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Latest Israel News – 13th September

‘Israel to occupy parts of south Lebanon in next conflict with Hezbollah’

In the event of another war with Hezbollah the IDF’s objective would be to occupy parts of southern Lebanon where the group has support and infrastructure, in order to force a UN resolution favorable to improving the security situation on Israel’s northern border, a senior IDF officer said on Monday.

IDF soldiers from the 319th Armour Division, the majority of them reserve soldiers, are currently drilling such a scenario during the second and final week of the Or HaDagan Northern Command drill– the largest exercise by the Israeli army in close to 20 years.

According to a senior IDF officer involved in the drill simulating a war with Hezbollah, Israel is not aiming to occupy Lebanese territory for a significant amount of time. Rather, he said, it would be with the aim to end the conflict with Hezbollah as quickly as possible by destroying the Lebanese Shi’ite group’s capabilities and infrastructure.

Israel withdrew its forces from south Lebanon in 2000 after occupying it following the first Lebanon War in 1982 stating that the occupation of an approximate 400-square-mile zone along the border was necessary to prevent attacks on northern Israeli towns and farms. Often regarded as Israel’s Vietnam, the IDF’s withdrawal after 22 years is still celebrated as a victory by Hezbollah.

The Shiite Lebanese terror last fought a war against the IDF in 2006 and according to senior IDF officers has since then morphed from the guerrilla resistance group to an army with a set hierarchy and procedures.

“Hezbollah is an army, even if it doesn’t have tanks.  It acts and thinks like an army,” stated a division commander involved in the drill adding that the shift has made it easier for the  IDF to deal with tactically.

With the help of Iran, Hezbollah has rebuilt its arsenal since the Second Lebanon War in 2006 and has hundreds of thousands of short-range rockets and several thousand more missiles that can reach deeper into the Israeli home front.

It is believed that in the next war the terror group will aim to fire some 1,500-2,000 rockets per day, and according to the senior officer, Hezbollah will fire rockets towards Israel until the last day of the conflict.

While the primary threat posed by Hezbollah remains its missile arsenal, the IDF believes that the next war will see the group trying to bring the fight into the home front by infiltrating into Israeli communities to inflict significant civilian and military casualties.

According to the senior officer, while he does expect the group to try its utmost to plant their flag on Israeli soil in order to create a propaganda win, “there is no way, absolutely no way that Hezbollah will be able to occupy Israeli territory.”

With over 40,000 fighters in battalions and brigades, Hezbollah fighters have gained immeasurable battlefield experience from fighting in Syria on the side of President Bashar Assad.

According to the  senior officers, the IDF has specific and precise intelligence on thousands of targets in the event of a war with the group, and the army will aim to eliminate all ground commanders in an effort to further deter Hezbollah.

The IDF, which is in its second and final week into Israel largest drill simulating a war against Hezbollah, has gone from practicing defensive maneuvering to offensive maneuvers, drilling on the knowledge that they have learned from watching the Lebanese Shi’ite terror group fighting in Syria. (Jerusalem Post)

Hezbollah Sends Reassuring Messages to Israel Amid Syria Strike, IDF Drills Near Lebanon

Hezbollah has sent reassuring messages to Israel in wake of the bombing of the Syrian weapons plant attributed to Israel and the IDF’s large military exercise up north.

The number two man in the organization, deputy secretary general Sheikh Naim Qassem, said in a television interview broadcast on Sunday that the attack on the Syrian facility was not a reason for war against Israel and there were other ways to respond to the attack.

Arab media reported that the weapons facility, west of the city of Hama, which was bombed last Thursday was part of a Syrian weapons manufacturing complex. It was recently involved in a Syrian-Iranian project to improve the accuracy of missiles and rockets to be provided to Hezbollah, said the reports.

Even though the Syrian regime has accused Israel of carrying out the attack, which Syria says killed two people, Damascus has avoided seriously threatening Israel with retaliation. Qassem said in the interview that the decision on the nature of the response was not in Hezbollah’s hands, but in those of the Assad regime in Syria.

It has been reported that Israeli Air Force planes flew at low altitudes in southern Lebanon on Sunday and caused sonic booms over the town of Saida and the Ain El Hilweh refugee camp near Sidon. Qassem said the Israeli corps-level exercise does not imply an Israeli intention to start a war, but is about the IDF’s preparations for a possible war in the future.

In the exercise, Israeli forces practiced the shift from defensive positions to an attack. The scenario for the exercise included a surprise attack by Hezbollah on an Israeli community along the Lebanese border and the IDF’s retaking of the community after a battle with heavy casualties. The exercise involves handling Hezbollah’s defensive positions, while systematically attacking its headquarters, weapons and units – as well as trying to gradually reduce rocket fire into Israel.

In the case of a war with Hezbollah, the army is prepared for the possibility of such a surprise attack, said a senior IDF officer in a meeting with reporters at Northern Command headquarters. Hezbollah is not capable of holding on to Israeli territory for any prolonged period, he said. As opposed to the period of the Second Lebanon War in the summer of 2006, the assumption is that Hezbollah will try to carry out a limited attack to seize a small amount of Israeli territory along the border, said the senior officer.

The institutionalization of Hezbollah’s organizational structure resulting from its participation in the Syrian civil war as well as its operational model as a semi-military organization, has created a fixed routine exposing its weak points, said other senior officers who spoke with the reporters. They added the IDF will try to expose these weak points in the next war with Hezbollah.  (Ha’aretz)

Lieberman warns Syrians any confrontation will ‘end badly for them’

Speaking at a ceremony honoring soldiers of the Bedouin community in Israel, Lieberman repeated the warning that Assad not attempt to test Israel because we take all the threats seriously.”

“I do not suggest entering into a confrontation with the State of Israel. Because for them it would end badly, very badly,” he said.

The comments came in response to Syrian Deputy Foreign Minister Faisal Mekdad, who threatened repercussions after accusing Israel of carrying out an airstrike last week on the state’s Scientific Studies and Research Center.

“The Israeli attack will not divert attention and determination in the war against terrorism supported by Israel” Mekdad said, threatening that “the time will come when Israel will pay the price for its attacks.”

Expressing his hope for greater stability in the region, Lieberman nevertheless cast doubt on the possibility in the near future in light of Mekdad’s statements.

“We all hope that one day the Middle East will become a region of peace, cooperation and coexistence, but unfortunately, today we also heard threats coming from our northern border, and I am referring to the words of the Syrian deputy foreign minister,” Lieberman noted during the ceremony.

Earlier, IDF spokesman to the Arab press, Maj. Avichai Adraee published a picture of himself holding a sign with breaing the words in Arabic saying “If you dare, we will surprise you.”

Adraee’s display of confidence came after members of the Lebanese-based terror group addressed him with threatening messages in a similar manner during their recent fighting against ISIS and al-Nusra Front on the Syrian-Lebanese border.

Hezbollah responded with posters of their own saying: “If you (even) think about it, we will destroy you.”

At the same time, the IDF is in the midst of holding its largest military drill in nearly 20 years—an 11-day combined arms exercise along its border with Lebanon. During the exercise, which involves tens of thousands of soldiers, the IDF simulates war against Hezbollah.

Hezbollah deputy secretary-general Sheikh Naim Qassem said in an interview to the organization’s Al-Manar network: “In our assessment, the Israeli drill is not meant to prepare them for a war at the present time,” noting that according to their estimations it stems from political consideration and is primarily designed for recruitment purposes. Nonetheless, he added that they are “in constant readiness for war.”

Regarding the attack attributed to Israel in Syria, Qassem said that it was not a prelude to the war and that there was no need to blow the situation out of proportion. (Ynet News)

Netanyahu in Buenos Aires: Iran remains source of world terror

Speaking at the site of the Israeli embassy in Buenos Aires that was destroyed by a terror blast in 1992 and never rebuilt, and at the reconstructed Asociación Mutual Israelita Argentina (AMIA) Jewish Community building nearby that was attacked in 1994, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s message on Monday was the same: terror must be fought, and Iran – responsible for the two attacks in Argentina – remains the world’s leading sponsor of terror.

Both those attacks, Netanyahu said at a brief ceremony at the site of the destroyed embassy, which today is a memorial plaza, “taught us that we must not be deterred by the ongoing struggle against the fanatical murderers.” Coincidentally, his speeches fell on September 11, and during his remarks he paid tribute as well to the victims of the attacks in the US 16 years ago.

Prior to Netanyahu’s speech, Miri Ben Zeev, whose husband Eli was a security guard murdered in the attack, recalled the day when her husband was killed in “the Paris of South America.” Four foreign ministry employees were killed in the attack, and the representatives of the families of three of them were invited to the ceremony and accompanied Netanyahu on his flight.

Netanyahu, during his speech at the AMIA building, praised Argentinian President Mauricio Macri for reopening the investigation into Iran’s involvement in the attacks. Macri closed a commission set up by the previous government with Iran’s participation to investigate the incidents, something that Israel felt was an effort to whitewash Iran’s responsibility.

“Iran initiated, planned and carried out the terrible attacks through its proxy, Hezbollah,” Netanyahu said. “The time has come to impose full and complete responsibility on Iran. It is time to do justice to the victims. It is time denounce the accused.”

At the site of the embassy attack, the prime minister said Israel was determined to fight Iranian terrorism and is determined to prevent it from establishing itself on Israel’s border.

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and his wife, Sara Netanyahu at a memorial for the Buenos Aires embassy attack of 1992 with Argentinian President Mauricio Macri

Iran backs the terrorism of radical Shia Islam, he said, and Islamic State is now the address for radical Sunni terror. As the global campaign against Islamic State succeeds and the organization retreats, Iran is moving into the vacuum, he warned.

“It is incumbent on all civilized countries to fight terrorism in general, and Iran’s terrorist attacks in particular, the same Iran that brought about these two criminal crimes,” he said.

“Buenos Aires, New York, Jerusalem, Paris, Barcelona, ​​Brussels – no country is immune to the terror of radical Islam, and since the threat is shared, the solution must also be shared,” Netanyahu continued. “We must face it together without fear, without hesitation. I believe that if we act in this way, the victory of civilized people will be assured over the representatives of barbarism.”

Iranian terrorism is even more barbaric than the violence of the Middle Ages, Netanyahu said, because in the middle ages ambassadors were not targeted, and if they were, it was considered “a special crime.”

“Even in the days of barbarity they avoided hurting the ambassadors, but Iran also hurt the embassy and created a new standard that we cannot accept,” he said. (Jerusalem Post)

Claiming ‘powerful’ public support, PM vows to lead country for years to come

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu on Tuesday said he wants to continue to lead the country for years to come, rebuffing reports claiming he plans to quit political life in the near future or seek snap elections.

He also said that despite his growing legal troubles, public support for him has reached unprecedented heights in recent weeks.

“I don’t intend to go to new elections. I intend to continue this term until its conclusion and lead the Likud to a great victory in the 2019 elections,” he said.

Netanyahu said support for him and his wife Sara is “very powerful,” both within his own party and the general population. “The only way you can see this is when you come with me. I don’t mean to the large [political] rallies. Walk with me on the streets, or to the cafes,” he said, indicating that the ordinary Israelis he encounters by chance enthusiastically back him.

“I don’t remember anything like that ever,” he told reporters during a briefing following his meeting with Argentine President Mauricio Macri. “I don’t remember such personal support for me and my wife. It’s incredibly powerful, I simply have no other way to describe it.”

The next elections are scheduled for November 5, 2019, but unnamed Likud sources “close to Netanyahu” claimed on Tuesday that Netanyahu plans on announcing the end of his political career.

The prime minister is currently the subject of two separate corruption investigations, known as Cases 1000 and 2000.

In Case 1000, Netanyahu is suspected of receiving illicit gifts from billionaire benefactors, most notably hundreds of thousands of shekels’ worth of cigars and champagne from the Israeli-born Hollywood producer Arnon Milchan.

Case 2000 involves a suspected illicit quid pro quo deal between Netanyahu and Yedioth Ahronoth newspaper publisher Arnon “Noni” Mozes that would have seen the prime minister advance legislation to hobble a rival daily, the Sheldon Adelson-backed Israel Hayom, in return for more favorable coverage from Yedioth.

Netanyahu denies any wrongdoing in both cases, and has addressed two large rallies organized to express support for him.

In addition, a growing number of close former associates of the prime minister have recently been quizzed over their involvement in yet another investigation, the so-called Case 3000, which is examining Israel’s multi-billion-shekel purchase of naval vessels from Germany.

Netanyahu is not a suspect in the case, but the fact that these vessels were acquired under his watch, and that many people close to him are involved, has prompted some of his critics to call on the prime minister to quit over the affair.

In addition to his own legal troubles, his wife faces an indictment for fraud for allegedly diverting some NIS 360,000 ($102,000) of shekels in public funds for her own use.

Asked by reporters Tuesday if the unprecedented support he cited would present opportune timing to call new elections, with victory ostensibly granting him legitimacy to continue leading the country in case of an indictment, Netanyahu replied: “I learned one thing in my short time in Israeli politics: Don’t give up on two years so easily.” (the Times of Israel)

Hezbollah claims it uncovered an Israeli spying device in southern Lebanon

Hezbollah, the Lebanon-based Shi’ite terror organization, claimed on Saturday night that it had spotted an Israeli device used for espionage in southern Lebanon.

The organization released an announcement on the Al-Manar television channel that is strongly affiliated with the terror group, stating that “resistance fighters seized an Israeli spying contraption, with a thermal camera for night vision, which was hidden in a rock in Kfar Shebba, east of Shebba Farms in south Lebanon.”

The report also made note of the ongoing military drill the IDF is currently holding along the border with Lebanon to prepare for a possible future conflict with Hezbollah. “The uncovering of the Israeli spying contraption comes amid the big drill the enemy is holding in the north of occupied Palestine,” the Al-Manar report said.

This new claim by Hezbollah comes a month after the organization charged on August 13 that it had spotted a different Israeli spying contraption on Mount Jabal el-Barouk, which is situated in the western valley not far from Lake Qaraoun.

In the message released by Hezbollah at the time, the terror organization charged that “an eavesdropping device of the Israeli enemy was uncovered in one of the high strategic hills on Mount el-Barouk in the western valley, facing… Lake Qaraoun.”

The organization also claimed that “the device was blown up from afar a while ago, for fear it would be discovered, and its parts have scattered all over, including a special electric cable, batteries, and solar energy contraptions that were used to operate the device.”

The report also alleged that “the device was hidden in a fiberglass, rock-like material, and was plastered onto one of the big rocks in front of western valley villages, including the international route that leads to the eastern Lebanon Mountains.”

Israel usually declines to comment on foreign reports, but security officials as well as IDF commanders have warned this week as the large military drill in the north commenced that Hezbollah is likely to spread any number of false accusations and threats, flexing its muscles as Israel proceeds to carry out the exercise.

The military drill simulates a scenario of war with Hezbollah along Israel’s northern border, and soldiers from all units of the army are joining forces to test their preparedness in case a conflict will erupt.

On Monday, Al-Manar quoted a Hezbollah official who threatened Israel shortly after the drill started, saying that “We [Hezbollah] are fully alert and ready at any time for any possible scenario. The Israelis won’t succeed in surprising us, because Israel knows full well [what] Hezbollah’s capabilities are after the loss it suffered in 2006 [in the Second Lebanon War], which deterred the IDF.”

The unnamed official taunted the Jewish state, saying that Hezbollah was ready “for any attack or act of Israeli stupidity.”  (Jerusalem Post)

Devastating UK survey finds half of Britons agree with anti-Israel statements

Nearly one in three Britons holds at least one anti-Semitic attitude and more than half endorse at least one hard-line anti-Israel statement, finds a major new study published today.

It also establishes an “unambiguous” link between anti-Semitism and hostility towards Israel – suggesting that the stronger the level of anti-Israel feeling, the more likely it is to be accompanied by anti-Semitic attitudes – and probes the attitudes of those who support the far-left and the far-right, as well as British Muslims.

But the report – the largest and most detailed survey of attitudes towards Jews and Israel ever conducted in Britain – also concludes that the proportion of what it terms “hardcore anti-Semites” in the population is small, while most Britons hold a favorable opinion of Jews and the vast majority do not harbor any anti-Semitic views. Moreover, it found that only 6% of Britons believe Israel has no right to exist, and less than 10% back the BDS movement.

“Levels of anti-Semitism in Great Britain are among the lowest in the world. British Jews constitute a religious and ethnic group that is seen overwhelmingly positively by the absolute majority of the British population,” writes the report’s author, Dr. Daniel Staetsky, senior research fellow at the London-based Institute for Jewish Policy Research (JPR) which published the research.

Almost 70 percent of Britons hold a favorable opinion of Jews, with a further 20 percent holding no view. The figures are in line with views towards some other religious minorities, such as Hindus, and rather more positive than attitudes towards Muslims. Moreover, 80% of those surveyed agreed with the statement: “A British Jew is just as British as any other British person,” while around 60% backed the view that “British Jews make a positive contribution to British society.”

The study, conducted by both face-to-face interviews and online polling, suggests that an open dislike of Jews, combined with developed negative ideas, is confined to no more than 2.4% of British adults. A further 3% are termed “softer anti-Semites.” They endorsed fewer, but still multiple, statements that are generally perceived by Jews to be anti-Semitic.

“This relatively small group of about 5% of the general population can justifiably be described as anti-Semites,” argues the report.

Nonetheless, the study suggests that anti-Semitic attitudes are more widespread. It found that around 15% of Britons endorsed two or more of the anti-Semitic statements put to them, while a further 15% agreed with one of them.

The report strongly rejects the notion that 30% of the British population is anti-Semitic, noting that a majority of those who backed only one of the anti-Jewish statements also agreed with one or more of the positive statements about Jews.

Their way of thinking about Jews are “complex, combining both positive and negative aspects,” the study ventures. At the same time, the 30% figure “captures the current level of the diffusion of anti-Semitic ideas in British society,” writes Staetsky, who believes that a distinction should be drawn between “counting anti-Semites” and “measuring anti-Semitism.”

The report indicates that Holocaust denial is endorsed by only a small minority of Britons: 2% agreed that the Holocaust was a myth and 4% thought it had been exaggerated. These figures correspond with the number of “hardcore anti-Semites” identified by the study. However, other anti-Semitic attitudes – that Jews think they are superior to others, get rich at the expense of others, exploit the Holocaust for their own purposes and that British Jews have different interests from their fellow citizens – gain wider, albeit limited, traction. Between 10 and 13% agreed to some extent with those statements.

Dr. Jonathan Boyd, executive director of the JPR, hailed some of the “very positive” indicators in the report.

“Seventy percent of adults in Great Britain, given multiple opportunities to even mildly agree with an anti-Jewish view, do not do so,” he suggested. “And much of the remainder would likely recoil at any suggestion that they are anti-Semitic, and be highly apologetic if challenged by someone who took offense,” says Boyd.

People protest outside 10 Downing Street, London against state visit by Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, February 6, 2017, (Raphael Ahren/Times of Israel)

But the study had less good news for supporters of Israel in the UK. It finds that 12% of Britons hold “hard-core” anti-Israel attitudes and a further 21% have what it calls “softer negativity towards Israel.” Fifty-six percent of those questioned backed at least one anti-Israel statement, although the report emphasized that it would be wrong to suggest that that level of Britons were anti-Israel.

Arguing that “the data on anti-Israel attitudes is less good,” Boyd expressed particular concern that close to a quarter of Britons believe, to some extent at least, that Israel is deliberately trying to wipe out the Palestinian population, and about one in five believe – again to some extent at least – that Israel is an apartheid state.

“These types of prejudices clearly have some currency in British society, and more needs to be done, both in Britain and Israel, to demonstrate their falsehood,” he argued. He noted that there are “often equal or greater levels of disagreement with these types of notions, and that much of British society is completely neutral on them.”

Jennifer Gerber, director of Labour Friends of Israel, termed the prevalence of anti-Israel attitudes among some sections of the British public “disturbing.”

“It should act as a wake-up call for politicians and the media to avoid at all times language and actions which breed those attitudes and give comfort to those who seek to demonize and delegitimize the State of Israel,” Gerber suggested.

The report also measures attitudes towards Israel against those of some other states. While 40-50% of Britons expressed a favorable view towards Germany and the United States, only 17% held a similarly positive view towards Israel. One-third held a negative view and 40% said their opinion was neither favorable nor unfavorable.

The report suggests that Israel’s ratings fall in between those of Germany and the US, on the one hand, and Russia, Syria and Iran, on the other. Around 10% of Britons were favorable to each of the countries in the latter group, whereas each register close to or above 50% unfavorability.

The study sought, for the first time in Britain, to test the relationship between anti-Semitism and anti-Israel attitudes. It argues that while the latter are generally not anti-Semitic, there was a link.

“A majority of those who hold anti-Israel attitudes do not espouse any anti-Semitic attitudes, but a significant minority of those who hold anti-Israel attitudes hold them alongside anti-Semitic attitudes,” it suggests.

Thus while 86% of those who do not hold any anti-Israel attitudes do not have anti-Semitic attitudes, among those holding a large number of anti-Israel attitudes that figure falls to 26%. The study’s finding that nearly half of those with strong anti-Israel attitudes believe that “Jews exploit Holocaust victimhood for their own purposes” – a view held by only one in 10 Britons as a whole – represents “a very significant insight into the mindset of the segment of the population espousing strong anti-Israel attitudes,” argues Staetsky.

“It goes a long way towards explaining the degree of apprehension towards this segment felt in the Jewish community,” he continues.

Dave Rich, deputy director of communications at the Community Security Trust, which supported the study, underlines the importance of the results.

“The finding that people who are strongly anti-Israel are also more likely to be anti-Semitic might seem obvious to some, but this is the first time it has been statistically proven,” says Rich.

“This is important, because many of these strongly anti-Israel people, most of whom hold at least one anti-Semitic viewpoint, are likely to be activists in anti-Israel movements who go on demonstrations, run their stalls and argue their case on social media. Those groups ought to take this research seriously if they are genuinely opposed to anti-Semitism as they claim,” Rich says.

UK Labour Party leader Jeremy Corbyn faces the media as he leaves his house in London, June 26, 2016. (Isabel Infantes/PA via AP)

Following two years in which the opposition Labour party has faced sustained criticism for its perceived failure to tackle allegations of anti-Semitism within its ranks, the study also explores attitudes towards Jews and Israel on the left. Under its far-left leader, Jeremy Corbyn, Labour polled 40% in May’s general election, while winning the backing of only 13% of Jews.

Despite the heightened tensions between the community and Corbyn’s supporters, the research indicates that levels of anti-Semitism on the left – including among those who identify as “very left-wing” – are no different from the population more generally. Instead, the most anti-Semitic group is to be found on the far-right, where anti-Jewish attitudes are two to four times higher than among Britons as a whole.

Nonetheless, the fact that – given its strong anti-racist ideals – anti-Semitism does not register levels lower than the average among those on the left is, perhaps, surprising.

Moreover, Staetsky also finds that anti-Israel attitudes are more prevalent across all sections of the left – including those who identify themselves as only “slightly to the left of center” – than among the general population.

Nearly 80% of those on the far-left backed at least one anti-Israel statement (as against 56% of all Britons), with 23% backing six to nine (in contrast to 9% more generally).

As Rich, whose book, “The Left’s Jewish Problem: Jeremy Corbyn, Israel and Anti-Semitism,” was published last year, argued: “This report shows that there is no more anti-Semitism on the left than elsewhere, but crucially there is no less anti-Semitism either. So when people complain that they have heard anti-Semitic comments from people on the left or in the Labour party, it isn’t part of a Blairite plot against Corbyn or a Zionist trick to silence critics of Israel – they are telling the truth and their complaints should be taken seriously.”

The report also examines attitudes among key religious groups. While it concludes that anti-Semitism and anti-Israel attitudes are no different among Christians than the wider population, it found such attitudes were two to four times higher among Muslims. Non-religious Muslims were less likely to back anti-Semitic or anti-Israel attitudes, while those who demonstrated Islamist views were more likely to.

However, the report also indicated that “significant proportions of Muslims reject all such prejudice,” with a majority neutral or disagreeing with each of the anti-Semitic statements put to them. Staetsky also notes the relatively small size of both Britain’s Muslim population and those who hold far-left or far-right attitudes.

Illustrative photo of Muslim protesters in London (YouTube screenshot)

The research is published as recent polling suggests that nearly half of British Jews perceive anti-Semitism to be a problem in the UK, with two-thirds believing it to be on the increase. By distinguishing between the small number of anti-Semites and rather more widespread presence of anti-Semitic attitudes, the report throws new light on the seeming disparity between the low levels of anti-Semitism in Britain and the anxieties of Jews in the country.

“Most Jews do not come into regular contact with strongly anti-Semitic individuals,” it argues. “Such people are few in number to start with… However, what Jews are exposed to far more frequently are people who are not strongly anti-Semitic, yet who hold, and from time to time may vocalize, views that may make them feel uncomfortable or offended.”

But how likely are Jews in Britain to encounter something potentially more dangerous?

Asked about the use of violence against certain groups or institutions in defense of their political or religious beliefs and values, 4% of Britons suggested it could be “often or sometimes” justified against Jews – a similar figure that was registered for Israelis and Zionists. These numbers were lower than for any of the others groups – which ranged from EU institutions to banks and big business, Muslims and immigrants – which were investigated.

Indeed, more Britons thought violence might be justified against British military personnel than they did against Jews. Moreover, those who showed the greatest willingness to tolerate violence against Jews also appeared most ready to justify violence against other groups, including the armed forces, suggesting less “a coherent ideological worldview” than a willingness to regard violence as an “acceptable method of protest in general.”  (the Times of Israel)

Israel acts decisively in Syria

Editorial from The Australian


Audacious Israeli air strikes targeting a major Syrian military facility producing chemical weapons and the precision-guided missiles needed to deliver them provide a timely demonstration of what so-called “red lines” should mean when confronted with global security challenges. The attacks on the facility at Masyaf, in western Syria, came nine days after Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu warned of Iranian efforts to use Syria and Lebanon as “war fronts” for its goal of eradicating Israel. “This is something Israel cannot accept,” he said.

Unlike Barack Obama when he made his pointless and ultimately highly damaging warning that the Syrian regime’s use of chemical weapons against its own people in 2013 crossed a “red line”, but then did nothing, Mr Netanyahu meant what he said — and he acted resolutely to make good on his word. The Masyaf base, with Iranian forces as well those of the Assad regime, is a branch of the Scientific Studies and Research Centre, a Syrian government agency the US and others have accused of producing chemical weapons such as the sarin gas used in April’s horrifying attack on the town of Khan Sheikhoun. Coinciding with Israel’s strike, the UN finally placed the blame for that attack squarely on the Assad regime.

Israel believes the Masyaf facility also was being used to equip Iranian-sponsored terrorist organisation Hezbollah for attacks on Israel. As usual for operations outside its borders, Israel has not commented on the air strikes. But Defence Minister Avigdor Lieberman has warned “everything possible will be done to prevent the existence of a Shi’ite corridor from Tehran to Damascus”. UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres is said to have been left in no doubt when he visited Israel last month that the Jewish state was determined to snuff out the chemical weapons and missile threat.

Israel’s action came 10 years to the day since Operation Orchard, when it launched air strikes to level Syria’s nascent nuclear facility at Deir ez-Zor, which was being built with North Korean and Iranian help. It sends a message to Syria, Iran and Hezbollah they would be unwise to ignore.

Israel is courting Syrian ‘hearts and minds’ to keep Hezbollah away

Israel has been quietly trying to win the hearts of Syrians by bringing them across the border for medical treatment.

By Loveday Morris       The Washington Post


It is 4:30 a.m. and pitch dark when the sick Syrian children and their mothers begin to cross into ­Israel.

There’s a 1-year-old girl with a squint, and a 2-year-old with a birth defect that prevents him from walking. The family of a slight 12-year-old is concerned that she is not growing. One child has a rash, another a rattling cough.

They emerge from the darkness into the yellow glare of the security lights on the Israeli side of the fence in the occupied Golan Heights, where they are searched before being allowed through. There are 19 children in total, a smaller group than most that appear roughly every week.

The children are allowed in as part of Israel’s “Good Neighbors” program, which began treating injured Syrian fighters and civilians in the early days of their country’s civil war but has expanded into a more complex operation that also sends fuel, food and supplies into Syria.

Israeli officials stress the humanitarian aspect of the program, but it has another aim: to create a friendly zone just inside Syria to serve as a bulwark against Israel’s archenemy, the Shiite movement Hezbollah.

A clown entertains a Syrian child waiting for treatment at a hospital in Israel. (SufianTaha/The Washington Post)

Israel has watched anxiously as President Bashar al-Assad has taken the upper hand in Syria’s war with the aid of Hezbollah and Iran, its main backer, which are building their presence across the border.

But for the moment at least, Sunni rebel groups control most of the Syrian side of the 45-mile boundary between the two countries. Israel hopes to keep it that way.

Israeli military officers denied giving direct assistance to any of the Sunni groups along the border fence that oppose Hezbollah and the Syrian regime, or even coordinating humanitarian aid with them. But a former senior intelligence officer with the Israel Defense Forces said Israel has provided support to about a dozen groups, and may have given financial assistance “here and there.”

“First of all, it had to do with morals. People were injured on the other side of the border, coming to our fence — they were going to die,” said Brig. Gen. Eli Ben-Meir, who served as the head of the research and analysis division in the IDF’s intelligence corps until last year. “Then it led to a lot of other things.”

It was in 2013, Israeli military officials say, when the first group of injured Syrians approached the Israeli fence on the Golan Heights, a strategic plateau that Israel partially captured from Syria in 1967 and later annexed, a move not recognized internationally.

Israel has now treated more than 3,000 wounded Syrians, military officials say, though a Syrian medic on the other side of the border said the number traveling for care appeared to be higher.

As fighting has died down along the border, Israel has started offering medical care for more-routine ailments. More than 600 Syrian children have been bused to Israeli hospitals for treatment in the past year.

Israel has transferred 360 tons of food, nearly 120,000 gallons of gasoline, 90 pallets of drugs, and 50 tons of clothing as well as generators, water piping and building materials, the IDF says.

“There was an understanding that if we weren’t there, somebody else would influence them,” Ben-Meir said. The humanitarian motivation was “huge,” he added. “But the more it got bigger and expanded, the more it had to do with winning these hearts and minds.”

Closer ties also mean richer intelligence. Officially, Israel has maintained a neutral position in Syria’s war, but it has intervened to protect its interests. Throughout the conflict, assassinations and airstrikes in Syria have been attributed to Israel, though the government rarely publicly acknowledges them.

In the latest strike, on Thursday, Syria accused Israel of bombing a military facility linked to rocket production for Hezbollah.

The program is reminiscent of the early days of Israel’s “Good Fence” program in Lebanon as civil war broke out there in 1975. The defense minister at the time, Shimon Peres, stressed the purely humanitarian nature of the project to establish a “good neighborhood” as Israel treated Lebanese refugees and sent assistance to the country’s south with “no strings attached.”

But then Israel was also trying to prevent encroachment by Palestinian guerrillas, and threw its support behind the South Lebanon Army.

“It’s easy to assume that we are doing it because someone you give a favor to, you get one back,” said Maj. Sergey Kutikov, head of the Good Neighbors medical department, as he walked toward the border to meet the patients. The IDF members leave their military vehicles behind, so as not to attract attention. “But the reason in my mind is really to give humanitarian aid.”

Unlike Syria’s other neighbors, Israel does not take in refugees, though it recently agreed to accept 100 Syrian orphans. Israel has been in a state of war with its northern neighbor for nearly 70 years.

“They always look stressed when they cross,” Kutikov said. “They don’t know what to expect.”

As the sky began to lighten, the families boarded a bus to make the nearly hour-long journey to a hospital on the edge of the Sea of Galilee. The Syrians are given priority over other patients, staff members said. The top specialists were summoned. A clown entertained the children.

“The regime left us nothing,” said a Syrian doctor who crossed with the group. He said two rockets landed in his operating room a year ago. He began coming two months ago, despite being afraid of the consequences of people finding out. “I did it for the sake of the children,” he said. “We’ve seen a lot, we’ve seen death.”

While most of the area along the fence is controlled by Sunni rebel groups, a small section is held by the Assad regime, and another is controlled by Islamic State militants.

Kutikov said there is no contact with rebel groups across the border. Ben-Meir said it isn’t necessary.

“Usually, the guys involved in agriculture, in feeding the population, in taking care of the health situation, are the same guys that are responsible for defending them and fighting against the ­regime,” Ben-Meir said.

One rebel group, Fursan al-Golan, receives about $5,000 a month from Israel, according to a Wall Street Journal report.

A cease-fire in the area is largely holding. But both Israel and the communities on the border are concerned that it is probably only a matter of time before Assad tries to take back the territory.

A medic across the border, who spoke on the condition of anonymity for security reasons, said that Israel was creating “tyrants” by supporting certain groups but that most people would rather turn to Israel than to the regime.

After their checkups, the children stay for the day and travel back the following night. Some are kept longer if they need urgent care.

“I was reluctant at the beginning to come to Israel,” said the mother who was hoping Israeli doctors could fix her daughter’s squint. “We can only get treatment in regime-controlled areas, but it’s too dangerous. I have family who are martyrs and prisoners, and my brother and father are wanted.”

One 7-year-old girl was on her third trip to Israel for problems stemming from an airstrike three years ago that killed her twin brother. Her mother said a local commander told them to go to Israel.

“At first I was afraid, but then I saw that the treatment was superb,” the 36-year-old woman said. “We were told they are the enemy, but in reality, they are friends.”