News Digest — 8/2/19

Netanyahu Appears To Confirm Israeli Missile Fire At Syrian Golan Thursday

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu appeared to confirm on Thursday (1st) that Israel was behind a reported missile attack earlier in the day in the Quneitra region in Syria.

“We’re defending ourselves at all times,” Netanyahu said at a national memorial ceremony for Ze’ev Jabotinsky, a Zionist thinker who was the intellectual forebear to Netanyahu’s present-day Likud party.

The prime minister recalled the attack by a Palestinian gunman at the Gaza border earlier in the day that left three soldiers wounded, and added, “We’re also fighting on other fronts.  On the northern front, we’re acting against Iran and Hezbollah, and you’re hearing about that now as well.”

Earlier Thursday (1st), official Syrian media said Israel fired a missile at the Quneitra region in a rare daytime raid, causing damage but no injuries.

There was no comment from the Israel Defense Forces on the purported raid on the Golan Heights, which was reported by the SANA Syrian state news agency.

The Al Arabiya network said the alleged Israeli missile strike in Syria followed movement by members of the Hezbollah terror group in the area.

Hebrew-language reports said residents of the Golan Heights heard explosions.

Israel commonly conducts strikes in Syrian territory, targeting Iranian missile shipments meant for the Lebanese terror group Hezbollah to use against the Jewish state.

According to a report on Tuesday (7/30), Israel has expanded its operations against Iranian targets to Iraq, where Air Force jets struck twice in 10 days, hitting rocket depots in a Shiite militia base north of Baghdad.

The IDF has not commented on those attacks either.

A strike in Syria last week was also blamed on Israel.  Nine people were said to have been killed, including six Iranians fighting for the Syrian regime.  The strike was reportedly geared to prevent Iran from taking over a strategic hill in the Daraa province in the country’s south.

Israel has carried out hundreds of air strikes in Syria since the beginning of the conflict there in 2011, targeting Iranian and Hezbollah forces in the country, as well as those loyal to the Assad regime, as part of a stated policy of preventing arms transfers to Hezbollah in Lebanon and the entrenchment of Iranian military forces across from Israel’s northern border.

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



U.S. Pulls Out Of 32-Year Nuclear Treaty With Russia

The United States formally withdrew from a landmark nuclear missile pact with Russia on Friday (2nd) after determining that Moscow was in violation of the treaty and had no plans to comply with it.

U.S. President Donald Trump made the determination that the United States would terminate adherence to the 1987 arms control accord, known as the intermediate-range Nuclear Forces Treaty (INF), senior administration officials told reporters.  The treaty bans either side from stationing short- and intermediate-range, land-based missiles in Europe. Washington signaled its intention six months ago to pull out of the agreement if Russia made no move to adhere to it.

“The United States will not remain party to a treaty that is deliberately violated by Russia,” Secretary of State Mike Pompeo said in a statement about the U.S. withdrawal.

“Russia’s non-compliance under the treaty jeopardizes U.S. supreme interests as Russia’s development and fielding of a treaty-violating missile system represents a direct threat to the United States and our allies and partners,” Pompeo said.  The senior administration officials, who spoke on condition of anonymity, said Russia had deployed “multiple battalions” of a Russian cruise missile throughout Russia in violation of the pact, including in Western Russia, “with the ability to strike critical European targets.”

The INF treaty, negotiated by then-President Ronald Reagan and Soviet leader Mikhail Gorbachev and ratified by the U.S. Senate, eliminated the medium-range missile arsenals of the world’s two biggest nuclear powers and reduced their ability to launch a nuclear strike at short notice.

The treaty bans land-based missiles with a range between 310 and 3,400 miles.



U.S. Congressmen Urge Germany To Designate Hezbollah A Terrorist Group

Twelve U.S. Republican Congressmen have sent a letter to German Foreign Minister Heiko Maas expressing disappointment over a recent parliamentary vote that failed to outlaw the political branch of Lebanese terrorist organization Hezbollah, and urging the German government to outlaw Hezbollah completely.

The vote in June was brought to Parliament by the Right-Wing Alternative for Germany [AID] Party.

The Congressmen wrote to Maas: “We urge your government to take a profound step in the war against terrorism… And eliminate the artificial distinction between Hezbollah’s military and political branches.”

Currently, only Hezbollah’s military wing is outlawed in Germany. Hezbollah as a political entity is not.

As well as referencing the growing number of Hezbollah members and supporters throughout Germany, the Congressmen wrote that, “Hezbollah legally raises funds and support through German community and Islamic centers and meets with German politicians.”

According to an intelligence report from the state of North Rhine-Westphalia, Hezbollah has centers in Hamburg, Berlin and Munster.

After giving evidence that Hezbollah’s military and political factions operate in close quarters, the U.S. statesmen concluded the letter by declaring: “There can be no dialogue with a terrorist organization… We urge the Federal Republic of Germany to designate Hezbollah a terrorist organization in its entirety.”

The letter was signed by Reps. Ted Budd (R-NC), Chris Smith (R-NJ), Joe Wilson (R-SC), Steve Chabot (R-OH), Mark Meadows (R-NC), Scott Perry (R-PA), Brian Babin (R-TX), Lee Zeldin (R-NY), John Ratcliffe (R-TX), Francis Rooney (R-FL), Andy Biggs (R-AZ), and Chip Roy (R-TX).



120 Years After Trial, Jewish Army Officer Alfred Dreyfus May Be Promoted To General

Around 120 years after Jewish French artillery officer Alfred Dreyfus was put on trial and stripped of his rank because of anti-Semitic rumors in what became known as the Dreyfus Affair, justice might finally be done.

According to the French newspaper L’Opinion, French Defense Minister Florence Parly hinted in a speech she made last week marking the deportation of French Jews during World War II that Dreyfus might be promoted posthumously.

Dreyfus held the rank of captain when he was put on trial for allegedly spying for the German army.  He was first tried in 1894 and convicted of treason. He was sentenced to life in prison and exiled. He was stripped of his rank in a humiliating ceremony.

After a public campaign on his behalf, which included writer Emile Zola’s famous “JAccuse!” open letter, Dreyfus was given a re-trial in 1899.  Again he was found guilty of treason and sentenced to 10 years in prison, which was eventually commuted.

In 1906, a French appeals court ruled that Dreyfus was innocent.  He returned to the army at the rank of major, but a year later he was forced to resign.  He volunteered to serve as a lieutenant colonel in World War I.

Dreyfus died in 1935.

Parly called Dreyfus a “brilliant officer who chose to devote his life to his country.”

The French minister said that although Dreyfus was readmitted into the military and promoted to the rank of lieutenant colonel, it was poor compensation for the years he had spent in prison and the 12 years he was kept out of the military.

Parly noted that she saw Dreyfus as a role model for children who are being treated “wrongly.”

“The truth demands courage.  120 years later, the time has come for the army to give Alfred Dreyfus back the honor and years that were taken from him, and I will personally see that it is done.  There are scars that cannot be healed,” she said.



Berlin Rabbi Harassed And Spat Upon By Arabic-Speaking Attackers

BERLIN — A Berlin rabbi was verbally abused and spat on, one of several recent attacks on Jews in the German capital.  The incident which took place on Friday night (7/27), is under investigation. The perpetrators have not been identified.

Yehuda Teichtal, a Berlin community rabbi and president of Chabad Lubavitch in the capital, reported that two men shouted at him in Arabic, and spat on him after he left services at his synagogue in the Wilmersdorf district around 9 p.m.  He was with one of his young children.

Teichtal told Die Welt that it was especially shocking to be physically attacked, adding that he had never experienced anything similar in 23 years in Berlin, though he has heard “dirty Jew” from passersby.

In a statement to German media, Teichtal said that despite such attacks in Berlin schoolyards and streets, he was convinced that “most people in Berlin want Jews to be able to live openly as Jews, without fear of being cursed at,  spat upon or beaten up.” “Of course, we won’t hide ourselves,” he wrote. “We will continue to build on a foundation of love, tolerance, dialogue and education.”

The Berlin-based Anti-Semitism Research and Information Center reported that the district in which Teichtal lives and works, Charlottenburg-Wilmersdorf, had 80 reported anti-Semitic incidents last year, the second highest level in Berlin, second only to the Mitte district with 146.  In all, some 1,800 incidents were reported in the capital in 2018, an increase of nearly 20% above the previous year.