Monday, December 27, 2021

From Ian:

Good News in the Fight Against Antisemitism
At this time of year-end recollections, we cannot forget that antisemitism has reached historic levels this year, including attacks on Jews in the streets of Boston, New York, Los Angeles and Southern Florida. But the year has not been entirely bleak. There has been good news. The fight against antisemitism is also surging. For those who seek silver linings in the dark clouds that gather, here are 10 positives from 2021.

1. Surveys Document the Growing Problem
I know, this sounds like bad news. The Anti-Defamation League, American Jewish Committee, Hillel International and my own Louis D. Brandeis Center published reports confirming that antisemitism is spiking and that Jewish Americans often feel the need to hide their identity for fear of attack. But the fact that we’re now doing better research is positive. We now know, for example, that two thirds of American Jews have encountered antisemitism over the past five years. (And we can wonder where the other third have been hiding.) Such data spurs action.

2. European Commission establishes antisemitism strategy
In January, the European Commission published a Handbook for using the International Holocaust Remembrance Alliance’s crucial Working Definition of Antisemitism. This important publication demonstrated both the IHRA definition’s widespread international support, despite persistent naysayers, and its practical usefulness. The Commission followed up later in the year, announcing its first-ever official strategy on combating antisemitism and fostering Jewish life. One can only hope that the United States will also one day develop a national strategy.

3. Biden administration embraces IHRA working definition
In February, State Department official Kara McDonald announced the Biden administration’s support for the “invaluable” IHRA definition and its “real-world examples,” similar to the support that the definition has received from the last few administrations. US Secretary of State Antony Blinken confirmed that the administration “enthusiastically embraces” the definition. The White House followed up with an important if barely noticed provision in its Spring 2021 Unified Agenda, committing the US Education Department to codifying former president Donald Trump’s Executive Order on Combating Antisemitism. In other words, the Biden administration is committed not only to embracing IHRA but also to implementing it.
Telegraph ($): Israel Is the Best Thing to Happen to Christians in the Holy Land for Centuries
Every year at Christmas, some Christian prelate warns of the fate of Christians in the Holy Land. This year it was Archbishop of Canterbury Justin Welby and Anglican Archbishop of Jerusalem Hosam Naoum.

But the state of Israel is the best thing to happen to Christians and other minorities in over a thousand years: a revolution for freedom against religious empire, a refuge for Jews, and a model of multi-ethnic pluralism at the same time. To the Archbishops' credit, they acknowledge that "In Israel, the overall number of Christians has risen," yet fail to note that this is the first time in 13 centuries that such a thing has happened.

There are, in fact, two Christian communities in the Holy Land: a large and prosperous Arabic-speaking population in Israel, where 182,000 live as citizens, mainly in the Galilee; and a smaller group of 50,000 Christian Palestinians in the West Bank and Gaza. The real crisis is here, under Palestinian rule. Data from a study by the Palestinian Center for Policy and Survey Research show that 2/3 of Christians in the Palestinian territories worry about rising Islamic sentiment, which drives economic hardship, emigration and decline.

Christmas offers an opportunity to thank Israel for safeguarding Christianity. If the Church of England wants a Christian renaissance in the Near East, it should extend a hand of friendship to the only country where that project is still viable.

The Tyranny of the Woke
The democratic State of Israel has now become the most reviled object of calumny on most American college campuses. In some sort of Kafkaesque fashion, the Jewish state has become the bête noire of the self-appointed moralists of the world. Not China, with its horrendous “reeducation camps” for the Uyghurs; not Iran, with its rampant execution of untold numbers of dissidents, minorities and gays; not North Korea, where hundreds of thousands of people are locked up in concentration camps.

Today, we are left with a situation where campuses throughout the country are covered by swastikas and where the freedom of speech and of assembly of students with a pro-Israel perspective are suppressed. Take, for example, what recently happened at Duke University when the Students Supporting Israel group was the one student organization denied recognition by its student government. Its attempts to educate other student groups about what words like “colonization” actually mean were drowned out by the loud, cacophonous voices of the woke.

A great deal of the problem lies in academia, particularly those that teach Middle East Studies. In a recent meeting of the Middle East Studies Association, 93 percent of the 444 members present voted to advance a referendum to support BDS. We know that ever since the Saidian revolution of the 1970s, much of what has been passing for Middle East scholarship has deteriorated into one-sided paltry propaganda. In most universities, it is impossible to set foot into the door of a classroom without buying into the premise that Israel is a highly immoral country.

Today, the woke conformists have a visceral hatred for Israel, the state of the Jews. The boundaries between anti-Zionism and antisemitism are virtually indistinguishable.

This is to the detriment not just of the Jews, but to our civilization. We are in the midst of creating a society of woke conformists. Conformists, by definition, lack creativity; they are easy prey for the demagogues coming from either the political left or right; and they ultimately serve to “dumb down” and corrode a civilization from within. They are the apotheosis of a certain illness, a corrosive rot within a society.

As the late Rabbi Jonathan Sacks said, “The hate that begins with Jews never ends with Jews. Antisemitism is only secondarily about Jews. Primarily it is about the failure of groups to accept responsibility for their own failures, and to build their own future by their own endeavors. No society that has fostered antisemitism has ever sustained liberty or human rights or religious freedom. Every society driven by hate begins by seeking to destroy its enemies but ends by destroying itself.”

Watchdog: Social media platforms remove only fraction of antisemitic posts
Only 25% of antisemitic posts and other content on social media were removed in 2021, a new report released Monday by an Israeli watchdog group revealed.

According to the findings released by Fighting Online Antisemitism, in 2021, Instagram, TikTok, Twitter, Telegram, YouTube, Facebook and VK combined received 3,922 reports of antisemitic content but removed only 1,004 such posts.

Fighting Online Antisemitism is a nongovernmental organization established in 2020. Its mission statement is "to combat online antisemitism through volunteer training, reporting hateful content, and raising awareness of the phenomena of cyberhate."

The Israeli watchdog group is one of only a handful of similar organizations worldwide that monitor and reports antisemitic content online.

A segmentation of the data shows that 1,732 antisemitic Twitter posts were reported across 2021, of which 391 were removed (22.5%). On Instagram, 1,039 posts were reported as offensive and 329 (31.7%) were removed, and of the 577 Facebook posts reported as antisemitic, 133 were removed (23%).

Of the 114 YouTube videos reported as including antisemitic content, 28 (24.5%) were removed, and on TikTok, of the 101 clips reported as offensive, 35 (34.6%) were removed.
BBC Breakfast politicisation of Christmas in Bethlehem
Baboun told viewers of effects of the pandemic with regard to foreign tourists and local participants and, in response to a question from Stayt, explained the reduced restrictions in force compared to the previous year.

Some two and a half minutes into the item, Stayt however chose to shift the focus of what was ostensibly a Christmas item:
Stayt: “Now Vera, sadly of course one of the things that doesn’t change – as you know only too well – is the tensions between…ahm…Israel and…err…Palest…Palestine. I mean it…that remains kind of a constant in a way, doesn’t it?”

Predictably – given that she did the exact same on BBC Radio Scotland last year – Baboun immediately responded to that cue from Stayt.

Baboun: “It is actually and you know with the most abnormal reality in Bethlehem is that Bethlehem is separated from Jerusalem through that wall and whenever you want to exit or enter Bethlehem […] you have to follow the instructions and to have a permit to enter. So this abnormal sense of the movement […] affects the GDP as well, the economy, life, how people carry, how we carry our life, definitely. This conflict as long as it proceeds and this tough reality, definitely it will affect the city of peace. Mind you, Bethlehem is the city of peace that does not live actual peace. […] But the toughest reality today, we have the pandemic and the continued occupation procedures.”

At no point in the item were viewers told that Bethlehem has been under Palestinian Authority control for over a quarter of a century, that the anti-terrorist fence described by Baboun as “that wall” was constructed because of Palestinian terrorism or that travel permits are still necessary because terrorism continues.

The opportunistic promotion of politicised messaging has unfortunately been a feature of BBC Christmas content for many years and the former mayor of Bethlehem has on various occasions over the past decade been provided with a BBC platform from which to promote her talking points.

It would of course be interesting to hear how the BBC explains its simultaneous amplification of claims of “occupation” alongside increasingly frequent references to a country called Palestine.
The Times repeats Justin Welby's falsehoods about Israeli Christians
An article in The Times (“There’s no saviour in sight for the Holy Land”, Dec. 23) by their Middle East correspondent Richard J. Spencer commented on the op-ed co-written by Justin Welby, the Archbishop of Canterbury, and the Anglican Archbishop of Jerusalem, Hosam Naoum, in the Sunday Times which accused Israel of driving Christians from the Holy Land.

As we noted in our post about the piece by Welby and Naoum, which was widely condemned by the British Jewish community and several prominent politicians, there was almost no real evidence to back up their allegations.

Spencer frames his piece thusly:
The theme of Welby’s article was reasonable enough, drawing attention to a series of attacks on Christian priests and places of worship. What was odd was his failure to identify those responsible: radical Jewish settler groups determined to expand their presence across Jerusalem’s Old City.

However, whilst there have been a some incidents of vandalism in recent years, and verbal insults, Spencer fails to cite even one actual example of physical violence – nor are are any statistics provided – yet alone a “series” of such assaults. Earlier, we tweeted the journalist asking for sources.

Spencer later writes:
“The archbishop got one thing right, however. More than ever this Christmas, the path to war or peace in the Middle East lies through the City of David”.

First, the archbishop did not make this argument in his Sunday Times op-ed.

Moreover, the ‘path to peace in the Mid-East running through Jerusalem’ narrative is a tired cliche that’s been disproven by events over the past couple of years, especially the signing of the Abraham Accords. The fact that Arab states were willing to make peace with Israel regardless of the conflict demonstrates that, contrary to the British media narrative, the question of ‘Palestine’ is NOT the core regional issue.
Inaccuracy and omission in BBC WS ‘Newsday’ Israel Covid report
An edition of the BBC World Service radio programme ‘Newsday’ which aired on December 22nd included an item (from 27:13 here) introduced as follows:
“We start though with Israel. […] the country has announced a fourth Covid jab for over-60s and medical teams to tackle the spread of Omicron. The decision follows the first known death in Israel of a patient with the Omicron variant.

In fact – as was already known at the time of broadcast – it was not certain that the patient, who had underlying medical conditions, had actually died of Covid and later in the day the hospital reported that he had been infected with the Delta variant rather than the Omicron variant.

A report published on the BBC News website’s ‘Middle East’ page also on December 22nd indicates that the BBC is aware of that:
“Four deaths have also been reported in the past seven days, including that of a 68-year-old man who doctors suspected was infected with Omicron. The health ministry said on Wednesday that he actually had the Delta variant.”

Nevertheless, that inaccurate information concerning “the first known death in Israel of a patient with the Omicron variant” has to date not been corrected and will remain online “for over a year” according to the programme’s webpage.
Anti-vaccine posters take clear antisemitic turn in Los Angeles
Anti-vaccine posters that featured a Star of David on them were discovered in at least two Los Angeles-area locations this week, including pasted to an electrical box outside a synagogue.

The first was found outside the Baba Sale Congregation and showed the letters "A" and "V" overlapping to form a Star of David. The same poster was found in front of a building affiliated with Cedar-Sinai Medical Center. Both fliers said, "Report Anti-Vaxxers, because you care and they don't," and included a telephone number that, according to a local media outlet, went to a restaurant in Hollywood.

The Baba Sale synagogue is no stranger to hateful messages; in 2019, vandals spray-painted "Free Palestine" on the building's exterior.

Magen Am – a nonprofit, armed security patrol in the heavily Jewish Los Angeles neighborhoods made up of former Israel Defense Forces and US military veterans – has been in touch with the local police and has moved around its patrol to "cover additional daytime hours, as much of this has been happening in broad daylight," according to Leibel Mangel, the group's executive director.

The anti-vaccine posters were the most-recent incident of anti-Jew hatred tied to COVID-19. Just this weekend, people in nearby Beverly Hills and Pasadena found fliers on their front yards from the virulently antisemitic Goyim Defense League, that claimed Jews are responsible for or profiting from the pandemic. They were among hundreds of people in eight states across the country who also received those hate-filled fliers.

It was the second time in as many months that such fliers were left in Beverly Hills, which is "one of the only Jewish-majority cities outside of Israel," according to local officials.

Israel Found a Way to Make Soldiers Invisible
Picture this: A special operations team has set up an observation post on a rocky hillside in enemy territory. The team’s mission: provide surveillance of the terrorists planning an attack from their camp below, and then target the commander once preparations have reached their peak.

Down in the camp, the commander is confident the valley above is free of danger. There’s little cover, and he’s outfitted his sentries with night-vision goggles that would light up with the heat signature of any threats. The special ops troops have covered themselves with camouflage that not only blends in with the rock-strewn hillside, but hides their telltale heat. The team is difficult to see during the daytime, but impossible to spot at night.

Before the attack is set to commence, the commander calls his fighters before him. As he begins to speak, a pair of crosshairs a half-mile away drifts over his silhouette. The sniper exhales and gently squeezes the trigger.

This scenario could become possible thanks to a new camouflage material, Kit 300, developed by Israeli defense contractor Polaris Solutions. Kit 300 is a “thermal visual concealment”—essentially a sheet that uses advanced materials to block a soldier’s body heat. This renders them invisible to night-vision sensors, which in recent decades have become available to terrorist groups.
Churchill in the holy city: Wartime PM visiting British WWI graves in Jerusalem in 1921 when he was Colonies Minister is among hundreds of colourised 19th and 20th century images from the Middle East uploaded to online archive
Looking pensive, Winston Churchill is seen talking to a priest in a field surrounded by white crosses.

The image, which was taken on March 26, 1921, shows the then Secretary of State for the Colonies at the British War Cemetery in Jerusalem.

He is engaged in conversation with Rennie MacInnes, the Bishop of Jerusalem, during a memorial service for British troops killed during the First World War, which had ended just two years earlier.

Now, the photo is one of hundreds taken in the Middle East during the 19th and early-20th century which have been colourised for the first time and made available to view online.

The images were taken after the founding of the American Colony, a Christian utopian society whose members had come to Jerusalem in 1881 in the belief that they needed to be there in time for what they thought was the imminent Second Coming of Jesus Christ.

Two members of the group, Elijah Meyers and Lars Larsson, went on to found the American Colony Photo Department.

From around 1898, their photographers documented life in the Middle East until 1934. The images now make up what is known as the Matson collection, named after one of the group's leading photographers, Eric Matson.

Also seen in the stunning archive is an image of British troops standing in front of Jerusalem's Jaffa Gate in 1917 during the First World War, after Germany's ally the Ottoman Empire had retreated from the territory.
Jewish children playing in the snow in Jerusalem in 1921
Jewish adults and children are seen marching through Ein Kerem, in Jerusalem, in around 1918. They were on their way to the tomb of Shimon haTzadik (Simeon the Just) - an ancient High Priest who lived during the time of the Second Temple - between c. 516 BCE and c. 70 CE

Seventh Century Synagogue Uncovered in Turkey Was Memorial to Deceased Child
A synagogue dating to the seventh century CE has been uncovered in Antalya, Turkey, providing further evidence of the Jewish community’s antiquity in the country.

According to Turkish daily Hurriyet, the synagogue was uncovered in the neighborhood of Side during excavations in the Manavgat district of Turkey’s fifth-largest city. It was located beneath a residential property.

Feriştah Alanyalı, a professor at Anadolu University, told the Demirören News Agency, “There were historical records that the Jews resided in Side, but we found out the first palpable proof.”

She said that the synagogue contained a tragic inscription: “Joseph from Korakesion dedicated it to son Daniel.”

Alanyalı believes that the Daniel mentioned in the inscription died in childhood, prompting his father to renovate the synagogue as a memorial to his deceased son.

Asked why the synagogue had lain undiscovered for so long, she said, “It is not easy as synagogues are not as apparent as mosques or churches.”

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