Friday, July 24, 2020

China-Iran Strategic Accord Changes Calculus for Israel - Caroline Glick

by Caroline Glick

Now that China has chosen to stand with Iran, Israel must recognize the implications and act accordingly.

When Chinese President Xi Jinping visited Tehran in 2016, most observers dismissed the significance of the move. The notion that Beijing would wreck its relations with America, the largest economy and most powerful global superpower, in favor of an alliance with Iran, the world’s greatest state sponsor of terrorism, was, on its face, preposterous.

But despite the ridiculousness of the idea, concern grew about Sino-Iranian ties as Iranian political leaders and military commanders beat a path to China’s door. Now, in the midst of the global recession caused by China’s export of the coronavirus, the preposterous has become reality.

Following weeks of feverish rumors, Iran and China have concluded a strategic accord. Last weekend, The New York Times reported on the contents of a final draft of the agreement.

In its opening line, China and Iran describe themselves as “two ancient Asian cultures, two partners in the sectors of trade, economy, politics, culture, and security with a similar outlook and many mutual bilateral and multilateral interests.”

Henceforth, they, “will consider one another strategic partners.”

Substantively, the deal involves Iran supplying China with oil at below-market prices for the next 25 years and China investing $400 billion in Iran over the same period. China committed to expanding its presence in the Iranian banking and telecommunication sectors. Among dozens of infrastructure projects, China will construct and operate ports and train lines. China will integrate Iran into its 5G internet network and its GPS system.

The implications of the deal are clear. China has opted to ignore U.S. sanctions. Beijing clearly believes the economic and diplomatic price it will pay for doing so will be smaller than the price the U.S. will pay for the diminishment of its position as the ultimate arbiter of global markets.

For Iran, China is a life raft saving it from total economic collapse under the weight of U.S. economic sanctions.

The Sino-Iranian pact is also a military accord. According to the New York Times report, the agreement commits the sides to intensify their joint military exercises. Since 2014, China and Iran have carried out three joint military exercises, the most recent one being a naval exercise in December 2019. Russia also participated.

Following the naval maneuvers, Iranian Navy commander Rear Admiral Hossein Khanzadi told the Chinese media the exercise showed, “The era of American invasions in the region is over.”
The draft agreement speaks of intelligence cooperation, joint research, the development of weapons systems and Chinese use of Iranian ports in the Gulf of Oman.

Diplomatically, the deal places the United States on a collision course with the United Nations Security Council. Washington’s efforts to extend the U.N. arms embargo on Iran past its expiration date in October will not succeed.

This leaves the United States with only one option for diplomatic efforts to prevent Iran from importing advanced weapons platforms: Triggering the “snapback sanctions” clauses in U.N. Security Council Resolution 2231 which set the conditions for implementing the 2015 nuclear deal between Iran, the permanent Security Council members and Germany.

The “snapback sanctions” clauses enable parties to the resolution to force the automatic reinstatement of all the Security Council sanctions against Iran which were suspended with the implementation of the nuclear deal in 2015. In light of Iran’s extensive breach of the deal’s limitations on its nuclear work, as a party to Resolution 2231, the United States has the power to activate the clause.

China, Iran, Russia and the European Union argue that despite the clear language of 2231, the United States is no longer authorized to trigger the reinstatement of sanctions because it left the nuclear agreement in 2018. Consequently, if the United States triggers the restoration of the sanctions, the move is liable to precipitate a diplomatic struggle within the United Nations and beyond as states are compelled to choose sides. Either they will align themselves with the United States and actual international norms and laws or they will stand against the United States and with China and Iran and fake “international law.”

For Israel, the Sino-Iranian pact is a strategic inflection point. The deal has two immediate implications from Israel’s perspective. The first is operational.

China’s nuclear-weapons expertise

Iran’s new alliance with China will provide it with new options for developing nuclear weapons. China after all is no stranger to nuclear proliferation. It played a central role in Pakistan’s nuclear weapons program. As for North Korea, at a minimum, China facilitated its nuclear weapons program by preventing effective international action to stop North Korea’s race to the bomb.

The possibility that China will soon be actively assisting Iran in its pursuit of nuclear weapons makes the continuation and expansion of the various unexplained explosions at Iranian nuclear and other strategic facilities a matter of highest urgency.

Some of the Iranian opposition reports regarding the Iranian-Chinese deal claim Iran agreed to the permanent deployment of Chinese military forces on its territory. If these reports are accurate, it means those forces may become a tripwire. Any attack against Iran’s strategic facilities could set off a much wider war in which China would be directly involved and fighting on behalf of Iran.

The second immediate implication of the Sino-Iranian pact for Israel is that it requires the government to change its approach to Chinese involvement in infrastructure development and management and to Chinese investment in Israeli technologies and technological research and development.

In May, U.S. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo arrived in Jerusalem for a brief and unexpected visit. In public appearances over the course of his lightning trip, Pompeo warned of the dire implications for U.S.-Israel relations if China continues to participate in infrastructure and technology projects in Israel.

“We don’t want the Chinese Communist Party to have access to Israeli infrastructure, Israeli communication networks,” he said, calling them “the kind of things that endanger the Israeli people and the ability of the U.S. to cooperate with Israel.”

Two weeks after Pompeo’s visit, Israel awarded an Israeli firm a contract to build a desalination plant in Ashdod. The government had initially planned to award the tender to a Chinese firm.

U.S. pressure continues apace. The Americans are maintaining their efforts to persuade Israel to cancel or limit the agreement it concluded with a Chinese firm last year to build and operate a new port in Haifa and other projects.

In the wake of China’s strategic pivot to Iran, Israel has little choice but to cancel the port contract along with several other infrastructure projects and academic and technological cooperation deals. The same Chinese firms that are supposed to build national infrastructures including rail lines here, are now committed to building similar projects in Iran. The danger to Israel’s critical national infrastructures is obvious.

Until now, Israel viewed the possibility of removing Chinese firms from major construction projects and other deals as a regrettable price of its alliance with the United States rather than an Israeli interest.

The Sino-Iran pact changed the calculus. Canceling technological and infrastructure deals with China—Iran’s superpower sponsor—is now an Israeli national interest regardless of Washington’s position.

In response to the deal, Israel should consider replacing Chinese firms with U.S. ones, which at a minimum will not be compromised by ties with Iran. If U.S. firms are able to produce competitive bids, or develop strategic partnerships with Israeli firms to produce large-scale infrastructure projects at reasonable prices, the move would redound to the economic and strategic benefit of all sides. Certainly, efforts to develop cost-effective alternatives to Chinese contractors would firmly integrate Israel into the Trump administration’s post-coronavirus efforts to reduce U.S. and allied supply chains’ exposure to China.

Globally, the Sino-Iran pact will compel new strategic alignments. Europe is likely to split around the choice between the United States and China. Some European governments will choose to align themselves with Iran and China. Others will prefer to remain allies of the United States.

With its weak and sputtering economy now largely integrated into the Chinese market, at least in the short term Russia will continue to stand on China’s side while winking at the United States. Things could change though, as time passes.

China’s gamble against America

China’s decision to initiate a direct confrontation with the United States over Iran was a gamble. It wasn’t a crazy move, given China’s growing economic and technological power. But bets against America are far from safe. The ultimate outcome of China’s Iran gambit will be determined in large part by the shape of the American and Chinese economies in the coming months and years as they emerge from the coronavirus pandemic. And as things now stand, the United States is well positioned to emerge from the pandemic in a sounder economic position than China.

Corporations large and small from countries across the globe are either considering or actively working to relocate their production lines out of China. One of the Trump administration’s key efforts today is securing U.S. and allied supply chains from China by moving as many factories as possible either to the United States itself or to allied states. Japan’s Sony and South Korea’s Samsung are both reportedly planning to move their manufacturing bases from China to Vietnam.

The impact of these moves on China’s economic growth prospects and global influence are likely to be profound. As things stand, China’s only ally in its neighborhood is its client state North Korea.

India, which is now in a border conflict with China, has already taken steps to limit China’s technological penetration of its territory. Indian strategists both inside and outside government are taking a hard look at their military dependence on Russian platforms in light of Russia’s growing economic dependence on China. The United States has not hidden its interest in developing a strategic alliance with India and replacing Russia as India’s main supplier of air defense and other platforms. Israel, which is already a major arms supplier and ally to India, could play a positive role in advancing that goal.

How the Arab states respond to China’s decision to stand with Iran will be determined both by the economic power balance between China and America and by the status of Iran’s nuclear program. If Iran achieves nuclear capability, the Arabs will feel compelled to view China as their shield against Iran. If Iran’s nuclear program is dramatically diminished, the Arabs are likely to feel more secure turning their backs on Beijing, siding with the United States and strengthening their ties with Israel.

For decades, U.S. warnings notwithstanding, Israel perceived China as a neutral power and a highly attractive market. Unlike the Europeans, the Chinese never tried to use their economic ties with Israel to coerce Israel into making concessions to the Palestinians. The Chinese didn’t work with radical Israel fringe groups to subvert government and military decisions. They just seemed interested in economic ties for their own sake.

Now that China has chosen to stand with Iran, Israel must recognize the implications and act accordingly.

* * *
Photo credit: Official website of Ali Khamenei

Caroline Glick is an award-winning columnist and author of The Israeli Solution: A One-State Plan for Peace in the Middle East.


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Iran's Sprint to the Bomb - Peter Huessy

by Peter Huessy

The prospects ahead are possibly dark. A change in US administration may likely see a return to the JCPOA, an end to sanctions and maximum pressure, and an Iranian sense of having won a major struggle with the "Great Satan."

  • It cannot... be a surprise that Iran is still sprinting toward deliverable nuclear weapons with the very uranium enrichment technology permitted by the 2015 agreement. While the U.S. Senate was told the deal would halt Iran's pursuit of nuclear weaponry, the deal only camouflaged the mullahs' ambitions to acquire it.
  • Worse, when the deal's provisions were to sunset this decade, Iran would have been free to acquire full nuclear capability without pretending it was not.
  • China is buying time for Iran. Perhaps China believes that its presence in the region will persuade the United States to show "restraint." The United States should not take the bait.
  • The prospects ahead are possibly dark. A change in US administration may likely see a return to the JCPOA, an end to sanctions and maximum pressure, and an Iranian sense of having won a major struggle with the "Great Satan." That is not a prospect America's allies want to accept. The United States should not risk waiting, either.

The world knows that the Iran nuclear deal (JCPOA) never ended -- or even intended to end -- Iran's pursuit of nuclear weapons. The ticking clocks you hear denote a race between America and its allies pursuing the destruction of Iran's nuclear weapons program on the one hand, and Iran's sprint to the bomb and an umbrella of terror on the other. (Image source: iStock)

In 2013, Danny Danon, Israel's Deputy Defense Minister, warned that Iran was speedily moving to develop advanced centrifuges that will enable it to enrich uranium needed for nuclear weapons within one month. "We have made it crystal clear ," Danon said, "Israel will not stand by and watch Iran develop weaponry that will put us, the entire Middle East and eventually the world, under an Iranian umbrella of terror."

This concern was shared by the United States and thus, in 2015, a nuclear agreement -- the Joint Comprehensive Program of Action (JCPOA) -- was made between the United States, along with Russia, China, France, Great Britain and Germany, and supposedly Iran, which never signed the deal. Ostensibly Iran would give up its pursuit of nuclear weapons and the U.S. would withdraw its economic sanctions.

Iran, of course, had no intention of giving up its pursuit of nuclear weapons; contrary to what JCPOA supporters claimed, the Iranians, even under the JCPOA deal, could continue pursuing their quest for nuclear capability. This "loophole" was clear especially after it was revealed the Obama administration had conceded that Iran had a right to enrich uranium, which is not required for "peaceful" nuclear energy.

It cannot therefore be a surprise that Iran is still sprinting toward deliverable nuclear weapons with the very uranium enrichment technology permitted by the 2015 agreement. While the U.S. Senate was told the deal would halt Iran's pursuit of nuclear weaponry, the deal only camouflaged the mullahs' ambitions to acquire it.

Worse, when the deal's provisions were to sunset this decade, Iran would have been free to acquire full nuclear capability without pretending it was not.

At the time of the 2015 deal, the Obama administration warned that Iran was probably a year way from having enough nuclear material to fashion a bomb. Now, it is reported by David Albright of the Institute for Science and International Security (ISIS) that until recently, Iran was no more than one or two months away from a nuclear weapons capability.

Some people take solace in the partial destruction of the building at Natanz that housed many of Iran's centrifuges, in which a mysterious explosion occurred in early July. Although ISIS says the damage is serious, other sources say the hall underneath the building, where the centrifuges are located, was not destroyed.

The Natanz facility, which was finished in 2018, was to mass-produce thousands of advanced centrifuges for nuclear weapons fuel production. It took six years for the building to be completed; it is important to remember that Iran was building its major nuclear weapons capability all during the negotiations that led up to the JCPOA deal and for three years afterward.

As the United States, the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia and Israel have argued all this time, Iran's Islamic rulers never gave up their pursuit of nuclear weapons. Obviously, somebody took these arguments seriously: Natanz, a key facility in the Iranian nuclear program, was likely bombed. Some experts say to rebuild the facility will take upwards of two years, while others say the nuclear program is only delayed by a few months. The latter opinion is supported by the fact that Iran maintains numerous complexes for nuclear weapons work and, as noted, the centrifuge hall under Natanz is said to remain intact.

Throughout all this, critics still maintain that the United States policy of "maximum pressure" is what drives the Iranians to accelerate their quest for nuclear weapons.

Their solution? The U.S. should rejoin the JCPOA!

Such arguments fall apart for a number of reasons. First, the Iranians have never given up their pursuit of nuclear weapons: they never complied with the JCPOA from its start. Second, as USAF General and former CIA Director Michael Hayden explained, the JCPOA actually allowed Iran to build an "industrial strength nuclear program" with a capability that served no other purpose than to allow Iran to build a nuclear weapon in a matter of months. And third, the "maximum pressure" campaign seems to be working, and working so well that it drove the Iranians to make a fateful decision: sprint to a nuclear weapon and risk being found out -- or suffer further economic deterioration that would eventually bankrupt Iran and threaten the survivability of the regime.

The mullahs obviously chose to continue their sprint to a bomb. They enriched more uranium, refused IAEA inspections for military sites where nuclear work was done, illegally sought nuclear technology from Germany, and expanded their violations of the JCPOA, all the while trying to keep the U.S. military at bay and enticing the Europeans to increase investment and trade.

The strategy might have worked: the White House is reluctant to go to war in an election year, even if the U.S. could destroy the entire Iranian nuclear weapons program. After America tried regime change in Iraq to eliminate Saddam Hussein's weapons of mass destruction, "not again" became the Pentagon watchword. With U.S. military leaders remaining wary of an escalation of rising tensions between Iran and the United States, the mullahs are counting on U.S. restraint to shield them from attack.

U.S. restraint is one thing, but what about the friends of the United States? In 1981, for instance, the Israelis destroyed the Osirak nuclear reactor in Iraq with a perilous long-range air attack without air-to-air refueling. Then, in September 2007, the Israelis destroyed a nuclear reactor in Syria that was being built by North Korea and paid for with Iranian cash.

In short, the U.S. may not need to end Iran's nuclear weapons program by "going to war," the argument used by JCPOA supporters who said that the U.S. had a choice either to agree to a flawed nuclear deal (even one allowing Iran eventually to get nuclear weapons) or go to war. A better choice is to recognize that the United States has allies that could get the job done, such as an Israeli government that understands how to deal with difficult military problems, and a Saudi Arabia willing to help with matters such as over-flight permission and airfield use to refuel returning airplanes.

The Iranian leadership knows this. They understand they are facing an alliance of the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia, the United States and Israel, all of which see the JCPOA as a dangerous failure. The mullahs also know that all the Middle East allies need to "get the job done" is an American green light.

As a result of that understanding, current events, and sanctions, Iran is seeking to be rescued by China. Although first explored in 2016, and to a degree previewed last year, the Iranian government has now formalized a new historic deal with China. In exchange for hundreds of billions of dollars in promised investment, Iran is promising cheap oil for 25 years and access to the Persian Gulf for military facilities and bases.

As one analyst put it, Iran is "selling its soul to China," apparently giving up on Europe to provide enough investment to prop up its economy. China is buying time for Iran. Perhaps China believes that its presence in the region will persuade the United States to show "restraint."

The United States should not take the bait. It is clear that Iran is "crossing important [nuclear] thresholds that dangerously reduce its breakout time" to anywhere from two to four months, according to John Hannah of the Foundation for Defense of Democracies.

Combined with IAEA concerns over the equipment and nuclear material at two sites targeted for inspection but denied access by Iran, it is obvious the nuclear weapons threat from Iran is only getting worse. In addition, in April, Iran's Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps (IRGC), launched a military satellite into orbit. It was no doubt a prelude to a nuclear-armed missile being launched.

The prospects ahead are possibly dark. A change in U.S. administration may likely see a return to the JCPOA, an end to sanctions and maximum pressure, and an Iranian sense of having won a major struggle with the "Great Satan." That is not a prospect American allies in the Middle East want to accept. The United States should not risk waiting, either.

The world knows that the JCPOA never ended -- or even intended to end -- Iran's pursuit of nuclear weapons. The ticking clocks you hear denote a race between America and its allies pursuing the destruction of Iran's nuclear weapons program on the one hand, and Iran's sprint to the bomb and an umbrella of terror on the other.

Peter Huessy is Director of Strategic Deterrent Studies at the Mitchell Institute. He is also senior consulting analyst at Ravenna Associates, a strategic communications company.


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President Trump Can Use the Crisis to Dramatically Transform Education - Daniel Greenfield

by Daniel Greenfield

Taxpayers are spending billions on schools and teachers who won’t teach.

The Los Angeles Unified School District spends $18,788 per student. Its goal is to up that spending to $20,000. The mammoth LA school district is 7th in urban spending and has around half a million students. And the costs only went up after a United Teachers strike extracted a 6 percent raise.

Last year, LAUSD approved a $7.8 billion budget.

Governor Newsom demanded federal aid during the coronavirus and proposed moving over $4 billion in federal pandemic relief to the non-functioning schools.

"Cuts to funding at schools will forever impact the lives of children," Superintendent Austin Beutner warned. "The harm children are facing is just as real a threat to them as is the coronavirus."

Apparently cutting the budgets of closed schools is just as lethal as a pandemic.

"The notion that schools can continue to operate safely in the fall with a decreased state budget is not realistic," deputy superintendent Megan Reilly complained after a proposed 7% budget cut.

The schools are aren’t opening in the fall. Instead, LAUSD is staying closed. But it has piled up $200 million in "emergency coronavirus costs" from handing out free computers and internet.

What are those billion-dollar budgets buying now?

The Zoom classes managed to have only two-thirds of students logging in on any given school day. 40,000 high school students were not participating after school closures. That’s not surprising because the teachers’ union had reached an agreement that would avoid any pay cuts, would allow teachers to set their own schedules, free them from video lectures, and require them to work only 4 hours a day.

Meanwhile millions are being spent on protective equipment, not because LAUSD schools are teaching students, but because they’re open only to illegally use federal funds to serve food to the homeless.

And the situation at LAUSD is typical of the broken Democrat school model across the country.

It’s bad enough when taxpayers and parents were stuck with billion-dollar bills when there were at least functioning schools. Now struggling families are paying a fortune to subsidize Democrat activists who make their own schedules and might condescend to spend a few hours handing out class projects.

Don’t ask them to turn on their video or actually monitor the students they’re “teaching”.

“If schools aren’t going to reopen, we’re not suggesting pulling funding from education, but instead allowing families ... take that money and figure out where their kids can get educated if their schools are going to refuse to open,” Secretary of Education Betsy DeVos suggested.

That suggestion has been met with howls of outrage from the teachers’ unions. How dare the country’s top education official suggest that education funding should be used to teach children.

Under the current regime of pandemic closures, the entire system of school districts makes no sense.

If students are going to be taught online, then their geographic location only matters when they hit a time zone change. The massive burden of property taxes on local homeowners that has been used to fund the public education system through sweetheart deals with union activists has no reason to exist.

Those contracts were for teachers who showed up in classrooms to teach students. Democrat activists have negotiated with Democrat politicians to pay them a fortune to only occasionally teach online.

That’s not a good deal for anyone except the unions and the Democrat officials they’ve bought off.

Secretary of Education DeVos is correct. Education funding is meant to fund education, not homeless soup kitchens, which LAUSD considers more essential than functioning classrooms. That money doesn’t belong to unions or political bosses. It was extracted from taxpayers through a broken promise.

Parents have the right to pull that money from school districts and use it to educate their children.

That can mean finding private schools that are willing to open up for in-person learning, it can mean competitive distance learning at private and public schools around the country, or it can mean homeschooling through pods. Or any learning that meets curriculum requirements.

The public education system was broken badly before. Now it effectively doesn’t exist.

The system, at every level from elementary through college, has shed what few standards it had, while maintaining ridiculously inflated expenses of tens of thousands per student for teaching zoom classes.

Competitive alternatives could easily offer individual students more instruction time, more access to teachers, and more personalized instruction for a fraction of the money that is being spent today.

School districts react hysterically to both budget cuts and proposals to reopen. But they can’t have it both ways. They protest that the infrastructure must be maintained, even as they insist that they have no idea when they’re going to be able to use it again. They argue that, unlike every other profession, it’s vital to keep teachers employed, even when they’re really not doing anything useful.

While so many people who want to work are losing their jobs, why should some government employees who won’t do their jobs be immune from economic realities because of their political power?

The answer is political corruption.

Municipal unions have gotten away with murder because they’ve had their fingers on a vital service. Mess with them and they can turn out the lights, stay home when the fires break out, or force you to keep your kids entertained at home. Pandemic closures have entirely neutered that last threat.

The pandemic emergency has created an education emergency. And the public school system is unable and unwilling to meet that crisis because of its cronyism, corruption, and general incompetence.

President Trump has the opportunity to help parents meet that education emergency by taking executive actions that will empower private schools, homeschoolers, and the more functional elements of the public school system to step forward and competitively meet the needs of students and parents.

The public health emergency has created an education emergency that President Trump can solve.

If a public health emergency can be used to confine millions of people in their homes, to close countless businesses, to suspend the Bill of Rights, and even to ban husbands and wives from sharing a bed, it can certainly be used to redirect education funding from systems that aren’t teaching to those that are.

It’s either that or go on giving billions to broken districts like LAUSD where the teachers might show up for 4 hours of work and some of their students might occasionally tune in to do the work.

In the old public school system, teachers pretended to teach and students pretended to learn. Now no one is pretending anymore. The teachers aren’t teaching and the students aren’t learning. The big expensive buildings are standing empty, the school supplies are going unused, and the endless layers of administration serve no function except to draw six figure salaries. It’s time to end the charade.

The billion-dollar boondoggles were not created to maintain themselves which is all they’re doing now.  

America’s students deserve better. So do the taxpayers who have funded this mess. The public education system has shut itself down. It’s time to build a new flexible system that can handle the stresses of the pandemic and deliver results without holding students and parents hostage to unions.

President Trump can take the first step by breaking parents and students free of broken districts and shuttered schools by putting federal education funds at the disposal of parents during this emergency. Voucher programs have already been successfully implemented in many states, especially in districts with underperforming schools, and a pandemic voucher program would offer flexibility and results.

Parents would be able to enroll their children in the distance or in-person learning options that work for their families. A competitive educational environment would adapt to the challenges much more readily and provide better value for students. And the failing public school system would have an incentive to improve. The alternative is wasting billions on schools and teachers who refuse to teach their students.

Daniel Greenfield


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The birth and spread of a new anti-Israel libel: The claim that Israel destroyed a COVID-19 testing center in Hebron is false! - Maurice Hirsch, Adv.

by Maurice Hirsch, Adv.

More "Palestinian" lies and libel

Whether you attribute the quote to Mark Twain, Winston Churchill or Jonathan Swift, the fact is that “A lie can get halfway around the world before the truth can even get its boots on.” This age old adage took on new life when a lie invented by Palestinian sources spread like wild fire around the globe.

In recent days, Israel destroyed a structure (pictured below) erected without a building permit. The structure, according to the original story of its owner, “was built to establish an exhibition hall for cars.”

Manipulating sensitivity to the global pandemic, Palestinian sources, and their eager supporters, spread the libel that Israel had deliberately destroyed a COVID-19 testing center on the outskirts of Hebron, a hotspot for COVID-19 cases. To strengthen the libel, the following computer graphic image was disseminated with the lie that this was the structure that Israel destroyed:   

Only after Israeli authorities issued a destruction order for the structure, did the Mayor of Hebron, Tayseer Abu Sneina, a released terrorist convicted for the murder of 6 people (3 Israelis, 2 Americans and a Canadian), suddenly inform the owner, that he was working with the PA Ministry of Health and with the Governor of the Hebron District, to turn the structure in to a COVID-19 testing and isolation center:
“We inform you that the Hebron Municipality is in contact with the Ministry of Health, and with the Honorable Governor of the Hebron District, regarding the use of the building located on the plot of land, numbered (90) No. Plot (34417) as a medical examination and isolation center for those coming to Hebron.”
The Israeli Coordinator of Government Activities in the Territories (COGAT) responded to the libel, via its Facebook page, in both Arabic and English, making clear that the claim had no validity. Significantly, COGAT added that no request had been submitted to either the Israeli Authorities, the Palestinian Authority or international organizations working in the area to build a COVID-19 testing center.
“False claims have been made recently that the Civil Administration and the Hebron District Coordination and Liaison Office have demolished or intend to demolish a building site in Hebron designated for COVID-19 testing.

No request was received by the Civil Administration, the Palestinian Authority, or international organizations working in the area regarding the construction of a COVID-19 testing site at the location.”
Response of the Head of COGAT, Major-General Kamil Abu Rukon
[Facebook page of COGAT (in Arabic), July 17, 2020]
[Facebook page of COGAT (in English), July 22, 2020]
The libelous false reality was shared widely by many including Issa Amro, a known Palestinian protagonist from Hebron. Amro’s Tweet, was retweeted by 670 people:
Chris Doyle, whose Twitter profile presents him as a “Commentator on Middle East, international politics and Director of @Caabu Council for Arab-British Understanding” was quick to adopt and amplify the lies of Amro. Dolye, based merely on the false libel, was even quick to suggest that those responsible for such  an egregious action, should be prosecuted in the International Criminal Court.
In this manner, a blatant and malicious lie against Israel, took hold and spread “halfway around the world before the truth can even get its boots on.”

Maurice Hirsch, Adv.


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He's back: Trump gains on Biden to near tie in new Rasmussen poll - Monica Showalter

by Monica Showalter

...and the trend is our president's friend. Seems America's voters aren't such big fans of burning blue cities and leftist cancel culture...

Has Trump finally turned a corner? Sure looks like it, with a sizable rebound in the polls.
According to Rasmussen, one of the most reliable pollsters, Trump is running neck and neck with Democratic rival Joe Biden.
Here's Paul Bedard's Washington Examiner report:
A week after finding that Trump closed a 10-point gap with Biden to just 3 points, Rasmussen Reports today revealed that Trump has edged up another point as Biden hits a ceiling.
On Wednesday, the race stood at 45% for Trump and 47% for Biden, well within the poll's margin of error. It was published in Rasmussen's weekly "White House Watch" feature.
Separately, Rasmussen said that Trump has boosted his approval rating to 49%, with 50% of respondents disapproving.
What's more, at this stage of his presidency, former President Barack Obama also had a 49% approval rating and went on to win reelection with 51% of the vote.
Here are a couple of charts from RealClearPolitics's average of polls, which demonstrate that this particular poll is not a fluke, but a trend:

Image credit: RealClearPolitics, fair use. See bigger chart at RealClearPolitics here.
Notice that in the first chart, the last three polls all show a considerable gain for Trump compared to the polls that preceded them.
Notice also that in the second chart, there are gains for Trump, but also gains for Biden. Combine that second chart with the first, which shows the narrowing of Biden's lead, and it's clear that the Trump gains are coming on a stronger current to overtake Biden. Rasmussen found that the enthusiasm factor for Biden, while up, was not nearly as strong as the enthusiasm factor for Trump. The whole thing shows a trend. And for Trump, the trend is your friend.
People are starting to make up their minds. It's significant that Rasmussen is the pollster that reports this near-overtaking of Biden by Trump. Rasmussen forecast the last election with very close accuracy. The only pollster that I think is better is IBD/TIPP, and we will look to hear from them soon.
What's changed is that Trump is getting out there more, with press conferences featuring himself on the coronavirus, with his defense of Western civilization and American history against leftist thugs and barbarians, and his brilliant speech at Mount Rushmore, which perhaps took some time to sink in since the bounce was not huge at the time, but it certainly started then and has since gone on to get bigger.
There's also the leftist chaos and mayhem of the blue cities, which Joe Biden has yet to condemn. Americans don't like that kind of Caracas-ization of their country, which in fact is the destruction of their freedom. They don't want to see cities such as Chicago become Ju├írez, Mexico–style shooting zones. And leftist cancel culture — right down to the toppling of statues and the renaming of sports teams — is taking a toll. Something is starting to sink in, and voters are starting to make up their minds.
It couldn't come at a better time. And it's likely to just keep getting better. People are starting to think...
Image credit: Gage Skidmore via Wikimedia Commons, CC BY-SA 3.0. Extracted image, processed with FotoSketcher.

Monica Showalter


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Aia Fog on Denmark after the Muhammad Cartoons - Marilyn Stern

by Marilyn Stern

Freedom of speech is not legally protected in Denmark in the way that the U.S. constitution's First Amendment provides protections.

Aia Fog, chairman of the Danish Free Press Society, spoke to participants in a June 12 Middle East Forum Webinar (video) about her organization's work to "defend free speech and those who are threatened or prevented from speaking freely" on matters concerning Islam and Muslims.

The Danish Free Press Society was founded in 2004 amid growing pressure for the curtailment of free speech about Islam that emerged following the 1989 fatwa against British writer Salman Rushdie issued by Iran's Ayatollah Khomeini. This pressure has intensified as a result of the massive immigration of Muslims into Denmark in recent years. Most Muslims in Denmark, estimated to comprise between 4 and 10 percent of Denmark's population (the exact number is unknown, as Danish authorities do not record the religious identity of citizens), have proven "impossible to assimilate" and "reject our Western democracy and the values that support it such as freedom of expression, gender equality, and gay rights," said Fog.

The seriousness of the issue spiked in September 2005 after Fleming Rose, a Danish journalist, published cartoons of Islam's prophet Mohammed in Denmark's largest paper, Jyllands-Posten. The "so-called cartoon crisis" triggered violent riots across the Islamic world over the Danish government's refusal to censor the cartoons or punish the newspaper. The small country with a population of some 5 million became a "test of strength between totalitarian Islam and our Judeo-Christian ideals of freedom."

Aia Fog

Fleming Rose and Kurt Westergaard, the cartoonist who drew a famous cartoon of Mohammed with a bomb in his turban, were the first recipients of the Danish Free Press Society's annual Sappho award, bestowed upon persons who have "shown uncompromising courage and tireless struggle for the free word." Other notable prize recipients include Mark Steyn, Douglas Murray, and Daniel Pipes.

An activist organization, the Danish Free Press Society holds public seminars, debates, and international conferences hosting local guests and those from abroad. Participating in political festivals and offering free lectures on free speech, the society also has cartoonists who draw cartoons on issues affecting freedom of expression, "the most fundamental prerequisite for free and open democracies both in Denmark and in other Western countries."

Fog highlighted two recent examples of the society's defense of freedom of expression. The first occurred in March 2019 after Iranian-born blogger and author Jaleh Tavakoli came under fire for posting on Facebook a video of two young female hikers, a Dane and Norwegian, being beheaded after their capture in Morocco by Islamists.

Tavakoli, who has an eight-year-old foster daughter in her care since birth, was contacted by Danish authorities after her posting with threats to remove her child from the family, accusing Tavakoli of being "a poor digital role model." Several politicians, including a former minister of justice, supported the proposed decision, but only the Danish Free Press Society supported the fundamental right to free speech of a foster parent who wants to participate in the public debate about Islamic extremism. The chilling effect on Tavakoli has been that she has withdrawn from public debate in order to keep her daughter.

The second example is the case of Tommy Robinson, a British free speech activist. Robinson was jailed, his family threatened, and "shamed and defamed" by politicians and the media for exposing the harmful consequences of "grooming gangs" that have proliferated in the U.K. The scandal involved a network of hundreds of Muslim men who for years "drugged, raped, and sold thousands of vulnerable British girls, down to the age of 12." Robinson has been blocked from virtually every social media platform for publicizing this outrage.
"Social media has gained state-like power over free speech."

The Danish Free Press Society followed Robinson's struggles and wrote about his travails. In the fall of 2019, Robinson was invited to come to Denmark to receive the society's Freedom of Speech Award, particularly because of Facebook's censorship. As a result of this invitation, "the Free Press Society's former chairman Lars Hedegaard and myself suddenly had our Facebook profiles deleted and the Free Press Society's Facebook page was blocked," said Fog. Both profiles were restored, without explanation, after representatives of the Danish People's Party raised the case in the Danish Parliament. The Robinson case shows that "social media has gained state-like power over free speech," and this censorship is "both arbitrary and politically motivated."

With their demands prohibiting criticism of Islam, resident Muslims in Denmark and in large parts of the West are a threat to freedom of expression. Politically controlled social media, such as Facebook and YouTube, censor and block Islam critics like Robinson, rendering them "non-persons." Jaleh Tavakoli, silenced for shining a light on Islamic terror by politicians and authorities with their threats to remove her foster child, would not have received the same reaction had she shared a video of George Floyd's death.

Freedom of speech is not legally protected in Denmark in the way that the U.S. constitution's First Amendment provides protections. The Danish constitution only has a ban on censorship, and there are ongoing public and private debates and arguments about free speech. If rights are to be preserved, they must be protected and defended. "If we do not stand firm on freedom of speech, despite the often-violent threats from Islam, we will ... lose that right. ... [I]f we lose freedom of speech, democracy will fall, and ultimately, our culture."

Marilyn Stern is communications coordinator at the Middle East Forum.


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What Is Driving the “Has-Beens”? - Col (Res.) Dr. Raphael G. Bouchnik-Chen

by Col (Res.) Dr. Raphael G. Bouchnik-Chen

[O]pponents of the right-wing ideology led by Benjamin Netanyahu claim to be united in their devotion to a “progressive universalist” worldview

Israeli leftist demonstration, photo via Facebook page of Annexation Is Intifada
BESA Center Perspectives Paper No. 1,657, July 23, 2020

EXECUTIVE SUMMARY: Many are wondering: how have retired leading members of the Israeli defense establishment come to locate themselves on the political left, at times even on the radical left? Having devoted their professional lives to the task of defending the country and carrying out the orders of the political echelon, they are now spearheading various “anti” movements. 

The Israeli defense establishment’s retired senior officers and officials are an elite group. Contrary to what one might expect, members of this elite now fly the flag of the “progressive” left and its rigidly enforced politically correct culture. They support the left’s hijacking of the public agenda by aggrandizing the enlightened “we” whose humanity purportedly stands in stark contrast to that of the ignorant herd. This state of mind is also on display among media people, who routinely aim their derision at senior Likud ministers and politicians.

The English philosopher John Locke, considered the father of liberalism, gave the world the enlightened principles that led humanity to adopt the idea that there are natural rights to life, freedom, and property. In its modern form, liberalism is concerned with relations between citizen and government, emphasizing freedom of movement, freedom of expression, and so on. Is this the intellectual authority that guides Israel’s self-glorified opinion leaders? It doesn’t look that way, though the opponents of the right-wing ideology led by Benjamin Netanyahu claim to be united in their devotion to a “progressive universalist” worldview.

For the enlightened “anti” contingent, Netanyahu is a demon who must be fought by any legitimate means necessary, even if those measures verge on anarchy. From their standpoint, the same dark thread runs through the corruption allegations, the greed economy, the “occupation,” and of course the “annexation” plan for the West Bank. Ousting Netanyahu would supposedly burst the dam that stands between all that is evil on earth and a new era in which the longed-for progressive utopia becomes reality.

It would be naive to think the guild of the “has-beens” just wants to do some housecleaning, affirm their integrity, and expunge corruption. They aim for something much higher: a phased transition in the political domain, or, to put it more explicitly, an embedding of the ideology of the left, which would entail separating from the Palestinians via a two-state solution along the lines of the June 1967 borders. This lofty aim has a strong tailwind from semi-governmental elements in the “liberal” West. One might characterize this mindset as an updated version of post-Zionism that values universal principles ahead of historical justice or a national bond with the Land of Israel.

The path to this yearned-for objective is paved by broadcasting blunt and resonant messages across the media spectrum. This is not difficult as most leading media outlets sympathize with the progressive position. Their coverage is thus almost invariably biased.

The military world has its own term for these efforts at consciousness engineering: psychological warfare. The retired generals’ familiarity with this technique gives them an advantage. Their ability to make sophisticated use of this tool to suit their own purposes works as a kind of force multiplier.

The political right maintains that a solid majority of the Jewish population of Israel supports Netanyahu, and trends indicate that that support is rising. The noisy campaigns of the enlightened “has-beens” are making a mark, but it appears to be mainly among those who are already persuaded. Their awareness of this fact perturbs them no end, further aggravating their urge to protest and even providing an intellectual justification for their violation of the rules of the democratic game.

This is an edited version of an article published in Israel Hayom on July 6.     

Col (Res.) Dr. Raphael G. Bouchnik-Chen is a retired colonel who served as a senior analyst in IDF Military Intelligence.


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Sacrificing Children to Progressive Politics - Bruce Thornton

by Bruce Thornton

How kids have become collateral damage in the quest to "fundamentally transform" America.

California governor Gavin Newsom along with other states has ordered schools to be closed to in-person instruction this fall. Against the wishes of the majority of parents, millions of students will continue to be cooped up at home, trying to learn from “virtual” curricula with hit-and-miss instruction and support. An educational system mediocre in the best of times has now descended into a dystopian world redolent of the old Soviet Union: Teachers pretend to teach, while students pretend to learn.

Education, our most important social institution already long corrupted by ideological fads and deteriorating standards, is heading for complete collapse in order to serve the political and pecuniary interests of the progressive technocracy: Removing Donald Trump and the Republicans from power so that the Democrats can achieve their long-term goal of “fundamentally transforming” the United States. Children are just collateral damage.

Of course, these decisions to sequester the cohort least vulnerable to the virus are being sold as the result of “science” and a concern for “safety.” But across the world evidence from real science shows that kids in school pose little danger to themselves or others. Hence the American Academy of Pediatricians “strongly advocates that all policy considerations for the coming school year should start with a goal of having students physically present in school.” As this spring’s experience in educational sequestration has shown, the AAP continues,
Lengthy time away from school and associated interruption of supportive services often results in social isolation, making it difficult for schools to identify and address important learning deficits as well as child and adolescent physical or sexual abuse, substance use, depression, and suicidal ideation. This, in turn, places children and adolescents at considerable risk of morbidity and, in some cases, mortality. Beyond the educational impact and social impact of school closures, there has been substantial impact on food security and physical activity for children and families.

Moreover, we all know that multiplying the amount of time that children spend in front of screens worsens an already existing problem. Viewing electronic images for several hours a day has physiological as well as psychological effects, apart from the issue of content and the often-malign messages it sends. To a certain degree, experience filtered through electronic images is inhuman: it flattens our experience and shapes it according to the requirements of transmission and presentation. Worse, it necessarily omits what Lionel Trilling called the “buzz of implication,” the dense context of nonverbal cues and reactions that surround live communication. That’s why emojis were invented: to try and capture in an email that context that the words alone can’t communicate, and the absence of which alters tone and distorts the intended meaning.

This dense network of existential conditions for genuine human connection is very important for teaching. Just gathering a group of people in one room at an appointed time enhances learning. A community is established, with networks of connections between and among the students, and between the students and the teacher. Every minute students and teacher give and receive nonverbal signs of approval, affirmation, disappointment, boredom, excitement, and correction. These signs regulate the process of learning and give it an immediate impact. Very little of this visual dynamic can be captured from an electronic image and words alone. There’s no substitute for the intricate, complex reality of human connections in real time and space.

For children, these real experiences are a critical part of their character development and socialization. School is where we make friends or enemies, find our first boyfriends and girlfriends, have our first conflicts and fights, and first learn, successfully or not, how to adjust to a world that is more various, complicated, dangerous, and fulfilling than we ever imagined, not to mention indifferent to our egos and feelings. The worlds on a screen, whether video games, tweets, videos, or canned curricula cannot substitute for that world. Instead, they distort and dehumanize it.

Indeed, our earliest writings about education from ancient Greece focus on the need for personal, real-time interactions between teachers and students. Socrates is the exemplar of this style of pedagogy. Rather than just asking student questions, which is what most “educators” mean when they speak of “Socratic pedagogy,” Socrates’ method was more probing, even aggressive than the therapeutic pablum of most of today’s teachers. More important, experiencing Socrates’ powerful charisma and mind, so different from his shabby, ugly appearance, inspired his listeners with the love and pleasure of learning, and the habit of looking beyond the superficial to discover truth and value. No speaker today no matter how brilliant can completely duplicate that experience on a video. Again, there’s no substitute for human reality.

So why are so many governors and others so eager to deny children these critical experiences of actual human reality? Politics, of course. For four years the Dems have mounted a concerted effort to demonize Donald Trump and cripple his administration. It began in the last days of the Obama administration, when dubious rigged “investigations” were launched on flimsy grounds. The Mueller investigation was supposed to deliver the predicates for removal of the president, but it found no crime remotely close to being actionable.

Then came the “quid-pro-quo” confection of third-hand office gossip and preposterous standards of presidential conversations with fellow heads of state. Once that collapsed with the absurd articles of impeachment for nonexistent crimes, then came the pandemic and the predictably feeble attempts to blame Trump for early comments about the virus similar to those made by experts, and Democrat governors and Congressmen. And all the while the media were inventing and amplifying these lies and quarter-truths, shamelessly repeating them even when they were proven to be lies and distortions.

But the most important mechanism for damaging Trump during the pandemic is the authority of governors to impose the lockdowns, which brought to a near halt a booming economy that would have been the president’s most important achievement come November. So when the lockdowns began to ease and the economy to improve, the anti-Trump factions misused already dubious statistics about the number of new cases and deaths to shut down the economy again. Closing the schools is just a way to inflict even more pain on ordinary voters who have to deal with finding day-care so they can work, assuming they have any work. Thus the “any means necessary” Dems added the anxiety and baleful consequences of un- or underemployment to those of the virus the media have been hyping for six months now––a hysteria, by the way, also bad for kids.

What we are witnessing is the true nature of the progressives. For a hundred years they have yearned for autocratic powers so they can create their utopia of “social justice” and absolute “equality.” In fact, from the bloody streets of Portland to the diktats of governors, from the cancel-culture mobs baying for the jobs and reputations of dissenters to the bougie anarchist punks of Antifa and the calculating hustlers of Black Lives Matter––the reality and aims of progressivist Democrats are clear: power and its perks.

In short, tyranny: The tyranny that sparked the creation of the United States, the tyranny the Founders’ brilliant Constitutional order warded off by dispersing power so we the people could live in ordered liberty. It testifies to how passionately the progressives want to dismantle that order that they will callously sacrifice the well-being of our children to achieve their goal.

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Photo credit: Pixabay

Bruce Thornton is a Shillman Journalism Fellow at the David Horowitz Freedom Center.


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