Saturday, February 27, 2021

From Ian:

Seth Frantzman: Israel's Strategy To Stop Iran's Existential Threats
Israel is willing to take action to prevent Iran obtaining nuclear weapons, Israeli Defense Minister Benny Gantz said this week. His statement framed part of a full-court press of Israel warning of Iran's regional threats as Tehran continues to enrich uranium. Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu has long warned of Iran's pursuit of nuclear weapons, but the transition to a new administration in Washington has been exploited by Iran to increase its enrichment and threats. A senior Israeli defense official laid out to me this week how seriously Israel views the threat. Tehran should listen.

Israel has acted in the past to prevent Iraq and Syria from obtaining nuclear capabilities. Netanyahu warned in a 2012 speech to the United Nations that a red line must be drawn on Iran's nuclear enrichment program. Now Iran's Ayatollah Khamenei says Iran could increase the levels of enrichment to 60 percent. This is a nuclear numbers game that Iran uses like a game of chicken with the U.S., hoping the Biden administration will blink and jump right back into an Iran Deal 2.0.

For Israel, it's essential that the U.S. understand Jerusalem's views. Israel doesn't want a nuclear arms race in the region. Iran is an existential threat and no matter who wins Israel's elections next month, Israel will not accept a threat that violates its declared red lines. At the same time, Israel wants the U.S. and its Western allies to know that they can count on Israel to confront Iran's proxies and various entrenchments throughout the region. In January 2019, former Israel Defense Forces Chief of General Staff Gadi Eizenkot revealed that Israel had carried out more than 1,000 airstrikes on Iranian targets in Syria. Since then, Israel has continued what it calls the "campaign between the wars" to stop Iran's entrenchment in Syria and transfer of weapons to Hezbollah in Lebanon.

There is no substitute for U.S. power and influence in the Middle East, the senior Israeli defense official told Newsweek this week. This unshakable bond with the U.S. is essential, as is bipartisan support for Israel in Congress. Part of this support for Israel also anchors the Jewish state in the region via new U.S.-brokered peace deals with the United Arab Emirates and Bahrain, and it is linked to U.S. support for other important partners, such as Egypt, Saudi Arabia and Jordan. While the Biden administration has been critical of Egyptian and Saudi human rights abuses, as Secretary of State Antony Blinken recently indicated in a call with his Egyptian counterpart, Israel hopes this criticism will go hand-in-hand with continued U.S. support.
Iran doesn’t hate Israel
Last week, the Iranian judo champion Saeid Mollaei, who accepted a life of exile rather than refuse to compete against Israelis, took part in a tournament in Tel Aviv. He was welcomed to the country by the Israeli Judo champion Sagi Muki, who called the Iranian his ‘brother’.

Mollaei was one of many young Iranian athletes from conservative roots who used their profession as a means to escape and take a public stand against the Ayatollahs. And it is not only the younger generation that is liberalising.

After the Islamic revolution of 1979, ordinary Iranians tended to embrace the anti-Israeli and anti-Western slogans pumped out by the new rulers. Not anymore. Pro-Israel views range from an ‘Iran first’ indifference to the Jewish state – a popular slogan is ‘Not Gaza, not Lebanon, my life only for Iran’ – to out-and-out Iranian pro-Zionism, which is tied into a hatred for the theocracy that makes hell out of daily life.

In such a corrupt, statist country, huge numbers of people rely for their living on the government, and this has traditionally helped to keep any resistance in check. And citizens have previously put up with the oppression partly out of a hope for reform. But the bite of sanctions is making people bolder. Sporadic demonstrations are put down with increasing levels of lethality, to which the public is gradually becoming inured. Perhaps the only thing saving the Ayatollah is the absence of a well-organised opposition.

From the regime’s point of view, all of this makes the threat of popular uprising very real. The authorities are in a constant state of alert, clamping down on organised groups such as labour unions in a desperate bid to cauterise any roots of dissent. State surveillance has become absurdly extensive. In fact, Israeli intelligence sources have told me that their spies are able to operate so effectively in Iran because the security services are burdened by having to monitor such large numbers of their own citizens.

Recently, while briefing off-the-record on aggressive operations targeting the Tehran regime, an Israeli official described the place as a ‘beautiful country with beautiful people’. ‘We are aiming to defend ourselves, not harm them,’ the source told me.

In this statement, I found great hope. Israel and Iran may be sworn enemies, but take the regime away and there is no bad feeling. In their deep tolerance, the people of Iran are remarkable. The international community must not lose its affection for them, or allow their reputation to be contaminated by their oppressors. Iran: we love you; we respect you; we are waiting for you. One day, there will be peace.
IfNotNow smears IHRA definition as a ‘threat’ to progressivism
The self-proclaimed Jewish-American “progressive” organization IfNotNow hosted a discussion on Jan. 27 about “how the IHRA definition of anti-Semitism has been destroying the progressive movement.” The word “discussion,” may, in fact, be too generous a term for what was, in reality, a diatribe of misinformation.

An address by Taher Herzallah, associate director of outreach and grassroots organizing for American Muslims for Palestine (AMP), took up much of the event. It should be noted right away that AMP’s platforms disseminate anti-Jewish propaganda. Articles on its website complain about “Jews … illegally colonizing the occupied territories” and “Zionist Jews” who have the gall to regard Jerusalem as the undivided capital of the Jewish state. Appallingly, a video posted to AMP’s Facebook page commemorating “Nakba Day” falsely presents a picture of Holocaust victims as Palestinian victims of Israeli violence (the picture in question is displayed at 1:25 in the video). IfNotNow has partnered with AMP in the past.

Herzallah has hardly shied away from hatred himself. At a 2014 AMP conference, he reportedly claimed: “Israelis have to be bombed; they are a threat to the legitimacy of Palestine, and it is wrong to maintain the State of Israel.” That same year, AMP hosted a fundraiser dinner in honor of Rasmea Odeh, a convicted terrorist directly responsible for the deaths of two civilians in a 1969 grocery-store bombing in Jerusalem. IfNotNow may purport to “stand up for the freedom and dignity for all Israelis and Palestinians,” but its embrace of AMP suggests otherwise.

The rhetoric spouted by Herzallah during this event is of equal concern. He egregiously asserted that “people like [him] … had to pay the price” for the Holocaust—an obvious attempt to appropriate the trauma of the victims of Nazi genocide on International Holocaust Remembrance Day, no less. He even dismissed the well-documented alliance between “certain Palestinian leaders” and the Nazi regime as part of a “myth” before later insisting that “we want to question the existence of the State of Israel itself.” This questioning, he urged, “should not be off the table.”


Get vaccinated now! The Torah commands it
During my visits to coronavirus wards at hospitals across Israel, I encountered a most worrying statistic. All of the hospitalized were relatively young people who had not been vaccinated. A few minutes after one such visit, I learned that a childhood friend of mine, a healthy individual with no pre-existing conditions, had died. That morning, he had found it difficult to breathe; by 5 p.m., he headed downstairs to the ambulance waiting to take him to the hospital. By 2 a.m. the next morning, he was gone.

These visits and this news have led me to call on all of you to get vaccinated.

We have the incredible fortune afforded to us by God to have a vaccine, but many of us still contemplate the move, despite the fact that halachah (Jewish law) mandates that we inoculate against the virus.

According to senior physicians in Israel and around the world, the vaccine is the best answer to the coronavirus. The risk of the virus is certain. The risks posed by the vaccine are in question. These doctors’ unequivocal position has been that we must vaccinate unless instructed otherwise by a doctor.

I wonder who gave certain individuals the courage to play with people’s lives. How can irresponsible people try and undermine something that has been proven to save lives?

Unfortunately, this phenomenon of convention-breaking is not just typical of our battle with the coronavirus; we see this in many other fields. Those same people who work so hard to prevent people from getting the vaccine bear no responsibility for the public. While they say that they want to preserve their rights, they are in fact harming their fellow man.
Pfizer CEO Albert Bourla calls Israel 'world's lab' in interview to NBC
"I believe Israel has become the world's lab right now because they are using only our vaccine at this state and they have vaccinated a very big part of their population, so we can study both economy and health indices," said Pfizer CEO Albert Bourla during an interview given to NBC News on Friday.

"What we've seen is that the vaccine efficacy in real-world data is getting higher as we speak, following the second vaccination, so seven days compared to 14 days post-second vaccination, there is a difference in efficacy," Bourla claimed.

When asked whether one could infect others after receiving two doses of the vaccine, he said: "It is something that needs to be confirmed, and the real-world data that we are getting from Israel and other studies will help us understand this better.

"But there are a lot of indicators right now that are telling us that there is a protection against the transmission of the disease," Bourla added.

Bourla further noted that studies on the risk of the vaccine are also underway on pregnant women and younger children.

"We have already licensed for kids 16 and above... we are already doing trials for kids between 11 years old all the way to 16, and I hope that we will be able to have data in a couple of months. We are also planning to initiate pediatric studies from a younger age, from age 5 all the way to 11. And I believe we should have data about this population by the end of the year," Bourla said, according to NBC.
Austrian chancellor, Danish PM to visit Israel for COVID cooperation
Austria's Chancellor Sebastian Kurz said on Twitter that he will travel to Israel with Danish Prime Minister Mette Frederiksen on March 4 to expand cooperation on the handling of the coronavirus pandemic.

"We have been in close contact with our partners Denmark and Israel," said Kurz, who said the partnership has been ongoing since spring. Kurz said that he and Frederiksen will cooperate with Netanyahu on the "research and production of vaccines and drugs," saying that the first priority is to accelerate the production and procurement of vaccines.

The tweet is part of a thread posted on Saturday that addresses Kurz's plans for Austria's return to post-pandemic life.

"With the vaccination we will return to normal in the summer," tweeted Kurz. "The pandemic will continue to preoccupy us with mutations that may require further vaccines and treatments," Kurz went on to say, explaining that this means Austria must continue to work to prepare for post-vaccine life with the coronavirus.

"The aim must be to adapt existing vaccines and therapies as quickly as possible or produce new ones as quickly as possible."
Israel suspends delivery of vaccines to other countries amid legal uncertainty
Israel has halted its plan to ship surplus coronavirus vaccines to a group of friendly nations as authorities examine whether it was in Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s authority to order the move, the Justice Ministry said Thursday.

The announcement put a freeze on a plan that reportedly would have seen up to 100,000 vaccine doses sent to numerous countries.

In a statement, Attorney General Avichai Mandelblit said he had received a number of requests to review Netanyahu’s decision. One of those requests, he said, came from Netanyahu’s National Security Adviser Meir Ben-Shabbat, who told Mandelblit he had been instructed, apparently by the prime minister, to “freeze any action on the matter.”

It was the latest twist in a saga that has raised questions at home about Netanyahu’s decision-making authority as well as his move to help far-flung nations in Africa and Latin America at a time when the neighboring Palestinian territories are struggling to secure their own vaccine supplies. The plan has also illustrated how at a time of global shortages, the vaccine has become an asset that can be used for diplomatic gain.

Earlier Thursday, Defense Minister Benny Gantz called for a halt in the shipments, saying Israel’s stockpile of vaccines is the property of the state. He attacked the prime minister’s go-it-alone approach and questioned Netanyahu’s claims that there are really excess supplies when Israelis still have not been fully vaccinated.

“This is not the first time that significant defense and diplomatic decisions are being made behind the backs of the relevant bodies, while possibly damaging our national security, our foreign relations, and the rule of law,” Gantz wrote. “This is a pattern which impinges upon our ability to manage the country soundly.”
In Line For Senior Job at State, Sanders Aide Accuses Biden of Illegal Military Action
A top aide for Sen. Bernie Sanders (I., Vt.) who is reportedly in line to join the Biden administration took to Twitter Friday morning to assail the administration’s surprise airstrike in Syria by U.S. forces, the first military action in the war-torn country authorized by President Joe Biden.

Matt Duss, a Sanders aide who has established himself as a leading anti-Israel activist on the left, wrote that "Congress has not authorized war in Syria," echoing criticism from many on the left who see the military strike on Syria-based Iranian militias as an illegal and unconstitutional act of war by the Biden administration.

The remark, one of several criticisms leveled by far-left foreign policy observers, comes as Duss is reportedly in line for a job at Biden's State Department. While his rumored hiring has garnered praise from the Democratic Party’s left flank, it is unusual for prospective hires to accuse their prospective employers of war crimes.

It is not the first time Duss has criticized the president—last year he accused Biden "of undermining [former president Barack] Obama's peace effort" between the Israelis and Palestinians, saying that Biden's pro-Israel approach "has been wholly discredited by the last three years."

It remains unclear what position Duss is in consideration for at the State Department. He is one of more than 100 hundred hires the progressive community is championing for jobs in the Democratic administration in hopes of pushing the State Department further left on foreign policy issues. In addition to his anti-war advocacy, Duss is a longtime critic of the U.S. alliance with Israel and has pushed to limit cooperation between America and the Middle East’s sole democracy.
‘Jewish ideas poison people,’ State Department official writes in blog
A US State Department employee named Fritz Berggren has been moonlighting as a blogger devoted to attacking Jews and promoting white Christian nationalism.

“Jesus Christ came to save the whole world from the Jews — the founders of the original Anti-Christ religion, they who are the seed of the Serpent, that brood of vipers,” Berggren wrote in an October 4, 2020, post on his website titled “Jews are Not God’s Chosen People. Judeo-Christian is Anti-Christ.”

Later in the post he writes, “Jewish ideas poison people.”

Berggren has been sharing his extremist and anti-Semitic views under his real name for years while working as a mid-level civil servant. Politico first reported the connection on Friday after being tipped off by current and former State Department officials.

Berggren espouses the idea, common among the far-right, that white people are at risk of being eliminated through demographic change and organized persecution. He commonly rails against Black Lives Matter and other social movements identified with the left.

On Friday afternoon, he published a new post titled, “Welcome, Politico readers!” He concluded the post with a PS: “If you have not already surmised, my ideas are my own and not a reflection of any employer, company, agency, country, etc.”

Politico reported that Berggren works for a State Department unit that handles special immigrant visas for Afghans. He has been identified as a Foreign Service worker since as early as 2009.


Blaming Iran, security officials said to back response to blast on Israeli ship
Israeli security officials view the attack on an Israeli-owned ship in the Persian Gulf on Friday as a crossing of a red line on the part of Iran, and support an Israeli response, according to a report Saturday.

Kan News said Israel unequivocally believes Tehran was behind the explosion, and high-level discussions on the matter are expected to take place Sunday.

In an interview Saturday, Defense Minister Benny Gantz told Kan there is “a likelihood” that Iran is behind the explosion.

The cargo ship MV Helios Ray anchored in Dubai on Saturday morning. The blast did not disable the ship or injure its crew, but forced it ashore for repairs.

In an interview with Kan News, Gantz said that the proximity between the location of the incident and the Islamic Republic raised concerns that it was responsible for the attack, but added that a probe had not yet been completed.

“We need to continue investigating,” he stressed. “The Iranians are looking to harm Israelis and Israeli infrastructure. The proximity to Iran leads to the assessment that there is a likelihood that this is an Iranian initiative. We are committed to continuing to check.”

Channel 13 News reported that security officials believed the attack was carried out by Iran’s Revolutionary Guard Corps, who fired two missiles at the ship.

The report said Israeli and US teams were expected to arrive on the ship to investigate the explosion in the coming days.
Israel stayed away from UAE arms fair ‘for fear Iran would target its delegates’
Israel canceled its participation in this week’s Abu Dhabi arms fair because of fears that its delegates would be targeted for assassination by Iran, a television report said.

The Israeli delegation was to have included the heads of Israel’s major defense companies, seeking lucrative contracts and underlining the newly normalized relations between Israel and the United Arab Emirates.

The biennial International Defense Exhibition and Conference, or IDEX, long has been the largest defense showcase in the Middle East. This year’s event was the first time that Israel had been invited.

The Defense Ministry announced on February 15 that the Israeli delegation would not attend after all, however, citing coronavirus restrictions that have forced the closure of Ben Gurion Airport.

This was only a pretext, Channel 12 news reported Saturday night. In fact, Israel canceled its participation because of fears that its delegates would be targeted by Iran — seeking to avenge a series of attacks attributed to Israel in which Iranian nuclear scientists have been killed and nuclear facilities sabotaged. In the most high-profile such incident recently, Mohsen Fakhrizadeh, the alleged father of Iran’s rogue nuclear weapons program, was killed outside Tehran in November in an attack widely attributed to Israel.

The TV report said the UAE authorities were told the true reason for the cancelation, and accepted it without rancor. It said the decision to cancel was taken by “the security establishment,” and was not a source of dispute between Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and Defense Minister Benny Gantz.
PA to close schools, partially lock down West Bank as cases double in two weeks
The Palestinian Authority will enact a partial lockdown in the West Bank for the next 12 days after cases more than doubled over the past two weeks, PA Prime Minister Mohammed Shtayyeh said Saturday.

The steps will include a closure of all educational institutions; a ban on travel between provinces; a ban on the entry of Arab Israelis; a ban on all parties, weddings and funerals; a nighttime curfew, with all vehicular travel prohibited; and a full lockdown on weekends.

Health officials had called for a “full two-week lockdown” in their recommendations to the prime minister. In televised remarks on Saturday, Shtayyeh did not say why a partial lockdown had been chosen rather than a full one.

“A two-week [total] lockdown would reduce the number of infections, reduce transmission and reduce hospital occupancy,” Palestinian Authority Health Minister Mai Al-Kaila had said on Thursday.

According to the PA Health Ministry, there are currently 12,015 active cases in the West Bank. Two weeks ago, there were only 5,971 West Bank cases, the Health Ministry reported.

Around 24 percent of coronavirus tests came back positive across the West Bank on Saturday. In some governorates, this has risen as high as 30% over the past few days.
Hamas naval vessel posing as fishing boat said destroyed off Gaza coast
A Hamas naval vessel posing as a fishermen’s boat off the Gaza coast this week was the source of a “potential threat” to Israeli ships in the area, according to an unsourced report by Channel 12 on Friday.

The network’s military correspondent reported that many of the details of the incident on Monday were banned from publication by the military censor, but the Hamas boat was destroyed and sunk by a missile fired by Israeli forces, according to the report which could not be verified.

It was not immediately clear how many people were aboard, but Channel 12 reported that the boat was operated by members of Hamas’s naval commando unit.

The Palestinian news site Shehab had reported that the boat was destroyed by two missiles off the coast of the Gazan city of Khan Younis.

On Monday, the Israel Defense Forces said it uncovered a “potential threat” to naval ships off the Gaza coast, without elaborating on the nature of the threat.

“Earlier today, our troops spotted suspicious naval activity in the maritime zone along the Gaza Strip which posed a potential threat to Israeli Navy vessels,” the military said.

“IDF troops detected the activity and thwarted it,” the military added.
Congress must check Biden's risky Iran reset
Just days after U.S. forces in Iraq suffered casualties from a rocket attack likely launched by an Iran-backed militia, the Biden administration appeared to turn the other cheek by signaling openness last week to talks with Iran to reenter the flawed nuclear deal that President Donald Trump rightly quit in 2018.

It is becoming clear that with the Biden administration, the American people can expect a strategy of appeasement in the Middle East and a foreign policy mashup of President Barack Obama’s worst hits: reentering the failed Iran nuclear deal, rolling back America’s restored alliances, and sapping momentum from the Abraham Accords.

Congress must proactively serve as a check on President Joe Biden’s headstrong drive to reset relations with Iran’s terror-sponsoring regime.

Toward that end, I am introducing the Iran Sanctions Relief Review Act. This legislation would build on the precedent of a 2017 bipartisan law that empowers Congress to vote to support — or block — Russian sanctions relief. It would apply these identical congressional review procedures to any future Iran sanctions relief, including any to revive the Iran nuclear deal.

The Middle East strategy of the Biden administration takes its lead from former President Obama, who was blinded by the false hope of transforming Iran into a moderate partner. As a consequence, the Obama administration alienated our regional allies by pursuing the fatally-flawed nuclear deal.

Unsurprisingly, Iran used the nuclear deal’s massive financial windfall to fund proxy wars, terrorism, missiles, cyber attacks, and the barbarous Assad regime. Worse, the Obama administration responded slowly as ISIS conquered vast territory, Syria fell into chaos, and Russia reentered the Middle East for the first time since 1973.

The Trump administration spent the last four years repairing this damage. It took deliberate — and, at times, bold — steps to restore relations with Israel, Egypt, and the Gulf States.
New Bill Would Mandate Congress Approve Any Sanctions Relief for Iran
New legislation being circulated by Republican Senate leaders would handicap the Biden administration’s renewed diplomacy with Iran by requiring that Congress approve any effort to provide the regime with economic sanctions relief as part of a revamped nuclear deal, according to a copy of the measure obtained exclusively by the Washington Free Beacon.

The bill marks a major legislative shot across the bow by Senate Republicans as the Biden administration pursues direct negotiations with Iran about reentering the 2015 nuclear accord. Iranian leaders are already demanding the United States provide it with billions of dollars in sanctions relief and cash assets before it agrees to bring its growing nuclear program back in compliance with the accord. The new legislation would mandate the Biden administration go to Congress for approval of any sanctions relief package, potentially complicating efforts by the White House to skirt Congress as it negotiates with Tehran.

The Iran Sanctions Relief Review Act of 2021, authored by Sen. Bill Hagerty (R., Tenn.), a member of the Banking Committee and Foreign Relations Committee, already has the backing of 20 Senate Republicans, including Tom Cotton (Ark.), Roy Blunt (Mo.), John Cornyn (Texas), Marco Rubio (Fla.), Joni Ernst (Iowa), and Ben Sasse (Neb.), among others.

The bill is just the latest effort in a broadening campaign by Republican lawmakers to stop the Biden administration from rushing into a deal that a significant portion of congressional leaders oppose. Rep. Tim Burchett (R., Tenn.), for instance, petitioned the State Department on Thursday to provide lawmakers with information about secret talks between U.S.-Iran envoy Robert Malley and Chinese leaders, as the Free Beacon first reported.
Seth Frantzman: Beyond Khashoggi: How the US and Saudi Arabia fell out and might ‘reset’
The US decision to release a declassified intelligence report on the murder of former Saudi Arabia insider Jamal Khashoggi could either represent part of the long-term shift in US-Saudi relations or a nadir before a reset.

Ostensibly, the release embarrasses the kingdom. However, like many things relating to how markets and foreign relations perform, this should have been factored in. What this means is that the ire and wrath that was already poured out on Riyadh has been growing for years.

What is actually happening here? It was widely known, or at least suspected to the degree that it becomes a fact, that Riyadh was to blame for the killing of Khashoggi. He disappeared after entering the Saudi Arabia consulate in Istanbul in 2018. When people go into a consulate and don’t come out, that generally means the country disappeared them.

Turkey also used the incident, which it may have had real-time knowledge of or even forewarning about, to push a crisis with Saudi Arabia. This is because when it comes to the Khashoggi affair, there were many things taking place at the same time. He was killed for being a dissident and for embarrassing the kingdom. As a former insider with deep ties to the country, the fact that he went to Qatar, at the time a kind of arch enemy, and was slamming Saudi Arabia in Western and Turkish media, was a problem for Riyadh.

Khashoggi also had deep ties with the foreign policy and think-tank establishment in the US. There doesn’t seem to have been an influential person he didn’t know. For a Saudi government always sensitive to its image in the West – which has worked hard for decades to make sure that high level former regime insiders don’t turn up as critics abroad – silencing him became a priority.
US bans 76 Saudis over Khashoggi killing, but doesn’t sanction crown prince
The United States will ban entry of foreigners who threaten dissidents and will immediately restrict 76 Saudis in honor of the slain Jamal Khashoggi, Secretary of State Antony Blinken said Friday.

After President Joe Biden declassified a report that pinned blame on Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman over Khashoggi’s 2018 killing in Istanbul, Blinken vowed the administration will “push back against governments that reach beyond their borders to threaten and attack journalists and perceived dissidents for exercising their fundamental freedoms.” It did not sanction or otherwise target the crown prince.

“We have made absolutely clear that extraterritorial threats and assaults by Saudi Arabia against activists, dissidents and journalists must end. They will not be tolerated by the United States,” Blinken said in a statement.

Under the new “Khashoggi ban,” the United States will restrict any individuals who have engaged in “serious, extraterritorial counter-dissident activities” that include harassment of journalists or their families, Blinken said.

In a first implementation, Blinken said the United States will ban the entry of 76 Saudis who have been engaged in threatening dissidents overseas including in the Khashoggi case.

The US also imposed sanctions on an elite Saudi unit as well as a former intelligence official over their role in the killing.


Nearly 200 scholars back lecturer who called Jewish students ‘pawns’
About 200 academics from the United Kingdom and the United States have signed a petition defending a British university lecturer who had called Jewish students on his campus “pawns” of Israel, “a violent, racist, foreign regime engaged in ethnic cleansing.”

Jewish groups and organizations have protested the remarks by David Miller, a professor of political sociology at the University of Bristol, made during an online videoconference Feb. 13. Some have called for his ouster.

The signatories of the letter published Friday supporting Miller include linguist Noam Chomsky and gender theorist Judith Butler, both Jewish Americans. The names of Miller’s defenders were removed from the online petition without explanation.

“Prof Miller is an eminent scholar. He is known internationally for exposing the role that powerful actors and well-resourced, co-ordinated networks play in manipulating and stage-managing public debates, including on racism,” the petition read.

Miller had said in the videoconference, titled “Labour Campaign for Free Speech,” that he supported the “end of Zionism as a functioning ideology” and that protests by the Bristol University’s Jewish Society, which is a union of Jewish students, over his previous fulminations against Jews and Israel show that “There is a real question of abuse here — of Jewish students on British campuses being used as political pawns by a violent, racist, foreign regime engaged in ethnic cleansing.” He cited the Jewish Society’s open support for Zionism.

Marie van der Zyl, the president of the Board of Deputies of British Jews, wrote last week to the president of the university, Hugh Brady, seeking Miller’s dismissal.
McGill University Jewish Groups Decry ‘Misleading’ BDS Motion Tying Israel to Uighur Persecution
The Jewish community at McGill University spoke out Friday against an “intentionally misleading” divestment motion passed by the Student’s Society of McGill University (SSMU) Legislative Council, which includes Israeli companies alongside others it charges with “forced labor and genocide” in China.

The motion, Divest for Human Rights Policy, calls for the school to divest from a list of companies it says “enable and profit from multiple forms of systemic violence, including settler-colonial land theft, environmental destruction, war crimes, crimes against humanity and genocide.”

The list includes the real estate company Re/Max and the manufacturer Oshkosh Corporation over their activities in Israel, along with clothing companies like Puma and Foot Locker, which it claims are “complicit” in the genocide of Uighur Muslims in China.

“It is disappointing and deeply offensive that student groups would conflate a two-sided political conflict with a major human rights issue like the Uighur genocide in China to promote an unrelated anti-Israel political agenda, diminishing the call to action for Uyghur justice in the process,” said a Friday statement signed by eight Jewish groups, including Israel on Campus At McGill and Hillel Montreal.

“It is extremely disheartening that time and time again SSMU is revisiting the same debate about the Israeli-Palestinian conflict due to efforts by some to level constant attacks against the Jewish community,” it continued. “These efforts are shameful. We call on SSMU to combat such efforts and focus on prioritizing student wellbeing.”
Tufts U. student group drops complaint over combatting anti-Israel motion
Tufts University's Community Union (TCU) Judiciary, including Jewish student Max Price, had been reported for opposing anti-Israel commentary by Students for Justice in Palestine (SJP) on campus. Price was consequently targeted with movements to have him removed from student office.

Lawyers who are representing Price, from The Louis D. Brandeis Center for Human Rights Under Law (LDB), demanded Tufts University urgently intervene and halt the proceedings. Before they could do so, however, SJP revoked the impeachment complaint on Friday.

"While I am relieved that my Judaism is no longer on trial, this change in course does not absolve SJP of their behavior," Price said after the complaint against him was removed. "I am disappointed that university administrators failed to intervene, and have not yet reached out to me to address my concerns. Unless Tufts introduces sweeping reforms to combat antisemitism, this will happen to somebody else."

The complaint against Price blamed Israel and its Jewish-American supporters for fueling racist conduct in US law enforcement, and sought to link Israel to white supremacy and police brutality.

SJP members repeatedly accused Price of bias and allegedly bullied and harassed him. They had reportedly targeted Price for speaking against SJP's attempt to include a Deadly Exchange Campaign (DLC) referendum on the student election ballot, which seeks to end cooperation between US and Israeli police, border patrol, FBI and ICE. The DLC claims that these security forces perform "racial profiling, spying and surveillance, deportation and detention," alongside "attacks on human rights defenders."
Massachusetts school board member resigns after calling Jew a ‘kike’ on live TV
A local school official in Massachusetts who uttered an anti-Semitic slur on TV announced his resignation via Facebook Live video on Friday morning.

Bob Hoey, a member of the Lowell School Committee, was on a local talk show Wednesday morning when he referred to a Jewish former official as a “kike.”

The slur came amid statements denigrating undocumented immigrants, the diversity of a local high school, Indian Americans and US Representative Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, a progressive Democrat, according to the Lowell Sun.

On Friday, the Sun reported that Hoey announced his resignation on Facebook. The resignation video is no longer public.

Hoey said he has “a big mouth” and “no control over how I talk or speak,” according to the Sun. He also said that he apologizes to the Jewish former official and “to everybody across the country because this thing’s gone all over the place.” Hoey also asked viewers to “condemn that word.”

The Sun reported on Friday that the city manager in the Boston suburb had not yet received official resignation papers from Hoey.
White Supremacist Sentenced to Nearly 20 Years in Plot to Bomb Colorado Synagogue
An avowed white supremacist was sentenced on Friday to 19-1/2 years in prison after pleading guilty months ago to a federal hate-crimes case stemming from a botched plot to bomb a historic Colorado synagogue in 2019.

Richard Holzer, 28, appeared in a federal courtroom in Denver for a sentencing that capped an undercover FBI investigation of a plan to blow up Temple Emanuel in Pueblo, Colorado, the second-oldest synagogue in the state.

Although the plot was thwarted, US District Judge Raymond Moore said Holzer had sought “to terrorize the Jewish community” of Pueblo, a city of 112,000 residents about 100 miles south of Denver.

“It is one of the most vulgar… evil crimes that can be committed against an entire group of people,” Moore said while imposing the sentence sought by prosecutors.

Holzer declined to speak at the hearing.

The defendant pleaded guilty in October to one count of trying to obstruct religious services by force, and one count of attempting to destroy a building used in interstate commerce, according to his plea agreement.
Man Arrested for Shouting Antisemitic Abuse at Soldier Guarding French Synagogue
A man has been sentenced by a French court for verbally abusing soldiers standing on guard outside a synagogue in the south-western town of Bordeaux with antisemitic abuse.

The incident occurred last Friday. Soldiers on guard outside the synagogue on rue du Grand-Rabbin-Joseph-Cohen were approached by a man on a bicycle. He approached the soldiers shouting antisemitic slurs as well as threats of death, before fleeing the scene.

Identified by the police from security camera footage, the man was taken into custody over the weekend and made his first court appearance on Tuesday.

Recently-published data showed that in 2020, the number of violent antisemitic assaults on Jews in France remained consistent despite the restrictions on movement imposed by COVID-19 lockdowns.

According to annual data compiled by SPCJ, the French Jewish community’s voluntary security agency, “the number of violent attacks recorded — 44 — remained almost identical to the year 2019 — 45 — despite the three and a half months of confinement and the decrease in community activities.” However, the overall number of antisemitic acts recorded in 2020 was down by more than half, the SPCJ noted.

A total of 339 antisemitic incidents were recorded, compared with 687 in 2019 and 541 in 2018.
Bulgarian game show host quotes anti-Semitic rant by chess master Bobby Fischer
The host of a popular game show on Bulgarian public TV quoted on air the anti-Semitic rantings of the late chess master Bobby Fischer, then apologized the following day, a day after the broadcasting company’s top official.

On Tuesday, Orlin Goranov of Bulgarian National Television’s “The Last One Wins” posed a question to contestants on “who was the chess player with Jewish roots who nonetheless spoke out harshly against Jews?”

Goranov then read an article published on the white supremacist website JBCampbellExtremismOnline.com in which the author purported to have interviewed Fischer saying “The Jews don’t like to work. That’s one of the things the Jews didn’t like about Hitler’s concentration camps,” and that “there were no gas chambers. That’s all baloney.”

The authenticity of the quote is unconfirmed but Fischer, a former world champion who died in 2008, had a rich record of making anti-Semitic statements though his mother was Jewish.

In one radio interview in the Philippines, he called Jews a “filthy, lying bastard people” attempting world domination through instrumentalizing the Holocaust, which he called “a money-making invention.”

Goranov apologized on air Wednesday.


Jewish Indian women elders spearhead revival of Purim musical tradition
This year, COVID-19 competes with Haman as the villain of the Jewish holiday of Purim for India’s Bene Israel “kirtankars.” The kirtankars, a group of elderly women from the Mumbai Jewish community who sing kirtan, or traditional devotional songs, had planned to perform a kirtan about Queen Esther in the synagogue for the holiday. But with places of worship mostly closed due to the pandemic, the women’s performance has been canceled.

Kirtans are traditional storytelling songs inspired by Hindu devotional music. The ones sung by the Bene Israel are in the local Marathi language and include Hebrew words. They extol great figures of the Hebrew Bible, such as Joseph, Moses, David and Elijah. The one the women had hoped to perform this week is called “Esther Ranichi Katha” or the tale of Queen Esther who saved the Jews.

“There’s been a spike in Covid cases, so religious worship has been restricted. We will probably have five to ten people — not even a minyan [prayer quorum] — at the synagogue. And it isn’t safe for the women, who are mostly in their 70s and 80s, to leave their homes to travel,” said Elijah Jacob, former Joint Distribution Committee director in India.

“It’s a shame because they were so excited to do their recital,” he said of the kirtankars, or kirtan singers.

Jacob has been active in recent years in working with the women to preserve and perform the kirtans of the Bene Israel community, which were popular from the 1880s until the 1940s. Local interest in them waned considerably after the majority of Bene Israel Jews emigrated to Israel or Commonwealth countries after Israel and India gained independence.







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