News Digest — 8/11/2021

Lapid Leading First Ministerial Delegation To Morocco Since Ties Revived

Foreign Minister Yair Lapid is heading to Morocco Wednesday (11th), making him the first Israeli minister to do so since ties between Israel and the North African country were reestablished in December.

He will be the first Israeli minister to visit Morocco since Silvan Shalom, who tried to bring about normalization in 2003.

“I am going to Morocco to represent Israel and dedicate the Israeli mission in Rabat, the capital,” Lapid said Tuesday (10th).  “The historic trip is a continuation of a years-long friendship and a deep connection to the roots and traditions of the Jewish community in Morocco and the large community of Israelis with origins there.”

Israel and Morocco reopened economic liaison offices in each other’s countries since partial diplomatic relations were renewed last year, but Rabat has yet to agree to full normalization.  The countries previously had low-level ties after the Oslo Accords were signed in 1993, which were suspended after the Second Intifada began in 2000.  However, relations grew closer in recent years, especially in countering threats from Iran.

In addition, about one million Israelis claim descent from the Moroccan Jewish community, tens of thousands of whom will likely visit Morocco each year.

Lapid will be joined on the trip to Rabat by Labor, Social Affairs and Social Services Minister Meir Cohen, who was born in Morocco, Knesset Foreign Affairs and Defense Committee chairman Ram Ben Barak, Foreign Ministry Director-General Alon Ushpiz and Dr. Inbar Zucker, a senior Health Ministry official.

Morocco was instrumental in Israel recently rejoining the African Union as an observer.  Other opportunities from relations between the countries include, “joint Israel-Morocco participation in heavily funded EU programs, support for high-level Israeli-Palestinian policy dialogue channels, and the enabling of Israeli companies to be part of the Morocco-Emirati business cooperation,” said Nimrod Goren, president of the foreign policy think tank Mitvim.

“Morocco views itself as a country that strives to advance stability and security in the regions around it, so adding regional framing to its bilateral ties with Israel could yield substantive benefits for both Israeli and Moroccan foreign policy,” Goren said.



Report: Chinese Targeted Israel In Massive Cyber Attack, Stole Sensitive Data And Trade Secrets 

Hackers on behalf of the Chinese government carried out massive cyber attacks against Israel, Saudi Arabia, Iran and other countries in recent years, stealing sensitive information relating to trade and business, a bombshell report revealed on Monday (10th).

FireEye, a cybersecurity company based in California, said that it had been tracking the “operational tactics, techniques, and procedures of a Chinese espionage group since 2019.”

In one huge attack that took place from 2019 to 2020, dozens of Israeli defense and private security companies were compromised by Chinese hackers who stole hundreds of documents, along with emails and data.

The purpose of the attacks was not sabotage, FireEye clarified, rather China exploited loopholes in the companies’ servers to obtain business intelligence, technology and trade secrets.

After an analysis of the tools used for the hacking, FireEye determined that the Chinese State Security Ministry and intelligence bureau were the originators of the attack.

The Chinese focus on Israeli technology underscored “China’s consistent strategic interest in the Middle East,” the report noted.

“This cyber espionage activity is happening against the backdrop of China’s multi-billion collar investments related to the Belt and Road Initiative (BRI) and its interest in Israeli’s robust technology sector.”

As China’s investment in Israeli business grows, including infrastructure deals worth billions of dollars, the hacking may be seen by the Chinese as simply a part of their diligence.

“In the Chinese view, it’s legitimate to attack a company while negotiating with it, so they will know how to price the deal properly,” said Sanaz Yashar, one of FireEye’s lead investigators into the hacking.

Israel wasn’t the only Middle Eastern country targeted by state-backed hackers.  Saudi Arabia, Iran, Uzbekistan and a number of other countries were also found to have been the victims of cyber attacks launched by China.

The Chinese embassy in Tel Aviv flatly denied the report in a statement saying: “FireEye reports baseless accusations against China on cybersecurity issues which is defamation for political purposes.  China is a staunch upholder of cybersecurity.  It has always firmly opposed and combated cyber attacks launched within its borders or its network infrastructure.”



Hamas Prevents UN Team From Working Near Terror Tunnel By School

Hamas prevented a UN team of experts from working near a tunnel that was found in May near one of the schools run by the United Nations Relief and Works Agency (UNRWA), Kan News reported on Tuesday (10th).

The UNRWA Zaitoun Preparatory Boys’ School “A” and Elementary Boys’ School “A” was one of two of the organization’s facilities damaged during the 11-day Gaza war that ended on May 21.

A team of experts from the UN Mine Action Services (UNMAS) had arrived at the school in order to ensure the area was clear of unexploded munitions so that the school could begin its academic year safely.

As soon as Hamas learned that the team was at the school, police arrived at the scene and requested that the team leave immediately.  The team subsequently canceled its plans for an additional examination at a school in Rafah in the southern Gaza Strip where a tunnel was also dug under an UNRWA school, according to Kan.

Due to the actions by Hamas, UNRWA informed the terrorist organization that the two schools, serving about 4,000 students, would not be allowed to open unless UN teams are allowed to visit the sites.

An UNRWA statement read, “UNRWA condemns the existence and potential use by Palestinian armed groups of such tunnels underneath or next to its schools in the strongest possible terms.  It is unacceptable that students and staff be placed at risk in such a way.”  



Iranian Activist Slams Macron For Congratulating ‘Butcher Of Tehran,’ Raisi

A Prominent Iranian human rights activist blasted French President Emmanuel Macron for his Monday (10th) congratulatory statement to the Iranian regime’s new President, Ebrahim Raisi.

Masih Alinejad, Iranian-American journalist and women’s rights activist, tweeted “We the people of Iran will never forget this historical betrayal.  A president of a democratic country congratulates a mass murderer like Raisi, who ordered the execution of more than 5,000 political prisoners in the 80s.  He also approved the execution of a French-Iranian journalist.” 

She added that “France’s President has today called to congratulate Ebrahim Raisi, Iran’s new president who has committed crimes against humanity.”

Iranians use the moniker “Butcher of Baghdad” for Raisi, due to his role in the mass murders of Iranians in 1988 and 2019.  The US sanctioned Raisi for his grave human rights violations.

Jason M. Brodsky, a senior Middle East analyst at Iran International, a London-based news organization told the Jerusalem Post on Tuesday (10th) that “it’s the first time in the history of the Islamic Republic that a Chief Justice (Raisi) will have a more difficult time on the world stage than Rouhani did.  And the cost of engagement will increase under this presidency.”

Macron has opposed banning the Iranian regime’s chief strategic partner, Hezbollah, in France and within the EU.

The conversation between Raisi and Macron lasted an hour and covered the floundering nuclear talks in Vienna and an attack on a tanker off Oman in the Gulf, carried out by Iran’s regime, according to the US, UK and Israel.

The Post also reported that two additional Western leaders, the presidents of Switzerland and Austria, also called and congratulated Raisi.



US University Defends Anti-Israel Incitement Taught In Its Classrooms

On August 3, it was reported that this coming Fall at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, UNC will be offering a course titled “The Conflict over Israel/Palestine,” taught by PhD student Kylie Broderick.

Broderick promotes the views that “Israel should not exist, has publicly demanded that everyone at UNC…boycott Israeli products, and believes students should be taught to reject Zionism.”

Broderick urges graduate students to speak up against the “ethnic cleansing” of “Palestine” and declares that a student who fails to do so is a “coward.”

Broderick has publicly stated that boycotting Israel is “the only choice” and expects “university Middle East academic programs and centers” to issue “solidarity statements” with Palestinians.

But despite Broderick’s clear anti-Israel bias, the university is defending its decision to have her teach a class on the topic this Fall.

On August 3, “Voice 4 Israel” of North Carolina, launched a campaign asking UNC to “stop the anti-Israel hostility and intolerance.”  Many Jewish leaders and community members responded with strong letters of concern to UNC, with some arranging meetings with university officials.

On August 6, North Carolina Hillel issued a statement on Broderick’s class, stating, “We fear that students who support and have a connection with Israel will be unwelcome or unsafe in this class, impinging on their academic freedom.”

Several students who support Israel have also recently experienced significant hostility from instructors and professors at UNC, so have not come publicly forward in support of Israel, out of fear for their academic standing.

Furthermore, this anti-Israel teaching scandal has arisen while UNC is still reeling from its 2019 anti-Semitic conference scandal.

In response to the conference held at UNC in 2019, a complaint was filed with the US Department of Education (DOE),  leading to a Resolution Agreement with the DOE, promising to address anti-Semitism.  

The DOE’s Office for Civil Rights informed UNC that “The Agreement requires the university…to take all steps designed to ensure that students enrolled in the University are not subjected to a hostile environment.”

Kylie Broderick publicly dismissed this Resolution Agreement in a local paper, calling it an “attack by the federal government.”  Yet UNC still chose Broderick to teach university students this Fall about Israel.

As a result, in contradiction to its obligations under the Resolution Agreement, UNC is actively enabling hostility towards Jewish and pro-Israel students on campus.  UNC will now be exporting its anti-Israel hostility to elementary, middle, and high school “teacher training.”