Wednesday, April 29, 2020

From Ian:

JPost Editorial: Independence Day – Israel's 72nd birthday
Despite these daunting challenges, Israelis have by and large proved themselves exceptional at coping with the extreme situation and adhering to the strict regulations that have been imposed.

And although we, as a newspaper, have been critical of government policy and efforts in combating the deadly pandemic, it must be acknowledged that this has been uncharted territory that ministries and government officials have been thrust into. And their exhaustive, well-intended efforts must be applauded, while at the same time scrutinized.

Even more deserving of our thanks and gratitude are the thousands of healthcare workers who have placed themselves and their families on the front lines of danger to treat the thousands of corona patients in the nation’s hospitals and emergency rooms. The same goes for law enforcement officials and IDF soldiers who have worked tirelessly to help those in need.

The question is, what kind of Israel will emerge from the coronavirus challenge? One unexpected outcome of this crisis is that we have become a more caring people.

Will we fall back into the old patterns of conspicuous consumption and tall fences between neighbors? Or will we use the lessons of the past two months to help forge a more cohesive and compassionate society, which has seen signs of emerging?

At age 72, Israel can be proud of so much. And thanks to corona, those most simple attributes that form the basis of what makes Israel a great country have come to the forefront. Let’s hope they stay with us.
President Rivlin's greeting for Israel's 72nd Yom Haatzmaut / Independence Day


Israel at 72: A country under curfew salutes those fighting the coronavirus
Israel on Wednesday celebrated its 72nd year of independence without the traditional public revelry associated with the holiday as the coronavirus pandemic continued to impose itself on national life.

In a display of appreciation, official events were dedicated in honor of medical staff working to combat the virus and the Israeli Air Force gave a sky-high salute to those on the front lines.

The air force, which usually shows off its inventory of jets and helicopters in a cross-country flyover, instead only sent out a squad of four stunt planes that followed a flight path over the country’s hospitals and medical centers.

At each site the planes looped and circled in an expression of the nation’s appreciation for medical workers.

The IDF canceled the traditional flyover in a bid to get people to stay at home, as a nationwide curfew went into effect from Tuesday afternoon until Wednesday evening, to prevent large gatherings as Israelis celebrate the founding of the state.

Israelis were told to stay at home and avoid crowding the streets and parks for barbecues and public parties, in a bid to avoid a fresh outbreak of the deadly pathogen.

In some places, the army and other security agencies also paraded jeeps and emergency vehicles by homes instead of setting up displays around the country and at bases, as is done in most years.

Independence Day is celebrated each year on the Hebrew date of the establishment of Israel in 1948.

Independence Day celebrations began on Tuesday night as the country transitioned from the sober Memorial Day.

The annual torch-lighting ceremony, a centerpiece of the shift to Independence Day, was prerecorded for the first time at Jerusalem’s Mount Herzl military cemetery and took place without an audience present. Mount Herzl, along with all other military cemeteries in the country, was locked on Monday to all visitors, to prevent gatherings on the annual remembrance day for Israel’s 23,816 fallen soldiers and terror victims.
Israeli Air Force Honors Medical Staff on Israel's 72 Independence Day


What Would the World be without the State of Israel?
Israel’s creation changed the life of every Jew throughout the world, whether they were Zionists or religious. It made everyone stand up taller and feel safer. And its continued survival led to a movement among the millions of Jews in the former Soviet Union to demand their rights after half a century of oppression.

While we worry about a revival of anti-Semitism in our own day in which Israel is the stand-in for traditional anti-Jewish stereotypes and scapegoats, without it, the fate of contemporary Jewry would be immeasurably worse. Those who grew up in the post-1948 world simply have no idea how much it changed the way Jews are thought of and treated. Israel was not merely the place of refuge for Holocaust survivors and nearly a million Jews from the Arab and Muslim world all seeking freedom; the creation of a home for the Jewish people also made it easier for Jews to live as equals even if they chose to remain in the Diaspora.

To its detractors, Israel is a disappointment because it fails to live up to some unrealistic standard of morality unmet by any democracy at war, as it has been for every moment of those 72 years. But the real Israel remains the only democracy in the Middle East, as well as a haven for the arts and the sciences, and a “startup nation” that is at the cutting edge of so many advances for humanity.

Israel is a beacon of freedom for Jews everywhere, as well as a guarantor that the cycle of hate, oppression and slaughter that characterized Jewish history for 20 centuries would finally end. As such, it deserves the support of decent people—Jewish and non-Jewish—everywhere. While some mired in the fantasy world of anti-Semitism may dream about a world in which it never existed, the hope for the eradication of the one Jewish state on the planet is a manifestation of hate, not science fiction.



1948: Why the name Israel?
On May 14, 1948, David Ben-Gurion declared statehood in the old Tel Aviv Museum, now Independence Hall, on Rothschild Boulevard. The climax was this sentence: “We hereby declare the establishment of a Jewish state in Eretz-Israel, to be known as the State of Israel.” This was the applause line, the culmination, and the naming of the state.

Until that moment, very few people knew what the state would be called. In the various drafts of the declaration, the space for the name was left blank. When the diplomats of the Jewish Agency in Washington went to secure an advance promise of recognition for the state, they couldn’t tell the Americans what the name would be.

As Clark Clifford, Truman’s legal advisor, later recalled: “The name ‘Israel’ was as yet unknown, and most of us assumed the new nation would be called ‘Judaea.’” The letter prepared for Harry Truman on May 14, extending recognition, was typed as follows: “The United States recognizes the provisional government as the de facto authority of the new Jewish state.” Some hand crossed out “Jewish state” and wrote in its place “State of Israel.”

How was the name decided? By a vote in the People’s Administration, the cabinet-in-waiting, on May 12. The protocol doesn’t give the details of the debate. It simply records Ben-Gurion as saying:

We have decided that the name of the state will be Israel. And if we say state, then the State of Israel…. To this can be added every word in the grammatical construct state: army of Israel, community of Israel, people of Israel.

Ben-Gurion then put this to a vote. According to the protocol, seven voted in favor. Opposing and abstaining votes weren’t recorded. In his 1962 book Three Days, cabinet secretary Zeev Sharef wrote that this decision was taken “in the absence of any other suggestion.”
An unenthusiastic choice

But we actually know rather more about the debate that preceded this meeting from two sources: the first, what Sharef told a journalist on the first anniversary of independence; and the second, a recollection of the chief opponent of the name Israel.


ISRAEL'S INDEPENDENCE DAYS THROUGH THE AGES
For 71 years, we have partied together in the streets on Israel's Independence Day. This year will be a little different...


How an unwieldy romantic poem and a Romanian folk song combined to produce ‘Hatikva’
Romanian oxen and a chronic alcoholic are not the likeliest progenitors of the Israeli national anthem. But that’s “Hatikva” for you.

The globetrotting Galician poet who wrote it died over a century ago from drink, but his words live on despite numerous attempts to oust them for more socialist, divine or nonpartisan verse. As for the oxen, more on them later.

Hatikva was one of many candidates to become the anthem of the Jewish state, and no fewer than 12 songs were suggested as its replacement over the years. Its current form is the product of multiple redactions, and its tune — perhaps the song’s most important aspect — is the product of trial and error attempts to put its words to music.

Naftali Herz Imber, a Galician poet who immigrated to Ottoman Palestine, penned and published the poem “Our Hope” — “Tikvatenu” — in 1886. Its nine romantic stanzas evoked familiar Biblical scenes and reiterated a hope of a national return to Israel, “that only with the very last Jew” disappears. It was an immediate hit among the Jewish pioneers in pre-state Palestine.

Imber’s writings quickly disseminated among Diaspora communities, but the poem’s length prohibited easy recitation. Within years, Zionist groups in Israel and abroad adopted Tikvatenu in a truncated, two-stanza form as an ad hoc anthem.

Tel Aviv schoolteacher Doctor I. L. Metman Hacohen altered Imber’s lyrics in 1905, making a reference to “the ancient hope” more specific: “the two-millennia-old hope.” “To return to the land of our fathers / to the city where David camped” became “To be a free nation in our land / the land of Zion and Jerusalem.”

Although Metman Hacohen’s amendments took hold in Palestine, Imber’s verses remained the standard among Diaspora Jews for at least two generations more. A BBC recording of Bergen-Belsen concentration camp survivors shortly after their liberation in 1945, and American Jazz singer (The Jazz Singer, in fact) Al Jolson’s rendition of the anthem in 1948, both feature the original lyrics.


Honest Reporting: COVID: 10 Ways You Can Celebrate Israeli Independence Day This Year
For me, one of the funny things about Israeli Independence Day is that it’s not necessary to leave the house to enjoy it. We have it all on our mirpeset, our balcony.

Fireworks? We can see them over Mt. Herzl quite well by simply stepping outside.

And the Air Force flyover? We live along the flight path. The aircraft sometimes rattles the building as we make a mad scramble to see the jets and choppers.

In past years, on a hilltop across from us, neighbors shlep lawn chairs, barbecue grills and coolers to enjoy the afternoon. Stray blue and white balloons float astonishingly quickly across the sky before children realize they’re gone. The distinctive smell of barbecues wafts over the neighborhood. Our barbecue is set up — you guessed it — on our balcony.

This year, Independence Day, which falls on the night of April 28 and day of April 29, will be low-key. In place of the traditional flyover, the Air Force will salute medical personnel with smaller aerobatic salutes over major Israeli hospitals. Municipalities were given a green light for modest fireworks shows, but city leaders don’t feel a display is appropriate given economic hardships. The hilltop won’t be crowded, and anyone up there will be wearing masks and keeping social distance. At least we’ll have our barbecues.


Google celebrates Israeli independence with Yom Ha'atzmaut themed Doodle
Google is celebrating Israeli independence alongside the Jewish state Wednesday.

"On the fifth day of the Hebrew month of Iyar, Israeli communities worldwide celebrate their Independence Day, known locally as Yom Ha’atzmaut. Today’s Doodle pays tribute to this annual holiday in recognition of the day in 1948 when the State of Israel declared its independence," Google said on its website.

On April 29, Yom Ha'atzmaut, the search giant changed its homepage Doodle to a waving Israeli flag, for users residing in Israel. In the top left corner of all other pages, the two "o's" in "Google" are replaced by the Israeli flag.

"Depicted in the Doodle artwork, the flag of Israel features two blue stripes running horizontally over the white background with the Star of David at its center. Officially adopted in 1948, the same year as independence, the flag will be waved proudly wherever Israeli’s call home," Google explained.



BBC dramatizes birth of Israeli nation in ‘balanced’ new 10-part radio play
One of Britain’s most successful playwrights, Steve Waters, has taken on the thorny topic of Middle East politics with an ambitious 10-part drama about the birth of the State of Israel for the BBC World Service radio network.

“Miriam and Youssef” is about two young and idealistic people — one a Jew from Eastern Europe, the other a Palestinian Arab. It has an unusual narrative arc, with Waters introducing the characters in 1917 rather than in the immediate run-up to the birth of Israel in 1948.

The show launches April 29 on the BBC World Service website, and will be also be available as a podcast immediately.

Waters is a professor of scriptwriting at Britain’s University of East Anglia with a starry back catalogue of plays for stage and radio, frequently based on real events with a fictional twist. He had a 2017 stage hit in “Limehouse,” which traced the rise of Britain’s centrist Social Democratic Party after it was founded in 1981 by a group of dissident Labour politicians. (The play’s closing night packed a shock of its own as three of the surviving founders turned up in the audience, to the slight consternation of the actors.)

Reviewing one of Waters’s most recent plays, the Guardian’s veteran critic, Michael Billington, quoted German dramatist Friedrich Hebbel, who asserted that “in a good play, everyone is right.” Waters certainly takes that to heart in “Miriam and Youssef,” where the listener hears not just the Jewish and Arab viewpoints, but also the unenviable story of the British Mandate and its officials, told through the eyes of fictional British civil servant, Harry Lister.

Waters, who lives just outside Cambridge, is cheerful and good-humored with a proclivity for meticulous research — lots of it.



NYC mayor warns ‘Jewish community’ as thousands at funeral of rabbi virus victim
New York Mayor Bill de Blasio has come under fire for appearing to warn all the city’s Jews of a crackdown after a funeral for a rabbi in Williamsburg drew thousands of mourners who didn’t observe social distancing rules.

Many accused the Democrat mayor of the US city worst-hit by the pandemic of generalizing against the Jewish community for the actions of a few in a predominantly ultra-Orthodox Brooklyn neighborhood, as anti-Semitic incidents have spiked in the area over the past months.

However, the congregation that held the funeral said it believed de Blasio’s remark “wasn’t ill-intentioned,” and it apologized over the incident.

The rabbi, Chaim Mertz, died of COVID-19.

De Blasio oversaw the dispersal of the large, tightly packed funeral and lashed out at the mourners who had gathered in defiance of social distancing rules. A police spokesman said Wednesday that the crowd was dispersed without arrests.

The spread of the coronavirus has hit ultra-Orthodox Jewish communities in the New York area especially hard, and some members of those communities have resisted social distancing.

At the same time, there have been warnings of rising anti-Jewish sentiment amid the pandemic, with some accusing Jews of being behind the virus or of profiting from it.
Crowded Hasidic Funeral In Williamsburg Was Coordinated And Approved By NYPD
Mayor Bill de Blasio personally helped disperse a crowded Hasidic funeral in Williamsburg on Tuesday night, sending thousands of mourners scattering on Bedford Avenue before issuing a stern warning on Twitter to "the Jewish community, and all communities."

“Something absolutely unacceptable happened in Williamsburg tonite [sic]: a large funeral gathering in the middle of this pandemic,” de Blasio wrote. “What I saw WILL NOT be tolerated so long as we are fighting the Coronavirus.”

Twelve summonses were issued to those violating social distancing restrictions, according to Police Commissioner Dermott Shea. There were no arrests. "We cannot have what we had last night," Shea told reporters on Wednesday. "We will not tolerate it."

But according to Hasidic community leaders, the police department actually approved and helped coordinate the procession, which was held for local rabbi Chaim Mertz. Hours before the intervention, the NYPD's Community Affairs Unit erected barricades in the area and worked with Shomrim, an ultra-Orthodox neighborhood patrol group, to ensure the funeral could take place.

"We had an understanding with the police department that the Shomrim patrol would have 50 members and make sure everyone is wearing masks," Rabbi Abe Friedman, a Williamsburg community leader, told Gothamist. "We can't cancel a funeral of a very prominent rabbi, it's not realistic."

"It was supposed to be a very organized, safe, very short final goodbye," he added. "Unfortunately, some people overacted and saw tons of people on the street and started dispersing the crowd and that caused a very big issue."


NYC mayor under fire for lashing out at Jewish community, says he has no regrets
New York Mayor Bill de Blasio came under heavy criticism Wednesday for appearing to warn the city’s Jews of a crackdown after a funeral for a rabbi in Williamsburg drew thousands of mourners who didn’t observe social distancing rules.

Many accused the Democrat at the helm of the world’s largest coronavirus hotspot of generalizing against the Jewish community for the actions of a few in a predominantly ultra-Orthodox Brooklyn neighborhood, as anti-Semitic incidents have spiked in the area over the past months.

Critics include Jewish community leaders and members of de Blasio’s own city council, who accused him of singling out the Orthodox Jewish community for censure when others have violated social distancing rules as well.

“This has to be a joke,” City Councilman Chaim Deutsch, who represents a large Orthodox Jewish constituency, tweeted. “Did the Mayor of NYC really just single out one specific ethnic community (a community that has been the target of increasing hate crimes in HIS city) being noncompliant??”

Responding to the outcry Wednesday, de Blasio said he had “no regrets about calling out this danger,” but also apologized for causing offense.

“If in my passion and in my emotion I said something that in any way was hurtful, I’m sorry about that. That was not my intention,” he said at a City Hall press conference.

“I have a long, deep relationship with the Orthodox Jewish community…. the notion that people would gather in large numbers and even if they don’t mean to would spread a disease that would kill other members of the community is just unacceptable to me,” he added.


ICC Prosecutor to give final position on if Palestine is a state - preview
International Criminal Court Prosecutor Fatou Bensouda is due on Thursday to file her final position on whether ‘Palestine’ is a state in a climax of high drama of war crimes allegations against Israel.

How the three ICC Pretrial Chamber judges rule after Bensouda’s files her highly influential position will have fateful consequences for Israel on a legal, diplomatic and public relations level.

The case would very likely not proceed if the ICC does not accept "Palestine" as a state since most cases start only if referred by a state.
On December 20, Bensouda had already ruled that Palestine is a state and that there was sufficient evidence that both Israel and Hamas committed war crimes, warranting her opening a full criminal investigation.

However, she also asked the ICC’s Pretrial Chamber to endorse her view and since then around 50 countries, NGOs and renown world experts filed positions with the ICC Pretrial Chamber for and against Israel.

The Israeli government itself did not respond to Bensouda’s December 20 decision, resting instead on two legal briefs it filed on December 20, hours before Bensouda’s announcement, and on the support of dozens of allied countries and NGOs.

Israel does not want to appear to have accepted ICC jurisdiction since it is not a member of the Rome Statute.




Ahead of Arab League session, Russia reiterates opposition to ‘annexation’
Russia has reaffirmed its opposition to any unilateral move by the Israeli government to apply sovereignty over parts of the West Bank.

The Russian announcement came on the eve of an extraordinary meeting of Arab foreign ministers to discuss the “dangers” of the Israeli “annexation” plan. The videoconference meeting, which will be held at the request of the Palestinians, is scheduled to take place on Thursday.

Palestinian officials said that Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas will chair meetings of the Fatah Central Committee and the PLO Executive Committee next week to discuss ways of responding to the Israeli plan.

Abbas has hinted that he may revoke all signed agreements with Israel and halt security coordination between the PA security forces and the IDF if Israel proceeded with its plan to apply sovereignty to any part of the West Bank.

In a letter to PA Foreign Minister Riyad Malki, Russian Foreign Minister Segei Lavrov said that any such move would constitute a violation of the principles of international laws and legitimacy.
The United Nations Human Rights Council Praises Iran
One of the worst examples we can identify as a conscious distortion of reality is the way in which the UN Human Rights Council, in its February-March 2020 five-year report on the Islamic Republic of Iran, lavished praise on the despotic regime.

Other extreme forms of punishment used in Iran are equally appalling: Execution by stoning, Execution by hanging, Execution by firing squad, Execution by beheading, Execution by throwing from a height, Amputation, Blinding, Flogging. – United Against Nuclear Iran

Yet many people who boycott Israel refuse to boycott Iran. The irony is mind-boggling.


Palestinian wounded as explosive device goes off in his hand near Hebron
A Palestinian man was wounded Tuesday in the southern West Bank when an explosive device went off in his hand, Palestinian medics said. The man was apparently trying to throw the bomb at passing Israeli vehicles.

The Palestinian Red Crescent said its medics treated a man in his home in Idhna near Hebron after he injured his hand in an unknown explosion, adding that he was transferred to a hospital for further treatment.

Israel’s Kan public broadcaster said he had been trying to throw a pipe bomb at Israeli motorists at the nearby Tarkumiya junction when it exploded. There were no Israeli casualties.

The attempted attack came as Israelis celebrated Independence Day and hours after a Palestinian teenager stabbed an Israeli woman in the central Israeli town of Kfar Saba, in what police called a terror attack, before he was shot by a security guard.

The woman, 62, was in moderate-to-serious condition and received treatment on the scene before being taken to Kfar Saba’s Meir Medical Center, the Magen David Adom ambulance service said.

According to police, the suspected terrorist was shot by an armed civilian who was driving by. He was said to be in moderate condition after medical treatment.
PMW: Israel celebrates 72, yet in PA world Israel still does not exist
April could be called “creative map month” in the PA. As Palestinian Media Watch ‎has documented, the PA as policy always completely erases Israel in maps and ‎replaces it with “Palestine.” But this past month, to remind Palestinians to “stay at ‎home” everywhere in the “homeland” because of the Coronavirus, the PA and ‎Fatah maps erasing Israel have been even more creative than usual. ‎

Fatah posted a video with several cartoons and drawings of which many displayed ‎the PA map of “Palestine” erasing all of the State of Israel. In one of those maps ‎‎(above), a woman wearing medical garb embraces “Palestine” in the colors of the ‎Palestinian flag while text on the screen says: “Do not be afraid, beloved Palestine, ‎you will be fine.”‎

In another drawing, a boy is holding a Palestinian flag and writing words to make it ‎clear that for the PA all of Israel is “Palestine”: ‎


Fatah urges PFLP to apologize for attacking Abbas
Amid mounting tensions between the two parties, the Palestinian ruling Fatah faction has demanded that the Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine (PFLP) apologize for its recent attacks on Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas.

Earlier this week PFLP officials accused Abbas of “political blackmail” and “piracy” for withholding funds for their organization.

Palestinian sources told The Jerusalem Post that the PFLP was facing a sharp financial crisis as the result of suspension of the funds.
According to the sources, the terrorist group is on the brink of bankruptcy and its debts are estimated at more than $3 million.

In the past few months, Israeli authorities arrested dozens of PFLP officials and members on suspicion of involvement in terrorism, a move that has further intensified the organization's crisis.

The PFLP, a Marxist organization founded in 1967 by George Habash, is the second largest group forming the PLO. Fatah, which is headed by Abbas, is the largest faction.

Like many PLO institutions, Fatah and the PFLP receive monthly stipends from the Palestinian National Fund, established in 1964 to finance the activities of the PLO.

Several PFLP officials have been quoted as saying that Abbas ordered the Palestinian National Fund to cut funding to the PFLP more than two years ago. The officials accused Abbas of “piracy” and “political blackmail” and claimed he was using the financial sanctions to force the PFLP to change its policies.




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