Independence Day: 72+1 new reasons I love Israel
The same question every year: Can you really find 73 new reasons (one for each year of independence) you love Israel? I looked back at the kick-off column of 2004, and saw that Reason 7 of 56 was, “Twenty-five percent of Israelis were close enough to hear a terrorist bombing, yet 2 million of us were out vacationing on Passover.” We were in the Second Intifada.
This year we’re facing the coronavirus. Here are 72+1 new reasons I love Israel, in no particular order.
1. Demonstrating the value of harmonizing, social-musical initiative Koolulam brings together hundreds of Holocaust survivors and their
offspring; Jews and Arabs; Israelis and Diaspora Jews through mass sing-alongs. Because of coronavirus, Koolulam is gathering thousands of clips of people from around the world singing a song called “Fix You.”
2. In what other country could a song about the high priest in the ancient Temple (Ishay Ribo, “Seder Ha’Avodah”) make the hit parade?
3. More than 1,000 people attended a Jewish soul music concert at Yad Vashem in memory of Klezmer musicians murdered in the Shoah.
4. Not that you need it, but Jerusalem’s Lightricks Ltd. has a photo-editing app that touches up selfies. The start-up is valued at a billion dollars.
5. In Jerusalem, steakhouse proprietors go on vacation during the nine days of Av when meat is eschewed – and festival food trucks (auto-ochel) in the Valley of Gehenna offer dairy fare.
Celebrating Israel’s Independence Day
Until we can experience the real thing, here’s a little taste of Israel in honor of Israel’s 72nd Birthday.
With Independence Day events limited or canceled this year due to the coronavirus pandemic, the IDF’s Home Front Command is encouraging Israeli children to recreate parts of the festivities at home.
One of the main events in Israel for Independence Day is the traditional torch-lighting ceremony at Mount Herzl in Jerusalem, which regularly features Israeli soldiers performing elaborate foot drills. However, as the ceremony is being held under a limited format this year with no audience, the Home Front Command is calling on families to perform and record their own drills at home, videos of which will be used in the event.
“[We’re] going to create a joint drill ceremony from home,” Colonel Shimon Deri, the ceremony’s master-at-arms, said in a video released by the Home Front Command on social media channels.
Among the examples Deri gave of possible drills were the forming of a Star of David, cooking a kebab on the barbecue, and a human recreation of the coronavirus.
“From your video clips we’ll create a civilian foot drill ceremony of the State of Israel for the year 2020,” he said. The final, edited video will be posted to the Home Front Command’s site and social media channels.
Deri added, perhaps jokingly, that if some of the submitted shapes are particularly eye-catching, he could use them as inspiration for next year’s Independence Day celebrations.
Rabbi Marvin Hier and Rabbi Abraham Cooper: Invoking Hitler’s name for political purposes
Just five days ago, a California mayor resigned after comparing the president to Hitler and the KKK.
Author Dr. Justin Frank, who also made the comparison, said of that Trump “could see dead bodies” from coronavirus “and step over them … .”
A German news magazine, Stern, featured a cover of Trump wrapped in an American flag, giving the Nazi salute.
The powerful, Democratic Congressman James Clyburn (D-S.C.) said, “Adolf Hitler was elected chancellor of Germany. And he went about the business of discrediting institutions. . . . Nobody would have believed it now. But swastikas hung in churches throughout Germany. We had better be very careful.”
And, last year, CNN reported that both Clyburn and Congressman Gerald Nadler (D-N.Y.) invoked these comparisons as well. While a respected New York Times op-ed writer opined he wasn’t comparing Trump “to Hitler the murderer, but to Hitler the liar.”
Others have invoked the comparison in the context of the immigration debate. From historians to civil-rights lawyers, to former presidents of our neighbor, Mexico, to pundits left and right.
It is a small wonder why younger generations here and around the world are confused about what was so special about Hitler or the Nazis, and why bother going back to the ancient times of the 20th century to study the Holocaust?
Because Adolf Hitler was not just “different,” he was the personification of unique evil. He was the ultimate icon of malignance that still packs a wallop—that still has the power to rally extremists to the cause of genocidal Nazism.
Every depiction of the “sins” of other “evil-doers” loosens our historical memory of World War II to the moral lessons of the Holocaust, and dilutes the staying power of the social, political and education vaccination that has immunized the world against a repeat of those total horrors.
But if the American people continue to swallow such poisonous rhetorical overkill, they may become inured to true evil lurking in the dark corners of our future.
While much of the world languishes in coronavirus quarantine, anti-Israel forces around the globe scheme to exploit the crisis to attack the world’s only Jewish state. From official Palestinian media to American Islamist activists and their enablers on the radical left, illiberal propagandists have come together to exploit the pandemic panic.
Those allied with the BDS movement against Israel are using COVID-19 as a rhetorical cudgel to delegitimize the Middle East’s only thriving democracy. After spending years bashing the Jewish national home and hoping to force the Jews who live there to subsist as a defenseless minority, BDS proponents have predictably turned their attention to the coronavirus, seeking to manufacture links between the pandemic and Israel.
They have adapted the current crisis to the standard BDS narrative: exceptional Palestinian victimhood and complete lack of agency. And their messaging gains credibility from the influential voices that spew it, unfazed by the meritless and anti-Semitic origins of their conspiracy theories.
Linda Sarsour, former co-chair of the Women’s March and a surrogate for Bernie Sanders’s now ended presidential campaign, served as the keynote speaker for a Zoom meeting hosted by Jewish Voice for Peace, a group that, despite its name, is widely documented as anti-Jewish and anti-Israel. In her remarks, she portended Gaza’s COVID-wrought demise, calling the virus a potential “entire death sentence for over 2 million people.”
“That blood,” she continued, “will be on the hands of the American people … and Israel.”
Several anti-Israel writers, like Ben Norton, have echoed Sarsour. Complaining that Israel has “bombed to pieces” Gaza’s “health infrastructure”, Norton recently tweeted, “Every Palestinian death caused by COVID-19 is blood on Israel’s hands.”
Naturally, Norton did not acknowledge Israel’s considerable efforts in transferring medical supplies to Gaza, nor did he mention Israel’s productive partnerships with Palestinian health-care providers, despite the fact that even the United Nations, hardly a friend of Israel, has applauded the “excellent” Israeli-Palestinian cooperation in fighting the pandemic.
No facts about how Israel’s humanitarian aid has slowed the conflation of COVID-19. Israel’s detractors justify their disregard of Israeli-related suffering by drawing an equivalence between new lockdowns and the conditions of Palestinian daily life.
The Anti-Defamation League’s statistics about extremism have been cited as authoritative by much of the press, including its most publicized claim that nearly three-quarters of extremist killings in the US over the past decade have been committed by “right-wing extremists,” a category that includes white nationalists.
But if you define “extremist incidents” as incidents involving violence constituting a hate crime or terrorism, or incidents where a report of the incident refers to motivation by extremist views, just 58% of the incidents cited by the ADL over a 10-year-period fit that definition.
A major factor is that the ADL counts “non-ideological” violence, such as extremists killing one another in botched drug deals and robberies, in its overall “extremist violence” stats. That significantly increases the overall number of incidents in its analysis.
This is not to diminish violence motivated by bigotry or politics; on the contrary, the ADL’s reporting of statistics might be better served with more clearly defined and exacting standards of what constitutes “extremist violence.”
Inflating the overall threat emboldens political extremists who want the public to live in fear. It also threatens confidence in the accuracy of trusted institutions’ analysis to public crises.
Antisemitism has often been described as a disease, and as the coronavirus continues to spread throughout the globe, antisemitic forces have sought to create even more infections: Jew-hatred.
Iran’s regime has placed itself at the forefront of coronavirus-centered antisemitism, said Latin media expert Leah Soibel. She founded the US-based, pro-Israel NGO Fuente Latina in 2012, the same year that Iran launched its Spanish language channel HispanTV, hiring correspondents throughout Latin America, Spain and the United States to “invest in generating antisemitism and fueling hate.”
According to Soibel, as the only organization of its kind, that ensures global Spanish-language media have the facts, interviews and access to decision-makers they need to accurately cover Israel, Fuente Latina works to undo the damage that anti-Israel and antisemitic media create.
“We are working to proactively inform media and provide them with the tools they need to report on Israel accurately,” stated Soibel, as Tehran works “against our efforts.”
While Iranians are dying from COVID-19, she told JNS, the country’s HispanTV is “spreading lies with the main narrative that Israel and the US are spreading biological warfare,” and at the same time, saying that “coronavirus is an Israeli and American conspiracy.”
With HispanTV’s power and influence coming from “millions of dollars of Iranian government investing,” Soibel spends much of her time—as she did even before the outbreak of the coronavirus—fighting anti-Israel and antisemitic lies in Spanish-speaking media, while also finding proactive ways to disseminate the truth about Israel.
Khaled Abu Toameh: Facing bankruptcy, terror group accuses Abbas of ‘political blackmail’
The Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine (PFLP) is on the brink of bankruptcy after Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas cut funds to the organization, which was founded in 1967 by George Habash.
The PFLP, a secular Marxist organization, is the second largest group forming the PLO. Abbas’s Fatah is the largest and most dominant faction in the PLO.
The PFLP joined the PLO in 1968, but its representatives have in recent years been boycotting participation in the PLO Executive Committee, which has 15 members representing all PLO member factions.
Abbas serves as chairman of Fatah and the PLO Executive Committee.
PFLP officials accused Abbas of using the funds as a means of “blackmail” to force their organization to change its policies and make “political concessions.” The officials claimed that Abbas and Israel were working together to “eliminate” the PFLP.
The PFLP, which does not recognize Israel, opposed the Oslo Accords that were signed between Israel and the PLO in 1993. That opposition, however, did not prevent the PFLP from participating in the 2006 Palestinian parliamentary elections. It won three of the 132 seats of the Palestinian Legislative Council.
Famous for pioneering aircraft hijackings in the 1960s and 1970s, the PFLP is nowadays considered the main Palestinian opposition group in the West Bank after Hamas.
A massive Israeli security crackdown on the PFLP’s military, political and financial infrastructure in the West Bank has further intensified the organization’s crisis.
US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo called Saturday for the UN to extend its conventional arms embargo on Iran beyond its scheduled end in October, citing Tehran’s recent launch of a military satellite.
The lifting of the embargo was stipulated in the multi-nation Iranian nuclear deal concluded in 2015, but which the United States, under President Donald Trump, unilaterally renounced in 2018.
“The world’s leading state sponsor of terrorism and anti-Semitism should not be allowed to buy and sell conventional weapons,” Pompeo said in a statement Saturday.
He said Iran’s announcement Wednesday that it had orbited its first military satellite demonstrated that its space program — which Tehran has long insisted is peaceful and civilian — was in fact “neither peaceful nor entirely civilian.”
Pompeo said the technology used to launch the satellite — dubbed Nour, or “light” in Persian — was compatible with that used to launch ballistic missiles.
“All peace-loving nations must reject Iran’s development of ballistic-missile-capable technologies and join together to constrain Iran’s dangerous missile programs,” the secretary of state said.
He called on the European Union to “sanction those individuals and entities working on Iran’s missile programs.”
Iranian military leaders on Friday said the country had drafted plans to strike “400 American targets” in response to further military action by the United States.
After Iran launched missiles at Iraq’s Ain al-Asad base in January, where more than 1,000 U.S. and coalition soldiers are stationed, it anticipated retaliatory attacks by the Trump administration, Brigadier General Amir Ali Hajizadeh, commander of the Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps Aerospace Force, told the country’s state-controlled press.
“The day we attacked on Ain al-Asad, we thought the U.S. forces would respond after 20 minutes, so we were ready to attack 400 American targets,” Hajizadeh disclosed, though he did not provide detailed information about the sites in question.
“Our plan was to attack 400 U.S. targets if they responded,” he said.
The revelation of Iran’s plans to retaliate against U.S. military action comes as Iran continues to expand its military, this week launching a space satellite that U.S. officials say is a cover for nuclear weapons advancement.
Iran’s attack on U.S. forces in Iraq came in reaction to the killing of top general Qassem Soleimani. Iranian-backed terror forces in Iraq have continued their assaults on U.S. positions in the ensuing months. While tensions have decreased since that time, President Donald Trump vowed this week to destroy any Iranian vessel that harasses American ships traveling in the Persian Gulf region.
Iran’s military expansion continues to pose great risk to the United States, according to Trump administration officials, who told the Washington Free Beacon earlier this week that Tehran’s recent launch of a military satellite is likely a cover for expanded ballistic missile work, weapons that are typically used to carry nuclear payloads.
“Iran’s space program is clearly a cover for its intercontinental ballistic missile aspirations,” Brian Hook, the administration’s special representative for Iran, told the Free Beacon this week. “Any claims that Iran’s space program is peaceful are pure propaganda.”
Ramadan began in Iran on Saturday as health officials raised fears of a “fresh outbreak” of coronavirus cases in the country, two weeks into a gradual reopening of shops.
As the predominantly Shiite country marked the start of the Islamic holy month of Ramadan, a day later than the mostly Sunni Muslim world, another 76 fatalities were declared.
With an official death toll of 5,650, Iran has paid the deadliest price in the Middle East from the pandemic.
Authorities have in phases since April 11 allowed the reopening of a number of businesses that were closed as part of measures to curb the spread of the COVID-19 disease.
Mosques, however, will remain closed until further notice and authorities have ordered that iftar meals — when extended family and friends traditionally gather to break their day-time fasts after sunset — must be restricted to the immediate family.
“We usually go to the mosque to pray, but not this time,” said Ahmad Bakhchi, who sells religious goods at north Tehran’s Tajrish Bazaar abutting the Imamzadeh-Saleh mosque, an important shrine that remains shuttered.
“It makes us sad, but we have no other choice but to be patient,” he told AFP.
On Tuesday, Iran launched two more test missiles capable of delivering a nuclear payload. During a time when most of the world’s attention is focused on the COVID-19 pandemic, many have ignored Iran’s rapidly escalating rhetoric.
Israel called upon the UN to condemn the missile tests, which they did because they failed to properly disinfect the missiles before launching them. The UN called this action a “reckless and dangerous breach of international hygiene.”
One UN spokesperson went on the record saying, “Who knows how many people might get infected if Iran were to launch one of these missiles into a densely populated area. We could have another New York on our hands.”
President Trump has warned that any act of aggression will be met with force. “I have a plan,” he began. “I can’t give you all the details, but trust me, it’s tremendous. It involves a giant light bulb and some kind of bleach cannon. Many people, many smart and terrific people, think this will work.”
The president of Tufts University said he disapproved of an award given by the Boston-area school to a pro-Palestinian group that supports the Israel boycott movement.
In a statement Thursday, Anthony Monaco said he would be “reviewing the awards process” and that no university leadership had been involved in the decision to recognize Students for Justice in Palestine. The Collaboration Award was through the Office for Campus Life.
“We as senior leaders take responsibility for this outcome, which should not have happened, and recognize that the award has caused a great deal of pain and concern for Jewish members of our community and others who share concerns about SJP’s policy positions, particularly in light of rising anti-Semitism in the US and around the world,” Monaco said.
According to Hillel International’s guide to Jewish life on college campuses, 19 percent of undergraduate students at Tufts are Jewish.
Jonathan Greenblatt, CEO of the Anti-Defamation League and a Tufts alumnus, thanked Monaco in a tweet.
“We appreciate the leadership from @MonacoAnthony & @Tufts here,” Greenblatt said. “It’s ironic for SJP to win an award for collaboration when they routinely alienate Jewish students and others who don’t submit to their rigid worldview and regularly foster #antisemitism.”
If there was any hope that the COVID-19 pandemic would get anti-Israel commentators in the United Church of Christ to dial back or tone down their animus toward the Jewish state, it was dashed on the afternoon of Thursday, April 17, 2020.
It was dashed when Rev. Dr. Peter Makari, Executive for the Middle East and Europe for the Common Global Ministries of the United Church of Christ and the Disciples of Christ, gave a video briefing about the impact of the COVID-19 epidemic on countries in the Middle East. The folks who logged onto the Zoom webinar were served up the all-too-predictable “Israel bad, everyone else innocent” narrative about the Middle East that Makari has promoted for years.
During his talk, Makari portrayed Israel and the United States as villains blocking efforts to counter the virus in Iran, Syria, the West Bank, and the Gaza Strip, when in fact the United States and Israel have invested substantial resources into combating the viruses in those locations.
In addition to omitting the role the Assad regime has played in aggravating the pandemic in Syria, Makari ignored altogether the role that the Iranian government has played in ensuring the mass infection of the COVID-19 virus in its own citizens and its spread to other countries in the region.
He also failed to mention how Iranian and Palestinian leaders have used the COVID-19 pandemic to broadcast modern-day blood libels about Israel, accusing the Jewish state of intentionally spreading the virus even as Israel has worked with the Palestinian Authority and spent millions of shekels to prevent its spread in the West Bank and the Gaza Strip.
In sum, Makari played a disinformation game during his talk, portraying Iranian and Palestinian leaders who have made the COVID-19 problem worse as victims while casting the countries trying to fix the problem as the villains.
Given the Labour Party is under investigation for institutional antisemitism, you’d think even for the sake of appearances they’d have found at least one Jewish speaker?#LabourAntisemitism@UKLabour @Keir_Starmer @EHRC pic.twitter.com/8iRfi0SkXz
— Euan Philipps (@EuanPhilipps) April 25, 2020
The March 24 column by Muhammad Shehada had claimed that officials in the Hamas-ruled Gaza Strip “have a shortage of the chemicals necessary to make disinfectants, including hydrogen peroxide and chlorine” because “Israel bans both from entering Gaza under the pretext of ‘dual-use’ items — items they say can also be used for building weapons.” He also blamed Israel for a lack of “protective clothing and N95 masks” in the territory.
As CAMERA explained at the time,
Shehada’s attribution of the shortage of protective clothing and masks to the blockade flies in the face of the shortages of these items everywhere, including New York, which obviously is not under any blockade, and exemplifies the tendency of anti-Israel propagandists to attribute every bad thing that happens in the West Bank and Gaza to Israel. And as he’s done in the past, he disingenuously calls Israel’s restrictions on “dual-use” items – items that have both civilian and military uses – a “pretext,” even in the wake of weekly riots on the Gaza-Israel border and arson-balloons floated over it.
Moreover, following his pattern of making claims unsupported by his own sources, he says that Israel “bans” both hydrogen peroxide and chlorine, even though the document he cites, from the group Gisha, says that “items it [i.e., Israel] considers to be “dual-use” . . . require special permission to enter.”
And as the blogger Elder of Ziyon subsequently noted, hydrogen peroxide at its typical disinfectant concentrations is not restricted at all, and the transfer of dual-use goods continues to enter the Gaza Strip.
The Forward’s correction states: “An earlier version of this piece stated that Israel bans hydrogen peroxide and chlorine. Israel does not ban either; it restricts hydrogen peroxide. We sincerely regret the error.”
1/ Veterans Today is a Fake News site that publishes neo-Nazi tropes, antisemitic conspiracy theories, and now #COVID19 Fake News.@Amazon is placing book ads for @nytimesbooks @RBReich @johnmbarry @jmeacham @Peggynoonannyc.
— Stop Funding Fake News (@SFFakeNews) April 24, 2020
A British man was in court on Friday answering the charge that he had written a post on a white supremacist online forum calling for the “extermination” of the Jewish people.
Oliver Bel, who graduated from Cambridge University last year, allegedly used a neo-Nazi forum in 2017 to state that extermination of the Jews was the “best option.”
The 23-year-old is also accused of possessing a document likely to be useful to a person committing or preparing an act of terrorism.
Bel, who lives in Oldham in the northwest of England, appeared at the central criminal court in London via a video link.
He is alleged to have possessed a manual containing instructions relating to explosives and weapons in November last year.
Bel, who is charged with using a public electronic communications network to send a grossly offensive message in relation to the online comments, will next appear in court for a plea and trial preparation hearing on 12 June.
The Archdiocese of Bucharest replaced a former senior spokesperson who was accused of equating Jews to a virus.
Tarcizio-Hristofor Șerban on Thursday replaced Francisc Dobos as spokesman for the archdiocese, the spokesperson’s department said in a statement.
The statement did not say why Dobos, who had been spokesperson since 2011, was replaced. On Facebook, Dobos said only that his “assignment has ended.”
On April 9, in a filmed greeting ahead of Easter, Dobos spoke about how the disciples of Jesus “feared the Jews,” adding: “And here in the bracket we should read: feared the virus.”
Dobos rejected criticism from the MCA Romania Center for Monitoring and Combatting Antisemitism, which said in a statement that his reference to the virus risked equating it with Jews.
“Someone interpreted my words as equating Jews with a virus. I was shocked that some made such an association. Then a wave of virulent reactions broke out against me,” Dobos wrote on April 13 on Facebook.
The archbishop of Bucharest, to whom the spokesperson answers, was replaced in January when Aurel Percă took over from Ioan Robu.
Australian actor Hugh Jackman taught US late-night show host Jimmy Fallon how to bake challah as they both stood in their own kitchens during a virtual interview last week.
Jackman, who said his children loved challah, prepped his dough earlier using a bread machine, while Fallon said he got pre-made dough from a local store.
The “Wolverine” star, who is not Jewish, then talked Fallon though the steps of making the braided bread, from rolling out the dough to braiding it, giving it an egg wash and then baking it.
Afterward, Fallon said, “This is the best thing I have ever made in my whole house. I want everyone to see this. This is awesome.”
The video below includes some tap-dancing moves from Fallon and a short performance by Jackman of his upcoming role in the Broadway revival of “The Music Man,” slated to open this fall:
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