Newsletter : 17fx0224.txt
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Iran Uses Palestinian Conference to Spotlight Anti-Israel Rhetoric
By VOA News
Iran has held its first conference in six years supporting Palestinian uprisings, a
forum that it says drew hundreds of delegates from 80 countries, reflecting the country's
resurgent clout on the world stage.
The two-day Sixth International Conference in Support of the Palestinian Intifada ended
Wednesday in the Iranian capital, Tehran, with Iran's president pledging more aid for
Palestinians fighting against Israel. Tehran has long provided monetary and military
assistance to Palestinian terrorists.
Iranian state media quoted President Hassan Rouhani as saying his people "have paid a
high cost for supporting the Palestinians and opposing the Zionist regime of Israel's
actions, but they will continue their support with determination."
State media said Rouhani made the comments while meeting Palestinian National Council
chairman Salim al-Zanoun on the forum's sidelines. Speaking to conference delegates,
Rouhani also called Israel a "fake regime" that should be replaced by a Palestinian state
for "Muslims, Christians and Jews."
A day earlier, Iranian Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei opened the conference by
calling Israel a "cancerous tumor" and urging the Palestinians to wage a "thunderous"
intifada until what he called "the complete liberation of Palestine" a reference to
the historic British-controlled territory of Palestine that pre-dated Israel's creation in
Palestinians engaged in two violent revolts, or intifadas, against Israel's occupation
of the West Bank and the Gaza Strip, territories they claim for a state, from 1987 to 1993
and from 2000 to 2005. In recent years, Palestinian terrorists also have carried out waves
of stabbing, vehicular and shooting attacks against Israelis, and have used Gaza as a base
for 2014 war with Israel.
Iran honored those revolts by staging this week's conference just more than one year
after receiving relief from international sanctions as part of a nuclear deal with world
powers, a deal that took effect in January 2016. Tehran held its previous pro-Palestinian
Intifada conferences in 2011, 2009, 2006, 2001 and 1991. There has been no official
Israeli reaction to the latest forum.
Emanuele Ottolenghi, an Iran analyst at the Washington-based research group Foundation
for Defense of Democracies, sees the anti-Israel rhetoric of Khamenei and Rouhani as more
of the same. "They were vitriolic in their rhetoric against Israel before and after the
nuclear deal (was signed in 2015) under the Obama administration, and now that Donald
Trump is U.S. president," Ottolenghi told the VOA Persian Service. "This regime remains
wedded to the idea that Israel must be destroyed."
But Ottolenghi said the ability of Iran to organize another conference in support of
Palestinian militancy after a break of six years is noteworthy. "We know the regime is
paying full expenses for people from all over the world to come, using Iranian taxpayer
money," he said. "Iran is using money it obtained from the economic windfall of the
nuclear deal to advance its incendiary rhetoric."
The Central Bank of Iran has said the country posted economic growth of 7.4% in March
to September 2016 compared with the same period in the previous year. Iran's Financial
Tribune newspaper said most of the growth came from increased oil exports allowed by the
Delegates to this week's Tehran conference included members of Palestinian factions
Hamas and Islamic Jihad and the Lebanese group Hizbullah all designated by the
United States as terrorist organizations.
The forum also drew parliamentary delegations from about 20 countries, with at least
seven sending their heads of parliament: Algeria, Lebanon, Mali, North Korea, Syria,
Tanzania and Zimbabwe. The Iranian government also hosted Islamic scholars from
Afghanistan and Pakistan and a group of ultra-orthodox anti-Zionist Jews.
In a VOA Persian interview, terrorism researcher Lee Smith of Washington's Hudson
Institute said Iran feels empowered not just by the nuclear deal but also by the spread of
its proxy forces in the region. "The Iranians boast about controlling four Arab
governments, in Beirut, Damascus, Baghdad and Sana'a," Smith said. "That is why they are
testing the Trump administration (by holding the conference)." President Trump's
administration, which took office last month, has vowed to be more supportive of Israel
than its predecessor.
Smith said Shi'ite-majority Iran also is using the Palestinian issue to try to gain a
public relations advantage over its regional Sunni Arab rivals who traditionally have
supported the predominantly Sunni Palestinians.
"Sunni powers like Egypt, Jordan and Saudi Arabia recently have become closer to
Israel, some of them more openly than others, because of Iran," Smith said. "So the
Iranians are holding onto the Palestinian file, saying (to the Arab public) we represent
or support the real resistance (against Israel)."
Arab League Secretary-General Ahmed Aboul-Gheit issued a statement last week
reiterating support for the creation of an independent Palestinian state alongside Israel,
after Trump said he was open to other ideas besides a two-state solution to the
long-running Israel-Palestinian conflict.
Death Threats Against Arab Christian IDF Soldiers
A Christian IDF soldier has received death threats from opponents of the service of
Arabs in the IDF, the Mako Hebrew news site reported.
The soldier received a threatening message on his Facebook page. "We know who you are,
where you serve and where your parents live. When you finish your patrol of the old city,
we will wait for you at the mosque, where we will stab you." Other Christian and Arab
soldiers have also faced incitement and threats. A recently opened Facebook page features
Christian Arab soldiers, along with the personal details of the soldiers and their
families. The soldiers become victims of incitement and harassment, including being called
traitors to the Arab community. The harassment can include death threats.
"This will end in murder," one Christian soldier said in a report on the campaign of
incitement against Christians who serve in the IDF two years ago. "The state has to wake
up and prosecute those agitators who threaten [Christian soldiers] before it's too
The campaign of incitement and harassment has led to Christian soldiers being allowed
to change to civilian clothes before leaving their bases. Army regulations normally
stipulate that soldiers must wear their uniforms until they reach their destination.
Jewish Man's Finger Sawed Off in Paris Attack
Two Jewish brothers said they were abducted briefly and beaten by several men in
suburban Paris in an incident that ended with one brother having his finger sawed off by
The brothers were hospitalized in what was described as a state of shock following the
incident Tuesday night in Bondy. A case report published Thursday by the National Bureau
for Vigilance Against Anti-Semitism, or BNVCA, based on a police complaint by the alleged
victims did not specify their medical condition.
The kippah-wearing brothers, whose father is a Jewish leader in Bondy, were forced off
the main road by another vehicle on to a side street, according to the BNVCA report. While
the vehicle was in motion, the driver and a passenger shouted anti-Semitic slogans at the
brothers that included "Dirty Jews, You're going to die!" the father told BNVCA based on
the complaint filed by his sons.
The vehicle forced the brothers to stop their car, and they were surrounded by several
men whom they described as having a Middle Eastern appearance. The men came out of a
hookah café on to the side street, according to the case report published by the
news website JSSNews.
The alleged attackers surrounded the brothers, then kicked and punched them repeatedly
while threatening that they would be murdered if they moved. One of the alleged attackers
then sawed off the finger of one of the brothers.
Laundromat App Shares More Than Just Dirty Laundry
By The Jerusalem Post
As Erez Adiri saw his on-demand laundry pickup and delivery app expanding, he began to
wonder how he might bridge the gap between his company's initial seed financing and the
pursuit of more ambitious Series A investments. After reviewing a number of options, Adiri
realized that the perfect interim funding source for his start-up, kVisi, might lie among
those customers already sharing their dirty laundry with him on a daily basis.
"At the beginning, when I [had] just started this company, I was going door-to-door
myself to bring the laundry, just to check the algorithm," he told The Jerusalem Post.
"While I was doing that, there were many people whom I saw several times, and they said,
`This is an amazing idea; are you looking for investors?'" Over the past several months,
the Tel Avivbased kVisi has raised about $150,000 by enticing its own customers to become
company shareholders, in a unique equity crowdfunding campaign.
While equity crowdfunding a mechanism enabling large groups of investors to fund
start-ups in return for equity, or small ownership shares has become increasingly
popular in Israel over the past couple years, Adiri felt that specifically targeting an
already loyal customer base could provide mutual benefits to both kVisi and its new
investors. "When we looked at equity crowdfunding as a way of raising capital and thought
of our customers these two things together we saw that it would be very
successful and interesting," he said.
Out of its 3,000 active customers and 8,000 registered users, kVisi was able to attract
about 15 to 20 customers to invest $5,000 or more each ultimately accounting for
90% of the $150,000 raised in what Adiri describes as a pre-Series A investment round.
These funds will boost the company for another six to 12 months until the firm is ready to
begin looking for much larger Series A venture capital investments, Adiri said.
"For start-up companies, one of the major hurdles is crossing from seed investment to
Series A investment," he said. "Naturally, it makes it very difficult to raise capital,
even though they have an amazing product."
While laundry delivery and pickup might not be a novel idea, the key to kVisi's
successful operation is its technology. By employing a special scheduling algorithm, kVisi
is able to ensure that laundry is picked up and delivered within a 30-minute time slot,
"The customer experience is very similar to the revolution of Uber on the taxi side,"
he said, describing both as low-tech businesses in need of upgrades. "By bringing the
technology into an old economy, we are able to provide a much better customer
The sheep-logoed kVisi app, which plays on the similarities in the Hebrew words for
laundry, kvisa, and sheep, kivsa, requires just a few seconds of a user's time to place an
order for laundry delivery and pickup. The app serves most of Tel Aviv Salameh
Street in the city's south up to Ramat Aviv Gimmel in the city's north from 6:30
a.m. to 11 p.m., in both English and Hebrew, Adiri said.
Users typically receive their cleaned and folded clothes back from the company's
central laundry facility within less than two days. While kVisi's turnaround might be
slightly longer than that of some local Laundromats, Adiri said the company thrives on its
outstanding customer service and convenience. In addition to sticking to the 30-minute
time slots as promised, kVisi's app sends push notifications about 5 to 10 minutes before
arriving at a customer's apartment. "The whole user experience, from beginning to end, is
much nicer for the customers," Adiri said.
Since the company's launch in August 2015, Adiri said that kVisi's revenue has been
growing by 20% each month. With the $150,000 boost from equity crowdfunding, the firm aims
to continue that growth as well as to pursue different forms of digital marketing, prior
to seeking out Series A venture capital investments.
Once the company secures Series A financing, the company's leaders plan to consider
several expansion routes. With kVisi's economic scheme and most of its marketing
parameters already proving themselves, bringing the services overseas would be one
possibility, Adiri said. Another option, he explained, would be selling other laundry-
related items to customers already using the app and thereby increase the average revenue
A third possible area of expansion would involve selling and implementing the unique
algorithm powering kVisi's prompt pickup and delivery services, he said. One particular
sector in Israel he feels could benefit from the algorithm would be on-demand supermarket
products. "In Israel, unlike in the US, where you have Instacart and other big technology
companies, the actual big supermarket chains are the ones providing that service," Adiri
As the company continues to grow, Adiri expressed confidence that his customers-
turned-investors would help kVisi improve its services in their new roles as ambassadors
for the brand. The crowdfunders should expect to see returns on their investments in the
form of either dividends, an initial public offering or, most likely, an acquisition of
kVisi by a larger company in the coming years, he predicted.
After successfully raising enough money to overcome the nerve-wracking gap between seed
and Series A funding, Adiri recommended that other start-ups with a loyal customer base
consider doing the same. "If they have a good sense of community around them and if their
customers believe that what they're doing is an amazing thing for the customers, then they
have a very good shot in going and raising capital in the same way," he added.
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