Weekly roundup of world briefs
December 2, 2022
US imposes sanctions on Tehran’s IRIB media group
(JNS) — The U.S. Treasury Department has placed sanctions on a state-run Iranian media corporation for forcing confessions from Iranians detained by the Islamic Republic.
The department is sanctioning the Islamic Republic of Iran Broadcasting group and six individuals associated with it, for its involvement in the Iranian government’s censorship activities.
The organization, which has a monopoly on television and radio broadcasts in Iran, forced and broadcast hundreds of confessions from Iranians, dual national and foreign detainees, including recently broadcasting televised interviews of persons forced to confess that their relatives were not killed by Iranian authorities during the nationwide protests, instead saying that their cause of death was unrelated and accidental, the Treasury said in a statement.
IRIB regularly broadcast false and baseless accusations and misinformation, while working directly with Iran’s Ministry of Intelligence and Security and the Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps to obtain and disseminate forced confessions.
“The Iranian government’s systemic reliance on forced confessions illustrates the government’s refusal to speak truth to its citizens and the international community,” said Under Secretary of the Treasury for Terrorism and Financial Intelligence Brian Nelson in a statement. “The United States remains committed to supporting the Iranian people as they continue their peaceful protests.”
Secretary of State Antony Blinken also issued a statement on Wednesday, saying that the United States is committed to supporting the Iranian people who are protesting against the regime nationwide.
“IRIB acts not as an objective media outlet but rather as a key tool in the Iranian government’s mass suppression and censorship campaign against its own people. IRIB has broadcasted forced confessions of Iranian, dual national, and foreign national detainees in Iran in attempts to distort facts and spread disinformation about the ongoing protests in Iran,” Blinken said.
Nelson added: “We will continue to hold Iranian officials and government institutions to account for their human rights violations and mass suppression of the Iranian people.”
Netanyahu: Israel supporters ‘must appeal to the justice of our cause’
(JNS) — Israeli Prime Minister-designate Benjamin Netanyahu said on Saturday that he viewed ensuring the permanence of the Jewish state as his life’s mission.
Addressing the annual conference of the Republican Jewish Coalition in Las Vegas via video link on Saturday, Netanyahu said that while Israel’s birth is “a miracle of history and of faith,” its security is nevertheless not guaranteed.
His purpose, he added, “is to assure the future of the Jewish state.”
“History doesn’t make a difference between the just and the unjust, the moral and the immoral. The strong survive and the weak don’t. And if you’re moral and weak, you’ll be devoured, which is the history of the Jewish people,” he said.
Responding to a question about the importance of public opinion, Netanyahu said that Israel must continue to make its case to the world. He recalled that his father, historian Benzion Netanyahu, came up with a “simple set of equations: In the modern world, you cannot defend a military victory without a political victory. You cannot defend a political victory without a victory in public opinion.”
Israel kept winning battles militarily but losing them politically because it was losing the battle for public opinion, he said, adding, “Which is one of the things that you see on American campuses, for example, or sometimes in the mainstream press.
“You have to fight the battle for public opinion. You have to appeal to the justice of our cause, to the American people and to other peoples,” he said.
Trump: Biden ‘sold out’ Israel by attempting to revive the Iran nuclear deal
(JNS) — Former U.S. President Donald Trump, addressing the Republican Jewish Coalition’s annual gathering via video feed on Saturday, said U.S.-Israel relations have deteriorated under the current administration.
President Joe Biden’s efforts to reboot the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action, the 2015 nuclear deal, amounted to a betrayal of Israel and the Jewish community, said Trump.
“He sold out Israel’s security and began begging to re-enter the Iran nuclear deal on even worse terms,” he continued. “He unilaterally lifted key sanctions. He appointed countless anti-Israeli extremists to government positions.”
The Biden administration’s actions with regard to Iran potentially posed an existential threat to the Jewish state, said Trump.
“You have to be careful of what they’re doing with Iran, because that may be the end of Israel. That could happen. It could happen very quickly. We’re living in a very fragile world,” he said.
The former president also warned of the rise of anti-Israel forces in Congress, saying the anti-Israel coalition has become “more powerful than the Israeli coalition.”
Trump, who announced his candidacy for a second presidential term on Nov. 15 said, “When we win in 2024, the year of backstabbing and betrayal will end. The United States will stand with Israel once more.”
Many more countries would have joined the Abraham Accords had he been re-elected in 2020, he said, adding that his administration would have had “almost all of them signed,” including Saudi Arabia, “and ultimately probably the Palestinians would have come in at the end.”
“A lot of countries want to join, but the Biden administration doesn’t seem to have its act together. They’re unable to get more of them to join,” he added.
Former Austrian chancellor joins Abraham Accords Peace Institute advisory council
(JNS) — Former Austrian Chancellor Sebastian Kurz has been named to the Honorary Advisory Council of the Abraham Accords Peace Institute, the organization announced in a statement on Friday.
“The Abraham Accords were a historic milestone and achieved what previously had been regarded as impossible. I am therefore honored to have the opportunity to become a member of the Honorary Advisory Council and to help sustain and expand the accords,” Kurz said of his appointment. “I hope more countries will follow in their footsteps and look forward to the many ways Europe can make important contributions in the future,” he added.
Kurz came to power after his party won the 2017 Austrian legislative election. He remained Chancellor of Austria until May of 2019 and again served from January 2020 through October 2021.
Kurz was credited with being the youngest head of state in Europe during his tenures, and now spends a significant amount of time in Israel and the Middle East.
He joins other notables on the council including former White House senior adviser Jared Kushner, former U.S. Senator Joe Lieberman, Emirati Ambassador to the U.S. Yousef Al Otaiba and Israeli Ambassador to the U.S. Michael Herzog.
“We are honored to welcome former Chancellor Kurz to our Honorary Advisory Council,” said AAPI President and Executive Director Robert Greenway. “We look forward to benefiting from former Chancellor Kurz’s advice on our efforts to increase European support for strengthening and expanding the Abraham Accords.”
Azerbaijan to open embassy in Israel
(JNS) — Azerbaijan’s parliament on Friday initiated the process of opening an embassy in Israel, making it the first Shi’ite Muslim-majority country do so.
“Azerbaijan is an important partner of Israel and home to one of the largest Jewish communities in the Muslim world,” Prime Minister Yair Lapid said in a statement following the development. “The decision to open an embassy reflects the depth of the relationship between our countries. This move is the result of the Israeli government’s efforts to build strong diplomatic bridges with the Muslim world,” he added.
Last April, Azerbaijan opened a tourism office in Israel for the first time and signed a cooperation agreement. The month also marked the 30th anniversary of establishing diplomatic ties between the two nations.
Israeli Defense Minister Benny Gantz visited Azerbaijan in October to discuss security and policy and foster defense cooperation.
Israel buys 40 percent of its oil from Azerbaijan, and supplied 27 percent of Azerbaijan’s major arms imports from 2011 to 2020, including 69 percent from 2016 to 2020, according to the Stockholm International Peace Research Institute.
Both Israel and Azerbaijan see Iran as a threat.
Russia, Iran, secure agreement to produce Iranian-designed drones on Russian soil
(JNS) — Russia has secured an agreement with Iran to begin building hundreds of unmanned aerial vehicles on Russian soil, The Washington Postreported on Sunday, citing American and other Western intelligence sources.
According to the report, Russian and Iranian officials sealed the agreement during a meeting in Iran in early November.
The report cited three sources as stating that Russia and Iran are moving quickly to transmit designs and critical components for the production of Iranian-designed UAVs on Russian soil, which could begin within months.
The Russian Defense Ministry did not respond to a request for comment, according to the Washington Post.
On Nov. 15, the United States imposed penalties on firms and individuals involved in the development or transfer of Iranian drones used by Russia in strikes on civilian facilities in Ukraine, according to Reuters.
The United States is attempting to put further pressure on Moscow over its invasion of Ukraine, which has left cities in ruins and killed or injured hundreds.
Russia obtained multiple types of attack and intelligence drones from Iran, which were used to target Ukrainian cities and critical energy infrastructure sites. These include the Shahed 136 suicide drone, which can carry an explosive warhead of 40 kilograms, and which maneuvers to targets using satellite navigation.
Iranian military groups and companies are already subject to severe American sanctions as a result of Tehran’s nuclear development program.
Judea and Samaria are not ‘occupied’ but ‘disputed,’ says DeSantis
(JNS) — In a speech to the Republican Jewish Coalition political conference in Las Vegas on Saturday night, Florida Governor Ron DeSantis—one of the front-runners for the 2024 presidential race—defended the right of Jews to live in their biblical homeland of Judea and Samaria.
“I don’t care what the State Department said. They are not occupied territory; it is disputed territory,” said DeSantis. “If you look at our record on issues related to Israel and supporting the Jewish community, it is second to none,” he continued.
DeSantis said that in winning reelection in the recent US midterm vote, he had received the largest proportion of Jewish votes of any Republican candidate in Florida history.
“When I first became governor, one of the first things we did was fight back against Airbnb, who was discriminating against Israeli Jews, and we won that fight against Airbnb,” he added. He also said that under his direction, security was boosted at Jewish schools.
“We signed legislation combatting antisemitism. We are not going to allow the universities in the State of Florida to become hotbeds of anti-Jewish sentiment like they have all across this country,” DeSantis said.
Kyrie Irving: I am ‘deeply’ sorry, and I am not an antisemite
The Nets had kept him off the court for the last eight games after he “refused to unequivocally say he has no antisemitic beliefs.”
(JNS) Kyrie Irving, a star player for the NBA’s Brooklyn Nets, apologized “deeply” on Saturday for sharing antisemitic content on social media and failing to repudiate antisemitism earlier this month, which led to his team suspending him.
Irving was listed as “questionable” for Sunday’s home game against the Memphis Grizzlies. The Nets had kept him off the court for the last eight games after he “refused to unequivocally say he has no antisemitic beliefs.”
On Saturday, he told local sports network SNY that he was not antisemitic and wanted to “set a greater example.”
“I don’t have hate in my heart for the Jewish people or anyone that identifies as a Jew,” he said.
“The difficult aspect is just processing all this, understanding the power of my voice, the influence I have. I am no one’s idol, but I am a human being that wants to make [an] impact and change.”
“I really want to focus on the hurt that I caused,” said Irving. “I just want to apologize deeply for all my actions throughout the time that it’s been since the post was first put up. I’ve had a lot of time to think.”
Nike suspended its relationship with Irvin after he tweeted an antisemitic documentary last month.
CNN producer fired for anti-Israel remarks
(JNS) — CNN cuts ties with “TeamHitler” producer after Honest Reporting exposed him.
The watchdog NGO recently revealed that CNN producer Idris Muktar Ibrahim had declared himself a member of “#TeamHitler” on Twitter while describing Hamas terrorists as “freedpm [sic] fighters… definding [sic] their land.”
“After HonestReporting notified CNN of their producer’s offensive social media history, a spokesperson immediately assured us the matter was being investigated,” stated Honest Reporting.
“A deafening silence followed, however, leaving us wondering whether CNN was serious about dealing with an employee who glorified Adolf Hitler and lavished praise on a terrorist group,” the NGO said.
As a result, the organization called on its followers to contact CNN about the matter. HonestReporting soon received a response from CNN:
“Idris was employed as a freelancer by CNN. We were not aware of these tweets, which were published before we began working with him. We have informed him that we will no longer be working with him in the future.”
HonestReporting executive director Gil Hoffman said: “We at HonestReporting will continue to make sure that those who call for the annihilation of the Jewish people will not report the news about the Jewish state.”
Israel’s chief rabbi proposes amending the Law of Return
(JNS) — The Knesset should amend the Law of Return to curb non-Jewish immigration to Israel, Ashkenazi Chief Rabbi of Israel Rabbi David Lau urged.
Speaking at the annual International Conference of Chabad-Lubavitch Emissaries, Lau argued against the current law under which anyone with a Jewish grandparent is eligible for automatic Israeli citizenship.
According to halacha, Jewish law, only converts and those with a Jewish mother are Jews.
“For 10 years I have been asking to try to change this mistake of the third generation in the Law of Return — to fix it, to ensure that Israel will be a Jewish state, a state of Jews,” said Lau at the event on Sunday night.
“I have had the honor in the past year of being the emissary of [Chabad Rebbe Menachem Mendel Schneerson] and to continue in his great footsteps of ensuring that conversion will be done in accordance with Jewish law,” he said.
Jew accused of threatening NYC synagogue is grandson of a Holocaust survivor
(JNS) — One of the two men accused of planning to attack an unspecified synagogue in New York City is Jewish and the grandson of a Holocaust survivor, his counsel said in court on Saturday.
Matthew Mahrer, 22, in Manhattan Criminal Court on accusations of criminal possession of a weapon, was ordered held on $150,000 bail or a $300,000 bond despite his lawyer’s request that he be freed on his own recognizance and the prosecutors’ recommendation that he be held without bail.
“There are a lot of questions here,” defense attorney Brandon Freycint said of Mahrer, who has allegedly been diagnosed with autism, bipolar disorder, anxiety and ADHD, the New York Post reported.
“My client is of Jewish heritage. He resides with his parents and his grandfather is actually a 93-year-old Holocaust survivor—and my client is his part-time caretaker,” Freycinet said.
According to police sources, Mahrer and a friend named Christopher Brown were detained on Friday while riding the Long Island Rail Road. Brown was seen carrying guns and a Nazi armband.
The arrests came after a threat to attack a synagogue and tweet “Gonna ask a priest if I should become a husband or shoot up a synagogue and die” was traced to one of the men’s computers, sources told CNN.
According to the Post, prosecutors said police confiscated a loaded handgun with an extended magazine and a bulletproof vest from Mahrer’s Upper West Side apartment, which he and the friend planned to use in a synagogue attack.