September 25, 2020

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08/09 Links: Phyllis Chesler: How I got canceled; Lebanon protests, Macron visit highlight absurd EU policy on Hezbollah; The Sbarro Massacre: When the media turns a terrorist into a heroine

From Ian:

Phyllis Chesler: How I got canceled
Perhaps contemporary ‘cancel culture’ officially began in 1989, when Khomeini issued his fatwa against Salman Rushdie for having ‘defamed’ Islam in The Satanic Verses. Rushdie was ushered into hiding and the Islamist assault on truth-speech in the West was on. But here’s what I also think.

The day after Israel won its 1967 war of self-defense, the propaganda began in deadly earnest against both Israel and the West. Within two decades, perhaps less, Western universities were intellectually and politically ‘occupied’ by Stalinist and Islamist narratives. Balkanized social identities and victimology ruled.

Academics, including feminists (my people), became more obsessed with the alleged occupation of Palestine, a country that had never existed, than with real genocides or the occupation of women’s bodies.

By the 1980s and 1990s, the intelligentsia passionately agreed that ‘Islamophobia’ really existed.

They were only a decade away from believing that men can be women; that only the West, not the Rest, has ever engaged in slavery, imperialism and colonialism; and that victims always trump victimizers, even when the victim is actually the aggressor.

Disagree with any of this, and you’re Out. History itself has been found guilty by this crowd and every effort is now underway, not only to judge it, but to disappear as much of it as possible.

Perhaps I’m something of a pioneer because I was first ‘canceled’ in 2002-03.

Please understand: I do not view myself as a victim for refusing to submit to politically correct speech codes or groupthink. I’m one of the lucky ones. Despite adversities, I’ve been writing for more than 50 years and I’m still at it.

Having chosen a life of ideas, I expected enlightened debate.

Cancel culture – and the Jewish experience

Another variant of cancel culture detailed in my book happened in the Netherlands. Professor Pieter van der Horst, a gentile, is an internationally known scholar specializing in early Christian and Jewish studies. On June 16, 2006, as he was concluding his academic teaching career at Utrecht University, he delivered a farewell lecture on the topic “The Myths of Jewish Cannibalism.” In the lecture he drew a line connecting the more than two millennia of classic pre-Christian Greek antisemitism to the anti-Jewish blood libel now popular in the Arab world.

On the day he gave the lecture, the Dutch Jewish weekly NIW claimed that his text had been severely censored by the university’s rector. Van der Horst later elaborated on this in an article entitled “Tying Down Academic Freedom” in the Wall Street Journal. In the piece, he said the Rector Magnificus of Utrecht University, a pharmacologist, had summoned him to appear before a committee that included three other professors. The committee and the rector told him along with others that his lecture damaged the university’s ability to build bridges between Muslims and non-Muslims.

The committee also claimed that the scholarly level of Van der Horst’s lecture was poor. This was a bizarre claim as he was a member of the Dutch Royal Academy, the pinnacle of Dutch scholarship. Later, his uncensored lecture was published as a book. It is a well-conceived text. What Van der Horst had wanted to say before the university’s censorship action was entirely true. If all Utrecht University’s lectures were on the same level, the institution could be proud.

In the last paragraph of the Harper’s letter, it says: “As writers we need a culture that leaves us room for experimentation, risk-taking and even mistakes.” This statement is old hat for defenders of Israel at the large number of universities where cancel culture has appeared. In light of the Jewish experience in this century, the Harper’s letter is an innocuous, inconclusive text.

Had the signatories of the letter thought more deeply about the issue they were writing about, they might have arrived at an operational conclusion. The text of the First Amendment of the US Constitution in its present form is obsolete. It should be reformulated to make incitement and hate speech punishable by law, as is the case in several other countries. Then, for instance, America’s leading antisemite, Louis Farrakhan, would be in jail rather than be flattered and quoted by people who don’t mind his anti-Jewish hate speech. If that amendment were changed, life might also become a little more comfortable for the signatories of the Harper’s letter.

How Iran illustrates the fallacy of social-media censorship

The problem with more censorship is that Twitter’s efforts, as well as the first steps down that road by Google and Facebook, show that it isn’t possible to ask these companies to merely do the decent thing and take down the likes of Louis Farrakhan and the genocidal theocrats running Iran.

Twitter has no more interest in addressing anti-Semitism than does Facebook. But what it is interested in doing is wielding its enormous power to advance the political agendas of its leaders and staff.

Trump tweets things that are off-base and sometimes not true. But the same can be said for many politicians. Trump is different in that he understood quicker than most that Twitter provided him with a way to reach voters without the filter that the media has employed in its traditional role as information gatekeeper. So it’s understandable if hardly justified that his media critics want to reassert their power. That’s why they have targeted Trump, whose policies and persona are despised by the left-leaning staff and ownership of social-media companies.

That pattern has characterized the actions of Google and Facebook in the past, which have targeted conservative publications and writers for the sort of treatment that has made them harder to find or read.

Should they choose more censorship, people like Khamenei have little to worry about. Twitter, and no doubt Facebook, will find a way to rationalize continuing to publish hate from oppressive governments lest they are shut out of large and potentially lucrative markets. Instead, they will not only do more to silence Trump and his supporters, but likely extend their scrutiny to Israel and its friends.

A company that thinks there’s an inimitable threat to civilization from a political opponent in the White House making comments that are merely controversial but finds Iran’s genocidal threats unexceptionable is simply incapable—regardless of what sorts of measures it puts in place to deal with the problem—of making rational or moral choices about whose voice to silence. And if they are going to play censor, then Trump and other Republicans are right to demand the abolition of Section 230 so they can have the same liability problems as other publishers instead of being simply cash machines with no accountability.

That should remind us why free people should always be wary of any idea that sets us off down a slippery slope towards censorship, especially when it relates to political ideas.

If there’s one thing we should have learned in recent months, it is that most people value their safety far more than their freedom. When it comes to giving up some of our autonomy to ensure public safety during a pandemic, that can be defensible. But when it comes to shutting up unpopular or even hateful ideas, then that’s a threat to everyone’s liberty. Given more encouragement to censor, Twitter and other such giants are more likely to target defenders of Israel than those who want to annihilate it. People generally only miss their freedom when it’s taken away from them. But if you think social-media companies can be trusted to do that to bad guys but leave the rest of us alone, then you haven’t been paying attention.

Lebanon protests, Macron visit highlight absurd EU policy on Hezbollah

Watching the protests in Lebanon that rose after the massive explosion in Beirut last week, and seeing videos posted on social media by anguished and frustrated Lebanese people, a clear theme emerges: People are angry, and many of them are pointing fingers at Hezbollah.

Hezbollah, the Iran-backed Shi’ite terrorist group, has held a firm grip over Lebanon’s governing coalition for years, even selecting Hassan Diab as prime minister in January. And as former ambassador to the UN Danny Danon told the Security Council last year, “the port of Beirut” – where last week’s deadly blast took place – “has become Hezbollah’s port,” used to transfer weapons and financially support the terrorist group as it develops advanced missiles.

Over the weekend, Lebanese demonstrators hung effigies of Hezbollah leader Hassan Nasrallah, along with the political leaders who enable him, such as President Michel Aoun and Speaker of Parliament Nabih Berri.

When French President Emmanuel Macron visited the site of the blast in Beirut’s port on Thursday – even as many of Lebanon’s political leaders avoided doing so – he was met with large crowds shouting “revolution” and “the people want the fall of the regime.” As he walked through a Christian district of Beirut, some shouted: “Mr. Macron, free us from Hezbollah.”

On the one hand, Hezbollah surely feels the heat from people who clearly have had enough of the destructive, creeping Iranian-backed takeover of their country. It’s not hard to connect these dots and view Hezbollah as a prime suspect at this point, if not of an intentional bombing, then of deadly negligence.

Nasrallah felt the need to make the laughable claim that Hezbollah “did not intervene in Lebanese affairs.”

In the same televised speech on Friday night, Nasrallah denied that Hezbollah controls the port, despite strong evidence to the contrary, or that it kept any explosives there. Hezbollah also kept large stockpiles of ammonium nitrate, the explosive responsible for the huge second blast in the Beirut port, in numerous locales in Europe until the Mossad helped the UK, Germany and Cyprus uncover them in recent years.

Hen Mazzig: The real reason that Mizrahi Jews support Israel

The leading sociologist on the Middle East and North African Jewish history, an Algerian Jew himself, professor Shmuel Trigano, explained to me that “the Jews of the Arab countries suffered from persecution and pogroms for many generations, hundreds of years prior to the emergence of Zionism.” He said “their situation deteriorated in modern times with the appearance of Arab nationalism in the 20th century. The narrative that describes their immigration to Israel as colonialism is the opposite of the truth. These were fleeing refugees who found home and shelter in the State of Israel.”

For Trigano, the notion of “Mizrahi-washing” defies historical truth.

So what is the rhetorical value of “Mizrahi-washing” and the ideological bent of those promoting the term? Ron Katz, head of the Tel Aviv Institute, where I work as a senior fellow, had some ideas. Katz earned his Ph.D. in researching the use of rhetoric and propaganda from UC Berkeley.

For him, whiteness plays a large role in this terminology. “White Anti-Zionists labeling Mizrahi Jews’ support of Israel as propaganda or ‘Mizrahi-washing’ is the most virulent kind of bigoted rhetoric,” he said. “Its implication is that MENA Jews are somehow incapable of forming independent opinions and are therefore simpletons reliant on state-sponsored bribery. The only thing one can deduce from this is that those doing the labeling, the white majority, have determined that theirs is the only unencumbered voice.”

Katz believes the value of this new rhetoric is “simple—silencing you and people like you.”

Although he is speaking about me, his analysis applies to all Mizrahi Jews fighting for better representation: “Your existence stands against all of their claims.”

Soomekh says that Mizrahi Jews overwhelmingly support Israel because “that is our experience,” not to weaponize Mizrahi Jewish history against Palestinians.

“We do not have the luxury of going back to Iran,” she said. “I was born there, and I cannot go back. Of course, Iranian Jews are Zionists; they go to Israel every summer. Israel is their national homeland. It is the only place we are accepted.”

She believes that pro-Israel nationalism is a natural extension of collective Mizrahi pain. “How can Mizrahi Jews not be nationalists when they were kicked out of every country in the Middle East because they were the minority?” she asked. “Make no mistake; this was not a slow leaving. We escaped. We left everything behind. The only place that took us in and still is there to protect us is the homeland we have yearned to return to, Israel.”

My grandma Hela, who was born and then exiled from Iraq, along with my late grandma Kamisa, who escaped Tunisia with just the clothes on her back, would be the first to agree.

Honest Reporting: The Sbarro Massacre: When the media turns a terrorist into a heroine

On August 9, 2001, Ahlam Tamimi, along with another Hamas operative, perpetrated the suicide bombing of the Sbarro pizzeria in Jerusalem, one of the deadliest attacks of the Second Palestinian Intifada.

Ahlam’s niece, Ahed Tamimi, has also gained notoriety, if not praise, for her violent attacks on Israeli soldiers. Yet much of the mainstream media has painted the Tamimis as “activists.”

President Donald Trump has applied heavy pressure on Jordanian King Abdullah II to extradite Ahlam — who is currently residing in the Hashemite Kingdom after having been released by Israel in a prisoner exchange deal with Hamas — to the US, as one of her victims was an American citizen.

Amman has to date refused the request.

It is time for justice to be served.

10 years on, Israel arrests suspect in Gaza attack that killed 2 soldiers

Israeli security forces arrested a suspect in a 2010 attack along the Gaza Strip border that killed two soldiers as he entered Israel to donate bone marrow to his brother last month, the Shin Bet security service said Sunday.

Abdallah Daghmeh, 38, was indicted in a Beersheba District Court on Sunday and charged with murdering the two soldiers — Maj. Eliraz Peretz and Staff Sgt. Ilan Sviatkovsky — as well as operating a terrorist organization and belonging to a terrorist organization.

Daghmeh was detained on July 6, as he entered Israel through Gaza’s Erez Crossing, in order to donate bone marrow to his brother, who is undergoing medical treatment in an Israeli hospital. He was permitted to undergo the medical procedure and donate the marrow while under arrest.

Prime Minister Netanyahu hailed the arrest. “All those who seek to harm us should know that even as the years pass, the State of Israel will not let up until we settle the score with terrorists,” he said in a statement.

On March 26, 2010, Israel Defense Forces troops spotted a group of Palestinian men near the Gaza security fence who appeared to be planting a bomb. When the soldiers arrived on the scene, terrorists in the Strip opened fire at them. A bullet struck one of Peretz’s grenades, causing it to detonate, killing him and Sviatkovsky and injuring two other soldiers.

According to the Shin Bet, Daghmeh took part in the deadly exchange of fire as a member of the al-Aqsa Martyrs’ Brigades terror group.

IDF Evacuates Civilian Construction Workers Under Fire From Gaza

Israel Defense Forces troops came under fire from the Gaza Strip on Sunday as they evacuated Israeli civilian contractors working on the security barrier along the border.

No casualties were reported during the incident.

Work was stopped at the border fence after the IDF received reports that the workers there had come under fire, the IDF said in a statement. According to the military, smoke rounds were launched to give the workers cover and an IDF force was dispatched to the area. When the troops arrived, they were also fired upon, said the statment.

The attack comes amid heightened tensions along the Israel-Gaza border, with balloons containing suspected explosives and incendiary devices launched into southern Israel on Thursday. The IDF responded by targeting “underground infrastructure belonging to the Hamas terror group in the northern Gaza Strip.”

Khaled Abu Toameh: Thousands of Palestinians flock to Israeli beaches, restaurants

Thousands of Palestinians entered Israel on Friday through border crossings that were temporarily and unexpectedly opened in the northern West Bank.

Palestinian officials said they were surprised by Israel’s decision to open the crossings and expressed fear that the move would lead to an increase in the number of Palestinians diagnosed with the coronavirus.

“We expect a sharp increase in the number of infected cases following Friday’s opening of the border crossings,” warned a Palestinian Health Ministry official. “We were surprised by Israel’s decision, which was not coordinated with the Palestinian Authority.”

Palestinians who want to enter Israel are often required to obtain entry permits from Israeli authorities.

Most of the Palestinians crossed into Israel on Friday through border crossings near Tulkarm. Buses belonging to Arab-Israeli companies that waited for them on the Israeli side of the crossings took them to a number of cities, including Netanya, Haifa, Tel Aviv-Jaffa and Tiberias.

The Tulkarm-based Al-Fajer TV station published photos of Palestinians freely crossing the border and enjoying their time on Israeli beaches.

Dr. Mordechai Kedar: The Port of Beirut disaster – Analysis

With all due respect to the Lebanese authorities, I do not buy this story. I believe that explosives, ammunition and missile fuel (which are highly volatile and flammable substances) were stored by Hezbollah in this warehouse after being shipped from Iran. I think there are several reasons for this:

1. There was a series of at least three explosions, each of which had a different result. The first created a gray column of smoke that remained for several minutes. The second, a column of red smoke that also remained for several minutes, while the third created a white mushroom cloud that dissipated within seconds. Therefore, there were at least three different materials stored in that warehouse.

2. Anyone familiar with how a port operates knows that the front row of warehouses, which are closest to the water, are used for short term storage. Cargo that is meant for long term storage is moved to warehouses which are further away from the water.

3. Anyone who ships sensitive cargo and does not want it to be seen, photographed or targeted by others – from the air, space or ground – tries to hide it as close as possible to the water, at the closest warehouse, and this is the warehouse which exploded.

4. Beirut seaport replaced Damascus Airport as the destination for Hezbollah to import ammunition and explosives from Iran, after Israel – according to foreign sources – attacked the warehouses at Damascus Airport several times. Therefore, what used to arrive at Damascus Airport is now brought to the seaport of Beirut by ship. The warehouses in the port of Beirut have replaced the warehouses of Damascus airport.

5. What probably happened on August 4 is an explosion of volatile and flammable materials which were incorrectly stored by Hizbollah for at least a day in a metal, un-airconditioned warehouse, when the temperatures are extremely high. I believe that missile-fuel fumes evaporated from a container and when they touched the hot wall or ceiling they ignited and created a chain reaction which caused the three explosions.

6. Less than an hour after the explosions, Hezbollah announced that the exploded material was nitrate. Hezbollah was the first to report it. The reason: Hezbollah was looking for a way to cover up its negligence and to establish the official version, because no one in the government would dare contradict them.

7. In my opinion, very few people in Lebanon “buy” the nitrate story. I think that Hassan Nasrallah is viewed by the Iranians and his friends in Hezbollah as personally responsible for this disaster. I would not be surprised to hear that he has suffered a “heart attack” and is thus ending his role as Hezbollah’s secretary general. Perhaps the “heart attack” will be fatal.

JCPA: Hizbullah’s Lebanese Quagmire before the Beirut Port Blast

The Beirut Port catastrophe and Hizbullah’s extensive activities in Lebanon now may portray the terror organization not as a defender of Lebanon, as it seeks to present itself, but rather as an Iranian affiliate. This can also undermine Hizbullah’s status in Iran, as the organization could be blamed for leading to a premature escalation.

Thus, Hizbullah is in a quandary as it tries to plead innocent for the port blast while trying to find a way that will enable it to retaliate against Israel and make it clear that it will not accept the attack on its operatives in Syria.

Israel, in turn, tries to prevent the escalation by deterring Hizbullah both through the declarations it sends through intermediaries as well through its actions on the ground. (Israel hit the cell that attacked the Golan Heights, and it also struck Syrian targets and perhaps those who were responsible for dispatching the squad.) But Israel restrained its actions in Lebanon by refraining from harming the terrorists who tried to carry out the attack on Mount Dov.

At this stage, it seems that despite its failures and the Beirut catastrophe, Hizbullah may keep trying to retaliate to clarify that it will not tolerate any attack on its operatives related to the Iranian-sponsored PGM Missile Project. Therefore, the IDF has to maintain the required combat readiness.

If Hizbullah acts extensively, there might be an opportunity for Israel to take advantage of the organization’s distress and inflict severe damage to it and its assets. However, at this point, given the need to focus on pressuring Iran and curbing the spread of the Coronavirus, among other considerations, it is better for Israel to avoid escalation.

The massive explosion in Beirut port is unrelated to the battle of Iran and Hizbullah against Israel, and yet, it has the potential to affect it, at least in the short term. A more likely possibility is that Hizbullah will be more restrained, fearing public criticism in Lebanon for the negligence that apparently led to a tragedy, though, there is no guarantee for a change in Hizbullah’s determination to retaliate.

Lebanon – What happened?

Lebanon is at a tipping point, and in fact already had been before the horrific blast. This emerging initiative, which also has its roots before the blast, appears to represent a major push by various Lebanese sectors of society to push it over the tipping point into a rout of Hiziballah and Syria, and overall of their patron, Iran. At the same time, they are putting Erdogan on notice that even the Sunnis have had enough of foreign intervention and have no more desire to become a pawn of Turkey than to remain a pawn of Iran.

The Lebanese government, however, is attempting to build the narrative that this is a result of the endemic corruption and incompetence of previous administrations, such as the al-Hariri government. It thus hopes to follow the suit of the Iranians, who two weeks ago singed a salvation agreement with the Chinese (salvation for their government, not nation). Namely, the Lebanese government will likely attempt to launch a major rebuilding of the port and city under Chinese auspices and financing, and present themselves, Hizballah, Iran and China — rather than perpetrator of Lebanon’s woes – instead as Lebanon’s savior from the previous government’s catastrophic failure and reliance on the West. They fail, of course, to note that ever since 2008, when Hizballah launched what essentially was a military coup, Lebanon was no longer independent, but operating entirely under Hizballah. Syrian and Iranian tutelage, with nothing happening – especially not in the port of Beirut – without their knowledge and sign-off. In short, any Lebanese government was a fiction since 2008 to cover the real Iranian-Syrian-Hizballah power.

And they fail, of course, to note that Hizballah was keenly aware of what mixing ammonium nitrate, a detonation and population concentration would produce. They knew it would be a mini-nuclear bomb level explosion killing thousands. In fact, Hizballah, indeed Nasrallah himself, threatened explicitly in 2018 to do to Haifa in Israel exactly what just happened in Beirut, saying lobbing a bomb onto ammonium nitrate stores in Haifa with its population of 800,000 would be tantamount to a nuclear attack.10

As such, as hard as they are working to build their narrative, the Lebanese population with the exception of the few benefitting from Hizballah rule personally, are not buying it…at all.

What we are witnessing may indeed be the beginning of the end for Hizballah and the Syrian-Iranian Quisling government – either the official one, or the real one which has been dominating Lebanon with a steal grip since 2008.

It is imperative for Western powers to get to the bottom of the ship story, to establish that hangars 9 and 12 are indeed Hizballah’s “Fatima gate,” to expose what the suspicious materials were that led to the second blast (since it indicates an arms shipment), and finally, whether the ammonium nitrate was not in fact, a story of incompetence and a “stranded” cargo, but a Hizballah stash from which it could send ammonium nitrate deliveries to their operatives around the world, such as those caught in 2015 in London with 3 tons of ammonium nitrate trying to set up a number of bomb-making factories,11 those caught in Cyrpus with 9 tons of ammonium nitrate,12 and those caught in Germany with an unreported amount of ammonium nitrate.13

NYT reveals origin of ammonium nitrate that caused Beirut blast – report

Days after a massive explosion turned large parts of a once bustling port city of Beirut into a fuming pile of rubble, a reporter for The New York Times managed to trace the origin of the cargo that exploded.

Ammonium nitrate, a white chemical substance that often comes in the form of small crystal balls and is used as fertilizer as well as for bomb making, was inappropriately stored in a warehouse in the port.

But where did it come from?

The Times said it was a rusty ship, the Rhosus, that made an unscheduled stop at Beirut Port.

The ship left for its final voyage from the port of Batumi, in Georgia, in September 2013 with the aim of reaching Mozambique in Africa. The ship never made it to Mozambique, however, as its captain had been requested to make an additional stop at Beirut in order to load additional cargo that was meant to be taken to Jordan.

When the unexpected ship made its appearance at the port, it was seized by the local authorities due to unspecified deficiencies. The crew was ordered not to leave the vessel.

Eventually, in August 2014, the crew was released but the ship was left docked at the harbor.

The deadly cargo was moved to a nearby warehouse where it was stored until it exploded last week.

France, EU, UN call for independent probe into Beirut blast

The international call is growing for an independent investigation into last Tuesday’s blast at the Beirut Port, which has killed close to 200 and injured around 7,000.

French President Emmanuel Macron on Sunday and the President of the Council of the European Union Charles Michel on Saturday called for such a probe.

Initial queries have linked the blast to the improper storage of ammonium nitrate at the port.

Rupert Colville, the spokesman for UN High Commissioner for Human Rights Michelle Bachelet, lent on Friday his voice to that demand.

“Victims calls for accountability must be heard, including through undertaking an impartial independent and… transparent investigation into the explosion and you can hear the call for that, very loud and clear on the streets of Beirut,” Colville said.

He was one of a number of UN spokespeople, who on Friday, discussed the impact of the blast with reporters. They described the type of crisis it created in a country where 50% of the population was already below the poverty line.

John Prosor: It’s time to listen to the Lebanese people about Hezbollah – comment

The international community should send humanitarian aid – food, medicine and clean water to Lebanon immediately. However, supplying the country with building materials, petrol and money must go hand in hand with international control of the borders, that would make sure that Hezbollah isn’t abusing this aid. Failure to do that would be like giving aspirin to a COVID-19 patient. If the international community only deals with the here and now without neutralizing Hezbollah’s stranglehold of the country, not only will it not help Lebanon, it might actually cause more damage in the long run.

The European Union has the ability to make a difference. EUBAM forces (European Union Border Assistance Missions) – which operated between 2007-2015 in the Rafah crossing to Gaza and are still active on the Ukraine-Moldova border – are the model. They try (though not always successfully) to make sure that the crossings don’t become war zones and to prevent smuggling of arms and illegal supplies. A similar force can help give the Lebanese people the aid they need and deserve, while simultaneously weakening Hezbollah’s grip of the country.

European forces are already there. Since 2006, German Navy vessels are patrolling Lebanon’s territorial waters. Believe it or not, they do that at the request of Lebanon’s own government, which asked for this assistance in order to help enforce resolution 1701 after the Second Lebanon War.

All the mechanisms and methods are already there. What is missing is the will and decision to implement them. We should not ask for whom the bell tolls – it tolls loud and clear for the leaders of Europe. If they don’t act now to save Lebanon from Hezbollah and Iran, they may never get another chance.

Canada launches Lebanon fund that includes group with alleged Hamas ties

The Government of Canada has launched a new aid fund consisting of numerous partner charities aimed at relieving suffering in Beirut, Lebanon, following an explosion that has left thousands of people homeless and over 150 dead, which includes a charity accused of links to the Hamas terrorist organization based in the Gaza Strip. The announcement was made in a press release on Saturday.

The charity accused of Hamas ties, Islamic Relief, is among a dozen charities announced as partners in the Canadian government’s Lebanon Matching Fund aid package given to the “Humanitarian Coalition,” a grouping of charities that accordingly participate in “established UN-led humanitarian coordination processes,” as highlighted in the press release.

The Humanitarian Coalition has thus far received money from the Canadian government, at least $3.5 million CAD, while an additional $1.5 million has been given to the Lebanese Red Cross.

Islamic Relief has long been accused of connections to Hamas and the Muslim Brotherhood by the Israeli government and by other countries. In December 2014, then-Defense Minister Moshe Ya’alon signed a decree banning Islamic Relief Worldwide from operating in Israel, when he accused the charity at the time of being “another source of funds for Hamas, and we have no intention of allowing it to operate and assist terrorist activity against Israel.”

“This is another in a series of steps that we are taking against Hamas in Judea and Samaria and the pressure we are applying, the goal of which is to harm the organization’s leadership and rank-and-file as well as its civilian infrastructure. These serve as the foundation from which Hamas operates among the local population,” he added in 2014.

Israeli racewalker who survived Munich Olympics slaughter recalls trauma

For Ladany, it was hardly the first tragedy of his life. As a child during World War II, he and his family fled the Nazi invasion from his native Belgrade. He was later hidden in a Budapest monastery before spending six months in the infamous Bergen-Belsen concentration camp. He had picked up the little German he would later use in interviews at the 1972 Munich Games. One local newspaper story described his return to Germany with the headline: “Shaul Ladany is walking on familiar soil.”

In 1948, he moved to Israel, serving in the military in the 1956 war before devoting his life to sports and academia.

He became a well-known professor of industrial engineering at Ben Gurion University of the Negev, publishing more than 10 books and 100 scientific papers and obtaining eight US patents. And he became one of the country’s most successful athletes, winning dozens of national championships and competing in the 1968 Olympics and then in Munich.

Earlier in 1972, Ladany set his world record in the 50-mile walk in a time of 7 hours, 44 minutes, 47 seconds, shattering a mark that had stood since 1935. Ladany’s record still stands.

Since his name wasn’t published in the original list of survivors, many initially thought he too had been killed in the massacre. He said his fellow Olympians would stare at him as if they had seen a ghost. The enormity of it all only fully set it once he arrived back in Israel and people embraced him with awe.

Still, less than a month later, he went on to win the world championship in the 100-kilometer walk in Switzerland. He said his life experience helped him cope and earned him a moniker as “the ultimate survivor.”

“I guess I inherited some genes that it didn’t make me suffer like the others. I overcame the trauma,” he said. “I just kept competing.”

He still does, exercising every morning and marking each birthday by walking his age in kilometers. Earlier this year, he completed the full Tel Aviv Marathon.

Still, the memory of Munich looms large in his life.

“I was never afraid, and I never became afraid,” he said. “But I became more careful.”

US Holocaust survivor who spent decades fighting for family’s looted art dies

Martha Nierenberg, a former biochemist and furniture designer who survived the Holocaust in Hungary and fought for restitution there, has died at 96.

Nierenberg died in her sleep on June 27 at a senior living facility in New York, The New York Times reported at the end of last month.

Nierenberg, who survived the war by hiding in a Roman Catholic hospital, made it to the United States with her mother in 1945. She was born into one of Hungary’s wealthiest families, according to the Times.

Among the family possessions that were plundered by the Nazis and their Hungarian collaborators were some 40 paintings worth millions of dollars. The paintings are still in the possession of the Hungarian state, which has been fighting for the past 30 years against restitution claims filed by Nierenberg. Her family will continue the fight after her passing, they told the Times.

In the United States, Nierenberg set off on a career as a scientist and researcher at MIT and the Rockefeller Institute for Medical Research in New York. She worked as a biochemist and spoke six languages. In 1954, she and her late husband, Theodore Nierenberg, founded the Dansk Designs housewares company, which brought Scandinavian tabletop design to the United States with sculptural, colorful tableware and cookware.

When Jews from pre-state Israel vacationed in Lebanon

As a result of the famous Sykes-Picot agreement, a line was drawn in the Middle East, separating Israel, Transjordan and Iraq, which were given to the British, and Syria and Lebanon, which were given to the French. This border wasn’t as inflexible as the modern boundaries we know today. Though tensions certainly existed, these were mainly felt between the various ethnic and religious groups of the region, Arabs and Jews among them. When it came to relations between the respective governments that ruled Mandatory Palestine and Lebanon (and Syria), ties were in fact quite cordial: merchandise was sent from one place to the other, the railways laid down by the Ottomans connected distant lands, and most importantly – people traveled freely across the region.

As a result, just as Jewish merchants moved between Jerusalem, Damascus, Halab, and Beirut during the days of the Ottoman Empire, citizens of Mandatory Palestine – both Jews and Arabs – continued to visit their northern neighbors while living under British rule. The local tourist industry in particular, flourished during this period. Lebanon was considered a fascinating and attractive destination: its southern shores, the vibrant metropolis of Beirut and the beautiful snow-capped mountains – a rare sight in the Middle East. The Hebrew press and bulletin boards were filled with advertisements appealing to the Jewish readers to come and relax in Lebanon.

Hundreds of enticing illustrations and advertisements were frequently published in the papers. Ads promoting the country’s many hotels emphasized the cool, almost European weather and the cedar trees viewable from one’s window. These tourist establishments were often given French names to increase their prestige in the eyes of the holiday goers. Just like ads common to this day, they emphasized the short distance from the hub of Beirut, and promised lavish accommodations at affordable prices.

What else attracted potential Hebrew tourists? Ski! In the arid Land of Israel, there weren’t many snowy places to engage in this popular European hobby, but in Lebanon, winter sports flourished, even in springtime. Ski instructors were brought in from Europe, and the promise of enjoying snow so close to home attracted many.

Scientists Pinpoint Earth’s Magnetic Field on Av 9, 586 BCE, Reveal Immensity of Jerusalem’s Destruction

Every year on the 9th of Av, Jews around the world remember the destruction of the First Temple. Now, thanks to the long historic memory of the Jewish People, and the archeological findings that were discovered lately at City of David, researchers from Tel Aviv University, the Hebrew University and the Israel Antiquities Authority have been able to measure earth’s magnetic field in August of the year 586 BCE – revealing the immensity of the destruction of Jerusalem by the Babylonians.

This groundbreaking interdisciplinary study, published in the month of Av, 5780, in the scientific journal PLOS ONE (The Earth’s magnetic field in Jerusalem during the Babylonian destruction: A unique reference for field behavior and an anchor for archaeomagnetic dating), is based on the PhD thesis of Yoav Vaknin from TAU’s Department of Archaeology, and was conducted in collaboration with Dr. Ron Shaar of the Hebrew University of Jerusalem, Prof. Erez Ben-Yosef, Prof. Oded Lipschits and Prof. Yuval Gadot of TAU’s Department of Archaeology and Dr. Yiftach Shalev of the Israel Antiquities Authority.

Fluctuations in the earth’s magnetic field have been defined by Albert Einstein as one of the five great mysteries of physics. The magnetic field that surrounds the earth is invisible, yet it plays an important role in the planet’s life. It serves as a screen that protects earth from radiation coming in from outer space, enabling life to develop and flourish, and is used as a navigation tool by humans, birds and marine mammals. Despite its importance, however, we know very little about earth’s magnetic field: How is it generated by the planet’s core? How and why does it fluctuate? And how do its fluctuations impact earth’s atmosphere?

To answer these questions and explain the magnetic field’s enigmatic behavior, geophysicists try to reconstruct its behavior during periods before direct measurements began. For this purpose they can use archaeological findings – such as pottery sherds, bricks, roof tiles and furnaces – that ‘recorded’ the magnetic field as they were burned. These findings contain magnetic minerals that were re-magnetized in accordance with the direction and magnitude of the field at that specific point in time– providing a window onto the history of earth’s magnetic field. The destruction of Jerusalem, dated 9th of Av 586 BCE, can serve as an exceptional chronological anchor for archaeomagnetic dating – accurate down to a single day.

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