Wednesday, February 14, 2024

From Ian:

The Jewish state as effigy
Something similar seems to be happening with current anti-Israel protests. The terms thrown at Israel (Jews) are so inappropriate to the situation in Israel, but redolent of the dark past of Western culture. Israelis are called “colonists,” even though Jews are indigenous to Israel and have no homeland or “metropole” to which they export raw materials and from which they import finished goods as per European colonialism. It is accused of “imperialism” even though the territory it rules is smaller than Wales and it has surrendered far larger and more valuable land (the Sinai Peninsula) for peace. Israel is accused of “white supremacy” and “apartheid” even though most Israeli Jews are not white and non-Jews in Israel, including Arab Israelis, have full civil rights and can, and do, attain high levels of success in all walks of life. Israel is accused of “genocide” even though it takes great care to avoid civilian casualties, as many impartial observers with military experience (not ignorant journalists with an axe to grind) have attested.

Yet colonialism, imperialism, white supremacy, apartheid and genocide are things that have come to the forefront of the Western consciousness in the last ten years as the legacy of Western colonialism and imperialism as well as American slavery has been rediscovered and weaponized by the radical left.

The protestors seem to attack Israel as a way of cleansing their own middle class white guilt. They create an effigy of “Israel” out of their imagination, based on all the worst aspects of European and American history, often making overt comparisons with the ethnic cleansing of the Native Americans, black segregation in the American South and European colonialism in the Middle East, Africa and Asia. Then, by “burning” their effigy of Israel, they “prove” to themselves that they would not have collaborated with the sins of their forefathers, cleansing their guilt over the privileged lifestyles that they live compared with both non-Western societies today and societies in earlier eras of history, while handily not having to actually sacrifice anything tangible in the present.

Meanwhile, the Jewish state performs the same function the Jews have served in Western thought for 2,000 years: the symbol of absolute evil, the destruction of which brings the promise of salvation for the rest of mankind.
John Podhoretz: They’re Coming After Us, Part 2
It is, as we go to press, four months since October 7. And the passage of time is not causing the forces arrayed against American Jews to relent or stand down. Supporters of Houthi terrorist attacks from Yemen against Israel (one Houthi drone was shot down just before it would have hit the Israeli city of Eilat) blockaded the Holocaust Museum in Washington, D.C. Every week, one or another American city finds its downtown, or midtown, or commuter routes blockaded by people shouting “from the river to the sea, Palestine shall be free.”

On Mercer Island in Washington at the beginning of February, a synagogue was vandalized. “Stop Killing” was spray-painted in red on the synagogue’s glass wall, as if the people living on an Island in Puget Sound 7,000 miles away from Gaza were killing anyone. Thus, a lawyer commuting on a ferry from his job in Seattle to get home in time for Shabbat is indistinguishable from an Israeli soldier engaged in a war to defend his family against Hamas. And they are indistinguishable in this sense—neither is responsible for the death of a single person in Gaza. The moral and legal responsibility for every one of those deaths falls on Hamas.

In Washington, D.C., a Hasidic rabbi called a ride-share taxi and got into an argument with the driver about how loud the music was. The driver pulled over and demanded the rabbi exit, then jumped out of the cab and beat him up.

At Harvard, the commission to study anti-Semitism originally set up by the now-ousted Claudine Gay was superseded by a new commission on anti-Semitism. Its chair is a professor of Judaic studies named Derek Penslar who signed letters calling Israel an “apartheid state” before the war.

Penslar also told the New York Times’ Emily Bazelon in February—in an ideologically potted oral history of the conflict in Mandatory Palestine before the founding of Israel that could have easily appeared in al-Arabiya—that the argument supporting the Jewish homeland in Palestine was cleverly “retooled” by Zionists after the Holocaust to include not just survivors but Israelites in the Middle East who were feeling threatened. As if the Jews in Arab lands expelled themselves from Iraq, Yemen, and Iran. As if those expulsions weren’t the “retooling” of the argument for Zionism so much as the global reaffirmation of its absolute necessity.

As the Who put it, “meet the new boss, same as the old boss.” The forces that triggered my article are undeterred. And it therefore still behooves every American Jew to understand this tragic but undeniable fact: “Us” means all of us. No effort to separate yourself from the rising anti-Semitism will offer you a second’s protection when it’s you, or your children on campus, or your elderly parents who call the wrong Lyft driver. They’re still coming after us.
Meir Y. Soloveichik: Do Cry for Me, Argentina
The importance of Milei’s visit was not about his economic policies, as significant as they are. The newspaper in which this account appeared, Haaretz, did not quite grasp the meaning of the moment, describing Milei’s approach to the Wall as having “bar mitzvah vibes.” That gets it exactly wrong. As Milei touched the millennia-old stones, he had none of the mien of a 13-year-old boy. He broke down and wept. The Western Wall had, for a moment, become the Wailing Wall again.

Milei’s reaction was all the more remarkable because it contrasted with his usual demeanor. With bushy hair, a propensity for posing with a thumbs-up posture, and long sideburns, he often appears, in Jonathan Schanzer’s felicitous phrase, as “the Argentinian Elvis.” But at the Wall, all coolness had vanished; the photo of the president’s tear-strewn face was a very different look, and one all the more memorable.

In the moment, Milei captured, deliberately or providentially, what the Western Wall is all about. The media described the site of Milei’s visit as “the holiest place where Jews can pray.” This is, in a certain sense true, reminding us of the fact that unfettered prayer is, unjustly, still banned on the Temple Mount, Judaism’s holiest site. But the truth is that in Jewish law, the Western Wall is no holier than any other site in Jerusalem; in the period when the Temple stood, it was a retaining wall. The notion that the site would serve as a sacred place of prayer would have seemed surpassingly strange.

What sanctified the Wall was Jewish tears after the Temple’s destruction. Under the Ottomans, who governed the area for centuries, the Wall was the closest site to the Temple Mount where Jews were allowed to pray. And mourn for what they had lost. One hundred and fifty years ago, in another fulfillment of Solomon’s prediction, a former American Secretary of State, William Seward, visited the city and gazed with awe at the Jews at the Wall: They were “reading and reciting the poetic language of the prophet, beating their hands against the wall, and bathing the stones with their kisses and tears,” we are told in a memoir edited by Seward’s son. “It is no mere formal ceremony. During the several hours while we were spectators of it, there was not one act of irreverence or indifference.”

This is the source of the sanctity of these stones. In standing at the Wall, Milei seemed to sense Jewish history itself, realizing that the pain of the current moment merged with the weeping that had gone before. He then gave voice to this insight in reflecting how Israel’s greatness can be understood only through the prism of the past. Visiting Yad Vashem, Milei emphasized the importance of fighting “modern Nazism today disguised as the terror group Hamas.” He then wrote in the visitor’s book:
In this symbolic and transcendent place, where darkness reaches unimaginable extremes of cruelty, it is precisely here that we can see the greatness of a people. The greatness of going through the pain and rising up again even stronger than before. We all bear the duty not to remain silent. Never again is now.

Douglas Murray: If social justice warriors got what they want Israel wouldn't exist | Technion UK
Journalist and author Douglas Murray discusses Israel since October 7 and Jews in the diaspora with Louise Clein at a Technion UK event in London.

Clifford D. May: Israel Cannot Depend on International "Security Assurances" over a Palestinian State
Hamas leader Yahya Sinwar, mastermind behind the Oct. 7 invasion of Israel, was surely encouraged to learn that President Biden last week said that Israel's "conduct of the response in Gaza has been over the top." That charge is entirely unfounded. In truth, despite Hamas' human shields strategy, the ratio of civilian-to-combatant casualties is unprecedentedly low for urban warfare. Israelis have done more than any other nation ever to spare civilians. The battle against Hamas is not one the Israelis can afford to lose or even end in stalemate.

Last week, Secretary of State Blinken called for "a concrete, time-bound and irreversible path" to a Palestinian state. Note that Mr. Blinken is not saying that the leaders of such a state would forswear terrorism and peacefully coexist alongside the Jewish state. Nor is he guaranteeing that such a state will not become a vassal of Tehran.

All he's said is that Israelis will have "security assurances." Like the security assurances Israelis received from the UN Security Council after they withdrew from Lebanon? Like the security assurances Ukrainians received from the U.S. when they gave up their nuclear weapons?

Sinwar is not fighting for a Palestinian state. He is fighting for the extermination of the Jewish state and its replacement - "from the river to the sea" - by an Islamic emirate, a jewel in the crown of the caliphate that is to come. For Sinwar, a "two-state solution" would solve nothing - unless it provided an improved platform from which to launch Oct. 7-style attacks.
Caroline Glick: Biden "Forgets" who Hamas and the Palestinians Really Are
The Biden administration demonstrates again that it is clueless as to who the Palestinians and Hamas really are and the pressure mounts on Israel to end the fighting and lose the war.

Shai Davidai: What Happens When You Teach at Columbia and Reject Hamas
We did not see this coming. But now that we’ve seen it, we will never unsee it. We will never forget the gaslighting. We will never forget the denial of our trauma. We will never forget the victim-blaming and the way they had us believing that advocating for our own lives was an injustice to others. Some things are just not so easy to brush off.

As Shai continued to call out Columbia University’s moral cowardice, we began to receive another kind of hatred—the public, faceless kind so easy to mete out from behind a keyboard. Every morning, as we sift through the hundreds of hateful emails and online comments that Shai receives each day, we are reminded that life will never be the same again. From memes of rats with big, curving noses to threats of physical violence, from the publicizing of our personal information to the dissemination of egregious lies about Shai and his parents, from unsubstantiated criticism of Shai’s professional conduct to conspiratorial antisemitic rants, we believe we’ve seen it all. Shai is regularly called a Nazi, a Zionist pig, a genocidal baby murderer, a kike. Thousands have called for his death. While a few people get in touch privately to offer their support, almost none of our friends have dared to publicly stand by his side. Many of Shai’s colleagues are regularly cc’d on these hateful missives. None have spoken up.

Our pain is miniscule compared to that of the thousands of Israelis and Palestinians who have lost their loved ones on and since Oct. 7. Our pain is miniscule compared to that of the 134 kidnapped civilians and their heartbroken families. Our pain is miniscule compared to that of the hundreds of thousands of displaced Palestinians in Gaza and the hundreds of thousands of displaced Israelis from its northern and southern regions. And yet, our pain is real, and the inability of some of our closest friends to accept the legitimacy of our pain only adds more heartache.

It took us a while to understand it, but once we did everything started making sense: Our friends did not have a problem with our politics, they had a problem with our identity.

But while speaking up may have ruined our lives, it also made them so much better.

Since Shai spoke out against the support for terror on U.S. campuses, a number of friends and acquaintances have made a point of being there for us. We may not see eye to eye about everything, but we agree on the fundamentals. We agree that both Israelis and Palestinians have a right to exist. We agree that Hamas is the problem, not the solution. We agree that the status quo will have to change. And we agree that rape is never, ever, ever OK. These are the people who will never turn against us. These are the people who will always show up.

We have also made new friends—activists, protesters, and true warriors of justice. Vocal and brave Jewish and non-Jewish allies who, like us, have put their lives, jobs, and reputations on the line. Like us, many of them have lost people whom they’d believed were their friends. Like us, many of them are frightened and heartbroken and worried. But we have found each other, and we have each other’s backs. Our new community accepts us for who we are, not for who it wants us to be. Together, we are working toward making a real difference.

We want the war to end, the hostages to return home, and for peace to become a tangible goal, not an empty election slogan. We want to strengthen the State of Israel as a liberal, democratic haven for Jewish people everywhere. We want the Jewish people to be recognized as a minority worthy of protection and celebration. We want the world to show up for us in the same way that we have repeatedly showed up, and will continue to show up, for so many others.

We may have lost some friends, but we gained something much more valuable: a tribe. Sabras and diasporic, religious and secular, left and right, Mizrahi and Ashkenazi, gay and straight, we are all coming together as Jews. We all share a deep understanding that has become impossible to ignore since Oct. 7: We are part of one big family, and we are all in this together. Whatever happens and despite our differences, as long as we refuse to be silenced and remain united, we will get through this. We always do.
Seth Mandel: The Israel-Obsessed Art World Devours Itself
The icing on the cake is that before the performance opened, Bruguera gave an interview to the The Art Newspaper’s podcast, “The Week in Art.” In it, the host and Bruguera went on at length about how this is such an appropriate time to read Hannah Arendt because of how Germany censors anyone who criticizes Israel. Bruguera went so far as to say that Chinese dissident Ai Weiwei’s ridiculous comment that censorship in the West is the same as in Mao’s China didn’t go far enough. “I think it’s worse” than in Mao’s China, Bruguera asserts, because “the censorship in China was [at least] condemned by the world.”

To review: The crackdown on anti-Jewish incitement is itself totalitarian, and those enforcing it are worse than Mao. This from the woman deemed a race-traitor for “platforming Zionists.”

The protesters interrupted the Jewish Museum director by shouting “from the river to the sea, Palestine will be free,” the genocidal call for eliminating all non-Arabs from the land. Later on, they shared with an art website an unsigned statement that read: “In the last weeks, we have seen attempts at holding ‘Israel’ accountable for the terrorist, genocidal acts it commits against the Palestinian people—but they have all failed to achieve any relief for the innocent people being murdered, maimed, displaced, and taken hostage every day by the terrorist ‘state of Israel.’”

The point of the scare quotes around “Israel” is to deny its existence and the legitimacy of Jewish rights in the land.

The same day as the Arendt protest, several hundred pro-Hamas demonstrators shut down the Museum of Modern Art in New York. They unfurled a genocidal banner to call attention to the fact that some of the museum’s trustees are Jewish.

This Stalinization of the art world is among the least surprising developments in the global war on the Jews. Progressive activists in the art world long ago made their bed and will now lie in it. They probably won’t fall asleep in it though, what with all the chanting and shouting.

Matthew Continetti: Demolition Squad
Finally, some good news: Times have been tough for the House Democratic “Squad” of socialist anti-Semites.

Look at the headlines. Politico says the Squad is “at a crossroads.” Yahoo! News writes that “the Squad’s controversies have brought a backlash that could prove fatal.” The Daily Beast sounds panicked: “The Squad,” it howls, “Is Facing an ‘Existential Threat’ in 2024.”

Let’s hope so. Since they first came together in 2018, the Squad’s cry-bullies have mainstreamed anti-Semitic rhetoric, tarred the Democratic Party with the brush of extremism, and embarrassed moderate Democrats in frontline swing districts, all while playing the victim. As the Squad doubled in size—growing from four to eight members—it became more reckless and more revolting. It made enemies. A reckoning was inevitable.

And a reckoning may soon arrive. Over the course of its brief and sorry lifespan, the Squad has been insulated from democratic accountability by gerrymandering and political polarization. This year is different. A few Squad members face credible primary challenges. The press, for its part, has framed these contests as fights between the pro-Israel lobby and the anti-Semitic left. A typical headline from the Daily Mail reads: “Far-left Squad reps fear deep-pocketed American-Israeli PAC backing candidates to boot them in primaries.”

True enough. What the conventional framing obscures, however, is the egregious personal conduct that has alienated the Squad’s constituents and invited rebuke. The threat to the Squad isn’t just from AIPAC. It comes from the Squad members themselves. They are rude and confrontational machine pols who push the boundaries of manners and the law. And now, to quote one of their ideological forebears, the chickens are coming home to roost.

The anti-Squad backlash began in early 2023. Not long after the Republicans gained control of the House of Representatives, newly elected Speaker Kevin McCarthy (R., Calif.) moved to eject Squad founding member Ilhan Omar (D., Minn.) from the House Foreign Affairs Committee. It was overdue. Omar had spent four years in the House obnoxiously and offensively trolling Jews and the pro-Israel community without paying a price.

Omar had said Jewish money was behind U.S. support for Israel. She had displayed a revolting moral equivalence by saying, “We have seen unthinkable atrocities committed by the U.S., Hamas, Israel, Afghanistan, and the Taliban.” She has an actress’s sense of pacing and double entendre. She’d issue an inflammatory and anti-Semitic message, then react in faux shock-and-horror when called on it. She delighted in the ensuing controversy.
Biden Commits to Jordan’s King to Continue Ban on Christian, Jewish Worship on Jerusalem’s Holy Temple Mount
According to a White House readout of the meeting, President Biden agreed, and “underscored the importance of upholding the status quo at the Haram al-Sharif/Temple Mount, recognizing Jordan’s crucial role as the custodian of Muslim holy places in Jerusalem.”

Jerusalem holds a paramount place in Jewish history, serving as the ancient capital under King David and housing the First and Second Temples, central to Jewish worship and pilgrimage for millennia. Contrary to claims of its Islamic sanctity, Jerusalem is not mentioned in the Koran, though it is mentioned nearly 700 times in the Hebrew Bible. The city’s deep Jewish roots are also evidenced by its continuous Jewish presence, and the enduring practice of facing Jerusalem in prayer, underscoring a long-standing connection that predates and outstrips its significance in Islamic tradition, where Mecca holds primacy.

After it was captured by them in the 7th century, early Muslims knowingly built the Al-Aqsa Mosque on the holiest site in Judaism. Despite repeated statements from Palestinian and Jordanian officials denying any Jewish ties to the Mount, a 1925 guide by the Supreme Moslem Council confirms the Temple Mount’s ancient sanctity, identifying it as Solomon’s Temple site, and the location, “according to universal belief, on which David built there an altar unto the Lord.”

It is now regarded as the third holiest site in Islam after Mecca and Medina, and has become a key conflict point in Israeli-Palestinian tensions.

The historic “status quo” of the Temple Mount refers to an understanding and set of policies that govern the access and management of the site, in an arrangement meant to maintain the existing state of religious and political affairs concerning it.

While Israel officially controls access to the site and is responsible for its security, the Jordanian Waqf, an Islamic trust, has been the custodian of the site for over half a century, responsible for its management and for arranging Muslim worship.

The arrangement was reached with Jordan in the wake of the 1967 Six-Day War, when Israel’s overwhelming victory culminated in the liberation from Jordan of east Jerusalem where the ancient Temple Mount and City of David are located. At the time, then Israeli Defense Minister Moshe Dayan left the Mount under control of the Waqf, in a gesture of goodwill that eventually led to the removal of Jewish historical signs by the Waqf and discriminatory limitations on Jewish worshippers by police to avoid conflict with Muslims, often closing the Mount to Jews during pre-planned Muslim riots.

Khaled Abu Toameh: Judicial Reform Controversy Emboldened Israel's Enemies
[T]he reports about military reservists threatening not to report for duty created the impression among Iran's mullahs and their terror proxies that the Israeli security establishment had been seriously undermined and was on the verge of collapse.

"Their [Israel's] own officials continuously warn that their collapse is nearing. Their president says this, their former prime minister says this, their [military] chief says this and their defense minister says this. They all say it." — Iranian Supreme Guide Ali Khamenei, April 5, 2023.

Iran and its terror proxies were reportedly happy to see... threats by reserve soldiers and pilots to refrain from participating in military service.

As Netanyahu's political rivals were busy protesting against him, Israel's enemies were making preparations to invade Israel. Convinced that Israel had been weakened to the point of being unable to defend itself, Hamas chose October 7 as the date to launch the assault. In the Middle East, weakness invites violence, and when your enemy smells blood, you can bet it will go for your throat.

'Hamas is operating in Belgium, but we can’t do anything about it'
MP Michael Freilich from the opposition New Flemish Alliance Party recounted his astonishment at the response of Justice Minister Paul Van Tigchelt, who openly admitted as a response to his inquiry that there indeed are groups who operate in Belgium on the account of Hamas, lobbying, and fundraising for the terror group designated as such by EU laws.

Much to Freilich’s shock, the minister also named the European Palestinian Council for Political Relations (EUPAC) as a proxy group fundraising and lobbying for the group responsible for the slaughter, rape, and kidnapping of at least 1,200 people on October 7.

EUPAC vaguely formulates its goals as aiming to “work to invest in the importance of the geo-strategic position of the Middle East region” as part of the Palestinian “struggle towards liberation from occupation.” This is done through meetings with high-ranking European officials, as well as seminars, campaigns, workshops, and more.

The council is led by Majed Al-Zeer, who has been recognized by German security authorities as a leading figure of Hamas operations in Europe, even naming him as a “representative of Hamas in Germany,” as revealed in mid-December 2023 by Der Spiegel. He was designated over a decade ago by Israel as a Hamas operative in Europe, along with the Palestinian Return Center he founded in London.

Another leader of EUPAC is Mazen Kahil, another Israel-designated Hamas leader in Europe, who reportedly served as treasurer of the Committee for Charity and Support for the Palestinians (CBSP, for the French Comité de Bienfaisance et de Secours aux Palestiniens), another group added by the US in 2003 to the list of Specially Designated Global Terrorists for its financial ties to Hamas.
Ireland, Spain want EU to review Israel's human rights compliance in Gaza
The prime ministers of Spain and Ireland asked the European Commission on Wednesday to urgently review whether Israel is complying with its human rights obligations in Gaza as international pressure grew for Israel to hold off on an assault on the densely-populated southern border city of Rafah.

The two leaders, who have, together with Belgium, been Europe's most outspoken about Israeli operations in Gaza since the five-month conflict began, said attacking Rafah posed "a grave and imminent threat that the international community must urgently confront."

"We also recall the horror of October 7, and call for the release of all hostages and an immediate ceasefire that can facilitate access for urgently needed humanitarian supplies," the prime ministers said in a joint letter published on the Spanish government website.

At least 1,200 Israelis were killed, and around 250 were taken hostage in a raid by Hamas militants on southern Israel on October 7, prompting Israel to retaliate. At least 28,576 Palestinians have since been killed in Israeli strikes, the Hamas-run health ministry in Gaza said on Wednesday.

A Spanish government source said it was confident that European countries are unifying around a firmer position and for the European Commission to take more concrete action over Israel's actions in Gaza. The source pointed to a tweet on Tuesday by Alexander De Croo, the Prime Minister of Belgium which at present holds the presidency of the EU Council, said in could generate an "unmitigated humanitarian catastrophe."

German Foreign Minister Annalena Baerbock also said before talks scheduled with Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu an offensive on Rafah would jeopardize the humanitarian situation there.

While only Spain and Ireland signed the letter, the source said it expected further backing for a review of the agreement when ministers meet for the Council of Europe in March.
Erdogan says Turkey ready to cooperate with Egypt on Gaza
Turkish President Tayyip Erdogan said on Wednesday that Turkey was ready to cooperate with Egypt to rebuild Gaza as he made his first visit to the country since 2012.

Erdogan and his Egyptian counterpart Abdel Fattah al-Sisi held a joint news conference on Wednesday in Cairo after bilateral talks, taking a big step toward rebuilding relations between the regional powers.

Erdogan said the humanitarian tragedy in Gaza topped the agenda of their talks. "We will continue to cooperate and stand in solidarity with our Egyptian brothers to put an end to the bloodshed in Gaza," he said, adding Turkey was determined to step up talks with Egypt at all levels in order to establish peace and stability in the region.

President Erdogan also vowed to boost trade with Egypt to $15 billion in the short term, adding that the two countries were evaluating energy and defense cooperation.

"I'd like to emphasize the continued connection between our peoples over the past ten years while our trade and investment relationship saw steady growth," Sisi said.

Ankara-Cairo relations
Relations between Ankara and Cairo broke down in 2013 after Egypt's then-army chief, Sisi, led the ouster of the Brotherhood's Mohamed Mursi, an ally of Turkey who had become Egypt's first democratically elected president the year before.

The countries mutually appointed ambassadors last year. This month, Turkey said it would provide Egypt with armed drones.
Biden Admin Has No Plan To Prevent Hezbollah From Cashing In on Menthol Cigarette Ban
The Biden administration does not have a plan in place to prevent Hezbollah from cashing in on its proposed menthol cigarette ban, which lawmakers and experts say will open up a black market that will enrich the Iran-backed terror group and Mexican drug cartels.

As the FDA considers a ban on mentholated cigarettes, a type smoked by around 40 percent of adults, lawmakers have been pressing federal authorities to develop contingency plans meant to stop Hezbollah and its Mexican cartel partners from smuggling black market cigarettes into the United States.

But Customs and Border Protection (CBP) and the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, and Firearms (ATF) do not appear to have developed any plans to combat the emerging black market menthol trade, which is likely to generate millions in profit. Hezbollah, Hamas, and other terrorist groups have long trafficked in illegal cigarettes, generating revenue that funds terror operations across the globe. The regulated menthol market in the United States is worth an estimated $30 billion.

"The FDA's ban will likely enrich Hamas, Hezbollah, and other terrorist groups, and the Biden administration is ignoring the national security risks entirely, just like they've ignored the ongoing public health disasters," Rep. Jim Banks (R., Ind.), a member of the House Armed Services Committee, told the Washington Free Beacon.

Banks is one of several lawmakers in both the House and Senate who have been pressing the Biden administration to pause its menthol ban until the relevant federal agencies can prove they have a plan in place to combat black market sales. Congressional sources working on the issue said the administration has yet to respond to their inquiries or address concerns about terrorism financing. The ATF and CBP would also not address questions about whether they have been tasked with formulating contingency plans or preparing for a black market boom.

"Absent a clear plan to prevent Hezbollah and others from partnering with international crime organizations like Mexican cartels, it would instead leave Hezbollah, Hamas, and other bad actors in a prime position to profit off the black market," Banks and five of his GOP colleagues wrote in a Feb. 6 letter to the FDA. "Such an outcome would be unacceptable."
How Africa Sees the Gaza War
Let’s now turn from America to Africa, where Jerusalem has made significant diplomatic inroads in the last decade. South Africa, where the ruling party is fully aligned with the Palestinian national movement, has led the legal campaign against Israel at the International Court of Justice and elsewhere. Arab countries in North Africa have also responded to the present war with typical hostility, with the exception of Israel’s allies Morocco and Egypt. As for the other African nations, Asher Lubotzky examines their reactions:
Most African countries, including a number of countries that have good bilateral relations with Israel (such as Uganda and Angola), have either employed ambiguous and neutral language in statements or have completely ignored the war.

The litmus test of Israel’s standing in Africa during the war was the UN votes on October 27 and December 12. The resolutions adopted on these dates called for an immediate ceasefire and did not condemn Hamas, and, thus, Israel and its close allies opposed them. These resolutions won substantial support in Africa, and even countries friendly to Israel, such as Kenya and Ghana, voted for them. At the same time, a few African countries stood by Israel.

Furthermore, the weakening of American influence in Africa vis-à-vis both China and Russia in recent years has negatively affected the ability of the United States to gain support from African countries for Western interests around the world, such as the war in Ukraine and the war against Hamas. Countries that have become close to Moscow in recent years, such as the Central African Republic, have also tended to adjust their UN votes to reflect Russia’s views. . . . Conversely, Israel has good relations with Christian-majority countries in eastern, central, and western Africa.

Lubotzky also notes one especially good piece of news:
As of the writing of this article, not a single African country—including the Muslim countries that have recently established relations with Israel, such as Chad, Sudan, Guinea, and Morocco—has officially severed its relations with Israel. From a historical perspective, this alone is an Israeli achievement; . . . during the Yom Kippur War and in its aftermath, more than twenty African countries broke off diplomatic relations with Israel.
Pilip loses special election for former Santos congressional seat in NY
A former gunsmith for the IDF paratroopers won’t be parachuting into Washington.

Mazi Pilip, an Ethiopian-born, Israeli American running as a Republican, lost a special congressional election in New York’s 3rd Congressional District on Tuesday to three-term congressman Tom Suozzi. With some 93.4% of votes counted, Suozzi is leading by neary eight points.

Democrats picked up a critical seat, which disgraced Republican George Santos vacated, after the U.S. House of Representatives voted to expel him on Dec. 1.

“We are fighters,” Pilip said in a concession speech, 75 minutes after polls closed. “Yes, we lost, but it doesn’t mean we end here.”

Surrounded by Republican officials, officeholders and operatives, Pilip spoke to those assembled at an event center in East Meadow, N.Y. on Long Island for about a minute. She did not take questions from the media.

A noticeable contingent of visibly-Orthodox Jews and those sporting Israeli gear and paraphernalia gathered on Tuesday to wait for the election returns.

Suozzi won the reace by a larger margin than many had predicted, and many see the race as a bellwether of November’s presidential election. Joe Biden won the district by eight points in 2020, before Republicans flipped it in 2022, amid a red wave largely confined to N.Y. suburbs.

Washington Democrats slap surprise ‘Hamas amendment’ on Holocaust education bill
A bipartisan bill on Holocaust and genocide education in Washington state has had a “Hamas amendment” slapped on it by State House Democrats that would guarantee that antisemitic and pro-Hamas talking points are taught to public school children.

House Bill 2037 mandates that public schools teach the Holocaust and other genocides and augment current material on the Holocaust with a curriculum augmented by the Holocaust Center for Humanity and other agencies. Additionally, in April, International Genocide Prevention and Awareness Month, Washington public schools must also promote age-appropriate educational activities regarding the Holocaust and other genocides.

The bill was a companion to a Senate bill, introduced by Republican State Senator John Braun, following the Hamas massacre of Oct 7, to address GOP concerns that one in five Americans aged 18 to 29 don't think the Holocaust occurred.

However, once the bills were introduced, local antisemites and Hamas supporters spammed legislators demanding that the Holocaust education be watered down and focus more on other genocides.

Some of the far-left educators also wanted children to be taught the false narrative that Israel is committing genocide against Palestinians in the Jewish state’s ongoing war against Hamas terrorists.

After the bill came out of committee with unanimous approval, Seattle Democratic Rep. Emily Alvarado, in a move attempting to pacify her far-left base, slapped what legislators have dubbed the “Hamas amendment” on the legislation that would open the door for the Holocaust curriculum to include the false Hamas narrative in an attempt to offset addressing pro-Israel “bias” in the material.
Gaza protest disrupts Sweden parliamentary debate on funding UNRWA
Protesters denouncing Israel’s offensive in Gaza disrupted a foreign policy debate in Sweden’s parliament on Wednesday, as the country’s foreign minister reiterated support for Israel’s right to self-defense against Palestinian terror group Hamas.

Security guards escorted a woman out of the public gallery after she shouted that Israel “was committing genocide,” as Foreign Minister Tobias Billstrom presented the government’s foreign policy declaration to parliament.

“Sweden supports Israel’s legitimate right to defend itself against Hamas in accordance with international law,” Billstrom said before being interrupted.

He added that “in light of the catastrophic situation in Gaza, the government believes that a ceasefire is necessary for humanitarian reasons.”

War erupted when thousands of Hamas terrorists carried out a devastating October 7 attack on Israel that killed 1,200 people, mostly civilians. Terrorists who breached the border rampaged through southern Israel amid acts of rape, mutilation, and torture of victims. Attackers also abducted 253 people of all ages.

Israel responded with a military offensive to end Hamas’s rule in Gaza and free the hostages, over half of whom are still being held captive.

Protesters started to chant as members of parliament began debating the country’s support for the UN agency for Palestinian refugees, UNRWA.

Police told AFP that six people were detained by security guards, and one of those was arrested on suspicion of “violent resistance.”
UK Labour Party suspends second election candidate after Israel remarks
Britain's opposition Labour Party has suspended a candidate for the upcoming general election, Graham Jones, after a recording was published of him making disparaging remarks about Israel.

The suspension comes a day after Labour withdrew support for another candidate, Azhar Ali, after he was recorded espousing conspiracy theories about Israel.

On Tuesday, Jones, who had been selected to contest a seat in northern England, was suspended pending investigation.

Earlier, the Guido Fawkes website published an audio recording of Jones, which it said was recorded at the same local party meeting in October where Ali spoke. 'Put them in jail'

In the recording, Jones referred to "fucking Israel" and said Britons who fight in the Israel Defense Forces should be put in jail. Reuters has not verified the full recording or when it was made.

Jones did not immediately respond to a Reuters request by phone and email for comment.

Polls indicate Labour is likely to form Britain's next government after a general election expected in the second half of this year.

‘Gaza George’ Galloway becomes Rochdale by-election frontrunner
There is a cardboard bowl filled with urine sitting in the middle of George Galloway’s by-election campaign headquarters.

The former Labour MP turned populist renegade has based himself in the garage of a second-hand car dealership at the edge of Rochdale town centre and one of the mechanics working overnight had been unable to access the toilets.“By-elections are never glamorous,” says an aide, hastily pouring the liquid down a drain.

It may not be the lap of luxury but it is from this base that Galloway hopes to reinsert himself into parliamentary politics come the by-election on February 29.

Sitting in an office above the showroom, he is in high spirits having the night before been handed a major fillip by Labour’s disowning of its candidate Azhar Ali, over leaked antisemitic remarks about the Hamas terrorist attack on Israel.

“If you’d written this script, it would have been rejected as far-fetched, that here I am in a by-election and it’s Labour that is exploding in an antisemitism row,” said Galloway, who throughout his 40 years in politics has been an outspoken opponent of Israel.

Up until now, Galloway, 69, who is standing for the Workers’ Party, had only an outsider’s chance of winning this election. Now he is a frontrunner.
Reform Says They Are the Party of “Rochdale Not Gaza”
With Labour imploding in Rochdale William Hill now says they are no longer the favourites. Labour were 2/9 frontrunners last week but are now 11/8 – meanwhile George Galloway’s Workers Party of Britain sits at 4/7…

Reform UK and their candidate Simon Danczuk’s campaign is now concentrating on stopping Galloway. Their simple message to those with Labourite views is that Labour is too distracted with Middle-Eastern politics to be focussed on the important issues. Reform spokesman Gawain Towler tells Guido: “If you care about Rochdale not Gaza the only person left in this fight is Simon“. Fireworks still to come in this by-election…
‘NY Post’ editorial board: ‘What’s up with Hochul’s CUNY antisemitism probe?’
Four months after New York Gov. Kathy Hochul, a Democrat, announced that Jonathan Lippman, a former chief judge in the state, will investigate Jew-hatred at the City University of New York, there has yet to be a report. But “at least some CUNY schools are taking some steps to crack down on the hate,” according to the New York Post editorial board.

“When will New Yorkers get some answers? Maybe before commencement season,” the paper stated.

Lippman is reviewing all 25 of CUNY’s campuses, per the Post, which noted that the president of CUNY Graduate Center stepped down in December.

Last week, CUNY removed a panel on “Globalizing the Intifada! Mapping Struggles for Palestine Between the Streets and Our Classrooms” that was to be part of a Feb. 16 conference on “Engagement, Equity and Antiracism,” but days later, because of a backlash, canceled the conference altogether.

The paper predicts that Lippman will be “worse-than-useless” and said that CUNY should act now to make its campuses safer for Jews. “CUNY can always incorporate any useful findings or ideas he offers whenever he finally shares them,” it said.
StandWithUs Calls for Investigation Into Violations of Rules at Oakland, CA City Council Meeting Due to Anti-Israel Bias
On February 12, 2024, Oakland attorney Mark Cohen, alongside the Oakland-Jewish Alliance, sent a letter to Oakland City Administrator Jestin Johnson and California Attorney General Rob Bonta, calling on them to investigate alleged Title VI and state civil rights violations and antisemitism faced by pro-Israel activists as they opposed an anti-Israel ceasefire resolution at Oakland City Hall on November 27, 2023. StandWithUs, a nonprofit education organization fighting antisemitism and supporting Israel, joins these parties in calling for an investigation into probable state and federal civil rights violations.

Cohen’s complaint documents accounts of Oakland City Hall and City Council staff enabling a hostile environment towards pro-Israel activists, such as failures by part of their staff to maintain decorum as required under municipal codes; failure to punish disruptions by the anti-Israel mob in violation of pro-Israel activists’ civil rights; failure to afford equal rights and protections to pro-Israel speakers; and failure to prevent civil rights violations.

In addition, it appears that the City Council staff permitted “yellow-vested “security” people with no endowed official security function to restrict who could enter the municipal building, when they could enter, and asserted control over ingress into the building in numerous ways. The presence of unofficial security personnel on government property, assuming authority without normal systems of accountability and openly permitted by the City Council and City Hall staff appears to have been unlawful and also requires investigation.

Yael Lerman, director of the StandWithUs Saidoff Legal Department noted, “November 27th marked a dark day for Oakland, California. City council and staff used their positions of power to suppress the civil rights of pro-Israel activists and afforded special treatment to a mob that actively sought to intimidate Jews. This is especially egregious in the wake of Hamas’ massacre of October 7, 2023, in Israel. Instead of asserting moral leadership, the Oakland City Council shamefully welcomed and perpetuated activist-driven antisemitism.”

At a time when antisemitism continues to run rife nationwide, StandWithUs requests accountability from Administrator Johnson and Attorney General Rob Bonta and equal protections for its Jewish and pro-Israel constituents.
MIT Leaders Assembled a Faculty Advisory Group on Campus Anti-Semitism. Then They Ignored It.
Last fall, Massachusetts Institute of Technology president Sally Kornbluth tapped a group of Jewish faculty members to advise the school on a new initiative meant to combat campus anti-Semitism. The participants were "hopeful," they said in an email to fellow MIT staff, that the move would help them "more effectively influence the decision making to reduce the tensions on campus."

Shortly thereafter, in January, an announcement from MIT chancellor Melissa Nobles dashed those hopes.

The school's "Standing Together Against Hate" (STAH) initiative, Nobles said, would include four panels: one on anti-Semitism, one on "campus freedom of expression," one on Islamophobia, and one on "anti-Palestinian racism." Omitted from the speaker series was any talk on racism or hatred targeting Israelis and Zionists.

MIT's hand-picked speakers also prompted concern. Islamophobia panelist Dalia Mogahed in the wake of Oct. 7 endorsed Hamas terrorism as an act of lawful "resistance" and suggested that Israelis are "savages" who "kill babies" and "bomb hospitals." Free speech panelist Erwin Chemerinsky, meanwhile, serves as the dean of the University of California, Berkeley, School of Law, which was sued in November over "unchecked" campus anti-Semitism.

For the Jewish faculty members, Nobles's announcement came as a surprise—not because MIT declined to take their advice on panel topics and speakers, but because the school failed to seek out their advice altogether. The members responded by disbanding their advisory group.

"As our group was originally conceived in the framework of STAH, we want to emphasize that we had no input to the published program and/or reviewed it before its announcement," the advisory group members said in their February email. "As a result, we recently informed President Kornbluth that we would disband the advisory group."
These Ivy League Students Went on Hunger Strike for Hamas. We Can't Stop Laughing.
Earlier this month, a handful of Brown University students launched an "indefinite hunger strike" with the goal of forcing the Brown Corporation to consider a resolution to divest the school's endowment from companies tied to Israel's war on the terrorist group Hamas.

It lasted about a week.

The remaining hunger strikers abandoned their protest shortly before dinner time on Friday, Feb. 9, after eight days without food. Brown's president, Christina Paxson, firmly rejected their demands ahead of the corporation's board meeting on Feb. 8, and the students didn't see the point in continuing to starve themselves "with now-obsolete demands."

During that meeting, in an effort to show support for the hunger strikers and bring "attention to the ongoing genocide that Brown invests in," several dozen Brown students lay down in the grass and pretended to be dead. It was very inspiring.

Nineteen students initially took part in the hunger strike. Two dropped out before the group called it quits after eight days. Some of the protesters explained their motivations in interviews with the Brown Daily Herald. Senior student Kalikoonāmaukūpuna Kalāhiki, a native Hawaiian who uses they/them pronouns, cited belief in "global Indigenous solidarity," as well as the ability to "deeply empathize with the erasure of native culture."

Toronto Star Commentator – Who Previously Said “Israel Has No Right To Defend Itself” – Claims Pro-Israel Media Bias Dehumanizes Hamas

Critics Challenged Canada’s Suspension Of UNRWA Funding – Now Are Silent When A Hamas Tunnel Is Found Underneath UNRWA’s Gaza HQ

BBC’s Bowen claims he ‘cannot check’ Hamas theft of humanitarian aid
Notably, Bowen does not clarify to readers that “the local police force” is in fact Hamas or that at least some of those policemen “killed in Israeli raids” held positions other than “protecting convoys”.

“The main target of the strike was Ahmed Al-Yaaqoubi, who the IDF and Shin Bet say was responsible for the security arrangements of senior Hamas officials and served as a senior officer in the Rafah district’s secret police department.

Iman Rantisi, a Hamas military operative and senior official in the terror group’s general security investigations department, and another officer in the Rafah district’s secret police department, were also killed in the strike, the IDF says.”

Bowen, who earlier in his article noted the BBC’s reliance on Palestinian journalists in the Gaza Strip whom he admires “for their courage and dedication to truthful reporting”, goes on to claim that because there are no foreign journalists on the ground, his media organisation cannot say whether or not Hamas is stealing humanitarian aid.

“Because we are not permitted to enter Gaza, we cannot check Israel’s claims that Hamas is stealing the food.

The UN’s prime suspects are criminal gangs who sell it on. Judging by the few videos of looting that have emerged, desperate individuals are doing it too.”

He goes on to promote the notion that the looters cannot be Hamas operatives because they are “not in uniforms”:
“”I don’t know who they are,” Jamie McGoldrick, the UN’s humanitarian coordinator told me. “They’re young guys, not in uniforms. They just come here and they stop us and take stuff off the back. And it turns up in the market sometimes. I wouldn’t mind if desperate people got to use it but you see some stuff in the market which has been taken off our trucks.” Mr McGoldrick said it was getting impossible to operate in such a lawless environment.”

Bowen refrains from telling his readers about the filmed footage of Hamas operatives stealing aid and the testimonies of civilians in the Gaza Strip on that issue. Already in mid-January COGAT reported that:

UN fears US designation of Houthis could harm Yemen's economy

US Says Tehran-Backed Houthis' Blockade Threatens Iran's Food Supply

IAEA: Iran ‘not entirely transparent’ on its nuclear program
Tehran is being less than forthright with the International Atomic Energy Agency regarding its nuclear program, said IAEA Director-General Rafael Mariano Grossi on Tuesday.

The head of the U.N.’s nuclear watchdog group made his remarks in light of comments this weekend by Ali Akbar Salehi, former head of the Atomic Energy Organization of Iran, to the effect that the Islamic Republic has all the pieces for a nuclear weapon “in our hands.”

Speaking at the World Government Summit in Dubai, Grossi said the Islamic Republic is “presenting a face which is not entirely transparent when it comes to its nuclear activities. Of course this increases dangers.”

“There’s loose talk about nuclear weapons more and more, including in Iran recently. A very high official said, in fact, ‘we have everything, it’s disassembled.’ Well, please let me know what you have,” Grossi added.

In late December, the IAEA said Iran had tripled its enrichment of uranium to 60%, reversing a slowdown earlier that year.

Since mid-June, Iran had been enriching uranium up to 60% at a rate of about 3 kilograms a month at its Natanz facility and at the Fordow Fuel Enrichment Plant (FFEP), located deep in a mountain, according to the report.

Iran began openly pursuing nuclear enrichment after then-President Donald Trump withdrew from the 2015 nuclear deal in 2018, describing it as “defective at its core.”

Hacked Documents Reveal Iran’s Strategies To Bypass Sanctions
Documents leaked following the hack of the Iranian parliament’s media arm have uncovered a wide range of Tehran’s strategies to circumvent US sanctions.

The documents revealed the parliament's coordination with designated Iranian entities and individuals to facilitate their trade activities and conceal their identities and connections from international regulatory bodies. The measures include manipulating purchase documents and customs regulations as well as banking incentives and foreign currency supplies to offset the damages incurred due to sanctions.

Uprising till Overthrow, closely affiliated with the Albania-based opposition Mujahideen-e Khalq (MEK) organization, said they breached 600 of the main servers of the parliament, commission, main chamber, parliament assistant, parliament bank, and other servers related to administrative functions, via the Khaneh Mellat News Agency.

Among the vast array of internal communications and confidential documents leaked Tuesday is a 14-page letter that outlines numerous methods of bypassing sanctions and supporting sanctioned individuals and entities discussed in a session of Iran’s Sanctions Counteraction Headquarters held in August 2023.

The confidential letter is signed by Mohammad Mirmohammadi, the Deputy for Economic and Technological Affairs of the Secretariat of the Supreme National Security Council, addressed to Mohsen Rezaei, the Secretary of the Supreme Council of Economic Coordination of the Branches of Government. A copy of the letter was also sent to the heads of the three branches of Iran’s government, namely the president and the chief justice as well as the Parliament Speaker.

Nevada Senate candidate Jim Marchant repeatedly invoked antisemitic tropes in public statements
In a series of interviews and public appearances spanning nearly two years, Jim Marchant, a Republican candidate for the Senate seat in Nevada, has frequently invoked antisemitic tropes claiming that “evil people” including the “Khazarians,” “the cabal,” “globalists” and “central bankers” have controlled the government and conspired to oppress the American people and the world for centuries.

Marchant is likely a long shot for the Republican nomination — he trails a distant third in fundraising among Republicans behind Army veteran Sam Brown and former U.S. Ambassador to Iceland Jeff Gunter. Marchant, who ran for the U.S. House in 2020 and was the Republican nominee for Nevada secretary of state in 2022, emerged as a prominent proponent of false claims that the 2020 election was stolen, among other conspiracy theories.

In public appearances dating back to 2022 that have been published online, Marchant has repeatedly promoted the idea that a shadowy group of powerful individuals has been secretly controlling the world and U.S. politics — claims that closely echo antisemitic tropes.

In one particularly striking appearance last month on America Matters Media, a syndicated radio and TV show, Marchant claimed that nefarious individuals supporting Democrats have “had a plan for thousands of years, actually… they’re evil people. You know, they’ve taken control of everything through the money system. And you know, just look it up, it started with the Khazarians.”

The Khazarians, or Khazars, refer to a group living in Eastern Europe that largely disappeared more than 1,000 years ago, and have been the subject of antisemitic conspiracy theories for centuries.
Attacker hits man with bat on Staten Island, calls him ‘dirty Jew’
One man beat another on the head with a metal baseball bat and called him a “dirty Jew” on Staten Island, N.Y., on Monday afternoon.

Crime Stoppers, a program supported by the New York City Police Foundation, released photos and video of the alleged attacker, and is offering a reward of up to $3,500 for information about him.

The incident is being investigated as a hate crime, reported the New York Post.

It added that the 25-year-old victim was treated for a cut on the back of his head.
Jewish Man Stabbed Six Times During Antisemitic Assault in Paris
Police in Paris have arrested a man over the stabbing of a Jewish man on Monday night by a former friend of the victim who is said to have become “obsessed” with Jews.

According to an eyewitness, the 35-year-old victim, who has not been named, was walking with his partner in the 14th arrondissement of the French capital when they were confronted by the assailant, who was armed with a knife. The assailant was reported to have uttered antisemitic invective before stabbing the man in the back six times.

Police said that the victim was rushed to hospital for emergency treatment. Journalists who visited the site of the attack on Tuesday reported that blood stains still remained on the sidewalk outside the launderette where the stabbing took place.

According to Le Parisien, a news outlet, the assailant fled down a nearby street after stabbing his victim. He was arrested several hours later at his home address. The paper said that the victim and the assailant had been friendly during childhood and had recently “reconnected,” only for the victim to discover that his former friend has developed an “obsession” with Jews. The victim had already filed a complaint with the police for antisemitic threats and malicious phone calls from the assailant.

Residents and traders in the area where the attack took place expressed their shock. “The world has gone crazy,” one fruit stall holder told Le Parisien. “Most of the time here, it’s quiet. Everybody knows each other.”

In a statement posted to X/Twitter, the Union of Jewish Students in France (UEJF) said it was “deeply shocked” by the attack.

“All our thoughts are with the victim, to whom we wish a speedy recovery,” the UEJF said.
My visit to the set of the upcoming TV series of The Tattooist of Auschwitz
Last year, between Yom Hashoah and Pesach, I visited the set of the television series of The Tattooist of Auschwitz on a press tour. In the flat fields around Bratislava, the true story of Holocaust survivor Lali Sokolov was being recreated.

I have never felt compelled to visit Auschwitz-Birkenau but I have always held the camps in my imagination, conjured by images planted from testimonies, literature, photographs and film that haunt our collective memory. I was curious to see how these real concentration and extermination camps would be recreated and represented in the new Sky/Peacock Originals drama, adapted from the 2018 book by Heather Morris, which is due to come to our screens in May.

The time of year was conducive to contemplation, and thoughts of freedom and remembrance were already swirling in my mind. I was self-reflective about why I had a curiosity to go to “fake” camps that I did not feel towards the real sites, but I headed off open to the experience and keen to learn more about Slovakia. The morning of the set visit, I rose early after a restless night. I was anxious about what lay ahead and was relieved to see a clear sky and calm weather forecast. After a delicious breakfast that included “vianocka” or “Slovak Christmas bread”, which looked and tasted a lot like challah, I strolled around the historic centre of Bratislava, still largely closed at that time of day. I’d spotted a memorial to a synagogue that I wanted to visit — I learned that the shul stood from 1893 until 1969, when it was knocked down to make space for the new motorway bridge (another synagogue nearby now houses the Jewish community museum). On its former location, I found some local Jewish history in Slovak and a Holocaust memorial statue, with the simple inscription “Pamätaj!” (Remember!), also written in Hebrew, ”Zachor”. This stark instruction became my guiding thought for the trip.
The Gold Rush Shul
Jews have dedicated prayers to the welfare of reigning monarchs since biblical times, when Jews exiled from Jerusalem to Babylonia reached out to the Prophet Jeremiah for guidance on navigating their relationship with their new rulers. In the British Commonwealth, Jews in modern times commonly incorporate such prayers into Shabbat services, expressing hopes for the king’s or queen’s well-being.

A unique manifestation of this practice can be seen at the Ballarat Synagogue in Australia, an hour’s drive from Melbourne. The synagogue proudly displays two sizable wooden plaques featuring the prayer for the queen’s well-being, one inscribed in Hebrew and the other in English, commemorating Queen Victoria’s Golden Jubilee in 1887.

Ballarat, located in the Australian state of Victoria, rose to prominence during the mid-19th century after gold was found there in 1851, igniting a gold rush; over the next year, the city drew approximately 90,000 people from around the world. At the peak of the gold rush, between 1852 and 1853, Ballarat stood as the world’s wealthiest alluvial goldfield.

The city attracted Jews from England who were seeking their fortunes as well as other European Jews who were escaping antisemitism. In 1853, a minyan was established on the Ballarat goldfields for the High Holidays and by 1859, the town boasted a Jewish community with more than 300 men. In 1861 it consecrated its synagogue. I’ve always had a personal interest in the synagogue because my great-great-grandparents moved to Ballarat from America in the 1800s as part of the gold rush, and are buried in the large Jewish section of the Ballarat cemetery.

After 162 years, the Ballarat Synagogue continues to host a monthly Orthodox Shabbat service, including a prayer for the well-being of the British monarch.

“It’s been my synagogue since I was a kid,” said Ballarat Synagogue President John Abraham, whose family moved from North England to Australia in the 1800s and settled in Ballarat during the gold rush. “My father was on the board for many years and was treasurer. My grandfather and my great-grandfather were also on the board. My great-grandfather was one of the first married in the shul.”

The founders of Ballarat Synagogue were a diverse group: miners, businesspeople supplying the mining community, and participants in the 1854 Eureka Stockade—a pivotal event advocating for miners’ rights that is a well-known part of Australian history. Charles Dyte, a key figure in the 1854 Stockade, was also a founding member of the Ballarat Synagogue, highlighting the interconnected roles that Jews had in shaping Australian history.

Ballarat Synagogue is the oldest continuously used synagogue on Australia’s mainland. (Tasmania’s two synagogues, in Hobart and Launceston, predate it by a few years.) The synagogue has five Torahs, including one from the 1850s.

‘Aliyah’ applications from Western countries surge since Oct. 7
Israel expects a wave of immigration in the wake of the war against Hamas, fueled by solidarity with the Jewish state and antisemitism rising worldwide, the minister of aliyah and integration said on Wednesday.

Some 6,500 people have immigrated to Israel since the Oct. 7 massacre, and there has been a significant increase in aliyah applicants from Western countries, including France, Canada the United States and the United Kingdom.

“There are those who sought to uproot us from our land and they will see aliyah,” Minister of Aliyah and Integration Ofir Sofer told JNS in an interview. “At the end of the day, Israel is the national homeland of the Jewish people.”

The minister opined that a nearly unprecedented feeling of solidarity with the State of Israel since the start of the war, which has seen Israelis more united than they have been for decades, was an even greater impetus than antisemitism abroad for the wave of immigration.

“The new immigrants see the togetherness and a common destiny,” Sofer said. “This immense solidarity is something that we have to maintain and strengthen for the future generations.

'Make My People Laugh': Special interview with comedian Elon Gold

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Elder of Ziyon - حـكـيـم صـهـيـون

This blog may be a labor of love for me, but it takes a lot of effort, time and money. For over 19 years and 40,000 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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