News Digest — 5/19/22

Jordan Concerned Vacuum Left By Russia In Syria Will Be Filled With Iran Proxies

King Abdullah of Jordan expressed concern Wednesday (18th) that the vacuum left behind by Russian troops who left southern Syria as the country shifts focus on Ukraine, will be filled with Iran and its proxies, complicating matters along the kingdom’s border.

Abdullah was interviewed in the United States by former National Security Advisor Herbert McMaster, now a senior fellow at Stanford University’s Hoover Institution.  The monarch visited the US with the aim of “coordinating with friends and planning tactically and strategically for 2022,” he said.

When asked about Iran, Abdullah said, “Of course, we want everyone to be part of a new Middle East and to move forward, but we have security challenges.  There are border attacks on a regular basis and we know who’s behind that.

Abdullah said Russia’s presence in southern Syria was “a source of calm because they were making sure that we would deconflict… that vacuum will be filled by the Iranians and their proxies.  So unfortunately, we are looking at maybe an escalation of problems on our borders.”

He expressed hopes that Arab leaders in the region would find a solution to their problems, instead of relying on the US.

“So you could see Jordan, Saudi Arabia, the UAE, Iraq, Egypt, and some of the other Gulf countries really coming together to tie in and chart a vision for their peoples and have that coordination” before requesting any help, Abdullah said.

Nevertheless, the leader hailed Jordan-US ties as “based on trust” and “one of the strongest in the region.”

Abdullah also addressed the recent wave of violence between Palestinians and Israelis, saying, “the only solution that allows Israel’s integration into the Middle East is when we solve the issues for the Palestinians.”



Thousands Of Israelis Join Civil Defense Amid Terror Wave

Amid an ongoing terror wave, 4,000 Israelis have thus far stepped forward to volunteer in the new civil defense established by the Israel Police and the Defense Ministry.

Civilians will undergo a short training period, after which they will be assigned to patrol the streets of their residential areas, armed with weapons.

Yael Lahav, one of the 4,000 volunteers, is a 44-year-old mother of three from the northern city Kiryat Motzkin.  Last Friday (13th), Yael and 27 other volunteers completed the last of the project’s seven training sessions, qualifying them to carry arms while on duty.

“I’m counting down the minutes until I can put on the vest, sign on a weapon and go on patrol in the streets of my city,” she said.

Yael said that she enrolled in the campaign one day after hearing of it because she had grown afraid for her security amid the terror wave.  “It was scary to wander the streets,” she said.  “I was worried for the children.”

Adam Hakin, a 33-year-old from Tel Aviv, had recently completed his training.

Hakin is a doctor who specializes in neuroscience, and a new father to a four-month-old baby girl.  He claims that taking part in the civil guard could give him a feeling of security to deal with potential terror attacks in the future.

“Like many civilians, I had no qualifications, but the course gave me basic tools that would allow me to respond in the case of a terror attack,” he said.

He also admitted that he does not think volunteering is a cause for praise.  “I’m protecting my family, friends, and surroundings,” he said.  “It is the most basic and necessary thing to do as an Israeli civilian.”

While participants are asked to devote a minimum of four hours each week, most sign up for more.

The new volunteers who enrolled since the public campaign was launched six weeks ago, make up 26% of the civil defense, which has a total of 24,000 people registered.

Most of the volunteers are assigned to help the Border Police and those enforcing traffic laws.

The volunteers are made up of 85% men and 15% women, and while 77% are Jewish, 12% are Muslims.  The Jewish volunteers say they want to be first responders in case of an attack, and the Muslims are mostly concerned for their safety in the face of increasing violence across the Arab communities.  

Security officials expressed their gratitude for the collective effort of civilians.

“The Israeli Police is small for the scope of its tasks and there was a dire need to incorporate civilians, especially to deal with the terrorist wave,” an official said.

“It is moving to discover that thousands of civilians responded to our campaign and came forward asking to volunteer and put into action the slogan we chose – ‘Home Guard,’ – it is as simple as it sounds,” he said.



Israel Delivers Helmets And Flak Jackets To Ukraine In Possible Policy Shift

A delivery of Israeli helmets and flak jackets were sent off to Ukraine on Wednesday (18th) in what appears to be a shift in Jerusalem’s position on the Russian invasion.

The Defense Ministry announced it had sent 2,000 helmets and 500 flak jackets which will be distributed to Ukrainian civilian organizations and rescue workers.

Since Russia’s invasion of Ukraine at the end of February, Israel has sent some 100 tons of humanitarian aid such as medical supplies, clothes, blankets and water purification systems, including operating a field hospital in Western Ukraine.  The field hospital was closed down at the end of April following a six-week mission.

However, Israel has refrained from sending military equipment.

Jerusalem’s criticism of Russia has been muted so as not to jeopardize security arrangements which gave the Israeli Air Force freedom to strike Iranian targets in Syria.

However, Jerusalem-Moscow ties have been strained by the war.  Reports of widespread atrocities have created pressure on Israeli officials to take a stronger position against Russia.

Relations were further strained when Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov made antisemitic comments blaming Jews for the Holocaust and claiming Nazi leader Adolf Hitler was of Jewish descent.  President Vladimir Putin apologized to Prime Minister Naftali Bennett for the comments.  The apology, which was disclosed by Bennett’s office, has not been confirmed by Moscow.

According to Hebrew media reports, Israel continues to rule out sending Ukraine advanced military weapons and systems, such as the Iron Dome missile defense system, aerial drones or other electronic equipment.

However, Israel was among 43 countries which participated in the US-led summit which sought ways to provide arms to Ukraine.



Hamas Scoops Up Majority Of Student Council Seats At Major Palestinian University

A bloc affiliated with the Hamas terror group on Wednesday (18th) won a landslide victory in the student council elections at Birzeit University in the West Bank, one of the biggest Palestinian tertiary educational institutions.

The Islamic Allegiance Bloc garnered 5068 votes, taking 28 seats out of 51 total, while the Fatah-linked Yasser Arafat Bloc garnered just 3379, or 18 seats.  Birzeit University used to be a Fatah stronghold, but support for the Palestinian Authority has since dwindled, and the popularity of Hamas has increased.

This year’s elections also had a high voter turnout, with 78% of students arriving at the polls.

The winning Islamic Allegiance Bloc students have a history of supporting the terror group through campus activity.  In November 2021, Israel arrested five activists that maintained contact with senior Hamas officials based in Turkey for the purpose of transferring funds through the Gaza Strip to Judea and Samaria with credit cards.  Six months later, the IDF arrested several other Birzeit University students suspected of belonging to a Hamas student cell.



Jewish Group Condemns Antisemitic “Nakba” Bill By Rep. Tlaib

Coalition for Jewish Values (CJV), representing over 2,000 rabbis in matters of American public policy, on Wednesday (18th) forcefully denounced a resolution introduced by Rep. Rashida Tlaib (D-MI), calling for recognition of “the Nakba (catastrophe),” a reference to the founding of the State of Israel.  The rabbis called the resolution “openly antisemitic” and its introduction “an indelible stain on Congress.”

“Arab armies responded to Israel’s founding with a call for genocide,” said CJV Israel Regional Vice President Rabbi Steven Pruzansky, “and have continued with repeated wars and horrific acts of terrorism for the sole purpose of killing Jews and destroying the world’s only Jewish state.  They proclaimed their intent in 1948 as a ‘momentous massacre,’ to kill all Jews in Israel as Hitler did in Germany, and what they call a ‘Nakba’ is that they fell 99% short of that obscene goal.”

“Tlaib has a history of anti-Semitic remarks, beginning with referring to the only Middle Eastern country with a significant Jewish population as a ‘racist’ country.  Following hateful comments from her colleague (and co-sponsor of this resolution) Rep. Ilhan Omar (D-MN), the House was unable to pass a resolution condemning antisemitism, but instead approved a resolution that submerged anti-Semitism in the middle of a long list of forms of hatred, watering it down so completely that Omar was able to portray its passage as a victory,” the CJV said.

Over three years ago, CJV warned House Speaker Pelosi that to maintain Omar’s assignment to the House Foreign Affairs Committee was “tantamount to saying that anti-Semitism is acceptable to the United States House of Representatives.  It is to that committee that this resolution was submitted.”

“Every member of Congress, especially those who are Jewish, has a moral obligation to repudiate this hateful resolution,” concluded CJV President Rabbi Yoel Schonfeld, “and the real catastrophe is that we have reached the point that this was introduced.  This indelible stain on Congress is a direct result of the failure of its leaders to act against antisemitism as it festered over the past three years, and it is long overdue for the Speaker of the House of Representatives to not merely issue platitudes about antisemitism, but to lead the House in censuring those who voice it.”  



Australian Police Investigating Antisemitic Attack On Jewish Men

Australian police are investigating an attack on two Jewish men in the city of Melbourne that left one of them requiring hospitalization for severe bruising and lacerations.

Sunday’s (15th) attack occurred just over a week after the introduction of legislation to ban the public display of the Nazi swastika, The Age newspaper reported.

One of the victims, 50-year-old Yacov Gozlan, said he was leaving a supermarket in the city late on Sunday night (15th) when he saw an Orthodox Jewish man being attacked.

“The attacker was holding the religious man’s hat behind his back and was pushing him back with the other hand towards a transit van,” Gozlan told the new media outlet.  “I said to him ‘I’m Jewish, he’s Jewish, leave us alone,’ and he started bashing me straight away.”

Gozlan said he ran inside the supermarket, where the assault continued.  He alleged that he was gouged in both eyes during the altercation.

A Victoria Police spokeswoman confirmed a 33-year-old man was arrested at the scene and questioned.  So far no charges have been filed.

“Victoria Police understand incidents of antisemitism can leave communities feeling targeted, threatened and vulnerable.  We treat any reports of antisemitism  seriously,” the spokeswoman said.

Dvir Abramovich – Chairman of the Anti-Defamation Commission (ADC), a Jewish civil rights group – said that the situation had “now reached a staggering stage whereby being identifiably Jewish makes one a likely target for harassment and abuse.”

Last week, two men were charged by police after allegedly plastering Nazi swastika stickers on fences, light poles, bus stops and a Jewish community center just one day after the Australian government introduced its legislation to ban the swastika.