Gaza Confirms Egypt’s Smuggling Smackdown

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Today’s Top Stories

1. Gaza tunnelers to Reuters: Nearly 60 percent of the smuggling tunnels are closed down, while prices are going up. The blame game’s the biggest surprise:

Tunnel owner Abu Jamal said the Hamas government’s taxation of cement and the new price controls had made the smuggling of construction material through surviving routes unviable.

“The Egyptian campaign damaged our business gravely and conditions by Hamas here are forcing us to stop the work. Business is in sleep mode,” he added.

More at YNet, which elaborates on the Muslim Brotherhood’s calculations.

2. Syrian jihadi rebels kidnapped a convoy of 21 Filipino UN observers near the border with Israel. The Lede impressively pieced together a lot of links, videos and tweets to create a fuller picture of the situation. Filipino media reports expected the observers to be released today. As as this roundup went to press, the Washington Post published this surprising development:

Washington Post

A Syrian rebel group that claimed it had abducted a group of U.N. observers in the Golan Heights announced on Thursday that it had in fact rescued them from fighting in the area, and called on the United Nations to send a security convoy to pick them up.

The announcement by the Yarmouk Martyrs’ Brigade was posted on the same Facebook page that was used to publicize the abduction on Wednesday. A video in which the kidnappers warned that the observers would not be released until Syrian President Bashar al-Assad withdrew troops from the area had been deleted, suggesting that overnight negotiations to secure the groups’ release may be working.

locusts3. According to Al-Arabiya, the massive swarm of locusts is plaguing Muslim Brotherhood credibility as the government struggles to deal with the situation:

“Is this ‘the good’ the Muslim Brotherhood promised to bring us?” Tweeps asked, many saying they were frustrated with the government’s performance to deal with the situation.

Egypt has been struggling with its deteriorating political and economic situations since the people’s revolution against Hosni Mubarak in 2011, and locusts descending on the country could seriously threaten Egypt’s agricultural sect if not dealt with swiftly.

4. The Need to Counter “Incendiary Rhetoric” Against Israel:

And the only way to combat now and reverse the growing deligitimization it is to create an army of words warriors who employ the power of spoken truth to champion Israel’s cause.

Israel and the Palestinians

Excellent NY Times op-ed: Ed Husain says End the Arab Boycott of Israel.

I recently visited Israel and the West Bank for the first time. I am Muslim and in Muslim communities around the world to visit Israel is to support “the Zionist entity” and therefore risk social isolation. Not only is this mind-set outdated, it is self-defeating . . .

But the main victims of this boycott are not Israelis, but Palestinians. Israel’s economy is booming, while Palestinians languish in abject poverty. The decades-long Arab boycott has failed miserably . . .

Without a shift in attitudes, Israel’s security concerns will never be allayed. Humanizing Israel to Arabs — by bringing together America’s Muslim allies, by addressing anti-Semitism in school textbooks and in sermons at mosques, by permitting Arab citizens to visit and trade with Israel — are requisite first steps.

Despite Emily Hauser‘s big thumbs-down, methinks you’ll like Ambassador Michael Oren’s appearance on The Colbert Report, where he talked about the president’s upcoming visit, Iran, and other issues.

Efforts to promote Israel Apartheid Week at Harvard irritated a lot of students. See also the Tufts Daily and an interview with Benjamin Pogrund.

Adam Shapiro, one of the founders of the International Solidarity Movement, was denied entry into Israel. It’s a slightly sticky situation because Shapiro’s Palestinian wife, Huwaida Arraf, has Israeli citizenship. According to Haaretz:

Shapiro and Arraf, who is eight months pregnant, hoped that more than ten years after the original deportation order, the Israeli authorities would allow Shapiro to enter the country – especially since the couple is expecting a child.

Rest O’ the Roundup

Greg Sheridan of The Australian weighs in on Prisoner X.

Both the Israeli and Australian governments have gone out of their way to keep this issue calm, avoid hysteria and stop it harming the relationship.

Two definitive statements stand out.

Carr said there was no evidence Zygier was in any way involved in the 2010 assassination of a Hamas leader in Dubai, in which Mossad agents used Australian passports.

Recently, Israel’s Prime Minister, Benjamin Netanyahu, said ASIO had had no contact whatsoever with Zygier.

It is extremely unlikely that Carr and Netanyahu would make such statements if they were not true. Almost everything you’ve heard about the Zygier case is wrong. Conspiracies are once again 90 per cent fantasy.

Either somebody at the Irish Independent was asleep at the wheel, or we’re looking at the perils of automated programs posting pictures. I suspect the former.

Irish Independent

American, Canadian and Australian officials walked out of an IAEA meeting after an Iranian representative accused Israel of genocide. Reuters coverage.

Ain’t this juicy? A Syrian tycoon who fled the civil war told Arab media spills the beans on the Assad regime’s secret dealings with Israel. I imagine fact-checkers are already warming up for this one.

In an interview with Al Arabiya to be broadcast on Friday, Syrian tycoon Firas Tlass, the son of former defense minister Mustafa Tlass, said that while Syria was outwardly hostile toward Israel, it secretly conducted “political and economic deals behind the scenes.”

Calvinball in Cairo continues:

Egypt court suspends April parliamentary elections

For more on the latest clashes around Egypt, see Reuters‘ update.

For more Arab Spring commentary/analysis, see Washington Post columnist David Ignatius, the Wall St. Journal (click via Google News).

Bad news for the BDS movement: The state of Ohio bought $42 million in Israeli bonds. According to the Cleveland Jewish News, that’s the largest single US government purchase of Israel bonds in US history.

For more, see yesterday’s Israel Daily News Stream.