Hamas Tunnel Found, Iran’s Election Interference, & U. Hawaii Hosting Terrorist

October 23, 2020

Hamas Tunnel Found, Iran’s Election Interference, & U. Hawaii Hosting Terrorist

October 23, 2020
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Shabbat Shalom!

Today we’re diving into:

  • Inside Israel: Gaza rocket attacks and terror tunnel found; Gantz’s Washington trip regarding F-35s; and Israel’s first female F-35 pilot
  • Israel’s Neighbors: Sudan’s imminent normalization announcement; Israel’s secret Bahrain embassy; and Iran’s election interference in the U.S.
  • Inside Europe: Attempted car ramming near Israeli embassy; Latvian Holocaust museum facing closure; British union leader uses antisemitic trope; Albanian parliament adopts IHRA definition of antisemitism; and Estonia’s and Guatemala’s actions against Hezbollah
  • Inside the U.S.: U. of Hawaii hosting Palestinian terrorist; State Dept. labeling human rights groups antisemitic; arrest in attack of San Diego Rabbi; and World Zionist Congress showdown ends in compromise
  • Celebrate & Remember:  Zoom miracle; and Netanyahu—Arafat Wye River Accord 


IDF responds to third Gaza rocket strike this week, after terror tunnel discovered and new Turkey Hamas HQ revealed

Soldiers operating along the border with the southern Gaza Strip, after a tunnel entering Israeli territory was found in the area, October 20, 2020 (Israel Defense Forces)
IDF strikes back after Gaza militants fire rockets: On Thursday night, two rockets were fired from the Gaza Strip toward southern Israel. One was intercepted by the Iron Dome and the other fell into an open field near Ashkelon. This was the third time within a week rockets were fired from the Gaza Strip toward Israel. In response, the Israel Defense Forces struck Hamas sites in the Gaza Strip, including an underground infrastructure and a site used to manufacture weapons. Earlier in the week, the IDF discovered a terror tunnel intended to facilitate attacks attributed to terror group Hamas, which spanned from the Gaza city of Khan Younis across the border to the Israeli community of Kibbutz Kissufim. Israeli Chief of Staff Aviv Kochavi identified the tunnel as a “highly significant asset for the enemy” and stated that the IDF “will continue to take care of it and the subterranean threat with every method and every advanced means — from technology to intelligence.” 

  • A report released yesterday detailed that Hamas has a secret headquarters in Turkey for carrying out cyberwarfare and counter intelligence operations, as well as the purchasing of equipment that can be used for the manufacture of weapons.

Gantz’s second trip to Washington in past month over F-35s: Defense Minister Benny Gantz met with his U.S. counterpart, Secretary of Defense Mark Esper, in Washington on Thursday. The two signed a joint declaration confirming the U.S.’ commitment to maintaining Israel’s qualitative military edge (QME) in the Middle East, in light of a possible sale of F-35 fighter jets to the United Arab Emirates following the signing of the Abraham Accords. The document was more of a symbolic gesture, as this responsibility is already enshrined in U.S. law. Israel is the only country in the Middle East to possess the F-35 and therefore the sale of the F-35s to the U.A.E. would hinder Israel’s QME. It is not known if Gantz agreed to withdraw concerns over the sale, but this marks his second visit to Washington in the past month over the matter. Gantz thanked the U.S. for its role in brokering the normalization agreements and said Israel is better situated to confront Iran in light of the new ties.
Israel’s only female F-35 pilot named Deputy Squadron Commander: The IDF shared in a statement that “Captain S.,” Israel’s first and only female F-35 fighter jet pilot, has been appointed as the new Deputy Squadron Commander of the 116th Squadron in the Israeli Air Force. Captain S is 26 years old and prior to flying F-35s, she flew F-16s. While there are a few female F-35 pilots in the U.S. Air Force, Captain S is only the second woman anywhere to fly the advanced fifth generation model in combat.


A formal announcement on the normalization of relations between Sudan and Israel is expected to take place in the next few days

Sudanese Prime Minister Abdullah Hamdok and Secretary of State Mike Pompeo on August 25, 2020 (Twitter)
Israel and Sudan normalization announcement likely coming soon: Israel and Sudan are in the process of finalizing normalization efforts between their two countries, according to sources from both nations. A Sudanese official told Israeli publication Israel Hayom, “99% of the details” have been finalized. Israeli Regional Cooperation Minister Ofir Akunis shared that a formal announcement will come “before November 3rd.” Sudanese Prime Minister Abdalla Hamdok will likely bring the agreement to the interim Parliament to be approved, which may take longer than expected since there is no scheduled date for Sudan’s parliament to be formed. A Wednesday flight between Sudan and Israel, only the second-ever direct flight between the countries, brought an Israeli/American delegation to Khartoum, further signaling Sudan’s willingness to normalize ties. A normalization deal between Israel and Sudan would be especially significant as Sudan is where the Arab League’s Three No’s (no recognition, no peace, no negotiations) agreement was signed in 1967.
Israel’s secret embassy in Bahrain for past 11 years: Israel has secretly held an embassy in Bahrain for over 11 years, according to a report by Axios. The secret embassy in Bahrain’s capital, Manama, has been functioning clandestinely since July 2009, under a front called “The Center for International Development.” While the company claimed to work in non-oil investments, it really served as a diplomatic mission, striking business deals between Israelis and Bahrainis. The report comes after Israel and Bahrain signed formal agreements signifying the normalization of relations between the states, including an aviation agreement and a request to open an official embassy in Manama. Thanks to the secret diplomatic mission, the groundwork for the embassy already exists. “All we have to do is change the sign on the door,” an Israeli official told Axios.
Iran reportedly behind U.S. election interference scheme: The FBI and Director of National Intelligence in the United States are claiming that Iran is likely behind a campaign of threatening emails sent to Democrats in numerous states this week. The emails, threatening harm to recipients if they fail to vote for Donald Trump, appeared to originate from far-right extremist group the Proud Boys. The organization denies any involvement in the attack, and Director of National intelligence John Ratcliffe said in a press conference that Iran is responsible for sending “spoofed emails” and spreading other misinformation in an attempt to meddle with the forthcoming election. The Treasury Department responded Thursday by issuing sanctions against five Iranian entities believed to be involved. The revelation comes at a critical time for voters facing the threat foreign interference and a president who has been claiming that, “This is going to be a fraud like you’ve never seen.”


Less than a week after the beheading of a schoolteacher by an Islamist fanatic, French police arrest seven in connection with car ramming near Israeli embassy

Seven arrested over attempted ramming of officer near Israeli embassy: On Tuesday in Paris, police arrested seven British nationals of Pakistani origin” for their suspected involvement in an attempted car-ramming of an officer stationed outside of the Israeli embassy. The same two vehicles were seen later that night close to the official residence of French President Emmanuel Macron. The attack comes less than a week after a radical Islamist beheaded a teacher who showed caricatures of the Prophet Mohammed to his class. The French government issued an order calling for the dissolution of Cheikh Yassine Collective, the Hamas-inspired Islamic radicalization network said to be “implicated, linked to Friday’s [beheading] attack.”
Rent hike threatens to close Latvian Holocaust museum: In the Latvian capital, the Riga Ghetto Museum, one of the city’s three Holocaust museums, is facing a $12,000 per month increase in rent.  The museum’s previous 10-year lease, that allowed for the museum to operate rent free, expired this year. The Riga government has also taken back some of the land given to the museum for its operations. The museum opened in 2010 and features a wall with the names of over 70,000 Latvian Jews who fell victims to the Holocaust and about 25,000 names of Jews from other European countries who were brought to Riga to be murdered. The museum will make a decision about accepting the new lease terms on October 27th, and head of the Shamir Association, Rabbi Menachem Barakhan, has expressed his dismay with this choice stating that: “We cannot accept that in our country money is worth more than the memory of our ancestors.” 
British trade union leader tells Jewish ex-minister to “count his gold:” In an interview on Monday, Len McCluskey, the head of the largest labor union in the UK and Ireland, and a close ally of former Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn, suggested that Peter Mandelson, a Jewish ex-cabinet member, go “count his gold.” When asked about Mandelson in the BBC Newsnight interview, he said: “I would suggest that Peter just goes into a room and counts his gold and not worry about what’s happening in the Labour Party. Leave that to those of us that are interested in ordinary working people.” McCluskey has since apologized for this statement, saying: “Before this gets out of hand, let me say language is important and I apologize to Peter Mandelson and anyone else if mine has caused hurt.” The Labour against Antisemitism group said that Mandelson “reproduced an anti-Semitic trope about wealthy Jews,” and that it is “unsurprising but still shocking to hear one of the most senior figures in the British Labour movement seemingly reveal such a poisonous view.” 
Albanian parliament adopts IHRA antisemitism definition: The Albanian parliament formally adopted the International Holocaust Remembrance Alliance’s (IHRA) definition of antisemitism on Thursday, making it the first Muslim-majority country to do so. Thursday’s announcement comes a week ahead of the first Balkans Forum Against Antisemitism conference, organized by the Albanian parliament, the Jewish Agency for Israel, and the Combat Antisemitism Movement. The conference, hosting speakers from Albania, Kosovo, and North Macedonia, seeks to “work together in order to eradicate the scourge” of anti-Semitism from the Balkans. Albania’s Speaker of Parliament, Gramoz Ruci, said of the decision, “It is good news that we…join this emancipatory action of contemporary civilization”. Rober Singer, executive vice president of the World Jewish Congress, voiced his hope that other Balkan and Muslim states will follow in Albania’s footsteps.
Estonia and Guatemala take action against Hezbollah: Estonia has banned entry into its territory to members of the Lebanese, Iran-backed terrorist organization Hezbollah, it announced Thursday. Estonia become the fifth EU state to take the step of banning Hezbollah in its entirety, following Germany and Lithuania this year. The ban, along with as-yet unannounced further sanctions, applies to members of both Hezbollah’s military and political branches, for anyone who is affiliated with or suspected of terrorist activity. Estonia’s Foreign Minister Urmas Reinsalu called Hezbollah “a considerable threat to international — and thereby Estonian — security.” Reinsalu’s Israeli counterpart, Foreign Minister Gabi Ashkenazi, lauded the announcement, calling it “a clear message against terrorism,” and encouraged other European countries to adopt the ban as well. 

  • This morning, one day after Estonia’s announcement, Guatemala announced that the country will designate all branches of Hezbollah as a terrorist organization. This makes Guatemala the eighth country to designate Hezbollah a terrorist organization in 2020.


University of Hawaii to host a virtual conversation with Palestinian terrorist Leila Khaled, in possible violation of anti-terrorism laws

University of Hawaii hosting event with Palestinian terrorist Leila Khaled: On Friday, the University of Hawaii will host a virtual conversation with Palestinian terrorist Leila Khaled, entitled “We Will Not Be Silenced: The Case of Khaled and Solidarity from Hawaii to Palestine.” Khaled was an integral part of two airplane hijackings, perpetrated by the terrorist organization Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine (PFLP). Sponsors of the event include the University of Hawaii’s chapter of Students for Justice in Palestine and the university’s ethnic-studies department. A university spokesperson has said that the event “does not reflect the views of the university.” A spokesperson for Zoom told the Jewish Journal they will not be allowing the webinar on their platform after The Lawfare Project and other Jewish organizations explained that the event would violate anti-terrorism laws. Zoom, Facebook and YouTube deplatformed a September 23 event featuring Khaled for San Francisco State University.
State Department plans to declare international human rights groups “antisemitic:” On Wednesday, Politico reported that Secretary of State Mike Pompeo is planning to declare several prominent human rights groups, including Amnesty International, Human Rights Watch, and Oxfam, antisemitic and end American support for them. A report by U.S. Special Envoy for Monitoring and Combating Anti-Semitism Elan Carr could come as soon as this week, citing the human rights groups’ alleged or perceived support for the anti-Israel Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions (BDS) movement. 

  • Last year, then-strategic affairs minister Gilad Erdan (now Israel’s ambassador to the United Nations) threatened to ban Amnesty International from Israel over a report that called on hospitality sites like Airbnb, Booking.com, Expedia and TripAdvisor to boycott listings in Israeli West Bank settlements. Erdan said at the time, “Amnesty International, that hypocritical organization that speaks in the name of human rights, is acting to promote a boycott of Israelis as part of a campaign of anti-Semitic delegitimization.” The decision to end American support for these international human rights groups has garnered criticism from career state department officials, who warn that this decision would cause free speech concerns and may not even be legal. 

14 year-old arrested after attack on San Diego rabbi: On Friday, a 14 year-old was arrested on charges of hate crime and battery for his connection with the violent assault of Rabbi Yonatan Halevy last week in San Diego. According to Halevy, a teenager hit him on the head and yelled a racial slur at him outside of the Shiviti Congregation’s synagogue. Prior to the attack, the Shiviti Congregation had already been the subject of taunting and harassment by a group of teenagers, who heckled synagogue-goers and even broke the window of a car. The Anti-Defamation League’s regional director Tammy Gillies said: “We don’t want to be dismissive and say it was just kids, we have to take hate and any hate incident very seriously.”
Showdown for top jobs at World Zionist Congress ends in compromise:  Center-left and non-Orthodox Jewish parties avoided being ousted from key leadership positions in the World Zionist Organization, demanding a compromised agreement with the right-wing, Orthodox, and religious-Zionist movements, who hold the majority in the WZO. The original agreement drafted last week, sought to fill nearly all positions of power with representatives from the majority parties, effectively putting an end to any influence the center-left and non-Orthodox movements would have in the WZO. But, following intense pressure from international Zionist organizations, the Congress came to a compromise, filling positions on a rotational basis with the non-majority parties. Leadership of the WZO will still tilt to the right, says Director of the Reform Movement in Israel Gilad Kariv, but this agreement is “more equitable” than its predecessor.


Holocaust survivors Israel “Sasha” Eisenberg, left, and Ruth Brandspiegel are reunited after 71 years on October 3, 2020 (Larry Brandspiegel)
Today we celebrate a “miracle” which began on Judaism’s holiest day, Yom Kippur, in which a Zoom service reunited Holocaust survivors 71 years later. American Holocaust survivors Ruth Brandspiegel and Israel “Sasha” Eisenberg reunited at a Yom Kippur Zoom service after losing touch for 71 years. Brandspiegel and Eisenberg’s families were from the same town in Poland and escaped the Nazis to be sent to labor camps in Siberia, where Eisenberg was born. The two families were then sent to a displaced persons camp in Austria, where Eisenberg and Brandspiegel became close friends. After leaving the camp in 1949, the two lost touch, until Brandspiegel heard Eisenberg’s name announced at the virtual Yom Kippur service at the East Brunswick Jewish Center, where her son is a cantor. Eisenberg said: “I called it a miracle because I don’t see any other way that humans can organize such an event and make everything come together.”  On October 3rd, the two were finally reunited in Brandspiegel’s son’s Sukkah; Brandspiegel described the reunion, saying “It’s a shame that we weren’t able to hug under these circumstances, but it was something that I never expected, and this was something that gave me so much pleasure that I’m just crying… Sasha, never forget that moment.”

Today in 1998, the Wye River Memorandum was signed today at the White House, by Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and President of the Palestinian National Authority Yasser Arafat. The negotiations were held at a summit in Wye River, Maryland and led by U.S. President Bill Clinton.  The specifics of the Memorandum outlined a comprehensive plan between the PLO, Israel and the U.S. to build peace and put an end to terrorism and violent incitement in the region. The plan called for bi-weekly coalition meetings between the three nations to assess threats, deal with impediments to security, and address the steps being taken to combat terror and terrorist organizations. In exchange, a complicated series of phases would transfer certain percentages of specified areas of land from Israel to the Palestinians. Though the agreement was widely supported by 74% of Israelis, Netanyahu sensed opposition within his Likud party and delayed a vote of cabinet approval. Rather than join a national unity government with opposition leader Ehud Barak, Netanyahu tried to assuage Likud hardliners by stopping implementation of Wye in early December. Disapproval of Netanyahu’s policies led to a vote of no confidence in his government and the May 1999 election of Ehud Barak, who vowed to continue the peace process.

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