News Digest — 10/30/19

Lebanese Prime Minister Quits Amid Violent Anti-Government Protests

Lebanese Prime Minister Saad Hariri resigned Tuesday (29th), bowing to one of the central demands of anti-government demonstrators shortly after the baton-wielding Hezbollah supporters terrorized the main protest camp in Beirut, torching tents, smashing plastic chairs and chasing away protesters.

The demonstrators later returned to the camp in time to hear the news that Hariri said he was stepping down after hitting a “dead end” in trying to resolve the crisis, which has paralyzed the country for two weeks.  The protesters erupted in cheers at the news.

The Hezbollah rampage marked a violent turning point in Lebanon’s protests, which have called for the resignation of the government and overthrow of the political class that has dominated the country since the 1975-1990 civil war.  The government is dominated by factions allied with Hezbollah, the money-laundering, narcotics-trafficking terror organization that represents the most powerful armed group in the country.

Hariri had reluctantly worked with those factions as part of a national unity government that had failed to address an increasingly severe economic and fiscal crisis.

“I tried all this time to find an exit and listen to the voice of the people and protect the country from security and economic dangers,” Hariri said.  “Today, to be honest with you, I have hit a dead end, and it is time for a big shock to confront the crisis.”

Hariri’s resignation fulfills a key demand of the protesters but plunges the country into even greater uncertainty, with no clear path toward the fundamental political change they are demanding.  The economy, which was in the grip of a major fiscal crisis even before the protests began, is now at risk of collapsing, with banks, schools and many businesses having been closed for two weeks.



Israel Places Embassies On Alert Over Iran Threat, Ramps Up Air Defenses

On Tuesday, (29th) reports surfaced in Israel that the nation’s military altered air defenses to adjust to current threats posed by Iran.

In addition a number of Israeli embassies across the globe ratcheted up alert levels to account for Iran’s recent actions, reported the Jerusalem Post.  Iran controls terror proxies in various nations and is widely believed to have supported a number of attacks and assassination attempts throughout the world.

The move arrives following comments on Monday evening (28th) by Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu to the Jewish Agency’s Board of Governors, that the strategic power balance in the Middle East is shifting, as Iran places precision-guided missiles across the region in an effort to threaten Israel.

Addressing hundreds of Jewish community leaders from around the world at the Jewish Agency event in Jerusalem, Netanyahu said, “We must be strong.  And to be strong, we have to be united as a people, united in spirit, united in our quest to secure the future of the Jewish state and the Jewish people.”

Netanyahu also addressed the budgetary requirements of developing the required military strength, saying that funds would have to be taken from civilian purposes in favor of military ones.

“To be strong, we must advance our military might.  And to be strong militarily, we now have to shift funds from the civilian areas to the military ones,” he said.

“That is very hard to do.  You can do it in a time of crisis, when things happen that everybody can see, or you can do it in anticipation of avoiding a crisis.  And that requires a very broad-shouldered government. That’s what we need today,” he added.



IDF Shoots Down Drone Over Gaza Strip

Israeli fighter jets shot down a drone that was flying at an “irregular altitude” over the Gaza Strip on Tuesday (29th), the Israel Defense Forces said.

The military said fighter jets were scrambled when the aircraft was detected and they shot it down.

“An unmanned aircraft was detected flying at an irregular altitude over the Gaza Strip.  IDF fighter jets were sent toward it and they intercepted it,” an army statement read.

It was not immediately clear who was operating the drone.

In general, the Israeli military does not interfere with drones flying over the Gaza Strip unless they approach the border or fly at extremely high altitudes.

The incident came after a series of false alarms around Gaza in which rocket sirens were apparently triggered by terror groups’ training exercises in the coastal enclave.

Last week, Israeli forces brought down a drone as it flew near the border fence along the Gaza Strip.  That drone was detected in the area of southern Gaza. 

The army did not give details on the size or design of that drone, or how it was stopped.



A Battle Won In The War On Terror – Walter Russell Mead

→ Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi’s death isn’t the end of ISIS.  Angry, alienated and profoundly confused people will continue to find the message of ISIS and similar groups seductive.

→ Baghdadi and his lieutenants promised their followers paradise.  They crafted a god in their own image – a god of genocide, violence, rape, enslavement – and claimed that this god was powerful enough to give victory in battle.  It turned out they were wrong. Baghdadi’s fate makes the task of recruiting fresh jihadists a little harder.

→ The fanaticism of Baghdadi and his ilk is a minority view.  Most of the forces that ground the caliphate into dust came from the Muslim world; if ISIS tries to rise again, Muslims will again be on the frontlines trying to defeat it.

→ Not long ago, people in the West generally believed that we had the wisdom and the power to curb religious extremism by curing its causes.  By promoting the political and economic development of the Muslim world, we thought we would reduce the appeal of radical religious ideas.

→ But those hopes were delusional.  The West can help at the margins, but the cultural, social, religious and economic reform the Middle East needs will have to be enacted by the people who live there – in their own time and in their own way.

→ America won’t fix the Middle East by killing bad guys like Baghdadi.  But leaving them to flourish unmolested would be worse.

The writer is Professor of Foreign Affairs and the Humanities at Bard College.



Polish Students Clean Up Garbage From German Jewish Cemetery

A Jewish German cemetery in the town of Zalewo has been cleaned up by local Polish students, reports

According to the report, the students washed the gravestones, removed the surrounding garbage, and trimmed the cemetery’s landscape.  

The student body that took up the task was headed by a number of school and religious leaders, 

Zalewo housed a dozen or so Jewish families at the time of its near destruction in World War II.

Jewish European cemeteries are often subject to desecration by anti-Semites because they are seldom guarded.

In August, a Jewish cemetery in the village of Osoblaha, located in the Czech Republic, was vandalized.  In addition to the toppling and smashing of the cemetery’s headstones, the perpetrators also scrawled obscene drawings on several of them.

In July, a Jewish cemetery in Tarnow, Poland was vandalized, and the words “Jews eat children.  Jadowniki eats Jews” was painted on the cemetery fence. The Committee for the Protection of Monuments of Jewish Culture in Tarnow raised nearly $800,000 to restore the 3,000 grave cemetery.

At the beginning of World War II, about 25,000 Jews were living in the city, making up almost half of its population.  The entire community was deported to concentration camps or death camps or murdered during the Holocaust. The synagogues of the city were destroyed, leaving the cemetery as the sole remnant of Tarnow’s rich Jewish life.

Earlier in the year, 80 tombstones were vandalized in a Jewish cemetery in the southern French province of Alsace.

At the same time, Israeli Immigration Minister Yoav Galant lamented the cemetery’s desecration.

“The desecration of the graves in the Jewish cemetery in France reminds me of dark days in the history of the Jewish people,” he said.  “I strongly condemn the anti-Semitism in France and call to Jews – Come home, immigrate to Israel.”