Democratic congressman: UNESCO exists in “alternate universe” with unicorns but no Jews


Rep. Ted Lieu (D – Calif.), an Air Force veteran and a member of the Congressional Progressive Caucus, harshly criticized the vote by UNESCO, the UN’s cultural organization, to approve a resolution that did not acknowledge Jewish and Christian connections to Jewish holy places in Jerusalem.

Lieu released a statement on Sunday accusing the organization of living in an “alternate universe…where you will see unicorns and flying dragons,” but no Jews or Christians.

The statement reads: “Many people have told me that they have heard the following greeting upon entering the alternate reality known as UNESCO: Welcome to UNESCO, where we live in the land of make believe. The ‘S’ in our name actually stands for science fiction. We at UNESCO don’t care about historical facts and some of our members are rabidly anti-Semitic and anti-Christian. That’s why we at UNESCO like to pass bigoted resolutions, such as this silly one that revises history and denies the known Jewish and Christian connections to the Temple Mount. Please visit our alternate universe often, where you will see unicorns and flying dragons. But in the UNESCO alt-reality, you won’t encounter any Jews or Christians because they don’t exist.”

The vote was also criticized by outgoing United Nations Secretary-General Ban Ki-Moon, UNESCO director-general Irina Bokova, Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and President Reuven Rivlin, and nearly 40 other members of Congress. The U.S. was one of only six countries to vote against the resolution, along with Estonia, Germany, Lithuania, the Netherlands, and the UK.


African nations are eager to pursue business and diplomatic ties with Israel, a spokesman for the Ivory Coast’s ruling political party said Wednesday. He was in Jerusalem attending the 37th annual Feast of Tabernacles gathering, which has drawn 5,000 Christian pilgrims from some 90 countries as well as political officials from around the world. The event was hosted by the International Christian Embassy Jerusalem, which calls itself a “worldwide, non-profit ministry of Christian supporters of Israel.” Many African countries that have traditionally backed the Arabs in international fora have turned toward Israel in the wake of much of the chaos gripping the Arab world. The organization stated, “Even leaders of Muslim-majority African nations have expressed their strong interest in restoring relations with the Jewish state – a message we have faithfully conveyed to Israeli officials.” Its executive director, Jürgen Bühler, said, “There is a possibility to change voting patterns [in the UN], even from countries who have been against Israel for decades.” Indeed, Cameroon, Guinea, the Ivory Coast, Kenya, and Togo all abstained from voting on the anti-Israel UNESCO resolution that was passed last week.

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu has placed an emphasis on effectuating such a shift. Israel has been conducting intensive diplomatic efforts with African countries this year. Netanyahu convened a summit with at least 15 leaders and representatives of African nations at the UN last month. He “told his interlocutors that he believes that Israel could be an amazing partner for their countries. He said that technology changes everything, including in communications, medicine, agriculture and education. He noted that Israel wants to share its technology with African countries.” When Netanyahu, his wife Sara, and Israel’s ambassador to the UN Danny Danon went to an event titled “’Israeli Technology and Innovation for Africa,” they were welcomed with a standing ovation and the blowing of a shofar.

Netanyahu visited Uganda, Kenya, Rwanda, and Ethiopia this summer. The Republic of Guinea, a Muslim-majority African nation, restored diplomatic ties with Israel after a 49-year break. Israel has a long history of sharing its expertise with African countries. The Israeli prime minister has made it a priority to strengthen Israel’s commercial, diplomatic, and security relations with African countries.


Following the 6.6 magnitude earthquake that struck Taiwan in February and killed 117 people, Israel has decided to donate 117 “earthquake-proof” tables. The first batch of 60 tables has already been delivered to the people of Tainan, Taiwan’s oldest city and the epicenter of the earthquake. Israel’s Bezalel Academy of Arts and Design explained to The Jerusalem Post, “During earthquakes, it is generally recommended to duck under a sturdy desk in order to increase the likelihood of ending up in a ‘survivable void space,’ and thereby escape flying debris if a building collapses.”

“The gift of 117 earthquake tables to the children of Tainan is a wonderful example of the way design can contribute to the safety of children and enhance friendship between people,” said Professor Ido Bruno, a professor at Bezalel whose student Arthur Brutter designed the tables. “I am proud that we are educating our students to look at the many ways they can improve people’s lives, not only the rich and powerful, but rather the vast majority of people who need simple, trustworthy, accessible design solutions they can afford.”


Israel’s envoy to Taiwan, Asher Yarden, cancelled a celebration for Israel’s Independence Day in May so the funds could instead be allocated to buy the tables. Each table can provide shelter for up to two students.


The Israeli Tourism Ministry has stepped up marketing campaigns in India and China, hoping to increase the numbers of incoming travelers from these major emerging markets for tourism. Some 40,000 Indians and 47,000 Chinese visited Israel during 2015. While still a drop in the pan in terms of potential – about 20 million Indians and 120 million Chinese vacationed overseas in 2015 – the number of visitors from India and China is rising by 10-13% from year to year, according to the Tourism Ministry. “Breaking into the large Asian market — in particular China and India — is one of the main objectives set by the Tourism Ministry,” said Tourism Minister Yariv Levin, who hopes to attract 100,000 visitors per year from each country by 2018. In August, the Tourism Ministry launched its first major TV advertising campaign in India, under the slogan: “On most vacations, you take a trip. But in Israel, you take a journey.” The two-month, $1.6 million campaign – which includes social media as well as print and broadcast media spots — portrays Israel as not just a destination but rather an experience in history, culture and a contemporary lifestyle. (via Israel21c)

Iran sentences Iranian-Americans to 10 years in prison


Iran sentenced Iranian-American Samiak Namazi and his father Baquer to 10 years in prison on charges of “cooperating with the hostile American government,” the Mizan news agency, which is controlled by the Iranian judiciary, announced Tuesday.

Samiak Namazi, a businessman who advocated for closer ties between the U.S. and Iran, was arrested last year. His lawyer, Mahmoud Alizadeh Tabatabaei, told Reuters in February that he had not received permission to meet with his client, and that Namazi was not aware of the charges against him. Baquer, a former UNICEF representative and provincial governor before the Islamic Revolution, was detained in February and also denied access to a lawyer, Baquer’s wife told CBS. Three other people were also named in the conviction announcement: two people identified by the initials F.H.A. and A.A., and Nizar Zakka, a Lebanese-born American permanent resident. Zakka, an internet freedom activist, disappeared last September after attending a conference in Tehran at the invitation of one of Iran’s vice presidents.

On Monday, a day before the announcement, Mizan released a video that contained the first footage of Siamak Namazi since his arrest, in what the Associated Press called “a taunting challenge to the United States in the wake of the nuclear deal with Tehran.” The footage includes images of detained American sailors on their knees after they were taken prisoner by the Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps in January.

Iran has a history of arresting dual nationals, which it does not recognize, meaning that the individuals cannot receive consular assistance; the number reached six in July, which, according to Reuters, comprised “the highest number of Iranians with dual-nationality detained at one time in recent years to have been acknowledged.” One more dual national, a former member of the Iranian nuclear negotiating team, was arrested in August. Many analysts believe that Iran is “seeking concessions from the West in exchange for releasing” dual nationals, the Associated Press wrote that month.


UNESCO’s executive board ratified a resolution that denied Jewish and Christian historical ties to Jerusalem on Tuesday, while Mexico announced that it wanted to change its stance on the resolution, for which it voted in favor last Thursday. Haaretz reported that Mexico decided to alter its position “due to the position being offensive and biased against the Jewish people and their historic connection to Israel.” Brazil, which also voted in favor, said that it was supportive of the Mexican statement. On Monday night, Mexico had expressed its intention to trigger another vote on the resolution to register its new stance, but was ultimately pressured not to do so. Mexico “noted for the record that its position on the matter was one of abstention,” The Jerusalem Post reported, although this does not technically change the tally from the vote last week.

In its initial statement, the Mexican Foreign Ministry issued a document reading, “Changing the vote reiterates the recognition that the government of Mexico gives to the undeniable link between the Jewish people and the cultural heritage in East Jerusalem…It also reflects the deep appreciation that this government has for the Jewish community and in particular for its significant contributions to the welfare and economic, social and cultural development of Mexico.”

Mexico’s ambassador to UNESCO Andres Roemer walked out in protest last Thursday against his country’s decision to vote in favor of the text. The Mexican Foreign Ministry said in its statement on Tuesday that he would be replaced as ambassador, and an investigation would be opened “to ascertain and determine the responsibilities of the officials involved in this issue.”


Israel is set to assist Egypt in a series of large-scale economic projects, indicating continuing improved relations between the two countries, Ynetnews reported Tuesday. According to the report, one of the major projects will include the “desalinization of seawater to address concerns over water levels in the Nile River, which could lead to a dramatic shortage of water available for drinking and irrigation.” Israel is a pioneer in desalination and has, according to The New York Times, “become the world leader in recycling and reusing wastewater for agriculture. It treats 86 percent of its domestic wastewater and recycles it for agricultural use — about 55 percent of the total water used for agriculture. Spain is second to Israel, recycling 17 percent of its effluent, while the United States recycles just 1 percent.” Other areas in which the Israelis will lend a hand to the Egyptians are “solar energy, electricity production, agriculture, irrigation and gas.”

Israeli-Egyptian relations have been warming under the leadership of Egyptian president Abdel Fattah el-Sisi. The two countries share mutual defense concerns, particularly Hamas and ISIS’ Sinai branch, which coordinate activities: Hamas finances ISIS, trains its fighters in planting deadly IEDs and firing lethal anti-tank missiles, and smuggles weaponry across the border from Gaza into Sinai.

A textbook introduced in the spring semester this year by the Egyptian government puts Israeli-Egyptian peace in a much more positive light than previous editions, asking ninth graders to memorize the terms of the Israel-Egypt Peace Treaty of 1979 and to explain the “advantages of peace for Egypt and the Arab states.” Previous textbooks would barely mention Israel when referring to the peace treaty. Emmanuel Nahshon, the spokesman for Israel’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs, said of this development, “We view this as very positive. It is an extremely important demonstration of good will. We hope it will have a positive impact on younger generations as we look ahead at the next years and decades.”

Egyptian Foreign Minister Sameh Shoukry defended Israeli policies to a group of high schoolers in Cairo in August and visited Israel the previous month to offer his government’s assistance in restarting peace talks between Israel and the Palestinians. The visit marked the first time an Egyptian foreign minister had visited Israel since 2007. Also that month, Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and President Reuven Rivlin attended a reception at Egypt’s embassy in Tel Aviv in honor of Egypt’s National Day.


Alon Moreshet is excited about the beta launch of his startup Guiderr, an online platform matching travelers with local tour guides who share their interests. The concept could not have become a reality, he says, without free legal assistance from the IDC Legal Clinic for Start-Ups. The first clinic of its kind in Israel has a unique social twist: It gives priority to social ventures and to entrepreneurs from underserved populations such as new immigrants, women, residents of peripheral areas, minorities (ultra-orthodox Jews, Arabs and Druze) and people from low socio-economic backgrounds. Started two years ago at IDC Herzliya, a private university, the clinic is recruiting its third batch of clients until October 20. Services are provided by 18 selected third-and fourth-year law students under the supervision of attorney Assaf Ben-David. Two partner law firms — Barnea & Co. and Pearl-Cohen — give additional pro-bono assistance if needed. Additional online services soon will include a new mentor program and document templates downloadable for free or at subsidized rates. About a year ago, Moreshet saw a Facebook ad for the clinic’s informational event for early-stage startups. He went and got helpful tips from representatives of six law firms, and then applied for a spot in the clinic. (via Israel21c)

Mexico’s UNESCO ambassador considers resignation over Jerusalem vote


When UNESCO, the United Nations’ cultural agency, approved a resolution on Thursday that denied Jewish and Christian historical ties to Jerusalem, Mexico’s ambassador to UNESCO Andres Roemer walked out in protest against his country’s decision to vote in favor of the text. He contemplated resigning his post but was discouraged from doing so by his Israeli counterpart Carmel Shama HaCohen.


“It was personally moving to see you leave the room during the vote in order to actively avoid the vote against your conscience,” HaCohen wrote in a letter to Roemer. “Moreover, I found your consideration to resign from your post as pre-matured and rushed. I am sure that you will be a great asset to Mexico and a friend to Israel.”


Numerous congressional leaders, as well as White House officials, have expressed deep dismay over the Jerusalem decision. “One-sided, unhelpful resolutions have been a recurring challenge at UNESCO in recent years, and the United States has strongly opposed these resolutions at the UNESCO Executive Board,” a senior Obama administration official told The Jerusalem Post. A bipartisan letter signed by 39 members of Congress criticized the resolution for “attempting to erase the Jewish and Christian connection to this sacred city” which would “further damage the prospects of peace between Israel and the Palestinians.”


“Yesterday’s actions are only the most recent display of long-running bias against the Jewish state by the organization you will soon lead,” Rep. Peter Roskam (R., Ill.) wrote in a letter to incoming UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres. “Since its founding in 2006, the U.N. Human Rights Council has adopted 135 resolutions targeting specific countries. Sixty-eight of these have been directed against Israel, comprising more that 50% of the body’s work. In the past four years, the U.N. General Assembly has adopted 97 resolutions chastising specific nations. Eighty-three of these have targeted Israel, over 85% percent of the total.” Roskam said that the resolution “flies in the face of history, archaeology, science, and reason.”


The Iranian-backed Houthi rebels may have fired missiles at U.S. Navy vessels operating off the coast of Yemen over the weekend, according to American defense officials. U.S. Chief of Naval Operations Adm. John Richardson said that it appeared that American ships “have come under attack in the Red Sea, again from coastal defense cruise missiles from the coast of Yemen.” The Pentagon declined on Monday, however, to say whether or not missiles had definitively been fired: “We are still assessing the situation. There are still some aspects to this that we are trying to clarify for ourselves given the threat – the potential threat – to our people.”

Last Wednesday, U.S. Navy vessels destroyed three Houthi-controlled radar sites with missile strikes authorized by President Barack Obama. The strikes came just two days after the Houthis fired two missiles at the USS Mason, which was traveling north of the strategic Bab al-Mandab strait, where it was “conducting routine operations in international waters,” in the words of Pentagon spokesman Captain Jeff Davis. The missiles did not hit the ship and no American sailors were injured. The U.S. Navy destroyer was deployed off the Yemeni coast after a ship from the United Arab Emirates was struck and severely damaged by Houthi rockets there two weeks ago. The day after the American strike, Iran dispatched two warships to the Gulf of Aden.

The Yemeni government announced a 72-hour ceasefire with a possible extension last Monday; the Saudi government had previously expressed its support for a ceasefire provided that the Houthis also agreed to it.

The Houthis seized control of the Yemeni government in 2015, prompting a military intervention by a Saudi-led coalition of Arab countries. The United Nations has identified Yemen as a “humanitarian crisis,” reporting that more than 10,000 people, including 3,800 civilians, were killed between March 2015 and August 2016.

The Houthis, whose logo reads in Arabic “God is great, Death to America, Death to Israel, Curse on the Jews, Victory to Islam,” have received arms—including missiles—and training from Iran. American, French, and Australian vessels have intercepted weapons shipments from Iran on their way to the Houthi rebels. After the capture of Yemen’s capital, Sana’a, in 2014, Iranian parliamentarian Ali Reza Zakani, who is close to Supreme Leader Ali Khamenei, boasted that Iran now controlled four Arab capitals, the other three being Damascus, Baghdad, and Beirut.

Secretary of State John Kerry has previously expressed his concern about Iranian missiles being delivered to the Houthis, and then being fired over the border into Saudi territory.


The Israel Democracy Institute’s October monthly survey shows that Israel’s Arab community has a positive outlook for the new year, which just started in Israel about two weeks ago. Most Arab Israelis were even more optimistic than their Jewish counterparts.

More than 50% of Arabs expect Israel’s overall situation to be “much better than last year” or “a little better than last year” as compared with only around 20% of Jews. The gap remains wide in the socioeconomic domain, where 42.6% of Arabs predict Israel’s situation will improve—double the number of Jews who think so. Arab Israelis also outnumbered Jews by 3:1 on the question if disputes between different parts of the public will be better.

Trends show Arab Israelis increasingly assimilating into Israeli society—most recently in education. Between 2013 and 2016, the number of Arab Israeli teachers in Israel’s state schools rose by 40%. The result is largely the product of a government-sponsored initiative to integrate more Arab Israeli teachers into public schools. Likewise, the number of Arab Israelis attending universities is trending upwards, and 14.4% of Israel’s bachelor degree students were Arab in 2015—an extremely high success rate considering the country’s population is around 20% Arab.


Thanks to its unique position at the crossroads of three continents, Israel boasts a soaring birdlife that delights ornithological beginners and experienced birders alike. “Israel is a meeting of zoo-topical zones, so in this small country you can see a high diversity of species which are represented in Europe, Asia and Africa,” Jonathan Meyrav, tourism director of Israeli Ornithological Center, tells ISRAEL21c. “Our specialties are some of our desert birds like MacQueen’s bustard, five species of sandgrouse, and the Syrian serin, which is a bird that breeds only in the mountains of Syria, Lebanon and Israel. We also have two very rare night species — the desert tawny owl and the Nubian nightjar. These two have a very small distribution and Israel is the best place in the world to see them.” The two migration festivalsHula Valley Birds Festival, which begins on November 20th this year, and Eilat Birds Festival in spring — when some 500 million birds fly over Israel, are the most popular times for birders to visit. During these peak times, birders can catch sight of 150 to 200 species of birds. (via Israel21c)

White House, Congress slam UNESCO resolution denying Jewish ties to Jerusalem


UNESCO, the United Nations’ cultural agency, approved a resolution on Thursday that denied Jewish and Christian historical ties to Jerusalem, a move that was harshly criticized by the White House as well as Israeli leaders from across the political spectrum.

“One-sided, unhelpful resolutions have been a recurring challenge at UNESCO in recent years, and the United States has strongly opposed these resolutions at the UNESCO Executive Board,” a senior Obama administration official told The Jerusalem Post. “We will not hesitate to use our vote at the current Board meeting to oppose these resolutions.” The resolution, according to the official, was part of a pattern of “recurring highly politicized use of the UNESCO Executive Board meetings.”


A bipartisan letter signed by 39 members of Congress criticized the resolution for “attempting to erase the Jewish and Christian connection to this sacred city” which would “further damage the prospects of peace between Israel and the Palestinians.”


“This resolution, while claiming to maintain the administrative status quo, in fact changes it” by making the conflict religious, former foreign minister Tzipi Livni wrote in a public letter to UNESCO director-general Irina Bokova. “I sincerely feel that this resolution brings us no closer to a just and agreed-upon solution. We can argue and critique policies, but when it comes to the historical facts connecting the Jewish People to these holy sites, there can be no politics.”


Islamist militants belonging to ISIS’ Sinai branch attacked an Egyptian army checkpoint in northern Sinai on Friday, killing 12 Egyptian soldiers and wounding six others. Fifteen terrorists were also killed in the exchange of gunfire. The militants approached the checkpoint in sport-utility vehicles and opened fire with light arms and heavy machine guns. The attacked checkpoint was some 25 miles from the town of Bir al-Abd, and marks the first time that ISIS has successfully carried out an operation in central Sinai. Egyptian President Abdel Fattah el-Sisi said that the attack would make Egypt even more determined in its “battle for building and survival.”

Egypt has previously expressed its anger that ISIS and Hamas have collaborated across the Gaza-Sinai border. Avi Issacharoff of The Times of Israel reported in August that their “cooperation has seen injured IS fighters routinely brought into the Strip for treatment, alongside ongoing weapons smuggling over the border.” Furthermore, he continued, “Egyptian sources say they were likely smuggled into Gaza via tunnels…that facilitate the connection between the two Islamist terror groups.”

Hamas provides “tens of thousands” of dollars per month to ISIS in Sinai—money deliberately earmarked for securing weapons shipments. Hamas trains ISIS fighters in planting deadly IEDs and firing lethal anti-tank missiles, and has smuggled weaponry across the border into Sinai. Top level officials from both organizations cross borders to coordinate their activities. Hamas terrorists have joined ISIS in Sinai and at least one senior Hamas official has been killed fighting alongside ISIS. In another dispatch in July, Issacharoff classified the relationship between Hamas and ISIS’s Sinai Province as one of “close cooperation.” Hamas has also launched drones to spy on Egyptian troop movements in Sinai along the Gaza border, part of an effort to “keep smuggling routes open between Sinai and Gaza. These routes are vital to Hamas on one side of the border, and Islamic State on the other.”


Three men linked to the Lebanese terrorist group Hezbollah were accused of laundering drug money on behalf of the Colombian cartel after authorities said they illegally moved $500,000 into Miami banks, the Miami Herald reported Tuesday.


The apparent ringleader of the money laundering scheme, 31-year-old Mohammad Ahmad Ammar from Medellin, Colombia, “was quietly booked into a Miami-Dade jail last week to face state felony money laundering charges,” the Herald wrote. Ammar’s arrest “underscores increased law-enforcement scrutiny on the role of Middle Eastern terror groups who use financial networks in Latin America to earn untold millions off drug profits,” the paper added.


In a 500-page indictment in 2013, the late Argentinian prosecutor Alberto Nisman outlined Iran’s terror network in South America, including Hezbollah’s involvement with drug traffickers. Iran—Hezbollah’s sponsor to the tune of up to $200 million per yearremains the world’s greatest money laundering risk.


Rony Malka, director of law enforcement for the Israel Nature and Parks Authority (INPA) and head of its Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species (CITES) Management Authority, received a 2016 Clark R. Bavin Wildlife Law Enforcement Award at the 17th Conference of the Parties of the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Fauna and Flora in Johannesburg, South Africa. He was recognized for numerous accomplishments during his 40-year career to protect wildlife and improve wildlife law enforcement efforts in Israel. Twelve wildlife law-enforcement champions from nine countries were presented with the award on October 3 by the Animal Welfare Institute (AWI) based in Washington, DC. Since 1997, 96 individuals and/or agencies from 30 countries have received the Clark R. Bavin Wildlife Law Enforcement Award, named after the late chief of the US Fish and Wildlife Service’s Office of Law Enforcement. (via Israel21c)

UNESCO passes anti-Israel resolution denying connection between Jews and Temple Mount

  • Standing for women’s rights, U.S. Chess Federation “wholeheartedly supports” boycotting tournament in Iran

    The United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO) passed a resolution today denying the ties between the Jewish people and the Temple Mount in Jerusalem, Judaism’s holiest site. The text of the resolution refers to the Temple Mount as al-Haram al-Sharif and the al-Aqsa Mosque, which are the Muslim names for the site, and it refers to the Western Wall, a retaining wall of the Second Temple that is the holiest site at which Jews are permitted to pray, as al-Buraq plaza, its Muslim name. The term “Western Wall” only appears in quotations, after reference to al-Buraq plaza, which does not. Twenty-four countries voted for the resolution, while six voted against and 26 abstained. “Notably, France, Spain, Slovenia, Argentina and India changed from a yes to abstention,” The Times of Israel reported. The countries voting against the resolution were the United States, the United Kingdom, Lithuania, The Netherlands, Estonia, and Germany.

    Israeli politicians from across the spectrum condemned the resolution. Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu stated, “The theatre of the absurd continues with UNESCO and today the organization has made its most bizarre decision by saying the people of Israel have no connection to the Temple Mount and the Western Wall.” He continued, “I would advise UNESCO members to visit the Arch of Titus in Rome, where they can see what the Romans brought to Rome after they destroyed and looted the Temple Mount two thousand years ago. One can see engraved on the arch the seven-branched menorah, which is the symbol of the Jewish people as well as the symbol of the Jewish State today.” Netanyahu further said, “Surely UNESCO will say that Emperor Titus was a part of Zionist propaganda.”

    Opposition Leader Isaac Herzog said, “UNESCO betray their mission, and give a bad name to diplomacy and the international institutions. Whoever wants to rewrite history, to distort fact, and to completely invent the fantasy that the Western Wall and Temple Mount have no connection to the Jewish people, is telling a terrible lie that only serves to increase hatred.” The mayor of Jerusalem, Nir Barakat, said he was “outraged” and rhetorically asked, “Would UNESCO vote to deny the Christian connection to the Vatican? Or the Muslim connection to Mecca?”

    U.S. Representative Ted Deutch (D-Fla.) tweeted, “#UNESCO vote dangerously seeks to rewrite Jerusalems [sic] Jewish & Christian history, rejects multi-cultural heritage”.


    Two days after coming under missile attack, the U.S. military retaliated and destroyed three radar sites in Yemeni coastal territory controlled by the Iranian-backed Houthi rebels. The missile strikes were authorized by President Obama and billed as “self-defense”.

    State Department spokesperson John Kirby voiced concern on Tuesday over the “near daily” threat to civilians from missiles provided by Iran to the Houthi rebels. As told by Business Insider, “shipping lanes and commerce are especially vital to Yemen, where the UN has said that 21 million out of 28 million Yemenis need some form of humanitarian aide and that half the country is likely malnourished.”

    As Yemen’s children suffer, the Iran-backed Houthi rebels take advantage: 30 percent of their fighting force is comprised of child soldiers. Human Rights Watch reports that impoverished families—now facing a 60 percent hike in food prices—enlist their children in exchange for 1,000 to 2,000 Yemeni Riyal per day (roughly $7-15). Children are tasked with carrying ammunition to the front lines and retrieving the dead bodies of fighters killed in battle.

    Last year, the US evacuated its remaining personnel from Yemen including around 100 special operations forces.  According to The New York Times, the Houthis’ takeover of Yemen and the American security personnel’s consequent withdrawal “dealt a blow to Washington’s ability to monitor and fight al Qaeda’s Yemen affiliate.”  Moreover, according to the Los Angeles Times, secret files with details about American intelligence operations were looted by the Houthis and some were “handed directly to Iranian advisors.”

    Iran has played a critical role in providing the Houthis with weapons, money, and training. The Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps have sent hundreds of military advisors to Yemen to train Houthi fighters. It has also been reported that Houthi militants have been traveling to Lebanon for training with Hezbollah. Iranian ships have brought more than 180 tons of weapons and military equipment to their proxy in Yemen.



    Israel and Saudi Arabia should form a “collaborative alliance”, a prominent Saudi lobbyist wrote in The Hill on Tuesday. Salman al-Ansari, the founder and president of the Saudi American Public Relations Affairs Committee, asserted that Israel can and should assist Saudi Arabia in implementing its Vision 2030, which is the Kingdom’s blueprint to diversify its economy away from oil. Al-Ansari specifically mentioned Israel’s expertise in mining and water, which makes Israel “extraordinarily qualified to help Saudi Arabia with its ambitious desalination plans.” Indeed, Israel is “spearheading efforts to deal with water leakage, farming efficiency, recycling waste, desalination, pricing policy, and education,” wrote David Hazony, editor of The Tower (TIP publishes The Tower). IDE Technologies Ltd., an Israeli company, helped to build the largest desalination plant in the Western Hemisphere in southern California. Al-Ansari wrote that the man who is in charge of implementing Vision 2030, Deputy Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman, “is prepared and willing to develop real, enduring ties with Israel.” He continued, “Any form of normalization between the two countries is also an Arabic and Muslim normalization towards Israel, which will undoubtedly  promote security and weaken extremism in the region.” Israel and Saudi Arabia should “become the new twin pillars of regional stability.”

    There have been signs of warming ties between the two countries. David Pollock of the Washington Institute for Near East Policy branded this Saudi pivot as “the new normal,” saying that while pragmatic, behind-the-scenes dialogue between Israel and Arab countries is “nothing new,” the presence of two sides in public forums marks an undeniable turning point.

    Change has been slow but persistent. Anwar Eshki, a former general who has served in senior positions in the Saudi military and foreign ministry, visited Israel last month as part of a delegation of Saudi academics and businessmen. Then Israeli Foreign Ministry Director-General Dore Gold gave an interview last year with a Saudi website, and Israel’s ambassador to Washington Ron Dermer was likewise recently interviewed by the Saudi media. Gold and Eshki brought the Israeli-Saudi relationship to the forefront when they publicly shook hands. In addition to improving relations with Saudi Arabia, Israel has also experienced a warming of ties with Egypt and a reconciliation with Turkey in recent months.



    The U.S. Chess Federation took a bold stand on Thursday, choosing sides in the debate over whether or not women should be forced to wear hijabs at next year’s world chess championship in Tehran. The organization allied with U.S. women’s chess champion Nazi Paikidize-Barnes, 22, who said she would rather boycott the contest than subscribe to Islamic dress codes, “even if it means missing one of the most important competitions of my career.”

    “We absolutely support Nazi Paikidze,” said U.S. Chess Federation president Gary Walters. “Women should not be oppressed for cultural, religious or ethnic reasons … She has taken a principled position of which we can be proud.”

    The English and Danish chess federations have also issued statements opposing the decision to mandate women’s dress, as has the Association of Chess Professionals. Several respected figures in the game also supported Paikidze-Barnes’ stance, including former world champion Garry Kasparov, British Grandmaster Nigel Short, WGM Carla Heredia, and well-known commentator and WGM Jen Shahade.

    All women in Iran are required to wear headscarves, a law that is enforced with an iron grip. About 40,000 cars were confiscated in the first half of 2015 because drivers or passengers were not wearing their headscarves properly. Many women were pulled over and beaten on the ground, only to be arrested afterwards.

    “Some consider a hijab part of culture,” Paikidze-Barnes said in announcing her decision. “But, I know that a lot of Iranian women are bravely protesting this forced law daily and risking a lot by doing so. That’s why I will NOT wear a hijab and support women’s oppression.”