Saturday, March 20, 2021

From Ian:

The whole of the Middle East will pay the price for Biden’s Iran appeasement policy
Since the Biden administration’s decision to reverse the designation of Yemen’s Houthi militia as a foreign terrorist organisation (FTO) on February 12, drones and ballistic missiles have targeted Saudi Arabia 48 times.

The latest attack, on Saudi oil facilities in Ras Tanura, in Saudi Arabia’s eastern province, on Sunday, did not come from the direction of Yemen, a royal court adviser told the Wall Street Journal; declining to comment on whether the projectile was launched from Iran or from Iraq.

The removal of the Houthis from the US government’s FTO list was meant to reduce tensions, but it achieved the opposite result. At the heart of the Biden administration’s Middle East policy is a fallacy: that the region’s politics should be understood as a contest between Saudi Arabia and Iran, a conflict between two states that is also a sectarian struggle.

Seen from Tehran, the central contest in the region is between the American alliance system and Iran’s self-styled “resistance alliance”.

Biden’s misconception leads to a number of erroneous ideas: that the United States can play a neutral, mediating role between Riyadh and Tehran; that by distancing itself from Saudi Arabia, it creates opportunities for regional stability and understanding; and that it is the Saudi role in Yemen – and not the Iranian role – that has perpetuated the conflict in that country.

While escalating by attacking Saudi Arabia via its proxies is a core part of Iran’s regional policies, we must not forget that Iran has waged a forty-year war to spread its control across the region — not to compete with Saudi Arabia, but to undermine the American alliance system. The Biden administration’s resurrection of the Obama doctrine in the Middle East has breathed life into one of its most inaccurate and damaging myths: the centrality of a Saudi-Iran rivalry to regional politics.

Iran’s imperial project in Iraq, Syria, and Lebanon does not exist to reclaim influence from Saudi Arabia, but to upend the American security order in the Middle East. And, like Iran’s Foreign Minister, Iran’s network of terrorist groups in the region chant, “death to America,” not, “death to Saudi Arabia”.


Don't cut or condition US military aid to Israel
One of us is a member of Congress from Florida who serves on the House Armed Services Committee and used to work as a national security specialist at the Department of Defense. The other is also a former Pentagon official who now leads an organization that promotes strong U.S. defense policies, including close cooperation between the United States and Israel.

One of us is a refugee from Vietnam whose family fled a communist regime that seized power after the Vietnam War. The other is an American Jew whose ancestors fled virulent anti-Semitism in Europe. Just as the United States was a safe haven for our families, we recognize — on both an emotional and intellectual level — that the state of Israel, which reestablished ancient Jewish sovereignty over the Holy Land, has been a sanctuary for millions of Jewish families enduring persecution in their native lands.

Informed by our personal and professional backgrounds, both of us believe that U.S. military assistance to Israel — beyond helping our ally to deter conflict with aggressive state and non-state actors, to prevail if conflict occurs, and to protect its civilian population from persistent rocket and missile threats — directly advances America’s national security interests. It also promotes our shared democratic values in a region of the world where autocracy predominates.

We appreciate the fact that U.S. military aid to Israel — which currently amounts to $3.8 billion a year and is used to enhance Israel’s offensive and defensive capabilities — has long enjoyed broad support from the American public, from their Democratic and Republican representatives in Congress, and from presidential administrations of both political persuasions.

It is precisely because support in this country for a strong U.S.-Israel relationship has been bipartisan that it has also been enduring.

That’s why we’ve been troubled by recent calls from U.S. political leaders in some quarters to cut security assistance to Israel, or to condition that assistance on Israel making changes to policies toward the Palestinians that these U.S. leaders find objectionable. We believe this approach is counter-productive and dangerous. (h/t jzaik)
India Israel Relations – An Overview
India-Israel relations have always been an ongoing topic for academic research and journalistic reporting, as well as a fascinating experience for practitioners. Many generations of diplomats, scholars and reporters have witnessed the unique story of the Indo Israeli journey. As a young diplomat, during the early 1970s, I was attracted by what promised to be a special partnership but lacked, at the time, political feasibility. I thus felt privileged, years later, as Ambassador to India, to contribute to the long chain of dedicated diplomats from both the countries, who brought our relations to where they stand today.

Trade between the Jews and the Indians dating hundreds of years ago, the fact that Jews were always welcome in India, never suffering from racism or discrimination were the first threads in the fabric of today’s special relations between the governments and peoples of India and Israel. Both the nations also have much in common, with shared democratic values and interests, as two relatively young societies, proud of their respective historical, cultural roots, eager to embrace the future, innovation and technology.

While India officially recognized Israel in 1950, it took four more decades until a suitable political atmosphere and political will, allowed the recognition to be translated into diplomatic relations. A ‘wind of change’ reshaping global, regional and national paradigms, also led to a new global approach to Diplomacy. The stage was thus set for 1992 to be a turning point in the emerging relations between both the nations.

Looking back at the past 29 years, two notable trends come to mind in the Indo Israeli relations: Visibility and Scope. When full diplomatic relations were established, they were kept low-key, with a conveniently, discrete emphasis on Defence. The “zero sum game” perception prevailing at the time in many Non-Aligned Movement (NAM) capitals, including New Delhi, avoided admitting publicly good relations with Israel and the Arab world at the same time. As a leader of NAM, Delhi opted to stick with the Arab countries (NAM members by themselves). This “arrangement” did not last beyond the Cold War era, as the rationale behind the low-key approach was no longer acceptable, relevant, or needed. The low-volume relations paradigm slowly shifted by the end of the 1990s. It was dramatically replaced in 2014, when the Indian Government adopted a landmark “De Hyphenation” (or “No Zero Sum Game”) policy toward West Asia: Shortly after coming to power, on July 21, 2014, the Government of India’s External Affairs Minister (EAM), the late Sushma Swaraj, stated in the Parliament, that while continuing to support the Palestinian cause (which was the overriding policy element until then), India maintains good relations with Israel. This dramatic public departure from previous policy has since been reiterated numerous times by various Indian officials, in words and deeds. Dramatic as it was then, this new approach has since become part and parcel of our relations, as acknowledged recently by EAM, Dr. Jaishankar, speaking at the opening session of Israel’s Ambassadors to Asia-Pacific Annual Conference, “the (India Israel) relationship finally enjoys the stature and visibility it deserves”.


New book deciphers forgotten intel war that kept the Nazis from the Holy Land
But for the grace of God and a few Polish and British geniuses, the Nazis would have defeated the Allies in Egypt, swept into then-Palestine, destroyed any chance that the State of Israel had of coming into existence and massacred the hundreds of thousands of Jews living in North Africa and the Middle East.

This is one of the key takeaways from American-Israeli journalist and historian Gershom Gorenberg’s new book on the battle for North Africa during World War Two, “War of Shadows: Codebreakers, spies, and the secret struggle to drive the Nazis from the Middle East,” which was published in January.

The book challenges somewhat the importance of the so-called Jewish Brigade — a British contingent made up of Jewish Palestinians — and figures like Yitzhak Rabin and Moshe Dayan in the defense of the holy land during the war, a period of time that was instrumental in the building of Israel’s do-it-ourselves mythos in the early days of the state.

“It became sharply clear to me as I was working on it — and this runs against the myth that we in Israel have developed for ourselves over the last 70 years — that the reason why Palestine, the land of Israel, was a refuge for Jews [during World War II], the actual reason why they did not find themselves subjected to genocide was because the British drew a line in the sand at El-Alamein. We as Jews played only a very, very tiny role in that,” Gorenberg told The Times of Israel over tea in his Jerusalem apartment before the book was published, sitting a socially distanced two meters apart.

“The Jewish desire to defend ourselves during World War II was critical in shaping the fate of Israel and the Israeli military later. During the actual events, what saved the Jews of the land of Israel/Palestine from the Nazis was an army consisting of people from Britain and South Africa and New Zealand and Australia and India and a half a dozen other countries. And they weren’t defending Palestine, they weren’t defending the Jews, they were defending the British empire,” he said.

The deeply researched book brims with anecdotes and rich details — the texture of a wall, the color of ink used in a note, which Cairo nightclubs were preferred by ineffectual Nazi spies — as it tracks the battle in the Mediterranean from 1939 to 1942, shedding much needed light on a long-overlooked period and part of the war — at least for most Americans. In popular culture, the majority of World War II films, television shows and books focus on the European and Pacific theaters in general. The notable exception to that — the film “Patton” about the eponymous general — was released over 50 years ago.
Anti-Semitic or just ‘strident’?
There is a curious sentence that appears in the definition of anti-Semitism currently being tested by a group of progressive Jewish Americans. It reads as follows: “Even contentious, strident, or harsh criticism of Israel for its policies and actions, including those that led to the creation of Israel, is not per se illegitimate or antisemitic.”

The definition of anti-Semitism in which this sentence appears is intended an alternative to the one formally adopted in 2016 by the International Holocaust Remembrance Alliance (IHRA). That text now provides a recognized framework for the hundreds of governments, local authorities, universities and other public institutions that have endorsed the IHRA definition to ascertain whether a particular action or expression is anti-Semitic. In many anti-Semitic incidents—as is documented annually in the statistical reports of Jewish organizations around the world—the offending party will invoke Israel or Zionism as a reason for attacking a Jewish target. It is therefore critical, especially for law enforcement and judicial officials dealing with hate crimes, to have a clear understanding of how hatred of the Jewish state can feed attacks on the Jewish communities who live outside its borders.

However, as the wording of the sentence that I quoted above suggests, the goal of this alternative definition isn’t to enhance our capabilities in this regard. In the guise of concern about the “longest hatred,” the mission here is to absolve those who express this hatred through attacks on Israel of the label “anti-Semite.”

Unhelpfully, the alternative definition under discussion here doesn’t provide any examples of what “contentious, strident, or harsh criticism of Israel” might look or sound like. If I turn up to an anti-Israel demonstration brandishing a placard of an Israeli flag with its Star of David replaced by a swastika, am I merely being “strident,” or have I crossed the line into openly taunting Jews by comparing them to the Nazis? If I wear a T-shirt that says “Camp Auschwitz,” I will uncomplicatedly be called an anti-Semite, but what if I wear one that says “Overthrow Zionism”? If I publish an article in which I argue something like “Israel’s defenders always invoke the Holocaust to defend Zionist oppression of the Palestinians, conveniently overlooking the common roots that this brutal form of colonialism shares with Nazism,” am I speaking truth to power, or am I refashioning the medieval blood libel for a modern audience?

In all these points, the alternative definition is incapable of providing answers that are, well, definitive. One can imagine furrowed eyebrows and murmurs among its authors that such anti-Israel expressions might be “inappropriate,” but even more, one can envision the generous application of words like “strident” to subtly excuse those phrases and slogans about Israel that most Jews and many non-Jews would agree were anti-Semitic.
Veterans in Congress Speak Out Against Biden Defense Pick Colin Kahl
Military veterans serving on the House Armed Services and Foreign Affairs committees are urging their colleagues in the Senate to oppose President Joe Biden's Pentagon nominee Colin Kahl, telling the Washington Free Beacon that Kahl is a pro-Iran "ideologue" and that "the only policy shop he's qualified to run is in Tehran."

The congressmen are speaking out as Kahl's nomination for undersecretary of defense for policy has stalled with the Senate Armed Services Committee—Democratic senator Joe Manchin (W.Va.) remains undecided on the pick. Republican senators have already come out strongly against Kahl, citing his Twitter rants against the GOP and pro-Israel hawks, as well as his support for anti-Israel policies and the Iran nuclear deal. Vocal opposition from war veterans in Congress is likely to get the attention of key senators as Kahl's nomination comes closer to a vote.

Kahl is "an ideologue who has personally attacked several Republican politicians," Rep. Jim Banks (R., Ind.), a Navy Reserve lieutenant and member of the House Armed Services Committee, told the Free Beacon this week.

"The last thing the Pentagon needs is another hyper-partisan," said Banks. "And Kahl has repeatedly drawn moral equivalencies between Iran, the number one state sponsor of terror, and our allies. The Pentagon is there to protect all Americans, and its leadership should reflect the values and beliefs of all Americans. Colin Kahl is way out of step."

Rep. Ronny Jackson (R., Texas), a retired U.S. Navy rear admiral who served as a White House physician for Presidents George W. Bush, Barack Obama, and Donald Trump, noted Kahl's involvement in crafting the Iran nuclear deal and said it would be "irresponsible to confirm a chief architect of this defective deal to run what is supposed to be a nonpartisan policy shop at the Department of Defense."

"Colin Kahl famously said that Iran would use our taxpayer money to buy ‘butter, not guns,' when in fact Iran used our money to buy missiles and bombs and to support terrorist proxies and militias like Hamas, Hezbollah, and al Qaeda," said Jackson. "The only policy shop he's qualified to run is in Tehran."

House Foreign Affairs Committee member Rep. Joe Wilson (R., S.C.), a retired Army National Guard colonel, called Kahl "a dangerous pick for our national security."
Netanyahu promises direct flights to Saudi Arabia
Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu promised to launch direct flights to Saudi Arabia if he is victorious in Tuesday’s elections. “I’m going to bring you direct flights from Tel Aviv to Mecca,” Netanyahu said in an interview with Channel 13’s Ayala Hasson on Saturday night in a statement that hinted at the establishment of normalized ties with Saudi Arabia.

Speculation had always been high in the last year of the Trump administration that such ties would come to fruition under the rubric of the Abraham Accords, in which Israel established normalized relations with four Arab states.

But normalized ties with Saudi Arabia never materialized. Saudi Arabia, however, did grant Israel flyover rights, something it had denied the Jewish state in the past.

In his Channel 13 interview, Netanyahu touted those four agreements and promised that four more deals would be finalized. It was a pledge that he made last week as well.


Candidates submit lists for PA parliamentary vote
Candidates running for the Palestinian parliamentary election began on Saturday submitting their lists to the Central Elections Commission offices in the West Bank and Gaza Strip.

The parliamentary election has been set for May 22, to be followed by a vote for the PA presidency on July 31. Earlier, the commission announced that it would start receiving applications for candidacy for the parliamentary election between March 20 and 31.

The commission said that candidacy is through electoral lists on the basis of full proportional representation, and individual candidacy applications are not accepted. The number of candidates for each list should not be less than 16 and no more than 132.

On the first day, three lists were presented to the commission: 1 – Democratic Change, which is affiliated with the PLO’s Marxist-Leninist Democratic Front for the Liberation of Palestine (DFLP), 2 – Palestine For All, headed by Gaza Strip resident former PA labor and housing minister Mufeed al-Hasayna, 3 – My Dignity, headed by Dr. Mansour Salamah, a prominent academic and researcher from the city of Tulkarm in the northern West Bank.

The DFLP said that its 61-member list consists of activists of youth movements and independent figures from east Jerusalem, the West Bank and the Gaza Strip, and said that its list seeks to end “the devastating state of division [between the West Bank and Gaza Strip] and confront the occupation and its terror against our people.”

Hasayna, the former PA minister, said that his list includes independent candidates who do not belong to any Palestinian political organizations. Young men and women constitute about 35% of the Palestine For All list, he said.


Pakistan PM Khan Tests Positive for COVID-19, Urges People to Vaccinate
Pakistani Prime Minister Imran Khan tested positive for COVID-19 on Saturday, two days after receiving his first vaccine dose, government officials said, urging people not to be deterred from getting vaccinated.

Pakistan’s vaccination roll-out has been met with widespread vaccine hesitancy, and Khan’s positive test could serve as a setback to the inoculation drive in the country of 220 million people, health experts said.

Health Minister Faisal Sultan said Khan was “in good health” with a mild cough and fever and was self-isolating at home, adding that the 68-year-old premier had likely been infected much before he got his first vaccine shot on Thursday.

Sultan told local television people should not link the prime minister’s coronavirus infection with the vaccine, which takes times to build antibodies.

In neighbor and arch-rival India, Prime Minister Narendra Modi tweeted to wish Khan “a speedy recovery.”

While it was not clear which vaccine Khan was given, the vaccine produced by China National Pharmaceutical Group (Sinopharm) is the only one available in Pakistan.

Khan expressed concern after his positive test result that it could deter ordinary people from getting vaccinated, his advisor Shahbaz Gill told a local television.
Turkey’s Erdogan Quits European Treaty on Violence Against Women
President Tayyip Erdogan pulled Turkey out of an international accord designed to protect women, ministers and an official notice said on Saturday, prompting criticism from those who said it was necessary to address rising domestic violence.

The Council of Europe accord, called the Istanbul Convention, pledged to prevent, prosecute and eliminate domestic violence and promote equality. Turkey signed it in 2011 but femicide has surged in the country in recent years.

No reason was provided for the withdrawal in the Official Gazette, where it was announced in the early hours on Saturday. But top government officials said domestic law rather than outside fixes would protect women’s rights.

The convention, forged in Turkey‘s biggest city, had split Erdogan’s ruling AK Party (AKP) and even his family. Last year, officials said the government was mulling pulling out amid a row over how to curb growing violence against women.

Marija Pejcinovic Buric, secretary general of the 47-nation Council of Europe, called Turkey‘s decision “devastating” given the violence women and girls face.

“This move is a huge setback to these efforts and all the more deplorable because it compromises the protection of women in Turkey, across Europe and beyond,” she said.

Opposition politicians said Erdogan by law cannot act without parliament’s consent. But many conservatives in Turkey and in his Islamist-rooted AKP say the pact undermines family structures, encouraging violence.
Israel should be involved in discussions over a new Iran deal
President Reuven Rivlin, accompanied by IDF Chief of Staff Lt.-Gen. Aviv Kohavi, made a three-stop, three-day visit to Europe last week aimed at garnering support against the ICC, as well as against the possibility that Iran will attempt to rejoin the 2015 nuclear accord. In Paris, for example, the two met on Thursday with President Emmanuel Macron. Kohavi briefed the French leader on the situation in Lebanon, warning that Israel’s northern neighbor has become hostage to Iran-backed Hezbollah, which is a terrorist organization.

Lebanon has lost control of its internal politics and its security to Hezbollah, said Kohavi, emphasizing that France – which has a special interest in Lebanon – must become prominent in the international effort to see that Beirut’s reforms are carried out and that Hezbollah is marginalized.

Hezbollah, he added, is in possession of thousands of rockets and missiles which are stored in the heart of the civilian population and are intended for use against Israel. “The IDF is doing everything possible to prevent this from happening,” he said.

In Vienna the day before, Rivlin told Austrian President Alexander Van der Bellen that the international community needs to recognize the situation with Iran, and take an uncompromising position against its nuclear plans and its continued support of terrorist organizations. “This is where we need the intervention of the international community,” Rivlin insisted, and “not in the field of international law, which is being cynically exploited for political means in order to weaken the State of Israel.”
Failure to stop Iran's terror support might lead to Israel-Hezbollah war
The Middle East has entered a new and significant stage in recent weeks, as all regional actors position themselves around the key question of whether or not US President Joe Biden’s administration renews the Iran nuclear agreement. Failure to achieve an improved nuclear deal and cause Iran to downgrade its regional destabilizing activities will have long-lasting effects, could create an economic disaster in Iran and could lead to a military escalation between Iran and America’s regional allies.

The issue of whether sanctions on Iran will be lifted and the outline of a possible new agreement is the leading factor that will shape the face of the Middle East in the coming years.

The new American administration is maneuvering through a minefield in which various developments could impact its decisions on the region. To understand the new complex Middle Eastern puzzle, it is first necessary to recognize the fact that the Biden administrations is dealing with Iran on two fronts. The first is Tehran’s radical activities and support for armed movements that stretches from Yemen through to Iraq, Syria and Lebanon as part of a grand strategic attempt to change realities in the region. The second is Iran’s nuclear program.

Every attempt by the US to solve one of these fronts without linking it to the other is doomed to fail.

Iran strives to become both a nuclear regional power and to shape a new geopolitical era through the rise of terror armies and militias, of which Hezbollah in Lebanon is the most powerful. Hezbollah is in fact the most heavily-armed non-state actor in the world and is in possession of advanced weapons systems.

The moment of reckoning for American policy in the Middle East is approaching in the form of the decision on the nuclear agreement, and this central junction is also influenced by other important events: The upcoming Israeli elections, and the scheduled presidential elections in Iran in June, before which the Islamic Republic may suspend any major decisions.
Iran celebrates, US slams Houthi attacks on Saudi Arabia
Iran is chuffed about the latest Houthi attacks on Saudi Arabia. The Houthis receive Iranian support and their missiles and drones are based on Iranian technology and advice. According to Iran’s Press TV, the Houthi “army says it has successfully carried out another drone strike against a facility belonging to oil giant Aramco in the Saudi capital, Riyadh, in retaliation against the kingdom’s ongoing military aggression and siege against its southern neighbor.”

Meanwhile, the US is nonplussed. The US State Department spokesman Ned Price slammed the recent attacks. “The US joins the international community in calling for an end to the Houthi attacks against Saudi Arabia and all parties to commit to a ceasefire. Today's attempts to disrupt global energy supplies by attacking Aramco show an utter lack of concern for the safety of civilians.”

In Yemen, the Houthi rebels said that they used six drones to strike at a Saudi oil facility using “high precision.” This happened on Friday at dawn, they claimed. The Houthis said it was “in retaliation for the stepped-up Saudi-led military campaign and blockade” and they claimed it was the “sixth operation of Shaaban… The General Command of the [Houthi] Armed Forces confirms that its operations are continuing and escalating as long as the aggression and siege continue.”

The Houthis have been trying to take over Yemen for almost a decade. In 2015 they threatened Aden and the Bab al-Mandab strategic straits. Saudi Arabia led an intervention to stop them. They have used Iranian drones and missiles to strike deep into Saudi Arabia. Iran has also attacked Saudi Arabia, in 2019 in Abqaiq and also using Iraqi proxies earlier this year and in May 2019. The US, under the waning days of the Trump administration, declared the Houthis “terrorists” earlier this year, but then the new Biden administration rescinded the designation weeks later. The Houthis have upped their attacks.


Councillors who shared antisemitic posts and conspiracy theories readmitted to Labour
Two Labour councillors suspended for sharing antisemitic posts and extreme anti-Jewish conspiracy theories have been readmitted after just six months.

The Haringey councillors were placed on administrative suspension in September – a move that prevented them from serving as Labour candidates or standing for the party in elections.

However in a letter to Haringey’s Labour group on Thursday, Council Leader Ejiofor Joseph confirmed Noah Tucker and Preston Tabois had served their suspension and had been “readmitted as members of our Labour group”.

Noah Tucker was suspended after sharing social media posts last June which suggested the US police officers responsible for killing George Floyd had received training from Israeli law enforcement officers.

Preston Tabois was suspended after sharing a post in which a UKIP candidate claimed that Jewish people were behind the Holocaust as part of a “masterplan to create a state of Israel”. Under a post about her comments, he wrote: “Your (sic) not wrong brother.”

Both men strongly denied charges of antisemitism.
Plaid Cymru to put 'house in order' on anti-Semitism
Plaid Cymru's complaints procedures to deal with anti-Semitism are "insufficiently robust", the party's Westminster leader has said.

Liz Saville Roberts' review into anti-Semitism has been published.

It recommends the party's definition of anti-Semitism be updated, and the handling of complaints changed.

But the Board of Deputies of British Jews has accused Plaid of choosing a Senedd election candidate who "repeatedly shared antisemitic tropes".

Plaid Cymru said it would "always challenge prejudice and discrimination".

Ms Saville Roberts said the report "provides positive recommendations to put our own house in order".

Plaid Cymru leader Adam Price said he wanted the report's recommendations implemented "in full".

Mr Price commissioned Ms Saville Roberts to produce this report in October 2020 following "a number of anti-Semitism complaints made against party members and representatives over the last two years", the review says.

The review took evidence from party members as well as from Jewish and human rights groups.
Canada’s 1st Black Jewish female party leader took on anti-Semitism — and won
As the new head of Canada’s Green Party, Annamie Paul is determined to improve her party’s standing. Given what she endured as a Jewish Black woman in last fall’s leadership race, she knows her identity won’t make the road ahead easier.

Even in Canada’s celebrated multicultural society, known for its tolerance and embrace of diversity, racism is real for someone like Paul. As a member of two minorities, she’s often experienced it firsthand.

Paul made history last October becoming Canada’s first Black and first Jewish woman elected leader of a federal party — which currently holds only three seats out of 338 in the country’s parliament and operates with limited resources. But the victory wasn’t painless: Running against seven other candidates, Paul was repeatedly the target of anti-Semites, both in and outside the party.

“Anti-Semitism was a constant presence in the campaign after it became known I was Jewish,” Paul tells The Times of Israel in a recent Zoom interview. “It was nothing I ever hid and when I was asked about my background, I of course mentioned I’m Jewish. It’s an important part of who I am.”

The abuse she suffered made an impact on her.

“The anti-Semitism was not easy, and it still isn’t,” says Paul, 48, speaking from her home in Toronto’s Midtown neighborhood. “You never really get used to it. You’re aware it’s out there but you’re never fully prepared for it.”


Andrew Yang Says BDS is “Non-Violent” But “Antisemitic”
New York City Mayoral Candidate Andrew Yang said in a March 19 statement to the Forward that while he views the Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions (BDS) movement as “nonviolent,” the fact that it doesn’t recognize Israel’s right to exist makes it anti-Semitic.

According to the Forward, Yang was speaking at a March 18 forum hosted by Emgage, a Muslim-American advocacy organization. The moderator, Dean Obeidallah, told Yang that when he said that BDS harkens “back to fascist boycotts of Jewish businesses,” it “caused a lot of pain in [the Palestinian] community.” Obeidallah pointed out that his grandmother’s “land has been taken by Israeli settlers and turned into a settlement. What is that called?”

Yang replied that he was referencing “extremist elements” of the movement that had become violent. “I’ve spoken to people who have made a different argument, along the lines of what you just expressed — which is that BDS is nonviolent,” Yang said. “I don’t think targeting Israel in this way is the right approach, but I certainly appreciate people who are standing up for what they believe in.”

When the Forward asked him to clarify his stance on BDS, Yang replied, “BDS does not recognize the right of Israel to exist. Not recognizing Israel’s right to exist is antisemitic. I strongly oppose BDS, as I’ve said countless times.” He acknowledged that his remarks at the forum “caused pain to many people,” and he’ll be reaching out to members of the Jewish community to discuss the matter.

Former New York State Assemblyman Dov Hikind, who also heads the Americans Against Anti-Semitism watchdog, got into a debate with Yang’s campaign co-manager Chris Coffey about the matter on Twitter. Hikind asked Coffey, “If @AndrewYang knows BDS is Antisemitic, what exactly is there to ‘appreciate’ about it? Does he ‘appreciate’ other racist movements because they have a right to free speech? Or are deplorable movements with deplorable aims simply deplorable? He can’t play both sides!”


Documentary to Air on PBS Includes Fake Trump Quote
A documentary critical of Israel and its Christian supporters in the United States scheduled to appear on PBS stations on March 29, 2021, the second day of Passover, includes a fake quote attributed to former U.S. President Donald Trump.

The fake quote falsely suggests Trump supported the annexation of the entire West Bank into the state of Israel. To achieve this impression, the film splices words Trump said in the latter parts of a January 28, 2020 press conference into a statement he made at the beginning of the same press conference. (More details below.)

The film, titled “’Til Kingdom Come,” produced and directed by investigative journalist and filmmaker Maya Zinshtein, depicts an “unholy alliance” between pro-Israel Christians in the United States and Israelis living in the West Bank.

The film has received positive reviews and sympathetic coverage in the Boston Globe, the New York Times, the Religion News Service, Ha’aretz, Jewish Insider, the International Documentary Association, and the Jewish Telegraphic Agency,

The Fake Quote
The fake quote, which was first uncovered by researcher Luke Moon, appears 68 minutes into the 76-minute movie. The film’s audio quotes Trump as saying:
“The United States will recognize Israeli sovereignty over the territory that my vision provides to be part of the State of Israel, including the West Bank described so vividly in the Bible.”

Trump did not say this.
Greek Jews Condemn Vandalism of New Mural Honoring Thessaloniki Jewish Holocaust Victims
The Jewish Community of Thessaloniki “unequivocally condemned” on Thursday the defacing of a recently-unveiled mural that honors the Greek port city’s Jews and their extermination in Nazi death camps.

“It is unfortunate that a few days after its completion strangers, who seem to be bothered by the willingness of the city to remember even the darkest pages of its history, vandalized a work that received flattering comments both for its aesthetics and for the powerful message that it conveys on the need to preserve the memory and constantly remind the events of the Holocaust,” the community said in a statement.

The mural stretched 38 yards long and over 7 yards high, and was created by the street artist Same84 to remember the tens of thousands of Thessaloniki that were killed during the Holocaust, the Ekathimerini news website reported.

Inspired by wartime photographs, the mural was painted on a wall that had surrounded the city’s Jewish neighborhood. Unknown vandals reportedly smeared the mural with black paint, and restoration efforts have already begun.

“Racism and anti-Semitism remain a serious problem and an open wound for our society. It is obvious that we must always remain vigilant in order to fight — through the use of historical facts and education — any attempt to revive the ideologies that gave birth to the Holocaust, the nadir of humanity,” the Jewish community group added.

Thessaloniki’s once-thriving Jewish community of over 50,000 — many of whose ancestors had arrived as refugees from the Spanish Inquisition — was all but decimated by the Nazis, with only a few thousand surviving.

“We express our revulsion toward any action that insults the memory of the victims of Nazi atrocities. Once again, we underscore the need to heap scorn on racism, hatred and fanaticism and to defend our moral principles,” said the Greek Ministry of Foreign Affairs.
Argentine Jewish group to file complaint after soccer fans’ anti-Semitic chants
Argentina’s largest Jewish collective said on Thursday it would file a complaint after some soccer fans chanted anti-Semitic slurs in the streets of Buenos Aires ahead of a match.

The chants happened before a second division clash on Tuesday between fiery Buenos Aires rivals Atlanta, a team historically linked to Argentina’s Jewish community, and Chacarita.

“We will present in court videos that are circulating in which chants with anti-Semitic content uttered by fans of Club Atletico Chacarita Juniors were registered,” said the Delegation of Argentine Israeli Associations (DAIA).

The chant sung by around 1,000 fans that were unable to enter the Chacarita stadium due to coronavirus restrictions was: “Here comes Chaca in the street, killing Jews to make soap.”

DAIA said it wanted authorities to investigate “a possible crime” against Argentina’s anti-discrimination laws.

“The episode is an incitement to violence, to persecution, to hate, and represents a threat against the Jewish community as a whole, as well as other collectives vulnerable to discrimination,” said DAIA.

The match itself, won 1-0 by Atlanta, was typically brutal with four people sent off.

In 2012, the Argentine Football Association made a historic decision to award a match to Atlanta, which initially finished 1-1, after Chacarita fans chanted anti-Semitic, “racist and xenophobic” songs.
Not a bird, not a plane: Startup hopes to hit skies with ‘eco-friendly’ blimps
Blimps – or those non-rigid airships that rely on the pressure of lifting gas to fly — hold a variety of associations.

For some, they recall the 1937 Hindenburg disaster, when the German passenger dirigible caught fire during landing; others may remember the scene of German officers chasing Indiana Jones and his father on a D-138 commercial zeppelin in “Indiana Jones and The Last Crusade,” the 1989 Steven Spielberg movie starring Harrison Ford. Others know the airship from sporting events, a three-dimensional oval hovering over the players, giving rise to the term “blimp cam,” while for others still the craft evokes a sense of romanticism and nostalgia.

These kinds of vehicles have always been the passion of Gennadiy Verba, CEO and founder of Israel-based Atlas LTA, a company that wants to bring the latest technologies to design and produce what they refer to as “lighter-than-air” vehicles — airships, gas-powered balloons and other floating aerial crafts.

“I liked airships since I was a kid,” Verba said. “I always believed that this forgotten technology really deserves a much better future. Today we have much more suitable materials, more advanced ways to design them and the demand is growing.”

Born in Ukraine, Verba moved to Israel in 2016 shortly after setting up Atlas there together with a few other partners attracted by Israel’s fast-growing tech ecosystem and spirit of innovation.
Israel beats UAE as rugby teams hold first friendly match in Dubai
The national rugby teams of Israel and the United Arab Emirates held their first friendly game in Dubai Friday, in what was termed the Abraham Accord Friendship Cup — after the name of the normalization agreement between the countries signed last year.

Israel defeated the Emiratis in the game 33 to 0. The teams then mixed into “blue” and “white” teams with each including players from both nations, and played another game.

The white team won that round 50 to 40.

Congratulating the teams in a video message, Israeli President Reuven Rivlin praised the “wonderful expression of the new spirit of people-to-people peace following the historic Abraham Accords.

“While leaders may sign peace agreements, true peace requires people on both sides to build bonds of friendship and cooperation in every arena.”

The Israeli team had flown out to Dubai on Tuesday. Ahead of the journey, player Gilad Goldstein told Kan news: “It’s a very exciting trip. We worked hard ahead of it.”


Israel climbs to 12th spot in pandemic-focused World Happiness Report
Israel has climbed two spots to 12th in the latest annual World Happiness Report. Canada was 14th, the UK came in 17th, and the US was 19th.

Amid a world-beating vaccination drive, but after three nationwide coronavirus lockdowns and ahead of its fourth national election in two years, Israel improved its position in the annual UN survey. Released Friday, the report this year covered 149 countries, though it only fully surveyed about two-thirds of them because of the pandemic.

Israel had ranked 14th in the 2020 report, down one spot from 13th in 2019.

The 2021 World Happiness Report, released a year after the global coronavirus pandemic started gaining speed worldwide, ranked 149 countries based on gross domestic product per person, healthy life expectancy and the opinions of residents. Surveys asked respondents to indicate on a 1-10 scale how much social support they feel they have if something goes wrong, their freedom to make their own life choices, their sense of how corrupt their society is, and how generous they are.

Due to the pandemic, the surveys were conducted in slightly fewer than 100 countries for this year’s World Happiness Report, the ninth one compiled since the project started. Index rankings for the other nations were based on estimates from past data. The top 20 countries in the 2021 World Happiness Index (World Happiness Report).

The results from both methods had European countries occupying nine of the top 10 spots on the list of the word’s happiest places, with New Zealand rounding out the group. The top 10 countries are Finland, Denmark, Switzerland, Iceland, the Netherlands, Norway, Sweden, Luxembourg, New Zealand and Austria.







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