News Digest — 12/24/19

Netanyahu Compares ‘Anti-Semitic’ ICC To Villains Of Hanukkah Story

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu on Monday (23rd) released a statement addressing the recent announcement that the International Criminal Court intends to pursue an investigation of alleged Israeli war crimes in 2014’s Operation Protective Edge.

The ICC probe also focuses on the existence of Jewish communities in Judea and Samaria.

“The claim by the prosecutor of the International Criminal Court that Jews do not have a right to live in the Jewish homeland is pure anti-Semitism,” said Netanyahu.

“So is the claim that Jews have no right to defend themselves against those who seek their annihilation,” continued the prime minister.

“As we celebrate Hanukkah, the ICC issues decrees that are just as anti-Semitic as those of the ancient Seleucid Empire against the Maccabees,” Netanyahu added, referencing the Greek adversaries whose defeat the Jewish people celebrate each year during the Hanukkah holiday.

“We triumphed then, we will triumph now,” said Netanyahu.

Currently, Jews in Israel and around the world are observing the eight-day Hanukkah festival, which involves retelling the story of the Maccabees victory over the Seleucid army and the Jewish people’s refusal to succumb to a Hellenist culture that was antithetical to traditional Jewish values.  In addition to a military struggle, the Hellenists also issued decrees banning observance of commandments central to the Jewish faith.

Netanyahu’s comments Monday (23rd) were designed to draw parallels between the Jewish people’s historic struggle during the Hanukkah epoch and the International Criminal Court’s (ICC) current pursuit of the State of Israel.

Last week ICC chief prosecutor Fatou Bensouda announced that pursuant to a request by the Palestinian Authority, the body is initiating a probe into alleged war crimes committed by Israel in 2014’s Operation Protective Edge, a defensive conflict that erupted following an onslaught of Palestinian rocket fire from the Gaza Strip.

According to international legal expert Eugene Kontorovich, who spoke with JNS about the probe, “The ICC ignores international law by inventing a Palestinian state that does not exist and creates a crime that no one in international law has ever been charged with before: the crime of people living in places.”

“To say it is a war crime for a Jew to live in the Jewish Quarter of the Old City is absurd,” he said.  “It is quite clear that the crime of people living somewhere is a crime for which one must be Jewish to be eligible.”



Israeli Foreign Minister: Ayatollah Khamenei Is A War Criminal

Foreign Minister Yisrael Katz excoriated the International Criminal Court, Tuesday (24th), blasting it for probing Israel’s 2014 war against the Gaza-based Hamas terror group, while turning a blind eye to human rights abuses in Iran.

In a tweet Tuesday (24th), Katz called the Iranian Grand Ayatollah Ali Khamenei a “war criminal,” citing the reported 1,500 deaths of anti-government protesters in the ongoing demonstrations in the Islamic Republic.

“Iranian Supreme Leader Khamenei is a war criminal – he ordered the murder of civilian protesters and the ICC doesn’t even open an investigation,” Katz tweeted.

“They hold Israel to a double standard – we are defending ourselves against terrorists.  No one can deny us our right to self-defense.”

Katz tweeted after a senior adviser to Khamenei warned Monday (23rd) that Iran would retaliate against Israel for recent strikes on Iranian forces in Syria attributed to the Jewish state.

“We expect the resistance in Syria and Lebanon to stop the crimes of the United States and Israel.  Israel is helpless and cannot execute its threats against Iran,” the adviser said.

“If Israel attacks Lebanon – Hezbollah will flatten Israel,” he threatened.

The comments follow an attack on Syria on Sunday night (22nd) which was attributed to Israel.  

Last Friday (20th), the International Criminal Court in The Hague announced it would probe Arab allegations of Israeli war crimes dating back to the 2014 war in Gaza, as well as claims the existence of Jewish towns in Judea and Samaria constitute war crimes.

Israel and the US lambasted the decision to open the investigtions, while the Palestinian Authority lauded the court’s decision.



1500 People Said Killed By Iranian Security Forces In Protests

Some 1,500 people were killed, most of them civilians, during a two-week period of violence last month, when residents of the Islamic Republic of Iran protested against the government in one of the largest public demonstrations since the country’s 1979 revolution, the Reuters news service reported Monday (23rd).

When the unrest broke out in the middle of last month, Iran Supreme Leader Ali Khamenei instructed the country’s security forces to do whatever was necessary to quell the protests, several senior Iranian officials told the outlet, on condition of anonymity.

“The Islamic Republic is in danger.  Do whatever it takes to end it. You have my order,” Khamenei told his inner circle, one of the sources said.

The protests began on November 15 following a surprise hike in fuel prices.

Iran has yet to give overall figures for the number of people killed or arrested when security forces moved in to  stop the unrest, which saw buildings torched and shops looted. Also, calls for toppling the current Supreme leader were heard and a statue of Ayatollah Ruhollah Khomeini, leader of the 1979 Revolution, was knocked over.

According to Reuters, approximately 1,500 were killed, including at least 17 teenagers and some 400 women.  In less than two weeks, during the unrest, some members of Iran’s security forces and police were counted among the dead.

A UN rights office said earlier this month that at least 7,000 people had reportedly been arrested in Iran since the demonstrations erupted.

In a statement Friday (20th), rights experts said they believed thousands were still being held in Iranian detention and called for their release.



Elbit Signs $65 Million Deal To Supply Netherlands With Defense Gear

Israeli security firm Elbit Systems announced Sunday (22nd) it has been awarded a $65 million contract to supply the Dutch military with defense equipment.

Elbit said the contract, which will be filled over two years, was a follow-up to an earlier deal with the Dutch defense ministry.

The agreement will see Elbit supply the Netherlands with load carriage and protective equipment for soldiers, radio gear and wearable computer units, as well as vehicle and command and control systems.

“We are proud to continue providing advanced systems to the Armed Forces of the Netherlands.  We are looking forward to continuing our partnership with the Dutch MOD on programs that contribute to the survivability and effectiveness of the Dutch soldiers,” Elbit executive vice president Haim Delmar said in a press release.

Elbit, Israel’s largest non-government-owned defense company, last week signed a $35 million deal to supply weapons to Montenegro, and in October reached a deal reportedly worth $200-300 million to provide the Swiss Army with a radio communications system.



Hanukkah Candles Lit At Site Of Jersey City Shooting

Family members of the three people killed in the shooting at a Jersey City kosher market on December 12, 2019, were among those who gathered to light the first Hanukkah candle there.

Joseph Seals, a police detective who was killed after confronting the two gunmen in a nearby cemetery before they drove to the store, was remembered at the ceremony on Sunday (22nd), while Jersey City police officers who were injured in the shootout at the JC Kosher Supermarket were honored there.

Supermarket owner Mindy Ferencz; a shopper, Moshe Deutsch; and employee, Douglas Miguel Rodriguez, were killed in the shootout between police and the gunmen.

The market remains boarded up, spray-painted with a blue heart and a mural of the Pulaski Skyway Bridge.

On Sunday evening (22nd), a silver menorah and boxes of doughnuts sat on a folding table in front of the market, The New York Times reported.      

Ferencz’s brother Yoely Greenfeld recited the blessings and lit the candle as residents of Jersey City and their supporters looked on.

“As we celebrate Hanukkah, may the lives of our candles shine away the darkness, easing the pain of all those who have suffered,” he said.