News Digest — 2/26/19

Waqf: Temple Mount Site Will Remain Open Despite Israeli Crackdown

The Jerusalem Waqf Council announced Sunday (24th) that a section of the Temple Mount that was closed by Israel in 2003 will remain open, even after the arrest of two senior officials.

The announcement came shortly after the Jerusalem Police released two Waqf officials who were arrested earlier in the day for their role in last week’s events on the Temple Mount, during which thousands of Palestinians forced their way into the section known as the Golden Gate in English and Gate of Mercy in Arabic.

Located in the northern third of the Temple Mount’s eastern wall, the Golden Gate/Gate of mercy itself was sealed off by Muslim warrior Salah ad-Din, also known as Saladin, after regaining Jerusalem in 1187.

The controversial section, which Muslims call Bab al-Rahma, is located opposite the sealed ancient gate.

The controversial site was closed 16 years ago by an Israeli court decision to prevent the Waqf, the Islamic Movement in Israel (Northern Branch) and Hamas affiliated elements from opening offices and carrying out illegal excavation work there.

Last Friday (22nd), thousands of Palestinians converged on the site after removing an iron gate the police had installed at the entrance to the area.

Jordanian Minister of Waqf and Islamic Affairs, Abdel Nasser Abu Basal, condemned the police crackdown as “dangerous and unacceptable escalation that affects the Jordanian role in caring for Islamic holy sites in Jerusalem.”

Palestinian news service WAFA reported, “The worshipers chanted religious and national slogans and mounted the flag of Palestine to show delight at the reopening of the area, defying the Israeli ban.”



Gaza Protesters Call For Abbas To Step Down

Thousands of protesters in the Gaza Strip Sunday (24th) called on Palestinian Authority Leader Mahmoud Abbas to resign after attempts to pressure his rival Hamas to financial cuts in the impoverished enclave.

“Leave!” yelled crowds made up mainly of supporters of Hamas and Mohamed Dahlan, an Abbas rival expelled from the Leader’s Fatah party who now lives in exile.

They called on the Palestinian Authority to pay the full salaries of public sector employees in Gaza, run by Islamist terror group Hamas.

Abbas, 83, has over the course of recent months reduced salaries in the Gaza Strip.

The rally was organized by a group called the Free Gaza Movement, whose members are circulating anti-Abbas content on social media platforms.

Protesters demanded increased electricity supplies to the enclave, where residents receive power in eight-hour intervals.

They also demonstrated against Israel’s blockade of the Gaza Strip.

Israel says the blockade is necessary to prevent Hamas – which seeks to destroy Israel and which has fought three wars with the Jewish state since 2008 – from obtaining weapons or materials that could be used to make them.

Separately, on Sunday (24th), in the city of Hebron, Palestinians demonstrated in support of Mahmoud Abbas.

Abbas’ term was meant to expire in 2009, but he has remained in office in the absence of elections.



Hebrew Origins of Palestinian Arab Towns In Judea-Samaria – Lee Bender

It is absurd to claim that the Arabs are the indigenous peoples of Israel because virtually all the place names used by local Arabs are non-Arabic in origin, and derived either from biblical Hebrew names or from later Greek or Roman names. The Romans renamed the entire region Syria-Palestina (named for the Philistines and Assyrians) after they destroyed the Second Temple so as to erase its Jewish roots.  This was later shortened to Palestina, and it eventually became known as Palestine.

The region commonly referred to as the “West Bank” was known for three millennia as Judea and Samaria.  Indeed, Jews derive the very name of their religion and peoplehood from the name Yehuda, the fourth son of Jacob, whose tribe settled in that region.  In fact, UN General Assembly Resolution 181 (1947) referred to the region as Judea and Samaria, as do all maps published before 1948.

Israeli scholar and later President Yitzhak Ben-Zvi wrote in 1932 that west of the Jordan River, 277 villages and sites had names that were similar to or the same as Jewish villages in these locations during Second Temple times.  Moreover, 1/4 of the 584 Arab localities in Israel and beyond have ancient biblical names. So, to counter those who attempt to disassociate the Jews from the Land of Israel and claim that they are colonizers, the proof is in the names.



Iran’s President Faces Calls To Resign Over Economic Crisis

TEHRAN, Iran– As Iran marked the 40th anniversary of the Islamic Revolution, a white-turbaned Shiite cleric at one commemoration targeted President Hassan Rouhani, a fellow clergyman, with this sign: “You are the cause of inflation; we hope you won’t last until spring.”

Already lashed by criticism over the collapsing nuclear deal and renewed tensions with the US, the relatively moderate Rouhani faces anger from clerics, hard-line forces and an ever-growing disaffected public that now threatens his position.

Iranian presidents typically see their popularity erode during their second four-year terms, but analysts say Rouhani is particularly vulnerable because of the economic crisis assailing the country’s rial currency, which has hurt ordinary Iranians and emboldened critics to openly call for his ouster.

Though such a move has happened only once in the Islamic Republic’s four-decade history, the popular discontent heard on streets throughout Iran could now make it possible.

“I don’t care who is in the presidential palace: a cleric, a general or anybody else,” said Qassim Abhari, who sells hats and socks on the streets of Tehran.  “We need someone who creates jobs and firmly pushes the brake pedal on rising prices.”

It’s been a long fall for Rouhani, who secured the 2015 nuclear deal after two years in office and won the praise of Iranians, who flooded the streets to celebrate it.  Under the deal, Iran limited its enrichment of uranium in exchange for the lifting of economic sanctions.

But the benefits of the deal never reached much of the Iranian public.  Even before President Donald Trump pulled America from the accord in May, uncertainty over its future caused the rial to crater, fueling sporadic, nationwide protests.

Now the rial is dropping again, down to 133,000 to $1.  It had been 32,000 to the dollar at the time of the deal.  Food staples like beans, rice and tomato paste have risen as much as 238%.

So far, nine hard-line lawmakers have put forward a measure to disqualify Rouhani as president.  Iranian law also allows Rouhani to resign.



Remains Of Hundreds Of Bodies Discovered At Former Jewish Ghetto In Belarus

A mass grave containing bones from hundreds of bodies has been discovered during the course of construction work carried out atop what used to be the ghetto of Brest, in present-day Belarus, says the Jewish Telegraphic Agency.

Construction of apartments above a former Jewish cemetery in Gomel, eastern Belarus, took place despite a motion filed against the building plans by an American Jewish activist Yakov Goodman for the preservation of Jewish heritage sites in his native country back in 2017.  A court in Belarus rejected a motion to prevent construction of apartments atop two former Jewish cemeteries, JTA reported at the time.

The remains, uncovered last month, are said to be of men, women and children.  The construction work also unearthed clothing, shoes, and other personal items.

Since the initial discovery was made, the remains of dozens of additional bodies have been discovered daily, the report said.  City official Anna Kondak said: “We expect the number of victims to go over 1,000.”

Mayor Alexander Rogachuk said the bones belonged to “victims of ghettos,” meaning Jews imprisoned there by the Nazis during the Holocaust.

The Nazis killed three million civilians in Belarus, of whom 800,000 were Jewish.

The mayor said he is in contact with local and international Jewish groups about arranging burial for the bones at local Jewish cemeteries.

Construction has been suspended on the immediate site of the grave but is going on around it, the Onliner news site reported over the weekend.