News Digest — 8/27/2021

Bulgaria Opts Out Of Durban IV Conference Citing Anti-Semitism

WASHINGTON – Bulgaria will not participate in the UN event marking 20 years since the World Conference Against Racism in Durban, bringing the number of countries boycotting the event over its anti-Semitic content to a dozen.

“Bulgaria will not participate in the UNGA high-level meeting on the Durban Declaration and Plan of Action,” the country’s foreign ministry tweeted on Thursday (26th).  “Given the history of the process, there’s a risk that the forum could be misused for anti-Semitic propaganda.  We stay committed to fighting racism in all its forms and manifestation.”

Ambassador to the US and UN Gilad Erdan thanked Bulgaria, tweeting: “The Jewish people appreciate your friendship.”

The event which is known as Durban IV, is set to take place in late September, on the sidelines of the opening session of the 76th United Nations General Assembly.  Prime Minister Naftali Bennett plans to take part in the General Debate, in which national leaders and foreign ministers give speeches.

Countries other than Bulgaria opting out of Durban IV are Israel, the US, Canada, Australia, Germany, the UK, Hungary, Austria, the Netherlands, the Czech Republic and France.

Other countries that have boycotted Durban Review Conferences in the past, but have yet to announce their position this year, are Italy and New Zealand, as well as Poland.

The original Durban Conference in 2001 singled Israel out as a perpetrator of racism in its official declaration.  Earlier drafts had also called Zionism a form of racism.

The conference’s NGO Forum called Israel an apartheid state.  Participants distributed anti-Semitic materials at the event, including the anti-Semitic conspiracy theory text ‘The Protocols of the Elders of Zion’ and flyers saying the world would be a better place if Hitler had won World War II.

At the 2009 Durban Conference, then-president of Iran Mahmoud Ahmadinejad denied the Holocaust and said it was a “pretext” for Israel to oppress Palestinians.  He was invited to speak again at Durban III in 2011.



Iran’s Raisi Says ‘Regional Cooperation’ Can Calm Afghanistan

The US withdrawal from Afghanistan is a “turning point” for peace, security, and stability in the country, Iranian President Ebrahim Raisi said Thursday (26th) at a meeting with Pakistani Foreign Minister Shah Mahmood Qureshi.

Raisi slammed the US presence in Afghanistan as a “failed model” that did not have the “capacity to create lasting peace and stability,” and said that the role of other countries – including Afghanistan’s regional neighbors – should facilitate “an inclusive participatory government that includes all Afghan groups.”

Raisi told Qureshi that the presence of the United States and other “foreigners” created problems rather than contributing to security, and that Iran and Pakistan could “work together” to create a situation that would allow the Afghans to determine their own fate.

Qureshi repeated the importance of cooperation between Pakistan and Iran in forming “lasting peace and stability” in Afghanistan, saying that Iran was a “major player in regional developments.”

When the Taliban seized control of Kabul on August 17, Raisi declared on Iranian state TV that “America’s military defeat and its withdrawal must become an opportunity to restore life, security and durable peace in Afghanistan.”

“Iran backs efforts to restore stability in Afghanistan, as a neighboring brother-nation, and invites all groups in Afghanistan to reach a national agreement,” he said.



Prayer Notes Removed From The Western Wall

Prayer notes were removed from the Western Wall on Wednesday (25th), as is customary every year ahead of selichot (penitential prayers) and the High Holy Days.

The notes were removed using single-use wooden tools and were placed in temporary hidden containers (genizo).  The notes were then collected in special bags and will be buried along with other sacred books and documents on the Mount of Olives.

Accompanying the note removal was Rabbi Shmuel Rabinowitz, rabbi of the Western Wall and holy sites, who accompanies the note removal every year and prays for the thousands of visitors who have placed their notes among the cracks in the wall.

The custom of placing notes in the Western Wall dates back at least three centuries, and every year, thousands of notes are placed all along the walls, even between stones uncovered in the Western Wall Tunnels.

An average of 3,500 prayer notes are sent via the Western Wall Heritage Foundation’s website.  Since the outbreak of COVID-19 alone, 100,000 notes have been sent from all over the world, including Jordan and the UAE.

Beginning Thursday (26th) the Western Wall Plaza was divided into prayer capsules, and during selichot, entry will be permitted for no more than 10,000 worshipers at a time.



Defying All Odds, Gaza Rocket Fire Survivor Leaves Hospital With A Smile

Despite doctors giving her just hours to live, a woman gravely hurt during Israel’s latest war with Gaza terrorist factions was discharged from the hospital this week after making a miraculous recovery.

Yulia Zalotsky, 44, was given almost no chance of survival after a rocket fired from the Gaza Strip exploded near her and sent shrapnel flying in her direction.

On May 11, 2021, the second day of the 11-day conflict, Zalotsky – a single mother from Holon – was making her way to work when the Gaza-based terror group Hamas launched a volley of rockets into Israeli cities.

One of the projectiles crashed directly onto a bus, just feet away from where Zalotsky was standing.  The powerful blast ejected a large chunk of shrapnel which lodged in her left thigh, causing her to lose massive amounts of blood.

Zalotsky was rushed in critical condition to Holon Wolfson Medical Center and doctors had to amputate her left leg in its entirety.

After lying in a two-month coma – hanging between life and death – and 13 complex surgeries, Zalotsky opened her eyes three weeks ago.

On Wednesday (25th), she was finally discharged from the hospital to continue her recovery at home.

“I didn’t believe I would ever be released from the hospital,” Yulia said.

“It’s clear to me that I still have a long way to go, but I am full of hope.  What keeps me going is the chance I have to someday walk on my own again with a prosthesis.  I am strong and the will to continue living is what keeps me going.”

Zalotsky’s daughter, Suzana, was thrilled to have her mother finally come home.

“The doctors did not think she would live at first, they told us these were her last hours,” the 26-year-old said.  “I did not believe she would live, and now she is finally smiling and happy.”

“Now she has hope.  She will be able to go and do whatever she wants and all thanks belong to the medical team here.  If it weren’t for them, she would not have survived.”



Iran’s Raisi Names Wanted Mass Murderer Of 85 Argentinians As VP For Economics

The Islamic Republic of Iran’s newly appointed Vice President for Economic Affairs Minister, Moshen Rezaei is wanted by the International Criminal Police Organization for the 1994 mass murder of 85 Argentinians at the Jewish community center (AMIA) in Buenos Aires.

The Iranian regime-controlled Tehran Times reported on Wednesday (25th) that “According to a decree by the president, Rezaei has also been appointed as the Secretary of the Supreme Economic Coordination Council and the head of the government’s Economic Headquarters.  Rezaei was the head of the Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps for 16 years and also held office as the Secretary of the Expediency Discernment Council.”

The US government has sanctioned the Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps as a foreign terrorist organization.

Toby Dershowitz, Senior Vice President of Government Relations and Strategy at the US-based Foundation for Defense of Democracies, told The Jerusalem Post that “Iranian President Ebrahim Raisi has named Interpol ‘red- notice-holder’ Mohsen Rezaei – wanted in connection with the murder of 85 Argentinians – as the Islamic Republic’s VP for Economic Affairs.”

“Recently, Ahmad Vahidi, also wanted for the AMIA murders, was named the IRI’s Interior Minister.  Iran’s cabinet is shaping up to be a ‘who’s who’ of men meant to serve jail time rather than serve the people of Iran,” he said.

Dershowitz, who is a long-time analyst of the 1994 AMIA bombing, added that “Iran is clearly seeking to normalize mass murder and is testing the will of the international community.”



Israel: Turning Challenges Into Hope – Anthony Kila

The Israeli experience shows us that with goodwill to plan and learn, anyone anywhere can achieve beyond what nature has given it.  Israel is one land that is blessed with little in terms of natural resources.  Circled by unfriendly neighbors, Israelis knew from the onset that they had to look inward.

Today, Israel is one of the top five countries in the world that has enough food for its own people and leads the rest of the world in the development of cutting-edge solutions for high-yield farming.  It is also sending out professionals, companies and government envoys to help nations discover products, ideas and innovations that will help them make better use of their resources to feed their hungry people.  

Israel has done all this while simultaneously dealing with issues of security, constant attacks, ideological opposition, and racial bias against it.

The writer is Director of the Center for International Advanced and Professional Studies (CIAPS) in Lagos.