Syria is Burning
Syria is burning — literally.
The State Department accused the regime of Bashar al-Assad this week of building a crematorium at Syria’s notorious Sednaya prison to dispose of the corpses of executed inmates. As many as 50 prisoners are believed to be killed each day at Sednaya, which has been called a “slaughterhouse” by Amnesty International.
In a press briefing, Acting Assistant Secretary for the Bureau of Near Eastern Affairs Stuart Jones pointed out that Assad’s violent repression is carried out with the aid of its “closest allies,” Russia and Iran.
There have been various efforts to hold the Syrian regime accountable for its war crimes.
Most notably, a police photographer known by the code name Caesar smuggled out tens of thousands of photographs documenting the terrible tortures and deaths to which Syrian prisoners were subjected.
The cumulative effect of Caesar’s photographs prompted Steven Rapp, then the top war crimes official for the United States, to declare in July 2014 that they provided “solid evidence of the kind of machinery of cruel death that we haven’t seen frankly since the Nazis.”
The presence of a crematorium at the Sednaya prison would make Rapp’s observation even more apt.
Iran is Targeted
Former Obama administration officials are mobilizing to derail proposed non-nuclear sanctions on Iran.
An organization called Diplomacy Works was launched this week with the goal of showing that the U.S. should “lead through diplomacy and dialogue – working with allies and partners,” because diplomacy can “address the core causes of conflict in ways that force alone cannot.” It cited the nuclear with Iran as a prime example of the success of diplomacy. Among the Obama administration officials on the advisory board of Diplomacy Works is former Secretary of State John Kerry, who worked on the nuclear deal.
Kerry’s seeming objection to the sanctions is particularly odd because he assured the Senate two years ago that the nuclear deal did not preclude the imposition of non-nuclear penalties on Iran. He noted that while the deal provided for the lifting of arms embargo on Iran after five years, U.S. arms sanctions on Iran would remain in place. He also said that the U.S. would continue to enforce United Nations Security Council resolution 1701, which bars the armament of Iran’s terrorist proxy Hezbollah.
Even if Diplomacy Works is successful in derailing proposed congressional sanctions against Iran — which are even supported by a number of senators who backed the nuclear deal with Iran — the Trump administration has kept up the pressure by sanctioning Iran for its human rights violations, its illicit missile program, its support of terror, and its money laundering.
The nuclear deal with Iran has not brought about better behavior from the Islamic Republic, so it will continue to be targeted.
Israel is Engaging
Israel’s critics have argued that the state has become increasingly isolated in recent years. But new developments this week continue to show that Israel is increasingly engaged with the world and making inroads in unexpected places.
The Wall Street Journal reported this week that Gulf states are considering upgrading their ties with Israel over, at least in part, the twin threats of Iran and ISIS. According to one senior Arab official involved in the talks, “We no longer see Israel as an enemy, but a potential opportunity.”
Also this week, Israeli President Reuven Rivlin received a delegation of Jordanian sheikhs who came to foster greater understanding between Israelis and the Hashemite Kingdom.
Meanwhile, new ambassadors from Thailand, Spain and the U.S. presented their credentials to the Israeli president, while the Danish foreign minister met with both Rivlin and Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu.
Rivlin also welcomed the foreign minister of Costa Rica, noting that “Costa Rica was the first, and among the few countries that placed their embassy in Jerusalem, and we will never forget it.”
Israel’s ministry of foreign affairs held a seminar on Thursday to promote closer cooperation with the UN in the medical field. A statement from the ministry called the event “another expression of Israel’s integration into the positive global agenda and the interest shown by the UN in recruiting Israelis into its ranks.”
The governors of all fifty U.S. states also signed a statement this week calling the Boycotts, Divestment, and Sanctions campaign against Israel “incompatible” with American values.
From the evidence above, it appears that BDS hasn’t been too successful in fulfilling its mission.
When Jackie Zitelman Horvitz and her two sisters first tasted carrot cake made with tahini, a paste made from sesame seeds, it inspired them to found Soom Foods and popularize the product. While tahini, or tehina as it is called in Hebrew, is often used as a condiment on falafel, it has much greater potential.
The Zitelmans opened their business in 2012 in Philadelphia and offer tehina in two flavors: plain and chocolate. “Our goal was to make tehina more than a product you find in a kosher market,” Zitelman Horvitz said. Soom is looking offer more flavors of their product, which is sold in health food stores and online.
While Soom is produced in modern facilities, in some places tahini is still made the same way it has been for centuries.
At the Jebrini Tehina Factory in the Old City of Jerusalem, Ishak Jebrini soaks sesame seeds, crushes them, and roasts them before grinding them into a paste. The only aspect of production that changed in three generations, he said, is that the seeds are now ground with the help of electricity.
Inbal Baum, CEO of Delicious Israel, a Tel Aviv-based food tour company, observed that chefs now mix tehina with beets to make a pink salad dressing or mix it with date honey as a dessert. “In terms of popularity, I really think it’s the next hummus, and that this trend and the awareness of it is only in its infancy,” she said.
With numerous health qualities and a growth rate of five percent per year, tehina may be poised to do just that.
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Three Big Questions
The Obama administration assured Assad in January 2015 that it was training rebels to target ISIS, not his government. This week, U.S. planes targeted a Syrian regime convoy that breached the “deconfliction zone” around a training base used by American and British special forces. While there was a specific reason behind that attack, does it suggest that the Trump administration will be less reticent to target Assad going forward?
Imad Hamato, the dean of a school system in Gaza who was appointed by Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas, said recently on PA television that Jews “control the media, the money, the press, the resources, the plans.” If this is who the Palestinian Authority thinks should be teaching the next generation, what hope for peace can there be in the future?
Iran is facing a man-made water crisis due to widespread mismanagement and corruption. From 1962 to 1979, Israeli hydrologists, water engineers, and planners had built up much of Iran’s water infrastructure, but they were kicked out after the Islamic Revolution. Isn’t it ironic that the one nation best situated to help Iran deal with its crisis is the one nation Iran vows to annihilate?
[Photo: ssuu / YouTube ]