Sunday, July 19, 2020

From Ian:

Ethan B. Katz and Deborah Lipstadt: Far more unites Black and Jewish Americans than divides them
To advance the cause of Black-Jewish relations today, the great challenge is for voices of compassion and mutual respect to rise above the prevailing din of acrimony, misunderstanding and distrust. Such voices should begin with a greater understanding of both Jews' and Blacks' complex, often painful histories -- and how the past has shaped each group's collective identity.

And they would also do well to recall an element of shared history that still offers inspiration, when many Jews and Blacks stood shoulder-to-shoulder — and in some cases gave their lives together — in the Civil Rights Movement of the 1950s and 1960s. When Rabbi Abraham Joshua Heschel marched next to Martin Luther King Jr. in Alabama, or Joe Rauh, Arnold Aronson and Marvin Caplan lobbied behind the scenes to help pass the Civil Rights Act of 1964, their politics were defined by a persistent experience of Jewish vulnerability. At the same time, they appreciated that their own sense of greater security made it possible to advocate for the rights of others.

Likewise, Jews sometimes saw their own story as charting a path that Blacks were now following. When 19 Conservative rabbis flew to Birmingham in 1963 during a series of violent civil rights protests, they taught Hebrew songs in Black churches — with one declaring, "Our people are your people." Indeed, in this moment, many Blacks and Jews found their commonalities more notable than their differences.

Today that sense of commonality must be renewed. If there are Jews who have found it hard to appreciate the distinctive experiences and pain of Blacks and to join their struggles on the front lines, the reverse is also true for segments of the Black community.

Without wishing to compare the challenges of our daily lives to those of African Americans, Jews need their Black fellow citizens, and particularly supporters of the Black Lives Matter movement, to be willing to listen as well to the experiences and community narratives of Jews. By the same token, Blacks have a right to expect more Jews to get off the sidelines and lean into both their own distinctive history and vulnerability on the one hand, and their relative privilege on the other, to become stalwarts once again in the fight for racial justice.

Ruthie Blum: Reflections on ‘Aliyah’
I was smitten almost instantly with Israel for not emulating the aspects of the United States that made me want to abscond in the first place. Though America too had been built and continued to be cultivated by heroes, its radicals were gnawing away at its fabric.

Today’s “cancel culture” didn’t happen overnight; it’s been in the making for a long time. That its current manifestation seemed to erupt like a volcano on May 25 — when African-American George Floyd was killed by a Minneapolis police officer — is incidental. The movement behind it was lying in wait for the right moment to unleash the lava.

Unfortunately, Israel’s uncanny ability to progress in every field at lightning speed means that it is not exempt from the kind of cultural revolution taking place across the ocean. Campuses across the Jewish state are filled with radical professors accusing it of crimes against humanity, while art exhibits, plays, and films portray the Israel Defense Forces as villainous. If not for constant genuine threats from external enemies armed with actual weapons, the nation would have been free to replicate — and perhaps even surpass — American self-destruction.

I spent this Fourth of July in New York, holed up in coronavirus isolation with my parents, observing the once-vibrant metropolis revert to the dangerous and dirty hellhole of my childhood, and reading about similar filth and violence in Chicago, the city where I voted in my first election.

Over the decades, I have been asked whether I love living in Israel. My answer is that it’s no longer a question; it’s simply my life. On this particular anniversary of my aliyah, I would amend that reply to say that if I hadn’t moved to Israel when I did, I would be doing it now.

Melanie Phillips: Why Starmer cannot succeed over antisemitism
The deranged misrepresentation of Israel is fuelling the antisemitism fire now raging throughout the world. It’s not just that it legitimises and normalises general Jew-bashing.

Worse, it follows that if Jews are denying Israel’s alleged crimes, their claim of antisemitism must be a lie. And if it is a lie, the Jews must be an evil, conniving conspiracy to defame those fine souls who stand up for the Palestinians and are now being accused of antisemitism.

The only way to begin to puncture this moral depravity is to tell some inconvenient truths about Israel. To say the only indigenous people of Israel are the Jews and that the Palestinian Arabs are the colonisers.

To say there is nothing illegal about extending Israeli sovereignty over Judea and Samaria, which on the contrary would uphold international law. To say Mahmoud Abbas is a Holocaust denier and his Palestinian Authority pumps out Nazi-style antisemitism.

Starmer won’t say any of this, not just because his party would turn on him but because he himself almost certainly runs away from these truths.

Nor, alas, will the Jewish community leadership say it. They won’t denounce black community or Palestinian antisemitism.

They won’t observe that the never-abrogated Mandate for Palestine gave the British a duty to settle the Jews throughout what is now Israel and the disputed territories. Nor, as the Israeli intelligence expert Yossi Kuperwasser points out in a pained open letter to Boris Johnson in Fathom, that the Mandate also stated that “no Palestine territory shall be ceded or leased to, or in any way placed under the control of, any foreign power, namely other than the Jewish people”.

Community leaders instead equate antisemitism with other forms of “hate” or “racism” or “phobia”, standing in solidarity with all who claim to be victims of those attitudes.

But antisemitism is not merely another form of hatred or racism. It is uniquely pernicious because it is innately deranged, paranoid and murderous. Casting Jews as a force for evil in the world, it inescapably implies that the Jews should therefore be eradicated. The traducing of Israel thus puts Jews everywhere in active danger.

While even Jewish leaders refuse to spell out why antisemitism is uniquely evil, the chances of Sir Keir Starmer successfully purging it from his party are zero.
Black Lives Matter South Carolina Founder: Nothing Wrong With Calling Jews and White People Subhuman
This is your daily reminder that Black Lives Matter is a racist hate group and its chapters keep intersecting with the Nation of Islam.

Wednesday morning, founder of Black Lives Matter SC, Lawrence Nathaniel defended Cannon saying he agrees with the controversial comments.

“What Nick Cannon believes in,” Nathaniel said, “is the beliefs of Louis Farrakhan and Malcolm X who taught the same teachings of what white folks was and how they are and how they treat Black people.”

“Personally I didn’t see nothing wrong with his comments at all, I just think that he spoke the truth” added Nathaniel.

Well yes. Those are the teachings of the Nation of Islam which believes that white people were created by an evil mad scientist and are subhuman. And the NOI is a racist hate group. Malcolm X and Farrakhan had vile beliefs which led Malcolm X to ally with Nazis and led Farrakhan to praise Hitler. The real problem isn't Cannon, it's Farrakhan.

And it's the ability of black nationalists to put forward violently racist beliefs while getting kid glove treatment and playing the victim.

Meanwhile, unsurprisingly, like so many lefty bigots, Nathaniel came out of the Bernie Sanders campaign.
Shame on Nancy Pelosi for endorsing Ilhan Omar
Melton-Meaux, a graduate of the University of Virginia School of Law, founded a law firm in Minnesota. A recipient of the prestigious Congressional Black Caucus Fellowship, he worked with former Democratic National Committee Chair Donna Brazile.

He raised $3,200,000 in the last quarter, compared to $471,000 raised by Omar, and had twice as much money in the bank for the last month of their primary campaign.

It should have been easy, then, for House Speaker Nancy Pelosi to endorse him for Minnesota’s 5th Congressional District over Omar, whose outrageous anti-Semitic statements and anti-Israel agenda have been greatly problematic for the Democratic Party. Sadly, however, she endorsed Omar.

The Republicans had a similar decision regarding Congressman Steve King. Its leadership under Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy rightly endorsed his primary challenger, Randy Feenstra. That endorsement, and his dropping of King from all committees, helped lead to King’s loss. Pelosi should have behaved similarly. She should have dropped Omar from the Foreign Affairs Committee and endorsed Melton-Meaux.

Former basketball champion Kareem Abdul Jabbar recently and bravely wrote about the “shocking lack of massive indignation” concerning recent anti-Semitic statements made by black athletes and celebrities. Thankfully, several of them since have apologized for their remarks.

In contrast, the anti-Semitism of Omar and Tlaib has become acceptable within the halls of Congress. Pelosi had an easy opportunity to stand up against this anti-Semitism by endorsing Melton-Meaux, but she failed to do so.

Jabbar quoted Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.’s famous comment that “an injustice anywhere is a threat to justice everywhere.” Jabbar also said that “it is not enough to have good intentions, because it’s the actual deeds—and words—which have the real impact.”

Pelosi is not anti-Semitic. However, her decision to endorse Omar was not the act of someone standing against anti-Semitism.

Hillel C. Neuer: Why China Picked Amnesty International's Ex-Chief as U.N. Free Speech Monitor
Under Khan, Amnesty refused to distinguish between countries having blots on their systems, and those where the blots are the systems.

Khan left Amnesty in 2009, forced out under mysterious circumstances. Members of the organization were outraged to learn that she received a golden handshake worth some $700,000, a payment later criticized by an independent reviewer as "seriously excessive."

Three years later, Khan became head of the Rome-based International Development Law Organization, which promotes the rule of law in 38 countries. China is one of eight state donors to the agency, which repays the favor with a China fan page, starring Khan.

In a fawning 2018 speech in Beijing, Khan offered nothing but praise for China's Belt and Road Initiative, which "has the potential to improve the lives of billions of people," is "anchored in the purposes and principles of the United Nations," and can "contribute to strengthening international rule of law."

Khan did not mention how the $1 trillion-dollar infrastructure development and investments scheme is seen as a major factor fueling Beijing's persecution of the Uighurs, who live in a region at the heart of the network. Nor did she raise any human rights concerns at all about China.

Khan visited China repeatedly. In 2016, at Tsinghua University, she "spoke highly of China's contribution to the global sustainable development." In 2017 she was back, inaugurating an institute connected to the Belt and Road Initiative and signing agreements.

Faced with 48 candidates, it is entirely possible that China saw in Khan a natural friend and ally, who, as UN investigator on free speech violations for the next six years, will be uninterested or unwilling to take on Beijing.

The best way for Khan to prove otherwise would be for her to become an ardent advocate for China's dissidents, whistleblowers and prisoners of conscience.

PMW: Why is the French Consulate covering up the PA’s lies?
Why is the French government not condemning Saeb Erekat and the PA for lying about the content of a private diplomatic meeting between Erekat and the French Consul-General to the PA? Since it was Erekat/the PA who lied about the content of the meeting, according to the French consulate, why is it criticizing Palestinian Media Watch’s “allegations” when in fact they were Saeb Erekat’s “allegations” that PMW merely exposed?

Last week PMW informed French officials of the PA report about a meeting between PLO Executive Committee Secretary and Chief Negotiator Erekat and the French Consul General René Troccaz. Erekat told the official PA daily that France had adopted the PA positions including calling for the release of terrorist mass murderers and calling for millions of refugees to flood Israel.

René Troccaz, according to the PA daily, said:

“The realization of the independence of the State of Palestine whose capital is East Jerusalem within the 1967 borders, the resolution of… the issue of the refugees based on [UN] Resolution 194 and the release of the prisoners.”
[Official PA daily Al-Hayat Al-Jadida, July 3, 2020]

When PMW turned to the French embassy in Israel asking why France supported these positions, the Consul-General released a press statement denying that this was what was said to Erekat. But incredibly, the French did not criticize Erekat and the PA for lying about what happened at the private meeting, rather they only challenged PMW for exposing the lie:

"Palestinian Media Watch's website published an article claiming that the French consul General in Jerusalem called for the release of Palestinian prisoners during a meeting with the Secretary General of the PLO executive committee Saeb Erekat. The French Consulate General in Jerusalem categorically denies these allegations. The consul-general has never used the words attributed to him in this article. France’s position is public and well-known."

Since it was the PA daily that published the lies and PMW merely exposed them, the French Consulate’s ire was misdirected. Also significantly, the French Consulate only denied that it seeks freedom for terrorists but it did not deny that it adopted all the other PA demands, including the desire to flood Israel with refugees based on UN 194.

Finally, if the PA lied about the content of a diplomatic meeting, one would expect an official French complaint to Erekat and a demand that the PA daily publish a clear correction. No such demand has been publicized and no correction has appeared in the PA daily.
A chill wind from Poland
I’ve known Rafal Pankowski, the Polish academic and campaigner against anti-Semitism and racism, for almost 20 years, but I don’t think I’ve heard him sound as worried about the political situation in his country as I did when he addressed a seminar last week on Polish anti-Semitism.

Less than one day after Poland’s presidential election produced a narrow win for the conservative incumbent Andzrej Duda, Pankowski addressed an online gathering of scholars and journalists assembled by the Institute for the Study of Contemporary Antisemitism (ISCA) at Indiana University, Bloomington. As he explained, the election—delayed from its original date in May because of the coronavirus pandemic—was a fearsome battle that pitted Duda against a liberal challenger, Rafal Trzaskowski, the mayor of Warsaw.

As election day neared, the identity politics that has roiled Poland over the last decade came to the fore, with the ruling Law and Justice (PiS) Party and its populist cohorts spying all sorts of nefarious schemes to undermine the nation. Among them: the insistence that Poland bow down to an alien ideology otherwise known as respecting the rights of the LGBT community; the demand that Poland should pass and implement Holocaust-era restitution laws; the constant stream of supposedly anti-Polish propaganda broadcast by privately owned media companies.

As Pankowski pointed out, whereas in previous elections the country’s leadership would have left dog-whistles such as these to their party activists, this time around they exercised no such caution. Five days before voters went to the polls, Duda told a Bloomberg News interviewer that he was unmoved by appeals for Poland to legislate Holocaust restitution—apparently content with his country’s status as the only member state of the European Union not to have done so.

Israel fights UN discrimination with green initiative
The Strategic Affairs Ministry unveiled a new program on Sunday that would essentially grade Israeli businesses according to their contribution to society, as part of an effort to offset potential blacklisting by the UN.

The initiative was the brainchild of Strategic Affairs Minister Orit Farkash-Hacohen, who has been fighting the efforts to boycott Israeli companies that operate beyond the Green Line.

A UN blacklist, published in early 2020, comprises more than 100 Israeli companies, including large banks and HMOs. The UN claims that the very presence in Judea and Samaria and east Jerusalem is a violation of human rights.

The plan calls for giving budgetary support to companies that engage in sustainability and other environmentally friendly activities, as well as contribute to society in other means.

In Israel, there is no mandatory requirement for companies to engage in such activity but in Europe and the US such companies are graded according to this field in many cases.

"It is important to mitigate the damage done by the UN blacklist, which is designed to bring about divestment from Israel on the scale of hundreds of millions of dollars," Farkash-Hacohen said in a statement.
Virus death toll rises to 406 as number of seriously ill jumps to nearly 250
Israel’s COVID-19 death toll rose to 406 on Sunday morning, with five more deaths reported since Saturday evening alongside a sharp increase in the number of patients in serious condition.

The Health Ministry said 1,414 new coronavirus cases were confirmed in the past day, bringing the national case total to 49,575 since the start of the pandemic, of which 27,729 were active cases.

Of the patients, 238 were in serious condition, with 62 on ventilators, while 130 were in moderate condition and the rest suffered mild or no symptoms.

Two hundred and fifty patients in serious condition was a milestone that Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu set for the renewal of harsh restrictions when he declared victory over the virus in May and reopened the economy.

The Health Ministry said 20,236 tests were conducted Saturday, with a 7.9 percent positive rate — the highest daily rate since the start of the pandemic. Recent days have seen test numbers stand at around 30,000 a day, and weekends tend to see somewhat lower numbers.
As data shows most infections at home, Knesset urges rethink of latest closures
The Knesset Coronavirus Committee met Sunday to review measures approved by the government over the weekend that are aimed at reducing the country’s climbing rate of infection, with the panel’s chair warning it was not clear that the restrictions are the right course of action.

After hours of discussion, the panel ultimately urged the cabinet to reverse its decision to shutter restaurants starting Tuesday, and instead to allow them to operate at a third of capacity indoors and while maintaining necessary distancing between customers outdoors. It also called to allow beaches to remain open and to allow gyms to continue to operate under strict distancing measures.

The committee will reconvene Monday to review the cabinet’s response and to vote on the measures.

At the meeting, the Health Ministry presented lawmakers with figures indicating that infections in the home may account for a significant percentage of transmissions, while very few cases can be traced back to beaches, swimming pools, restaurants and shops — which the government has moved to close.

With ministers having agreed in principle to impose stringent restrictions for the whole country on weekends from Friday, July 24, and warning that a full-scale national lockdown was looming, committee chair MK Yifat Shasha-Biton (Likud) said it was not clear that these kinds of steps were necessary. Shasha-Biton’s job is reported to be at risk for what the prime minister appears to view as excessive legislative activism; her committee’s support is crucial for decisions approved by ministers to be implemented.

Amid an ongoing rise in national infection rates, regulations announced in the early hours of Friday morning severely limited public gatherings until further notice, ordered the open-ended closure of restaurants for in-house seating for the foreseeable future (though that move was delayed to Tuesday after massive backlash by restaurateurs), ordered the open-ended closure of gyms and exercise/dance studios, and imposed multiple closures on weekends going forward, including of beaches, parks and other recreational activities.

“There is a lot we can do before we decree a lockdown on citizens,” Shasha-Biton said. “The question is not if we remain open, but rather how and under what conditions.”

She added: “It is not certain the recent restrictions on the economy are the right move. We will take restriction after restriction, examine each point by point, according to the data on it, and then we will decide.”
American Airlines to Revive Flights Between New York and Tel Aviv
American Airlines is scheduled to revive direct flights between New York’s John F. Kennedy International Airport and Tel Aviv’s Ben-Gurion International Airport next winter as part of a partnership with JetBlue Airways, announced the air carriers on Thursday.

The new non-stop flight is part of the first long-haul international flights that American has launched from New York in more than four years.

American Airlines will also have non-stop service between New York JFK and Athens International Airport and New York JFK and Rio de Janeiro/Galeão-Antonio Carlos Jobim International Airport, in addition to continuing to serve popular long-haul destinations like London’s Heathrow Airport and Madrid-Barajas Adolfo Suárez Airport.

“Pairing JetBlue’s domestic network with American’s international route map creates a new competitive choice in the Northeast, where customers are longing for an alternative to the dominant network carriers,” said JetBlue President and Chief Operating Officer Joanna Geraghty. “This partnership with American is the next step in our plan to accelerate our coronavirus recovery, get our crewmembers and our aircraft flying again, and fuel JetBlue’s growth into the future.”

“This is an incredible opportunity for both of our airlines,” said American Airlines President Robert Isom. “American has a strong history in the Northeast, and we’re proud to partner with JetBlue as the latest chapter in that long history. Together, we can offer customers an industry-leading product in New York and Boston with more flights and more seats to more cities.”
Colorado Rep. Lamborn: US Underreports Terrorist Attacks Against Israel in 2019
The US State Department has said that it would amend its human rights report published four months ago following a letter from two Republican congressmen stating that the number of terrorist attacks against Israel has been under-reported, wrote Israel Hayom.

The State Department’s “Israel 2019 Human Rights Report,” published in March, stated that Palestinians committed 101 acts of violence against Israeli civilians in the West Bank.

However, according to the Israel Defense Forces and Shin Bet, between 1,300 and 1,400 such attacks took place in 2019.

“The human rights reports play a central role in defending the rights of oppressed people around the world,” wrote Reps. Doug Lamborn (R-Colo.) and David McKinley (R-W.Va.) in a letter to US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo. “The United States must maintain integrity and accuracy when reporting on this important issue. Continuing to examine as many sources as possible to ensure the accuracy of these reports should be a top priority.”

In the letter, the members of Congress asked Pompeo whether the State Department has “considered including information obtained from official Israeli government reports, such as Israeli police and IDF reports?”
IDF arrests 3 Palestinians said planning to attack West Bank settlement
Israeli soldiers arrested three Palestinians in the Jalazone refugee camp, north of Ramallah, who were planning to carry out a terror attack on a Jewish settlement in the West Bank, the army said Saturday.

The Israel Defense Forces said the suspects had planned an attack that would begin by them “hurling an explosive device from their vehicle toward the community of Beit-El, as well as an attempted drive-by shooting.”

The suspects were transferred to the Shin Bet security service for questioning.

On Wednesday, four Palestinians armed with firebombs and an explosive device were arrested by the IDF. The military said the suspects are detained outside of Nablus in the northern West Bank and had planned an attack. Two Molotov cocktails and the bomb were found in their possession.

Also Wednesday, the army confirmed that at least one gunshot was fired from a passing car at a military post in the northern West Bank on Tuesday night. No soldiers were injured, and no damage was caused, according to the military.

Despite concerns of an outbreak in violence in response to Israel’s stated plans to annex portions of the West Bank, recent weeks have seen relative calm in the area.

Hamas Changes Name to Gaza Redskins to Appeal to Republicans (satire)
In an unusual move, the Palestinian organization Hamas – currently designated as a terrorist organization by the US Administration – decided to change their official name to the Gaza Redskins in order to appeal more to the American Conservative/Republican audience. The move came after the Washington Redskins decided to drop their name after mounting political pressure.

“We want to let our Republican friends know that we still stand for their values,” said a representative of the organization. “We here at Hamas believe, amongst other things, in the principle of the freedom of speech. This includes the sacred right to name teams and organization using racial slurs. We just wanted everyday Americans to know that we will always stand with them for now. Regardless of what shenanigans we get up to over here.”

This decision comes amid a collection of new Hamas tactics to gain more support from conservative Americans. In addition to the name change, Hamas announced a new sponsorship deal with Goya Beans along with deciding to adopt the Confederate Flag as a symbol. Commenting on the adoption of the Southern Civil War symbol a Hamas leader claimed that they feel like the move is appropriate since they are also fighting a losing battle for independence.

Iran calls off executions of three protesters Trump tweeted about
Iran has reportedly suspended the decision to execute three protesters whose cases were part of a global social media campaign that eventually became the subject of a US President Donald Trump tweet. According to reports the sentence was suspended and the lawyer for the protesters has sought a retrial with the Supreme Court. It now looks increasingly likely this will happen.

The three men were arrested last November after protesters against the government. Iran is accused of killing more than 1,500 protesters last year. Iran regularly executes people, including minorities, dissidents and homosexuals. The regime also often imprisons people for minor offenses, such as dancing or women not covering their hair. Iran tortures and disappears people as well and harasses free thinking activists, such as Instagram stars.

US President Donald Trump joined the protest on July 15, tweeting in Farsi against the executions. “Three people have been sentenced to death in Iran for participation in protests. Their execution is expected at any moment,” he tweeted. “The execution of these three people sends a deplorable message to the world and should not be done.”
Fire at Factory in Northwest Iran: ILNA
A fire broke out at a cellophane factory in northwest Iran on Sunday, the ILNA news agency reported, posting video of thick black smoke rising from the site.

The fire was in the town of Sheikh Hassan in East Azerbaijan province.

There have been several fires and explosions at military, industrial and nuclear sites in Iran since late June.
Blast at Power Plant in Iran’s Central Isfahan Province: IRNA
An explosion occurred at a power plant in Iran’s central Isfahan province on Sunday but there were no casualties, the official IRNA news agency reported.

The blast was caused by the wear and tear of a transformer at the power plant in Islamabad, the managing director of the Isfahan power company told IRNA.

Power was interrupted for two hours, he said.

There have been several explosions and fires around Iranian military, nuclear and industrial facilities since late June.
Iran media highlights US fires in response to explosions at home
In a bizarre twist in Iran’s response to a series of mysterious explosions and fires across the Islamic Republic, one of which affected the Natanz nuclear enrichment facility, Iranian media has been running stories about fires across the US.

This seems to be the regime’s response to the press reports of fires across Iran. Their narrative is now to highlight fires in the US as if the phenomenon is either global or there is also some “mysterious” element causing those fires.

On Sunday, Iran’s Tasnim News Agency ran a front-page story about a steel plant that caught fire in the US. There is no evidence that Iran was behind the fire, but the idea was to sow confusion and distract from Iran’s own problems at home. Fars News also highlighted the fire at the steel plant.
Tanker that 'disappeared' was hijacked to Iran, crew say
The crew of the Gulf Sky is mostly safe today. Twenty-six of them arrived back in India on July 14. Two are now in Iran, having been stuck on board the oil tanker for more than six months, much of it spent at anchor off the United Arab Emirates.With the tanker at the center of a court case in the US against the Iranian Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps, and the ownership of the Dominica-flagged vessel disputed, the tanker was not supposed to go anywhere.

However, the crew members say they were hijacked and taken to Iran.

How did it happen? This is the third part of a Jerusalem Post investigation into the disappearance of the tanker, which had turned off its transponder before satellite photos showed it mysteriously turned up near Iran’s Hormuz Island on July 7, the Tanker Trackers website revealed.

Now, according to the website and Safety At Sea, the crew said they were held at gunpoint and taken from their UAE anchorage on July 6. We previously documented that a UAE-flagged supply ship met the Gulf Sky for 58 minutes on July 5. The crew members have spoken anonymously to Safety at Sea.

This account provides new details. The Commonwealth of Dominica Maritime Administration only told the US that the tanker was missing on July 13, a week after it had disappeared. Now the crew say “heavily armed” men boarded the ship and took them away from UAE waters.
Iranian Health Officials Play Down President’s Figure of 25 Million People Infected
Iranian health officials sought on Sunday to play down the president’s estimate that some 25 million people have been infected with the coronavirus, saying it was based on serological blood tests that measure exposure to the illness and that cannot be relied on to show the current state of disease.

The 25 million figure put forward by Rouhani on Saturday is nearly a third of the population and massively higher than the official number of COVID-19 cases. Official case numbers rose to 273,788 on Sunday, with 14,188 deaths, Health Ministry spokeswoman Sima Sadat Lari said.

A Health Ministry statement carried by Iranian news media said the figure given by the president was based on numbers produced by a deputy in the ministry.

“It is not possible to rely on serological tests to diagnose the current state of the disease,” the statement said.

Serological tests determine if a person has been exposed to a disease by showing their antibody response. In the coronavirus pandemic, they have been used by countries to survey samples of the population and estimate overall infection rates — whether or not people have had severe, mild or no symptoms of COVID-19.
Does Foodbenders Support Ethnic Cleansing of 7 Million Israeli Jews?
Yesterday, Foodbenders issued a media statement on “activism and antisemitism” claiming that “Canada and Israel are settler colonial police states that need to be decolonized, demilitarized and defunded.”

Firstly, Jews are indigenous to Israel and have lived there, uninterrupted, for 3,000 years and have legal, religious and ancestral claims to the historic land of Israel.

Is Foodbenders of the belief that that Israel’s 7-million+ Jews should be ethnically cleansed from the lands?

Inquiring minds want to know.
Prominent Toronto designer is suing Foodbenders for $800,000
A prominent Toronto designer has launched a $800,000 lawsuit against the owner of the Bloor Street dining establishment Foodbenders, alleging that she libelled him in a series of social media posts that compared him to a terrorist and implied he would shoot Palestinian children.

In a statement of claim — which has not been proven in court — Shai DeLuca said two July 6 posts on Foodbenders’ publicly-accessible Instagram account defamed him.

One of the posts copies what appears to be a screenshot of DeLuca’s Instagram account, and attaches the statement: “He’s literally gathering his other whining Zionist friends to attack Palestinians and others in support of @foodbenders.”

A second post features the statement “This guy is one of the people who was attacking @foodbenders. He’s an IDF SOLDIER (aka terrorist) yet he’s using the BLM movement for likes. How can you sit there and post about BLM when you have your sniper rifle aimed at Palestinian Children.”

The statement of claim, filed with the Ontario Superior Court of Justice on July 10, says the statements paint DeLuca as a terrorist, a murderer of Palestinian children, and as such is a criminal and threat to national security — and Shai’s “advocacy regarding the Black Lives Matter movement is for nefarious, unlawful and/or violent purposes.”

Sweden seizes book by Jewish comedian criticizing war-time collaboration
A book by a Jewish comedian over Sweden’s collaboration with the Nazis during World War II is at the center of a legal tussle in which Swedish prosecutors are calling for it to be destroyed, but which the author sees as nothing short of an attack against democracy.

Ostensibly, prosecutors are taking issue with the book’s cover, arguing that the image — a tiger sporting Sweden’s national colors of blue and yellow — infringes on the copyright of a war-time propaganda campaign, now owned by a museum.

But the author, comedian Aron Flam, who is known for his penchant for controversial and even taboo subjects, insists that his use of the image is satirical and therefore protected by freedom of speech.

“There is a lot at stake and it’s not actually about me, but our democracy,” Flam told AFP.

At the center of the legal battle is the image of the tiger originally used in a 1941 Swedish propaganda campaign under the slogan, “En svensk tiger”, or “A Swedish tiger”.

The word “tiger” in Swedish can denote not only the animal, but can also mean to remain silent.

In fact, the Swedish campaign very much resembled the “careless talk costs lives” and the “loose lips sink ships” posters seen in Britain and the United States during the war.
Israeli rhythmic gymnast wins silver in online event
Winning a medal is nothing new for Israeli rhythmic gymnast Linoy Ashram. But there was nothing usual about the format of the June 28 competition organized by the Russian Gymnastics Association. It was the first online competition of its kind.

Participation was limited to teams from Israel, Russia, Uzbekistan and Kyrgyzstan. Ashram won a silver medal, sandwiched by Russian sisters Erina and Dina Abrina, who won gold and bronze, respectively.

Each contestant was limited to two events. Ashram chose to do one exercise with a ball, while the Russian sisters competed with the hoop and the clubs.

Ashram, 21, is considered one of Israel’s best hopes for an Olympic medal at the 2021 Summer Games in Tokyo. She previously won two silver medals in the 2018 36th Rhythmic Gymnastics Championships, a gold medal in the 2018 Rhythmic Gymnastics World Challenge Cup Championship and a bronze medal in the 2019 World Championships.
Microsoft, Israel’s Alyn adapt Xbox to help kids with disabilities get treatment
Twelve-year-old Lina and 10-year old Yael, both wheelchair-bound due to a severe muscular condition that leads to loss of muscle function, were two of the six patients of Israel’s Alyn Hospital who recently got a specially designed Xbox from Microsoft that can help them with their treatments.

The Jerusalem children’s rehab hospital has often teamed up with startups and tech firms to promote assistive technologies, innovation, and accessible services for children who live with a wide range of disabilities. The tech firms provide the technical knowhow, while the hospital staff and patients outline the needs.

As part of this effort, the hospital approached a team at Microsoft that is responsible for the development of the Xbox Adaptive Controller, which makes Microsoft’s gaming console accessible for gamers with limited mobility. They asked them to adapt the controller to the needs of Alyn patients, to help them with their treatment and enable remote treatment for patients who have trouble showing up in person due to the coronavirus pandemic.

The Microsoft Israel research and development team got to work, and this week Yaron Galitzky, who is responsible for the Xbox Adaptive Controller development, visited the hospital and brought with him six packages that he donated to the Alyn children. Each package contained an Xbox, an adaptive controller, a laptop, a subscription for Xbox game packages, Microsoft Office, and a variety of games and creative programs.

Galitzky met with Dr. Maurit Beeri, director general of Alyn Hospital, and Arie Yekel-Melamed, who manages the hospital’s innovation initiatives.

Together, they spent the day going from one hospital bed to the next to install the systems and adapt the controllers to each child’s needs, assisted by one of Alyn’s occupational therapists.
Israeli NVIDIA Researchers and Collaborators Win International Conference on Machine Learning 2020 Honors
The International Conference on Machine Learning (ICML) today presented the Outstanding Paper Award to a group of Israeli researchers and professors. It describes the award as given to papers that “are strong representatives of solid theoretical and empirical work in our field.”

“On Learning Sets of Symmetric Elements” was led by Hagai Meron from NVIDIA’s research group in Israel, with Or Litani from Stanford University, Ethan Fetaya of Bar Ilan University, Professor Gal Chechik of Bar Ilan University, and the director of the NVIDIA Research Group in Israel.

In the paper, they introduced an approach to learning sets of general symmetric elements that could be used in a variety of ways, including deblurring images, 3D shape recognition, and reconstruction.

“Our research proves theoretically what deep neural network architectures should be used when learning across sets of complex objects, where by complex we mean that the objects assume a special structure which we refer to as symmetry. We also show empirically that this architecture achieves superior results in a range of problems over images, graphs, and 3D point clouds,” the paper read.
How Israel rescued the Promised Land from devastation and neglect
Last week I toured much of northern Israel, from the Jezreel Valley and the Lower and Upper Galilee regions to the Golan Heights. The natural beauty of this part of Israel, as well as the explosive proliferation of agriculture, was striking and inspiring.

The abundance of flora in Israel today makes it easy to forget that this land at the turn of the 20th century was a parched wasteland. It also raises the questions: How did this miraculous transformation take place, and who was responsible?

On his visit to Palestine in 1867, Samuel Clemens (Mark Twain) called the Sea of Galilee “a solemn, sailless, tintless lake, as unpoetical as any bath-tub on earth.” On the other hand, last week I found the Kinneret (its Hebrew name) a sparkling blue jewel surrounded on its north, south and west by vegetable fields, orchards and forests.

Traveling by horseback through the Jezreel Valley, Clemens noted: “There is not a solitary village throughout its whole extent—not for 30 miles in either direction. There are two or three small clusters of Bedouin tents, but not a single permanent habitation. One may ride 10 miles, hereabouts, and not see 10 human beings.”

Clemens continues, “Of all the lands there are for dismal scenery, I think Palestine must be the prince. … Palestine sits in sackcloth and ashes. Over it broods the spell of a curse that has withered its fields and fettered its energies.”

According to Allon Tal’s 2002 book, Pollution in a Promised Land, the Jezreel Valley around 1900 remained an undeveloped swamp—described as “barren and boring, a miserable plain without a tree or river … all in ruins.” Tal relates how one traveler in 1905 described mud so deep that the mules fell and the donkeys almost vanished in it. It wasn’t until 1924 that Zionist settlers finished the herculean two-year task of converting these marshes into the rich, fertile farmland of today.
Montefiores risked cholera, quarantine for 19th-century Holy Land Jews
Over the last few months the world has experienced something that has been called “unprecedented.” But quarantine — or in newspeak, lockdown, social distancing, or isolation — does have its place in history.

While the 1918 Spanish Flu pandemic is frequently cited during the COVID-19 crisis, let us go back further in time to the Holy Land in the early 19th century. There we find cholera epidemics — and the travels of Sir Moses and Lady Judith Montefiore, the philanthropic giants of the Victorian world.

Undergoing long, arduous journeys over land and by sea from England, Moses and Judith traveled on several occasions to offer financial, social and political help to those living in the Holy Land. Whereas today a round trip from London to Ben Gurion Airport takes half a day, in 1827 the Montefiores’ journey lasted 10 months. Only a week of that journey was spent in the Holy Land, in their ultimate destination of Jerusalem.

The Montefiores faced various existential threats during their several journeys to the Holy Land, including bloodthirsty Greek pirates in the Mediterranean who were rebelling against the Ottoman regime during their first visit in 1827. But plague and quarantine did not dog that first visit to the city of Sir Moses’s dreams.

It was the couple’s next visit in 1839 which, according to Judith’s travel diary, was plagued by — well, plague. She mentions “quarantine” 38 times. Cholera was part of life then — and, like today’s plague, contagious and incurable.

Cholera was a much different bug than today’s coronavirus — bacterial not viral, and with different symptoms. It could spread rapidly through populations, leaving death and devastation in its wake. Quarantine measures were necessarily put in place.

Mediterranean countries took quarantine very seriously and ports were well-equipped to deal with cholera and other disease, particularly malaria carried by mosquitoes. Maritime hospitals known as Lazarettos — after Lazarus, the patron saint of lepers — were established expressly to monitor travelers, boats, and cargo for the infection and to prevent its spread.

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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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