Monday, August 01, 2022

08/01 Links Pt2: In Israel, the Idea of Apartheid Is Laughable; Spinster Sisters Versus Nazis; How Israel and Its Neighbors Are Fighting to Save the Environment Together

From Ian:

In Israel, the Idea of Apartheid Is Laughable
Although signs on city buses in St. John's, Newfoundland, calling Israel an "apartheid" state were shocking to many Canadians, in Israel, the ad drew only laughs. In the Israeli city of Karmiel on July 27, an Arab-Israeli leader laughed in hysterics when I asked him about apartheid. He outlined his own success in Israel, having completed a graduate degree at an Israeli university, then having the freedom to travel to Jordan to earn a doctorate and to pursue a successful career as an educator and media personality.

Many of his friends are professionals like him and enjoy the benefits of being Israeli citizens. In fact, he ran in the last national election. Indeed, hardly anyone in Israel actually believes it is an apartheid state. Co-existence and peace is the language of most political and community leaders in Israel today.

The wasted energy and resources on negative ad campaigns that achieve nothing except hate and discord sadly misrepresents the seismic shift that's now underway in the entire region. A lie told enough times can become a truth if unopposed. We have a responsibility to stand up for Israel, because the right thing to do is to support the development of peace and friendship in the region.
Eldad Beck: 'Germany cannot be blamed for the Munich massacre'
Shaul Ladany's life was saved twice on German soil. The first time, at the age of eight, when he survived the Bergen-Belsen concentration camp, and again in 1972, at the age of 36, when he managed to escape the Palestinian terrorists who took over the Olympic building where the Israeli team was staying, killing two and taking nine hostage.

The two memories will be united in September, when 86-year-old Ladany, who holds the world record in the 50-mile walk, will participate in a ceremony marking the 77th anniversary of the liberation of Bergen-Belsen, followed by a ceremony commemorating the Munich massacre the next day.

In an interview with Israel Hayom, Ladany recalled the horrifying events.

"I was staying at an apartment on the ground floor. Each apartment had two floors connected by a spiral staircase. I shared with swimmer Avraham Melamed. The [sports] shooter Zelig Shtroch, who was on the upper floor of my apartment, woke me up and told me that Arabs had murdered the wrestler Moshe Weinberg.

"I put on my walking shoes, went to the main entrance door of the apartment, opened it and saw four meters away who I later found out to be the leader of the terrorist group – 'Issa'. I heard the conversation between him and the village guards, who tried to convince him to allow the Red Cross to enter and provide aid to the hostages. When he refused, they told him: 'Be humane', and he replied: 'The Jews are not humane either.'

Ladany continued, "I went back into the apartment and went up to the second floor, where everyone was already dressed. When I asked what was going on, they pulled back the curtain from the front window and pointed to the blood stain at the entrance, and said: 'It's Weinberg's blood, they've already taken his body.'

"Then someone said, 'The Arabs might try to kidnap us, let's get out of here.' We all went down to the ground floor of the apartment, to my bedroom, someone opened the sliding door to the garden, got out, and started running in zigzags along the lawn. I put my training suit over my pajamas. When I finished everyone had already run away, then instead of running away I went to warn the head of the delegation in the back of the building and together with him I left the building."
1948 newspaper warned of dire plight of Jews in Arab countries
On 12 November 1948, Avraham Elmaleh filed this report on the increasingly desperate situation of Jews in Arab countries for the weekly newspaper Had Hamizrah (The Echo of the Orient), warning of the dire consequences if nothing was done to save them. They were hostages to the war instigated by Arab countries against the new state of Israel, a war which the Arab League intended to finance with assets stolen from its Jewish citizens or extorted from them. These measures were contrary to resolutions passed by the recently-created UN. This extract is from page 12 and appears in the digital archives of the National Library of Israel and Tel Aviv University.

In my review of the situation of Jewry in the Middle East and North Africa, I used to refer to these countries as “rare islands of tranquillity in a stormy sea”. Compared to the situation of Jews scattered around Central Europe, these Jews lived in security. They were not persecuted because of their Jewishness and race, and enjoyed equal rights with the rest of the country’s citizens. However, it was enough for a slight change to take place between Israel and the Arab countries, for the situation of their Jews to change for the worst from one end of the region to the other, and become worse than the situation of their brothers in pre-peace Poland, in Hitler’s Germany, in fascist France and in Nazi Central Europe during World War II. Approximately one million Jews in the Islamic countries spanning Asia and Africa – from Morocco to Persia – are now targeted by Arab nationalism, which has taken on a threatening and aggressive form and turned the Jewish minorities in Arab countries not only into second-class citizens, but into dispensable elements that can be permitted to be abused and persecuted to the point that they are boycotted, rioted against, hunted down and hanged for no reason, just to rob them of their wealth and property.

An iron curtain separates us from these brothers, and the little news that filters up to us is sparse. However, even from the little information that has reached us, we have learned that the Jews of the Islamic countries are now living in a huge prison, under a tyrannical, oppressive and insulting regime of terror, headed by dark and fanatical feudal lords who oppress unique, ancient communities. The captives live in disgraceful conditions, in great distress and in danger of being killed. About a million Jews in Arab countries moan and groan under the yoke of the oppressor, at the mercy of incendiary mobs, and of bloodthirsty outlaws who seek robbery and plunder, who steal their property under the pretext of donations to Arab jihad: hundreds of thousands of them are expected to be exterminated and massacred, condemned to slow physical and spiritual degeneration if measures are not taken to save them, because the stranglehold around their necks is getting tighter and tighter day by day, and they live in terror while others are put in concentration camps. Others still live in destitution and are deprived of their livelihoods; part of their property was stolen, and the other part was seized. According to the UN partition plan of November 29,1947 it was clear to all who knew about the affairs of the Arab countries that there was a danger to their Jews, their property and rights.

Phyllis Chesler: Spinster Sisters Versus Nazis
Isabel Vincent, the author of a recent book, revisits a rather operatic story about how two British “spinster sisters,” Ida and Louise Cook, rescued 29 Jews from Hitler’s ovens.

The book is titled Overture of Hope: Two Sisters’ Daring Plan that Saved Opera’s Jewish Stars From the Third Reich, and it is based on prodigious research into the lives of the two “ordinary/extraordinary” sisters. She draws from Ida Cook’s own writing (Ida became a successful writer of romance novels, which helped fund their rescue work), specifically her 1950 memoir. The book was titled We Followed Our Stars, though it was republished in 2008 under the title Safe Passage, which in my view is not quite as romantic.

On that note, I would retitle Vincent’s excellent book: Overture of Hope: Two Sisters’ Daring Plan that Saved Opera’s Jewish Stars From the Third Reich. While the Cook sisters, frugal, modest, civil servants, neither worldly nor political, did save Jewish stars from Hitler—the great majority of these refugees were not great opera stars, but simply civilians.

According to Ida:
Just as the pursuit of opera had originally brought us to the refugee work, so the pursuit of refugee work was made possible only by the support—or if you like, the bribe—of great operatic performances, which lured us back again and again.

So how did two dowdy, “girlish” virgins ever win over such reigning, worldly figures? The Cooks were both passionate and savvy opera fans. They stood in long lines for hours, never missed a concert or a performance, and became known as “the girls” who asked to “snap” the stars’ photos, requested their autographs, and sent long, gushing letters and bunches of roses to their homes and dressing rooms.

They managed to befriend some of the world’s leading opera stars: sopranos Rosa Ponselle, Amelita Galli-Curci, Viorica Ursuleac, Elisabeth Rethberg; conductor and librettist Clemens Krauss, baritone Tito Gobbi, and bass Ezio Pinza. Even after their work in prewar Europe was over, they befriended Maria Callas, whom they impressed by giving her some honest, and therefore useful, advice about her interpretation of Medea.

Here’s how determined and capable of self-sacrifice these sisters were. After hearing Galli-Curci in a concert in London, they went without lunch and walked to work for two years in order to afford the trip to New York City to attend the Metropolitan Opera; it was the only place where Galli-Curci would appear in a full opera.

The great Galli-Curci waved to them in the audience and then invited them to her Fifth Avenue apartment. They were over the moon. In a letter to their parents, they wrote: “Oh Rapture! Rapture! Rapture! Galli-Curci is more than we expected.”
Resignation Is Not the Best Path Forward
Sarah Lawrence College is not the friendliest school when it comes to viewpoint diversity; students regularly self-censor and often feel intimidated to disagree with the prevailing and often progressive norms of the campus. I have been the focus of numerous cancellation attempts over the years when students and administrators have been unhappy with various ideas that I have shared and many students have privately shared their frustrations with me about being unable to express themselves and question openly.

Concerning Jewish life on campus, despite a large number of Jews being part of the community near New York City, antisemitism is alive and well at Sarah Lawrence. As an outwardly observant Jew who also publicly supports Israel even when I deeply disagree with its government, faculty colleagues regularly attack Israel and me without worry. They habitually make deeply insensitive and inappropriate remarks to me and regularly assert that Israel is an illegitimate, genocidal and apartheid state. I have found Nazi imagery on my office door over the years and have been told to make no real issue of it. Jewish students have felt such pressure from peers, administrators, and faculty on campus that they have met with officials from the Brandeis Center for Human Rights Under Law. Numerous incidents remain known to students but go unreported and unanswered. One documented example occurred in the fall of 2015 when a Jewish student leader was afraid to come to the physical campus, “after inviting an Israeli soldier to speak … she’d become the subject of virulent Facebook posts, angry email chains, and threatening stares and whispers.”

I share my experiences here because they are maddeningly not particularly unusual in the world of higher education. Thus I was not shocked when I read former UCLA anthropology professor Joseph Manson’s recent account of his experiences dealing with antisemitism, woke politics, and his general observation that “also typical of elite U.S. universities, UCLA is awash in Jew-hatred thinly disguised as anti-Zionism.”

Regrettably, as a direct result of this oppressive environment, Manson opted to retire, stating “I can’t bear to spend one more moment in a place that’s morally and intellectually bankrupt.” I have never had any interactions with Professor Manson and I cannot fully understand his frustrations and worries with UCLA and its future. However, I wish that he had not resigned as, by his admission, he had more years in which he could have served as a professor. I make this statement because higher education needs tenured faculty who not only believe that higher education will regain some sanity by resisting the DEI (diversity, equity and inclusion) machine but who can also continue to serve as role models for the thousands of undergraduate students who form the heart and soul of our institutions of higher education. Manson walked away.

Editor Who Pushed Anti-Zionism Gets a Promotion at New York Times
The new Sunday Opinion editor of the New York Times will be Max Strasser, a longtime critic of Israel who, as a Times editor, championed Peter Beinart’s public renunciation of Zionism.

The news was greeted with dismay by at least one watchdog monitoring and combating anti-Israel bias in the press. “Expect even more anti-Israel sentiment from NYT opinion. (And by anti-Israel, I also mean anti-the-very-existence-of-the-Jewish-state, in line with Strasser’s own ideology),” tweeted Gilead Ini, a senior research analyst at the Committee for Accuracy in Middle East Reporting and Analysis.

A July 2020 Algemeiner column — “Meet Max Strasser, Israel Critic on the Ascent at Post-Bari Weiss New York Times” — reported that with Weiss’s departure, “the go-to-editor on Israel-related matters at one of world’s the most influential opinion journalism platforms is a 2009 Oberlin College graduate, Max Strasser, who is a vocal public critic of the idea of a Jewish state.”

The column detailed Strasser’s track record. In a 2010 opinion article published in the Forward, Strasser wrote, “I’m afraid this is going to be a hard pill for the older generation to swallow: the idea of a state that is officially defined as ‘Jewish’ is in conflict with the worldviews of many in my generation. … A state that is predicated on ethnic nationalism, a state that privileges one group of citizens over another because of ethnic identity, as Israel does through its policies on housing, immigration and a number of other issues, is not a state that will be wholeheartedly embraced by young American Jews like me.”

In a 2010 article for Foreign Policy, Strasser referred to the Mossad as “Israel’s infamous intelligence agency.” The article concluded that a theory that Mossad was behind shark attacks in Egypt was “farfetched,” but nonetheless repeated the claim under the headline “Egypt’s shark week: Mossad to blame?”

When Beinart publicly renounced Zionism, Strasser tweeted out the link with enthusiastic approval: “This intelligent, searching piece by @PeterBeinart in @nytopinion may strike some as ‘controversial’ today but I think before too long it will be mainstream opinion among American Jewish liberals.”

Throughout the month of July 2022, twenty five written or filmed reports relating to Israel and/or the Palestinians appeared on the BBC News website’s ‘Middle East’ page, some of which were also published on other pages and five of which were carried over from the previous month.

Stories concerning internal Palestinian affairs which the BBC chose to ignore throughout July included allegations of and demonstrations against torture in prisons, a cleric’s homophobia, a homophobic attack on a cultural event in Ramallah, self-immolation in Gaza, violent celebrations of matriculation results and the arrest of a journalist. A shooting attack against a former minister (of which the BBC is aware) did not receive any coverage and neither did a Hamas tax hike. Even a demonstration by Palestinian lawyers opposed to Abbas’ ‘rule by decree’ and a high-profile initiative to reform the PA political system did not inspire any BBC headlines.
Maryland auction house defends sale of Hitler items and Eva Braun’s swastika-studded dog collar
An auction house in Maryland defended the sale of what it says were personal objects of Adolf Hitler, amid criticism from a European Jewish group.

One of the priciest items in the catalog for Friday’s auction by Alexander Historical Auctions house in Chesapeake City, Maryland, is a candy dish estimated to be worth at least $3,000 that the auction house says belonged to Hitler and was stolen from his Berghof compound near Munich. It is emblazoned with a golden symbol of the Reichsadler – the Nazi party’s imperial eagle – and the initials AH.

Another similarly priced item is a dog collar said to have belonged to Eva Braun, Hitler’s wife, for her pet Scottish terrier. A leather artifact with a small metal plate that reads “wau wau” – the sound of a dog barking as it is described in German – it is also studded with multiple metal swastikas. Items for sale on the first day of the two-day auction were even more valuable, including a watch the auction house says belonged to Hitler.

The European Jewish Association, a Brussels-based lobby group, condemned the sale in a letter. The items only give “succor to those who idealize what the Nazi party stood for” or offer “buyers the chance to titillate a guest or loved one with an item belonging to a genocidal murderer and his supporters,” wrote the group’s chairman, Rabbi Menachem Margolin.

Bill Panagopulos, the president of Alexander Historical Auctions, which has faced similar rebuke for previous sales — including one that featured the personal diaries of Josef Mengele, a notorious Nazi war criminal — dismissed the criticism as “nonsense and sensationalism” in an email to the Jewish Telegraphic Agency.
UK Soccer Fan Banned for Three Years After Performing Nazi Salute at Game
A sports fan in the United Kingdom who made a Nazi salute towards fans of the British soccer team Tottenham Spurs has been banned from attending matches for three years, reported Jewish News.

Shay Asher, 24, a fan of Newcastle United, was charged with racially aggravated harassment for making the Nazi gesture during a Premier League game that took place in October 2021. He admitted to the charge in April and was fined £200, about $243, by the Newcastle Magistrates Court.

He returned to the court to face a Football Banning Order, a measure pushed by the prosecution. During the hearing, the court agreed to impose the three-year ban.

Under its terms, Asher must surrender his passport, avoid soccer fields and keep away from soccer matches in the United Kingdom, according to Jewish News. He has also received a medical discharge from the Royal Engineers, a part of the British Army.

Trash-talking table tennis mom allegedly harassed daughter’s Jewish doubles partner
The tirade took place at the Fort Worth Convention Center with Tong yelling “No one wears that!” Estee Ackerman recalled.

While playing, Ackerman, a senior at Stern College for Women in Manhattan, wears shirts with shooting sleeves covering her elbows, along with skirts with leggings to adhere to her religion’s modesty rules.

Fei Ming Tong allegedly insulted Estee Ackerman’s outfit.

“It’s not like my dress was an impediment at all to my competition level. That’s definitely not the case,” said Ackerman, who has been playing ping pong since she was 8 and at age 11 beat tennis champ Rafael Nadal in the game.

She said the trash talk left her in tears.

“It was extremely painful,” she said.

Her father, who was nearby and heard the diatribe, said the only dress prohibited at the tournament was the wearing of white because it is the same color as the ball.

After her rant, Tong pulled her daughter, Lucy Chen, out of the doubles event ahead of the quarterfinals match, which left Ackerman without a partner and eliminated. She was able to compete in other events and won a silver medal in the hardbat contest, which is played with an old-school style paddle.

Her overall rating improved during the competition proving her dress had nothing to do with her abilities, her father said.

Virginia Sung, the CEO of USA Table Tennis, said the incident with Tong was under investigation and the organization could not comment.

Ackerman, who doesn’t play on the Sabbath, missed her chance at the 2020 Tokyo games because the trials were on Saturday. USA Table Tennis would not alter the schedule.
How Israel and Its Neighbors Are Fighting to Save the Environment Together
The Abraham Accords in Action: Environmental Cooperation Between Israel & the Gulf States
Since the signing of the Abraham Accords in August 2020, both the Israeli government and private Israeli companies have been working towards promoting environmental cooperation between the Jewish state, the United Arab Emirates, and Bahrain.

In January 2021, Israel’s EDF Renewables forged a deal with the UAE’s Masdar fund that would see the investment of hundreds of millions of dollars in renewable energy projects in Israel, including solar fields.

The two companies are also looking to cooperate on projects that would help Israel reach its goal of increasing its renewable energy production by 2030.

In July 2021, Israel and the UAE signed an agricultural agreement that would see cooperation between the two states on research and development, water management, and irrigation. This agreement is particularly important as food scarcity becomes a real possibility due to the ongoing climate crisis.

With Bahrain, Israel has entered into an agreement to collaborate on the development of climate technologies and is also working on boosting cooperation between the two countries in order to reduce the effect of climate change, improve the environment and preserve natural ecosystems.

United for the Environment: Where is the media?
With a climate crisis looming on the horizon, it is heartening to see Israel and its regional neighbors setting aside their differences and working together in order to offset the effects of climate change, protect the environment and create a more sustainable Middle East.

However, for such meaningful and timely news, why is the media seemingly silent on these developments?

When so many people are becoming interested in environmental issues, shouldn’t cooperation between Israel and its Arab neighbors be used as a model for how countries can effectively work together to benefit the environment?

It’s time for the media to put greater focus on the positive developments occurring in the Middle East and not only draw attention to the divisive aspects of the region.
Israeli embryo-selecting system to boost IVF success gets European green light
An automated Israeli-built system for predicting which IVF embryos are likely to result in pregnancies has received European approval for use in clinics, Tel Aviv-based Fairtility said Monday.

The company said that the tool was already being used on a trial basis in 30 clinics in Europe and Asia when it received the CE Mark under European Medical Devices Regulation last month — and use is now expected to grow.

Next year the company will apply for approval by America’s Food and Drug Administration.

When women undergo IVF treatment, there are generally several embryos, and the embryologist makes a judgment call regarding which are most likely to implant. They then select the most promising embryo or embryos.

Fairtility is one of a handful of companies that provides AI technology to help embryologists with this decision, by examining images of each embryo and ranking their potential based on an analysis of past IVF cases.

“The way that embryo selection is done today is very rudimentary and very subjective,” Fairtility CEO Eran Eshed told The Times of Israel, adding that peer-reviewed research published in Scientific Reports suggests that his tool is more likely to predict accurately whether an embryo will or won’t implant.

“While an embryologist will be right in 60% of the cases, our AI tool got 78% in the test we did, which incorporated a large age range and demographic,” Eshed said.
Stone in Tamil Nadu may shed light on India's oldest synagogue, Jews
The implications of the findings
Though the Chennai Jews would not properly arrive in Tamil Nadu for some time, the activity of Jewish merchants and the prominence of the Cochin Jewish community shows that it is far from unfeasible.

Interestingly, the Cochin Jews built a number of synagogues in Kerala throughout their history, supposedly including in the 12th and 13th centuries.

However, this is backed by some shaky evidence rooted in oral tradition rather than archaeological findings.

Currently, despite the long presence of the Cochin Jewish community in the area, the oldest known synagogue in recorded history in southern India was the Kochangadi Synagogue, built in what is believed to have been in the 1340s CE.

However, the synagogue was eventually destroyed, believed to have been by Tipu Sultan's troops during the Second Anglo-Mysore War in the late 18th century.

It was never rebuilt, though a stone from it containing a Hebrew inscription about it, including year of construction, was taken by the community and later used in the wall of another synagogue – today, it can be found in the Paradesi Synagogue in Mattancherry Jew Town in Kerala.

The Kochangadi stone is the oldest known Jewish relic from an Indian synagogue. However, with the discovery of this stone pillar in Tamil Nadu, that might not be the case much longer.

According to reports citing Rajaguru, the inscription on the stone dates between 1200 and 1250 CE. As such, it would indicate that a synagogue was built in Periyapattinam before the Kochangadi Synagogue was built.

And this isn't too unfeasible either.

Periyapattinam is a historic port city and the Ramanathapuram district was visited by several well-known historic travelers and chroniclers, such as Marco Polo. As such, it was a well-known place for merchants - the kind of place Jews would have been found.

But it is likely that this synagogue is no longer around. What fate befell it, though, remains a mystery.

It is still proof, though, of how far back the Jewish community in India goes.

"The recent archaeological discoveries in Ramanathapuram are yet another proof of the fact that the Jewish community lived peacefully in India throughout the years," the Israeli Embassy in India said in a statement following these discoveries. "The foundation of the strong friendship between Israel and India were laid centuries ago and it is part of the basis of our relations in modern days."
The Jewish architect who rebuilt Damascus
This is the amazing story of how an architect from Tel Aviv was sent to Damascus to improve the city in 1916, at the behest of the Ottoman military governor, Jamal Pasha. The memoirs of Gedalyahu Wilbushevitz, who had been responsible for a number of public works in Palestine, were unearthed by his grand-daughter last year, reports Ofer Aderet in Haaretz. But Aderet fails to give the context to this extraordinary story: while Wilbushevitz had a cordial relationship with Jamal Pasha, the First World War was raging and 10,000 Ashkenazi Jews like him, suspected of disloyalty to the Turks, would be deported from Palestine in the following year. (With thanks: Boruch)

Djemal Pasha would often visit the workplace, take an interest in its progress, and would urge us to complete the work as soon as possible. He asked me to come to him whenever I encountered difficulties and allowed me to come to his residence even in work clothes, as long as I wouldn’t lose time,” Wilbushevitz wrote. “The group of government officials treated my demands and orders with all seriousness,” he added.

Pasha, he noted, “would take every opportunity he had to enhance my reputation in the eyes of the officials.” For instance, he would invite the engineer to festive parties, “and when I entered the party, he would greet me with a handshake in front of everyone. Under such conditions, I was able to overcome many difficulties I encountered in executing the work,” he wrote.

Along with the soldiers, he enlisted about 300 craftsmen – including quarriers, stonemasons, builders, plasterers, carpenters and blacksmiths. “With these experts I myself created all the materials I lacked,” he wrote. Among other things, he built quarries and workshops, where they worked limestone, chiseled stones and more. When he needed means of transportation, he commandeered empty carts and mules from Damascenes, with the aid of soldiers on the main streets.

One of the chapters from that period is devoted to a confrontation with German officers and soldiers who were posted in Syria at that time as part of the wartime alliance between Turkey and Germany. “It was easy for me to arrange my business with Turkish officialdom and with the residents of Damascus. But it was not so easy for me to manage when I encountered Germans. Antisemitism typified the Germans even in those days, and the toxic hatred of Jews welled up in them already then.”
IDF drill leads to discovery of 1,500-year-old convent
An IDF shooting training in central Israel led to the discovery of a 1,500-year-old convent, Israel Hayom has learned.

In July, soldiers were training at a designated shooting area military fire zone near Shoham, when a part of the site was accidentally damaged, revealing the historical building.

Dozens of fighters participated in the excavation of the convent , which was conducted as part of the Israel Antiquities Authority's "Nature Defense Forces – officers take responsibility for the environment" initiative.

The authority first excavated the Byzantine convent 20 years ago, but archaeologists later covered it up to protect it.

According to archaeologist Israel Kornfeld, "recently, a small part of the ancient site was damaged in the course of activities in the military zone. The IAA, together with the Nature Defense Forces program, initiated an educational project to clean up and reopen this impressive site."

He noted that "in the original excavation, two buildings were uncovered, one of which was a church paved with a colorful mosaic depicting faunal and vegetal scenes; an entrance hall; the nuns' dormitories; hermit cells; a tower with rooms; and a crypt – an underground burial complex. The other building included a kitchen, a dining hall, and an inn to house pilgrims."

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