Netanyahu the ‘Churchill of our times’ for Iranian threat, Israeli strategic affairs minister says

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Netanyahu the ‘Churchill of our times’ for Iranian threat, Israeli strategic affairs minister says

( Israeli Strategic Affairs Minister Yuval Steinitz, speaking at the annual Jerusalem Post Conference in New York, on Sunday warned that a nuclear Iran will threaten not only Israel but the entire world, and argued that sanctions alone are not enough to stop the Islamic Republic’s threat.

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s warnings on the Iranian nuclear threat make him the “Churchill of our times,” said Steinitz, who recalled that many world leaders ignored British Prime Minister Winston Churchill’s warnings about German rearmament prior to World War II. Steinitz said Israel’s situation now is similar in important ways to that of Britain before World War II, “despite all the differences.”

Steinitz also touched on reports that the Syrian regime has used chemical weapons against opposition forces, saying that Israel would “do its utmost to prevent delivery” of such weapons to “terrorists and Hezbollah." He added that Israel is not encouraging the U.S. to attack Syria and is not making “any linkage or comparison” between Syria and the Iranian nuclear challenge.

“It is up to the U.S. to decide its policy on Syria,” Steinitz told the audience.

Former Israel Defense Forces intelligence chief Amos Yadlin also focused on the Iranian threat at the Jerusalem Post Conference. According to Yadlin, more time must be given to diplomacy and sanctions, which he said were only implemented for the first time correctly in 2012. Yadlin added that Israel could deal with the consequences of a military strike against Iran’s nuclear facilities if need be.
Israel strikes Syrian chemical weapons site, rebel group says
( The Israel Air Force on Saturday bombed a Syrian chemical weapons site near Damascus, the Israeli newspaper Maariv reported, citing Syrian rebels.
According to Maariv, the Free Syrian Army (FSA) rebel group posted a video of smoke rising from the chemical weapons site it claims Israeli jets struck. FSA said the jets flew over the home of Syrian President Bashar al-Assad before the strike, and a Syrian air defense battery went on to fire at the jets.
Neither Israeli nor Syrian officials have conformed the reported strike.
Boston Marathon bomber Tamerlan Tsarnaev told to go to ‘Palestine’ by mother
( In the aftermath of the Boston Marathon bombings, investigators are looking into extremist ties between Tamerlan Tsarnaev and his mother, Zubeidat Tsarnaeva, including a suggestion by his mother that he travel to “Palestine” to conduct possible terrorist activities there.

New wiretap evidence provided by the Russian Federal Security Service (FSB) to the Federal Bureau of Investigation suggests possible extremist influence by the mother of the two bombers, Tamerlan and Dzhokar.

In early 2011, the FSB had intercepted a called between Tamerlan and his mother, Zubeidat, where the two vaguely discussed jihad, U.S. officials told the Associated Press.

Part of the discussion involved the possibility of Tamerlan traveling to the Palestinian territories. But Tamerlan expressed doubts to his mother, saying he did not know the language there.

As a result, the FBI is investigating Zubeidat Tsarnaeva’s influence over her sons.
“Intelligence officials have also found text messages in which the mother discusses how Tamerlan is ready to die for Islam,” Newsday reported, citing two anonymous sources.
Code Red’ rocket siren interrupts Lag B’Omer celebrations in Israel, air force strikes back
( Residents of Israel’s south were forced into shelters by a “Code Red” siren while Lag B’Omer was celebrated on Sunday, following an Israel Air Force (IAF) attack on Gaza in response to a Qassam rocket fired from Gaza on Saturday night.

The rocket fired on Saturday hit the Sdot Negev area. No injuries or damage were reported.

In response, the IAF hit several targets in Gaza, including a terrorist facility and weapons storage site, according to the Israel Defense Forces Spokesperson’s Unit.

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said Israel would not tolerate this “drizzle” of rocket fire.

“I want to make clear that we will not tolerate a ‘drizzle’ policy; a ‘drizzle’ of rockets or missiles will be met by a very aggressive reaction, and we will take all necessary action to defend our citizens,” Netanyahu said, according to Israel Hayom.
Israel has experienced increasing rocket fire in recent weeks after a period of relative calm since last November’s conflict. On April 17, the southern city of Eilat was hit by twin rocket attacks from Egypt’s increasingly lawless Sinai Peninsula.
Report: Islamic control of Syrian rebel groups increasing
( Reports indicate a mounting presence of Islamic terror groups within Syria’s rebel forces, complicating options for Western policymakers to address the Syrian civil war.

According to a report in the New York Times, Islamic groups have provided basic government and local services such as running bakeries, controlling power plants and providing medical services in rebel-controlled areas.

Local residents have grown to respect the Islamic groups who receive funding and weapons from sympathetic donors in the Arab Gulf states. As a result, Islamic commanders have risen up the Syrian rebel ranks, now controlling many positions in the rebel umbrella group, the Supreme Military Council.
The biggest concern for the West is a U.S.-designated foreign terror group, the Al-Nusra Front, which has direct ties to Al-Qaeda in Iraq and has pledged loyalty to Al-Qaeda chief, Ayman al-Zawahiri. Another prominent terror group is Ahrar al-Sham, which is made up primarily of native Syrians.

“My sense is that there are no seculars,” Elizabeth O’Bagy of the Institute for the Study of War, who has recently interviewed several rebel commanders, told the New York Times.

Recently, the U.S. confirmed intelligence reports that the Syrian government had used chemical weapons against the Syrian rebels, corroborating an earlier Israeli intelligence assessment.

U.S. President Barack Obama has previously said that Assad’s use of chemical weapons would be a “red line” for his administration, possibly triggering U.S. military action. Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu also recently refused to rule out possible Israeli military action in Syria in a BBC interview.
Napolitano praises Jewish community security in post-Boston bombings summit

( U.S. Secretary of Homeland Security Janet Napolitano made an unscheduled appearance at a Secure Community Network (SCN) summit of leaders from the Jewish Federation and other Jewish organizations, held to discuss strategies for maintaining the safety of the Jewish community, on April 24-25 in New York.
Napolitano praised the Jewish Federations of North America (JFNA) and SCN, a JFNA affiliate, and emphasized the importance of a close relationship between her department and the Jewish community.

The first-ever Jewish Communal Security Summit came on the heels of the recent Boston Marathon bombings. Attendees and speakers included representatives of the Anti-Defamation League, the Department of Homeland Security’s counter-terrorism division, the New York Police Department, the Federal Bureau of Investigation, and other agencies and organizations. Topics discussed included Jewish school safety, synagogue and community center safety, and incidents of anti-Semitism. The conference then focused on successful security programs already in place as examples to learn from.

“Our goal is to be aware of the threats we face and gain knowledge that gives us the power to act in the face of these threats,” said Jerry Silverman, president and CEO of JFNA, in his summit remarks. After incidents such as the Boston bombings, the Jewish community “will be held to account for how we apply the lessons we learn,” added Malcolm Hoenlein, executive vice chairman of the Conference of Presidents of Major American Jewish Organizations.

“The message I tried to communicate over the past two days is that it’s not about security guards, gates and guns. It’s about creating resilient community organizations that can manage any form of disaster, man-made or natural,” said Jeffrey Slotnick, chief security officer for OR3M and an adviser to SCN.

NYC’s Algemeiner unveils 'Jewish 100' list in star-studded gala

( The Algemeiner, a New York City Jewish newspaper, has released the first edition of an annual “Jewish 100” list honoring the “top 100 people positively influencing Jewish life.” The Algemeiner was founded in 1972 as a Yiddish newspaper, and evolved into today’s English-language weekly newspaper and news website.

The list was unveiled at the paper’s 40th anniversary gala in Manhattan Tuesday, which was hosted by Fox News’s Heather Nauert. Prominent Jewish figures attended the gala, including Holocaust survivor and writer Elie Wiesel, film producer Harvey Weinstein, Dr. Ruth Westheimer, Alan Dershowitz and others. Among the “Jewish 100” awardees attending the Gala were Czech Ambassador to the United States Petr Gandalovič, representing Czech Prime Minister Petr Necas, as well as the Anti-Defamation League’s Abraham Foxman, activist Arthur Schneier, and others.

Israel’s representative at the United Nations Ron Prosor also spoke at the gala, and singer Tony Orlando performed the national anthem at the event. “I've turned down Tommy Lasorda and the Dodgers but I couldn't turn down the Algemeiner,” Orlando said.

“The evening was electric,” said Algemeiner Editor-in-Chief Dovid Efune. “I was deeply moved by the confluence of notable and powerful storytellers coming together at our 40th Gala—Harvey Weinstein, Elie Wiesel and the Algemeiner—all courageous voices dedicated to helping people look at the world in a new way,” added Algemeiner Publisher Simon Jacobson.

The Algemeiner’s full “Jewish 100” list can be found here:

Holocaust denial cases up 77 percent in Canada, audit finds

(Israel Hayom/Exclusive to Anti-Semitic incidents in Canada rose by 3.7 percent in 2012, and Holocaust denial rose 77 percent, an annual audit revealed.

The report released by the League for Human Rights of B’nai B’rith Canada showed that there were 1,345 anti-Semitic incidents in Canada in 2012, up from 1,297 in 2011.

The analysis highlighted several regional anomalies, with the number of anti-Semitic incidents rising by 25 percent in Canada’s three most western provinces. Also, in the Québec province (excluding the city of Montreal), there was a four-fold increase.

“We are particularly concerned about this year’s findings of increased participation in these incidents by perpetrators self-identifying as Muslims, who are apparently supportive of Islamist ideologies of hate and violence,” Frank Dimant, the CEO of B’nai B’rith Canada, said. “But we are encouraged by the many Muslims with whom we work closely, who are prepared to expose anti-Semitism in their community.”

Dimant said the audit showed an overall decrease in vandalism and violence but a 10.6 percent increase in harassment incidents.

“Jews were targeted in their homes and at their workplaces, on their way to synagogue or returning from school,” Dimant said. “The language has moved from ‘F**k the Jews’ to 'Kill the Jews,’ with Holocaust denial cases soaring by 77 percent and threats becoming more ugly, explicit and open.”

U.S. shifts view on Syrian chemical weapons, aligns with Israeli position
( The United States now believes that Syrian President Bashar al-Assad has used chemical weapons against rebel forces, corroborating an earlier Israeli intelligence assessment.
“Our intelligence community does assess with varying degrees of confidence that the Syrian regime has used chemical weapons on a small scale in Syria, specifically the chemical agent sarin,” White House aide Miguel Rodriguez wrote in letters to Sens. Carl Levin (D-MI) and John McCain (R-AZ), the leaders of the Senate Armed Services Committee, the Wall Street Journal reported.
U.S. Secretary of Defense Chuck Hagel also confirmed this shift while touring the Middle East last week.
“The intelligence community has been assessing information for some time on this issue,” Hagel said, USA Today reported. “The decision to make this conclusion was reached in the last 24 hours.”
Earlier in the week, the head of the Israel Defense Forces Military Intelligence Research Branch, Brig. Gen. Itay Baron, said that the Syrian government used lethal chemical weapons, mainly sarin gas, against armed rebels several times in the past few weeks and is continuing to do so.
Additional American allies, namely Great Britain and France, also believe Assad’s regime used chemical weapons.
President Barack Obama has previously said that Assad’s use of chemical weapons would be a “red line” for his administration, possibly triggering U.S. military action.
Suspected Hezbollah drone shot down by IDF near Haifa

( The Israel Defense Forces (IDF) used F-16s and Israel Air Force helicopters to shoot down a drone approaching the coast of the northern city of Haifa from Lebanon on Thursday. The Hezbollah terrorist organization is suspected of sending the drone. After shooting the drone down at about 6,000 feet, the IDF navy searched for its wreckage in the water.

The IDF said in a statement on the incident that it “thwarted the penetration of an unmanned aircraft into Israeli territory.” The Times of Israel, citing a military source, reported that drone “was apparently sent by Hezbollah.”

“Shortly after 1 p.m. a drone was identified as it was flying north to south along the Lebanese coastline,” the IDF said Thursday, according to Yedioth Ahronoth. “The air defense system tracked it for (several) minutes while it was still in Lebanese territory, and it was under surveillance throughout its flight until the interception. IAF planes were scrambled, as were combat helicopters, after it was determined that the aircraft was not friendly, and certainly not (an Israeli) aircraft. The Air Force commander authorized the interception.”

Israeli Deputy Defense Minister Danny Danon told Army Radio, “We’re talking about another attempt by Hezbollah to send an unmanned drone into Israeli territory.” The IDF, however, has not yet confirmed Hezbollah’s involvement.

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said in a statement, “I see this attempt to cross into Israeli territory as a very serious issue. We will continue to do whatever is necessary to ensure the citizens of Israel remain safe.”

EU Parliament cancels Iran visit, criticized for not including meeting with human rights winners

( A European Parliament (EP) trip to Iran, which was criticized by the American Jewish Committee (AJC) for going forward despite Iran's refusal to allow the delegation to meet with two human rights prizewinners, has been canceled.

Tarja Cronberg of Finland, the chair of the parliament’s Delegation for Relations with Iran, said in a statement, “It has proved impossible for the Majlis to receive the delegation from the European Parliament on the dates proposed [May 2-6].”

In 2012, Iranian Lawyer Nasrin Sotoudeh and filmmaker Jafar Panahi were awarded the Sakharov Prize for Freedom of Thought. At that time, a planned EP delegation visit to Iran was canceled because the Iranian government refused to let the delegation meet with the two winners and give them their prize. This time around, the EP had dropped the requirement to meet with the two winners, allowing the visit to take place without the meeting, before the eventual cancelation.

“The simple fact is this trip should never have been considered in the first place,” Daniel Schwammenthal, director of the AJC Transatlantic Institute, said in a statement. “The mere suggestion of a desire to visit Iran only emboldens its repressive leadership and weakens those struggling for freedom. That is counter to the mission and values of the European Parliament.”

By removing the requirement to meet with the winners, the EP was “completely undermining the powerful human rights message that the award sent to Iran’s oppressive, internationally isolated leadership,” Schwammenthal previously said.
Rock-throwing Palestinian gets two life sentences for killing Israeli man and son
( Israel’s Ofer Base Military Court on Wednesday sentenced Waal al-Arja, a former officer in the Palestinian Authority’s security forces who was convicted of the 2011 murders of 30-year-old Asher Palmer and his year-old son Yonatan, to two consecutive life terms with an additional 58 years, Israel Hayom reported.

In early April, the court convicted Arja of two counts of murder for having thrown a rock at the Palmers’ car, causing it to crash, with fatal results. He was also convicted of 22 counts of attempted murder over a series of stone-throwing incidents on Route 60 in Judea and Samaria.

Arja drove up to Palmer’s car, which was traveling from Kiryat Arba to Jerusalem, and threw a large rock at it. The rock shattered Palmer’s windshield and hit him in the face, causing him to lose control of the vehicle, which swerved and overturned, landing on the side of the road. Palmer and his son were killed on impact.

Murder convictions in cases involving the stoning of cars traveling across Judea and Samaria are rare, but Military Judge Maj. Amir Dahan said that in Arja’s case the prosecution “proved that he had the intent and means to kill.”

Iran has crossed the nuclear red line, says former military intelligence chief Yadlin
( Former Israel Defense Forces military intelligence chief Maj.-Gen. (res.) Amos Yadlin believes that Iran has crossed the “red line” for nuclear enrichment established by Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu late last year.
“Despite all of the attempts made to stop the nuclear program, no one is able to stop the Islamic Republic’s nuclear program,” Yadlin said Tuesday at a Tel Aviv conference for the Institute for National Security Studies, which he heads, the Jerusalem Post reported.
Yadlin later clarified that if Iran continues its present path, it will definitively cross the red line later this year.
“If Iran continues to enrich uranium at its current rate, toward the end of the year it will cross the red line in a clear manner,” he said.
Netanyahu has defined that his red line for Iran would be the possession of 250kg of uranium enriched past the 20 percent mark. The International Atomic Energy Agency said in a report in February that Iran already possesses 167 kg of highly enriched uranium.
Meanwhile, Iran is also in the process of upgrading its main uranium enrichment facilities, in defiance of the international community. Technicians in Iran are installing new high-tech machines to replace the more than 12,000 older and more inefficient ones. The technicians have tripled installation of the machines in the past three months to 600, the Associated Press reported.
Professor finds possible ‘Lost Tribe of Israel’ in Papua New Guinea

(Israel Hayom/Exclusive to The scholar known internationally as the “British Indiana Jones” has tracked a tribal people identifying itself as a “Lost Tribe of Israel” in a remote corner of Papua New Guinea.

Florida International University religious studies professor Tudor Parfitt recently conducted an expedition to Papua New Guinea, where he studies the Gogodala, a tribe of former cannibals who believe they are one of the Lost Tribes, according to a Florida International University press release.

The Gogodala are now hunter-gatherers in western Papua New Guinea with very little connection to the outside world. But from the very first encounters with western explorers in the 17th century, the idea took root that ancient Israelite communities were to be found in the islands of the Pacific. Australian missionaries later went on to further propagate the idea.

A decade ago, at the request of tribe leaders, Parfitt conducted DNA testing on the Gogodala to see if he could establish any link to the Middle East. The tests were inconclusive. Nonetheless, the Gogodala have continued to embrace Judaism. During his most recent visit, Parfitt was surprised to see how the Jewish practice had developed in the tribe.

“The bedrock of the religious identity of the Gogodala remains in some respects, their traditional belief system, upon which has been grafted Christianity, which was introduced to the tribe in the 1950s by missionaries,” Parfitt said. “On top of that has been grafted a kind of Judaism. More and more of the Gogodala wear yarmulkes [kippot] and prayer shawls. They’ve started celebrating Jewish holidays and they are using more Hebrew.”

Family says Boston Marathon explosions suspect was interested in ‘Protocols of the Elders of Zion’
( The former brother-in-law of Boston Marathon explosions suspect Tamerlan Tsarnaev said in an interview that the bomber was interested in reading the anti-Semitic forgery The Protocols of the Elders of Zion.
“He never said he hated America or he hated the Jews,” Elmirza Khozhugov, Tamerlan’s ex-brother-in-law, told the Associated Press. “But he was fairly aggressive toward the policies of the U.S. toward countries with Muslim populations. He disliked the wars.”
The Protocols of the Elders of Zion is an anti-Semitic hoax, first published in Russia in 1903, that describes Jewish plans for global domination. The book became a favorite of anti-Semites and purportedly influenced Adolf Hitler’s views on the Jewish people.

Meanwhile, federal investigators are attempting to piece together how Tamerlan and his brother Dzhokhar became exposed to radical Islam.

According to interviews with family members, Tamerlan was possibly first exposed to radical Islam by an Armenian convert to Islam man named Misha, who may have attended the Islamic Society of Boston mosque in Cambridge, Mass., with Tamerlan.
“I heard about nobody else but this convert,” Tamerlan’s uncle, Ruslan Tsnari, told the Associated Press. “The seed for changing his views was planted right there in Cambridge.”
The head of the Boston-based advocacy and watchdog group Americans for Peace and Tolerance, Dr. Charles Jacobs, who has investigated Boston mosques for possible ties to radical Islamic preachers and groups for more than a decade, says the Islamic Society of Boston may have played a role in the radicalization of the Boston Marathon explosions suspects.
“We don’t know where these boys were radicalized, but this mosque has a curriculum that radicalizes people. Other people have been radicalized there,” Jacobs told USA Today.
Kidnapped Syrian Christian archbishops freed
( Two Syrian Christian archbishops have reportedly been freed after being kidnapped at gunpoint outside their home in Aleppo a day earlier, Al Jazeera reported.

Bishop Yohanna Ibrahim, head of the Syrian Orthodox Church in Aleppo, and Bishop Boulos Yaziji, head of the Greek Orthodox Church in Aleppo, the largest Christian denomination in Syria, were kidnapped after their driver was killed. The two Christian leaders were reportedly on a humanitarian mission at the time.

It is unclear who was behind the abduction. The rebels and the Syrian government blamed each other.
L’Oeuvre d’Orient, a Christian humanitarian and advocacy group that is active in Syria, also confirmed the archbishops’ release in a statement.
“While L’Oeuvre d’Orient rejoices at the news of their release, it deplores the murder of the driver,” the advocacy group said in a statement.
But despite the some reports of the archbishops being freed, the New York Times reported that the main Syrian rebel group, National Coalition of Revolutionary and Opposition Forces, said the archbishops are still being held.
Syrian Christians, who comprise 10 percent of Syria’s estimated population of 22 million, have been put into a difficult situation by the civil war. On one hand, many support the rebellion against Syrian President Bashar al-Assad. But at the same time, under Assad they were a protected minority. Many Christians fear that if Assad is overthrown and replaced by Islamists, they will face greater persecution.
Ben Gurion Airport guards may ask ‘suspicious’ tourists to open email accounts

( Foreign citizens visiting Israel may be asked to open their email accounts for airport security when they land at Ben Gurion Airport, the Israeli Attorney-General’s Office stated Wednesday in response to a petition by a leading Israeli civil rights group.

“The threat of using foreign citizens for terrorist purposes is a growing trend,” the Attorney-General’s Office warned, in a missive to the Association for Civil Rights in Israel, which had petitioned the Israeli Justice Ministry to overrule such security measures over concerns that they were invasive and against Israeli law. “Searching an email account is to be carried out in exceptional cases only after suspicious or pertinent information has been identified.”

Though the Israel Security Agency (Shin Bet) can request access to an email account before the passenger passes customs and leaves the airport, it cannot demand passwords or personal information that would allow the agency itself to access private accounts. Rather, Shin Bet staff may ask the traveler to open his or her account in the view of security personnel, who can then check emails for evidence that may be relevant to public or national security, wrote lawyer Nadim Avod on behalf of the Attorney-General’s Office.

In addition, the traveler can refuse to grant security personnel access to his or her personal email, but Shin Bet agents can then deny the traveler entry to Israel. Avod cited the law of entry to Israel, written in 1952, which states that a foreigner does not have the explicit right to enter the country.

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