News Digest — 1/8/21

Bahraini Journalist Says Colleagues Bullied For Supporting Israel

The president of the Bahraini Journalists’ Association asked Jewish-American colleagues to support Arab media professionals who are bullied and threatened online for supporting normalization with Israel.

Ahdeya Ahmed AlSayed, whose organization has about 500 members, made the plea Thursday (7th) during a video-conference with dozens of Jewish colleagues organized by the American Jewish Press Association, or AJPA.

“If you’d like to support us as we support peace, it would be a good thing – AJPA can do a lot, by the way,” Ahmed Alsayed said during the conversation.  “If we don’t do that, then journalists will never try to attempt to be outspoken about peace.”

Sue Fishkoff, editor of J., The Jewish News of Northern California, who conducted the interview during the AJPA conference, asked Ahmed AlSayed to help identify Arab journalists who are facing trouble.

Ahmed AlSayed, who plans the first-ever delegation of journalists from Bahrain to Israel this year, has herself come under attack for her support for the Abraham Accords, the US-sponsored pact for normalizing ties with Israel signed by Bahrain and the United Arab Emirates in September.  Morocco and Sudan have followed suit.

“Yes, I went through being bullied, being harassed on social media, being called names, and I felt hurt,” Ahmed AlSayed said about abuse she received online over her outspoken support for relations with Israel.  She said the rhetoric crossed the “limit to what you can say about a woman” in Bahrain, and added that the distress was compounded because her three sons and husband had to read the hateful words. 

Bahraini journalists overall support normalization, she said, citing 10 op-eds hailing the agreement that appeared on the day of its signing in Bahrain, which has only four daily newspapers.

“Suddenly, overnight, all the journalists around me who I’d never thought would be, are supporting normalization,” Ahmed Alsayed said.   



Illegal Palestinian Authority Building Has Gush Etzion Worried

The Palestinian Authority continues its illegal building work in the Judean Desert, so Arutz Sheva News spoke with Amit Barak, a member of the Herodion Regional Heritage Council, who is struggling against these efforts.

Barak said, “We went into the desert, not for the first time, to document the damage these projects will do to the area.  You can see how much harm will be done to the Gush Etzion area as soon as you drive over the first hill.  Technically this land is a nature preserve – no one of any nationality should be building here, as provided in every accord ever signed.”

“This is an organized road building effort, mostly involving dirt roads, but in some places there has been heavy equipment brought up to smooth roadbeds and pour concrete paving.  Both are in violation of the rules of nature preserves and are now openly funded by the EU.  The roads, in turn, serve as lifelines to bring in supplies for new and equally illegitimate farms.  Such efforts generate enormous amounts of waste as well, leading to private, illegitimate landfills or garbage fires.”  Barak added that the roads are being planned and built in an orderly fashion, each with a number and name, indicative of the high level of the government that issued the instructions.

“The Palestinian Authority (PA) is building from the northeast and then to the west, thus creating a barrier between the Jewish settlements and the Judean Desert, a barrier that will rapidly become a noose as they build towards Jerusalem and Efrat.  We will be totally isolated.”

Barak expressed worries about whether the area could continue to serve as the popular recreational destination it is now.  “We compiled video evidence, along with a letter of explanation, and sent it to various bodies in Israel: the civil administration, Nature and Parks Authority, to the regional council, and to ministers.  Thus far, only the civil administration has responded, and only to the effect that they are closing our complaint.”

“We intend to bring politicians here, especially now, before the election,” Barak said of the Council’s plans for the near future.  When asked what the most significant findings have been so far in the field, he said: “They are building houses and villages.  There are dozens of houses, even equipped with security cameras, and the State of Israel takes no action.”



No More Pay-For-Slay: Bank Of Palestine Will No Longer Be Paying Terrorists

The Bank of Palestine has recently discontinued its work with the accounts of terrorists who receive benefits from the Palestinian Authority.

According to official statements from the terror organizations, the bank has informed terrorists and their family members that they must withdraw all funds and close their accounts.

The decision stems from the warning the Bank of Palestine received from the Palestinian Media Watch, a non-profit Israel institute that researches the Palestinian society.

The institute warned the bank about a year ago that according to the 2016 Counter-Terrorism Law, financial entities involved in the pay-for-slay system will be viewed as supporting terrorists – and will therefore be exposed to enormous legal and economic risks.

Israel’s Military Advocate General had been delaying the application of the Counter-Terrorism Law in Judea and Samaria for years.  Only after the murder of 17-year-old Rina Shnerb and following a demand by Palestinian Media Watch attorney Maurice Hirsch, who also represents the Shnerb family, was Israel forced to clarify that the law does indeed apply to Judea and Samaria.

The Palestinian Authority prepared for the shift in advance.  It paid a large part of terrorists’ salaries several months in advance and is looking for new ways to continue the payments despite international pressure to stop doing so.



The Arab-Israeli Conflict May Finally Be Over – Jake Wallis Simons

In the Middle East, for the first time, people are daring to believe that the Arab-Israeli conflict is over.  Arab rulers have become more open about the fact that it wasn’t Israel that was keeping them awake at night.  Instead, it was the meddling of Iran and its proxies, the rise of a neo-Ottoman Turkey, the spread of ultra-Islamism and myriad economic woes.  By normalizing relations with the Jewish State, not only would they gain a powerful military and intelligence ally against a common enemy, but there would be significant economic advantages – Israeli tourists for Dubai, Israeli agricultural experts for Sudan – and enhanced ties with the US.

The most stunning development is the change on the Arab street.  In a remarkable and rapid cultural shift, recent polls report that about 80% of Saudis are now in favor of normalization, and 40% of citizens across a range of Arab countries want their leaders to take an active role in encouraging peace with Israel.



Third Lockdown To Cost Israeli Economy 1.3 Billion A Week

A tightening of Israel’s third nationwide coronavirus lockdown is expected to cost the country’s economy as much as 4 billion shekels ($1.3 billion) a week, according to government and central bank estimates.

New restrictions that will tighten a lockdown imposed on December 27 took effect at midnight between Thursday (7th) and Friday (8th).  It will be in force for 14 days.

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu has described the curbs as Israel’s final push to stop a sharp rise in COVID-19 cases while it presses ahead with a rapid vaccination drive, hoping to emerge from the crisis within weeks.

Israel’s vaccination campaign has reached nearly 15% of its 9 million population in about two weeks.

At the outset of the latest lockdown, the Bank of Israel had projected weekly economic losses of 2.5 billion shekels per week, reflecting an activity rate of about 90% of the economy.

On Wednesday (6th), it estimated the tighter restrictions on movement and commerce would worsen the weekly loss to about NIS 4 billion ($1.3 billion).

“This is the direct cost only during the closure period.  It does not include ongoing costs incurred, for example, from business bankruptcies and ongoing unemployment,” the Bank of Israel said.

It noted its estimate reflects only activities whose monetary value is covered by the gross domestic product definitions, and does not include items such as harm to health as a result of postponing non-urgent medical treatments and educational harm to children.

The Finance Ministry’s chief economist projected a similar loss.

The central bank noted that Israel’s first two lockdowns, imposed in the spring and fall of 2020, had cost the economy NIS 5.4 billion ($1.7 billion) and NIS 3.2 ($1 billion) a week, respectively.

Israel’s economy is expected to have contracted 3.7% in 2020, with double-digit unemployment, but should rebound in 2021 to the growth of up to 6.3% if the rapid pace of COVID vaccinations is maintained.