Tuesday, May 12, 2020

From Ian:

Jonathan Tobin: Does media bias against Israel still matter?
If media bias like this doesn't impact American public opinion about Israel, should anyone bother protesting it?

In the first place, it is vital that a newspaper like the Times, which calls itself the nation's "paper of record" and which does devote more resources to reporting foreign news than any other outlet, not get away with biased coverage.

Straight news reporting without a heaping serving of bias is a thing of the past at the Times. Their animus against the Trump administration has, whether or not you agree with them about the president, led the paper and other mainstream outlets to discard even the pretense of objective reporting with editorializing in headlines and in the text of articles becoming so routine as to be hardly worth protesting anymore.

Still, that doesn't absolve those of us who still care about ethics in journalism from the duty to point out such egregious practices.

It's true that most Americans couldn't care less what the Times, CNN or other legacy media outfits say about any topic. But when it comes to one particular group, what the media, and in particular, The New York Times, says about Israel, matters a great deal.

While support for Israel among Americans, in general, has risen in the past decades, it has declined among Jews with a growing split between their views and those of Israelis. There are a number of reasons for this, including assimilation and the resultant shifting demography. Some of it also has to do with politics, as many in a group that overwhelmingly votes Democratic has followed the rest of their party on this issue.

But there's more at play here than just that.

We know that praise for Israel's underdog victories in its struggles for survival and positive events like the 1976 Entebbe rescue made Jews everywhere feel better about themselves and more connected to Israel.

The opposite is also true.

While some Jews are outraged by biased coverage that unfairly depicts Israel as a villain, others internalize the calumnies and distance themselves from the Jewish state. An average consumer of news may not be influenced by the Times. But a not-insignificant portion of American Jewry still regards the newspaper with the sort of veneration that observant Jews have for religious texts. The Times has been assaulting the Jewish community with the prejudices of its publishers, editors and reporters since the days when, as Dermer rightly notes, it "buried" the story of the Holocaust.

Media bias may not have turned Americans against Israel, but it has been doing a bang-up job of turning Jews against each other for decades.
David Collier: How the Jewish Diaspora let down its own children
Where do we sit now? What happened?

The current coalition is a national unity coalition. It comprises the Likud and the centrist Blue and White Party, sitting with a couple of allies from the Labour Party. It has an impressive majority. Such as union should find widespread support in the UK Jewish establishment. The only semi-significant Jewish voice on the left not in the coalition is Yair Lapid. Outside of Meretz none of the parties support dividing Jerusalem, none support giving up the Jordan Valley and whilst some give lip service to theoretical negotiations, none are emphatically behind the Oslo vision anymore. Not one.

As Meretz no longer calls itself a Zionist party. There is absolutely NO Zionist support in Israel for the 2SS of the Oslo Process. So just which Israel are these signatures asking the Board of Deputies to speak against? All of it? Every single Zionist party?

Israelis know the truth. They were there when Barak was rejected in 2000, they remember the failure of Olmert’s deal. They understand that the factional infighting in the Palestinian street leaves them without a partner. Why didn’t we follow them through these experiences?

When Muslim representative bodies enter Parliament, most don’t mince words. There is support for BDS, the Right of Return, Jerusalem to be taken away from Israel and so on. They are not shy. Our MPs on the one hand are hearing a persistent demonisation of Israel from constituents that dwarf the number of Jews in the UK. On the other, our representatives keep mumbling about a ‘viable negotiated settlement’ that isn’t realistic and few in Israel believe in.

The PSC, PRC, Amnesty – all of these groups are also inside Parliament. What is the best the Jewish organisations can do to counter the smear of ‘Apartheid, racist, colonial, genocidal, ethnic cleansing’? Is it really to offer support for a ‘two state negotiated settlement’ with a people that want to see you destroyed?

No wonder our youth live in Narnia. We let the Israelis walk on alone and we don’t even make sense to ourselves. Which organisational body is out there telling the truth – that the negotiated 2SS is currently dead – and Israel is looking for a way forward? Because this is what we should have been screaming for a decade. Like a drumbeat. Our children would have picked up the message.

Instead – they mumble about negotiated settlements. If this is what we have spent the last decade teaching our youth, this letter should come as no surprise to anyone.

These kids are a product of our schools, our synagogues and our youth groups. Rather than look to them for an explanation, we really need to turn our attention to the organisational bodies that are meant to teach them. For this letter is a catastrophic indictment of all of them.
Protecting Itself from Covid-19, Israel Shows Cohesion
Israel's battle against the Covid-19 pandemic has not been perfect, but its overall strategy and leadership has been strikingly effective - as is borne out by the current death toll which compares extraordinarily well to much of the rest of the world. Israeli society is supposed to be perpetually tense and permanently riven - a country hopelessly divided between left and right, Jewish and Arab, religious and secular. You name it, we fight about it. Except, facing down Covid-19, we don't.

Several Israeli Arab communities, realizing they had high infection rates, closed off their own entries and exits to thwart a further spread. IDF Homefront Command officers have described the high degree of cooperation and appreciation they've encountered when helping Bedouin communities in the south deal with their Covid-19 cases.

It's only when you talk to relatives and friends abroad, and realize how unnerved some of them are by the way their leaders, authorities and citizenries have been dealing, or failing to deal with Covid-19, that you realize the relative common sense demonstrated here is not necessarily the norm elsewhere.

Holocaust survivor, 99, recovers from COVID-19; her husband died from it
A 99-year-old woman who survived the Holocaust has now also overcome the COVID-19 illness after a month of hospitalization, Jerusalem’s Shaare Zedek Medical Center confirmed Monday.

“Thank you everyone, I just want to get home,” said Sara Itzinger after being discharged from the hospital, the Ynet news site reported.

Her husband, Zvi Herschel Itzinger, also a Holocaust survivor, died of the coronavirus.

The Itzingers met in the United States shortly after World War II, and they lived in Cleveland Heights before moving to Israel less than a year ago to spend time with their family. Their only daughter moved to Israel years ago and has 13 children and many grandchildren.

The couple had been living at the Maon Horim nursing home in Jerusalem, where they caught the coronavirus.

While her husband quickly succumbed to the disease, Itzinger fought it for a month before making a full recovery. The report did not specify when he died.

Their grandson, Nissan Hefetz, is a Magen David Adom paramedic in charge of coronavirus tests in Jerusalem. He personally conducted the virus tests for the Itzingers and took them to the hospital.
As virus sees few new Israeli cases, a once critically ill 22-year-old recovers
A young man who spent over a month hospitalized in critical condition was released to rehabilitative care on Tuesday as three epicenters of coronavirus outbreaks saw significant reductions in infection rates.

Ashdod resident Afik Suissa, 22, contracted the virus while touring the United States in March. He spent over a month at Tel Aviv’s Ichilov Hospital in critical condition, but was released to rehabilitative care at Sheba Medical Center on Tuesday, his family said. Suissa had collapsed shortly after returning from the US, and was hospitalized with severe breathing difficulties.

“I got my son back like a gift,” mother Irit told the Ynet news site Tuesday, “and I’ll never forget the ICU team at Ichilov headed by Dr. Adi Nimrod and the managing nurse Iris Berman, who saved my boy and brought him back to life.”

Israel’s death toll from the novel coronavirus did not rise on Tuesday, holding steady at 258, while the rate of increase of new confirmed infections continued to slow, the Health Ministry said.

The Arab towns of Hura and Deir al-Assad, ranked first and second in infection rates in recent weeks, both saw continued slowing of infection numbers. Kan reported Tuesday that just five confirmed cases were found in Hura over the past three days, and none in Deir al-Assad.

Third-place Bnei Brak saw 13 new cases over the past three days.

The number of new infections has slowed dramatically nationwide in recent days, Health Ministry figures show. The number of confirmed infections reached 16,526, a rise of just 13 cases in the first 12 hours of Tuesday.
Israel said planning travel ‘bubble’ with countries beating back virus
The Health Ministry, the Airports Authority and a team of advisers are formulating a plan to allow flights between Israel and other countries that have successfully controlled the coronavirus outbreak, according to a Monday report.

The outline will aim to create a “bubble,” allowing for travel between countries with low virus morbidity rates, including Greece and Cyprus, Channel 12 reported.

In the first step of the plan, officials will compile a list of countries with a low incidence of virus deaths. Then, they will track certain international travelers, and finally, cancel quarantine restrictions for arrivals from certain countries.

In the second step, regular travelers to Greece and Cyprus, such as businesspeople, will be asked to volunteer for an experimental program. The Health Ministry will monitor their travels, and ask them to undergo coronavirus testing when they return to Israel.

At the beginning, incoming travelers will need to spend two weeks in isolation after arriving in Israel, but if the travelers are not getting sick, officials are expected to allow regular flights between the countries and gradually reduce quarantine restrictions.

The trial is expected to launch in June or July, depending on the spread of the virus, the report said.
JCPA: Resilience, Stringency of Restrictions and Psychological Consequences of Covid-19 in Israel: Comparing Jewish and Arab Samples
The coronavirus epidemic has created fears of a global mental health pandemic with both business and health sources expressing concerns related to significant psychological consequences that government-imposed restrictions and effects of the virus itself would cause.

While the professional literature suggests that prolonged quarantine may in fact result in negative behavioral consequences, there are few to no resources to inform us of the psychological consequences of social distancing in response to a pandemic.

We conducted a study, using a random convenience sample, of both Jewish and Arab Muslim Israelis that measured general psychological well-being. We found that both samples showed relatively good coping despite having experienced a personal economic downturn and prolonged government-imposed social distancing restrictions.

Overall, there were only slight differences in most factors studied between the Jewish and Arab Muslim samples that were not functionally or clinically meaningful.

We did find some significant differences between the samples that may relate to cultural-societal factors (for example, higher Arab Muslim concern for their family and community).

The relatively good mental health status of this Israeli sample may be a result of a resilience developed by a national consciousness of coping in the face of repeated wars, terrorism and existential threats.

The high “stringency factor” of restrictions in Israel has not resulted in reduced ability to psychologically cope in the general population, but has significantly limited the number of cases and deaths from Covid-19.

NGO Monitor: Exploiting the Coronavirus for Anti-Israel Campaigns
The news cycle has been dominated by COVID-19, and a number of advocacy NGOs have made statements linking their agendas to this issue. In the Israeli context, this is consistent with previous attempts by NGOs to capitalize on prevailing public discourse, for instance manipulating narratives of climate change and LGBTQ rights as part of their anti-Israel campaigns.

Palestinian BDS National Committee (BNC): Published a “fact sheet” titled “Coronavirus under Israeli Apartheid” promoting numerous claims that, since their original publication, have been removed or proven false. BDS Movement also draws false parallels to minority communities in the US and the UK, in order to make the claim that Israeli policies “embody” something called “#CoronaRacism.” (April 20)

Tweeted “Palestinians living under Israeli occupation & apartheid are highly vulnerable to #COVID19, because Israel’s settler-colonial regime has systematically devastated our healthcare systems. Cut the ties of complicity & build bonds of solidarity through #BDS!

#HealthcareNotWarfare.” BNC, as usual, denies Palestinian agency over their own healthcare systems (per the Oslo Accords) and ignores the misappropriation of resources by Hamas for terror. (May 5)

Independent Jewish Voices (IJV): Published a statement on its website “To Avoid a COVID-19 Crisis in Palestine, Israel Must Immediately End the Siege of Gaza,” “calling on the Canadian government and civil society to put the utmost pressure on Israel to end its siege on the Gaza Strip and alleviate travel restrictions in the occupied West Bank, which threaten the Palestinian healthcare system and could lead to a severe outbreak of COVID-19” (emphasis added). The statement is overtly political and has nothing to do with safeguarding the health of Palestinians. The demand to loosen travel restrictions on Gaza, at a time when governments around the world are using travel restrictions to protect the health of their populations, would increase the risk to Palestinians. IJV also uses race-baiting, citing a Palestinian individual who falsely and offensively claims that “the reason we’re suffering, and why we’re not getting proper treatment for the virus, is because we weren’t born to Jewish mothers. Think about it. If I, Khalil, had been born to a Jewish mother, my health might be better and I would have access to treatments” (emphasis added). (April 27)

CodePink: CodePink National Co-Director Ariel Gold tweeted, “Unfortunately Israel’s war crimes haven’t slowed down for the COVID-19 pandemic and so neither can our work for Palestinian rights.” Gold also calls on her supporters to reach out if they have “any creative ways to resist in these times” (May 1).

New Israel Fund (NIF): Created a new webpage “NIF Crisis Action Plan,” recasting NIF’s standard organizational focus under the label of “Crisis Action Plan.”

Al-Haq, Adalah, and Mondoweiss: Hosted a joint webinar “The Israeli Occupation is alive and well under COVID-19 lockdown,” exploiting the global pandemic in order to further the NGOs’ standard anti-Israel advocacy.

UNICEF: Tweeted “In line with UNICEF’s global #COVID19 call, the Palestinian Authority and authorities in #Gaza have released all detained children, barring those accused of egregious crimes. UNICEF asks that Israeli authorities also release all detained children, including Palestinian children.” UNICEF ignores that due to the fact that Israel primarily has jurisdiction over security related offenses for crimes committed by Palestinian children in the West Bank, the Palestinian children in Israeli prisons would be serving sentences for “egregious crimes” and, by UNICEF’s own logic, should therefore not be released.

Al-Haq and numerous other Palestinian and international NGOs: Sent a letter to the International Labour Organization (ILO) “Ref: Joint Open Letter – Protection of Palestinian Workers During and After COVID-19,” that furthers the standard anti-Israel rhetoric of the NGO authors in claiming that “In Palestine, the COVID-19 pandemic has brought to the forefront Israel’s regime of institutionalised racial domination and oppression over the Palestinian people as a whole, which amounts to the crime of apartheid.” The letter condemns Israeli measures that allowed Palestinians to continue working and earning an income during the pandemic and goes so far as to call on the ILO to bring Israel before its “committee of experts” for claimed violations of Palestinian labor rights. (May 4)
Covid-19 in the Middle East: Iraq, Syria, Jordan, Saudi Arabia, Lebanon and the PA
The spread of the virus has not led to greater cooperation between countries in the region. Most of the economic and other interactions have been with countries outside the region. Conflicts within the Middle East have not been frozen and the revisionist powers persist in their disruptive behavior. The coronavirus has had an impact on the capabilities of countries in the Middle East, but it remains to be seen what impact there will be, if any, on the ambitions and energies of key players.

Similarly, there is a high likelihood that the involvement of major powers in the Middle East – the US, China and Russia – will continue in the same patterns. The US will continue to withdraw from involvement in the region regardless of who is elected president in November. Russia considers the Middle East to be its “backyard,” where it succeeds with relatively little investment in proving that it is a significant actor and a loyal ally to its client states. It has managed to penetrate other countries beyond Syria.

The epidemic, however deadly, has not changed Russia’s strategic considerations. China wants to play a more central role on the international stage and will continue to expand its influence in the region through grants, investments and p.r. campaigns.

Yet, if we are to learn from Middle Eastern history, the asymmetries in great-power/small-state relations have had only marginal influence on the behavior of regional players, leaving the local actors much political and strategic leeway.

Economic recovery of Middle East countries will depend mainly on developments in the global economy, which are still unclear. What will be the fate of the world’s two largest economies, the US and China? Will China quickly resume buying oil from the Gulf States as it did before the outbreak of the pandemic, thereby restoring the price of oil and driving the global supply chain to activate production lines and generate jobs? When will the US market recommence the purchase of goods from around the world?

The answers to these questions are the key to economic recovery. Of course, recovery also will depend on the adoption of proper macro-economic policies by regional governments.

The end of the coronavirus crisis in the Middle East is not yet in sight. Israel is probably beyond the virus’s peak, although some analysts warn of second, and even a third, wave. Should Israel ultimately emerge with a particularly good record in managing the crisis, its international image as a successful country will be bolstered. As mentioned, this also will contribute to the strengthening of Israeli deterrence and deferment of a next war.
De Blasio Under Fire for Selective Enforcement of Social-Distancing Guidelines
New York City mayor Bill de Blasio is under fire from liberal groups raising serious concerns about the selective enforcement of social-distancing regulations.

In the wake of a tweet in which de Blasio singled out Jewish New Yorkers, warning them to adhere to the regulations, two liberal groups on Monday called on the mayor to remove enforcement of the regulations from the purview of the New York Police Department.

Data compiled by the NYPD show that though de Blasio has chided Jews for their failure to follow the guidelines, there is no indication the Orthodox Jewish community has violated the laws at a higher rate than other New Yorkers. Black and Hispanic New Yorkers have received the vast majority of police summonses for violating social-distancing laws, which criminal justice reform advocates say is evidence that they are being selectively targeted by law enforcement.

"Following Mayor de Blasio's comments last month that raised legitimate fears of disparate enforcement toward New York's Orthodox Jewish community, his administration and local officials across the state should have taken every precaution to ensure the enforcement of social distancing rules was carried out equally and consistently throughout the whole city, and without resorting to the kind of over-criminalization that has unnecessarily subjected far too many people to the criminal justice system," said Khalil Cumberbatch, the chief strategist of New Yorkers United for Justice, which advocates for criminal justice reform.

De Blasio's stumbling coronavirus response efforts have been a source of controversy. The NYPD union president called de Blasio an "idiot" for his comments about the Jewish community, which has been the target of increasing anti-Semitic violent attacks.
Ban Anti-Semite Rasha Mubarak from the Democratic Party
The pendant on the chain that Orlando, Florida Muslim activist Rasha Mubarak wears around her neck is of the map of the state of Israel. She wears it during photo ops. It is evident in authorized cartoons of herself. It is a vile gesture, as Mubarak considers Israel to be an illegal entity that is actually called “Palestine,” the former designation of a larger territory that existed prior to Israel’s independence in 1948. The pendant and Mubarak’s bigoted declarations regarding the Jewish state have been completely ignored by leftist politicians and their media cohorts, who embrace Mubarak as a legitimate colleague. It is time for them to recognize Mubarak’s activism as nothing short of flagrant anti-Semitism and sever their ties with her.

There have been numerous examples of politicians and media allowing themselves and their images to be used alongside that of Mubarak. In the latest example, last month, a virtual meeting was held on Zoom, featuring Mubarak, Democrat Florida State Representative Dotie Joseph, Democrat Candidate for US Congress Jen Perelman, and Law Professor Nadia B. Ahmad. The organization sponsoring the event was Our Revolution, a group working to elect Progressive Democrats and pushing Socialist-minded issues for America.

Previous to this meeting: Mubarak had multiple appearances on Central Florida’s Channel 13 SPECTRUM NEWS to do political analysis; Mubarak was appointed by Orlando Mayor Buddy Dyer to his Committee on Multicultural Affairs, which she still sits on today; and Mubarak was named National Committeewoman for the Florida Young Democrats (FYD), and she continues to hold the title.

Given Mubarak’s lengthy history of targeting the Jewish community with hate and terror, this acceptance of her is extremely troubling and dangerous.

Mubarak is offended at the very notion that Israel has a right to self-defense. In May 2019, when Hamas launched more than 600 rockets into Israel, leading to the deaths of four civilians, Mubarak tweeted against anyone who would dare defend Israeli retaliation. They included former UN Ambassador Nikki Haley, New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio, and the producer of The Ellen Show, Andy Lassner. In February 2013, Mubarak flippantly posted on Facebook that US diplomats mouth the words “right to defend itself,” regarding Israel, “when they snore.” And in November 2012, she tweeted, “#LiesImTiredOfHearing Israel has the right to defend herself.”
Guardian review of Rashid Khalidi book distortions, lies and smears
On May 10th, we posted about a correction we prompted to a Guardian review of a book by Rashid Khalidi, in which editors removed a sentence characterising Israel as ‘the tail that wags the dog” and a reference to a “powerful Israel lobby guiding US policy”. However, despite that improvement, the piece, ” The Hundred Years’ War on Palestine by Rashid Khalidi review – conquest and resistance”, by Matthew Hughes, is full of additional distortions, lies and smears.

First, we see that Hughes completely buys into the Khalidi narrative, as well as his tendentious, propagandistic framing of the conflict:
Rashid Khalidi’s account of Jewish settlers’ conquest of Palestine is informed and passionate.

Of course, “Jewish settlers didn’t “conquest” a state or political entity called Palestine, as a sovereign Palestinian state had never existed at any time in history. The Jewish state was re-established in their historical homeland (though a much smaller state than was originally promised) based on national rights codified in the 1917 Balfour Declaration, the 1920 San Reno Conference , the Mandate for Palestine, and the U.N. Partition Plan of 1947.

The Guardian review continues:
It pulls no punches in its critique of Jewish-Israeli policies (policies that have had wholehearted US support after 1967), but it also lays out the failings of the Palestinian leadership

The words “Jewish-Israeli policies” (which he uses twice in the article) is extremely odd, if not troubling. First, Hughes doesn’t refer to “Muslim Palestinians policies”, despite the fact that Palestinians have a larger Muslim majority (98%) than Israel’s Jewish majority (74%). Also, our research could find little if any other uses of that term anywhere online. Even an internal search of Khalidi’s book didn’t turn up any references to “Jewish Israeli policies” or even “Jewish Israeli”.

However, the original version of the article may provide a hint as to the intent of the author in using “Jewish-Israeli” in this way. Before subsequent revisions, the piece initially alleged that “Jewish-Israeli perfidy ” was central to Khalidi’s study.

The word “perfidy” is defined as deceitfulness or untrustworthiness, and the idea of Jewish perfidy was an element of early Christian theological antisemitism. Thus, use of the term “Jewish-Israeli policies” could disturbingly represent Hughes’ attempt to evoke what he believes to be the uniquely Jewish nature of putative Israeli crimes.
GWU International Affairs School Names BDS Supporter as Interim Dean
A faculty member at George Washington University in Washington, DC, with an anti-Israel history has been named interim dean of the university’s Elliott School of International Affairs.

Ilana Feldman, vice dean of the Elliott School and professor of anthropology, history and international affairs, will serve as the school’s interim dean while a search is underway for a permanent successor to veteran US diplomat Reuben Brigety II, who was named earlier this year as vice chancellor and president of Sewanee: The University of the South in Tennessee, announced GW provost Brian Blake on Monday.

“Dr. Feldman brings to the interim dean role more than a decade of teaching and administrative experience at GW, most recently as vice dean at Elliott,” said Blake in a university statement. “As an expert in her field with close working relationships with faculty, students and staff, she is an excellent choice to serve in this role. We are excited and pleased that she will lead Elliott during this challenging time.”

Feldman, however, has a record of delegitimizing the Jewish state as an activist in the anti-Israel BDS movement with some of her academic work glossing over Palestinian terrorism.

In 2014, she signed a letter condemning Israel’s defensive actions in Gaza in response to Hamas launching rocket attacks from there into Israel, calling it “the wholesale slaughter of a civilian population.”

She is a member of the American Anthropological Association (AAA) and was part of a group that in 2016 unsuccessfully called for an AAA boycott of Israeli academic institutions.

In a March 2016 webinar, Feldman said, “Questions about ‘why boycott Israel and not North Korea or China?’ seem to entirely miss the point that boycott is a political act and not just a statement of position. In voting for boycott, we have the opportunity to join a movement that is already strong and getting stronger.”

In a statement posted on Facebook, the student organization GW for Israel objected to Feldman’s appointment “to the highest degree.”

The group said that “as a fervent supporter” of BDS, Feldman “isolates Israeli students in the ESIA as well as the hundreds of students who support a Jewish State of Israel. GW for Israel supports a two-state solution where both Israelis and Palestinians can live in prosperity alongside each other.”
Brett Kavanaugh’s ‘hypothetical’ question: Can the US require groups to recognize Israel?
Those tuning in this week for just the second day of live Supreme Court broadcasts were treated to a surprise: In a case about NGOs, HIV-AIDS funding and prostitution, the discussion unexpectedly turned toward U.S. support for Israel’s right to exist.

The case features a group of NGOs that are resisting the Trump administration’s requirement that they explicitly oppose sex trafficking and prostitution as a condition for receiving funds to combat HIV-AIDS overseas from the U.S. Agency for International Development. The NGOs argue that the requirement violates speech freedoms and inhibits their ability to reach those who need their assistance.

During the questioning of the NGOs’ lawyers, Kavanaugh brought up Israel.

“Suppose the U.S. government wants to fund foreign NGOs that support peace in the Middle East but only if the NGOs explicitly recognize Israel as a legitimate state,” Kavanaugh said at Tuesday’s hearing. “Are you saying the U.S. can’t impose that kind of speech restriction on foreign NGOs that are affiliated with U.S. organizations?”

The lawyer for the NGOs, David Bowker, did not equivocate: It would be constitutionally kosher for the U.S. to require such foreign affiliates to recognize Israel.

“I don’t hear that as requiring affirmation of a belief,” Bowker said. “Rather it is in recognizing a fact that the U.S. has established a certain diplomatic relationship with Israel. And the U.S. government gets to say what that relationship is for the United States.”

Kavanaugh’s question could be seen as reflecting the increasingly important role that Israel’s well-being has taken in mainstream conservative political thought over the past two decades. At the same time, Bowker’s response was noteworthy because it comes at a time when many NGOs and their political allies on the left have resisted efforts to link government aid to Israel-related issues.

NY Times Favors Palestinian Narrative on Payments to Terrorists
Last Thursday, the New York Times framed the Israeli army’s fight against Covid-19 as a break from its quest for new ways to “kill people” and “blow things up.” Just two days later, even as Jewish organizations protested that story’s framing, the paper doubled down with an egregiously skewed piece about Palestinians imprisoned for, among other security offenses, the murder of Israeli civilians.

The story, titled “Israel Cracks Down on Banks Over Payments to Palestinian Inmates” (see update below), discusses Israeli legal measures targeting Palestinian stipends that have sent hundreds millions of dollars to Palestinians involved in violent attacks against Israelis, and to the families of suicide bombers and other terrorists. Many see the payments as incentivizing anti-Israel violence.

That view, though, runs counter to the newspaper’s preferred narrative of Israeli malevolence and Palestinian victimization, so the paper does what it takes to minimize readers’ exposure to Israeli feelings about the Palestinian policy, which some critics refer to as “pay for slay.”

After an opening sentence that mentions the new Israeli policy targeting banks that process payments for Palestinians who, in the newspaper’s gentle wording, “have spent time in Israeli jails,” a second paragraph introduces the Palestinian and Israeli views of these payments. Mostly, the Palestinian view:
The Palestinians defend the funds as vital welfare that compensate for an unfair military-run justice system, provide income for families who have lost their primary breadwinners and enable released prisoners to reintegrate into society. But the Israelis denounce the practice as rewarding terrorism.

The New York Times introduces the opposing perspectives on the controversy, with 35 words to explain how Palestinians feel and 9 words explaining how Israelis feel.

Why do the Times reporters, Adam Rasgon and Mohammed Najib, devote four times as many words in this introductory paragraph to fleshing out the Palestinian view of the funds compared to the terse sentence the give about opposition to the payments? The best that can be said is that the lopsided passage accurately reflects the bias of the story as a whole. Throughout the piece, Palestinian support for the payments is prominently featured, while Israeli concerns are sparse, and mostly buried toward the end of the article.

All-time high in US annual antisemitism incidents in 2019 ADL finds
Antisemitism hit a new all-time high in the US in 2019 according to the Anti-Defamation League’s annual report, and continued on an upward trajectory for a sixth straight year.

And physical assaults against Jews were up dramatically once again, rising by 56 percent over 2018’s figures, which themselves were double 2017 levels.

In total, there were 2,107 incidents of antisemitism in 2019, a 12 percent rise over 2018 figures which themselves were the second highest on record this century after the 1,986 recorded in 2017.

The number of antisemitic incidents in 2019, which includes acts of assault, vandalism and harassment, has now eclipsed figures for both those years.

The year witnessed several hate-inspired murders of US Jews, including the shooting attack on ultra-Orthodox Jews in Jersey City, Jersey in December in which four people were killed, and a brutal stabbing attack in Monsey, New York in the same month in which one man eventually died from his wounds and four were injured.

In April 2019, one woman was killed in a shooting attack at Poway Synagogue in San Diego.

The spate of antisemitic harassment and assault also continued in Jewish neighborhoods of New York City, including Borough Park, Crown Heights and Williamsburg.

New York state alone recorded 430 antisemitic incidents in 2019, the highest in any state, followed by New Jersey with 345 incidents, California with 330, Massachusetts with 114 and Pennsylvania with 109.
German court rejects Iraqi’s appeal over rape, murder of Jewish teen
A German federal court said Tuesday it had thrown out a rejected Iraqi asylum-seeker’s appeal against his conviction for raping and murdering a 14-year-old local Jewish girl.

Ali Bashar was sentenced to life in prison by the Wiesbaden state court in July following a four-month trial in a case that fueled tensions over migration.

The court ruled there was a “particular severity of guilt,” meaning that he likely won’t be released after 15 years as is common in Germany.

Bashar, who was 21 at the time of the killing, was convicted of assaulting and murdering Susanna Feldman in Wiesbaden in May 2018.

Bashar and his family abruptly left a home for asylum applicants in Germany after the killing, and he was later arrested by Kurdish forces in Iraq, handed over to German police officers and flown back to Germany.

Bashar is believed to have arrived in Germany in October 2015.

The Federal Court of Justice said it threw out Bashar’s appeal in an April 28 ruling. Among other objections to his conviction, he had argued that his return from Iraq constituted a “procedural impediment.”
Swastikas found on two tombstones of German POWs at US military cemetery
A group that advocates for religious freedoms in the military wants the Veterans Administration to remove German POW tombstones at a San Antonio military cemetery that are inscribed with Nazi symbols and sentiments.

The two tombstones, among 140 for World War II POWs at Fort Sam Houston National Cemetery, are marked with a swastika inside a German cross, and are inscribed, “He died far from his home for the Führer, people, and fatherland.”

Führer was the title Adolf Hitler assumed for himself.

It’s not clear why just these two tombstones, among 132 Germans buried in the San Antonio cemetery’s POW section, have the Nazi inscriptions. Both of the deceased died in 1943.

There are an estimated 860 World War I and II-era German POWs buried in 43 cemeteries across the United States.

Mikey Weinstein, the Military Religious Freedom Foundation founder, who is Jewish, said his organization was alerted to the presence of the tombstones with Nazi insignia by a retired senior military officer who last week visited the graves of his maternal grandfather, his uncle and his aunt.

“Some of them are buried with our war dead, which is shocking enough,” Weinstein said of the POW. “There’s no way you’re going to put a swastika on that grave.”
Cell therapy firm boosts odds for blood cancer patients as key trial succeeds
Israel’s Gamida Cell, the manufacturer of a stem cell therapy that aims to increase the success of bone marrow transplants in blood cancer patients, said on Tuesday that a key late-stage clinical trial of its treatment has yielded positive results and met a major target.

Shares of the Jerusalem-based biotech firm were up 49 percent on the Nasdaq at the open of the exchange, on the news of the potentially life-saving treatment option for patients who need bone marrow transplants.

In the multinational Phase III clinical trial, conducted at more than 50 centers around the world, blood cancer patients who received bone marrow transplants were treated with the stem-cell based therapy Omidubicel, previously called NiCord.

Those who were injected with the treatment containing expanded and enhanced stem cells had a median time of neutrophil engraftment that was significantly shorter than those that did not receive the drug: 12 days compared with 22 days for patients who received a standard umbilical cord blood transplant, the company said. Neutrophil engraftment is a measure of how quickly stem cells received in a transplant are established and begin to make healthy new cells. A rapid neutrophil engraftment has been associated with fewer infections and shorter hospitalizations.

“I am so thrilled and excited for Gamida and for patients,” said the firm’s CEO Julian Adams, the chief executive officer of Gamida Cell in a phone interview. “Omidubicel will transform the bone marrow transplant market… we will grow the market and treat more patients and hopefully have more patients cured.”

The treatment was given to cancer patients in remission who needed a transplant to stop the recurrence of the disease, he said.

Among patients who were transplanted per protocol, 96 percent of patients who received Omidubicel achieved successful neutrophil engraftment, compared to 88 percent of patients in the comparative group, the company said in a statement.
StandWithUs: An Arab Defender of Israel
As an Israeli Arab, Yoseph Haddad is a man on a mission. He has traveled around the world to bring people’s understanding of Israel closer to the reality of his own experience. Haddad is passionate about creating positive change in his community, and his personal experiences led him to build Together—Vouch for Each Other (BeYachad—Aravim Zeh la-Zeh), an organization determined to connect the Arab sector to Israeli society.

Migratory swifts put on ancient aerial show at a Western Wall emptied of people
Every year, at the beginning of spring, migratory swifts flock to the Western Wall in Jerusalem.

This year, due to the coronavirus pandemic, the birds found the ancient site largely devoid of people, giving them free range to put on displays of balletic group flight above the plaza.

Each fall, the birds migrate to Africa, and ahead of spring, end their yearly journey at its northernmost point — Jerusalem.

The Jerusalem colony is likely one of the world’s oldest, said Amir Balaban, head of the urban division at Israel’s Society for the Protection of Nature

“They probably nested here already in the era of King Herod, 2,000 years ago,” Balaban said, according to Zman Yisrael, the Times of Israel’s sister site in Hebrew. “Usually at this time of year, when the worshipers arrive at sunrise, you can hear the worshipers’ voices from below and the calls of the swifts from above. It always gives me goosebumps.”

Human activity can be detrimental to the swifts when the wall complex is kept bright by artificial light around the clock.

The wall is home to some 90 pairs of nesters, the Temple Mount complex has several hundred, and the capital likely has tens of thousands.

“This is one of the most amazing sights in the world of a mix between a heritage sight and bird watching,” Balaban said. “In China they nest in the tiles of ancient temples and here in the slits of the Western Wall and the old structures of the Old City.”

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