Wednesday, August 31, 2016

From Ian:

Anti-Semitism bred by ignorance... just look at our attitudes to Israel-Palestine
After misogyny it is arguably the world's oldest hatred and, as the late Conor Cruise O'Brien noted, anti-Semitism is a "light sleeper".
O'Brien contended that it is found barely beneath the surface even in literature from Shakespeare to Wilde; in public discourse even in societies with tiny or non-existent Jewish populations, and is infectious in its pervasive paranoia throughout the entire Arab and Islamic world.
The 'beast' also raises its head at times when it is least expected, as it did in west Belfast with the desecration of Jewish graves in the City Cemetery.
Politicians and religious leaders have united to condemn the vandalism, which some tried to portray as mindless drink and drug-fuelled behaviour - but now appears to have been something more organised, more targeted, more pointed. After all, the vandals used hammers and blocks to break up the headstones while a larger mob looked on encouraging their actions. There is clear evidence here of forward-planning; the graves targeted being exclusively Jewish, some dating back to the 1870s.
One theory knocking around is that the latest flare-up of anti-Semitism in Belfast is somehow related to the controversy over Celtic being fined by Uefa after their fans displayed Palestinian flags at Parkhead during a European Champions League qualifier this month against an Israeli side. Whatever the motivation, or even the rights and wrongs of the Israel-Palestine question, it is undoubtedly the case that the desecration was motivated by anti-Jew hatred.
UN Non-Governmental Organizations (NGOs): Inciting Hatred, Antisemitism and Violence from the World Stage
Our ground-breaking report exposes the shocking antisemitism and incitement to violence that is occurring at the United Nations by means of UN-accredited non-governmental organizations (NGOs). The UN is enabling groups to spread hatred, encourage terrorism, and promote the destruction of the Jewish state from the world stage.
Democratic states, led by the United States, control the purse strings of the United Nations either from within the UN bureaucracy or through domestic policy. Getting serious about combating gross intolerance and violent extremism means putting an immediate stop to the use and abuse of the United Nations to broadcast and support antisemitism, bigotry and their lethal consequences.
Ryan Bellerose: Why It’s So Easy To Hate Jews
I know right off the bat some of you were upset, and whether you understand it or not, that was the point.
You see the question I am most often asked is why do people hate Jews so much? Shortly followed by why do people hate Indians so much? The sad and funny part is that it’s exactly the same reason. Because it’s easy. But why is it so damn easy?
You see it is really easy to hate someone you don’t know, and it is even easier when they are different from you. I am fond of saying that it’s easy to hate an abstract concept, but it’s hard to hate a person. It is very easy to lie or believe lies about someone you know nothing about. If you have zero attachment at best you will not get involved at all; at worst you will actively get involved with demonizing and delegitimizing the “other.”
Jews have dealt with this a long time. Basically your very existence rubs a lot of people the wrong way because you remind them of things they want to forget. Nobody likes the idea that they or their ancestors were ever the bad guy, and no good guys ever woke up saying “Hey today I think I will try to kill all the Jews.” Therefore, for some people, their ancestors were in fact the bad guys.
Sometimes those who are on the pointy end of hate have a tough time understanding; they cannot see the forest for the trees. They try even harder to be liked, and the end result is they come off looking weak or conciliatory when that is the very last thing they need to appear. It is as if they are fighting the perception they are the “bad thing.”

Islam and Anti-Semitism in Malaysia
Malaysia, a majority-Muslim country in Southeast Asia, is rapidly turning to Islamic fundamentalism through the state's sharia-like legal system and the country's growing number of Islamic militant sympathizers. Malaysia's government is a federal parliamentary democracy under an elected constitutional monarchy. The country of more than 30 million people is made up of 13 states and three federal territories. It is a multi-ethnic country: Malay Sunni Muslims make up 50.1% of the population, Chinese people make up 23.6%, indigenous people 11.8% and Indians 6.7 %. However, the Malaysian Constitution declares Islam alone to be the official religion.
Malaysia is dominated by an iteration of Islamic culture that is highly influenced by the Saudi Arabian version of Islam. The use of political Islam has been a deliberate move by some Islamists in even the highest levels of Malaysian government to create a sharia-based nation. According to the Wall Street Journal, conservative Wahhabi doctrines spread by Saudi-financed imams are redefining the way Islam is practiced in Malaysia, and politicians are now competing with each other to show off their Islamist credentials. These practices are eroding the tolerance for which the country was previously known.
Recently, one of the influential opposition parties, the Pan Malaysian Islamic Party (PAS), introduced a bill that will be debated by Parliament in October. The bill would implement harsher hudud laws (brutal physical punishments for transgressions like adultery and theft) in the north-eastern state of Kelantan. In 2015, The Kelantan Assembly passed amendments to the Sharia Criminal Code, approving hudud in the state. As a result, the Democratic Action Party (DAP), a center-left, multi-racial political party, cut its ties with the PAS.
While sharia law infiltrates Malaysian society, anti-Semitism among Malaysian politicians has also been on the rise. In an interview with Al-Jazeera on June 25, Mahathir Mohamad, the former Prime Minister of Malaysia, was asked about some controversial statements he had made. In 2003, he remarked that Jews ruled the world, and in 2012 he claimed that he would be glad to be labelled as anti-Semitic. In the interview, Mr. Mohamad said, "I believe I'm speaking the truth."
Anti-Zionism Is Antisemitism
Martin Luther King once said, “When people criticize Zionists they mean Jews; you are talking antisemitism.”
Never has that insight proven more accurate than today, as we witness increasing antisemitism across the world — thinly veiled as a criticism of Zionism and the state of Israel, rather than against Jews themselves.
Today, among many groups who consider themselves liberal and progressive, it is an insult to call someone a Zionist — an insult akin to calling someone a racist. Yet the irony that is ignored by all these groups is that Zionism espouses the very values these groups claim to uphold. Zionism, for example, gives Muslims and Christians the freedom to practice all their beliefs and traditions without hindrance from the state. The same can’t be said of any Arab country. And it is another irony that on the beaches of France, French police had forced Muslim women to remove their burkinis, while in Israel, Muslims face no such demands.
True liberals who share progressive values should be at the forefront of supporting Israel, rather than leading the charge against it. But their minds are so clouded with hatred and antisemitism that they have lost all sense of what liberal values even mean.
David Collier: So this is Yachad – part one: astroturf and magic tricks
Yachad have been an element of my research for two years. There is discomfort in writing about them, because they are, on the surface, representing a legitimate position. Despite my opposition to their core political argument, I focus on exposing Israel’s enemies, not criticising Zionists I disagree with.
As Yachad’s Director Hannah Weisfeld just showed us all, with her astonishingly hypocritical attack on ‘Im Tirtzu’s’ right to be heard, when you blur the lines, you can lose all your integrity. So even though I comment on them here, I am still going to try to maintain balance and insight.
Following my recent article, three Yachad activists visited my blog to argue the case. In all honesty, I didn’t believe there was much to argue. What they did was awful. I had hoped there would be some recognition of that, perhaps a belated ‘it was wrong’ shrug, acknowledging the blatant hypocrisy of their position.
Instead I faced an ‘across the board’ wave of self-righteous, elitism. Free speech and open platforms it appears, are only inherent rights on ‘their side’ of the argument. Once they turn up to defend their own group’s attempt at stifling open discussion, they justify their actions with lengthy and extremely acrobatic theoretical discussions.
What’s more, I was surprised by those who turned up to fight Yachad’s corner. And in truth, it was the discussion that unfolded, the identity of the participants and some of the strange positions that were put forward, that led to this piece being finished.
This research has been split into three parts.
California legislature passes anti-BDS bill
The California State Assembly voted 60-0 on Tuesday to send an anti-Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions (BDS) bill to the governor for approval, a week after the Senate passed it, JTA reports.
The bill, which the Senate passed in a 34-1 vote on August 24, differed from its original version introduced in April by Assemblyman Richard Bloom.
The earlier version banned the state from making contracts worth over $100,000 with companies boycotting Israel. In order to satisfy critics, who said it violated the constitutional right to boycott, the bill was modified to remove references to the Jewish state.
The version that was passed Tuesday does not prohibit companies working with the state from boycotting Israel, noted JTA. Rather, companies have to certify that they do not violate California civil rights laws in boycotting a foreign country, according to The Jewish Journal.
“The bottom line is that the state should not subsidize discrimination in any form,” Bloom said Monday in the State Assembly.
Governor Jerry Brown now has 12 days to approve or veto the measure.
By passing the bill, California joins several other U.S. states that have passed anti-BDS laws in recent months.
Czech textbooks to drop Jerusalem as Israel's capital
The Czech Education Ministry has ordered the company printing the atlases used in the country's schools to cease naming Jerusalem as Israel's capital, Army Radio reported Wednesday.
According to the report, the order followed a complaint from the Palestinian Embassy in Prague. The textbook's publisher was instructed to mark Tel Aviv as the capital instead, and was warned that refusing the order could jeopardize his ties with the Czech ministry.
Jerusalem and Prague maintain friendly ties, and the decision enraged Israel. "This is a reprehensible decision. Palestinian incitement knows no bounds, It is no longer satisfied with poisoning the minds of Palestinian youth -- now it wants to spread lies and misinformation among Czech youth as well," the Israeli Foreign Ministry said in a statement, adding it was in touch with Prague to reverse the decision.
According to the Prague Daily Monitor, the Palestinian Embassy complained to the Czech Education Ministry that an atlas used in elementary and secondary school, presents Jerusalem as the capital of Israel.
EU: Women’s funding won’t go to Palestinian ICC suit against Israel
The European Union does not intend to fund portions of a Palestinian women’s empowerment plan that deals with building a case against Israel before the International Criminal Court, EU spokesperson Maja Kocijancic told The Jerusalem Post on Tuesday.
The $2.1 million women’s empowerment plan, which focuses primarily on fighting the Israeli “occupation,” was developed with EU funds and organizational assistance from UN Women.
The EU, however, only intends to financially support a minor portion of the plan – $93,330 – that deals with helping Palestinian women participate in the decision making process at the local and international levels.
“This plan is a Palestinian plan and doesn’t necessary reflect the positions of... the European Union [or] the UN Women,” Kocijancic told the Post in an email in response to a story about the initiative the paper published over the weekend.
The UN and the EU supports “advocacy” and “capacity building components of the plan” that addresses “Palestinian women participation in decision-making,” Kocijancic said.
Knesset may punish MKs who call to boycott Israel
The Knesset House Committee plans to add a punishment for calling for a boycott of Israel to the legislature’s rulebooks when it returns from its summer recess at the end of October, following an exclusive report in The Jerusalem Post on MK Basel Ghattas (Joint List) calling for a boycott and sanctions against Israel in Montreal earlier this month.
House Committee chairman Yoav Kisch (Likud) said he plans to amend Knesset regulations so that there will be consequences for such behavior. The proposed change, the details of which Kisch has yet to reveal, was inspired by Ghattas’s call for a boycott of Israel at the World Social Forum, a radical left-wing conference in Montreal two weeks ago.
The lawmaker from Balad, one of the four parties that make up the Joint List, called Israel an oppressive, racist and apartheid state. He said he is pessimistic that there will be peace soon, and international sanctions were the most effective way to combat Israel. After the conference, he made similar remarks at several other events in Canada.
“It’s absurd,” Kisch said, “that we are still giving licenses to encourage boycotting Israel to our MKs. MK Ghattas has a license from the Knesset; a license to boycott the state of Israel in his travels around the world. Those licenses must be confiscated.”
Analysis: BDS initiatives and their counter-efforts play out across Europe
Prof. Jeffrey Herf, a prominent historian at the University of Maryland, wrote on his blog that the resolution is important because “support for the resolution came first of all from a department of the Humanities, which is significant as BDS has generally had more support in the humanities and social sciences than in the natural sciences, engineering or law faculties...
In view of a long history of leftist antagonism to Israel dating back to the 1960s in West Germany and to 1949 in East Germany, both the content and the origins of the Leipzig resolutions are evidence of a very different stance towards Israel evident among at least these liberal and left-liberal students.”
It is still too early to assess whether the resolution gains traction in the US, the UK and Canada, the hotspots of academic BDS.
Herf, whose book Undeclared Wars with Israel: East Germany and the West German Far Left, 1967-1989 appeared this year, translated the lengthy student resolution on his blog.
Outside of the academy, a new group – Aktionsforum Israel (Action Forum Israel) – launched a protest against hardcore BDS activists in front of a Berlin department store on Thursday who sought to discourage consumers from purchasing the Israeli carbonated drink mixer, SodaStream.
In an interview published in the Rheinische Post on Friday, Israel’s ambassador to Germany, Yakov Hadas-Handelsman, said the BDS campaign’s goal to return millions of Palestinian refugees to the locations of their ancestors is in reality the aim to “wipe out the Jewish democratic character of Israel. This intention is a form of anti-Semitism.”
August is nearly over and September will be another test of countervailing BDS forces.
Anti-BDS Activists Decry Lutherans’ ‘Obsession’ With Israel
While some pro-Israel groups are decrying the Lutheran church’s “scapegoating of Israel” and its apparent movement towards embracing divestment, other Jewish leaders detect hopeful signs with the church’s most recent positions.
The Evangelical Lutheran Church of America (ELCA), the largest Lutheran denomination in the United States, passed two Israel-related resolutions earlier this month at its triennial assembly in New Orleans, La. One resolution established an “investment screen” that will recommend where Lutherans should invest their money with regard to Israel and the Palestinians. The other urged a cutoff of US aid to Israel unless Israel meets a series of conditions and calls for the immediate US recognition of “the state of Palestine.”
Dexter Van Zile, a Catholic pro-Israel activist, who monitors and analyzes the Christian media for the Committee on Accuracy in Middle East Reporting in America (CAMERA) said, “the Lutheran Church has an outrageous obsession with Israel.” He told the group “has been beating up on Israel for a long time, and this is just the latest example.”
David Brog, of Christians United for Israel, said in a statement that the resolutions “blame Israel and only Israel for the conflict in the Middle East. Such one-sided scapegoating of the Jewish state will only fuel further Palestinian rejection and violence.”
A Troubling Debut at the NYT
Incoming Jerusalem Bureau Chief Peter Baker filed the first story of his new tenure August 28. Given the complexity of issues relating to Israel and the fraught debates about coverage, readers might have anticipated a carefully balanced, factually nailed-down, serious piece by the new correspondent.
Instead, echoing a Haaretz story about a minor incident involving a female singer who was asked to leave the stage because she was wearing a revealing bikini top at a publicly-funded event, Baker’s debut piece veered from this trivial story to Israel "struggling with its identity and values."
This struggle, he asserts, is rooted in increasingly influential "Orthodox Judaism" which he links in a lurch of logic to "culture minister, Miri Regev," who is "seeking to deny state money for institutions that do not express loyalty to the state."
Judaism, patriotism, identity and values would be large topics for a veteran on the scene and not surprisingly ring both shallow and muddled at the same time in this piece.
In any case, the intended message is clear: Israel is supposedly veering rightward – a bad thing in The Times worldview – and Baker is plugging in items to make the point.
More substantively problematic was the incomplete and deceptive framing of Minister Regev’s efforts related to taxpayer funding of cultural events. Readers might assume her actions as characterized by Baker compel Orwellian public expressions of fealty to the state.
UK Media Watch prompts Telegraph revision to 2014 story on killing of Gaza family
Though both publications reported within the past few days on the conclusions of the new MAG report, neither updated their original stories to acknowledge this new information.
Following our communication with the Telegraph, however, they agreed to add the following addendum to their July 21, 2014 article:
We thank Telegraph editors for the addendum.
UK newspaper columnist Yasmin Alibhai-Brown again smears British Jews
First, note how she conflates deadly Islamic terror attacks on cartoonists, bloggers and artists with the putative “objections” expressed by “hardline” British Zionists (or Jews) to unspecified “events, debates, theatrical productions and lectures”. Additionally, it’s impossible to know what her vague accusation of “organized intimidation” by “hardline” British Zionists is alluding to.
The only concrete example of such ‘Zionist subterfuge’ she provides is in the following passage in the op-ed:
This May, Leanne Mohamad, a 17-year-old British-Palestinian pupil at Wanstead High School won a regional final in a Speak Out competition. Her talk was on the ongoing pain of Palestine. The Speaker’s Trust denied her a place in the finals. The video of her speech was taken off the official website (it has now been reinstated).
However, as the CEO of Speakers Trust made clear, Leanne Mohamad was denied a place in the finals because her speech was deemed by judges to be inconsistent with two ground rules: that the speech must have a “positive and uplifting message” and that a speaker should never engage in propaganda or in any way “inflame or offend the audience or insult others”. (See the lies and propaganda about Israel in her speech in this video and judge for yourself.) Either way, “hardline Zionists” had absolutely nothing to do with her failure to secure a place in the finals.
So, while Alibhai-Brown provided no actual examples of “censorship” or “intimidation” by “hardline Zionists” in her op-ed, she did provide another perfectly clear example of her penchant for smearing British Jewish supporters of Israel with false accusations of racism, intolerance and extremism.
BBC WS showcases ahistorical political art unchallenged
During the interview listeners heard Gilleard talking about the background to the painting:
“Some of the topics that I’m painting about are quite specific. So the very first one that I did was in St Paul’s Cathedral and they wanted me to do a painting of the Virgin Mary. So I decided that it would be a good idea to go and paint a Palestinian woman as the Virgin Mary – a refugee. It was just to show a different angle on something and it just seemed like a really nice link to the fact that there’s so many people fleeing Palestine, Syria…”
Given the fact that portrayal of Jesus as a Palestinian is one of the tactics long employed by anti-Israel campaigners attempting to negate and erase Jewish history, one might have thought that the programme’s presenter Sahar Zand would have taken the trouble to make listeners aware of the ahistorical politics behind the portrayal of the Virgin Mary as a Palestinian – if only for the sake of editorial standards of accuracy and impartiality.
However, the representative of a media organisation which earlier this year spent a significant amount of airtime discussing the alleged cultural appropriation of a pop star’s hair style, stayed silent.
PreOccupiedTerritory: Intelligence Budget Increases To Overcome Haaretz Paywall (satire)
Israeli defense and intelligence officials told reporters today that a reserve in the current budget for the Ministry of Defense will be used in part to gain access to Haaretz’s English-language online edition, which uses a paywall. That way, say the officials, the intelligence organs of the state can keep abreast of what the country’s enemies are saying and thinking.
Minister of Defense Avigdor Liberman gave approval this morning for the allocation of the reserve, which formed part of the 59-billion-shekel ($15.6B) ministry budget for 2016. In signing off on the measure, the minister attested to the importance he and his staff see in gaining insight into the mentality of the forces opposed to Israel and Zionism. While many costly programs already exist to gain intelligence and inside information on the workings of enemy governments, militaries, and militias, in some cases the information can be obtained more economically and closer to home, explained defense analyst Washing Tunnpost.
“It takes years of training and preparation to get an agent and the necessary support network in place, and all that can collapse in an instant if someone messes up or the enemy gets too wise or lucky,” said Tunnpost. “From the perspective of risking assets and return on investment, this move is both a safe bet and a shrewd, efficient use of resources. A glance through Haaretz, especially the English version, is as good as having a man on the ground in, say, Pakistan, Sudan, or Iran.”
Holocaust survivor of 9 concentration camps dies at age 91
Abraham Peck, a Holocaust survivor who miraculously endured nine Nazi concentration camps, died late last week at the age of 91.
US media this week regaled the life history of the Polish-born Jewish nonagenarian who had immigrated to the United States following World War II and settled in New Jersey.
Peck, who emerged as the only member of his immediate family to survive the Holocaust was also the sole survivor from the Polish town of Szadek, the New Jersey Record initially reported. He died at his home on Thursday night.
As a teenager and young man from age 15 to 20, he was shuttled around Nazi concentration camps, including Auschwitz - where the identification number 143450 was tattooed on his left arm.
During the years of suffering such starvation that a measly scrap of bread provided sustenance, he also endured forced labor, disease and tragic loss.
Jewish avenger’s sole regret: No Nazis died in post-war arsenic plot
Seventy years after the most daring attempt of Jewish Holocaust survivors to seek revenge against their former tormentors, the leader of the plot has only one simple regret: that to his knowledge he didn’t actually succeed in killing any Nazis.
Joseph Harmatz is one of the few remaining Jewish “Avengers” who carried out a mass poisoning of former SS men in an American prisoner-of-war camp in 1946 that sickened more than 2,200 Germans but ultimately caused no known deaths. A recently declassified US military report obtained by The Associated Press has only added to the mystery of why the brazen operation did not kill Nazis, because it shows the amount of arsenic used should have been fatal to tens of thousands.
Still, the 91-year-old Harmatz says the message echoed into a rallying cry for the newborn state of Israel — that the days when attacks on Jews went unanswered were over.
“We didn’t want to come back (to pre-state Israel) without having done something, and that is why we were keen,” Harmatz said in a hoarse, whispery voice from his apartment in north Tel Aviv.
Despite a visceral desire for vengeance, most Holocaust survivors were too weary or devastated to seriously consider it, after their world was shattered and 6 million Jews killed during World War II. For most, merely rebuilding their lives and starting new families was revenge enough against a Nazi regime that aimed to destroy them. For others, physical retribution ran counter to Jewish morals and traditions. For even more, the whole concept of reprisals seemed pointless given the sheer scope of the genocide.
The Manila Poker Group That Rescued German Jews
Written in the 1930s by the Polish Yiddish actor Igor S. Korntayer, this plaintive Yiddish ballad describes in stark terms the dilemma faced by German Jews desperate to escape from their homeland after Hitler came to power. Suffering through a worldwide economic depression, Western nations, including the United States and Canada, imposed stringent immigration laws and rigid quotas and were unwilling to accept large numbers of refugees. In order to better identify German Jews who tried to enter the country, the Swiss government asked the German government to stamp a large red “J,” for “Jude,” in the passports of all German Jewish citizens. Thwarted from emigrating to the West, thousands of German Jews fled eastward by sea and land routes seeking refuge in Asia and the Far East, especially the open city of Shanghai.
Shanghai was unique in that the city was internationally controlled and required neither a visa, passport, affidavit, nor certificate of guarantee for entry. Jews desperate to leave Germany and who were able to do so found asylum in Shanghai. The outbreak of war between China and Japan in 1937 made immigration perilous. In September 1937, Germany sent a ship to Shanghai to evacuate its nationals from the war zone and bring them to Manila. They also took on board 28 German Jewish families. When the ship arrived in Manila, the city’s small Jewish community took charge of the Jewish refugees. This episode became the impetus for a Philippine plan to rescue German Jews from Nazi clutches.
Of all the Far East sanctuaries, only one country deliberately sought to save Jews: the Philippine Commonwealth. The rescue plan evolved from the close friendship and cooperation of a small group of men who regularly met to play poker. Their efforts led to the Philippines saving more than 1,300 German and Austrian Jews from 1938 to 1939.
State burial in Poland for WWII heroes slain by communists
Seven decades after their deaths, a state burial was held Sunday in Poland for two World War II heroes who fought the Germans but were later killed by the communists for their pro-independence activity.
The relatives of the 17-year-old Home Army nurse and a 42-year-old ensign attended the religious ceremonies along with President Andrzej Duda and Polish government officials.
The burial with military honors took place in Gdansk, in the north, where the two were captured in 1946, tortured and executed on Aug. 28, 1946. Their bodies were dumped in an unmarked pit at Gdansk military cemetery. Pavement tiles were put on top to conceal the site.
The remains of Danuta Siedzikowna, codename “Inka,” and Feliks Selmanowicz, “Zagonczyk,” were found in 2014. They were identified through DNA tests as part of government efforts to locate and properly honor thousands of Poles who fought for the nation’s independence against the Nazi Germans and then against the communists.
Only a few hundred have been found so far across Poland. They were erased from history books for decades under communism.
Celebrity endorsed Shellanoo eyeing IPO
Herzliya-based Shellanoo, a technology company focusing on mobile applications, online services and interactive artificial intelligence, is planning to go public on the Tel Aviv Stock Exchange (TASE) in October.
The firm – which counts David Guetta, Avicii,, Tiësto, Sebastian Ingrosso, Nicki Minaj, Benny Andersson, Dor Refaeli (supermodel Bar Refaeli’s brother) and Russian billionaire Roman Abramovich among its partners and investors – announced on its website that it has been valued at $177 million by consulting firm BDO.
The company also said the initial public offering is being presented by their lead underwriter Poalim IBI, with auditing approved by PwC.
Shellanoo is planning to raise at least $26.5 million, according to Reuters.
Shellanoo reportedly chose to list its IPO on TASE instead of Nasdaq to show other local firms that technology businesses can and should stay in Israel.
Internet entrepreneur and businessman O.D. Kobo founded Shellanoo Group in 2014.
Israeli student filmmaker’s documentary to be entered in Oscar race
A Tel Aviv University graduate has won a top Student Academy Award and her documentary will be automatically entered in the Hollywood Oscar race.
Maya Sarfaty will also receive a gold medal for her film, “The Most Beautiful Woman,” it was announced Monday by the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences.
Beneath the appealing title lies the story of a love affair between an SS guard and a young Jewish woman at the Auschwitz death camp.
In the Academy’s list of nominees, Sarfaty’s film was the only one to make the cut in the Foreign Documentary category and is therefore guaranteed of a first place gold medal when the final winners are announced on Sept. 22.
A native of Netanya, Sarfaty earned an undergraduate and master’s degree at the Steve Tisch School of Film and Television at Tel Aviv University and also graduated from the Nissan Nativ Acting School, which holds classes in Jerusalem and Tel Aviv.
From Damascus to Jerusalem, a 39-year-old novel reaches the big screen
It was a chance trip to Damascus, Syria in the late 1970s that led then-college student Howard Kaplan to his first stab at literary fame.
Now that 1977 book, “The Damascus Cover,” a period piece covering Syria and Israel, is in post-production as a spy thriller film starring Jonathan Rhys Meyers, John Hurt, Olivia Thirby, Navid Negahban and Israeli actors Aki Avni, Tsahi Halevi, Igal Naor and a few others.
“It did well for a first book,” said Kaplan, now 66, during a recent visit in Israel. “It was successful as a spy novel because it has a good plot twist at the end. But I’d kind of given up on a movie adaptation.”
It was director Daniel Berk who pulled the 1977 thriller off the shelf of a Tel Aviv friend’s home library, and then emailed Kaplan, asking for the rights to develop the book as a screenplay. That was eleven years ago.
“He said, ‘I want to do it,'” said Kaplan. “I didn’t think much of it, it’s an old book. I didn’t even tell anybody.”
Berk emailed Kaplan each year for the next eight years, asking for permission to renew the option, until he finally raised enough funding in 2014, said Kaplan.
In Kaplan’s novel, washed-up Israeli spy Ari Ben Sion takes on the mission of heading to Syria to save the children of a Jewish family, while posing as an ex-Nazi officer. His handlers at the Mossad have other plans for him that become clear during his time in Damascus, and it’s those twists and turns that made the novel popular, said Kaplan.
WATCH: A Muslim Explains Why He Stands With Israel
Ashraf Sherjan, a secular Baloch Muslim, has a message for Israelis and the whole world

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