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At Warsaw Parley, Israel's Anti-Iran Front is stretched to Yemen, Iraq

By DEBKAfile

Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu, while seated next to Yemen's Foreign Minister Khaled al-Yamani on Feb. 14, hailed the Warsaw conference as "historic" – if only for the unprecedented seating arrangements. The US, which co-hosted the Conference for Middle East Peace and Security as a major vehicle for the Trump administration's campaign against Iran, most likely engineered those arrangements. The event targeted the opponents of the anti-Iran campaign, at home and in Europe. It was also intended to boost Saudi Arabia, whose armed forces have been battling Iran-backed Yemeni Houthi insurgents for four years, and the United Arab Emirate, whose army is fighting alongside the Saudis in Yemen. For Israel, the event served as a huge campaign boon for Netanyahu whose Likud is campaigning for re-election on April 9. He was shown easily hobnobbing with world leaders on an international stage, notably in amicable first-time encounters with Arab rulers. His seating alongside the Yemeni foreign minister flashed around the media, the day after he met with Omani Foreign Minister Yusuf bin Alawi bin Abdullah. That juxtaposition also carries a price. Secretary of State Pompeo used it as a symbol of the US administration's expectations of Israel for a larger military role alongside the US, Saudi Arabia and the UAE in the Yemeni war. The Houthi insurgents are supported not only by Iran but also by Hizbullah, Israel's arch-enemies. Until now Israeli assistance to the Yemeni government went through Saudi Arabia. In his speech to the Warsaw gathering, Pompeo stressed that the Middle East would not achieve peace and stability without confronting Iran. "It's just not possible," he said. They are operating in Lebanon, Syria, and Iraq; they support the Houthis in Yemen, as well as Hamas and Hizbullah, all of whom pose real threats. The Iranians must be pushed out of those places," said Pompeo. For the IDF and its intelligence army, the penny has dropped. Netanyahu returns from Warsaw with new Israeli war fronts outside its borders, following on his praise of Arab foreign ministers for speaking with "exceptional power, clarity and unity against the shared threat posed by the Iranian regime." In Washington, President Donald Trump faced a hostile front to the campaign he is leading internationally against Iran when the House Democratic majority passed a resolution on Thursday for ending US military support for the Saudi-led coalition fighting in Yemen. The measure passed 248 to 177, and was supported by 230 Democrats and 18 Republicans.

Netanyahu Publicly Flouts Poland's Holocaust Law

Israeli Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu mocked Poland's controversial Holocaust censorship law on Thursday, publicly flouting the law during a state visit to Warsaw. "Poles collaborated with the Nazis," said Netanyahu in Warsaw. "See, I'm saying it. It is a fact. And I don't know a single person who was ever sued because of it." Netanyahu added that the issue of Poland's Holocaust censorship law was raised during his meeting with Polish Premier Mateusz Morawiecki. In response, Kan reported, Morawiecki's office released a statement calling Netanyahu's comments "surprising." He also tweeted Thursday evening, writing that there was "no Polish regime" during the Nazi occupation, emphasizing that both Jews and Poles suffered under German rule. "In German-occupied Poland, there was no Polish regime - a great misunderstanding regarding the conditions of the war. Both the Poles and Jews were savagely murdered by the Germans. Polish soldiers fought every day of WWII for the freedom and life of all nations." Last year, Poland passed the controversial law which took effect in March 2018. The legislation, popularly known as the "Holocaust Law" or "Holocaust Censorship Law", makes it illegal to use the phrase "Polish death camps", and bars discussion of Polish collusion or collaboration with the Nazis during their occupation of Poland during the Second World War. Violators of the law could face up to three years in prison. The law drew heavy criticism from the Israeli government, with the US State Department also expressing opposition to the bill. Polish opposition parties also criticized the law, and proposed to amend the bill.

Hizbullah Hints at Attacks on Israeli Passenger Aircraft

By Israel Hayom

In a video circulated on social media to mark the anniversary of former Hizbullah military commander Imad Mughniyeh's death, the terrorist group appears to be threatening to attack Israeli passenger flights and popular tourist destinations in Israel. Mughniyeh was assassinated in Damascus in 2008, in an operation that Hizbullah has attributed to the Mossad and CIA. Images in the video include El Al planes as well as pictures of Ben-Gurion International Airport, passports, and the arrivals and departures board at Ben-Gurion. Hizbullah has not been officially confirmed as the entity that compiled the video, which was published by Mughniyeh's sister, Zeinab. The general message of the video is one of revenge for airstrikes on weapons stockpiles belonging to Hizbullah and Iran in Syria and Lebanon, attributed to Israel. Hizbullah has been busy on social media in general. On Tuesday, the organization launched a campaign targeting senior Israeli politicians and other public figures via the WhatsApp and Telegram instant messaging applications. One of the messages includes a photo of Mughniyeh, with the caption: "Revenge is inevitable, and the goal is clear, specific and precise – removing Israel from existence." The messages were primarily Hizbullah propaganda, and the unusual initiative appears designed to coincide with Israeli election season.

The Last Jewish Town in Azerbaijan

By YnetNews
Qirmizi was once known as the Jerusalem of the Caucasus, but the once bustling community now lives on memories and longing for people and times gone by. In a small cafe in Qirmizi, Azerbaijan, a few elderly mountain Jews chat over a strong tea with sugar cubes. They speak Juhuro, the forsaken tongue of Caucasus Jews. It's a kind of Persian mixed with Hebrew. One of them, an elderly man with a big white mustache and a black cap, proudly shows off his arm, decorated with a flower tattoo. "I had it done when I was 20 years old. So that when I'm old, I'll remember my youthful days," he said. The cafe has a small shaded yard with two tables covered in oilcloth and a pile of firewood next to them. It gets cold here in winters, on the foothills of the Greater Caucasus. An old Lada, essentially a tin can on wheels, is parked under a weeping willow tree. There are many Ladas on Azerbaijan's roads, plodding alongside some extremely luxurious cars. Qirmizi, also known as Krasnaya Sloboda ("Red Village" in Russian), is one of only two communities outside Israel with an entirely Jewish population (the second being Kiryas Joel in New York State.) Some 3,000-4,000 people live here, but at noon the streets appear empty. Some residents have businesses in Moscow and only come here for the holidays. The grand manse of Zerach Ilayev, a man whose fortune is estimated at $3 billion, stands empty in the center of town. The air is full of longing—a longing for the children who have left, for the grandchildren who live in Israel or the US. A longing for the days when this place was called the Jerusalem of the Caucasus. But Qirmizi still has a lively side to it, which we experienced in the cemetery. The first thing you notice in the cemetery is the faces—dozens of faces looking at you from all the black tombstones. The faces of the dead men, women and children. Some tombstones are covered in white plastic. The custom here is to only unveil the tombstone a year after the parting, and until then it's kept covered. One tombstone has a stone bird figurine on it. "This means the deceased left no children behind him," our guide explains. We spot a small area with four tombstones together: mother Golda, father Ephraim and children Eliya and Hava. Eliya was seven and Hava was five when the whole family died in a plane crash in Russia 10 years ago. A marble plaque shows a family picture under the image of a Boeing 737. Down the road are the older graves, from a century ago, some broken and others almost illegible. Hezi, the graveyard keeper asked us to translate some inscriptions from Hebrew. "Here lies the woman who was killed by brutal gentiles in Quba. Shunamit daughter of Nisan, in the year 5678 (1918)." The Quba in question is Azerbaijan's capital of carpet weaving and apple plantations, located across the River Kudyal from the capital Baku. The river is dry in early winter, but when the snows thaw up in the summits, it overflows. Three bridges separate Qirmizi and Quba. One of them, a bridge that's closed to vehicles, is referred to as "`the love bridge" — and functions as the city's JDate. This is where the single Jewish men and women come to meet a match. "Girls walk the bridge with their mothers," Eli explains, "while the guys look on from the banks. If a guy sees a girl he likes, his parents will approach her parents and ask for her hand." Not exactly what you would find on the curriculum of a gender studies program, but in Azerbaijan, it works. Around the corner from the bridge is the city's wedding venue — a pillared hall that houses weddings, bar mitzvahs and circumcisions. There's a huge photo of the Western Wall inside. "So what kind of presents do you bring?" we asked our guide. "Checks, of course," he said. "A minimum of 100 Azeri manat"—the equivalent of NIS 220 or approximately $60. A local kosher restaurant supplies everything you need for the big day. The feast menu includes juicy kebabs that can also be found everywhere from roadside stalls en route to Baku to the fancy restaurants once you get there; Dushpere, a soup with meat-stuffed dumplings; and Dolma—vine or cabbage leaves stuffed with meat. Then there's the pickles, of course—not only cucumbers, but also olives, peppers stuffed with cabbage, tomatoes and cherries. And add alcohol, and a band that plays Azar music with Persian instruments like kamancha and Tar. All this for $22 per person—not a bad deal. Azerbaijan is a Muslim Shiite country, with most Azaris living in nearby Iran and making up 25% of the population there. But people here love Israel, and not only because we buy their oil and sell them weapons (including Iron Dome systems, which are lined across the Azari border with Armenia.) The local Jews are respected and treated with tolerance. In central Baku, Jews wearing kippas walk around undisturbed—not something you would see in Paris or other European cities nowadays. A small sign informs us of the contribution of Azari Jews to their homeland: a plaque commemorating a young Jew, Albert Agrovich, who fought and died in the infamous war against Armenia in the 1990s over the disputed Nagorno-Karabakh region. By the tea house there's a statue of a Soviet soldier, commemorating "the Great Patriotic War," during which the Red Army stopped Hitler from conquering the oil-rich Caucasus and murdering its Jewish population. During Soviet times, there were 11 synagogues in Qirmizi, but they weren't in use — Communism was the only religion. And yet the mountain Jews continued to preserve their faith and customs in their homes—observing the Sabbath, fasting on Yom Kippur. Most of them didn't even know why. "If you asked a Jew why he observes Shabbat, the answer was `because my grandfather told me to," says Eli. Today there are only two synagogues left in in the town, but they are both active. The larger one was closed so we visit the smaller one. The beadle asks us to remove our shoes, and when we enter we understood why: the floor is adorned with colorful and magnificent Azari carpets (such a carpet can reach a cost of NIS 10,000 or $2,500). Every day 25-30 people come to pray here, and during holidays it's packed. There's even a Siddur (Jewish prayer book) in Juhuru, the local dialect. Neither my wife nor I are religious, but here, standing in the last Jewish town in Azerbaijan, we pray.

Fox News Rejects Ad for Anti-Nazi Film

By the Jerusalem Post
Fox News told the creators of an Oscar-nominated documentary about a Nazi rally in the United States that it could not air a commercial on its network. According to The Hollywood Reporter, Fox News rejected a 30-second spot, titled It Can Happen Here, saying it was "not appropriate for our air." The short clip was intended as both a PSA and a promotion for the documentary short, A Night at the Garden, which spotlights a 1939 Nazi rally at Madison Square Garden in New York City. The 30-second ad shows footage from the rally itself, and then cuts to a black screen with the words "It can happen here." The film's distributor requested the ad run during the popular Fox News show Hannity. Fox News Channel's president of ad sales, Marianne Gambelli, said: "The ad in question is full of disgraceful Nazi imagery regardless of the film's message and did not meet our guidelines," according to Variety. The director of the film told The Hollywood Reporter that "It's amazing to me that the CEO of Fox News would personally inject herself into a small ad buy just to make sure that Hannity viewers weren't exposed to this chapter of American history." The Hollywood Reporter said that the clip will air in the local Los Angeles market on Thursday evening, but was prevented from running nationally. But Variety speculated that the film's advertisers knew it would be rejected, and were seeking publicity from the exchange. "In many cases, the commercial in question is not suitable for air, or the advertiser can't afford to pay the fees required for national distribution," wrote Variety's Brian Steinberg, noting that the ad has yet to air on any national TV network. "The claims of rejection can sometimes spur some media outlets to make a bigger issue out of what is often typical business procedure." But IndieWire – a respected film industry site – reported that Fox News CEO Suzanne Scott directly intervened in the decision. According to IndieWire's Christian Blauvelt, Fox News has aired commercials with similar footage in the past. The site cited an ad for Dinesh D'Souza's 2018 film Death of a Nation, which includes Nazi imagery and swastikas, and a Simon Wiesenthal Center spot which shows Holocaust footage. By contrast, the It Can Happen Here commercial has no voiceover, and only references the film at the end of the clip. The film was nominated alongside four others for the best documentary short Academy Award. The winner will be announced during the ceremony next Sunday.

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