Tuesday, January 23, 2018

From Ian:

Maajid Nawaz: Human rights are universal, Amnesty. Even Jewish rights
It seems that officially partnering with pro-jihadists was not off limits for the once great and greatly admired Amnesty International, yet hosting Israeli speakers with whom they disagree is. If ever there was proof that the regressive left rot is spreading into the core of our liberal culture, look no further than the way it has politicised this once bright beacon of human rights.

This week, Amnesty UK cancelled a Jewish Leadership Council organised debate it was due to host between Fred Carver of the UN Association, and Hillel Neuer of UN Watch. Amnesty had initially agreed to join the panel debate, but withdrew their speaker months ago.

On Monday they went even further by denying use of their venue entirely. The reason ostensibly cited by Amnesty was that because they are “currently campaigning for all governments around the world to ban the import of goods produced in the illegal Israeli settlements” they do not “therefore, think it appropriate for Amnesty International to host an event by those actively supporting such settlements.”

Amnesty is well within its legal rights to permit or deny whomever it likes to and from its own venue. But the right to do something is very distinct from it being the right thing to do.

So let’s get this straight. Because Amnesty International opposes trading in goods produced in the occupied West Bank, in one clean sweep they’ve decided to extend this boycott to human beings who simply express an opposing view.

The average American is likelier than Europeans to defend Jews, experts say
It’s better here: That was the message of a panel of experts considering the rise of the extreme right and of antisemitism in the United States and Europe.

That was the good news at Monday’s forum, sponsored by Georgetown University’s Center for Jewish Civilization. The less good news was that no one could quite pin down why Americans were more resistant to antisemitism than Europeans.

“It’s far from perfect,” said Ira Forman, until January the international antisemitism monitor for the State Department. “We do it now better than we did 50 years ago, there’s no guarantee we will continue to do it, and frankly, we do it better with antisemitism than with anti-Muslim rhetoric and with racism.”

Forman cited American communities that spontaneously rallied to counter antisemitism in their midst, like the citizens of Whitefish, Montana who a year ago demonstrated ahead of a planned neo-Nazi march targeting the town’s tiny Jewish community, and civic leaders who, in 2013, called on an Oklahoma lawmaker to apologize for using the phrase “jew down.”

In both cases and in many others, he said, the drive to counter anti-Jewish rhetoric came in communities with small Jewish communities and seemed driven more by non-Jews who were repelled by the rhetoric.
Partisan divide over Israel in the U.S. at historic level, poll finds
Never has there been a greater divide between Democrats and Republicans on the subject of Israel in forty years of polling, according to a new survey published on Tuesday.

The Pew Research Center findings show Republicans more sympathetic than ever toward Israel, with Democrats increasingly divided, now equally likely to support the Palestinian cause. Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu remains a particularly divisive force.

The poll is released as US Vice President Mike Pence continues his tour of Israel touting the policies of the Trump administration, which 30% of Americans believe "favors Israel too much," according to the report.

Overall, 79% of Republicans sympathize with Israel in the survey compared to only 27% of Democrats.

Americans who are more favorably inclined to Israel are less likely to believe a two-state solution is possible than those inclined to the Palestinians. And belief in the possibility of peace is correlated with age: the younger you are, the more hopeful you are likely to be that an agreement can be reached.

"Since 2001, the share of Republicans sympathizing more with Israel than the Palestinians has increased 29 percentage points," the pollsters found. "Over the same period, the share of Democrats saying this has declined 11 points."

MEMRI: Palestinian Journalist Analyzes Why Only A Small Number Of Palestinians Are Demonstrating Against Trump's Recognition Of Jerusalem As The Capital Of Israel
The following are translated excerpts from his article:

"The Palestinian people have sufficient political awareness to understand the extent of the danger posed to the occupied capital… There is significant escalation of the popular struggle and [people are] coming out against the satanic Zionist plans for Jerusalem and the Al-Aqsa Mosque. Unlike in past years, hardly a day goes by without an intifada on the ground and the occupation conducting nighttime arrest operations to halt the advance of an entire generation toward the final campaign of national liberation. [However,] there is a decrease in the number of demonstrators, and these are the reasons why:
  • They are waiting for the decisions of the Palestinian leadership, in order to understand what direction it will take and how far it will go with its struggle. This, because in previous attempts when the public acted with full force, this was at odds with the decisions of the leadership, which took into consideration the interests of [the different] countries. The moment the public understands that the leadership is continuing with the intifada – and this necessitates at least two months [of popular resistance] – it will immediately go farther than all the intelligence [mechanisms] in the region currently imagine.
  • Exam time at educational institutions, [relevant] because most of the demonstrators in the streets are school or university students. The Palestinian people's devotion to knowledge and its commitment to education are so well known that, during the first intifada, the 1987 Intifada of Stones, the united leadership organized the educational system and the matriculation exams in such a way… that the schools were closed.
  • They are waiting for the results of the diplomatic campaign that is [currently] the PA's main focus. The Palestinians are curious to see the results of the international vote on the proposal.
  • Minimal participation of [the different Palestinian] factions and forces [involved in the resistance], due to an absence of agreement about a [unifying] political slogan, as each faction operates separately, according to its own political doctrine. [At the same time,] it should be noted that the Gaza Strip exceeded all the regions in this regard, since the forces there have overcome [their] disagreement and are now close to [finding] a joint slogan and position.
  • [The absence of] agreement about the means of action – the picture [in this context] is still unclear. In the 1987 intifada stones were used, since this was useful against the settlers and their cars and made their lives hell. During the intifada in the year 2000, guns were used. However [the choice of weapon] for the present struggle is not yet clear, and so, the meaning of the popular resistance that the leadership is calling for is still not clear to the public, and may not be clear [even] to the leadership itself." (h/t Elder of Lobby)
Islam and Jerusalem
Why is the Muslim world up in arms about Jerusalem being declared the capital of Israel? After all, Jerusalem is made up of different areas — just as Brooklyn, the Bronx, Queens, Manhattan and Staten Island are all part of New York City. The part of Jerusalem that contains the Knesset and is the administrative heart of Israel is located on land that has been part of the state since 1948, and is quite separate from the Old City and the lands reclaimed from Jordan in 1967.

There is no logical reason why Palestine, if it is ever established, should not declare its capital at Abu Dis, a suburb to the east — and part of Jerusalem, too. The fuss is clearly not about Jerusalem itself, but something else.

The religious reason given for Muslim opposition to Jerusalem as Israel’s capital is that the Old City is a holy city for Islam, and that the Al-Aqsa Mosque is the place that Mohammad visited in a dream. Jerusalem is not mentioned in the Koran — and a mosque was not built on the Temple site until almost 100 years after Mohammad’s time.

The Al-Aqsa Mosque, incidentally, is not — and was not — the golden-domed mosque, as the world seems to think. That one was known as Omar’s, and was built in 691. Al-Aqsa, the less impressive one, was built in 705. But Muslim interest in Jerusalem as a holy city only began in response to the Crusaders, who called Jerusalem their holy city (because they believed Jesus had been buried in the Holy Sepulcher there). In reality the holy cities of Islam under Mohammad were Mecca and Medina.
‘We’re going to attack Iraq,’ Israel told the US. ‘Move your planes’
In the predawn hours of January 18, 1991, at the outbreak of the First Gulf War, the Iraqi army launched eight Scud missiles at Israel, hitting both Tel Aviv and Haifa, wounding seven people and causing damage to several residential buildings.

Saddam Hussein’s military went on to fire 30 more Scuds at central Israeli cities, killing two people in direct hits and 11 others indirectly from heart attacks and asphyxiation, and raising the possibility that Jerusalem would conduct retaliatory airstrikes on Iraqi targets.

Interviews from shortly after the war with then-defense minister Moshe Arens and -IDF chief of staff Dan Shomron, which were released by the Defense Ministry’s IDF Archive on Thursday to mark the 27th anniversary of the Scud attacks, show how real the threat of an Israeli response was.

“It turns out that Arens called [then-US secretary of defense Dick] Cheney and told him, ‘OK, we’re going to attack, move your planes,” Shomron recalled in his interview.

In his interview, Arens confirmed that he’d said something along those lines.

“I spoke with Cheney on a special line almost every day. I told him, ‘We need to attack, we need to coordinate,'” he recalled.

“He was always trying to push me off. He said it required permission from the president and that there still wasn’t permission from the president so we couldn’t coordinate,” Arens said.
Modi ends hypocrisy on India’s Israel policy
Last week, Benjamin Netanyahu traveled to India, met with Prime Minister Narendra Modi, and concluded nine trade deals between the two countries. The visit is just the latest manifestation of the growing alliance between Israel and India, a country that was long hostile to the Jewish state, and refused to have formal diplomatic ties until 1991. To Swapan Dasgupta, New Delhi’s reluctance to improve relations with Jerusalem came from its excessive fear of provoking Muslim rage:
  • For the longest possible time, Indian diplomacy has run scared of facing the truth over Israel because of the fear of a Muslim backlash at home and recriminations against migrant Indian workers in the Islamic nations of West Asia. Someone had to take the bull by the horn and end this nonsense. The Modi government took the step in 2014, culminating in the Netanyahu visit last week.
  • There may have been a few angry editorials in the [mostly Muslim] Urdu press, some inflammatory sermons in mosques, an isolated black-flag demonstration or two in some cities, and some snide comments about the hug [with which Modi greeted Netanyahu upon his arrival]. However, in the main, the visit was a spectacular success. If tomorrow India starts making preparations to shift its embassy, now in Tel Aviv, to Jerusalem—as I believe it should—the protests will be insignificant.
  • The lessons should be obvious. The veto of a handful of activists should not deter governments from doing what is right and what is in the national interest. Fear should never be the reason for inaction.
  • Israel may be a tiny country, perhaps even equal in size to some of India’s larger parliamentary constituencies. Yet the popular respect it commands is disproportionate to the area it covers on the world map. This may have partly to do with Israel’s status as the custodian of an ancient Jewish civilization and partly with its doughty battle to survive while being surrounded by implacably hostile countries. Israel today epitomizes a gritty determination that is a source of colossal admiration. It is a friend worth having.
MEMRI: Palestinian Journalists Come Out Against BDS Movement, Ramallah Municipality For Banning Lebanese Director Ziad Doueiri's Film In Ramallah
In recent months, the Palestinian media has been debating the activity of the anti-Israel Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions (BDS) Movement in the territory of the Palestinian Authority (PA), in the context of the prohibition issued by the Ramallah Municipality against the screening of the film The Insult at the "Days of Cinema" festival that was held in Ramallah on October 23, 2017. The film, directed by Lebanese director Ziad Doueiri, deals with a legal dispute between a Lebanese Christian and a Palestinian refugee. The film was banned following widespread protest by Palestinians on social media, who called ban it because its director maintains relations with Israel that may be classified as normalization. These claims are based on the fact that in 2012, Doueiri filmed his previous movie, The Attack,[1] in Israel. [2] The protesters even created a #Won't Be Screened hashtag on Twitter and expanded the protests to the universities.[3]

Following these events, the Palestinian BDS movement published an announcement expressing solidarity with those calling for the ban, in which they wrote: "In order to prevent the director from benefiting from the screening of his film in occupied Palestine and disseminating normalization in the Arab homeland, the Palestinian Campaign for the Academic and Cultural Boycott of Israel calls on the management and partners in the Days of Cinema festival to avoid screening the film The Insult... until new criteria are determined for the banning of and struggle against normalization that will deal with the problem in consultation with the society and with prominent cultural figures."[4]

As a result of this pressure, the Ramallah Municipality decided that the film would not be shown in the festival.[5] The Palestinian Ministry of Culture published a diplomatic response, expressing support for freedom of expression on the one hand, and understanding for the position of the BDS movement on the other.

For its part, the festival management expressed regret about the decision and stated that it violates freedom of expression.[6] Doueiri himself responded to the decision in a clip he posted on his Twitter account, in which he said that in the past he had ignored accusations levelled at him about normalization, but that now he had chosen to respond because the star of the film, Kamel Al-Basha, who had served time in an Israeli prison, could not be suspected of lack of patriotism. Al-Basha himself also responded to the accusations, saying that they were a personal vendetta against Doueiri, and declared that he was boycotting the boycott movement.[7] The director of the Venice Film Festival condemned the ban as well, in a message that he sent to the Palestinian Authority.[8]
MKs prohibited from taking flights funded by Israel boycott groups
A Knesset committee on Monday approved a bill prohibiting Knesset members from taking flights paid for by organizations viewed as supporting a boycott against Israel, the Walla website reported.

The organizations are those on a blacklist compiled by the Ministry for Strategic Affairs and published earlier this month.

The bill, approved by the House Committee, which is headed by Likud’s Yoav Kisch, does not need full Knesset approval and will go into effect immediately, the report said.

Strategic Affairs Minister Gilad Erdan (Likud) said earlier this month that the 20 groups on the list to be barred from entering Israel are part of the Boycott, Divestment, and Sanctions movement (BDS) and consistently and openly work to delegitimize Israel.

“Forming a list is another step in our campaign against the false propaganda of boycott organizations,” said Erdan, who is also public security minister. “No country would allow visitors who arrive to harm the country to enter it and certainly not when their goal is to wipe out Israel as a Jewish country.”
NGO Monitor: NGO Social Media Propaganda Marks Israel’s UN Review
On January 23, 2018, the UN Human Rights Council reviewed Israel as part of the Universal Periodic Review (UPR) framework. According to the UN Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights, all UN Member States are reviewed on a rotating basis, examining “what actions they [Member States] have taken to improve the human rights situations in their countries and to fulfil their human rights obligations.”

In advance of and during Israel’s review, numerous self-proclaimed human rights non-governmental organizations (NGOs) took to social media where they made false and exaggerated accusations – for instance, accusing Israel of war crimes. This propaganda is standard practice for these NGOs – such as Human Rights Watch (HRW), Al-Haq, and Medical Aid for Palestinians – which focus on biased anti-Israel efforts while negating human rights violations committed by Palestinian factions.

The following is a selection of Tweets posted by leaders from different Israeli and internationals NGOs that highlight this concerted effort to influence the UN review process.
NGO Monitor: Amnesty Silences Human Rights, Extends Hate Campaign
Amnesty International-UK’s Human Rights Centre in London was originally scheduled to host a debate on January 24, between Hillel Neuer of UN Watch and Fred Carver of the UN Association, moderated by human rights attorney and Yahad board member Danny Friedman. The event was sponsored by the UK’s Jewish Leadership Council.

A few days before the event (January 24), however, Amnesty-UK abruptly cancelled the event on the grounds that the organization was “currently campaigning for all governments around the world to ban the import of goods produced in the illegal Israeli settlements. We do not therefore think it appropriate for Amnesty International to host an event by those actively supporting such settlements.” Amnesty provided no support for its claims that the groups and speakers involved “actively support such settlements.”

This is the latest in a series of incidents involving extreme hostility towards Israel and the British Jewish Community by Amnesty-UK. It fits with Amnesty’s leading role in demonization and political warfare campaigns against Israel, including supporting BDS and lawfare campaigns.

For example, in April 2015, Amnesty-UK highlighted the organization’s hypocrisy and moral bankruptcy by rejecting a campaign against antisemitism in the UK. At Amnesty-UK’s 2015 Annual General Meeting, 16 of 17 motions were adopted. The only proposed resolution that was rejected called on Amnesty UK to “Campaign against anti-Semitism in the UK,” as well as “Lobby the UK Government to tackle the rise in anti-Semitic attacks in Britain” and “monitor anti-semitism closely.” According to the motion, “neither AIUK nor the [Amnesty] International Secretariat have undertaken research or campaigning work specifically on anti-Semitism in the UK.”
Campus anti-Semitism: Hitler should have taken you all
Canary Mission, which aims to expose anti-Semitic activity and hatred of Israel on campuses in North America, on Monday published a video documenting anti-Semitic statements by students in the United States and Canada affiliated with the Students for Justice in Palestine (SJP) group.

The video, released ahead of International Holocaust Remembrance Day, shows the disturbing statements from the SJP activists against the backdrop of footage from the Holocaust. The statements include the following:

“Hitler should have killed the Jews when he had the chance that dog.”
“Every time I read about Hitler, I fall in love all over again.”
“I feel like a Jew that just entered Auschwitz concentration camp #starving.”
“I honestly don’t feel that sympathetic about the Holocaust. #SorryNotSorry.”
“Hitler should have took you all.”
“We need to put Zionists in concentration camps. Now that would be a life experience for them.”

Yad Vashem slams 'incorrect' Haaretz piece
Yad Vashem's expert on North African Jewry during WW2, Irit Abramski, responds to a Haaretz article alleging that North African Jewry has been excluded from Holocaust memory.

Eness Elias’ recent article about Holocaust commemoration in Israel (“Why North African Jews Are Missing From the Holocaust Narrative”) unfortunately contained some inaccuracies and claims that have no basis in reality.

In her piece, Elias mentions the terrible tragedy that occurred in the Giado (or Jadu) camp in Libya. In 1942, the Italian fascists imprisoned more than 2,600 Jews from Cyrenaica, and a few months later, more than 500 other Jews were sent here. The scenes at Giado were reminiscent of those in the Lodz and Warsaw ghettos: piles of dead bodies, with no one to bury them. However, contrary to what the article claimed, it is not the case that “there were many camps like Giado across North Africa.”

What happened in the Giado camp did not happen anywhere else in North Africa – not even in Tunisia, where there were 30 forced labor camps, most of them under the command of the SS.

Elias is angry at the prejudices against North African Jews and the silence concerning the fate of North African Jews in the Holocaust – particularly, seemingly, by Yad Vashem, whose mission “was to commemorate all the Jewish communities and the Jews murdered in the Holocaust. But until 2005, when a small memorial corner was created, the disaster of the North African communities was completely unrepresented.”
New York Times Falsely Claims US Has Been ‘Neutral’ To Israel
Last year, Fisher used his Times column to liken Israel to the brutal dictatorship of North Korea. That column was also riddled with factual errors that remain uncorrected.

When the Times hired Fisher in 2016, we warned that he would be trouble:
Mr. Fisher’s work for Vox on Israel and the Palestinian Arabs has been thoroughly and effectively shredded by both David Bernstein of the Washington Post (here and here) and Noah Pollak of the Washington Free Beacon (“Let us praise Vox Media and its stooges as they stagger and stumble from one hilarious mishap to another, smacking each other in the face with two-by-fours and stepping on rakes.”)

If President Trump had made these sorts of factually erroneous claims and left them uncorrected, the Times would be all over him for waging an unprecedented war on truth. Newly-installed Times publisher A.G. Sulzberger publicly frets, “Misinformation is rising and trust in the media is declining… Growing polarization is jeopardizing even the foundational assumption of common truths, the stuff that binds a society together.”

If Sulzberger really believes what he says about truth and misinformation — “We will continue to put the fairness and accuracy of everything we publish above all else — and in the inevitable moments we fall short, we will continue to own up to our mistakes” — he’ll ask Fisher and Fisher’s editor for a correction to the “neutrality” nonsense. If he lets it stand uncorrected, it will reflect poorly not only on Fisher, but also on the newspaper’s new publisher. Eventually the rake-stepping stops being hilarious and just becomes embarrassing.
BBC’s Newsbeat adds redundant ambiguity to report on blogger’s tweets
Later on readers were told that:
“It follows accusations that she expressed “anti-Israel” views in a number of tweets from 2014.

Newsbeat has not seen the tweets as they have now been deleted but in her post, Amena apologises for them, saying she’s sorry for the “upset and hurt” they’ve caused.

“Championing diversity is one of my passions, I don’t discriminate against anyone,” she adds.”

Newsbeat could have taken a look at the Daily Mail’s report on the story (published over an hour before the final version of the BBC’s article appeared) which includes screenshots of some of Khan’s 2014 tweets.

BBC News inaccurately reports an Israeli story from the sixties
On January 19th an article written by the BBC Hindi journalist Zubair Ahmed was published on the BBC News website’s ‘India’ and ‘Middle East’ pages under the title “Israel’s Indian Jews and their lives in the ‘promised land’“.

The article relates to one of the communities of Jews who immigrated to Israel from India – Bene Israel – and readers are told that: [emphasis added]

“…the biggest crisis faced by the community was in 1962 when the chief rabbinate prohibited Bene Israelis from marrying Jews from other communities.

Dr Weil said the community was up in arms. “They used to conduct sit-in strikes outside the chief rabbinate’s office saying they were Jews for more than 2,000 years and had the right to marry who they wanted.”

It took two years, but they finally succeeded in seeing their demands fulfilled.”

But is that account accurate? Did Israel’s Chief Rabbinate really ban members of the Bene Israel group from marrying other Israeli Jews in 1962?

Here is an article published in the ‘Herut’ newspaper on October 20th 1961 under the headline “The Chief Rabbinate rules: ‘Bene Israel’ from India are Jews and marriage with them is permitted”.
Knesset Speaker: 'Memory of the Holocaust in question'
Knesset Speaker Yuli Edelstein met parliamentarians and politicians in Brussels ahead of International Holocaust Memorial Day Tuesday. The Knesset Speaker warned that the memory of the Holocaust was fading in Belgium and that dangerous overtones of anti-Semitism were being ignored.

Edelstein began his remarks by recalling the 25,000 Belgian Jews murdered during the Holocaust.

"Even after the war, many in Belgium preferred not to look too deeply into the past and instead return to normal. It took time to uncover what had happened during the Holocaust," Edelstein said.

"Only in 2002, did the Senate commission a report on the state's role under the Nazi regime. Only in the past ten years have local leaders issued apologies for helping round up Jews. Only five years ago was the national Holocaust museum opened.

"This country has taken additional, noteworthy steps to ensure that the memory of the Holocaust lives on. Throughout the country, Holocaust education is now part of the school curriculum. Visits to concentration camps and local memorials are standard and play a critical role in raising a generation that is engaged with its history.
UK Jewish Leaders Call for Ousting of Senior London Coroner in Bitter Row Over Burial Delays
The UK’s representative Jewish body, the Board of Deputies of British Jews, issued an angry call on Monday for the removal of a senior London coroner who has been locked in dispute with the Jewish and Muslim communities over the disruption of burial ceremonies conducted according to religious law.

Under both Jewish and Islamic law, the bodies of the deceased require burial within one day of death.

In a statement issued on Monday carrying the headline “Hassell must go!”, the Board demanded that Mary Hassell, the senior coroner for Inner North London, be removed from her post.

The demand for Hassell’s removal came after what the Board described as a “deeply disappointing meeting” with the coroner on Friday, where she showed little interest in addressing the Jewish community’s concerns in her work.”

The row with Hassell broke out at the end of December, when the London Jewish Chronicle reported on several cases of Jewish burials delayed from taking place by Hassell’s directives, causing significant distress to the families involved. One Jewish woman was reported to have made 210 increasingly frantic phone calls to Hassell’s office before her father was released for burial on December 24.

The paper also reported on an exchange of letters between Hassell and representatives of the Jewish community in the East London borough of Hackney — home to a large haredi Jewish population — in which the coroner revealed that “no death will be prioritized in any way over any other because of the religion of the deceased or family, either by coroner’s officers or coroners.”
Jewish community leader: Polish neo-Nazis thrive, authorities fail to act
Following a television report about neo-Nazis in Poland, the leader of the country’s federation of Jewish communities said that extremists are thriving due to inaction by the government.

A TVN report over the weekend featured young men filmed displaying swastikas and speaking positively about Adolf Hitler. The report showed about 10 individuals from the Pride and Modernity group who celebrated Hitler’s birthday on April 20 at a private residence with a cake featuring a swastika glaze. They also burned a swastika made of wood.

Leslaw Piszewski, president of the Union of Jewish Communities in Poland, called out Polish authorities on Facebook in responding to the documentary.

“What else has to happen for us to look open our eyes, the authorities say that fascism and nazism are not tolerated in Poland,” he wrote. “I want to believe in these words, but let authorities do their job.”

Attorney General Zbigniew Ziobro vowed to act tough on the group and individuals pictured, who broke the law by displaying Nazi symbols.

“After Nazi Germany attacked, millions of people were murdered in occupied Poland, including three million Poles,” Ziobro wrote.
Two Berlin museums return works to heirs of Jewish collector
Two Berlin museums have returned works to the heirs of a Jewish collector who liquidated them during World War II, according to the Foundation of Prussian Cultural Heritage.

The foundation returned 11 works from the Museum of Decorative Arts and the Skulpturensammlung that had belonged to Margarete Oppenheim, whose family was forced to sell them at a deflated price to the National Socialists in 1936.

Margarete Oppenheim, widow of the chemist and industrialist Franz Oppenheim, died in 1935, six years after her husband. Her collection has been described as one of Germany’s largest and most valuable, containing works by Impressionists and small sculptures, as well as of porcelain, majolica, faience, and silver work.

The state arranged for the return of the works in keeping with the 20-year-old Washington Declaration signed by 44 countries committing themselves to seeking long-lost artwork that ended up in museums and other public collections. Germany was among the signers.

Five of the 11 works returned to the Oppenheim heirs were repurchased by the museums — two paintings on Christian religious themes from the 16th-century Donau School, and three 18th-century porcelain objects produced by the Meissen and Frankenthal firms.

The foundation has overseen the return of some 350 works of art and more than 1,000 books to the heirs of persecuted Jews.

Its president, Hermann Parzinger, said in a statement that he was grateful to the heirs for their role in coming to a “fair and just solution,” and added that the foundation remained dedicated to researching the provenance of works in Berlin museums.
IDF’s ‘sky riders’ fly high under first female commander
As rabbis and politicians squabble over the role of women in the Israel Defense Forces, the first female commander of the IDF’s “sky riders” is leading the unit to greater heights, with two new types of drones designed to provide longer flight time and higher-quality intelligence gathering capabilities.

Lt. Col. Reut Rettig-Weiss took command of the Artillery Corps’ elite Sky Riders Unit, also known by its Hebrew acronym Rochash, this past July.

The unit, which was officially formed in 2010, gathers intelligence before and during missions using small, relatively low-cost drones, known in English as Skylarks and in Hebrew as Sky Riders.

“It’s hard for me to think of a recent major operation that we didn’t take part in,” Rettig-Weiss’s deputy, Maj. Nimrod, told The Times of Israel on Monday. (For security reasons, the major can only be identified by his first name.)
Soldiers from the IDF’s Sky Riders Unit launch a Skylark drone during an exercise in an undated photograph. (Israel Defense Forces)

According to Nimrod, this included the Israel Police’s raid on a house in the Palestinian city of Jenin last week, during a search for the terrorists believed to be responsible for a shooting attack earlier this month that killed an Israeli man. They also were involved in the army’s recent activities around the Gaza Strip, searching for and destroying terror groups’ attack tunnels that enter Israeli territory from the coastal enclave.

“The need for [visual intelligence] has changed. There are more tunnels now, more enemies hiding among a civilian population,” he said.

“This platform has broad capabilities to address this,” he said.
Israel Completes $1.17 Billion Defense Deal With Italy
Israel and Italy finalized a $1.17 billion reciprocal procurement deal Sunday, with the Jewish state delivering a second advanced reconnaissance jet to the Italian Air Force.

The deal, originally inked in 2012, saw the Israeli Air Force purchase 30 Leonardo M-346 Lavi training jets. In return, Italy acquired two G550 Conformal Airborne Early Warning and Control (CAEW) surveillance planes, amounting to the equivalent value of the Israeli purchase.

“The system reflects the deep and fruitful cooperation between the Italian and Israeli defense ministries, including the understanding on each side of the needs and challenges facing the other,” said Dr. Danny Gold, head of Israel’s Administration for the Development of Weapons and Technological Infrastructure.

The reconnaissance planes, developed by the Elta division of Israel Aerospace Industries, are equipped with the CAEW system, which provides a full aerial and maritime awareness to crews.
2,000-year-old Dead Sea Scroll deciphered, revealing 2nd Temple power struggles
Written in encrypted ancient Hebrew, one of the last unpublished Dead Sea Scrolls has finally been deciphered by a University of Haifa post-doctoral researcher. According to Dr. Eshbal Ratson, the almost impossible year-long mission was like “putting together a jigsaw puzzle — without knowing what was the picture.”

Using hi-tech images provided by the Israel Antiquity Authority’s Leon Levy Dead Sea Scrolls Digital Library, Ratson, 38, spent countless hours in front of her computer manipulating, deciphering and joining the 60 minuscule “puzzle pieces” which now form a comprehensive “calendrical scroll,” a document which outlines the intricate mathematical computations used by the Qumran sect to set the rhythm of their year and way of life.

Its discovery is being hailed by scholars this week as “important” and “exciting.”
Inset of Plate 240 of fragments written in Cryptic A script from Cave 4 at Qumran. (Shay Halevi, Israel Antiquities Authority, The Leon Levy Library of the Dead Sea Scrolls)

“It’s always exciting to discover a pile of tiny fragments that were basically considered to be a hopeless conglomerate of fragments and realize that meaningful text can be extracted from that,” said Tel Aviv University Prof. Noam Mizrahi. “It is important on a number of levels.”

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