News Digest — 6/4/21

Head Of IDF Southern Command: ‘We’re Ready For Next Stage’ Of Operation Against Hamas

The head of IDF Southern Command told Israel’s Channel 13 on Thursday (3rd) that the IDF is preparing for “the next stage” of Israel’s latest conflict with Hamas, which ended in a ceasefire on May 21.

Maj.-Gen. Eliezer Toledano said, “The first stage of Operation Guardian of the Walls is over.  We are ready for the next stage, because what we did isn’t enough.”

“The operation will end definitively when the security reality changes for real,” he asserted.  “We have to exploit the operation we have already begun.”

Toledano also addressed the difference between Guardian of the Walls and 2014s Operation Protective Edge, which lasted longer and involved the use of ground forces.

“In contrast to Hamas, which thought we would continue from where we ended in Protective Edge, we came with a new kind of operation,” he said.

In particular, he noted, Israel relied on strong intelligence information, which allowed the IDF to use “tools that we brought quickly into the field, tools that we built over recent years that bring victory.”

Regarding Hamas itself, Toledano asserted, “They fire from built-up areas into the center of our cities.  They are war criminals twice over.”



Iran Fuming After UN Voting Rights Suspension Over Unpaid Membership Dues

Iran on Thursday (3rd) slammed the United Nations’ decision to suspend its voting rights for failing to pay its dues as “fundamentally flawed, entirely unacceptable and completely unjustified.”

Tehran argues that the $16.3 million it owes to the UN is a result of Washington’s crippling sanctions, imposed after former US President Donald Trump in 2018 unilaterally withdrew the US from a nuclear deal with Iran.

Iran’s voting rights at the 193-member UN General Assembly were suspended in January under rules for countries whose arrears are equal to or exceed their contributions due for the past two years.

In a letter sent to UN Chief Antonio Guterres on Thursday (3rd), Iranian Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif expressed his “strong dismay” at the loss of the voting rights.

“Iran’s inability to fulfill its financial obligation toward the United Nations is directly caused by ‘unlawful unilateral sanctions’ imposed by the United States,” Zarif wrote, according to the letter posted on his Twitter account.

The Central African Republic was also found to be in arrears on paying its UN dues and will lose its voting rights as well.

In the letter to General Assembly President Volkan Bozkir, Guterres said three other African countries – Comoros, Sao Tome – Principe, and Somalia – are also in arrears.  However, he said that the assembly passed a resolution saying they can still vote in the current session which ends in September.

According to the secretary-general’s letter, the minimum payments needed to restore voting rights are $16,251,298 for Iran and $29,395 for the Central African Republic.

Comoros needs to pay $871,632, Sao Tome – Principe $829,888, and Somalia $1,443,640 to reduce their arrears and avoid a possible cutoff of voting rights after September, the letter says.



Hungary Will Continue To Support Israel, No Matter Who Is Prime Minister

Hungary’s relations with Israel will not change if Israel’s political leadership does, Hungarian Foreign Minister Peter Szijjarto said Wednesday (2nd) in an interview with Israel Hayom.

“We respect the democratic decisions made by other countries and don’t interfere with them,” Szijjarto said.  “So the relationship with and policy toward Israel will be identical.”

According to Szijjarto, “personal ties play a role, but we will support Israel in international organizations, regardless of who is in the role of prime minister.”

Szijjarto spoke to Israel Hayom in Jerusalem during a visit as a guest of Foreign Minister Gabi Ashkenazi.  During his time in the Jewish state, he visited a home in Petah Tikva that was hit by a rocket during Operation Guardian of the Walls, and was horrified.

“The clock on the wall stopped the second the rocket hit the house.  I’m lucky that I’ve never experienced war.  It’s inconceivable that people fire rockets at areas full of civilian populations,” he said.

Szijjarto added that his country was unwilling to accept the European Union’s formula for a ceasefire, and vetoed it.

“The European Union needs to speak clearly about the facts.  Israel was attacked by Hamas, and not in an equal manner, and Israel has a right to defend itself.  None of that was mentioned in the draft of the decision, so we vetoed it,” he said.



Hamas Banishes UNRWA Chief From Gaza For Bias In Favor Of The ‘Occupation’

Palestinian factions have declared the Gaza director of the UN agency for Palestinian refugees Matthias Schmale persona non grata “due to his hostile positions and bias in favor of the occupation,” according to a report in The Jerusalem Post.

The factions called on UNRWA to name a new director for Gaza as they announced Schmale and his deputy David de Bold had been banished from the coastal enclave, the Post reported.

Protests erupted in the territory over comments by UNRWA chief Schmale in an interview with Israel’s News 12 on May 22, in which he said he did not dispute Israel’s assertion that its airstrikes were “precise.”  At the time, Hamas ridiculed him as “a spokesman for the Israeli military.”

Schmale, based in Gaza, has apologized for his remarks on Israeli airstrikes, in which he said: “I have the impression there is a huge sophistication in the way the Israeli military struck over the 11 days.”

“Yes they didn’t hit, with some exceptions, civilian targets, but the viciousness, the ferocity of those strikes were heavily felt.

Sami Mshasha, UNRWA’s spokesman in Jerusalem, said on Wednesday (2nd)  Schmale and his deputy had been “called in for consultation and discussion at the Jerusalem headquarters over the latest developments in Gaza.”

Another official told Reuters that Deputy Commissioner-General Leni Stenseth would temporarily lead the Gaza team.

In a statement on May 25, Schmale issued an apology, saying: “There is no justification whatsoever for killing civilians.  Military precision and sophistication are never a justification for war.”



16 Indian Immigrants Tested Positive Upon Landing In Israel

On Wednesday (2nd) 16 immigrants who traveled to Israel from India on a special Aliyah flight tested positive for the highly contagious Indian variant of coronavirus upon landing at Ben Gurion Airport.

The immigrants are from India’s 6,000-person Bnei Menashe community.  The Bnei Menashe are from the Mizoram state in northeastern India, near the border with Myanmar.  The group claims that they are descended from the Hebrew lost tribe Manasseh, exiled from Israel thousands of years ago, but have not been able to definitively prove that link.

In 2004, DNA testing conclusively found that the Bnei Menashe do not share ancestry with any known Sephardic, Mizrahi, or Ashkenazi Jewish groups.  The DNA results indicated that the group is indigenous to east Asia.

The Bnei Menashe are not recognized as Jewish by the state and must undergo formal conversion once they arrive in the country in order to qualify for citizenship.

The Jewish Agency and the Aliyah Ministry actually brought 160 on the flight from India.  Only at disembarkment from the aircraft in Israel were the discoveries made that 16 tested positive.

The Office of Aliyah Minister Penina Tamano-Shata insisted that bringing the group to Israel, even though 16 are positive, was the right decision.

She said that the coronavirus situation in India is severe and the economic situation has deteriorated.  She said the 16 immigrants who tested positive will be quarantined in a coronavirus hotel.



‘If You Don’t Think Anti-Semitism Is Real, Wear A Yarmulke For A Week

Jewish outreach organization is taking on Anti-Semitism.

With anti-Semitism on the rise in the US and worldwide, and given the overwhelming amount of hate and misinformation, particularly on social media, JewBelong has inaugurated a campaign titled “JewBelong or Jew BeGone.”

The group has taken out 750 somewhat tongue-in-cheek digital ads running across Manhattan that read, “Here’s an idea: let’s ask everyone who’s wondering if anti-Semitism is real to wear a yarmulke for a week and then report back.”

The campaign is slated to run through at least July, beginning with LINK digital ads, and then adding billboards and print posters in high traffic locations such as PATH Trains and Times Square.  The campaign will also run in Chicago, Philadelphia, LA and other cities with other messages. The objective of JewBelong or JewBeGone is to elevate awareness about the rampant recent anti-Semtism and to encourage dialogue, support, and community awareness.

As part of the battle against anti-Semitism, JewBelong also announced the Jewish Partisan Prize to recognize influencers who are standing up against anti-Semitism on Instagram and other social media platforms.

The prize name honors the original partisans, a relatively small group of brave warriors that fought the Nazis during WWII.  The prizes promote and reward defenders of the Jewish community and those who speak out against prejudice with courage and resilience.  So far JewBelong has awarded the $360 prize to 23 young peace warriors and will announce more winners in the coming weeks.