Friday, September 30, 2022

From Ian:

Melanie Phillips: Why "progressives" can’t deal with antisemitism
Ruth Wisse, an emeritus professor of Yiddish literature at Harvard and an unfailingly impressive commentator on the Jewish world, has uttered a desperate cry about the moral and spiritual state of American Jews.

Writing in Mosaic, she ponders the effect of liberal ideologies espoused by the media and the universities which are promoting antisemitism and damaging foundational American values.

The flourishing of American Jews, she says, lies at the heart of American pluralism. But she warns: “The surest sign of an America in retreat would be a Jewish community in retreat from its own Jewish heritage”.

This baleful development is what she now sees happening, largely as a result of widespread ignorance among American Jews of their own ancient culture.

Last January, more than 200 rabbis signed a statement expressing their concerns about the “shrinking space of ‘permissible’ discourse,” self-censorship and burgeoning antisemitism and anti-Zionism. This, they wrote, had arisen from an ideology about issues such as race and gender that “in its most simplistic form sees the world solely in binary terms of oppressed versus oppressor, and categorises individuals into monolithic group identities”.

These rabbis have been left aghast by the all-too visible harm being done by the “social justice” agenda that has been embraced by the majority of American Jews. But since these are mostly rabbis from progressive denominations, it is unclear whether they also acknowledge the harm embodied by that agenda itself.

For in signing up to it, “progressive” Jews have embraced a set of values that are inimical to Judaism. More devastating still, they have convinced themselves that these are in fact authentic Jewish values updated for the modern age.

There could hardly be a more graphic illustration of this fundamental error than the current period of introspection for the Jewish world culminating in next week’s Day of Atonement, or Yom Kippur.
Bernard-Henri Lévy: Zelenskyy's choice: Rectifying the crimes of Babi Yar
Today, September 29, 2022, people in Ukraine and indeed across the world will commemorate the 81st anniversary of the massacre at Babi Yar.

It will be a moment of mourning and remembrance, but also an occasion to examine the tremendous progress made by Ukraine, which today, almost a century later is able to elect by a vast majority, a young Jewish president, the descendent of a family of Holocaust victims – Volodymyr Zelenskyy. Ukraine's efforts to recall its historical crimes was the theme of the address I gave in Kyiv, in 2016, to commemorate the 75th anniversary of the massacre, at the very site where it took place.

That night, I spoke after then-Prime Minister of Israel Benjamin Netanyahu as well as the leaders of Germany, Ukraine and Poland – the forces that make up the new Ukraine.

In the address, I used my own words, of course, but I also spoke on behalf of the president of the Republic of France, who had sent me to represent him at this occasion. Some of the reasons that drive me, a French Jewish intellectual, to support Ukraine as I do, are contained in this speech:

President of Ukraine, presidents, ambassadors, rabbis and representatives of the various religions, ladies and gentlemen.

There is always a moment in the destiny of a great nation when the darkest pages of the Book of the Dead and the Living come face to face with the light of insight and remorse. For Ukraine, such a moment has arrived today.

Eighty years after the massacre of the multitude of Ukrainian Jews at Babi Yar, in this eternally cursed and damned ravine, over three-quarters of a century after the destruction of 34,000 men, women, and children, whose only crime was being born Jewish, the time has come for contrition, repentance, and for this heinous crime to become an integral part of the great memorial of the universal consciousness. It is perhaps no coincidence that this moment has occurred on the eve of this extremely special period, referred to by Jews across the globe as the "Days of Awe."
'Uncaged Sky': How a woman survived 804 days in an Iranian prison - review
British-Australian academic Kylie Moore-Gilbert is imbued with scholarly brilliance, energy and a burning desire to fight. The fire in her belly helped her survive the Iranian regime’s penal colony, where she was held hostage for more than two years – 804 days – between 2018 and 2020. Her book The Uncaged Sky: My 804 days in an Iranian prison joins the pantheon of profoundly important books chronicling the crimes of totalitarian regimes.

For those who follow Moore-Gilbert on Twitter (and I recommend that Middle East observers follow her), she writes and works tirelessly to secure the release of Iranian political prisoners and foreigners used as hostages who are tossed into the vast prison system of the Islamic Republic of Iran.

In September, she joined a high group of Iranian dissidents and former Western hostages to file a federal civil lawsuit in New York City against the president of the Islamic Republic, Ebrahim Raisi.

The plaintiffs allege violations of the Torture Victim Protection Act. “Iranian President Raisi was the head of judiciary during my sham trial and bogus conviction for ‘espionage’ in a Revolutionary Court in 2019,” Moore-Gilbert tweeted. “[I] and other victims are suing him in New York under the Torture Victim Protection Act.”

Raisi, who has earned the pejorative moniker “Butcher of Tehran” because of the mass murders he allegedly carried out, is slated to speak at the UN in September. The Trump administration sanctioned him for his role in the massacre of 5,000 Iranian political prisoners in 1988, as well as his complicity in the slaughter of 1,500 Iranian protesters in 2019.

Back to Moore-Gilbert’s imprisonment and torture. I strongly suspect her book will pique the interest of many Israeli readers and Jews in the Diaspora. I hope her book swiftly finds a Hebrew publisher, for it is riveting non-fiction that conjures up the works of the legendary spymaster author John le Carré and the spellbinding interactions among governments and intelligence services. “Spellbinding” is an overused work in the world of book reviews, but it authentically applies to Moore-Gilbert’s work.

She delves into the psyche of the wild conspiracy theories that occupy the minds of the ruthless men who wield power in the theocratic state.


Auschwitz Was Not Bombed Because the World Didn’t Care
The question of whether the Allies could have or should have bombed the railway lines into Auschwitz during the waning months of World War II continues to be a contentious Holocaust issue. It was brought up again during the third episode of the recent three-part documentary on the US and the Holocaust, aired by PBS.

By 1944, it was already too late for a majority of those murdered during the Holocaust. Yet it was abundantly clear that the extermination machine at Auschwitz was still operating at full capacity, in spite of the fact that the tide of the war had turned against the Nazis and their allies. From mid to late 1944, the gas chambers and crematoria were consuming as many as 15,000 human beings a day, most of them Hungarian Jews.

Realizing that a significant number of the Jews in Nazi hands could still be saved if the efficiency of the murder machine could be interrupted, Jewish leaders in the US and the land then known as Palestine appealed to the Allies to bomb the railway lines into Auschwitz. The appeals led nowhere.

One objection to bombing Auschwitz — that the range was too far for American and British bombers — was clearly untrue. A nearby IG Farben plant that manufactured synthetic rubber and liquid fuels was bombed more than once. Other objections raised — that the railways could be quickly repaired, or that concentration camp inmates might be killed — were not convincing. Railway bridges were not easily repaired, and bombing the railways would not unduly endanger the inmates.

The one compelling argument — that bombing Auschwitz would divert airpower away from military targets and hinder the drive to win the war as quickly as possible — begs the question: did the Allies know about Union? Probably. Certainly, by mid-1944, reports about Auschwitz referred to the Union (Krupp) factory. Moreover, it was important enough to have been bombed once before in a different location.

So why was Auschwitz not bombed? Yad Vashem sums up the sad truth: Auschwitz was not bombed to save Jewish lives because the Allies’ desire to help the Jews was not as strong as the Nazis’ desire to murder them.
American Islamists Mourn Cleric Who Defended Hitler and Called for Murdering Jews
American Islamists rushed to offer tributes this week to a radical Egyptian cleric and spiritual leader of the Muslim Brotherhood who had a long-established history of supporting violent jihad and the murder of Jews.

The US Council of Muslim Organizations (USCMO), a coalition of the country’s top Islamist groups, glowingly eulogized Sheikh Yusuf al-Qaradawi as “the most prominent and consequential scholar of Islam of our time.” Qaradawi, the statement added, was influenced as a teenager by “Hasan al-Banna, the charismatic founder of Egypt’s Muslim Brotherhood (in 1928)” and “joined him in his mission of reestablishing Islam in its worship and transactions in the hearts and lives of Muslims and Muslim society, and re-envisioning the political integration of the Muslim Ummah, or global community, free of settler colonial presence or imperial hegemonic influence in Muslim lands.”

Qaradawi, 96, died Monday in Qatar, where he was living in exile following the 2013 overthrow of the Muslim Brotherhood government in Egypt. He was notorious for his well-entrenched extremist rhetoric, including an endorsement of suicide bombings, calls for Israel’s elimination and the killing of Jews, the execution of homosexuals, and support for wife beating.

Homosexuality, he said, is a “depraved practice in a society, disrupts its natural life pattern, and makes those who practice it slaves to their lusts, depriving them of decent taste, decent morals, and a decent manner of living.”

Qaradawi also claimed that Muslims killed fighting American forces in Iraq were martyrs. “Those killed fighting the American forces are martyrs given their good intentions since they consider these invading troops an enemy within their territories but without their will,” he said in a January 2003 interview with Al-Quds Press Agency.

Qaradawi founded the International Union of Muslim Scholars (IUMS) — an organization that has a long history of supporting Hamas and calling for Israel’s destruction.
Jonathan Tobin: Why mainstream Jewish groups didn’t defend Yeshiva University
Yeshiva’s leaders seem to recognize that they have isolated themselves from many of the philanthropic and political forces that they could normally count on to back them. They have been at pains to say that they welcome LGBTQ students and want them to feel welcome, even if they cannot grant official recognition to their clubs or otherwise treat their relationships as kosher.

This is why the silence of most Jewish groups on Yeshiva’s dilemma is so troubling. It’s not just that many liberal groups, such the ADL, seem now to believe that religious freedom is only worth defending if the faith in question is aligned with their secular donors’ beliefs.

By essentially abandoning the school to fight for its rights with only the help of conservatives, they are sending a message that Orthodox Jews are essentially beyond the pale. It’s a signal that those who dissent about gay issues should no longer be treated as equal members of a society that no longer treats their faith as legitimate. That’s not just dangerous for a group that is already the target of an epidemic of anti-Semitic hate crimes. It’s also the end of any pretense that the Jewish community will defend one of its denominations if it falls afoul of liberal fashion.

Thus, even if and when the courts back up YU, it is likely to pay a high price—both where fundraising is concerned and in terms of political isolation—that will have an enormous impact on its future.

You don’t have to agree with the school’s religious principles on this or any other issue to understand that the consequences of making an Orthodox university a pariah in the public square in this manner will ultimately be felt by all people of faith.
Biden Admin Pressed To Police Companies That Participate in Israel Boycotts
The Biden administration is under pressure from Congress to more actively police companies that participate in boycotts of Israel, according to a letter sent Wednesday to the Commerce Department and obtained by the Washington Free Beacon.

Sens. Ted Cruz (R., Texas) and Marsha Blackburn (R., Tenn.) say the administration "is not taking sufficient action to ensure that American companies are aware of the criminal, financial, and reputational risks of engaging in unsanctioned boycotts" of Israel and other friendly countries.

The letter comes amid a growing controversy surrounding a financial ratings product known as the Environmental, Social, and Corporate Governance (ESG) framework. ESG ratings, which are meant to guide investors, examine a company based on its social values and tend to unfairly target Israel as a result of the country's conflict with the Palestinians. Cruz and Blackburn maintain that financial firms providing ESG ratings that negatively impact Israel are in violation of federal and state anti-boycott laws, which were put in place to isolate the Boycott, Divestment, and Sanctions (BDS) movement, an anti-Semitic effort to wage economic warfare on the Jewish state.

The senators want Commerce Secretary Gina Raimondo to "more robustly engage such companies to make them aware of the risks, which range federal statutes and state prohibitions," according to the letter, which cites financial giant Morningstar as an example of a company that could be running afoul of federal law. Morningstar, one of the largest U.S.-based financial services firms, has been battling accusations it supports the BDS movement through its ESG research arm, Sustainalytics. While Morningstar has denied the accusations, experts say Sustainalytics builds its ratings using materials authored by anti-Israel groups that support the BDS movement.

"Sustainalytics has echoed and amplified attacks by boycott advocacy groups against companies that do business with Israel," Cruz and Blackburn state in their letter. "Advocates of economic warfare against Israel have increasingly sought to use ESG criteria as pretexts for boycott advocacy."
The NGO BDS Network targets Booking.com
On September 19, 2022, media reports (primarily AP) claimed that Booking.com would add a notice to its listings owned by Israelis in the West Bank, warning potential visitors that “they were traveling to a ‘disputed, conflict-affected or high-risk’ area that ‘may pose greater risks.’” Israeli media reported that the English version of the notice would include the word “occupied.” Some versions also indicated that similar language would be included on listings in other conflict zones. (There is no mention of this new policy from the company, and the source of the media report is unclear.)

This unconfirmed report follows an intense multi-year BDS campaign by non-governmental organizations (NGOs) targeting Booking.com and demanding the removal of all Jewish-owned listings in the West Bank (see below for details). A number of NGOs issued statements welcoming the reports, but also demanding that Booking.com adopt the entirety of the BDS agenda (see statements from Al-Haq, BDS National Committee, ELSC, and Adalah Justice Project) and falsely claiming that discriminatory boycotts were somehow required under international law.

The case of Booking.com echoes the case of AirBNB, which briefly bowed to NGO lobbying and threats, and in 2018, announced it was “removing listings” in “Israeli settlements in the Occupied West Bank.” Shortly afterwards, the company reversed this decision, thereby acknowledging that it was taken on the basis of unverified and misleading NGO claims.
A New Year’s Resolution for Stopping Anti-Israel News
Yet attempting to regain the public’s trust in the media requires that journalists make a serious effort to put an end to misinformation and biased reporting.

First of all, news agencies bear a responsibility to hire only qualified journalists who do not have a history of antisemitism, anti-Israel bias, or connections to controversial pro-Palestinian groups. It is important to check the credentials, past stories, and resources used by reporters to validate their ability to report impartially.

To stop the spread of misinformation and biased reporting, journalists could moreover use the American Press Institute guidelines:
Periodically examine yourself for bias building up — understanding what your views are and why you have them is the best way to keep them under control.
Who do you personally like or dislike? Why?
How might that be coloring your judgment?
Read through some of your stories and be self-critical.
Do any of them help you tell the story?
Are there any you believe you should not deal with?
Is there anything you should do in presenting any of these biases that will help the reader understand them?
What bias do I have going in that I should be wary of?
What are my points of ignorance going in that I need to note?

The spread of misinformation begins with reporters, but is exacerbated by the public, in particular by social media users. The public can contribute to the media’s improvement by following the steps listed by Simon Fraser University

The most important steps are to thoroughly check the source, read beyond the headlines (do not share an article without reading the contents), investigate the authors, and check the resources they used.

Rosh Hashanah and the days leading up to Yom Kippur are a time to reflect on the past year. What mistakes have we made? Where can we improve? How do we move toward a better version of ourselves? Journalists and readers each play an important role in the spread of misinformation and biased reporting.

Awareness is the first step towards reinstating the values of ethical journalism that could eventually enable the public to trust the media more. News media outlets, journalists, and consumers each have to do their part.

Together, we can move toward a successful year.
Guardian corrects article on convicted terrorist Salah Hamouri
Hamouri, a French-Palestinian whose conviction also included terrorism funding, and recruitment for the Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine (PFLP) terrorist group, was released in December 2011 as part of a swap for Israeli soldier Gilad Shalit.

The Guardian piece begins with the following grossly misleading omission about his current detention:
A prominent Palestinian-French human rights lawyer has gone on hunger strike in protest against his imprisonment without charge by Israeli authorities for the last six months.

As we noted in a complaint to Guardian editors this morning, at the time of his detention, it was reported that Hamouri was accused of being a member of PFLP, designated as a terrorist organisation by the US, EU, Canada, and Israel.

Our complaint was upheld, and the following paragraph added:
In a statement, the Israel Defence Forces (IDF) said that Hamouri was detained on suspicion of activity in the Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine, which is designated as a terrorist organisation by Israel’s western allies.

Though we commend editors for the correction, the fact that McKernan referred to a convicted Palestinian terrorist as a “human rights” lawyer is another example of how the Guardian’s coverage of the region can be best described as pro-Palestinian advocacy, rather than real journalism.


Prototype electric airplane from Israeli-US startup takes first flight
A prototype, all-electric airplane took its first flight Tuesday morning in central Washington state.

The commuter plane, called the Alice, was created by the Israeli-American startup Eviation.

The Seattle Times reported that if the Federal Aviation Administration eventually certifies the small airplane to carry passengers, it could become the first all-electric commercial airplane.

The plane was built to carry nine passengers and two pilots and took off from Moses Lake, Washington, at 7:10 a.m. Tuesday.

The plane reached an altitude of 3,500 feet (1,066 meters) and landed eight minutes later.

The company’s goal is to show such electric planes are viable as commuter aircraft for regional travel, flying at an altitude of about 15,000 feet (4,572 meters).
Israeli-Arab Psychologist Ahmad Mansour Calls for Renewed Effort in Fight Against Antisemitism
The Israeli-Arab psychologist who led an inquiry into accusations of antisemitism at the Arabic language service of German broadcaster Deutsche Welle (DW) has urged the country’s politicians to step up the fight against rising anti-Jewish bigotry.

“I am often dissatisfied with the culture of debate in Germany and would like to see more engagement from politicians and society against extremism and antisemitism,” Ahmad Mansour told the news outlet Deutschland in an extensive interview on Wednesday.

Born in the Israeli-Arab town of Tira, the 46-year-old Mansour moved to Germany as a student in 2004, where he became involved in initiatives to counter extremism among Turkish and Arab youths.

“One night in 2007 I saw a TV report about honor killings in Germany. For me it was absolutely surprising; I thought something like that only existed in the Middle East,” Mansour told the German paper. “That same night I wrote an e-mail to the integration officer in the Berlin district of Neukölln – many families of Turkish and Arabic origin live there. I offered my help, he referred me to a school education project that was urgently looking for staff. That’s how it all started.”

Earlier this year, Mansour led an investigation into claims of antisemitism at the Arabic language service of DW, Germany’s state-funded national broadcaster. “The statements we have criticized are not legitimate criticism of Israel,” Mansour said at the probe’s conclusion, adding that he “would like to see a discussion begin now about where criticism of Israel ends and antisemitism begins; the Arab world urgently needs this debate.”






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