News Digest — 3/31/23

Israeli Airstrikes Target Damascus For Second Time In 24 Hours

Israel staged airstrikes on suburbs of the Syrian capital of Damascus early Friday (31st) for the second day in a row, the state news agency reported.  It gave no word on casualties.

Loud explosions were heard over the Syrian capital shortly after midnight Thursday (30th) according to residents in the capital and news agency SANA.  The airstrikes came after similar attacks early Thursday morning (30th).  The agency said Syrian air defenses were confronting hostile targets.

The Britain-based Syrian Observatory for Human Rights, an opposition war monitor, said the strikes targeted arms depots for government forces and Iran-backed groups just south of Damascus.

Israel is thought to have carried out hundreds of strikes on targets inside government-controlled parts of Syria in recent years including attacks to the Damascus and Aleppo airports, but rarely acknowledges specific operations.  Israel says it targets bases of Iran-allied groups, such as Lebanon’s Hezbollah, which has sent thousands of fighters to support Syrian President Bashar Assad’s forces.

An alleged airstrike last week targeting the airport at the northern city of Aleppo put it out of commission for two days.



Right-Wing Supporters Of Judicial Overhaul March In Tel Aviv

Tens of thousands of supporters of the government and its planned judicial overhaul gathered for what they called a “Freedom March” on Thursday (30th) in Tel Aviv after calls from ministers for the right-wing public to take to the streets in response to mass demonstrations held for the past three months, by opponents of the plan.

Some demonstrators destroyed an installation of an IDF air force jet crashing into the ground built by opponents of the government’s move.  Others carried signs, some saying “Bibi is the king of Israel,” and “the left-wing minority does not decide,”  other signs read “The Supreme Court will not rule us,” while some chanted for the Chief Justice Esther Hayut to resign. 

Likud legislator Tali Gottlieb who walked with the demonstrators hailed the marchers for their love of Israel and their willingness to come out and make their voices heard.  “Not one of these people plans to provoke violence,” she said.  “We have gathered for a show of force and will express our desires after the right-wing won the elections,” she said.

On Monday (27th), the right-wing staged its first 15,000 strong demonstration in Jerusalem as a show of force prompted by the government and parties in the coalition and were outside the Knesset to hear Netanyahu’s announcement, of temporarily pausing the legislative move, for discussions and dialogue.  

Organizers of the event said it was an established fact that changes must be made to Israel’s legal system.  “There can be dialogue and agreement reached, but there cannot be surrender,” they said.  “The will of the voters must not be trampled on by bullies who refuse to serve the military and damage Israel’s economy.   The majority of the people demand a judicial overhaul and that must be achieved.  We must not allow most Israelis to become second-rate citizens,” they said.

National Security Minister Itamar Ben-Gvir said the demonstrations are important for democracy.  “I call on demonstrators to refrain from violence against the police, journalists, or any other people,” he said.  “I have faith in the commissioner of the police that he will instruct his forces to treat the demonstrators in the same way that the protesters against the government were treated,” he said.



The Lions’ Den Terrorist Group Has Raised Its Head Again – Yoni Ben Menachem

The Lions’ Den terrorist group operating in Nablus and its neighboring villages has rehabilitated itself in recent months as new members have joined its ranks.  It continues its terrorist attacks against IDF soldiers and Israeli civilians and poses a security challenge to the Palestinian Authority and Israel.  So far, Lions’ Den has carried out about 100 shooting attacks in which Israeli soldiers and civilians were killed and wounded.  It also planned attacks inside pre-1967 Israel that the Israel Security Agency thwarted, and it is still planning attacks in Israel’s major cities.

To date, Israeli security forces have killed more than 20 members, but the group has about a hundred members.  About 20 members have surrendered to the PA, handing over their weapons.  They will be employed by the PA’s security forces and receive a monthly salary.  The PA security forces have failed to act against the group, under orders of PA Chairman Mahmoud Abbas, as long as it did not endanger his rule.  While most of the group’s members belong to Fatah, it receives funds from Hamas, which also supports it through its media and social networks.

The Lions’ Den group continues to grow stronger and Israel’s confrontation with the terrorist militia is inevitable.  There seems to be no escape from a significant Israeli military operation in Nablus and entry into its old city (casbah), with arrests or killing of the terrorists and the dismantling of its terrorist infrastructure.



Gulf And African Delegates Arrive In Jerusalem To Discuss Ties

Representatives of think tanks, applied-diplomacy institutes, and journalists from countries in the Gulf and Africa arrived in Israel this week for a conference in Jerusalem tackling the war on terror and radicalization, water, and food security, initiated by the Jerusalem Center for Public Affairs.

Among the guests were representatives of Saudi Arabia, Somalia, Djibouti, Tunisia, and Mauritania – that do not have diplomatic ties with Israel.  Others came from the UAE, Bahrain, Chad, Ethiopia, Ghana, Jordan, Kenya, Morocco, Namibia, Nigeria, Rwanda, Somaliland, South Africa, South Sudan, and Uganda.

Dan Diker, president of the Jerusalem Center, said: “This is an unprecedented, historic meeting of representatives of countries that, in the current climate, were not supposed to come to Israel and discuss strengthening Israel’s ties with Africa and bolstering the Abraham Accords.  They agreed to come to Jerusalem to talk about the concept of national security in the broad sense of the term, which includes not only the war on terror and radicalization but also desalination, food security, and the war on hunger.”



80 Years Ago, Pageants At Madison Square Garden Sought To Halt Nazi Genocide Against European Jews – Frederic J. Frommer

On March 9, 1943, a pair of sold-out pageants at Madison Square Garden sought to pressure the U.S. and its allies to halt the Nazi genocide against European Jews.  The “We Will Never Die” pageant was repeated in several cities, including Washington, D.C., where First Lady Eleanor Roosevelt, 200 members of Congress, and seven Supreme Court justices attended.  The cast of hundreds included 20 rabbis rescued from European ghettos and actors portraying Jewish soldiers fighting for the American military.  The backdrop was an enormous display of the Ten Commandments, each tablet 40 feet high.

The New York Times reported on the “dramatic mass memorial to the 2,000,000 Jews killed in Europe” by that date.  “The memorial was staged to stir the Allied nations to stop the slaughter of ‘a people’ by the Germans.

The final scene depicts the end of the war, as a narrator predicts: “There will be no Jews left in Europe…The four million left to kill are being killed, according to plan…No voice is heard to cry halt to the slaughter, no government speaks to bid the murder of human millions end.”  The pageant ended with participants singing the Jewish prayer for the dead, the kaddish.



Vandal Again Topples Menorah At San Diego State Chabad House  

A man vandalized the Chabad house at San Diego State University on Sunday night (26th), marking the third time since April 2021 that the Jewish center, which opened in 1977, has been targeted.

Security camera footage shared by StopAntisemitism, a nonprofit, shows a man running up to a decorative menorah mounted on the center’s lawn and violently shaking it back and forth until one of its branches broke and the structure keeled over.

“The menorah is a deeply meaningful symbol of the Jewish people.  It is also a symbol of light,” J. Luke Wood, SDSU vice president for student affairs and campus diversity, said on Monday (27th),

“SDSU stands in solidarity with the Chabad House and all members of the Jewish community and condemns all forms of anti-Semitism.  To be clear: Any acts of vandalism, hatred, or marginalization toward members of our campus community, including our Jewish community, will not be tolerated.

The Chabad house menorah has stood in front of the building for 20 years.  It was last vandalized in June 2021 when a woman pulled down the menorah and another tore the fabric from a Chabad banner commemorating Jewish heritage.

The university has asked anyone with information about this latest incident to contact the San Diego Police Department.

“We are disgusted to hear the menorah at San Diego University Chabad Jewish Center has been vandalized once again,” StopAntisemitism tweeted.  “Video footage of the vandalism shows the ‘disturbing force’ with which the man attacks the menorah – his hatred can almost be sensed through the screen.”

Antisemitic incidents in the United States increased 36% in 2022, according to an annual audit issued by the Anti-Defamation League (ADL) earlier this month.  The ADL recorded 3,697 incidents – ten per day – across the U.S., the highest ever since the group began tracking them in 1979.

494 incidents took place on K-12 campuses, and 219 incidents took place at colleges and universities, an increase of 41% from the previous year.