Iran Manufacturing Arms in Lebanon

Today’s Top Stories

1. Iran is manufacturing arms inside Lebanon according to Chagai Tzuriel, director- general of the Israeli Intelligence Ministry. If true, it would mean the Iranians and Hezbollah are trying to get around the difficulty of transferring arms over land through Syria to Lebanon by manufacturing them locally instead. Israel reportedly, on a number of occasions, has attacked convoys moving potentially “game-changing” armaments over land through Syria.

2. The Syrian Coalition, an opposition group based outside the country, said Syrian government planes carried out a chemical weapons strike on the town of Khan Sheikhoun, south of the city of Idlib, a provincial capital. A report last January drafted by the UN and the Organization for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons determined for the first time that Assad and his younger brother Maher were tied to several chemical weapons attacks carried out in the country in 2014 and 2015. In February, Human Rights Watch accused the Syrian government of conducting at least eight chemical attacks in Aleppo using chlorine gas. The Abu Dhabi-based Sky News Arabia put the number of dead at 67, although unconfirmed reports said over 100 were killed. The nature of the substance has yet to be confirmed, but a British doctor at the scene tweeted that the chemical released was sarin gas. Video footage from the scene reportedly shows images consistent with a chemical weapons attack.

3. The UN’s Economic and Social Commission for Western Asia (ESCWA) is at it again: after releasing a report last month declaring Israel an “apartheid regime,” the body is now preparing to release a new report equating Israeli “occupation” to historical American slavery. The prior report enraged not only the United States but also UN secretary-general Antonio Guterres, and resulted in the resignation of one UN official and the removal of the report from the commission’s web site. The negative feedback has apparently not deterred ESCWA, which is comprised of 18 Arab member countries, and which has its headquarters in Beirut, Lebanon.

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Israel and the Palestinians

• Palestinian security prisoners in Israeli jail have threatened a hunger strike. Hailing from both Fatah and Hamas parties, the prisoners, lead by Marwan Barghouti, issued 13 demands to security officials: including access to phones and easing restrictions on family visits. In the past, hunger strikes have proved effective in pressuring Israeli authorities as they garner significant international pressure. In 2016 Israel’s high court found a law allowing the force feeding of prisoners to be permissible, however the use of such powers tends to harm Israel’s image abroad as much as a hunger strike itself. According to a 2015 Knesset bill introduced by Justice Minister Ayelet Shaked,

Mobile phones have become a key method of connecting the operational requirements of those planning attacks with the experience possessed by those behind bars.

• Palestinian football chief Jibril Rajoub renewed calls for FIFA (Fédération Internationale de Football Association) to exclude Israel over games played in “settlements on occupied land,” expressing disappointment at FIFA’s recommendations. A FIFA commission chaired by South Africa’s Tokyo Sexwale previously presented its recommendations for compromise to Palestinians and Israelis but none of the recommendations included the desired Palestinian outcome: sanction and suspension of the Israeli football federation. FIFA has previously stated its position that, “FIFA is not a border demarcation body” which means that admitting Palestinian or Israeli teams does not imply an official FIFA political position on territorial disputes or recognition of statehood.

Around the World

•A new report published by the UK’s National Union of Students (NUS), found 26 per cent of Jews in further or higher education were either fairly worried or very worried about being subjected to a physical attack, property damage,verbal abuse or theft as a result of their religion. Apparently the fear has a real-world basis: more than one in four Jewish students (28 per cent) have been subjected to personal abuse on social media or other communication channels. In a confusing turn of phrase, the Independent writes, “Almost two-thirds of Jewish students had not been the victim of crime at their place of study.” We understand this to mean that over one-third of Jewish students have been victims of hate crime at their places of study.

• The United States Supreme Court agreed on Monday to decide whether corporations may be sued in American courts for complicity in human rights abuses abroad. The case concerns Arab Bank, which is based in Jordan and has been accused of processing financial transactions through a branch in New York for groups linked to terrorism. Specifically, the question is whether the bank can be held liable for attacks in Israel and in the Palestinian territories by Hamas and other groups. Holding banks liable for actions of their clients as well as applying US law to events that occurred outside the United States are both tricky areas of law, however there is precedent to support such a decision.

• Making his first official visit to Washington, Abdel-Fattah el-Sisi’s meeting this week with U.S. President Donald Trump would be a significant step as Sisi was not welcomed by the Obama administration. There has been no official word on the specifics of the wish list el-Sisi is taking to Washington, but expectations include more military aid, designating el-Sisi’s nemesis — the Muslim Brotherhood — as a terrorist group, and restoring the kind of strategic partnership Egypt enjoyed with the United States for more than 30 years. It is also expected that the two will discuss Arab league ideas for an Israeli Palestinian peace process.

Commentary/Analysis

• Columnist Balbir Punj says that the upcoming state visit to Israel by Indian PM Narendra Modi,

…will correct a long tale of neglect and even diplomatic rejection of a friendship on offer for six long decades merely to please the Arabs abroad and cater to the appeasement of the Islamic lobby at home.

Punj points out that India was a land of refuge for Jews numerous times throughout history: including during the siege of Jerusalem by the Roman emperor Titus after the Jewish revolt in 70 CE, as well as a destination for Jews who found refuge in Hindu kingdoms during the Holocaust. Punj notes that unlike the Arab nations whom India has tried to appease, Israel has stood by India when faced with Islamic terrorism emanating from Pakistan.

• Hamas is about to publish its new charter, but according to Avi Issacharoff the group remains as hostile as ever: to Israel and to Jews. Some portions of the document have leaked, revealing a certain contradiction: on the one hand Hamas agrees to the establishment of a Palestinian state within the 1967 borders, but on the other hand it proclaims:

There is no alternative to the liberation of the entirety of Palestine, from the river to the sea, no matter how long the occupation persists…

A glance at a map will reveal that “liberating Palestine” from “the river to the sea” is a clear reference to eliminating all of Israel. It also unclear at present whether the new charter will supplant or merely supplement the existing charter, which calls for the destruction of Israel and the murder of all Jews. A bit of research by elderofziyon.blogspot.com suggests that the document is not a new charter at all, but merely an unrelated “political document” that leaves the existing charter intact. Given that the document has not yet been released, it is difficult to understand exactly what it is…and what it is not.

 

• Here’s what else I’m reading today . . .

Peter Beaumont: Israel’s medical marijuana pioneers look to cash in on $20bn market
Justin Cohen: Keeping Ken (Livingstone) would hurt Labour’s ties to British Jews
Daniella J. Greenbaum: A BDS Defeat at Columbia – How to engineer a defeat for BDS

 

Featured image: CC BY-SA Ted Eytan;

 

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