News Digest — 3/19/21

‘No To Islamic Republic Of Iran’ Social Media Protest Gains Traction

Iranian dissidents and Iranians living in the Islamic Republic are using the social media phrase “No to the Islamic Republic” to form a greater connection between their aspirations for a new society.

“Launched in just the last few weeks with a plain but captivating slogan and graphic, the international ‘No to the Islamic Republic’ (or ‘N2IR’) campaign is a call to any and all who oppose a regime that has left no Iranian family untouched by its evil,” wrote Mariam Memarsadeghi, an advocate for a democratic Iran, on the website of the Bulwark on Wednesday (17th).

She added that the movement embodies a “concerted people-powered campaign for the peaceful overthrow of the Islamic Republic and a transition to a liberal democracy, which is a testament to the Iranians’ refusal to play by the rules of their oppressors any longer.”

The National Union for Democracy in Iran tweeted: “One of Iran’s most famous singers, Ebi, and his wife and partner @HamediMahshid join the #No2IR campaign.” 

Memarsadeghi, the co-founder of Tavaana, an E-Learning Institute for Iranian Civil Society, wrote that “An outgrowth of the campaign has been the call for a boycott of Iran’s next presidential election, scheduled for June.  Like many other despotic governments that make a show of pseudo-democracy, the Iranian regime counts on turnout.”

She continued that “having not seen a single promise of reform prove true, Iranians have come to understand that the ‘reformist’ politicians are guilty of some of the regime’s biggest lies, ineptitude, and corruption, and are complicit in the Supreme Leader’s call for killing.”

The exiled Iranian prince Reza Pahlavi circulated a video message on Monday (15th) joining the ‘No to the Islamic Republic’ and said “the campaign is the connecting link between all the dissidents.”

According to the London-based Iran International website, “In the past few days it has turned into a new movement with social media users having posted images and videos of themselves holding placards reading ‘No to the Islamic Republic’ or attaching stickers and posters in public places, many in Iran.”

Reza Pahlavi said there is “no Iranian family that has not paid a price, and this regime has killed a member of my family and some of my friends as well.”

The UAE-based outlet The National, reported that “The Farsi language #Na be joumhoriye Islami (No to the Islamic Republic), has so far attracted the support and endorsement of thousands of Iranians in and outside the country, with the number increasing by the day.”



Guterres Calls For Hezbollah Disarmament, UNIFIL Tunnel Access

In order for the UN to be able to inspect Hezbollah’s tunnels along the Lebanese-Israeli border, Hezbollah must be disarmed, United Nations Secretary-General Antonio Guterres said on Thursday (18th).

Guterres addressed the tense situation between the two countries in a closed meeting at the United Nations Security Council (UNSC) in New York.

“I call upon the Lebanese authorities to grant the United Nations Interim Forces (UNIFIL) in Lebanon full access to all locations north of the Blue Line requested in connection with the mission’s investigations, including with respect to the Hezbollah tunnels crossing the Blue Line,” Guterres said.

The Blue Line is the official border between Israel and Lebanon, marking the Israeli withdrawal spot.

The Israeli Foreign Ministry echoed Guterres’ call, noting that “In 2018, Israel uncovered 6 terror tunnels dug by Hezbollah, crossing from Lebanon into Israel.  Hezbollah prevents UNIFIL inspectors access to these sites.”

The problem, however, extends beyond just the ability to locate the tunnels, Guterres said.

“UNIFIL needs freedom of movement all along the Blue Line,” he said, adding that this includes the ability to conclude independent patrols, as well as other activities.

Guterres also called for Hezbollah, an Iranian proxy militant and political group operating independently in Lebanon, to be disarmed.

“So far no progress has been achieved with respect to the disarmament of Hezbollah as the group continues to acknowledge publicly that it maintains military capabilities,” Guterres said.

He pointed to a statement by Hezbollah Secretary-General Hassan Nasrallah, who said in December that his group has doubled the number of precision missiles aimed at Israel.  Guterres added that Israel told the UNSC that Hezbollah has an arsenal of over 130,000 rockets and military infrastructure.

The arms embargo against Hezbollah has been ineffective so far, Guterres said, adding that the UN was “not in the position” to confirm allegations of arms transfers to Hezbollah.

The Lebanese government, he said, had not responded to his request for information on the matter.

UNIFIL is tasked with monitoring the 2006 ceasefire between Israel and Lebanon.  The ceasefire is what ended the Second Lebanon War as codified in UNSC Resolution 1701.

Resolution 1701 emphasized that weapons transfers from the state to non-state actors in Lebanon is a violation of the agreement, Guterres noted. 



Rivlin Urges France To Stand By Israel, Oppose ICC Probe

President Reuven Rivlin on Wednesday (17th) called on the French government and other European countries to oppose the International Criminal Court’s decision to launch an investigation into the IDF.

In a letter published in French daily Le Figaro ahead of his visit to Paris, Rivlin appealed to President Emmanuel Macron and other European leaders to stand by the Jewish State in the face of the “morally and legally bankrupt” ICC decision.

The president stressed the importance of international law and the misuse of it by the ICC, and promised that Israel would stand by its soldiers, who protected their country when it was needed.

“The decision of the International Criminal Court’s chief prosecutor to investigate Israel for possible war crimes is a misapplication of international law.  A court that was established to deal with the gravest crimes of concern to the international community is being used as a political weapon, and it is a morally and legally bankrupt decision,” the letter read.

“For us, these are not just abstract legal questions.  The soldiers and civilians that the ICC threatens to investigate are our children and grandchildren, our neighbors and friends.  We will do everything in our power to protect them, just as they protected us when we asked them to.”

Rivlin noted that the ICC ruling has undermined the chances of Israelis and Palestinians finding “common ground,” as both sides are unlikely to engage in serious negotiations until the investigation is over, which might take years.

The president finished the letter with the words, “I call on the friends of Israel and the Palestinians, in France and abroad, to state clearly, once and for all, that the road to peace runs directly between Jerusalem and Ramallah.”

“Detours through the International Criminal Court in The Hague and the United Nations Human Rights Council in Geneva are counterproductive to peace and undermine the chances of an agreement.”



After Ten Years Of Syrian Civil War, Young Druze In Golan Shifting Forces To Israel

Syria’s civil war has ushered in a real change for the Druze community in the Israeli Golan Heights (who had seen their future in Syria), after the protracted conflict left 600,000 Syrians dead and 12 million displaced.  Wael Tarabieh, 53, who works at the Al-Marsad human rights center in Majdal Shams, admits that after the disintegration of the social fabric of Syria, the local Druze population in the Golan doubts it will ever return to Syrian rule.

In the past, free tuition and monthly stipends from the Syrian government lured thousands of Golan Druze to study in Syria.  This ground to a halt after the war began and the number of Golan students studying in Israeli universities spiked.  The Israeli government, meanwhile, increased investment in the area for the development of Druze regional councils. 

Roaa Khater, who was director of the Education Department in the Druze village of Mas’ade for most of the past decade, says, “The Druze in the Golan Heights experience security and prosperity, including quality of life, education and employment.  At the end of the day, this is what’s really important to them – and this is what they find in Israel.”

The Druze community used to ostracize everyone who took Israeli citizenship, but the situation is different today.  As of 2018, 20.6% of Golan Druze held Israeli passports and the rate is growing.



Vietnamese Launch Organic Farm After Studying In Israel

Four young men have started an organic farm in Khanh Hoa province after training in Israel, the world’s leading country in agricultural technology.  The Moshav Farm grows coconuts, pomelos, guavas, grapes, jackfruits, mangos and plants for herbal medicine, as well as raising chickens and sheep.  The farm’s products have been distributed to more than a 100 retail and wholesale channels nationwide, and have attracted hundreds of trainees.  The farm uses automatic drip irrigation, mist spraying and automatic organic fertilizing.

Nguyen Ta Dong, the team’s leader, said his “studying time in Israel helped me absorb effective professional working methods.  These practical experiences have given me the mindset about high-quality organic agriculture.”  Another founder, Nguyen Manh Tien, said his time in Israel “helped me learn the mindset and working spirit of the Jewish people.  Israelis working on a farm do not have the mindset of farmers but the mindset of businessmen in the agricultural sector.”