Top Sanders Surrogate: Zionism Is a ‘Racist’ Ideology
A top surrogate for Sen. Bernie Sanders’s (I., Vt.) presidential campaign claimed Zionism is a “racist” ideology and even criticized Barack Obama for saying otherwise.
Phillip Agnew, a self-proclaimed militant, was published by Ebony magazine in 2015 arguing that Zionism “is a racist, exploitative, and exclusionary ideology.”
“There is no direct line from Zionism to the Black Freedom struggle,” Agnew wrote. “No rhetorical imagination-acrobatics can conjure one, and no amount of intimidation can chart one. It is a racist, exploitative, and exclusionary ideology.”
Agnew, who also goes by Umi Selah, criticized then-president Obama for comparing the right of Jews to “have a homeland and to feel safe and free of discrimination” to African Americans having equal protection under the law. He called it a “lie” and a “figment of our well-manicured imagination.”
The Sanders campaign and Agnew did not respond to requests for comment.
Agnew’s viewpoint is out of line with even the United Nations, which has a history of heaping scorn on the Jewish state. The international body voted overwhelmingly in 1991 to revoke a statement it previously passed, saying, “Zionism is a form of racism and racial discrimination.”
“The official count found 111 nations in favor of repealing the statement and 25 nations, mostly Islamic and hard-line Communists, voting against,” the New York Times reported at the time. “Thirteen nations abstained. Seventeen other countries, including Egypt, which recognizes Israel, and Kuwait and China, did not take part in the voting.”
Agnew is the cofounder of Dream Defenders, a group that promotes the Boycott, Divestment, and Sanctions movement, which advocates an economic boycott of Israel and its people.
Jonathan Tobin: Did Bloomberg give ammunition to anti-Semites?
There are a lot of people who are relieved that Michael Bloomberg has dropped out of the Democratic primary race, and not all of them are named Biden.
The withdrawal of the former mayor of New York City gives a boost to former Vice President Joe Biden. Bloomberg’s jumping on the Biden bandwagon removes the last competition for more moderate Democratic primary voters and lessens the chances that Sen. Bernie Sanders will become the Democratic nominee. That’s a relief for both centrists who fear the Vermont Socialist can’t beat President Donald Trump, as well as supporters of Israel who have been rightly outraged by Sanders’s slanderous attacks on AIPAC and Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu.
But Bloomberg’s exit from the presidential contest also brings a sigh of relief to those who feared that his wild spending was providing ammunition to anti-Semites.
The idea that Jews buy political influence to pursue secret agendas has been a trope of anti-Semites dating back to the publication of the fake Protocols of the Elders of Zion at the start of the 20th century. It’s been revived in various forms, including by some anti-Semitic supporters of Sanders, such as Rep. Ilhan Omar (D-Minn.), who claimed that supporters of Israel were purchasing Congress in her now-famous quip: “It’s all about the Benjamins.”
Indeed, the fact that Bloomberg and two other billionaires with Jewish ties, George Soros and Tom Steyer (who has a Jewish father and who also recently ended a futile presidential bid) have been the largest donors to Democratic candidates and liberal political causes in recent years has created an unhealthy dialogue about campaign finance and anti-Semitism. The slightest hint of criticism of the trio – who have invested large sums promoting liberal politicians and policies – has been seized upon as evidence of Jew-baiting.
From Iran, to Syria to the Palestinians, if a Democrat wins the US presidency, especially Bernie Sanders, Israel will need to make major policy adjustments, former deputy National Security Council head Chuck Freilich told The Jerusalem Post.
Under Sanders, “I would advise for everyone to pray,” he said, adding that confronting a nuclear Iran with Sanders in the White House “is a horror.”
But Freilich, who advocates many moderate national security ideas, said Sanders in some ways is a symptom of issues that have festered much longer.
If in November a Democrat wins the presidency, “whether [Joe] Biden or Sanders, there is a critical role of repairing to be done,” he said.
“I don’t think the people of Israel are fully aware of the collapse of support – the absolute free fall in support for Israel especially among younger people in the Democratic party – and in the Jewish community, which votes in the high 70% range for Democrats,” Freilich said.
“There is pent up fury with decades of frustration over the policy regarding Palestinians in the West Bank,” which was exacerbated by the direct confrontation between Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and the Obama administration over Iran and by Netanyahu’s cozying up to the Trump administration, he said.
“There are also tectonic changes in American demographics, which have nothing to do with Israel,”Freilich said. “The fastest-growing groups are Latinos and the religiously unidentified. Latinos are not interested in Israel,” and if people who are more religious tend to support Israel, people who are less tend not to.
The Soviet Union reportedly viewed socialist Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-VT) as a person that they could exploit to promote their propaganda because of his political views and his positive views of the communist nation.
The New York Times reported on Thursday night that newly discovered documents from Russia showed that Soviet officials sought to “exploit Mr. Sanders’ antiwar agenda for their own propaganda purposes.”
The Times noted that the Russian communists sought to exploit Sanders while he was the mayor of Burlington, Vermont, after he wrote that he wanted the U.S. and the U.S.S.R to “live together as friends.”
“They also show how the Kremlin viewed these sister city relationships as vehicles to sway American public opinion about the Soviet Union,” The Times reported. “Nothing in the documents suggests that Mr. Sanders was the only local American official targeted for propaganda, or even that he was particularly receptive to it, though they do describe him as a socialist. But the documents do show the Soviets’ intensive preparation to use Mr. Sanders’ interest in their country to their advantage.”
A Soviet Foreign Ministry document discovered by The Times stated: “One of the most useful channels, in practice, for actively carrying out information-propaganda efforts has proved to be sister-city contact.”
The Times noted that Sanders aggressively sought out the sister-city program with the Soviet Union during the Cold War. Sanders even led a Burlington delegation to Yaroslavl to try to establish the basis for the sister-city relationship.
“But the trip wasn’t enough to cinch the sister-city relationship,” The Times added. “Mr. Sanders still had to convince Soviet officials in Moscow to grant their approval and allow Yaroslavl representatives to travel to Burlington. He offered glowing reviews in public and ratcheted up his lobbying effort in private.”
Talking about the health care and literacy in socialist dictatorships is like admiring how clean everything was on the Death Star in Star Wars.
— Hillel Neuer (@HillelNeuer) March 5, 2020
Clearly, Florida needs more Communist literacy programs of the kind that can only be administered by Raul Castro or Bernie Sanders.
More than 61% of likely Florida voters favor Biden, according to the most recent survey by St. Pete Polls commissioned by Florida Politics (the full PDF of the poll is embedded below). That gives the former Vice President a commanding lead over Vermont Sen. Bernie Sanders at 12%.
That’s quite a number for a candidate who used to be a frontrunner. While Bernie always lagged in Florida, a pre-debate poll showed him at 18%. And then he decided to defend Castro. And then he spent some more time bashing Israel and denouncing AIPAC.
And he’s gone to 12%.
Looks like Castroism and anti-Semitism isn’t as popular in Florida as Bernie thought.
Now that she has dropped out of the race, people are heaping praise & admiration on Elizabeth Warren. But I am not. I will never forget that she hired as an adviser a co-founder of If Not Now, who stated he would be friend with Hamas. INN id a danger to Jews in Israel & the US.
— AZ (@americanzionism) March 6, 2020
Dr. Paul Stott, a research fellow in the Centre for the Response to Radicalisation and Terrorism at the Henry Jackson Society, spoke to Middle East Forum Radio host Gregg Roman on February 12 about the British government’s approach to Islamist violence.
Much of the discussion focused on the recidivism of convicted jihadis who have been released early from prison in the United Kingdom, a matter of intense public debate following the November 2019 London Bridge stabbing attack by Usman Khan, a terrorist released halfway through his prison sentence. That attack began at a conference organized for rehabilitating prisoners, where Khan stabbed to death two Cambridge University advocates who attended the event to support him.
Stott emphasized that Islamists convicted of terrorism offenses should not be treated as ordinary criminals. “When it comes to rehabilitating offenders, we have to look … differently [at] people … in prison for fraud or stealing motor vehicles … and people [with] deeply held … politico- religious values that are different to ours and … likely to endure for some time,” said Stott.
Radicalization within the Pakistani and Central Asian communities in the UK is part of a vicious cycle in which those who are radicalized and commit attacks are incarcerated with other extremists in prison, where they are further radicalized. Stott’s forthcoming book, British Jihadism: The Detail and the Denial, stresses the need to break this cycle of radicalization.
Stott endorsed the recommendations of a 2016 report by a former senior prison official, Ian Acheson. Ignored at the time, but now being seriously considered, the report highlighted radicalization within the UK’s overburdened and understaffed prison system. “[T]hose who are the clerics … leaders of men [with] potential followers … need to be controlled much more strictly, potentially kept together, but with very, very limited association,” Stott argued. “If they’re not able to proselytize, they won’t be able to recruit new foot soldiers.”
Lord Pickles has called for reform in the House of Lords after Jenny Tonge called Israel America’s “puppet master” and received no sanction.
The peer, who is the UK’s Special Envoy for post-Holocaust issues, has called on the authorities in the upper chamber of Parliament to “address the anomaly” that the disgraced Baroness Tonge, whom he described as a “Jew baiter”, can make an antisemitic statement in the Lords without censure.
Last week, Baroness Tonge described Israel as “America’s puppetmaster” in a remark in the House of Lords. According to the International Definition of Antisemitism, “Making mendacious, dehumanising, demonising, or stereotypical allegations about Jews as such or the power of Jews as collective — such as, especially but not exclusively, the myth about a world Jewish conspiracy or of Jews controlling the media, economy, government or other societal institutions” is an example of antisemitism, as is: “Using the symbols and images associated with classic antisemitism to characterise Israel or Israelis.”
In response, Lord Pickles said this week that he has “not the slightest doubt that she has breached” the Definition, adding: “It is shameful that the only place where Jew-baiters are immune from the consequences of their bigotry is the Chamber of the House of Lords. The House Authorities must address this anomaly.”
Baroness Tonge, who was suspended from the Liberal Democrats before eventually resigning, has a long history of Jew-baiting, denouncing Campaign Against Antisemitism, suggesting that the antisemitic attack on a Pittsburgh synagogue might be Israel’s fault, blaming Israel for a rise in antisemitism, and sharing a cartoon comparing Israel’s policies to those of the Nazis, which is a breach of the International Definition.
Problems persist with Labour antisemitism in the capital as Brent and Harrow selects Livingstone defender as Assembly candidate and Haringey Councillor tells Tottenham CLP to drop zero-tolerance clause in antisemitism motion
Antisemitism problems are persisting in the Labour Party, including in the capital, as Brent and Harrow selects a defender of Ken Livingstone as its candidate for the London Assembly, while a Haringey Labour Councillor has told Tottenham’s Constituency Labour Party to drop a “zero-tolerance” clause from an antisemitism motion it was debating.
In Brent and Harrow, a controversial candidate – Aghileh Djafari Marbini – has been selected to stand for the London Assembly in the area, which is one of the safest Labour seats in the city. Ms Marbini has been endorsed by John McDonnell, the Shadow Chancellor, local MPs Tulip Siddiq and Barry Gardiner, a frontbencher in Jeremy Corbyn’s Shadow Cabinet, and Apsana Begum, a controversial new Labour MP who accused Tony Blair of spreading “Zionist propaganda” and who claimed that the leaders of Saudia Arabia were “inspired by Zionist masters”.
Ms Marbini has reportedly defended the former disgraced Liberal Democrat MP David Ward, who has a long history of commenting about Jews, the Holocaust and Israel. She also reportedly shared Russian propaganda calling Israel a “lunatic state”; and she shared an article that defended the image over which the Labour MP Naz Shah was suspended and which she acknowledged was antisemitic, defended Ken Livingstone, and said that Labour’s antisemitism crisis is a “smear”.
Meanwhile, over in Tottenham, Noah Tucker, who is a councillor on Haringey’s local council, proposed an amendment to a motion on antisemitism that would remove a clause in the motion that stated that the branch should adopt “a zero tolerance position” on antisemitism and that would remove another clause that provided that a failure to address antisemitism claims adequately “leads to a perception of complacency and collusion with antisemitism that is not without foundation”.
Times columnist Melanie Phillips on Labour leadership contenders handling anti-Semitism
She says Keir Starmer will try, but won’t succeed: “This is a problem that goes very deep, not just in Labour, but throughout progressive politics”#PoliticsLive https://t.co/AayV7Cu01B pic.twitter.com/eRuoFKjK99
— BBC Politics (@BBCPolitics) March 5, 2020
Our reaction to today’s announcement by @SRTRC_England, who say they are standing by their choice of Ken Loach as a judge for an anti-racism School Competition: https://t.co/D1VpHoXRhL pic.twitter.com/muL3MEsnI5
— Board of Deputies of British Jews (@BoardofDeputies) March 5, 2020
Two international trade unions have used a UN list of companies working in Israeli settlements in the West Bank to attempt to press the world’s largest sovereign wealth fund to disinvest.
The United Nations last month released a list of 112 companies that allegedly operate in Israeli settlements in the West Bank and East Jerusalem.
The publication of the list sparked Israeli and American fury, while the Palestinians welcomed it.
The UNI Global Union and the International Trade Union Confederation wrote a joint letter this week to an ethics committee overseeing the huge Government Pension Fund of Norway, accusing it of investing in 28 of the firms listed.
TripAdvisor and Motorola Solutions, as well as Israeli banks and other companies, are among the firms on the UN list.
The letter, a copy of which has been seen by AFP, is believed to be the first time the UN list has been used in such a fashion.
The watchdog group Ad Kan, which tracks the activity of leftists NGOs that target the Israel Defense Forces, plans to petition the High Court of Justice in the next few days and ask that the court instruct the attorney general to launch an investigation against the NGO Breaking the Silence and the foreign nations that fund it. The petitioners suspect Breaking the Silence of collecting sensitive military intelligence that, if made public, could put national security at risk.
Ad Kan decided to seek an investigation into Breaking the Silence after its researchers reported that the NGO’s project of “collecting testimonies” from IDF combatants went beyond testimonies pertaining to alleged human rights violations and included the collection of classified military information.
Ad Kan is also alleging that Breaking the Silence is in close contact with foreign governments and has signed contracts with a number of European governments to supply them with information about IDF activity in exchange for funding.
Despite these reports, Attorney General Avichai Mendelblit decided to support the decision by the State Attorney’s Office not to open an investigation because the matter was deemed “irrelevant to the public interest.”
Now, the petitioners are pressing for an investigation. Ad Kan is filing the petition on behalf of a group of senior IDF commanders, including Maj. Gen. (res.) Gershon Hacohen; Brig. Gen. Amir Avivi; and members of the forum “HaBithonistim” who support an investigation into the allegations that Breaking the Silence is collecting classified military intel.
A New York Times news article by Patrick Kingsley reports on the results of Israel’s elections.
It says in part, “Mr. Netanyahu has shored up his base by enacting legislation that alienates Arab citizens and by pursuing a Middle East plan — President Trump’s ‘deal of the century’ — that would annex large tracts of Palestinian land.”
It’s not accurate for the Times to describe it as “Palestinian land.” Usually they call it the West Bank, or, sometimes, Israeli-occupied territory. Some Israelis refer to it as Judea and Samaria. Whether it is or isn’t Palestinian land is what the Israelis and Palestinians have been intermittently negotiating about or fighting about for decades. To call it Palestinian land is to take one side — the Palestinian one — in that dispute.
As the Trump plan itself points out, the plan also calls for the surrender of significant chunks of Israeli land, or, as the plan puts it “for the transfer of sizeable territory by the State of Israel — territory to which Israel has asserted valid legal and historical claims, and which are part of the ancestral homeland of the Jewish people — which must be considered a significant concession.” It’s one-sided for the Times to emphasize the land that Israel would annex but not the land that Israel would cede.
The Times doesn’t specify precisely what land it is talking about, but if it means the Jordan Valley, that terrain has been under Israeli security control since the 1967 Six-Day War. Before that it was under Jordanian control, and before that, under British control, and before that, under Ottoman control. There are indeed parts of the West Bank where lots of Palestinian Arabs live and where the Palestinian Authority has substantial authority, but those aren’t the parts Netanyahu is reportedly contemplating annexing.
The nice thing about seeing this sort of language in a Times news article is that it punctures any remaining illusions any Times readers may have about the newspaper’s view of these matters. Often in the news columns the Times at least tries to maintain the pretense of evenhandedness, but sometimes, as in this example, the editors and reporters don’t even bother — or the underlying bias is so strong that attempts to cover it up fail.
Have you heard that Pokemon Go is an elaborate conspiracy to kill Christians? Or that US government death squads murdered former Supreme Court Justice Antonin Scalia? Or that the Israelis were responsible for the 2020 Iowa Democratic primary vote-counting debacle?
If you haven’t, you’ve missed out on watching TruNews, a “news network” that spreads conspiracy theories, racism, homophobia and other forms of hate. In particular, TruNews made headlines for spreading vicious antisemitism, including their recent claim of a “Jew coup” against President Donald Trump. Founder Rick Wiles and his team frequently launch screeds against Jewish Americans and Israel, demonizing them and decrying their supposed control over US policy.
At the core of TruNews’ politics is the racist belief that Jews and Israelis are surreptitiously in control of US foreign policy. Wiles thinks that Israel and the US developed ISIS and now control it, and that they are “orchestrating a coup in Venezuela.”
Wiles says that, “The Zionists, what they’re doing to the Palestinian people now, they’re gonna globalize it. But they’re gonna occupy your mind, they’re gonna control your mind, control your mouth. You will not be able to speak and think anything that’s contrary to what the Zionists want.”
The TruNews team believes Jews are uniquely responsible for a multitude of American social ills, championing the timeless antisemitic notion that there is nothing the Jews cannot be blamed for.
In 2017, Wiles said Ivanka Trump was “a Kabbalah practicing, evil woman whispering evil things in the ear of her father. She’s going to the grave site of an old dead Kabbalah practitioner and getting spirits telling her what to do.”
They also published segments on Jewish contributions to legalized abortion — warning it’s become “America’s Jewish Holocaust.” They assert, “the Talmud not only supports the killing of the unborn, it is quoted and codified into US law to defend the practice.”
On February 22, the PostMedia newspaper the Kingston Whig-Standard published a column by anti-Israel commentator Louis Delvoie who wrongly that all members of the Arab League had rejected U.S. President Donald Trump’s Middle East peace plan, known officially as the “Peace to Prosperity” plan or, more colloquially, “The Deal Of The Century”.
Delvoie has a rich history of making misleading, erroneous, and inflammatory claims about Israel, of which, HonestReporting Canada has frequently complained about and rebutted.
Delvoie erroneously stated the following in his column:
The peace plan that Trump unveiled in the presence of Netanyahu, and with no Palestinian leader in attendance, will go absolutely nowhere because it is so heavily weighted in Israel’s favour. It has been rejected by the Palestinians and by all member states of the Arab League.”
HonestReporting Canada notified senior editors at the Whig-Standard that this statement is patently false and it’s well known that at the unveiling of the plan at the White House with President Trump and Israeli Prime Minister Netanyahu, that the Ambassadors of Oman, Bahrain and UAE were all there to show their country’s support of the deal. Furthermore, Egypt, Saudi Arabia, Morocco, and Qatar have all publically embraced the peace plan.
That’s 7 Arab League member countries in total who have endorsed the plan as a basis for renewed Israeli-Palestinian negotiations.
EXPLAINER: We’ve been tracking Dorset Eye’s “Meme of the week” feature.
— Stop Funding Fake News (@SFFakeNews) March 5, 2020
The US government said Thursday that it is deporting a 94-year-old German ex-Nazi who has been in the United States for decades.
An immigration judge ordered Friedrich Karl Berger’s deportation on February 28 after a two-day trial in Memphis, authorities said. It’s unclear when he will be removed. Berger, who’s been living in Tennessee, has 30 days to appeal the ruling.
The government says Berger was an armed guard at the Neuengamme concentration camp near Meppen, Germany, in 1945.
The immigration judge found that the prisoners Berger guarded were held in atrocious conditions and were exploited for forced labor. Berger also was accused of guarding prisoners during a forced evacuation to a main camp that took two weeks and left 70 prisoners dead as they traveled in inhumane conditions, according to two government news releases.
Berger acknowledged that he never requested a transfer from the concentration camp guard service and that he still gets a pension from Germany. He has been living in the US since 1959.
The US Department of Justice’s Human Rights and Special Prosecutions unit launched an investigation into Berger in 2017. The Immigration and Customs Enforcement’s Human Rights Violators and War Crimes Center also investigated.
In August 2018, American authorities deported a 95-year-old former Nazi concentration camp guard who had lived quietly in New York City for decades. The man died in Germany about five months later.
Prosecutors in California plan to seek the death penalty against a former college student accused of carrying out a 2019 attack on a San Diego-area synagogue that left one woman dead and three others wounded.
The San Diego County prosecutors said during a court hearing Thursday that they will ask for the death sentence against John T. Earnest in the April 27, 2019, attack on the Chabad of Poway synagogue.
That’s despite Gov. Gavin Newsom signing an executive order last year placing a moratorium on executions. Even before that, California has not executed anyone since 2006.
Prosecutors say Earnest, a 20-year-old nursing student, opened fire with a semi-automatic rifle during the last day of Passover services. The attack killed 60-year-old Lori Gilbert-Kaye and wounded three others, including an 8-year-old girl and the rabbi, who lost a finger.
Earnest then reportedly called 911 to say he had shot up a synagogue because Jews were trying to “destroy all white people.”
He is scheduled to go to trial June 2 after pleading not guilty to hate-crime-related murder, attempted murder and other charges.
A police officer has been arrested on suspicion of membership of a proscribed neo-Nazi terrorist organisation.
The extraordinary development took place yesterday at an address in North London, where the twenty-one-year-old officer with the Metropolitan Police was arrested and a search was carried out.
The suspect reportedly works in frontline policing, but the Police insisted that there is no threat to the wider public. The case will be supervised by the Independent Office for Police Conduct. The offence carries up to ten years in prison.
Only two neo-Nazi terrorist organisations have been proscribed. One is National Action, which was banned in 2016 following calls by Campaign Against Antisemitism.
Then, last month, the Home Secretary, Priti Patel, proscribed the neo-Nazi Sonnenkrieg Division as a terrorist group as well. Sonnenkrieg Division is believed to be a Nazi Satanist violent sexual festish group that formed after a split with another neo-Nazi group, System Resistance Network, which is itself an offshoot of National Action.
Campaign Against Antisemitism continues to call for the proscription of System Resistance Network as well.
Eva Szekely, a Hungarian Holocaust survivor who later became an Olympics multiple award-winning swimmer, died on Feb. 29 the age of 92.
During World War II, fascist militants in Hungary came to take Szekely, then 17, away to kill her along with others at the Danube River. Her father convinced them to leave Szekely alone by telling them she was the swimming champion of Hungary, and that “one day you will be happy you saved her life.”
The Germans recruited her into a labor battalion, but Szekely escaped by jumping onto a passing streetcar during a forced march through the city. She returned to her family, who were living in a two-room safe house and stayed there until they were liberated, according to The Guardian.
Throughout her career, Szekely broke six world records, won 44 national titles, took home a gold in the 200-meter breaststroke at the Helsinki Olympics in 1952 and earned a silver in the same race at the Melbourne Olympics in 1956.
She was at the 1972 Summer Olympics in Munich, Germany, during the Black September massacre and even had coffee with one of the victims, wrestling coach Moshe Weinberg, the morning before he was killed.
Szekely married water-polo player and Olympic medalist Dezso Gyarmati. Their daughter, Andrea, grew up to be a swimmer and Olympic medalist.
Two NFL players trained with Israeli soldiers on Thursday as part of an introduction to the country’s military drills.
Washington Redskins running back Adrian Peterson and free-agent cornerback Josh Norman completed obstacle courses and took lessons in Krav Maga at Wingate Institute in Netanya, Israel, before receiving a briefing about the military landscape in the Middle East.
“It’s amazing to get in there and train with these guys because they are at the top of their game at being in combat,” Norman told Fox News.
One drill that stood out to the pair, required 40-pound vests and a steep hill. The players described the training as “running in sand” and said it’s one of a few things that they could take stateside in preparation for the 2020 NFL season.
“To go through some of the training and see the focus that it takes, the mental toughness…it just gives you a different appreciation for the training they do on a daily basis,” Peterson said.
The NFL athletes were also briefed by the Israeli Defense Forces (IDF) on threats that Israel faces from places like Gaza, Syria and Lebanon.
Part of the day’s events involved learning how combat soldiers prepare for battle.
“We are proud of what we do to protect Israel and to have the opportunity to share with these athletes, that play such an empowering and physical sport, the way in which we train IDF troops,” IDF Major Roi Yablochnik said.
Almost two centuries ago, Ottoman farmers in what’s now Israel began cultivating a new citrus variety, a sweet-but-tart-and-juicy delicacy called the Jaffa orange—named after the historic port city adjacent to today’s Tel Aviv. Exports surged as gourmands across the Middle East and Europe fell in love with the fruit, and the Rothschild family made citrus plantations the economic foundation of their efforts to create a home for Jews in the region. When refugees flocked to the area in the early 20th century, they quickly saw the potential of the Jaffa orange to fund the state they dreamed of building.
But in recent years, the fruit has fallen on hard times. Since peaking in the early 1980s at 1.8 million tons a year, Israeli citrus production has dropped almost 75%. That decline highlights Israel’s shift away from its socialist, agrarian roots and its emergence as a tech powerhouse. With a strengthening currency making exports less competitive and scarce water supplies raising the cost of cultivation, oranges—and many other crops—are no longer worth the effort. Agriculture has fallen to 2% of goods exports, from a peak above 40% in the 1950s, as the plains and gentle hills around Tel Aviv have been bulldozed to make way for malls, apartment blocks, and office parks for growing ranks of software coders and pharmaceutical researchers. “Land here in the center of Israel is so expensive, most of the orchards were cut down,” third-generation orange grower Idan Zehavi says in the grove first planted by his grandfather.
Just 1% of Israelis now work in agriculture, down from 18% in 1958, while the tech sector has shot up from virtually zero to 10% of jobs today, many developing software used outside the country. That’s helped double exports of services since 2008, to more than $50 billion last year—with services in 2020 poised to surpass goods exports for the first time. The shift “from basic agriculture like Jaffa oranges to top-of-the-line tech” makes economic sense, says Karnit Flug, former governor of the country’s central bank, now a vice president at the Israel Democracy Institute research center. “Israel doesn’t have any comparative advantage in agriculture. Water is not abundant here. Land is not abundant here.”
From National Geographic: Purim in Tel Aviv is a “must-do” travel event
In Israel’s cosmopolitan seaside city, Tel Aviv Street Party Rave marks the Jewish holiday with live music, dancing in the streets, and food stalls offering up local treats, such as hamantash, a stuffed cookie filled with jam, chocolate, or dates. Crafts and fashion for sale and wildly dressed locals up the party vibe.
From Tourist Israel: The Guide
The annual block party in the streets of Tel Aviv returns for Purim 2020, this time to Charles Clore Park. The city’s biggest Purim party, this year’s event will feature two music stages, stands selling clothes and accessories, seating areas, and food and drinks to buy. This is the place to experience locals and visitors from all walks of life coming together to show off their best Purim costumes. The Purim rave will will take place in Charles Clore Park on March 6 from 12:00-17:00. Entrance is free.
Check local reports for cancellations in the event of inclement weather and/or the coronavirus.
One of Mossad’s most daring operations was the creation of a diving resort to rescue thousands of Ethiopian Jews and bring them to Israel. Raffi Berg talked to James Sorene about his new book about the operation, Red Sea Spies: The True Story of Mossad’s Fake Diving Resort, and about the underappreciated efforts of the Ethiopians themselves in securing their own liberation. You can purchase the book here.
James Sorene: How did you uncover this story and when did that occur?
Raffi Berg: Well, like all the best stories it was something I stumbled across. It was a few years ago when I read that a feature film was being planned about an operation to smuggle Ethiopian Jews out of Sudan using a holiday resort. Over the years I’d read smatterings about this, fragments here or there, but it was the news that this film was being planned that really reignited my interest in the story. For personal rather than professional reasons I then went away to begin researching the story and, quite frankly, what I found just blew me away.
JS: When did this process begin?
RB: I first noticed this in 2015, but it was not until 2018 that I decided this story would make an interesting feature. I proposed it to my editor at the BBC News website and he was interested in the idea. I then travelled to Israel to complete a separate piece of work, but in parallel I wrote the feature and interviewed a couple of former Mossad agents whilst I was over there. These agents filled me in on certain bits and pieces; I put the story together and published the piece on the BBC Website with the exotic headline: The Holiday Village Run by Spies. The response was unbelievable: to date, more than 5.5 million people have read the piece. If a story does well, usually a piece on the BBC website will attract a million readers.
JS: Let’s break down the story. It’s not just about the Mossad operation and the Israelis. Tell us about the Ethiopian Jews themselves and their desire to get to Israel.
RB: When I started this enterprise I knew very little about the Ethiopian Jews. I’d heard of Operation Moses and I could probably tell you a thing or two about it, but when I researched the book and I started to learn about the Ethiopian Jewish community I learned what a special community it is. They have existed for centuries, driven by an ancestral longing to return to the lands of their forefathers, which they did not call the land of Israel but rather ‘the land of Jerusalem’. They expected that the day would come when they would leave Ethiopia and return to Israel. But after the State of Israel was founded in 1948, these communities were not even recognised by the Rabbinical establishment or the State of Israel as ‘proper Jews’. That only changed in 1977 and the election of Begin, when a lot of things were turned on their heads. Begin gave the order to the head of the Mossad to ‘bring me the Jews of Ethiopia’, and that is when the entire story began .
The largest library in the world, the Library of Congress in Washington, DC, is scheduled to house a version of the Talmud this week.
Translated from Hebrew to English by world-renowned scholar Rabbi Adin Even-Israel Steinsaltz, the religious tome will enter the library in a ceremony on Thursday, when Steinsaltz’s family is slated to receive a certificate of honor.
Rep. Eliot Engel (D-N.Y.) noted that Steinsaltz has authored more than 60 books and hundreds of articles on Jewish mysticism, religious thought and philosophy.
He is “the first person since medieval times to have completed a full translation and commentary on the Babylonian Talmud,” he said.
Engel added, “As the nation’s preeminent library, it is truly an honor for Rabbi Steinsaltz’s work to be housed in the Library of Congress.”
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