News Digest — 11/30/20

Opinion: UN Must Recognize Jewish Refugees From Arab Countries – Gilad Erdan

You won’t hear their stories in the European Union Meetings or see their photographs exhibited in the hallways of the United Nations.  Their names cannot be found anywhere among the thousands of UN resolutions discussed and passed over the last seven decades.  There is no special day dedicated to their communities or to their memory.  They are the 850,000 Jewish refugees expelled from Arab countries and from Iran following Israel’s creation.

For international bodies such as the UN, they are forgotten refugees.  But for us Israelis, their struggle will go on.

There is no argument over the facts: In a display of anger, after failing to prevent the November 29, 1947, UN Partition Plan and the subsequent creation of the State of Israel, Arab countries waged war not only on the newly established Jewish state but also against the peaceful and thriving Jewish communities that lived among them.

Entire communities from Morocco to Iraq, from Egypt to Syria, Lebanon, Iran and more, were effectively wiped out.  Along with them, thousands of years of Jewish heritage, history and culture was erased too.

The UN offered no help to those forced from their homes and has done little since to recognize the huge injustice they suffered.  There was no international condemnation of the fact that these Jews were attacked and murdered, their property looted and their assets stolen, often by their neighbors and with the backing of the authorities.

In the decades since this treacherous expulsion, the UN has worked to only assist so-called Palestinian refugees.  Billions of dollars have been handed over to UNRWA, which, while caring for the welfare of families, simultaneously encourages terrorism and incitement through its school programs and, in the process, perpetuates a false narrative of the Palestinian’s “right of return.”

I see it as a moral obligation to right the wrong that was done to our brothers and sisters from Arab lands.  As Israel’s ambassador to the UN, I am committed to ensuring that their stories will now become part of the international consciousness.

I will lead a diplomatic campaign to pass a resolution in the United Nations General Assembly to recognize their plight.  I do not seek a quarrel with our neighbors, but to ensure that equality and justice is finally provided for the Jewish communities that have been scorned by the world for more than 70 years.

I have already warm relations with many ambassadors here and will build on these to garner wide international support for this proposal.  We will rally foreign ministries worldwide and together, with the help of Jewish organizations, I believe we can put an end to UN ignorance on this issue.

Peace can only be reached through strength, mutual respect and recognition of the truth.  If the international community is serious about promoting peace between us and our neighbors, then it must also recognize historical facts, including the trauma of Jews from Arab countries.  A new discourse will not change history, but it is time that their plight is recognized in the halls of the UN.

The Abraham Accords are a source of light for thousands of Jews who still live in Arab countries today.  The normalization of ties between Israel and the UAE and Bahrain – and I hope soon with other Arab countries – will encourage Arab leaders to provide their Jewish communities with more support, allowing them to practice their culture proudly and without worry.

We are all descendants of Abraham, and we must respect one another’s culture and heritage – and, no less important, our unique histories.

Gilad Erdan is Israel’s Ambassador to the United Nations and Israel’s incoming Ambassador to the United States.  He served in the Israeli government in various ministerial positions for more than a decade, including in the security cabinet and in Israel’s Knesset.



Israeli Official: World Should Thanks Us For Getting Rid Of Nuclear “Menace”

An Israeli official said the world should be thankful that a nuclear menace has been eliminated, The New York Times  reported Saturday (28th).

The unnamed senior Israeli official was involved for several years in tracking Mohsen Fakhrizadeh, who was killed when his car was ambushed on Friday (27th) east of the Iranian capital of Tehran.  Fakhrizadeh headed Iran’s clandestine nuclear program and his identity and whereabouts were kept top secret by the Iranian regime.

Fakhrizadeh oversaw Iran’s pursuit of nuclear weapons and “posed such a menace that the world should thank Israel,” said the Israeli official quoted by the Times.

Iran is home to the world’s largest population of Shiite Muslims and has repeatedly threatened Israel and the Gulf Arab states, the later of which is predominantly populated by Sunni Muslims.  The two branches of Islam are ideologically opposed to each other and Iran’s nuclear program has proven to be a unifying point between Israel and the Arab states that border Iran across the Persian Gulf.

The Times report noted that Iran has suffered an unprecedented number of setbacks this year from covert attacks.  These incidents included an American strike in January killing top Iranian general Qassem Soleimani, a series of mysterious explosions at top-secret Iranian bases in the summer, cyber attacks linked to Israel, and an alleged Israeli hit assassinating a senior Al-Qaeda terror leader who was living in Tehran.

Israel’s apparent ability to repeatedly carry out strikes inside of Iran has the Islamic Republic rattled.

“It is unprecedented,” Bruce Reidel, a researcher at the Brookings Institution and a former CIA official, told the Times.  “And it shows no sign of being effectively countered by the Iranians.”

Iran’s leadership now has to choose between retaliating immediately, or waiting for a new administration if President Donald Trump leaves office on January 20.

“The operations are confronting Tehran with an agonizing choice between embracing the demands of hardliners for swift retaliation, or attempting to make a fresh start with a different administration if Joseph Biden is inaugurated as president, the Times said.



‘Iran Will Strike Haifa’ If Israel Killed Scientist, Says Regime-Linked Paper

An opinion piece published by a hardline Iranian newspaper on Sunday (29th) suggested Iran should attack the Israeli port city of Haifa if Israel carried out the killing of a scientist linked to its military nuclear program, which Tehran claims it disbanded.

Though the hardline Kayhan newspaper has long argued for aggressive retaliation for operations targeting Iran, Sunday’s (29th) opinion piece went further, suggesting any assault be carried out in a way that destroys facilities and “also causes heavy human casualties.”

Israel, suspected of killing Iranian nuclear scientists over the past decade, has not commented on Friday’s (27th) slaying of Mohsen Fakhrizadeh.

Iranian officials roundly have blamed Israel for the attack, raising the specter of renewed tensions that could engulf the region, including US troops stationed in the Persian Gulf and beyond.

Kayhan published a piece written by Iranian analyst Sadollah Zarei, who argued Iran’s previous reactions to suspected Israeli airstrikes that killed Revolutionary Guard forces in Syria didn’t deter Israel.

Striking Haifa and killing a large number of people “will definitely lead to deterrence, because the United States and the Israeli regime and its agents are by no means ready to take part in a war and a military confrontation,” Zarei claims.  He said an assault on Haifa needed to be greater than Iran’s ballistic missile attack against American troops in Iraq following the US drone strike that killed a top Iranian general in January.

Haifa, on the Mediterranean Sea, has been threatened in the past by both Iran and one of its proxies, the Lebanese terror group Hezbollah.  Hezbollah leader Hassan Nasrallah recently suggested striking Haifa’s stores of ammonium nitrate, a highly explosive fertilizer that fueled the deadly Beirut port blast in August that killed 193 people and wounded 6,500.

Hezbollah is suspected of being connected to the Beirut explosion.

While Kahyan is a small circulation paper in Iran, its editor-in-chief Hossein Shariatmadari was appointed by Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei and has been described as an adviser to him in the past.

The Iranian parliament on Sunday (29th) held a closed-door hearing about Fakhrizadeh’s killing.  Afterward, parliament speaker Mohammad Baqer Ghalibaf said Iran’s enemies must be made to regret killing him.

“The criminal enemy does not regret it except with a strong reaction,” he said in a broadcast on Iranian state radio.

State television broadcast images of Fakhrizadeh’s casket being flown to Mashhad, a holy Shiite city in Iran’s east, home to the shrine of Imam Reza.

Analysts have compared Fakhrizadeh to being on par with Robert Oppenheimer, the scientist who led America’s Manhattan Project In World War II that created the atom bomb.

Fakhrizadeh headed Iran’s AMAD program.  Israel has produced evidence that his program was a military operation designed to build a nuclear weapon.



Tel Aviv University: New Technology Could Destroy Cancerous Tumor In Three Treatments

Israeli scientists have used new technology to destroy cancerous cells in mice that targets only affected cells, while leaving everything around them intact.  “This is the first study in the world to prove that the CRISPR genome editing system, which works by cutting DNA, can effectively be used to treat cancer in an animal,” said Prof. Dan Peer, a cancer expert from Tel Aviv University, after his peer-reviewed research was published in the Science Advances journal.

“There are no side effects, and we believe that a cancer cell treated in this way will never become active again….Within three treatments we can destroy a tumor.  This technology can physically cut the DNA in cancerous cells, and those cells will not survive.”  Peer called it “a more elegant chemotherapy” and said he dreams that it will replace that treatment.



Woman Threatens Rabbi With Knife In Vienna, Steals His Kippah

An unidentified woman stole the kippah of a rabbi whom she threatened with a knife on a street in the Austrian capital of Vienna, police said.

The woman fled the scene of Thursday’s (26th) incident in Vienna’s 3rd district, the OE24  website reported.  The assault happened after several minutes of the woman shouting anti-Semitic slogans at the rabbi as multiple passersby looked away, he said.

Austrian Chancellor Sebastian Kurz condemned the incident in a statement, “I condemn today’s anti-Semitic attack on a rabbi in Vienna very strongly.  We must fight anti-Semitism with all determination and do everything we can to make Jewish life safe her in Austria …. because Europe without Jews is no longer Europe,” he wrote.

The Jewish community in Vienna, the main organization representing Austrian Jews, had recorded during the first half of 2020 no fewer than 131 incidents of verbal abuse or harassment, 26 cases of anti-Semitic destruction of property and three physical assaults.

Austria has about 8,000 Jews.