Monday, December 28, 2020

Israel, UAE Collaborating to Eliminate UNRWA


Israel and the United Arab Emirates are working together to eliminate the United Nations Relief and Works Agency for Palestinian Refugees (UNRWA) without solving the issue of Palestinian refugees, the French newspaper Le Monde has reported.

The report alleged that this has been underway since Israel and the UAE announced normalization between them in August.

 According to the report, Emirati officials are considering an action plan intended to gradually eliminate UNRWA, without making this development conditional on a resolution of the refugee problem. This is despite the UAE having been a major source of funding to UNRWA in 2018 and 2019, along with Qatar and Saudi Arabia, to offset US President Donald Trump's halting of funds to the agency, which brought it to the brink of bankruptcy.

 "In doing so, Abu Dhabi would be rallying to a long-standing demand from Israel, which insists that the agency is obstructing peace by nurturing refugees in the dream of returning to the lands from which their parents were driven in 1948," a tweet of a portion of the report said.

 Last year in November, the UN General Assembly approved the extension of UNRWA’s mandate for three more years, only a week after its commissioner-general Pierre Krahenbuhl resigned over a UN ethics report alleged mismanagement and abuses of authority among senior officials of the agency, after which Israel called for UNRWA’s closure.

 The ethics report claimed that since 2015, members of UNRWA’s inner circle have been steadily consolidating their power, but that the situation escalated markedly from the beginning of 2018, coinciding with the US decision to remove its funding, serving "as an excuse for an extreme concentration of decision-making power in members of the ‘clique.’” 

It further claimed that these developments led to an “exodus of senior and other staff” and a work culture “characterized by low morale, fear of retaliation... distrust, secrecy, bullying, intimidation, and marginalization... and management that is highly dysfunctional, with a significant breakdown of the regular accountability structure.”

Much of the report focuses on allegations surrounding the conduct of Krahenbuhl, who took up the post in March 2014, citing a range of corrupt and unprofessional activities.

Shortly after the details of the report became known, the Netherlands and Switzerland suspended their funding of UNRWA. They were followed in August 2019 by the government of New Zealand.

Wednesday, December 23, 2020

Israeli Research Team Turns Corona into the Common Cold

Israeli researchers have made a breakthrough that will

revolutionize the way Covid-19 is treated.


Tuesday, December 22, 2020

Two Ethiopian Israelis win prestigious Rhodes scholarship for Oxford

By TOBIAS SIEGAL   December 10, 2020

The Rhodes scholarship program that offers exceptional candidates from around the world full tuition for studying at Oxford University in England has chosen two Israelis as its winners for 2021.

Two young Israelis – Eli Zuzovsky, 25, and Eden Amare Yitbarek, 23 originally from Ethiopia  – were chosen by the Rhodes selection committee following "a rigorous national selection process" that included 40 Israeli candidates, 12 finalists, and two "exceptional" winners, a Rhodes Trust press release noted.

"We are thrilled to honor these two exceptional Israelis with a Rhodes scholarship to Oxford University,"  according to Doron Weber, National Secretary for the Rhodes Scholarships for Israel, noting Zuzovsky's and Yitbarek's exceptional contribution in understanding and representing Israeli society.  

"We had an outstanding group of candidates, and the entire committee was deeply impressed by Eden's and Eli's personal journeys and their extraordinary moral character, academic excellence, leadership and powerful example in speaking for underrepresented groups in Israeli society."

The winners will begin their studies at Oxford this fall and will receive full tuition, a living stipend, housing expenses and more, allowing them to pursue their academic endeavors unfettered and to the fullest.

Zuzovsky's and Yitbarek's winning of the 2021 Rhodes scholarship marks the 5th cycle of the scholarship program in Israel, which started in 2016.

Tuesday, December 15, 2020

EU-funded review of PA textbooks reeks of ‘incompetence, concealment’

Serious mistakes were made undermining the credibility of the report, including analyzing the wrong textbooks and attributing Arabic-language Israeli textbooks to the Palestinian Authority, ignoring anti-Semitism and ignoring incitement to violence, martyrdom and jihad.

In a ground-breaking move and in response to the lack of change in the Palestinian Authority school curriculum and the continued insertion of anti-Semitism, hate and incitement to violence and martyrdom in its textbooks, the Norwegian parliament endorsed a cut last week in aid to the P.A.

In 2018, the United Kingdom commissioned a report on Palestinian textbooks from the Germany-based Georg Eckert Institute for International Textbook Research (GEI), which then published a report that was found to be riddled with mistakes. The European Union then decided to commission another report, due to be completed this month, again using the GEI.

Marcus Sheff, CEO of the Jerusalem-based NGO Institute for Monitoring Peace and Cultural Tolerance in School Education (IMPACT-se), expressed shock that the European Union Commission dealing with this matter is appointing the GEI, which Sheff believes has essentially disqualified itself as an honest player by making so many, seemingly intentional mistakes in its research findings.

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The GEI review made serious mistakes that undermined the credibility of the report. These included analyzing the wrong textbooks and attributing Arabic-language Israeli textbooks to the P.A., ignoring anti-Semitism and ignoring incitement to violence, martyrdom and jihad.

In a turn of events that exposes the E.U.’s seeming engagement in pretense, Riem Spielhaus, the head of the study at GEI, actually admitted to German daily newspaper Taggesspiegel in October that the Israeli textbooks were indeed mistakenly included in the review.

In what can be seen as a significant development in this saga, Die Welt—the most prominent German daily—followed up on the Taggerspigel piece and ran a similar story, also in October, but also called out the E.U. for lying to the newspaper.

The paper quoted Ana Pisonero, a spokeswoman for the commission, who said that no false textbooks had been examined. According to IMPACT-se, the E.U. is trying to cover up the mistake.

Adding to this mess, a number of E.U. countries have expressed concern about the GEI and the commission’s insistence that nothing is wrong.

Tybring-Gjedde said European politicians “should not be comfortable” with E.U. money being used to incite anti-Israel hate and violence among Palestinian children. “We have to be absolutely certain that the taxpayers’ money goes to educate children to live in peace and reconciliation.”

In October, 20 members of the European Parliament urged the E.U. to partially withhold funding to the P.A. until it ends anti-Semitic incitement.

Niclas Herbst, a member of the European Parliament, told JNS that “these are serious mistakes and the E.U. commissioner is trying to cover it all up.” He also stated in that letter that he is “equally concerned” over the E.U.’s interim report. “Something went very wrong in this research process and must be put right,” he said.

With respect to the European Commission’s cooperation with GEI, the legislators from four major political groups said that in light of the GEI’s “deeply troubling and error-ridden interim review, it is inconceivable that the institute’s final report, due to be released in December, can possibly reflect a serious and scholarly assessment of the textbooks.”

‘Suspend P.A. aid related to curriculum’

Benjamin Strasser, a German politician of the Free Democratic Party, also expressed his concern and told JNS, “false school materials can cement hatred and prejudice for decades. Neither German tax revenues nor our contributions to the Palestinian Authority may be used to promote anti-Semitism and hatred against Israel.”

Steve McCabe MP, chair of Labour Friends of Israel (LFI), accused the government of “hiding behind the E.U. to escape accountability for its own inaction,” and demanded that the United Kingdom “immediately suspend all P.A. aid related to the delivery of the P.A. curriculum until wholesale and urgent revisions are guaranteed.”

In an emailed statement to JNS, a spokesperson for the Delegation of the European Union to Israel defended the flawed GEI study as “being carried out according to best international standards with native Arab speaking experts being part of the research team.”

The statement said that the E.U.’s Final Report “will be finalized by the end of the year. … Given that the final report has not even been published yet, any criticisms at the stage are clearly premature in our view, in particular as they have been based on alleged leaks regarding a preliminary report which had no other value than to inform the scoping of the study. … We should clarify that the E.U. does not fund and will not fund Palestinian textbooks.”


Morocco first Arab nation to teach Jewish history, culture in schools

Trailblazing change, Morocco on Sunday announced that its schools will soon begin teaching Jewish history and culture as part of the official curriculum—a first in the region and in the North African country, where Islam is the state religion.

 It follows King Mohammed VI of Morocco’s decision to normalize relations with the Jewish state in yet another historic peace deal brokered by U.S. President Donald Trump’s administration and announced last week.

The move has had “the impact of a tsunami,” Serge Berdugo, secretary-general of the Casablanca-based Council of Jewish Communities of Morocco, told the French news agency AFP.

The decision concerning the curriculum was reportedly made discretely, even before Rabat and Jerusalem formerly normalized relations. According to AFP, the decision was made as part of an ongoing revamp of the educational curriculum in Morocco, which began in 2014.

The move aims to “highlight Morocco’s diverse identity,” according to Fouad Chafiqi, head of academic programs at Rabat’s Education Ministry.

AFP further cited two U.S.-based Jewish associations—the American Sephardi Federation and the Conference of Presidents of Major American Jewish Organizations—as saying that they had “worked closely with the Kingdom of Morocco and the Moroccan Jewish community” on the “groundbreaking” academic reform.

“Ensuring Moroccan students learn about the totality of their proud history of tolerance, including Morocco’s philo-Semitism, is an inoculation against extremism,” leaders of the two organizations said in a statement published on Twitter.

As part of the plan, two new books will be introduced into the curriculum. They include a description of the life and heritage of Moroccan Jews under Sultan Mohammed Ben Abdellah al-Khatib, a descendant of the Alawite dynasty that rules the country to this day.

The books, intended for fourth and sixth grades, include historical accounts dating from the 17th century to the present day.

Monday, December 14, 2020

Espionage Emergency: China 'Floods' USA and UK with Spies

  • Given the emergency, Washington should immediately close down all of China's bases of operation in the U.S., including its four remaining consulates — Chicago, Los Angeles, New York and San Francisco — and substantially reducing the staff of the embassy. The embassy, in reality, needs only the ambassador, immediate family, and personal staff, not the hundreds currently assigned there.
  • China's New York consulate is also an espionage hub. James Olson, a former CIA counterintelligence chief, "conservatively" estimated that China, in the words of the New York Post, "has more than 100 intelligence officers operating in the city at any given time." New York City, he said, is "under assault like never before."
  • Will Beijing merely transfer spies to Chinese banks and businesses operating in the U.S.? Probably, but that will take time and, in any event, Washington can order the closure of non-diplomatic outposts as well.
  • Others will say American businesses in China need consular support. Of course they do. My reply is that it is in America's interest to get its companies out of that country, for moral as well as other reasons. The loss of consular support will be one more reason for them to pack their bags in a hurry.

Revelations this month about U.S. Rep. Eric Swalwell, a California Democrat, highlight Beijing's complete penetration of American society.

China's influence, intelligence and infiltration attempts are overwhelming America. Given the emergency, Washington should immediately close down all of China's bases of operation in the U.S., including its four remaining consulates.

Perhaps the most striking aspect of the news about Swalwell is that Fang Fang, a suspected Chinese Ministry of State Security agent also known as "Christine," first contacted him not while he was sitting on the House Intelligence Committee but when he was a councilmember in Dublin City, California.

Fang followed and promoted his career as he was elected to the House of Representatives and assigned to a committee of great interest to China.

Meanwhile in the UK…

  • The UK's new MI5 director, Ken McCallum, said that countries such as China and Russia were no longer focused just on traditional espionage activities, such as stealing government secrets, but also on targeting Britain's economy, infrastructure, and academic research, while seeking to undermine its democracy.
  • China's ambassador to the UK, Liu Xiaoming, later denied threatening the UK by making still another threat: "We make no threats, we threaten nobody. We just let you know the consequences. If you do not want to be our partners and our friends, you want to treat China as a hostile country, you will pay the price. That means you will lose the benefits of treating China as a friend."
  • Meanwhile, Huawei's plans to build a research center in Cambridgeshire are going ahead.
  • "[China's] implementation strategy is to target elites in the West so that they either welcome China's dominance or accede to its inevitability, rendering resistance futile". — Clive Hamilton and Mareike Ohlberg, Hidden Hand: Exposing How the Chinese Communist Party is Reshaping the World.
  • In the UK, according to Hamilton and Ohlberg, the CCP has managed to "groom" British power elites to support Chinese interests, especially through the networking group the "48 Group Club".... The group features members such as former ministers, including former Prime Minister Tony Blair and former Foreign Secretary Jack Straw, five former British ambassadors to China, leading business people, directors of large cultural institutions and professors, as well as a number of highly ranked CCP officials, including several former Chinese ambassadors to the UK.

•   Much of Chinese influence on British campuses is done through the CCP's Confucius Institutes, of which there are at least 29 in the UK, according to a February 2019 report on the topic by the Conservative Party Human Rights Commission.

Another State and Yet Another Seek Normalisation

 Israel and the Kingdom of Bhutan established full diplomatic relations last week, in the latest of a series of normalization deals to be signed by the Jewish state.

“The circle of those who recognize Israel is growing. I would like to thank Israel’s ambassador to India for his work and the Kingdom of Bhutan for its decision to establish diplomatic relations with Israel,” tweeted Israeli Foreign Minister Gabi Ashkenazi.

“This is a milestone in Israel’s deepening ties with Asia,” he said, adding that students from Bhutan are receiving agricultural training in Israel.

Ashkenazi said the agreement came after secret contacts and reciprocal with Bhutan in recent years, in a process led by the foreign ministry.

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu welcomed the announcement, calling it “additional fruit of the peace agreements” concluded by Israel in September with the United Arab Emirates and Bahrain, according to a statement from his office. “We are in contact with additional countries that want to join and establish relations with us,” he added.

 Over the same weekend the Kingdom of Morocco announced the full normalization of relations with the Jewish state and more countries are expected to come.

Morocco announced on Thursday evening that it was reestablishing full relations with Israel.

Under the agreement, Morocco will renew official relations with Israel, allow Israeli aircraft to pass through Moroccan airspace, and allow direct flights between Israel and Morocco.

Morocco and Israel will open diplomatic offices in Tel Aviv and Rabat and later open official embassies. Under the agreement, Morocco and Israel will promote economic relations.



Tuesday, December 8, 2020

UNRWA's Moment of Truth?

 Seventy years after its founding with an 18-month mandate to provide emergency aid to the “Palestine refugees,” the United Nations Relief and Works Agency for Palestine Refugees in the Near East (UNRWA) has grown into a gargantuan $1.2 billion, 30,000-strong “phantom sovereignty”1 that has done more than any other international actor to perpetuate the “refugee problem” it was established to solve.

With the Trump administration slashing its donation to the agency, and the Gulf states and the Europeans demanding greater transparency regarding its finances and operations, UNRWA may at long last be approaching its moment of truth.

Monday, December 7, 2020

A Saudi Journalists Opinion on Iran

 In a recent article in Al Jazirah in Saudi Arabia, a Saudi journalist expresses interesting opinions on the current political scene in the Gulf from a Saudi perspective.

"The mullahs of Iran see and understand that Saudi Arabia’s growing role both in the Gulf region and on the global arena. They worry about this development. In response, they seek to destabilize the region with whatever means they have at their disposal, including through their proxies in Lebanon and in Yemen. Iran has no choice but to negotiate with the West and sign a new nuclear agreement that would lift the economic blockade reimposed upon it by the Trump Administration. Otherwise, it will most surely face political and economic collapse.

what the mullahs are failing to take into account is the fact that the countries of the region are much stronger today than they were when President Obama signed the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA). The normalization of ties with Israel changed the political equation and created a new united regional front against Iran. No matter how much Iran tries to bully its neighbors, it is in a very weak position, both economically and militarily

Furthermore, the world has grown tired of Iran’s support of armed militias in the Middle East, and has placed many of these groups, including Hizbullah, on the terror watch list. The fanfare that Iran’s militias create — whether in Yemen, Syria, Lebanon or Iraq — is nothing more than bells and whistles

Thankfully, geopolitical changes that took place in the region over the course of the past four years ensured that Iran doesn’t have the upper hand even as Biden steps into office "

Wednesday, December 2, 2020

Third Lockdown for Israel Unavoidable

 Full article here  

The writing is on the wall, and everywhere you care to look, Israel appears to be headed for a third lockdown.

Through a combination of flagrant disregard of regulations among certain segments of the population and the inevitable outcome of opening more of the economy, the numbers of infected are steadily rising.

 Let’s take a look at the results of that reopening and of some of those flagrant violations.

• A week after the “green island” program was invoked, enabling hotels in Eilat and at the Dead Sea to open, 10 employees of the Isrotel Dead Sea were found to be infected. The hotel staff was sent home and anyone with whom they came in contact was alerted. All those who stayed at the hotel since November 22 were asked to be tested through their local health fund.

• A mall pilot program was launched Friday at 15 malls as a precursor to a wider opening of retail stores. The program had several basic rules: One person per every 7 sq.m. was allowed to shop (up to 10 customers); the number of visitors to the mall would be measured digitally and monitored; mall monitors would patrol and enforce the rules of mask-wearing and social distancing.

In fact thousands crowded together in entrances, hallways and in stores as they attempted to quench their consumer hunger after being deprived for close to two months. As a result, the Health Ministry was already considering shutting down the program and chalking it up as a failure.

Further, 3.3% of people screened for the novel coronavirus on Saturday tested positive – the highest number in the last month and up from an average of around 2% last week.

A report by the Coronavirus Knowledge and Information Center indicated that there has been a consistent increase in the number of cases and that it expects the number to continue rising.

A TV channel reported on Saturday that two-thirds of Israelis returning from countries with high coronavirus infection rates have been breaking quarantine. It was reported to the authorities that between 1%-2% of those returning from abroad were later found to be infected with the virus. According to regulations, travelers returning from one of those countries are required to enter quarantine for 14 days, a period that can be shortened to 12 days.

All of the above examples – whether through good intentions, accumulative frustration over nine months of restrictions, or simply disregard for what needs to be done – spell a lockdown.

Former Health Ministry director-general Gabi Barbash said about a lockdown: “The question is not if. It’s how long until” it happens.

That writing on the wall is as depressing as it is infuriating. With it comes the realization that until we start acting smart and responsibly as we wait for a vaccine to be distributed and administered to a significant majority of the population, we’ve created a vicious cycle that we will be forced to live with.

Tags Coronavirus Coronavirus in Israel COVID-19 coronavirus lockdown