Saturday, September 23, 2023

From Ian:

Thanks to the Policies of the Obama and Biden Administrations, the New Axis of Evil – Russia, China, North Korea, Iran – Posing a Worldwide Existential Threat
The Biden administration... is also financing the ruling mullahs of Iran with billions of dollars to put the finishing touches on the country's nuclear program and for delivering more weapons to Russia with which to attack Ukraine.

"We're sitting still, and the Chinese, the Russians, Iran, North Korea, and several others, are moving to shore up their relations and threaten us in a lot of different places." — Former US National Security Advisor John Bolton, The Hill, March 12, 2023.

Since Russia invaded Ukraine, the Biden administration seems to be allowing Iran's ruling mullahs to prosper from the war and emerge as the winners.

"I have a question for you – how does Russia pay Iran for this, in your opinion? Is Iran just interested in money? Probably not money at all, but Russian assistance to the Iranian nuclear program. Probably, this is exactly the meaning of their alliance" — Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky, Jerusalem Post, November 4, 2022.

"Today, China, Russia, North Korea and Iran continue to invest in technologies to expand their capabilities to hit the United States with nuclear weapons. All four countries have also escalated their threatening rhetoric, indicating their willingness to use nuclear weapons in a military conflict. By expanding their nuclear programs, each has made clear that our nuclear arsenal is no longer a deterrent to their potential use of nuclear weapons." — U.S. Rep. Mike Turner, Chairman of the House Intelligence Committee and a senior member of the House Armed Services Committee, Fox News, May 4, 2023.

Thanks to the Obama and Biden administrations' monumental capitulations to Iran's regime -- and the refusal of both administrations not only to stop Iran's nuclear weapons program but also to prevent anyone else from stopping it -- the Russian-Iranian-Chinese-North Korean alliance now poses a global existential threat.
Did Benjamin Netanyahu turn AI into a nuclear weapon?
Did Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu turn artificial intelligence into a nuclear weapon at the United Nations General Assembly when he warned of the "potential eruption of AI-driven wars that could achieve an unimaginable scale?"

While the central focus of Netanyahu's Friday speech revolved around his vision for a "new Middle East" marked by peaceful relations between Israel and Saudi Arabia, he dedicated the final third of his address to the significance of AI as the "most consequential development of our time."

The prime minister, while also addressing the issue of Iranian nuclear proliferation, devoted an even more significant portion of his speech to cautioning about the dual nature of AI, emphasizing that it holds the potential for both blessings and curses and the ultimate responsibility for determining its outcome lies in the hands of nations around the globe. The looming perils of AI

Netanyahu highlighted the looming perils that stand before us: the potential disruption of democracy, the manipulation of minds, the erosion of employment opportunities, the surge in criminal activities, and the vulnerability of the systems that underpin modern life. Moreover, he warned of the even graver threat posed by AI-driven conflicts and autonomous machines capable of controlling humanity rather than the other way around.

"The perils are great, and they are before us," he said. "The world's leading nations, however competitive, must address these dangers. We must do so quickly, and we must do so together. We must ensure that the promise of an AI utopia does not turn into an AI dystopia."

The prime minister's remarks echoed sentiments akin to those expressed earlier this year by more than 1,000 AI leaders, including Elon Musk, Steve Wozniak, and Bill Gates, in an open letter in which they warned that "mitigating the risk of extinction from AI should be a global priority alongside other societal-scale risks such as pandemics and nuclear war."

They were also reminiscent of warnings made by Sam Altman, CEO of OpenAI, during his address at Tel Aviv University in June. Altman has advocated for establishing an international regulatory body, similar to organizations overseeing nuclear power, to ensure all nations' responsible utilization of AI. Altman, too, has emphasized the imperative nature of addressing the "existential threats" posed by AI seriously.
Seth Frantzman: Israel's new Barak super tank: The future of Middle East warfare?
Last week, Israel unveiled the much anticipated new Barak tank, an updated version of Israel’s successful family of Merkava tanks.

The tank had been in the work for many years led by Israel's Defense Ministry's Tank Administration (MANTAK) and local defense companies from a concept almost a decade ago to planning and testing phases over the last half-decade.

It is important to revisit some of the technology that underpins the success of this project because it is part of a wider story of Israel’s technological success, both on the battlefield and in other commercial endeavors.

Israel's world-leading super tank
Back in 2017, when we had profiled this same tank project, The Jerusalem Post that “the Merkava MK4 Barack is designed as a ‘smart tank’ with dozens of sensors to identify the enemy and rapid-fire closure that allows elimination of the target before it disappears from view.”

Over the years, as Israel had invested in this project a lot of new technology has become even more mature, whether it is the Trophy active protection system, or various sensors being used. From the point of view of the Defense Ministry and IDF, this is the most advanced tank in the world today.

That matters, because today Israeli technology is highly sought after.

The world is changing. Conventional large wars now loom large, whereas when we look back to the era when the concept of a new tank was envisioned, the world was still heavily invested in counter-insurgency. What that meant was small units, special forces, and a lot of hi-tech but not a lot of heavy platforms.

It is not lost on us now, as Israel prepares for the future of warfare, that the Yom Kippur War was fifty years ago. Indeed, this week there have been many references to that famed conflict. If we look back at that war Israel faced technological challenges from its enemies. Egypt’s army had Russian-supplied surface-to-air missiles (SAMs) and some of the troops were equipped with Sagger-guided missiles, as well as RPG-7s. Israel had performed well in 1967 using masses of armored vehicles, but 1973 was not as easy going.

We know now what came of that. Israel’s investment in drones, which the country was an early pioneer, was one result of challenges faced by the SAM threat, a threat that also appeared with Syrian SAMs in Lebanon. No matter, Israel was able to overrun them in 1982. But years later in the Second Lebanon War, Israel once against faced threats to armored vehicles and its warfighting abilities in Lebanon. Years of counter-insurgency in the West Bank perhaps meant forces needed retooling to deal with the kind of threat Hezbollah has. We also know that the Hezbollah rocket threat helped lead to the development of Iron Dome.

Foreign media outlets must repent for anti-Israel coverage
As the editor of The Jerusalem Post from 1992 to 1996, David Bar-Illan could have written about anything he wanted.

However, he insisted on writing about the foreign media’s coverage of Israel in his popular weekly Friday column “Eye on the Media,” which he returned to write after a stint as Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s director of communications and policy planning.

Bar-Illan wrote the newspaper’s editorial every day, but the column was his only byline, and – as someone close to him said this week – “he put his heart and soul into it.”

Bar-Illan died in 2003. In two of his obituaries, The New York Times called him “a harsh critic of US news outlets’ coverage of Israel and the Middle East,” and The Guardian wrote that “he harried CNN, the BBC, and The Guardian for ‘loading the dice’ against Israel by ‘distorting and hiding facts.’”

The reason the foreign media’s coverage of Israel was so important to him was that he already knew back then what the top echelons of the IDF only realized recently: that winning on the media battlefield is the key to winning on the military battlefield and ensuring Israel’s security.

Bar-Illan made a visionary decision to initiate the creation of, one of the world’s first news sites, when the Internet first became available. But he passed away 20 years ago, too soon to see the dominance of social media and its impact on Israel coverage.

Nowadays, when top foreign journalists wittingly or unwittingly report inaccurately about Israel, it no longer takes two weeks to be corrected. Gone are the days of letters to the editor delivered by snail mail, received, considered, and printed when no one remembers the context of the story. Gone are the corrections in a rarely read box on page 12.

Pro-Israel media watchdogs like HonestReporting now receive alerts when articles about Israel go online, and correct mistakes behind the scenes immediately. And when particularly egregious errors are made – or there is a pattern of anti-Israel coverage by a particular media outlet – social media can be used to bring immediate attention, and that can help restore Israel’s deterrence on the media battlefield.

This column is purposely being relaunched just before Yom Kippur, a day of soul-searching and introspection. Ahead of Yom Kippur, our tradition is to ask forgiveness from people we have wronged.

It is also the perfect time for the foreign media to express regret for inaccurate reporting about the Jewish state.
Israel expects US announcement on entry into visa waiver program next week
Israel is expecting an announcement next week that it has qualified for the US Visa Waiver Program.

US Secretary of State Antony Blinken and US Homeland Security Secretary Alejandro Mayorkas are expected to ratify the move on September 27 and 28, respectively.

A senior official said “Israel has met all the conditions,” and expects the program to begin some two months after the announcement.

Israel has sought to join the program, which enables citizens to travel to the United States without a visa, for decades. Currently, Israelis who do not hold citizenship in any of the 40 countries in the waiver program must apply for permission to travel to the United States, a process that typically results in a visa but can be extensive.

The US has long held up entry over Israel’s treatment of Palestinian Americans. A key condition for entry into the VWP is a commitment by applying countries to grant equal travel rights to all US citizens.

Jerusalem recently took a series of steps to rectify this, the latest of which was an easing of travel guidelines for US citizens from the Gaza Strip, who will henceforth be able to enter Israel for short-term stays, visit the West Bank and travel abroad.

A similar improvement of conditions for West Bank Palestinians with US citizenship was finalized in July.

Israel would be the 41st country to join the VWP, the majority of which are in Europe.
The Israel Guys: Israel’s Ambassador FROG MARCHED Out of The UNITED NATIONS!
Israel’s Ambassador to the UN Gilad Erdan was frog marched out of the UN this week, yeah that just happened. Ben covers all that idiocy along with new meetings between Netanyahu and Joe Biden. Also, Ben tells a crazy story from Israeli history that we bet you’ve never heard of.

Netanyahu filmed making dismissive hand gestures toward protester in New York
Footage emerged Saturday of Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu making disparaging hand gestures toward a protester in New York decrying his government’s judicial overhaul program, a rare sight of the premier appearing to show how bothered he is by the persistent demonstrations shadowing him around Israel and abroad.

Channel 13 news published the clip, reporting that it was filmed on Friday when Netanyahu made an unannounced visit to a local hospital to visit a friend during his US trip.

After he exits the vehicle and is on the sidewalk, an Israeli woman who evidently recognizes the premier and opposes his government starts repeatedly calling “Shame!” toward him.

The footage shows Netanyahu reacting by making dismissive and belittling hand gestures in her direction.

He is then seen entering the building.

Channel 13 said Netanyahu apparently was unaware he was being filmed, adding that the incident was filmed by a person in an adjacent building.

IDF fires stun, smoke grenades as Lebanese heavy machinery strays over Blue Line
Israel Defense Forces troops fired stun and smoke grenades toward a Lebanese “engineering tool” that had crossed the Blue Line at the border on Saturday.

A military source said the Lebanese vehicle was approximately two meters over the line.

Israel and Lebanon do not have a formal border due to territorial disputes; however, they largely abide by the Blue Line. The line is marked with blue barrels along the border and in some areas is several meters from the Israeli fence, which is built entirely within Israeli territory.

“A short time ago, IDF forces used demonstration dispersal means toward engineering equipment that had been identified as having the tip of the equipment over the Blue Line from Lebanon, in the Mount Dov area. The equipment returned to Lebanese territory,” the IDF said in a statement.

In response to the IDF’s actions, smoke grenades were fired toward UNIFIL troops stationed in the area.

According to Hebrew-language media reports, it was assessed that the smoke grenades were fired by the Lebanese army. There were no reports of injuries.

It was unclear what the heavy machinery was doing.

Army Radio reported that as soon as the engineering equipment was identified as having crossed the line, troops were bolstered in the area and a tank was moved into position.

However, the incident was resolved without any further escalation.

IDF strikes Hamas post in Gaza after border rioting that included gunfire at troops
The military carried out an airstrike on a Hamas position in the Gaza Strip on Saturday, following the latest riots along the border which included gunfire toward army forces.

The Israel Defense Forces said a drone struck the post, located near the day’s riots.

Dozens of Palestinians rioted along the border with Israel earlier, in the latest violent rally near the barrier in what has become a daily occurrence.

Rioters burned tires and hurled makeshift bombs, and gunmen fired toward Israeli forces along the border.

Footage showed terror operatives flying balloons carrying incendiary devices toward the border, though there was no information of balloons sparking fires within Israel.

The military said it responded with riot dispersal measures and live fire in some instances.

Friday saw the IDF carry out strikes in Gaza after balloon-borne incendiary devices flown over the border sparked three fires in southern Israel, as tensions in the region heated up.

Palestinians have been holding near-daily riots on the Gaza border in recent weeks.

Ain al-Hilweh fighting reflects Palestinian and Sunni Arab weakness
A truce brokered earlier this week by the Lebanese General Security Service to end the ongoing fighting in the Palestinian Ain al-Hilweh refugee camp appears to have broken down, with renewed clashes taking place at various locations in the camp. A mass exodus of residents from the camp is underway, according to a number of regional media reports. Fighting in the camp began in late July but increased in intensity from September 7.

The truce was the result of talks between the interim director of General Security, Elias Baissari, and the Joint Palestinian Action Committee, representing all recognized Palestinian factions in Lebanon. It followed an earlier short-lived ceasefire, announced on September 9, which was the result of talks between representatives of Fatah and Hamas.

Following the breakdown of the second ceasefire, senior Hamas official Mohammed Mousa Abu Marzouk arrived in Beirut for renewed talks with senior Fatah officials, in an effort to revive the ceasefire. A joint statement was issued following Abu Marzouk’s meeting with Fatah officials, including veteran PLO diplomat Azzam al-Ahmad. The statement expressed the two movements’ “full commitment to consolidating the ceasefire.”

The flaw in both “ceasefires” so far brokered to end the violence in Ain al-Hilweh is that neither agreement was concluded between the actual parties to the current violence. Rather, in both cases, Fatah, which is one of the engaged parties, concluded a ceasefire with a third party against which it is not actually fighting in the refugee camp.

The agreement with General Security reflected the fact that the organs of the Lebanese state, in line with the 1969 Cairo Accord, leaves the policing of Lebanon’s 12 Palestinian refugee camps to the recognized, armed Palestinian organizations led by Fatah. So the “ceasefire” was by way of a commitment by the Palestinian organizations to restore order in the camp. This commitment, obviously, has not been successfully implemented.

The second ceasefire was brokered between Fatah and Hamas. The latter organization is not engaged in the fighting in the camp, but its attempt at a mediatory role is noteworthy. Hamas has increased its authority and strength in Lebanon over the last couple of years, as a result of its revived ties with the real power in the country – namely Hezbollah and behind it Iran and the Assad regime in Syria.

Lebanese journalist Souhayb Jawhar suggested that Hamas was seeking to leverage its growing strength and influence in Lebanon in order to build political influence. “In this way,” Jawhar told the New Arab website, “Hamas may benefit from this struggle while other sides get weakened.”

Still, while this may well be Hamas’s intention, as of now its efforts at mediation have similarly failed to produce results.

Iran unveils ‘longest-range drone in the world,’ threatens Israel at military parade
Iran on Friday displayed what it claimed to be “the longest-range drone in the world” during a military parade that featured banners threatening Israel.

The drone was one a number of unnamed aerial vehicles and missiles that Iranian forces showed off at an event in Tehran marking the anniversary of the bloody Iran-Iraq War in the 1980s, and came weeks after Iran unveiled a drone it claimed could remain airborne for 24 hours.

State media reports on the parade did not provide details on “the longest-range drone in the world.” Iran has previously made dubious and exaggerated claims regarding its military capabilities and there was no independent confirmation of the announcement.

Friday’s parade also featured large signs declaring “Down with Israel” and “Down with USA,” as well as posters in Hebrew and English warning Israelis “prepare your shelters.”

“Our forces ensure security in the region and the Persian Gulf,” Iranian President Ebrahim Raisi told the parade, according to a Reuters translation of his remarks.

“We can teach the people of the region that resistance is today’s way. What forces the enemy to retreat is not submission and wavering, but resistance,” he added. An anti-Israel banner is carried on a truck during an annual military parade marking the Iran-Iraq War, in front of the shrine of the late revolutionary founder Ayatollah Khomeini, just outside Tehran, Iran, September 22, 2023. (AP Photo/Vahid Salemi)

The display of drones and other military hardware came days after the United States sanctioned several people and entities allegedly linked to Iran’s drone program.

Festival at Penn, syllabus at Princeton maim academic freedom
The festival at Penn comes weeks after Princeton launched a course on “Decolonizing Trauma Studies From the Global South,” in which students are required to read a book by Jasbir Puar, a Rutgers University professor who has falsely accused Israeli soldiers of deliberately mutilating Palestinian civilians.

Framing Israel as a kind of Jewish vampire feasting on Palestinians’ bodies is a mainstay on extremist platforms and Iranian media. Rooted in the ancient mythology of rabbis hunting down Christian children to drain their veins for rituals, much real blood has been spilled over the centuries due to this fiction.

Such problems aren’t isolated to these two Ivy League schools 40 miles apart. We have seen a surge in Jew-hatred on campuses across the country in recent years, including many incidents in which discussions about Israel have become outright demonization laden with antisemitic tropes. Too often, these episodes happen as part of academic discourse or even inside the classroom, where Jewish students feel targeted in ways that professors would never tolerate against other groups.

Whether it’s the conference at Penn or the coursework at Princeton, these efforts are not about exploring the underlying issues of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict or exposing students to controversial texts or challenging ideas.

Rather, our finest academic institutions have lost sight of the basic tenets underpinning academia—that scholarly work must be historically credible and factually legitimate. Teaching at these institutions, in person or through authored work, is a privilege that should be measured by those qualifications.

When a curriculum or academic festival includes viewpoints of Israel that read more like horror-fantasy-fan fiction than credible scholarship, it begs the question of academic oversight. Conference panelists and syllabi selection must be transparently validated by subject matter experts adept in conducting rigorous evaluations.

If basic standards of academic integrity are undermined and academic peer review is politicized, students aren’t taught critical thinking; they are taught performative political theater. And those who don’t drink the Kool-Aid on these issues are silenced, ostracized and sometimes even physically attacked.

We have seen too often in recent years that conspiracy theories prompt real-world events and violence.

It would be wise for all universities to practice what President Eisgruber preached in his address at Princeton this spring and “stand up and speak up together for the values of free expression and full inclusivity for people of all identities.”

5 Things to Know About the Palestine Writes Event at Penn and Antisemitism
This weekend’s Palestine Writes event at the University of Pennsylvania has caused a great deal of controversy. While the event’s stated aim is to celebrate Palestinian culture, it has become a platform for deeply problematic content, including speakers with well-established records of antisemitic rhetoric, along with programs and materials that present distortive and bigoted views of Israel and Zionism. This comes at a moment of heightened vulnerability for the Jewish community on campus after this week's antisemitic incident at Penn Hillel. Here are five key things you need to know.

1) Celebrating Palestinian culture is not the problem: An event highlighting and celebrating Palestinian culture is entirely appropriate for a university environment. Events that gather writers, scholars, and artists to focus on a particular culture’s experience and its art are vital parts of the university environment on American campuses and around the world. Claims that those raising concerns about the event are merely trying to silence Palestinian voices are ignoring the serious issues outlined below. Everything you need to know regarding the Palestine Writes event at Penn

2) There are three principal issues with the Palestine Writes event at Penn.

Antisemitic speakers: The event features speakers with a well-documented history of antisemitic rhetoric and behavior. Pink Floyd frontman Roger Waters, who is scheduled to speak remotely to the festival on Friday night, was recently described by the U.S. State Department as an artist who "has a long track record of using antisemitic tropes to denigrate Jewish people'' after he desecrated the memory of Holocaust victim Anne Frank, compared Israel to the Third Reich, and paraded around a stage wearing an SS Nazi uniform during a recent concert in Berlin.

Meanwhile, Marc Lamont Hill, who called for Israel’s eradication on CNN (he repeated the slogan “From the River to the Sea”) and has referred to mainstream media companies as “Zionist outlets,” is scheduled to speak in person.

Neither Waters nor Hill are experts on Palestinian culture, but they have distinguished themselves as provocateurs willing to spread antisemitism.

Deeply problematic content: The event has a number of problematic pieces of content. To name a few examples: The festival’s inaugural event includes a screening of the film Farha, which includes a number of toxic antisemitic tropes, including a modern retelling of the blood libel trope that casts Jews as vicious, bloodthirsty, and cruel. The film is a distortive piece of fiction, yet it is often treated as evidence of extreme, unprovoked Israeli cruelty towards innocent Palestinians during Israel’s War of Independence. The film’s prominence in the festival is setting the stage for anti-Israel hate based on non-factual and biased information. Other problematic discourse at the event includes references to Israel as a “settler colonialist” state. The term “settler colonialism” refers to a system of oppression in which a colonizing nation engages in ethnic cleansing by displacing and dispossessing a native or pre-existing population. This phrase is false for many reasons outlined here. Referring to Israel as a settler-colonialist state is not only factually inaccurate, it is an antisemitic demonization of the State of Israel. Read more here about when criticism of Israel crosses the line into antisemitism.

Four Penn departments and programs are involved with the event: The Kelly Writers House, Penn Cinema and Media Studies Department, the Middle East Center, and Near Eastern Language and Cultures Department are sponsoring or supporting the event. This endorsement of the event and failure to condemn its objectionable speakers is unacceptable given the problematic factors outlined above.

Even after cease-and-desist letter, ‘Palestine Writes’ lists Pennsylvania agency as sponsor
Even after receiving a third and final warning from the Pennsylvania Council on the Arts to cease and desist claiming that the state agency was a sponsor, the “Palestine Writes” literary festival continues to display the PCA logo on its sponsor webpage.

“The PCA has repeatedly attempted to address this matter amicably and cooperatively, but the ‘Palestine Writes’ Literature Festival organization has failed to take necessary action to resolve this matter. In fact, Palestine Writes abruptly reversed course and failed to follow through on its own offer to remove the logo entirely from the website,” Amber Sizemore, counsel to the PCA, wrote to the festival on Sept. 21.

“Instead, the sponsor web page was merely manipulated to list the PCA as a sponsor for ‘Palestine Writes Press,’ which the PCA expressly stated by email was not sufficient to resolve its concerns,” Sizemore wrote.

The attorney noted that the state agency had provided “limited grant funding to Playgrounds for Palestine,” which was “limited to a literary anthology project and a series of workshops, seminars, readings and other events to launch the anthology and provide publishing education to authors.”

PCA understands that Playgrounds for Palestine is a “Palestine Writes” subsidiary, but it “has provided no funding, or other sponsorship or support, to the parent initiative or to the festival,” Sizemore wrote.

The festival, which is taking place at the University of Pennsylvania from Sept. 22 through Sept. 24, includes several prominent antisemitic speakers, including musician and Pink Floyd frontman Roger Waters; and Marc Lamont Hill, fired by CNN for anti-Israel remarks and who now works for the City University of New York (an academic institution that has also exhibited anti-Jewish and anti-Israel sentiment and speakers on its campus).

“It is a celebration of terrorism against Israel by self-styled Palestinian activists,” Lori Lowenthal Marcus, legal director of the Deborah Project, told JNS.

The Jew as a Christian heretic was the precursor to antisemitism
"Listen, all you peoples, to the shame and the disgrace which these Jews committed on our Saviour Jesus, in that, for no crime of his, they afflicted him and killed him and hanged him and tortured him,” declaimed the Dominican friar Paul Chrétien to a large audience of Christians and Jews near the university of Paris in 1273. He had once been Jewish himself (known then as Saul of Montpellier) but now, with all the savage zealotry of an apostate, he pointed at the rabbis debating with him and yelled, “They deserve to be killed, just as they killed him.”

He quoted from the Mishnah, the Talmud, halacha (rabbinic law), and haggadot (rabbinic lore) to show that the Jews had always known that Christ was the Messiah. “I wish to prove to you,” he said to the rabbis with sadistic reasonableness, “that you are without a faith, a people called Bougres — heretics worthy of being burned.”

Everyone listening knew that Bougres was just another name for the Albigensians, the supposed heretics massacred in the tens of thousands by northern French crusaders during the notorious Albigensian crusade in southern France from 1209-1229.

Rabbi Abraham ben Samuel refuted Paul Chrétien’s arguments with learning and wit, winning over the crowd, but once the latter invoked the crucifixion he was, according to an anonymous Jewish chronicler, “very much afraid to speak of the slaying of Jesus because this revealed his adversary’s resolve to exterminate all of the Jews”.

And so the debate abruptly ended, everyone quickly dispersing, although cruelty and fear lingered awhile longer on the Left Bank.

Three decades earlier, and not too far away from where Paul Chrétien and Abraham ben Samuel would eventually debate, 24 cartloads of the Talmud were incinerated as books of heresy in a great bonfire in Paris in 1242. Once again, another Jewish convert to Christianity, Nicholas Donin, led the attack. He accused his former co-religionists of deliberately elevating the Talmud over the Bible as a way of avoiding acknowledging that they were and should be Christians.
The miraculous World War 2 escape from Novogrudok Nazi Camp
Those of you who read my column may recall that, a couple of weeks ago, I wrote about a remarkable woman who has made it her life’s work to share the stories and memoirs of Holocaust survivors and their families through her publishing company, Amsterdam Publishers.

Continuing on that theme, this week, survivors and their families will mark the 80th anniversary of one of the most courageous and miraculous escapes of World War II, and the Holocaust in particular: the escape through the tunnel from Novogrudok Labor Camp on September 26, 1943.

I met with Debbie Kagan, the daughter of one of the escapees, Jack Kagan, who shared her father’s extraordinary story with me.

Kagan was one of 250 inmates of the Novogrodek labor camp who made the heroic escape through the longest tunnel dug by hand. Thereafter, he and his fellow escapees joined the famous Bielski brothers and the other partisans in the forests, (as depicted in the film Defiance with Daniel Craig).

Debbie was keen to tell me about her beloved father, who dedicated his life to educating people about the Holocaust, having experienced firsthand both its horrors and the sheer resilience that humans can muster even in the most desperate of circumstances.

“My father dedicated his life to educating on the Shoah,” she began. “He was 12 years old when war broke out and he lost his parents and sister. He made this amazing escape and gave talks all over the world [in] many schools, universities, and most United Synagogues.” Kagan also wrote a number of books, one of which sets out details about this miraculous escape.
In apparent first, Croatia restores looted art to grandson of Holocaust victim
In the first reported case of its kind in Croatia, three museums have restored several pieces of art stolen from a Jewish businessman during the Holocaust to his grandson, according to a report Friday.

The move marks the end of a 70-year struggle by the descendants of Dane Reichsmann, who was a wealthy owner of a department store in the country’s capital Zagreb before the Nazi-led genocide and was deported and murdered at Auschwitz along with his wife.

“This seems almost beyond belief,” Andy Reichsman, Dane’s grandson, and inheritor of the looted works told The New York Times. “I thought that our chances would be one in a million. They never had any interest in giving anything back to Jews.”

The artworks returned include paintings by André Derain, “Still Life With a Bottle,” and Maurice de Vlaminick’s “Landscape by the Water,” which were held by the National Museum of Modern Art, and lithographs from the Croatian Academy of Sciences and Arts by Pablo Picasso, Pierre-Auguste Renoir, Paul Cézanne and Pierre Bonnard.

A bronze plaque, copper tray, and bowl from the Zagreb Museum of Arts and Crafts was also restored. However, 19 additional pieces from the institution are still being pursued by Reichsman’s lawyer.

The pieces were looted by the ruling Croatian fascist group, the Ustaše.

Reichsman’s aunt Danica Scodoba and father Franz Reichsman fled Europe before the outbreak of World War II to London and the United States, respectively (Franz dropped the extra N from his family name “Reichsmann” when he immigrated).

Reichsman took up the struggle of his aunt, who tried for half a century to reclaim the property. He recalled that “she traveled to Zagreb every summer and met with gallery directors, government officials and anyone she felt could help her in her attempts to retrieve the art.”
'Rev. of white supremacy' pleads guilty to obstructing Tree of Life trial
45-year-old Hardy Carroll Lloyd from West Virginia pled guilty earlier this week to the “obstruction of the due administration of justice” during the trial against Robert Bowers; the shooter who caused a mass casualty event at the Tree of Life synagogue in Pittsburgh.

The US Justice Department described Lloyd as a “self-proclaimed 'reverend' of a white supremacy movement.”

Lloyd admitted to soliciting threats to online jurors and witnesses involved in the Bowers trial. He admitted to submitting threatening social media posts and making threats in website comments and in emails during the trial.

Lloyd acknowledged he intentionally targeted the jury and government witnesses based on their perceived relation to the Jewish religion.

“Hardy Lloyd attempted to obstruct the federal hate crimes trial of the deadliest antisemitic attack in American history,” said Attorney General Merrick B. Garland. “His guilty plea underscores that anyone who attempts to obstruct a federal trial by threatening or intimidating jurors or witnesses will be met with the full force of the Justice Department.”

“It is absolutely reprehensible that the defendant threatened witnesses and jurors in the Tree of Life case, a tragedy that claimed innocent lives and emotionally scarred many in the Jewish community,” said FBI Director Christopher Wray.

“The FBI will not tolerate the intimidation of citizens participating in our criminal justice system, and we will work with our partners to hold legally accountable anyone who threatens or carries out acts of violence against them.”

Tel Aviv to host global agritech summit to boost innovation
Yaron Tchwella discusses his Mitrelli Group sponsoring innovation in Africa to help innovation around the world.

Want a new way to explore Israel? How about a the back of a motorcycle?
A new type of tourism is making waves in Israel: Motorbike tours. CEO of Desertroad Israel Motorcycle Tours, Raz Tsafrir joins to explain the appeal of these unique tours.

The Indians who Liberated Haifa in WW1 (Battle of Haifa)
Do you know about the Battle of Haifa? This battle drastically changed the course of WW1. In this historic confrontation on September 23, 1918, Indian regiments under the British Army were instrumental in liberating the city of Haifa from the grip of Ottoman and German forces.

Today, India and Israel honor the the fallen Indian soldiers who gave their lives to liberate Haifa.

Jewish tech genius chose to help world’s most desperate people instead of accepting £6 million
“Right, I think that’s everything. Thanks so much for your time, Avi. Unless there’s anything you’d like to ask me?”

A short pause at the end of what has been a two-hour interview. “There is, actually. You said earlier that you don’t believe life has any proper purpose.

“Could you unpack that a little? It’s an interesting idea and one with which I totally disagree.”

Avi Schiffmann is not your ordinary 20-year-old. He first made headlines at the age of 17 when he launched, the coronavirus-tracking site that, at its height, attracted 30 million visitors a day.

Fast-forward three years and he has set up InternetActivism, a non-profit that works with NGOs to create technologies to alleviate humanitarian crises — most recently, a housing website that matches Sudanese refugees with hosts in America.

Unsurprisingly, he describes himself as a tech optimist. “Technology enables us to store all of humankind’s knowledge into something which fits into a back pocket. Its endless possibilities are endless — that’s what first drew me to this world.”
A Yom Kippur Guide for the Perplexed, 2023
As Yom Kippur approaches on Sunday night, here are some important facts about the holiday.

1. Soul searching. Yom Kippur is observed on the 10th day of the Jewish month of Tishrei. It is called the Super Sabbath (Shabbat Shabbaton in Hebrew), concluding 10 days of soul-searching and spiritual self-awareness and self-enhancement, which begins on Rosh Hashanah, the first day of the Jewish year.

According to Leviticus 23:26-32: “The Lord said to Moses, that the tenth day of the seventh month [Tishrei] is the Day of Atonement …. Do not do any work on that day. … This is a lasting ordinance for generations to come…”

Yom Kippur commemorates the day of Divine forgiveness for the sin of worshiping the golden calf idol. It cautions against the temptation to sacrifice spiritual values on the altar of materialism and convenience.

2. Social responsibility. Asking forgiveness of fellow human-beings is a major feature of Yom Kippur, transferring human behavior from acrimony and vindictiveness to forgiveness and peaceful coexistence. It is consistent with the philosophy of Hillel the Elder: “The essence of the Torah is: do not do unto your fellow person that which is hateful to you; the rest [of the Torah] is commentary.”

3. No ill-speaking. According to Judaism, the tongue can be a lethal weapon, and therefore, ill-speaking of other people (“evil tongue” in Hebrew) may not be forgiven. Yom Kippur is a reminder that words are controllable before they are uttered, but they become uncontrollable once they are spoken.

4. Behavioral enhancement. Yom Kippur highlights magnanimity, humility, genuine repentance, compassion, consideration, forgiveness, responsibility, optimism, and faith. It recognizes one’s fallibilities, emphasizes learning from one’s mistakes, minimizing future missteps, elevating morality, and enhancing family and community cohesion.

Criminals and sinners are invited to participate in Yom Kippur services.

5. Fasting is a key feature of Yom Kippur, reducing material pleasure, in order to focus on one’s soul-searching, and enhancing empathy with the needy. The Hebrew spelling of fasting is the root of the Hebrew word for reducing/focusing.

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