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STOPPING ELECTION INTERFERENCE

STOPPING ELECTION INTERFERENCE

JPOST EDITORIAL


“A foreign country intends to interfere in the coming elections in Israel, and it will interfere,” Argaman was reported to have said.
A man holds a laptop computer as cyber code is projected on him. (photo credit: KACPER PEMPEL/REUTERS)

On Monday, Shin Bet (Israel Security Agency) director Nadav Argaman made headlines by telling an audience at Tel Aviv University that a foreign country is trying to interfere in Israel’s upcoming national elections.

The Military Censor banned publication of the name of the country to which Argaman was referring, but the Shin Bet chief did say it was planning to use “cyber capabilities” to achieve its objectives.

“A foreign country intends to interfere in the coming elections in Israel, and it will interfere,” Argaman was reported to have said. “I don’t know at this stage whom it will help or hurt [but] I know what I am talking about.”

First, we take issue with the Military Censor’s decision. If the head of the Shin Bet gives a speech in front of civilians and says something that might have been classified, it is no longer going to be able to remain classified. That is enough to allow publication.

In addition, there is an interest in letting the Israeli public know which country might be trying to undermine the electoral process. It is true that Israel has interests in maintaining good relations with Russia – especially considering its ongoing presence in Syria – but that does not mean it can get away with whatever it wants. If Russia is truly working to harm Israel’s democracy, the people should know.

It is important to know so that people can be vigilant and know what signs of intervention to look for. In Thursday’s Jerusalem Post, Herb Keinon brought two examples of foreign intervention in past elections: Iran increasing suicide attacks ahead of the 1996 elections, and efforts during that same race by president Bill Clinton to get Shimon Peres reelected.

If, for example, the foreign country Argaman was referring to will interfere by posting fake news on Facebook, or by putting up advertisements on highway billboards, Israelis should know.

It could simply be, as the Israel Democracy Institute’s Tehilla Shwartz Altshuler told Keinon, that Russia is trying to “destabilize the political system, to reduce public trust in liberal democracy as a system.”

Russia naturally denied accusations that it has plans to intervene in the elections, and the Kremlin spokesperson, Dimitri Paskov, rejected Argaman’s claims.

Nevertheless, a simple look at what has been going on in the United States since the 2016 presidential election is enough of a reason why we should be concerned. Ever since Donald Trump was elected president, there have been accusations and reports of Russian intervention in that election, as well as allegations his campaign colluded with Moscow to ensure he won.

This has led not only to the Mueller probes, but also to an amazing sense of divisiveness to regular Americans, among whom some hate the president and others can find nothing wrong with him. This might have been the case with Trump even without the Russian scandal, but it has definitely exacerbated an already volatile situation.

This cannot be allowed to happen in Israel. When elections are undermined, people lose faith not only in their government but also in their country. A people that feels an election has been stolen, will have difficulty falling behind and supporting controversial government policies. If there is a feeling that the elections were undermined, the next government will have difficulty enacting policies like a peace deal with the Palestinians or legislating a new draft bill to get haredi youth to serve in the IDF.

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu assured Israelis on Wednesday that Israel is better prepared than most countries to fend off a cyberattack against its electoral process. We hope he is right. But to be sure, we would urge the government to allocate resources to increase our cyberdefenses and to educate the public in how to identify cases of election interference.

Interfering with elections is a direct blow to the democratic character of any country, but especially one like Israel, which prides itself on being the only true democracy in the Middle East.


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Jury to be chosen for Brussels Jewish museum terror attack trial

Jury to be chosen for Brussels Jewish museum terror attack trial

MATTHIEU DEMEESTERE


Mehdi Nemmouche suspected in 2014 shooting that killed four people, including 2 Israelis; Jewish leader warns defense team may claim Mossad behind killing spree
This court drawing made on June 26, 2014, shows Mehdi Nemmouche, center, the suspect in a deadly terror attack at the Brussels Jewish Museum, during a court hearing in Versailles, France. (AFP Photo/Benoit Peyrucq)

BRUSSELS, Belgium (AFP) — A jury will be chosen on Monday for the trial of a Frenchman accused of shooting dead four people at the Jewish museum in Brussels in 2014 following his return from Syria.

Mehdi Nemmouche, allegedly the first battle-hardened jihadist to stage a terror attack on European soil, goes on trial Thursday for his killing spree in the Belgian capital on May 24, 2014.

Both Nemmouche, 33, and Nacer Bendrer, a fellow Frenchman aged 30 who allegedly supplied the weapons, claim they are innocent.

The pair will appear at a Brussels criminal court at 9:00 a.m. local time when the process of selecting the 12-member jury begins.

The full trial will open three days later, with the two facing charges of “terrorist murder,” which carries a life sentence.

More than 100 witnesses are to testify at the trial, which will be attended by the victims’ families and Jewish community leaders who have denounced the anti-Semitic nature of the attack.

People pay their respects in front of a makeshift memorial at the entrance of the Jewish Museum in Brussels, on May 25, 2014. (AFP/Georges Gobet)

And more than 300 Belgian and foreign journalists have registered to cover the proceedings which could last until the end of February.

82 seconds of terror

The deadly attack, which lasted only 82 seconds, took place on a Saturday afternoon, in a shooting that shocked Belgium and the world.

Firing a pistol and then an assault rifle, the gunman killed two Israeli tourists, a French volunteer and a Belgian receptionist at the Jewish Museum.

Nemmouche — born to a family of Algerian origin in the northern French town of Roubaix but immediately put into foster care — was arrested six days after the attack.

He was caught in the southern French port city of Marseille after arriving on a bus from Brussels. In his possession was a handgun and an assault rifle.

Prior to the attack, Nemmouche is said to have fought in Syria as part of a jihadist faction and is also accused of acting as a jailer of kidnapped French journalists.

Investigators say Nemmouche was in Syria from 2013 to 2014 which was where he met Najim Laachraoui, a member of the gang which went on to carry out the Brussels suicide bombings that killed 32 people in March 2016.

French national Mehdi Nemmouche, right, sits in the back of a police vehicle as he arrives at the courthouse in Brussels on December 20, 2018, for a preliminary hearing in his trial for killing four people in a terror attack at the city’s Jewish Museum . (Thierry Roge/Belga/AFP)

Radicalized inmates

That same Brussels cell is also alleged to have coordinated and sent jihadists to carry out the Paris massacre of November 13, 2015, in which 130 people were killed and hundreds more wounded.

Both attacks were claimed by the Islamic State (IS) group, whose activities in Syria and Iraq lured thousands of jihadists from Europe.

Nemmouche and Bendrer, investigators say, met nearly a decade ago while serving time in a prison in Salon-de-Provence, southern France, where they were both described as “radicalized” inmates who tried to win others over.

Bendrer was arrested in Marseille seven months after the Jewish Museum attack and charged as Nemmouche’s accomplice.

Although he was jailed for five years in September by a French court for attempted extortion, he was transferred to Belgium for the trial.

Jailer of hostages

Nemmouche is expected to face a separate trial in France for holding French journalists hostage in Syria after being charged in November.

The former hostages are expected to testify about Nemmouche’s character during the Brussels trial, despite the defense arguing that theirs is a separate case.
Lawyers for Mehdi Nemmouche, a French suspect in the Brussels Jewish museum attack, Henri Laquay, center, and Sebastien Courtoy, right, speak with the media at the Palace of Justice in Brussels on Thursday, September 21, 2017. (AP Photo/Virginia Mayo)

Nemmouche is said to have voiced admiration for Mohamed Merah, who murdered a Jewish father, his two children and an eight-year-old girl in a 2012 attack on a Jewish school in the southern French city of Toulouse.

Belgian Jewish leader Yohan Benizri told AFP he feared Nemmouche’s lawyers Sebastien Courtoy and Henri Laquay will try to “play down” the anti-Semitic nature of the museum attack.

The defense team, Benizri added, may even try to “twist” the facts by repeating “totally far-fetched” claims that Israel’s intelligence service Mossad staged the attack.

“We don’t want Mehdi Nemmouche to become a star. He is a terrorist,” said Benizri, who heads the Belgian Federation of Jewish Organizations.

Courtoy himself suggested Israeli agents could be behind the attack when he spoke at a pre-trial hearing on December 20.

“There was the same kind of talk in conspiracy and anti-Semitic circles after the September 11 attacks in the United States,” Benizri warned.


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Two terror orphans engaged

Two terror orphans engaged

Arutz Sheva Staf


Ayelet and Avigdor both lost their parents in terror attacks. Last night, they got engaged after meeting at a support group for orphans.
Avigdor Gvish and Ayelet Dikstein / Courtesy of Yediot Aharonot

Ayelet Dikstein and Avigdor Gvish who had both lost their parents in terror attacks almost 20 years ago are engaged. The two met at a support group for orphans.

Sunday morning, Amihai Itali for Yediot Aharonot reported on the engagement ceremony that took place on Saturday. The happy occasion was marred by the fact that their parents could not be there, having been murdered.

For Avigdor’s family, terror struck in 2002, during the Second Intifada, when he was just a 19-year-old soldier. It was at the end of the Pesach Seder, a day after the horrific massacre at the Park Hotel in Netanya. A Palestinian terrorist infiltrated the family home in the Samarian community of Elon Moreh. The terrorist opened fire on the family, critically wounding his father, David, who later died of his wounds. Also murdered were Avigdor’s mother, Rachel, and her father Yitzchak Kanar who joined the family for the seder. His brother Avraham, who was serving as a Major in the elite Sayeret Matkal unit was shot as well.

The injured Avraham asked Avigdor to bring him his weapon that was upstairs. Having just drafted, Avigdor did not yet know how to shoot, but did as he was asked. Avraham’s condition worsened and he found it difficult operate the weapon. He later died of his wounds. The terrorist was killed by IDF forces.

Four months later, terror struck Ayelet’s family.

At the end of July 2002, the Dikstein family were driving from their family home in Psagot to visit family in Yeshiv Ma’on, in the Hevron Hills. Their car was fired on by terrorists. Ayelet’s little brother, Shoval, was hit, as well as their mother, Chana.

Her father, Yosef, stopped the car to try and help his wife and young son, but was shot to death. The mother and young son later died of their wounds.

Ayelet, a young girl at the time, resourcefully helped her other brothers in the car as they were under attack.

Over the years, Ayelet and Avigdor would meet at support groups for orphans run by One Family. There they found that they had a lot in common. As time went by the bond between them grew, and they started dating two years ago.

On Friday, before they announced their engagement, the couple went to Elon Moreh cemetery to visit Avigdor’s parents David and Rachel, his grandfather, Yitzchak Kanar, and his older brother Avraham that were murdered in the attack.

From their they went to the Psagot cemetery to visit Ayelet’s parents, Yosef and Chana and her young brother Shoval that were murdered.

Only afterwards, did the couple announce their decision to marry to the rest of the families and friends.

The couple celebrated their engagement in Elkana, at the home of Avigdor’s brother.

There was a lot of excitement and happiness, but also sadness and pain that the murdered family members will not be at their wedding.


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OCASIO-CORTEZ, TLAIB AND OTHER STAR FRESHMEN CRASH INTO CONGRESS

OCASIO-CORTEZ, TLAIB AND OTHER STAR FRESHMEN CRASH INTO CONGRESS

MICHAEL WILNER


She’s the daughter of immigrants

Tlaib is the oldest of 14 children born to Palestinian immigrant parents. Her father, who was born near Jerusalem, worked on the assembly line at the Ford Motor Co. plant.

…first Muslim woman in Congress


Together with other prominent new Democratic members, Ocasio-Cortez and Tlaib have become the public face of the most diverse, youthful and female Congress in American history.

(photo credit: JONATHAN ERNST / REUTERS)

WASHINGTON – A diverse, youthful cadre of freshman female lawmakers entered Congress last week much as they had campaigned for their seats: under the spotlight of intense national interest, proudly proclaiming themselves as agents of radical change.

Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez of New York, the youngest-ever member of the House of Representatives at 29, sat for an interview with 60 Minutes and called for a 70% tax rate on the income of the wealthiest Americans. She was the only Democrat booed by her Republican colleagues – who view her as a poster child for the far-left and a rallying cry for their base – as she stood in favor of Nancy Pelosi of California for Speaker of the House.

And when opposition researchers tried to smear her with a video from her college years of her dancing on a rooftop to some sweet tunes – footage conservative sites apparently thought would embarrass her – she brushed her shoulders off, posting a video of herself entering her new congressional office dancing to “War, What Is It Good For?”

In stark contrast, Ocasio-Cortez’s friend and colleague, Rashida Tlaib of Michigan, faced a rougher entry. At a private celebration after her swearing-in ceremony, she told supporters that she would stand up to bullies like US President Donald Trump and “impeach that mother******,” drawing condemnation from the president, Pelosi, and other Democratic leaders. She defended her comment on Twitter but refused to address a hoard of journalists trailing her on Capitol Hill.

Together with other prominent new Democratic members, including Ilhan Omar of Minnesota, Ayanna Pressley of Massachusetts, and Sharice Davids from Kansas, Ocasio-Cortez and Tlaib have become the public face of the most diverse, youthful and female Congress in American history.

They are more organically plugged in to social media than their more veteran colleagues, and have adeptly used those platforms to increase their profiles.

But several of those same members have also gained the attention, and concern, of the Israeli public, for their views on Israel.

While Ocasio-Cortez says she is not an expert on the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, she has offered repeated criticism of the Israeli government’s treatment of Palestinians and says she intends on promoting Palestinian rights during her time in office.

Tlaib – the first Palestinian-American to sit in the House – says she opposes a two-state solution, and does not believe in Israel’s right to exist as a Jewish state.

Linda Sarsour, a controversial Palestinian activist staunchly in favor of the BDS movement, was on Capitol Hill on Thursday to attend Tlaib’s swearing in. A world map in her new office was marked with a Post-it marking Israel as Palestine just hours before Tlaib took her oath, on a Quran once owned by Thomas Jefferson.

She and Omar plan on leading a trip to the West Bank as an alternative to a traditional trip for freshmen congressmen to Israel led by AIPAC, the largest Israel advocacy organization in Washington. Both women openly support the BDS movement, which a bipartisan majority in Congress may soon criminalize on a federal level.


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Palestinian Who Worked With Israel to Prevent Terror Attacks Describes PA Torture

Palestinian Who Worked With Israel to Prevent Terror Attacks Describes PA Torture

Benjamin Kerstein


A Palestinian man who worked with Israel to prevent terror attacks addresses a Knesset meeting, Dec. 11, 2018. Photo: Screenshot.

A Palestinian who worked with Israel to prevent terror attacks appeared before a Knesset committee on Tuesday and described his brutal treatment at the hands of the Palestinian Authority.

According to the Hebrew newssite Walla, the unnamed man told lawmakers, “I am a man who received a death sentence because I prevented the spilling of blood. I prevented terror attacks. Because of this, children grew up today and were not killed, and I did the job.”

He said that he took the actions he did because “I didn’t want attacks, I wanted peace.”

The man then described being tortured by PA forces, as well as other incidents of torture that he witnessed.

“They take you to a room,” he said, “and have you work on their construction, lifting five, seven blocks, and go up to the fifth floor. And on every floor there is a Palestinian soldier. If you take a break, he hits you. You go up — and come back down again. They open the sewer and say, ‘Get down there.’”

The Knesset meeting was called in response to the arrest by the Palestinian Authority of a Palestinian-American man suspected of selling land to Jews. Thus far, he remains in custody.

HaBayit HaYehudi MK Bezalel Smotrich, who led the meeting, said, “A half hour from here, the worst and most horrible human rights violations are taking place. This is a heavy moral stain on the State of Israel.”


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