Thursday, December 31, 2020

From Ian:

Caroline Glick: A Jewish prisoner's longing for Zion
Pollard paid for that fateful decision with 30 years in prison and another five years of conditional release during which he was barred from moving to Israel.

I asked him back then to describe his life in prison.

"I don't want to go into detail," he responded with a brief, sad sigh. "I will give you an impressionistic description of my life. Life here involves constant noise, endless noise that is impossible to imagine, all the time; constant violence; profanity every conceivable type of profanity. There is no place to be quiet or to find quiet to read. You really have to be disciplined not to be provoked. You need to be disciplined to see when a situation is getting out of hand and to get away as quickly as possible. I have to be ready if my door opens at 2 in the morning."

I asked Pollard what he thought about when he was sitting in his room.

"My dream is to be with my wife, at home in Israel. I am worried about my wife. She is a cancer survivor. But she refused to have chemotherapy because it would have destroyed any chance of having children. Do you have any idea of what it feels like for a husband to have to hear over the phone that his wife has cancer?" he asked in an expression of unending distress and barely disguised desperation.

"I want to come home so that I can be with my wife, my people and my land. That is all I want. I love my nation."

Thirty-five years after his initial arrest, 15 years after I met with him, early on Wednesday morning, Jonathan Pollard finally realized his dream, the dream of a Jewish prisoner longing for Zion.
5 reasons why mainstream Jews should drop the Palestinian cause in 2021
As we close the chapter of an unprecedented year filled with enormous loss and begin a new year with unparalleled opportunity, I believe now is the time to ask bold questions with answers that may be uncomfortable for the mainstream Jewish community in North America. As we made, and now pursue, resolutions for our personal and professional selves, our families and our communities, let us also have the courage to ask the more uncomfortable, more durable – and frankly, more honest questions that we only have the courage to ask in the light of this most challenging year.

How do we engage with Israel? What core policy objectives do we as a community and our organizations seek to achieve? Which organizational policy objectives, written long ago in boardrooms far far away, are still relevant? Which objectives are not relevant? What is achievable? What is not? What is the “needle” – and in what direction do we push it? Which causes embrace all of our identities? And which causes force us as Jews, as Americans, and as Zionists to leave our identities at the door?

I have a resolution.

In 2021, and in the years and decades beyond, the organized Jewish community should abandon its paralyzing, archaic, immoral and dangerous objective of establishing a Palestinian state.

Our world has changed. The Middle East has changed. Israel has changed. The American Jewish community, and its objectives, must too. Suppress your anger, lay down your talking points and hear me out.

1. The Abraham Accords

2. John Kerry’s Middle East is gone – if it ever existed after all

3. No Jewish Organization was actively involved in the Abraham Accords – and likely won’t even be involved in any other breakthrough

4. The Palestinians, and any future potential Palestinian state, would be an organized society and nation whose values and lack of rule of law would be completely antithetical to the Western world

5. The PLO, our alleged partners in peace, incentivize and pay terrorists to kill Jews
Continuing my series of re-captioning cartoons....








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  • Thursday, December 31, 2020
  • Elder of Ziyon

There was a kerfuffle recently when the International Committee of the Red Cross decided to make a Twitter thread about the violations of international law depicted in the fictional, excellent Israeli TV series Fauda.

Of course, people made fun of the ICRC for pretending that a fictional story is real. 

But even more idiotic was Mondoweiss' take. The site outdid itself in its article about the incident in its sheer ignorance about, really, everything.

The writer, Jonathan Ofir, freely admits that he never saw the show. He then goes on to create a conspiracy theory that the people who responded to the ICRC tweet are a group of professional Israeli hasbarists who are part of a shadowy group:
The Israeli Strategic Affairs Ministry under Gilad Erdan (who is now Israel’s UN Ambassador)– which has been the headquarters for the anti-BDS campaign, which included secret ‘black ops’ operations– has established an army of social media propagandists. 
He's talking about Digitell, which is a very loose group of already-existing bloggers and pro-Israel activists who have met in person twice. I should know - I'm in the group. And while the ministry would love for us to have a unified strategy and messaging, we all still do whatever we want to, while sometimes consulting with others. (Ofir even proves that there was an inconsistency in messaging between the Zionist responses to the ICRC tweet, which undermines his entire argument.)

But Ofir really shows how little he knows when he adds his own non-expertise in international law to the discussion of why Fauda is so evil:

The central theme of Fauda is what is know in international law as Perfidy. ICRC provides the definition of Perfidy from standard International Humanitarian Law:

Acts inviting the confidence of an adversary to lead him to believe that he is entitled to, or is obliged to accord, protection under the rules of international law applicable in armed conflict, with the intent to betray that confidence, shall constitute perfidy.

In other words, it is about conducting a military operation under the guise of being a civilian, or impersonating an individual who is supposed to be offered special humanitarian protection. This act is dangerous also because it puts civilians and humanitarian workers at risk, as it creates a suspicion that they may be involved in the hostilities.

Such perfidy is standard operating procedure for Israel. 
For some reason, the ICRC didn't mention perfidy in its list of Fauda's violations of international law, but Ofir thinks he knows better.

Ofir has no clue.

When characters in Fauda go undercover, they are not acting as soldiers. They are acting as spies. And espionage is not against international law.

As the ICRC quotes US practice in its documentation on perfidy:
Customary international law does not … prohibit belligerents from using saboteurs, secret agents or other irregular forces feigning civilian status to attack legitimate military targets. Wear of civilian clothing during an attack, or during a spying or sabotage mission behind enemy lines, may subject combatants to punishment if captured by the enemy.
Spies do not have the protection of international law given to soldiers. Their risk is much greater, and if they are caught they can be executed if that is the law of the capturers. 

How much ignorance can Mondoweiss fit in one article?





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Our weekly column from the humor site PreOccupied Territory.

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hippie vanSacramento, December 31 - Stalwarts of forward-leaning politics voiced consternation today at a new dilemma that may force them to choose as never before between the values of ecological sensitivity and steamrolling Jewish concerns in pursuit of those values.

Progressive figures across California expressed dismay Thursday after the 48-seater vehicle, under which they had intended to throw Jews while pursuing the progressive agenda, could not meet the state's air pollution limitations, the toughest such thresholds in the nation. As never before activists observed, they must decide whether to proceed in their endeavors to implement a progressive agenda if in that pursuit they do not end up harming Jewish interests.

"It's not a problem we gave much thought to," admitted Congresswoman Alexandria Ocasio-Cortes (D-NY). "All of us just kind of assumed that throwing Jews under the bus was an automatic consequence of pursuing our vision for the twenty-first century in ecology, economics, race relations, everything. But it turns out sometimes you have to go out of your way to make harming Jewish interests, or at the very least disregarding the expressed concerns of the vast majority of the American Jewish community, an outcome. We need to have some serious conversations about how far out of our way to go to ensure that outcome, and what the other costs might be to such a direction."

Previous conflicts between Jewish concerns and the progressive agenda have tended to make Jewish concerns secondary or irrelevant to the desired outcome, as when prominent progressives have declared support for Jewish sovereignty and security in the ancestral Jewish homeland to be at odds with progressive values. "It's not Israel-Palestine per se that's the issue," explained activist and Women's March founder Linda Sarsour. "My buddies in the Nation of Islam probably couldn't care less whether Israel exists, or who rules the Palestinians, just as the Arabs in Palestine couldn't care less when they were under foreign rule for many centuries. It's the Jews of America that bother Brother Farrakhan, not the Jews of Tel Aviv, although licking the latter in the teeth might also be good. No, it's about maintaining the Jew as an enemy, and as time passes, our sensibilities have increasingly painted the Jew as the source of our community's problems, because it's more convenient to blame someone else than to fix your own problems, and hey, look, the Jews are right here, always available as scapegoats."

"But this time it's a little different," she acknowledged, "because now we have to determine whether harming Jews is simply a positive side-effect of our efforts, or a goal in itself, and if the latter, then does it outweigh other progressive goals? I think we all know what the decision will be in the end, but it looks good to have a 'conversation' about it that really only involves people who want Jews to just go away with their irritating insistence that people treat them with the same humanity and respect we demand for everyone else."

From Ian:

Honest Reporting: Does UNRWA Violate International Law?
UNRWA’s definition of refugee technically violates international law, as it contradicts the 1951 UN Convention and Protocol Relating to the Status of Refugees.

Article 1 of the Convention defines a refugee as: …a person who is outside his/her country of nationality or habitual residence; has a well-founded fear of persecution because of his/her race, religion, nationality, membership in a particular social group or political opinion; and is unable or unwilling to avail himself/herself of the protection of that country, or to return there, for fear of persecution.

Under Article I(c)(3), a person is no longer a refugee if, for example, he or she has “acquired a new nationality, and enjoys the protection of the country of his new nationality.”

UNRWA’s definition of a Palestinian refugee, which is not anchored in any treaty and thus does not carry the weight of international law, includes no such provision. In fact, UNRWA defines “Palestinian refugees” to include all offspring of male Palestinian refugees from 1948, including legally adopted children, regardless of whether they have been granted citizenship elsewhere.

The United Nations claims on its website that UNRWA’s unusual practice does not violate international law and norms, by pointing out that there are other conflicts in the world where refugee status has continued for successive generations (eg. Afghanistan and Somalia).

However, the United Nations’ claim is not only misleading but objectively wrong. Under the 1951 Convention (1967 Protocol, Article IV Section B), successive generations have refugee status only if it is necessary to maintain what is called “family unity.” For example, imagine that a couple escaped Afghanistan, became refugees in Pakistan, and then had a child. Even though that child never lived in Afghanistan, he or she would nevertheless be granted refugee status in order to keep the family unit from being broken apart by potential developments.

However, under UNRWA’s rules, there is no “family unity” limitation. To the contrary, unlimited future generations may inherit refugee status even when there is no living family connection to pre-1948 British-ruled Palestine and, consequently, there is no danger of tearing apart any family unit. This is no subtle distinction: UNRWA has, knowingly or not, created a financial incentive for host countries to deny Palestinians citizenship, so that the nations in question can benefit from the international aid that comes with hosting people who maintain refugee status in perpetuity.

According to a 2012 report by the United States Senate, under the terms of the 1951 Convention, which applies to all other people in the world, the number of real Palestinian refugees living today is only about 30,000. Yet, according to UNRWA, the number of “refugees” is over 5 million, making Palestinians the only group in the world whose refugee population has increased — and dramatically — over time.


Israel’s 2 top int’l law officials take on ICC: Is Gaza ‘occupied’?
Two of Israel’s top international law officials have published a rare public article to challenge the International Criminal Court prosecution and others who say that Israel still illegally occupies Gaza.

The article, published in the journal Iyunei Mishpat (Legal Studies) recently but being reported now for the first time in English, is important both regarding addressing cases of alleged Israeli war crimes in ongoing fighting with Hamas, as well as regarding what humanitarian obligations Jerusalem has to Gaza, during coronavirus and other periods.

These issues ultimately have major long-term implications at the national security and diplomatic levels, including whether Israel’s naval blockade and other periodic closures of Gaza are legal.

Just as important are the authors: Deputy Attorney-General (International Law) Roy Schondorf and IDF International Law Division chief Col. Eran Shamir-Borer, two officials who have led much of Israel’s handling of ICC issues and humanitarian dilemmas with Gaza.

Schondorf rarely writes publicly or appears in public with the exception of specific conferences or at the Knesset, and Shamir-Borer appears even less often.

It seems that the impetus for their article was to address prior statements by ICC Prosecutor Fatou Bensouda as well as a current article by prominent Israeli prof. Eyal Gross in the same journal, declaring that Israel still legally occupies Gaza, despite having withdrawn in 2005.
Senate Investigation Finds Obama Admin Knowingly Funded al-Qaeda Affiliate
Non-profit humanitarian agency World Vision United States improperly transacted with the Islamic Relief Agency (ISRA) in 2014 with approval from the Obama administration, sending government funds to an organization that had been sanctioned over its ties to terrorism, according to a new report.

Senate Finance Committee Chairman Chuck Grassley (R., Iowa) recently released a report detailing the findings of an investigation his staff began in February 2019 into the relationship between World Vision and ISRA.

The probe found that World Vision was not aware that ISRA had been sanctioned by the U.S. since 2004 after funneling roughly $5 million to Maktab al-Khidamat, the predecessor to Al-Qaeda controlled by Osama Bid Laden.

However, that ignorance was born from insufficient vetting practices, the report said.

“World Vision works to help people in need across the world, and that work is admirable,” Grassley said in a statement. “Though it may not have known that ISRA was on the sanctions list or that it was listed because of its affiliation with terrorism, it should have. Ignorance can’t suffice as an excuse. World Vision’s changes in vetting practices are a good first step, and I look forward to its continued progress.”

The investigation was sparked by a July 2018 National Review article in which Sam Westrop, the director of the Middle East Forum’s Islamist Watch, detailed MEF’s findings that the Obama administration had approved a “$200,000 grant of taxpayer money to ISRA.”

Government officials specifically authorized the release of “at least $115,000” of this grant even after learning that it was a designated terror organization, Westrop wrote. (h/t MtTB)
From 2009 Tom Getman of World Vision talking to Stephen Sizer (antisemetic priest) about the incoming Obama administration.
  • Thursday, December 31, 2020
  • Elder of Ziyon



A few days ago, Hamas started plastering billboards all over Gaza with pictures of the Iranian Quds Force commander, Qassem Soleimani, ahead of the first anniversary of his being assassinated by the US.

The billboards quoted Hamas leader Ismail Haniyeh who called him a "Martyr of Jerusalem" at his eulogy.

The Sunni Arab world reacted harshly. 

Saudi journalist Muhammad Al Sheikh tweeted, "Pictures of the criminal Iranian serial killer Qassem Soleimani greet you from every direction in Gaza. The reason is because the terrorist Muslim Brotherhood Hamas is just the arm of a Persian conspirator ... and you want to liberate Palestine, traitors? "

Even within Gaza people were upset. One man ripped down one of the posters to the cheers of a crowd and the video went viral.


Hamas is still more popular in Gaza than Fatah by far, but Gazans seem to have little interest in becoming an Iranian proxy like Hezbollah or the Houthis.

Update: Hamas arrested the person who tore down the poster. (h/t Tomer)





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  • Thursday, December 31, 2020
  • Elder of Ziyon
When Hamas and Fatah split in 2007, both of them claimed to be the legitimate government of the Palestinian Authority. 

Most of the world recognized Fatah's claims that they formed a new government for the PA, even though its creation violated the Palestinian constitution. 

But Hamas maintained its own claim to be the legitimate government, and it has never relinquished that claim, even though it too is not the government under the Palestinian constitution. Which means that Hamas duplicated all of the governmental ministries of the Ramallah-based Palestinian Authority, at least on paper.

Including a Foreign Ministry.

The Hamas Foreign Ministry page doesn't mention Hamas - it claims to be the Palestinian Foreign Ministry. 

It is a strange site. It occasionally issues statements, such as the most recent one from October 27 condemning cartoons that hurt Muslim feelings. It held a Zoom session on mediation techniques in early October.

But nowhere does it say who the actual Hamas foreign minister is, or the names of anyone who works at the ministry, or even its address. Press releases are simply signed "Ministry of Foreign Affairs, Gaza, Palestine."

Even Iran doesn't recognizes this ministry as having any legitimacy, as the Palestinian "embassy" in Tehran is run by the PLO (at least as of 2016.)

Between the PA and Hamas, the Palestinians have two illegitimate governments. 




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  • Thursday, December 31, 2020
  • Elder of Ziyon


From Naharnet:

Confusion arose among circles affiliated with Hizbullah after the party’s Al-Qard Al-Hasan financial institution was hacked, despite the institution's assurance the hackers had no access to any of the internal data or account numbers of depositors, the Saudi Asharq el-Awsat reported on Wednesday.

A hacker group called “Spiderz” hacked into the cameras and servers of Hizbullah’s financial institution Al-Qard Al-Hasan, which the party says is a charity association.

The group collected and exposed a name list of borrowers, and published the links to the information on a special page on Twitter, attaching all details related to its customers.

Al-Qard Al-Hassan Association was established by Hizbullah in the 1980s. It was licensed by the Interior Ministry in 1987. It has 32 branches across Lebanon.

The operation came a few months after the association launched an automated teller service in its branches in the southern suburbs of Beirut, the party's center of influence. This encouraged some to place financial deposits in the institution that is not subject to the Lebanese banking system.

Oh, that's good to know - Hezbollah has its own banks with ATMs that they call "charity associations"  and which bypass Lebanon's banking laws. 

Nothing sketchy about that. 

Al Arabiya fills in some blanks about it:

What is Al-Qard al-Hasan?

The NGO, whose name in Arabic translates to “benevolent loan,” is not a bank, nor a financial institution, and is not subject to the Lebanese monetary and credit law. It has no legal or financial relationship with the Central Bank of Lebanon.

Yet, Al-Qard al-Hasan is considered one of the most prominent economic pillars of Hezbollah. It is managed outside the Lebanese economic banking system and is not subject to the Lebanese “cash and credit” law.

To more than 200 thousand borrowers, the institution gives financial loans in dollars in exchange for mortgaging gold or placing similar amounts in value.

Earlier this year, Al-Qard al-Hassan installed multiple ATMs in areas controlled by Hezbollah in the southern suburbs of Beirut, in a clear violation of Lebanon’s fiscal law.

The ATMs allow those who receive direct payments from Hezbollah, and those who benefit from the institution’s loans, to withdraw cash in either Lebanese lira or US dollars without any restrictions.

If these hackers got in, I hope that Israel has infiltrated the bank much more thoroughly. 

 



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Wednesday, December 30, 2020

abuy

Vic Rosenthal's weekly column


The arrival of Jonathan Pollard in Israel 35 years after his arrest for espionage on Israel’s behalf has made me think about the position of the Jew in the diaspora, particularly in America.
There are facts about Pollard’s case that are shrouded in mystery (for example, the still-secret Caspar Weinberger memo that in part convinced the judge in his case, Aubrey Robinson, to abrogate his plea bargain and sentence him to life imprisonment).

There is very little impartial material written about his case. Did he do what he did out of Zionist motives or did he do it for the money (or both)? Was Judge Robinson influenced by accusations that Pollard had aided the apartheid South African regime? These questions are discussed here (from a pro-Pollard perspective). Was the sentence outrageously unfair or, as some say, was it too light? Was his sentence, like the one given to Julius and Ethel Rosenberg, intended as a warning to disloyal ‘cosmopolitan’ Jews? It is possible to find documentation of various degrees of trustworthiness to support disparate narratives.

It is certain that Pollard provided a great deal of useful information to Israel about her regional enemies that had been withheld by the US. It is also certain that Pollard was abandoned by Israel, expelled from the embassy in Washington where he sought asylum, into the arms of the FBI. And it is certain that he received the harshest sentence by far ever handed down to someone for spying for an American ally, harsher yet than what some who spied for the Soviets received.
Early Wednesday morning, Pollard was met at the airport by PM Netanyahu, who said the shehecheyanu with him and personally handed him his Israeli identity document. This of course immediately made him a political football in Israel, to the extent that he wasn’t already. But that’s not what I want to discuss.

What interests me today is the attitudes of American Jews toward Pollard, and what that tells us about how they see themselves and their position as diaspora Jews.

The diaspora has generally not been a friendly place for Jews since their expulsion from Judea after the defeat of the Bar Kochba revolt by the Romans on Tisha b’Av, 135 CE. Always outsiders, they were often exploited, expelled, oppressed, and even exterminated by their hosts. But – especially between the end of WWII and the beginning of the 21st century – the USA has been different. Although there are examples of anti-Jewish riots and lynchings, and discrimination in employment, education, and residence, the position of Jews in America for a long period has probably been as good as or better than anywhere else in the diaspora.

Like Homer Simpson, an American Jew has two tiny creatures that sit on his or her shoulders and whisper. One says, “you are an American like other Americans, even if you are Jewish. This is your home. You have rights here.” And the other says, “never forget that you are a Jew. Your existence is precarious. Keep your suitcase packed.” I think that American Jewish attitudes toward Pollard are derived from the interaction of these voices.

On one occasion, a friend told me that “Pollard should have been executed, like the Rosenbergs.” This from a liberal American Jew who, I’m certain, opposes capital punishment in general. “America was good to him and he spit in its face,” he continued. “He was a traitor both to his country and to other Jews, who will always be suspected of having dual loyalties.”

This particular Jew is more knowledgeable than most Americans about Israel, a strong Zionist and supporter of causes related to Israel. But at the same time he was one of the approximately 69% of American Jews who voted for Barack Obama’s second term, when it should have been obvious to anyone that he was far from a friend of Israel (unlike his opponent, Mitt Romney). Needless to say, President Trump’s remarkably strong pro-Israel stance doesn’t sway my friend from his strong antagonism to the president.

When I listen to him, I hear both voices. My friend is proud of being American and takes what he sees as patriotic American positions. His center of gravity is in the US. But at the same time, there is that other small voice, the one that reminds him that as a Jew, he is less than entirely secure in America. He worries that Pollard’s actions might cause an increase in antisemitism among non-Jewish Americans. And maybe sometimes at 3 AM, he wonders if he shouldn’t have a packed suitcase under his bed.

So it is very important for him to let everyone know that American Jews in general, and he in particular, are good Americans. Maybe better Americans than some non-Jews.
This is a position fraught with cognitive dissonance.

There are American Jews that strongly support Pollard. Some (unlike my friend) are Orthodox Jews, like Rabbi Pesach Lerner, the former head of the National Council of Young Israel, an organization of Orthodox synagogues. Lerner visited Pollard in prison countless times, and helped obtain financial support for him after his release when he was unable to work. Pollard “got religion” in prison, and that may be part of it. But I have also heard some Orthodox Jews strongly denounce Pollard in words like my friend’s. And, on the other side, the Reform Movement passed a resolution to ask President Clinton to commute Pollard’s sentence in 1993; its president, Rabbi Rick Jacobs (whom I usually love to criticize), visited him in prison along with representatives of the Conservative movement.

Pollard is a litmus test of some sort, but it is not either one for Right vs. Left or Orthodox vs. (religiously) liberal. It’s something else. I know that my grandmother, who lost siblings in the Holocaust and from whom I inherited much of my sensibility, would have instinctively stuck up for Pollard, despite the fact that she was very proud of the paper that said she was an American citizen.

I think it’s related to what I called “center of gravity” above. If your center of gravity is in the diaspora you have to worry that someday you will be uprooted. If it’s located with the Jewish people, you may be less comfortable in the diaspora, but you have fewer illusions.
Where is your center of gravity?

From Ian:

Ruthie Blum: 2020 hindsight – Israel’s year in review
US President Donald Trump unveiled his “Peace to Prosperity” plan at the White House, with Netanyahu at his side, in the presence of administration officials and other prominent pro-Israel guests. The details of the “Deal of the Century,” as it had been dubbed, were finally revealed.

Like Trump’s other policies – such as moving the US Embassy from Tel Aviv to Jerusalem; recognizing Jerusalem as the capital of Israel; withdrawing from the Iran nuclear deal; recognizing Israeli sovereignty over the Golan Heights; halting funding to UNRWA, demanding that the Palestinian Authority cease its pay-for-slay policy; and declaring that Israeli settlements are not illegal – his blueprint for resolving the Israeli-Palestinian conflict was groundbreaking.

Rather than treating the PA’s corruption and violence as a result of Israeli “occupation,” Trump’s team offered Ramallah a carrot but threatened it with a stick. It was exhilarating for most Israelis to witness Washington smash the mold of the failed “land for peace” paradigm. Unfortunately, US President-elect Joe Biden and his appointees are going to revert to the old model of appeasing enemies. In this respect, Israelis may come to look back on 2020 with a twinge of nostalgia.

The burgeoning friendship with neighboring Muslim-Arab countries is a blessing that cannot be overstated. The trouble is that relations with Washington are about to take a turn for the worse.

It is understandable for Israelis to be worried about the future and bemoan the past year. But it is a complete distortion of reality to look upon 2020 as a period of pure chaos on the one hand and paralysis on the other.

Indeed, it’s worth pausing from the hysteria for a moment to acknowledge the miraculous achievements made by the Netanyahu-led government, in spite of months of bitter infighting, during the pandemic. If anything, then, this crazy year was characterized by an insane degree of uncanny multitasking.
Point of No Return: Review of the Year 2020
It's that time of the year again - time to review the highlights and lowlights of 2020.

In the 15 years since Point of No Return has been collecting information on Jews from Arab and Muslim countries, there have been 5,940 posts. This year achieved 426,000 views.

This year will be remembered as the year of COVID-19. It was certainly not the first time that plagues have swept through the Middle East. This year's plague took a heavy toll of Jewish communities.

This year gave Iraqi Jews an excuse to celebrate the 50th anniversary of their airlift to Israel.

But the highpoint of 2020 must be surely the historic peace accords achieved with four Arab countries: the UAE, Bahrain, Sudan and Morocco. This is a teachable moment - to educate about Jewish refugees from the Arab world and Iran. (Some Arabs have already absorbed the lesson. )

For the first time, the rights of Jewish refugees were explicitly mentioned in the Trump Middle East peace plan announced in January. Unfortunately, the media still refuse to give the issue the coverage it deserves.

Numbers of Jews continued to dwindle in Arab countries, except in Dubai, which holds out the promise of an expanding Jewish community, serviced by three rabbis. It was a good year for one particular Jewish family from Yemen, who were given refuge in the UAE.

Netanyahu has held onto the reins of power far longer than any other Israeli prime minister. But love him or hate him, at some point Bibi must go, because barring other reasons for being deposed from the prime ministerial throne, no one lives forever. The problem is, there is no one to step into Netanyahu’s shoes, because he hasn’t groomed a successor. From Jonathan Tobin:

The defection of Likudniks under Sa’ar’s leadership to join the other former Netanyahu aides that oppose him at the head of other parties, like Bennett and Lieberman, reminds us that the prime minister has never tried to groom a successor. Indeed, he doesn’t seem to believe in the concept. That “après moi, le deluge” attitude is not only a good argument for term limits. It’s a bad look for any leader in a democracy even if, as is true of Netanyahu, his expertise in diplomacy, security and economic issues may be unrivaled.

With another election looming, the fourth since April 2019, Israelis must again ponder their electoral choices. There is no question that the right is stronger than the left in Israel right now, and has been for years, but the right has reason to be dissatisfied with Netanyahu. The right doesn’t like how Bibi has handled the situation in Southern Israel where Gaza uses Israeli citizens for target practice. They aren’t crazy about the fact that Bibi promised sovereignty in Judea and Samaria and it never happened. Aside from these issues, Likud, the party of Netanyahu, is seen as failing in its mission. Likud is supposed to be the party of Greater Israel, the party that builds in all parts of the Land, but it seems like illegal Arab building in the territories gets a pass, while Jewish homes are deemed illegal and are demolished in the blink of an eye to make a show for the EU, the UN, and fake human rights organizations, whenever they give a schrie, a shout.

Because of this situation, where Likud is deemed to be not really on the right, many voters took a chance, the last several times around, on the smaller right wing parties, which sucked away votes from Netanyahu’s party, the Likud. This necessitated the Likud wooing several smaller parties to join together as a coalition, in order to gain enough seats to form a government. As these smaller parties vie for a place in the government, Netanyahu has to be careful about divvying out political favors to rising stars on the right, lest they rise above to supplant him and usurp his place of power.

And that is how someone like Gantz, someone unseasoned and unsuited to rule, rises to power. It’s all about balancing out that coalition and those favors. Bibi dare not cede too much power to anyone else on the right, lest he lose his place and fall off the throne.

But whenever elections are announced, there are always some who will jump ship to form new parties, diluting the vote even further, and demanding more favors for the sake of joining the right wing coalition. This time, Gideon Sa’ar a longtime member of Likud, tendered his resignation from the Knesset and left the Likud to form the New Hope party. That same day, Yoaz Hendel and Zvi Hauser of the Center Right Derech Eretz party signed on with Sa’ar's party. Likud members Yifat Shasha-Biton, Michal Shir, Sharren Haskel, and Ze'ev Elkin, subsequently left the party of Netanyahu to throw in their lot with Sa’ar.

This many people coming onboard with Sa’ar tells us that the former Likudnik is attempting to form a new Likud, a party that will truly represent the right, and not fake it to make it, as the Likud, under Netanyahu, has done. This is not a new phenomenon. Many parties have sprung from the loins of the Likud. Some of the parties make it, some of them don’t. But none of these parties, and none of their leaders have succeeded in amassing the power of a Benjamin Netanyahu. And this is, in part, because Netanyahu has not groomed a successor.

It is the responsibility of a leader to groom a successor. No one lives forever. No politician can stay in power forever. If Netanyahu cares about securing the future of the Jewish State, he must prepare someone to take over from him when the time comes.

That could have been Sa’ar. But Sa’ar saw no future in the Likud, because Netanyahu gave him no hope that the former more junior member of Likud might someday succeed him. Nor did Netanyahu give hope to any other rising star in the Likud that he or she might someday rise to power.

Maybe that is because Netanyahu doesn’t see anyone in the talent pool of rising stars in the Likud who comes close to meeting the Netanyahu standard of statesmanship. And maybe there really is no one who is capable of the magic of statecraft Netanyahu-style—no one to pull rabbits out of hats, the way Netanyahu always seems to do, like when he stares down the UN . . .

 

. . . or speaks to Congress against the wishes of Obama.



But I’ll tell you this: I’ve seen Netanyahu speak, and it’s like he’s the entire room. You feel as though he’s speaking only to you. Maybe he was born that way, with a gift. Or perhaps Netanyahu was born with the potential to be a leader and someone took a chance--took him under his wing, and helped to nurture that gift.

All I know is that love or hate him, Netanyahu makes every other potential Israeli leader look small. I see no one with the gravitas to take his place. And that’s a scary thought for the future of Israel. Which is why Netanyahu must groom a successor, now. Netanyahu needs to create a leader in his own powerful image, a Bibi 2.0--except more rightwing--to take his place on that day when it will finally be time for him to step off the dais and let someone else lead the Jewish State to prosperity, peace, and success. 



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  • Wednesday, December 30, 2020
  • Elder of Ziyon
Tough to choose - I made over 30 cartoons and many more posters.

But here are some of the best single panel cartoons:








A romance comic cartoon:

Posters:











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Continuing my recaptioning of cartoons....






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From Ian:

The Unique Benefits of Israeli-Moroccan Normalization
As with Sadat’s famous visit, normalization with Morocco signals the crumbling of walls shunning and isolating Israel from the rest of the Middle East. Nationally, it is an opportunity to celebrate Moroccan Jewry’s rich heritage, but it is much more than just that. It has often been hoped that Jews from Arab lands would be the natural bridge builders to the wider Arab world. This is the moment in history to elevate Moroccan Israelis to embrace this role.

Furthermore, the national euphoria over normalization must be the catalyst to finally address the social injustices experienced by Mizrahi Jews. With the establishment of direct flights, Israelis with Moroccan backgrounds will be able to freely visit the cities and towns of their grandparents, and the gravesites of great rabbis and family members. We should expect to see a renaissance of Moroccan Jewish culture as educational and family trips become commonplace. The rediscovery of historical roots will result in an empowerment of those who have often felt marginalized, and lead to a psychological and emotional healing, the importance of which cannot be overstated.

The normalization of relations with Morocco has tremendous significance not only for Moroccan Israelis but also for the wider population. It can be anticipated that visits to Morocco will lead to an interest and appreciation of Maghrebi culture not only while touring Rabat, Casablanca and Fez, but also when travelers return home to Jerusalem, Tiberias and Hadera.

While there are obvious trade, defense and intelligence sharing benefits, a fundamental yet under-appreciated factor is that Israelis with Moroccan ancestry can now proudly explore their heritage and freely visit Morocco as welcomed and respected guests. This will bolster and fortify their cultural identity, which in turn will strengthen Israeli society as a whole.

Successful peace agreements require more than the opening of embassies and direct flights. They can only take root if and when the respective populations take an active interest in each other. We are already seeing signs of this and welcome further initiatives to bring Israel and the wider region closer to a lasting peace.
Trump administration working on another normalization deal in January
The US is pushing for another Arab or Muslim state to normalize relations with Israel in the three weeks before US President Donald Trump leaves office, a Trump administration source said on Wednesday.

“We’re working very hard on making it happen,” said the source, who has been involved in negotiations for the Abraham Accords, as the agreements are called. A second Trump administration source confirmed the ongoing efforts.

In the past four months, the United Arab Emirates, Bahrain, Sudan and Morocco have all joined the Abraham Accords establishing – or in the case of Morocco renewing – open and official diplomatic ties with Israel.

Sources in Jerusalem and Washington have said in recent weeks that Indonesia, Mauritania or Oman could be next to join the accords. All three have had a certain level of secret or unofficial ties with Jerusalem in the past. There have also been persistent reports of progress with Pakistan.

Secret ties between Israel and Saudi Arabia have been warming in recent years and months, to the extent that Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman met in the Saudi city of Neom earlier this month.

The Trump administration approved the sale of $290 million in precision-guided bombs to Saudi Arabia this week and Israeli officials have speculated that the Saudis would seek maximum benefit from the US in exchange for normalization.
Pence’s final visit to Israel before leaving office is canceled
A planned visit to Israel by US Vice President Mike Pence was called off less than two weeks before he was due to arrive, the US Embassy confirmed Wednesday.

No reason was given for the cancellation, which was first reported by the Ynet news site.

Pence was reportedly scheduled to make a number of stops on a final world trip before leaving office on January 20. Earlier this month, Politico reported that the vice president planned to take off on January 6 — the same day the US Congress is scheduled to confirm President-elect Joe Biden’s electoral victory — visiting a number of countries, including Israel from January 10 to 13.

Though his stop in Israel was never officially confirmed by the US Embassy, the Israel Police and other Israeli authorities had begun preparations for the visit.
Record 152,000 vaccinated in a day, but new cases hit highest rate in months
The Health Ministry on Wednesday said 152,000 coronavirus vaccines were administered the day before, even as Israel recorded its highest number of new COVID-19 cases since early October, in Israel’s race between virus and vaccine.

Government officials had set a goal of vaccinating 150,000 Israelis per day by the end of the week.

“On the way to a million vaccinated!” Health Minister Yuli Edelstein tweeted. “Close to 650,000 in total.”

Israel has ramped up its vaccination campaign amid a third national lockdown, which took effect on Sunday evening to curb a resurgence in infections.

The Health Ministry said 5,583 new coronavirus cases were confirmed Tuesday, the highest daily increase since early October, during the second lockdown.

Along with another 571 cases since midnight, the number of COVID-19 infections since the pandemic began rose to 414,447.

There were 40,929 active cases, including 609 people in serious condition, with 154 on ventilators. Another 169 Israelis were in moderate condition and the rest had mild or no symptoms. A Maccabi Healthcare Services worker handles a test sample at a coronavirus testing site in Modiin, on December 24, 2020. (Yossi Aloni/Flash90)

The death toll stood at 3,292.

By Daled Amos

Over the past few months, we have watched as the United Arab Emirates, Bahrain, Sudan and Morocco have made peace with Israel. With the Biden administration ready to take over in a matter of weeks, we have come to the end of this historic chapter in Middle East peace.

 
But while for now, the momentum for peace has taken us as far as it can between the Arab states and Israel, there may still be a potential for the Arabs living within Israel itself.

Prof. Daniel Pipes writes that Arabs and Muslims increasingly accept Israel even as the global Left rejects it. He notes that till now, when Arab Israelis have voted in the Israeli elections, they have voted for the radical, anti-Zionist Arab parties that reject the idea of Israel as a Jewish state.

But Pipes believes that may be about to change.
Enter Mansour Abbas, 46, the head of an Islamist party, the United Arab List (also known as Ra’am), which holds four of the Knesset’s 120 seats. He hails from the Galilee town of Maghar and has a dentistry degree from the Hebrew University in Jerusalem; currently, he is studying for a Ph.D. in politics at Haifa University. Married with three children, he practices dentistry in Maghar.
 
Mr. Abbas (not to be confused with Mahmoud Abbas, 85, head of the Palestinian Authority) has recently emerged as a deal-making politician ready to act pragmatically on behalf of Israel’s Arabs. At a time of electoral turbulence, with new elections scheduled for March 2021, he has become an instant powerbroker due to his readiness to cooperate with Benjamin Netanyahu and perhaps even to save Mr. Netanyahu’s prime ministry. [emphasis added]
photo
Mansour Abbas. Youtube screencap

 
By 'pragmatic', Pipes is referring to Abbas's willingness to cooperate with Netanyahu based on what the Israeli government can do for the Arab community. Abbas wants Netanyahu to ease legal restrictions on construction in Arab towns and to approve the necessary funds to address the problem of crime in Arab communities. Getting Netanyahu to make the necessary resources available would enable Abbas to win more seats in the next election.
 
This idea of an Arab MK working together with Netanyahu and the right-wing Likud is novel, unprecedented -- and seems to have won the approval of Arab Israelis. Pipes quotes Yousef Makladeh of the consulting company StatNet who reports that "over 60 percent of the [Israeli] Arab population supports MK Mansour Abbas’ approach, that they can work with the [Jewish] right.” 
 
If, in fact, a majority of Arab Israelis are willing to support working with the right-wing in general and with Likud and Netanyahu in particular, this obviously has implications not only for Israel, but also for Netanyahu's chances in the March election.
 
This is the same kind of pragmatism that lies behind Makladeh's finding that “a majority of the Arab public favors the peace agreements with the Gulf States."
 
“The public wants peace, it does not matter with whom, because it will bring them economic advantages,” he said. More trade with the UAE, more UAE investors coming to Israel, and Israeli companies going to the UAE, will mean more opportunities for Arab-Israelis, who will be seen as the logical middlemen. [emphasis added]
Makladeh's findings are being taken seriously because he successfully predicted both the Arab turnout and the votes for the Arab Joint List in the last election. 
 
Abbas and his party, United Arab List, are part of the Joint List, which has been opposing both the Abraham Accords--despite the fact that its own constituency approves of it--and opposing the idea of working together with Netanyahu and Likud, another idea that a majority of Arab Israelis appear to accept.
 
In addition to appearing to be on the wrong side of the Abraham Accords and working with Likud, the Joint List also focuses on the Palestinian issue in their opposition to the Abraham Accords. 
 
According to Makladeh's research, Arab Israelis are not as invested in the Palestinian issue as they once were:
“It is not that they don’t love and support them – a big part define themselves as Palestinian – but they say: ‘This is too big for us. We can’t deal with the Palestinian issue. That should be for the US, Russia and France to work out. It can’t all be on our back.’”

As a matter of fact, Abbas actually joined the Joint List in voting against the Abraham Accords with the UAE and Bahrain -- yet he explains that vote in such a way that he does not alienate Arab supporters of working with Israel:

We only voted against the deals to protest that there is no peace deal with the Palestinians. If there will be a real agreement with the Palestinians, there will be real agreements with 55 Muslim countries. But what truly matters is that we are Israelis, and our actions are not supposed to be influenced by whether there is peace with Bahrain. We are a part of Israeli society, and we want to be partners. [emphasis added]
Just try and find another member of the Joint List who talks like that.
 
It is no surprise that there is growing tension between Mansour Abbas and the other members of the Joint List, both because he is taking positions diametrically opposed to theirs and because Abbas is making a name for himself, in part at their expense. 
 
Mansour Abbas is becoming identified with the perceived potential change in the relations between Israel and the Arabs inside the Jewish state.
 
As Haviv Rettig Gur of Times of Israel puts it, "a tectonic shift, a “normalization” process more visceral and vital to Israel’s future, is already well underway closer to home."
 
I'm not afraid to say that I'm introducing a pragmatic new political style, balancing constancy and the ability to influence! I truly believe that if we are to bring real, concrete change to our society, we have to be influential in decision making--which does not mean we need to give up our fortitude, whether patriotic or religious; we just have to find a point where balance is right, to know properly our relationship with the Knesset and how we operate, and that our participation in it is not just to record positions.
Gur noted at the time that the post had over 4,300 likes and that most of the over 700 comments were positive.
 
Abbas took a further step in a TV interview with Arab Israeli journalist Lucy Aharish on the online television channel DemocratTV:
Aharish: “Let’s be specific. [Would you say:] ‘If we get a good enough offer, to be heads of committees, cabinet posts, if Netanyahu turns to us, we are capable of sitting in a government with Netanyahu.’”

Abbas: If I was a regular Arab MK who’s used to a certain discourse, I’d tell you, ‘There’s no such thing. We’d never agree to sit in Netanyahu’s government.’ But I say different. Instead of giving that answer, and then the other side can say, ‘Look, the Arabs don’t want to integrate, don’t want to participate, don’t want to have a say,’ I say, ‘Sure.’ If the prime minister or the head of another party who’s a candidate for prime minister has this attitude [i.e., is willing to have Arab parties as coalition partners], let’s have them say they’re interested in the Joint List, that they want [us] in the circle of decision-makers, and then I’ll have the opportunity to say yes or no.

Why say no before we get an offer? Why? Anyone who has the right to form a government, let him turn to us, we’ll sit, we’ll discuss, and then we’ll decide.
Gur notes, "That Mansour Abbas took great care not to rule out a coalition role for his party is as clear a signal as one could issue that he is asking to be invited in. And the possibility that it may be Netanyahu doing the inviting doesn’t faze him one bit."

His analysis of Abbas and of Arab Israelis is cautiously optimistic, based on developments both around the Middle East and in Israel as well:
As the Palestinian cause fades throughout the Arab world, it fades among Israeli Arabs as well..And the demand to integrate, to gain acceptance, to be heard in the media and in politics, to have a say in the affairs of a country they have come to accept as their own — even if they feel it has yet to accept them as its own — has overwhelmed the old ideologies.

...If Mansour Abbas’s new pragmatism is any indication, it could signal that Israel’s Arabs are increasingly thinking of themselves not in a narrowly Arab context but in a broader Israeli one, as one community among many vying for resources and attention in the broader political landscape.

Leaders sometimes strike out boldly in a new direction, hoping their flock will follow. Mansour Abbas doesn’t seem to believe that’s what’s happening. He seems to think — and despite the vituperation of some this week, he seems to be right — that the Arab Israeli community is already there, already eager for integration and influence. It’s time, he is arguing, for Israel’s Arab leaders to follow.
How this will all work out in the next election is anybody's guess, but there is an additional wrinkle that Gil Hoffman points out that there is a rule in Abbas's United Arab List that will prevent him from running for re-election:
The rule is that MKs can serve no more than three terms, and it does not matter whether that term is four years or four months. Abbas is in his third term, even though he was first elected only 19 months ago.
Come March, Abbas may very well have a new party, one that will openly oppose some of the positions of the Joint List -- which according to polls is already down from 15 to 11 seats.
 
If there really is the potential for normalization within Israel, we are likely to find out in March.
  • Wednesday, December 30, 2020
  • Elder of Ziyon
The far Left has been arguing as loudly as they can there anti-Zionism is not antisemitism - and saying that it is actually fosters more antisemitism.

Here's an example this week from +972 Magazine:

Criticism of the state of Israel is not an attack on Jews, whether as individuals or as a group. As many have argued before, adopting the IHRA definition of antisemitism in fact harms efforts to combat real anti-Jewish hatred by conflating the latter with legitimate political criticism of a foreign government.
If anti-Zionism is a completely different animal than antisemitism, then why do antisemites sound exactly like anti-Zionists when they speak about Israel?

Here are some articles in The Daily Stormer, the infamous white nationalist website, that sound literally identical to articles that can be seen in Electronic Intifada or Mondoweiss or The Nation or Jewish Currents  (with the exception of the word "Zio:")






If these articles are antisemitic - and of course they are, given the source - then how can anyone argue that the same points made by the far Left aren't antisemitic too?

They can't. 

Which means it is the far Left whose positions are harming efforts to combat actual antisemitism, not those who support the IHRA working definition. 

When neo-Nazis are parroting your talking points, perhaps it is past time to do some self-reflection. 

----------------

(While researching this I found out that the site "antizionism.org" is a white supremacist site. Imagine that.)





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  • Wednesday, December 30, 2020
  • Elder of Ziyon
The Fatah Facebook page and Twitter feed published this:


This is Dalal Mughrabi, the terrorist who led the terror attack the resulted in the deaths of 38 Israelis, including 13 children, at the Coastal Road Massacre in 1978

Mughrabi herself murdered Gail Rubin, a professional war and nature photographer, before the bus hijacking.

Fatah, the political party headed by Mahmoud Abbas, and the entire Palestinian Authority regards her as a full hero. Not a flawed hero, not as someone who did something wrong but necessary - no, her role in the murder of dozens of civilians including children are considered wholly praiseworthy. Schools and other public areas are named after her. 

This disgusting, mass murdering piece of filth is a role model to the entire Palestinian people. Here is a screenshot from a video dramatizing the attack that is shown to Palestinian fifth graders showing her as a hero, students have to answer questions in the end on details of the operation.




This is yet another reason why there can never be a real peace between Israel and Palestinians without a huge change in the Palestinian psyche - one that would take generations. 




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Tuesday, December 29, 2020

  • Tuesday, December 29, 2020
  • Elder of Ziyon

From Zvi:

The Abraham Accords are a major opportunity for Israelis and Arabs, and I think they represent an incredibly important milestone for the world as a whole.

I have been reading Arab media and government reactions to these accords, because these reactions are one gauge of how Israel's Arab partners view the situation. It's important to do this in order to avoid the kind of overly optimistic assessments about "the other side" that accompanied the Oslo Accords. What people say in their own press (especially in their own languages) can give a deeper sense of what they are thinking than western-focused reports in global media or sometimes-optimistic reports in Israeli news sources.

Arabic and French media responses in Morocco have changed over the last few weeks.

In the days after the Morocco-Israel announcement, there was virtually no commentary on the Israel deal per se on Arabic- and French-language Moroccan news sites; most ment ioned only that the US had recognized Morocco's claim to Western Sahara, but mention of the Israel relationship was either indirect or almost nonexistent; the word Israel did not always appear anywhere in these stories, and of course it never appeared in the headlines. In some cases, this lack-of-coverage was accompanied by articles insisting that Morocco was a strong supporter of the "Palestinian Cause", e.g. the king called Abbas.

That situation has changed.

For example, no stories about the Morocco-Israel renewal appear on the front page of the As Sabah news site, but the "Patriotism" or "Nation" section includes the following stories:

Moroccan-Israeli relations are a "historic" event that consecrates Morocco as a haven of peace (As-Sabah, Arabic)

This is the report on the comments by the Chief Rabbi of Panama.

Argentine News Agency: Morocco is a major actor in bringing peace to the Middle East (As-Sabah, Arabic)

The photo shows Morocco's king with rabbis.

I don't think I appreciated before how interested the Moroccan media is in opinions from Latin America. I know that the country had been engaged in a diplomatic push in Latin America to gain support for its claims to Western Sahara, but this makes at least 5 unrelated Moroccan news sites (in the Arabic, French and English languages) that are reporting on comments by Moroccan Jewish communities or experts in Mexico, Panama and now Argentina, praising the Morocco-Israel accord. These join reports on praise from American Jews, French Jews from Morocco, Moroccan Jews and Israelis of Moroccan descent.

Morocco brings 4,800 billion from America (A s-Sabah)

The two agreements signed between Morocco and the United States of America, on the sidelines of the visit of the Israeli and American delegations to Morocco, will contribute to mobilizing financial resources amounting to 5 billion dollars, approximately 48 billion dirhams (4800 billion centimes).

Morocco likes to tout its long relationship with the United States, and in addition to rediscovering its ties to Israel's Moroccan Jewish community, the opportunity to refresh Morocco's ties with the United States and the US backing for its Western Sahara stance give Morocco a morale boost that should not be underestimated.

The photo accompanying this story, which was printed 2 days ago:

The American - Israeli delegation arrives in the Kingdom (As-Sabah, Arabic)

This was about a week ago.

His Majesty the King holds talks by phone with the Prime Minister of the State of Israel (Al Maghriba, Arabic)

The photo shows the king, but not Bibi. The article itself is moderately positive. It appears under "Royal Affairs".

Le Matin.ma has one report, also in the "Patriotism" section:

Signature of a joint declaration between Morocco, the U nited States and the State of Israel (Le Matin.ma, French)

This includes the full text of the Joint Declaration by Morocco, Israel and the US, translated into French.

Le Maroc et Israël discutent les perspectives de partenariat stratégique (L'Economiste, French)

This is a report about the virtual meeting between Morocco's Industry Minister and Israel's Amir Peretz.

Moroccan French business site La Vie eco has the Industry Ministers meeting at the top of the home page, but it is kind of a blurb.

Morocco-Israel: Identification of sectors with strong partnership potential (La Vie eco, French)

Telephone interview between His Majesty the King and Benjamin Netanyahu (La Vie eco, French)

From Ian:

Unsettled by Hebron
No Jews have been as relentlessly maligned as the Jews of Hebron. From the time of their arrival following the 1967 Six-Day War—40 years after the murderous annihilation of its Jewish community by rampaging Arabs—they have become the pariahs of the Jewish people. Their presence in the city where the patriarchs and matriarchs of the Jewish people are entombed, and where King David reigned before relocating his throne to Jerusalem, is deemed to be an unlawful and immoral Israeli intrusion on the Palestinian residents of Hebron.

The most recent contributor to this enduring falsehood is Tamara Neuman, an anthropologist and Research Fellow at the Middle East Institute at Columbia. The first page of her Introduction to Settling Hebron: Jewish Fundamentalism in a Palestinian City displays the misinformation that reveals her embedded bias. Gazing at the Machpelah shrine where, according to the biblical narrative, Abraham, Isaac, Jacob, Sarah, Rebecca and Leah are entombed, she nonetheless discerns its “staunch witness to the site’s Islamic character.” Muslims, however, first appeared in the seventh century C.E. long after the reign of King Herod, when the towering Machpelah enclosure was built.

It was, for Neuman, “impossible not to notice the deadening effects of the many [Israeli] soldiers deployed throughout a Palestinian urban area”—in translation, the ancient Jewish Quarter that was “established illegally” following the Six-Day War. (Her tour guide was a founder of Breaking the Silence, a renegade group of ex-soldiers who oppose Jewish settlements.) In a repetitive inversion of historical reality, she accuses Jewish settlers of “the remaking of many Palestinian areas into a geography of biblical sites and origins,” as if Palestinians superseded millennia of Jewish habitation in Hebron. In Neuman’s convoluted (and occasionally incomprehensible) rendering, “Jewish settlers establish a putative sense of the real, which arises from the very materiality of the scene.”

Historically myopic, ignoring millennia of Jewish history in Hebron, she can only discern the “colonial backdrop” of a “land takeover” with “Jewish observance and forms of direct violence in order to erase the presence of an existing Palestinian population.” As for erasure, it was Hebron Arabs who murderously obliterated the centuries-old Jewish community in 1929. She imaginatively, but falsely, describes their targeted violence against a tiny community of several hundred Jews and yeshivah students as “anticolonial riots.”
De Blasio’s Perfect Patsies
Are the Jews to blame for spreading COVID-19 throughout New York City? That’s what Mayor Bill de Blasio suggested in an inflammatory tweet back in April, which, in his typical bumbling fashion, he defended for six months before kinda, sorta walking it back.

Never mind all that. The city is serious! It believes in science! Earlier this week, the mayor’s office launched its “NYC Vaccine for All” campaign, announcing that it will begin offering the COVID vaccine soonest. Who will get it first? Naturally, the neighborhoods “hardest hit” by the pandemic, the mayor’s office assured us, 27 of them in total.

Hallelujah! So now we have an official record of the hardest hit corners of New York, which means that if the mayor’s criticism was correct, we should find many familiar ZIP codes among those singled out for urgent care. Let us, then, turn to the list and search for the neighborhoods heaviest populated by Orthodox Jews, the clear target of the mayor’s ire.

What about, for example, the venerable 11213, at the heart of which lies 770 Eastern Parkway, Chabad’s headquarters? Nope, not on the list. Maybe 11218, 11219, and 11230, representing Borough Park? Not on the list either. Now, surely that massive Hasidic funeral that drew thousands and spurred the NYPD to launch a criminal investigation led to a massive outbreak that sent the neighborhood right into the hardest-hit list, right? Check again: That funeral was launched from the Yetev Lev D’Satmar yeshiva, ZIP code 11249. Good luck finding it on the mayor’s list. You can play this game with most NYC neighborhoods that are home to vast populations of Orthodox Jews; you won’t find them on the list.

None of this is to say that no Jews live in any of the neighborhoods most distressed by the pandemic. Take a close look, and you’ll find some neighborhoods that do have strong Jewish populations, like the border between Bushwick and Williamsburg, say. But look closely, and the picture grows complicated: Wallabout Street, for example, one of the neighborhood’s main Hasidic thoroughfares, is largely uncovered by the mayor’s announcement. So while a significant number of Williamsburg Jews do live in areas that get vaccine priority, the densest part with the largest Jewish population in Williamsburg isn’t in any of the priority neighborhoods. Neither are the central Satmar shuls, or the popular restaurant Gottleib’s.

This exclusion of the lion’s share of the city’s heavily populated Orthodox Jewish neighborhoods from the mayor’s list suggests that one of two things are true.

The first possibility is that the list is an accurate, science-based representation of the virus’s spread rates and patterns. In that case, the absence of most Orthodox Jewish enclaves from the list means the mayor was being both a criminally irresponsible public official for pinning the plague on one blameless minority group, as well as a filthy anti-Semite for picking on the Jews.

The second possibility hardly portrays de Blasio in a better light. According to the mayor’s office—which did not return Tablet’s request for more information—the vaccine’s distribution will be spearheaded by the Taskforce on Racial Equity and Inclusion, which is chaired by the city’s First Lady, Chirlaine McCray, not a medical doctor. In fact, the only prominent physician on the committee, Dr. Raul Perea-Henze, resigned in September, joining a wave of senior officials departing the grossly inept administration.
US court strikes down pandemic limits on New York’s houses of worship
A federal court of appeals ruled that New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo’s capacity limits on houses of worship in areas with rising COVID-19 cases constituted a violation of religious liberty.

The ruling on Monday comes after a Supreme Court injunction last month blocked Cuomo from enforcing the rules until the lower court could reevaluate an earlier ruling that upheld state guidelines limiting synagogue attendance to 10 or 25 people.

The case, brought by the Catholic Diocese of Brooklyn and Agudath Israel of America, an advocacy organization representing ultra-Orthodox Jews, was one of the first religious liberty cases to be decided by the court’s new conservative majority. The appeals court ruling was celebrated by Agudath Israel as confirmation that it had achieved a victory for religious liberty.

“The courts have clearly recognized that the restrictions imposed by New York State violate the constitutional rights of those seeking to attend religious worship services,” Rabbi Chaim Dovid Zwiebel, executive vice president of Agudath Israel of America, said in a statement Monday.

The court of appeals did not rule on the constitutionality of percentage capacity limits, which would have impacted smaller houses of worship. Houses of worship in zones with the highest rates of COVID-19, so-called red zones, were subjected to capacity limits of ten people or 25% of building capacity, whichever is fewer. In orange zones, the limit was 25 people or 33% of capacity, whichever is fewer.

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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 14 years and 30,000 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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