News Digest — 3/23/19

March Of Return Protests: Bracing For Gaza’s One-Year Anniversary

The Israel Defense Forces is preparing for tens of thousands of Palestinians to gather along the Israel-Gaza border next weekend, as they join a Hamas ‘million man march’ to mark the one-year anniversary of the “March of Return” protests held regularly at the frontier.

The IDF will deploy hundreds of snipers along the Gaza border in anticipation of the march, set to take place on March 29.

According to IDF assessments, Hamas will not only try to re-enact the earlier Friday marches attended by thousands of Gazans, but will in fact seek to surpass them by transporting more than 50,000 people to the main protest points along the border fence.

The IDF is preparing for the disturbances by doubling the amount of troops that will be deployed along the Gaza border in order to thwart any infiltration attempts by hostile Palestinians into Israel and prevent attacks at the border town communities.

The army believes that Hamas will make every effort to channel the frustrations of the Gaza population – which has been protesting the harsh economic reality under Hamas rule – away from themselves and toward Israel, near the fence.  Therefore, Israel is anticipating an unusual amount of violence and for events to spiral out of control.

So far Hamas has managed to forcibly suppress the street protests against it, including assaulting journalists, human rights activists and the local Fatah leader in the Strip.  Alongside the violence, some 600 people were arrested by Hamas authorities.

This week’s Friday (22nd) protest, at which 10,000 protesters are expected, may be a dress rehearsal for the big event next week.  On the day after the “million man march,” Israeli Arabs will mark Land Day, a day of expressing solidarity with the Palestinians in the territories.



Jordan’s King Warns Israel: ‘Jerusalem Is A Red Line’ – David Isaac

In the wake of recent tensions on the Temple Mount, King Abdullah ll of Jordan said, “To me, Jerusalem is a red line, and all my people are with me.”  His comments made on Wednesday (20th) during a visit to the city of Zarqa, north of Amman, were reported by China’s Xinhua news agency.

King Abdullah affirmed that his country’s commitment to the holy city is clear, as Jordan has a historical duty towards Jerusalem as well as the Islamic and Christian holy sites there,” the news agency reported.

”No one can pressure Jordan on this matter, and the answer will be no.  All Jordanians stand with me on Jerusalem. At the end of the day, Arabs and Muslims will stand with us as well,” he said.

King Abdullah also rejected the possibility that Jordan could replace Judea and Samaria as a state for the Palestinians, saying “anyone who speaks about an alternative homeland, the answer is no.”

Abdullah’s comments come amid heightened tensions on the Temple Mount, whose Muslim holy places are in the hands of the Jerusalem Islamic Waqf, which is controlled by Jordan.

The legitimacy of the Jordanian king’s rule is generally considered to be linked to his successful oversight of these holy places.

The Jerusalem Center for Public Affairs, an Israel-based think tank, says that Fatah sources say that Jordan is behind the recent “effort to take control of the Gate of Mercy building on the Temple Mount.” Last month, Muslims at the site forced open an area near the Gate of Mercy that had been closed by Israeli authorities in 2003.

On February 20, Palestinians removed a metal gate that Israeli police had placed at the entrance to the gate and held prayers in the area.  In response, Israel briefly arrested two top officials of the Waqf.

According to JCPA, the reason that Jordan has started making provocative moves in the area is that Abdullah fears that his kingdom’s authority over the Temple Mount will be curtailed as part of Trump’s ‘Deal of the Century,’ with rumors afloat that Saudi Arabia will be given a special status in the area as part of a Mideast peace deal.

Jordan also worries that Israel intends to establish a synagogue on the Temple Mount, JCPA says.

“Its main concern is that it will be alleged that while the Hashemite Kingdom was serving as guardian of the mosque of Al-Aqsa, Israel managed to take a physical hold of the place.  That would go down in Muslim history as an eternal disgrace and would severely damage the image of the Hashemite dynasty, which claims it is directly descended from the Prophet Mohammed,” JCPA says.



Palestinian Lives Don’t Matter Unless Israel Is To Blame – Bret Stephens

→Some media outlets are prepared to devote months of journalistic effort in order to trace the trajectory of a single bullet that accidentally kills a Palestinian – provided the bullet is Israeli.  But when the shots are being fired by Hamas, the story barely rates in most Western news accounts.

→The current round of demonstrations in Gaza comes in reaction to years of Hamas’ economic mismanagement.  This is not for lack of funds on Hamas’ part: Since 2012, the group has taken in over a billion dollars from Qatar alone to pay the costs of fuel, humanitarian aid and civil-service salaries.

→In 2014, the Wall Street Journal reported that Hamas had spent $90 million building attack tunnels into Israel, at an average cost of nearly $3 million a tunnel.  The material devoted to each tunnel was “enough to build 86 homes, seven mosques, six schools or 19 medical clinics.” Three wars against Israel, each started by Hamas, have also taken their toll in lives, injuries, and infrastructure.

→You shouldn’t be surprised by the scantiness of Western coverage:  It would complicate a convenient narrative of the Israel-Palestinian conflict that holds that the former is the oppressor.  Yet more Palestinians have died in Syria in the last decade, mainly on account of the depredations of Bashar al-Assad, than have been killed by Israel.

→And Palestinians continue to be the victims of leaders who see no reason to subject themselves to regular elections, or financial audits, or criminal investigations, or any other mechanism of political or moral accountability.  That lack of accountability is abetted by Western journalism that has been depressingly incurious about any form of Palestinian suffering for which Israel cannot be held responsible.

→Palestinian lives and livelihoods should matter despite who harms them.  A world that shrugs at Hamas’ abuse of its own people merely licenses the abuse to continue, unchecked.



“It’s Coming From The Far-Left, Far-Right: 89% Of French Jewish Students Face Anti-Semitism

The President of the Union of Jewish Students of France (UEJF) called for comprehensive action to tackle anti-Semitism, after a new poll showed that nearly 90% of Jewish students in France encountered anti-Semitism on campus.

UEJF President Sacha Ghozian said he was not surprised by the results of the survey, which was carried out in March by the French Institute of Public Opinion on behalf of the UEJF and included 405 French Jewish students.

“We’ve felt the rise of anti-Semitism for years, and we also felt that the numbers coming from the Ministry of the Interior are very low compared to the reality,” Ghozian told The Algemeiner, pointing to findings that only one percent of Jewish students filed a police complaint following an anti-Semitic act.

Ghozian said, “Anti-Semitism is coming from the far-left, from the far-right, from radicalized Muslims – they are the ones who target French Jewish students in universities.  These groups are very strong.”

UEJF plans to publish a proposition in the coming days about tackling different forms of anti-Semitism “through education, through the justice system, through police, and through social media,” he added.

“Everyone should be concerned about this issue,” Ghozian emphasized.  “When you attack Jewish people, you attack France, and you attack the French Republic.”



UN Report: Israel Is One Of The Happiest Countries In The World

Israelis remain some of the happiest people in the world, according to the UN World Happiness Report 2019, published Wednesday (20th).

The latest happiness report ranked Israel the 13th happiest country in the world.

According to the report, the happiest nation in the world is Finland, followed by Denmark, Norway, Iceland, the Netherlands, Switzerland, Sweden, New Zealand, Canada, Austria, Australia, Costa Rica, and then Israel.

Israel was ranked above Britain (15), Germany (17), and the United States (19).  The lowest-ranked country in the report was South Sudan.

The 2019 report covers the years 2016-2018 and was compiled using questionnaires distributed to representative samples of the population in each country surveyed.

South Sudan, Afghanistan, and Central African Republic – the lowest-ranked countries on the list – all scored below 4 on a scale of 1-10.