Tuesday, October 29, 2019

From Ian:

J Street, blank checks and putting the "squeeze" on Israel
“Our aid is not intended to be a blank check,” J Street president Jeremy Ben-Ami, stated on October 27, at the organization's annual conference.

This type of so-called "conditioning," "linking," and/or "squeezing" of Israel over US aid and support has an unfortunately long history in Washington and it is time for it to stop, once and for all. It's unseemly and the US - Israel relationship loses its value for both nations every single time this road is gone down.

Ben-Ami's proposed tactics seem very close to those actually employed by Henry Kissinger in the 1970s. Kissinger is due to speak at an upcoming Jewish conference in New York, and it’s worth considering the real cost of this type of rhetoric and strategy.

Distinguished Israeli diplomat Yehuda Avner (1928-2015) saw this close up in his role as a speechwriter, secretary, or adviser to five different Israeli prime ministers, from both sides of Israel's political spectrum—Golda Meir, Levi Eshkol, Yitzhak Rabin, Menachem Begin, and Shimon Peres. He also served as Israel’s ambassador to both Britain and Australia, as well as in other senior diplomatic positions.

In his widely-acclaimed book, The Prime Ministers, Avner shared numerous remarkable anecdotes—including some troubling episodes involving Secretary of State Kissinger during both the 1973 Yom Kippur War and the 1974-1975 shuttle diplomacy between Egypt and Israel.

Avner bluntly refers to American officials—meaning Kissinger—who “tied” Golda’s hands on the eve of the Yom Kippur War, telling her “in no uncertain terms not to fire the first shot,” and even “warned” her “against full-scale mobilization” of Israel’s reserve forces. Over 2600 Israeli soldiers died as a result.

Kissinger did not want Israel to win a decisive victory because he thought that would make it hard to wring concessions out of the Israelis after the war.

Apologist for Terror: Hamas Suicide Bombings Were ‘Unwise Strategy’
It’s widely accepted that Israeli society has drifted to the political right since the breakdown of the Oslo process. Palestinian terrorism played a significant role in destroying faith in the peace process and the political left, and enabled the more risk-averse and security-minded Benjamin Netanyahu to become the dominant political figure of the age.

Outrageously however, for Angela Godfrey-Goldstein, an Israeli “peace activist” writing in The Independent, it’s not Palestinians who are responsible for terrorism but Israelis:

Although easier to paint “the other” as the guilty party, it’s more painfully honest, especially for promoting healing of that trauma, to acknowledge at least partial Israeli responsibility for those suicide bombings.

Yes, you read that correctly – Israel is partially responsible for the indiscriminate murder of hundreds of its own people in Palestinian suicide bombings.

This, Godfrey-Goldstein attributes to an environment of right-wing incitement, the assassination of Yitzhak Rabin by Yigal Amir, the election of Benjamin Netanyahu and the appalling massacre of Palestinians at Hebron’s Cave of the Machpela by Baruch Goldstein in February 1994.

In Godfrey-Goldstein’s alternative reality, the absence of peace is not due to Palestinian violence but primarily the figures of Yigal Amir, Baruch Goldstein and Benjamin Netanyahu.

While it is legitimate to argue the impact these people and their actions have had on the peace process, treating Palestinians as incapable of taking responsibility for their own actions and blaming Israeli victims for terrorism is not.
Tyranny’s Mouthpiece
On September 8, 2019, Syria’s state news agency published an article about the beginning of the Third International Trade Union Forum in Damascus, which hosted “dozens of intellectuals, journalists, (and) political and social activists from Arab and foreign countries.” Among the attendees were the American journalists Max Blumenthal and Rania Khalek.

If you want to know why Blumenthal and Khalek were welcome at an event organized “under the auspices of Bashar al-Assad”—aside from the fact that they’re frequent contributors to the Russian propaganda outlets Sputnik and Russia Today—the rest of the article should give you an idea. It condemns the “aggressive terrorist war” launched against Syria, along with the “economic war that constitutes terror in and of itself” (a reference to U.S. sanctions). It calls for a media campaign to galvanize world public opinion in support of the Syrian government and “reveal the truth about the U.S. policy of besieging independent and free countries.” It points out that the “real goal of the war on Syria is to stop it from being a force that opposes U.S. and Israeli plots in the region.” And it emphasizes the importance of “exposing the practices of international imperialism.”

In other words, Syrian government propaganda is almost perfectly aligned with the arguments Blumenthal and Khalek have been making for years. Like the Syrian Ministry of Information, they present the Assad regime as an embattled and encircled victim of a jihadist-led coup backed by the United States and other Western powers.

For example, Blumenthal constantly emphasizes the atrocities of jihadist groups like Jaish al-Islam and al-Nusra because they give him moral and political cover for defending Assad, who has committed atrocities on a far greater scale. When he posted a picture of himself in a “neighborhood east of Damascus occupied by the Saudi-backed Jaish al-Islam until early last year,” he didn’t bother mentioning the fact that he was also surrounded by notorious government interrogation sites that are part of what Human Rights Watch describes as the regime’s “torture archipelago.” Nor did he mention that he was just down the road from the sites of the Ghouta chemical attacks in August 2013, which HRW reports “killed hundreds of civilians, including large numbers of children” and which can “almost certainly” be blamed on government forces.

Sanders Threatens to Withhold Israeli Security Aid
Presidential hopeful Sen. Bernie Sanders (I., Vt.) said he would support leveraging American aid to Israel to pressure the country into changing its policies.

Sanders argued the United States should threaten to withhold aid if Israel did not pledge to surrender territory to Palestinian political authorities. The Vermont senator told former Obama administration officials Tommy Vietor and Ben Rhodes that the United States should demand the "Israeli government sit down with the Palestinian people and negotiate an agreement that works for all parties."

"I would use the leverage. $3.8 billion is a lot of money, and we cannot give it carte blanche to the Israeli government or for that matter to any government at all," he said. "We have a right to demand respect for human rights and democracy."

Multiple Democratic presidential candidates have pledged to withhold funding to Israel if the country did not implement a two-party state. Vietor asked the Vermont senator how he would leverage American aid to end what Sanders has described as an "absolutely inhumane" and "unacceptable" situation in Gaza.

"We have a right to say to the Israeli government that the United States of America and our taxpayers and our people believe in human rights, we believe in democracy, we will not accept authoritarianism or racism," Sanders said.

Bernie Sanders: Take Aid To Israel And Give It To Palestinians In Gaza. Nikki Haley Slams Him.
Sanders boasted, “My proposal in terms of Israeli-Palestinian efforts is not a radical proposal. All it says is that we need an even-hand proposal for both people. What is going on in Gaza right now, for example, is absolutely inhumane. It is unacceptable. It is unsustainable.”

Former U.N. Ambassador Nikki Haley, a champion for the State of Israel, crushed Sanders on Twitter:

Sanders pilloried President Trump and Israel Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu as he said venomously, “You’re looking at leaders, one is going to be impeached, the other one may end up in jail, so I don’t know how much credibility they have, actually, in terms of integrity.”

Sanders, who has embraced notorious anti-Israel Linda Sarsour as an advocate for his campaign, said audaciously, “I am very proud to be Jewish and look forward to being the first Jewish president. I spent many months on a kibbutz in Israel. I believe absolutely not only in the right of Israel to exist but the right to exist in peace and security. That’s not a question. But what I also believe is the Palestinian people have a right to live in peace and security as well. It is not anti-Semitism to say that Netanyahu’s government has been racist.”

As Mosaic Magazine noted last April:
When Sanders wanted to win the Democratic nomination in 2016, he claimed that Israel had killed over 10,000 innocent Palestinians, launched indiscriminate attacks in the Gaza Strip, and shelled hospitals in Gaza during Operation Protective Edge in 2014. The senator not only inflated the numbers by several orders of magnitude, he even outdid the Hamas spokespersons in creating a false narrative that the IDF was intentionally attacking the civilian population.

In the last week, Sanders’ presidential campaign selected supposed comedian and University of Detroit Mercy School of Law Professor Amer Zahr as an official campaigner; As Israel Hayom noted, Zahr, a supporter of the anti-Israel BDS movement, has written that Israel is a “nation that has routinely discriminated against black individuals, destroying blood donated by Ethiopian Jews, injecting their women with contraceptives without their consent, and expelling thousands of African asylum-seekers.”

Democratic Majority for Israel president and CEO Mark Mellman stated, “We privately communicated our concern about some of his choices directly to Sen. Sanders, beginning with his naming of noted anti-Semite Linda Sarsout as an official surrogate. Unfortunately, the only responses we have received from the senator are more hostile choices on his part.”
J Street presses Democrats candidates to condition aid to Israel
J Street, the left-wing Jewish Middle East policy group, is making conditioning U.S. aid to Israel a plank ahead of the 2020 presidential elections.

“Our aid is not intended to be a blank check,” Jeremy Ben-Ami, the group’s president, said Sunday evening, at the group’s annual conference, ahead of the first appearance at the conference of a Democratic presidential candidate, Sen. Amy Klobuchar of Minnesota.

Ben-Ami called on candidates to reverse Trump administration policies that have favored Israel over the Palestinian Authority and announced that the organization’s student wing, J Street U, launched a campaign to press the Democratic Party to include in its platform a call on Israel to end its presence in Judea and Samaria.

Two former Obama administration National Security Council officials, Ben Rhodes and Tommy Vietor, who now run a podcast, pressed Klobuchar on the aid issue.

Klobuchar, who is close to the American Israel Public Affairs Committee, said it was “not a good idea to negotiate these things” in public, but later indicated she would oppose aid cuts, in part because she believed President Donald Trump had made the region more dangerous for Israel by pulling the United States back from the Middle East.

Hammer On ‘Tipping Point With Liz Wheeler’: Elizabeth Warren Is An Israel-Hater
Last week, Daily Wire Editor-at-Large Josh Hammer, who frequently opines on issues pertaining to Jewish politics, anti-Semitism, and Israel, joined “Tipping Point With Liz Wheeler” on One America News Network to discuss the revelation that 2020 Democratic Party presidential statistical frontrunner Sen. Elizabeth Warren (D-MA) is now threatening to withhold U.S. military aid to Israel if Israel does not make the “two-state solution” land concessions that a President Warren might envision. As The Daily Wire reported last week, Warren said that “everything” — meaning aid — would potentially be “on the table.”

Hammer began his segment with Wheeler by explaining how clearly Warren telegraphed her hard turn against Israel — including her hiring of ex-IfNotNow co-founder Max Berger as a high-ranking campaign staffer:

Elizabeth Warren is now running for the Democratic presidential nomination in a year in which the Democratic Party has just gone crazy. … [Warren] hired someone named Max Berger as one of her progressive campaign outreach chairs. Max Berger is a co-founder of a despicable, far-left, self-hating, Jew-hating group, IfNotNow. IfNotNow is so radically left that they protest Shabbat services — for Jews observing Sabbath. They’ve been known to say Kaddish, the traditional Jewish mourners prayer, for Hamas jihadists who have been fired at or had been killed by IDF rocket fire.

She surrounds herself, much like Bernie Sanders, with Israel-hating, I would say Jew-hating, anti-Semites. And this is honestly very sad, but it’s hardly unexpected. As soon as I saw that she hired Max Berger this summer, I thought, okay, we’re gonna get to exactly where we now see that she’s gotten. Well, the only positive thing — the only silver lining here — is that we at least are seeing her true colors before it’s too late

Ben Rhodes: Obama Admin Threw Israel Under Bus at U.N. to Pressure Jewish State
Ben Rhodes, President Obama's national security adviser, said on Monday that Obama sought to use the United Nations as a vehicle to isolate and pressure the Jewish state.

Rhodes, speaking at the anti-Israel group J Street's annual conference in Washington, D.C., discussed efforts by the former administration to weaponize the U.N. to force Israel into concessions to the Palestinians.

Obama, near the end of his tenure in office, drew sharp criticism across the pro-Israel community for permitting the United States to abstain from a U.N. vote criticizing what it described as Israeli settlements.

The U.N. was allowed to proceed with the vote to censure Israel when the Obama administration declined to exercise its veto power, as the United States had historically done in the face of anti-Israel efforts at the international body.

"Oftentimes even the degree of pressure that President Obama pursued, which is largely rhetorical, can invite some retrenchment in Israeli politics or resistance to it," Rhodes said while interviewing Sen. Michael Bennet (D., Colo.) at J Street's annual forum. "At the same time, given that direction in the status quo, the question becomes what are the levers available?"

"Another one that we wrestled with in the Obama administration was the U.N. process," Rhodes continued.

Ilhan Omar praises Breaking the Silence exhibit on 'occupation in Hebron'
"Thank you to @YehudaShaul and the Israeli veterans of @BTSIsrael for the moving exhibit on the occupation in Hebron at #jstreet2019. Acknowledgment is the first step to peace. By sharing your stories, you are paving a path to the end of occupation," Minnesota Representative Ilhan Omar tweeted after seeing the Breaking the Silence exhibit at J Street's 2019 conference.

Breaking the Silence (BTS), an organization that tells stories of IDF veterans who served in the Palestinian territories, had a photo display at J Street's 2019 conference.

"All of the photos in the exhibit were taken by IDF soldiers who served in the occupied territories since the beginning of the Second Intifada, and portray the day to day realities of life in the West Bank from the point of view of soldiers sent to serve there on behalf of the State of Israel," BTS wrote on its Facebook page. "The soldiers who took these photos are among over 1,200 IDF veterans who have broken the silence about what they were sent to do in the occupied territories."
Castro Open to Quid Pro Quo for Israeli Aid
Presidential hopeful Julián Castro said he would consider conditioning aid to Israel in order to press the country into pursuing a two-state solution.

Castro said he would not take the potential withholding of aid "off the table" in an effort to pressure the Israeli government. The former Housing and Urban Development secretary also ripped Israeli prime minister Benjamin Netanyahu during a conversation with former Obama administration officials Ben Rhodes and Tommy Vietor at J Street's national conference.

"We need an administration over there that I hope will be more productive and engage in getting back on a track of a two-state solution," he said. "We need to use this opportunity that we have hopefully with this new Israeli administration, and with a new administration I believe in 2021, to do everything that we can to get Israel to go back in the direction of pursuing a two-state solution so that we can avoid having to condition our aid on that."

Rhodes asked Castro what he would do to "set a new tone with the Palestinian people as well as the Israeli people" if he wins the presidency.

"The Trump administration has made a mistake in putting its finger on the scale so much in line with Netanyahu and his administration," Castro said, adding that he is pleased to see Palestinian rights become a discussion point in the Democratic primary race.

"We need to reestablish a U.S. consulate in east Jerusalem and make clear that under a two-state approach that would be the embassy, under a Palestinian state," Castro said. "In addition to that, we need to ensure that they have the opportunity to restart their mission here in the United States."

Julian Castro: Re-establish U.S. consulate in Jerusalem, restore Palestinian aid
Former housing secretary and Democratic presidential hopeful Julián Castro said on Monday that he would undo some of the Trump administration’s most notable actions regarding the Israeli-Palestinian conflict.

“We need to reestablish a US consulate in east Jerusalem and make clear that under a two-state approach, that would be the embassy under a Palestinian state,” he said at J Street’s National Conference in Washington, DC. “In addition to that, we need to ensure that they have the opportunity to restart their mission here in the United States.”

The PLO office in Washington was closed by US President Donald Trump in September 2018, citing a lack of progress in peace talks with Israel.

“I would also restore the UN funding that was stripped by the Trump administration, which was a mistake, to provide aid that is desperately needed.” Castro continued. “Those are the kinds of things that I believe the next president could do immediately to regain some trust, and rebuild trust and confidence among Palestinians, in addition to taking a different tone.”

Speaking about the situation around the conflict on college campuses, Castro said, “I don’t agree with BDS, I don’t support BDS, but I also do not support cracking down on political speech. People should be able to express themselves.”
How to Fight the Cultural BDS Movement
One of the most widespread misconceptions about the cultural BDS campaign — which pressures international artists to cancel their concert dates and trips to Israel, and also pressures international venues to rescind invitations to Israeli artists — is who is behind it.

Most people seem to believe that BDS is a growing poison inside Hollywood and the wider entertainment community. In reality, BDS is not coming from Hollywood; it is happening to Hollywood. Artists and freedom of artistic expression are being attacked to advance a political, anti-peace agenda.

The goal of the cultural BDS movement is the same as the general campaign: to demonize, delegitimize, and destroy Israel. The strategy is twofold. First, they want artists and international venues to isolate Israel and make it a pariah state. Second, they want to use the names and likenesses of famous artists to draw attention to their slanderous accusations and poison minds across the globe. Their tactic is to personally attack the artists who wish to go to Israel and the venues that wish to host Israeli artists.

Individuals, groups, and organizations across the globe are ready and willing to fight back, but they need to be armed with the facts, and to learn the words that impact hearts and minds, in order to counter the BDS movement.
University of Illinois students pass vote separating anti-Zionism, anti-Semitism
The University of Illinois student government has passed a resolution that distinguishes anti-Semitism from anti-Zionism.

The resolution, which passed in a 29-4 vote, criticizes Chancellor Robert Jones for having said a presentation to dorm advisers on the conflict between Israel and the Palestinians was anti-Semitic.

Many pro-Israel and Jewish students who were critical of the measure walked out ahead of the vote last week and held a vigil in remembrance of victims of anti-Semitism, The News-Gazette reported.

Jones made his assertion in a campus-wide email earlier this month on a presentation titled “Palestine & Great Return March: Palestinian Resistance to 70 Years of Israeli Terror.”

The Illini Public Affairs Committee, a campus pro-Israel group, described it as “a narrative of demonization of Israel and its citizens and Jewish students.”

Jones’s email also referenced the recent discovery of a swastika in the Foreign Languages building and other hateful acts.
8 swastikas discovered on Smith College campus
Smith College in Massachusetts was vandalized with a rash of swastikas.

Local police have joined the investigation into the incident at the prestigious all-women school in Northhampton, about 100 miles west of Boston.

Students reported finding at least one swastika on a wall in an academic building on Thursday. Police then searched the entire campus and found a total of eight swastikas drawn with markers on three buildings, a college spokeswoman told the Jewish Telegraphic Agency.

The swastikas were permanently removed by staff by Friday morning, Stacey Schmeidel told JTA.

In a letter emailed that evening to students, staff and faculty, Smith President Kathleen McCartney condemned the vandalism as an act of “hatred and cowardice.” She said the college’s first priority is to ensure the safety and well-being of the community, especially members of the Jewish community.

Watchdog Group Launches Petition to Keep CAIR Off American College Campuses
The watchdog group Stopantisemitism.org is calling on the US Department of Education and Georgie State University to keep the “terror-affiliated” Council on American-Islamic Relations off US college campuses.

“The Council on American-Islamic Relations (CAIR), an American front group for the terrorist organizations such as Hamas and Muslim Brotherhoods, is infiltrating the US education system,” said the petition, which already has nearly 2,000 signatures. “Their anti-American agenda is infecting school curriculums, poisoning the minds of our students and our future leaders with Islamist propaganda, antisemitism, and anti-American bias. CAIR Georgia is one of the many groups driving these anti-American and antisemitic campaigns.”

The appeal by StopAntisemitism.org was launched in response to the CAIR chapter in Georgia, urging GSU to end its relationship with the project Georgia International Law Enforcement Exchange due to its partnership with Israel.

Liora Rez, director of Stopantisemitism.org, talked to JNS about CAIR’s “infiltration” on college campuses, saying: “CAIR is constantly inserting the Palestinian/Israeli conflict into the center of every issue from veganism to law-enforcement exchange programs such as GILEE. Their constant targeting of Israel, and calls for violence and the dismantlement of the State of Israel, creates a dangerous environment of antisemitism on campuses across the country in which Jewish students are being targeted and bullied.”
Group Demands Docs Related to Qatar’s Suspected Infiltration of U.S. Public Schools
A legal organization has filed a series of requests to compel American universities to turn over documents that it suspects will shine light on efforts by Qatar to peddle influence and push anti-Israel bias in U.S. public schools, according to a copy of public records requests obtained by the Washington Free Beacon.

The Lawfare Project, a legal group that provides services to the pro-Israel community, has filed document requests to compel Middle Eastern studies departments at the University of North Carolina and Duke University to turn over documents related to the alleged promotion of curricula sponsored by Qatar Foundation International, a partially state-funded organization that has helped Doha spend an estimated $1 billion pushing the Middle Eastern nation's priorities.

The Lawfare Project suspects these documents will reveal how Qatar has worked to spread its propaganda inside the American education system. The organization is seeking public records from UNC regarding any potential involvement by Qatar and its proxies in teacher training programs sponsored by the Duke-UNC Center for Middle Eastern Studies.

The document requests come as the Department of Education investigates how some $235,000 in federal funds were used to organize a series of anti-Israel events jointly held by Duke and UNC. The events have sparked questions from lawmakers and others into the relationship between these American universities and nations such as Qatar that spend millions to influence the U.S. education system.

The Education Department is also investigating teacher-training programs Duke held through its Islamic Studies Center and Middle East Studies Center underwritten by QFI. Critics say these programs promote anti-Israel bias and unfairly portray the Jewish state.
Highland Park Town Council Pressured to Remove BDS Language From Resolution Condemning Anti-Semitism
Following increased numbers of anti-Semitic acts locally and globally, the Highland Park Borough Council and Gayle Brill Mittler, the borough’s mayor, have spent the last four months examining and drafting proposals of resolutions condemning anti-Semitism, specifically calling out the BDS (Boycott, Divest and Sanctions) movement in terms of its anti-Semitic bias and its demonization of Jews and Israel.

However, in the wake of the borough’s “P Is for Palestine” library brouhaha, an event which was initially delayed due to strong Jewish communal objections and then ultimately held last week—reportedly with few in attendance to hear author Golbarg Bashi speak, but with scores demonstrating outside the library—Highland Park continues to grapple with the underlying issues associated with the political leanings of its heterogeneous, multicultural community.

The borough is a diverse and progressive community that includes members of the Rutgers University community and a strong observant Jewish population; the sticking point with the borough’s meetings has been whether or not to include anti-BDS language in the resolution. Key differences in various drafts have concerned if or how BDS would be included by name; the mayor and councilmembers have reportedly been inundated with emails and messages about this. The Jewish Link has learned that a group calling itself “HP United Against Hate” submitted a letter to the mayor and council requesting that the resolution not be passed due to its anti-BDS provisions, though dozens of Jewish residents have written the borough leadership expressing support for the resolution and the need to pass the resolution—with the anti-BDS concern spelled out—as currently drafted.

Councilman Matthew Hale, a co-author of the resolution that was agreed upon at a recent working meeting, plans to support the legislation. “The current resolution is the product of months of discussion, collaboration and compromise. It has the support of the large majority of the Jewish community in Highland Park, across the denominational spectrum,” he told The Jewish Link.
Huge win for BDS after Hurricane cancels Israel visit (satire)
Israel’s Hasbara efforts suffered a crushing blow this weekend after a Category One Hurricane failed to show up for its scheduled appearance. Hurricanes are fairly rare in this part of the world, so there was quite a bit of anticipation building up for its arrival. Yet last minute lobbying forced the hurricane, who goes by “Bob”, to cancel his trip. The Daily Freier spoke with Bob as he wandered aimlessly off the coast of Cyprus.

“I just couldn’t take the pressure.” lamented Bob. “Which is ironic, because I’m supposed to thrive in fluctucations of barometric pressure, right?” Bob half-heartedly threw some rain clouds into the atmosphere and continued. “It started when my friend Gus the Tornado told me about the open letter from Roger Waters on the Weather Channel accusing me of ‘Climate Apartheid’. Then some bizarre cat lady started tweeting at me from her vacation to Iran. I couldn’t really understand her message, but she kept saying ‘Seriously, Bob?’…. I just felt unsafe.”

The Daily Freier asked Bob if he had any regrets about his canceled trip. “I really wanted to visit my family in Israel. The Flash Floods down south, my cousin Humidity, and of course my brother-in-law Boaz the Golani Cloud.”
Israeli tech company JFrog reportedly considering $1.5 billion Nasdaq IPO
The Netanya-based software provider JFrog is reportedly considering a $1.5 billion Nasdaq IPO next year.

Company representatives have met with investment bankers in New York to discuss the move, according to Hebrew media reports.

JFrog streamlines the way companies manage and roll out software updates. Its tools allow for firms to update their software continuously and without interfering with users. The company says it has over 5,000 customers and its software is used by over three million developers.

Some of the world’s leading companies use JFrog programs to update their software, including Google, Amazon, Facebook, Adobe, Netflix, Microsoft, Dell, Volvo, Toyota, Sony, Visa, and American Express.

The company raised $165 million in a funding round last year, claiming a valuation at the time of over $1 billion.
WATCH: Sir Richard Branson haggles with Israelis at Jaffa's flea market
British billionaire and Virgin Atlantic chairman Sir Richard Branson may be one of the world's leading businessmen, but attempting to out bargain bargain-hungry Israelis at Jaffa's famous flea market proved a very different business proposition.

Visiting Israel to inaugurate his airline’s new daily route from London Heathrow to Tel Aviv's Ben-Gurion Airport, Branson opened up a "Come Flea with Me" travel agency stand at the market, haggling with Israelis and offering discounted flight tickets.

"Israel is famous for its savvy negotiators, so I wanted to go head to head with some of its residents to put my skills to the test and I had to bring my A-game," Branson said, accompanied by Virgin Atlantic's Israeli CEO Shai Weiss.

One Israeli market-goer managed to haggle 69-year-old Branson down from $450 to just $45 for return flights, and a British father and daughter also knocked three-quarters off the asking price. A married couple celebrating their anniversary secured an upgrade to business class for their upcoming London trip.
Brazilian soccer legend Ronaldinho visits Israel to compete in Shalom Game
Brazilian soccer legend Ronaldo de Assis Moreira, commonly known as Ronaldinho, who played for both Brazil's national team as well as Barcelona is currently in Haifa this week - taking part in a sport initiative promoting peace and brotherhood between the two countries.

In a Twitter post, Ronaldinho can be scene at the scenic overlook in the Haifa Carmel, which displays the beautiful scenery of the Haifa skyline, where on clear days its even possible to see parts of Lebanon.

Tuesday night, at Sami Ofer Stadium, Ronaldinho will take part in the 2019 Shalom Game in a match pitting major Brazilian soccer legends against some of the most revered Israeli players in history.

The Brazilian superstars include Ricardo Izecson dos Santos Leite known as Kaka who played for AC Milan and Real Madrid, Rivaldo Vítor Barbosa Ferreira known as Rivaldo who played for Barcelona, as well as many others legends who have previously one World Cup titles and other accolades.

The Israeli side includes legends such as Arik Benado who played for both Beitar Jerusalem and Maccabi Haifa as well as Yaniv Katan who spent most of his tenure at Maccabi Haifa before a brief stint in the English Premier League with West Ham United.
Israeli and Brazilian Soccer Stars Play Match for Peace

Violinist rock star Vanessa-Mae is hooked on classics in Tel Aviv show
A spunky idea was born in the halls of London’s Royal Philharmonic Orchestra in the twilight of the 1970s disco era: What if classical music was funked up enough to bring it to mainstream music charts? Called “Hooked on Classics,” the wildly popular debut album eventually spawned a series that only ended 20 years later and paved the way for a new generation of crossover artists.

With rock-star level fame, crossover violinist Vanessa-Mae journeys on similar well-trod roads as Hooked on Classics. But while using hard-won virtuosic skills to bring out familiar music themes, she takes her show to a whole other stratosphere.

At her packed performance in Tel Aviv’s Menora Mivtachim Arena on Monday, Vanessa-Mae was backed by a tight touring rock band that was supplemented by a good-sized local orchestra and singers, who sat behind sheer screens upon which were projected an endless series of screen savers.

Ever in the spotlight and the sole colorfully dressed musician in a sea of black, Vanessa-Mae brings all the glamour and poise of a top-echelon classical soloist.
Former PM Howard leads Israel tour
ISRAELI President Reuven Rivlin has announced he will visit Australia at the start of next year.

Rivlin made the announcement on Twitter, saying he was “delighted to host a delegation of senior Australian politicians today led by my friend John Howard, the former prime minister.

“We discussed the changes facing the Middle East and the ever-growing close ties between the countries,” Rivlin said.

“I am looking forward to my upcoming visit to Australia at the start of 2020.”

Politicians across Israel’s political spectrum have been rolling out the red carpet for the cross-party delegation.

Medieval jewels hidden by Jews during Black Death on show at NY Met Cloisters
Once upon a time in Colmar, France, a group of workmen renovating a confectionary shop on the Rue des Juifs chanced upon a cache of jewels and coins belonging to a medieval Jewish family. Only this was no fairy tale — what the workmen discovered inside the crumbling wall on that day in 1863 was the true story of a legacy left behind in the wake of persecution.

As the Bubonic Plague swept over Europe in 1348, a Jewish family in Colmar hid a small trove of jewelry, including garnet, turquoise and emerald rings, within the walls of their house. This cache came to be known as the Colmar Treasure and is now on display at the Met Cloisters, the medieval-focused branch of the Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York.

On loan from the Musée de Cluny in Paris, the exhibit’s significance comes not from its size, but from how it represents Judaism in a space usually devoted to Christian art and artifacts. The museum’s design incorporates five medieval cloisters, and crucifixes and Christian-themed tapestries, including the famed unicorn tapestries, are on display in the galleries above and adjacent to the Colmar Treasure.

Juxtaposed with the other displays, the exhibit is a reminder of Jewish artistic heritage, as well as the perils Jewish minority communities faced then and now.

“I think the power of this material is its personal nature. It’s appropriately deemed a treasure, not because of the nature of the gold or the size of the gems, but because it’s an unexpected testament to lives lived and lost. Its poignancy is because of its personal scale,” said Dr. Barbara Drake Boehm, the Paul and Jill Ruddock Senior Curator, Department of Medieval Art and The Cloisters.

Pittsburgh Steelers Hold Moment of Silence for 2018 Synagogue Shooting
The Pittsburgh Steelers held a moment of silence before their Monday-night game to commemorate the one-year anniversary of Tree of Life*Or L’Simcha Synagogue shooting, when a lone gunman killed 11 Jewish worshippers during Shabbat-morning services.

“On this anniversary of the tragic day in our city when innocent people were gunned down in the Tree of Life Synagogue, we pause to offer our thoughts and prayers for the families of those who lost their lives, as well as those who survived that terrible day. Since that day, our community has resolved to stay stronger than hate and anti-Semitism,” said Steelers’ president Art Rooney II in a statement released on Sunday, announcing the moment of silence that will be held before the team’s game against the Miami Dolphins.

The team also held a moment of silence one year ago, the day after the Oct. 27, 2018 shooting—the deadliest attack in American Jewish history.

Other Pittsburgh sports teams also held a moment of silence.

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Elder of Ziyon - حـكـيـم صـهـيـون

This blog may be a labor of love for me, but it takes a lot of effort, time and money. For over 18 years and 38,000 articles I have been providing accurate, original news that would have remained unnoticed. I've written hundreds of scoops and sometimes my reporting ends up making a real difference. I appreciate any donations you can give to keep this blog going.


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