- Bipartisan opposition builds as lawmakers blast Obama administration over new Iran sanctions concessions
Lawmakers from both parties slammed the Obama administration on Thursday for a reported plan to grant Iran new sanctions relief that gives the Islamic Republic access to the U.S. financial system and the ability to conduct transactions in U.S. dollars. The AP confirmed the news on Thursday. Rep. Brad Sherman (D-Calif.), who sits on the House Foreign Affairs Committee and voted against the Iran nuclear deal, sent a letter to President Barack Obama on Thursday arguing that permitting dollar transactions “is clearly not required” by the nuclear deal. He warned, "This will set bad precedent, and it will not be the last time the Iranians and/or their business partners receive additional relief.” Senators Marco Rubio (R-Fla.) and Mark Kirk (R-Ill.) sent a letter to U.S. Treasury Secretary Jacob Lew on Wednesday stating that “[a]ny such efforts would benefit Iran’s financiers of international terrorism, human rights abuses, and ballistic missile threats.”
Mark Dubowitz, an Iran sanctions expert and executive director of the Foundation for Defense of Democracies (FDD) argued: "This is above and beyond what is required by the nuclear deal."
The administration has reversed its previous position that Iran would never be given access to the U.S. financial system. Sens. Rubio and Kirk wrote: “Senior officials in the Treasury Department have repeatedly assured Congress that the Administration will not allow Iran direct or indirect access to the U.S. financial system.” Dubowitz called the move “a bait and switch which ignores a long-standing administration commitment not to greenlight Iran's access to the greenback.” Rep. Sherman stated, “[S]uch relief runs counter to testimony to Congress by U.S. officials.”
Experts have cautioned that such a move jeopardizes the U.S. sanctions regime in place against Iran. Dubowitz warned, "If they [the administration] permit this, it is the end of U.S. sanctions on Iran.” He explained that Iran has a record of engaging in illicit financial activities. Because of this, the U.S. Treasury in 2008 banned U.S. “institutions from processing ‘U-turns’ – temporary dollar transactions between non-U.S. banks and Iranian banks.” In 2011, in the US Patriot Act, the Treasury Department found that “Iran’s entire financial sector is a jurisdiction of primary money laundering concern.” The Financial Action Task Force, a global anti-terrorism financing body, also warned that Iran's "failure to address the risk of terrorist financing" poses a "serious threat... to the integrity of the international financial system." Dubowitz, along with Annie Fixler, a policy analyst at FDD, concluded: "[T]he next president’s ability to target Iran's malign activities with non-nuclear sanctions will be much more difficult if billions of dollarized transactions are green lighted. The next administration won’t easily be able to reverse this once it is in motion.”
A new viral propaganda video accuses Israel of tunneling under the Temple Mount in Jerusalem in order to “Judaize” the complex and build the third Temple, The Jerusalem Post reported on Wednesday. The video may further inflame tensions between Israel and the Palestinians by repeating the oft-discredited charge that the al-Aqsa Mosque, which is located on the compound, is in danger.
The 17-minute documentary was produced by the Islamic Movement in Israel and features three speakers, including Sheikh Raed Salah, who heads the Hamas-aligned Northern Branch of the Islamic Movement. Salah’s group was outlawed by the Israeli security cabinet last year, and Salah himself was sentenced to eleven month in prison for incitement to violence.
In the video, Mohammad Abu Atta, identified as an expert on Jerusalem and al-Aqsa, tells viewers that “al-Aska Mosque and the old city of Jerusalem are today witnessing the most dangerous diggings conducted by the Israeli occupation.”
Gideon Slimani, described as an Israel archaeologist, continues by claiming that Israel has no legitimate reason for conducting excavations at the Temple Mount. (Archaeologists have carried out excavations at the site since the 19th century.)
“To me, as an archeologist, it is very difficult to see that Israel harnesses archeology for its political agenda. Israel calls the project ‘archeological digging,’ but this is not archeological digging. This is a tool aiding the Israeli government to fulfill its ideology.” Slimani asserted that Israel intends to build an “underground city” to stake Israeli claims to al-Aqsa. (The Tower conducted searches on the name “Gideon Slimani” and found no references to any professional organizations that he is allegedly affiliated with.)
The Post noted that while there is a tunnel running underground from the Jerusalem neighborhood of Silwan to the Western Wall, it leads to an archaeological site called the Davidson Center.
Towards the conclusion of the video, Salah accused Israel of crimes including “the digging beneath al-Aksa, the daily Jewish storming of the mosque, the expelling of young Muslims stationed in al-Aksa to protect the mosque and the propaganda according to which Israel should impose its sovereignty on Temple Mount.” He then called on Jordan, which administers al-Aqsa through the Islamic Waqf, to “rapidly start a propaganda war against the Israeli occupation to expose all its crimes and act for its immediate annihilation.”
Palestinian incitement, including claims that Israel is endangering the status quo on the Temple Mount, have fueled the wave of terror that has killed 34 people and injured over 400 since September of last year. Though the Israeli government routinely rejects the charge, and non-Muslim presence and activity in the complex remains highly restricted, Palestinian leaders often declare that al-Aqsa is in danger, an accusation that predates the founding of Israel.
In his testimony before the House Committee on Foreign Affairs in October, Washington Institute for Near East Policy distinguished fellow David Makovsky explained:
Sadly, the charge that Israel is out to destroy the mosque is not new. This claim was made in 1929, resulting in riots in Hebron that killed 63 people. More recently, fatal violence surrounding the Temple Mount occurred in 1991 (20 killed), 1996 (87 killed), 2000 (153 killed within the first month of violence), and 2014 (9 killed).
Two Israeli Arab girls who stabbed a security guard last month said they did so as “revenge for the situation in the al-Aqsa Mosque.”
In a song released several days after the stabbing, the Palestinian al-Wa’ed Band glorified suicide bombings and told so-called martyrdom-seekers to “heed the call of the al-Aqsa Mosque, make the blast of the bomb reach further and further.”
ISIS released a video in October pledging to “liberate Al-Aqsa from the defilement of the sons of apes and pigs.” That same month, a Hebrew-speaking ISIS militant vowed that “We will enter al-Aqsa mosque as conquerors, using our cars as bombs to strike the Jewish ramparts.”
Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas also declared in a speech last September that Palestinians would not allow Jews to desecrate Jerusalem holy sites, including al-Aqsa, with their “filthy feet.”
The Al-Aqsa [Mosque] is ours… and they have no right to defile it with their filthy feet. We will not allow them to, and we will do everything in our power to protect Jerusalem.
The Jerusalem Center for Public Affair compiled a number of rebuttals exposing the libel.
In Israel Takes On Its Home-Grown Jihadists, which was published in the December 2015 issue of The Tower Magazine, Raffa Abu Tareef described the ideological underpinnings of the Islamic Movement:
It is important to point out that Islamism is a movement that regards the sovereign Jewish state as an existential battle between Islam and Judaism. This has only become more prominent in recent years, as Palestine and Jerusalem have been sanctified in a way they never were before. Many respected observers have already noted that, according to this new Islamic theology, Arabs are not permitted to concede even a centimeter of Palestine to the “Zionist enemy,” let alone accept a non-Muslim state in their midst.
In parallel, the movement has fostered the “Islamization” of the geography and history of the Land of Israel. In an attempt to provide a framework for dealing with what it sees as the occupation of Palestine by the Jews, Islamists have rewritten the history of the Land of Israel. They have done so in order to place Islam at the center of the history of the ancient Middle East, denying the existence of any Jewish connection to the Land of Israel and the Temple Mount. This revisionism is intended to convince the world that the Arabs preceded the Hebrews as the original inhabitants of the Middle East. Thus they are the true heirs to the land they call “Palestine.” The conclusion that flows from this religious principle is that no other people has historical rights to this land.
This worldview, of course, leaves no room for compromise. Territorial concessions, generous as they may be, cannot resolve this conflict. (via TheTower.org)
The timeworn stone house was dilapidated and neglected. Yet when award-winning Israeli novelist and translator Evan Fallenberg saw photos of the structure two years ago on an Israeli real-estate website, he went to visit and decided to purchase and restore it. Now, that centuries-old Ottoman building in the historic Old City of Acre (Akko) on Israel’s northern seacoast is embarking on a second life as Arabesque: An Arts and Residency Center. Fallenberg will have plenty of company in the 300-square-meter renovated house. It includes three residential units that can be rented by short- or long-term vacationers, and a great room intended for literary, artistic, musical and culinary events in English, Hebrew and Arabic. One of the reasons he chose the name “Arabesque,” after months of deliberation, is that it works in all three languages. Fallenberg also envisions Arabesque as an international retreat destination for writers, translators and other artists. Acre’s Old City is inhabited almost exclusively by Arab Muslims. “Being in a completely Muslim neighborhood intrigued me,” Fallenberg tells ISRAEL21c. “I live in a country where Jews and Muslims are still segregated in so many ways, and I had the feeling for a long time that by not being part of the solution I was being part of the problem.” He intentionally chose a mix of local Muslims, Christians and Jews to restore the house to glory. In the entryway he hung photographs of those who contributed: architect, stone masons, master tiler, father-son carpenters, a brother and sister in Tel Aviv who loaned their antique furniture collection, and others. (via Israel21c)