News Digest — 2/19/21

Israel, U.S. Announce Development Of Arrow-4 Missile Interceptor

Israel and the U.S. announced the joint development of the Arrow-4 on Thursday (18th).

Israel’s Defense Minister Benny Gantz said in a statement, “The development of Arrow-4 together with our American partners will result in a technological and operational leap forward, preparing us for the future battlefield and evolving threats in the Middle East and beyond.”

Arrow-4 will replace Arrow-2 in Israel’s missile defense array, which includes Iron Dome for short-range missiles and David’s Sling, which is designed to intercept enemy planes, cruise missiles and medium-to-long range rockets.

“Arrow-4 will be an advanced, innovative interceptor missile with enhanced capabilities.” according to an Israel Defense Ministry release.

“Arrow-4 will be the next generation of endo-exo-atmospheric interceptors in the Arrow weapon system, which today consists of Arrow-2 and Arrow-3 interceptors.”

In December 2020, Israel’s Missile Defense Organization and the U.S. Missile Defense Agency performed a first-ever test of a multilayered air defense system using the Iron Dome, David’s Sling and Arrow systems.  In the test, the missiles targeted cruise missiles, drones and long-range ballistic missiles.

The cooperation between the two agencies will continue with the development of the Arrow-4.

“Arrow-4 is a cooperative program between the MDA and IMDO that illustrates U.S. commitment to assisting the government of Israel in upgrading its national missile defense capability to defend the State of Israel from emerging threats,” said Vice Adm. John Hill, U.S. Missile Defense Agency director.

Moshe Patel, head of Israel’s Missile Defense Organization said, “We are starting the development of the Arrow-4 system at a symbolic time – 30 years after the Gulf War, which led to the establishment of the IMDO and the joint missile defense program with our American partners.”

“Over the last three decades, we have developed one of the most advanced missile defense arrays in the world, built of four layers with demonstrated capabilities.  These capabilities are being constantly improved against emerging threats.  Arrow-4 will have unprecedented flight and interception capabilities, ensuring the security of the State of Israel.”



‘Israel Unprepared For Iranian Cyberattack On Water Infrastructure’

Israel’s water infrastructure is not ready to withstand a possible cyberattack by Iranian trackers, a government report cited by Israeli media warned Wednesday (16th).

According to the report, water companies in Israel have largely failed to step up digital defenses of their infrastructure, despite being proven vulnerable last year when hackers, believed to be Iranians, attempted to increase the amount of chlorine in the water supplied to residential areas via a facility in central Israel.

Earlier this month, a hacker tried to poison the water in Oldsmar, Florida, after hijacking access to the local water treatment system.

The malicious actor made an attempt to increase the amount of sodium hydroxide – a substance used to control the acidity level – in the system.

The change was quickly spotted by a water company worker, who made the appropriate corrections.

While the attack, which Israel blamed on Iran, did not result in any possible damage, it still drew fury among Israeli officials as it was aimed at the civilian infrastructure.

The authorities issued an order to beef up the defenses of water infrastructure and allocated funds for it, but according to Wednesday’s (16th) report, progress on the matter has been lacking.



BBC Apologizes, Says It Got It Wrong About Israel And Vaccines

In a rare move, the British Broadcasting Corporation (BBC) issued an apology, saying one of its reporters was wrong to insist that it was Israel’s responsibility to provide the Palestinians with coronavirus vaccinations, The Jewish Chronicle reported Wednesday (16th).

During an interview with the Chronicle’s Jonathan Sacerdoti on the BBC program, “Dateline London,” on January 16, BBC host Shaun Ley insisted that the Oslo Accords signed between Israel and the Palestinian Authority meant that it was Israel’s job to vaccinate all Palestinians.  

However, Sacerdoti told Ley that it was the responsibility of the Palestinian Authority, reminding him that the Palestinian Ministry of Health said last year that they were getting vaccines through the World Health Organization.

Under the Oslo Accords, the Palestinians asked for and were given complete control over their health system, specifically including vaccinations.

After receiving numerous complaints about the program, the BBC issued a correction and admitted it was wrong, the Chronicle reported.

In a statement to the long-established Jewish newspaper, the BBC denied it had shown any bias and rejected a previous Chronicle report showing additional bias in the reporting on the BBC’s Arabic language service.

“We suggested that under the Oslo Accords, Palestinian healthcare is ultimately the responsibility of the Israeli government,” the BBC said, but then admitted: “Although there is a wider dispute over the issue, the Accords which Israel signed with the Palestinian Liberation Organization, give the Palestinian Authority oversight of public health under the principles of self-determination.”

In its earlier report on the Arabic service, the newspaper gave the BBC “a detailed dossier of apparent breaches” that showed the Arabic news division was “downplaying  attacks on Israelis, using language inspired by Hamas and showcasing extreme views without challenge.  In one case a map was published in which Israel was erased.”

According to the paper, the BBC’s Arabic coverage required on average one major correction in its reporting on Israel every month over the past two years.



France: Lawmakers Give Green Light In Bill To Protect “French Values”

Lawmakers in the French Parliament’s lower house approved a bill Tuesday (15th) that would increase oversight of mosques, schools, and sports clubs to protect and promote French values.

The wide-ranging bill titled “Supporting Respect for the Principles of the Republic” is one of President Emmanuel Macron’s landmark projects.

After two weeks of intense debate, the vote in the National Assembly house was the first critical hurdle for the legislation that has been long in the making.  The bill passed 347-151 with 65 abstensions.

With France bloodied by terror attacks and French troops now fighting extremists in Mali, few disagree that radicalization is a danger.  But critics also see the produced law as a political ploy to lure the Right to Macron’s centrist party ahead of next year’s presidential election.

It has been hotly contested by some Muslims and lawmakers who fear the state is intruding on essential freedoms and pointing a finger at Islam, the nation’s second most common religion.  Detractors say the measures are already covered in current laws.

The bill gained urgency after a teacher was beheaded outside Paris in October, and three people were killed during a knife attack at a Nice basilica the same month.

The bill mentions neither Muslims nor Islam by name.  Supporters say it aims to snuff out what the government describes as encroaching fundamentalism that subverts French values, notably the nation’s foundational values of secularism and gender equality.

Among other provisions, the bill would crack down on polygamy and forced marriages.  The bill introduces mechanisms to guarantee that mosques and associations that run them are not under the sway of foreign interests or homegrown Salafists with a rigorous interpretation of Islam.

Associations will be required to sign a contract of respect for French values or return state funds if they disobey the contract.  Police officers and prison employees will also be required to take an oath to respect the nation’s values and the constitution.



France: Police Officer’s Locker Defaced With Swastikas

A Jewish police officer in France found swastikas and the words “Dirty Jew” scrawled on his locker at his police precinct.

The officer, who is part of an elite unit headquartered at the Velizy-Villacoublay municipality southwest of Paris, discovered the text on February 4, Le Parisian reported Wednesday (16th).

The National Bureau for Vigilance Against Anti-Semitism (BNVCA), a Jewish community watchdog contacted by the officer, said the culprits are likely fellow police officers.

The Jewish officer filed a police complaint and the incident is the subject of an internal probe.

Sammy Ghozian, the founder of BNVCA and a former police commissioner, called the incident “extremely serious” as it undermines the Jewish community’s trust in the police, he told Le Parisian.

“Police officers are entrusted with protecting citizens in the fight against all forms of racism, and anti-Semitism,” he said.



Netherlands: Mezuzah Smashed, Swastika Carved At Jewish Student’s Home

A swastika was carved into the door frame of a Jewish student’s home in the Dutch city of Maastricht and the mezuzah was torn off and smashed.

The Maastricht University student discovered the damage to his mezuzah, an object containing scripture on parchment that Jews affix to their door frames, and made a police complaint on Thursday (18th), the Netherlands chapter of the StandWithUs pro-Israel group wrote in a statement.

The student who StandWithUs did not name, suspects one of his neighbors perpetrated the vandalism, according to the statement, but no one has been apprehended.  The student and Elad Zigler, the director of StandWithUs Netherlands, said they consider the incident an anti-Semitic attack.

Dutch Jewry’s watchdog for anti-Semitism last year recorded the highest number of anti-Semitic incidents ever observed in a calendar year.

The group, the Center for Information and Documentation on Israel, or CIDI, has been monitoring anti-Semitism in the Netherlands for about 30 years.  It listed 182 incidents in 2019, an increase of 35% from 2018.