Friday, December 25, 2020

From Ian:

'Israel, the West must stand with persecuted people' - Bernard Henri Le´vy
It began with a phone call. Bernard-Henri Lévy and I were speaking while I sat in my car, returning from getting hummus in central Jerusalem. The pandemic was raging and winter weather was beginning in Jerusalem. He wanted to speak about the recent war in Armenia and the Kurds.

The last time I’d seen the French philosopher, who is also a filmmaker, activist and the author of more than 30 books, was in Erbil in 2017 during the Kurdistan region’s referendum. Tall and impeccably dressed, he was at the Rotana Hotel there during the first voting in the momentous attempt by the Kurdish region to offer its people a chance at independence.

Much has changed now. Turkey has prodded Azerbaijan into a war with the Armenians in Nagorna-Karabakh and Ankara has occupied the Kurdish region of Afrin in Syria. Israel has made a far-reaching peace with two Gulf Arab states, Sudan and Morocco (with even Pakistan reportedly considering it). Morocco is dear to Lévy’s heart.

Lévy’s work as an intellectual and writer is uniquely intertwined with humanitarian activism. His books include The Virus in the Age of Madness (2020), The Empire and the Five Kings (2019) and American Vertigo: Traveling America in the footsteps of Tocqueville (2005). In June 1992, Lévy convinced French president François Mitterrand to make his surprise-journey to Sarajevo. Lévy was appointed by French president Jacques Chirac to head a state mission to Afghanistan and he supported the intervention by France and the US in Libya in 2011. Since 2015, Lévy has been supportive of the Kurds, first in the fight against ISIS and later through his documentary film, Peshmerga, which premiered as an official selection of the Cannes Film Festival.

In 2018, following the abandonment of the West after the 2017 Kurdish referendum and the Turkish attack on Afrin, Lévy co-founded with environmentalist and philanthropist Thomas Kaplan the US-based nonprofit Justice for Kurds (JFK), of which Kaplan is the chairman and Lévy is president. Since its creation, JFK is the main base of Mr. Lévy’s humanitarian commitments.

Bernard-Henri Lévy has always been a devoted Zionist, he says. His book The Genius of Judaism (2017) looks at the exceptionalism of Israel and Jewish thought. His recent reporting has been published in The Wall Street Journal and in European outlets such as Der Stern, La Repubblica, L’Espresso, Kathimerini, Novoe Vremya and Paris-Match.

I spoke to Lévy about a variety of regional issues. Given his background and knowledge of Morocco, Israel, the Kurdish regions and the great changes in the region and the world, his responses provide a critical window into the issues affecting the Middle East and the West today.

Melanie Phillips: A stunning ruling against religious freedom
This argument over ritual slaughter has gone on in Europe for many years. At its base, it reflects the priority over humans that’s now given to animals with a corresponding rise in ignorance, sentimentality and hypocrisy over their welfare.

That moral confusion is one of the outcomes of the prevailing dogma of universalism, which has caused much of Europe increasingly to reject the precepts of the Hebrew Bible. That in turn accounts for the secularism and hostility to religion upon which the EU itself is based.

The EU prides itself on the core Enlightenment values of liberalism and tolerance. Those values, however, emerged from British thinkers whose values were framed by the Bible.

In continental Europe, by contrast, the Enlightenment was fuelled by a vicious hatred of religion and the belief that reason could only be advanced if religion was suppressed.

It is that European strain of universalist Enlightenment thinking that forms the values of the European Union. It has also given rise to the west’s predominant ideology of moral and cultural relativism, which has propelled the rise of paganism and the veneration of the animal and natural world at the expense of humanity. And that now has Jewish and Muslim religious practices squarely in its sights.

At the start of 2020, Europeans joined other nations of the world in marking the 75th anniversary of the liberation of Auschwitz, vowing “never again.”

At the end of this horrible year, the custodians of the European Jewish graveyard have instead demonstrated all too bleakly just what they think that means for the values of freedom and tolerance so many have given their lives to defend.
Caroline Glick: The Israeli left is far from dead
Even when the "anyone-but-Bibi" camp doesn't have the requisite number of Knesset seats to form a government, so entrenched are its right-wing members in their hatred for Netanyahu that they still empower the left. Following the April and September 2019 elections, Lieberman prevented the formation of a government and forced the country into the second and third round of elections by refusing to join a Netanyahu-led coalition.

And following the third round of elections, former Netanyahu aides and current "anyone-but-Bibi" right-wing politicians Zvi Hauser and Yoaz Hendel who broke away from two parties to join the Blue and White list, were willing to block their leftist Blue and White party from forming a post-Zionist government with the Joint Arab List. But they weren't willing to leave Blue and White to join Netanyahu to form a right-wing government. And as a result, Netanyahu was compelled to form a coalition with Blue and White.

Blue and White's position in the outgoing government didn't give its leaders Benny Gantz and Gabi Ashkenazi the power to implement their leftist policies. But it did give them the power to block Netanyahu and Likud from advancing their rightist policies which Hauser and Hendel ostensibly support. Gantz and Ashkenazi torpedoed Netanyahu's plan to apply Israel's sovereignty to the Israeli communities in Judea and Samaria and the Jordan Valley, in accordance with US President Donald Trump's Middle East peace plan. This week, Gantz and Ashkenazi blocked Netanyahu from bringing the young Israeli communities in Judea and Samaria to the government for formal approval. Blue and White's Justice Minister Avi Nissenkorn has worked assiduously to expand the powers of his leftist partners in the judiciary and the state prosecution while ruling out the implementation of the Likud's agenda of legal reform.

Given the left's success in seizing and wielding power through its partners in the deep state and its enablers in the "anyone-but-Bibi" right, it is clear that the polls that give a significant majority of Knesset seats to right-wing parties obscure more than they reveal. The left remains the only power that competes with the Likud for power. And if Likud and its coalition partners do not win 61 seats in the upcoming elections, the left will continue to control the national agenda regardless of what the public thinks.

Social Media Enables Bigots to ‘Reinforce Each Other,’ Algemeiner Editor-in-Chief Warns
Social media enables bigots to “reinforce each other,” the editor-in-chief of The Algemeiner said during a Wednesday appearance on i24 News focused on rising antisemitism in Germany.

“Whereas in the past you might have had individuals who harbored certain hateful or bigoted views hiding out in basements and not really seeing the light of day, now it’s very easy for them to connect with likeminded individuals and to strengthen each other and for those sick and perverse ideologies to spread far quicker,” Dovid Efune told “Global Eye” host Natasha Kirtchuk.

Earlier this week, Ulrich Meyer — the bishop of the central German state of Thuringia — asserted that the new wave of antisemitism, much of it linked to coronavirus-related conspiracy theories, marked a “relapse into the Middle Ages.”

Efune credited the German government for some of the steps it had taken to combat antisemitism, but emphasized, “There is a lot more that needs to be done.”

Success for CAA as Professional Standards Authority acts on our representations to ask High Court to quash decision on “Al Quds Day” leader Nazim Ali after “irrational and perverse” ruling by General Pharmaceutical Council
The Professional Standards Authority (PSA) has asked the High Court to quash a decision of the General Pharmaceutical Council (GPhC), over its decision in relation to Nazim Ali, a pharmacist who leads the annual “Al Quds Day” march through London.

Last month, the GPhC’s Fitness to Practise Committee, found that Mr Ali brought the pharmaceutical profession into disrepute, following a two-week hearing that culminated on 5th November arising from a complaint by Campaign Against Antisemitism.

Following the GPhC’s ruling, Campaign Against Antisemitism made legal representations to the PSA asking it to use its statutory power to refer the matter to the High Court under the National Health Service Reform and Healthcare Professionals Act 2002, on the grounds that the decision made by the GPhC’s Fitness to Practise Committee was insufficient to protect the public because it was “irrational and perverse”.

The PSA has now made the referral that we requested. The High Court will now decide whether to quash the decision of the GPhC’s Fitness to Practise Committee, leading to the matter being re-opened.

In particular, we asked the PSA to review the GPhC’s ruling that Mr Ali’s statements were not antisemitic, including by attempting to distinguish between “antisemitism” and “antisemitic”. We have asked the PSA to consider the International Definition of Antisemitism adopted by the British Government, and the Guidance to all Judiciary in England and Wales produced by the Judicial College that makes clear that the word “Zionist” or “Zio” as a term of abuse has no place in a civilised society.
The antisemitic hate fest against female UK Labour MPs - Corbyn's collateral damage
Many articles have been published about Jeremy Corbyn's prominent role in not preventing – and occasionally also promoting – antisemitism in the British Labour party. His support of extreme antisemites has been well covered in media. Its main element, among a number of others, was declaring that the genocidal antisemitic terror organizations, Hamas and Hezbollah, were his “friends and brothers.” He also invited them to the House of Commons. But there is more.

The interference of Corbyn’s office in the investigations of antisemitic incidents within Labour was condemned in the Equality Human Rights Commission, (EHRC) report saying: "The committee found that Mr. Corbyn’s office unlawfully, ‘politically interfered’ with almost two dozen cases of alleged antisemitism.”

One aspect of Labour’s antisemitism – that has received insufficient media attention -- concerns the collateral damage resulting from Corbyn's attitude toward antisemitism within the party he led. This concerns the huge number of abusive messages that some leading Jewish elected representatives in the party received. If he reacted at all, he did so only nominally.

To highlight this in a rather simple way, one can focus attention on the extremely unpleasant experiences of the four female Jewish MP’s that were representing Labour when Corbyn became party Chairman in 2015. This will give insight into the antisemitic vilification and extreme hate some prominent Jewish party members had to endure during Corbyn’s leadership.

Already in 2016, MP Ruth Smeeth - who lost her seat during the 2019 parliamentary elections – said that she had received more than 25,000 messages of abuse. She called on Corbyn to name and shame the worst perpetrators who claimed to be acting in his name. Corbyn did not react.

There is no proof that the hate messages came primarily from Labour members. They might have originated partly in the 'fascistoid' extreme right as well as in its leftist mirror group of Jew haters. For lack of better terminology, one could call the latter group “progressive perverts.” Furthermore, one has to consider that one person can send many messages. Yet had there not been the negligent and often passive attitude to antisemitism of Corbyn and his immediate environment, this massive flow of Jew-hatred surely would not have happened.
Guardian columnist's malicious tweet fuels lie about US aid to Israel
Guardian columnist Nathan J. Robinson tweeted this yesterday.

The degree of malice and misinformation within the tweet is something to behold.

First, the idea that it would take “courage” for a reporter to query members of Congress about US aid to Israel is absurd, and evokes the canard that the pro-Israel lobby is so powerful that journalists generally don’t dare to challenge them.

Additionally, the $500 million allocated towards Israel he refers to echoes an internet lie which was exposed and refuted before Robinson’s tweet, one which claimed that the $900 billion pandemic relief bill passed by Congress on Dec. 22 contained $500 million for Israel.

However, as JNS editor Jonathan Tobin demonsrated in an article yesterday, the aid bill did no such thing. The lie seems to have been based on the fact that Congress passed a separate $1.4 trillion omnibus spending bill to close out the year so that they could then take their holiday recess. Within that omnimus spending bill was the annual spending authorization bill for the Defense Department.

BBC News ignores another Jerusalem terror attack
BBC audiences have seen no coverage whatsoever of that attack in over three days since it took place.

The last time visitors to the BBC News website saw any reporting on Palestinian terrorism was over three months ago when it reported (in just 30 words) rocket fire from the Gaza Strip on September 15th and 16th. Eight of the first eleven months of 2020 saw no BBC coverage of Palestinian terrorism at all and since the beginning of the year the BBC News website has reported 4.5% of the terror attacks against Israelis which actually took place and 50% of the resulting fatalities.

That of course means – as we have often noted in the past – that when Israel responds to Palestinian terrorism, BBC audiences lack the necessary context for proper understanding of events the corporation does chose to report.
British Neo-Nazi Who Called for ‘Eradication’ of Jews Sentenced to 4-Year Jail Term
A British neo-Nazi has been sentenced to a jail term of four years and two months for encouraging terrorism against Jews, the LGBT+ community and non-white minorities.

Luke Hunter, 23, was convicted at the Crown Court in the northern English city of Leeds on Tuesday after admitting seven charges of promoting terrorism and circulating material from terrorist publications.

Hunter was arrested last October as part of a police investigation into far-right terrorism.

Searches of Hunter’s home revealed an obsession with Hitler and neo-Nazism and resulted in the seizure of a large number of white supremacist texts, military training manuals and guides on surveillance, guerrilla warfare, weapons and explosives. Officers also recovered Nazi memorabilia and a machete from his bedroom.

Hunter’s media devices were found to contain thousands of documents, videos and audio files of an extreme right-wing nature, in addition to the manifestos of previous mass murderers and recordings of Hunter himself, expressing what police called “his deeply disturbing views.”

Among Hunter’s social media postings was a call for the “eradication” of Jewish people.
Israeli Scientists Get a Once-in-a-Lifetime Chance to Send Their Experiments to the International Space Station
The Ramon Foundation, along with the Israeli Space Agency and the Ministry of Science and Technology published a call for proposals on Wednesday for scientists and researchers to apply to send their experiments or technology to the International Space Station (ISS). A scientific committee, which will be overseen by top Israeli space scientist Inbal Kreiss, who is the Head of Innovation at the Systems Missiles and Space Division of Israel Aerospace Industries, will choose between 10-15 such experiments — which are awaiting approval from NASA — that will travel aboard a SpaceX rocket alongside Israel’s next astronaut, Eytan Stibbe, when he embarks to the ISS in October 2021.

Stibbe, who is a former Israel Air Force pilot and businessman, will dedicate his flight hours to the Ramon Foundation, in memory of fallen Israeli astronaut Ilan Ramon, will conduct scientific research for Israeli space tech businesses and academia, and hold an educational outreach program in Hebrew to be broadcast live from the station. He plans to spend 200 hours or eight days aboard the station.

The scientific committee is composed of leading individuals in the Israeli science, medical, and space industry. Proposals must be experiments that meet the following criteria: possess the technical feasibility to be conducted aboard the ISS, have the availability of required partner resources that adhere to Stibbe’s strict AX-1 mission timeline, display a scientific and economic impact, and the ideas must also demonstrate novelty and the potential to achieve a significant scientific breakthrough. The deadline to apply is Feb. 14, 2021.

Experiments will be chosen from the fields of telecommunications, astrophysics, telehealth, agriculture, optics, remote sensing, medicine, robotics, and AI, among others.

Stibbe will be one of the first private astronauts to be sent by a nongovernmental nonprofit organization.
First commercial medical cannabis export from Israel lands in Germany
Medical cannabis patients in Germany received a welcome gift for Christmas Eve on Thursday after Israel's leading medical cannabis company, Panaxia, completed its first commercial export of medical cannabis products to the country.

Earlier this month, Panaxia announced that they had become the first company in Israel to receive a commercial license from the Health Ministry to export medical cannabis to Germany.

Germany is home to the world's fastest growing medical cannabis market outside of the United States, with 120,000 patients already being treated using medical cannabis products, paying on average between 2-5 times the amount paid by Israeli patients.

A spokesperson for Panaxia said they expect the German market to expand to 800 thousand over the next four years.

Panaxia will begin selling a series of premium oil-based medical cannabis products in Germany under the Naxiva-Panaxol brand, which it shares with European pharma giant Neuraxpharm.

Unlike Israeli patients, who receive a prescription mainly based on THC and CBD levels, German doctors prescribe their patients specific products and strains, which makes the strategic marketing partnership with Neuraxpharm vital to Panaxia's future success or failure in the country.
This 118-year-old Jewish bakery in India is a hit at Christmas time
From the flashing outdoor lights that deck out Park Street, to the bustling pop-up Christmas market at the central rotunda of the sprawling New Market, Christmas has always been a celebratory affair in Kolkata.

While this year celebrations are toned down due to the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic, as well as the damaging aftereffects of Cyclone Amphan that hit the city in May, Isaac Nahoum, a Jewish baker who has seen business tumble from more than 300 customers a day to a mere 30 on average, is not worried. The Christmas rush is still coming through.

“This was a big setback. Fortunately, we have the resources to carry on,” he said of his family-owned business, Nahoum & Sons, an iconic 118-year old Jewish bakery. “And, as I’ve said before, it’ll pick up next year.”

Known for its delectable fruitcakes and its selection of Christmas baked goods, Nahoum & Sons is a testament to Kolkata’s once significant Baghdadi Jewish community, of which fewer than 20 members remain.

“With the passage of time, the Baghdadis left India because they weren’t sure how things were going to be. And gradually the migration carried on,” Nahoum explained. “I left in 1951, when there were about 1,500 Jews left in Kolkata.”

But he would return.
The Israeli company bringing cutting-edge aerospace technology to the construction site
When Lior Avitan glanced up at a tower construction crane as he was in between classes while doing an MBA business degree at the University of Haifa, a new realization dawned on him.

Avitan, today the co-founder and CEO of UltraWis, had spent 16 years working at Elbit Systems, a leading Israeli defense company, including years at the Aerospace Division, where he led the technological development of the Brightnite pilot night vision system. Brightnite is in use in air forces around the world.

“I saw a person sitting up in the cabin operating the crane all day, and I saw that all sorts of things could be done differently, more safely and more efficiently,” he told JNS. “I told myself that the technology we have at Brightnite can be converted to cranes. That a person does not have to sit up there all day—we have sensors that enable ground control.”

Thus, the idea for UltraWis was born.

Together with his colleague, Erez Gernitzky, who was responsible for image processing and algorithms at Brightnite, Avitan proposed his ideas to Elbit, which ended up licensing him with 14 patents and investing in the new startup.

UltraWis was developed through Elbit’s deep-tech incubator, called Incubit, which teamed up with the Israel Innovation Authority to make a seed investment of $1 million.

The company officially launched in 2019.

These days, it offers a solution that transforms the tower crane operator’s booth into a cockpit that resembles an aircraft cabin and is active at a construction site in Israel.
Amar’e unplugged: Jewish icon reflects on NBA, Israel and religious zeal
The Brooklyn Nets have opened the National Basketball Association season at the Barclays Center (capacity: 17,732) in front of no fans. In contrast, Amar’e Stoudemire – the Nets’ new player development assistant and former NBA, Hapoel Jerusalem and Maccabi Tel Aviv star – performed in front of 2,000 fans on Monday night, December 21. The crowd assembled on Zoom for a UJA Federation New York-sponsored discussion, “Amar’e Stoudemire: His Practice On and Off the Court.”

The likable Stoudemire, a six-time NBA All-Star, NBA Rookie of the Year with the Phoenix Suns in 2003, and a bronze medalist with the USA Olympic basketball team in 2004, recently returned to New York after many years living in Israel. Stoudemire is a co-owner of the Hapoel Jerusalem basketball team and he was the playoff MVP for Maccabi Tel Aviv as it secured the 2020 Israeli championship.

Stoudemire is also a proud Jew, deeply committed to combating antisemitism, and works to strengthen relationships between the Jewish and African-American communities. He shared his intriguing journey to Judaism and Israel with the event attendees.

From a young age, Stoudemire’s mother said: “You should keep the laws of Moses. We are from the tribe of Israel, brought here [to the United States] as slaves.” Stoudemire admits that he “didn’t know what she meant by that.”

At age 14, he reported, “I started davening to the Torah.” He continued his Bible studies through high school and continued his studies when selected ninth overall in the NBA draft at the age of 18. When he was 24, he “began gravitating to Judaism. This is what I was searching for, but I was doing it on my own. Judaism gave me structure.”

Stoudemire first visited Israel in 2010.

“I came to learn Torah and discover my Hebrew roots, to see what I was reading.”
Why I am joining the IDF at age 35 You’re crazy.”
That’s the first response I would get from senior IDF officials over the last few years when I requested the opportunity to draft. “You serve our nation in other ways and there is a reason that the law exempts people like you,” they said.

I admit that making aliyah at the age of 32 and now, with a wife and four children, my situation is a little different to the typical 18-year-old who is recruited to the army, but I too wanted to serve my country and didn’t feel it right to use my exemption just because I could.

When he finished university, my brother Jon made aliyah and drafted into the army. He served in the elite Duvdevan special forces unit (the one that Fauda is based around) and years later continues to be a legend there. They thought he was crazy volunteering to serve with a bunch of kids out of high school, but he felt that he wanted to play his part in the physical defense of the Jewish people, even if he wasn’t obliged to.

I remember at the time sitting comfortably in synagogue and reading Moses’s exhortation of the descendants of Gad and Reuben (Numbers 32:6): “Shall your brothers go to war while you will sit here?” I thought to myself, why should my brother go and not me? Yes, neither of us had to, and yet he did it. He got up and volunteered to be part of something greater than himself.

And what about my sisters and brothers in the broader sense? How could I live on the front rows of history, in one of the first generations that one can serve in this way and not do so? I know this isn’t the norm and of course respect everyone who does not do so, but for me, this was an opportunity I did not want to miss. My brother had done it, my friends went through it, all my neighbors did it, and my children too will engage in national service one day. For me, this was not a question of if, but when.

After getting over the fact that this crazy Australian oleh wanted to join them in the army, my conversations with those in charge were nothing short of inspiring. It was a bit like the traditional process of conversion to Judaism – once they had tried, and failed, to dissuade me, they welcomed me with open arms.

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