Monday, February 10, 2020

From Ian:

JPost Editorial: Celebrating Tu Bishvat, New Year for the trees
Tu Bishvat, the 15th of Shvat in Judaism’s lunar calendar, which we celebrate today, is also known as Rosh Hashanah Le’ilanot - “New Year for Trees.” Judaism’s arbor day celebration is a good opportunity to take stock and consider some environmental New Year resolutions.

Tu Bishvat is one of the Jewish festivals that is uniquely tied to the Land of Israel and is widely celebrated here by Jews – religious and secular – while less well known or marked in the Diaspora.

Tied so inextricably with nature, the festival has taken on a more universal environmental theme. Tu Bishvat is a reminder that environmental laws and precepts are not a modern invention. From the earliest times of the Bible, we have been commanded to respect the land, animals, plants and trees. Today, we face a peculiar situation in which both the means of destruction are more widespread and massive but also the ways of protecting the environment are much more advanced.

Tu Bishvat expresses down-to-earth Zionism, highlighting the link of the Jewish religion and people to their homeland. While environmentalism is becoming something of a new world religion, Zionism is out of fashion. Sadly, as the Palestinians in the Gaza Strip continue to launch balloons and kites attached to incendiary or explosive devices, fire is being used as a form of ecoterrorism. Fortunately, environmental issues can also create common ground to bring Israelis, Palestinians and Jordanians together to solve problems which do not recognize man-made borders. Israeli R&D is famous worldwide for its contribution to water management, alternative energy and agriculture, to the benefit of all.

This is the festival when the sentence in Deuteronomy (20:19) that “A person is like the tree of a field” most comes to mind. People, like trees, need the correct balance of natural elements including water, sunlight, clean air and good nourishment.
Honest Reporting: Tu B’Shvat: The Festival that Proves the Jewish People’s Connection to the Land of Israel
In contemporary Israel, tree-planting is central to the Tu B’Shvat experience. The practice can be traced back to the time when the Jewish pioneers began to settle in the Land of Israel. For them, working the land became an ideal, and they began a process of afforestation in order to overcome the desolation of the land.

The planting of trees on Tu B’Shvat gradually became customary, and in 1908, the Jewish National Fund and the educational system officially adopted the custom. Since then, Tu B’Shvat has been known in Israel as a holiday for planting trees, on which schoolchildren and their teachers plant trees all over the country. The tree-planting ceremonies symbolize the renewed connection between the nation and its land.

By 1948, approximately 2% of Israel was covered by trees. Over the space of the seventy years thereafter, the percentage had grown to roughly 8.5%, making Israel the only country in the world with a net growth in trees over the course of the twentieth century.

So strong is the connection to Israel’s identity, that on February 14, 1949, Israel’s Constituent Assembly convened for the first time in the Jewish Agency building in central Jerusalem. The Hebrew calendar date that day was Tu Bishvat. Each year, the Knesset celebrates its establishment on the New Year of the Trees, and on that day, its members participate in tree-planting ceremonies around the country.

Outside of Israel, Tu B’Shvat generally remains a minor holiday, with no special prayers recited in synagogues and no connection to any particular historical event. Nevertheless, Jews around the world view the day as an opportunity to be grateful for the planet we live on, and specifically for the Land of Israel. Even if one is unable to relocate to Israel, we are all able to partake in this day, enjoy fruits and grains grown in Israeli soil, and celebrate the millennia-old connection the Jewish people have with the region.

While Jews have lived all over the globe, Jewish tradition has always centered around the Holy Land, and these rituals and their specifics serve to highlight the centrality of the Land of Israel to the Jewish people’s identity.




Confirmation Bias and Antisemitism
Other related topics can be clarified by looking at them through the lens of confirmation bias. Some philosophers and others claim, for instance, that the Holocaust was not unique but a genocide like any other. Once one grasps the power of confirmation bias, one sees how perverse this position is. No other genocide was based on a profound prejudice that had been nursed and carried on for centuries on end. The Armenian, Cambodian, and Rwandan genocides were horrifying, but they were not the culmination of a persistent hatred that has lasted more than a thousand years.

Nor is that the only element that makes the Holocaust unique. The existence of long-lasting prejudices against Jews are what made it possible for the Germans to round up, transport, and murder them so efficiently. No other genocide has ever been characterized by an industrial attempt to hunt down and slaughter every member of a group wherever they may reside in the world, with the object of exterminating them completely from the face of the earth.

French leftist philosopher Alain Badiou wrote: “If one wants to resolve the problem of the unlimited war of the Middle East, one has to arrive, I know it is something difficult — to forget the Holocaust.” By viewing this astonishing conclusion through the lens of confirmation bias, one can better see how appalling it is.

The existence of confirmation bias suggests that better education is needed as a remedy to antisemitism. It would of course be helpful, but it will not be easy. Prejudices are irrational. Those who are accustomed to having their prejudices confirmed in the public domain cannot be easily educated out of them — particularly in the era of social media, which bombards users with online antisemitic messages.

There is another major example of confirmation bias that many Westerners refuse to acknowledge. The Arab and Muslim world incessantly repeats the most vile antisemitic slanders. Allowing Muslims to immigrate into Europe without vetting them for antisemitism increases the percentage of antisemites on the continent.
‘People are afraid’: Malcolm Hoenlein says anti-Semitism is changing US Jewry
The heads of American Jewry’s main umbrella group said that rising anti-Semitism in the United States is sowing fear among Jewish communities, changing the nature of what it means to be a Jew in America, and shaping a new discourse on US Jewish identity.

“There’s a higher level of fear than I remember any time,” said Malcolm Hoenlein, executive vice president of the Conference of Presidents of Major American Jewish Organizations, in a wide ranging conversation on Thursday with The Times of Israel on the major trends and challenges facing US Jews and the Israel-US relationship.

Interviewed alongside the Conference of Presidents’ newly appointed CEO, William Daroff, ahead of the group’s annual leadership mission to Israel later this month, Hoenlein warned, “There’s a sense of tension in the air that there’s something happening.”

According to statistics released by the FBI last November, Jews were again the victims of the majority of hate crimes based on religion in the United States in 2019. A surge of fatal attacks on the Jewish community, including shooting rampages at the Tree of Life synagogue in Pittsburgh in October 2018 and at a synagogue in Poway, California, in April 2019, have caused consternation nationwide.

Between a December 10 fatal shooting at a Jewish grocery store in Jersey City and the end of the first week of January, there were more than 30 anti-Semitic incidents in the US — including a stabbing attack at a Hanukkah party in Monsey, New York — according to the Anti-Defamation League.

Hoenlein described the deadly violence as “the end of the age of innocence for American Jewry.”
Will 30,000 French Jews arrive in Israel this year? This organization says it's possible
A new campaign that calls on French Jews to make aliyah has launched this week, with the goal of having at least 30,000 Jews visit Israel this year.

The initiative, called "Reconnec-Sion" (a play on the words reconnect and Zion), wants to present an alternative to the daily anti-Semitism in France, which has been on the rise.

It is led by Miriam Peretz and Yehuda Ben-Yishai, who are bereaved parents who lost their loved ones to terrorism.

The initiative is called "I seek my brethren" in Hebrew, a reference to the famous phrase from Genesis in which Joseph goes on a search for his siblings.

France has about 500,000 Jews, and the vast majority of them are believed to be non-practicing or uninvolved in the Jewish community.

A recent American Jewish Committee survey revealed that more than two thirds of Jews in France (67%) say the degree of anti-Semitism in the country is high, a new survey shows.

The survey was an attempt to gauge the perceptions of anti-Semitism in France, as well as the overall perceived sentiment.

In the survey, 70% of French Jews said that were victims of at least one anti-Semitic attack, whereas 64% said they experienced anti-Semitic verbal abuse at least on one occasion.
Will Sinn Féin’s ascent hurt Israel-Ireland relations? – analysis
With Sinn Féin, the political arm of the former Irish Republican Army, surging in exit polls in Saturday’s election, there is a real possibility that the next government of Ireland could take anti-Israel steps in the near future.

Sinn Féin, which has long held anti-Israel positions, reached 22.3% of the vote for the Daíl, Ireland’s lower house of parliament, the highest share of the national vote it has ever received, according to exit polls.

The radical party was nearly tied with what are traditionally the two large parties in Ireland: Fine Gael, the party of Irish Prime Minister Leo Varadkar, which received 22.4%; and Fianna Fáil, which got 22.2%.

“Fine Gael, which has been in power since 2011, has been friendlier to Israel than Fianna Fáil or, for that matter, Sinn Féin, of course, which has been known to be extremely anti-Israel and very close to the Palestinian delegation in Ireland,” said Daniela Traub, Israel’s former deputy ambassador to Ireland.

Ireland does not have proportionate voting like Israel does. It has one of the most complex vote-calculating systems, and the results do not mean that Sinn Féin will get 22.3% of the seats in the Daíl.

It is also unclear what kind of government Ireland will have after the parliamentary seats are calculated and negotiations to form a government end.

Sinn Féin is still likely to be a major player in the coming years, and they are not the only ones that can turn Ireland’s policies for the worst when it comes to Israel.

Issues relating to Israel or the Palestinians were not among the top 12 most important to Irish voters, nor did they feature prominently in election campaigns. The major issues in the election were Brexit – Ireland is the only country that shares a land border with the UK – as well as crises in housing and public services. Sinn Féin did well in the lower socioeconomic sectors.

“This has nothing to do with Israel,” said Mattan Lass, managing director of Ireland Israel Business. “People don’t vote for Sinn Féin or not based on any stance they’ve taken on Israel-Palestine… It hasn’t been an election issue ever.”
Why Jewish voters are turning on Bernie Sanders
Sanders’ tough stances on Israeli-Palestinian issues also remain deeply out of step with mainstream American Jewish voters as well as the Democratic donor class.

He has been one of the party’s most vocal critics of what he calls Israel’s “occupation” of Palestine and has teased the possibility of cutting off U.S. aid to the country.

Sanders’ longtime embrace of Linda Sarsour, a Palestinian-rights activist who has been repeatedly accused of making anti-Semitic remarks, has been particularly irksome to Jews. Sanders has retained Sarsour as an official 2020 surrogate.

“He has worked hard to brand himself as being anti-Israel and his willingness to cut security assistance to Israel, and using an anti-Semite, pro-BDS figure like Linda Sarsour as an official campaign surrogate are a reflection of this,” said Jack Rosen, a New York real estate developer and president of the American Jewish Congress.

“Sleeping with the enemy,” growled real estate developer and longtime political moneyman Adam Milstein, when asked about the Sanders-Sarsour relationship.

The cold shoulder from US Jews contrasts sharply with Sanders’ warm reception among American Muslims. That demographic played a critical role in his surprise victory over Hillary Clinton in the 2016 Michigan primary and they have stuck with him ever since.

“There are groups like Muslims for Bernie. Especially with the younger groups of people, we are seeing it with millennials,” said Shaniyat Chowdhury, a 27-year-old Muslim who is currently staging a primary challenge to Queens Democratic Party boss Rep. Gregory Meeks., from Queens, told The Post.

Only about 2% of Americans identify as Jewish, making their overall electoral influence considerably smaller than that of other minorities overall. Nevertheless Jews can have an outsized influence in swing states where there are large communities, like Florida, Pennsylvania, Michigan and Ohio. High-powered Jewish political donors can also have a big impact, such as George Soros and Sheldon Adelson.


Valerie Plame Accepts More Campaign Donations From Prominent Holocaust Denier
Democratic congressional candidate Valerie Plame, who faced criticism after sharing multiple anti-Semitic articles from a white supremacist media outlet, has accepted multiple campaign contributions from a prominent Holocaust denier, financial disclosures show.

Plame accepted three contributions from Holocaust denier Pete McCloskey, a former California congressman who referenced the "so-called Holocaust" during a May 2000 speech to a historically anti-Semitic organization.

"Earlier here today I listened to speeches about the courage of men in France, Britain, Germany, and New Zealand who have spoken out against the commonly accepted concept of what occurred during the Second World War in the so-called Holocaust," McCloskey said in his address to the Institute for Historical Review (IHR). He also praised IHR, a prominent actor in the Holocaust denial movement with links to neo-Nazi organizations, by saying he "respect[s]" the "thesis of this organization."

Plame has now accepted eight donations from McCloskey and one from his wife, totaling more than $1,200. The questionable source of campaign funds comes as Plame attempts to downplay another anti-Semitism scandal. The candidate shared at least nine anti-Semitic articles from the Unz Review, a self-described "alternative media selection" known for spreading Holocaust denial arguments on social media platforms and funding white supremacist organizations. She issued an apology for the posts in May 2019 but has continued to cash checks from McCloskey.

The Plame campaign did not respond to a request for comment.


BDS is failing – the never-ending story (Feb. 2020)
Here’s the latest installment in our ongoing series of posts documenting BDS fails.
Political

Sudan gives Israel initial okay for overflights- official
KHARTOUM (Reuters) – Sudan has agreed to allow flights heading to Israel to cross its airspace, a military spokesman said on Wednesday, two days after Sudan’s military head of state held a surprise meeting with Israel’s prime minister.

Israel officially allows Israelis to travel to Saudi Arabia
Big news!!! Hugely important step towards #normalisation with the most important of the #GCC states. #Israel officially allows Israelis to travel to #Saudi Arabia https://t.co/rKBE7RoeuP
— Ian Black (@ian_black) January 26, 2020


Jordan gets first natural gas supplies from Israel
Under the agreement, the U.S.-Israeli consortium will supply Jordan gas for 15 years from the field in the Mediterranean.

The deal has faced opposition in Jordan where many view Israel as an erstwhile enemy. Activists and parliamentarians have lobbied the government for years with little success of scrapping the purchase.

The Jordanian government said after the agreement was signed that securing stable energy prices for the next decade can achieve annual savings of at least $500 million annually and help reduce a chronic budget deficit.

Energy-dependent Jordan imports about 95% of its energy needs with demand for electricity that rises by 6% to 7% annually.

U.S. ally Jordan, which has a peace treaty with Israel, has pushed through the deal despite the popular opposition by politicians and many deputies in parliament who say it makes the kingdom dependent on its neighbour for energy.
Whitewashing Hamas at Georgetown University
“There are Jews everywhere! We must attack every Jew on planet Earth! We must slaughter and kill them, with Allah’s help. … You can buy knives for five shekels! How much is the neck of a Jew worth to us? Isn’t it worth five shekels, or even less?”

This psychotic outburst was uttered on July 12, 2019 by Fathi Hammad, a member of Hamas’ “political bureau” in the Gaza Strip.

Anyone who spends more than 10 minutes studying the Israeli-Palestinian conflict knows that this vile organization has wreaked havoc in the Middle East since its founding in the late 1980s. Its members and allies have perpetrated hundreds of suicide bombings, launched thousands of rockets at Israeli civilian communities since the early 2000s (before any “blockade of Gaza”), and inflicted countless stabbings, kidnappings, and shootings on innocent Israelis.

The organization’s 1988 covenant proudly declares that “our struggle against the Jews is very great and very serious” and “the Day of Judgement will not come about until Muslims fight the Jews (killing the Jews), when the Jew will hide behind stones and trees.” The document approvingly cites The Protocols of the Elders of Zion as an authoritative foreshadowing of the “Zionists’” plans for “further expansion.”

Cue the Bridge Initiative: Georgetown University’s “multi-year research project” to “inform the public about Islamophobia,” which matter-of-factly described Hamas as a “political and social organization with an armed wing aimed at resisting the Israeli occupation of Palestine” — as if purposely killing civilians is somehow a legitimate means of “resistance.”
BBC News again recycles Syrian regime propaganda
The BBC’s report even provided (not for the first time) amplification for the Syrian regime’s conspiracy theories:

“The Syrian military accused Israel of launching an “aggressive escalation” in an attempt to “save the armed terrorist organisations which have been collapsing in Idlib and western Aleppo in front of the strikes of the Syrian Arab Army”.”

At no point in the report were readers provided with any warning concerning the lack of reliability of reports put out by the Syrian regime and its mouthpieces and their history of lying about events in Syria.

Readers of the BBC’s report were told that:

“The Syrian Observatory for Human Rights, a UK-based monitoring group, said strikes on Iran-backed militia positions in Kiswa, Muqaylabiya, Jisr al-Baghdad and Izra killed 15 fighters, including five Syrians and at least three Iranians.

And eight Syrian soldiers were killed by missiles that hit air defence batteries near Damascus, it added.”


The SOHR’s report also includes the claim that some of those killed were Iranian-backed militia fighters.
AP Takes Russian Accusation Against Israel One Step Further
UPDATE 7:30 am EST:
AP Corrects

In response to communication from CAMERA, AP a short time ago published a correction of the false report that Russia said Israel nearly shot down a passenger jet. See below for a detailed update.

AP coverage last week of Russia's claim concerning alleged Israeli involvement in the alleged near-downing of a passenger jet over Syria egregiously errs: "Russia says Israel nearly shot down passenger plane in Syria."

Likewise, the accompanying article errs: "Russia's Defense Ministry said Friday that Israeli air forces nearly shot down a passenger jetliner in Syria during a missile strike on the suburbs of Damascus a day earlier."

As was reported in countless other media outlets, and contrary to AP, Russia's claim was not that Israel nearly shot down the passenger plane. Rather, Russia charged that Syrian anti-aircraft defense systems nearly shot down the passenger plane while attempting to respond to Israel's attack on military targets.
Independent Arabia claims ‘Hebrew is a branch of Arabic’
Independent Arabia’s Gaza Strip correspondent ‘Izz ad-Deen Abu-‘Eisheh continues his series of interviews with Palestinian “experts” who level absurd claims about Israeli, Jewish and Zionist affairs – allegations that aren’t challenged by Indy Arabia journalists.

Here are two recent examples:
- Archivist and Hamas official ‘Abd al-Lateef Abu-Hashem argued: that “all of the ancient documents, which describe the cities of Palestine prior to the Jews’ arrival, are in Arabic, which means that the land is Arab”,
- Jurist Yaser Dirawi claimed that every resident of the Gaza envelope communities, inside internationally-recognized Israel, “sits on a land contrary to UN laws […] which described colonization as ‘illegal and violating international laws’, and affirmed that ‘residing in the settlements is considered a violation of norms, which [in turn] is a crime punishable by law’”,

The latest victim of Abu-‘Eisheh and his interviewees’ historical lies is the Hebrew language, which (in an unrelated manner, apparently) celebrated its annual holiday. Below are excerpts from the correspondent’s December 20th article (all translations and in-bracket remarks are by CAMERA Arabic):
The Times corrects description of convicted terrorist as ‘alleged militant’
An article in The Times on the surge of Palestinian violence late last week (“Three killed in West Bank clashes”, Feb. 6) includes the following claim:
In the early hours of this morning, the army went into Jenin to demolish the home of a man it described as a “militant” but faced resistance which turned into a riot.

However, he wasn’t merely “described as a militant”. As multiple media outlets make clear, the Palestinian man, Ahmed al-Qanba, was a “convicted” terrorist – a member of the cell that murdered Rabbi Raziel Shevah in Havat Gilad in 2018.

Rabbi Raziel Shevah, killed by a Palestinian terrorist in 2018 (MFA)

Additionally, the Times article included this, regarding a car-ramming attack that same day.

Three Palestinians have been killed in clashes in the West Bank and 12 Israeli soldiers injured in a ramming attack in Jerusalem in the worst surge in violence since President Trump announced his “deal of the century” peace plan last week.

The soldiers were young recruits said by the army to have been on a group “heritage tour” of Jerusalem’s Old City, part of the area of the city already annexed by Israel, when they came under attack in the early hours of this morning. A car deliberately drove into them from behind, before speeding off.


We argued, in a tweet to the Times journalist, and in a formal complaint to editors, that the soldiers were not rammed in the Old City. They were rammed in West Jerusalem, at a popular entertainment venue called First Station.

Times editors upheld both of our complaints.
BBC Complaints invokes ‘common parlance in the media’
As documented previously, on January 28th listeners to BBC Radio 4 and BBC World Service radio repeatedly heard Husam Zomlot described as “the Palestinian ambassador to the UK” and “the Palestinian ambassador to London”.

BBC Watch submitted a complaint pointing out that the BBC had corrected a similar misrepresentation of Mr Zomlot’s title in 2018 and that although the UK does not currently recognise a Palestinian state, by referring to Mr Zomlot as an ambassador the BBC suggests that it does and therefore misleads audiences.

On February 6th we received the following reply:
“Thank you for contacting us regarding the Today programme and Newshour, both broadcast on Tuesday 28th January.

We have spoken with senior staff about your concerns. We acknowledge the point that Husam Zomlot is not strictly speaking an ambassador, although the phrase is in common parlance in the media. We will remind editors of his actual title, but it is clear from our wider reporting that the UK does not recognise Palestine as a state.”


In other words the BBC is obviously not concerned by the fact that members of the public who access any of those three programmes during the time they are still available online will be misled by the misrepresentation of Zomlot’s title because it is “common parlance in the media” – which apparently takes precedence over BBC editorial guidelines on accuracy.
AP Falsely Alleges Imprisoned Lebanese-American Amer Fakhoury ‘Worked For Israel’
AP headlines in recent days which state that Lebanese-American Amer Fakhoury “worked for Israel” expose a double standard in the news agency’s treatment of members of the Israel-backed South Lebanese Army versus members of the Iranian-backed Hezbollah. The inaccurate AP headlines claimed: “Probe of Lebanese-American who worked for Israel postponed” (Feb. 3) and “Lebanese-American who worked for Israel charged with murder” (Feb. 4).

Fakhoury, gravely ill with cancer, was imprisoned in Lebanon in September after returning to his homeland following many years living as an American citizen in New Hampshire. He fled Lebanon via Israel in 2000, when Israel withdrew its forces from southern Lebanon. As a former member of the Israeli-allied South Lebanese Army, he has acknowledged working at the Khiam Prison in southern Lebanon, during Israel’s occupation. His lawyers, his family and U.S. Senator Jeanne Shaheen say they have documents proving that he was not the “butcher” which Lebanese and Hezbollah officials claim he was.

AP’s headlines claiming that Fakhoury “worked for Israel” are wrong because the Khiam Prison was run by the SLA – not Israel.

The SLA was allied with Israel, and received training, funds and weapons from the Jewish state, just like Hezbollah is currently backed by Iran and receives from the Iranians training, funds and weapons. AP justifiably does not say that every Hezbollah member “works for Iran,” and yet the news service is applying a different standard when it comes to a member of a Lebanese organization formerly backed by Israel.

Notably, it appears Fakhoury was investigated by the General Directorate of the General Security which is Hezbollah-linked. Thus, if AP were to apply a consistent standard when it comes to Lebanese organizations backed by foreign states, Fakhoury was interrogated by agents who “work for Iran.”
Antisemitic graffiti painted on Jewish family’s door in Turin
Star of David and the word “Jude” drawn with a black marker were found on Sunday in Turin on the apartment door of a well-known Jewish banker, Italian media reported Monday. Turin is the capital of Italy’s northern region of Piedmont.

“I called the police in tears. They asked me: ‘Do these things still happen in 2020?’ Obviously yes,” Marcello Segre, who is also the head of a local charity, told Italian daily La Repubblica.

“It’s serious – 30 years have passed since such incidents were happening,” he said. “At the beginning, I didn’t want to believe it. I thought of not saying anything publicly, but then I decided it was better not to keep silent.”

The incident is one of many similar episode in Italy in less than a month, with antisemitic writings defacing the doors and walls of houses belonging to Jewish families, former deportees, resistance fighters and their descendants.

Segre also said he was not afraid and that he felt the support of the city, including from Mayor Chiara Appennino and from the president of the northwestern Piedmont region, Alberto Cirio.

Asked if he was going to remove the graffiti, he said “I am thinking about it. [But] until someone forces me to do it, I won’t.”

On January 24, three days ahead of International Holocaust Remembrance Day – which Italy marks with hundreds of initiatives at the national as well as local levels – graffiti reading “Juden Hier” (Jews here) was uncovered in the Piedmont city of Mondovì on the front door of the son of Lidia Rolfi, a partisan fighter deported to Ravensbrück.

Since then, swastikas and antisemitic insults have appeared on doors and walls all over the country.
Neo-Nazis assail German comedian who apologized for father’s wartime crimes
Neo-Nazis are attacking a popular German comedian for having apologized to a Holocaust survivor for his father’s wartime crimes.

Atze Schröder, 54, addressed Auschwitz survivor Eva Szepesi on the popular Markus Lanz talk show Thursday, telling her tearfully that his father, who was drafted into the Nazi army in 1941 and served four years, had “done horrible things as a soldier. … He told me about them later.” His father died nine years ago at the age of 87.

Right-wing extremists have since been taunting Schröder on social media. Among the less offensive epithets they’ve used are “mentally impotent rat” and “embarrassing, disgusting slave to the system,” Germany’s RND news website reported.

But fans of Schröder have been applauding his spontaneous outreach to Szepesi, 87, who had shared her recollections of Auschwitz with the talk-show audience during a broadcast timed to the 75th anniversary of Auschwitz’s liberation. She was accompanied by her daughter, Anita Schwarz.

Moved by Szepesi’s testimony, Schröder said his father “would probably apologize if he were sitting here.” He then stood, faced Szepesi, and reached out his hand, saying, “I am sorry. We must never forget.”

Szepesi later told German news media that she had found Schröder’s gesture “absolutely extraordinary.”

Schröder told the talk show guests that there were “many tragedies in our family that were swept under the rug.” Several relatives, including his grandmother and several uncles, committed suicide after Nazi Germany’s capitulation.
Israel’s Elbit Systems Wins $136 Million in Contracts in Asia-Pacific
Israeli defense firm Elbit Systems Ltd said on Monday it won contracts worth $136 million to provide customers in Asia-Pacific with airborne laser direct infrared countermeasure (DIRCM) systems.

These systems are designed to protect aircraft against heat-seeking ground-to-air missiles.

The contracts will be carried out over four years.

Under the contracts, Elbit Systems will equip fleets of Airbus and Boeing aircraft with DIRCM systems, including the company’s infrared missile-warning systems.

These contract awards follow recent awards to install DIRCM systems onboard Airbus A400 aircraft of the German Air Force and onboard NATO’s Airbus A330 multinational multi-role tanker transport fleet.
Made in Israel: Intel enables French soccer fans to watch games in 360°
Technology giant Intel Corp. has partnered with France's Professional Football League (LFP) to launch a new, 360-degree soccer viewing experience, powered by technology developed in Israel.

Using dozens of high-definition 5K cameras to be mounted around stadiums, Intel's "True View" solution captures masses of volumetric video and uses advanced processing capabilities, enabling broadcasters to show instant replays and highlights from every possible angle - including the player's point of view.

The technology, developed at Intel's Ramat HaHayal offices, was launched by the LFP for the first time on Sunday evening at Paris Saint-German's Parc des Princes stadium, where the French champions defeated Olympique Lyonnais. The system has already been successfully installed at stadiums belonging to leading National Football League (NFL), Premier League and LaLiga teams.

The LFP, which governs the top two professional soccer leagues in France, said it plans to install True View technology at both Lyon's Groupama Stadium and Olympique de Marseille's Orange Vélodrome during the 2020/21 season. The technology will also enable fans to watch 3D replays of their team on the LFP websites and social networks.

"Intel Sports, whose development center is located in Ramat HaHayal, is proud to expand its operations and add Ligue1, the top French football league and one of the five best leagues in the world, to the distinguished list of major leagues that adopted True View technology," said Ohad Gross, director of business development at Intel Sports.
First Arab Muslim rider joins Israel’s only professional cycling team
An Arab Muslim rider has joined the Israel Cycling Academy (ICA), the country’s only professional cycling team.

"I joined ICA to fulfil my biggest dream: Racing in the World Tour and Tour De France!" 23-year-old Chokri Elmehdi from Morocco said, according to a press release by the team.

"We are proud to have Chokri with us. Our doors are open to all," said team co-owner Ron Baron.

The Israel Cycling Academy was established in 2014 by Israeli Canadian philanthropist and ICA co-owner Sylvan Adams and Baron.

The team features 16 riders, half of them Israelis and the others from countries such as Canada, Colombia, Australia and Eritrea.

In October, they announced that in 2020 it would join the World Tour, racing in the world's biggest races including the prestigious Tour de France.
Israeli judoka Peter Paltchik wins gold in Paris Grand Slam
Israeli judoka Peter Paltchik won the gold medal at the Paris Grand Slam on Sunday, defeating Olympic silver medalist Varlam Liparteliani in the under-100-kilogram category.

Paltchik, currently ranked sixth in the world, is the first Israeli judoka to take gold in the Paris Grand Slam – one of the most prestigious judo tournament – since Arik Zeevi in 2004.

Paltchik is considered one of Israel's top athletes and a potential Tokyo 2020 Olympic medalist.

In 2018, Paltchik brought home several medals, taking gold at The Hague Grand Prix, the Grand Prix Tbilisi, Georgia and at the Abu Dhabi Grand Prix, which led to Israel's national anthem, Hatikvah, being played for the first time at a Gulf State sporting contest.

In February 2019, Israel Hayom signed an endorsement deal with Paltchik, becoming his main sponsor.

"Israel Hayom is proud to support Peter Paltchik, who brings great pride to the State of Israel and Israeli sports," the daily's Editor-in-Chief Boaz Bismuth said at the time.

"We will stand by Paltchik until he stands on the podium in Tokyo 2020 with the gold medal. Paltchik is a symbol of perseverance and industriousness and we believe in him."
Remembering Roger Scruton
Five years ago, I approached Sir Roger via a mutual friend with an unusual assignment: would he agree to teach a group of extremely bright but largely non-college educated Orthodox Jewish men for a seminar on the role of religion in the modern state? He couldn’t possibly know what to expect from this audience — the cohort was only the second cycle of the Tikvah Institute for Yeshiva Men, a still-experimental encounter between 20 gifted young Talmudic minds and leading scholars of Western political philosophy.

Sir Roger wasn’t acquainted with the thick yeshiva worlds of Lakewood, Mir, and Ner Israel, but he sounded intrigued and agreed to join us. I was elated, imagining this would be a boon for the intellectual climate of the seminar, stretching talented, if somewhat raw, young minds. But I secretly harbored concerns that this might be more of a match on paper than in the seminar room, given the cultural divide. But we pushed ahead with plans for his visit in August.

From the first hour with Sir Roger, a deep mutual admiration developed between teacher and students. For the yeshiva men, it was hard not to be impressed by Sir Roger’s sweeping intellect, his masterful reign over fields as disparate as aesthetics, sociology, political philosophy, philosophy of science, oenology (the study of wine and winemaking, not a word I knew until I met Sir Roger), and theology. For Sir Roger, these nimble young rabbinic scholars could parry and thrust with the best of his university students. He seemed at once bemused and impressed by the students’ energy and fierce, no holds-barred intelligence.

During the seminar, special attention was paid to the singular contributions of Judaism to Western culture, not as a form of flattery to his audience, but as a sober recognition that the Jewish people have always been the canary in the coal mine of Western culture, the intellectual dissidents in a sometimes decadent or barren intellectual world.

Sir Roger’s insights on the difference between halakha (Jewish law) and sharia (Muslim law), the former creating a public space conducive to the operations of a non-coercive state, something the latter hasn’t yet achieved, made him feel — for a fleeting instant, at least — like an insider to the rabbinic worlds of Lomdus and Pesak, of conceptual and practical law and scholarship. What the yeshiva students intuitively grasped with their years of study and apprenticeship at the feet of great masters of the Oral Law, Sir Roger was able to articulate with nuance and crispness, giving language to the young scholars’ inchoate thoughts. Perhaps this was a match, after all.
Hakarot Hatov: ‘Week of Thanksgiving’ to the Druze
The Druze and Jews relationship dates back to the time when Moses’ time in the Sinai when he met Jethro, the prophet, the father of Zipporah, Moses’ wife. Jethro guided Moses in how to organize the Jewish people. In Druze tradition Jethro is the father of the Druze people. This year, on March 15, Shabbat Parshat Yitro, there will be a worldwide thank you to the Druze people of Israel.

The Druze are a people who give their heart and soul and indeed their lives (505 to date) standing up for and defending the state of Israel. Their loyalty to Israel pre-dates WWII when without written agreement the Druze committed to the Jewish people with only one condition. They wanted—as we all do—respect for their legitimate rights. The Druze have been serving in the IDF and have an 85% rate of service in the army and border police. Every young Druze takes heritage seminars, which include the positives and negatives of army service. There are Druze generals, Druze EMTs and a pilot. Dr. Ala Abu Rukon, a Druze, is military secretary to President Rivlin. Some Druze schools are considered to be among the best in the country. .

Like the Jews, the Druze have been persecuted wherever they have lived—with the exception of Israel. That is why their villages are usually located on mountain tops for the best defense. The Druze fully understand the persecution of others and strongly relate to us in this regard. They have been, are and will always remain a strong supporter of the Jewish state, ready, willing and able to defend it as loyal and responsible citizens.

Although only a small minority (pop. 120,000) in the state of Israel, far smaller than the Jewish majority, smaller than the Arabs, which make up the largest minority group, even smaller than the Christian minority (Arab and otherwise), like the Jewish minority worldwide, they contribute far more than all other minorities combined. When it comes to military and police service, the Druze have a higher per capita injury and death rate than even the Jews in the IDF. One reason for this is that they are usually in combat divisions in the IDF and make up a substantial portion of the police in the Old City. So they suffer the most from stabbing attacks. The officer killed in the yeshiva defending the students and the two officers killed on Har Habayit in July 2017 were all Druze. Many Druze serve in the diplomatic corps, ranging in position from the ambassador to New Zealand to security positions at almost all diplomatic offices including the U.S. embassy in Jerusalem and the Israeli embassy in Washington, DC.

Michael Oren, a distinguished Israeli diplomat and leader, liked to tell a story that is in fact amongst many statements of thanks and admiration to the Druze community by Israeli leaders past and present.

The story relates to what happened on a freezing December night on an isolated Israeli outpost, most of whose members were non-religious kibbutzniks, hardened veterans stationed just above the village of Yata, a Hamas stronghold. The group was ordered to penetrate Yata and they were totally exhausted. The last thing they wanted was to be woken from their precious moments of sleep, but then one night, their commander woke them up, every last one of them. Kumu, Kumu kulchem (Get up, get up, all of you). Other commanders may have been cursed but this commander was not just any company commander—he was a brilliant and fearless commander who was revered by all. The soldiers were especially upset when they learned that the reason for the wake-up was to light Chanukah candles. The commander accepted no excuses. He said emphatically, you are Jewish soldiers in the Army of the Jewish State and you will all light Chanukah candles. He set up a chanukiah in the “mess hall,” stuck a kippah on the head of the first sergeant, opened a siddur, pushed it into his hand and told him, “Now, light the candles and say the blessings.” And there in the hills of Hevron in the cold, clutching their weapons they stood, listened to the blessings and sang Maoz Tsur. That is, all except the commander. His name was Captain Ala Aburukin from the village of Usafiyah. His father was for many years the famed head of the Carmel natural reserve. Ala was a Druze. Oren remembers how it was when he worked with members of one of Israel’s most courageous and loyal communities, then and now.

Sadly, most Jews are not aware of the contribution and importance of the Druze community in Israel. They often think the Druze are a spin-off sect of Islam. They are not! The goal of this “Week of Thanksgiving” is to make more Jews aware of the Druze and their contribution. It is also to publicize the founding of the first Israeli Druze High Tech Empowerment Center to bring the Druze into the mainstream of the high-tech Israeli community. We are asking rabbis and other leaders to speak about the Druze in synagogues and schools prior to Shabbat Yisro. (h/t Zvi)




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This blog may be a labor of love for me, but it takes a lot of effort, time and money. For over 14 years and 30,000 articles I have been providing accurate, original news that would have remained unnoticed. I've written hundreds of scoops and sometimes my reporting ends up making a real difference. I appreciate any donations you can give to keep this blog going.

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