UN Lobbies EU Against Israel
UN APPEALS TO EU OVER ISRAELI PALESTINIAN NGO TERROR DESIGNATION: Nine UN human rights special “reporters” have appealed to the EU to pressure Israel to rescind its designation of six Palestinian NGOs as terror organizations.
In a letter published over the weekend, the nine investigators asked EU foreign policy chief Josep Borrell to set a time frame for Israel to provide evidence of the terrorist activity. “Demand that Israel publicly present, within a short and defined time frame, concrete and credible evidence that the six Palestinian organizations are, and operate as, terrorist organizations,” the investigators wrote. “Demand that, if Israel fails to present such evidence… it should fully and publicly withdraw its allegations and the designations without delay.” Last week, a delegation of local diplomats from 10 EU countries visited the NGOs in Ramallah, led by EU representative Sven Kühn von Burgsdorff. Borrell and a number of EU member states have publicly expressed skepticism over the terror designation, but the EU has not taken a more active stance on the matter. UN High Commissioner for Human Rights Michelle Bachelet spoke virtually about the issue at a special UN event in New York on Tuesday, December 14. She said that without such evidence the decision to target the six NGOs appears “arbitrary” and can “legitimately be viewed as an attack on human rights defenders.” The six Palestinian organizations Israel designated in October as terror organizations were: Al-Haq, Addameer, Bisan Center, Defense for Children International-Palestine, Union of Agricultural Work Committees and Union of Palestinian Women’s Committees. Those who signed the letter include Canadian Michael Lynk, special “reporter” on the situation of human rights in the Palestinian territories, and Irene Khan, special “reporter” on the promotion and protection of the right to freedom of opinion and expression. (JPost / VFI News)
[In 2016, the Canadian government condemned Lynk’s appointment to Special Rapporteur based on Lynk’s long history of anti-Israel activities.]
2015 NUCLEAR DEAL NO LONGER SUFFICIENT FOR REALITY OF IRAN IN 2022: The head of the United Nations nuclear watchdog warned Tuesday, December 14, that the restrictions faced by his inspectors in Iran threaten to give the world only a “very blurred image” of Tehran’s program as it enriches uranium closer than ever to weapons-grade levels.
Speaking in a wide-ranging interview to The Associated Press, Rafael Mariano Grossi said he wanted to tell Iran that there was “no way around” his inspectors at the International Atomic Energy Agency if the Islamic Republic wanted to be “a respected country in the community of nations.” “We have to work together,” Grossi said from a luxury hotel in Abu Dhabi, the capital of the United Arab Emirates, after he visited that country’s first nuclear power plant. “They must work together. I will make sure they understand that in us they will have a partner.” Grossi’s insistence that the Vienna-based International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) remained “an auditor” for the world came as negotiations faltered in Vienna to revive Tehran’s tattered nuclear deal. Hours earlier, the chief of Iran’s civilian nuclear program insisted his country would refuse the agency access to a sensitive centrifuge assembly plant. That plant in Karaj came under what Iran describes as a sabotage attack in June. Tehran blamed the assault on Israel amid a widening regional shadow war since former United States President Donald Trump unilaterally withdrew America from Iran’s landmark nuclear accord with world powers. Iran has since refused the IAEA access to replace cameras damaged in the incident. Grossi dismissed as “simply absurd” an Iranian allegation that saboteurs used the IAEA’s cameras in the attack on the Karaj centrifuge site. Tehran has offered no evidence to support the claim, though it’s another sign of the friction between inspectors and Iran. Since the nuclear deal’s collapse, Tehran has started enriching uranium up to 60 percent purity — a short technical step from weapons-grade levels of 90%. The deal limited enrichment to 3.67%, enough to be used in a power plant. The nation’s stockpile of enriched uranium grows every day far beyond the scope of the 2015 accord, which saw Tehran agree to limit its nuclear program in exchange for the lifting of economic sanctions. It also spins ever-more advanced centrifuges also barred by the deal. Iran’s mission to the United Nations did not immediately respond to a request for comment on Grossi’s remarks. In Vienna, however, anxiety is growing among European nations at the negotiating table. The US has remained outside of direct talks since abandoning the accord. (TOI / VFI News)
ENEMIES OF ISRAEL IN POWER IN BERLIN AND BRUSSELS: Difficult times are ahead for the relationship between Jerusalem and Berlin and Brussels. While a series of anti-Semitism scandals rock German public broadcasters and a new government with a history of opposing Israel comes to power, the European Union and Germany continue to fund NGOs related to the Muslim Brotherhood and Hamas.
Berlin’s Green Party’s Heinrich Böll Foundation funds a number of NGOs with ties to the PFLP, as NGO Monitor has documented extensively. Unfortunately, the Greens have shown no inclination to drop their old 1960s allies at the PFLP. In fact, when Israel recently announced it was designating six PFLP-tied NGOs as terror groups, including those with links to the murder of Rina Shnerb on Aug. 23, 2019, Green MEPs in Brussels signed a letter this week to EU High Representative for Foreign Affairs Josep Borrell “to publicly and explicitly condemn these designations, which are the culmination of years of smear campaigns and attacks by Israel against Palestinian civil society, aimed at silencing and undermining their critical work promoting and ensuring respect for human rights and international law in the occupied Palestinian territory.“ So reads the letter by Danish Green MP Margrete Auken. The German Social Democrat Party (SPD) of fresh-baked chancellor Olaf Scholz also has a problematic history of supporting left-wing anti-Israel NGOs. When then-Foreign Minister Sigmar Gabriel (SPD) visited Israel 2017, he planned his first call to radical NGOs “B’Tselem” and “Breaking the Silence,” offending Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and causing him to cancel their meeting. Gabriel had called Israel an “Apartheid State” in 2012. Like the Greens, the SPD also has a troubling record of supporting the regime in Teheran. On January 14, 2020, Foreign Ministry State Secretary Niels Annen (SPD) met with Iranian Foreign Minister Javid Zarif in New Delhi, less than a week after the January 8 downing of Ukrainian flight PS752 by the Revolutionary Guards, with 176 dead. Gabriel, Annen and the new Green Foreign Minister Annalena Baerbock are all members of the European Council on Foreign Relations, which calls the presence of Jews in Judea and Samaria an “occupying power” and “apartheid state” and supports the boycott of Jews in Area C. ECFR receives EU funding (2019: €29,930) and exerts enormous influence over Israel policy in Berlin and Brussels. On Oct. 26, the SPD nominated the first Muslim vice-president of the German Bundestag in the person of former SPD co-chair Aydan Özoguz, whose brothers run an Islamist website called Muslim Market, which supports the boycott of Israel and has been under observation by the German secret service for anti-Semitism since 2004. Özoguz is close to several groups related to the Muslim Brotherhood (MB), including the “Central Council of Muslims” and “Islamic Relief,” which is banned in Israel for its ties to MB and Hamas. However, the EU and German government continue to support “Islamic Relief” even after a series of anti-Semitism scandals in 2020, which eventually caused the entire board of “Islamic Relief Worldwide” (IR-W) to step down in same week as the London Times exposed anti-Semitic posts made by IR-W head Heshmat Khalifa, the EU awarded a fresh grant of €1.25 million to IR-W in July 2020. According to the EU Financial Transparency System, IR-W has received €33.77 million in taxpayer Euros since 2007. While most German politicians were silently disappearing from the “Islamic Relief Germany” (IR-D) website, the German government’s Society for International Collaboration (GIZ) actually increased their funding, to €120,227. The city of Berlin gave IR-D €135,000 for a “Muslim Help Hotline”. IR-D called 2020 its “most successful year ever”, with donations up €5 million from €16.4 million 2019 to €21.4 million 2020. (INN / VFI News)
ISRAELI AIRSTRIKES TARGETED CHEMICAL WEAPONS FACILITIES IN SYRIA: Alleged Israeli airstrikes in June targeted three chemical weapons facilities in Syria. The June 8 airstrikes that targeted the three military targets near Damascus and Homs killed seven soldiers including a Syrian colonel who worked at a top-secret military lab, according to the report.
The officer, identified as Ayham Ismail, was reportedly stationed at a chemical weapons manufacturing facility in Masyaf as a military engineer. The alleged Israeli airstrikes, which in the past have targeted pro-Iranian militias – Iranian proxies – based in Syria, were deemed unusual due to their targeting of Syrian military facilities. The strikes were reportedly part of an Israeli campaign to halt attempts by Syria to restart its production of chemical weapons before any weapons could be made, two intelligence officers told the Post. A strike on an existing stockpile of nerve agents, or nerve gasses, could release dangerous and lethal gasses to nearby Syrian towns and villages in the area. Israel ordered the airstrikes after intelligence reports suggested Syria was rebuilding its chemical weapons capabilities and after its military successfully imported a chemical that can be used to make sarin gas, four Western intelligence officers said. Israeli officials declined to comment on the attacks. Syrian officials have denied using or making chemical weapons since 2013. (JPost / VFI News)
ISRAELI RESEARCHERS AND PHYSICIANS HAVE ENGINEERED AN OUTER EAR IMPLANT FOR CHILDREN WITH BIRTH DEFECTS: A tiny minority of infants – 1 to 10 per 10,000 births – are born without an outer ear (auricle). For them and their parents, the congenital disfigurement called microtia is a catastrophe. The birth defect that occurs when the external ear fails to develop normally, and as a result, is small and improperly formed. Occasionally, besides the aesthetic issue, microtia also involves hearing loss.
Since the “bones” of the outer ear are in fact flexible cartilage and not bone tissue, the customary technique for microtia reconstruction is to use costal cartilage harvested from the patient’s costal cartilage — which prolongs the ribs forward and contributes to the elasticity of the walls of the thorax. But this method involves pain and discomfort as well as a risk of further complications. In addition, constructing an ear that is identical to the other one depends on both the surgeon’s creativity and high-level surgical skills. But now, researchers at the Technion-Israel Institute of Technology in Haifa and Sheba Medical Center at Tel Hashomer (near Tel Aviv) have developed an efficient technology for the fabrication of custom-made functional aesthetic implants for the rehabilitation of congenitally deformed ears. The Israeli researchers’ breakthrough has just been reported in the journal Biofabrication under the title “Human-engineered auricular reconstruction (hEAR) by 3D-printed molding with human-derived auricular and costal chondrocytes and adipose-derived mesenchymal stem cells.” It was achieved through a collaborative project between Prof. Shulamit Levenberg of the Technion’s Faculty of Biomedical Engineering and Dr. Shay Izhak Duvdevani, a senior physician in the otorhinolaryngology head and neck surgery department and head of the tissue engineering lab at Sheba Medical Center. The unique scaffold, which allows for the formation of an aesthetic and stable auricle, is 3D-printed and based on computerized tomography (CT) scan. It is biodegradable and forms chondrocytes – the cells responsible for cartilage formation – and mesenchymal stem cells. The scaffold has pores of varying sizes, allowing for cell attachment to form stable cartilage. (i365 / VFI News)
ISRAELI WHO LOST BOTH HANDS AT AGE 13 TAKES GOLD AT WORLD PARA TAEKWONDO CHAMPIONSHIPS: Israeli competitor Assaf Yasur won a gold medal on Saturday, December 11, at the World Para Taekwondo Championships, held in Istanbul.
Yasur, 19, who lost both his arms below the elbow six years ago, kicked his way to victory over a Turkish rival in the Men’s under-58 kilogram weight category. He beat Qli Can Ozcan by 57-42 points to claim the medal. “I still haven’t absorbed it,” Yasur said after his victory, noting he had faced five different competitors in bouts during the day to win the final. In the semi-final, he defeated the European champion. “I am happy, and I am the happiest person for the path I chose, for the medal, and for this crazy day,” Yasur said. Foreign Minister Yair Lapid tweeted that Yasur is “not just a source of huge national pride for our country, but he is also a reminder that willpower can take you to the loftiest peaks.” Though Yasur did not qualify for the Tokyo Olympics earlier this year, his win in Istanbul sets him on the path to being a strong candidate for the Paris games in 2024. Noa Shmida, secretary-general of the Israel Taekwondo Federation, also welcomed Yasur’s “amazing achievement.” (TOI / VFI News)
SECOND ANCIENT SYNAGOGUE FOUND IN MIGDAL ALTERS IDEAS OF JEWISH LIFE 2,000 YEARS AGO: A 2,000-year-old synagogue from the Second Temple Period was recently uncovered at Migdal, on the northwestern edge of the Sea of Galilee, making it the second such synagogue found in the ancient community, the University of Haifa said on Sunday, December 12.
It is the first time that two synagogues have been found within the same settlement from the period when the Jewish Temple was still functioning in Jerusalem, a discovery that researchers said is changing their understanding of religious life at the time. Archeologists had assumed that as long as the temple was still standing there was not such a great need for synagogues, Prof. Adi Erlich of the University of Haifa said in a statement. Dina Avshalom-Gorni of the University of Haifa, who assisted in the administration of the dig, said the discovery of a second synagogue gives insight into the daily religious life of Jews in the Galilee at the time and testifies to “the need for a dedicated building for study, reading the Torah and social gatherings.” The location of the two synagogues, less than 200 meters apart, with the first in an industrial area and the second on a residential street, shows they were built “within the social fabric of the settlement,” Avshalom-Gorni said. The recently discovered synagogue is of basalt and chalk, and comprises a main hall and two side rooms. A stone bench was also found. Six pillars held up the roof and the bases of two of those were also found. The walls were covered in plaster and colorfully decorated. A small room at the south end of the main hall had a shelf that may have been used to store scrolls, the statement said. The site also yielded a range of artifacts from the period, including pottery candle holders, glass bowls made from molds, rings, and stone utensils used for purification rituals. (TOI / VFI News)
RARE EVIDENCE OF ROMAN CRUCIFIXION UNEARTHED IN UK: Archeologists believe a skeleton of a man with a nail through his heel, unearthed during excavations in England, is the first example of crucifixion in northern Europe, it was revealed Wednesday, December 15.
Experts from the Albion Archeology Heritage Services company found the skeleton in the village of Fenstanton in eastern England while excavating a roadside settlement in 2017. The site was found near a road linking the then-Roman towns of Cambridge and Godmanchester. The skeleton was found with a nail through its heel bone, which experts say is the most reliable physical evidence of crucifixion in the Roman world, the report said. “We know a reasonable amount about crucifixion, how it was practiced and where it was practiced and when and so on from historical accounts. But it’s the first tangible evidence to actually see how it worked,” David Ingham, project manager at Albion Archeology said. Radiocarbon dating indicated the bones were between 1,661 and 1,891 years old, or from between the years 130 CE and 360 CE, the report said. DNA analysis showed the man was not genetically related to any of the other 48 bodies found at the site, and was from the local population. Experts said more information pertaining to the man’s identity, the reason for his crucifixion, and where it was conducted, would likely be never known. (TOI / 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