Friday, March 16, 2018

Americans Love Israel...Really

American Support for Israel at Record High - Yair Rosenberg 

This week, Gallup released its annual poll on American attitudes towards Israel and the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. As it has for decades, the survey showed overwhelming American support for Israel.

What is remarkable about the polling on Israel is how consistent it has been. Notably, despite endless talk about the Democratic party "turning against Israel" under Obama, Democratic support for Israel is essentially the same in 2018 (49%) as it was when Obama took office in 2008 (48%).

Israel is viewed even more positively than head-to-head polling about the Israeli-Palestinian conflict would indicate. When asked simply whether they viewed Israel favorably (rather than to choose a side in the conflict), "83% of Republicans, 72% of independents and 64% of Democrats view Israel favorably."

Support for Israel is higher among older brackets, but still robust among the young. As Gallup puts it, "Israel also receives higher favorable ratings from adults 55 and older (80% favorable) than from those 35 to 54 (72%) or 18 to 34 (65%)."

Thursday, March 15, 2018

Cutting Edge Video Technology May Unravel Trust In What We See

Above is a completly bogus-fake video of President Obama giving a speech he never gave.  The implications of this technology are far reaching.  

Terrorists Will Soon Be Able to Fake Videos - Elliot Friedland 

“The idea that someone could put another person’s face on an individual’s body, that would be like a homerun for anyone who wants to interfere in a political process. This is now going to be the new reality, surely by 2020, but potentially even as early as this year.” 

— Senator Mark Warner (D-VA)
New technology with the ability to create hyper-realistic fake videos has the potential to wreak havoc on the political landscape, lawmakers and technology experts say.
The tech allows people’s faces to be superimposed onto different bodies in other videos. Different technology can also allow allow facial expressions to be altered. Adobe even has a program to create new audio from text.
Currently, fake video technology requires manipulation of existing video footage of a person, and cannot create fake video from scratch with just a picture.
Right now, the technology is not that widespread and can still be detected by experts. But it is improving rapidly.
Such videos have already caused controversy. Fake pornographic videos have been made by face-swapping celebrities into pornographic movies. In February 2018, the popular content sharing website Reddit banned the r/deepfakes subreddit, which had been used to share fake pornographic content featuring celebrities. Reddit updated its rules prohibiting sharing pornographic content of someone without that person’s consent to include faked images. In February 2018, the pornographic website Pornhub banned deepfake videos from its platform.
The combination of the different emerging technologies means it is highly likely we will soon see videos of public figures saying and doing things which never happened, that are all but indistinguishable from the real thing.
In July 2017, a team of researchers created a fake video of former president Barack Obama giving a speech he never gave, as an experiment.

The national security implications for terrorist groups using this technology are very worrying.

They will be able to create images of politicians announcing strikes that never happened, announcing anti-Muslim policies that don’t exist, making racist and bigoted remarks they never said or even footage of war crimes that never took place.
As Lawfare blog writes “The spread of deep fakes will threaten to erode the trust necessary for democracy to function effectively, for two reasons. First, and most obviously, the marketplace of ideas will be injected with a particularly-dangerous form of falsehood. Second, and more subtly, the public may become more willing to disbelieve true but uncomfortable facts.”
The deepfakes trend takes existing problems with fake news to the next level. As fake news spreads, the public will be less and less inclined to believe what they see, hear and read, and more inclined to rely on tribal in-groups and partisan sources they trust to support their specific narratives and interests.
Terrorists can and probably will manipulate these passions in three main ways:
  1. Faking anti-Muslim hate crime and anti-Muslim bigotry in order to sow distrust between communities. It achieves this goal by making Muslims more afraid of non-Muslims, and by making non-Muslims less likely to trust stories of anti-Muslim bigotry.
  2. Faking terrorist attacks and making sophisticated threats to spread fear and reduce our ability to respond appropriately to genuine danger.
  3. Faking news reports or other information about genuine terrorist attacks, in order to increase confusion and put more lives at risk (ie falsely giving information that a suspect has been subdued when in fact there are more gunmen at large).
Deep fake videos are “like a weapon of mass destruction in the world of fake news and extremist propaganda, especially for hostile intelligence agencies engaging in political influence operations,” Clarion Project National Security Analyst Ryan Mauro said.
Yet despite the risks, the technology is ploughing ahead with no signs of slowing. The website offers tutorials to anyone with an internet connection on how to create fake videos.
Nor are government attempts to develop reliable ways of authenticating content likely to be effective.
We all will need some form of authenticating our identity through biometrics. This way people will know whether the voice or image is real or from an impersonator,” Congressman Ro Hanna (D-CA) told The Hill. He called on the military’s research and development wing, Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency (DARPA), to create secure authentication techniques.
Yet the lighting-quick development of digital technologies suggests any such process would become liable to manipulation. It even opens up the possibility of a fake video being stamped with a real mark of authentication.
“Any technology that will allow you to fingerprint, the adversary is going to figure out how to take it out, manipulate the content, and then put that fingerprint back in,” Dr. Hany Farid, a computer science professor at Dartmouth College, who specialises in digital forensics told ABC News“That is almost guaranteed.”
Cybersecurity experts are working on possible solutions to the coming threat, but so far have not agreed on a viable path forward.
[Clarion Project]

Friday, March 02, 2018

Treating the BDS Cancer

Addressing the Root of the BDS Problem 
- Baruch Landa [guest blogger]

The rise of the Boycott, Divestment, Sanctions movement, otherwise infamously referred to as the BDS, perhaps may be a bit over-sensationalized. At least this is the thinking among many pro-Israel groups worldwide. This is primarily due to statistics showing that the global BDS movement has had zero economic impact on Israel. This line of thought further extends into the statement that the BDS is no more than an annoying gnat. But, is this really all there is to it?
Bringing down a nation by focusing on its economy, even under the harshest of sanctions, isn’t easy. We see this with North Korea, Iran and Syria. It could take decades and even then, nothing may ever materialize. However, every situation is unique in its own way.
As of today, the BDS movement may in fact be “over-sensationalized” and hyped beyond what its true capabilities are. But, that doesn’t make it a non-issue. The BDS, even in its current state, is a threat to Israel. There is arguably no other collective group working harder to bring down a sovereign state than the BDS.

A BDS demonstration in France in 2016
Politicians across the political spectrum realize this. Businesses realize this. The world realizes this. That’s why we are seeing states within the US and even the federal governmentsponsoring bills that legally outlaw the BDS. While these laws are a big win for Israel, it is unlikely to eradicate the problem in its entirety. Throwing money, passing bills, and other counter-measures are helpful, but the BDS won’t die out from these acts. We all need to be using the most effective option in fighting the BDS, which should lead to its ultimate demise.
Let’s take poverty for example. As a human race on a whole and looking at the world from a macro standpoint, we have never been in such a better financial position than we are today. Yet, poverty continues to get worse with each passing year. Money is thrown at the problem – to the tune of over $370 billion in charitable donations in 2015 – a record at the time. And yet, the problem still grew. That’s because most of the global charitable foundations that are meant to eliminate poverty don’t actually address the root of the problem. We need to look at the core issue. For poverty, it would be helping the impoverished get education and ultimately jobs, thus ending the cycle of poverty once and for all.
The same goes for everything in life, and certainly regarding the BDS. If we are to defeat the BDS for good, it starts with focusing our efforts on the core problem: education.
Anti-Israel Activity on College Campuses at its Worst
If you’ve been following the news recently about Israel, it seems like every other story is about the overwhelming anti-Israel rhetoric on US college campuses. From California all the way to New York, there are almost no exceptions. Adding insult to injury, the media further dramatizes it, putting the Israel-BDS fight front and center (hey, the ratings are great, right?). Thereafter, we see millions of user comments taking sides, as the internet has enabled everyone to have a personal opinion.
Hateful anti-Israel BDS posters used on campuses worldwide
Now, we’ve all heard that you’re not going to change anyone’s mind arguing with them online. That’s fine. People retreat to their homes or other extracurricular activities, and oftentimes forget about their 15 minutes of internet fame. The real issue occurs on college campuses, where “thought provoking discussions” are the supposed foundations of these institutions.
The problem is that these are anything but thought-provoking conversations. Sometimes, the “dialogue” is outrageous and full of hate speech as seen in this video about BDS on American campuses (Here is the link to watch a similar video about antisemitism on British campuses).  It’s flat out anti-Semitism, masking itself as anti-Israel action.
Here is an abridged version of the two videos above:
You may think that most people understand this, and perhaps they do. But then why do we not see many Israel advocates on US campuses? And the students and parents that are currently engaging with these anti-Israel bigots, how are they unable to properly address anti-Israel activity on these campuses? Why aren’t they armed with the proper tools and education? The lack of preparation is at the very least shocking and at worst harmful.
It’s comical because we live in a digital age. Information is right at our fingertips and there are some organizations like Jerusalem U who help prepare students and parents to educate anti-Israel activists. Organizations such as Jerusalem U have online libraries full of resources, such as “Step Up On Campus”, which provide a wealth of useful information about how to engage with these anti-Israel protesters.
Let’s stop trying the ineffective decades old methods of dealing with anti-Israel activism on US campuses. By addressing the root of the problem combined with the proper resources, the BDS is quite literally no match. We have tools to defeat this so let’s use them!
This is a guest post by Baruch Landa, an activist with Jerusalem U.

[Jerusalem U]

Thursday, February 22, 2018

Trump's MidEast Realism

America & Israel in the Trump Era - John Podhoretz

With Israel’s 70th anniversary coming hard upon us, the question one needs to ask is this: What if the realists were nothing but fantasists? What if their approach to the Middle East from the time of Israel’s founding was based in wildly unrealistic ideas and emotions? 

Central to their gullibility was the wild and irrational idea that peace was or ever could be the result of a process. No, peace is a condition of soul, an exhaustion from the impact of conflict, born of a desire to end hostilities.  Only after this state is achieved can there be a workable process, because both parties would already have crossed the Rubicon dividing them and would only then need to work out the details of coexistence.

There was no peace to be had. The Arab states didn’t want it. The Palestinians didn’t want it. The Israelis did and do, but not at the expense of their existence. The Arabs demanded concessions, and the Israelis have made many over the years, but they could not concede the security of the millions of Israel’s citizens who had made this miracle of a country an enduring reality. The realists fetishized “process” because it seemed the only way to compel change from the outside. And so Israel has borne the brunt of the anger that follows whenever a fantasist is forced to confront a reality he would rather close his eyes to.

That is why I think what Trump and his people have done over the past 14 months represents a new and genuine realism. They are dealing with Israel and its relationships in the region as they are, not as they would wish them to be. They are seeing how the government of Egypt under Abdel Fattah el-Sisi is making common cause with Israel against the Hamas entity in Gaza and against ISIS forces in the Suez. They are witness to the effort at radical reformation in Saudi Arabia under Muhammad bin-Salman—and how that seems to be going hand in hand with an astonishing new concord between Israel and the Desert Kingdom over the common threat from Iran. This is a harmonizing of interests that would have seemed positively science-fictional in living memory.

[F]or now, the replacement of the false realism of [Obama] with a new realism for the 21st century seems like a revolutionary development that needs to be taken very, very seriously.
Note: The author did not support Trump's election.


Wednesday, February 21, 2018

Saudi Arabia's Crown Prince Called "Revolutionary Leader"

"Revolutionary leader" Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman

- Dennis Ross

Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman's efforts to transform Saudi society amount to a revolution from above. MBS is not trying to secularize Saudi Arabia. In his words, he is trying to "restore" Islam to its true nature and turn it away from those who sought to spread an intolerant, austere faith that created a justification for violence against all non-believers.
The drive for change in Saudi Arabia is more credible because it is homegrown, not a response to outside pressure. It is being driven by an understanding that Saudi Arabia cannot sustain governance based on the lowest common denominator among all the factions of the royal family, the approval of the Wahhabi clerics, an economy dependent almost exclusively on oil for revenue, and 80% of Saudi households dependent on the government.
We in the U.S. have a tremendous stake in MBS' success. He is a Saudi revolutionary, and the success of his policies will be felt not just in Saudi Arabia. So would their failure. 
The writer, counselor at the Washington Institute for Near East Policy, served in senior national security positions for four U.S. presidents. 
(Washington Post)

Monday, February 12, 2018

Israel - Iran War Has Begun

Flames rise from part of a missile in Hasbani village in southwest Lebanon on Saturday. According to Lebanon's national news agency, the fragment appears to be part of a Syrian air defense missile that was targeting an Israeli warplane. (Associated Press)

Iran & Israel Engage Each Other Militarily - Noga Tarnopolsky and Nabih Bulos

An Iranian drone incursion into Israel early Saturday spiraled into a major confrontation that included the downing of an Israeli fighter jet and an extensive attack on Iranian military assets in Syria. 
(Los Angeles Times)

Open War with Iran Has Begun - Ronen Zvulun

What happened in northern Israel on Saturday is the beginning of the overt and direct war between Israel and Iran. The infiltration and interception of an Iranian drone over Israel, the downing of an Israeli F-16 and Israel’s retaliatory strikes against Syrian and Iranian targets that followed, are apparently just the opening scenes of a potentially wider conflict that could erupt if Iran continues trying to fortify its presence in the new Syria.

This was long in the making. Years ago, the Iranians came to the rescue of Bashar Assad in Syria and, together with Russia, ensured his survival. The problem is that they haven’t left. On the contrary – even though Assad is today in control of the majority of Syria, Iran is staying put and trying to establish an even greater presence within the country. On Saturday, we saw how determined it is to do just that.

It is too early to tell what lesson Iran has learned from the clash on Saturday. On the one hand, it succeeded in infiltrating a drone into Israel, even though it was ultimately intercepted. Its ally Syria succeeded in shooting down an Israeli fighter jet. On the other hand, Israel carried out its most widespread bombings in Syria since it destroyed almost all of Syria’s air defenses in 1982.
Israel’s retaliation was important for two reasons – it needed to neutralize the Syrian batteries that were used to down the F-16, but also to exact a price from Iran by bombing the control center used to operate the drone as well as other Iranian targets in Syria – the nature of which we will likely learn over the coming days.

The question will be whether Israel succeeded in boosting its deterrence. That depends on what Iran decides to do next. Will it keep on building its presence in Syria? Will it attempt another violation of Israel’s sovereignty down the road?

While the downing of a fighter jet is a heavy blow to Israeli morale, it was not totally unexpected and needs to be viewed through the wider context of what has been going on for the last five years. Israel has carried out more than 100 strikes in Syria, and in war there are always wins and losses. The fact that a plane hasn’t been shot down until now is the real story and speaks volumes of the IAF’s superior capabilities.

[Jerusalem Post]

Israel Destroyed a Significant Portion of Assad's Air Defense

Oubai Shahbandar, a fellow at the New America Foundation [said] "the Assad regime's military suffered a major blow as a result of Iran's military incursion. The Israeli airforce counterattack destroyed a significant portion of Assad's long-range SA-5 integrated air defense network outside Damascus."
(Arab News-Saudi Arabia)

Iran Setting Up Air Base outside Syrian City of Palmyra - Judah Ari Gross 

An Israeli military official said the T-4 base is being used by Iran to transport advanced weaponry to Syria, Hizbullah, and Shiite militias in the region. "It is part of a process of a force build-up against Israel," he said. 
(Times of Israel)

Iranians Pushing for New Status Quo in Syria - Ron Ben Yishai 

The Iranian drone was launched from Tiyas military airbase (T-4), one of Syria's largest airfields, which is routinely used by the Russian Air Force as well as by Iranian agents.
The attack on the base needed to be carried out with surgical precision to avoid hitting any Russian military aircraft or personnel.
(Ynet News)

White House: Israel Has Right to Defend Itself

The White House said Sunday: "Israel is a staunch ally of the United States, and we support its right to defend itself from the Iranian-backed Syrian and militia forces in southern Syria." It urged "Iran and its allies to cease provocative actions and work toward regional peace."  
(VOA News)

The balance sheet on the day of fighting with Iran and Syria was clear: Israel demonstrated its ability to defend its skies. It struck Iranian forces in Syria directly and exacted a price from Iran. It destroyed many Syrian SAM sites and left Damascus exposed to future attacks.
The writer, former chief of Israeli military intelligence, heads the Institute for National Security Studies at Tel Aviv University. 

This is part of a wider Iranian plan not just to besiege Israel but also to achieve ascendancy over the Sunnis.

For years Israel has warned of the consequences of Tehran's aggression, but its warnings have been largely ignored by the West and the UN. Britain and the EU could play an effective role in containing Iranian aggression but their answer is appeasement. Instead of sanctioning Iran and supporting Israel, they mouth platitudes about restraint by both sides, which further emboldens Tehran. 
The writer is former head of the international terrorism team at the Cabinet Office. 
(The Times-UK)

"There is no doubt that an event like this [sending an Iranian drone into Israel] was not coordinated in advance with the Russians and occurred without their knowledge, and this was very serious for the Russians. Putin is counting on there being quiet in Syria and that Russia can manage events there to advance its own interests. 

Now Russia has received proof of Israel's warnings that Iran is dangerous, and that granting Iran freedom of action in Syria is not helpful to Russia. Rather, it will just upset the area and disturb the quiet."


Nuclear Deal Linked to Iranian Gains in Syria - Jonathan S. Tobin

The conflict heating up on Israel's northern border is a direct consequence of the Iran nuclear deal

By choosing to normalize relations with Tehran - and signing a deal that legalized their nuclear program and ignored everything else it was doing - the U.S. set in motion a series of events that led directly to the presence of significant Iranian forces in Syria.
Far from encouraging Iran to be a responsible member of the world community, ending sanctions encouraged its leaders to treat the deal as a green light for their quest for regional hegemony. The only solution is going to have to involve rolling back the gains Iran has made since the U.S. signed a deal that set them on their current path. 

Must Israel Do America's Dirty Work? - Jonathan Tobin

Netanyahu waves a drone remnant in a recent speech
Though Trump deserves credit for helping to achieve a victory over ISIS in Iraq and Eastern Syria, which eluded the Obama administration, he also appears content to continue his predecessor’s policy of letting Russia control what is happening elsewhere in that country. Which means that for all of his bluster about Iran, its power is growing on his watch as much as it did under Obama.
While no one expects or wants U.S. forces to directly engage the Iranians in Syria, Trump can do Tehran more damage by announcing a firm date for more sanctions on Iran, in addition to a commitment to punish anyone who does business with the regime unless it renegotiates the nuclear deal. That would give the Europeans a stark choice between doing business with Iran or with the United States.

[Netanyahu w]aving the drone debris was a warning to America that if it doesn’t act, then Israel will. the Israelis aren’t likely to tolerate Iran consolidating its hold on parts of Syria. 
All of which means that a Trump administration that has been asleep at the wheel on Syria and Iran had better wake up soon before the situation deteriorates.


Senators : We Must "Stop Iran-Assad Machine" - Joe Gould

War between Israel and Iranian proxy forces is imminent, a bipartisan group of U.S. senators warned after a trip to the Middle East last week

Sen. Lindsey Graham (R-S.C.) said of talks with Israeli officials, "When they tell you we want help to deal with the blowback that might come from attacks on civilian targets where Hizbullah has integrated military capability, that was pretty striking."
Sen. Chris Coons (D-Del.) said, "The tempo in terms of potential for conflict in Syria has gone up; the technologies Iran is projecting into Syria and southern Lebanon has gone up; Iran's willingness to be provocative, to push the edges of the envelope, to challenge Israel, has gone up."
"Israel's worst nightmare is to have Assad forces with Hizbullah and Iranian Revolutionary Guard elements on their border," Graham said. "It's in our interest to stop the Iran-Assad machine." Coons and Graham called on the administration to present Congress with a plan to counter Iran and Russia. 
(Defense News)

Monday, February 05, 2018

Egypt's Secret Military Alliance with Israel, is No Longer a Secret

Thanks to the New York Times, Egypt's secret military alliance with Israel, is no longer a secret

Secret Alliance: Israel Carries Out Airstrikes in Egypt, with Cairo's O.K. 
- David D. Kirkpatrick 

For more than two years, Israeli drones, helicopters and jets have carried out a covert air campaign, conducting more than 100 airstrikes against jihadists in northern Sinai with the approval of Egyptian President el-Sisi.

Egypt and Israel are now secret allies in a covert war against a common foe.

American officials say Israel's air campaign has played a decisive role in enabling the Egyptian armed forces to gain an upper hand against the militants.
(New York Times)

Friday, February 02, 2018

Advice for Trump from American Israelis

Advice for the American President - Caroline Glick 

[F]or the better part of the past quarter century successive US administrations have played by the Palestinians’ rules.

But then Trump showed up. When Trump recognized Jerusalem as Israel’s capital, he took something away from the Palestinians. That has never happened before. And now, reports that the administration is considering holding the UN’s Palestinian refugee agency UNRWA to the same definition of “refugee” as the Office of the UN High Commissioner for Refugees means another Palestinian high card is in danger. If Trump carries out his threat, then the only Palestinians who will be eligible for refugee status will be the 20,000 Palestinians who left Israel between 1947 and 1949. In one fell swoop, Trump would wipe out the Palestinian demand to destroy Israel through mass immigration of five million foreign-born Arabs to its territory – in the framework of peace.

In an interview with Fox News, chief Palestinian negotiator Saeb Erekat was asked what the administration can do to placate the Palestinians’ anger and convince them to renew their contacts with Washington. Erekat said the only thing the US can do is cancel its recognition of Jerusalem. Meaning only unconditional American surrender to Palestinian demands will bring America back into the PLO’s good graces.

It’s time for Greenblatt to understand that the peace process is over. And unless Trump intends to humiliate himself and America and sell Israel down the river like his predecessors did, the peace process will not be resuscitated. The longer he and his colleagues pretend away the truth, the more they imperil themselves and empower a people that will be more than happy to move beyond eggs and tomatoes and effigies and banners.

Caroline Glick was born in Chicago and made aliya to Israel in 1991, after receiving her BA in Political Science from Columbia University. 
[Jerusalem Post]


How to Restore U.S. Credibility in the Middle East - Michael Oren

Standing firmly with its Arab and Israeli allies against Iran will contribute immensely to restoring America's credibility in the Middle East. It will also have a material and positive effect on nonproliferation efforts elsewhere in the world. 

Michael Bornstein Oren is an American-born Israeli historian, author, politician, former ambassador to the United States, and current member of the Knesset for the Kulanu party

Tuesday, January 30, 2018

Kushner's MidEast Cookbook

Don't Ignore Kushner's Quiet Mideast Gains - Ahmed Charai 

Jared Kushner, who supervises America's Israeli-Palestinian peace efforts, recognizes that Iran now matters more to the Arabs than Palestine.

With Iran and Islamic militants threatening the survival of major Arab states, many Arab leaders have quietly decided to align with Israel - dialing down their interest in the Palestinian drama.

Consider that President Trump's plan to move the U.S. embassy in Israel to Jerusalem did not touch off huge protests in Arab capitals or angry editorials in the Arab press.
Kushner realizes that more than 60% of Arabs are too young to remember the 1967 and 1973 wars with Israel.

As a result, younger Arabs largely accept Israel's existence as a settled fact, and generally see trading with its prosperous economy as essential to their own economic growth.

I know. I have heard them tell me these things in the privacy of their living rooms.

Kushner has befriended Saudi Arabia's deputy crown prince Mohammed bin Salman. Both are seen as disrupters of the status quo and both favor practical solutions over symbolic displays.

Other Gulf Arab leaders that I have met tell me that they have heard positive things about Kushner and are eager to work with him.

In short, Kushner's correct reading of this unique moment in Arab politics positions the U.S. to make historic progress in the Middle East.
The writer, a Moroccan publisher, is a member of the board of directors of the Atlantic Council.

(National Interest)

Israel and the Arab States: A Historic Opportunity?
- Moshe Yaalon and Leehe Friedman 
  • In recent years, the scope of common interests between Israel and the Sunni Arab world has widened. Given the rise of the Islamic State (ISIS), chaos stemming from stateless Libya, and civil wars in Iraq, Syria, and Yemen, the Arab states - which are a pragmatic lot - can no longer claim that the Palestinian issue is the region's top priority.
  • The Arab people likewise see the Palestinian issue as a less pressing concern. An annual survey of young people in the Arab world, conducted by ASDA'A Burson-Marsteller, revealed that the Israeli-Palestinian conflict was rated eighth among the region's main threats, down from seventh place in last year's survey. On top of this, the Arab states have reduced their financial assistance to the Palestinians.
  • The main obstacle to normalization is public opinion in the Arab world, which "obliges" Arab regimes to put a solution of the Israeli-Palestinian dispute before normalization. This hurdle must be overcome, either by settling the conflict or by persuading the Arab world that it is worth separating the artificial linkage between the two issues.
  • Current geopolitical conditions have created a critical mass of new and overlapping interests between Israel and the Arab countries, and there is now a historic opportunity to promote a process of normalization.
  • Hinging normalization on the resolution of the intractable Israeli-Palestinian conflict has not brought the region any closer to a solution; what it has done is to make both the Arab states and Israel hostages to a conflict that has no solution on the horizon.
  • It is therefore time for the pragmatic Arab camp to abandon this formula, which has so far led only to stagnation, and instead to seriously examine steps toward gradual normalization that will help to build mutual trust.

    Lt.-Gen. (ret.) Moshe Yaalon is a former Israeli defense minister and IDF chief of staff. Leehe Friedman is a research assistant at the Institute for National Security Studies at Tel Aviv University.
(Foreign Affairs)

Monday, January 29, 2018

Miracle: Saudis Commemorate Jewish Holocaust

Dr. Mohammed Al Issa

A Holocaust Awareness Awakening in Saudi Arabia - Robert Satloff

In December, I led a delegation from The Washington Institute on a visit to Riyadh, the Saudi capital, where among the high-ranking officials we met was Dr. Mohammed Al Issa, secretary-general of the Muslim World League. The MWL has long been cited as the key facilitator of Saudi Arabia's global effort to export a radical, hate-filled, anti-West, anti-Semitic version of Islam. Al Issa, a former Saudi justice minister, was appointed its head in August 2016.

Taking his lead from Muhammad bin Salman, the Saudi crown prince who has vowed to cleanse his country of extremism and return it to "moderate Islam," Al Issa seems to have a mandate to transform the MWL from an organization synonymous with extremism to one that preaches tolerance.

I was skeptical, but in our meeting, Al Issa struck an impressive note, underscoring a commitment to religious outreach and speaking fondly of his recent visit to a Paris synagogue. When I returned home, I wrote Al Issa, invited him to Washington to address my institute and urged him to tour the U.S. Holocaust Memorial Museum during his visit. He surprised me by welcoming my invitation and agreeing to visit the Museum.

A few days later, with International Holocaust Remembrance Day approaching on Jan. 27, I asked Al Issa whether he would send a letter to the Museum's director, Sara Bloomfield, for the occasion. Again, Al Issa surprised me, labeling the Holocaust "an incident that shook humanity to the core."  
The writer is executive director of The Washington Institute for Near East Policy. 
(New York Daily News)

- Dr. Mohammad Al Issa 
  • "On the occasion of the International Holocaust Remembrance Day, celebrating the anniversary of the liberation of the Auschwitz death camp...I confirm...our great sympathy with the victims of the Holocaust, an incident that shook humanity to the core, and created an event whose horrors could not be denied or underrated by any fair-minded or peace-loving person."
  • "This human tragedy perpetrated by evil Nazism won't be forgotten by history, or meet the approval of anyone, except criminal Nazis or their genre. True Islam is against these crimes. It classifies them in the highest degree of penal sanctions and among the worst human atrocities ever."
  • "One would ask, who in his right mind would accept, sympathize, or even diminish the extent of this brutal crime."
  • "We consider any denial of the Holocaust or minimizing of its effect a crime to distort history and an insult to the dignity of those innocent souls who have perished....Islam...decrees that anyone who assaults and kills an innocent soul will be held accountable as if he has killed all people."
(Washington Institute for Near East Policy)

Thursday, January 25, 2018

Iranian Woman Becomes Symbol of Resistance

In the footage, she could be seen waving a white scarf which appeared to be her own head covering.  The brave woman is now missing, having not been seen since. 
- Danyal Hussain 

The Iranian woman who protested the country's 'modesty' dress code by standing on a pillar box in Tehran and waving a hijab, is missing and feared to have been arrested.

She had taken off her white headscarf and tied it to a stick in an apparent reference to the 'White Wednesday' protests against clothing restrictions on women in Iran.

Not covering your hair in public is a punishable offense for Iranian women, and the unnamed protester, a 31-year-old mother-of-one, is believed to have been arrested by police.

The woman has not been seen since the video of her standing on the pillar box on one of the city's busiest thoroughfares, without a headscarf or long coat as required under Islamic law, went viral.

The video, widely shared on social media, showed her waving a white scarf in a solemn and brave protest. 

The video and images of the woman are thought to have been taken on December 27, a day before economic protests broke out across the country, which helped the images go viral even though they were apparently unconnected.

Thousands of social media users have shared messages, dubbing her the 'Girl of Enghelab Street' after the area in central Tehran where she staged the protest. 

Using the hashtag '#Where_is_she?', supporters have been sharing the video and images of the woman, demanding that authorities reveal her whereabouts.

Graphic illustrations show her fighting dragons and using her hijab as a weapon against police batons.

Others have been inspired by her brave protest, and copied her act of defiance by filming themselves waving their headscarf in public.
[Daily Mail - UK]


Iranian Woman Who Removed Headscarf Jailed for Two Years
An Iranian woman who publicly removed her hijab in protest against Iran's compulsory headscarf law has been sentenced to two years in prison, Tehran's chief prosecutor, Abbas Jafari Dolatabadi, said.

"We must act with force against people who deliberately question the rules on the Islamic veil," he said.