• Autistic Soldiers Have Special Skills Deciphering Intelligence Photos–and benefit from the chance to use those skills

    The Israeli Defense Forces’ Secretive Unit 9900, which specializes in deciphering “visual intelligence,” now has 100 autistic volunteers so far (link here).

    The program is working well–for the IDF, for the volunteers on the autism spectrum, and for their fellow soldiers.

    The program, dubbed “Seeing Afar,” which is jointly run by the IDF and the Ono Academic College, is now in its fifth year. It includes a training course that teaches autistic youths to decipher aerial and satellite visual-intelligence images, based on their enhanced visual ability and their tendency towards patience, which allow them to explore the minutest details—an essential attribute for this role, an officer from an intelligence unit that received the volunteers has told JNS. –JNS (Jewish News Syndicate)

    The job requires people in the unit to search patiently through reams of intelligence images looking, as one soldier said, “for a needle in the haystack.”

    Some people on the autism spectrum seem to be especially good at that, and the IDF is integrating them into this specialized unit.

    The effect on these recruits themselves seems to be very positive.

    “When I first arrived here, I still felt like a civilian,” Cpl. O told JNS in an interview. Gradually, however, he began to feel like an organic part of the military.

    “You search and search, and don’t find it at first. Sometimes, it feels like forever until you find it. But when you do, it certainly brings satisfaction,” said Cpl. O. “There were whole days that I couldn’t find what I was looking for. On other days, I’d locate it in every picture—six pictures in a row. On those days, I wanted to look for more! –JNS

    The autism-spectrum soldiers think their skills and experience will help them enter the job market when they finish service. And the other soldiers who work with them speak of their positive experiences, with some wanting to work with autism issues after they leave the service.

    Thanks to JNS for reporting a fascinating and inspiring story.

    Here’s a blue-sky idea that might help these autism-spectrum soldiers when they return to civilian life–and might help doctors and patients in Israel.

    Why not a test program to see if these soldiers, with some training, can do the same thing with X-Rays, MRIs, and CAT-Scans??

    They have already been screened by the IDF for the general characteristics.

    The fact that they stayed in the IDF photo-intelligence unit says that they have the necessary patience and visual acuity in working situations.

    I wonder if they would be good at finding cancer nodules, etc.?

    If they were, then the screening and training could be used in other countries for people on the spectrum.

    Seems like it is worth a try, especially in “Innovation Nation.”

     

  • How Israel’s Mossad Stole Iran’s Nuclear Files and Got Them Out of the Country . . . “with Iranian agents on their tail”

    The Times of Israel reports the story (link here).

    The article says the Mossad had known about the files for several years and knew Iran kept moving them around, hoping to keep them hidden.

    Still, the Israelis kept track of them, knew the location, broke in, stole them, and got them to Israel the same night, apparently using an extensive on-the-ground infrastructure.

    Of course, the Mullahs are arrested huge numbers of “suspects.”

    Also, they called Netanyahu the “boy who cried wolf.” Perhaps their top insult-designers have been arrested. Normally, Aesop’s fables are not your go-to source.

  • Palestinians burn tires as protests. Actually complain (I’m not kidding), “Israel is not letting us import badly needed tires”

    The burning tires serve two purposes. They are visually compelling for TV news, and they obscure terrorists running toward the fence, trying to cut through it and attack innocent Israelis.

    The plea for tires echoes the earlier pleas for concrete, which were limited after Hamas diverted the building material from public projects to build terror tunnels.

    From the Jerusalem Post:

    “We have been informed by the Israeli side that imports of tires have been halted until further notice,” Muhammad Hamdan, a spokesman for the PA Transportation Ministry told The Jerusalem Post. . . .

    Hamdan criticized Israel’s decision to stop tire imports to Gaza, asserting that there is a shortage of tires in the coastal enclave.

    “There is no doubt stopping tire imports will have a negative effect on Palestinians in Gaza especially considering there is shortage of them there,” he said. “We are going to exert all efforts so that Israel reverses its decision.”

    –Jerusalem Post

    Perhaps they’d also like to bring in some rocket launchers to help with their high-school physics courses, naturally.

    On a more serious note, Hillel Frisch writes that the Gaza protests will fail unless they spark parallel uprisings in the West Bank and Israel (link here for full report):

     The real test of Hamas’s March of Return campaign in Gaza lies in its ability to mobilize mass violence in Jerusalem, Ramallah, Bethlehem, Hebron, and other parts of the West Bank. So far, most of the Arab inhabitants of those areas are content to watch the events on their screens rather than in the streets.

    Anything less than sustained mass violence in these areas will amount to one more defeat for Hamas in its string of defeats. They include its inability to solve Gaza’s social and economic problems; its inability to cope with the loss of potential strategic partner Muhammad Mursi, the Muslim Brotherhood member and ousted Egyptian president, and its inability to handle his replacement by incumbent President al-Sisi, who shares an enmity to the organization fully supported by financial powerhouses such as Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates.                                    –Hillel Frisch, Begin-Sadat Center, Bar-Ilan University

    Additional comment: Expect virtue-signaling students in US and Europe to reference these protests in coming weeks during their annual condemnation of Israel’s existence, known as “Nakba Week” (The Catastrophe, meaning Israel’s formation) and “Israel Apartheid Week.” It’s “all victim, all the time.”

  • No Apologies: Nikki Haley Explains Why the US Moved Its Embassy to Jerusalem

    In one of those useless exercises the UN seems to enjoy, its members forced a Security Council debate and vote to condemn Pres. Trump’s decision to move the US embassy to the city Israel calls its capital, Jerusalem.

    The US vetoed the resolution. Since everyone knew in advance it would do so, the debate was staged to smear the US and Israel. It follows a recent move by another UN body to remove any Jewish references to locations within Israel. They will be called only by their Arabic names, even if they are exclusively Jewish Holy Sites.  As far as the UN is concerned, it’s a “Judenfrei zone.”

    As ZipDialog has noted previously, the embassy move (which is actually a gradual process) did not prejudge the US position on the location of a future Palestinian state, and the US said so.

    The Palestinians did not accept that explanation–their position is flatly rejectionist–but their attempt to spark another uprising fizzled. Still, it’s the thought that counts.

    It is also worth noting that US decision was divisive along party lines. It had complete support among Republicans, very little among Democrats (though their leaders generally remained low profile), and fairly broad opposition among US diplomats and foreign-policy types, many of whom predicted disaster. Turkey and Iran are trying their hardest to encourage such an uprising, so far without luck.

    The move itself was of a piece with several other Trump decisions that (a) fulfill clear campaign promises, and (b) revisit long-standing US policies that he thinks have failed to produce results.

    This Security Council debate gave US Ambassador Nikki Haley a chance to show that she is cut from the same cloth as Ambassadors Pat Moynihan and Jeanne Kirkpatrick, not Susan Rice and Samantha Power.

    Here are a couple of Amb. Haley’s tweets about that debate and the US position, which she forcefully articulated.

    The phrase, “taking names,” recalls those previous ambassadors, who said that voting against US interests would not be a freebie. Most administrations take the “no worries” attitude. Not this administration. One gets the clear impression that Haley is more in tune with the White House and NSC than with Rex Tillerson and the State Department.

     

  • Thoughts on US Embassy Move to Jerusalem

    • Since Jerusalem is actually Israel’s capital and since it will continue to be so in any putative peace settlement, I don’t see how this blocks such a settlement.
      • The US Consulate–and future Embassy–are in WEST Jerusalem. Everyone (except people who believe in Israel’s annihilation) understand that West Jerusalem will be part of Israel forever. No voluntary peace settlement will change that.
      • There was no American statement that the embassy move prevents some part of Jerusalem from being a Palestinian capital, too.
    • I don’t like hecklers’ vetoes on campus and I don’t like rioters’ vetoes elsewhere. That threat was used to try and block the move. It failed. Good.
    • The Palestinians have not exactly proven themselves partners for peace since Oslo.
      • Until now, the US had not made them pay any price for their truculence.
      • Now, it has.
    • The only way there will ever being peace, IMO, is if Israel thinks it is absolutely secure against Palestinian threats and has firm US backing against such threats.
      • Obama’s strategy made the opposite assumption. It made US support for Israel and other allies more problematic, more contingent on following US directions, and, of course, more hectoring. US friends in Egypt, Saudi Arabia, and across the region understood and adjusted–against the US.
      • Trump has fundamentally reversed that policy, not only in Israel but in Saudi Arabia, Egypt, and elsewhere.
    • The only way many other Arab states will back off their rejectionist, maximalist demands to eliminate Israel is for them to be utterly convinced it is impossible and costly to continue.
      • Fundamentally, only Israeli military strength can convince them Israel will not be eliminated.
      • US support, including the moving of the embassy, shows that Israel cannot be completely isolated diplomatically. (Again, Obama’s moves against Israel raised question marks about diplomatic isolation.)
      • What will change the cost of Arab/Muslim/European opposition to Israel?  Two calculations:
        1. Fear of Iran, for states in the Middle East. They will edge toward alliance with other anti-Iranian states, of which Israel is the most powerful, the most technically sophisticated, and the most capable in its intelligence services.
        2. Desire for trade with a growing, sophisticated, and technologically-innovative economy.  It is called “start-up nation” for a reason. (The GDP per capita of once-poor Israel is now equal to Italy and about 20-30% below the wealthier European states. It is about 3.5x higher than Turkey, 7x higher than Iran, 10x higher than Jordan on a per capita basis.)
    • There are two fundamental obstacles to peace on the Palestinian side.
      1. They don’t have stable governance.
        • Even if they promised peace, the government might be upended and a new government reverse course.
        • Knowing that, even political moderates in the West Bank are fearful of suggesting deeper cooperation. They wouldn’t win and might well be killed.
      2. The Palestinian political class has never accepted the basic idea of a Jewish state in the region.
        • The Palestinians’ own rejection of Israel encourages that of Muslims across the region. Not that they need much encouragement.
        • That’s true of both people in the West Bank and Gaza and of their leaders.
        • The level of anti-Semitism in their schoolbooks, propaganda, and casual statements is breathtaking. . . and disgusting. One compelling piece of evidence: they actually pay monthly pensions to families of terrorists who kill Jews. The money comes from Western donors.
    • The rejectionist front against Israel now has two regional leaders: Iran, which has expanded across the region, and Turkey, which has become increasingly Islamist under Erdogan.
      • Again, Obama’s policies made these problems worse. In the case of Iran, so did Bush’s take down of Saddam Hussein without ensuring a replacement regime.
    • As with so many Trump policies, the movement of the US embassy represents a change based on a simple calculus: what we tried in the past did not work. Let’s try something different.
      • In this case, I think he’s correct.
      • There will be a short-term price to pay. But the long-run effect will be Muslim recognition that Israel cannot be exterminated (at least, by anything less than an Iranian nuclear attack). That may cause some of them to accept the reality and move on.
    • US domestic politics: Jews: most Jews follow the same path of college-educated, socially liberal Americans.
      • They are appalled by Trump personally and think his behavior in office is unbecoming. But there is a deeper shift beneath the surface.
      • The Democratic Party is increasingly anti-Israel, the Republicans pro-Israel.
        • That is leading to stronger Jewish backing for Republicans, especially among more observant Jews. There used to be almost no Jewish Republicans. Now, there are plenty.
        • Among other Jews, the Republicans association with social conservatism is a major obstacle to realignment. So is the widening distance between US Jews and Israel.
    • US domestic politics: Evangelicals. No group has supported Israel more steadfastly–or been a stronger support for Republicans. They will love this move.
    • Europe’s fecklessness on Israel is on full display, not that anyone doubted it. It fears its own unassimilated Muslim population and assumes its antagonism to Israel will win friends in the Arab/Muslim world.
      • When historians look back at the long arc at the century beginning in 1930, they will see that Europe has traded a well-integrated Jewish minority, which Hitler exterminated, for a poorly-integrated and growing Muslim minority. The Jews accepted the basic tenets of liberal democracy. Significant elements of the Muslim minority do not.
      • Anti-Semitism in Europe is a serious problem. It combines four groups: Muslims, left-wing intellectuals, traditional anti-Semites (both upper-class and religious conservatives), and right-wing nationalists. (The movement in the US contains the first two but the last two are different. Country-club anti-Semites are a much smaller group today, and the vast majority of nationalist/patriot Americans are actually pro-Israel. Except for the fringes, they don’t have the fascist, anti-Semitic slant of Europe’s right-wing movements.)
    • Effects beyond the region: North Korea. By keeping a prominent campaign promise, Pres. Trump has made his other promises and threats more credible. That will have some effect as Beijing thinks about Trump’s threats to deal with North Korea
    • For people who say “all this sets back the peace process,” the short answer is “what peace process?

  • How the NSA Found Out the Russians had Hacked It

    Israel hacked Russia’s Kaspersky cyber labs, found code that could only have come from the NSA, then told the Americans (Washington Post)

    In 2015, Israeli government hackers saw something suspicious in the computers of a Moscow-based cybersecurity firm: hacking tools that could only have come from the National Security Agency.

    Israel notified the NSA, where alarmed officials immediately began a hunt for the breach, according to people familiar with the matter, who said an investigation by the agency revealed that the tools were in the possession of the Russian government.

    Israeli spies had found the hacking material on the network of Kaspersky Lab, the global anti-virus firm under a spotlight in the United States because of suspicions that its products facilitate Russian espionage –Washington Post