Thursday, February 11, 2021

From Ian:

Natan Sharansky with Gil Troy: The Doublethinkers
It was easy enough to remind myself and them who was really free and who is a scared doublethinker. All I had to do was tell some joke about the Soviet leader, Leonid Brezhnev. Thank God, there were plenty of yarns about his arrogance, his crudeness, his senility. One kidded about him forcing Soviet cosmonauts to outdo the American astronauts who landed on the moon by rocketing to the sun, then reassuring them they wouldn’t be incinerated because they’d be launched during the night. As I’d tell my interrogators a joke, I’d laugh. And, as normal Soviet doublethinkers themselves, they would want to laugh. But they couldn’t, especially if two of them were there together. Laughter would end their careers.

So they’d covered up that temporary glint in their eyes with a tantrum. They’d pound the table, shouting, “HOW DARE YOU?”

“Look,” I’d say to them calmly, “you can’t even smile when you want to smile. And you claim that I’m in prison and you’re free?”

I did this to irritate them, because they spent so much time trying to irritate me. But, mainly, I was reminding myself that I was free, as long as I could laugh or cry in accordance with my own feelings.

Over the last three decades in freedom, I have noticed that—with apologies to Tolstoy—every dictatorship is oppressive in its own way, but the doublethinkers’ mental gymnastics are all alike. The feeling of release from the fear and giddy relief when crossing the line from doublethink to democratic dissent is also universal across cultures. This understanding prompted the Town Square Test I use to distinguish between free societies and fear societies: Can you express your individual views loudly, in public, without fear of being punished legally, formally, in any way? If yes, you live in a free society; if not, you’re in a fear society.

In the West today, the pressure to conform doesn’t come from the totalitarian top—our political leaders are not Stalinist dictators. Instead, it comes from the fanatics around us, in our neighborhoods, at school, at work, often using the prospect of Twitter-shaming to bully people into silence—or a fake, politically-correct compliance. Recent polls suggest that nearly two-thirds of Americans report self-censoring about politics at least occasionally, essentially becoming a nation of doublethinkers despite the magnificent constitutional protections for free thought and expression enshrined in the Bill of Rights

To preserve our integrity and our souls, the quality of our political debate and the creativity so essential to our cultural life, we need a Twitter Test challenging bottom-up cultural totalitarianism that is spreading throughout free societies. That test asks: In the democratic society in which you live, can you express your individual views loudly, in public and in private, on social media and at rallies, without fear of being shamed, excommunicated, or cancelled? Ultimately, whether you will live as a democratic doublethinker doesn’t depend on the authorities or on the corporations that run social media platforms: it depends on you. Each of us individually decides whether we want to submit to the crippling indignity of doublethink, or break the chains that keep us from expressing our own thoughts, and becoming whole.


Coffin Problems
Luck was a defining factor in determining the fate of many in the Soviet Union, and it is the common vein that unites the subjects of this story. Yet the stories recounted here are not representative. Such stories can never be completely told because the Soviet system intentionally left much undocumented. Critical marks on examinations were often written in erasable pencil. Written exams were eschewed in favor of oral ones. Some who lived through the period do not feel they have anything to add; others may find the experience too painful to contemplate, much less talk about. Even among the small cohort described here, there is consensus on a few things but not on many others.

Kac quit his job in 1976 and applied for an exit visa to Israel. He received permission to leave quickly. He secured a position immediately at MIT where he remains today. Zelmanov eventually secured a role at Novosibirsk State and left in 1990. For his breakthrough work on a century-old problem, he was awarded a Fields Medal in 1994—the mathematical equivalent of a Nobel Prize.

Eliashberg was less lucky. He became a refusenik after his visa request was denied in 1979. He had returned to Leningrad before applying, and was forced to support himself at various temporary jobs. This promising mathematician found himself working as a night watchman at a car garage in the city. One of his friends put his own career on the line in order to secure for Eliashberg a job in an accounting software company. He remained there until 1987, when he was finally able to leave the Soviet Union. He was not sure if he would be able to rehabilitate himself as a mathematician. But he succeeded. In the decades since, he has won many of the most prestigious awards in mathematics including the Veblen, Crafoord, and Wolf prizes. Today, he is on the mathematics faculty at Stanford.

For her part, Julia Rashba recalled a poignant moment in the elevator with the MGU examiner who had failed her on the entrance exam. In many ways, she felt unprepared for what had just happened to her. She had experienced anti-Semitism in her childhood with bullies and cruel taunts. Once, as a little girl, she ran away from a day camp where the bullying was too much. She was not aware that the sorts of anti-Semitism that lived in adult institutions would be less benign. She was raised, however, to believe that even in such a discriminatory system, where her own father had experienced nearly insurmountable travails to rise to the top of the Soviet physics establishment—that she needed only to work hard and act with integrity and things should work out.

They had not. The examination she “failed” was not even for medical school, it was for a chemistry program that offered some biomedical tracks. She had hoped that she could contribute to medicine as a scientific researcher, even if she would not be allowed to be a clinician. The system would not even allow this tenuous finger hold on her dream. She recalls that the examiner, perhaps seeking absolution for the shame of what he had just done, quietly apologized and asked for her forgiveness. She refused.
Eli Lake: America in the World: Sheltering in Place
That exchange tells us a lot about the Quincy Institute. The think tank’s foreign policy agenda and arguments echo the anti-interventionism of the 1930s. Most of its scholars are more worried about the exaggeration of threats posed by America’s adversaries than the actual regimes doing the actual threatening. In May, for example, Rachel Esplin Odell, a Quincy fellow, complained that Senator Romney was overstating the threat of China’s military expansion and unfairly blaming the state for the outbreak of the coronavirus: “The great irony of China’s military modernization is that it was in large part a response to America’s own grand strategy of military domination after the Cold War.” In this, of course, it resembled most everything else.

The institute has hired staff that come out of the anti-neoconservative movement of the 2000s. Here we come to a delicate matter. The anti-neoconservatives of that era flirted with and at times embraced an IR sort of anti-Semitism: the obsession with Israel and its influence on American statecraft. Like the America Firsters, the anti-neoconservatives worry about the power of a special interest — the Jewish one — dragging the country into another war. A few examples will suffice. In 2018, Eli Clifton, the director of Quincy’s “democratizing foreign policy” program, wrote a post for the blog of Jim Lobe, the editor of the institute’s journal Responsible Statecraft, that three Jewish billionaires — Sheldon Adelson, Bernard Marcus, and Paul Singer — “paved the way” for Trump’s decision to withdraw from Obama’s Iran nuclear deal through their generous political donations. It is certainly fair to report on the influence of money in politics, but given Trump’s well-known contempt for the Iran deal, Clifton’s formulation had an odor of something darker.

Then there is Trita Parsi, the institute’s Swedish-Iranian vice president, who is best known as the founder of the National Iranian American Council, a group that purports to be a non-partisan advocacy group for Iranian-Americans but has largely focused on softening American policy towards Iran. In 2015, as the Obama administration was rushing to finish the nuclear deal with Iran, his organization took out an ad in the New York Times that asked, “Will Congress side with our president or a foreign leader?” a reference to an upcoming speech before Congress by the Israeli prime minister Benjamin Netanyahu. The National Iranian American Council’s foray into the dual loyalty canard is ironic considering that Parsi himself has been a go-between for journalists and members of Congress who seek access to Mohammad Javad Zarif, Iran’s foreign minister.

This obsession with Israeli influence in American foreign policy is a long-standing concern for a segment of foreign policy realists, who believe that states get into trouble when the national interest is distorted by domestic politics — an affliction that is particularly acute in democratic societies which respect the rights of citizens to make their arguments to the public and to petition the government and to form lobbies. The most controversial of the realists’ scapegoating of the domestic determinants of foreign policy was an essay by Stephen Walt and John J. Mearsheimer (both Quincy fellows) that appeared in the London Review of Books in 2005. It argued that American foreign policy in the Middle East has been essentially captured by groups that seek to advance Israel’s national interest at the expense of America’s. “The thrust of US policy in the region derives almost entirely from domestic politics, and especially the activities of the ‘Israel Lobby,’” they wrote. “Other special-interest groups have managed to skew foreign policy, but no lobby has managed to divert it as far from what the national interest would suggest, while simultaneously convincing Americans that US interests and those of the other country — in this case, Israel — are essentially identical.”

Walt and Mearsheimer backed away from the most toxic elements of their essay in a subsequent book. The essay sought to explain the Iraq War as an outgrowth of the Israel lobby’s distortion of American foreign policy. The book made a more modest claim about the role it plays in increasing the annual military subsidy to Israel and stoking American bellicosity to Israel’s rivals like Iran. They also took pains to denounce anti-Semitism and acknowledge how Jewish Americans are particularly sensitive to arguments that present their organized political activity as undermining the national interest. Good for them. But the really important point is that events have discredited their claims. The all-powerful “Israel Lobby” was unable to wield its political influence to win the fight against Obama’s Iran deal. It was not able to stop Obama’s public pressuring of Israel to accept a settlement freeze. Decades earlier, it had not been able to thwart Reagan’s sale of AWACs to the Saudis. Anyone who believes in an omnipotent AIPAC is looking for conspiracies.


Black History Month: Dr. King, Black Lives Matter… and Israel
Black History Month is an annual commemoration of the achievements of African Americans and a time to recognize their central role in US history. As part of this celebration, we honor the life and legacy of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., who played a key role in the civil rights movement from the mid-1950s until his assassination in 1968. King sought equality and human rights for African Americans, the economically disadvantaged, and all victims of injustice through peaceful protest.

King was a man of faith who understood the moral imperative of Israel and admired the values that undergirded the Jewish state. How sad, then, that at a time of increasing racial tension and antisemitism in the US, issues related to social justice have been manipulated by extremist groups who push a virulently anti-Israel agenda.

Civil Rights and the Jewish State
In fact, anti-Zionist sentiments within the Black Lives Matter (BLM) organization are the antithesis of MLK’s thinking. According to Middle East historian Martin Kramer, the two people closest to Dr. King were refugees from Hitler’s Europe who regarded the creation of Israel as a redemptive act: Rabbi Joachim Prinz and Rabbi Abraham Joshua Heschel.

Just as the Holocaust fueled these men’s passion for civil rights, it cemented their devotion to the Jewish state. It was Heschel who, immediately following the Six-Day War, wrote ‘Israel: Echo of Eternity’. The book includes this quote:

One of the insights learned from the great crisis in May, 1967 is the deep personal involvement of every Jew in the existence of Israel. It is not a matter of philanthropy or general charity but of spiritual identification. It is such a personal relationship to Israel upon which one’s dignity as a Jew is articulated.”

And while there is much conjecture as to where King stood on the Israel-Palestinian issue, he never questioned the Jewish state’s essential legitimacy:
Peace for Israel means security, and we must stand with all our might to protect her right to exist, its territorial integrity and the right to use whatever sea lanes it needs. Israel is one of the great outposts of democracy in the world, and a marvelous example of what can be done, how desert land can be transformed into an oasis of brotherhood and democracy. Peace for Israel means security, and that security must be a reality.”

He is also attributed with having said, “When people criticize Zionists, they mean Jews. You’re talking antisemitism,” in response to a student who had attacked Zionism during an event in 1968.
Vaccine reduces spread risk even before 2nd shot, Israeli study indicates
Vaccinated people become far less of a COVID transmission risk even before receiving their second dose, a new “game-changing” Israeli study has concluded.

The first mass research of its kind on patients who test positive for the coronavirus and are confirmed to have been at least partially vaccinated, the study found that such patients have far smaller viral loads than those who haven’t received the vaccine.

“Our results show that infections occurring 12 days or longer following vaccination have significantly reduced viral loads,” wrote a multi-institution research team that crunched data from the Maccabi healthcare provider, stating they believe that could be important in “potentially affecting viral shedding and contagiousness as well as severity of the disease.”

The viral load was shown to be reduced fourfold on average for infections occurring 12 to 28 days after the first dose of the Pfizer-BioNTech vaccine.

That is considered a time of only partial vaccine protection, as the second shot is administered at 21 days and kicks in a week later. Leading vaccine expert Cyrille Cohen, who wasn’t involved in the study, hailed the results and said they give rise to optimism that the viral load might soon be shown to fall even further after second shot protection.

“This is a game-changer to some extent,” he said. “After all, transmissibility after the vaccine has been one of the most important questions we are asking ourselves.”
1 in 73 ultra-Orthodox Israelis over 65 has died of COVID, report says
One in 73 ultra-Orthodox Israelis over the age of 65 has died of COVID-19 — more than four times the number in the same cohort of the general population — according to a new report.

The report by Shomrim, an Israeli investigative journalism nonprofit organization, found that 1.3 percent of ultra-Orthodox over 65 has died of COVID, compared to 0.27%, or 1 in 373, in the same group in the general population.

The numbers reported by the nonprofit are slightly higher than those of the Health Ministry, which found that 1.2% of the ultra-Orthodox, or Haredi, population over 65 had died of the coronavirus.

Shomrim attributed the disparity to the ministry’s decision not to count deaths in cities with mixed populations of ultra-Orthodox and non-Haredi toward the total for the ultra-Orthodox, which Shomrim did.

Shomrim also noted a study by Eran Segal of the Weizmann Institute of Science finding that 1 in 100 ultra-Orthodox Israelis over 60 died of COVID, compared to 1 in 350 in the general Jewish population.

Regardless of the disparity between the numbers, the death rate among Israel’s ultra-Orthodox makes clear the degree to which the community has been impacted by the coronavirus, even as parts of the community continue to go about their lives as usual and refuse to wear masks or socially distance.
More younger Israelis now being hospitalized for COVID than those 60-plus
More young Israelis are being hospitalized for COVID-19 than older ones, according to new data suggesting that Israel’s vaccination campaign may be having an effect.

As of Wednesday, the number of Israelis under the age of 60 who were newly hospitalized for COVID-19 has surpassed the number of new hospitalizations among those 60 and up.

There were 708 new hospitalizations among the younger group and 575 for the older group. The change first occurred on February 4 and the gap appears to be widening since.

The figure represents the total of new hospitalizations for the preceding week. There are 1,598 Israelis in hospitals — more than the sum of new hospitalizations, because many patients remain in the hospital for over a week.

Israel mainly uses the Pfizer-BioNTech shot, which requires two doses several weeks apart for its full effect, but appears to start to provide some protection days after receiving the first dose.
COVID-19 Given Seat on UN Human Rights Council (satire)
COVID-19 has been elected to the UN Human Rights Council, joining countries such as China, Cuba, Russia and Pakistan on the international body.

COVID-19 is the first virus to sit on the council since it was established in 2006. But electors from the General Assembly noted that the virus will fit in well with the UNHRC’s current members of death and destruction, which also include Libya, Venezuela, and Uzbekistan.

“Judging by past electees, the ability to bring suffering and death on a large portion is what makes one qualified for the Human Rights Council,” one General Assembly explained. “By this metric, there is no one better qualified than COVID.”

As of press time, rapper and presidential candidate Kanye West has also been elected to the council.
UIUC Student’s Israeli Flag Egged
An Israeli flag draped over a University of Illinois Urbana-Champaign (UIUC) student’s balcony was egged on February 8.

WCIA reported that the student, Jeremy Zelner, heard something hit one of his apartment windows at 1:00 A.M., and he found that 10-20 eggs had been thrown at the flag.

“This was a hateful and Anti-Semitic act aimed at Jews,” he wrote in a Facebook post. “This is disgusting and unacceptable. There is no room for hate crimes in the United States against anyone, regardless of skin color, opinions, religion etc.”

Zelner also told WCIA that he hopes the incident garners a lot of attention and that the flag will stay on the balcony. “We’re very in tune with the conflict, we understand what’s going on. We are people that are very welcoming to the conversation about it. And so, you know, I am very proud of being a Jewish person. I’m very proud of my friends who are Jewish as well. And we have conversations, we talk about it. And, you know, it’s important to have those conversations.”
Student Union at London University Rejects Proposal to Rescind IHRA Definition
A motion at the University College London (UCL) to rescind the school’s adoption of the International Holocaust Remembrance Alliance’s working definition of antisemitism was rejected last week by UCL’s student union.

The student union vote was on a proposal calling for adherence to a report by the Academic Board Working Group on Racism and Prejudice, which claimed that the IHRA definition was “not fit for purpose within a university setting and has no legal basis for enforcement.”

The Feb. 3 vote showed 32 percent supporting the proposal and 45 percent against it, along with 23 percent abstaining. The UCL Academic Board plans to meet on Feb. 10 to further discuss the Working Group Report and again debate the IHRA definition.

The IHRA definition of antisemitism was officially adopted by UCL in November 2019.

The vote was originally scheduled for Jan. 26, the eve of Holocaust Memorial Day in the United Kingdom. Members of the UCL Jewish Society were not invited to or notified about the discussion taking place. The vote was moved to Feb. 3 after UCL Jewish Society President Samuel Goldstone found out about the session and shared his dismay over its “shameful and disgusting” timing.
PreOccupiedTerritory: Palestinian Actress Fired For Tweets Not Questioning Holocaust (satire)
Arab social media erupted with controversy today following the dismissal of a popular cast member from a successful drama series because she had made multiple posts that failed to challenge the historicity of the systematic, industrialized Nazi genocide of Jews in the 1940’s.

Maryam Awad, who played the attractive character of Rashida Halq on the Palestinian drama series ‘Ahawat, Sisters, courted scandal earlier this week with tweets and Instagram content that omitted mention of the Holocaust as a hoax and as a pretext for Zionist despoiling of Palestine and moral justification for perpetrating the same crimes against Palestinians. The Palestinian-Authority-run company that produces the show, Quds Productions, reacted swiftly to the uproar with an announcement today that they had terminated Ms. Awad’s contract, and that further production will employ an understudy, CGI, or script rewrites.

“Maryam Awad no longer works for Quds productions, and will no longer appear in ‘Ahawat,” the statement read. “We apologize to our viewers, to Palestine, and to the wider Arab-Muslim world for the offense she caused with her misdeeds. Our company takes its moral obligations seriously, and will not tolerate any so-called ‘lapse of judgment’ from its employees.” With support from a handful of loyal fans, Awad had sought to defend herself from the accusations by pointing to numerous tweets by other Palestinian and Arab public figures with no apparent Holocaust denial, minimization, exploitation, or inversion, to no avail. Awad’s supporters online found themselves dogpiled in response, with several making their accounts private or deleting them entirely.
Israeli Government Presents First of Kind Report on Government Policy to Take on Hate Speech in Social Media
Against the background of sharp rise in hate speech on social media, Ministries of Strategic and Diaspora Affairs release “The Hate Factor” report on Safer Internet Day, defining the government response against social media platforms teeming with incitement, fake news, and conspiracy theories.

Jerusalem, Israel – February 9, 2021– Today, the Ministries of Strategic Affairs and Diaspora Affairs released a government outline constituting of the first holistic national response of its kind to combat hate speech online. The framework was presented in a special Knesset hearing of the Immigration, Absorption, and Diaspora Affairs committee held on occasion of international Safer Internet Day.

The discussion was led MK Cotler-Wunsh and was attended by government officials as well as representatives of major social media networks. The committee focused on getting social media companies to reinvigorate their efforts against antisemitic hate speech online and promote the implementation of effective policy and enforcement against the worry growing trend.

Currently social media companies enjoy widespread freedom of action, which allows them to create policy and selectively enforce it. Photo by: Dani Shem Tov, The Knesset Spokesperson

Among the measures called for is the labeling of anti-Semitic content, similar to industry practice with misinformation surrounding the U.S. presidential election and Covid-19. It also calls on companies to implement clear definitions of hate speech, including implementing the IHRA Working Definition on Antisemitism, referencing it in its policy and labeling.


Guardian columnist fired after controversial tweet about Israel
The Guardian columnist Nathan J. Robinson was fired after criticizing US policy on Israel, or spreading antisemitic fake news on Twitter – it depends on who you ask.

The tweet originally published by Robinson in late December last year read: “Did you know that the US Congress is not actually permitted to authorize any new spending unless a portion of it is directed toward buying weapons for Israel? It’s the law.”

That tweet was followed by another: “or if not actually the written law then so ingrained in political custom as to functionally be indistinguishable from law.”

But it seems like Robinson’s clarification did not impress The Guardian’s US editor John Mulholland.

In an article published by Robinson on February 10 in the Current Affairs magazine, he shared a screenshot of his email correspondence with Mulholland regarding his tweets, shedding some light on the following turn of events.

“No such law exists. In which case this is, as one might say, fake news,” Mulholland wrote to Robinson.
Financial Times suggests that Hamas rocket fire is understandable
Hamas fires rockets at Israel merely to “add pressure” to Israel to “relieve the blockade”.

This assertion almost reads like a statement by the Hamas ministry of propaganda.

Hamas is an internationally proscribed terrorist group committed to Israel destruction and the mass murder of Jews. Regardless of whatever short-term tactical goals they may also have, they fire rockets at Israel for one primary reason: to kill as many Israelis as possible. The fact that they’re usually not successful certainly isn’t due to a lack of desire.

The framing by the FT turns reality on its head, just as the failure of journalists like Srivastava to impute agency to Palestinians means that they are unable to reach the most intuitive and logical conclusions about cause and effect.

Israel’s blockade (which restricts military items and ‘dual use’ items from entering the strip) is of course a response to Hamas’s decision to launch rocket attacks at Israeli cities, build attack tunnels, and engage in other methods of terror. If Hamas were to change their behavior, and cease threatening Israel’s population, the result would be Jerusalem’s loosening of the blockade.

The Financial Times’ attempt to paint Gaza’s fanatical, violent, Jew-hating cult as reasonable and rational political actors victimised by Jewish aggression represents a moral inversion of staggering proportions.


Yad Vashem slams Polish court ruling that Holocaust scholars must apologize
Jerusalem’s Yad Vashem Holocaust memorial museum said Wednesday that it was “profoundly concerned” by a Polish court ruling that two prominent Holocaust researchers must apologize for disseminating claims about a man they said helped kill Jews during World War II.

The Warsaw District Court said on Tuesday that Barbara Engelking and Jan Grabowski must issue an apology to a woman who claimed her deceased uncle had been slandered in a historical work they co-edited.

“Yad Vashem acknowledges the court’s verdict, but remains deeply disturbed by its implications,” the Holocuast museum said in a statement. “Any attempt to limit academic and public discourse through political or legal pressure is unacceptable and constitutes a substantive blow to academic freedom.”

Lawyers for 81-year-old Filomena Leszczynska had argued that her late uncle, Edward Malinowski, was a Polish hero who had saved Jews, and that the scholars had harmed her good name and that of her family.

At stake in the case was Polish national pride, according to the plaintiffs, and according to the defendants, the future independence of Holocaust research.

Judge Ewa Jonczyk ultimately ruled that Engelking and Grabowski must make a written apology to Leszczynska for “providing inaccurate information” that Malinowski robbed a Jewish woman during the war and contributed to the death of Jews hiding in a forest in Malinowo in 1943, when Poland was under German occupation. They were also ordered to apologize for “violating his honor.”
‘Mandalorian’ star fired for comparing US political climate to Holocaust
Lucasfilm says Gina Carano is no longer a part of “The Mandalorian” cast after many online called for her firing over a social media post that likened the experience of Jews during the Holocaust to the US political climate.

A spokesperson with the production company said in a statement on Wednesday that Carano is not currently employed by Lucasfilm with “no plans for her to be in the future.”

“Nevertheless, her social media posts denigrating people based on their cultural and religious identities are abhorrent and unacceptable,” the statement read.

Carano fell under heavy criticism after she posted that “Jews were beaten in the streets, not by Nazi soldiers but by their neighbors…. even by children.”

The actor continued to say, “Because history is edited, most people today don’t realize that to get to the point where Nazi soldiers could easily round up thousands of Jews, the government first made their own neighbors hate them simply for being Jews. How is that any different from hating someone for their political views?”
‘Big Brother’ Portugal Expels Contestant for Repeatedly Making Nazi Salute
A participant of Portugal’s television series “Big Brother,” also called “Duplo Impacto,” was asked to leave the reality show for repeatedly making Nazi salutes in front of his housemates.

While talking to two other members in a bedroom of the “Big Brother” house, Hélder Teixera, 39, jokingly made the gesture popularized by Nazi party leader Adolf Hitler. His peers told him more than once to drop his hand and not do the Nazi salute, but Teixera laughed and proceeded to mimic the Nazi march with his arm raised in the air.

He repeated the joke again days later in another room of the house, in front of more housemates, as shown in footage posted on the Portuguese show’s website on Jan. 28.

The “Big Brother” narrator called all house members into the living room hours later and played on the television a video of a Holocaust survivor talking about the Nazi persecution minorities faced during World War II, including Jews, gypsies and members of the LGBTQ community. The clip also featured footage of Nazi violence, bias against Jews, and people visiting the site of former concentration camps.

Teixera was then confronted regarding his recent actions as the screen began to show him performing the Nazi salute multiple times in the house.
Marvel Comics Apologizes, Wipes Antisemitic Image From Latest Issue of ‘Immortal Hulk’
Stung by widespread condemnation, Marvel Comics this week removed antisemitic imagery from the latest issue of its Immortal Hulk comic.

The issue, published last week, was slammed after some readers noticed that one panel featured the character Joe Fixit, in control of Bruce Banner’s body, stepping into a jewelry store.

The name of the shop – “Cronemberg Jewery” – is seen in reverse on the window above a Star of David. The site ComicsXF said: “[The] only conceivable interpretation, to put it frankly, is that this is a visual play on the old and antisemitic trope of Jews running the diamond business.” It described the panel as “an incredibly overt antisemitic dogwhistle.”

The issue’s artist, Joe Bennett, subsequently apologized on Facebook, writing that he had been including references to famous horror movie directors throughout the series, and that he had intended to feature a nod to David Cronenberg in issue 43. The misspellings of jewelry and Cronenberg, he said, were “an honest but terrible mistake” because he was writing backwards, but he added that he had “no excuse” for the inclusion of the Star of David.

“I failed to understand this troubling and offensive stereotype, and after listening to you all, I now understand my mistake,” he wrote. “This was wrong, offensive, and hurtful in many ways. This is a mistake I must own, and I am sorry to everyone who I hurt by this. I am working with Marvel to correct this, and I am using this lesson to reflect on how I approach my stories and my work.”
Israel becomes 10th country to join Dubai-led international trade program
Israel became the 10th country to join the Dubai-led World Logistics Passport program, Wednesday, in a move that will allow Israeli firms to expand trade to countries in the southern hemisphere.

India, South Africa, Indonesia, Brazil, and Columbia are all members of the WLP.

At a virtual ceremony to sign the agreement, Sultan Ahmed Bin Sulayem, the chairman of Dubai's Ports, Customs, and Free Zone Corporation said, "We welcome the Federation of Israeli Chambers of Commerce into the World Logistics Passport, as we further strengthen and elevate ties between our two nations. Through the WLP, we aspire to forge closer economic ties and harness our collective experience, to unlock new trade opportunities for Israel with the world, via Dubai, and with Tel Aviv as a major logistics center."

FICC Vice President Amir Shani said, "This partnership will allow Israeli companies to reduce cost and improve their supply chain to and from Israel using Dubai as a logistical hub for new markets."

He said that with goods now able to travel through Dubai, traders could expect to save 25% on freight costs and 10% on transit time.

"The Abrahams Accords and Israel's connection to Dubai enable it to become a regional and global player and open new trade routes, possibilities, and business exchange," he said.
Israeli startups raise record $1.44 billion from investors in January
Investments in Israeli startups surged to a record $1.44 billion in January, even as the pandemic has continued to wreak its havoc, Start-Up Nation Central (SNC), a nonprofit that tracks Israel’s tech industry, said on Thursday.

The figure compares to $956 million raised in January 2020, just before the pandemic struck. May 2020 saw a drop in investment to just $433 million, but by autumn investments were above the $1 billion mark, reaching $1.26 billion in September.

During January this year, six startups raised more than $100 million each, or so called mega rounds, during the month, totaling 73% of the total funds raised that month. The mega-rounds in January 2021 alone equal close to 30% of the total number of mega-rounds in the entire year of 2020, which totaled 21.

The strong data “reflects a strong vote of investor confidence in Israel’s innovation ecosystem during the COVID-19 pandemic,” SNC said in a statement. The January figure “is the highest number of both mega-rounds and general investments made during a single month in Israeli start-ups.”

The six mega-rounds that were announced during January 2021 were:
• Rapyd Financial Network (Fintech): $300 million, D Round
• Drivenets (Network Infrastructure): $208 million, B Round
• OwnBackup (Enterprise solutions): $167.5 million, D Round
• K Health (Digital health): $132 million, E Round
• Resident Home (Ecommerce): $130 million, B Round
• Melio (Fintech): $110 million, D Round
Hope grows for blood cancer patients, as cell therapy firm’s key trial succeeds
Gamida Cell Ltd., a maker of cell and immune therapy technologies, on Wednesday published the results of a key late-stage clinical trial of its flagship drug, which aims to increase the success of bone marrow transplants in blood cancer patients — triggering a surge in its Nasdaq-traded shares.

Gamida’s shares jumped almost 26% on the US exchange Wednesday. The shares have advanced 163% in the past 12 months, leading to a company valuation of $733 million. The firm held its initial public offering of shares on the Nasdaq in 2019 to help finance the final stage trial of the drug.

The phase three study tested the safety and efficacy of its omidubicel drug, previously called NiCord, in patients with blood-based cancers.

The data showed that omidubicel resulted in faster blood count recovery, fewer bacterial and viral infections, and fewer days in the hospital.

All of these “are meaningful results and represent potentially important advancements in care when considering the patient experience following transplant,” said Mitchell Horwitz, principal investigator and professor of medicine at the Duke Cancer Institute, in a statement released by the Jerusalem-based firm.

The data was from the international, multi-center, randomized Phase 3 study of the drug, designed to evaluate the safety and efficacy of omidubicel in patients with high-risk hematologic malignancies undergoing a bone marrow transplant compared with a group of patients who received a standard umbilical cord blood transplant.

In May, the firm said that the study yielded positive results and met a major target — showing that omidubicel led to a statistically significant reduction in the time needed to for patients to begin making healthy new cells after receiving stem cells, which is a key milestone in a patient’s recovery from a bone marrow transplant.
Google Doodle honors Fredy Hirsch, Zionist educator who saved Holocaust youth
Google Doodle ran a special feature on Thursday honoring Alfred “Fredy” Hirsch, a teacher and Zionist youth movement leader, in Nazi-occupied Europe, who saved the lives of many Jewish children and provided many others with a glimmer of hope and dignity in the hardest circumstances the world had ever known.

Hirsch was the deputy supervisor of children at Theresienstadt concentration camp and the supervisor of the children's block at the Theresienstadt family camp at Auschwitz II-Birkenau, where Jewish inmates from Theresienstadt were kept, and where he granted small but critical and often live-saving privileges to the youngest prisoners of the camp.

Hirsch did everything in his power to give hope to the youth in his block, by organizing concerts, encouraging children to paint scenes from fairy tales, and even salvaging tin cans to help children create sculptures.

He somehow convinced the SS to allow the barrack to be dedicated to children during the daytime, thereby creating the only educational oasis of its kind in Auschwitz.

Many of the children that he taught credit him for sparking their creative pursuits, like Zuzana Růžičková who survived Auschwitz and later became one of the world's greatest harpsichordists.
Lost letter on Zionism from ‘Father of the Chinese Nation’ surfaces
An original signed letter in which Dr. Sun Yat-sen expresses his strong support for Zionism has recently surfaced at the National Library of Israel in Jerusalem and is now online for the first time.

In the letter, the pre-Communist era leader venerated until today as the father of the Chinese nation calls Zionism "one of the greatest movements of the present time," continuing that, "All lovers of Democracy cannot help but support whole-heartedly and welcome with enthusiasm the movement to restore your wonderful and historic nation…" The message, dated April 24, 1920, was sent to N.E.B. Ezra, founder of the Shanghai Zionist Association.

Dr. Sun Yat-sen served as the first provisional president of the Republic of China, established in 1912 following the fall of the last imperial dynasty, prior to the Chinese Civil War and Communist Revolution. While his support of Zionism is well-documented and the letter's text was previously known, the original signed copy has only now been rediscovered, over a century after it was written.

The letter recently surfaced as part of a major National Library of Israel initiative, supported by the Leir Foundation, to review and describe millions of items in its archival collections, including personal papers, photographs, and documents from many of the 20th century’s most prominent figures. The initiative is part of the Library’s current renewal, which includes next year's opening of a new campus adjacent to the Knesset (Israeli Parliament) in Jerusalem.
Steven Spielberg wins Israel’s prestigious Genesis Prize for films, philanthropy
Steven Spielberg has been awarded Israel’s prestigious 2021 Genesis Prize in recognition of his contribution to cinema, his philanthropic works and his efforts to preserve the memory of the Holocaust, organizers announced Wednesday.

The $1 million award is granted each year to a person for their professional achievements, contributions to humanity and commitment to Jewish values. Previous recipients have donated the prize to philanthropic causes, though Spielberg, who was only notified of the honor late Wednesday, did not immediately comment on his plans.

“The Genesis Prize celebrates Steven Spielberg’s unique talent, his commitment to making the world a better place, and his unparalleled contribution to teaching the post-war generations about the horrors of the Holocaust,” said Stan Polovets, co-founder and chairman of the Genesis Prize Foundation.

Spielberg is one of the most successful and influential filmmakers of all time, with a string of blockbusters to his name. They include “Jaws,” “E.T. the Extra Terrestrial,” “Raiders of the Lost Ark” and “Jurassic Park.” He has won three Academy Awards for his work on “Schindler’s List” and “Saving Private Ryan” and numerous other industry recognitions.

At a 2018 screening marking the 25th anniversary of “Schindler’s List,” Spielberg said no work had affected him like the landmark Holocaust drama, which collected a total of seven Oscars.





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