Wednesday, December 19, 2018

From Ian:

Ben Shapiro: The Left Lends Cover to Anti-Semitism
And Walker isn’t alone. In fact, anti-Semitism is often accepted by prominent black intellectuals on the left. Marc Lamont Hill trafficked in anti-Semitism for years before losing his CNN contributorship over preaching a Hamas slogan before the United Nations. Cornel West suggested that Israel was born because “Jews jumped out of the burning buildings of Europe in a Jew-hating Europe led by a gangster named Hitler, right? They landed on the backs of some Arabs in the 1940s.” Toni Morrison explained that “a lot of black people . . . believe that Jews in this country, by and large, have become white. They behave like white people rather than Jewish people.” James Baldwin suggested the same thing, explaining, “The Jew profits from his status in America, and he must expect Negroes to distrust him for it. The Jew does not realize that the credential he offers, the fact that he has been despised and slaughtered, does not increase the Negro’s understanding. It increases the Negro’s rage.”

And these are the intellectuals. A bevy of black “community leaders” have been similarly anti-Semitic, and survived and thrived. Rabid anti-Semite Louis Farrakhan was still welcome at Aretha Franklin’s funeral, where he hobnobbed with Bill Clinton. Al Sharpton, whose anti-Semitic record includes helping to incite a riot against Jews in Crown Heights in 1991 and an arson in 1995, has a show on MSNBC, and Democratic presidential candidates come to pay him homage. And while we tend to downplay it now, it’s rather telling that Barack Obama sat in the pews of anti-Semitic pastor Jeremiah Wright for two decades.

It’s a mark of the Left’s intersectional priorities that anti-Semitism from minority groups has been so widely ignored. It is a simple fact that anti-Semitism in the United States does not break down evenly by race. An Anti-Defamation League survey in 2016 found that 23 percent of black Americans had “anti-Semitic propensities,” as measured by an eleven-factor survey, compared with 10 percent of white Americans. That disproportion has been the norm since the ADL began the survey in 2007. Similar disproportionate anti-Semitism exists in the Hispanic community as well. But none of that draws any media coverage. As the New York Times admitted in its survey of anti-Semitic violence in New York City, “bias stemming from longstanding ethnic tensions in the city presents complexities that many liberals have chosen simply to ignore.”

Ignoring anti-Semitism depending on the perpetrator’s ethnicity or background is simply lending cover to anti-Semitism. Alice Walker should be just as toxic for her anti-Semitism as David Duke is for his. After all, they push the same message when it comes to Jews. Failing to acknowledge as much lends credence to the anti-Semitic idea that Jews have somehow earned their hatred from certain groups.
Media Once Again Wakes From Coma, Discovers Liberal Icon Is Anti-Semite
And yet just in the past few months, Walker has been interviewed by NPR, MSNBC (twice), BBC Radio, and now the Times with scarce a mention of her unconventional views. In the rare moments Walker's kooky beliefs have received media coverage, they are inevitably downplayed. Take the Associated Press article on the latest fiasco, obtusely headlined "Author Alice Walker criticized for support of writer's book."

Or take this April interview with the Atlanta-Journal Constitution, in which Walker said the following:
"David is actually brilliant, and I think people should listen more to what he has to say," she said. Reptilians? "What about it? My parents always said that the white people around us were like snakes, because of the way they treated us."

AJC‘s headline, amazingly, was "Author Alice Walker on women, men, and the fate of the planet."

It'd be easy to chalk this all up as a blind spot for Walker, an iconic African-American author. But it mirrors the recent muted reaction to an exhaustively-researched Tablet piece about the Women's March. The magazine confirmed that the feminist organization has been teeming with anti-Semitism from the outset, with national leaders berating their Jewish peers, repeating conspiracy theories about Jews, and outsourcing security to the militant wing of the Nation of Islam.

However, a Lexis Nexis search finds the Tablet piece got minimal coverage in the national media outside of Jewish and conservative outlets. The Washington Post mentioned the controversy in an aside in a piece about the Women's March rolling out a new platform. It received a short blurb in The Guardian‘s live-blog. Only New York Magazine asked "What the Hell Is Going on With the Women’s March?", and even that piece was more about a PR firm's inept attempt to deflect from the controversy.

Aaaaand, that's it. Three mentions.

Time and time again, the media fails at due diligence and ignores the warning signs of anti-semitism in those they agree with. Often they end up with egg on their face, as when CNN ignored complaints about contributor Marc Lamont Hill taking smiling photos with Louis Farrakhan, only to have to fire him a month later for a second anti-Semitism controversy.

The New York Times learned the same lesson yesterday. Ignore hate all you like, but don't act surprised when you end up publishing it.

Everyone is Misreporting the Texas BDS Lawsuit
Speech pathologist Bahia Amawi, who works as a contractor for the Pflugerville Independent School District in Texas, has filed a lawsuit claiming that an anti-boycott-of-Israel pledge she was asked to sign violates her First Amendment right to freedom of speech. This was reported first by Glenn Greenwald at the Intercept, who set the tone for the media coverage by claiming, in his typical exaggerated and dishonest fashion, that the lawsuit arose after Amawi "refused to sign an oath vowing that she 'does not' and 'will not' engage in a boycott of Israel or 'otherwise tak[e] any action that is intended to inflict economic harm' on that foreign nation." (Greenwald's headline is even more misleading, and demagogic in a way that undoubtedly appeals to anti-Semites, claiming that Ms. Amawi was required to sign a "pro-Israel oath.")

There are a lot of things I could say about the law and the lawsuit, but I have some time constraints, so I will just explain why Greenwald's take, repeated ingenuously by reporters apparently too lazy to look up the actual text of the underlying law and what Ms. Amawi was asked to sign, is wrong.

Texas has a law banning state entities from contracting with businesses, including sole proprietorships, that boycott Israel. As a result, just like local governments require contractors to certify that they adhere to many other state laws, such as anti-discrimination laws and financial propriety laws, they also must certify, in compliance with state law, that their business does not boycott Israel.

Note that, consistent with the language and obvious intent of the law (see the text here, it's even titled "PROHIBITION ON CONTRACTS WITH COMPANIES BOYCOTTING ISRAEL"), the school district certification applies to the business, "it," not the individual "she." Contrary to what I've been reading all over the internet, Ms. Amawi is not being asked to pledge that she, in her personal capacity, will not privately boycott Israel, much less that, e.g., she will not advocate for boycotting Israel or otherwise refrain from criticizing Israel.
No, a Texas woman did NOT lose her job for refusing to sign “pro-Israel pledge”
Here’s the headline of a Dec. 18th article at The Independent:
The claim that a Texas woman was forced to sign a “pro-Israel pledge” is repeated in the opening paragraph of the article.

A speech pathologist at a Texas elementary school has sued after allegedly being forced out of her contract job at an elementary school for refusing to sign a mandatory pro-Israel pledge.

First, it’s telling that the article is based on a report at the Intercept by Glenn Greenwald, a far-left activist who never misses an opportunity to smear Israel and its supporters, often by using antisemitic tropes and dog whistles. In fact, the Indy’s characterization of the requirement as a “pro-Israel pledge” was clearly inspired by language used by Greenwald in his report.

How Israel subsidizes 'ambassadors to Palestine'
Israel has been giving tax breaks to foreign diplomats who present themselves as “ambassadors to the State of Palestine”, allowing the Palestinian Authority to upgrade its diplomatic representation in Ramallah in apparent violation of the Oslo Accords, a major i24NEWS investigation reveals.

The revelation raises questions about the consistency of Israel’s opposition to the Palestinian Authority’s strategy of seeking international recognition of an independent Palestinian state.

At least nine countries that recognize an independent Palestinian state have accredited ambassadors or representatives to “the State of Palestine”, according to letters of credentials obtained by i24NEWS through freedom of information law and videos of their accreditation ceremonies in Ramallah.

But these diplomats—and other foreign representatives to the Palestinian Authority—are all listed on the Israeli Foreign Ministry Diplomatic List as staff in their countries’ Tel Aviv embassies. This status entitles them to all the financial perks enjoyed by diplomats in Israel—at the expense of the Israeli taxpayer.
How people deny the Holocaust without denying it
Famed author Howard Jacobson explains the trick. “What do we think we are doing when we call the Israelis Nazis and liken Gaza to the Warsaw Ghetto? We want to wound Jews in their anguished history and to punish them with their own grief. It is as though...Jewish actions of today prove that Jews had it coming to them yesterday. Berating Jews with their own history, disinheriting them of pity is the latest specie of Holocaust denial, more subtle than the David Irving version with its clunking body counts and quibbles over gas-chamber capability and chimney size.”

Which is worse – those clever deniers or the foolish type? America and Europe are swimming in progressive fools who can be academics or rabble rousers or celebrities or “champions of change”, or groups with a grudge like Me Too, Women against Trump, LGBT, Antifa, BLM, and so forth. By design or out of ignorance their fickle gripes cheapen the Holocaust .They call Trump and his supporters Nazis, why? – for not allowing waves of Central American asylum seekers to crash the border.

Oftentimes Israelis get the Nazi brand. Why?–not because they commit genocide but because, to the mind of Haaretz columnist Adira Haas, no one has the right to rank or rate suffering, whether it be the death camps or Gaza border clashes: suffering is suffering, no argument This is what plays inside the heads of Holocaust-denying fools.

Foolish or clever, people that deny the Holocaust without denying it have been effective. The progressive mainstream media has bought into the lie. How could it do, for heaven sake! Because – and this is beyond sly – Jews are not the direct object of hatred. They stand for treating people badly. This back door invites you and I to enter. We might be tempted to do so, because Israeli ‘Nazis’ give the haters good reason.

If they hated Israel viscerally they would not be enlightened, and few would bond with them. But when they attack the Jewish state in a round-about way, via sympathy for Palestinian victims, sympathy is aroused and draws people to the cause. When hatred is clothed to look enlightened, disgust for Israel has a glow.

People who deny the Holocaust without denying it have thought the whole thing out. By claiming that Israelis are the Nazis of our time they polish up Hitler’s record while tarnishing Israel’s. Comes a point where the two meet, where like is like, and deniers can say that Jew = Nazi.

What seemed all light nonsense before seems all dark purpose now.
Outrage over German funding of Palestinian schoolbook praising terrorists
A German member of the federal parliament urged Chancellor Angela Merkel's administration to explain on Monday why tax payer funds are being used to stoke Palestinian hatred and violence in school books, including praise for the Black September group’s murder of 11 Israeli athletes at the 1972 Munich Olympics.

Responding to a BILD news article that exposed German financing of the Palestinian Authority’s education department, Frank Müller-Rosentritt, a MP for the Free Democratic Party, wrote on his Twitter feed: “Unbelievable, children should receive an education for a better future, not be educated for hate and violence? Federal government must provide an explanation. German tax money should not flow into terror propaganda.”

According to the BILD report, based on a study by the organization Impact-se, Palestinian textbooks are filled with examples of the glorification of terrorism.

BILD wrote that the Black September attack and Palestinian airplane hijackings are presented as “success” stories. According to the school material, the murders of the Israeli athletes are commented on as a “strike against Zionist interests abroad.”

The kidnapping of airplanes by the US and EU designated terrorist entity the Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine (PFLP) is termed “Operations against Zionists” in the school material.
Amnesty International criticised for not including antisemitism in landmark abuse report
Amnesty International has been criticised for not including antisemitic abuse of Jewish women in the largest ever study of abuse of female politicians and journalists on Twitter.

The study analysed millions of tweets received by 778 journalists and politicians from the UK and US who were selected by researchers concluded that black women were “disproportionately targeted” by “abusive or problematic tweets.”

But the human rights campaigners insisted they "didn’t have enough data" to explore antisemitic, misogynistic abuse of MPs like Luciana Berger, Ruth Smeeth, despite the fact the issue is so pressing it prompted a parliamentary conference on addressing it three weeks ago.

Claudia Mendoza, the Jewish Leadership Council's director of policy and public affairs, condemned the abuse against MPs like Diane Abbott but said: "Amnesty International may wish to look further into the antisemitic abuse aimed at prominent Jewish women including MPs so prevalent on Twitter.

"This is even more important considering that such abuse has occurred from within their own organisation.”
Edwin Black: How Historians Will See Canary Mission Years From Now
On a recent Thursday, at about 8 am, on a desk illuminated by light from a nearby window, a paper cup of steaming coffee laden with cream and sugar was nudged near an open laptop, thus beginning a ten-to-twelve-hour day of mind-numbing monitoring by a Canary Mission (CM) staffer at one of the organization’s several locations. In endless social media searches, refreshes, clicks, video reviews, forwards and saves, the Canary Mission staffer will capture the worst of the openly antisemitic and anti-Israel Boycott, Divestment, and Sanctions (BDS) agitation and hate speech erupting all across America’s campuses. Their work also encompasses white nationalism.

BDS advocates often spew some of the most venomous hate speech visible on the Internet, hate speech that Canary Mission captures and re-publishes in personal profiles. For example, the Chicago activist with Students for Justice in Palestine who tweeted this joke: “Why did Hitler commit suicide?…….. He saw the gas bill. Pahhahaha.” Or the UCLA protester whose Twitter account was captured with this remark: “Mmmaaaannnnnnnnnnn what’s with all this peaceful approaches!?? F**k that. I want terrorism and another intifada.” The same UCLA student reportedly added a photo of a gun and bullets.

After the massacre at Pittsburgh, calls went out to monitor, spotlight, and report hate speech, especially since hateful acts of violence are often preceded by such incitement. That is precisely what Canary Mission does. It tracks social media and videos, capturing BDS, anti-Zionist, and anti-Semitic expressions, triangulating them into individual profiles that expose and create permanent highly-visible records of the words and images BDS and SJP leaders actually use. The profiles are almost always incontestable since CM links to actual videos, tweets, and other open documentation. Canary Mission’s intent is to shine an indelible light on students, faculty, and others, thus creating a negative incentive or at least a consequence for anti-Israel and antisemitic hate speech.

Canary Mission began in 2015 with just 50 profiles. By December 2018, about 2,500 profiles have been listed. CM has received about 80-100 requests for removal. Very few have been made. One staffer explained, “Even small errors are exceptionally rare due to our strict internal protocols. On the handful of occasions that we found an error, we made an immediate correction.”
Seth Frantzman: How totalitarian regimes will take over social media and destroy the West
Totalitarian regimes are increasingly turning to the Internet as a way to control their own publics and as a tool to use to undermine democracies and threaten dissidents abroad.

It is becoming increasingly difficult to critique some of these regimes, as major social media companies such as Facebook and Google cater to requests by regimes to remove content, ban users, or make it difficult to find content.

It used to be, in the 20th century, that totalitarian regimes were at a disadvantage to democracies because their publics were able to import dissident material from democracies. The dictatorships had a difficult time controlling or threatening dissidents in democracies, because their reach was curtailed by the method of disseminating information. Because democracies tend to have more media, by the very nature of having internal competition, dictatorships in the 20th century were often under siege, trying to keep information from entering their country.

Porous borders and radio waves and other methods enabled people to learn what was happening outside of various police states, such as the Soviet empire.

In the 21st century the situation has reversed itself. Dictatorships were initially threatened by the explosion of connectivity to the Internet. Suddenly, publics had access to all sorts of information. New websites popped up in various languages. Social media enabled people in places like Iran to communicate with the outside world.
Masa bans travel to West Bank, parts of Jerusalem
Masa Israel Journey has banned participants in its programs from visiting the settlements or anywhere in Judea and Samaria, and from east Jerusalem due to the current wave of terrorist attacks emanating from the region.

The organization also told institutions in which Masa participants are placed that they cannot organize any trips to these areas.

Masa has brought some 120,000 Diaspora Jews ages 18 to 30 to Israel on various programs in order to strengthen Jewish identity and affinity with Israel.

On Friday, the organization sent an email to institutions where Masa-funded participants are placed, saying, “Due to the security situation and the instructions of the police, all trips planned for Judea and Samaria and east Jerusalem should be canceled from now until further notice.”

Masa said there was “a total ban” on going to Judea and Samaria and east Jerusalem “as a group or privately” in any way.
You’ll Never Guess Which State University Supports Israel
Colleges all across America have groups like Students for Justice in Palestine and the Jewish Voice for Peace, which support boycotting Israel. Out of all 50 American states, you would think that administrators in California, at least, would be on board with anti-Israel activism. And yet, all ten chancellors of the University of California system recently put out a statement condemning the boycott of Israel, according to Campus Reform.

Well, the ten chancellors of the University of California system co-authored a letter last week and, unlike what you might expect from such a blue state, they are all heavily opposed to the BDS movement. They said “We believe a boycott of this sort poses a direct and serious threat to the academic freedom of our students and faculty, as well as the unfettered exchange of ideas and perspectives on our campuses, including debate and discourse regarding conflicts in the Middle East.”

See, here’s the thing: whether you support or oppose Israel, it behooves you to let students experience Israel. That way they can back up their arguments with actual fact instead of the latest, media-orchestrated smear campaign. If you ban studying abroad in Israel, you make people wonder what exactly it is you’re trying to hide — Streisand Effect, folks.

It does seem to be the trend that students and faculty push divestment initiatives, but the big wheels, you know, the ones who actually control the money, aren’t quite on board. New York University’s student senate wanted to divest from General Electric and other companies that do business with Israel, but the administration spiked that proposal — their Trustees apparently think that “the endowment should not be used for making political statements.”

JP Morgan: “Israel is not about cost it’s really about the quality”
Todays BDS fail comes from US financial powerhouse JP Morgan

In an interview with Bloomberg, Yoav Intrator, head of technology operations for JP Morgan in Israel, said the US lender plans to employ as many as 200 Israeli engineers at its Herzliya office over the next two years. The financial giant is also setting up a division to engage the start-up nations tech companies that are developing technologies using blockchain and artificial intelligence.
"We analyze our labor and software engineering needs on a regular basis, so it was a very deliberate decision for us to be in Israel,” Larry Feinsmith, JPMorgan’s head of global technology strategy, said in a phone interview. “It’s competitive as the other banks, tech companies and startups are all there.”

Multinational financial companies such as BlackRock Inc., Citigroup Inc., and Toronto-Dominion Bank have also established Israeli offices in recent years, joining tech giants such as Facebook, Amazon, Intel and Apple.

"Israel is not about cost; it’s really about the quality,” Intrator said from the bank’s headquarters, which are sandwiched between Microsoft Corp. and a WeWork site. “What can we do in Israel that’s unique and really help the company in its digital strategy in the long term and not just the short term? That’s the primary driver.”
New York Times Supports the “Right” to BDS
Ranging from misleading to utterly wrong, the New York Times Editorial Board pushes the definition of “professional journalist” to its breaking point in its article defending the “rights” of BDS, the movement to bring Boycotts, Divestment and Sanctions against the world’s only Jewish state.

Specifically, the New York Times criticizes H.R.1697 – a bill making its way through Congress that is known as “The Israel Anti-Boycott Act.”

The editorial board repeats over and over that the BDS movement is about criticism – specifically criticism of Israeli settlements.

Three of the founders and heavyweight leaders of BDS disagree. They say loudly and proudly that the purpose of BDS is to destroy the world’s only Jewish state, in any borders whatsoever.
Newsweek: Israel and Iran ‘Exchanging Existential Threats’
Iranian threats against Israel

There’s only one side that has made existential threats against the other. For example:
  • In April 2018, the head of the Iranian army said Iranian forces were working to “annihilate” Israel and predicted they would achieve success within 25 years. “The Army will move hand in hand with the IRGC so that the arrogant system will collapse and the Zionist regime will be annihilated,” General Moussavi said, refering to the Revolutionary Guards.
  • In June 2018, Iranian Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei said: “Our stance against Israel is the same stance we have always taken,” tweeting “#Israel is a malignant cancerous tumor in the West Asian region that has to be removed and eradicated: it is possible and it will happen.”
Granted, in August 2018, Netanyahu said during a visit to the Dimona nuclear reactor:

“Those who threaten to wipe us out, put themselves in a similar danger, and in any event will not achieve their goal,” adding, “our enemies know very well what Israel is capable of, they know our policy, and anyone who tries to harm us—we will harm them.”

Unlike the Iranian regime, Israel has no desire to destroy an entire country and its people. To claim that “Iran and Israel have both continued to exchange existential threats” draws a false and immoral equivalence between the genocidal intentions of Iran and the comments made by Israel to deter Iranian aggression.

Newsweek needs to find a moral compass.
Financial Times names George Soros ‘person of the year’
The British newspaper newspaper Financial Times on Wednesday announced that it was naming billionaire philanthropist George Soros its “person of the year.”

“The Financial Times’s choice of Person of the Year is usually a reflection of their achievements. In the case of Mr Soros this year, his selection is also about the values he represents,” the newspaper announced.

Just hours prior to the announcement, 32 organizations called on Facebook’s Mark Zuckerberg and Sheryl Sandberg to step down over campaigns against Soros.

“It’s an absolute disgrace that Facebook sought to deflect criticism and discredit advocates by exploiting anti-Semitic campaigns against philanthropist George Soros,” read their letter.

Soros, a major supporter of progressive causes, has become a major bogeyman of the far right.

He has come under fire for his funding for left-wing and human rights groups in Israel, and unfounded allegations that he collaborated with Nazis as a Jewish teen in Hungary during the Holocaust.
BBC Radio 4 ‘Today’ Gaza Strip special – part one
Notably listeners heard nothing throughout the entire programme concerning the economic effects of Gaza terrorism on businesses, tourism and agriculture southern Israel before Husain handed the item over to the BBC’s economics correspondent Darshini David who continued with promotion of the ‘blockade’ theme.

David: “From what you’ve been hearing there it may or may not surprise you to hear that the World Bank has been warning that the Gaza economy is in free fall – that’s after it contracted by 6% at the start of this year. It says that the impact of that decade long blockade has been compounded by budget cuts from the Palestinian Authority and a reduction in international aid. Four out of five people now rely on food aid. We can reveal this morning that the UK will be giving an extra £5 million in emergency supplies to sixty thousand refugees.”

Once again listeners were not told why there are Palestinian refugees in a place ruled and run by Palestinians. David then went on to introduce another not so ordinary interviewee: the World Bank’s director for the West Bank and Gaza, Marina Wes, clarifying that “she’s also the author of its report”.

Having presented unemployment and poverty statistics and discussed the relevance of “donor money” (but with no mention of Israel’s recent agreement to millions of dollars in cash given by Qatar entering the Gaza Strip), Wes went on to promote the ‘blockade’ theme again.

Wes: “…we also need to start working now on the medium term to put in place an enabling environment that will support jobs for Gaza’s youth and that will enable these youths to really make their own living. Critical to this is to remove the constraints on trade and movement of goods and people. They need to be relaxed otherwise there’s no way a small economy like Gaza can flourish.”

Neither at this point nor anywhere else in this programme were listeners given factual background information concerning the numbers of people who do exit the Gaza Strip on a daily basis or the amounts of fuel and goods entering the Gaza Strip via Israel.
BBC Radio 4 ‘Today’ Gaza Strip special – part two
As we saw in part one of this post, one of the themes promoted during the first fourteen minutes of a live broadcast from the Gaza Strip in the December 17th edition of the ‘Today’ programme was the claim that the “deplorable” situation in the Gaza Strip is essentially the result of the “blockade” imposed by Israel and Egypt.

An additional theme which is not new to BBC reporting and was again promoted in this broadcast is that of US cuts in donations to UNRWA – but, as ever, without any explanation of the issues at the root of the long-standing debate surrounding the UN agency that are vital to proper understanding of that story.

The second part of the ‘Today’ programme’s live broadcast from the Gaza Strip was introduced by Mishal Husain with a reference to an announcement from the UK government mentioned earlier by the BBC’s economics correspondent Darshini David.

Husain: “The government has announced £5 million worth of emergency food aid for Palestinians in Gaza as the UN appeals for funds to prevent 2 million people who live here slipping deeper into poverty.”

In contrast to Husain’s claim that all two million residents of the Gaza Strip are living in poverty, the UN office for the coordination of humanitarian affairs reported in June of this year that 53% of the territory’s residents were actually defined as such.
BBC Radio 4 ‘Today’ Gaza Strip special – part three
In two previous posts concerning the December 17th ‘Today’ programme live broadcast from the Gaza Strip (here and here) we saw how well-worn BBC themes were promoted in that programme.

In a third ten minute-long segment (from 1:16:27 here) listeners once again heard from representatives of international organisations rather than the “people on both sides of the divide” as promised by presenter Mishal Husain.

The two themes of blaming the economic and humanitarian situation in the Gaza Strip on counter-terrorism measures employed by Israel (with a cursory mention of Egypt) and providing unquestioning and context-free promotion of UNRWA were repeated in that segment too.

Husain began with misrepresentation of a press release put out by UNOCHA, claiming that its appeal for funding is intended to provide aid to the entire population of the Gaza Strip.
Taking the Swastikas out of High School Musicals
Earlier this month, the principal of New York’s LaGuardia High School (aka “the school that Fame is based on”) attempted to remove the swastikas from a student production of The Sound of Music.

Students immediately rebelled. According to the parent of a student in the play, “The principal had been invited to rehearsals early in the process but didn’t go. She finally saw a rehearsal on Tuesday, December 4th. The play was opening two days later. She wanted to get rid of the swastikas. The drama and tech students were outraged. ‘It’s the Sound of Music! What do you mean, take out the swastikas?’ And Jewish parents were saying, ‘You’re whitewashing history!’”

The parent reports that a compromise was reached: “They kept the swastikas in the elaborate projections created by the tech students who’d been working with professional designers all semester. But they removed the swastikas from the armbands.” She continued, “I saw the show last weekend and was looking at the armbands like, ‘What is that? Is that an H?’ It was supposed to be the SS symbol, I guess? But during the last scene, there were swastika projections behind the kids and it was really powerful and shocking and well done. And the scene with the Nazi flag hanging over the abbey, when the nuns rip it down, it’s such a powerful act of resistance, and that would have been lost without the symbolism.” (Repeated calls and email to LaGuardia requesting comment were not returned.)

Responding to requests from the Daily News, The New York City Department of Education issued a statement: “The use of this historical symbol of hatred … serves both an artistic and pedagogical purpose, and the decision to include it was made in collaboration with school staff, students and families.” A note in the program was added, “LaGuardia Arts stands united against hatred, and we ask that you join with us in denouncing all forms of hate and intolerance. When we say never again will those atrocities of war be repeated, NEVER AGAIN must be a promise kept.” (The school will also be making a donation to The Holocaust Museum, but contrary to other reports, the donation was in the cards before the principal objected to the swastikas.)

It’s far from the first time school administrators have quailed at swastikas on stage. A pluralistic Jewish day school (“with an undercurrent of Orthodoxy”) in Canada did The Sound of Music three years ago. “It was great,” a parent told Tablet in an interview. “Though I did think it was funny that half the female cast was playing nuns and no one was wearing a cross.” The Nazis in that production wore plain black armbands. “I remember it because there was a road company production of The Sound of Music in Toronto and the soldiers marched through the audience and swastikas were unfurled all around us, and it was upsetting,” the parent said. She felt that Jewish schools need to choose what they feel is appropriate for their communities. “All it takes is one big donor to be easily offended,” she noted. “Schools want to be sure they don’t upset anyone. They need things to be appropriate for what they represent as a Jewish school–like, they wouldn’t do Jesus Christ, Superstar. I did think it was interesting that they did Little Shop of Horrors, with that song ‘Mushnik and Son,’ which is so full of stereotypes about Jews–seemingly stereotypes are not a problem!” The parent felt that public schools, on the other hand, which aren’t dependent on donors’ goodwill, have a different mission: “If they do a challenging show, they should prepare the entire community and use it as a teachable moment–there’s a way to do it,” she said.
PreOccupiedTerritory: Holocaust Deniers Fear For Future Of Denial As Original Deniers Die Off (satire)
Pseudohistorians and activists working to preserve the memory of people who deny thee was anything to remember about what the Nazis and their collaborators did to Jews before and during the Second World War expressed concern this week that the generation that professed to witness nothing is disappearing as age and infirmity take their toll.

Organizers of the annual Holocaust Denial conference in the Iranian capital observed to journalists that in the last eight or nine years it has become difficult to locate people who lived through World War II in Europe and maintain there was no policy of identifying, isolating, dehumanizing, starving, oppressing, deporting, and exterminating Jews in areas under the control of Nazi Germany. As time passes, they noted, fewer and fewer such people remain, posing a challenge for those who came later and lack firsthand experience in denying the most extensively documented episode in human history happening around them.

“We used to be able to get certain veterans of the Wehrmacht to come give talks,” recalled Deputy Conference Director Ahaitjouz Rabvid. “All it took was a few phone calls or, back in the day, telegrams, and we’d have our pick of German WWII soldiers who claimed to see nothing. But it’s more than seventy years after the war ended now, and even a soldier who was seventeen at war’s end would be pushing ninety today. Not many are left who can even make the trip, let alone regale us with tales of how well the Jews were treated in occupied zones, and the whole genocide thing is a bid to extort Germany and generate undeserved sympathy for the Jews, who deserved what didn’t happen to them but should have.”
Paris woman’s nose broken in alleged anti-Semitic assault
A French-Jewish woman told police that two teenagers hurling anti-Semitic insults robbed and hit her on a main street of Paris suburb, breaking her nose.

The woman, aged 20, said in her complaint to police that the incident happened Monday in the heavily Jewish suburb of Sarcelles north of Paris, the National Bureau for Vigilance Against Anti-Semitism, or BNVCA, wrote in a statement Tuesday.

Prying her cellphone out of her hands, the two assailants, whom she said were black, hit her face while saying: “Are you afraid, you Jewess?” she told police.

A passerby intervened, allowing the woman to flee to her home with a broken nose and bloody face, the report said. She was on her way home from work, she also said. The two alleged assailants fled the scene.

BNVCA called on police to investigate and apprehend the suspects.

The World Jewish Congress also condemned the incident.
Bennett working on plan to bring 200,000 French Jews to Israel
Education and Diaspora Affairs Minister Naftali Bennett, and National Economic Council chairman Avi Simhon will submit to the cabinet this Sunday an outline for its plans to increase immigration to Israel among French Jews.

This follows the Prime Minister’s instructions at last week’s meeting for Bennett to draft a comprehensive program in cooperation with the National Economic Council to achieve this goal.

As part of the proposed resolution, the government will approve the establishment of an inter-ministerial national task force to formulate a plan to be submitted within 60 days, to promote the immigration of Jews from France and better facilitate their absorption in Israel.

The team, headed by the diaspora affairs minister and the head of the National Economic Council, will include representatives of the Prime Minister’s Office, the Ministry of Finance, the Ministry of Education, the Ministry of Labor, Welfare and Social Services, the Ministry of Housing and Infrastructure, Ministry of Immigration and Absorption, the Ministry of Economy, and the Ministry of Diaspora Affairs.

Representatives of the Jewish Agency for Israel, the World Zionist Organization, KKL-JNF, and Qualita, the umbrella organization of the French Olim community in Israel will also participate in drafting the plan.

In last week’s cabinet meeting, Bennett highlighted the importance of immigration from France, and noted that a comprehensive survey of French Jewry in 2015 demonstrated that over 40% of French Jews - as many as 200,000 people - had said they were interested in varying degrees in immigrating to Israel.

“The Israeli government is taking a giant step in the right direction toward a historic move,” said Bennett on Wednesday.
Israeli moon-bound craft to carry Holocaust survivor story, and best of humanity
Israel’s Declaration of Independence and national anthem. The Bible. The memories of a Holocaust survivor. Children’s drawings of space and the moon; art, science, literature and technology; the Traveler’s Prayer and a note from former president Shimon Peres containing a verse from the Book of Genesis. All of these — three discs containing hundreds of digital files — were inserted Monday in a time capsule scheduled to head to the moon sometime next year, when Israel hopes to launch and land its first ever spacecraft to the moon.

If all goes well, the unmanned spacecraft worked on by the Israeli nonprofit SpaceIL and Israel Aerospace Industries (IAI) will give Israel entry into the exclusive club of just three nations that have so far achieved a controlled landing on the moon’s surface. The capsule was the last component to go into the vehicle, before it is shipped to Florida to be launched from Cape Canaveral in the coming months.

The pictures, along with art, science and history books, “we will be taking with us to the moon,” said Yonatan Winetraub, one of three engineers who founded SpaceIL, a nonprofit organization set up in 2011 with the aim of landing the first Israeli spacecraft on the moon. “It is quite symbolic that the people of the book are going to take this library and put it on the surface of the moon,” he said, speaking at IAI’s Space Division in Yehud, some 40 minutes from Tel Aviv, at an event as the capsule was loaded onto the spacecraft.

The craft was scheduled to originally launch this month and land on the moon in February 2019, but was delayed.
JPost Editorial: A woman of valor: Rona Ramon dies at age 54
Rona Ramon, who died of cancer on Monday at the age of 54, was an exceptional person. The tragic deaths of her astronaut husband and pilot son, Ilan and Asaf Ramon, propelled her to establish the Ramon Foundation, promoting academic excellence and leadership among Israeli youth and working tirelessly to honor their legacy – which is now also her own.

Ramon was born in Kiryat Ono to Turkish immigrants Gila and Yisrael, who survive her, and after serving as a paramedic in the army, she earned her bachelor’s degree in physical education at the Wingate Institute. She later worked as a sports instructor and holistic therapist and became an eloquent advocate for the advancement of Israeli youth. She married Ilan Ramon in 1986, and they had four children, Asaf, Yiftah, Tal and Noa. Col. Ilan Ramon, a former IAF pilot who took part in the bombing of Iraq’s Osirak nuclear reactor in 1981, perished in 2003 at the age of 48 when Space Shuttle Columbia disintegrated while reentering earth. Lt. Asaf Ramon, who wanted to be a fighter pilot like his father, was killed in 2009 at the age of 21 when his F-16 jet crashed during a military exercise.

After Asaf’s death, Rona Ramon decided that she had to do something meaningful to preserve their memories. In 2010, she established the Ramon Foundation, not only in response to a personal need to honor her loved ones, but also in the hope of meeting a national need to educate youth in the spirit of Ilan and Asaf. The Ramon Foundation sponsors space and aviation programs for youth and provides scholarships to worthy candidates. Ramon’s aim was to inspire and motivate young Israelis to strive for academic excellence and encourage them to pursue their dreams.

Since then, the Ramon Foundation has become an extraordinary engine of change, and today is Israel’s primary vehicle in promoting space education. It operates educational programs in schools across the country, promoting leadership development and education in Space and STEM (science, technology, engineering and math) fields.
Lt. ‘Yod’ First Israeli Air Force Pilot of Ethiopian Heritage
Lt. “Yod” will officially become the Israeli Air Force’s first pilot of Ethiopian heritage when he completes the elite pilots’ course on Wednesday.

The new pilot’s name could not be released, due to security concerns.

As soon as Yod participates in his class’s graduation ceremony, he will begin his service as a navigator for IAF fighter jets.

Ethiopian Jews participate fully in service within the Israel Defense Forces, but have only recently begun to enter the highest-ranking positions, due to what is considered a slower acclimation to Israeli society and some accusations of incidents of racial discrimination.

In 2016, Dr. Avraham Yitzhak took over as chief medical officer of the army’s Southern Command, becoming the first Israeli of Ethiopian heritage to hold the rank of colonel in the IDF. Before that, he was the first Ethiopian doctor in the IDF.
San Francisco Symphony revives homage to Anne Frank, dedicates it to Pittsburgh
To mark the anniversary of the December 10, 1948, ratification of the United Nations Universal Declaration of Human Rights, the San Francisco Symphony recently revived an unusual orchestral piece. The production, which ran from November 15-18, was punctuated by live narration of the words of murdered teen Anne Frank, whose iconic story represents both the massacre of European Jewry and the eternal hope that good will prevail.

Award-winning conductor Michael Tilson Thomas dedicated performances of his symphony, “From the Diary of Anne Frank,” to the victims of the October 24 massacre at the Tree of Life Synagogue in Pittsburgh.

“I came to this text because of Audrey Hepburn,” says Tilson Thomas, who first penned and staged the production nearly two decades ago for the star of the 1950s and 1960s silver screen classics, “Breakfast at Tiffany’s,” “Roman Holiday,” “Charade,” “Sabrina” and “My Fair Lady.”

Hepburn, who epitomized Hollywood chic in her 20s and 30s, became widely known later in life for her humanitarian work with UNICEF. Created as a children’s fund to provide relief in Europe, China and the Middle East following World War II, the organization now addresses needs of children in the developing world.

The 36-minute symphony inspired by the renowned journal of Anne Frank features narrated excerpts from the painfully familiar diary. First published in German in 1950, the account of a 13-year-old girl hiding from the Nazis in an Amsterdam attic with her family and other Jews during WWII has been translated into 70 languages and published in more than 60 countries.

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