Newsletter : 19fx0319.txt
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Israel Supporters Protest UN Rights Meeting
By VOA News
Hundreds of people from across Europe gathered in Geneva Monday to protest as the U.N.
Human Rights Council met to discuss allegations of Israeli violations in the Palestinian
territories. While the debate over Palestinian rights was going on inside the United
Nations, a rally opposing alleged anti-Israeli prejudice by the 47-member Human Rights
Council was taking place outside the premises.
Hillel Neuer is Executive Director of the non-governmental organization, U.N. Watch. He
told the gathering that the U.N. Council spent all last week reviewing the human rights
records of many countries from all regions of the world.
"Today Israel alone is criticized for an entire day," Neuer said. "The only country in the
world that is the focus of its day, its debate, its agenda item. Not North Korea, not
Syria, not Sudan is treated in this way." Neuer called the seven reports under review by
the Council biased. He noted that some accused the Jewish state of war crimes while giving
a free pass to Hamas, the ad hoc authority in Gaza.
Michael Lynk is Special Rapporteur on the Situation of Human Rights in the Palestinian
territory occupied since 1967. He told the Council the situation in Gaza is moving from a
tragic human-made crisis to a humanitarian catastrophe. He called on Israel to lift its
blockade of Gaza, which he said is the source of many human rights and humanitarian law
"The International community has long assumed that the Israeli occupation is not
sustainable and that it will end when the Israeli leadership finally comes to its senses
and decides to honor its international legal responsibilities," Lynk said. "Alas, I see
little evidence of this occurring any time soon. Impunity, not accountability, is the
signature hallmark of this occupation."
Israel boycotted the day-long session but did have a representative at the rally. The
Israeli Ambassador to the U.N. in Geneva, Aviva Raz Shechter told the crowd the U.N. was
harming, not promoting human rights.
"The human rights council is undermining the very cause of human rights. It is an
institution where cynicism and hypocrisy prevail," Shechter said. "While anti-Semitism is
raising its ugly head all over the world, this place is legitimizing discrimination
against the only Jewish State, the State of Israel," Shechter called for an end to this
institutionalized bias. She said this double standard could no longer be tolerated.
The Israeli Ambassador found support for her position from the U.S. Ambassador to Germany,
Richard Grenell. The U.S. diplomat called the allegations against Israel phony. He said
passing resolution after resolution condemning Israel while frequently ignoring China,
Cuba, or Russia, was horrendous hypocrisy. Grenell said applying one standard to the state
of Israel and not applying the same standard to others was, in his view, anti-Semitic.
Ilhan Omar, in Op-Ed, Calls Israel `Historical Homeland' of Jews and Palestinians
Rep. Ilhan Omar, D-Minn., defended her critiques of Israel as calling for a more
"balanced" policy toward the Israeli-Palestinian conflict but also described Israel as the
"historical homeland" of the Jews.
In the same op-ed Monday for The Washington Post, the Somali-American freshman lawmaker
also reiterated her support for a two-state solution to the conflict, calling for
"internationally recognized borders, which allows for both Israelis and Palestinians to
have their sanctuaries and self-determination.
The op-ed is the most extensive articulation of her Mideast views since a controversy
erupted over remarks she made at a public event last month that Jewish Democrats and
others felt invoked an anti-Semitic slander. "The founding of Israel 70 years ago was
built on the Jewish people's connection to their historical homeland, as well as the
urgency of establishing a nation in the wake of the horror of the Holocaust and the
centuries of anti-Semitic oppression leading up to it," Omar wrote in the op-ed.
"We must acknowledge that this is also the historical homeland of Palestinians," Omar
said, reiterating her support for a two-state solution. "And without a state, the
Palestinian people live in a state of permanent refugee-hood and displacement. This, too,
is a refugee crisis, and they, too, deserve freedom and dignity."
Her staff said the op-ed was a bid to explain her positions. Ilhan had been under fire
after saying she felt pressured to pledge "allegiance" to Israel, which critics said
invoked anti-Israel accusations of dual loyalty. She had also faced criticism for previous
tweets that suggested that U.S. Mideast policy was exclusively influenced by the
pro-Israel lobby AIPAC and that Israel had "hypnotized" the world into taking its side.
Michael Koplow of the Israel Policy Forum, which advocates for a two-state solution,
tweeted in response to Omar's op-ed: "I'm glad that Ilhan Omar's op-ed stresses the
importance of two states and backs Israel's fundamental legitimacy. As before, the
question of whether this means she has genuinely reconsidered her previous language will
be proven more by what she says in her unscripted moments."
Fatah says Hamas, Amid Growing Tensions, Physically Broke Spokesperson's Arms and
By the Jerusalem Post
A senior Fatah official in the Gaza Strip is reported to be in serious condition after
being attacked by unidentified gunmen. Atef Abu Seif, the Fatah spokesman in the
Hamas-ruled Gaza Strip, was reportedly kidnapped near his home in Bet Lahia on Monday
afternoon, Fatah officials said.
According to the officials, the gunmen who kidnapped Abu Seif broke his arms and legs. It
was not clear who was behind the attack on the Fatah official. However, Fatah officials
accused Hamas of being behind the assault.
The incident came amid mounting tensions between Hamas and Fatah, especially in the wake
of recent protests against the high cost of living and taxes in the Gaza Strip. The
protests are being held under the banner "We Want to Live!"
Hamas has accused Fatah of inciting Palestinians to take to the streets as part of a
"conspiracy" to overthrow the Hamas regime in the Gaza Strip. A Hamas official further
said that Fatah and its supporters have been trying to hijack the protests as part of a
plan to stage a coup against the Hamas rulers of the Gaza Strip.
In a statement, Fatah strongly condemned the assault on Abu Seif and Hamas's repressive
measures against the protesters against economic hardship. The Hamas crackdown is an
assault on the legitimate Palestinian leadership and the PLO, the statement said, accusing
Hamas policemen of being behind the "assassination attempt" targeting the Fatah spokesman.
Ma'moun Sweidan, an adviser to Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas, also held
Hamas responsible for the assault. Hamas, he charged, is "tampering with the social fabric
in the Gaza Strip and the future of national unity."
The Palestinian Independent Commission for Human Rights also issued a statement strongly
denouncing the assault on the senior Fatah official, dubbing it a "dangerous escalation."
The group called on Hamas to halt its human rights violations, including arrests and
beatings of demonstrators and incitement against journalists and human rights activists.
Meanwhile, Hamas on Monday accused the PA security forces of devising a scheme, together
with international parties, to instigate unrest in the Gaza Strip. According to Hamas, the
scheme, which is being orchestrated by senior Fatah officials, is being waged on social
media and is also aimed at driving a wedge between Hamas and other Gaza-based Palestinian
The protests against the bad economic situation in the Gaza Strip, which began last week,
are seen as a sign of growing discontent with Hamas. Hamas security forces have arrested
hundreds of Palestinians who participated in the protests, including several Palestinian
journalists who were released after being warned not to cover the anti-Hamas
Leading Architects Urge Netanyahu to Cancel Jerusalem Cable Car Plan
By Israel Hayom
A group of leading international architects is appealing to Israel's government to halt
its controversial plan to build a cable car to Jerusalem's Old City. Developers say the
proposed project is meant to relieve snarling traffic and will ferry some 3,000 tourists
an hour directly to the Old City, in east Jerusalem. It follows a series of Israeli
projects in the combustible city that have angered Palestinians.
Some 30 architects, including Santiago Calatrava, famed for designing Jerusalem's Chords
Bridge, celebrated American architect Thom Mayne and Israeli-born Moshe Safdie added their
voices to public outcry against the project Sunday in a letter to Prime Minister Benjamin
It called the cable car a threat to Jerusalem's "ancient landscape and precious heritage,"
and accused powerful interest groups of prioritizing tourism and political agendas over
religious and cultural values.
US Supreme Court Won't Hear Touro Synagogue Case
The U.S. Supreme Court will not rehear a case that gave control of America's oldest
synagogue building and its pricey artifacts to the building's historic trustees. The high
court on Monday declined to take up the case over who owns the Touro Synagogue in Newport,
Rhode Island, and its $7.4 million silver Torah ornaments called rimonim.
In August 2017, the Boston Court of Appeals ruled in favor of Manhattan's Shearith Israel,
the oldest Jewish congregation in the country, giving it control of the 250-year-old Touro
Synagogue, the religious home of Congregation Jeshuat Israel. That decision also gave the
Manhattan synagogue ownership of the historic rimonim that Jeshuat Israel had hoped to
sell to build an endowment.
Touro was founded in the 18th century by a Sephardic Jewish community whose numbers
declined over the years. Shearith Israel, a Sephardic congregation that was established in
1654 and has worshipped at various sites in Manhattan, has served as a trustee of the
Touro Synagogue since the early 19th century. Jeshuat Israel, founded in 1881 as Ashkenazi
immigrants began flooding America from Eastern Europe, has worshipped at Touro for more
than a century.
The current dispute began in 2012 when Jeshuat, which still holds regular services at
Touro, attempted to sell one set of the silver ornaments to establish an endowment to
maintain a rabbi and care for the building, which was designated a national historic site
in 1946. Shearith Israel sued to stop the sale and threatened to replace Jeshuat with
Telegrass Made Drug-Dealing in Israel Easy
While the issue of allowing legalizing cannabis is gaining a central place in the Israeli
election campaign, police launched a huge operation against the drug-dealing network
Telegrass, which operates within the encrypted messaging app Telegram. Police arrested 42
of the channel's operators - 39 in Israel and three abroad - including Telegrass founder
and manager Amos Dov Silver, a US resident who was detained during a visit to Ukraine.
The Telegrass group was established two years ago, in March 2017, and immediately
revolutionized the cannabis trade in Israel. The group enabled sellers and growers of
cannabis to present their wares to customers (type, price, the manner of collection, etc.)
and directly coordinate transactions with them.
Anyone wanting to buy cannabis went to the group, contacted one of the vendors who posted
there, sent them a copy of their identity card and a selfie so that the vendor could
verify that the would-be buyer was not an undercover cop, and a short time later a
messenger would appear with the drugs.
Due to the ease with which it was possible to buy and sell, thousands of sellers and
hundreds of thousands of buyers joined the group, which became the main drug-dealing arena
in Israel. The transactions via Telegrass were estimated to have reached into the hundreds
of millions of shekels, and over time the channel expanded and facilitated drug deals
The dealers, some 10,000 worldwide, paid the channel's managers NIS 420 (approx. $115) for
the right to sell their drugs via the app. In total, the dealers paid the channel managers
some NIS 2 million (approx. $550,000) every month. The police invested great effort in
cracking down on the network, which operated through the secure Telegram application and
employed programmers to encrypt the connection between merchants and consumers.
At the end of a long and covert investigation, according to investigators from the Lahav
433 crime unit, the organizational structure of the network was smashed, and the
identities of the key operators revealed, at which point the investigation stopped being
undercover and the 42 senior channel operators were arrested.
The 39 suspects arrested in Israel were brought to the Magistrate's Courts in Rishon
Lezion and Nazareth for remand extensions. During the remand hearings, police declared,
for the first time in Israel, a crime organization was operating on the Internet.
The detainees are suspected of a variety of offenses, including "managing and financing a
criminal organization, trading and supplying dangerous drugs within the framework of a
criminal organization, mediating dangerous drug business within the framework of a
criminal organization, disrupting legal proceedings within a criminal organization,
conspiracy to commit crime, tax evasion and other offenses."
Police said that Telegrass did not stop at selling cannabis and hashish, but also sold
hard drugs. Also, the police said, drug dealers were selling drugs to minors. "Most of the
suspects belong to the highest echelons of the organization, including its head, his three
deputies and senior officials," police said.
"Today we are talking about one of the most important and central infrastructures for
dealing in dangerous drugs in Israel, and as mentioned above, dozens of senior management
members, thousands of merchants and tens of thousands of users have joined the company,"
"The members of the network acted as a criminal organization for all intents and purposes
in an orderly and methodical manner over a long period, in which they managed to trade in
dangerous drugs of various kinds, including cocaine, MDMA and ecstasy, in addition to huge
quantities of hashish and marijuana."
Meanwhile, the head of Northern Command's intelligence division, Chief Superintendent
Moshe Sheetrit, sought to calm worried cannabis users. "We are not targeting users,"
Sheetrit said, "at the moment they are not part of our operation. They need to worry about
their continued drug use, and we hope that this app won't be available in the future."
Attorneys for the defendants denied that their clients were connected to a criminal
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