News Digest — 8/13/19

Netanyahu To Visit Ukraine A Month Before Elections

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu is set to fly to Ukraine for a two-day visit  next week, his office confirmed Sunday (11th).

In Kiev, Netanyahu will meet Ukrainian President Voldodymyr Zelensky and visit the Babi Yar Holocaust Memorial Center, which commemorates the 50,000 Jews killed at the site in 1941.

His planned visit to the Eastern European country is scheduled for August 18-20, less than a month before the elections to the 22nd Knesset, leading political analysts to say he is hoping to gain favor with Russian-speaking Israelis with Ukrainian roots.

Netanyahu is also said to be planning a whirlwind trip to New Delhi on September 9, for a meeting with Prime Minister Narendra Modi and possibly the signing of lucrative Israeli-Indian defense deals, though the visit has not been formally confirmed.

In January, Israel and Ukraine signed a free trade agreement which Jerusalem said would increase the volume of bilateral trade.

At the time Netanyahu hailed “strong” Israel-Ukraine relations.  “These ties have been historical with cultural roots. Ukrainian Jews make up a significant portion of the population of Israel.  And Ukraine is home to a large Jewish community, I think it’s the fourth-largest Jewish community in Europe,” he told then-president Petro Poroshenko on the occasion.

Poroshenko has since been replaced by Zelensky, who is Jewish and considered a staunch supporter of Israel.

Netanyahu will be the first foreign leader to visit Kiev since Zelensky took office.  The last Israeli prime minister to visit Ukraine was Netanyahu himself, in March, 1999.



Blast At Pro-Iranian Militia Base Weapons Depot Rocks Baghdad

A massive explosion in a weapons-depot on a pro-Iranian militia base rocked Baghdad on Monday evening (12th), local media reported.

The blast appeared to have triggered some of the munitions stored on the base, sending projectiles into surrounding neighborhoods.

Sky News Arabia reported that incoming mortar shells set off sirens in the area around the U.S. embassy in Baghdad, known as the Green Zone.

Local media reported that the weapons storehouse was controlled by the Sayyid of Martyrs Battalions, an Iraqi Shiite militia supported by Israel’s nemesis Iran.

“An explosion occurred because of the piling-up of munitions inside the Saqr military base in southern Baghdad,” Iraq’s joint military-police Baghdad Operations Command wrote on its Facebook page.

The blast came amid reports that Israel has been increasingly carrying out airstrikes against Iran-backed militias in Iraq.

Asharq Al-Awsat said that Israel was behind another strike in Iraq carried out Sunday (11th) at Camp Ashraf, the former headquarters of the exiled People’s Mujahedin of Iran northeast of Baghdad.

That strike targeted Iranian advisers and a ballistic missile shipment, the newspaper cited sources as saying.

The Israeli Defense Forces has not commented on the reports.

Israel does not usually comment on specific reports of strikes, but does insist it has the right to defend itself by targeting positions held by Iran and Hezbollah.

Regional Cooperation Minister Tzachi Hanegbi said last month that Israel is the only country in the world that has been “killing Iranians.”

In a speech to the UN General Assembly last September, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu warned that “Israel will do whatever it must do to defend itself against Iran’s aggression.  We will continue to act against you in Syria. We will act against you in Lebanon. We will act against you in Iraq. We will act against you whenever and wherever we must act to defend our state and defend our people.”  An excerpt from the speech was utilized in a recent Likud election campaign clip.



Pompeo Says Khamenei Does Not Care About Progress For Palestinians

Iranian Supreme Leader Ali Khamenei tweeted, “The plot of the ‘Deal of the Century,’ which is being worked on by the oppressive U.S. and its traitorous cohorts, is a crime committed against humankind, not just the Palestinian people.”

U.S. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo responded on Sunday (11th) that “Khamenei’s faux concern for the Palestinian people runs so deep that under his reign of terror he provided less than $20,000 in aid since 2008, while sending millions to Hamas and other terrorists.  In contrast, the U.S. provided $6.3 billion in support to Palestinians since 1994.”

Khamenei said during a recent meeting with a Hamas delegation that Palestinians who used to throw stones against Israel are now using precision missiles, “and that is progress.”  Pompeo responded: “Khamenei doesn’t see ‘progress’ as prosperity for the Palestinian people, but Palestinian terrorists switching from rocks to kill more Jews.”



Students From 80 Campuses Worldwide Will Attend CAMERA’s Conference – Omri Nahmias

WASHINGTON – In the wake of rising anti-Semitism across the U.S., particularly on college campuses, the Committee for Accuracy in Middle East Reporting and Analysis (CAMERA) will host a conference in Boston to train students how to react.

The event, which will start this Monday (19th), will train students from 80 campuses across the country and the world, including Europe and Israel, on how to respond to anti-Israel activity.  This is CAMERA’s ninth such conference.

“Radical anti-Israel activists are working hard to make colleges and universities unwelcoming to Jewish students,” said Taylor Roth, who is entering his senior year at the University of Florida.

Andrew Netzer, a student at Florida International University, said that “there are students and professors who try to hide their anti-Semitism behind the language of human rights.  They erroneously claim that Israel is the main violator of human rights when, in reality, it’s the only progressive country in the Middle East. CAMERA’s conference will help us develop ways to spread the truth about Israel.”

The committee explained that the conference will feature workshops and noted speakers from the Jewish community and Israel, as well as pro-Israel advocates from other places.

One speaker will be Kasim Hafeez, a British citizen of Pakistani heritage who used to hold radical anti-Israel opinions before changing his mind and becoming an Israel advocate after reading Alan Dershowitz’s “The Case For Israel.”

“One thing that we’ve noticed is that anti-Israel advisers on campus try to dominate the pages of college newspapers,” according to Aviva Rosenschein, CAMERA’s international campus director.  “So, at our conference, we train our students to write compellingly for their position, not only in response to anti-Israel narratives but also to proactively advance their argument,” she said.  “CAMERA-trained students both respond to anti-Israel activists as well as proactively put forward the Zionist position, forcing the opposition to rethink their arguments.”

Rosenschein explained that today’s college students are met with a well-funded, anti-Israel and anti-Semitic propaganda campaign.  “Part of that well-funded campaign is expressed by the BDS resolutions that are brought up in student governments in colleges around the world, “ she said.  “Our intensive conference is designed to prepare college students for such propaganda and activism, teaching them the best methods for defeating BDS on campus.  We train our students to push back against the lies.”



100 Car Tires Slashed In Lakewood NJ

More than 100 car tires have been slashed in the heavily Jewish town of Lakewood, New Jersey, over the past several days.

All of the cars involved were reported to belong to or used by Jews, ABC News reported Monday (12th).

Security footage broadcast by ABC showed a person in a hoodie using a knife to slash tires.

Lakewood is home to a large Ultra-Orthodox, Jewish community and one of the biggest yeshivas in the United States.  Police are investigating the incidents as hate crimes. 

Lakewood, which is known as a center of Orthodox life in the United States, has seen its population boom in recent decades, from around 60,000 in 2000 to more than 100,000 in 2017.  Local officials have predicted that by 2030, the number would more than double, according to the Asbury Park Press.

As the city has grown, Orthodox families seeking more space have moved to neighboring towns like Toms River or Jackson.  This expansion has created a backlash from some non-Orthodox neighbors, who often say their objections are about zoning, housing density and local support for public schools.  But the Orthodox residents and others see some of the criticism as anti-Semitic.