Thursday, March 23, 2023

From Ian:

‘I am one of those liberals who got mugged by reality’: An Interview with Gadi Taub
Introduction by Gabriel Noah Brahm
Senior Lecturer in the School of Public Policy and the Department of Communications at The Hebrew University of Jerusalem, Dr. Gadi Taub is an Israeli historian, novelist, screenwriter, political commentator and influencer of wide repute, ubiquitous on television, social media, podcasts and in print.

Once a man of the left, Taub says he is ‘one of those liberals who got mugged by reality’ and is now a prominent intellectual on the Israeli right and host of Israel’s leading conservative podcast, Gatekeeper (שומר סף). He recently conducted an exclusive hour-long interview with Justice Minister, Yariv Levin, who laid out the details of his proposed reform. (The interview is now available with English subtitles on the Gatekeeper channel.)

Moreover, some on the left have come to consider Taub so dangerous that his long-running column in Haaretz was terminated by its publisher, Amos Schocken, who justified the decision on the grounds that Taub’s columns were, he claimed, giving a ‘tailwind’ to a ‘coup’.

The following is a transcript, lightly edited for readability, of a recent conversation conducted at Taub’s home in the heart of Tel Aviv, not far from Allenby Street, which gave its name to the hit Israeli TV show, based on his novel, Allenby.

The Reform is Needed
Gabriel Noah Brahm: Professor Taub, you seem to have become a polarising figure these days. In any case, you’re in the eye of the storm concerning legal reform, for one thing. But you’ve also had some ups and downs with a longtime publisher of some of your more public-facing work—Israel’s leading highbrow daily, Haaretz, which seems to have ‘cancelled’ you. First of all, how are you doing? How do you handle being caught up by such a whirlwind of attention? Moreover, are you optimistic or pessimistic about the country’s future and your own prospects?

Gadi Taub: I’m optimistic, because I think Israel’s democracy is proving much more vigorous than Israel’s elites assume. Their hysteria is not a result of any danger to democracy. It stems from their fear that their hegemonic rule is at an end—which it is. Their ability to rule us from above, from the bench of the Supreme Court, is crumbling. It cannot be saved, even if they defeat the judicial reform now, which can only be done if the chaos they are trying to cause spirals out of control, causing a split in the coalition.

Look at this battle over reform and the way it is conducted. The reform itself is clearly needed. An arrangement where 15 unelected judges hold the final power of decision over any and all matters—political, legislative, economic, social, while also holding a veto over the appointment of their own associates—cannot be called democratic by any stretch. Keep in mind that on many of the most important issues of the day these 15 individuals mostly hold to the opinions of Meretz, a progressive political party that did not pass the threshold [to hold seats in the Knesset], and you’ll get the picture of just how distorted politics have become in this country.

This is only sustainable if you prevent the public from realising what’s really going on. But you can’t do that forever. ‘You can’t fool all of the people all of the time’, said Honest Abe. Israelis, educated and uneducated alike, are tired of seeing their ballots shredded by judges. And since in this country existential threats are ever close and vivid, so are reality checks. This puts progressive pipe dreams at a permanent disadvantage.
Israel in the Eyes of New Immigrants
Even when Israel is embroiled in intense disputes, new immigrants continue to arrive. A Young New Immigrants Fair for those interested in studying at Bar-Ilan University saw many attendees from Russia and Ukraine, as well as immigrants from Turkey, Ethiopia, and Peru.

Shelly Shuver, 20, who immigrated from Paris, said, "In France, the situation has become less safe, and not just for Jews. There have been many attacks, so as a Jew and generally as a human being, I personally prefer the country and the security here....Nothing will make me leave because I have no other place to be."

Georgi Zaves, 18, from Belarus, said, "The security situation in Israel doesn't worry me at all....Those of us coming from Russia, with all the tensions there, the war with Ukraine, the economic pressure, not to mention the violation of freedom of expression and violent repression - I fear nothing....You in Israel simply don't know how to appreciate the freedom you have, the ability to express an opinion freely without someone handcuffing, arresting, or severely punishing you for it. In Russia, you can only dream of a free democracy like you have in Israel."

Tefra Gethon, who immigrated from Ethiopia, said, "The State of Israel is known for its democracy and the ability of every person to express their opinions freely, unlike in Ethiopia." Bayilan Worku, 25, also from Ethiopia, said, "Many people in the world admire the State of Israel and its democracy. This is precisely the reason that more and more young people, including immigrants from all over the world, choose to live there and start a family there, to raise children in peace. Israel is a good place to live."
Netanyahu: I'm 'taking over' judicial reform despite conflict of interest
The coalition will not freeze its "softened" proposal to restructure the Judicial Selection Committee, but will do all it can to arrive at a solution and calm tensions on the streets, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said in a press conference on Thursday at the end of a dramatic day, which included security warnings against the reform, a "Day of Paralysis" and political drama.

After explaining the concerns of both the supporters and detractors of the reform, the prime minister stated that his government was "determined to advance with responsibility a reform that will bring back the proper balance between the branches [of government]," which will provide a solution for all of the sides involved.

The reform will end decades of what the prime minister said was the High Court of Justice taking authorities unilaterally and end the lack of proper representation amongst the judges, but will also promise and fortify the rights of all citizens and minorities, the prime minister said.

Specifically, Netanyahu said that there would not be an unlimited Override Clause, but he stressed that the coalition would continue with its proposal for the Judicial Selection Committee and will pass it next week – despite the opposition, protests leaders and legal authorities' claims that it would still lead to the politicization of the court system. The bill gives every coalition the power to appoint two judges as it wishes and will give the current coalition the power to appoint the next Chief Justice, who in turn controls the makeup of specific hearings and has other powers such as appointing senior election officials.

Netanyahu is standing trial for corruption charges but said that he would now begin to enter the heart of the issue after his "hands were tied" due to a threat of the attorney general deeming him unfit for service due to violation of a conflict-of-interest agreement, which bars him from engaging in issues that could affect his trial.

Netanyahu is still bound by the agreement, but the coalition on Thursday morning passed the Incapacitation Bill, which blocks the attorney-general from removing him.


Melanie Phillips: The case for Netanyahu
In the US, judges are political appointments. And Britain prohibits its own courts from striking down laws passed by parliament. Yet America and Britain are not fascist dictatorships.

True, Israel lacks the checks and balances of the British and American systems. This is because Israel’s political structure is deeply dysfunctional and needs radical reform.

But while politicians at least must be elected every four years, the judiciary has no checks at all.

What makes the uproar so absurd is that the reforms will broadly return Israel to the situation before Barak’s judicial revolution.

As law professor Avi Bell has written, for decades after Israel’s Declaration of Independence, only the Knesset could legislate and no court could overturn legislation. The first Israeli government appointed its judges directly, subject to Knesset ratification. Attorneys-general and all other legal advisers could be dismissed and their legal opinions bound no-one. This was all similar to the current reform package.

The objectors’ inescapable logic is that they’d rather have rule by judges than by elected politicians.

This is all of a piece with the West’s post-democracy moment in which people prioritise universal laws over national ones, elevate the legitimacy of street protests and regard politically activist judges as the shock troops of the progressive assault on traditional values.

This mindset now unites most of the progressive classes in Israel, Britain and America. For them, ordinary people who don’t share their views are the “deplorables”. By contrast the judges — educated, liberal, cosmopolitan — are people like themselves.

They justify their position by pointing in horror at the three ultras in Netanyahu’s coalition. But such figures have only gained traction because mainstream politicians have failed to deal with public concern over the rising toll of terrorist violence and the failure to preserve the integrity of the nation by ignoring illegal Arab land grabs. And the court is viewed as having legitimised such lethal neglect.

Democracy in Israel is indeed in danger. But this peril isn’t coming from the government.
Jonathan Freedland: The case against Netanyahu
You can wave aside the arguments of Netanyahu’s defenders, who say these changes will do no more than bring Israel’s arrangements into line with other western democracies, including the UK. That is either naïve or disingenuous, asking us to believe that Netanyahu is motivated by a selfless desire to improve Israeli governance, wholly unconnected to the fact that he is standing trial on corruption charges that could see him thrown in jail. No wonder he wants to tear up the rule book: it could soon put him behind bars.

But the defence is spurious for another very simple reason: not one of those other western democracies has a system anything like Israel’s. They have multiple checks and balances; Israel has just one. In the absence of a written constitution or second chamber of parliament, Israel’s Supreme Court has functioned as the sole brake on executive power. Netanyahu wants to remove the one obstacle that stands between him and total control. That’s why otherwise level-headed people are warning that Israel is heading down a path that ends in Tayyip Erdogan’s Turkey or Viktor Orbán’s Hungary.

The second danger lies in the character of the government he has assembled to get his way. Netanyahu has handed massive state power to a group of racists and thugs who have no business being anywhere near it. Itamar Ben-Gvir is a convicted criminal, found guilty of charges that include incitement of racism and support of a terrorist organisation. Yet he is now minister for national security, in control of Israel’s police forces. He is a fox put in charge of the henhouse. Bezalel Smotrich once called for the segregation of maternity wards, so that Arab and Jewish newborns might be separated at birth. He is now finance minister, with a role in the defence ministry that puts him in charge of the civil administration of the occupied West Bank.

This is not just a matter of a dark past. These men have not changed. Last month, settlers staged what the IDF commander on the ground called a “pogrom” in the Palestinian village of Huwara: the mob burned down buildings, attacked villagers and then paused to say the Ma’ariv evening prayers, gathering together, “silhouetted against the background of burning buildings, only to resume incinerating homes and assaulting scores of innocent people,” as one Israeli newspaper put it. Afterwards, Smotrich said that Huwara needed to be wiped out altogether: “the State of Israel needs to do that — not, God forbid, private individuals.”

Recall that Ben Gvir and Smotrich made it into the Knesset last November because Netanyahu wanted them in: he brokered an alliance between the parties of the far right, so that their votes would not go to waste. The result is a morally repellent government, one that is cracking open every fault line in Israeli society.

And this is the third danger that Netanyahu poses. With ultra-nationalist hoodlums and assorted theocrats at his side, he is tearing the country apart, to the extent that the president himself warns that a bloody civil war is possible.

This is the case against Netanyahu. The man who posed for so many decades as Israel’s protector is instead — and for no greater cause than to save his skin — seemingly bent on becoming its destroyer.
Alan Dershowitz: The case for compromise
Both sides have exaggerated the consequences of not getting their way. Some on the right argue that unless the Knesset can override the Supreme Court, democracy will be subordinated by an elite, unelected institution.

History shows otherwise. In several democracies, including the US, the Supreme Court gets the last word on core issues of liberty, subject only to constitutional amendments, which are very difficult to enact. These countries still preserve their core democratic character, while also protecting minorities, due process and free speech.

Some on the right also argue that unless justices are nominated through a political process, the court will remain elitist and undemocratic.

But many countries have mixed systems of appointing judges that include large elements of professionalism and elitism. Indeed, it is the proper function of a supreme court to serve as a check on current popular opinion.

On the other side of the argument, some insist that the proposed changes would end Israel as a democracy and turn it into an authoritarian state. They too are wrong.

Although I disagree with most of the proposals, I do not believe that they would end Israel’s long-standing status as a vibrant democracy. They would, however, endanger some basic liberties and unpopular rights.

I strongly support President Herzog’s call to compromise. Each side must give up some of their demands and accept some from the other side. The key is to preserve the independence of the Supreme Court as a non-partisan and non-political institution.

In my private discussions with both sides, there is willingness to compromise. But in public, they tend to maintain their positions because both sides of this contentious debate are winning.

Opponents of the reforms have generated enormous grassroots support, while extremists on the right are solidifying their bases and benefitting from the divisions.

The real losers are the majority of centrist Israelis who support some reform but not all of the proposals, and the State of Israel itself, which is suffering grievously on the international stage and in the diaspora. The time has come to come to the bargaining table and hammer out a compromise.
Israel's judicial reforms explained by think tank behind the plan
Russell Shalev, a researcher at the Kohelet Policy Forum which helped draft the judicial reform package being passed by the Netanyahu government, explains what the reforms are and the motivation to have better representation in the judicial system.




Antisemitic Incidents in US Hit Record High in 2022, Anti-Defamation League Says
Antisemitic incidents in the United States increased 36 percent in 2022, according to an annual audit issued by the Anti-Defamation League (ADL) on Thursday.

The ADL recorded 3,697 incidents — ten per day — across the US, the highest ever since the group began track them in 1979. Incidents of harassment, vandalism, and assault all spiked by double digits and occurred most frequently in New York, California, New Jersey, Florida, and Texas, which accounted for 54 percent of the ADL’s data. New York had the most, with 580 incidents. One incident resulted in a fatality.

Acts of hate targeting Jewish institutions and synagogue also occurred at high rates, with 589 incidents, including a hostage situation at synagogue in Colleyville, Texas, and 91 bomb threats, the most recorded since 2017. Four hundred-and-ninety-four incidents took place on K-12 campuses, and two-hundred-and-nineteen incidents took place at colleges and universities, an increase of 41 percent from the previous year.

“We’re deeply disturbed by this dramatic and completely unacceptable surge in antisemitic incidents,” ADL CEO Jonathan Greenblatt said in a statement addressing the group’s findings. “While we can’t point to any single factor or ideology driving this increase, the surges in organized white supremacist propaganda activity, brazen attacks on Orthodox Jews, a rapid escalation of bomb threats toward Jewish institutions and significant increases of incidents in schools and on college campuses all contributed to the unusually high number.”

In one incident at University of Wisconsin-Madison, an individual chalked on a campus sidewalk messages accusing Jewish students of being “racist,” “genocidal,” and “having blood on their hands,” and in March, three antisemitic incidents occurred at the university, including the the carving of a swastika into a bathroom stall, and the harassment of a student who was targeted for “looking Jewish.”

In Feb. 2022, third-year student Cassandra Blotner was expelled from a sexual assault group she founded after sharing a pro-Israel post on social media. Blotner later said that sharing her story exposed her to cyberbullying and threats on an anonymous social media platform. At University of Cincinnati, a menorah on the lawn of the Chabad Jewish center was vandalized for the fourth time in several years.

Students for Justice in Palestine (SJP), a network of groups comprising college students, was the group responsible for numerous cases of anti-Zionism in higher education, the ADL added. White supremacist groups also engaged in anti-Zionist activity, distributing propaganda portraying Israel as the cornerstone of a conspiracy to achieve Jewish control and domination of world politics, a trope trafficked by Kanye West during several rants near the end of the year.

Greenblatt explained that individuals and groups across the political and ideological spectrum have contributed to rising discrimination against the Jewish community.


LIVE interview: 'The Jewish Future Pledge puts your legacy front and center'
Tamar Uriel-Beeri, managing editor of Jpost.com, speaks with Noa Tishby, Israel’s Special Envoy for Combatting Antisemitism and Delegitimization, about the importance of the Jewish Future Pledge and the Jewish Youth Pledge, two unique initiatives designed to help sustain the future of the Jewish people.

“I think that Jewish Future Pledge is one of the most exciting and spot-on endeavors that exist right now in the Jewish world,” says Tishby, “because it puts your legacy front and center.”

To take the Jewish Future Pledge >>>
The Jewish Future Pledge ensures the future of the Jewish people by having members of the Jewish community sign the pledge, earmarking half of the charitable funds that they leave at their passing to support the Jewish people and/or the State of Israel, while the Jewish Youth Pledge asks Jewish teenagers and young adults – ages 13 to 24 – to commit to being active, contributing members of the Jewish community throughout their lives.

Tishby explains that the Jewish Future Pledge and the Jewish Youth Pledge can help create a better Jewish society. “Because the Jewish Future Pledge is about investing in the Jewish future and the State of Israel, this helps Zionism by default, because you are putting your effort into continuing Jewish life around the world and continuing Israel as the sovereign state for the Jewish people.”

"The Jewish Future Pledge [together with the Jewish Youth Pledge], says Tishby, can help raise a generation of young Jewish leaders on campus to combat college antisemitism. The Jewish Future Pledge is doing an amazing job in connecting the younger generation to Jewish continuity – to this link in the chain that we all are. Most young people don’t want to be activists, but the younger you do it, the more aware you are of the importance and responsibility you have.”
Bali governor rejects hosting Israel for FIFA under-20 World Cup
Football-mad Indonesia is preparing to stage its first major tournament, the FIFA Under-20 World Cup in May, but a row has erupted over the participation of Israel with Bali refusing to host the team.

Conservative Muslims this week marched in protest at Israel’s inclusion in the 24-nation competition and opposition has since widened. Bali Governor Wayan Koster has written a letter to the national government, pushing back against hosting the team because of the Israel-Palestinian conflict in the Middle East. Indonesia is the world’s most populous Muslim-majority country.

Organisers had envisioned holding the Israeli team’s group games in Hindu-majority Bali, where the draw for the tournament is due to be made next week.

The stance of the island’s provincial government has added further complication to an event Indonesia hoped could improve its global standing in the sport, seven months after a stadium disaster in East Java killed 135 people.

While Indonesia supports the cause of the Palestinians and does not have formal diplomatic ties with Israel, the government of Joko Widodo has committed to welcoming and protecting the Israeli team since it qualified for the tournament.

Acting Sports and Youth Minister Muhadjir Effendy confirmed receipt of the Bali letter. He said Indonesia’s position on Palestine was unbending but he hoped to change the island leader’s mind.

“The bottom line is that [being the host for the U-20 World Cup] is the government’s policy. Therefore, we try to make a compromise because it was us who proposed to be the host,” he said.

“We must remember that we are also part of the world’s citizens. And now we receive the honour to hold an event which we may not be having within the next 50 years. Therefore, we want to make the best of it and we also prepare our team well.

“We therefore will try to work [on the issue] within the next few days. Hopefully, it will be positive and will be a blessing for all of us.”

Four of the five other venues for the tournament are on the main island of Java – in Jakarta, Surabaya, Bandung and Widodo’s home town of Solo – while Palembang, the capital of South Sumatra province, will also host matches.

It was in Jakarta on Monday where more than 100 protesters rallied against Israel’s involvement, waving Palestinian flags as they stopped traffic near the presidential palace.

The demonstration itself was small but calls to exclude the Israeli team have been endorsed by some moderate Muslim organisations including Muhammadiyah Society, which has more than 60 million members, and the Ulema Council, a group of scholars that oversees Islamic affairs.
A Michigan high school deliberately traumatized Jewish students
The Zionist Organization of America-Michigan Region is disturbed that known anti-Israel and antisemitic activist Huwaida Arraf was invited to speak at Bloomfield Hills High School, west of Detroit, as part of the school’s diversity initiative.

Arraf gave four presentations to a heavily Jewish student audience at Bloomfield Hills High School on March 14. Her anti-Israel and antisemitic rhetoric made many Jewish students uncomfortable, with some leaving the assembly in tears.

She calls herself a “Palestinian human-rights activist,” but her actions show she is an antisemitic anti-Israel advocate who supports terrorism.

Her Twitter account repeatedly displays antisemitic tropes and lies, calling Israelis “Jewish supremacists” and Israel an apartheid state. She has written in favor of Palestinians resorting to violence and insisted that suicide bombings are “noble.”

As chair of the Free Gaza Movement, Arraf was behind the infamous 2010 Mavi Marmara flotilla, which attempted to break the perfectly legal Egyptian and Israeli weapons blockade of Gaza. Arraf was aboard one of the boats of the nine-ship flotilla, which was linked to both Hamas and Al-Qaeda.

Flotilla organizers made clear that their intention was to violate Israel’s security perimeter. They claimed their goal was to deliver humanitarian supplies. In fact, weapons and contraband were subsequently found on the Mavi Marmara.


No, Judaism Doesn’t Believe People Can Choose Their Own Gender
In a recent essay in the New York Times, Rabbi Elliot Kukla writes that Judaism’s “most sacred texts reflect a multiplicity of gender,” and in fact “nonbinary gender is central to understanding Jewish law and literature as a whole.” Drawing on various talmudic passages, Kukla finds support for his concerns about the fate of young transsexuals, as well as reason to oppose various legislative measures in certain states. Tal Fortgang is unconvinced:

“There are four genders beyond male or female,” [Kukla] writes, “that appear in ancient Jewish holy texts hundreds of times.” These are tumtum (one whose genitals are obscured), androgynos (intersex), aylonit (an atypically developed female), and saris (a eunuch). The Talmud, rigidly legalistic as it tends to be, is frequently interested in how to categorize these rare individuals within ancient Judaism’s highly gendered structures of Temple service, ritual purity, and much more. (By reifying categories that are relevant only in a highly binary and gender-role-driven society, Kukla thus inadvertently makes the opposite point from what he intended.)

But if Judaism has long “recognized” progressive ideas about gender, and transgenderism has always existed (but is only now being set free in the West, like left-handedness, which appeared more frequently once the taboo against it vanished), why do we have thousands of years of Jewish history, liturgy, commentaries, and rabbinic responsa that fail to mention this? The Talmud has a law for everything; where is the law of the male who thinks he is a woman?
New York Times Reporter’s Biased Temple Mount Piece Latest in History of Misinformation
In anticipation of the concurrence of the upcoming Jewish holiday of Passover and the Islamic holy month of Ramadan, as escalating tensions could possibly spill over into further violence, the New York Times’ Palestinian affairs correspondent, Raja Abdulrahim, recently published a piece on the fears of the Muslim artisans who renovate the Muslim shrines on the Temple Mount.

However, instead of providing a balanced and nuanced piece of journalism, Abdulrahim’s report, par for the course when it comes to her reporting on the Jewish state, is full of misleading statements and claims that reek of an anti-Israel bias.

The following are some of the more egregious examples:
Diminishing the Jewish Connection to the Temple Mount
She writes “Jews believe that the [Temple Mount] compound is the location of two ancient temples,” implying that the existence of the First & Second Temples is more a matter of faith than historical fact.

In actuality, a number of ancient remnants discovered by archaeologists in the area by the Temple Mount (the Mount, itself, has never been excavated) point conclusively to the existence of both Temples.

In addition, aside from the archaeological evidence, the existence of the Temple at this site was even confirmed in the early 20th century by none other than the Supreme Muslim Council, which stated in a 1925 pamphlet that “[The Mount’s] identity with the site of Solomon’s Temple is beyond dispute.”

Erasing the Context Behind the Palestinian Casualty Rate
Raja Abdulrahim seeks to contextualize her piece by writing:
The atmosphere is already tense amid an escalation of violence in the Israeli-occupied West Bank. It has been the deadliest start of a year for Palestinians in the territory in more than two decades as settler violence increases and as Israel steps up lethal raids in response to a series of attacks by Palestinian armed groups.

This is, however, far from accurate context.

Abdulrahim seemingly seeks to place the blame for the latest wave of violence entirely on the backs of Israelis by failing to mention that the majority of those Palestinians killed are aligned with Palestinian terror groups, that the “attacks by Palestinian armed groups” were lethal and led to one of the bloodiest years for Israelis in recent decades, and that the entire wave of violence began with a string of Palestinian terror attacks, not Israeli actions.
Whitewashing Terror, The Guardian Lumps Together Palestinian Murderers and Their Victims
The demise of Al Jazeera correspondent Shireen Abu Akleh during an Israeli counterterrorism raid in the West Bank city of Jenin has been the subject of disproportionate scrutiny by the media, with countless outlets producing one-sided “investigations” into the events of May 11, 2022.

Some ten months after the fact, The Guardian opted to join the chorus against the Jewish state, publishing a lengthy interactive report that deceivingly seeks to present Abu Akleh’s case as a symptom of Jerusalem’s West Bank policies. Titled “The killing of Shireen Abu Akleh: what one morning in the West Bank reveals about the occupation,” the piece aims to link the journalist’s death to everything from riots near Ramallah to court-sanctioned demolitions at Masafer Yatta.

Yet rather than revealing anything about Israel’s alleged occupation of the West Bank, a close read of The Guardian’s March 21 article lays bare an effort by the newspaper to twist the facts and whitewash Palestinian terrorism in the most appalling ways. Sugarcoating Palestinian Terror From Paragraph #1

The glaring bias informing “global development journalist” Kaamil Ahmed’s reporting on the Middle East conflict is apparent from the get-go, when he erases crucial context surrounding Israel Defense Forces operations in Jenin, dubbed the Palestinian “terror capital” by some observers:
During the second intifada in the 2000s, it was the scene of heavy fighting between Palestinians and the Israeli military. In 2022, it again became a flashpoint after Israel launched Operation Breakwater, a campaign of night-time raids in Palestinian cities against armed Palestinian groups. It is one of these raids that brings Abu Akleh to the Jenin refugee camp again on 11 May 2022.”

Indeed, readers are left entirely uninformed as to why IDF forces entered Jenin in 2002 and 2022, leaving the false impression that the Israeli government is somehow to blame for escalations in the city. In reality, Operation Defensive Shield and Operation Break the Wave were both responses to deadly waves of Palestinian terrorism. The latter was launched in March 2022 after terrorists murdered 11 Israelis in just one week.

Sadly, that’s just one example of Ahmed’s attempts to extenuate the crimes of UK-designated terrorist organizations.
CNN International Platforms Antisemite to Accuse Jews of Racism
On March 21, 2023, CNN International’s Isa Soares brought on one deranged racist, the United Nations’s Francesca Albanese, to accuse Israelis of being deranged racists. Among her past statements, Albanese has: claimed that the “Jewish lobby” has “subjugated” the United States; denied that it was antisemitic to claim the “Jewish lobby” controls social media; claimed Jews use the antisemitism label to “silence” voices; and repeatedly minimized the Holocaust.

Lest one ponder whether Soares believed “it takes one to know one” when it comes to racists, her viewers were left in the dark about Albanese’s widely known and condemned history of antisemitism. Predictably, Albanese used the opportunity to accuse Israelis of committing “apartheid” and of incitement to genocide, allegations which were left unchallenged by Soares. By treating her as a respectable commentator, Soares leaves her audience without the relevant information to determine the credibility of Albanese’s incendiary claims.

The absurdity of platforming Albanese without giving viewers context can be illustrated by the lies and hypocrisy of her own remarks.

For example, Albanese told Soares that Israel’s highly controversial minister Bezalel Smotrich is “known for [his] jubilant response to the recent violence unleashed against the occupied Palestinian population.” Albanese unsurprisingly left out that that “recent violence” consists of counterterror operations launched in response to a series of particularly deadly terror attacks on Israeli civilians that began in early 2022. Importantly, most Palestinians killed in these operations have been combatants, whereas most Israelis killed in the wave of attacks have been civilians.

But notably, Albanese herself is known for justifying violence against the innocent, at least when it’s against Jews. In August 2022, as the internationally-designated terrorist organization Palestinian Islamic Jihad launched hundreds of rockets at Israeli civilian centers, Albanese claimed they had a “right to resist,” and then expressed “disappointment” that the terrorist organization did not have more modern military equipment. After a Palestinian terrorist tried to stab an Israeli in June 2022, Albanese tweeted, “Evil is in the eye of the beholder.”
Does the BBC not care about Jews expelled from Arab countries?
In its latest attempt to examine the history of the Israel/ Palestine conflict, the famously neutral *cough* BBC has at least allowed some Zionist voices on and for that, I suppose, we should be grateful.

Rob Rinder, exploring the story of his grandfather’s brother who went from Holocaust death camp prisoner to a fighter for the fledgling Israeli state is inspiring and emotional. Similarly moving is the loss felt by fellow presenter Sarah Agha whose Palestinian father’s family were forced to flee during the 1948 conflict. Her anger too is palpable.

Those perspectives are important and sad, but also well-trodden. The second episode of The Holy Land and Us: Our Untold Stories promises to cover a story that genuinely is often untold even among British Jews; that of the Mizrahi Jews who were thrown out of Arab lands.

Unfortunately, many may consider that the episode, not only fails to examine that story but, insultingly, almost entirely ignores the discrimination Jewish people faced in Arab lands while also blaming it on the establishment of the State of Israel. In the episode, we do meet a British Mizrahi Jew, the engaging cookery writer Viviane Bowell whose family were thrown out of Egypt in 1956 along with half of the country’s Jewish population – they were given just two weeks to leave the country and were allowed to take only clothes with them. Astonishingly, her story is not mentioned; instead, we are simply told,‘Viviane’s family left Egypt in 1956 to start a new life in the UK.’

The episode focuses instead on how Viviane’s adored aunts Suzanne and Esther Chouchan fled Cairo to start a new life in Israel. We are given vague – ridiculously vague – reasons for why. We are made to feel that Jewish people wanted to go to Israel because it was there (which is, of course, true too) and not because they felt they had to (which is the main reason they did). In fact, the impression appears to be that they moved there because they wanted to find Jewish husbands.

The history of anti-Jewish pogroms in Egypt during World War II, inspired by the Nazis – is not deemed worthy of being reported in the show. While the rising violence against Jews in Egypt as antisemitism and antizionism ramped up following the establishment of the State of Israel gets a single mention.
For the BBC, Jewish refugees remain forgotten
The BBC documentary seemed to us to present a rare opportunity to convey the story of 850,000 Jewish refugees from Arab countries and the injustice done to them – alongside the 20,000 Jews expelled from East Jerusalem and the West Bank in the 1948 war. Unlike Palestinian refugees fleeing a war zone, the non-combatant Jewish refugees from Arab countries were driven out by bombings and riots, coupled with Arab League persecution, simply for sharing the same ethnicity and religion as Israelis. Many left with a document stamped ‘one way – no return’.

The BBC brief was a tricky one: the film sought to feature a Jew living in Britain impacted by the 1948 creation of Israel: most Jewish refugees from Arab countries in Israel did not have relatives in Britain. Moreover, the chosen candidate would be taken back to his or her country of birth. This ruled out Jews born in Libya, Syria or Iraq, who are not able to return, or whose lives would be in danger if they did.

Luckily, Viviane Bowell fitted the bill: she was a Jewish refugee born in Cairo. She was 14 when her family was given two weeks’ notice to leave Egypt in 1956 with nothing; they were resettled in England. Aunts on her father’s side fled Egypt for Israel after 1948 along with 20,000 other Jews. In Part 2 of the programme, the camera would follow her back to Egypt and give the viewers a flavour of what it was like to be a Jew in an Arab country. She would trace her aunts’ journey to Israel, and be united in an emotional encounter with relatives she had never met.

Researchers came and went and eventually the series producer, David Vincent, contacted us. I was eager to impress on him that two sets of refugees – Jewish and Arab – emerged out of the same conflict, just as the war between India and Pakistan had produced refugees on both sides. I sent him links to background articles and films, and Vincent promised to circulate an electronic copy of my book Uprooted: how 3,000 years of Jewish civilisation in the Arab world vanished overnight among the production team.

The three Jewish stories were to be those of the barrister and TV personality Robert Rinder; the Ganze family from North London; and Viviane. On the other side were three Palestinians. I was concerned that the format already reflected an in-built bias. If two sets of refugees – one Palestinian, one MENA – emerged from the Arab-Israeli conflict, the three Jewish cases ought all to be MENA Jews, particularly as there were more Jewish refugees than Palestinian ones. Moreover, there was a danger that the story of Rinder’s Holocaust survivor relative, set alongside the tale of a Palestinian refugee, would give the impression of Europeans intruding into Palestine, and that the Palestinian Arabs had ‘paid the price’ for European antisemitism. But I consoled myself that Viviane’s story would be told for the first time on prime time British television.

I tried to share my misgivings with Rinder himself, but he would not engage directly with me. Instead he referred me to the executive producer, Colette Flight. She was pleasant enough. In a brief telephone call, I thanked her for featuring Viviane, a Jewish refugee from an Arab country. In fact over half the Jewish population of Israel descended from these refugees. But Colette was not interested in Israel today, and seemed perturbed that not all the Jewish refugees had left in 1948.


Gunned down and burned by the Nazis: The shocking true story of Bambi
While Salten’s Bambi was far from the cutesy romantic hero of the Disney film, both versions see the eponymous fawn learning about the natural world, losing his (yes, his) mother after she is shot by a hunter, then growing into an adult. Faline – Bambi’s love interest and also, in the book, his cousin – appears in both, but she and Bambi are estranged by the end of the original, not living as a happy family as Disney has it.

Perhaps the most crucial difference between Salten’s novel and Disney’s film, however, is that the former was aimed at adults. Bambi: A Life in the Woods initially appeared in 1922, as a serialisation in the Viennese newspaper Neue Freie Presse, before being published as a book the following year. But Disney was not the first to market the deer’s plight as a children’s story: the 1939 English-language translation of Bambi’s Children, Salten’s sequel, toned down the violence and gore, to be more child-friendly. Salten was affronted, writing to his US publisher: “I beg you most urgently, quite apart from softenings, not to advertise my work as a children’s book or to launch it otherwise in such a way.”

While the threat of being hunted is a memorable feature of the film – leading Stephen King to call it the first horror movie he ever saw – this danger looms much larger in Salten’s work. Bambi’s mother and his cousin Gobo (replaced by Thumper the rabbit in the film) are both slain, while Bambi is shot too, only to be saved by the stag implied to be his father. But this stag then dies, leaving Bambi not surrounded by a happy family, as in Disney’s version, but completely alone.

Salten’s ending has “a very deep meaning” says Jack Zipes, translator of Princeton University Press’s 2022 edition. “How do we deal with our loneliness? How do we deal with life in a brutal situation?” Zipes’s translation reinstated the anthropomorphism found in the original, but softened in the first English translation in 1928, to show how Salten used his animal characters to make points about humankind. “It’s quite evident,” says Zipes, “that the shooting and the treatment of the animals are an allegory of the situation Jews found themselves in at that time.” While the moral of the Disney film might be that hunting animals is wrong, Salten’s message seems to be more that hunting humans is wrong.

In fact, Salten hunted animals himself. “He was a very contradictory man,” says Zipes, adding that the author, who changed his name from Siegmund Salzmann in his teens to sound less Jewish, was “perfectly aware of what was happening to the Jews in pogroms. So my interpretation – and a lot of other authors or critics have realised this – is that Bambi was really not about animals but about Jews or other minority groups.”

This was the Nazis’ interpretation too: in 1935, both of Salten’s Bambi novels were banned and burned by the Nazis, who viewed them as Jewish propaganda. Because of this, few first editions of Bambi remain, despite it having been a bestseller. Salten and his wife, unsafe in Austria, fled following the German annexation in 1938, moving to Switzerland where the writer remained for the rest of his life.
Toyota’s electric cars will have wireless charging, thanks to Israeli tech
Electreon Wireless has announced a strategic agreement with Toyota Motor Corporation and automotive component manufacturer DENSO in order to co-develop Electreon’s wireless charging technology for Toyota Electric vehicles.

Following a long and comprehensive technological evaluation and demonstration of Electreon’s wireless vehicle charging tech, Toyota and DENSO were impressed by the degree of innovation and the technological maturity of the company's products, viewing the wireless charging technology as an effective solution to the many challenges involved in the transition to electric vehicles.

Electreon’s technology operates essentially as a larger-scale version of current wireless phone charging technology. According to Oren Ezer, ElectReon’s CEO and co-founder, the company aims to eventually implement its technology wherever possible. “Our goal is to pave it all over. Of course, we will start with terminals and main roads for buses, but the end goal is to pave it almost everywhere, and to be able to charge all types of vehicles,” he said.

While the company is currently involved in several pilot programs which install the charging technology directly into the road itself, it’s also likely that the new partnership will see the promotion of stationary, in-garage charging spaces for vehicles.

As part of the agreement, the parties will cooperate to promote the technical development of wireless charging technology through several activities, chief among them being the joint development of a wireless kit for easy installation on existing vehicles from a variety of different vehicle manufacturers. As well, Toyota vehicles moving forward will have the technology built-in.
Carnegie Hall Concert to Honor Efforts of Japanese Diplomat Who Saved Thousands of Jews During WWII
A concert taking place in New York City’s iconic Carnegie Hall in April will commemorate Chiune Sugihara, former Japanese vice consul to Lithuania, and the risks he took to help thousands of Jewish refugees escape Nazi persecution and flee Europe during World War II.

The performance on April 19 will feature Karen Tanaka’s Guardian Angel and the US Premiere of Lera Auerbach’s Symphony No. 6, Vessels of Light, which is dedicated to Sugihara and all heroes who risked their lives to save others. The symphony was commissioned by Yad Vashem, The World Holocaust Remembrance Center in Jerusalem and the American Society for Yad Vashem. The performance will be accompanied by world-renowned Japanese-American-Israeli cellist Kristina Reiko Cooper, the New York City Opera Orchestra and Chorus and conducted by Constantine Orbelian.

Sugihara was serving as Japan’s vice consul in the Lithuanian city of Kaunas when World War II broke out. He helped save European Jews, in defiance of orders by his superiors in Tokyo, by writing thousands of transit visas by hand that allowed them to escape Nazi-occupied Europe. Before the consulate was closed down during the war and Sugihara had to leave Kaunas, he provided between 2,100 and 3,500 transit visas and continued stamping passports even at the railway station as he was leaving Lithuania, according to Yad Vashem.

Shortly after Sugihara was forced to resign from the Japanese Foreign Ministry for going against orders by issuing the transit visas. He then lived in obscurity in his country, never publicizing his heroic efforts during the Holocaust, until Vad Vashem in 1984 recognized him as “Righteous Among the Nations.” He died less than two years later at the age of 86.

Auerbach — a Jewish, Soviet-born Austrian-American conductor, composer and concert pianist — was approached by Cooper to write Vessels of Light. Cooper’s father-in-law, Irving Rosen, was one of the thousands who received visas that Sugihara issued.
New website lists events and resources celebrating Israel’s 75th year
The new website “Celebrating Israel at 75” is a resource providing information about communal celebrations of Israel’s 75th anniversary in the United States.

The site also features information about the founding of Israel, as well as graphics and resources for organizations, communities and educators.

Yom Ha’atzmaut, Israel’s Independence Day, begins on the evening of April 25 and continues the following day, which coincides with the Hebrew date of the Jewish state’s establishment on the 5 Iyar. (The English date for the establishment of the modern-day State of Israel was May 14, 1948.)

The website is a project of the National Coordinating Council for Israel at 75, a joint initiative of the American Zionist Movement and the Conference of Presidents of Major American Jewish Organizations.


Unpacked: 5 Jewish Languages You Didn’t Know Existed
While Jews may all share aspects of the same religion, culture, and history, they may not all share the same languages. Throughout time, Jews have spread across the globe and the language of much of their communication has been influenced by the cultures around them.

From Yiddish which originated in medieval Germany, to Ladino which was developed by Sephardic Jews after their expulsion from Spain, to the various Judeo-Arabic dialects, language has been a key insight into a diverse linguistic heritage that spans centuries.






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This blog may be a labor of love for me, but it takes a lot of effort, time and money. For over 18 years and 38,000 articles I have been providing accurate, original news that would have remained unnoticed. I've written hundreds of scoops and sometimes my reporting ends up making a real difference. I appreciate any donations you can give to keep this blog going.

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