Wednesday, November 25, 2015

Russian missile cruiser (illustrative)

Russian Analyst Suggests Nuclear War with NATO

Wednesday, 25 November 2015 | At least one respected military analyst in Russia is suggesting that Moscow may have to engage in a nuclear war with the 28-nation NATO alliance. A counterpart in the West calls the language "nuclear brinkmanship."

Russian Su-24 fighter bomber (illustrative)

Syria: the World’s Most Contested Airspace

Wednesday, 25 November 2015 | The downing of a Russian Su-24 fighter bomber by Turkish Air Force F-16's, adjacent to the Turkish Syrian border on Tuesday, provided yet another example of the increasing complexity which has emerged as a result of the sheer number of combat aircraft operating above the failing state.

Meeting of Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu with US Secretary of State John Kerry in Jerusalem

Netanyahu to Kerry: There Will Be No Settlement Freeze

Wednesday, 25 November 2015 | In March 2014, US Secretary of State, John Kerry, touched down at Israel’s Ben Gurion International Airport for what he arguably hoped would be one of the most historic visits to the troubled region yet. After kick-starting direct negotiations between Israel and the Palestinians nine months earlier, Kerry embarked from the plane ready to meet with dignitaries from both sides ahead of the deadline for reaching an outline for a final peace agreement on 29 April 2014.

Surveillance cameras (illustrative)

Jerusalem’s Old City: Catching Terrorists in the Act

Wednesday, 25 November 2015 | The Jerusalem Police's Mabat 2000 unit operates some 400 security cameras all over the Old City. These cameras have documented many of the terror attacks that plagued the nation's capital in recent weeks, and these cameras have helped police track down the perpetrators who got away.

Tuesday, November 24, 2015

Magen David Adom (ambulance service) personnel assist elderly eyewitness after scissor attack at Jerusalem's open market.

Terror Returns to Jerusalem

Tuesday, 24 November 2015 | It was a typical Monday morning at Jerusalem’s bustling open-air market. Locals were wandering the streets and alleyways lined with displays of fresh produce to stock up on groceries for the week. Friends and business associates filled the coffee shops and restaurants, their chatter spilling out onto the sidewalks. Commuters hurried to the train stop close by or idly waited for the next bus to arrive.

Then terror struck.

Shortly before noon, cousins Hadil Wajiya Awad and Norhin Awad, two Palestinian schoolgirls aged 14 and 16, each pulled out a pair of scissors and viciously stabbed a 70-year-old man right outside the teeming market. 

Video footage released later yesterday captured the terrifying moments of the attack.

Hadil and Norhin are seen brandishing their identical weapons. As their unsuspecting target walks into the frame, the two young cousins pounce. The elderly victim takes a few steps back and holds up his hands to ward off the attack, but the girls show no mercy.

Both sport white traditional Muslim head coverings and long, flowing shirts. Tight jeans complete the terrorists’ ensemble.

Moments after the first blow security personnel arrive on the scene and the first shots are fired. In a matter of seconds the vicious attack is over. Hadil lays dead. Norhin sustains moderate injuries.

Their elderly victim, Yussuf Alharoub, suffers from slight stab wounds in his upper body. In an ironic twist, Alharoub is not Jewish but rather a Palestinian from Bethlehem.     

“I thank God it ended this way,” Alharoub told Ynet. “Both the Jews and the Palestinians are suffering because of what's happening now and no one benefits.”

Yesterday’s attempted carnage at the market was but one of the horrific episodes of terror that have rocked Israel in the past two days.

Mere hours after the two young cousins’ attack, an apparent vehicular attack occurred in Samaria. Shortly afterwards, a terrorist attempted to stab a soldier at the entrance to the city of Nablus. The terrorist was killed. 

Then late yesterday afternoon, a Palestinian terrorist stabbed a 20-year-old Israeli soldier, Ziv Mizrahi, to death at a gas station on the road between Jerusalem and Tel Aviv. According to reports, the terrorist struck Mizrahi as the latter exited his vehicle. A security officer subsequently shot and killed the terrorist.

Sunday was an equally horrific day, when three separate terror attacks ended in one injury as well as the death of an Israeli women who was fatally stabbed just outside Jerusalem.

Over the past two months, Israelis have been forced to steel themselves against a bloody wave of terror tearing at the fabric at everyday life. According to the Israeli Defense Forces (IDF), 21 people have been killed in 74 stabbings, 10 shootings and 12 car ramming attacks—all within the last seven weeks. Some 189 have been wounded, 20 of them seriously.

At the beginning of October, the attacks were concentrated in the greater Jerusalem area. But as the month wore on and later bled into November, the terror shifted to Judea, Samaria and other locations in Israel. Residents of Israel’s capital, it seemed, were given a bit of a breather from the reign of violence.

Yet yesterday morning, as two Palestinian schoolgirls with murder in their hearts armed themselves and made their way to the market in search of victims, terror returned to Jerusalem.

Russian President Putin and Supreme Leader Ali Khamenei meet in Tehran

Russia and Iran Huddle in Tehran

Tuesday, 24 November 2015 | While the Western world reels in the wake of ISIS terrorism and the threat of more attacks to come, Russia and Iran have huddled in Tehran.

Yesterday, Russian President Vladimir Putin descended to the tarmac in the Islamic Republic's capital. Photos of subsequent meetings with Iran's President Hassan Rouhani and the country's 'Supreme Leader,' Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, positively glow.

One reason for the radiation of good will was Putin's announcement that, in advance of international sanctions being lifted, Russia was resuming its export of nuclear technology to Iran. What's more, Putin promised, Russia will help Iran export its stockpile of enriched uranium as required by an imminent global agreement that will allow Tehran to maintain its weapons-grade nuclear program, if not all of its explosive byproducts.

Another happy gift from Moscow was a 5 billion dollar line of credit. Its purpose, Putin pronounced, was for 25 Russian-defined projects in different fields of energy, construction and telecommunications."

After separate meetings with Khamenei and Rouhani, Putin said, "We had detailed conversations on the full range of our relations in the economy." Another key topic was "coordination [in] the international arena and fighting international terrorism."

On the latter matter, read Syria and Islamic State, also known as ISIS or IS.

According to the Israeli intelligence news service, DEBKA, "Syria dominated the agenda as [both] countries tighten military cooperation in support of embattled Syrian President Bashar Assad."

But the meetings indicated more than strategic cooperation. Language from both sides indicated partnership.

According to Rouhani, the afterglow of Iran's international negotiations to maintain its nuclear program have created a new "environment" for Russia and Iran. Accordingly, he said, it has presented "a good opportunity to develop ties and cooperation between the two countries."

According to Putin's counterpart, this cooperation is for "regional and international issues."

These issues, Rouhani said, "should be used to the benefit of the two nations (Russia and Iran)." Their joint objective, he added, is "establishment of peace and security in the region and the world."

Neither Putin nor Rouhani stated a specific vision for "peace and security in the region and the world." Their basis for offering it, however, is the global threat posed by ISIS.

Putin expanded on Russia's commitment to fighting ISIS with Iran as its partner.

Answering a question about operations in Syria, Putin explained that Russia's military presence there is "a complex operation involving major satellite support and various air force resources. These include attack planes, bombers, strategic missile-carrying bombers, fighter jets that are covering them, and two fleet groupings in the Caspian and Mediterranean seas, including missile carriers which are striking from the Caspian Sea basin.

"Naturally," Putin added, "all this is done in agreement with our Iranian partners; I think it would simply be impossible without their participation."

For his part, the Ayatollah Khamenei, who regularly declares infidels to be his country's enemies, was effusive in praise of Putin, an atheist.

"Mr. Putin is an outstanding figure in today world," he tweeted yesterday. "I appreciate #Russia’s efforts in [the] nuclear issue."

Asserting "no trust in [the] US," Khamenei praised Putin for "neutralizing" US policy. Ostensibly the reference was to Syria, but it could also have included Iran's nuclear program.

"Moscow's leaders and measures [in] Syria [have] led to improvement of [the] regional and global position of Russia and Mr. Putin himself," Khamenei concluded.

In the end yesterday, Russia and Iran signed no less than seven "Memorandums of Understanding." They included mutual travel agreements, development of an electric railway system, financial lines of credit, nuclear technology and, of course, oil and gas.

As Persian and Russian leaders broke from their huddle in Tehran, everyone was beaming.

Israelis Create Material That Heals Itself like Human Skin

24 November 2015 | Researchers at the Technion in Haifa have developed a new platform that is sensitive to touch and flexible, which also repairs itself automatically in the event of damage such as scratches or cuts.

The research, carried out at the Technion's chemical engineering faculty and Russell Berrie Nanotechnology Institute, was published in the leading journal Advanced Materials.

Researchers at the Technion say that the platform has sensors which are sensitive to pressure, heat and volatile particles. Its potential uses include electronic skin, which can simulate human skin and continuously monitor the health of the person it is attached to; touch screens that can maintain transparency for long periods; transistors in electrical circuits that can permanently monitor for and correct flaws; and more.

Dr. Tan-Phat Huynh, one of the researchers at the Technion, and Prof. Hossam Haick, head of one of the labs at the Institute, explained in their research paper: "Our development is based on new types of synthetic polymers with controlled electrical and chemical properties."

They also said that its automatic healing properties meant that the material could repair itself fully within 10 to 30 minutes of being damaged.

"The self-repair function can occur in any part of the material, so anywhere that the platform is ‘injured,’ it can renew itself. This way full repair can take place while it continues to function under varying temperatures, pressure and while exposed to volatile particles," Prof. Haick said.

Experiments conducted during the research showed that throughout half a year of continuous functioning, including random "injuries" to the platform, it lost less than 10 percent of its sensitivity level.

This sign reads, "We want Pollard free"

Setting Captives Free

Tuesday, 24 November 2015 | Some years ago I had the opportunity to visit Rome and, while there, we organized a private tour of the Vatican. Little did I know that other than entering the epicenter of Catholicism and all the history (and art) that goes with it, I’d be taking a step back nearly 2,000 years in Jewish history. While on our tour we were taken into a room that’s off the beaten path containing an exhibit of ancient stone tablets. At first, I thought, “seen one ancient stone tablet, seen them all.” 

But these stones took me back 2,000 years to when Jewish slaves were being brought to Rome from Judea (Israel), and made me witness to a biblical tradition in practice then and still relevant today. These tablets were contracts of sale of Jewish slaves to other Jewish residents/citizens of Rome. It was explained this was the proactive effort of Jews in Rome to redeem these captured slaves, to buy their freedom.

Throughout Jewish history, going back to Genesis 14: 14 – 16, it has been a biblical imperative to redeem captives. This doesn't refer to an average criminal held for his crime but to one held unjustly. This makes it a religious duty to bring about the release of a fellow Jew captured by slave dealers or robbers, or imprisoned unjustly by the authorities.

Before my eyes, these ancient contracts bore witness to that obligation and our history.

I had my own personal experience redeeming captives in my day as well. In the 80s I was deeply involved in the struggle to free Jews in the Soviet Union, a modern enslavement of my people with historical and biblical precedent. Click here to see more on this experience. 

Like many things in Jewish life there's a debate over how and when to exercise this obligation. There’s the story of Rabbi Meir of Rothenburg was who was taken captive and held for ransom, but who famously instructed his community not to pay the ransom because to do so would put other Jewish lives at risk in the future.

There’s a modern debate over releasing Arab terrorists in exchange for Israeli prisoners, something that happens too often and opens vast wounds of the survivors and families of victims of the terrorists being released. There’s also the notion that by releasing Arab terrorists, one makes the taking of other Jewish captives in the future more profitable.

I was reminded of this recently when Jonathan Pollard a former US Navy analyst was released on parole after 30 years in prison. He is not completely free yet, and many limitations are being placed on his life including reportedly the prevention from travel, strict curfew, and prohibition to use the Internet. But this is the beginning of the righting of a huge injustice and should be celebrated.

Pollard was arrested as a spy for Israel. He admitted to this and passing along US intelligence to Israeli sources particularly about the threat then of Iraq’s nuclear program. He entered a plea bargain with US authorities which the government violated after then Secretary of Defense Casper Weinberger provided the court a document that remains secret allegedly attesting to the damage Pollard did to US security. That his lawyers with the highest security clearance have not had the right to see these secret charges submitted after the plea bargain makes the process all the more suspect and unjust.

Despite his plea agreement Pollard was sentenced to life, an unprecedented term for any spy even from a hostile country, and all the more so from an ally. One might say allies should not spy on one another but let's be real, this happens all the time. Nevertheless Pollard’s case was one of a man being arrested as a spy, but being held to a different standard, his rights repeatedly violated, and sentenced as a Jew.

He's been a political pawn ever since with successive US presidents holding out clemency or a pardon as a carrot on a stick to coax Israel into a peace negotiation under US terms.

Many people have rallied around Pollard, fighting for his freedom for decades. Many American Jews have shunned Pollard because of the discomfort of being accused of dual loyalty.

At the time he was arrested I was finishing college and the CIA [Central Intelligence Agency] and NSA [National Security Agency] somehow tapped me to consider a career at these important federal agencies. But Pollard’s case weighed heavily on me at the time. After several collective interviews I decided these were not jobs for a nice Jewish boy, that I didn't want to be put in a situation of conflict of interest, and I didn't want to be in a case of being a federal employee looked at with suspicion as a Jew and under a separate microscope. So one day I just didn't show up for the next interview or aptitude test, and my unborn career in a US intelligence agency ended.

Though my personal activism relating to freeing Jonathan Pollard was virtually nothing compared to that of Soviet Jews, fortunately a dedicated group of others worked relentlessly and never gave up. In recent years a growing number of former US military, diplomatic, and intelligence officials came to Pollard’s aid by declaring that his sentence was unjust and it was long overdue that he be released.

Fortunately, after his release on November 20, Jonathan Pollard was able to spend his first Shabbat and his first weekend outside prison in three decades.

When I lived in the US I was friends with and sat in synagogue next to one of the people who will go down in my history book at epitomizing the imperative of redeeming captives. He is one of Pollard’s attorneys who has spent years working on his behalf to make this milestone possible. Also noteworthy he worked pro bono. He never took a dime. Over the years, we spoke about Pollard and his case often. I sympathized and admired his perseverance.

After I helped get my adopted family free from the Soviet Union, my rabbi’s wife was elated and asked what blessing we make on fulfilling this biblical mandate. Jewish tradition is that we make a blessing after an action related to most such commandments and even acts of nature, to remind us that nothing happens without God’s fingerprint. So we seek to affirm this and glorify Him through such acknowledgement. Neither of us knew what blessing I should make. So she checked into it. It turns out, when it comes to redeeming captives, there is no blessing because we are not to derive personal benefit from others’ tragedies.

Such is the case of my friend and the many others who worked tirelessly on behalf of Jonathan Pollard, not for personal recognition, not for profit, but just for good. Today they can hang their hats on having helped redeem one captive, a person held in prison for decades because he is a Jew and as a political pawn. God knows they did it and that's good enough. But as I wrote my friend before Pollard’s release, he should pour himself an extra full glass of wine and toast himself because he embodies a Jewish tradition going back thousands of years, literally etched in stone in a side room in the Vatican.

Friday, November 20, 2015

Ezra Schwartz, 18, one of five killed in terrorist attack

In Israel, 5 Civilians Murdered in a Single Day

Friday, 20 November 2015 | Five civilians were killed in two terrorist attacks in Tel Aviv and the West Bank on Thursday in the deadliest day of terror yet to strike the country during the current violent escalation began in October.

Eitam and Naama Henkin murdered in front of their four children (illustrative)

PA Brags: Only Parents Murdered, not Children

Friday, 20 November 2015 | Yesterday one Palestinian terrorist murdered two Israelis in a stabbing attack in Tel Aviv. Hours later another terrorist near Gush Etzion murdered three civilians with an Uzi. One of the prime motivators of the current wave of terror attacks is that Palestinian Authority [PA] leadership is giving its support and blessings to the terror by justifying and honoring the killers. Palestinian Media Watch has repeatedly documented this conduct.