Sunday, May 19, 2019

From Ian:

The real winner of Eurovision was Israel
Israel’s Eurovision entry barely made a dent on the scoreboard but there’s no doubt that the Jewish State was the real winner of the Eurovision Song Content 2019.

Israel was hosting the competition for the fourth time in history but for the first in twenty years – and in an era where Eurovision is simulcast on YouTube and more and more countries have joined the contest, in an age of age of instant responses and scrutiny via social media with a global viewing audience that has swelled to 200 million people.

Eurovision is always loud, often garish and I admit to watching some of the songs with the “Mute” button pressed - but to be the host is a big deal and for Israel more than most. It also requires a lot – and Israel more than delivered. When Netta Barzilai triumphantly lifted the trophy last year, questions and concerns loomed: Which city would host? Would the contest be derailed – or even cancelled – by BDS, the anti-Israel boycotters? Could Israel do it and not go bankrupt in the process, or would the whole thing be a disaster?

Israel can feel vindicated on every level.

Tel Aviv was the natural home for camp, party-loving Eurovision with no disrespect to any other city including the capital. Jerusalemites also hosted Eurovision celebrations and the tourism influx was a boon to Jerusalem as it was to Tel Aviv and elsewhere with thousands of visitors converging on the Jewish State. In 2018, tourism was at an all-time high with 4.1 million people coming to Israel, up 14% on the previous year; with the Eurovision boost, 2019 could surpass even that.

And to answer the question of if geographically-small Israel could host a major event, the largest music competition in the world, the answer this week is a resounding: YES. Israel’s national broadcaster, Kan put on a slick, polished, dynamic production. The stage looked every bit as fabulous as previous venues. Outside the concert hall, Tel Aviv’s Eurovision Village was heaving all week and the positivity of the event resounded.
Fans sing along to most pro-LGBT Eurovision, though winning song isn’t kitschy
This year’s Eurovision Song Contest went to the Netherlands and its 25-year-old Dutch singer Duncan Laurence, with his solo piece “Arcade.”

The country hasn’t won the Eurovision since 1975, and Laurence was a fan favorite from the start, although he was told in rehearsals that he needed to look more closely at the camera to engage the television audiences.

Laurence’s song is a sweeping ode with a strong refrain to love and loss, and was in stark contrast to many of the other songs, which were high on camp, kitsch and dance tempos.

Fans loved “Arcade,” but they didn’t sing along or clap to it, simply because it’s not that kind of song. And Eurovision fans love a good refrain and an opportunity to clap in time.
Fans at the Eurovision press screening in the Tel Aviv Expo on May 18, 2019 (Jessica Steinberg/Times of Israel)

Despite the nature of the winning song, Saturday night’s show may have been the campiest Eurovision yet, with France’s gay Muslim singer Bilal Hassani bringing his message of tolerance, the bondage-happy trio Hatari from Iceland with their techno punk thrust, the presence of Israel’s Dana International and Austria’s Conchita Wurst, and Madonna’s monk-like choir wearing gas masks for her rendition of her new song, “Future.”

It was a show that thrilled the many LGBT fans who converged on the Expo Tel Aviv venue and are among the most die-hard Eurovision fans; many of them had carefully learned about the contestants from each country, even memorizing the words to the songs.

Petra Marquardt-Bigman: Anti-Israel bias at Human Rights Watch (Part 2: Two decades of anti-Zionism)
Conclusion – HRW’s anti-Israel bias is beyond repair

Just following some of the leading HRW officials on Twitter and looking for their pronouncements on Israel would provide almost daily new evidence that they don’t even bother to pretend to be impartial and fair.

But I think all you really need to know about HRW and its attitude to Israel is that almost 20 years ago, when peace still seemed possible and a U.S. president did all he could to achieve it, HRW decided to endorse Palestinian demands for a “right to return,” thereby endorsing Palestinian demands to transform the world’s only Jewish state into yet another Arab-Muslim majority state.

For all practical intents and purposes, HRW has therefore been an anti-Zionist organization ever since. As far as HRW is concerned, Israel’s existence as a Jewish state is a violation of Palestinian human rights.

Whether Omar Shakir sits in an office in Jerusalem or in New York will not make a difference to his output, and whoever might replace him will obviously also toe the HRW line on Israel. At the same time, I don’t quite see why Israel should give a work permit to employees of foreign NGOs who come to work for the demise of the Jewish state. By trying to force Israel to host a longtime anti-Israel activist, HRW has provided a stark reminder of its bias and its arrogant attitude that it has no need to even pretend to be impartial.

But this is arguably not only about Israel. If an organization is so shameless about its bias towards one country, it seems reasonable to question how much ideological fixations affect its work on other countries. The apparently widespread idea that an organization working on human rights must be assumed to reflect the highest ethical standards and should be automatically exempt from scrutiny and criticism is certainly not justified.

In addition, HRW staff will also use their social media clout to tout political viewpoints that may not have all that much to do with their work.

Rashida Tlaib’s recent revolting effort to rewrite history by claiming Palestinians provided a safe haven for Jews during and after the Holocaust provides a good example. As of this writing, the timelines of Sarah Leah Whitson and Omar Shakir feature a combined 15 re-tweets—in just 24 hours—in defense of Tlaib. But perhaps Tlaib, just like HRW, has the human right not to be criticized, especially not by Israel supporters, who, as Ken Roth has decreed, come up only with “lies and deception” or “lies and obfuscation.

Anti-Israel bias at Human Rights Watch is so pervasive, and has gone on so long, that it is beyond repair. HRW should be disregarded as a legitimate neutral voice on anything related to Israel. (h/t IsaacStorm)
John Podhoretz: Herman Wouk, 1915-2019 Entertainment with a deeper purpose.
In 2013, I commissioned and published an apology to a writer who I felt had been mistreated in the pages of COMMENTARY—and by my father, no less!

“How This Magazine Wronged Herman Wouk” was the name of the article by Michael J. Lewis, and the occasion for it was the fact that the then-97-year-old Wouk had just published a new novel called The Lawgiver—a comic epistolary novel, no less, concerning the making of a movie about the life of Moses in which Wouk himself appears as a character. As Lewis wrote, “Wouk adapts the form to the modern world of instant messaging, faxes, and Skype, and pulls it off successfully—a startling achievement by an author who was born two years before the United States entered World War I.”

Wouk, who died Friday just two weeks shy of his 104th birthday, was extraordinary not only for his age, his durability, and the freshness of his ageless mind, but for his career as a popular novelist determined to explore themes of the deepest seriousness with all their moral complexities for a mass-market audience.

It was, I have to say, the very reason his work came in for scornful or dismissive treatment in the pages of COMMENTARY. The New York literary highbrows may have delighted in the frivolities of Hollywood and Tin Pan Alley, but they stood at the gates with buckshot at the ready against the philistine hordes of popular culture when the barbarians sought venture onto the turf of the Great Novel or the Great Play. Wouk’s breakthrough work, The Caine Mutiny, sold millions and was made into a successful movie and a smash-hit play, but in these pages it was found wanting as a seafaring tale next to Herman Melville—which is rather an impossible standard to which to hold a book that deserved and deserves to be measured on its own merits.

And when Wouk was garlanded by the middlebrows of the news magazines and the Book of the Month Club audience with the publication of his most ambitious novel, 1955’s Marjorie Morningstar, which was also an enormous bestseller, this meant war. The book came under withering assault from a 26-year-old whippersnapper named Norman Podhoretz for its “indigestible prose.”

Al Jazeera pulls video claiming Jews exploited Holocaust to create Israel
The Al Jazeera media network on Saturday removed from one of its channels an Arabic-language video that questioned Holocaust history, accused Jews of exploiting the massacres of their European communities in order to establish the State of Israel, and suggested that Zionism itself is derived from Nazi ideology.

The seven-minute video, published on the network’s AJ+ channel Friday, drew sharp condemnation from the Foreign Ministry and the World Jewish Congress, which both denounced the video as promoting anti-Semitism in the Arab world.

“The main ideology behind the ‘State of Israel’ is based on religious, national, and geographic concepts that suckled from the Nazi spirit and its main notions,” says Al Jazeera journalist Muna Hawwa in the video. She also suggests Jewish control of the media is the reason that so much attention is given to Jewish victims of the Holocaust even though others also suffered.

On Saturday, Al Jazeera, which is funded by Qatar, tweeted that “Al Jazeera Media Network deleted a video produced by AJ+ Arabic because it violated the editorial standards of the Network.”

Foreign Ministry spokesman Emmanuel Nahshon responded on Twitter, “This Holocaust denying video should not have been produced at all. Good that you deleted it.”

In the video, Hawwa describes the Nazi persecution of Jews, saying they were forced from their homes and moved into ghettos, lost their jobs, made to wear yellow stars, were sent to “detention centers” and “were worked to death in forced labor.” The video apparently makes no mention of the deliberate mass murder of the Jews by the Nazis.
MEMRI: Antisemitism on Al-Jazeera Network: Israel Is Biggest Winner from Holocaust; It Uses the Same Justification to Annihilate the Palestinians
AJ+ Arabic, an online media platform run by the Qatari Al-Jazeera Network, posted a video on May 18, 2019 about “the story of the Holocaust” on Twitter and Facebook. The video was titled: "The Gas Chambers Killed Millions of Jews – That's How the Story Goes. What Is the Truth behind the Holocaust and How Did the Zionist Movement Benefit from It?" The video is narrated by Muna Hawwa, a Kuwaiti-born Palestinian who lives in Qatar and works as a producer for the Al-Jazeera Network. In the video, Hawwa claimed that the number of Jewish Holocaust victims remains “one of the most prominent historical debates to this day,” and she said that some people believe that Hitler supported Zionist ideology. She claimed that the "much-regurgitated narrative of the Holocaust sorrows" paved the way for Jewish immigration to Palestine, and although she stressed that “denouncing the Holocaust is a moral obligation," Hawwa added that Israel is the biggest "winner" from the Holocaust and that it uses the "same justification" as a "launching pad for the racial cleansing and annihilation of the Palestinians.” Hawwa said that the ideology behind the State of Israel "suckled from the Nazi spirit," and concluded: "So how can a Palestinian denounce a crime that has become the flip side of his own tragedy?” Shortly after its publication, the video could no longer be accessed on Facebook.

Netherlands wins Eurovision; Madonna's Palestinian flag display causes stir
The Netherlands won the 64th Eurovision Song Contest in Israel on Sunday in a songfest that passed off without serious incident, despite calls by pro-Palestinian groups to boycott the event.

Dutch singer-songwriter Duncan Laurence beat 25 other contestants in the grand finale in Tel Aviv to win the glass microphone trophy.

The 25-year-old favorite won 492 points with his piano ballad “Arcade” about a failing relationship. His victory gives the Netherlands the right to host the 2020 finals. Italy came in second, with 465 points and Russia third, with 369.

After receiving the prize from last year’s winner, Israeli singer Netta Barzilai, Laurence said that he hoped he had touched listeners. “Believe in your music, believe in your artistry,” he said.

This year’s competition was more political than usual, held against the backdrop of a campaign by the boycott, divestment and sanctions movement that urged artists, fans and broadcasters to shun the event.

But no singers or broadcasters pulled out, and only a small crowd of protesters turned up outside the venue.

However, pop superstar Madonna sprang a surprise during her guest performance of two songs – her iconic 1989 hit “Like A Prayer” and a new number, “Future,” sung alongside the American rapper Quavo.

At the close of the second number, two backup dancers briefly appeared on stage wearing the Israeli and Palestinian flags on the back of their costumes.
Gal Gadot promotes Tel Aviv during Eurovision broadcast
Gal Gadot showed up – sort of – at the grand final of the Eurovision in Tel Aviv on Saturday night.

While Gadot was in Israel over Passover, she filmed a special video clip that aired during the live broadcast around the world, which was essentially an ad promoting tourism to Tel Aviv.

“Three minutes,” the Hollywood superstar began, while Netta Barzilai’s Eurovision-winning song “Toy” played in the background. “The bad news is you’re a Eurovision junkie measuring your life in three-minute segments, the length of a Eurovision song.”

But, she continued: “the good news is, we’re in Tel Aviv, the nonstop city, where three minutes is all you need.”

Gadot went on to tout all the things one can do in three minutes: get the perfect tan, relax by the beach or enjoy a gourmet meal – “in a pita!”

Israeli Musician Idan Raichel Encourages Fans to See Israel
Israeli musician Idan Raichel performed at Eurovision 2019 in Tel Aviv in the country's third time hosting. He discussed with our Emily Frances outside the contest's halls.

Honest Reporting: Eurovision Prompts UK Media Hate Fest
While the Eurovision Song Contest isn’t appealing to everyone, Israel undoubtedly put on an impressive show for an estimated global audience of 200 million.

In the year since Israel was confirmed as the 2019 host on the back of winning the competition, the boycott, divestment and sanctions (BDS) campaign has run a coordinated effort in multiple countries to intimidate national broadcasters, competing artists and spectators alike to boycott the competition.

They failed.

However, with the eyes of the world on Tel Aviv, some media, particularly in the UK, took this an invitation to give platforms to some of the most vicious and hateful anti-Israel invective.

The narrative created by BDS was picked up by the media which attempted to normalize the view that holding the Eurovision in Tel Aviv was “controversial.” The real controversy was created by the media themselves, particularly the British media.

The Guardian
In the weeks leading up to Eurovision, The Guardian was the place to go for those musicians promoting BDS. Prime among these was Roger Waters, now an icon for Israel haters.

No surprises from Waters who had this to say on April 17 while attacking Madonna’s decision to perform at the Eurovision:

BBC gives multi-platform amplification to antisemitism
Given Gillespie’s long-standing record of anti-Israel actions and statements, Wark must have known in advance what sort of reaction she was going to get to the question concerning the Eurovision Song Contest which she bizarrely chose to pose during an interview ostensibly about the group’s new album.

But rather than having any qualms about giving a platform to a person ‘Newsnight’ obviously recognises as holding antisemitic (and misogynistic) views, the BBC elected to further promote those views on Twitter, in Radio 5 live news bulletins, on the ‘Newsnight’ YouTube channel and on the ‘Middle East’ and ‘Entertainment & Arts’ pages of the BBC News website as well as on BBC Two’s main news programme itself.

Apparently the BBC has convinced itself that the multi-platform amplification of antisemitic views meets its obligation to provide “duly accurate and impartial news, current affairs and factual programming”.
Daphne Anson: Fickle Fannys Down Under
The Iranians hang gays from cranes, and the hard men of Hamas have a habit of throwing gays off the roofs of buildings, but when the Eurovision Song Contest is held in Tel Aviv, a singularly misplaced hatred for Israel prods gay activists into turning their backs on the event.

Not all gays, of course. Even the pompous "occasional Jew" (as somebody deliciously termed him) and gay icon Stephen Fry, who invokes his halachic Jewish status on occasions when to do so suits him (such as signing as-a-Jew statements inveighing against Israel) joined such staunch pro-Israel figures as Tracy Ann Oberman and Gene Simmons in signing a statement issued by the so-called Creative Community for Peace condemning calls for a boycott of this year's Israel-based event:

Which is, of course, what Israel, as a secular western democracy, most certainly is, and one, moreover, on the cutting edge of breakthroughs in science and medicine that benefit all humankind.

But the weak-willed who have given in to boycott demands have given in to haters such as Alia Malak of the Palestinian Campaign for the Academic and Cultural Boycott of Israel (PACBI), who insists that the staging of Eurovision in Israel is trying to divert attention from its “racist and violent regime.”

Continues the newspaper:
"Meanwhile, an LGBT+ club night in Melbourne called Fannys at Franny’s had intended to screen this year’s Eurovision Song Contest. However, they backtracked after an activist commented and said they were “disappointed” that a queer event was screening Eurovision due to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict.

The club night responded and said they had decided not to screen Eurovision due to “human rights concerns.”
EBU condemns Madonna, Iceland for Palestinian flags at Eurovision
There were not one, but two appearances of Palestinian flags at the Eurovision grand final on Saturday night in Tel Aviv. And both instances were later condemned by the European Broadcasting Union, which oversees the show.

The first came during a performance by Madonna and guest star Quavo of her latest single, “Future.” As the pop superstar sang the lyrics “Not everyone is coming to the future/ Not everyone is learning from the past/ Not everyone can come into the future/ Not everyone that’s here is gonna last,” the dancers on stage at the Expo Tel Aviv paired off and walked up the stairs hand in hand. Two of the dancers had flags emblazoned on their backs: one Palestinian and one Israeli.

Almost an hour later, during the announcement of the televotes from around the world, the Palestinian flag made another appearance. Eurovision co-host Erez Tal told the BDSM-supporting anti-capitalist band Hatari of Iceland that they were given 186 points from global voters. The camera cut to the green room, where the band was sitting alongside the other delegations. The band members unrolled several banners reading “Palestine” and decorated with the Palestinian flag.

Hatari has been outspoken and heavily critical of the Israeli government for months, and said they would use the scrutiny of the competition to draw attention to Palestinians. During their time in the country, they toured Hebron and, in an interview for a Eurovision blog, said the “apartheid” was clear in the city.

Shortly after the contest ended, the EBU made it clear that neither appearance of the Palestinian flag was sanctioned or pre-approved.

Regarding Madonna, organizers said that: “this element of the performance was not part of the rehearsals that had been cleared with the EBU and the host broadcaster, KAN. The Eurovision Song Contest is a non-political event and Madonna had been made aware of this.”
BDS rejects Icelandic group’s pro-Palestinian Eurovision protest
Activists in the Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions (BDS) movement on Saturday rejected a pro-Palestinian gesture from Iceland’s entry into the 2019 Eurovision Song Contest.

Several members of the band Hatari held up Palestinian banners to the cameras as their vote total was announced during the finals of the competition, held this year in Tel Aviv.

The Palestinian Campaign for the Academic and Cultural Boycott of Israel, which had called for a total boycott of the show, dismissed the protest.

“Palestinian civil society overwhelmingly rejects fig-leaf gestures of solidarity from international artists crossing our peaceful picket line,” the group wrote on its Twitter account.

Activists Stage Palestinian Alternative 'Globalvision'
Activists staged an alternative to Eurovision called "Globalvision", hoping to bring attention to the Palestinian cause and encourage viewers to maybe boycott the event. Organizer Jo Tyabji discusses with host Sarah Williamson.

PMW: Fatah and PA cartoons link Eurovision music to violence
Last night The Netherlands won the Eurovision Song Contest 2019 in Tel Aviv. During the week leading up to the final, Fatah campaigned for the boycott of the Eurovision as documented by Palestinian Media Watch, but to no avail. Today, both Fatah and the Palestinian Authority daily published cartoons linking Israeli music to violence, including the visual depiction of the common PA libel that Israel intentionally kills civilians.

Fatah posted the cartoon above on Facebook, showing an Israeli soldier shooting at Palestinians in Gaza. Musical notes are flowing from the "Eurovision" but turn into an ammunition belt for the soldier's machine gun.

Posted text in English: "#Palestine #Eurovision #gaza #free_palestine"
[Official Fatah Facebook page, May 19, 2019]

In a second cartoon posted by Fatah, Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu is dressed up as Israeli singer Netta Barzilai who won last year's Eurovision and brought the competition to Israel. Netanyahu is holding a missile in each hand:
Posted text, part in Arabic and part in English: "Our blessings to the world's liberals #iceland"
[Official Fatah Facebook page, May 19, 2019]

The text refers to the fact that the Eurovision competitors from Iceland held a banner in the colors of the Palestinian flag with "Palestine" written on it.

The official PA daily reacted to the Eurovision being held in Israel with this cartoon, showing an Israeli soldier playing a saxophone with a bullet being fired from it at the ruins of a building. Text on cartoon in English: "Eurovision 2019":

PreOccupiedTerritory: Hundreds Dead After Article About Song Contest Fails To Mention Palestinians (satire)
Tragedy struck the Middle East today when a careless reporter omitted the geopolitical context of an annual entertainment event, resulting in the violent killings of 300 in the ensuing riots.

A British Broadcasting Corporation article today covering the Eurovision song contest taking place in Israel’s commercial and cultural hub on the Mediterranean, Tel Aviv, neglected to include a sentence, paragraph, or digression to invoke Palestinian grievances against the Jewish State. The omission sparked violent protests and an earthquake, and scientists fear a plague may also result.

Palestinians recalled the scene with horror. “It was the Nakba all over again,” recounted an eyewitness in the Gaza Strip. “I feel thrice dispossessed: of my land, of my heritage, and of the international attention I’ve been getting for whining about not getting everything I demand and killing all the Jews between the River and the Sea.”

BBC representatives apologized for the oversight and vowed an investigation as well as procedures to ensure no such omission occurs again. “We have deviated from our core journalistic mission if we do not cast every event in light of Palestinian suffering,” lamented Senior Editor Edward Norwich. “This holds true for articles about cuisine, theater, international trade, technology, and economics, so it goes without question that this article should have at the very least included mention of protests, BDS, of restrictions on Palestinian movement, something, anything to prevent the reader from getting the wrong idea that the Palestinian issue must dominate human consciousness. We failed here, and we must address that.”
Supreme court orders release of minor accused of killing Palestinian woman
Although the state prosecution put out a statement emphasizing the house arrest and the court-ordered limits on the minor’s communications, the ruling could undermine the narrative of the state prosecution and Shin Bet (Israel Security Agency) regarding the case.

A source from the minor’s side said Thursday that there was a high chance that the Supreme Court would confirm a lower court’s decision earlier last week to release the minor, but when the court did not issue an immediate ruling, it was unclear what the result would be.

The fact that the state prosecution would not hazard an estimate of how the Supreme Court might rule in light of the closed door hearing on Thursday did bode well for the minor.

The first surprise ruling had come on Tuesday when the Lod District Court issued the decision to release the minor, whose identity is under gag order.

Even more surprising was the revelation the same day that the state’s forensic specialist, Chen Kugel, contradicted aspects of the prosecution’s case, most notably arguing that he does not believe that the Palestinian woman, Aysha Rabi, was killed by a rock.
According to the indictment filed by the state against the minor in January – based on finding the minor’s DNA on a rock found at the scene – the rock thrown by the minor killed Rabi.

The Jerusalem Post has learned that the state claims that Kugel did not invalidate that the minor’s DNA was on the rock, did not invalidate most of the state’s narrative regarding Rabi’s killing, and did not provide an alternative explanation as to what killed Rabi other than the rock.

In addition, the Post has learned that the state prosecutor will maintain that a Palestinian medical opinion, which supports the theory that the rock killed Rabi, should trump Kugel’s opinion on that point because the Palestinian expert had access to her body, while Kugel only had access to photographs.
Palestinian woman in Hebron threatens officers with knife, is arrested
Border Police officers foiled an attempted stabbing attack Sunday outside the Tomb of the Patriarchs in the West Bank city of Hebron, police said.

A Palestinian woman, 22, pulled a knife on officers outside the flashpoint holy site, according to the Israel Police. Officers convinced her to drop the weapon before arresting her.

There were no injuries in the incident.

Policemen stationed at a security check stand at the Tomb of the Patriarchs became suspicious of the woman as she approached them and asked her to undergo a metal detector scan.

The scan revealed that she was carrying a metal object, prompting her to bolt for the exit, the police statement said.

Officers prevented her leaving and asked her to remove everything from her bag. At that point, the woman pulled out the knife and declared, “You have weapons and I have a knife,” police said.

Police, who were behind protective barriers, talked to the woman and she laid down the weapon.
35,000 Palestinians left Gaza in 2018 via Egypt and Turkey – report
Some 35,000 Palestinians left the Gaza Strip in 2018 and didn’t return due to the financial crisis there, a report said Sunday, with the Hamas terror group imposing measures to stem the tide of emigration.

The Rafah Crossing between the Strip and Egypt was opened in November 2017 for the first time in a decade, letting Gazans take a plane to Turkey for vacations.

However, many residents — mainly young and educated — saw that as an opportunity to escape the impoverished enclave, the Haaretz daily reported Sunday. They were smuggled onto boats and sent to Greece, from which they traveled to other European countries — chiefly Germany and Sweden.

Among dozens of migrants killed last month when a boat capsized off the shore of Turkey were 13 Palestinians escaping Gaza, according to the report.

The report cited data by the UN and other organizations to conclude that “estimations in Israel” are that the number of those who left Gaza and did not return was 35,000.

Blast injures South African tourists near Egypt's Giza pyramids - sources
An explosion targeting a tourist bus injured at least 12 people on Sunday, mostly South African tourists, near a new museum being built close to the Giza pyramids in Egypt, two security sources said.

A third security source said the bus was carrying 25 South African tourists from the airport to the pyramids area, and that four Egyptians in a nearby car were also injured by broken glass.

Pictures posted on social media showed a bus with some of its windows blown out or shattered, and debris in the road next to a low wall with a hole in it.

One witness told Reuters he heard a "very loud explosion" while sitting in traffic near the site of the blast.

The explosion happened a few hundred meters away from the Grand Egyptian Museum, not far from the site of a roadside blast that hit another tourist bus in December.
Tehran Apologists Should Change Their Tune
Iranian Foreign Minister Mohammed Javad Zarif has acknowledged that.... if anyone notices the Islamic Republic it is because its leaders are or pretend to be anti-American. In other words, anti-Americanism upgrades a ramshackle and incompetent regime that is visibly incapable of running a kebab-shop let alone a modern developing society. Zarif says that without anti-Americanism we would, at best, "be something like Pakistan". And, he adds, who cares about Pakistan?

"Our solution is clear. In response to the cost of economic sanctions imposed on us we have to impose costs on the other side so that this war is no longer one-sided.... We have a free hand in striking economic blows at the enemy. America's allies in the region, that is to say Saudi Arabia and the Emirates, are heavily dependent on two things: oil and the glass towers they have built around the Persian Gulf and the Red Sea... We must absolutely, hit the vital vein of those two countries, that is to say their oil exports. And we can do this in the Indian Ocean and the Red Sea. Such an operation will, without a doubt, force Saudi and Emirati leaders to seek peace with Iran." — Kayhan, the day before the sabotage of four ships in the UAE port of Fujairah.

It is not enough to be anti-American or even anti-Trump to be automatically classed on the side of the angels. It is possible to be anti-American and anti-Trump and yet be a thoroughly obnoxious oppressor of the people and warmonger.
U.S. sanctions are limiting Iran’s ability to fund Hezbollah – report
The latest wave of US sanctions has significantly curbed Iran’s ability to fund Hezbollah, The Washington Post reported on Saturday.

The Lebanese terrorist group has traditionally been the best funded Islamic Republic’s proxy, with its fighters and affiliates benefiting from salaries and social services paid for by Tehran.

However, speaking to several Hezbollah officials, the Washington-based newspaper revealed how the sanctions imposed by the Trump administration after the US pulled out from the 2015 nuclear deal a year ago had had a deep impact on the funding.

According to the report, while maintaining expenses that are considered essential – such as salaries to full-time fighters and stipends to families of the militants who died in Syria, where Hezbollah militias have been instrumental in keeping Syrian President Bashar Assad in power – other programs have been slashed or canceled. These programs include extra benefits to militants and their families and the distribution of free medicines and groceries. Moreover, fighters have been pulled out from Syria or assigned to the reserves.
Insurer Says Iran’s Guards Likely to Have Organized Tanker Attacks
Iran’s elite Revolutionary Guards (IRGC) are “highly likely” to have facilitated attacks last Sunday on four tankers including two Saudi ships off Fujairah in the United Arab Emirates, according to a Norwegian insurers’ report seen by Reuters.

The UAE, Saudi Arabia, and Norway are investigating the attacks, which also hit a UAE- and a Norwegian-flagged vessel.

A confidential assessment issued this week by the Norwegian Shipowners’ Mutual War Risks Insurance Association (DNK) concluded that the attack was likely to have been carried out by a surface vessel operating close by that dispatched underwater drones carrying 30-50 kg (65-110 lb) of high-grade explosives to detonate on impact.

The attacks took place against a backdrop of US-Iranian tension following Washington’s decision this month to try to cut Tehran’s oil exports to zero and beef up its military presence in the Gulf in response to what it called Iranian threats.
Germany's anti-BDS measure not only about BDS - analysis
On the surface, the passage of this motion with such broad backing seems like a sign that Germany – which knows a thing or two about antisemitism – recognizes that with its criticism of certain Israeli policies, and there is criticism, there are redlines that cannot be crossed, and that the BDS crosses those lines. For instance, the resolution said that a BDS campaign calling for Israeli products to be labeled with “Don’t buy” stickers brought to mind the Nazi era boycott of Jewish-owned businesses with the slogan “Don’t buy from Jews.”

But there is more to the story than that. This anti-BDS resolution also has much to do with internal German politics.
The far right, anti-immigrant Alternative for Germany (AfD) party – a party shunned both by the organized Jewish community in Germany and by the Israeli government – had proposed a resolution of its own banning BDS entirely, in a move seen as an effort to embarrass the government which would not support an AfD resolution, but which also would not want to be seen as voting against an anti-BDS motion.

As a result, Merkel’s coalition preempted the AfD bill by putting forward its own resolution. Even the Left party put forward its own milder resolution, calling for the condemnation of any antisemitic BDS statements.

Israel’s official response to the passing of the resolution was telling, with everyone from Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, through Foreign Minister Yisrael Katz and Knesset Speaker Yuli Edelstein all issuing statements thanking and congratulating the Bundestag, but pointedly not mentioning the Merkel government.

“I congratulate the German Bundestag on the important decision branding the boycott movement as an antisemitic movement and announcing that it is forbidden to fund it,” Netanyahu tweeted.
Arab League calls on Germany to reverse anti-BDS motion
The Arab League called Sunday on the German parliament to rescind a resolution that condemned a boycott movement against Israel as “anti-Semitic.”

The call by the pan-Arab bloc comes after the Bundestag passed a motion on Friday against the Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions movement, warning that its actions were reminiscent of the Nazis’ campaign against Jews.

BDS, founded in 2005, describes itself as a Palestinian-led movement, which calls for the boycott of Israeli goods, services and culture as a means of pressuring the Jewish state over its policies toward the Palestinians.

The Arab League’s assistant secretary-general for Palestinian affairs Saeed Abu Ali said in a statement the Bundestag’s motion against BDS is “regrettable… unjustified… (and) biased” in favor of Israel.

He urged Germany’s parliament to “reverse this erroneous step and support the Palestinian people’s right for liberation.”
University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee Cites Free Speech, Declines Action Against Student Exhibiting Nazi Sign
Amid a backlash in response to a University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee student holding a Nazi sign with antisemitic language while protesting an Israel Independence Day event on May 6, the school, citing freedom of speech, said such action cannot be stopped.

Kristian Gresham has been described as “a 26-year-old man with a documented history of aggressive, racist and criminal behavior, [who] demonstrated last week before a group of Jewish and pro-Israel students while holding signs that featured swastikas and a call to gas Jewish students,” according to a petition calling for his expulsion from the school, which to date has 835 signatures.

In a statement, the school administration stated that “as a public university, the University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee respects everyone’s right to free speech, even when it is speech that we disagree with.”

In two statements, university chancellor Mark Mone condemned the incident, but said the student had a right to protest.

Wiesenthal Center to French justice minister: Ruling makes Holocaust denier a hero
Dear Madame Nicole Belloubet, French justice minister,

On behalf of the Simon Wiesenthal Center’s more than 3,000 French members and its members worldwide, we are shocked at the cancellation of the court sentence against Holocaust denier Alain Soral (aka Alain Bonnet), in direct violation of the Gayssot Act of 1990.

We note:
• The January 2018 release of the main suspect in the 1980 Copernic Synagogue bombing, Hassan Diab, who did not have a passport, was on the US “no-fly list” and had appeals pending against him. His extradition from Canada for trial in France ended with his inexplicable release and surfacing a few days later with his family in Ottawa.

• The March 2018 murder of 85-year-old Holocaust survivor Mireille Knoll – stabbed 11 times and then set ablaze by her 29-year-old neighbor and his friend, heard shouting “Allahu akhbar.” The friend was acquitted and the neighbor, apparently, released from prison after serving six months.

• The April 2017 murder of 65-year-old Sarah Halimi, by her 27-year-old neighbor – beaten and thrown from the third-floor balcony to her death, while he was shouting “Allahu akhbar.” Claiming insanity, he was sentenced to psychiatric hospitalization.

• BDS anti-Zionist agitators were discharged, despite the 2003 “Lellouche Law” on anti-discrimination and against incitement to hatred law, which is a credit to France and a model to all of Europe.

• Cases of young vandals, freed after attacking synagogues and other sites, with a simple warning. This “revolving-door” practice is reportedly due to magistrates being convinced that “victims of racism cannot be perpetrators of hate crimes.”
New fund seeks to boost partnerships between MIT, Israeli universities
A fund launched by the Mortimer Zuckerman STEM Leadership Program seeks to match faculty members from the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) in the US and seven Israeli academic institutions in an effort to promote the “next generation of groundbreaking research” in sciences and technology.

The new MIT-Israel Zuckerman STEM Fund is now calling for proposals from faculty members and research scientists for its inaugural round of seed funding to support collaborations between teams at MIT and their counterparts in Israel for research in the STEM (science, technology, engineering, and mathematics) fields.

The fund is giving out awards of up to $30,000 for collaborations, and is supporting travel costs for exchanges between colleagues in the US and Israel, a statement release by the fund said.

MIT faculty from all disciplines are eligible to submit proposals for partnerships with Israeli faculty from Bar-Ilan University, Ben-Gurion University of the Negev, Hebrew University of Jerusalem, Technion – Israel Institute of Technology, Tel Aviv University, University of Haifa, and the Weizmann Institute of Science, the statement said.

“It is an honor for our program to partner with MIT, an institution with a great historic and contemporary reputation,” said James Gertler, trustee of the Zuckerman Institute. “The Israeli universities we work with have a shorter history, but they are building on a centuries-old Jewish intellectual heritage. Mort Zuckerman, my uncle and the founder of the Institute, has always been committed to fostering better understanding between Israel and America, as a part of his commitment to philanthropy that betters society.”

The fund is accepting proposals until September 16. Each proposal must include the participation of at least one PhD student from MIT. (h/t Zvi)
IDF: Doize points!

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