July 10, 2020

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03/04 Links Pt2: Anti-Israel HRW accepts Saudi funds to not criticize repression of gays; Former Prisoner Alan Gross Recalls Sanders Saying, ‘I Don’t Know What’s So Wrong’ With Cuba

http://elderofziyon.blogspot.com/2020/03/0304-links-pt2-anti-israel-hrw-accepts.html

From Ian:


Anti-Israel HRW accepts Saudi funds to not criticize repression of gays
The Executive Director of Human Rights Watch (HRW), Ken Roth, accepted a major donation from a Saudi real estate tycoon by promising not to support advocacy of the LGBT community in the Middle East and North Africa.

The Intercept first reported Monday on the quid pro quo between Roth, who has gained a reputation for strident attacks against Israel, and Saudi billionaire Mohamed Bin Issa al-Jaber.

“Human Rights Watch [HRW] accepted a sizable donation from a Saudi billionaire shortly after its researchers documented labor abuses at one of the man’s companies, a potential violation of the rights group’s own fund-raising guidance,” wrote The Intercept’s Alex Emmons.

“In 2012, Roth signed a memorandum of understanding with al-Jaber containing language that said the gift could not be used for LGBT rights work in the region. He was later pictured next to Jaber at a 2013 ceremony to memorialize the funding,” the self-described online “adversarial journalism” site wrote.

“The controversial donation is at the center of a contentious internal debate about the judgment and leadership of Human Rights Watch executive director Kenneth Roth,” wrote The Intercept.

“The 2012 grant from al-Jaber’s UK-based charitable foundation amounted to $470,000,” the news site said.

The Jerusalem Post can report that last year Roth praised Iran’s Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif in a tweet, after he defended his regime’s execution of gays.

BBC ignores HRW’s dodgy donation

As regular readers are no doubt aware, the BBC is usually very quick off the mark when it comes to providing amplification for reports, campaigns or talking points promoted by the political NGO ‘Human Rights Watch’ (HRW).

Nevertheless, we have yet to find any BBC coverage (including on its website’s ‘human rights’ page) of a recent story concerning that organisation.

On February 27th HRW put out a “Statement on Return of Donation” which opens:

“In 2012, Human Rights Watch made a deeply regrettable decision to accept a donation that included conditions that the funds not be used to support HRW’s work on lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender (LGBT) rights in the Middle East and North Africa. We also regret that the grant was made by the owner of a company that Human Rights Watch had previously identified as complicit in labor rights abuse. This decision stood in stark contrast to our core values and our longstanding commitment to LGBT rights as an integral part of human rights. Accepting a grant with such a condition was anathema to HRW’s commitment to protecting the human rights of all people.”

“Never Again” Means Standing Up for Israel

Standing up to contemporary anti-Semitism means taking up arms in the war being fought over Israel’s legitimacy. To win the global war against anti-Semitism, strong, clear voices are essential.

The politically correct “anti-Semitism” spoken of by the EU and UN, bundled together as it is with all other forms of bigotry, is easy to declare oneself against. It’s easy to vow “never again” when you don’t have to confront Palestinian rejectionism and terrorism, or the criminalization of the Jewish state.

The sole motivation for all the resolutions condemning “illegal settlements,” the blacklists, the discriminatory labeling, the trade barriers, the repeated interventions with regard to construction in the disputed territories, and indeed for the entire “two states for two peoples” paradigm, has been to generate international support for the Palestinians and contempt for the Jews and Israel.

It is these efforts that have led to all the accusations of criminality, human rights violations, racism, ethnic cleansing, and apartheid against Israel and, in short, to the portrayal of Jews as evil.

When certain political leaders attack Israel, they are merely seeking dividends from this internationally institutionalized policy that denies the legitimacy of the State of Israel and criminalizes all Jews.

Rabbi Believes Bernie’s Big Lie About AIPAC

The radical anti-Israel group IfNotNow gloated last week on its Facebook page about a prominent recruit to its campaign to boycott the AIPAC conference. IfNotNow had been aggressively lobbying the Democratic presidential candidates to boycott the pro-Israel lobbying group, arguing that AIPAC is “bigoted.”

A Facebook post by Matthew Green, Assistant Rabbi at Brooklyn’s Congregation Beth Elohim, was clearly influenced by IfNotNow. The rabbi wrote in reference to attending AIPAC: “Our presence has given a heksher to bigots.”

He also linked his boycott call to Senator Bernie Sanders. The title of his post was “Bernie is making the right decision to #SkipAIPAC.” The rabbi wrote: “I feel it’s necessary for me — as a rabbi — to #skipaipac this year and onward.” Further, he wrote of Sanders: “It excites me that the most prominent Jew in America today reflects the values of the American Jewish future.”

The rabbi neglected to note that Senator Chuck Schumer is one of his congregants. Senator Schumer spoke at the AIPAC conference. The rabbi’s post, in essence, accuses Schumer of being a bigot.

Like the rabbi and IfNotNow, Senator Sanders claims that his boycott of AIPAC is due to “bigotry.” In explaining his decision, Sanders said: “I remain concerned about the platform AIPAC provides for leaders who express bigotry.” During the Democratic debate in North Carolina, he doubled down, saying: “Right now, sadly, tragically, in Israel, through Bibi Netanyahu, you have a reactionary racist who is now running that country.” It appears that Sanders was unaware that Netanyahu’s chief rival in the Israeli elections, Benny Gantz, essentially agrees with the current prime minister on his approach to the Palestinian issue. This is because Israeli voters want peace, but do not see any way of attaining it with the current intractable leadership of the various Palestinian factions.

In Swipe at Sanders, Democratic Senator Menendez Applauds AIPAC’s ‘Stand Against Hate’

Veteran Democratic Senator Robert Menendez of New Jersey aimed a swipe at presidential candidate Bernie Sanders’ boycott of AIPAC’s 2020 conference in Washington, DC, telling the pro-Israel group on Tuesday morning that he was proud to be addressing it.

Without mentioning Sanders by name, Menendez referred to the Vermont senator’s recent accusation that AIPAC provided a platform “for leaders who express bigotry and oppose basic Palestinian rights.”

Said Menendez: “I stand before you today not only as the Ranking Democrat on the Senate Foreign Relations Committee; not only as a lifelong friend to Israel and the Jewish people; not only as the highest-ranking Latino in the United States Congress. I also stand before you as a fellow fighter in humanity’s unending struggle against hatred in all of its forms.”

He continued: “So make no mistake. You will never see Bob Menendez speaking to an organization that foments bigotry in any form. I am always proud to address AIPAC Policy Conference. I am always honored to stand on this stage. And that’s because I know the people here today always stand up against hate.”

Menendez emphasized that AIPAC had “worked painstakingly for years to bring people together.”

“This organization stands on the side of those advocating justice, dialogue, peace, and the right of all people to live with dignity,” he said.

In an apparent reference to Sanders, Menendez added: “And if anyone from any political party thinks otherwise they should take the time to come themselves instead of castigating from afar!”

New York Post Errs on AIPAC Coverage

A New York Post news story Monday on the AIPAC Policy Conference erred on several points about the powerful pro-Israel organization. In her March 2 article (“Mike Bloomberg slams ‘dead wrong’ Bernie Sanders at AIPAC,” Ebony Bowden incorrectly reported that in recent years Democrats boycotted the conference, failing to qualify that some Democrats have boycotted. Indeed, many more have participated. The article errs:
The bipartisan event frequented by both Republicans and Democrats was once an unmissable stop for presidential candidates, but has been boycotted by Democrats in recent years as progressives in the party, including Rep. Ilan Omar (D-Minn.), have accused it of being too right-wing.

AIPAC’s policy is to invite presidential candidates only on election years. In the last election year, 2016, Bernie Sanders did not attend, while Hillary Clinton did. About the 2016 conference, The Washington Post reported at the time:
Clinton’s chief Democratic rival, Senator Bernie Sanders of Vermont, was the only major candidate who skipped the AIPAC meeting.

As for Democratic Congressmen in attendance, given that more than two-thirds of Congress attend the annual event, there are likely hundreds of Democratic Senators and Representatives in attendance on an annual basis.
In a separate error, the article misrepresents Ilhan Omar’s criticism of AIPAC as “being too right-wing.” In fact, her criticism was that US support for Israel was “all about the Benjamins baby,” invoking an antisemitic trope that U.S. support for Israel is financially motivated and not spurred by common interests.

Former Prisoner Recalls Sanders Saying, ‘I Don’t Know What’s So Wrong’ With Cuba

American Alan Gross, a prisoner in Cuba for five years during the Obama administration, is accusing Sen. Bernie Sanders of commending the communist country when he came to visit him behind bars.

Sanders visited Cuba as part of a congressional delegation in 2014, along with Sens. Heidi Heitkamp and Jon Tester.

During the one-hour meeting, Sanders told the prisoner that he didn’t understand why others criticized Cuba, Gross said in an interview with NPR.

“He said, quote: ‘I don’t know what’s so wrong with this country,’ ” Gross recalled.

Sanders’ campaign declined to comment about the meeting with Gross, and Tester said he did not recall the discussion.

A source close to Heitkamp said the then-North Dakota senator remembered that Sanders seemed to disregard the meeting with Gross and that an uncomfortable exchange occurred, but did not remember the exact remark.

Sanders has long faced criticism for remarks he has made about autocratic governments, most recently in an interview last week with 60 Minutes.

During the interview, Sanders gave qualified praise to deceased Cuban leader Fidel Castro, citing the country’s high literacy rate.

Alan Gross, after spending 5 years in a Cuban prison, is starting over in Israel

Participating in Muslim Capitol Day with Palestinian Islamic Jihad Convict Hatem Fariz

On February 4th to the 5th, Islamic extremist groups and their followers from across the state of Florida gathered in Tallahassee for the 10th annual Muslim Capitol Day to lobby the Florida state legislature on issues of their concern. Participating were leaders from Islamist organizations Council on American-Islamic Relations (CAIR) and Emgage Action as well as convicted terrorist from Palestinian Islamic Jihad (PIJ) Hatem Naji Fariz. Also participating was Iranian-American Florida State Representative Anna Eskamani, who continues to ignore the Islamist threat and work together with such fanatics.

Muslim Capitol Day is the brainchild of former Communications Director for the Florida office of CAIR, Ahmed Bedier. While with CAIR, Bedier acted as the unofficial spokesman in the media for PIJ North American leader Sami al-Arian, who, at the time, was going through a lengthy legal battle, after having been charged with “material support” for PIJ. During a December 2005 TV interview, when asked if he believed al-Arian’s involvement with PIJ was immoral, Bedier notoriously answered, “To a certain degree. Now, before 1995, there was nothing immoral about it.” Prior to 1995, PIJ took credit for five terrorist attacks resulting in eight murders.

Al-Arian was being charged along with five other individuals. One of the defendants, Hatem Fariz, participated at this year’s Muslim Capitol Day. In July 2006, Fariz pled guilty in federal court to providing services to associates of PIJ and received a 37-month prison sentence. According to the indictment against him and the five others, Fariz “was a PIJ member” and did “conspire… to commit offenses against the United States… by making and receiving contributions of funds, goods, and services to or for the benefit of the Palestinian Islamic Jihad.”

This year’s event was sponsored by several radical Muslim groups, including groups associated with terrorism. One group, the Islamic Circle of North America (ICNA), presently has an imam, Ashrafuz Zaman Khan, who, in November 2013, was sentenced to death for his role as a death squad leader, during the 1971 genocide of Bangladesh. Khan was found responsible for the torture and murder of 18 individuals. Khan has previously served as ICNA’s National Secretary General, National Vice President, and President of ICNA’s New York chapter.

SNP to readmit suspended MP Neale Hanvey who compared Israel to the Nazis

The SNP is to readmit an MP who was suspended during the general election campaign for comparing Israel to the Nazis.

Neale Hanvey was suspended from the Scottish Nationalist Party on November 29, two weeks before he was elected to be the MP for Kircaldy and Cowdenbeath. He has sat as an independent.

In 2016, the former councillor compared Israel’s treatment of the Palestinians with that of the Jews by the Nazis on Facebook.

He also shared an article from Kremlin-sponsored newswire Sputnik that cast Hungarian-Jewish philanthropist George Soros as a puppet master of world leaders.

When the posts came to light, Mr Hanvey apologised “unreservedly” for the “deeply offensive” and “clearly unacceptable” posts.

He said that would “seek to make amends for these dreadful errors of judgement with the Jewish community.”

The SNP’s member conduct committee, which met on Saturday, ruled that Mr Hanvey would be re-admitted after six months, back dated to his suspension in November. The committee’s ruling is open to appeal.

Oklahoma House Passes Bill Opposing Israel Boycott

Oklahoma legislators on Tuesday passed legislation that would result in the state picking a side in the complicated and lengthy dispute between Israel and the Palestinians.

The Republican majority in the House passed a bill that would prevent the state from contracting with companies that boycott goods or services from Israel. The proposed law would apply to state contracts in excess of $100,000.

If the legislation advances, Oklahoma would be the 29th state to pass such a law in response to the national, pro-Palestinian BDS movement, which asks groups to boycott, divest and sanction Israel.

The bill specifies the state will not enter into contracts with companies advocating for the boycott, divestment or sanction of Israel unless a company is explicitly exempted by Oklahoma’s secretary of state.

House Democrats argued House Bill 3967, by Republican Reps. Mark McBride, John Echols, David Hardin and Mike Sanders, is unconstitutional. The Oklahoma chapter of the Council on American-Islamic Relations has said the bill restricts the free-speech rights of businesses.

McBride, R-Moore, said he doesn’t know how many state contracts or companies might be affected by the proposed law.

Echols, R-Oklahoma City, called the bill an “absolute no brainer” and characterized support for Israel as a bipartisan issue.

Toronto U. academics urge school to take steps against antisemitism

A committee of University of Toronto faculty members published an open letter urging the school’s administration to take “concrete goals” against antisemitism on campus, the Canadian Jewish News reported.

The letter is addressed to the President of the University, Professor Meric Gertler, and Ms. Claire Kennedy, Lieutenant Governor and Council Member.

The committee is led by Professors Howard Tenenbaum, Stuart Kamenetsky, Carole Gruson and Michael Glogauer. While the initiative was first launched by Jewish faculty members from the medical and dentistry schools, it has broadened to appeal to other Jewish and non-Jewish academics, current and past, and in other faculties as well.

The group mobilized in 2019, following an incident in which a representative of the Graduate Students Union (GSU) at the University said that access to kosher food on campus may be denied because “the organization hosting it [Hillel] is openly pro-Israel.”

“Jewish students and faculty members have felt increasingly unsafe and unwelcome on our own campuses. Hateful and discriminatory rhetoric against the Jewish community and incitement against our community has gone largely unaddressed. It has often been spread under the umbrella of ‘Israel Apartheid Week,’ itself a patently antisemitic event, which is held on our campuses annually,” the group wrote in the letter.

The faculty members are also calling the Uuniversity to adopt the International Holocaust Remembrance Alliance’s (IHRA) definition of antisemitism.

NGO Files Complaint Against Microsoft in Spain Due to Antisemitic Results in Search Engine Bing

An American NGO that seeks to fight antisemitism, especially online, has filed a legal complaint against Microsoft in Spain because its search engine Bing links to an antisemitic website.

The Lawfare Project — following up on a similar complaint filed against Google last year — holds that Microsoft has not taken action to stop antisemitic sites from appearing in search results.

If the court decides against Microsoft in this case, it could set a legal precedent, as it would be the first time a company is found liable for third-party content.

Brooke Goldstein, executive director of The Lawfare Project, said in a statement, “It’s extremely irresponsible for Microsoft and Bing to allow this offensive, anti-Jewish content to continue circulating on the internet in violation of the domestic law in Spain and the EU Directives on the matter.”

The group’s Spanish attorney, Ignacio-Wenley Palacios Iglesias, said, “The permanent, ubiquitous, and everyday influence internet service providers have on society as a whole cannot be understated.”

“The impact of these providers requires a level of structure and responsibility to address the most extreme, illegal content created by third parties that now enjoy immediate global access via the internet,” he added.

Shalom Kiwi: We want to call out antisemitism, so why won’t they let us?

The IHRA definitions would’ve never suppressed criticism of Israel. In fact, the definition explicitly states legitimate criticism is not antisemitic, anticipating the objections from people, like John Minto’s charming Deputy, who want to claim that “Jews did 9/11” is a rational foreign policy critique. The media certainly could be playing a greater role here, but, to date, has been distressingly absent.

When John Minto ran in the recent Christchurch mayor election and won over 8,000 votes no outlet was interested in addressing his organisation, nor the rancid anti-Jewish content he permits on his Facebook page, despite nudges from concerned New Zealand Jews. Would there be the need for such definitions if the media treated antisemitism the same way it did other forms of racism?

I doubt it.

Protecting freedom of expression is always a priority, but don’t be fooled by the sudden conversion to this core liberal value of a rabble of reactionary activists. The previously mentioned critics of the definitions want to protect their right to continue to pump toxic tropes and conspiracy theories into the discourse without consequence, something that has unquestionably normalized antisemitism and dropped our community in this quandary. I certainly don’t seek to confiscate their tinfoil hats; they are free to accessorise as they please. And, again, I would welcome their pungent views being exposed and expunged by having our media drag into the sunlight by our media. But, as mentioned, for some reason this isn’t a topic our press seems to take seriously at all.

The IHRA definition does not and should never be allowed to hamper Free Speech. If it ever went that way, I’d do everything in my power to fight it. But, as an educational tool, it could be an effective map to reorientate people after an onslaught in recent years that’s normalised anti-Jewish tropes to the point some just cannot tell what is and what isn’t antisemitic any more. Creating a standard to raise awareness as to what the tropes certain groups are using truly represent is a positive if you, like me, view education as being a far better solution to racism than outright banning speech.

We, in the Jewish community, know what antisemitism is. After thousands of years, antisemitism really hasn’t changed all that much in its core messaging. The IHRA definitions are simply asking you to trust us when we say “we ain’t new to this”.

Germany will take on IHRA presidency with enormous political dedication

On March 3, Germany assumed the International Holocaust Remembrance Alliance presidency for one year. The IHRA is a network of governmental representatives and experts whose purpose is to promote Holocaust education, remembrance and research. Germany will host its first general assembly of the alliance in June in Berlin and subsequently in November in Leipzig. It is Germany’s second term as chair of the IHRA, which was formed in 2000.

In light of the German historical responsibility for the Holocaust, holding the IHRA presidency bears an enormous importance for the federal government. It is part of our firm commitment to maintain the memory of the Holocaust for our children and future generations.

We are aware that we are at a decisive point in time. Liberal democracy and its values – liberty, freedom of speech, the rule of law – are questioned by many worldwide. The number of antisemitic attacks is on the rise, with a record number of incidents reported in major Western democracies, including the United States, France, Great Britain and in my country, Germany. Social media has become a vehicle for antisemitism, racism and hate speech.

As the frequency of attacks and abuse increases, we must rise to meet the challenge.

Polish MP says pogroms were good for Jews, assisted natural selection

Pogroms against Jews benefited the Jewish people because they winnowed out the weak through natural selection, according to a member of the Polish parliament.

Janusz Korwin-Mikke, a leading member of a coalition of far-right parties called Confederation, Liberty and Independence, made his remarks on a Polish Polsat TV news program last Thursday about the effects of the coronavirus epidemic.

There was an upside to the coronavirus because it is eradicating the weak through natural selection and improving humanity’s gene pool, he said.

Korwin-Mikke tried to prove his point by citing Jewish history.

Murderous pogroms against Jews in Europe had a positive outcome because the weak in the Jewish community died and the strong survived, he said, implying that this improved the stock of the Jewish people.

Jewish man attacked in São Paulo once attackers saw his kippah

A 57-year-old Jewish man in Jaguariúna, near São Paulo in Brazil, was attacked on his way to a bus stop by a group of three young men the moment they saw that he was wearing a kippah.

The trio first screamed antisemitic slurs at the man. Once they attacked him, the victim had no time to defend himself, he told Buzzfeed News.

The victim reported that one man kicked him in the groin, which made him bend over in pain. He was then punched upside the face, breaking his teeth. His kippah was torn off during the assault and ripped with a pocketknife.

The man filed a police report soon after, but reported that he cannot afford the dental treatments he needs in order to repair the damage. He had converted to Judaism 30 years prior and had never suffered from such antisemitism in any other country he had lived in, including Germany and The Netherlands.

“They said that Hitler should have killed more Jews,” he said, according to Stop Antisemitism, which is part of a nonprofit organization that works to hold antisemites accountable. “[One of the attackers] said the next time they found me it would be worse.”

Arizona Neo-Nazi Who Threatened Editor at Jewish Publication in Harassment Campaign Will Remain Behind Bars, Judge Rules

An Arizona neo-Nazi involved in an antisemitic campaign of harassment against Jewish journalists and anti-hate activists will stay behind bars after a Phoenix judge determined that he remained a threat to the larger community.

Judge John Boyle ordered Johnny Roman Garza, 20, of Queen Creek, Arizona, to remain in jail following a hearing on Monday. Boyle expressed skepticism regarding Garza’s claim to have severed ties with the violent neo-Nazi group Atomwaffen Division, noting that officers discovered a bulletproof vest during a search of Garza’s home.

“That’s not something a 20-year-old would normally have,” Boyle said.

Garza was one of four neo-Nazis arrested by the FBI on Feb. 26 in an operation across four states. The other members of the violent extremist group were named as Cameron Brandon Shea, 24, of Redmond, Washington; Kaleb Cole, 24, of Montgomery, Texas; and Taylor Ashley Parker-Dipeppe, 20, of Spring Hill, Florida.

The group focused primarily on Jewish or journalists of color, according to the FBI.

“These defendants from across the country allegedly conspired on the internet to intimidate journalists and activists with whom they disagreed,” said Assistant Attorney General for National Security John C. Demers in a statement immediately following the arrests. “This is not how America works. The Department of Justice will not tolerate this type of behavior.”

One of the group’s targets was Mala Blomquist, an editor for Arizona Jewish Life magazine. A poster glued to her house in early February displayed Nazi symbols alongside the threat, “Your Actions Have Consequences.”

Man charged over swastika graffiti at British military cemetery in Haifa

Prosecutors in the northern city of Haifa on Wednesday filed hate crime charges against a man accused of daubing swastikas on graves at a local cemetery for British casualties of World War I and World War II.

According to the charge sheet, the 35-year-old suspect from northern Israel also uprooted two gravestones at the Haifa War Cemetery and adjacent Templar cemetery during the October 2019 incident, in addition to defacing dozens of British soldiers’ graves with the Nazi symbol.

He was further charged with daubing swastikas on the walls of a supermarket in Kiryat Yam, on a kindergarten in Kiryat Chaim and on an electrical structure in February.

The indictment also accuses him of sexually harassing and threatening female police officers at a local station.

The suspect was not identified.

Seven Israeli university programs named among top 100 worldwide

Seven of Israel’s university departments have been ranked among the world’s top 100 in their respective disciplines, according to the latest QS World University Rankings by Subject published on Wednesday.

The 10th annual edition of the QS ranking, which assessed the performance of 86 programs at eight Israeli higher education institutions, showed an overall regression for Israel’s higher education system, compared to global competitors.

Four key metrics were used to compile the rankings, evaluating programs according to academic reputation, employer reputation, citations per paper and the h-index – a tool to measure the productivity of an institution’s research facility. The rankings compared more than 13,100 university programs taken by students at 1,368 universities in 83 locations worldwide.

Israel’s leading university is the Hebrew University of Jerusalem, the research showed, with four programs ranked among the top 100 in their field. The Hebrew University’s Theology, Divinity and Religious Studies Department was named 11th best in the world – Israel’s only top-20 department. The university’s Classics and Ancient History Department was ranked 34th worldwide.

A further five Israeli departments were ranked among the 51-100 bracket of global leaders: Hebrew University’s Communication and Media Studies and its Philosophy programs; Tel Aviv University’s Archaeology program; Weizmann Institute of Science’s Biological Sciences program; and the Technion- Israel Institute of Technology’s Mathematics program.

A Syrian Muslim donated a tree in Israel for an Italian boy whose bar mitzvah party was canceled due to coronavirus

Aboud Dandachi isn’t Jewish. Or Israeli. Or Italian. Or sick with coronavirus.

He’s a Muslim from Syria living in Canada.

But when he read the Jewish Telegraphic Agency story about an Italian boy whose bar mitzvah was curtailed because of the rapidly spreading virus, Dandachi responded in a way he figured Jews might appreciate: He donated $18 in honor of Ruben Golran to the Canadian branch of the Jewish National Fund to plant a tree in Israel in the teen’s honor.

“This is what I know how to do,” said Dandachi, 43, of Toronto. “I’ve had friends in Canada, Jewish friends who have children, and they seem to appreciate it. That’s how I know how to commemorate such an occasion.”

This is far from Dandachi’s first encounter with Israel.

After fleeing Syria as a refugee in 2013, he has been an outspoken supporter of Israel and its prime minister, Benjamin Netanyahu. Dandachi, who moved to Canada in 2017, even supports Netanyahu’s plan to annex parts of the West Bank. An IT specialist by profession, Dandachi founded an organization called Thank You Am Israel in appreciation of Israeli efforts to aid Syrian refugees.

Ruben’s bar mitzvah in Milan last week was supposed to have 600 guests. But Milanese authorities banned large public gatherings due to the spread of coronavirus in northern Italy, so the celebration became much smaller.

Israel picks its 2020 Eurovision entry, sung in four languages

Israel picked its Eurovision entry on Tuesday, as television audiences chose “Feker Libi,” sung in four languages, over three other contending songs.

Eden Alene, the first singer of Ethiopian descent to represent Israel in the annual international extravaganza, will perform the song in the first semifinal of the 2020 Eurovision Song Contest in Rotterdam on May 12. If it finishes among the top ten, she will sing it again in the May 16 final. (The second semifinal will be held on May 14)

“Feker Libi” (meaning “My Love” in Amharic) was co-written by Doron Medalie — who also wrote Israel’s winning 2018 entry, “Toy” — and Idan Raichel, a top-selling singer-songwriter whose Idan Raichel Project is famous for its fusion of traditional Hebrew texts, Arab and Ethiopian music.

The song features lyrics in English, Hebrew, Amharic and Arabic.

It won the most support from viewers and a panel of judges during Tuesday’s “The Next Song For Eurovision” television show broadcast live on Israel’s public broadcaster, Kan.

The other three songs were “Roots,” by Nathan Goshen and Stav Beger, which came in second place; “Rakata” which came third, and “Savior in the Sound” which came fourth.

During the TV show, the Shalva Band — composed entirely of musicians with disabilities — performed its rendition of Netta Barzilai’s “Toy,” which had brought last year’s contest to Israel.

Last month, the 19-year-old Alene became this year’s representative after she won the reality show “The Next Star.”

Born and raised in Jerusalem, Alene moved this year with her mother to the city of Kiryat Gat. Her parents divorced when she was four, and she has had no contact with her father since. She studied ballet for ten years before moving from a religious school to a secular one and studying theater and taking voice lessons.



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