March 9, 2021

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09/09 Links Pt2: Israel’s OrCam gets soccer star Lionel Messi to be face of startup to help blind; What has changed in 50 years of BBC reporting on a PFLP hijacking?; The Slave Girls Of Al-Jazeera

From Ian:

What has changed in 50 years of BBC reporting on a PFLP hijacking?
As was the case in those BBC reports from 50 years ago, throughout the programme presenter Bob Howard referred to the terrorist organisation to which the hijackers belonged using the euphemistic term “militants” and the word terrorists was not heard once.

Howard: “The two hijackers, a man and a woman, armed with a revolver and a hand grenade, now effectively held the 155 passengers and crew hostage. They were hoping to use them as a prisoner exchange for Palestinian militants held in various jails in Israel and Europe.”

As we have previously had cause to note, three of the prisoners described by Howard as “militants” had carried out a terror attack on an El Al plane in Zurich the previous year and three others had carried out an attack on a bus carrying El Al passengers at Munich airport on February 10th 1970, killing one person and wounding several others.

Listeners were told that:
Howard: “…over the course of three days there’d been attempts to hijack four other [sic] planes. One had failed, resulting in the death of a hijacker but another three had succeeded. […] Three days later a BOAC VC10 was hijacked en route to London and also flown to the same Jordanian airfield.”

Howard: “The hijackers of the three planes had joined with other PFLP militants and were now looking to escape from Dawson’s Field.”

Howard did not clarify that the point of that later hijacking was to pressure the British authorities to release Leila Khaled who had taken part in the failed hijacking of an El Al flight. Later listeners heard that:

Howard: “Although all of the passengers survived their ordeal, several PFLP prisoners had been released in exchange…”

BBC World Service audiences heard nothing about the British government’s negotiations with the PFLP concerning the release of Khaled or the radio station’s own small role in that story:

“At 7pm on 13 September, the BBC World Service broadcast a government announcement in Arabic saying that the UK would swap Khaled for the hostages.”

Howard’s superficial portrayal of Black September likewise included presentation of additional terrorist factions as “militants”.

Yisrael Medad: Point of Order: Was ‘Palestine’ Twice Promised?

The Arabs have alays maintained that a “Palestine” was included in the British pledge made during the McMahon-Hussein talks.

I found this:
§33. Mr. de ROTHSCHILD asked the Secretary of State for Foreign Affairs whether His Majesty’s Government have made any promises or pledges to the Arab-speaking populations of Palestine or neighbouring countries which invalidate in any way the Balfour Declaration of 2nd November, 1917, or the clauses of the Mandate for Palestine as approved by the League of Nations?

§The UNDER-SECRETARY of STATE for the COLONIES (Dr. Drummond Shiels) I have been asked to answer. The position in regard to this question was fully stated in the White Paper (Cmd. 1700) of 1922, to which I would refer the hon. Member. His Majesty’s Government have always held that there is nothing in their pledges that could invalidate the Balfour Declaration or conflict with the terms of the Mandate.

§Colonel HOWARD-BURY Is it not the case that on 24th October, 1915, Sir Henry McMahon made a declaration stating I am empowered in the name of the British Government to recognise and support the independence of the Arabs within the limits of the boundaries proposed by King Hussein and that these limits included Palestine?

§Dr. SHIELS As regards the first supplementary question, I think it is true to say that the facts which I have stated are perfectly well known. The position is that which the British Government have always taken up in this matter. In regard to the second supplementary question, the pledge to which my hon. and gallant Friend referred was not made to the Palestinian Arabs, and the British Government have always taken the view that Palestine was excluded from that pledge.

There we have it.

Israel Thrives: Responding to Diana Buttu

Diana Buttu has another screed up today in the New York Times about how the Israel-UAE deal supposedly betrays the Palestinians. I can leave much of Buttu’s article to others, but one part has been mentioned numerous times before without sufficient rebuttal (Daniel Pipes provieds one example of rebuttal is here) and is at the root of the narrative of Israeli Goliath wantonly oppressing Palestinian David.

Beginning in 1993 with the signing of the Oslo Accords, the P.L.O. embarked on a process of negotiation with Israel that was supposed to lead — at least as the Palestinians viewed it — to an independent state, kicked off by recognition of Israel.

Buttu is correct that the signing the Oslo Accords in 1993 meant that the P.L.O. embarked on a negotiation process with Israel that kicked off with a recognition of Israel. She might even be correct that rank-and-file Palestinians only sought an independent state for themselves. However, the P.L.O. viewed the Oslo Accords as a means to strength the Palestinian national movement and weaken Israel so as to achieve what decades of conventional warfare and terrorism had been unable to achieve, which is the eradication of Israel. Yasir Arafat’s talk to a Muslim audience in South Africa, in which he cited the Treaty of Hudaibiyah as a precedent entering into the Oslo Accords, makes sense once one assumes that motive.

For years, Israelis were in denial that the Palestinians sought Israel’s destructions and insisted to themselves that they only wanted a some degree of independence for themselves. However, repeated muggings by reality have forced the overwhelming majority of Israelis to recognize the Palestinians’ true objectives. In response, Israelis have decided to stop cooperating in their own destruction and have voted for parties that are reliable to withhold that cooperation. The end of any progress towards a Palestinian state is the result.

German Jewish Students Raise Money for Halle Kebab Restaurant Owner Targeted by Neo-Nazi During Yom Kippur Killing Spree

Jewish students in Germany have launched a fundraising campaign to assist the owner of a small kebab restaurant in the central city of Halle that was attacked by a neo-Nazi gunman right after he failed to carry out a massacre of worshipers attending Yom Kippur services at a nearby synagogue last October.

The German Union of Jewish Students (JSUD) explained on Twitter that it had started the campaign to assist the restaurant owner, Ismet Tekin, because the “far-right terrorist” behind the attack “did not believe in a multicultural society.”

The group said that the terrorist had “murdered two people a year ago for antisemitic and racist motives. We believe in a multicultural society in this country. We believe in a peaceful coexistence, regardless of religion, nationality or skin color. We believe in solidarity.”

Two people were killed by the gunman, Stefan Balliet, after he was unable to break through the synagogue’s security doors — despite exploding a grenade in his quest to shoot more than 50 people in its inner sanctuary.

The first was a female passerby who remonstrated with Balliet, while the second was a male customer at Mr. Tekin’s kebab restaurant — selected by Balliet because it was a Muslim-owned establishment.

MESA defends canceling supporters of Israel at USC

Middle East Studies Association (MESA) president Dina Rizk Khoury and MESA academic freedom committee chair Zachary Lockman have supported a recent anti-Semitic smear campaign at the University of Southern California.

The Middle East Studies Association (MESA), the largest academic organization for the field, has a long and ignominious record of defending apologists for Palestinian terrorism and BDS advocates, even as it opposes efforts to stem the rising tide of anti-Semitism on U.S. college campuses. To use a currently fashionable word, it evinces systemic anti-Israel bias. Even in light of this intolerant record, however, its latest effort to whitewash anti-Semitism at the University of Southern California stands out for its cynicism and deceitfulness.

A recent letter from MESA’s Committee on Academic Freedom purports to defend freedom of speech from Zionists’ efforts to censor criticism of Israel on campus. In fact, it endorses the “right” of anti-Semitic bullies to drive Jewish students who support Israel from campus leadership. Under the pretense of defending freedom of speech, it seeks to cancel Zionists for their beliefs. In the end, by omitting key facts and attributing demonstrably false motives to others, it succeeds only in embarrassing its authors and further degrading their organization.

Rose Ritch resigned as vice president of undergraduate student government at USC last month after enduring severe anti-Semitic harassment.

Signed by MESA president Dina Rizk Khoury of George Washington University and academic freedom committee chair Zachary Lockman of New York University, the letter attacks USC president Carol Folt’s Aug. 6 “Message to the USC Community.” The catalyst for Folt’s action was the Aug. 5 resignation of USC student government vice president Rose Ritch, a rising senior who was subjected to what she and Folt characterize as anti-Semitic smears on her character triggered by her pro-Zionist beliefs.

Folt’s opening sentences state this clearly: “As you may know, our Vice President of Undergraduate Student Government, Rose Ritch, resigned yesterday from her position in student government. In her heartbreaking resignation letter, Rose described the intense pressure and toxic conditions that led to her decision—specifically the anti-Semitic attacks on her character and the online harassment she endured because of her Jewish and Zionist identities.”

Ritch’s resignation letter details her experience: “Because I also openly identify as a Zionist, a supporter of Israel’s right to exist as a Jewish state, I have been accused by a group of students of being unsuitable as a student leader. I have been told that my support for Israel has made me complicit in racism, and that, by association, I am racist.” Over the summer, “Students launched an aggressive social-media campaign to ‘impeach [my] Zionist a**.’ ” Resignation, she wrote, “is the only sustainable choice I can make to protect my physical safety on campus and my mental health.”

Tlaib, Omar Can’t Believe They Have to Side with Boogaloo Boys (satire)

Democratic congresswomen Ilhan Omar and Rashida Tlaib have begrudgingly come out in support of the far-right anti-government “Boogaloo Boys” movement after members of the group were arrested for providing material support for Hamas.

Omar and Tlaib, sporting Hawaiian shirts and camouflage pants, announced their backing of the group in a press conference Tuesday.

“We aren’t fans of their white supremacy or support for gun ownership, but we’ve got to give them credit for stepping up and supporting liberal social justice organizations like Hamas,” Tlaib said. “Besides, they said they’re trying to incite a second Civil War, which sounds like it could be fun.”

“It’s a little embarrassing that we have to side with grown men who named their movement after a 1980s breakdancing film,” Omar added. “But anyone who can resist the Jews’ mind control and support Hamas freedom fighters is okay in my book.”

MEMRI: The Slave Girls Of Al-Jazeera

We live in a moment when slavery is much talked about. Driven by progressive activism and movements against police brutality in the West, the issue is much discussed, and is the subject of deep study by elite media and of cruder direct action by street activists. Statues and memorials of such consequential figures as Columbus, Washington, Jefferson and even Lincoln, the Great Emancipator, have been targeted. Calls to radically redesign education, economics and society to address the curse of slavery have followed.

Western media have sternly lectured us about the historical horrors of enslaving other people, erasing their past, and imprinting them with your imperial or colonial mark, and about the toxic legacy of this past, But this garment-rending masochism seems to be a Western thing. In the Middle East, there are still statues honoring slave masters and mass slavers.[1] But beyond physical memorials, slavery as an institution can still be defended in print, with zero accountability or reprimand. Why this is the case is an interesting question worth pondering.

On September 1, the online Arabic website of Al-Jazeera, the Qatari-funded media empire which is one of the biggest and most influential media outlets in the world, featured a fascinating defense of slavery, particularly of the role of slave girls in Islamic civilization, written by Muhammad Shaaban Ayyub.[2] The lengthy piece, approachable but with scholarly pretensions, was a feature on the site’s Islamic “Heritage” section which also carried pieces on “the European Defeat before the Andalusian Majority,” and “Caliphs and Jurists who built Churches and Crusaders who Christianized Mosques.”[3] The overall thrust of the section is, not surprisingly given the Islamist orientation of Al-Jazeera, to give a positive and interesting perspective on Islamic civilization and history.

The article’s title is a lengthy one: “A Slave Girl Defeats the Scholars of Al-Andalus with her Scientific Questions and Another Expounds on the Narrative of Imam Malik… the Cultural Contribution of Slaves to Islamic Civilization.” Drawing on elements from Islamic history, particularly Islamic Spain and the Middle Eastern Abbasid dynasty, the piece begins with an arresting quote, from an 11th century Muslim slave trader from Spain: “[I]n my possession now are four Roman girls who were ignorant yesterday, but today are wise scholars.”

Ayyub notes that the life of a slave in the world of Islam is more complex than often portrayed, and much more than the mere concept of a life as a servant or forced labor or of entertaining and pleasure. Among the greatest contributions of female slaves to Islamic civilization were in the fields of poetry recitation and singing.

Fox Errs on “Illegal” Occupation, Palestinian Land

A Sept. 2 article by Fox News’ Caitlin McFall, “Kushner pushes other Arab nations to follow UAE footsteps,” erroneously asserts that the United Nations has deemed the West Bank illegally occupied.
The article misreported:
Egypt and Jordan established ties with Israel that date back decades, but until recently, other Arab nations have stood firm on rejecting diplomatic ties until Israel vacates Palestinian lands that the United Nations has deemed illegally occupied territory.

While the United Nations considers Israeli settlements in the West Bank illegal, it does not regard the occupation itself as illegal. The UN has made clear that any Israeli annexation of the West Bank would be “inadmissible,” but none of its post-war resolutions — General Assembly resolutions 2252, 2253, 2254, and 2256, and Security Council resolutions 236, 240, and 242 — argued that the capture of the West Bank from Jordan and subsequent occupation was unlawful.

The drafters of Security Council Resolution 242, which called for an Israeli withdrawal from unspecified “territories occupied in the recent conflict,” have repeatedly clarified that their resolution calls for any Israeli withdrawal to be to “secure and recognized boundaries” negotiated in peace talks between the parties to the war, and do not regard the occupation as illegal: “Until that condition is met, Israel is entitled to administer the territories it captured – the West Bank, East Jerusalem and Gaza Strip – and then withdraw from some but not necessarily all of the land,” explained Eugene Rostow, one of the resolution’s drafters and an Under Secretary of State for Political Affairs in President Johnson’s administration.

Bloomberg has previously corrected this identical error, as has The Independent. Similarly, The New York Times has twice in the past corrected after erroneously reporting that the international community considers the Palestinian territories illegally occupied.

TikTok, Israeli gov’t team up to battle antisemitism, hate speech

Israeli government officials, led by the Strategic Affairs Ministry, hosted senior TikTok representatives on Tuesday to explore more effective ways to combat hate speech, antisemitism and incitement on the Chinese-owned video-sharing platform.

Ministry officials proposed an agenda for TikTok to devise a “system of collaboration to locate and remove hate content.” It comprises an educational program targeting young users focusing on the effects of hate speech on the wider public, schooling on antisemitism, and education regarding Israel.

The two parties agreed to convene regularly to build on the progress made at the meeting.

Strategic Affairs Minister Orit Farkash-Hacohen led the discussion alongside representatives from the Justice, Foreign Affairs, Economy, Communications and Diaspora Affairs ministries. She has already met with representatives from social media giants Facebook and Twitter.

Since taking up her post in May, Farkash-Hacohen has sharply criticized social media firms over their handling of antisemitism and incitement on their platforms. She described them as “a haven for misinformation and classic antisemitic tropes.”

Lost in Translation AFP Misleads That Gaza Crossing Closed, Fuel Deliveries Halted

An Agence France Presse article yesterday, “Virus cases spike in Israel-blockaded Gaza: ministry,” misleadingly stated that Israel’s Kerem Shalom crossing with the Gaza Strip was closed last month, preventing fuel deliveries to the coastal territory, but neglected to note that the crossing has since been reopened and fuel deliveries have resumed.

Thus, the article misled: “Amid the fighting, Israel tightened its Gaza blockade by closing the Kerem Shalom goods crossing and stopping fuel deliveries, exacerbating Gaza’s daily power outages.”

A truck carrying fuel at the Kerem Shalom crossing into the Gaza Strip, September 2020
However, as the French version of the same article noted, the crossing opened again just over a week ago. AFP’s French article reported (translation by InfoEquitable):
The Hebrew state had then decided to tighten its blockade by stopping fuel deliveries, resulting in the closure of the only power plant in Gaza for two weeks. The enclave was then deprived of electricity for most of the day, as were its hospitals, until an agreement was reached with Hamas at the end of August. Schools, mosques and markets are still closed to fight against the spread of the virus.

Similarly, AFP’s Arabic article yesterday also rightly noted that on Sept. 1 Israel “Israel announced the opening of the commercial Karm Abu Salem Crossing.”

Holocaust Compensation claims against national railways

Holocaust restitution after the Second World War has only led to a very partial compensation for Jewish pre-war properties. American financial expert Sidney Zabludoff has estimated that less than 20% of what was stolen has been restituted. Well over one hundred billion dollars in current values was not returned to Jewish owners or their heirs.

At the end of the previous century, a second round of restitution took place in a number of countries, including Switzerland, the Netherlands and Norway. This concerned a small percentage of what was taken overall. Thus, there remain many unresolved issues, a few of which are currently being confronted.

Some of these concern European railways. These transported a massive number of Jews at the beginning of the road to their extermination. In December 2014, France and the United States agreed on a compensation package for Holocaust victims living outside France, who were deported by the French national rail company, SNCF. Survivors in some other countries were excluded from payment in the agreement.

The two countries jointly announced a $60 million dollar compensation fund financed by the French government. France paid the sum to the US. The latter then paid it out to survivors residing outside France. The payments for individual survivors amounted to approximately $100,000. As part of the agreement, the US government promised to try to end all lawsuits and claims against SNCF in the US.

The agreement was reached as US lawmakers had attempted to have SNCF barred from rail contracts in the US because of its collaboration with the German occupiers of France during the Second World War. Of 76,000 Jews that SNCF transported to Nazi camps during the Holocaust, only 3000 survived.

Danish Jews Threatened by Anti-Circumcision Measure, Community Leader Warns

The new legislative push to ban ritual circumcision in Denmark has led to an outcry in the local Jewish community.

Henri Goldstein, the president of the Jewish community in Denmark, told Israel Hayom that the parliament’s upcoming vote on the matter could be of major consequence.

“Denmark saved Jewish life during the Holocaust, and now it may end Jewish life in the kingdom,” he lamented. The proposed law would prohibit circumcision on minors unless there is a medical necessity.

“What’s particularly troubling is that the two major parties have so far not taken a stance on it; we are very concerned, this uncertainty is huge and the impact could be huge,” he continued.

This is not the first time such a bill has been tabled by Danish lawmakers, and each time it has been a source of controversy for the Scandinavian country. The current bill was introduced by former Interior Minister Simon Emil Ammitzbøll-Bille, who is now the leader of the Forward Party, which considers itself centrist but is often described as left-leaning.

Amazon caught selling T-shirts with yellow ‘Juden’ star

Yet more Holocaust-themed merchandise has been discovered for sale on the online retail giant Amazon.

This time, it was Amazon in Britain ( that was forced to remove items that made light of the Holocaust – in this case, T-shirts printed with yellow Stars of David bearing the word “Juden,” the type of badges Jews under Nazi occupation were forced to sew onto their clothing leading up to the Holocaust.

Despite the offense caused, the shirts were actually marketed as “remembrance gifts” and a way to “honor” Holocaust victims.

The UK Jewish news site The JC, which broke the story, quoted an Amazon official who said that all sellers on its platform must respect Amazon’s guidelines, and that the shirts had been removed from its site.

“The Holocaust was not something to create merchandise for profit, it was the systematic murder of 6 million Jewish men, women, and children,” Chief Executive of the Holocaust Educational Trust Karen Pollock told The JC.

Volkswagen Ends Relationship With Mexican Dealership Where Nazi Image Was Hung on Wall

Volkswagen has terminated its relationship with a Mexican car dealership where a Nazi image was hung on a wall.

The Algemeiner reported on Monday that Fernanda Martinez, a writer based in Mexico City, had photographed the offending image during a visit to the Volkswagen showroom in Coyoacán over the weekend.

A stylized photograph of a Nazi rally being addressed by Adolf Hitler was hanging from the wall.

“These pictures are completely outside of the corporate image of Volkswagen,” Volkswagen de México said in a statement.

“The Company has decided to end any commercial and business relationship with the above-mentioned Distributor,” it announced, “as we categorically condemn the use of the images that were exhibited in their facilities, which showed a regime that emphasized hatred and discrimination in an era of history that is thankfully behind us.”

RedHill says in-vitro study shows drug is ‘potent’ inhibitor of coronavirus

Israeli biopharmaceutical firm RedHill Biopharma Ltd. said Tuesday that a drug it is developing has shown to be a “potent” inhibitor of the virus that causes COVID-19 in an in-vitro model of human lung bronchial tissue.

The drug, called Opaganib “completely inhibited” the replication of the SARS-CoV-2 virus, as measured after three days of incubation, in an in vitro model of human bronchial tissue, and compared “favorably with Remdesivir, the positive control in the study,” the company said in the statement.

Remdesivir, an antiviral medication developed by Gilead Sciences, has been authorized in the US and other countries for emergency use to treat COVID-19 patients, and is being tested as a treatment for the illness.

RedHill’s Opaganib is currently being evaluated in a global Phase II/III clinical study and a US Phase II clinical study for the treatment of severe COVID-19 pneumonia.

Working in collaboration with the University of Louisville Center for Predictive Medicine, Opaganib was studied in a 3D tissue model of human bronchial epithelial cells which morphologically and functionally resembles the human airway, the statement said.

The study was designed to evaluate the in-vitro efficacy of Opaganib, an orally administered drug, in inhibiting SARS-CoV-2 infection.

Israel’s Kamada plasma-based COVID treatment shows potential in 1/2 trial

Kamada, an Israeli plasma-derived biopharmaceutical company, released the results of its 1/2 clinical trial for a new COVID-19 “passive vaccine” using virus antibodies – with potentially good news.

The single-arm, multicenter clinical trial is designed to assess the safety and pharmacokinetics (the movement of drugs within the body), and pharmacodynamics (the drug’s effects and mechanism of action) of Kamada’s plasma-derived hyperimmune immunoglobulin (IgG) product in hospitalized, non-ventilated COVID-19 patients with pneumonia.

In short, the treatment is developed by using antibodies (also known as IgG) from plasma that Hadassah Medical Center, Tel Hashomer, has been working on with Kamada for several months now, harvested from recovered corona patients – those who had the disease and now test negative for the virus – to make the “passive vaccine.” Passive immunization is when you are given antibodies developed by another patient who contracted the disease.

Those who develop any virus, including the novel coronavirus, develop special antivirus proteins or antibodies in their plasma, which can help sick patients cope with the disease.

Twelve patients were enrolled in the trial, 11 of whom showed improved symptoms and were subsequently discharged from the hospital. The condition of the 12th patient deteriorated.

Israeli researchers to develop medication for incurable eye disease

Israeli researchers are developing a medication to treat retinitis pigmentosa, an incurable genetic eye disease that causes retina degeneration and blindness at a young age, by recreating a supplement derived from a natural ingredient that no longer exists in sufficient quantities.

Retinitis pigmentosa is believed to affect around 1.5 million people globally, with 2,000-3,000 patients in Israel. The disease first manifests early in life, with late onset symptoms appearing in early- to mid-adulthood. A patient’s vision will continue to decline as the disease gets progressively worse, which can lead to complete blindness.

The disease itself is caused by a genetic mutation that prevents the body from absorbing β-carotene, a pigment that is essential for vision, the lack of which results in vision deterioration and retina degeneration.

While there is no cure for the condition, there are many different proposed treatments and medications. One of these was discovered in clinical trials from around a decade ago, which saw a natural food supplement derived from marine algae having success in improving treatment in a third of patients.

The specific treatment focused on the active ingredient 9-cis-β-carotene, a version of β-carotene. The ingredient was shown to be absorbed by some of the patients, allowing their vision to improve in several areas – specifically night vision, field of vision and electrical activity in the retina.

US-Israeli tech firm JFrog looks to raise $428 million in US IPO

US-Israeli technology provider JFrog Ltd is looking to raise up to $428.1 million in its initial public offering in the United States, the company said on Tuesday.

JFrog will sell 8 million ordinary shares, while existing shareholders will sell 3.57 million shares, the company said in a securities filing.

It expects its shares to be priced between $33 and $37 per share.

Sunnyvale, California-based JFrog, founded in 2008, develops tools for automating the process of building and maintaining apps and counts Amazon Inc, Alphabet Inc-owned Google and Netflix Inc among its customers.

Tech stocks have been at the forefront of a revival in investor interest in IPOs after a pandemic-induced dry spell in recent months.

Peter Thiel-backed data analytics firm Palantir Technologies Inc, workplace software maker Asana Inc and Sequoia-backed data warehouse firm Snowflake are also seeking to go public later this year.

New initiative will significantly lower price of Jewish teen trips to Israel

A new initiative will significantly lower the cost of group trips to Israel for Jewish-American teens.

The Jewish Education Project announced Tuesday that it received a $20 million gift from The Marcus Foundation for its RootOne initiative. The funds will subsidize trips by five Jewish youth groups — the pluralistic BBYO, the Orthodox NCSY and the Reform NFTY, along with USY and Ramah, both affiliated with the Conservative movement.

With the subsidies, the groups can lower the cost of the trips by $3,000 per participant. The cost typically ranges from $4,500 to $8,000 for trips lasting three to six weeks.

The initiative hopes to increase the number of teens participating in the trips by 40% every year, according to a statement.

“We want young people stepping onto their college campuses with deep connections to Israel and strong Jewish identities,” Marcus Foundation Chairman Bernie Marcus said in the statement.

The first trips financed through the initiative are expected to take place next summer.

Israel’s OrCam gets soccer star Lionel Messi to be face of startup to help blind

OrCam Technologies, a Jerusalem-based maker of artificial intelligence-based wearable devices to help the blind and visually impaired read texts via audio feedback, said Wednesday that soccer legend Lionel Messi has agreed to be the face of the company.

OrCam said the “partnership collaboration” with Messi is meant to increase awareness of the challenges faced by the blind and visually impaired community globally.

Messi is an Argentina-born football star who has spent his professional career with Barcelona, for which has won a club-record 33 trophies. He was ranked the world’s highest-paid athlete by Forbes in 2019. The 33-year-old requested a transfer from the club in August, soon after the club’s 8-2 defeat to Bayern Munich in the Champions League. However, he is reportedly staying on until the end of his contract in 2021, due to his $825 million release clause.

As part of the joint project, OrCam will arrange face-to-face meetings for visually impaired people from around the world with the soccer superstar, with Messi giving them OrCam’s MyEye device as a gift.

The device is a wireless, lightweight and compact computer, the size of a finger, that fits onto a pair of glasses. The AI-driven technology can discreetly read printed and digital text from any surface out loud to the device wearer. Newspapers, books, computer and smartphone screens, restaurant menus, labels on supermarket products, and street signs become accessible, OrCam said. Additional features offer also instant face recognition and identification of consumer products, colors and money notes, and there is a Smart Reading feature, launched in the US in July, that gives users the ability to use voice commands.

We have lots of ideas, but we need more resources to be even more effective. Please donate today to help get the message out and to help defend Israel.

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