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>JN Oct. 25, 2019, Vol. 27, No. 212

IDF Chief: All Fronts `Fragile,' Could Deteriorate into a War

By the Jerusalem Post

Israel is currently dealing with multiple arenas and enemies at the same time, with the northern front the most fragile and at risk of deteriorating into war, IDF Chief of Staff Lt.-Gen. Aviv Kochavi said. Despite the fact that Israel's enemies are not interested in war, the IDF has "increased its pace of preparations" for confrontation, Kochavi told journalists. "On both the northern and southern fronts, the situation is tense and fragile, and could deteriorate into a confrontation," he said. Tensions with the Hamas-run Gaza Strip continue to pose a threat to Israel, with rounds of violent conflict breaking out several times over the last year. Close to 2,000 rockets were fired from the blockaded coastal enclave towards Israel by Palestinian Islamic Jihad and Hamas in the last year alone, killing five Israeli civilians, the highest number of civilian casualties since Operation Protective Edge in 2014. Ongoing violence in the West Bank by Palestinians has also killed several civilians and IDF soldiers. But, according to Israel's top military officer, the "central strategic challenge of the State of Israel lies in the northern arena," where Iran continues to consolidate its forces in Syria and work with Hizbullah on its precision missile project. "In both cases, this is an Iranian-led effort, using the territory of countries with very limited governments," Kochavi said, referring to Syria and Lebanon.

Former Shin Bet Head: 'We Assume there are Weapons Stockpiles on the Temple Mount'

By Israel Hayom

"The Palestinians will never drop the matter of the Temple Mount. It's a tool that they, and parts of the Arab and Muslim world, use to take on Israel," former Knesset Foreign Affairs and Defense Committee Chairman and former head of the Shin Bet security agency MK Avi Dichter told Israel Hayom. Dichter was at the helm of the Shin Bet when the Al-Aqsa Intifada broke out after Ariel Sharon visited the Temple Mount. Israel Hayom accompanied him on a visit to the Mount in an attempt to understand if, since Sharon's visit, anything has changed at what is considered the most volatile site in the world. "Do you know what the most frustrating thing about the Miss Universe pageant is?" Dichter asks as we set out. "Coming in second. The Temple Mount is in second place after Mecca and Medina. No one really makes pilgrimages to the Temple Mount. There is no Hajj here. For them, the fact that Israel captured the Temple Mount is outstanding leverage, but their real goal is elsewhere – it's conflict. The Temple Mount is just an instrument."

This time of year, the Temple Mount is crowded with visitors. An average of 7,000 tourists arrive each day, and another 150 or so Jewish visitors. Visitors begin making their way in early; Jews and tourists via the Mughrabi Bridge, and Arab worshippers use the other eight entrances to the Mount. In the past, each visitor had to pay a $10 entrance fee. It wasn't a bad source of revenue, but Israel decided to end that practice in 2000 because it gave the impression that it was the people collecting the money, rather than Israel, who were in charge. Later on, the sale of food and souvenirs on the Mount was also banned. The Mount is under heavy security. Police and Border Police are on duty at each of the entrances, and they check the people who come to pray. There are no hi-tech security measures in places, and everything is done by hand. Bags are searched, and so are bodies if the need arises. The biggest concern is that someone, Muslim or Jew, will try and bring weapons into the Temple Mount. Both sides worry – about extremist Jews who might try to carry out a terrorist attack or Muslims who will bring in weapons for use in an immediate or future attack. Police commanders declare unequivocally that there are no weapons on the Mount, but Dichter is much more cautious. "I'm telling you that our working assumption must be that there are weapons on the Mount. The police must work under the assumption that they could be surprised by guns," he says. Q: Guns that are there for what reason? "If there are weapons, they see them as something to use to deal with attempts to force something on them they don't want to happen. Tomorrow they could decide, for example, that the police can't come into Al-Aqsa Mosque when things start to heat up, and they know they won't have to standoff against the police barehanded." The metal detector crisis that led to the murder of two police officers in a shooting attack perpetrated by three Israeli Arabs in July 2017 prevented the introduction of any advanced technology that would make it harder to bring weapons onto the Mount. Dichter supports the idea of metal detectors. "I know that eventually, there will be security checks at the entrances to the Temple Mount. I can't tell you what they'll look like, but there will have to be security checks because everyone understands the sensitivity of what would happen if, heaven forbid, there was another terrorist attack here." "If it did, we'd ask ourselves how we allowed people to bring weapons onto the Mount, and you need to remember that at peak times, the number of people coming in reaches hundreds of thousands per day. It's very hard to check everyone. That's another reason why I think that the working assumption must be that there are weapons stockpiles on the Mount, and anyone who doesn't work off that assumption is missing an important part of his job, I think." Despite the number of tourists and worshippers, the Mount is very clean. Everything is orderly, calm, and light-years away from the media images of violence that frequently make headlines. The police here are prepared for these sudden extreme shifts. The commanders are very experienced and most of them have been here for years. They've all been through plenty of cycles of violence on the Mount. Dichter is accompanied during his visit by the entire Israel Police chain of command on the Mount: Cmdr. Haim Shmueli, who is in charge of the David District (the Old City); Chief Supt. Yuval Reuven, who is in charge of holy sites (the Temple Mount, the Western Wall, and the Church of the Holy Sepulchre); and Supt. Daniel Mizrahi, the commander of the Mount itself. The Temple Mount police station is the only sign of Israeli sovereignty, and as such is the target of frequent violent attacks. In an attempt to establish facts on the ground, the Muslim Waqf located its offices on one side of the station, and the officer for its security guards on the other. A few dozen Waqf officials are scattered across the Mount, keeping an eye on things from afar. They use walkie-talkies to report but refrain from interfering. A little like museum guards, who follow visitors and intervene only when necessary. They are especially interested in Dichter – a visit by a high-ranking Israeli official, a politician, who has a notable background in security, is always an unusual event. Dichter's visit was preceded by lengthy consultations between security officials, who were concerned he might spark riots at a sensitive time. At first, he received hints that perhaps he should cancel, but in the end, his visit was approved. As we mentioned, Dichter was head of the Shin Bet when Sharon visited the Temple Mount on Sept. 29, 2000, an event that precipitated the Second (or Al-Aqsa) Intifada. "We checked with everyone, and we didn't see any problem. It was a Thursday. Even though Arab MKs were waiting for him on the Mount and creating provocations, the event here ended relatively quietly. The storm only broke the next day, and [the visit] was the excuse." The violence that re-erupted the day after Sharon's appearance, following Friday prayers, was on a much larger scale than it had been in the past. The police pushed into the Mount with guns and four Palestinians were killed in the compound, along with another three in the Old City. Hundreds were wounded. The violence spread quickly, engulfing Israeli Arabs, Judea and Samaria, and the Gaza Strip. "The main insights since then are that a casualty on the Temple Mount is not a regular casualty – it's something else. So incidents here have to be handled in a way that does not result in casualties – starting with the weapons and the tactics, and the people that you put on duty and the commanders who oversee the incidents. The rules on the Temple Mount are different, and we paid a very high price to learn them," Dichter says. Q: Israel's sovereignty isn't eroded because of how it operates on the Temple Mount? "How you handle incidents doesn't add to or take away from sovereignty. On the Temple Mount, it's impossible to implement sovereignty because the status quo determines that there are to be no flags or any other national symbols, so there is no sign of [Israeli] sovereignty here other than the police station." Anyway, Dichter says, the Waqf is taking a "salami" approach on the Mount – "always slicing off small bits, and when they see that they can take a big slice, like they did in 1999 with Solomon's Stables, that's what they do, shamelessly. "Back then, they received the biggest mosque in the region to be built not in the time of the Turks or the British, but under Israeli rule, and we looked the other way. We said, we need to let the chick spread its wings and learn to fly. We didn't realize that the chick was a bird of prey. The Temple Mount is the only place where you see Palestinian self-confidence on display. Without shame." Q: Explain. "They feel that it belongs to them, that they have the backing not only of the fragile Palestinian Authority but also of other states. The Waqf officials here don't feel that they are representatives of [PA President] Mahmoud Abbas, but rather of the King of Jordan, the King of Morocco, [Turkish President Recep Tayyip] Erdogan – of all Islam. I know the Palestinians fairly well. Look at them. Look at their self-confidence." Q: Does Israel even have a clear policy on the Temple Mount? "Ultimately, we decide what happens here. The status quo is very clear, and where they are challenging us, we need to take decisive action." An example of that is a mosque the Waqf wanted to break open near the Gate of Mercy about six months ago. "That was a classic example in which they had a permit to build offices for the Waqf, but their true intention was clear – they didn't intend to build anything other than a mosque. In so far as it hinges on me, it won't happen. I can't see any Israeli government allowing them to build a mosque at the Gate of Mercy." Tourists walk around the Temple Mount freely, accompanied only by guides. The Jews are protected, both to keep them from being attacked, and to keep them from praying. The police take care not to allow outward symbols of prayer such as a tallit or fringes, but is less careful about murmured prayer, except when it comes to known provocateurs. Their names and faces are well-known, and sometimes they are barred from the site entirely. Dichter thinks that Jews should be allowed to pray on the Temple Mount, "Just like Muslims are allowed in to pray." He thinks that the Palestinians' current attitude toward the Temple Mount is emotional, not rational: "When a Muslim here sees someone wearing a kippa or a cross he goes nuts." However, in Dichter's opinion that change must be made through consensus and be well-thought-out, because "the Temple Mount is a little rock that's holding big boulders [in place], and you need to ask yourself what would happen if you moved it after 52 years in which everything here was static, and any change could cause a major shake-up." The constant concern is fear of an attack by Jewish extremists. Since the Jewish underground of the 1980s, there hasn't been any Jewish terrorist activity that hasn't addressed the possibility of attacking the Temple Mount mosques, or as some of the groups put it, "taking the filth away from where the Temple once stood." Dichter recalls two such plots from his time as head of the Shin Bet: One group wanted to shoot an anti-tank missile at the Temple Mount, and the other wanted to deploy an explosives-laden model plane. "A grenade on the Temple Mount equals war," he says. "Look what happened when Al-Aqsa Mosque was set on fire in 1969, or after the Western Wall tunnels were opened." Q: Why would Jews want to carry out a terrorist attack on the Temple Mount? "Attacking the Temple Mount has much broader implications that what happens right here, and I'm saying that from all my security experience and knowledge of the Muslim world. We have an army and the Shin Bet and the police here, and we know how to handle it and contain it, but I'm worried about what would happen to Jews and Israelis all over the world. They'd become targets anywhere there are Muslims." Q: Should we be worried? "Yes. There are people whose thinking is detached from the reality in which we live. Tomorrow some Baruch Goldstein who decides that God came to him in a dream and told him to carry out an attack here could get up and cause damage that would have an enormous effect." Dichter says that the way to handle that threat is twofold: through intelligence and a physical security presence on the Mount, and through dialogue with the only officials he thinks can get through to the extremists – rabbis. "After the attempts at terrorist attacks [by Jews] in my time, I went and met with rabbis. I told them I thought they were the ones giving the orders, but they had to demonstrate responsibility. They not only have immediate responsibility for what happens here but also responsibility for every Jew and Israeli all over the world." Dichter's most important visit to the Mount was a private one. It was in 2003, and his daughter was about to be drafted. She wanted the family to take a vacation abroad, but Dichter was in charge of the Shin Bet and couldn't go. "Her compensation was a two-day tour of Jerusalem that they'll never forget. One day in ancient Jerusalem, and one day in today's Jerusalem. We hired the best guides. It was the most in-depth tour I've ever had here." Q: Can a solution to the Temple Mount issue be found? "Right now I don't see a solution in the form of dialogue with them, because the Palestinians are a cowardly people. They don't have the courage to do anything that isn't belligerent. You don't need to be brave to carry out a suicide bus bombing, you need to be a fanatic and not able to see beyond the end of your nose. Look at what they did to Sadat and Hussein, look at Arafat and Abu Mazen [Abbas]." Q: Nevertheless, international sovereignty on the Mount has been discussed that would allow everyone to pray, things like that. "The Temple Mount can be one clause of many in a peace deal, but there is no Palestinian leader who'll go there, stand up in the Knesset, and say, 'The path of terrorism is at an end.' At first, I thought that Arafat had an opportunity to be the one, but when I got to know him from close-up, I saw that he wasn't it." Q: So the Temple Mount will remain an eternal point of conflict for us? "Yes. Or at least until there are leaders, on both sides, like Begin and Rabin, who will undertake dramatic steps and concessions." Meanwhile, Dichter thinks, Israel must stand its ground – not violate the status quo so as not to set off riots, but also make sure it doesn't pay a price for that. "There is an obvious effort to turn the entire Temple Mount into Al-Aqsa," he says. "If we can't contradict the sense that the Temple Mount is Al-Aqsa, they'll have legitimacy to keep Jews off the Mount and behave like they do in Mecca and Medina, where non-Muslims are not allowed. That is there guiding motive, and not many people in Israel understand that this is their goal and what ramifications that has for our own goals. We have to be aware of that. This is a battle for hearts and minds whose importance must not be underestimated."

European Chief Rabbi Warns Anti-Semitism on Rise

By YnetNews
The chief rabbi of the main Orthodox rabbinical alliance in Europe said Thursday that a resurgence of anti-Semitism on the continent "poses an existential threat to the Jewish community." Chief Rabbi Pinchas Goldschmidt of the Conference of European Rabbis said that the receding memory of the Holocaust, rising far-right sentiment and radical Islam are the key factors fueling the anti-Semitic climate. The attack on a German synagogue on Yom Kippur, in which two bystanders were killed, was the latest violent manifestation of the trend, he said. Goldschmidt spoke ahead of the awarding of the Moshe Rosen Award to the founder of the Catholic charity Sant'Egidio, Andrea Riccardi. The award, which was presented Thursday in Rome, recognizes non-Jews who promote dialogue, understanding and tolerance to ensure a Jewish future in Europe. Earlier this year, Goldschmidt warned that proposals in Europe to ban non-medical circumcision and ban kosher slaughter were making Jews on the continent feel unwelcome, even as anti-Semitism was increasing. "We must recognize the harsh statement by European society toward us," Goldschmidt told Ynet in May. "They are telling us that if you Jews want to remain here among us, you must stop being Jewish. They are claiming that our customs, circumcision and kosher slaughter, are unenlightened. But we will fight for our traditions. We have competent mohelim (who perform circumcisions) who know their occupation and kosher slaughterers," said Goldschmidt, who has served as the chief rabbi of Russia for the past three decades. Suddenly 40 million Muslims who perform circumcision at a later age arrived in Europe, and they are performed by non-professionals, which leads to accidents.

How Bernie Sanders Became a Favorite among Muslim Americans

By JTA

Bernie Sanders was one of only two Democratic presidential candidates to address the Islamic Society of North America Convention in August, the largest annual gathering of Muslim Americans in the country. Organizers invited the 10 highest-polling contenders at the time to the Houston event, but the Vermont senator and Julian Castro were the only ones to accept. Sanders received loud applause and a standing ovation for a speech that repeatedly invoked his refugee father's flight from poverty and anti-Semitism in Poland. Among a crowded field of Democratic hopefuls, the Jewish candidate is one of the few who have made repeated efforts to reach out to Muslim Americans, community leaders told the Jewish Telegraphic Agency. Prominent Muslim politicians, in turn, have endorsed Sanders. They include Rep. Ilhan Omar, D-Minn., who came out for Sanders last week. Rep. Rashida Tlaib, D-Mich., is set to join Sanders at a rally in Detroit this weekend and reportedly is going to endorse him as well. Omar and Tlaib, the first Muslim women elected to Congress, have been the repeated target of attacks by President Donald Trump. The Muslim-American community is estimated at 3.45 million and it's diverse, including immigrants from the Middle East, Africa and Asia, as well as a sizable number of African-Americans born in the United States. The community is close to split evenly between self-described liberals and conservatives. The 2000 election is often seen as a turning point. That year, a political action committee made up of Muslim groups endorsed Republican George W. Bush, who had made efforts to reach out to the Muslim community, over Democrat Al Gore. Polls are inconsistent on how Muslims actually voted in that election. CAIR said 70% of Muslim-American voters backed the GOP candidate, while a study by the pollster Zogby International said the number was just 42%. But the Iraq War and the Patriot Act were unpopular among Muslim Americans, and by the next election both Zogby and CAIR were showing overwhelming Muslim support for John Kerry, the Democrat running against Bush. The situation has scarcely changed. In 2016, CAIR found that only 13% of Muslims voted for Trump. A Zogby poll ahead of the election found that only 12% of Muslims said they would vote for Trump. A 78-year-old Jewish socialist from Brooklyn isn't an obvious favorite among Muslim Americans, whose relations with U.S. Jews have often been complicated by differences over the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. But a number of factors have drawn the communities closer in recent years, according to Suhail Khan, a conservative activist who served as legal counsel and transportation adviser in the George W. Bush administration. These include similar views on domestic issues, better social ties and a shared sense of vulnerability in the face of mounting hate crimes. "The conversation and the relationship between the American Muslim community and the American Jewish community has done a 180-degree change, and that's reflected in the support for Bernie," said Khan, who doesn't support Sanders but understands his appeal to fellow Muslims. Sanders has stood out among Democratic contenders for his willingness to criticize Israel. He was the first serious candidate to suggest that aid to Israel could be contingent on its compliance with U.S. policy, although Sen. Elizabeth Warren has now embraced that view. He has also said that he supports Israel's right to exist in peace and security and called himself "100% pro-Israel," but repeatedly has come down hard on the government of Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu, including calling it "racist." For some Muslim voters, Sanders' Jewish identity makes them even more likely to support him. "I think in terms of being a socialist Jewish guy from Brooklyn, it appealed to me because I know a couple of socialist Jews from Brooklyn and my parents grew up around lefty Jewish people," said Hamzah Raza, a 23-year-old graduate student in Islamic studies at the Harvard Divinity School. Raza, who grew up in Maryland and New Jersey, organized a group of young Muslims to pray for Sanders following news earlier this month that he had suffered a heart attack. Some 40 young Muslims from around the world ended up taking part in a complete recitation of the Quran on behalf of Sanders on the messaging platform WhatsApp, as first reported by the Religion News Service. Raza said the candidate's outreach to the community and his progressive stances on a number of issues appeal to him, including health care, foreign policy and the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. "I wouldn't say Muslim Americans are a monolith," he said. "I don't think we're behind any particular candidate. But I would say Bernie Sanders is by far the most popular."

New Netflix Series Centers on Nazi Camp Guard Demjanjuk

By YnetNews

"The Devil Next Door", a new Netflix mini-series created by Israeli documentary directors, Daniel Sivan and Yossi Bloch, centers around the infamous former SS camp guard John Demjanjuk, also known as Ivan the Terrible. The mini-series tells the real-life story of John Demjanjuk, an allegedly Ukrainian-born American pensioner living peacefully with his family in a Cleveland suburb. His life changes after 11 Holocaust survivors identified him as Ivan the Terrible, a Nazi guard at several concentration camps who tortured and killed Jews during World War Two. While standing trial in Israel in 1987, Demjanjuk was charged with crimes against humanity for his alleged complicity in the murder of thousands of Jews during the Holocaust. Though found guilty and sentenced to death, he was eventually acquitted for lack of evidence by the Supreme Court in Jerusalem in a controversial 1993 decision. In 2009, Demjanjuk was extradited from the U.S. to Germany, after a Munich court filled an arrest warrant against him. In 2011, Demjanjuk was sentenced to five years in prison in Germany for assisting in the killing of tens of thousands of Jews in the Flossenbürg concentration camp and the Sobibor death Camp, in both of which he served as a camp guard. Demjanjuk passed away in 2012, at the age of 91, in a German retirement facility near the prison where he resided. The five-part mini-series will be available on Netflix starting in November.


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