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Terror Victims Win Supreme Court Judgment against Iran

Iran Has Not Changed Graphic

The Supreme Court on Wednesday upheld a judgment allowing families of victims of Iranian-sponsored terrorism to collect nearly $2 billion.

The court on Wednesday ruled 6-2 in favor of relatives of the 241 Marines who died in a 1983 terrorist attack in Beirut and victims of other attacks that courts have linked to Iran.

Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg wrote the opinion for the court rejecting efforts by Iran’s central bank to try to stave off court orders that would allow the relatives to be paid for their losses.

Iran’s Bank Markazi complained that Congress was intruding into the business of federal courts when it passed a 2012 law that specifically directs that the banks’ assets in the United States be turned over to the families.

The law, Ginsburg wrote, “does not transgress restraints placed on Congress and the president by the Constitution.”

Chief Justice John Roberts and Justice Sonia Sotomayor dissented. “The authority of the political branches is sufficient; they have no need to seize ours,” Roberts wrote.

More than 1,300 people are among the relatives of the victims of the Marine barracks bombing in Beirut, the 1996 terrorist bombing of the Khobar Towers in Saudi Arabia which killed 19 service members, and other attacks that were carried out by groups with links to Iran. The lead plaintiff is Deborah Peterson, whose brother, Lance Cpl. James C. Knipple, was killed in Beirut.

Congress has repeatedly changed the law in the past 20 years to make it easier for victims to sue over state-sponsored terrorism; federal courts have ruled for the victims. But Iran has refused to comply with the judgments, leading lawyers to hunt for Iranian assets in the United States. Read the rest at Fox News.

Meltdown At College Debate Championships Over Palestinian Terror Resolution

US DEBATING CHAMPSThe 2016 U.S. Universities Debating Championship, which took place at Morehouse College in Atlanta over the weekend, was marred by controversy after one of the propositions to be debated was revealed to be “This House Believes That Palestinian Violence Against Israeli Civilians Is Justified,” a decision that led to some participants to walk out.

The Israeli-Palestinian conflict is a frequent topic at college debate tournaments — past prompts have included whether a Jewish state should have been created somewhere other than the Middle East, and whether Israel should have unilaterally disengaged from the Gaza Strip in 2005. Other past championship questions have also had the potential to cause offense, such as arguing over whether the feminist movement has a right to exclude trans women.

But the wording of the question for the sixth of eight opening rounds was criticized for forcing half of all participants, who are assigned their viewpoints, to argue in favor of committing terror attacks on specific civilians. People who spoke to The Tower said they believed the wording of the question to be unprecedented. The debate prompt was especially distressing for participants who were Jewish or otherwise had ties to Israel, as they may have been forced to choose between losing crucial points in the national championship and advocating for murdering people they knew.

The debate format gives participants 15 minutes between announcing the subject and beginning the debate. “Once the topic is released, debaters are probably not going to react immediately, because they are on a timed clock,” Jessica Weiss, a second-year student at Willamette University who attended the tournament, explained to The Tower. “Once my partner and I got the topic, we immediately started walking to [our assigned] room in a rush. I was shocked, a lot of people were shocked. We were opposing the topic, so it wasn’t as bad for me, but I was still emotionally affected by it. I was tearing up and my partner was trying to calm me down.”

“I cried during most of the preparation time,” Weiss said. “It was sourced from my personal experiences being [in Israel]. But I’ve debated many controversial topics before, and I just kept telling myself this is just another one.” Weiss said that she that by the time the debate was scheduled to begin, she was emotionally as well as intellectually prepared — the fact that competitors only had 15 minutes to prepare to discuss a controversial subject pertaining to a complicated region meant that “a lot of people didn’t know what they were talking about. … There was a general lack of knowledge in that round.”

“[When the topic was announced] I was in the highest-ranked room of the tournament, with one of the chief adjudicators judging me,” Stanford debater Harry Elliott, who was assigned to argue in favor of the motion, told The Tower. “My first instinct was to drop out and walk out.” But as part of a high-ranking team that had traveled all the way from California, “we felt a pretty strong obligation to get on with the round…so [we] ran the case in the way we deemed most acceptable.”

Multiple sources told The Tower that they had heard reports of people crying in the middle of their presentations because they were so uncomfortable giving speeches in favor of the motion.

Some debaters who were assigned the “pro” position tried to turn the debate into a discussion of the morality of terrorism in general, or the acceptability of Palestinian lethal self-defense from Jewish terrorist attacks. But many participants were penalized by judges for not specifically discussing the issue of targeting Israeli civilians, a judge who refused to participate in the debate told The Tower. That judge, who is a college student, asked not to be named because he was concerned that being seen as sympathetic towards Israel would affect his future job prospects.

Ironically, a forum on “safe spaces” was cut short in order to announce the controversial debate prompt. The announcement led to an outcry among some participants, who asked that the debate be postponed and a new prompt given. But at that point, most participants had already headed to their assigned rooms to begin prepping for the debate. The “equity officer,” who was in charge of fair and equitable treatment for all debate participants, agreed that the subject was unacceptable and said that participation in that round should be optional, according to a recounting of events on the tournament’s Facebook page. But the officer added that she did not have the capability to inform participants of that decision so close to the scheduled commencement of the debate.

Nearly every debater completed the round, but around 30 people submitted “equity violation” notices to the equity officer after the round’s conclusion, Weiss told The Tower – including a Palestinian-American on the Willamette team. Some teams even decided to leave the tournament early. A meeting was scheduled to discuss the appropriateness of the question, the judge said, but it was postponed twice and then moved to an online forum. Read the rest at The Tower.

Iran and Italy Ink $20 Billion in Trade Deals


Iran’s Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei

Deals during visit by Italian premier include plans for energy cooperation, scheme to renovate Tehran airport

TEHRAN, Iran (AP) — Iran and Italy signed a series of bilateral agreements during a visit by Italian Prime Minister Matteo Renzi to Tehran this week, signaling both countries’ desire to restore ties following this year’s implementation of the Iran nuclear deal.

The agreements included plans for cooperation between Italian electricity and gas company Enel and the National Iranian Gas Export Company, Iranian state news agency IRNA reported.

Enel said the memorandum of understanding lays out details for possible cooperation involving natural gas, liquefied natural gas and related infrastructure. The agreement could include information-sharing, studies, analysis and training, “as well as exploring future opportunities for long term supplies,” Enel said.

Other deals include a car component agreement with Danieli Group, an agreement with the Milan Airports company to renovate a domestic airport in Tehran, and another focused on promoting tourism, according to IRNA.

Ali Reza Daemi, deputy energy minister, told IRNA the two countries also agreed to build several biomass, solar and geothermal power plants.

Financial terms were not disclosed.

Separately, Italian oil services company Saipen said it inked a memorandum of understanding with Razavi Oil and Gas Development Company for work on the Toos gas field project, located 100 kilometers (62 miles) northeast of the city of Mashhad. It said the field holds more than 60 billion cubic meters of gas.

Italy once ranked among Iran’s top trading partners, with 7 billion euros ($7.6 billion) in trade before international sanctions were imposed on Iran over its nuclear ambitions. A landmark deal to remove those sanctions in exchange for curbs on Iran’s nuclear program went into effect in January.

“Before the sanctions Italy was Iran’s budgets trade partner in the European Union and today we want Italy to play that role again,” President Hassan Rouhani said during a ceremony to welcome the Italian premier. “Today, we want Italy to play its former role.”

Renzi’s two-day visit, which began Tuesday, was the first by an Italian leader since Giuliano Amato visited in 2001.

Renzi’s trip follows a visit by Iranian President Hassan Rouhani to Rome in January in which the two countries inked billions of dollars in trade deals. Those agreements included agreements for oil services firm Saipem to upgrade two Iranian oil refineries and another for work on pipeline projects in the country.

Later Tuesday, Iran’s Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei told Renzi that Iran welcomes improving relations with Italy, particularly in the field of economic cooperation. Read more at the Times of Israel.

Palestinians: Hamas & the Palestinian Authority Erasing Christian History

Palestinian Christians' PlightBy Khaled Abu Toameh

For Palestinian Christians, the destruction of the ancient Byzantine church ruins is yet a further attempt by Palestinian Muslim leaders to efface both Christian history and signs of any Christian presence in the West Bank and Gaza, under the Palestinian Authority (PA) and Hamas. A growing number of Christians feel they are being systematically targeted by both the PA and Hamas for being Christians.

Bulldozers were used to destroy some of the church artifacts; some Palestinian Christians accused both Hamas and the PA of copying ISIS tactics to demolish historic sites.

“Where are the heads of the churches in Jerusalem and the world?… Where are the Vatican and UNESCO? Where are the leaders and politicians who talk, talk, talk about national unity and the preservation of holy sites? Or is this a collective conspiracy to end our existence and history in the East?” — Sami Khalil, a Christian from the West Bank city of Nablus.

The plight of Palestinian Christians does not interest the international community. That is because Israel cannot be blamed for demolishing the antiquities. If the current policy against Christians persists, the day will come when no Christians will be left in Bethlehem.

Palestinian Christians are up in arms over the destruction of the ruins of an ancient Byzantine church that were recently discovered in Gaza City.

The protest, however, failed to win the attention of the international community, especially United Nations agencies such as UNESCO, whose mission is to secure the world’s cultural and natural heritage.

The ruins of the 1800-year-old church were discovered in Palestine Square, in the Al-Daraj neighborhood of Gaza City, where Hamas is planning to build a shopping mall. The dramatic discovery of the antiquities did not seem to leave an impression on the construction workers, who removed artifacts and continued with their work at the site.

Defying belief, bulldozers were used to destroy some of the church artifacts, drawing sharp criticism from Palestinian Christians, some of whom rushed to accuse both Hamas and the Palestinian Authority (PA) of copying ISIS tactics to demolish historic sites.

For Palestinian Christians, the destruction of the church ruins is yet a further attempt by Palestinian Muslim leaders to efface both Christian history and signs of any Christian presence in the Palestinian territories.
Hamas has destroyed the ruins of an 1800-year-old Byzantine church that was recently unearthed in Gaza City.
The charges reflect the bitterness felt by Palestinian Christians against their leaders in the West Bank and Gaza Strip. The charges also reveal the growing sense of marginalization and persecution that many Christians feel under the Palestinian Authority and Hamas.

Palestinian Christians also express disappointment with the lack of interest that the international community, including the Vatican and Christian communities around the world, have shown in this case, which they regard as an assault on their heritage and holy sites.

Hamas claims that it does not have the resources to preserve the ancient site of the church. Preserving the Christian site, they say, would require millions of dollars and hundreds of workers at a time when the Islamist movement is facing a financial crisis due to the ongoing “blockade” on the Gaza Strip.

The Palestinian Authority, for its part, maintains that, as it is not in control of the Gaza Strip, the destruction of antiquities is out of its hands. Still, the PA leadership in the West Bank has not come out publicly against the demolition. This is the same PA that promotes a stabbing and car-ramming “intifada” for the Jews’ “desecrating” the Al-Aqsa Mosque in Jerusalem by touring the Temple Mount under police protection.

As far as the Palestinian Authority is concerned, visits by Jews to the Temple Mount are far more dangerous than the wrecking of important Christian sites in the Gaza Strip. Instead of denouncing Hamas’s actions itself, the PA’s official news agency, Wafa, ran a report quoting Palestinian archeologists and historians voicing their outrage over the destruction of the Christian site.

One of the leaders of the Christian community in the West Bank, Father Ibrahim Nairouz, wrote an angry letter to PA Prime Minister Rami Hamdallah complaining about the wanton mishandling of the church ruins in the Gaza Strip.

Father Nairouz wrote in his letter: “Would you have handled this issue the same way had the ruins belonged to a mosque or a synagogue?”

He also announced his decision to boycott a tour of the Palestinian prime minister to Bethlehem and Hebron, in protest against the destruction of the church ruins in the Gaza Strip.

Father Nairouz’s protest was joined by many angry Palestinian Christians — and some Muslims — who voiced their revulsion at the wreckage.

Sami Khalil, a Christian from the West Bank city of Nablus, wrote:

“I think that silence is up to the stage of conniving. But the question is where are the artists to preserve our Christian Heritage? Where are the heads of the churches in Jerusalem and the world? Where are the bishops? Where are the Vatican and UNESCO? Where are the leaders and politicians who talk, talk, talk about national unity and the preservation of holy sites? Or is this a collective conspiracy to end our existence and history in the East?”

Another Christian, Anton Kamil Nasser, commented: “Whether it was a church or something else, this is a form of intellectual terrorism and retardation.”

Abdullah Kamal, a staff member at Al-Quds University in Jerusalem, said: “Regrettably, the silence over this destruction of this Heritage and historic site in our country is tantamount to a crime.”

A Christian woman from East Jerusalem remarked: “Shame on us. If this happened under the Jews, they would have turned the site into a museum.”

Yes, all is not well under the Palestinian Authority and Hamas for the Christian minority.

It is no secret that a growing number of Christians in the West Bank and Gaza Strip feel that they are being systematically targeted by both the PA and Hamas for being Christians.

The ravaging of the ancient Byzantine church in Gaza is just one example of the disrespect with which the Palestinian Authority and Hamas deal with their Christian residents.

In yet another incident that has enraged Christians, the PA police last week arrested a prominent Christian businessman in Bethlehem, 60-year-old Raja Elias Freij.

The Palestinian Authority claims that Freij was arrested for threatening a merchant from Bethlehem — a charge he, his family and many other Christians strongly deny. Last weekend, several Christians staged a protest in Bethlehem’s Manger Square to demand the release of Freij, and accused the PA of religious discrimination against him.

The plight of Palestinian Christians does not interest the international community.

Read the rest at the Gatestone Institute. Sign the #RaiseYourVoice pledge to stand with persecuted Christians in the Middle East: