News Digest — 10/18/22

Australia Drops Recognition Of West Jerusalem As Capital Of Israel, Report Says

Australia seems to have quietly scrapped its recognition of West Jerusalem as the capital of Israel, The Guardian reported on Monday (17th).

According to the report, the country’s Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade has scrubbed off its website language that lays out Canberra’s recognition of West Jerusalem as the Israeli capital and its intention to move its embassy there after a solution to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict has been achieved.

The webpage now shows a text affirming Australia “is committed to a two-state solution in which a future Palestinian state co-exists, within internationally recognized borders,” but no longer includes mentions of West Jerusalem.

The freshly deleted sentences said: “Consistent with this long standing policy, in December 2018, Australia recognized West Jerusalem as the capital of Israel, being the seat of the Knesset and many of the institutions of the Israeli government.”

“Australia looks forward to moving its embassy to West Jerusalem when practical, in support of, and after the final status determination, of a two-state solution.”

The move constitutes a reverse of course from a 2018 policy adopted by the administration of then-prime minister Scott Morrison following the US embassy move from Tel Aviv to Jerusalem.

On Tuesday (18th), Israeli Prime Minister Yair Lapid criticized Australia for dropping its recognition of West Jerusalem as the capital of Israel, saying in a statement: “Canberra reversed on Monday (17th) a decision of the previous government, saying the status of the city should be resolved through peace negotiations between Israelis and Palestinians.”

“Given how the decision was made in Australia, as a hasty response to incorrect news in the media, we can only hope that the Australian government manages other matters more seriously and professionally,” said Lapid, adding that “Jerusalem is the eternal capital of united Israel and nothing will ever change that.” 

The Israel Foreign Ministry announced it would summon Australia’s ambassador over the issue.



IDF Lifts Closure On West Bank And Gaza: Shuafat And Nablus Remain Under Lockdown

A closure placed on the West Bank and Gaza by the IDF for Sukkot ended Monday night (17th) despite increased tensions following a rise in shooting attacks.

A closure on Nablus and the Jerusalem neighborhood of Shuafat will remain in effect as security forces continue to search for the terrorists who killed two Israeli soldiers last week.

Troops have been searching for Udai Tamimi since he shot dead 18-year-old Sgt. Noa Lazar at the Shuafat checkpoint over a week ago.  He is believed to be hiding in Shuafat.

Security forces are also searching for a Palestinian terrorist who carried out a drive-by shooting attack that claimed the life of St.-Sgt. Ido Baruch last week.  The attack was claimed by the Lions’ Den terrorist group which is based in Nablus.

Israel closed all crossings between the West Bank and Israel for the final day of the Sukkot holiday on Sunday night (16th).  They were reopened after a security assessment following the holiday.

Head of the Coordination of Government Activities in the Territories Maj.-Gen. Ghasan Alyan warned the wanted terrorists that they would be found.

“Let the terrorists hiding amid the civilian population of Nablus and Shuafat be aware that their identity is well known to the security organizations, and that the path of terrorism that they have chosen will have repercussions for their families who will no longer be able to earn their living in Israel,” he said.

Security organizations are “using all means at their disposal to thwart terror in the West Bank,” he added.

On Sunday (16th), Defense Minister Benny Gantz visited the Gush Etzion region along with Judea and Samaria Division Commander Brig.-Gen. Avi Bloth and other officials.

Gantz spoke at a Sukkah event hosted by Efrat Council head Oded Revivi, which included more than a dozen regional Palestinian visitors, such as Hebron businessman Ashraf Jabari.  During his visit, he went to the Betar crossing, where he met with and thanked commanders and troops for “their actions for the security of the citizens of Israel,” his office said.

“Our duty is to enable security and eradicate threats.  We are committed to this and we will continue our operations against terrorism and extend it as much as necessary and by all means – offensive, defensive, political and civil,” he said.



Assessment: Hezbollah Will Use Iranian Drones Against Israel In Next Conflict

Israel’s security establishment is closely monitoring the Russian attack in Ukraine using Iranian-made drones, Kan 11 News reported.  Israel and the United States are among the only Western countries that have already acquired operational experience in dealing with Iranian drones, when these weapons were used to carry out attacks in Israel and against American targets in the Middle East.

The understanding in Israel is that in the next campaign in the north, Iranian drones will be launched at the country by Hezbollah, the Revolutionary Guards and the Shiite militias.  According to estimates, there are dozens of Iranian drones in Syria and Lebanon.  This is also the reason that in recent years Israel has heightened its alert system in the north of the country, and significantly improved its multi-layered defense comprising the Iron Dome, Arrow, and David’s Sling systems. 

Since the signing of the Abraham Accords, Israel and moderate Arab countries in the region, led by the United States Central Command, have been sharing information about the Iranian drones.  It is likely that information coming from Israel was transferred to Ukraine to help it intercept the drones, which constitute a new and dramatic Russian threat to Ukraine.



Record 1.5 Million Israelis Visited National Parks During Sukkot Break

A record-breaking number of Israelis flocked to the country’s national parks over the weeklong Sukkot holiday, according to official data.

The Nature and Parks Authority reported Monday (17th) that approximately 1.5 million Israelis visited national parks and nature reserves over the past week, a 22 percent rise compared to Sukkot last year.

The most popular sites were Caesarea National Park, which saw 44,000 visitors, followed by the Ein Gedi Nature Reserve, which attracted 35,000 people, and Masada National Park, which drew 32,000 visitors.

Heritage sites like Masada and other ancient forts, including Yehiam and Apollonia, saw a particular increase in visitor interest.

The head of the Nature and Parks Authority, Raya Shourky, said it partnered with the Tourism Ministry, to provide extra activities for visitors at the sites during the Sukkot break.

The most visible initiative provided was “Breathing Culture,” which included organized jugglers, singers, musicians and actors to entertain tourists at the parks.

Professional tours were also provided at several parks and nature reserves.

“The challenge for the Nature and Parks Authority leading up to the High Holidays is to recognize the mood of the public which is affected mainly by security events, the weather forecast, and the division of weekdays in relation to holidays and the Sabbath, and accordingly manage and influence the movement of travelers and their experience both before the holiday and on the holiday itself,” Shourky said.

To keep sites clean, the parks authority, in cooperation with the Environmental Protection Ministry, launched an initiative to explain to visitors the importance of respecting the parks and reserves.

The authority said the push reached 50,000 visitors and claimed that it “contributed greatly to the preservation of nature” and that sites “remained relatively clean.”



Nazi Sympathizers Charged With Vandalism In Town Once Named ‘Fort Kill The Jews’

Three apparent Nazi sympathizers have been arrested in connection with a rash of antisemitic vandalism in a tiny Spanish town whose name for nearly 400 years was Castrillo Matajudios – or Fort Kill The Jews.’

For years, the town, which changed its name in 2015 to Castrillo Mota De Judios, or Fort Jews Hill, has been plagued by antisemitic graffiti.  Some of it referenced the Holocaust, while others had to do with the Inquisition, the medieval expulsion of Jews from Spain.  All of it vexed the town’s mayor, who has sought to rehabilitate the town’s image and put it on the map as a destination of Jewish significance.

“These are cowardly, intolerant and ignorant people who do not value heritage or people; nor do they have respect for anyone or anything,” Mayor Lorenzo Rodriguez, wrote when sharing pictures of some of the damage last year.  “These intolerant people are not allowed here.”    

“The investigation has shown that the detainees are related to xenophobic movements with a marked antisemitic discourse, whose messages focus on hatred against the Jewish population and its environment,” Spain’s Civil Guard law enforcement agency said in a statement.  “The three detainees are considered members of a radical right-wing criminal group that acted in concert to commit this type of crime, adopting security measures to avoid being discovered.”

In searching the suspects’ homes, police found Nazi paraphernalia, as well as weapons, the Civil Guard said.

“Camp Kill Jews, twinned with Auschwitz [sic],” one instance of graffiti in Castrillo Mota De Judios read.  Others included slogans like, “Juden Raus,” “Long live Catholic monarchs,” “The mayor’s sold out to the killer Jews,” and referenced Tomas de Torqemada, the high Inquisitor of the Spanish Inquisition. 

Vandals also attempted to burn down the town’s flag, which bears the Star of David, as early as a year ago.  Last summer they spread more graffiti and set fires around the town to further harass the residents, after the town was twinned with an Israeli town, Kfar Vradim.

The suspects were also believed to be responsible for antisemitic incidents near Madrid, including posting antisemitic messages on the door of a synagogue and drawing graffiti on a Jewish community center and a Jewish cemetery.

Despite going by the name Castrillo Matajudios for nearly 400 years, the town’s 52 residents voted to change the name in 2014 and the change was imposed in 2015.  Archival records showed that before the Spanish expulsion and onset of the Inquisition, the town was in fact originally settled by Jews in 1035 fleeing a nearby pogrom.

The expulsion, and following Inquisition – aimed at rooting out any remaining Jews, resulted in terms referencing violence against Jews in Spain and the wider Spanish-speaking world.

Matar Judios – To Kill Jews – is still a common term for festivals in northern Spain, and Matajudios is also a common last name in Colombia.  In France, a town bears the name Mort-Aux-Juifs, which has a similar meaning.

Since the name-change, the town has also proposed building a Jewish research center to study the pre-expulsion Jewish heritage of the region.