Middle East Roundup: May 1, 2017

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UNESCO plans anti-Israel vote on Israel’s Independence Day

(Israel Hayom/Exclusive to JNS.org) The cultural body of the United Nations is expected to adopt a resolution Tuesday, on Israel’s Independence Day, classifying Israel as an “occupying power” in Jerusalem.

UNESCO is also expected to conclude that the Cave of the Patriarchs and Rachel’s Tomb, both Jewish holy sites in Judea and Samaria, are exclusively Muslim sites.
The resolution has garnered European support after an original version of the draft, submitted on behalf of the Palestinians by a number of the body’s Arab member states, was softened. The original draft sought to reaffirm 18 previous UNESCO resolutions against Israel on the matter of Jerusalem, including resolutions denying Israeli sovereignty over the city as well as any Jewish link to the Temple Mount and the Western Wall.

The draft resolution now states that “any action taken by Israel, the occupying power, to impose its laws, jurisdiction, and administration on the city of Jerusalem, are illegal and therefore null and void and have no validity whatsoever.” The draft resolution is also expected to condemn the work of the Israel Antiquities Authority in Jerusalem and call for the deployment of international observes to the city.

“UNESCO has long been politicized and unfortunately has become a tool in the service of Palestinian propaganda against Israel,” Israeli Deputy Foreign Minister Tzipi Hotovely said Monday. “Such absurd and historically baseless resolutions undermine UNESCO’s mission of safeguarding humanity’s cultural heritage.”

Last October, UNESCO passed two resolutions denying Judaism’s historic connection to the Temple Mount.
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Think tank sues Homeland Security over hiding potential funding of Islamist groups
(JNS.org) A Philadelphia-based think tank focusing on Mideast issues has filed a lawsuit against the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) over the Obama-era Countering Violent Extremism (CVE) grant program.

The Middle East Forum (MEF) said the grant program, which was designed to assist communities to counter violent extremist recruitment and radicalization, may have given funds to American Islamist groups with their own ties to radical Islam.

In January, days before President Donald Trump’s inauguration, MEF filed a Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) request with DHS seeking documents about the selection criteria and specific decisions regarding CVE grants. DHS failed to reply within the 20-day period mandated by law. DHS informed the think tank March 23 that no documents had been found.

MEF filed a federal lawsuit April 26 alleging DHS “violated the law” by failing to produce the documents.

“We filed a detailed FOIA request, specifying the documents we were looking for and where they likely were,” said MEF Director Gregg Roman. “DHS not only failed to produce the documents, it failed even to conduct a search and closed our case without bothering to tell us. This is not just unacceptable, but illegal.”
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AEPi fraternity posthumously inducts American victim of Palestinian terror
(JNS.org) Ezra Schwartz, a Massachusetts native who was killed in a November 2015 Palestinian terror attack during his pre-college gap year in Israel, was posthumously inducted into the Alpha Epsilon Pi (AEPi) international Jewish fraternity Sunday at New Jersey’s Rutgers University.

Schwartz, who was planning to attend Rutgers, was on his way to deliver food to Israeli soldiers in the Etzion Bloc junction when terrorist Mohammed Abdel Basset al-Kharoub opened fire on a line of traffic with an Uzi submachine gun. The 18-year-old Schwartz, 51-year-old Israeli teacher Yaakov Don and 24-year-old Palestinian resident of Hebron Shadi Arafa were killed in the attack.

In a ceremony coinciding with Israel’s Memorial Day for fallen soldiers and terror victims, Schwartz was inducted as an honorary member of the fraternity he never had the chance to join.

“It means a lot,” said his father Ari Schwartz, MyCentralJersey.com reported. “It really does. It seems like the entire world has reached out to us in order to support us through this tragedy. AEPi’s gesture today is another example of that. I very much appreciate the gesture of inducting me into AEPi as well.”

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Syria denies reports of Israeli strike on military base in latest border incident

(JNS.org) The Syrian Army rejected reports of an Israeli Air Force (IAF) strike in the area of southern Quneitra near the Israeli border Saturday.

According to Arab media and Syrian opposition forces, explosions were heard Saturday night at a base belonging to the Syrian Army’s 90th brigade.

The explosions were initially attributed to the IAF, with Syrian media reporting sightings of Israeli planes in the Quneitra area and Sky News Arabic reporting that Israeli choppers were spotted in the area.

Syrian military sources later denied the reports through the Al-Miyadin network, a media outlet affiliated with the Lebanese terror group Hezbollah. No casualties were reported, and Israeli officials have not commented on the incident.

Saturday night’s events follow the IDF’s confirmation that it downed a Syrian drone violating Israeli airspace over the Golan Heights Thursday. Also Thursday, Syrian state media reported that Israel launched an airstrike near Damascus International Airport on an Iranian weapons cache destined for Hezbollah.

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German minister’s Holocaust argument widens diplomatic row with Israel

(JNS.org) German Foreign Minister Sigmar Gabriel came under fire Friday for grouping together Jews and members of Germany’s Social Democratic Party (SPD) as victims of the Holocaust.

“Social Democrats were, like the Jews, the first victims of the Holocaust. The Social Democrats were the victims of political persecution, the others (Jews) were victims of race madness,” Gabriel, SPD’s former chairman, wrote in Germany’s Frankfurter Rundschau newspaper.

The op-ed sparked fresh outrage following a diplomatic spat between Israel and Germany last week, which resulted in Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu canceling a meeting with Gabriel due to the latter’s meetings with nonprofit organizations that campaign against Israel’s military.

“Gabriel’s claim is a negative exploitation of the memory of the Holocaust,” said Dr. Efraim Zuroff, head of the Israel branch of the Simon Wiesenthal Center.

German historian Dr. Elvira Gruzinger told Yedioth Ahronoth, “Equating Jewish victims who were murdered for being born Jewish, and Social Democrats who were political rivals [to the Nazis] is unacceptable.”

Amid the controversy, Gabriel’s article was amended to state, “The Social Democrats, like the Jews, were the first victims of the Nazis.”

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North Korea threatens Israel with ‘merciless’ response after Lieberman’s comments

(JNS.org) North Korea threatened Israel with “merciless, thousand-fold punishment” following comments by Israeli Defense Minister Avigdor Lieberman regarding the implications of tension in the Korean Peninsula for the Jewish state.

In an interview with Israeli media outlet Walla last week, Lieberman referred to North Korean leader Kim Jong-un as a “madman,” and accused Kim’s regime of being part of an “insane and radical group” allied with Iran, Syria and the Lebanese terror group Hezbollah that works to “destabilize the entire world.”

The defense minister also said tensions between the U.S. and North Korea have “direct implications” for Israel.

“The reckless remarks of the Israeli defense minister are sordid and wicked behavior and grave challenge to the DPRK (North Korea),” the North Korean Foreign Ministry said.

The Pyongyang regime accused Israel of a “cynical ploy to escape the world denunciation,” and of being an “occupier of the Arab territories and culprit of crimes against humanity.”

“We warn Israel to think twice about the consequences to be entailed by its smear campaign against the DPRK to cover up the crimes of occupying Arab territories and disturbing [the] peace process in the Middle East,” the ministry added.

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All 100 US senators demand end to UN’s ‘anti-Israel agenda’

(JNS.org) All 100 U.S. senators signed a letter, sent to United Nations Secretary-General Antonio Guterres, demanding that the world body end its “anti-Israel agenda.”

The letter, authored by Sens. Marco Rubio (R-Fla.) and Christopher A. Coons (D-Del.), called on Guterres to “ensure that Israel is treated neither better nor worse than any other U.N. member in good standing.”

Further, the letter noted that “too often, the U.N. is exploited as a vehicle for targeting Israel rather than as a forum committed to advancing the lofty goals of its founders. These actions have at times reinforced the broader scourge of anti-Semitism, and distracted certain U.N. entities from their original missions.”

The letter condemns several U.N. bodies, including the Palestinian refugee agency UNRWA, the Human Rights Council and the cultural body UNESCO. The senators urged the Human Rights Council to address “the many pressing human rights challenges of our time in countries such as Russia, China, North Korea, Syria, Cuba, Venezuela, and South Sudan,” rather than singling out Israel for criticism. UNESCO, meanwhile, last year passed two resolutions denying Jewish ties to the Temple Mount holy site.

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Memorial hall for fallen Israeli soldiers unveiled on Mount Herzl
(Israel Hayom/Exclusive to JNS.org) The Israeli Defense Ministry Thursday unveiled the newly constructed national Hall of Remembrance for fallen soldiers on Mount Herzl in Jerusalem.

The new hall is made up of a mountain of stones, reaching a height of 60 feet. More than 23,000 bricks comprise the walls, each with the engraved name of a fallen soldier, the date the soldier was killed and a candle to be lit on the anniversary of the soldier’s death.

The hall will also include a bell of light made of more than 6,000 steel bricks that were designed and manufactured by the Israeli Defense Ministry’s Merkava Tank Administration.

Construction of the memorial began in January 2015 and has cost $25 million.
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At 69, Israel’s population stands at 8.68 million
(Israel Hayom/Exclusive to JNS.org) Israel has approximately 8.68 million residents, more than 10 times the population at its founding in 1948, and is on track to reach more than 15.2 million residents by 2048, the Israeli Central Bureau of Statistics reported Thursday ahead of the country’s 69th Independence Day.

Currently, there are 6.48 million Jewish residents in Israel, accounting for 74.7 percent of the population, and 1.81 million Arab residents, comprising 20.8 percent. Permanent residents who, according to the Interior Ministry’s Population Registry, are neither Jewish nor Arab—including most non-Jewish immigrants, many of whom are non-Arab Christians or have no religious affiliation—make up 4.5 percent of the Israeli population. The figures do not take into account foreign workers and others not considered permanent residents.

Israel’s population has grown by 159,000 residents since Independence Day 2016, an increase of about 2 percent. The past year saw the birth of 174,000 babies and the arrival of some 30,000 new immigrants, while about 44,000 Israeli residents died.

Almost 35 percent of Israel’s residents are under age 18, while about 54 percent are ages 19-64. Slightly more than 11 percent of Israelis are 65 and older.
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Articles from JNS.org appear on San Diego Jewish World through the generosity of Dr. Bob and Mao Shillman.

One Response to “Middle East Roundup: May 1, 2017”

  1. admin says:

    Leaders of the Conference of Presidents of Major American Jewish Organizations today called on members of UNESCO’s Executive Board to vote against the latest blatantly anti-Israel resolution presented on behalf of the Palestinians by a group of Muslim countries that includes Egypt and Morocco, that is another affront to Jewish and Christian history and traditions.

    Stephen M. Greenberg, Chairman and Malcolm Hoenlein, Executive Vice Chairman/CEO, said, “The central theme of the Jerusalem resolution to be voted on tomorrow by UNESCO’s Executive Board is the denial of Israeli sovereignty over any portion of its capital, Jerusalem. Such a resolution by a United Nations body targeting any country in the world other than Israel would never see the light of day. Yet, a majority of the countries on the Executive Board of UNESCO appear ready to vote for this resolution. It is up to responsible members of the Executive Board to join with the U.S. in defeating the outrageous resolution.

    We are heartened by reports that Italy has said it will oppose the resolution. We hope the other ten EU members including France, Germany, Greece and the UK, will also reject this misuse of UNESCO’s mandate by voting “no.” Indeed, any country that would not accept a UNESCO resolution rejecting the right to sovereignty of its own capital should vote against the resolution.

    We are in touch with ambassadors from many of the countries on the Executive Board to urge a rejection of this measure which represents a further attempt to politicize UNESCO and to interfere in a sensitive and complex matter. UNESCO’s actions regarding Jerusalem and other holy sites are an affront to all who want to see meaningful peace negotiations and continue to deny thousands of years of Jewish and Christian history and tradition.”

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