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Kissing the ground, hundreds of Ethiopian immigrants welcomed to Israel

Ethiopia-born Absorption Minister Pnina Tamano-Shato arrives with flight, greeted with fanfare at airport, as plan to bring 2,000 kicks off, with thousands more still waiting

By Stuart Winer and TOI staff 3 December 2020, 12:30 pm 5

  • Members of the Ethiopian Jewish community arrive at  Ben Gurion airport, outside Tel Aviv, on December 3, 2020. (Miriam Alster/Flash90)Members of the Ethiopian Jewish community arrive at Ben Gurion airport, outside Tel Aviv, on December 3, 2020. (Miriam Alster/Flash90)
  • Members of the Ethiopian Jewish community arrive at  Ben Gurion airport, outside Tel Aviv, on December 3, 2020. (Miriam Alster/Flash90)Members of the Ethiopian Jewish community arrive at Ben Gurion airport, outside Tel Aviv, on December 3, 2020. (Miriam Alster/Flash90)
  • Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, right, greets members of the Ethiopian Jewish community as they arrive at  Ben Gurion airport, outside Tel Aviv, on December 3, 2020. (Amos Ben Gershon/GPO)Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, right, greets members of the Ethiopian Jewish community as they arrive at Ben Gurion airport, outside Tel Aviv, on December 3, 2020. (Amos Ben Gershon/GPO)
  • Members of the Ethiopian Jewish community arrive at  Ben Gurion airport, outside Tel Aviv, on December 3, 2020. (Miriam Alster/Flash90)Members of the Ethiopian Jewish community arrive at Ben Gurion airport, outside Tel Aviv, on December 3, 2020. (Miriam Alster/Flash90)
  • Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, second left, and his wife Sarah, third left, greet members of the Ethiopian Jewish community as they arrive at  Ben Gurion airport, outside Tel Aviv, on December 3, 2020. (Amos Ben Gershon/GPO)Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, second left, and his wife Sarah, third left, greet members of the Ethiopian Jewish community as they arrive at Ben Gurion airport, outside Tel Aviv, on December 3, 2020. (Amos Ben Gershon/GPO)
  • Members of the Ethiopian Jewish community arrive at  Ben Gurion airport, outside Tel Aviv, on December 3, 2020. (Miriam Alster/Flash90)Members of the Ethiopian Jewish community arrive at Ben Gurion airport, outside Tel Aviv, on December 3, 2020. (Miriam Alster/Flash90)
  • Members of the Ethiopian Jewish community arrive at  Ben Gurion airport, outside Tel Aviv, on December 3, 2020. (Miriam Alster/Flash90)Members of the Ethiopian Jewish community arrive at Ben Gurion airport, outside Tel Aviv, on December 3, 2020. (Miriam Alster/Flash90)
  • Members of the Ethiopian Jewish community arrive at  Ben Gurion airport, outside Tel Aviv, on December 3, 2020. (Miriam Alster/Flash90)Members of the Ethiopian Jewish community arrive at Ben Gurion airport, outside Tel Aviv, on December 3, 2020. (Miriam Alster/Flash90)
  • Members of the Ethiopian Jewish community arrive at  Ben Gurion airport, outside Tel Aviv, on December 3, 2020. (Miriam Alster/Flash90)Members of the Ethiopian Jewish community arrive at Ben Gurion airport, outside Tel Aviv, on December 3, 2020. (Miriam Alster/Flash90)

Waving Israeli flags as they came down the steps of the aircraft, over 300 members of Ethiopia’s Jewish community arrived in Israel on Thursday in a special airlift from Gondar headed by Absorption and Immigration Minister Pnina Tamano-Shata.

The celebratory arrival, attended by several of Israel’s leaders, marked the opening phase of a plan to bring some 2,000 members of the community to Israel from Ethiopia in what has been dubbed Operation Tzur Israel.

Critics have urged the government to speed the arrival of all 2,000, as well as thousands more community members estimated to be waiting to emigrate from the war-torn country.

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The first of the 316 immigrants to emerge from the Ethiopian Airlines jet led a young girl with one hand and with his other blew a ram’s horn, or shofar, that in Jewish tradition is used to signal a moment of redemption.

Some of the passengers kissed the ground as soon as they reached the tarmac, another tradition for those arriving for their first time in the Holy Land. Many were dressed in traditional Ethiopian robes, and many women held babies in their arms. Festive Hebrew songs were blasted over loudspeakers.

The arrivals, some of whom have waited 15 years or more to emigrate and many of whom have family here, will not be able to be reunited with their relatives immediately, due to coronavirus guidelines that require all arrivals to isolate for two weeks. They are slated to spend their first several months in Israel at an absorption center in the north, where they will learn Hebrew.

Another plane is set to arrive on Friday, bringing the number of new immigrants to 500.

The rest are expected to arrive by the end of January.

The new arrivals were greeted at Ben Gurion Airport by Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, Foreign Minister Gabi Ashkenazi, Defense Minister Benny Gantz and other senior government figures at an emotional welcome ceremony, reminiscent of the fanfare surrounding airlifts of Ethiopian Jews in the 1980s and 90s. Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, second left, and his wife Sarah, third left, greet members of the Ethiopian Jewish community as they arrive at Ben Gurion airport, outside Tel Aviv, on December 3, 2020. (Amos Ben Gershon/GPO)

“I don’t remember having been so moved for many years in such a clear image of Zionism,” Netanyahu said. “I had tears in my eyes.”

“This is the purpose of the Zionist story, the Jewish story,” he said.

The story of the Ethiopian immigration to Israel, with all its lethal dangers and hardships, will be taught to all Israeli schoolchildren, Netanyahu vowed, referring to journeys made by some immigrants by foot across Sudan and Egypt to reach Israel.

Israel’s determination to bring home all of the Ethiopian community also extends to Avera Avraham Mengistu, an Israeli citizen believed held captive by the Hamas terror group after crossing into the Gaza Strip, Netanyahu said.

“I am moved to be here,” said Gantz who recalled that as an officer in the Israel Defense Forces he had participated in the military’s covert 1991 Operation Solomon, an airlift that brought over 14,000 Ethiopian Jews to the country in the space of a day and a half.

Israel, he said, is committed to fulfilling the dreams and hopes of the Ethiopian community to arrive and live in Israel.

“The State of Israel was set up to be a home for the Jewish people,” Gantz said. “Welcome to Israel, welcome to those who are returning home.” Members of the Ethiopian Jewish community arrive at Ben Gurion airport, outside Tel Aviv, on December 3, 2020. (Miriam Alster/Flash90)

Tamano-Shata, who arrived in Israel as a young girl in Operation Moses airlift, a 1984 airlift that brought 6,000 Ethiopian Jews to the country from Sudan, praised the unity government for taking the necessary action to authorize bringing more of the community to the country, despite its crippling political logjam.

“In a moment that rose above the fighting,” the unity government made decisions that saved lives, Tamano-Shata said.

“You can’t imagine how dangerous the situation is now in Ethiopia,” she said, referring to an ongoing internal conflict in the country’s northern region.

“The Jews of Ethiopia will not be forgotten,” she promised.

After years of dreams and fears, “here you now are in the Jewish state,” said chairman of the Jewish Agency Isaac Herzog to the new arrivals.

The Agency, he said, is preparing for a large influx of Ethiopian Jewish community members with the further stages of the Create Israel operation. Screen capture from video of Defense Minister Benny Gantz at a welcoming ceremony for hundreds of Jewish Ethiopian immigrants at Ben Gurion Airport, December 3, 2020. (Facebook)

The ceremony ended with a rendition of Israel’s national anthem “Hatikva” (The hope), which speaks of the Jewish people’s yearning for return to the national homeland from its dispersal around the world.

About 140,000 Ethiopian Jews live in Israel today, most of them from the Beta Israel community, and many are integrated across all strata of society, though accusations of institutionalized racism persist.

In 2019, massive protests broke out following the police killing of Solomon Teka, 18, an unarmed man of Ethiopian descent.

Tamano-Shata, the first Israeli of Ethiopian descent to be made a minister, flew to Ethiopia on Saturday night to oversee the final stage of the airlift, including a meeting with Ethiopian President Sahle-Work Zewde.

In October Netanyahu announced plans to bring 2,000 members of the community to the country. The proposal earmarked NIS 370 million ($109 million) for the mass immigration, the Prime Minister’s Office said at the time.

1/2 President Sahle-Work Zewde received Ms. Pnina Tamano-Shata, Israel’s Immigration Minister. pic.twitter.com/4RPIarmswZ

— Office of the President, Ethiopia (@POEthiopia) December 3, 2020

Community members and activists have held several protests urging the government to approve the immigration of the rest of the community, thought to number between 7,000 and 12,000, many of whom are endangered by the recent outbreak of war in the northern Tigray region.

About 9,000 of the would-be immigrants have been waiting for 15 or more years to immigrate, local activists say. About a quarter of that number, located in the capital Addis Ababa, have been waiting for more than 20 years, they say, while the rest, in Ethiopia’s second city Gondar, have been hanging on for 15 to 20 years.

“Once again, the government led by Prime Minister Netanyahu has decided to place quotas on the immigration of Jews from Ethiopia,” said Muket Fenta, an activist who has been fighting for over a decade to bring his aunt to Israel.

“The government is celebrating a few hundred immigrants from Ethiopia, while thousands were supposed to be here and are still left behind while their fate is in question,” he said.

The coronavirus has hit the group especially hard economically, sources have told The Times of Israel. Work has dried up and food is in short supply, with prices up by 35 to 50 percent; families in Israel who had previously sent their relatives money are strapped for cash because of their own COVID-19-related problems, and philanthropic organizations are less able to raise donations due to the pandemic.

Fighting between Ethiopian Prime Minister Abiy Ahmed’s government and the Tigray People’s Liberation Front from the country’s northwest claimed its first victim from Gondar’s Jewish community on November 12 — Girmew Gete, 36. He had waited 24 years to immigrate to Israel. Tigray refugees who fled the conflict in the Ethiopia’s Tigray region carry their furniture on the banks of the Tekeze River on the Sudan-Ethiopia border, in Hamdayet, eastern Sudan, December 1, 2020. (Nariman El-Mofty/AP)

In 2013, the Jewish Agency declared the end of Ethiopian aliyah, prompting protests by Ethiopian lawmakers and community members in Israel.

In November 2015, the government passed a decision to airlift “the last of the community” waiting in Addis Ababa and Gondar to Israel within five years.

Since that decision, however, just 2,257 Ethiopians have been brought, in dribs and drabs, according to Jewish Agency figures.

While Ethiopian Jewish immigrants from the Beta Israel community are recognized as fully Jewish, immigrants from Ethiopia belonging to the smaller Falash Mura community are required to undergo Orthodox conversion after immigrating. The Falash Mura are Ethiopian Jews whose ancestors converted to Christianity, often under duress, generations ago. Some 30,000 of them have immigrated to Israel since 1997, according to the Prime Minister’s Office.

Because the Interior Ministry does not consider the Falash Mura to be Jewish, they cannot immigrate under the Law of Return, and therefore must get special permission from the government to move to Israel.

At this time when so many feel isolated, here’s a Hanukkah gift that connects you and those you care about to Israel, the Jewish people and to one another.

It’s not so easy to visit Israel – or, in many cases, each other – this year. So our connections through shared values, ideas and discussion are now more important than ever.

Sue Sykes contributed to this article.

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Iran warns of ‘crushing response’ after Trump said to mull strikes on nuke sites

Threat follows NY Times report that US president last week weighed military options, but was dissuaded by aides; Pompeo, present at those talks, to arrive in Israel on Wednesday November 18th 2020.

Iran warned on Tuesday of a “crushing response” in the wake of reports US President Donald Trump convened top advisers last week to ask if he had options to strike Iranian nuclear sites during his final weeks in office.

“Any action against the Iranian nation would certainly face a crushing response,” said government spokesperson Ali Rabiei in remarks streamed on an official government news site, according to the Reuters news agency.

The New York Times reported Monday that Trump had made inquiries about the possibility of strikes, but was dissuaded by warnings that it could lead to a wider conflict.

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Trump convened top officials on Thursday, a day after the UN nuclear watchdog said Iran had stockpiled more than 12 times more enriched uranium than the 2015 nuclear deal allows, the Times reported, citing four current and former US officials. US President Donald Trump arrives to address the nation from the White House on the ballistic missile strike that Iran launched against Iraqi air bases housing US troops accompanied by Joint Chiefs Chairman Gen. Mark Milley, center, and US Air Force Chief of Staff Gen. David L. Goldfein, January 8, 2020. (AP Photo/Alex Brandon)

Among those present were Vice President Mike Pence; Secretary of State Mike Pompeo; acting defense secretary Christopher C. Miller; and Gen. Mark A. Milley, the chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, the report said.

Trump asked them how he should respond to the International Atomic Energy Agency report and what his options were. The Times said the focus of any attack would almost certainly be the heavily fortified Natanz nuclear center.

Pompeo and Miley reportedly warned that a major strike, whether with missiles or by a cyberattack, could easily escalate into a major regional conflict.

The report said they left Thursday’s meeting believing that Trump had taken a missile strike off the table, but could still be looking at a more measured response against Iran or its allies. US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo listens during the third annual US-Qatar Strategic Dialogue at the State Department in Washington, DC on September 14, 2020. (ERIN SCOTT / POOL / AFP)

Pompeo is set to arrive in Israel on Wednesday. He will likely meet Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, Defense Minister Benny Gantz, Foreign Minister Gabi Ashkenazi and Mossad chief Yossi Cohen, according to the Walla news site.

“If I were the Iranians, I would not feel at ease,” Energy Minister Yuval Steinitz said in response to The New York Times report, clarifying that he was not directly aware of any deliberations on the matter by the Trump administration.

“It is very important that the Iranians know that if, indeed, they suddenly dash toward high levels of enrichment, in the direction of nuclear weaponry, they are liable to encounter the military might of the United States — and also, perhaps, of other countries,” Steinitz told Army Radio on Tuesday.

Trump’s most high-profile attack on Iran, when the US killed top Iranian general Qassem Soleimani in a January 3 drone strike at Baghdad’s airport, resulted in a limited Iranian response.

The Pentagon has a wide range of strike options for Iran, including military, cyber and combination plans, the Times report said, noting that some called for direct action by Israel.

Israel has been blamed for an attack on an advanced centrifuge development and assembly plant at Natanz in July. It has also been blamed, together with the US, for the Stuxnet virus that sabotaged Iranian enrichment centrifuges a decade ago. A building Iran claims was damaged by a fire at the Natanz uranium enrichment facility some 200 miles (322 kilometers) south of Tehran, on July 2, 2020. (Atomic Energy Organization of Iran via AP)

The New York Times also reported this week that Israel assassinated Al-Qaeda’s No. 2 in Tehran in recent months at the behest of the US.

Monday’s report highlighted fears that Trump could seek to dramatically influence events in his final few weeks in office (even though he has not conceded the election) in a bid to tie US President-elect Joe Biden’s hands on issues like Iran.

In a quarterly report distributed to members last week, the International Atomic Energy Agency also said it still had questions from the discovery last year of particles of uranium of manmade origin at a site outside Tehran not declared by Iran. Illustrative: Iran’s alleged atomic warehouse in Turquzabad, Tehran. (YouTube screenshot)

The United States and Israel had been pressing the IAEA for some time to look into the Turquzabad facility, which Netanyahu described to the UN in 2018 as a “secret atomic warehouse.”

In the current report, the IAEA said the “compositions of these isotopically altered particles” found there were “similar to particles found in Iran in the past, originating from imported centrifuge components.” It said it found Iran’s response to questions last month “unsatisfactory.”

“Following an assessment of this new information, the agency informed Iran that it continues to consider Iran’s response to be not technically credible,” the IAEA wrote this week. “A full and prompt explanation from Iran… is needed.”

Creation of the State of Israel

November 14th 2020

Following the defeat of the Ottoman Empire in World War I, the British assumed control of Palestine. In November 1917, the British government issued the Balfour Declaration, announcing its intention to facilitate the “establishment in Palestine of a national home for the Jewish people.” In 1922, the League of Nations granted Britain a mandate over Palestine which included, among other things, provisions calling for the establishment of a Jewish homeland, facilitating Jewish immigration and encouraging Jewish settlement on the land.

The Arabs were opposed to Jewish immigration to Palestine and stepped up their attacks against the Jews. Following an increase in Arab attacks, the British appointed a royal commission in 1936 to investigate the Palestine situation. The Peel Commission recommended the partition of the country between Arabs and Jews. The Arabs rejected the idea while the Jews accepted the principle of partition.

At the end of World War II, the British persisted in their immigration restrictions and Jewish survivors of the Holocaust were violently turned away from the shores of Palestine. The Jewish Agency and the Haganah continued to smuggle Jews into Palestine. Underground cells of Jews, most notably the Irgun and Lehi, engaged in open warfare against the British and their installations.

The British concluded that they could no longer manage Palestine and handed the issue over to the United Nations. On November 29, 1947, after much debate and discussion, the UN recommended the partition of Palestine into two states ­ one Jewish and one Arab. The Jews accepted the UN resolution while the Arabs rejected it.

Meanwhile, since the time of the British Mandate, the Jewish community in Palestine had been forming political, social and economic institutions that governed daily life in Palestine and served as a pre-state infrastructure. Zionist leader David Ben-Gurion (1886-1973) served as head of the pre-state government.

The British mandate over Palestine officially terminated at midnight, May 14, 1948. Earlier in the day, at 4:00 p.m., David Ben-Gurion proclaimed the creation of the State of Israel and became its first prime minister. Longtime advocate of Zionism in Britain Chaim Weizmann (1874-1952) became Israel’s first president. On May 15, the United States recognized the State of Israel and the Soviet Union soon followed suit.

The fledgling State of Israel was faced with many challenges. While fighting a war of survival with the Arab states who immediately invaded the new nation, Israel had to also absorb the shiploads of immigrants coming in daily to the Jewish homeland. Many were penniless refugees from Europe broken in body and in spirit. They needed immediate health and social services in addition to acculturation to their new home.

How Israel Became a Country November 14th 2020

Social and political developments in Europe convinced Jews they needed their own country, and their ancestral homeland seemed like the right place to establish it. European Jews — 90 percent of all Jews at the time — arrived at Zionism partly because of rising anti-Semitic persecution and partly because the Enlightenment introduced Jews to secular nationalism. Between 1896 and 1948, hundreds of thousands of Jews resettled from Europe to what was then British-controlled Palestine, including large numbers forced out of Europe during the Holocaust.

smaller partition

Many Arabs saw the influx of Jews as a European colonial movement, and the two peoples fought bitterly. The British couldn’t control the violence, and in 1947 the United Nations voted to split the land into two countries. Almost all of the roughly 650,000 Jews went to the blue territory in the map to the right, and a majority of the Arab population (roughly twice the size of the Jewish community) went to the orange.

The Jewish residents accepted the deal. The Palestinians, who saw the plan as an extension of a long-running Jewish attempt push them out of the land, fought it. The Arab states of Egypt, Jordan, Iraq, and Syria all later declared war on Israel, as well (albeit not to defend the Palestinians).

Israeli forces defeated the Palestinian militias and Arab armies in a vicious conflict that turned 700,000 Palestinian civilians into refugees. The UN partition promised 56 percent of British Palestine for the Jewish state; by the end of the war, Israel possessed 77 percent — everything except the West Bank and the eastern quarter of Jerusalem (controlled by Jordan), as well as the Gaza Strip (controlled by Egypt). It left Israelis with a state, but not Palestinians.

Navy takes helm of first new warship from Germany to guard gas rigs November 14th 2020

INS Magen, first of four Sa’ar 6 corvettes, to sail to Israel where it will be outfitted with sensors, weapons, anti-missile batteries in coming months before deployment

By Judah Ari Gross 11 November 2020, 11:30 pm 1

The Sa’ar 6-class corvette INS Magen is handed over to the Israeli Navy in a ceremony in Germany on November 11, 2020. (Israel Defense Forces)

The Israeli Navy on Wednesday received the first of four new Sa’ar 6-class corvettes from Germany — its first new missile ships in over a quarter-century — which will be used to defend Israel’s natural gas rigs and shipping routes.

The ship, the INS Magen, will reach Israeli shores next month where it will be outfitted with sensors, weapons and communication systems, before being declared operational.

“The INS Magen, the first of four new Magen-series ships for the Israeli fleet, will answer in the best way possible the future challenges on the naval front,” Israeli Navy commander Maj. Gen. Eli Sharvit said at the official hand-over ceremony in Germany.

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“The INS Magen will be armed with the best offensive and defensive systems, with fighting systems that are at the forefront of international military technology, the vast majority of which are products of Israeli industries,” Sharvit said. Commander of the Israeli Navy Maj. Gen. Eli Sharvit, right, salutes during a ceremony marking the hand-over of the Sa’ar 6-class corvette INS Magen to the Israeli Navy from Germany on November 11, 2020. (Israel Defense Forces)

The remaining three ships will be delivered to Israel over the next year.

The Sa’ar 6-class vessels are being constructed by Germany’s Thyssenkrupp manufacturing conglomerate in the port of Kiel. The INS Magen was originally planned to be handed over to the Israeli Navy earlier this year, but this was delayed due to production issues caused by the coronavirus pandemic.

The ceremony was presided over by Sharvit and the deputy director-general of the Defense Ministry, Avi Dadon, as well as a number of other senior defense officials, the military said.

The INS Magen was the first new missile ship received by the Israeli Navy
in 26 years, since the Sa’ar 5-class INS Hanit was delivered in 1994. Israeli sailors on board the Sa’ar 6-class corvette INS Magen salute as the vessel is handed over to the Israeli Navy in a ceremony in Germany on November 11, 2020. (Israel Defense Forces)

The four Sa’ar 6 ships were ordered after the government tasked the navy with defending rigs built over natural gas deposits in Israel’s territorial waters.

Each nearly 2,000-ton missile ship is equipped with two Iron Dome interceptor launchers — known as the Naval Dome — to intercept rockets and a Barak-8 battery to shoot down cruise and ballistic missiles.

The ships are also covered in some 260 static radar arrays — known as a phased array — that allow them to detect incoming projectiles and aircraft in the sky, as well as ships and low-flying cruise missiles at sea level. In the past, a ship would have needed two separate radar systems, one to detect objects at sea level and one to scan the skies. That the 260 or so arrays stay in place also means that the ship is less easily detectable than vessels with radar systems that rotate.

The Sa’ar 6 is large compared to the country’s existing vessels, but Navy officials say it is far smaller than the types of ships that perform the types of missions it is being tasked with. And though it has a helicopter landing pad on its back, is larger than the Israeli Navy’s other two classes of corvettes, the Sa’ar 5 and Sa’ar 4.5, it shows up as far smaller on radar, thanks to advancements in stealth technology in recent decades.

Unlike its predecessors, the Sa’ar 6 is also specifically built to house both male and female sailors. The navy anticipates that roughly a quarter of the crew of the missile ships will be women. A view of the Leviathan natural gas processing rig from Dor Habonim Beach Nature Reserve, January 1, 2020. (Flash90)

The navy sees the protection of the natural gas rigs as one of its highest priorities, believing that a direct strike on an operating extraction platform would be catastrophic. Defending Israel’s shipping lanes in the Mediterranean Sea, which are used to import over 90 percent of the country’s goods, are also seen as a major task.

The Lebanese Hezbollah terror group has in fact identified Israel’s national gas rigs as a potential target, releasing a video in 2018 showing the Leviathan platform in gunsights and threatening to destroy them “within hours.”

The threat from Hamas in the Gaza Strip, which fired a rocket toward Israel’s Tamar gas extraction platform in the 2014 Gaza war, is considered to be far less. The terror group is not believed to have advanced munitions capable of accurately striking a platform at sea. According to Israeli Navy calculations, Hamas would have to fire roughly 10,000 simple, unguided rockets at a gas rig to ensure one successful strike, making such an attack not technically impossible, but highly unlikely.

The decision to purchase the Sa’ar 6 ships from the German industrial firm Thyssenkrupp, along with another deal with the company to buy submarines, is part of a graft investigation in Israel involving several leading Israeli businessmen, including close contacts of Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, as well as a former commander of the navy, Eli Marom.

Netanyahu, who has been indicted on three other corruption charges, was not named as a suspect in that scandal — dubbed Case 3000 — and no current Israeli Navy officials have been connected to it either.

The Israeli Navy refused to comment on the specific manner in which the tender was issued to Thyssenkrupp or other matters related to the purchasing process, but maintains that the Sa’ar 6 itself was a necessary ship to buy and that decisions over its specifications were made solely out of operational considerations.

Israel warns Gaza terrorists against attacks on tense anniversary – report November 14th 2020

Jerusalem said to send message that any assault to mark 1 year since IDF killing of Islamic Jihad terror commander will be met with return of targeted killings

By TOI staff and Judah Ari Gross 12 November 2020, 11:19 am 0

The home of Palestinian Islamic Jihad commander Baha Abu Al-Ata after it was hit in an Israeli strike in Gaza City on November 12, 2019. (Hassan Jedi/Flash90)

Israel has sent a message to Palestinian groups warning them that any attack to mark the anniversary of the killing of a senior Palestinian Islamic Jihad commander last year will be met with the assassination of terror leaders, a UK-based Arabic newspaper reported on Thursday.

According to Al-Araby Al-Jadeed, the message was sent to both the Hamas and Palestinian Islamic Jihad terror groups, warning them that the firing of rockets or any other form of attack against Israel will elicit a harsh response.

The report comes amid concerns of a possible attack on Israelis living in the West Bank or in communities surrounding the Gaza Strip to mark the one-year anniversary of the killing of Palestinian Islamic Jihad commander Baha Abu al-Ata Thursday.

UK probe finds Labour guilty of anti-Semitic discrimination

British government watchdog report finds party broke equality law, had ‘inadequate processes’ for handling complaints about Jew-hatred in party under Corbyn’s leadership October 29th 2020

By TOI staff Today, 12:42 pmUpdated at 12:54 pm 3

Members of the Jewish community hold a protest against Britain’s opposition Labour Party leader Jeremy Corbyn and anti-Semitism in the Labour party, outside the British Houses of Parliament in central London on March 26, 2018. (AFP/Tolga Akmen)

A UK government investigation into anti-Semitism in the Labour Party found that equality laws were broken and the party was “responsible for unlawful acts of harassment and discrimination,” officials said Thursday.

The report by the state anti-racism watchdog came at the end of a year-long probe into allegations of anti-Semitism in the party.

The Equality and Human Rights Commission (EHRC) investigation found there were “serious failings” by the party’s leadership when it came to anti-Semitism, and that Labour had “inadequate processes” for handling complaints.

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The EHRC gave the party an unlawful act notice, meaning it has to publish an action plan in response to the report within six weeks. Labour Party leader Jeremy Corbyn leaves his home in Islington, north London, December 16, 2019. (Isabel Infantes/PA via AP)

“The equality body’s analysis points to a culture within the party which, at best, did not do enough to prevent anti-Semitism and, at worst, could be seen to accept it,” the watchdog said in a statement. “This is in direct contrast to the comprehensive guidance and training in place to handle sexual harassment complaints that demonstrates the Party’s ability to act decisively when it needs to, indicating that anti-Semitism could have been tackled more effectively.”

The watchdog found the party responsible for unlawful acts in three major areas: political interference in anti-Semitism complaints, failing to provide adequate training to those handling anti-Semitism complaints, and harassment.

There were 23 instances of “inappropriate involvement” by Corbyn’s office and others in the 70 files examined in the report, the EHRC said, with interference happening more frequently in complaints of anti-Semitism than other discrimination allegations. Former London mayor Ken Livingstone. (AP Photo/Kirsty Wigglesworth, file)

The report also singled out former London mayor Ken Livingstone and Pam Bromley, a Labour Party local authority councilor in Rossendale in the north of the UK, for using anti-Semitic tropes and for claiming accusations of anti-Semitism were false smears, saying the party was responsible for their conduct.

However the report said those cases were the “tip of the iceberg,” and that there were a further 18 “borderline” cases in which there was not enough evidence to conclude that the party was legally responsible for the conduct of the individual.

“These were people such as local councilors, local election candidates and Constituency Labour Party office holders. Many more files contained evidence of anti-Semitic conduct by an ‘ordinary’ member of the Labour Party, who did not hold any office or role and the Labour Party cannot be held directly responsible for under the Equality Act 2010,” the report said.

The EHRC, the main government anti-racism watchdog, had initially announced a probe into whether the main opposition party led at the time by Corbyn had discriminated against, harassed or victimized Jews in violation of the UK’s 2006 Equality Act.

Keir Starmer, who replaced Corbyn in a party election earlier this year, has said he would fully cooperate with the EHRC’s report into anti-Semitism in the party.

Government extends multi-billion dollar plan for Arab municipalities

Vote widely praised by Arab lawmakers, but also sparks accusations that one MK may have collaborated a little too closely with Netanyahu in order to secure the extension. Posted October 26th 2020

By Aaron Boxerman

View of the main road in the Arab-Israeli village of Majd al-Krum, near the northern Israeli city of Karmiel, on November 8, 2017.(Hadas Parush/Flash90)

The cabinet voted on Sunday to extend by a year a multi-billion dollar program aimed at closing extensive gaps between Jewish and Arab communities in Israel. The program, known as the 922 plan was set to expire in December, with over a third of its funds still unused.

“It must be understood that economic investment in Arab society contains enormous economic potential; in my opinion, it is a clear interest of the Israeli government,” said Social Equality Minister Meirav Cohen after the vote.

The decision was widely praised by Arab politicians, but also sparked accusations that one Arab MK may have collaborated a little too closely with Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu in order to secure the extension.

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The plan, initiated in 2015, allocated NIS 10 billion ($2.96 billion) to reduce widespread inequalities between Arab and Jewish communities in Israel. The extension will add another NIS 1.7 billion ($500 million) to the plan through the end of 2021.

The decision is even more noteworthy given the severe budget crisis facing Israel due to the coronavirus and two costly national shutdowns.

The extension will allow Arab municipalities time to use the unspent money, remove some restrictions, and act as a stop-gap until the expected passing of a new five-year-plan — called, appropriately enough, 923 — set to be approved in 2022.

“The 922 plan acted to shrink the inequality and develop infrastructure in Arab society, but this mission is not yet over. As such…, we have advanced an additional budget for 2021 and we’ve removed operational obstacles,” said Yael Mabrouch, a senior official in the Social Equality Ministry.

While some of the unspent money was a result of it being allocated to long-term construction projects, spending was also hampered by bureaucracy.

“The budget, especially with regard to planning and building, imposed many conditions which municipalities could not really fulfill, and much of the money never made it to us,” said Arara Mayor Mudar Younes, who leads a union of Arab local municipalities. National Committee of Arab Municipalities chairman Mudar Younes (courtesy)

In an effort to ensure that the remaining money is spent, the government’s decision designated an additional five cities as “strategic cities” on Sunday, meaning they will receive additional funding for planning and building. The same decision also removed some of the conditions for building.

Arab Israeli MKs largely hailed the move to extend the 922 funding and remove obstacles to its use by local municipalities.

“Removing obstacles to receiving the budgets constitute an essential step in reducing the gaps which hurt all Arab citizens. The path to equality is long, but we will not give up,” Joint List chairman Ayman Odeh said in a statement.

While MK Yousef Jabareen praised the decision to extend 922 by a year, he said that “billions of additional funding is needed” to create “true equality.”

Jabareen said 922 had not yet resulted in “essential change,” and called for the new plan to include “a serious expansion of Arab jurisdictions, the establishment of industrial parks, including hi-tech, and advancing Arab education.”

Activists said 922, widely seen as an unprecedented action by the Israeli government to support Arab infrastructure and economic development at the time of its approval, had been a great success, but much more work was still needed.

Ofer Dagan, co-executive director of the shared society NGO Sikkuy, which advocates for equality between Arabs and Jews in Israel, highlighted some of 922’s key achievements, including improving the integration of Arab women in the workforce, expanding public transportation in Arab villages, and increasing public trust and collaboration between Arab municipalities and the Israeli government. Police at a temporary checkpoint in the northern Arab town of Deir al-Asad, April 18, 2020, following the government decision on a full lockdown on the town. ( Basel Awidat/Flash90)

“I don’t think that the manner in which Arab municipalities succeeded in reducing the rates of coronavirus infection, which required coordination with the government and the (IDF) Home Front Command, could have happened without this improved trust which had been acquired over the last few years,” Dagan said.

But he noted that the improvements could have been far greater if there had been fewer restrictions on actually receiving the money.

Joint List tensions

While the extension was widely praised, the move also causes some tensions within the mostly Arab Joint List party, with some noting that the vote came only days after MK Mansour Abbas, who has been the Joint List point man for the 922 plan’s approval, helped Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu avoid a Knesset embarrassment.

Abbas ignited a firestorm of controversy within the bloc of mostly Arab parties last week after he helped Knesset speaker Yariv Levin nullify a vote which would have authorized a Knesset committee of inquiry into the submarine affair, which involves several of Netanyahu’s closest associates. Coalition whip Miki Zohar pleads his case to Deputy Knesset Speaker Mansour Abbas in the plenum on October 21, 2020. (Shmulik Grossman/Knesset)

Some Joint List members have even accused Abbas of conducting backdoor deals with Netanyahu to ensure the plan’s passage.

MK Mtanes Shahadeh accused Abbas of “coordinating” with the Likud as part of a quid-pro-quo for passing the 922 extension. “My friend Mansour Abbas erred. The Likud is not our partner. So it was and so it will be,” Shehadeh wrote on Twitter on Thursday.

Abbas, who heads the Ra’am party in Joint List is reportedly considered to be too friendly to the ruling coalition and to have his own channels of communication with Netanyahu’s Likud.

“There will always be political disagreements inside the Joint List, but we also need a uniform framework of cooperation. The approach that MK Abbas is taking can’t create such a framework,” MK Hiba Yazbek from the Balad faction told the Haaretz newspaper. Mansour Abbas of the Ra’am party holds a press conference after a meeting with President Reuven Rivlin at the President’s Residence in Jerusalem on April 16, 2019. (Noam Revkin Fenton/Flash90)

Abbas, for his part, said on Sunday that the sudden passage of the 922 extension was unrelated to his decision to agree to nullify the Knesset vote. He called rumors of backroom deals with the Likud “imprecise publications.”

“I conduct myself in a transparent, professional, efficient, and respectable manner with all governor actors, not in accordance with the ‘deals’ which some have tried to accuse me of,” Abbas said in a statement.

Last Monday night, Abbas had read out a series of recommendations to Netanyahu, who was sitting in the Knesset at the time, including passing an extension for 922. According to Abbas, the prime minister had already responded favorably at the time.

“I brought up our righteous demands before the prime minister during a Knesset session, and he agreed, even before the Knesset vote incident,” Abbas said.

The truth is that Saddam Hussein was set up by the British and U.S elites.

Whores of War September 27th 2020

A group of human rights organisations have filed a complaint with the International Criminal Court (ICC), accusing BAE Systems and other arms manufacturers based in Europe of being party to alleged war crimes in the conflict in Yemen.

Their 350-page dossier argues that aircraft, missiles and other arms made by 10 companies “contributed to the capacity” of the Saudi-led coalition in the conflict, which is accused of bombing schools, hospitals and civilians in 26 airstrikes.

Radhya Almutawakel, the chair of a Yemeni organisation Mwatana for Human Rights, said: “Saudi/UAE-led coalition airstrikes have caused terrible destruction in Yemen. Weapons produced and exported by the US and Europe have enabled this destruction.

“Five years into this war, the countless Yemeni victims deserve credible investigations into all perpetrators of crimes against them, including those potentially complicit.”

Over 100,000 people are estimated to have been killed since war in Yemen broke out in 2015, including 12,000 civilians in directly targeted attacks. The Saudi-led coalition intervened in 2015 against the Iran-aligned Houthi rebels with a pattern of airstrikes that has brought repeated humanitarian criticism.

The 26 strikes specifically cited, where 135 people were killed and 181 injured, include what are described as indiscriminate attacks on hospitals and schools by bombers from Saudi Arabia or its ally the United Arab Emirates, and where remnants of bombs made by companies based in Europe were discovered.

The human-rights groups, who also include Amnesty International and Campaign Against the Arms Trade, met with members of the prosecutors’ office on Wednesday afternoon in The Hague, where the ICC is located, to hand over the file.

Linde Bryk, a lawyer representing the human rights groups said: “By seeking an investigation into corporate executives and government officials the communication seeks to hold to account those selling arms to countries known to have committed war crimes.”

BAE Systems is cited in the complaint because the British arms giant is the principal supplier of Eurofighter Tornado and Typhoon jet aircraft to the Royal Saudi Air Force, which has conducted a string of deadly strikes Yemen, as is the UK arm of Raytheon, which manufactures Paveway IV guided missiles used in the conflict.

In the case of BAE Systems, it argues that the company “purposely intended” to supply the Saudis with arms, and after the conflict began company bosses would have become aware of “the abundance of reporting on the violations being committed”.

It argues: “The use of Eurofighter and Tornado jets by the coalition in Yemen – that the realisation of the war crimes, for example the intentionally targeting of civilians, attacks on schools, hospitals and cultural heritage, was a consequence of the assistance in the ordinary course of events.”

It also references Airbus companies in Spain and Germany, France’s Dassault and Thales, Italian group Leonardo, the Italian arm of Germany’s Rheinmetall and units of European missile manufacturer MBDA in France and Britain. Dassault supplies fighter aircraft to the UAE.

Companies based in the UK are the largest exporter of arms to Saudi Arabia between 2015 and 2019, accounting for €5.8bn worth, according to publicly available data in the complaint. Firms based in France were recorded as doing €2.5bn worth of business, and their German equivalents €1.5bn.

BAE Systems has previously defended its sales to Saudi Arabia, saying it is a defence company which complies with UK arms export regulations. New arms sales to Saudi Arabia which could be used in Yemen have been on hold since June when the British court of appeal said that ministers had not properly assessed the risk they would be used in breach of international humanitarian law.

Raytheon’s chief executive of international operations has previously said the company’s role is to comply with existing arms export policies.