News Digest — 11/11/21

US Changes Vote From ‘No’ To ‘Abstaining’ On Granting Palestinians ‘Right Of Return To Israel’

The United States toed the line during a critical UN vote on Wednesday (10th), changing its vote from ‘No’ to ‘abstaining’ on a measure which said that Palestinian refugees and their descendants have the “right to return” and settle in modern-day Israel.

The vote marked a significant departure from previous US votes on such matters, which garnered an “automatic” no in support of the Jewish State during the four years of the Trump administration.

The United Nations General Assembly (UNGA)  Resolution titled “Assistance to Palestine Refugees” explicitly states that Israel must pay Palestinian refugees compensation for property lost during the 1948 War of Independence or allow them to return to what is now sovereign Israel.

The vote, which occurs yearly in order to confirm that the Palestinian refugee organization UNRWA should continue to operate, contains multiple measures that are highly critical of Israel.

In 2018, former president Donald Trump cut off funding to UNRWA, arguing that the organization does not properly use its budget of over $1 billion.

The administration also criticized UNRWA for continuously expanding its circle of dependents to encompass unprecedented third-and fourth-generation refugees while not advancing their status in the various countries in which they are dispersed.

The Biden administration has reversed Trump’s position, citing the resumption of funding to UNRWA as the reason for abstaining.

Since April, the US government has provided more than $318 million to UNRWA in Fiscal Year 2021, including critical support for education, health, and social services benefiting millions of Palestinian ‘refugees’ registered with UNRWA in the West Bank and Gaza, Jordan, Lebanon and Syria.



Senior Libyan Official: Libya Wants Normalization With Israel

According to senior Libyan officials with close ties to the leading presidential candidate, Gen. Khalifa Haftar, it appears the large Arab country is moving toward normalization with Israel.

Haftar has recently voiced his desire on several occasions to normalize ties with Israel, and declared he would work to that end if he is elected on December 24.

Israel Hayom reported in late October that an Israeli consulting firm was advising both Haftar and his main rival. Saif al-Islam Gaddafi, the son of the former tyrant Muammar Gaddafi, who was deposed and killed in a violent uprising 10 years ago.

Haftar, who has also earmarked a senior role in the next government for his son Saddam, if he wins the election, has the support of the US, Egypt, Saudi Arabia and other Western actors, but he has apparently pinned a great deal of hope on relations with Israel.

“Only a normalization agreement with Israel, which will bring Libya into the Abraham Accords, can catalyze Libya’s rehabilitation plan, which stands at hundreds of billions of dollars,” Haftar has reported to his confidants.

Libya’s goal, he has said, is to receive financial aid from the international community, which requires a change of direction from the next president-elect and his government.  Joining the Abraham Accords, according to Haftar, could pave the path for Libya to return to the family of nations, secure the necessary aid from the International Monetary Fund, and gain diplomatic support from the US and the European Union.

A senior official in the UAE, who is close to both the leading candidates in Libya, said: “On the matter of Libya’s desire and need to normalize its relations with Israel and join the Abraham Accords, there is consensus between the two candidates.  Both have said in the past that normalization with Israel is on the table, and on many occasions both have told their close advisers in private that they would work in earnest to make that happen.”

The senior UAE official added, however, that “if either of the candidates do normalize ties with Israel, it will be a vastly different type of relationship than with the UAE, Bahrain and Morocco.”

“If the initiative is implemented,” the official said, “it will happen at a very slow pace, very cautiously, somewhat similar to the normalization process between Israel and Sudan.”



Report: Drone Strikes Iran-Backed Militias In Eastern Syria

An unidentified drone carried out strikes on Iranian-backed militias near the Syrian-Iraqi border in the early hours of Wednesday morning (10th), according to an opposition-linked war monitor.

The London-based Syrian Observatory for Human Rights said the strikes targeted weapons caches belonging to pro-Iranian militias in the Bukamal region of eastern Syria, an area that has reportedly been targeted by Israel in the past.

Yet, according to the Observatory, it was not immediately clear if the attack was carried out by the American-led coalition that operates in the area or by Israel.

The strike on the arms depot triggered massive explosions that were heard throughout the area, according to the Observatory.

Earlier in the week, Syria accused Israel of conducting a series of airstrikes on targets in the area of Homs and Tartus in a rare early-evening attack on Monday (8th).  Syrian state media outlet SANA reported that two Syrian soldiers were wounded in the strikes, which also caused “material losses.”

Syrian media reported that the targets of Monday’s (8th) strikes were arms depots in Shayrat Airport near Homs and just outside the coastal city of Tartus.  Satellite images from Tuesday (9th) showed significant damage to a warehouse located south of Tartus, indicating that it was the primary target.



On Eve Of Kristallnacht, Activists ‘Rename’ Vienna Streets Honoring Anti-Semites

Activists “renamed” some 23 streets in Vienna Tuesday and Wednesday (9th-10th) which they said honor anti-Semites, former members of Hitler’s Nazi party, and even soldiers and officers in the SS and SA paramilitary groups known for their participation in the Holocaust.

The protest was timed to coincide with the anniversary of the Kristallnacht pogroms on November 9 and 10, and involved roughly 20 activists, according to local media.

The activists plastered over the current nameplates with new signage honoring Jewish and non-Jewish heroes who fought to save Jewish lives during the Holocaust and opposed the Nazi regime, such as Hungarian-born British operative Hannah Senesh and partisan leader Abba Kovner.  Half of the new signs honored women in the resistance.

A video clip showing people on ladders replacing street sign stickers over the existing signs was posted Tuesday morning (9th) on the Twitter page of the American Union of Jewish Students, along with “before and after photos” of a number of renamed street signs.  No group took responsibility for the renaming of the signs.

“As the President of the Austrian Union of Jewish Students, I’m very happy that these activists took matters into their own hands,” said Sashi Turkoff, a 20-year-old education science major at the University of Vienna.

“In Austria we have a Holocaust remembrance culture that’s officially very strong, but on the other hand, it’s very hard for us as a minority to oftentimes be heard – that’s why it is so important that we say these signs cannot remain this way, they need to be changed, and they were,” said Turkoff.



Jewish Boy, 11, Attacked In France

An 11-year-old Jewish boy was harassed and beaten on the street in the Essonne district south of Paris because of his religion, French daily Le Parisien reported.

According to a court account of the attack obtained by the news agency, the boy was walking home from school with classmates in September when he was approached by two 14-year-old boys.

The older boys asked if he was Jewish.  When he answered in the affirmative, the perpetrators beat the victim, while choking and verbally abusing him.

One of the boys said “Dirty Jew, we are going to suffocate you with gas as they did before to the Jews,” and placed his hand over the boy’s mouth.

The attackers asked the boy to “surrender,” and the frightened victim agreed.  The older boys slammed him to the ground, then performed Nazi salutes.

However, the harassment didn’t stop after the incident.  La Parisien reported that the perpetrators continued abusing the victim each day until he told his parents about a week after the first attack. 

The parents filed a report with the police and the older boys will reportedly be charged with crimes related to anti-Semitic violence in juvenile court.

During questioning, one of the boys claimed he did not know what a Nazi salute was and that he performed the gesture without understanding the implications or history behind the act.  The other boy admitted that he knew what the Nazi salute represented.

In a separate incident last Thursday (4th), French police arrested a teenager brandishing a large meat cleaver outside of a Jewish school in Lyon.  He reportedly hurled projectiles at students in the school while screaming that they were “dirty Jews.”