News Digest — 1/25/21

Biden Appoints Palestinian-American To Key Intelligence Role

U.S President Joe Biden has appointed Palestinian-American Maher Bitar to the role of senior director for intelligence programs at the National Security Council, according to a report in the political journalism site Politico.

Maher served in the National Security Council under former U.S. President Barack Obama, as director for Israeli and Palestinian affairs.

Since 2017, Maher served as general counsel for Democratic members of the House Intelligence Committee.  As Representative Adam Schiff’s top legal adviser, he was deeply involved in the first impeachment of then-U.S. President Donald Trump.

As senior director of intelligence programs, Bitar will receive sensitive information from intelligence agencies and coordinate covert operations between the intelligence communities and the White House.  The office of the senior director also houses the server that stores the most sensitive classified information.

Speaking to Politico, Schiff called Bitar, “a superb choice,” saying, “I can’t think of anyone more suited to the role.”



Israel To Send Mossad Chief To Talk “Iran” With American Leaders

The director of Israel’s Mossad spy agency will be heading to Washington next month to outline Israel’s concerns about Iran’s nuclear program to American leaders, Channel 12 reported Saturday (23rd). 

Yossi Cohen who is closely trusted by Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, is expected to meet with President Joe Biden and incoming CIA director Williams Burns and will present both of them with a list of issues surrounding Biden’s stated goal to return the U.S. to the 2015 Iran nuclear deal that Israel had vehemently opposed.

President Donald Trump pulled out of the deal in 2018 and slapped harsh economic sanctions on the Islamic Republic over its continuing military involvement across the region and support of terrorism.

During the election campaign, Biden said he would work to return to the deal but was unclear as to whether he would make any new demands of Iran, which recently began enriching uranium to 20% purity.  This step by the Iranians is seen as moving closer to having a stock that could be quickly enriched to weapons-grade in order to produce atomic bombs.

Cohen will lead a delegation of officials from Israel’s foreign and defense ministries who will be bringing the latest Israeli intelligence on Iran’s nuclear ambitions in order to influence the American decision makers.

For Israel to support a U.S. return to a renewed nuclear deal with Iran, government sources told Channel 12, there are six demands, starting with an Iranian commitment to halt uranium enrichment and stop making more centrifuges.  Another demand is for Iran to comply fully with inspections by the UN’s International Atomic Energy Agency and allow inspectors into all of its nuclear facilities.

Under the 2015 nuclear deal, the U.S. negotiators agreed to an Iranian demand that allows Iran to delay “surprise” nuclear inspections for 24 days, a decision harshly criticized by opponents to the deal as allowing Iran to effectively hide any nuclear work they are doing.

Israel also wants Iran to stop attacking Israeli targets abroad and to be blocked from supporting terror groups, especially Hezbollah in Lebanon, which parrots Iran’s calls for the destruction of Israel.

Israel is also demanding Iran withdraw its forces and stop interfering militarily in Syria, Iraq and Yemen.

Middle East security analyst Raz Zimmt of the Institute for National Security Studies at Tel Aviv University said there was little chance the Israeli demands would be accepted by the Biden administration, let alone Iran.

“Or,” Zimmt said, “Israel could ask the new administration to go back to Mike Pompeo’s 12 demands, referring to Pompeo’s May 21, 2018 speech that offered Iran a series of dramatic potential U.S. concessions if it agreed to make ‘major changes’ to its nuclear deal.”  “However,” said Zimmt, “That is unlikely.” 



Israel Opens Embassy In UAE 

Israel officially opened its embassy in the United Arab Emirates on Sunday (24th)

Ambassador Eitan Na’eh, who will serve as charge d’affaires until a permanent ambassador is appointed, arrived in Abu Dhabi, the UAE’s capital to open the embassy.

The Foreign Ministry said the new embassy “will advance the range of relations between the countries in all areas and expand ties with the Emirati government, economic bodies and the private sector, academia, media and more.”

The embassy is in a temporary structure until a permanent one is found.

Israel and the UAE announced that they were making peace and normalizing ties on August 15 of last year, launching the Abraham Accords.  Three more Arab countries – Bahrain, Sudan and Morocco – joined the accords in the subsequent months.

Foreign Minister Gabi Ashkenazi wished Na’eh luck and said that the ministry is “leading the implementation of the peace and normalization agreements in the Gulf, and advancing Israel’s international status.

“Opening the mission will allow the expansion of bilateral ties between Israel and the UAE for maximum and speedy realization of the potential in those relations,” Ashkenazi said.  “I thank Crown Prince of Abu Dhabi, Sheikh Muhammad bin Zayed and my friend Foreign Minister Abdallah bin Zayed for their leadership and hospitality towards our representatives.”

Earlier Sunday (24th), the UAE cabinet approved the decision to open an embassy to Israel in Tel Aviv.

Ashkenazi thanked the Emirati government for its decision, saying that it will advance warm ties between the countries and the nations.

In the coming days, Israel is expected to reopen its liaison office in Rabat, capital of Morocco, and a consulate in Dubai, in addition to the Israeli embassy in Bahrain, which has been open for several weeks.



She Helped Jews During Holocaust – Now Jews Help Her During COVID

The Adamczyk family was awarded the title of Righteous Among the Nations for saving the lives of Jewish brothers Chaim and Moshe Frimel.  Today, the Jewish organization From the Depths provides food packages to the daughter of the family and other righteous gentiles in Poland who are unable, or struggle to leave their homes due to the COVID pandemic.

Jadwiga Szczeszak-Adamczyk and her family were rewarded the title of Righteous Among the Nations when she and her family saved the Jewish Frimel brothers in the Polish town of Denkow.

In 1939, one-sixth of the village of some 400 residents was Jewish.  When the Nazis arrived in 1942, they established a ghetto.  Jews were either forced into labor gangs or were sent to the Treblinka death camp.

When the local ghetto was emptied, the Frimel brothers were deported to a labor camp in nearby Bodzechow.  When the camp was closed, the brothers escaped, where they appealed to the Adamczyk family, with whom they kept in touch while in the camp, for help.

The entire Adamczyk family – parents, three daughters and one son – smuggled food to the brothers, putting their own lives in jeopardy, as the Nazi regime in Poland made it a capital offense to help Jews.

The brothers hid in a bunker they dug underneath one of the rooms in the family’s home until they were liberated by the Red Army in January 1945.  Among the Adamczyk’s neighbors were German officers, and to make sure that the brothers were not discovered, the family stopped inviting friends to their house and curtailed their social activities.  The Adamczyk family never asked anything in return for saving the brothers.

After the war, the two emigrated from Poland: Chaim to Israel and Moshe to Canada.  They maintained contact with the Adamczyks for many years.  Moshe even visited the family after the war.

After Moshe’s passing, Jadwiga thought she would never interact with Jews again.  But in the last few months, she’s been receiving help from the organization From the Depths, which provides food packages for righteous gentiles in Poland who are unable or struggling to leave their homes.



Secret Bunker Discovered Beneath Warsaw Ghetto In Poland

Dozens of pairs of tefillin (phylacteries) have been discovered hidden in a previously-undiscovered bunker in the Warsaw Ghetto, Israel Hayom reported.

The tefillin are a century old but well-preserved, and seem to have been placed in the bunker by the Jews who hid there during the Holocaust. Though the Jews were removed from the bunker and likely killed, the tefillin remained in their hiding place.

The discovery came as Polish authorities began a renewal of the city, destroying Warsaw Ghetto buildings in order to construct residential buildings.  During the construction, an entry to a bunker was discovered, leading workers to investigate.

When one of the workers descended into the bunker to clear it out, he discovered dozens of pairs of tefillin hidden in a corner behind books and other objects.

Representatives of the Shem Olam Institute who are scattered throughout Europe, heard of the discovery from local contacts and gathered information on the findings.

Representatives of the Institute turned secretly to the construction workers, requesting that they turn over the tefillin and other items found.  After lengthy negotiations and a promise to keep their cooperation secret from Polish authorities, the items were passed to the representatives.  The task of transferring the tefillin was done secretly but under the noses of the authorities.  A short time ago, the discovered items arrived in Israel and underwent cleaning and preservation at Shem Olam.

“The discovery of dozens of pairs of tefillin concentrated in one place testifies to the Jewish lifestyle that they kept, carefully, in the ghetto,” said Shem Olam Director, Rabbi Avraham Krieger.  “Despite the horrors and the brutal reality they lived in, they continued to keep the traditions and customs they were raised on.”

“The number of pairs of tefillin testifies to underground minyans (a quorum of 10 men for prayer), which they managed to hold within the bunker, underground, and under the noses of the Nazis.  The tefillin were hidden beside weapons and equipment that served the rebels of the Warsaw Ghetto, testifying to the importance that they held in the Jewish fighters’ eyes.”