Posted by Tip Staff - October 13, 2016
- Saudi lobbyist: Israel and Saudi Arabia should be allies, the “new twin pillars” of Middle East stability
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.”
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