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Wednesday, Feb. 10 '16, Adar 1, 5776


by Joe Dyke

(AFP) Israeli navy veteran Ami Daniel points at his computer screen and explains why the ship he was tracking should have been stopped and searched.

It sailed near the Libyan port of Tobruk and waited four days more than a mile off the coast without ever docking, then moved west to Misrata, which it had never visited before.

Next came Greece, where it waited another four days offshore.

Whatever was on the ship - possibly drugs, weapons or people - likely eventually made its way onto Europe's shores, he said.

At a time of deep concern over migrant smuggling, Daniel said his company Windward has the ability to pick up such suspicious maritime behavior that would otherwise go unnoticed.

In October, in a similar case, the Italian navy intercepted a cargo ship that was found to be carrying 20 tonnes of hashish.

"The overarching problem we are trying to solve is bringing visibility to the oceans - there is a huge gap in our understanding of the world," he said.  

Europe has long been aware of the threat of maritime smuggling along its 65,000 kilometers of coastline, what Daniel called its "back door".  

Ninety percent of the world's trade is via the oceans and ports simply cannot check even a fraction of all the containers. For that reason, they try to narrow it down with watch lists of ships.

But with turbulence in northern Africa and the collapse of Libya, smuggling networks have taken advantage of the situation while also becoming more sophisticated, Silvia Ciotti, head of the EuroCrime research body, explained.  

And with the influx of hundreds of thousands of refugees across the seas, resources in Europe have been stretched threadbare.  

The same smugglers taking desperate migrants and refugees into Europe also take contraband goods, Ciotti said.

"One day it is drugs. One day it is weapons. They do not care," she said.

Data-rich, information-poor

In a bid to combat this, Europe has sought to improve its coordination, establishing a common policy on sharing information.

But much of the data, including where ships are at any given moment - which is self-reported - is prone to manipulation and error.  

Likewise, over half of the ships that enter Europe sail under so-called flags of convenience - countries like Panama that require almost no checks to register - and around one percent of ships sail on a completely false identity, Daniel said.

Security forces are often reliant on tip-offs and information about specific ships, Ciotti said. As Daniel put it, Europe is "data-rich but information-poor."  

Windward, formed by Daniel after his stint in the Israeli navy enabled him to understand what information security services lacked, claims to fill that gap by providing to the minute and in-depth information on the ships, while also running checks on its ownership and history.

If a ship's activities are unusual - turning off its radar or visiting an at-risk port - it will be flagged up.  

While not the only company offering such solutions, it has at least one prominent backer: Former CIA chief David Petraeus recently invested an undisclosed amount in the company.

The company is also using its technology to track Iran's oil shipments as sanctions are eased.

"One of the main innovations is the idea of activity-based intelligence - where you look at all the ships all the time to find suspicious patterns, rather than just the wanted ships," said Daniel.

Even with such data, catching smugglers is still limited by a range of factors, including legislation that varies between countries, said Michael Newton, co-editor of the book Prosecuting Maritime Piracy.

But firm evidence of wrongdoing could enable quicker interceptions, he said.

A United Nations report points out that operations at sea are difficult to carry out, so enforcement tends to take place when ships dock.

"But, when successful, interception operations at sea often result in the seizure of larger quantities of drugs than those on land or in the air," it concluded.  

by Eliran Baruch

Head of the Israeli news agency "Makor Yisraeli", David Bedein, fiercely attacked the IDF Civil Administration as well as the Ministry of Education for allowing the distribution of schoolbooks that contain incitement against Jews. 


"For the past twenty years what has characterized the Palestinian Authority media and their education system is clear incitement to war," Bedein told Arutz Sheva.  

Bedein, who used to head the Sderot Media Center, knows what war feels like having lived under constant rocket fire from Gaza for almost 15 consecutive years. 

"We have received assurances from the US State Department that Palestinian schoolbooks, especially for the UNRWA schools would be okay now, and would meet standards of peace and reconciliation with Israel. We went out and purchased 150 of their new schools books and found that the opposite is true."

Bedein outlined that this problem has been going on for some time, since before the Six Day War, and suggested that Israel confiscate the schoolbooks when they arrive at the Erez Junction near Gaza, or other checkpoints before they cross over into Judea and Samaria.     

Bedein suggested that the same be done to the media outlets and that Israel should cut the broadcast frequencies of radio channels that espouse incitement and hatred towards Jews. Bedin said that the incitement can be stopped if Israel maintains a sense of pride.  

by Arutz Sheva Staff

At the largest gas facility in Syria, the Tuweinan gas facility, Russian engineers are working together with ISIS forces to produce natural gas, according to reports from rebels and Turkish officials. 

The plant which is located roughly 60 miles southwest of the Islamic State’s unofficial capital of Raqqa, was built by the Russian construction company Stroytransgaz whose owner has close ties with Russian President Vladimir Putin. Construction began on the plant in 2007 and continued slowly until rebel forces, associated with the Al Qaeda-affiliated al-Nusra Front, took over the plant in 2013.

In a report published by the Foreign Policy website, one of the rebels who captured the site said that when the rebel forces entered the area the Russian staff had already fled and left behind the Syrian staff. "We decided to protect this plant; we thought it is belonging to Syrian people since it was owned by the Syrian state," said Abu Khalid, a member of the Qwais al-Qarani brigade. 

ISIS took over the plant in 2014, and following that takeover, Turkish officials reported that Russia had continued the construction of the plant with approval from ISIS. Russian involvement came via its Syrian subcontractor, a company by the name of Hesco. One official also claimed that Russian engineers were returned to the site to complete construction on the facility. 

According to David Butter, an associate fellow at the London-based Chatham House, who has seen a letter written by George Haswani that explained the details of the project, the facility was completed in 2015 and has begun pumping gas to Aleppo, which is under ISIS control as well as to Damascus and Homs which are under Assad's control. 

Abu Khalid confirmed that Russian engineers work at the facility."ISIS allowed the Russian company to send engineers and crew in return for a big share in the gas and extortion money," Khalid added more detailed information regarding the Russian engineers' involvement. Khalid said that the "employees of the Russian company were changing their shifts via a military base in the Hama governorate."

In October of 2015, the the Financial Times reported that the deal between Assad and Russia on the one side and ISIS on the other allowed 50 megawatts of electricity to go to the Assad regime, while the Islamic State receives 70 megawatts of electricity and 300 barrels of condensate. The engineers who worked at the plant told the Financial Times that Hesco sends the Islamic State a large sum of approximately $50,000 each month to protect its equipment and workers.

With Syria in a constant state of war and emergency, the plant shows that the various sides in the country can still cut deals when it benefits them economically, even while the loss of human life around them soars to the half-a-million mark.

by Cynthia Blank

Holocaust survivors expressed outrage Wednesday after an Austrian prosecutor appeared to justify an article in a far-right magazine calling people liberated from the Mauthausen concentration camp a criminal "plague."

An article in the July/August edition of Die Aula contended that a not insignificant number of camp inmates went on crime sprees after they were freed at the end of World War II. 

"The fact that a non-negligible portion of freed prisoners became a plague on people is deemed by the judiciary to have been proven and is only disputed today by concentration camp fetishists," the article said.

According to Reuters, prosecutors in Graz initially opened criminal charges against the article's author for Holocaust denial and inciting hatred - but later dropped the case. 

"It is plausible that the release of several thousand people from the Mauthausen concentration camp presented a burden for the affected areas of Austria," the prosecutor's office said in a recent statement. 

"It cannot be ruled out that, in the context of the liberation, criminal activities...were engaged in by those freed," it added. "Criminals were among those imprisoned (in the camps)."

The International Mauthausen Committee (CIM), an umbrella group of Holocaust survivor organizations, denounced the Graz prosecutors' statement, blasting it as "a lumping-together plucked out of thin air."

"It is not disputed that food necessary for survival was procured in a few cases against the will of the affected local population," the CIM explained. "But to describe the term 'plague' as appropriate as a result not only flies in the face of historical fact but also ridicules concentration camp victims who are still alive."

Almost 200,000 people were sent to Mauthausen during the course of the Holocaust. Half of the camp's prisoners perished there. 


by Shlomo Piotorkovsky

A Netzah Yehuda soldier was sentenced Wednesday to seven months in prison for the beating several months ago of two Arab terrorists detained at the Harmash base in Samaria. 

He was also placed on six months probation and demoted to the rank of private after three military court judges convicted him of abuse and aggravated abuse. 

Judges Liet. Col. Ahsan Halabi, Major Eldad Emril and Captain Michael Ben Shimol wrote in the verdict that other combat soldiers need to be deterred from committing similar acts, especially given the recurrence of injuries to Arabs detained by the Netzah Yehuda battalion. 

"The need for deterrence should be obvious in this case, and the message needs to be given loud and clear," the judges wrote, explaining the reason for the harsh punishment imposed on the soldier. 

The defendant's attorney, Adi Keidar of the Honenu legal aid organization, managed to clear the soldier of two of the four counts on the indictment and he was eventually found guilty on only two counts. 

The soldier's commanding officer testified on his behalf, asserting "This is the best soldier there is, a soldier you can depend on, with a head on his shoulders, even during operational activities, which are very stressful and difficult situations."

Rabbi Yitzhak Bar Haim, co-founded of the Netzah Yehuda battalion, also testified, calling the soldier "righteous" and arguing the alleged offense was not characteristic and came as a result of stress. 

The rabbi pleaded for leniency given the stigma against haredi men in their army, asserting a tough verdict could do more harm than good in inspiring haredi families to send their children to the army. 

"The heroic parents, look at them. This is the public that's sending [sons] to the army. Will they send them now," Bar-Haim opined. 

In spite of Bar-Haim's pleas, the prosecutors demanded a severe sentence that would be served consecutively. 

Keidar accused the prosecutors of a disconnect from combat soldiers, asserting "The harsh sentence imposed on the soldier in this case reflects the trend of deterioration in military courts and the complete disconnect of the court and prosecutors to the harsh reality faced by combat soldiers during their daily activities."

by Cynthia Blank

After Tourism Minister Yariv Levin asserted US Reform Jews would become "irrelevant" within two generations, the denomination hit back by scrapping a planned meeting between the minister and community representatives. 

The Likud minister made the critical remarks in the wake of a government decision last week to allow non-Orthodox denominations of Judaism an expanded site for prayer at the Western Wall (Kotel) in Jerusalem. 

"The Reform Jews in the United States are a waning world," Levin charged during the Cabinet discussion on the proposal. "The assimilation there is of enormous extent. They don't even properly track [the assimilation] inside their communities." 

In response, the head of Israel's Movement for Reform and Progressive Judaism, Rabbi Gilad Kariv, called in a letter to the Reform Jewish community in the US on Wednesday to stop cooperating with Levin. 

According to a report on Army Radio Thursday morning, his US counterpart Rabbi Rick Jacobs was quick to comply. 

"As long as he (Levin) doesn't think that Diaspora Jews have the right to voice opinions on matters such as the Kotel, there's no reason to give him a platform in Jewish communities and organizations in the United States,"Jacobs, the president of the Union for Reform Judaism, told Army Radio. "Minister Levin will not teach us what support for Israel is."

In the wake of Kariv's urging, a meeting between Levin and several Reform Jewish leaders planned by the Israeli Foreign Ministry and scheduled for the US next week was canceled. 

A source close to Levin quoted in the Army Radio report dismissed Kariv's attack as political, noting that the rabbi was a member of the Labor party and had even vied for a spot in the Knesset during last year's election. 

Levin responded by saying it was "upsetting that at a time when [Israel is] fighting to explain to the world why a boycott is an illegitimate tool, a representative of Reform Judaism would take the unacceptable route of boycott. We cannot ignore the harsh reality of increasing assimilation. I will continue to say things clearly and work decisively to block this serious phenomena."

Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu condemned Levin's initial comments at the urging of several US Jewish groups, declaring "Reform and Conservative Jews are part and parcel of the Jewish people and should be treated with respect."

by Cynthia Blank

After three straight weekends of rain and cold, Israelis finally have some sun to look forward to as the week ends. 

Thursday morning's forecast will see light rain in the north and along the coastal areas. Skies will clear up slightly later in the day, remaining partly cloudy. 

From Friday through to Sunday, skies will be clear and sunny and temperatures will begin to rise above seasonal averages. 

A heat wave will strike Israel on Monday as temperatures jump to nearly 80°F along the coastal plan and in the Shfela region. The rest of the country is also anticipated to be unseasonably warm. 

Temperatures Thursday will reach 13°C (55°F) in the Golan Heights, 18° (64°) at the Sea of Galilee, 15° (59°) in Haifa, 17° (63°) in Tel Aviv, 12° (54°) in Jerusalem, 16° (61°) in Be'er Sheva, 15° at the Dead Sea and 21° (70°) in Eilat. 

by Ben Ariel

A Hamas cleric recently criticized Palestinian Authority (PA) officials who said that they thwarted anti-Israeli terror attacks and declared that "Israeli blood is not on a par with Palestinian blood".

The cleric, Iyad Abu Funun, made the comments during his television show on Hamas’s Al-Aqsa TV. The comments were translated by the Middle East Media Research Institute (MEMRI).

Abu Funun also attacked Israelis who came from Ethiopia, Germany, Russia, or France and described them as "highway robbers, a criminal gang."


"Some people boast that they thwarted hundreds of operations against the Zionists and that they stopped the shedding of Zionist blood - as if Israeli blood is on a par with Palestinian blood," he said.

"Such statements should not be uttered by members of our people and our nation," continued Abu Funun. "Is the blood of these foreigners on a par with the blood of our own people?"

"These people don’t even know their own origins," he claimed, in a reference to Israelis. "Where did these foreigners come from? From Ethiopia? From Russia? From Germany? From France? They are highway robbers. They are criminal gangs. They came to our land and took it. So to say that their blood is like our blood?"

Abu Funun further claimed that saying that Israeli blood is on par with Palestinian blood "runs counter to the Quran", before citing a verse saying "the strongest in enmity to the believers are the Jews and the polytheists."

He also declared that "Zionist blood is 100% filthy" because "it is murderous, criminal, aggressive blood, the blood of occupiers".

Abu Funun is the same Hamas cleric who several months ago vowed that Hamas would "not leave a single Jew, dead or alive... on the land of Islam and the Muslims."

"We will not leave a single one of you, alive or dead, on this land. By Allah, we will dig up your bones from your graves and get them out of this country. We will not leave any trace of you in this land," he said in a previous clip exposed by MEMRI.

These are just a few examples of an endless stream of propaganda inciting Palestinian Arabs to continue their violent attacks on Jews.

Much of the propaganda effort is centered in Hamas-run Gaza, but a significant portion is also being promulgated by other factions, including Mahmoud Abbas's Fatah faction.

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