News Digest — 1/8/20

Netanyahu Warns Of ‘Resounding Blow’ If Iran Attacks Israel

Speaking at the Kohelet Forum Conference in Jerusalem on Wednesday (8th), Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu warned that Israel would strike a “resounding blow” if attacked by arch foe Iran, as regional tensions soar following the US killing of a top Iranian general.

“Anyone who attacks us will receive a resounding blow,” the premier told the Kohelet Policy Forum Conference in Jerusalem, after Iran launched a salvo retaliatory missile strike on bases used by US troops deployed to Iraq.

Netanyahu has described the target of last week’s US drone strike — Maj.-Gen. Qassem Soleimani, commander of the Iranian Revolutionary Guards foreign operations arm —  as a “terrorist-in chief.”

“Qassem Soleimani was responsible for the deaths of countless innocent people, he destabilized many countries for decades.  He sowed fear and misery and anguish and he was planning much worse,” Netanyahu said.

“He was the architect and driver of Iran’s campaign of terror throughout the Middle East and the world.”

The Israeli premier praised US President Donald Trump for “acting swiftly, boldly, and resolutely” in killing Soleimani  in the Iraqi capital Baghdad.

Iran’s Revolutionary Guards (IRGC) warned Tuesday night (7th) that it would strike not only the US, but America’s allies – including Israel – if the US retaliates against the Islamic Republic following Iran’s ballistic missile attacks on Iraqi bases used by American forces.

“We warn the Great Satan, the bloodthirsty and arrogant regime of the US, that any new wicked acts or moves against Iran will bring about more painful and crushing responses,” the IRGC said in a statement quoted by the Tasnim news agency.

“We are warning all US allies who give their bases to the US terrorist army, that any territory that in any way becomes a starting point of hostilities and aggressive acts against the Islamic Republic, will be targeted,” the statement added.

“We in no way consider the Zionist regime of Israel to be separate from the criminal US regime in these crimes,” it said.

Despite the threat, however, sources in Israel’s security establishment estimated Wednesday (8th) that Iran’s response to the latest escalation would be measured, and that Iran would most likely not target Israel.

On Tuesday night (7th), Iran launched a dozen ballistic missiles at Iraqi bases which house some of the roughly 5,000 American troops deployed to Iraq.

Iran reported via its media outlets that “80 American terrorists” were killed in the strikes.  However, American officials reported no casualties in the attacks.



Chabad Emissaries Vigilant Amid Iranian Threats Following Killing Of Soleimani

The Hasidic outreach movement Chabad has sent a warning to its emissaries around the world urging them to be on high alert following the US assassination of Iran’s terror chief, Qasssem Soleimani early Friday morning (3rd).

Iran has threatened aggressive retaliation, and has previously orchestrated terrorist attacks on Jewish targets overseas.  Chabad centers, operated by some 5,000 emissaries around the world, many in developing countries, have been singled out by Islamist terror operatives in the past.

In an email to its emissaries, reprinted at Chabad blog, the Chabad-Lubavitch Security Commission stated, “Soleimani’s death will likely mark a major escalation in a simmering conflict between the US and Iran and there is a strong likelihood that Iran will retaliate whether directly or indirectly.”

“Although there is no information at this time to suggest a direct threat to Chabad centers as a result of this escalation,” the email continued, “as in past conflicts, there exists a concern that the current situation and tensions could contribute to a heightened risk, and threaten Jewish facilities and Chabad centers – a risk that may be exacerbated should military action escalate in up-coming days and weeks.” 

“Being that those planning such attacks operate globally, we urge all of our centers around the world to be on high alert,” the email stated.  “We encourage you to maintain a heightened awareness when out in public and in and around your Chabad House. Report any suspicious behavior or activity to law enforcement personnel.”

The message also denounced Soleimani, saying he “was known to be a long-time nemesis of Israel and was the architect of many rocket attacks on the Jewish State.”

Soleimani was head of Iran’s Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps’ Quds Force, which coordinates and carries out Iranian actions overseas, including acts of terrorism.  He was killed at Baghdad airport by an American drone strike.



Ancient Siege Of Jerusalem Remembered On Jewish Fast Day

Jews around the world marked the 10th day of the month of Tevet on Tuesday (7th), one of the six fast days on the Jewish calendar and one of four which relate in some way to the destruction of the Jewish Temple in Jerusalem.

On this date in 588 BCE, the armies of Babylonian King Nebuchadnezzar laid siege to Jerusalem ultimately leading to the destruction of the First Temple in 586 BCE.  The fact that several fasts are marked each year to remember the destruction of the First and Second Temples, the latter in 70 CE by the Romans, is a manifestation of the centrality of Jerusalem to the Jewish people.

The Temples were both located on what is known as the Temple Mount.  According to Jewish belief, its holiness is maintained.

Despite the prohibition by Jewish law against entering the inner sanctuary known as the Holy of Holies, growing numbers of religious Jews have been ascending the Mount and taking care, they say, to stay away from the prohibited spot.

The Waqf Islamic Trust closely watches Jewish visitors and often tries to ensure that no Jewish worship takes place.  Israel maintains sovereignty over the location and Israeli police also keep a watchful eye and step in when it is deemed necessary.

Large numbers of Jews pray down below at the Western Wall, which was an outer wall of the Temple complex.

On the ninth of the month of Av, the destruction of the Temples are commemorated with a fast that lasts more than 24 hours.

In addition to various ancient associations with the 10th of Tevet fast, the date is also marked to remember those who were murdered in the Holocaust whose actual date of death is not known.  On this date, the Kaddish memorial prayer is recited by family members of those victims of the Nazi atrocities.

According to Jewish belief, the four fasts relating to the destruction of the Temple will become joyous holidays with the building of the Third Temple, which will never be destroyed.  Jewish sages, however, disagree on how exactly that will unfold.



Easy Call: The Strike On Soleimani Was Lawful – Alan M. Dershowitz

There can be no serious debate about the president’s constitutional authority to order a single attack on an enemy combatant who has killed and is planning to kill American citizens.  Presidents Bill Clinton, George W. Bush and Barack Obama issued such orders.

The targeting of Soleimani was more justified as a matter of law than the targeting of Osama bin Laden in 2011.  The killing of Soleimani was in large part an act of prevention, whereas the killing of bin Laden was primarily an act of retaliation.

The killing of Soleimani was also entirely legal under international law.  The Quds Force commander was a combatant in uniform who was actively engaged in continuing military and terrorist activities against Americans.  The rocket that killed him and a handful of others, was carefully calibrated to minimize collateral damage, and the resulting death toll was proportionate to the deaths it may have prevented.

The writer is a professor emeritus at Harvard Law School.



Jewish Tombstones Smashed At 17th-Century French Cemetery

About a dozen gravestones at a Jewish cemetery in France have been smashed, reported AFP on Tuesday (7th).

According to the report, Deborah Loupien-Suares, the head of the Jewish communities of Bayonne and Biarritz in southern France, discovered the wreckage when she came to visit the graves of her grandparents.

“This is the first time this has happened in Bayonne, where the Jewish community has been perfectly integrated for years,” Loupien-Suares told AFP.

She went on to say how shocked and horrified she was to find “significant damage” to up to a dozen tombs at the cemetery, including a commemorative plaque for a girl who was deported during the Holocaust.  She also noted that the Catholic cemetery nearby was not damaged.

France is no stranger to anti-Semitic incidents.

Last year, over 100 tombstones were defaced with swastikas and other anti-Semitic graffiti at the cemetery in Westhoffen and 80 tombstones were vandalized with swastikas in the Jewish cemetery at Quartzenheim.

The 67 Jewish cemeteries spread around the rural area of Alsace have largely been abandoned since the Nazis wiped out the region’s Jewish communities.

In October, the Alsace regional council established the “Guardians of Memory” network to protect Jewish cemeteries that have been the target of vandalism over the past few years.  The Guardians are supposed to patrol the cemeteries and contact authorities if any vandalism is found.