News Digest — 7/15/21

Iranian Dissidents To Visit Israel Next Week

A delegation of Iranian dissidents and expatriates plan to pay a solidarity visit to Israel next week with officials from the Trump administration.

The mission, organized by the Institute for Voices of Liberty (IVOL) – a policy institute dedicated to encouraging freedom, human rights and democracy in Iran – includes eight Iranian expats and four former officials, and is meant to show that the expats support Israelis in light of the latest attacks by Hamas and Palestinian Islamic Jihad, which are sponsored by Iran.

The delegation will meet with Foreign Ministry representatives and visit an IDF unit, as well as hear from security experts.  It plans to visit towns on the Gaza border, as well as Israel’s northern border, to learn about the threat from Hezbollah.  They will also tour historic sites in Jerusalem.

The IVOL delegation will be joined by several former senior US government officials, including Victoria Coates, Ellie Cohanim, Len Khodorkovsky, and Adam Lovinger.  Members of the group – most of whom will be traveling to Israel for the first time – will meet with Israelis of diverse backgrounds and religions during their visit to Jerusalem, Tel Aviv and a number of other locations near the Gaza and Syrian borders targeted by the regime in Iran and its terrorist proxies.

Former US deputy national security adviser, Victoria Coates said that the Abraham Accords show there is potential for greater peace, security and prosperity in the Middle East, and that Iranians also deserve to take part, despite their hostile and anti-Semitic regime.

Coates cited an op-ed she and former senior adviser to the US special representative for Iran Len Khodorkovsky wrote in The Jerusalem Post this year, calling for a ‘Cyrus Accords’ between Israel and Iranians – named after Cyrus the Great, the Persian king who allowed Jews to build the Second Temple in Jerusalem.

“This IVOL mission is an important step toward realizing that vision, once the Islamic Republic joins so many other ruthless, authoritarian regimes on the ash heap of history,” Coates said.

Khodorkovsky is expected to join the delegation, as well as former deputy special envoy to monitor and combat anti-Semitism Ellie Cohanim, who was born in Iran, and US department of defense strategist Adam Lovinger.

IVOL board member Bijan R. Kian, an Iranian-American, said the organization “exists to reflect the voices of freedom-seeking Iranians.”

“We organized this historic mission to Israel to show solidarity of free Iranians with the people of Israel,” Kian said, “and to separate the freedom-seeking people of Iran from the criminal, inept and corrupt regime that has forced itself upon them.”



Slovakia To Open Diplomatic Mission In Jerusalem This September

Slovakia upgraded the status of the diplomatic mission it plans to open in Jerusalem in September so that it now falls under the country’s Foreign Ministry.

It’s a move that is seen as a victory for Israel’s campaign against international refusal to recognize that Jerusalem – even west Jerusalem – is the capital of the Jewish state.

The landlocked Central European country first pledged to open a cultural mission in Jerusalem in 2018, when former US President Donald Trump was in office and was pressing the international community to follow America’s lead in relocating its embassy from Tel Aviv to Jerusalem.

But its government has since changed, as has that of the United States and Israel.  President Joe Biden has not prioritized international recognition of Jerusalem as had his predecessor.

But then-prime minister Benjamin Netanyahu pressed forward on the issue, with former foreign minister Gabi Ashkenazi raising the matter with his Slovakian counterpart, Ivan Korcok.  Foreign Minister Yair Lapid also spoke to Korcok about it.

On Wednesday (14th), the Slovakian foreign minister fixed the date for the opening of the diplomatic mission.

“Slovakia is deepening relations with #Israel by opening the Slovak Institute in #Jerusalem on September 1, 2021,” Korcok tweeted.

His announcement came just two days after Israel’s FM Yair Lapid returned from Brussels, where he met with the European Union Foreign Affairs Council, which is a gathering of foreign ministers that included Korcok as well.

Lapid tweeted in response to Korcok’s announcement , “Thank you minister @IvanKorcok for your important decision to open Slovak Institute in Jerusalem.  This step is a symbol of your friendship and it will serve to strengthen the relations between our countries.”

Since the US Embassy relocation in 2018, only three other countries have placed their embassies in Jerusalem: Guatemala, Honduras, and Kosovo.

Equatorial Guinea and Malawi have also pledged to open embassies in Jerusalem.  The Czech Republic and Hungary have already given a nod in that direction by opening diplomatic offices in Jerusalem, both of which are seen as branches of the Tel Aviv embassies.

The Hungarian, Czech and Slovakian moves are contrary to EU policy, which opposes any action on Jerusalem prior to a final status agreement for a two-state resolution to the conflict.



Hamas Accuses Israel Of Falsifying Jerusalem History

Hamas responded on Wednesday (14th) to the news about the discovery of a section of Jerusalem’s city wall built during the First Temple period by accusing Israel of “falsifying” history.

Hamas spokesman Muhammad Hamadeh said that Israel’s effort to “falsify history and distort the facts will not help it, and Jerusalem will remain the capital of Palestine and its Arab Islamic identity.” 

The Israel Antiquities Authority (IAA) announced that the section of the wall that was mostly destroyed by the Babylonian army in 586 BCE has been uncovered by archeologists in the City of David National Park.

Hamadeh dismissed the announcement and accused Israel of “falsifying and stealing history.”

He said that the announcement was “a continuation of previous announcements related to the alleged Temple.”

The announcement, Hamadeh said, “represents a continuation of the [Israeli] approach based on forgery and theft of the history of the holy city.”

He also claimed that the announcement was part of Israel’s “plans to Judaize Jerusalem and obliterate its Arab Islamic identity.”

He added: “The aggression of the occupation did not stop at the limits of falsifying history, but rather, it seeks to change the reality.  The announcement of these alleged discoveries comes in conjunction with the normalization agreements between Israel and four Arab countries that gave it an international cover.”

The spokesman warned Israel against causing “harm and vandalism” in the area of the Aqsa Mosque compound.

Earlier this week, Palestinian Authority Prime Minister Mohammad Shtayyeh called on the UN Educational Scientific and Cultural Organization to examine Israel’s excavations “beneath the Aqsa Mosque compound and prevent the intended plans of the Israel Antiquitites Authority to expand the tunnel located below the al-Buraq Wall,” referring to the Western Wall.



IDF: Hezbollah Storing Weapons 80 Feet From School

The Israeli military on Wednesday (14th) shared intelligence of a possible target belonging to Hezbollah in the southern Lebanese village of Kfar Ebba in the Nabatieh Governorate.

According to the IDF, the terror group is storing rockets, military-grade explosives and other weapons in a residential building just a little over 80 feet from a school with 300 students.

The explosion of the warehouse would be half the size of the Beirut explosion last year that killed at least 211 people and badly damaged a large part of the city.

The IDF hopes that with the disclosure, the group will remove the weapons from the building.

The IDF sent a mysterious tweet on Wednesday (14th), posting a set of coordinates about Kfar Ebba and the issue.

“But should Hezbollah keep the weapons there, the IDF will not hesitate to destroy them,” warned OC Northern Command head Maj. Gen. Amit Baram.

Israel accuses the terrorist group of continuously violating resolutions and storing much of its weaponry in villages along the border.

“Hezbollah consistently uses civilian assets as an operational tactic for military activity,” Baram said, adding that “the IDF and the Northern Command will take all measures to reduce harm to civilians, and yet the IDF will not hesitate to destroy active targets.”

The building is one of the thousands of targets the IDF has gathered over the years, including weapons warehouses and military infrastructure belonging to Hezbollah in the heart of residential and urban areas.

Using innovative intelligence and advanced technology, the IDF’s target bank in the Northern Command is 20 times larger than the target bank the military had in 2006, with thousands of targets ready to be attacked including headquarters, strategic assets and weapons storehouses.

A report released last year by the ALMA Research and Education Center found that there are at least 28 missile launching sites belonging to Hezbollah in civilian areas in the Lebanese capital of Beirut.

The report found that the never-before-published sites concentrated mainly in Hezbollah-dominated areas of Beirut are related to the launch, storage, and production of the group’s Fateh 110/M600 medium-range missiles and are “the same as those subject to the Hezbollah missile precision-guided missile project (PGMs).”

The sites, which also included locations of command and control infrastructure, missile assembly, rocket fuel storage sites, and missile bunkers were found next to schools, clinics, hospitals, golf clubs, soccer fields, as well as the Iranian Embassy and Lebanese Ministry of Defense.

“Almost all the sites are in southern Beirut, an area controlled by Hezbollah, and are located in civilian neighborhoods, inside private houses, medical centers, churches, industrial sites, public offices, fast food chains, as well as in open spaces nearby, hence activating the ‘human shield’ tactic,” the report read.  



Chana Senesh Remembered 100 Years After Her Birth

The National Library of Israel uploaded never-before-seen items to their website on Tuesday (13th) from the Chana Senesh archive in honor of 100 years to the day she was born.  Among the documents are school notebooks and certificates, her bat mitzvah certificate, a list of books she read and more.

Although Senesh was only 23 when she died, she left behind a wealth of important handwritten materials, such as her poems.  The archive also includes documents from her trial.  There were also photographs of her personal items and her family.

Some of the most important items are a notepad that was in her pocket when she was executed, the last poem she ever wrote and a note she wrote to her mother.

Chana Senesh was born in Budapest in 1921, but the anti-Semitism in Hungary pushed her toward Zionism, and she made Aliyah in 1939.  After two years in an agriculture school, she joined the Sdot Yam kibbutz, where she worked in agriculture, wrote poetry and a play about life on a kibbutz.

In 1943, Senesh enlisted in the British army and volunteered to join a group of paratroopers whose mission was to parachute into Europe.  The goal was to assist the allies by helping pilots who crashed in German territory, to escape.

On March 9, 1944, Senesh parachuted into Yugoslavia with four teammates.  In June, she crossed the border into Hungary and was caught and arrested by the Nazis.

For months Senesh was subjected to interrogations and extreme torture, and even though she knew her mother was at risk because of her arrest, she never told her interrogators anything.

Senesh was put on trial for espionage and, as a Hungarian citizen, treachery.  She was sentenced to death and executed on November 7, 1944.  In 1950 her bones were returned to Israel and she was buried in the military cemetery at Mount Herzl.

Over the course of years, the National Library has worked tirelessly to build her archive.