close to 2,000 chronically ill Norwegian patients. The featured guest speaker is Vitamin D expert Johan E. Moan, senior researcher at the Institute for Cancer Research at the University Hospital of Oslo and professor at the University of Oslo. Other participants are to include Norwegian, Danish, American, German, Austrian and Japanese physicians including the attaché for medical affairs of the Japanese Embassy in Israel. (via Israel21c)


Lawmakers call for more sanctions as Iran arrests another American citizen

 

U.S. lawmakers are increasingly calling on the Obama administration to respond to Iran’s recent arrest of a fourth American citizen. Chairman of the House Foreign Affairs Committee Ed Royce (R-Calif.) said, “The arrest of Siamak Namazi is the latest show of contempt for America.” The Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps (IRGC), the vanguard and defenders of the Iranian Revolution, arrested Namazi, an Iranian-American businessman, while he was visiting his family in Iran. The arrest of Namazi has fueled existing momentum to take specific action against the IRGC, either through listing the organization as a U.S. Foreign Terrorist Organization (FTO) or by sanctioning specific individuals inside the IRGC, who are complicit in the detention of American citizens. The U.S. Treasury’s Office of Foreign Assets Control (OFAC) already sanctions both companies and individuals affiliated with the IRGC. In his statement on the arrest of Namazi, Senator Mark Kirk (R-Ill.) maintained that "Iran's threatening behavior will worsen if the administration does not work with Congress to enact stronger measures to push back, including renewal of the expiring Iran Sanctions Act of 1996 and targeted sanctions against Iran's Revolutionary Guard and against any Iranian official found to have participated in the unjust detainment of American citizens.” Prior to the news of Siamak Namazi’s arrest, on October 29, Chairman of the House Homeland Security Committee Michael McCaul (R-Texas) wrote a letter to President Obama urging him to list the IRGC as a terrorist organization.

In his statement, Sen. Kirk declared that the nuclear deal, reached in July, is only emboldening Iran, rather than moderating it. Last week, The Wall Street Journal’s deputy editorial page editor, Bret Stephens, chronicled Iran’s increasingly aggressive behavior in the wake of the nuclear deal. Iran has test-fired a precision-guided ballistic missile in defiance of UN Security Council Resolution 2231, convictedWashington Post reporter Jason Rezaian on false charges, has increased its troop presence to Syria, and continues to export weapons abroad in support of the Houthi rebels in Yemen and the Assad regime in Syria.

Despite the negotiations in July, U.S. diplomats did not secure the release of the three Americans held in Iran. On MSNBC’s Morning Joe, Under Secretary of State for Public Diplomacy and Public Affairs Rick Stengel was asked why the U.S. can’t bring them home, despite the nuclear deal that was reached. Under Secretary Stengel told host Joe Scarborough that the nuclear deal did not depend on securing their release. Scarborough then declared that Iran should have been told that if it wants billions of dollars in sanctions relief and if it wants to lose its international pariah status, then it must release the journalist that it “illegally arrested.”

 

Four Israelis were wounded, three seriously, during two separate Palestinian terror attacks on Monday.

Three people were stabbed on Monday afternoon in the central city of Rishon Lezion, The Times of Israel reported. Two of the victims, a woman in her 80s and a middle aged man, were seriously hurt. The third victim, a 26-year-old man, was lightly injured.

After passersby locked the door shut by placing sticks in its handles, police arrived and arrested the attacker. One of the eyewitnesses told the Times, “The terrorist got off a bus, starting running around with a knife. People shouted, ‘There’s a terrorist!’ I and five other people saw him and chased after him. We [caught him] and started hitting him in the face [while he held a knife]. We tried to stop him, but he managed to stab two people.”

Dov Tzur, the mayor of Rishon Lezion, praised the “fast work of citizens and security services, police and Magen David Adom” in stopping and apprehending the attacker.

Later on Monday, a 71-year-old man was stabbed and seriously wounded in Netanya by a Palestinian man from the West Bank, according to the Times.

The Palestinian terrorist was shot while attempting to flee from the scene of the attack. He is reported to be in critical condition.

The attacks come in the wake of an attempted stabbing on Monday morning, during which two Palestinians tried to attack a soldier at a West Bank gas station. One of the Palestinians was fatally shot, while the other was arrested. No soldiers were injured.

According to Israel’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs, the emergency medical service Magen David Adom reported that Palestinians have carried out 57 stabbings, 5 shootings, and 6 car ramming attacks since the beginning of October. Thus far, eleven individuals have been killed while over 120 have been wounded. Various Israeli securityexperts and Palestinian activists have attributed the attacks to the inflammatory rhetoric of Palestinian leaders, particularly over the al-Aqsa mosque, as well as incitement on social media. Recent reports by the Middle East Media Research Institute have showcased some of the calls to violence that have been spreading on Palestinian social networks, which range from hashtags such as “Poison the Knife before You Stab” and “Slaughtering the Jews,” to anatomical charts showing potential attackers where to stab their victims.

A report published in The New York Times this October shed light on the role these posts play in encouraging Palestinians to commit acts of terror.

Micah Avni, the son of Richard Lakin, an American-Israeli teacher and peace activist who died last week after being stabbed and shot in a terror attack two weeks earlier,said that social media companies “have a social responsibility to stop this rampant incitement, and beyond incitement, instruction manuals how to brutalize people.” (via TheTower.org)

 

Twice every year, some 500 million birds of at least 300 different species pass through Israel on their way to and from breeding grounds in Africa, Asia and Europe. Israeli ornithologists – there are dozens of them around the country – keep a running log of sightings on the Israeli Birding Portal. In October, the blue-cheeked bee-eater made its first official appearance on that news feed in more than 50 years. “All of a sudden, from out of nowhere, a flock of some 30-40 blue-cheeked bee-eaters appeared over the Yerucham Lake Park. There was no mistaking them as their colors and calls filled the air,” writes Eyal Shochat, academic manager at Hoopoe-Yerucham Center of Ecology and Ornithology, on the birding portal. “The blue-cheeked bee-eaters are rare spring migrants at Yerucham and this was the first time ever they showed up here in fall, quite a distance from their traditional migration route in the Jordan Valley.” These colorful birds with bright green plumage happened to fly over Yerucham, a town in the Negev Desert, during a bird-ringing event. Shochat writes in his blog post that as soon as the ornithologists heard the songbirds’ cries, they played recordings of bee-eaters to attract them to the nets they had set up in order to tag other birds. They successfully caught and ringed six of these rare near-passerine birds. (via Israel21c)

 

 

The core concept of Israel’s national security strategy is and has always been its Qualitative Military Edge (QME). Put simply, it means that Israel must build and maintain a military that is qualitatively better than any other in the region. Originally formulated by Israel’s first prime minister, David Ben-Gurion, this long standing doctrine, grounded on the reality of Israel’s small size and embattled status in the Middle East, is now facing a grave challenge as the balance of power in the region tilts increasingly toward Iran.

As Israel emerged victorious from the 1948 War of Independence, Ben-Gurion grasped that because the Jewish state lacked the territorial depth required for its population to separate itself from an attacking enemy, it could not lose a war without losing its territory. Any enemy victory would mean the physical conquest of Israel. Thus, Israel required a QME in order to prevent the catastrophic loss of Israeli life and land.

America has recognized the existential importance of Israel’s QME since 1968, when U.S. President Lyndon B. Johnson sold Israel F-4 Phantom fighter jets, one year after France—which had provided the backbone of Israel’s air force over the previous two decades—imposed an embargo on weapons sales to the Jewish state on the eve of the Six-Day War. But the U.S. also recognized the QME’s irreplaceable role in creating a balance of power in the region favorable to American interests. As a result, every president since Johnson has contributed to the maintenance of Israel’s QME in one form or another, and Congress has authorized the sale and supply of the military equipment and financing required to ensure that Israel’s needs are met.

Since 9/11, Congress has become especially aggressive in pushing the Executive Branch to guarantee Israel’s QME. In 2008, Congress passed and President George W. Bush signed into law House Resolution 7177, which defined the requirements for Israel to maintain its QME. This was a critical development in American policy toward Israel, because it set a high minimum standard for U.S. military support. H.R. 7177 stipulates that Israel’s QME requires the “ability to counter and defeat any credible conventional military threat from any individual state or possible coalition of states or from non-state actors” while

Sustaining minimal damages and casualties, through the use of superior military means, possessed in sufficient quantity, including weapons, command, control, communication, intelligence, surveillance, and reconnaissance capabilities that in their technical characteristics are superior in capability to those of such other individual or possible coalition of states or non-state actors.

America’s role in maintaining Israel’s QME is not just good for Israel. It benefits America greatly, because it guarantees Israel’s status as a “Strong Horse” in the region, keeping American influence at the forefront. The Strong Horse concept was explained by journalist Lee Smith in his book of the same name, in which he argued that the Middle East has historically been dominated by leaders and countries that catapult themselves into positions of regional influence through demonstrations of military superiority. These Strong Horse leaders maintain their positions of power until they are supplanted by a militarily superior rival.

Israel’s QME has confirmed it as a regional Strong Horse, and American support has enabled the U.S. to project power and influence via Israel’s military superiority in two significant ways: First, Arab states have been dissuaded from engaging in dangerous military adventurism that would force Israel and perhaps the United States to intervene in order to keep Israel and America’s allies safe. (This, of course, required active American leadership, which has unfortunately been receding in recent years. Nevertheless, until American involvement began declining, the robust and active U.S.-Israel alliance limited what countries like Syria and actors like the Iranian Revolutionary Guard Corps could do.)

Second, Israel has been able to do some of America’s bidding. One example of this is Israel’s ongoing contribution to protecting the Hashemite Kingdom of Jordan from both ISIS and Iranian interference, significantly boosting America’s need for stability and Western-allied leadership in Jordan by setting up a joint command and control center in Jordan from which its domestic and international anti-ISIS operations are run, as well as supplying Jordan with Israeli combat helicopters and its most advanced unmanned aerial vehicles.

But the Middle East is an ever-changing region, and lately the change has been for the worse. As a result of this, Israel’s military edge is being dangerously eroded at the just the time that Iran’s burgeoning QME is quickly closing the gap.

To continue reading, click here for The Tower Magazine.


Iran detains American-Iranian businessman, its latest act in a history of hostage taking

 

An Iranian-American businessman was arrested while visiting his family in Tehran earlier this month, The Wall Street Journal reported late Thursday, which makes him the fourth American known to be detained by Iran, in addition to a fifth who is unaccounted for. The executive, Siamak Namazi, promoted closer business ties and relations between Iran and the United States. He is being held in Tehran’s Evin prison. According to the Journal, in recent weeks the Iranian regime has detained Iranian businessmen with ties to foreign companies, who have been “warned against wading into economic monopolies controlled by the Revolutionary Guard Corps.” The Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps, the vanguard and defenders of the Iranian revolution, is estimated to have an annual turnover of $10-$12 billion, which is approximately one-sixth of the Iranian economy. Sen. Mark Kirk (R-Ill.) released a statement in which he said, “[T]he flawed nuclear deal is emboldening Iran to threateningly test ballistic missiles that can strike Israel and beyond, to kill more Syrian people in defense of the barbaric Assad regime, and now reportedly to have the IRGC's intelligence arm arrest yet another American citizen for charges yet to be made clear.”  Rep. Dan Kildee (D-Mich.) issued a press release condemning the arrest: “Reports that Iran has arrested another American are troubling. Iran has a long history of imprisoning Americans, including my constituent, Amir Hekmati, who continues to be held despite his innocence. Iran has repeatedly said it seeks to rejoin the global community, yet I simply cannot fathom how this is possible if it continues to hold American political prisoners.

The other three Americans known to be detained by Iran are Washington Post bureau chief Jason Rezaian, detained since July 2014; Christian pastor Saeed Abedini, held since September 2012; and former U.S. Marine Amir Hekmati, who was detained in August 2011. Robert Levinson, a former FBI agent and CIA contractor, went missing in Iran in 2007 and the Iranian regime claims to not know anything about his status. One of the first acts of revolutionary Iran was the taking of more than 50 hostages at the U.S. embassy in November 1979 – they were held for 444 days. Rezaian has been held longer than those hostages. In 1984, Iran’s proxy Hezbollah kidnapped William Buckley, the CIA station chief in Beirut, and tortured him for 15 months before murdering him.

 

An American citizen was stabbed and injured in Jerusalem by a Palestinian assailant on Friday afternoon, while a second individual was wounded by stray gunfire from security forces who were trying to subdue the attacker, Haaretz reported on Friday.

 

The 23-year-old attacker, an East Jerusalem resident, stabbed the man, 22, in his upper body near the Light Rail station at Ammunition Hill. He then tried to stab another bystander but was shot down by light rail security guards, a border policeman, and a civilian at the scene.

 

An errant bullet also wounded a 20-year-old Israeli, who was evacuated in moderate condition to a Jerusalem hospital with a bullet wound below the waist.

The stabbing victim told paramedics that he had seen the attacker approaching and had unsuccessfully tried to escape.

Earlier on Friday, two Palestinians attempted to stab a group of Border Police officers near the Tapuah Junction in the West Bank. Both assailants were shot; one was killed, the other was critically wounded.

On Thursday, an IDF soldier was lightly wounded by a Palestinian assailant during a stabbing attack in Hebron. That evening, a 40-year-old woman was stabbed in the southern city of Eilat by an Arab teenager while a 60-year-old woman, who was traveling with her infant grandson towards Rishon LeZion, was injured after her vehicle was stoned.

On Wednesday, another 40-year-old woman was stabbed and moderately wounded in the West Bank, only half an hour after a Palestinian unsuccessfully attempted to stab soldiers in Hebron.

According to the Israeli Ministry of Foreign Affairs, as of October 29, the IDF reported that there have been 51 stabbings, 4 shootings, and 5 car ramming attacks in Israel this month. The Magen David Adom emergency medial service reported that, as of October 25, 11 people have been killed while 26 were injured, 13 seriously.

A variety of Israeli security experts and Palestinian activists have attributed this latest wave of terror to Palestinian incitement, particularly over the Temple Mount complex, which houses the al-Aqsa mosque. Palestinian leaders claim that Israel is trying to change the status quo at the site, which includes forbidding all non-Muslim religious activity and restricting non-Muslim visiting hours. Israeli officials have repeatedly denied the charges and affirmed that they remain committed to upholding the status quo.

The charge that Jews are trying to encroach on the al-Aqsa mosque predates the founding of Israel. In his testimony before the House Committee on Foreign Affairs earlier this month, David Makovsky, distinguished fellow at the Washington Institute for Near East Policy, explained:

Sadly, the charge that Israel is out to destroy the mosque is not new. This claim was made in 1929, resulting in riots in Hebron that killed 63 people. More recently, fatal violence surrounding the Temple Mount occurred in 1991 (20 killed), 1996 (87 killed), 2000 (153 killed within the first month of violence), and 2014 (9 killed).

The committee later unanimously voted to condemn Palestinian incitement.

Friday’s attack was the first in Jerusalem since October 17, when a Palestinian assailant attempted to stab Border Police officers before being shot and killed. (via TheTower.org)

 

The world’s largest tomato salad record belongs to Israeli company, LycoRed. The Beersheva-based leader in the research and development of carotenoid-based wellness products, chopped its way to a new Guinness World Record with a 450-kg salad. New York Chef Donny Rogoff teamed up with LycoRed to set the record. In a huge mixing bowl set up in Times Square, Rogoff created the massive salad with 132 varieties of tomatoes. The previous record comprised just 32 types of tomatoes. LycoRed’s record-setting salad – which also included fresh herbs and a citrus-lemon vinaigrette – was created to celebrate its 20th anniversary. The publicity stunt was also meant to encourage Americans to add more tomatoes and other fresh produce to their diets. Upon receiving the Guinness nod of recognition, half of the salad was handed out as a free healthy lunch to passersby in Times Square. The other half of the salad was donated to City Harvest, a food rescue organization that helps feed nearly 1.4 million New Yorkers. (via Israel21c)


Report: Russia expands airstrikes near Israeli border; helps Iran smuggle weapons into Syria

 

In a move to expand its air campaign, Russia carried out airstrikes in Syria’s southern province of Daraa Wednesday night, striking villages only 15 kilometers from the Israeli Golan Heights, according to reports. It’s the closest that Russian aircraft have been to the Israeli border. According to The Jerusalem Post, Brig.-Gen. (res.) Abraham Assael, CEO of the Fisher Institute for Air and Space Strategic Studies in Herzliya, said that “the mere fact of this makes us a little more worried … due to the potential of creating an unclear picture, and the potential for accidental friction, the end result of which is unknown."

Despite Russian claims that their entry into Syria was based on their desire to combat ISIL, Russia and Iran have, in the past month, "stepped up" their operations inside of Syria against rebel groups. In recent weeks, Iran has sent up to 2,000 of its own troops and fighters from Iranian-backed militias “to the front lines.” In response to Russia’s expansion into Syria a month ago, former Deputy Director of the CIA John McLaughlin said, “These are facts on the ground… Anything we do now will be conditioned by their presence and influence. This is a reality we now have to deal with.” This week, the U.S. announced that talks aimed at achieving a political transition in Syria would be held in Vienna on Friday and that Russia and Iran would be participating. At a Senate Foreign Relations Committee hearing on Wednesday, Senator Bob Menendez (D-N.J.) pressed Assistant Secretary of State for the Bureau of Near Eastern Affairs, Anne Patterson, on why Russia and Iran were invited to the talks, if they do not share the same end goals as the United States. She responded, “Well, from a practical matter, Senator, they're there on the ground. So they have to be involved in the process.”

For the past ten days, Russia has also aided Iran in delivering weapons into Syria, according to a Fox News report on Wednesday. Russia uses unregistered cargo planes to help deliver the weapons shipments, and Iran’s head of the Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps’ expeditionary Quds Force, Qassem Suleimani, is said to be coordinating the flights. Iran’s weapons trafficking is a violation of two UN Security Council resolutions. The report also highlighted that a sanctioned Iranian civilian airline is flying “military personnel” multiple times per day from Tehran to Latakia, Syrian President Bashar al-Assad’s stronghold along the western coast of Syria.

 

Micah Lakin Avni, the son of Richard Lakin, an American-Israeli teacher and peace activist who died earlier this week due to injuries sustained in a Palestinian terror attack two weeks ago, said that his father was the victim of “incitement and hate,” The New York Times reported Thursday.

My father had been a great beneficiary of social media. He used Facebook and Twitter to express his thoughts on education and on peace. He also became the victim of a tremendous amount of incitement and hate on those vehicles.

Avni’s comments were part of a larger argument that he presented in a conference call hosted by The Israel Project this Tuesday. During the call, Avni stated that social media companies need to make a greater effort to stop the spread of incitement.

Avni also emphasized his father’s commitment to coexistence and noted that one of the head nurses at the Jerusalem hospital where his father was treated is an Arab-Israeli who had brought her two sons to Lakin’s house for a lesson a week before the attack. A recording of the complete conference call is embedded below. The Israel Project publishes The Tower.

Richard Lakin is named as the chief plaintiff in a lawsuit filed by 20,000 Israelis earlier this week, which calls on Facebook to do more to stop violent incitement. According to Israel’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs, the Magen David Adom medical emergency service reports that Lakin is one of 11 victims killed in the recent wave of Palestinian terror, which also left 126 injured, 13 seriously. (via TheTower.org)

Click here to listen to TIP's conference call with Micah Lakin Avni.

 

Israeli startups are already on track for a record-breaking year of funding and acquisitions. The new government Startup Visa initiative for foreign entrepreneurs and tech workers could make the local startup ecosystem even more prolific and profitable. The Israeli Ministry of Economy and Ministry of Interior, along with the Office of the Chief Scientist, will soon start allowing entrepreneurs from around the world to come to Tel Aviv for 24 months in order to develop innovative projects. Entrepreneurs who wish to stay in Israel and open a startup company can be granted a special Expert Visa extendable for up to five years. They may then receive reimbursement for their work, and their companies may apply for support from the Office of the Chief Scientist. “Israel is perceived in the world as a center of innovation and development, and we must preserve this achievement. The Startup Visa will enable foreign entrepreneurs from around the world to develop new ideas in Israel that will aid the development of the Israeli market,” said Minister of Economy Aryeh Deri. The upcoming program is meant to ease some of the bureaucratic red tape currently facing collaborations between Israeli and foreign startups. (via Israel21c)