News Digest — 5/20/20

Damage To Iran Port From Purported Israeli Cyber Attack Far Worse Than Tehran Claims

The Washington Post correspondent who broke the story on the cyber attack on an Iranian port says the damage caused was much more than what the Iranians admitted, Israel’s Kan News reported on Wednesday (20th).

“The damage was much more significant than what the Iranians describe,” the Post’s, Joby Warrick told Kan diplomatic reporter Amichai Stein.  “Satellite images show columns of trucks trying to reach the port, of ships waiting in line to dock, and we heard descriptions that everything was disabled and chaotic.”

Warrick added that according to all the sources with whom he spoke “all signs and evidence show that this is Israel” behind the cyberattack.  He added that he believed that precisely both sides are admitting to cyberattacks, but neither are interested in a cyber war.  Iran knows that Israel’s capabilities are stronger, Warrick told Stein.

A New York Times article Tuesday (19th) co-authored by Israeli journalist Ronen Bergman said “high-ranking intelligence officials…who are kept informed of covert Israeli actions” said the purpose of what they described as “Israel’s relatively small-scale effort” at the port…”was to send a message to Tehran.  Don’t target Israeli infrastructure.”

Iran was behind the cyber attack on Israeli water authority sites in April that targeted several facilities, but failed to do any significant damage.

The officials told the Times that the Iranian attack, not only failed, but described the Iranian offensive and its quality as “miserable.”

Israel at first decided not to respond to the attack on its water infrastructure because its impact was small, even if Iran’s hand had successfully penetrated, Ynet reported.

However, when the attack was made public in the Israeli media, the government believed that Israel should respond in the same way to do some damage to Iran’s civilian infrastructure and leak the story to international media.

Intelligence officials said the port was deliberately chosen so as not to be central, with the aim of conveying a warning that an attack on Israeli civilian infrastructure would not go unanswered and that it was crossing a red line.

On Tuesday (19th) Israeli security officials issued directives to sensitive facilities and national infrastructure sites around the country to increase their vigilance and alertness in case of an Iranian or pro-Iranian counter cyberattack.



Etihad Completes First Commercial Flight Between UAE And Israel

On Tuesday (19th), Etihad Airlines flew the first known direct commercial flight between the United Arab Emirates (UAE) and Israel.

UAE, home to Abu Dhabi and Dubai on the Arab Peninsula, has no formal diplomatic tie with Israel, but the two nations have enjoyed covert, back-channel relations for years.

The flight on Tuesday brought aid for the Palestinians amid the coronavirus pandemic and marks an open moment of cooperation between Israel and the UAE after years of rumored back-channel discussions between them over the threat posed by Iran.

Etihad, a state-owned, long-haul carrier, confirmed it sent a flight Tuesday to Tel Aviv’s Ben-Gurion Airport.

“Etihad Airways operated a dedicated humanitarian cargo flight from Abu Dhabi to Tel Aviv on May 19, to provide medical supplies to the Palestinians,” the airline told The Associated Press.

The flight had no passengers on board.

The UAE’s state-run WAM news agency later issued a statement saying it delivered 14 tons of protective gear, medical items and ventilators “to curb the spread of the COVID-19 pandemic and its impact in the Palestinian controlled territory.”  It did not acknowledge the flight or its significance.

While not acknowledging Israel diplomatically, Emirati leaders have allowed Israeli officials to visit and the national anthem to be played after an Israeli athlete won gold in an Abu Dhabi Judo tournament.  Israel also has a small mission representing its interests at the International Renewable Energy Agency in Abu Dhabi.

Also, next year Israel will take part in the delayed Expo 2020, being hosted by Dubai.



Does The Term “Annexation” Even Apply To The West Bank? – Dore Gold

→ The territory that was to become British Mandatory Palestine was designated as a future Jewish national home 100 years ago at the post-World War I San Remo Conference.

→ This history is pertinent to the debate that has emerged about Israel retaining parts of the West Bank this year in fulfillment of the U.S. peace plan.

→ This is commonly referred to as “annexation” and states have pointed out that they oppose the annexation of someone else’s territory.  But can you annex territory which has already been designated as yours?

→ The Turkish invasion of Cyprus was an act of aggression.  The Russian invasion of Crimea was an act of aggression.  Israel in the West Bank is an entirely different story.  International law draws a distinction between unlawful territorial change by an aggressor and lawful territorial change in response to an act of aggression.

→ In addition to the designation of these territories as part of the Jewish national home, one must remember that the West Bank was captured by Israel in a war of self-defense in 1967.  That makes all the difference.

→ It would be more correct not to use the term “annexation” but rather “the application of Israeli law to parts of the West Bank.”



Iranians Clamor For Israel Asylum In Coronavirus Crisis

Requests by Iranians for political asylum in Israel have increased considerably since the outbreak of the coronavirus pandemic

Iran has been hard-hit by the virus, which has claimed the lives of more than 7,000 of its citizens.

The Israeli Foreign Ministry said it had been receiving thousands of requests for asylum on its Farsi digital platforms.

One man wrote that his family was politically active and two of his uncles had been put to death by the regime, while his father had spent eight years in prison.  

“I too am often put in jail for political reasons and I would like to escape this slow death.  Israel is my dream,” he added as he pleaded for help. 

Others asked how they could actually enter Israel in order to request asylum, saying they were trying to escape the ayatollah’s regime.

Sharona Avginsaz, who runs the Farsi social media pages for Israel’s Foreign Ministry said there has been a constant increase in requests from Iranians wishing to migrate to Israel across all its digital platforms.



Iran’s Supreme Leader Delivers Anti-Semitic Poster On The Occasion Of Quds Day

Supreme Leader of the Islamic Republic of Iran Ali Khamenei on Tuesday (19th) published an anti-Semitic poster evoking Nazi Germany’s “final solution” that destroyed European Jewry, in order to advance Tehran’s quest to abolish Israel.

The poster’s language reads: “Palestine will be Free.  The Final Solution. Resistance is Referendum.”

Khamenei displayed the anti-Semitic poster in English, Farsi and Arabic on his official homepage.

The poster showed a conquered Jerusalem with photos of the late Revolutionary Guard Corps Quds Force leader, Qassem Soleimani.

The U.S. and E.U. classified Soleimani as a leading international terrorist.  A U.S. drone strike killed Soleimani in January.  He was responsible for the murder of over 600 US military personnel as well as Israelis.

The poster was released from Khamenei’s office to celebrate Quds Day, the annual Iranian rally calling for Israel’s destruction.

Iran’s regime is considered the top state-sponsor of  anti-Semitism and Holocaust denial by ADL national director Jonathan Greenblatt.

Uwe Becker, the president of the pro-Israel NGO The German-Israel Friendship Society, told the Jerusalem Post that “While suppressing their own people, the Mullah regime in Tehran is proclaiming freedom for the Palestinians in order to continue the path to destroy the Jewish state.  As long as Tehran is denying the right of the existence of Israel, and as long as they are continuing to attack directly or indirectly Israeli families, the E.U. should freeze relations with the Iranian regime.  No pillars of relations should stand on poisoned ground.  The Iranian regime is constantly fighting against the State of Israel and its existence.”