Gantz: US Remains Close Ally
AMID IRON DOME FUNDING SPAT, GANTZ SAYS US REMAINS ISRAEL’S CLOSEST ALLY: Defense Minister Benny Gantz indicated last week that a Congressional decision to nix funding for the Iron Dome missile defense system would not seriously affect defense ties between Israel and the United States.
Speaking publicly about the highly touted relationship between the allies for the first time since Democrats temporarily took $1 billion earmarked to restock interceptor missiles off the table this week, Gantz said that the countries’ ties would remain strong. “Our alliance with the United States is the result of deep security ties, which are based on common security interests and above all on shared values,” Gantz said. “That’s how it has been and that’s how it will continue to be.” The defense minister’s comments came two days after a group of progressive Democrats in the US Congress successfully lobbied their party leadership to nix a $1 billion earmark to fund Israel’s Iron Dome from a bill funding the US federal government. While the Iron Dome funding has since been introduced in Congress as a separate bill and is widely expected to pass, the incident has raised questions about the future of Democratic Party support for the State of Israel. (TOI / VFI News)
TIME FOR ACTION AGAINST IRANIAN NUKES: Israeli Prime Minister Naftali Bennett will use his address at the United Nations General Assembly session Monday to focus on Iran’s atomic aspirations and its support for terrorism, and less on the Israel-Palestinian conflict, an official close to the prime minister said Sunday, September 26.
Speaking with journalists Sunday afternoon, the official said that Bennett himself penned his address, set to be delivered at the UN General Assembly tomorrow. The address highlights both Iran’s efforts to speed up its uranium enrichment program, as well as the terrorist war it is waging against Israel via proxies like Hezbollah and other terror groups. “Dialogue is important, but this is the time primarily for actions,” Bennett wrote in his upcoming address. Bennett also devoted a segment of his address to the coronavirus pandemic, and how he believes Israel can serve as an example of how to avoid further lockdowns, using practical solutions such as the COVID vaccine. The address also highlights the Abraham Accords, and argues that additional peace agreements between Israel and moderate Arab states will lead to ‘a new spirit’ across the Middle East. The general message of the address, the source said, is optimism about Israel’s future, leaning heavily both on the expansion of the Abraham Accords and Israel’s avoidance of further lockdowns against the COVID pandemic. The Israeli-Palestinian conflict, on the other hand, will receive less attention in the prime minister’s address, the official said Sunday. “The Palestinian issue is another subject, one of many issues, which the State of Israel is dealing with, but it is not the primary issue.” Bennett, the official added, will not directly respond to Palestinian Authority chief Mahmoud Abbas’ UN address. “People would be better off trying to help their people and not obsessing over Israel.” The official added that Bennett is staunchly opposed to the formation of a Palestinian state and that there are no plans to resume final status talks with the PA. (INN/ VFI News)
UKRAINE PASSES NEW LAW DEFINING CONCEPT OF ANTISEMITISM: Ukraine’s parliament on Wednesday, September 22, passed a law defining the concept of antisemitism and establishing punishment for transgressions.
An estimated 0.2% of Ukraine’s 41 million population is Jewish and there have been isolated cases of antisemitism since independence in 1991. Its pre-war Jewish population of about 1.5 million was virtually wiped in the Nazi Holocaust. “The lack of a clear definition of antisemitism in Ukrainian legislation does not allow for the proper classification of crimes committed on its basis,” the law’s authors said. “In practice, this leads to the actual impunity of offenders,” they said. The law, passed in the final reading by 283 votes with the required minimum of 226, defines antisemitism as hatred of Jews and bans it. Its manifestation can be directed at Jews as well as their property, religious buildings or communities. It did spell out punishments but allows victims to claim compensation for material and moral damage. To enter into force, the law must be signed by President Volodymyr Zelensky. The president’s parents were Jewish and he has said he lost relatives in the Holocaust. (JPost / VFI News)
CHRISTIANS, RELIGIOUS MINORITIES IN AFGHANISTAN NOW FACE GREATER DANGER UNDER TALIBAN RULE: The highly criticized United States withdrawal from Afghanistan leaves local Christians and many other religious minority groups fearful following the Taliban takeover of the country.
Before the Taliban took control over Afghanistan, the country ranked second on an annual report of countries where Christians face the most extreme persecution released by Open Doors. The international NGO advocating on behalf of persecuted Christians, also found that there was a 60% increase globally of Christians being killed for faith-related reasons in 2020 up from 2019. The March for the Martyrs, the first large-scale march in U.S. history to stand in solidarity with Christians around the world, will be hosted in the nation’s capital this year. The march, hosted by For the Martyrs, has moved from Long Beach, California, amid the current situation in Afghanistan to raise further awareness. The founding president of For the Martyrs, Gia Chacon, said that it couldn’t be better timing that the march will be held in D.C., sharing “everyone’s been paying attention to what’s been going on in Afghanistan … the reports of Christians who are now hunted down … killed for their faith.” (Fox / VFI News)
AFTER KHAMENEI’S ANTI-ISRAEL TIRADE, ATHLETES WANT IOC TO SUSPEND IRAN: The executive manager of United for Navid, an Iranian-run sports organization advancing the human rights of Iranian athletes, filed on Tuesday a formal letter of protest with the International Olympic Committee (IOC), arguing that the Islamic Republic should be suspended from the IOC because Supreme Leader Ali Khamenei urged discrimination against Israeli athletes.
Sardar Pashaei, a former head coach of Iran’s Greco-Roman wrestling team, the executive manager of United for Navid, wrote to the IOC’s President Thomas Bach that a video of Khamenei’s anti-Israel speech is “ further proof [of] Iran’s grievous violations of the Olympic and Paralympic Charters.” Attached to the letter was a video of Khamenei from September 17, in which he meets with Iranian Olympic and Paralympic athletes who won medals at the 2021 Tokyo Olympics. Pashaei wrote: “As you can see, the Supreme Leader of the Islamic Republic once again firmly instructs Iranian athletes as well as Iranian sports officials that they are forbidden from competing or interacting in any way with athletes from the so-called ‘Israeli criminal regime.’ The Supreme Leader also instructs senior Iranian sports officials to support non-Iranian athletes from other countries who refuse to compete with Israeli athletes, including an Algerian athlete who refused to compete with an Israeli athlete at the Tokyo Olympics.” (JPost / VFI News)
IRANIAN WITNESS TO TORTURE OF WRESTLER NAVID AFKARI KILLED: A witness to the sustained torture of champion Iranian wrestler Navid Afkari died under mysterious circumstances in solitary confinement on Tuesday, September 21, in Greater Tehran Prison, according to his family.
The US government media outlet Radio Farda reported on the death of Shahin Naseri and said it obtained his latest audio message from inside the prison. Naseri said he was an “eyewitness to medieval torture” of Afkari. He announced his “solidarity” with Navid’s brothers, Vahid and Habib, who are incarcerated, “because of the baseless hatred and baseless accusations against the citizens of Iran and the violation of the most basic citizenship rights” by the Islamic Republic. Naseri said he was “disgusted” and “demands the revocation of his citizenship of this regime.” He accused regime officials of “grand thefts” and called on the Iranian people to “support” the protests of citizens in Khuzestan, Sistan and Kurdistan, and to “stand up for them.” The Iranian-American human rights expert and activist Lawdan Bazargan said “the sudden death of Shahin Naseri, a witness to the torture of Navid Afkari, Iranians’ beloved champion who was unjustly executed last year, was unexpected but not surprising. The Islamic Republic of Iran [IRI] is a mafia regime that kills and eliminates its opponents and people who do not fall in line with its oppressive measures, to stay in power.” (JPost / VFI News)
FAMILY MARKS 2,000 DAYS SINCE BRITISH WOMAN JAILED IN IRAN FIRST ARRESTED: The husband of detained UK charity worker Nazanin Zaghari-Ratcliffe appeals to the British government to be brave in its dealings with Iran as the family marked 2,000 days since her arrest there.
Richard Ratcliffe and the couple’s 7-year-old daughter Gabriella stand on top of a snakes and ladders game board in Parliament Square, symbolizing the dilemma of being caught between two governments. Zaghari-Racliffe is one of several people with British or dual-British nationality now being held there. “It’s 2,000 days of ups and downs and twists and turns and false dawns, and snakes and ladders seemed to encapsulate that because we’re in the middle of a game between two governments, we’re just a bargaining chip in it,” he says. The Foreign Office insists that the case is a priority for Liz Truss, who recently took over as foreign secretary. She raised the case before her Iranian counterpart yesterday. “The government needs to be brave and just start doing things that will cause a rethink amongst those in charge of Iran’s hostage-taking action,” Ratcliffe says. (TOI / VFI News)
JEWS ON SPANISH ISLAND GET FIRST ‘PUBLIC’ SUKKAH: Before the Spanish Inquisition, the island of Mallorca had a sizable Jewish community. Every fall, the island became dotted with the leaf-roofed huts that Jews are commanded to erect during the holiday of Sukkot.
But that all changed under the Inquisition’s campaign of persecution that began in 1488 (four years before it started on Spain’s mainland) and was only officially abolished centuries later in 1834. This year, however, the island’s tiny Jewish community in the capital Palma is determined to reintroduce its Sukkot tradition with a public statement. Ahead of the holiday this week, the Jewish community along with the municipality of Palma have erected what organizers are calling the island’s first “public” sukkah since the Inquisition, situated in the city’s former Jewish Quarter. “It’s one of several firsts for the Jews of Mallorca, and it’s especially meaningful because it restores something from this community’s past,” said Dani Rotstein, founder of Limud Mallorca and secretary of the Jewish Community of the Balearic Islands. A tourism and video production professional from New Jersey, he has led efforts to promote Mallorca’s Jewish community since he moved there in 2014. (INN / VFI News)
The suggestions, opinions and scripture references made by VFI writers and editors are based on the best information received.
Blessings from Jerusalem,
Barry Segal with the Editorial Staff