Sunday, May 02, 2021

From Ian:

A Hasidic singer, a dozen boys and teens, a father of 11: All 45 Meron victims
The identification of all 45 victims from the Mount Meron tragedy has been completed, Israel’s Abu Kabir Forensic Institute said Sunday morning.

The victims, all male, included brothers, children as young as 9, young fathers, and rabbis. At least two families lost multiple children.

Among the victims of the fatal crush caused by overcrowding in a narrow walkway were 10 foreign citizens: six Americans, a British national, two Canadians, and an Argentinian.

The incident, which happened early Friday during celebrations of the Lag B’Omer festival, is the country’s deadliest-ever civilian disaster.

Police on Sunday said a man who took part in the pilgrimage was still missing and asked the public for help in locating him: Icht Haim Yitzhak, 39, was last seen at 8:30 p.m. on Thursday at Mount Meron. He is 6 foot 1 (185 centimeters), thin and bearded.

Dozens were buried Friday, but funeral services ceased during the Sabbath, from Friday evening until Saturday nightfall.

The Abu Kabir Forensic Institute said in a statement Sunday morning that by midnight it had completed the grim task of identifying all 45 victims.

By the morning 44 of the bodies had been released for burial and the last, at the request of the family, was to be released later in the day, the statement said.

High Court of Justice Torpedoed Government’s Attempt to Renovate, Secure Mt. Meron Site
In response to the State Comptroller’s warning in 2007, the state appointed a committee of five members to investigate the situation and make recommendations. By the end of 2011, the Israeli government decided to embrace the committee’s recommendation and nationalize the site, removing ownership from the trusts and transferring it to the state. This was met with a fierce struggle that was waged by some in the Haredi community, who feared losing control on the character of the site, and of their sources of income through the charity collections.

At the end of 2013, the new Minister of Finance Yair Lapid, who served in a Netanyahu coalition government without the Haredi parties, signed an order expropriating the ownership of the place from the trusts, and transferring it to a new governmental company. But in January 2016, the government decided to dismantle the new company and transfer its responsibilities to the Holy Places Administration.

The Haredi associations petitioned the High Court of Justice, which issued an interim ruling that sent the parties to negotiations in order to reach an experimental model, instead of letting the government carry out the expropriation.

An attorney representing the Haredi trusts told Calcalist at the time that the High Court considered nationalizing the site an extreme measure, which should only be used after all the other measures had been exhausted.

Let’s hope that the High Court would consider the death of 45 Jews to mean that those less extreme options have been sufficiently exhausted and that no additional Jews need to lose their lives before the government is allowed to make the site less lethal.

The proposals that have been bandied about in the Israeli media on Sunday involve D9 bulldozers that would raze all the many decrepit structures surrounding Rashbi’s tomb, to create a plaza reminiscent of the wide-open area in front of the Kotel, where hundreds of thousands have been able to crowd together (in the years without a pandemic) without being crushed.
Calls Grow for State Commission of Inquiry into Mount Meron Tragedy

The History of Israel's Mount Meron

110 years ago, 100 people fell from a balcony at Mt. Meron; 11 were killed
The deadly crush in which 45 ultra-Orthodox pilgrims were crushed to death at Mount Meron on Thursday night was not the first safety-related disaster to occur there during Lag B’Omer celebrations. Exactly 110 years ago, 11 people were killed, and more than 40 were wounded, when a balcony railing collapsed at the holy site.

On May 15, 1911, Lag B’Omer night, at the gravesite of the second-century sage Rabbi Shimon Bar Yochai, at least 100 people fell some seven meters from a balcony after the railing surrounding it collapsed.

Bar Yochai is reputed to have died on Lag B’Omer. The date, poignant in the era of COVID-19, also commemorates the end of another plague some 2,000 years ago, which saw the deaths of 24,000 followers of Rabbi Akiva.

Back in 1911, almost four decades before the establishment of the State of Israel, there were no emergency medical forces present. The event was being secured by the Ottoman Safed police unit, the Walla news site noted in a report Saturday on past disasters and alerts at the northern Galilee site, which has become the second most-visited holy place in Israel after the Western Wall.

The railing on the balcony, along with part of the roof in an area where a large number of worshippers were present, broke apart, sending dozens plunging downward. Nine died in the immediate aftermath, and two more died the next day in the Rothschild Hospital in Safed, now known as the Bnai Zion Medical Center.

Fears of further disaster at the annual celebrations were frequently raised over subsequent decades, along with numerous reports that underlined the sense of relief when tragedy didn’t strike.
1921 Jaffa riots 100 years on: Mandatory Palestine’s 1st ‘mass casualty’ event
Israel last month marked its 73rd Independence Day, observed as always directly after its Memorial Day for fallen soldiers and victims of terrorism. The latter event carried a bittersweet distinction: For Israelis, the preceding year was by far the least bloody in their history — only three died in violent attacks — and the year before was second-calmest — with 11.

That these figures should be cause for celebration is an illustration of Israelis’ resignation to living in an environment with no parallel in the developed world — a reality that one of their preeminent novelists and peace activists calls, bleakly, death as a way of life.

For there is no education like experience, and in its nearly three quarters of a century of existence, this country has known three wars with multiple neighbors, two more in Lebanon, three in Gaza, two intifadas and innumerable individual hostile acts. But to make sense of the conflict today it is instructive to look further back still to the events of exactly a century ago, before there was a Jewish state or even a Palestine Mandate.

On May 1, 1921, in the interlude between Britain’s conquest of the land and the League of Nations’ ratification of its mandate, riots shook Palestine. It was the first time since the Crusades that civilians in the Holy Land had experienced what would later be termed, with grim sterility, a mass-fatality incident. And it was, for the Zionist movement, a turning point in its perception of the “Arab question” and its own relation to armed force and retribution.

The Balfour Declaration, the British conquest of the Land and the end of the Great War had produced euphoria in the Yishuv movement — that is, the Jews living in pre-state Israel — convincing it that dreams of sovereignty in Palestine were on the brink of fulfillment. But, as Israeli historian Benny Morris writes, the “massive violence of 1921 left an ineradicable impression on the Zionists, driving home the precariousness of their enterprise.”

The necessity of a strong defense — a conviction previously limited to a few diehards — now began trickling into mainstream Zionist thought.

David Collier: Wikipedia – the most active spreader of antisemitism on the planet
Today – tens of millions of people – including many children -will type something into Google’s search box. Because of Google’s algorithm, a Wikipedia entry will almost always feature as one of the top results:

It has probably held true for a number of years that more people have their opinion shaped by Wikipedia on a daily basis – than by any other information source. I do not believe that most people fully understand the damage that Wikipedia is doing, nor the fact that action must be taken to challenge it.

When I write about Wikipedia, I always face the same three arguments:
Firstly the idea that everyone can edit Wikipedia. It is simply not true. Everyone can go onto a mundane page and make an edit – but the more important pages on Wikipedia are protected – which means only certain editors can make a change. These protections do not just stop abuse – they prevent challenges to the bias of the editors.

Secondly, is the notion that because most people know Wikipedia is not a reliable source it mitigates the damage. This is a deflection. Even many of those that know Wiki is tainted, still recommend using it as a starting point – especially teachers and academics. Google, the world’s leading search engine, literally treat it as the best source in the world. All those seeking information by starting on Wikipedia are still guided by the additional links that are on Wiki’s pages – and are left blind to those facts and arguments that have been airbrushed out.

Finally, there is the suggestion that is possible to counter the bias by simply adding editors with a more balanced outlook. There are just 15 million Jews on the planet. Everyone bravely fighting antisemitism online is aware that the haters swarm and we are vastly outnumbered – even with friends and allies. In a numbers game – and Wiki is a numbers game – the Jews will always lose. We desperately need allies to take the time to enter Wiki’s world – but on its own, it is not a strategy that we should depend on.

It isn’t just about Jews or Israel and it is not enough to sit idly by. Wikipedia is *damaging* truth and promoting an anti-western, antisemitic, anti-Israel narrative. This cannot be stated often or hard enough; When it comes to spreading disinformation – Wikipedia is the biggest fake news distributor on the planet.
Human Rights Watch chairman invests in Israel as he calls it ‘apartheid’
One of the chairmen of Human Rights Watch, which has accused Israel of apartheid, runs a venture-capital fund that invests heavily in Israeli start-ups.

Neil Rimer has been an HRW board member since 2009 and became co-chairman of the organization’s international board of directors in 2020. He has warned about the dangers of governments utilizing technological tools to abuse human rights.

Last week, for the first time in its history, Human Rights Watch accused Israel of apartheid and called on the UN to punish it with an arms embargo.

Rimer is the founder of and a partner in Index Ventures, a Geneva-based venture-capital firm.

His profile on the HRW website features 11 companies he has worked with or invested in, none of which are Israeli. However, the Index Ventures website lists several Israeli companies it supports, including MyHeritage, Outbrain, Lacoon and Adallom.

According to Start-Up Nation Central, Index Ventures invested in Israel as recently as this March, when it was the leader among six investors in a $130 million round of funding for Wiz and one of nine investors in Capitolis in a $90m. round of funding.

More Than Oranges: The Continuing Success of the Israeli Economy
Growing up in Montreal in the 1950s and 1960s in a Zionist household meant being aware of the precarious nature of the Israeli economy and of the obligation of Jews in the Diaspora to assist Israel financially.

This took place in various ways — by donating directly to one or more of several deserving charitable projects, buying Israeli bonds, supporting the Jewish National Fund by purchasing trees. Another way of supporting the Israeli economy was to purchase Israeli products, and when I was young, this often meant buying the Jaffa oranges that were on display in our local supermarkets. (I was surprised to learn that Jaffa oranges from Mandatory Palestine were first shipped to Montreal as early as 1928).

I still look for Israeli produce when I am food shopping, but in recent years, the Israeli economy has been growing by leaps and bounds. And while it is still important insofar as providing Israel with food security, the agricultural sector represents only about 2.5 percent of the overall economy today. It is the growth of the technology sector that has been mainly responsible for Israel’s economic strength.

I have been following these developments by keeping an eye on the yearly economic statistics provided by the International Monetary Fund (IMF), and I was shocked to discover that recent IMF numbers indicate that on the basis of per capita gross domestic product (GDP), Israel ranks number 19 in the world, ahead of countries such as New Zealand, the United Kingdom, France, and Japan. My own country, Canada, is number 18.

There is every indication that the current momentum will continue and possibly accelerate, in part because of the economic promise of the recently concluded Abraham Accords. And despite its tragic impact on the world, the COVID-19 crisis has created new opportunities for the Israeli technology sector. While all economies have contracted as a result of COVID, the Israeli economy has been less affected than others.

The 2.5 percent reduction of the Israeli economy in 2020 is about half that experienced by the Canadian economy, for example; and hardly a week goes by without the announcement of a new Israeli technology advance related to COVID — be it a new oral vaccine with a wider spectrum of virus fighting ability than current vaccines, to new and simplified means of testing for the virus, to the design of new and more effective protective masks, to new communication technologies developed in response to COVID.

A Palestinian State: What Would Ben Gurion Have Said?
When the decision to hold the elections was first declared, some of us hoped that it would provide an opportunity for Palestinians to attempt three changes in their political trajectory: to organize a change of generations at the top levels of political decision-making, to forge a minimum of understanding among long rival political groups on the basic rules of the game, and, more importantly, to transform their various versions of "the cause" into a state-building project rooted in reality.

In its current form, Palestinian politics remains atrophied in a lost cause that, in zombie style, bars the route to positive energies.

He [the late Palestinian "negotiator" Saeb Erekat] ignored the fact that ceasefire lines exist in the context of a truce, not of peace and that, if achieving peace is the aim, there is no point in choosing them as a sine qua non in a negotiated deal.

The third "condition" concerned the status of Jerusalem as the capital of a putative Palestinian state. Here, too, the Palestinian position suited those for whom Palestine is a cause not a project for state building.

When the British mandate ended in 1948, there was no Palestinian nation, in the universally accepted sense of the term at least in the Westphalian treaties, to claim a state of its own. In fact, all mandate and subsequent United Nations documents refer to "inhabitants" of mandate Palestine presented as Arabs, Jews, Druzes, Armenians, Bahais, Turks and numerous Christian denominations, including Assyrians and Chaldeans.

3 hurt, 2 seriously in West Bank drive-by shooting; IDF searching for terrorists
Three 19-year-old yeshiva students were injured, two of them seriously, in a drive-by shooting at a bus stop in the northern West Bank on Sunday evening, Israeli authorities said.

The shots were fired from a passing car at the Tapuah Junction south of Nablus. The victims were all civilians, according to the Israel Defense Forces.

“IDF troops returned fire at the vehicle, which fled the scene. IDF troops are searching for the vehicle and are setting up roadblocks in the area,” the military said.

Medics said one of the victims was in critical condition and received CPR en route to the hospital, while the second seriously injured man was in and out of consciousness. The third sustained light injuries, medics said.

The nearby settlement of Itamar identified the victims as students at its yeshiva, or seminary.

Security camera footage of the attack (above) showed the silver SUV pull up to the bus stop and hit the brakes — seen at the 16-second mark — before someone inside opens fire. The students and a soldier who was at the scene are seen scrambling to take cover behind a concrete barrier, as the car then speeds off in the direction of Ramallah.

“IDF and security forces will not rest until they get their hands on the terrorists who carried out the attack,” Defense Minister Benny Gantz said in a statement after the shooting.
IDF Forces Thwart Attempted Stabbing at Gush Etzion Junction
Israeli forces thwarted an attempted stabbing at the Gush Etzion Junction south of Bethlehem on Sunday, the Israel Defense Forces said in a statement.

A female assailant armed with a knife approached the soldiers, at which point one member of the force engaged in standard operating procedure for arresting a suspect, ultimately firing at her legs and wounding her, according to the IDF.

The assailant was evacuated to Shaarei Tzedek hospital for treatment, according to the IDF Spokesperson’s Office. No Israeli casualties were reported.

Gush Etzion Regional Council Head Shlomo Ne’eman condemned the attempted attack, saying, “This morning, we were witness to another attempt to harm Jews simply because they are Jews.”

The Gush Etzion Junction has been the site of multiple terrorist attacks. On Jan. 31, an assailant was shot dead after charging at IDF soldiers with an improvised spear.

PA hate speech: Israeli Independence Day celebrations “defiled” Muslim places of worship

Palestinian priest threatens world

Islam wants you to “defend your homeland, your holy sites” - top PA religious leader

Gunmen attack home of candidate who called on EU to halt funding to PA
In the first incident of its kind since Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas’s decision to postpone the elections, unidentified gunmen attacked the house of a Palestinian candidate who urged the European Union to halt financial aid to the PA.

Palestinian political activists expressed fear that the attack could be part of an attempt by the PA leadership to silence critics in the aftermath of the postponement.

They pointed out that the PA has instructed its supporters to stage rallies in parts of the West Bank in support of Abbas and his decision to delay the elections.

The attack on the home of Nizar Banat, a prominent political activist and candidate on the Freedom and Dignity electoral list for the Palestinian parliamentary elections, which were set for May 22, took place on Saturday night in the town of Dura near Hebron.

Banat, an outspoken critic of Abbas, said he was not at home when the gunmen attacked with live ammunition and stun grenades. His wife and three children, who were in the house, were not hurt, he said.

Banat hinted that “thugs” belonging to Abbas’s ruling Fatah faction were behind the attack and that they were escorted by PA security officers, he claimed.

Iran claims it will free prisoners in exchange for $7 billion relief; US denies
Iran will free prisoners with Western ties in Iran in exchange for billions of dollars from the United States and the United Kingdom, state television reported Sunday. The US swiftly denied the report, while the UK downplayed it.

The state TV report quoted an anonymous official just as Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei began giving what authorities earlier described as an “important” speech. However, Khamenei did not immediately discuss any proposed swap amid negotiations in Vienna over Tehran’s tattered nuclear deal with world powers.

The official quoted by Iranian state TV said a deal made between the US and Tehran involved a prisoner swap in exchange for the release of $7 billion in frozen Iranian funds. It was unclear if Tehran was expecting to see Iranians freed in the swap, or who they might be.

US State Department spokesman Ned Price immediately denied the Iranian state TV report.

“Reports that a prisoner swap deal has been reached are not true,” Price said. “As we have said, we always raise the cases of Americans detained or missing in Iran. We will not stop until we are able to reunite them with their families.”

Price did not elaborate. But Biden’s chief of staff Ron Klain told CBS’ “Face the Nation” that “unfortunately that report is untrue. There is no agreement to release these four Americans.”

“We’re working very hard to get them released,” Klain said. “We raise this with Iran and our interlocutors all the time but so far there’s no agreement.”
JCPA: Iranian Official Admits Lying about Filling Arak Plutonium Reactor with Cement
Even Iran’s Top Atomic Official Scoffed at the Report

The New York Times’ repeating last week the report that Iran decommissioned its Arak reactor with cement. The claim is audaciously false, considering that the act was even denied by the highest nuclear official in Iran, Ali Akbar Salehi, Atomic Energy Organization chief. In January 2019, Salehi told an Iranian Mojahedin TV interview that the calandria core was not filled with cement.9 The proof he presented was a “photoshopped” version. Moreover, while narrow tubes were blocked by cement, another set of identical tubes were purchased to replace the decommissioned ones, Salehi explained with amusement. “Only one man in Iran knew this (the secret switch). We told no one but the top man of the regime (Khamenei).” The latter disclosure was picked up by some media, but there was little repercussion.10
This photoshopped version was remarkably amateurish. See, for instance, the man with the wheelbarrow on the bottom left was pasted into the picture.

U.S. negotiators to the JCPOA walked out of the 2015 Vienna negotiations stripped bare – no decommissioned Arak reactor, no negotiations on ballistic missiles, no attempt to stop regional terrorism or to extend the “sunset” obligations. Even without the leak of Iranian Foreign Minister Zarif’s recent interview, the negotiators’ misfeasance, gullibility, and malfeasance point to dangerous leaks that could hemorrhage.
Fmr. Iran nuke chief: Natanz explosion was 5th in recent years
The Natanz nuclear site has been hit by five explosions in recent years, the former head of Iran's Atomic Energy Organization revealed on Saturday in an interview with the Iranian Fars News Agency.

Fereydoon Abbasi-Davani, also a candidate in Iran's upcoming presidential elections, added that Israel conducted the recent attack on Natanz based on experience gathered over at least 15 years.

"This is not the first time that destruction has taken place in Natanz, and in terms of major sabotage, we think this is the fifth time that a severe attack has been carried out on Natanz's facilities in the last 15 years," Davani told Fars. "Of course, we have neutralized them to some extent, but we have also been damaged."

While saying that Iran's defense systems are "doing their job," Davani stressed that the systems do not yet have the experience to deal with "enemy capabilities."

The former atomic chief stressed that Iran needed to work on deterrence in order to prevent further damage. "If the enemy will take into account that if he hits us, he will receive a harder blow, then the situation will change. The best defense is offensive."

The explosive used in the most recent attack on Natanz was "the size of a lentil," according to Davani, who stressed that security protocols must be made stricter at nuclear sites and centrifuge production facilities.

Neo-Nazi former Greek MEP refuses extradition from Belgium
An MEP and former leading member of Greece’s banned neo-Nazi Golden Dawn movement, arrested in Belgium, has challenged moves to send him home for imprisonment, prosecutors said Wednesday.

Ioannis Lagos was detained on a European arrest warrant in Brussels on Tuesday, shortly after the European Parliament voted to strip him of his immunity.

But, brought before a Belgian magistrate on Wednesday, he challenged the move to send him to Greece to serve a 13-year jail term, deputy public prosecutor Katrien Meulemans said.

“The investigating judge decided to detain him,” she said, explaining that a legal procedure would now be launched to study Greece’s extradition request.

“The Brussels Council Chamber will decide on the execution of the European arrest warrant within 15 days. The date of the hearing has not been set and will be announced later.”

Lagos, a 48-year-old former nightclub bouncer, was elected to the European Parliament in 2019. He entered as a member of the far-right Golden Dawn group but later rebadged as an independent.

In October, along with other leaders and members of the neo-Nazi Golden Dawn party, he was convicted in Greece on several charges, including that of running a criminal organization.

Silicon Valley Jewish Film Festival goes virtual, announces lineup
Tickets are now on sale for the Virtual 30th Silicon Valley Jewish Film Festival (SVJFF), opens May 19 and will run through June 2, showing feature films and documentaries from Italy, Poland, USA ,Canada, Israel, Germany, France, Brazil, Norway and Austria.

"This year's Festival will be streaming 100% of our films online. Our audience will be able to view all 30 films from the safety and comfort of their homes." said SVJFF Executive Director Tzvia Shelef.

Each film will be available for viewing for 72 hours, starting the film's scheduled time.

In addition to the movies themselves, there will be a number of post-film Zoom discussions with directors, writers, producers and other film talent. Information and screening dates are available on the festival website, where tickets are also available for purchase.

Opening night will feature two documentaries:

"Aulcie," The story of Aulcie Perry, a basketball legend who led the team Maccabi Tel Aviv to an upset win in the European Championship, and "Ruth: Justice Ginsburg in Her Own Words," in which the late Ruth Bader Ginsburg tells the story of her journey to become a Supreme Court justice.

Following these two films, there will be separate interviews with Aulcie Perry and Ruth Bader Ginsburg's daughter, Jane Ginsburg. The first screenings of these films are available on Wed. May 19 at 6 p.m. and 8:30 p.m. (PST)

The festival centerpiece, "From Slavery to Freedom" tells the story of Soviet refuseniks through the lens of former prisoner of Zion Natan Sharansky's personal story. The film will be followed by an interview with Sharansky.

On the closing night, June 2, audiences will be treated to a documentary following the life and career of comedian Howie Mandel, "Howie Mandel: But, Enough About Me." Both Mandel and director Barry Avrich will be interviewed after the screening.
Israeli company develops new technology that can destroy cancerous tumors
Israeli medical device company IceCure has developed a new technology called ProSense, which it says has proven extremely effective in treating women with breast cancer, the company said in a press release on Thursday.

ProSense was created to find a non-surgical and less invasive alternative which can destroy tumors by using cryotherapy technology.

It utilizes a probe that is inserted into the tumor and freezes it by lowering its temperature, leaving the healthy tissue around it while alternating between freezing and thawing the specific area of the tumor.

The technology has been referred to as a "breakthrough device" by the US Food and Drug Administration (FDA), which officially recognized the innovation last month as having the capabilities to save lives.

CEO of Technion UK, Alan Aziz, stated that "invasive surgery was the only possibility for removing tumors, but [IceCure researchers] are looking to put those old methods on ice.”

Around 700,000 people die every year from breast cancer.


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