Behind the News – June 2022
Jun 1, 2022 | AIJAC staff
ROCKET AND TERROR REPORT
No rockets were fired into Israel between April 26 and late May. A Hezbollah drone was shot down after flying into Israel from Lebanon on May 16.
The terror wave in Israel continued. On April 29, two Palestinians carried out a shooting attack in the settlement of Ariel, killing a security guard. They were later captured. On May 5, two Palestinians from a village near Jenin snuck into the Israeli city of Elad before killing three people and wounding four in an axe and knife attack. Both were later captured. On May 8, a Palestinian stabbed a border guard near Damascus gate in Jerusalem and was shot. There were numerous other attempted stabbings.
Several weapons smuggling attempts were also thwarted, and there were continuing counterterrorism raids and arrests throughout the West Bank, particularly around Jenin, the source of several recent terror attacks. A gun battle in Jenin during one such raid led to the death of Al Jazeera journalist Shireen Abu Akleh on May 11.
EUROPEAN PARLIAMENT CONDEMNS PALESTINIAN TEXTBOOKS
At a hearing on April 20, members of the European Parliament’s Committee on Budgetary Control, who were examining the content of Palestinian Authority (PA) educational materials, expressed shock and condemnation regarding the content of the PA Education Ministry’s new study cards. These cards were developed in response to the Parliament’s previous declaration that the PA’s existing textbooks were unacceptable due to their incitement and promotion of violence.
MEP Lukas Mandl stated, “It’s shocking to see that once again these educational materials propagate hatred. In no case should we be sending EU taxpayers’ money, that’s absolutely mad.”
In early May, the European Union announced an annual aid budget of €82 million (A$124m) to the United Nations Relief and Works Agency (UNRWA) for the period 2022-24. This represents a reduction of 40% on the previous three-year period.
ISRAEL-RUSSIA CLASH OVER NAZI CLAIMS
On May 5, Russian President Vladimir Putin reportedly apologised to Israeli Prime Minister Naftali Bennett for comments made by Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov on May 1 that suggested Jews were responsible for the Holocaust.
Asked on an Italian TV station why Russia needed to “denazify” Ukraine when the country’s President Volodymyr Zelensky is himself Jewish, Lavrov responded, “So what if Zelensky is Jewish? The fact does not negate the Nazi elements in Ukraine. I believe that Hitler also had Jewish blood. It means absolutely nothing… the most ardent antisemites are usually Jews.”
The comment sparked a furious reaction in Israel, prior to Bennett’s claim that Putin apologised.
RUSSIA FIRES AT ISRAELI PLANE DURING STRIKE ON SYRIA
Russian forces reportedly opened fire on Israeli jets with its advanced S-300 anti-aircraft system at the conclusion of an IAF bombing raid on targets near the north-western Syrian city of Masyaf on May 16. This was seen as a sign of a possible political shift or signal from Moscow, which had previously turned a blind eye to Israeli strikes on Iranian military targets in Syria. The raid marked the 12th Israeli attack on Syrian territory since the beginning of the year.
Later, reports said six Syrian soldiers were killed on May 20 when the Israeli military struck targets near Damascus.
CIVILIAN PROTESTS RESUME IN IRAN
Anti-regime protests across Iran resumed in May, this time following a spike in the cost of living, as Teheran fails to manage the economic impact of the war in Ukraine, and the Government also reduced subsidies on certain basic foodstuffs. Protesters shouted, “Neither Gaza nor Lebanon, I will give my life for Iran!”, “Death to the Dictator!” and other slogans against the regime. Government forces reacted with a heavy hand, firing live ammunition and tear gas at the demonstrators in numerous locations, killing at least three civilians, wounding and arresting dozens, and blocking internet access.
Meanwhile, following the Russian invasion of Ukraine, there has been a sharp drop in sales of Iranian oil to China, Iran’s main petroleum market due to US-led sanctions. Only some 250,000 barrels per day of Iranian oil were sold to China during April, down from almost one million in March. Beijing apparently prefers to buy Russian oil, which is cheaper because of the international sanctions on Moscow.
IRAN WEEKS AWAY FROM ENOUGH URANIUM FOR A BOMB
While negotiations for a new nuclear deal with Iran are stalled indefinitely, Israel’s Defence Minister Benny Gantz warned on May 17 that Teheran is a “few weeks” away from amassing enough fissile material for an atomic bomb. He also said that Iran is currently manufacturing and installing 1,000 advanced centrifuges, capable of enriching uranium many times faster than previous models, in a new underground facility at Natanz.
A week earlier, on May 10, the head of the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA), Rafael Grossi, said that the Iranians have not provided the IAEA with the information they promised for the agency’s investigation of suspected illegal nuclear activities detected at several locations throughout the country. Grossi told the European Parliament, “The situation does not look very good. Iran, for the time being, has not been forthcoming in the kind of information we need from them.”
IRGC OFFICER ASSASSINATED
Colonel Hassan Sayad Khodayari, a senior commander in Iran’s Islamic Revolutionary Guards Corps’ Quds Force, was assassinated on May 22 by several unidentified motorcycle riders who shot him outside his home in Teheran.
Reports allege that Khodayari was involved in attempted terror attacks against Israelis abroad, as well as in smuggling of weapons and missile guidance systems to Syria. Media speculation suggested Israel’s Mossad intelligence agency could have been responsible.
SAUDI ARABIA INVESTS IN ISRAELI STARTUPS
Saudi Arabia’s sovereign wealth fund has, for the first time, publicly invested in Israeli start-up companies, according to the Wall Street Journal.
The funding is part of a US$2 billion (A$ 2.81b) investment by the kingdom into Affinity Partners, the private-equity firm of Jared Kushner, the former senior White House advisor who had an influential role in brokering the 2020 Abraham Accords between Israel and four Arab countries.
In addition, on May 23 in Casablanca, Morocco, 13 memorandums of understanding were signed between Israeli and Moroccan officials in areas such as technology, agriculture and climate at a ‘Connect to Innovate’ forum.
Meanwhile, Turkish Foreign Minister Mevlut Cavusoglu visited Israel and the Palestinian territories in the last week of May – the first such visit by a senior Turkish official in 15 years, and a sign of improving ties between the two countries after many years of estrangement.
ISRAEL’S POPULATION REACHES 9.5 MILLION
On the eve of its 74th birthday, the population of Israel reached 9.5 million people, according to the Central Bureau of Statistics. Of those, some 7 million, or 74%, are Jews, 2 million are Muslim, Christian or Druze Arabs (21%) and nearly 478,000, or 5%, are neither Arab nor Jewish.
Israel’s population had increased by 1.9% over the past year, including 38,000 new arrivals. This was the highest number of immigrants in two decades, reflecting the impact of Russia’s invasion of Ukraine.
Stranger than Fiction
Who was that Masked Man?
Since World War II, German authorities have been at pains to try to demonstrate that their country has learned from the Holocaust, and Germans now understand the danger and ugliness of antisemitism. However, it appears that some staff from the German national airline Lufthansa didn’t get the memo.
On a May 4 flight from New York to Frankfurt carrying a large number of Hassidic Jews on a pilgrimage to a site in Hungary, a few passengers, both Jews and non-Jews, objected to or failed to comply with the airline’s COVID mask mandate.
When the pilgrims reached the boarding gate for the connecting flight to Hungary, they discovered that no one who looked visibly Jewish was being allowed on. When one Jewish passenger asked why, and why non-Jews from New York were being allowed on the flight, he was told, “Jewish people were the mess, who made the problems.”
Apparently, the staff were indifferent to the obvious fact that punishing or excluding all people of a certain ethnicity for the behaviour of a few of them is textbook racism – and this was an especially bad look for a German airline when the victims of this discrimination were Jews.
Lufthansa subsequently apologised for the fiasco, stating the staff behaviour had been inconsistent with its policies and values and that the ban should have been limited to non-compliant passengers rather than “the large group.”
However, this apology drew fire from the Anti-Defamation League (ADL), among others. The ADL described it as a non-apology, noting it referred to the Jewish passengers as a “group” even though many were complete strangers, and failed to identify the banned passengers as Jews.
The airline staff should surely have been able to identify and separate out the miscreants. After all, they were the one who weren’t wearing masks.