News Digest — 1/16/20

Top US Jewish Group Urges Global Solidarity With Anti-Regime Protesters In Iran

A top US Jewish group expressed solidarity on Tuesday (14th) with the anti-regime demonstrators who have taken to the streets of Iran since last weekend.

“We stand with the Iranian people as they engage in peaceful protests against the oppression of Iran’s extremist regime,” Arthur Stark, chairman and Malcolm Hoenlein, the executive vice-chairman and CEO of the Conference of Presidents of Major American Jewish Organizations, said in a statement.  “The brutal treatment of innocent Iranians in recent days is unacceptable and must be forcefully condemned by the international community and all who value human and civil rights.”

They added, “The violent crackdown aimed at silencing the legitimate grievances of a proud people, demonstrates the regime’s ruthless disregard for the well-being of its citizens.  This follows a similar brutal response to protests that took such a heavy toll in human life several weeks ago.”

“Iran must be held accountable for its outrageous conduct at home and abroad,” Stark and Hoenlein declared.  “The United Nations Security Council must take immediate action to deter further atrocities at the hands of the Iranian government and its proxies.”

The latest unrest in Tehran and other Iranian cities appears to be fueled by outrage over the downing of a Ukrainian commercial airliner last week just after takeoff from Imam Khomeini International Airport near Tehran.

The Kiev-bound plane – carrying 176 people, all of whom died – was hit by surface-to-air missiles fired by an Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps-operated Tor battery.

The incident occurred just a few hours after Iran launched a barrage of ballistic missiles at two bases hosting US military forces in Iraq – retaliation for an American drone strike in Baghdad the previous week, in which Iranian general Qassem Soleimani was killed.     



Report: IDF Attacks Hamas Targets In Gaza In Response To Rocket Fire

The IDF attacked targets in the Gaza Strip on Wednesday evening (15th) hours after four rockets were fired into Israeli territory from Gaza according to Palestinian sources.  Initial reports said that IAF jets attacked Hamas sites in the northern Gaza Strip.

A group of incendiary balloons were also launched towards the southern city of Sderot from Gaza, a spokesman said on Wednesday evening (15th).  Israeli Police bomb-disposal-experts were dispatched to the scene after reports of a suspicious object that was attached to several balloons landed in one of the neighborhoods of Sderot.

Rocket alert sirens were activated in southern Israel on Wednesday afternoon (15th) as four rockets were fired into Israel.  The Red Alert was heard in Nahal Oz, Saad and Kfar Aza. Two of the rockets landed in open fields and two were intercepted by the Iron Dome.

Israel’s Magen David Adom ambulance service said no injuries or damages were reported in the first such attack in three weeks.

There was no claim of responsibility from the Palestinian Gaza Strip, however Israel holds Hamas responsible for all attacks emanating from the territory it controls.

Simmering tensions have mostly remained calm since a two-day surge of violence in November between Israel and the armed Gaza-based faction Islamic Jihad that left 34 Palestinians dead and dozens of Israelis injured.



South Dakota Governor Signs Executive Order Banning Boycotts Of Israel

South Dakota became the 28th state to enact a measure to combat boycotts of Israel as Republican Gov. Kristi Noem signed an executive order on Tuesday (14th) prohibiting state offices from doing business with companies that boycott Israel.

“Israel is one of our nation’s closest allies, and its success is critical to American national security,” said Noem.  “Today, we reaffirm that South Dakota stands with Israel and will only contract with businesses who agree to fairly compete.  Our state will not stand for any discrimination based on race or religion.”

The executive order requires vendors seeking contracts with state agencies, authorities, commissions, departments or institutions of the State of South Dakota to not engage with companies that participate in boycotts of Israel.  This order applies to both companies and contractors with more than five employees who enter into a contract with South Dakota that involves the expenditure of $100,000 or more.

During the 2019 legislative season, the South Dakota House of Representatives, with the Senate concurring, passed House Concurrent Resolution 1005 that declared opposition to and condemned the BDS movement.

South Dakota is the latest state to take concrete action against the anti-Israel BDS movement.  Other states that have enacted similar measures include, Alabama, California, Illinois, Indiana, Iowa, Minnesota, New York, Pennsylvania, South Carolina, Texas and Kentucky.

“South Dakota has one of the smallest Jewish populations in the nation, yet the state’s strong support for the nation of Israel is unparalleled,” said Stephen Rosenthal, chairman of South Dakotans for Israel.  “This action sends a clear message that anti-Semitism will not be tolerated in South Dakota.”



Erdogan’s Chief Advisor Outlines Plan For United Islamic Superpower With Istanbul As Capital

Turkish President Erdogan’s chief advisor, Gen. Adnan Tanriverdi,  has been articulating a vision of a unified Islamic superpower. The Justice Defenders Strategic Studies Center (ASSAM), which he chairs, published a draft constitution for a planned Sharia-based confederation of 61 Islamic countries.  The constitution declares that Istanbul is to be the capital of the confederation and that the Arabic language would be taught in all schools.

Tanriverdi recently posted a statement reading: “The welfare of Turkish and Muslim nations and the establishment of peace and justice in the world hinges upon the appearance of the Islamic countries as a superpower on the global political scene.”  He has also said “the Islamic world should prepare an army for Palestine from outside Palestine,” outlining the logistics of a hypothetical joint attack on Israel by 57 Islamic countries. 

In remarks, at a conference at the Marriott Hotel in Istanbul in November, Tanriverdi said, “ it is not possible for the Islamic world to give up on Jerusalem,” and said that “Israel governed 85% of Palestinian land,” according to the Anadolu Adjansi news agency.  



Israel Ranks 29th in “Best Countries Index”

Israel maintained its standing as the 29th best place in a newly published US News and World Report Index.

The 2020 Best Countries report, which ranks countries using a variety of metrics, has Switzerland at the top, followed by Canada and Japan.

The United States made it to the 7th spot, with Lebanon coming in last at 73rd place.

“Collectively, the 73 nations represented in the 2020 Best Countries rankings account for nearly 95% of global gross domestic product (GDP) and represent about three-quarters of the world’s population.” the report says.

“Israel, the only Jewish nation in the world, is a small country on the eastern shore of the Mediterranean Sea.  For its relatively small size, the country has played a large role in global affairs. The country has a strong economy, landmarks of significance to several religions and strained relationships with some of its Arab neighbors,” the report notes, adding that “Israel has a technologically advanced market economy with cut diamonds, high-technology equipment and pharmaceuticals among its major exports.”

The authors praise Israel for being “very highly developed in terms of life expectancy, education, per capita income and other human development index indicators.”  But alongside the praise, the report cites Israel for having significant gaps between the rich and the poor.