News Digest — 2/11/21

Socially-Distanced Iranian Parade On Wheels Marked 1979 Revolution

Iranians staged a socially-distanced commemoration of their 1979 Islamic Revolution on Wednesday (10th), parading in vehicles to avoid infection rather than on foot while displaying missiles in defiance of Western efforts to curb the program.

State television carried live footage of cars, motorcycles and bicycles moving through the streets of dozens of cities and towns where normally tens of thousands of people march at the annual event.

Despite the switch to a wheel-bound form parade, the ceremony’s sentiments remained unchanged.  Participants waved Iranian flags and signs that read “Death to America” and “Death to Israel,” including trademark slogans of the revolution that toppled the US-backed Shah from his throne.

Iran, the Middle East country worst hit by COVID-19, has registered around 59,000 deaths and nearly 1.5 million cases.  Authorities launched a vaccination drive on Tuesday (9th), focusing initially on hospital intensive care personnel.

In an online speech, President Hassan Rouhani raised the prospect of diplomacy if there were reciprocal moves to break an impasse over its unravelling 2015 nuclear deal with big powers. 

“The moment that they honor their commitments under the deal, we will adhere to our commitments… The only path is certainly the world’s agreement with Iran,” said Rouhani.

Ruling out talks over its military capabilities, Tehran insists that Washington should take the first step by lifting all sanctions reimposed on Iran after Biden’s predecessor Donald Trump abandoned the deal in 2018.

“Time is running out for Washington and the current window is closing fast,” state TV quoted Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif as saying.

Iran faces a February 21 deadline when a new Iranian law obliges the government to scrap the sweeping inspection powers given to the UN nuclear watchdog by the 2018 deal that will “limit inspections to declared nuclear sites only.”



Iranian Textbooks More Anti-Semitic Than Ever, ADL Study Shows

Iranian students are exposed to anti-Semitism, hate and incitement to violence against the United States, Israel and the Jewish people, according to a special report by the Anti-Defamation League to mark the 42nd anniversary of the Islamic Revolution in Iran.

Predicated on comprehensive research of official Iranian textbooks, the report reveals that schools in the Islamic republic teach students to chant “Death to Israel,” which is presented to them as an illegitimate regime that must be destroyed.  The educational material claims the Jews plotted against Islam since its inception, falsified Islamic texts, and were quick to use violence to achieve their goals.  One of the claims is that this violence was perpetrated by Freemasons.

The report, which is based on data compiled from the past five years, says Iranian students are taught that American economic sanctions imposed on Iran are part of a “Satanic plan” to eradicate the religious beliefs of Muslims, and that through their nuclear scientists in particular, the Iranian people “have achieved a blessing with your great jihad and the blood of your bounteous youth.”

The author of the report, Dr. David Weinberg, the ADL’s Washington Director for International Affairs, also notes that updated textbooks in Iran propagate conspiracy theories claiming that Western media exaggerated the coronavirus issue in 2020 to reduce the number of people attending the ayatollah regime’s 41st annual ceremony last year.

“While some curricula in the region are starting to improve, scaling back incitement and encouraging discussions about tolerance,” Weinberg writes, “Tehran’s educational anti-Semitism and incitement to violence is as militant as ever.”

“From demonizing Jews in lessons about ancient history to glorifying anti-Semitic terrorists as recent as 2020, Tehran’s current curriculum is brimming with state-sponsored bigotry.”

ADL CEO Jonathan Greenblatt, concluded: “It is no secret that the Iranian regime continues to promote extremism and terrorism and feeds its people on a steady diet of anti-Semitic and anti-American propaganda.  Iran’s textbooks show how deeply ingrained this official campaign of incitement is within society, and how they are reaching impressionable young people with their xenophobic and dehumanizing messages as part of their formal teaching curriculum.”



Palestinian Authority Uses Gravel From Ancient Jewish Site To Pave Road

The Palestinian Authority is using stones from an ancient Jewish site to help build a road connecting an Arab village to the city of Nablus (Shechem), website N12 reported on Wednesday (10th).

In a video obtained by N12, Arab workers can be heard saying they are destroying part of the site of Joshua’s Altar located on Mount Ebal, which forms the northern side of the valley in which Shechem is located, and using it for gravel to make the road.

As the site is located in Area B of Judea and Samaria, Israel’s Civil Administration says it can do nothing about it, the website reports.

The danger to the site has been a cause for concern, N12 notes.  Two months ago, Knesset Member Michal Shir of the Likud submitted an urgent question about the preservation of the site against PA depredations.  Michael Biton from the Ministry of Defense reassured her that the PA’s work had been approved and there was no damage to the archaeological site.

Guy Derech, director of “Preserving the Eternal,” an NGO dedicated to safeguarding lands for the Jewish people, said “the site of the altar is one of the most important sites in our country and of special importance to the heritage of the Jewish people.”

“Crushing thousands of years of cultural assets into gravel is an extremely unacceptable act,” he said.

“The Palestinian Authority is using its powers to damage archaeological sites, and Israel is not lifting a finger at preserving its national and world heritage.  We call on the prime minister and ministers of the government to stop burying their heads in the sand and start working before there is no more heritage left here.” he added.

Head of the Samaria Regional Council, Yossi Dagan, demanded the IDF act to stop the destruction immediately.

“This is a direct and unfortunate continuation of the contempt of all concerned regarding the historical sites of the Jewish people and the State of Israel,” Dagan said.  “It is shocking to see how the Palestinian Authority is crudely destroying archeological sites that are dear to all of humanity.”

The Palestinian Authority has a history of destroying Jewish archaeological sites in an effort to erase Jewish ties to the land.  It is continuing a tradition begun by Jordan, which destroyed Jewish sites when it controlled Judea and Samaria and part of Jerusalem between 1948 and 1967.

Some archaeologists speculate that the site in question, known as Joshua’s Altar, or the Altar of Mount Ebal, is the one mentioned in the Book of Joshua, which he built after the battle of Ai.  it is also conjectured that it is the altar the Hebrews were commanded to build in Deuteronomy 27 before they heard the blessings and the cursings.

As it’s written in Deuteronomy 27: “Build the altar of the Lord your God with fieldstones and offer burnt offerings on it to the Lord your God.”

There is little dispute that it is an ancient Jewish altar, as an examination of the bones at the site revealed that only kosher animals were sacrificed there.  The altar dates from the last quarter of the 13th century BCE.



IDF Soldier Finds Rare Coin During Training Exercise

IDF Armored Corps soldier Ido Gardi recently received a glimpse into the world of archaeology when he stumbled upon a rare 1,800 year-old coin during a training exercise, the Israel Antiquities Authority reported in a Facebook post on Tuesday (9th).  

The coin dates to 158-159 CE and was minted in the city of Geva.  It joins eleven such coins in the National Treasures Department collection.

“All the coins were found in northern Israel.  This coin was found closest to the place where it was minted,” head of the Israel Antiquities Authority’s Numismatics Department Dr. Donald Tzvi Ariel, said.

The coin bears the head of the Roman Emperor Antoninus Pius, who ruled from 138-161.

The coin discovered is one of the municipal coins minted in the city of Geva,” lecturer in classical archaeology at Bar-Ilan University’s Department of Land of Israel Studies and Archaeology Dr. Avner Ecker explained, adding that in Roman times, cities were allowed to mint their own coins.

“The year marked on the coin is the year when the municipal council was evidently established , and its citizens were allowed self-government under the Roman Empire.  Geva is an ancient settlement, referred to by Josephus as a town located on the foothills at the edge of the Jezreel Valley.  Herod the Great settled his cavalry forces there,” Ecker added.

Gardi reported his find to the National Treasures Department of the Israel Antiquities Authority and received a good citizenship commendation.

“Antiquities are national treasures,” inspector for the IAA Northern District’s Robbery Prevention Unit, Nir Distelfeld said.

“While antiquities hunting is against the law, anyone who stumbles upon an ancient artifact must report it,” Distelfeld continued.

“IDO Gardi demonstrated exemplary civic behavior, and we hope that he will act as an example for others who discover ancient finds,” Distelfeld added.



Synagogue Defaced With Anti-Semitic Graffiti In Spokane, Washington

Police in Spokane, Washington are investigating a hate crime after swastikas were daubed on a synagogue in the city’s South Hill neighborhood on Monday morning (8th).

Spokane police spokesperson John O’Brien said the Temple Beth Shalom reported the anti-Semitic graffiti at 9:20 a.m. on Monday.  When officers arrived at the building, one whole side of it, along with a Holocaust memorial was vandalized.

O’Brien said officers spoke to employees, checked the neighborhood for surveillance cameras and looked for evidence.  Officers also collected paint samples from the building for evidence.

The synagogue’s surveillance camera system captured images of a lone white male suspect.  O’Brien said the man was wearing blue jeans, black boots, a dark colored jacket with hood, a dark colored stocking cap, black gloves, red mask with sunglasses on his head. 

Police are investigating the vandalism as malicious harassment and it falls under Washington’s definition of a hate crime.

“Our community is in shock and in grief, and trying to be strong,” said Rabbi Tamar Malino, who has served at Temple Beth Shalom for five years.

“It’s very difficult to know that there are people that hate us that much for being Jewish and intentionally express that,” she added.

“It’s very important for our community to continue living meaningful and strong Jewish lives and not be afraid to continue being who we are.”

This is the second time in recent years that Temple Beth Shalom has been vandalized.  In 2014, a swastika was painted on a concrete wall during a service on Yom Kippur, the holiest day of the year for the Jewish community.