News Digest — 12/30/19

Netanyahu Condemns ‘Cruel’ Anti-Semitic Attack In Monsey, New York

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu reacted to news of the stabbing attack in Monsey, New York during the weekly cabinet meeting on Sunday (29th).

“Israel strongly condemns the latest expressions of anti-Semitism and the cruel attack in the middle of Hanukkah at the home of the rabbi in Monsey,” Netanyahu said.

“We send wishes for recovery to those injured.  We will cooperate in any way with local authorities to help wipe out this phenomenon.  We offer this help to all countries.”

New York has faced a wave of anti-Semitic attacks in recent months, with eight attacks occurring in rapid succession in the last week, not counting Saturday night’s (28th) stabbing attack.

Chaim Deutch – a New York City Council member- told local news outlets Friday (27th), “It seems like it’s open season on Jews in New York City.”  

“Suspects arrested in last week’s spree of eight anti-Semitic attacks were quickly released right back into the neighborhoods they terrorized thanks to ‘bail-reform’ legislation,” the New York Post reported on Saturday (28th).

The New York attacks are part of a world rise in overt anti-Semitism, from Australia to Europe.

According to a global survey on anti-Semitism published by the Anti-Defamation League (ADL) in November, about one in four Europeans polled harbor negative attitudes toward Jews.



New York Guardian Angels Volunteer To Protect Jewish Community

After five Jewish congregants were wounded in a machete attack at a synagogue in Monsey, New York, on Saturday (28th), the city’s famed Guardian Angels group announced Sunday (29th) that it intended to start patrolling the Jewish neighborhoods of Brooklyn to protect the residents, NBC News reports.

The Guardian Angels are a volunteer group founded in 1979, when violent street crime was rampant in the city.  Recognizable by their red jackets and berets, they provide an unarmed protective presence that the group calls a “visual deterrence.”

Guardian Angels founder Curtis Sliwa said Saturday (28th) that “cops have not been proactive at all” in responding to the rising numbers of anti-Semitic attacks in the city.

Sliwa accused New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio of being “apathetic.”

De Blasio’s office responded to Sliwa’s remarks in a statement that read, ‘We have no tolerance for anti-Semitism in New York City.  The best police department in the world has increased deployment in Crown Heights, Borough Park, and Williamsburg,” the statement continued.

Meanwhile, President Donald Trump’s personal attorney and former New York City Mayor Rudy Giuliani on Sunday (29th) criticized de Blasio following the stabbing attack in Monsey.

“The rise in anti-Semitic violence in NYC is something that could have been stopped at a much earlier stage if the city had a mayor who embraced the Broken Windows Theory, or at least, a mayor who worked full time and paid attention to what was going on,” he wrote.  Giuliani appeared to be referencing the NYC mayor’s failed presidential bid.  

De Blasio in September ended his bid for the 2020 Democratic presidential nomination after he failed to find support in the party for his candidacy.



Defense Minister: ‘Israel Will Provide A Legal Iron Dome For Its Soldiers And Officers’

Defense Minister Naftali Bennett said on Wednesday (25th) that he won’t allow the anti-Semitic International Criminal Court (ICC) to harm Israel’s soldiers.

Speaking at a graduation ceremony of cadets at the Israeli Air Force Flight Academy, Bennett said he won’t let “anti-Semitism fly in the cockpit” and the government will provide legal protection to its soldiers and officers like an “Iron Dome.”

“I know that when you go on a mission, serving as Israel’s long arm that strikes the evildoers in precision strikes, you have to handle enormous stress.  This pressure is now worse as a result of the ICC’s decision, but that can not hold you back,” Bennett said.

“Any attempt to please or appease this body will not succeed.  The Hague is a breeding ground for modern anti-Semitism. It encourages terror.  Now that it is clear, we must treat it as such. We will fight terror as if there is no Hague, and fight The Hague as if there is no terror.  Any attempt to please or appease this body will not succeed,” he said.

Even though Israel is not a member of the court and does not recognize its jurisdiction, those who might be found guilty – including government ministers, IDF chiefs and soldiers – could be subject to international arrest warrants.

U.S. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo announced last week that the Trump administration will stand by Israel’s side.  Also Australian Prime Minister Scott Morrison threw his support behind the Jewish state saying that Australia recognizes neither a “State of Palestine,” nor the Palestinian Authority’s status as a member state of the ICC.



US Strikes Iran-backed Militia Responsible For American Death – 25 Fighters Dead

US forces conducted “precision defensive strikes” against five sites of Hezbollah Brigades, an Iran-backed Iraqi militia, spokesman Jonathan Hoffman said in a statement.

The US blames the militia for a rocket barrage Friday (27th) that killed a US defense contractor at a military compound near Kirkuk, in northern Iraq.  Officials said attackers fired as many as 30 rockets in Friday’s assault.

The Defense Department gave no immediate details on how the strikes were conducted.  It said the US hit three of the militia’s sites in Iraq and two in Syria, including weapons depots and the militia’s command and control bases.

Iraq’s Joint Operations said in a statement that three US airstrikes on Sunday (29th) evening, Iraq time, hit the headquarters of the Hezbollah Brigades at the Iraq-Syria border, killing 25 fighters.

Hoffman said the US attacks would limit the militia’s ability to carry out future strikes against Americans and their Iraqi allies.

The U.S. maintains some 5,000 troops in Iraq.  They are there based on an invitation by the Iraqi government to assist and train in the fight against the Islamic State group.



Russia: New Nuclear-Capable Hypersonic Missile Has Been Put Into Service

Russia’s Defense Minister Sergey Shoygu confirmed over the weekend that the Avangard, its new nuclear-capable hypersonic missile system that can travel at 27 times the speed of sound is ready for “combat duty.”

President Vladimir Putin boasted that the Avangard hypersonic glide missile can reach anywhere in the world and places Russia as a world leader in a new class of weapons.

“Not a single country possesses hypersonic weapons, let alone continental-range hypersonic weapons,” Putin said.

Putin added that the intercontinental missile system can evade US-built missile shield defenses and “cannot be intercepted.”

“The Avangard is invulnerable to interception by any existing and potential missile defense means of a potential enemy,” Putin stressed.

The Avangard, which can hold a nuclear weapon weighing up to two megatons, is capable of sharp maneuvers in the atmosphere, unlike regular missile warheads that follow a set path, which makes it almost impossible to be intercepted.  Existing anti-missile defense systems are incapable of defending against a glide vehicle’s trajectory and if Russia’s claims are true, the Avangard initiates a new and perilous step in the nuclear arms race.

US military analysts have expressed skepticism of Russia’s claims about the effectiveness of its hypersonic weapons.  The Pentagon stated that it would “Not characterize the Russian claims” about the Avangard’s capabilities.

China has successfully tested a hypersonic glide missile which can travel five times the speed of sound.

The United States does not currently have hypersonic weapons but US Secretary of Defense Mark Esper said in August that he believes the US will have one in a couple of years.



Israeli Tourism Continues To Break Records With 4.5 Million In 2019

Israel continues to set tourism records with 4.55 million tourists having entered Israel in the past year.  It’s an 11% jump from 2018, reports Israel’s Channel 20.

Israeli tourism has been enjoying an upward trend for years, leaping an impressive 55 percent in the last three years.  That number brought $6.6 billion to the country.

“More than 4.5 million tourists came to Israel in 2019  This year, we broke a new record for tourist arrivals. This historic achievement is the direct result of an ongoing revolution that the tourism office is leading in marketing Israel to the world, in developing infrastructure, in encouraging international airline companies to develop new flights to Israel, and in establishing cooperation with leading travel agencies in the world,” said Minister of Tourism Yariv Levin.

“Incoming tourism to Israel contributes to the development of the periphery and the economy and we are proud to lead it.  This is our third year in a row that we are breaking records on tourist arrivals to Israel, and this year we passed the 4.5 million mark,” Levin said.

 The most popular destinations for tourists (in descending order) are: Jerusalem, Tel Aviv, Tiberias, Dead Sea and Eilat.