March 7, 2021

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11/02 Links Pt2: 7 reported dead in Vienna terror attack targeting synagogue; Attacks on Christians show hypocrisy of ‘blasphemy’ controversy; Settler leader, Palestinian ex-terrorist urge Americans to vote for Trump

http://elderofziyon.blogspot.com/2020/11/1102-links-pt2-7-reported-dead-in.html

From Ian:

7 reported dead in apparent Vienna terror attack also said to target synagogue

An ongoing shooting attack was underway at several sites Monday evening in central Vienna, including in the area of a synagogue and the offices of the Jewish community, killing at least seven people, Austrian media reported, prompting a large-scale police operation.

Austrian Interior Minister Karl Nehammer said the incidents appeared to be a terror attack with multiple perpetrators.

The Kurier newspaper said at least one of the fatalities was a police officer. It added there were four people seriously injured in the series of attacks.

There were multiple gunmen, some of them still at large, according to messages sent to members of the local Jewish community.

Austrian news agency APA quoted the country’s Interior Ministry as saying that one attacker has been killed and at least one other could be on the run.

Reports said there was a hostage situation in the city’s seventh district. In addition, reports said there had been an explosion, with one of the assailants possibly blowing himself up.

Oskar Deutsch, the head of the Jewish community in Vienna, said the shooting took place in the street where the city’s main synagogue is located, in the first district, but that it wasn’t clear whether the house of worship had been targeted. He said there were no casualties among the Jewish community.

Deutsch noted that the synagogue and the community offices were closed at the time of the shooting, and asked all community members to stay away from the area.

Anti-Semitism in America

American Jews have been reminded that the world’s oldest hatred almost never totally disappears, even in places where Jews are largely assimilated and communal life feels settled. During Donald Trump’s presidency, lunatics of various ideological stripes have launched deadly assaults on synagogues, kosher grocery stores, and Hanukkah parties, while a wave of dozens of physical attacks on Jews in New York City appeared to have no overt political motive. Multiple left-wing members of Congress support the BDS movement; on the right, the president has made uneasily frequent—though not outwardly hostile—mentions of Jewish money and political power and been less outwardly condemnatory of white supremacy than the overwhelming majority of American Jews would have liked. The alleged anti-Semitism of campus Israel haters, identitarian right wingers, mentally disturbed passersby, and actual members of the federal government jostle for room within a frayed American Jewish psyche.

Last year, the American Jewish Committee commissioned a poll aimed at understanding how American Jews perceived these various threats against them. This year it repeated the exercise, while also polling the general public on its views on American anti-Semitism. The results are worth examining.

Jews overwhelmingly believe that America is becoming a more anti-Semitic and physically dangerous place for them to live, work, and study: 82% responded that anti-Semitism has increased over the past five years. Some 27% reported that Jewish institutions with which they affiliated had “been the targets of anti-Semitism” since the October 2018 massacre at the Tree of Life synagogue in Pittsburgh; 37% reported that they had “taken steps to conceal their Jewishness in public” since that attack. Meanwhile, 43% of Jews between the ages of 18 and 29 had “experienced anti-Semitism on a college campus over the past five years.”

American Jews are center-left in political orientation—the latest polling suggests that over 70% of them will vote for Joe Biden next week. Thus, the AJC’s findings about the perceived bipartisan nature of anti-Jewish hate reflects a certain fatalism, while also breaking down along lines of party affiliation: While 69% of respondents agreed that the Republican Party holds at least some anti-Semitic views, a not-insignificant 37% said the same about the Democrats.

One of the poll’s relative surprises is that BDS, which is almost exclusively a left-wing phenomenon, and which has vocal fans among growing Democratic Party constituencies, is viewed as either being anti-Semitic or having anti-Semitic supporters among a whopping 80% of Jewish respondents. While the statement “Israel has no right to exist” has adherents on both extremes of the political spectrum, it is mostly heard in left-wing quarters these days; 85% of Jewish respondents agreed it was anti-Semitic.

US Anti-Semitism Special Envoy Elan Carr Speaks to i24NEWS

Settler leader, Palestinian ex-terrorist urge Americans to vote for Trump

A hardline settler leader and a Palestinian former terrorist have released a joint video calling on Americans to vote for Donald Trump in the US presidential elections. The clip, posted online Sunday, features Samaria Regional Council chief Yossi Dagan alongside Mohammed Massad, who served seven years in an Israeli prison for attacks committed during the First Intifada in the late 1980s before becoming a peace activist and a fierce critic of the Palestinian Authority. “During the Obama-Biden administration, our region was filled with chaos,” Dagan says in the video. “Two hundred and four citizens of Israel were murdered as a result of terrorist activities.” “The administration of US President Donald Trump stopped the support for the Palestinian leadership and scaled down the severity of the hostilities,” says Massad. “For the sake of our lives, for the sake of our future, vote for President Trump,” both men conclude. Massad changed his views dramatically after serving a prison term for his terror activities as part of the Fatah armed wing, and wrote a book arguing that suicide attacks go against the Quran. (h/t jzaik)

Jpost Editorial: French Dilemma

France has raised its security alert to the highest level following the horrific attack on October 29 in which a 21-year-old Tunisian shouting “Allahu Akbar” beheaded a woman and killed two other people in a church in Nice before he was shot and arrested by police.

The attack came 13 days after Samuel Paty, a middle-school teacher in a Paris suburb, Conflas-Sainte-Honorine, was beheaded by an 18-year-old Muslim who was apparently enraged by the teacher showing his students the controversial Charlie Hebdo cartoons of the Prophet Mohammad during a civics lesson about freedom of expression. Police are also investigating Saturday’s shooting in Lyon in which a Greek Orthodox priest was seriously wounded.

These latest incidents can be traced back to the attack claimed by al-Qaeda on January 7, 2015, in which two Muslim brothers forced their way into the offices of Charlie Hebdo, the French satirical weekly, shooting dead 12 people and wounding 11 others. This triggered further violence, including the “Hypercacher” kosher supermarket siege in which a terrorist murdered four Jews.

President Emmanuel Macron came out strongly in favor of free speech and against what he called the “Islamic terrorist attack” in Nice, saying France had been targeted “over our values, for our taste for freedom, for the ability on our soil to have freedom of belief… And I say it with great clarity again today: We will not give in.” Macron added, “We will not give up caricatures and drawings, even if others back away.”

Macron’s words incensed the Muslim world, and several countries – including Kuwait and Qatar – announced a boycott of French products in protest. Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan even questioned Macron’s mental health. “It becomes more and more difficult to be a Muslim and live an Islamic lifestyle in western countries,” Erdogan charged, leading France to recall its ambassador from Turkey.

Seth Frantzman: Attacks on Christians show hypocrisy of ‘blasphemy’ controversy -analysis

A man who beheaded a person in a church in Nice, France was radicalized by a recent controversy over another beheading in France. The chain of events shows that terrorists thrive off rumors of religion being “insulted” to then attack other religions, which would appear contradictory since media reports indicated that French “secularism” was to blame for the attacks. The attacks on French churches are not unique; terrorists have targeted them in the past, killing a priest in 2016.

Several media analyses and commentaries have pointed to France’s “extreme form of secularism” as the reason that terrorists are “angry” at France. However, the terror attacks look a lot more like hate crimes against Christians, including the attack on a church in al-Tabqah in Syria, than they do a protest against French “secularism.”

It is worthwhile to unpack the false claim that French “secularism” causes terror attacks. If that was the reason for attacks, then one would think that secular symbols of the French state would be targeted. That’s usually how terrorism is supposed to work. Because we are told terrorism is about getting attention through symbolic acts of violence, then the terror group should target the symbol of the state or thing that it is against.

However, there are few examples of these “terrorists” attacking institutions of the State in France. They don’t attack nude statues either. They attack churches. And they don’t only do it in France; attacks tend to target churches and Christians worldwide. If the extremists are radicalized by being offended over “blasphemy” and insults to their faith, then why is the response to attack religious buildings and innocent religious people?

In January 2015, after cartoons were published in France that were supposedly offensive, there were attacks on 45 churches in Niger. The churches had no connection to the cartoons, and Charlie Hebdo is not a Christian magazine. In short, the secularism that drives critique of religion tends to critique Christianity and Islam, and yet the extremist response is to kill Christians and bomb churches.

High-stakes Charlie Hebdo trial put on ice over COVID infections

The trial over the 2015 Charlie Hebdo attack has been delayed for at least a week after two more defendants tested positive for coronavirus, the presiding lawyer said.

Fourteen people are on trial accused of having helped the killers of 12 victims in the attack on satirical weekly Charlie Hebdo, a female police officer a day later, and four hostages at a Jewish supermarket.

After primary suspect Ali Riza Polat received a COVID-19 diagnosis over the weekend, the presiding judge ordered all those on trial to be tested.

“In view of the health protocols in force requiring isolation of both positive and contact cases, the hearing will not be able to resume this week,” Regis de Jorna said in an email sent Sunday to lawyers involved in the case.

The trial had already been suspended until Wednesday following Polat’s positive diagnosis, with Jorna telling lawyers the court would not sit again until all the results were in.

Two further defendants then tested positive, with two others remaining under supervision despite negative results as they were believed to be “contact cases,” according to Jorna’s email.

The results from the other defendants, detained in Fleury-Merogis, are due Monday.

The extended suspension of the hearing will further delay the conclusion of the trial, which opened on September 2.

Kuwaiti Islamic Scholar: French Speaking Muslims Should call the “Miserable” French Nation to Islam

Kuwaiti Islamic scholar Nabil Al-Awadhi said in an October 24, 2020 interview on Channel 9 (Turkey) that any claims that slandering the Prophet Muhammad should be considered freedom of expression in France are deceitful. He called for a boycott of French products, saying that if billions of people boycott French products, this will have an impact on France’s economy. He said that in France, it is forbidden to mock a certain group of people, which he will not mention by name, and if anyone speaks out against them, they are accused of antisemitism, all the while it is considered freedom of speech to attack what millions of Muslims in France hold sacred. In addition, Al-Awadhi called on all French-speaking Muslims to spread Islam in France because the French nation is “miserable.”

Pakistani Politician and Islamic Scholar Calls on Pakistani Government to Use the Atom Bomb

In a video posted on his official YouTube channel on October 24, 2020, Pakistani politician and Islamic scholar Allama Khadim Hussain Rizvi urges the Pakistani government to declare Jihad against “those who slander the Prophet Muhammad.” He urges the government to “use the atom bomb” and “[Let] everyone die.” He continues to say that he is declaring Jihad against those who slander the Prophet. Rizvi is the founder of the Tehreek-e-Labbaik Pakistan political party in Pakistan, which was established to combat any change to the country’s blasphemy laws.

Kicking Corbyn Out Is Only the Start of Labour’s Anti-Semitism Fight

There it is, in black and white. For almost five years, Jews warned, nudged, reported, complained, pleaded and protested that there was a culture of anti-Semitism in the Labour party. For the most part, the party ignored them, although others assailed them, denounced them as fifth columnists, accused them of orchestrating a ‘smear’ campaign, of being agents of a well-financed ‘lobby’, of trying to destabilise Jeremy Corbyn in service of Israel.

Scarcely better, and in some ways worse, were those who knew they were telling the truth but whose solidarity with them and commitment to resisting anti-Semitism was conditional on there not being an election in the offing. British Jews were treated as Jews always are when they try to raise the alarm: disbelieved, disregarded and betrayed.

The report of the Equality and Human Rights Commission not only believes Jews, it damns those who didn’t and those who worked against them. It cannot undo the harm done, but in acknowledging that harm — in confirming, in official-sounding language and with footnotes, that the harm happened — it goes some way to correcting the lies and establishing the truth. For those weary, but never worn down, by five years of fighting back, it will come as a relief as much as anything. They no longer have to prove themselves. The burden has shifted to where it belongs.

The EHRC began investigating Labour under the Equality Act 2010 after complaints by the Campaign Against Antisemitism and the Jewish Labour Movement in 2018. Between them and other sources, the CAA and JLM documented 220 allegations of anti-Semitism within Labour and argued that the party had failed to handle complaints properly. The EHRC report, published today, concludes that Labour broke the law in three areas: harassment of Jews, political interference in anti-Semitism complaints and a failure to provide sufficient training to staff investigating those complaints. The statutory body has issued the party with an unlawful act notice and it now has until 10 December to outline how it will implement the report’s recommendations.

This is not one of those legalistic, depends-how-you-interpret-it jobs. The report says there were ‘unlawful acts of harassment and discrimination for which the Labour party is responsible’, ‘serious failings in leadership and an inadequate process for handling anti-Semitism complaints across the Labour party’, ‘evidence of a significant number of complaints relating to anti-Semitism that were not investigated at all’, and a failure to ‘take effective measures to stop anti-Semitic conduct from taking place’. While the report acknowledges ‘some recent improvements’, it finds ‘a culture within the party which, at best, did not do enough to prevent anti-Semitism and, at worst, could be seen to accept it’.

Guardian letter peddles same anti-Jewish smear condemned by EHRC

To those unfamiliar with the history of the letter-writer’s smear that Jews make false accusations of antisemitism to silence criticism of Israel, it was first called out by Professor David Hirsh to describe a trope used by Ken Livingstone in 2006 – and thus referred to as the Livingstone Formulation.

Unfortunately, this ‘formulation’ – denying antisemitism by calling into the question the motivation of the Jewish victims – has not at all been limited to the former London mayor. As CAMERA UK has documented, it’s been peddled and legitimised by British media outlets, including the BBC .

Further, as CST revealed in a 2019 report “The online networks behind the Labour Party’s antisemitism crisis”, antisemitic narratives that took root in Labour-supporting online circles during that time included “allegations of antisemitism against Labour are a fake smear campaign” – that is, the Livingstone Formulation.

Of even greater relevance, the explosive EHRC report released on Thursday, which found the Labour Party under Jeremy Corbyn broke equalities law in areas including harassment and discrimination, cited Livingstone (pg 28) using this very smear as an example of Labour officials using antisemitic tropes:

Universities Should Not Be Hosting — and Legitimizing — Terrorists

On Friday October 23, 2020, an event titled, “We Will Not Be Silenced: Against the Censorship and Criminalization of Academic Political Speech,” was hosted by the NYU chapter of the American Association of University Professors (AAUP) and the Hagop Kevorkian Center for Near Eastern Studies, co-sponsored by the Department of Middle East and Islamic Studies, the American Studies Program, Students for Justice in Palestine, and Jewish Voice for Peace.

Among those featured in the NYU webinar was Leila Khaled, a member of the Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine (PFLP) — a US-designated terrorist organization. Khaled is the unrepentant hijacker of TWA Flight 840 in 1969 and TWA Flight 741, one of three flights the PFLP targeted in the Dawson’s Field hijackings of 1970.

The three webinar speakers were: CUNY law student Nerdeen Kiswani, a founder and chair of Within Our Lifetime-United for Palestine; Radhika Sainath, a senior staff attorney at Palestine Legal; and Fred Moten, a professor in NYU Tisch’s Performance Studies Department and 2020 MacArthur Fellow.

Moderating the event was NYU professor Andrew Ross, member of the US Campaign for the Academic Boycott of Israel (USACBI) and secretary of NYU’s chapter of AAUP. In 2019, Ross’ department of Social and Cultural Analysis, pledged non-cooperation with NYU’s own campus in Tel Aviv. (The senior leadership of NYU does not condone BDS or support academic boycotts.)

Khaled was featured last month at a San Francisco State University (SFSU) event, which Zoom refused to carry because of the event’s violation of Zoom’s Terms of Service. At NYU’s event, she is shown in a pre-recorded clip reiterating her defense of “armed struggle” (10:05).

To those speaking at the webinar, Khaled was and remains a freedom fighter and an icon. Moten praises her when he says: “Leila Khaled not only refuses to be silenced; she refuses to speak the language and the false pieties of those who prosecute the war in which we live” (30:45).

NGO Monitor: Save the Children’s Misleading Report on Detention of Palestinians

On Thursday, October 29, 2020, Save the Children will release a report on “the impact of the Israeli military detention system on Palestinian children.” NGO Monitor has obtained and reviewed an advance copy of this publication. Our analysis shows that Save the Children has produced an inaccurate report, which cannot support the (predetermined) legal and policy conclusions drawn. The numerous highly emotive illustrations present a very politicized narrative that is clearly designed to demonize Israelis, not to protect minors. The answer to violence by Palestinian minors, including acts of terrorism and murder, is to address the incitement behind such actions, and not to absolve them of accountability, as proposed in the report.

In addition, we note that the page cover notes the report was “co-funded by the European Union” and features the EU logo. The latest available data from the EU (through 2019) does not show any projects involving Save the Children in recent years; however, there may be funds from 2020 that have not yet been made public. The fundamental flaws in this publication suggest that the EU should focus on educating Palestinian children to not be involved in violent crime, in place of more advocacy to demonize Israel.

NGO Monitor’s analysis of Save the Children’s report shows:

1. False and outdated “context”: The section purporting to provide an “Overview of the Israeli military detention system” is based on highly misleading and outdated assessments of how Israeli military courts deal with Palestinian children suspected of involvement with terrorism and other crimes. It fails to account for significant changes, with an emphasis on treatment of minors, that Israel has instituted over the past five years, in cooperation and consultation with international experts. Most notably, Save the Children repeats the thoroughly discredited claims from a 2013 report issued under UNICEF’s imprimatur (see “The Origins of ‘No Way to Treat a Child’: Analyzing UNICEF’s Report on Palestinian Minors” for an extensive discussion of UNICEF’s distortions that undermine Save the Children’s claims.)

Erdogan Spokesman Ibrahim Kalin Has Left Georgetown, but Not Because He Wasn’t Welcome

Two years ago Campus Watch called for Georgetown University to cut ties with Georgetown University Alwaleed Center for Muslim Christian Understanding (ACMCU) senior fellow İbrahim Kalin, who has served as press secretary for Turkey’s Islamist, bellicose president Recep Tayyip Erdoğan’s since December 2014. The good news is that Kalin is no longer associated with Georgetown. The bad news is that his departure more likely stems from the routine completion of his appointments (he had two) than to a praiseworthy decision by the university.

The American-educated Kalin (Ph.D. in Middle East studies, George Washington U.), who also serves as Erdoğan’s chief advisor, faithfully supported his boss’s brutal persecution of thousands of political opponents, including imprisoning professors and teachers, in the aftermath of the failed July 2016 coup attempt. Ever his master’s lapdog, this week Kalin declared that the French satirical magazine Charlie Hebdo’s lewd cartoon of Erdoğan (here) could not be considered freedom of expression.

It was therefore – initially, at least – a pleasant surprise to read in Kalin’s updated biography on the Saudi-funded ACMCU’s website that he’s now a “former fellow.” His tenure at ACMCU (2016 – 2018) overlapped with his service to Erdoğan, although his bio omits that inconvenient fact. But the university deserves no credit for Kalin’s exodus, as he appears to have rotated out after a standard appointment. Unlike most other former fellows, however, he retains his own biographical entry at ACMCU. Breaking up, after all, is hard to do.

So is getting enough of a “good” thing. Kalin had an appointment at Georgetown’s Berkley Center for Religion, Peace & World Affairs that has also ended, as a header in his bio there notes. Thanks to the Wayback Machine website (which didn’t capture his ACMCU bio), we know this change occurred between March 7, 2016, when no such header appeared, and October 8, 2018, by which time it did. It’s reasonable to assume his appointments at ACMCU and the Berkley Center coincided.

UConn Investigates Reports of Anti-Semitic Incidents on Storrs Campus

The University of Connecticut is investigating after multiple reports of anti-Semitic incidents on the Storrs campus.

Officials said the incidents happened in residence halls on South Campus and included vandalism to photos of a menorah and a kinara in one and there was disturbing language written on the whiteboard of another.

“These recent reports were all acts of physical damage to property, including swastika graffiti. These are undeniable symbols of antisemitism that elicit painful reminders of the Holocaust among our Jewish students, faculty, and staff,” school officials said in an email to students.

“These acts and other discriminatory acts this semester are deeply upsetting and leave a scar on members of our community whose beliefs or identities are targeted,” they added.

According to school officials, after each incident, the Residential Life staff reached out to impacted parties to offer support.

UConn said it is working with members of the Hillel community to plan an event to be held in November to address the concerns and work towards healing.

Pace University student gov’t adopts IHRA definition of antisemitism

The Pace University student government passed a resolution Wednesday adopting the International Holocaust Remembrance Alliance’s (IHRA) definition of antisemitism, the Jewish News Syndicate reported.

The resolution, viewed by JNS, states that the student government of the New York City-based university “was created as a forum for students to voice their opinions on issues presented” by the students, faculty and administration. In addition, the university “aims to create and sustain a living-learning community that embraces diversity in all its forms, challenges habits and assumptions underlying the structures of power, privilege and injustice, and works to ensure that we are inclusive, welcoming and empowering to all our members.”

Jewish students make up 10% of undergraduates at the New York City-based university, according to Hillel International. This includes a branch of Hillel International and a chapter of the group Students Supporting Israel (SSI), the president of which, Eden Litvin, was the one who introduced the resolution, JNS reported.

“Jewish students constitute an important part of the broader Pace University community, yet remain distinguishable from the majority by common ethnic, religious and cultural characteristics,” the resolution states, adding that its Jewish community represents “a distinct and significant cultural community within the university, which Pace University is charter-bound to support, protect and defend.​” However, Jews and Jewish institutions remain the primary victims for religious-based hate crimes in the US, JNS reported.

The resolution also cited a rising spike in antisemitic incidents in recent years. These included the Tree of Life Synagogue shooting in Pittsburgh in 2018, the Chabad of Poway shooting, the Jersey City kosher supermarket shooting and even an incident oon the Pace University campus in 2019, which saw a building vandalized with a Star of David drawn in feces, JNS reported.

Twitter CEO: Holocaust Denial Posts A-OK

Online antisemitism has been rampant for years. Platforms like Twitter, by their very nature, amplify even marginal voices, often thrusting their beliefs, including Jew-hatred, into the mainstream. But this seems not to have phased Twitter CEO Jack Dorsey, who told a Senate panel that Holocaust denial did not violate his company’s guidelines.

BBC News touts Israel’s choice of capital city as ‘contentious’

On October 29th the BBC News website published a report headlined “US alters passport ruling for Jerusalem births” which opens as follows:

“Americans born in Jerusalem can declare Israel as their country of birth in US passports, the Trump administration says, in a reversal of US policy.

Before now, Jerusalem was identified without a country because of its contentious status as Israel’s self-declared capital.”

Seeing as countries have long chosen – and sometimes changed – their own capital cities, that highlighted statement may be confusing to readers unfamiliar with the BBC’s long-standing approach to the topic of Israel’s capital.

The BBC Academy’s style guide on ‘Israel and the Palestinians’ states:

“The BBC does not call Jerusalem the ‘capital’ of Israel, though of course BBC journalists can report that Israel claims it as such. If you need a phrase you can call it Israel’s ‘seat of government’, and you can also report that all foreign embassies are in Tel Aviv. This position was endorsed by the findings of a BBC Trust complaints hearing published in February 2013.”

Jewish pro-Trump groups accuse Facebook of censorship

Over the last several months, the coronavirus pandemic and the upcoming presidential election have left many Americans feeling confused and uncertain about the future. With normal social interaction limited, many have shifted towards the digital world to connect, share, discuss and debate.

During the 2016 election, tech companies such as Facebook, Twitter and Google came under fire for becoming venues for the spread of false information on all kinds of subjects. In order to address these concerns, these platforms have stepped up policing in order to limit the spread of misinformation and to fact check news being shared. However, for some, these social media companies have gone too far in their crackdown, raising questions over the role that these companies play in the free exchange of ideas in the 21st-century.

In recent weeks, Facebook had moved to ban several pro-Trump groups that were mainly comprised of Russian American Jews.

“During the past several days, the following groups, numbering in the thousands, have been methodically and surreptitiously removed from Facebook: “Russian American Ashkenazi Jews” (15,000 members), “Patriotic Jewish Republicans” (8,400 members), “Russian Speaking Americans for Trump 2020” (16,500 members) and “Евреи Силиконовой Долины и Сан Франциско, Объединяйтесь!” [“Jews of the Silicon Valley and San Francisco, United!”] (18,600) have been eliminated by Facebook,” Svetlana, a moderator for Russian American Ashkenazi Jews, said.

However, recently both Russian Speaking Americans for Trump 2020 and the San Francisco group, have been reinstated by Facebook, while the other two remain permanently banned.

“The majority of the members in the now-deleted groups are refugees from the former Soviet Union. Many of them are ‘refuseniks’ who had to fight for their right to live in a free country,” she said. “Denying them their right to free speech so close to this year’s most important election is both disconcerting and unacceptable.”

Florida principal fired again for his refusal to say the Holocaust happened

A Florida principal who told a parent he “can’t say the Holocaust is a factual, historical event” was fired Monday for the second time, with the school board reversing a decision from last month to rehire him.

William Latson made the comments to a parent in 2018 and was later removed from the Boca Raton high school where he had been principal. In October 2019, the school board voted 5-2 to fire him, citing not just the comments, but Latson’s refusal to answer questions about them.

Latson sued, saying he had been wrongfully terminated, and in August, a judge concluded that he should have been reprimanded, and not fired.

The board voted October 7 to rehire him, believing that the alternative would be to face a protracted and costly legal battle. He was given an administrative job, rather than one with students, and was to receive $152,000 in back pay, according to the Palm Beach Post.

The board was divided 4-3, with the only Jewish board member arguing strenuously against Latson’s rehiring. “If we rehire Dr. Latson, it is going be a stain on this school district that will never go away,” Karen Brill said during the meeting.

An additional, final vote was postponed to hear criticism from the public. There was a strong national backlash, with the board receiving outraged comments from Holocaust survivors, their families and others, according to Sun Sentinel.

Simultaneously, the board learned that the court ruling regarding Latson’s firing had merely been a recommendation, the report said.

Fresh fruit picked from the tree by Israeli robots

The harvest is a stressful time for fruit farmers. After planting, watering and weeding their fields, they need to quickly hire additional workers and coordinate the picking and packing of their crops within a few weeks before the oranges, apples or berries begin to decline in quality.

“This is hard, seasonal work,” says one apple grower in northern Israel, who, like many farmers, also needs to arrange housing, insurance, transportation and work visas for seasonal harvest workers. “Costs are rising all the time.”

Industry experts estimate that about 10 percent of the world’s fruit crops rots on the trees and goes to waste because there are not enough workers to pick it.

So this apple farmer is testing out a robotic fruit-picking system from Tevel Aerobotics Technologies, a local startup founded by veterans of Israel’s aerospace and electronics industries. Tevel has developed an autonomous driving platform with several tethered robots that fly up and pluck fruit from the trees. Instant artificial intelligence-based analysis of video of the trees allows the robots to pick only the fruit that is ripe. As the robots work, the system constantly updates farmers through a mobile phone app on how many pounds of fruit have been picked, and how much time it will take to finish the harvesting job.

“It solves the farm labor shortages,” said Yaniv Maor, founder and CEO of Tevel, based in Gedera in central Israel.

It has other advantages. The flying robots are more accurate and work longer hours than people. They can also carry out other tasks, like thinning and pruning trees, bringing down the cost of fruit production by about 30 percent.

In Cyprus, Israeli-founded college opens its doors, hoping for regional progress

After four years of planning, a new academic venture that aims to foster regional cooperation was launched last weekend in Cyprus.

The Pafos Innovation Institute (PPI) was sired by Uriel Reichman, the president and founder of IDC Herzliya, a nonprofit, private institution for higher education. The Cyprus academy, he hopes, will promote regional cooperation by creating connections between people of different nationalities who work and study together at the new center.

The institute aims to bring together university graduates from all the countries in the region and provide them with managerial and tech skills. They will study toward graduate degrees, engage in research, and build entrepreneurial collaborations, focusing on water, food security, energy, digital technologies for production and innovative management, the IDC said in a statement.

“We hope that the students will form friendships that will ultimately lead them not only to cooperate in their professional roles, but also turn them into a force that promotes regional progress and creates a culture of peace,” said Reichman in the statement.

The coronavirus pandemic has, however, thrown a spanner in the works, and students are only scheduled to start attending from September 2021. Until then the institute will host individual courses, attended by small groups of participants from Europe and countries in the region, the IDC said.

The Pafos Innovation Institute, housed on a campus specially built by the Pafos Municipality, is certified to grant graduate degrees (MAs and MBAs) recognized in Cyprus and Europe, as well as run programs on innovation. The academic management of the institute will be carried out by IDC Herzliya, in collaboration with institutions and researchers from the Middle East and around the world.

The degree tracks will emphasize intercultural and interdisciplinary collaboration and the institute will also operate an interdisciplinary innovation center with practical classes and applied research. Students will work in partnership with industry, academia, and the public sector.

Social-media campaign celebrates amazing Israeli achievers

Covid-19 is making this academic year a different kind of experience for university students. For ISRAEL21c’s 32 Digital Ambassadors from 23 campuses– including UC-Berkeley, Tulane, Barnard and Indiana University – the changes encompass a positive new direction.

This year, the Digital Ambassadors will design and launch a “Groundbreaking Israel” social-media campaign focusing on the diverse people of Israel and their vision, accomplishments and tenacity.

Geared to 18- to 24-year-olds, Groundbreaking Israel will leverage ISRAEL21c’s original content as well as the development of their own content to demonstrate – one amazing Israeli at a time — that Israel isn’t just one of the world’s most innovative tech hubs.

“Israel’s spirit of entrepreneurship, combined with creative imagination and drive, has resulted in achievements across many sectors and initiatives,” says Digital Ambassador Program Director Rachel Poulin.

Those sectors include Israeli culture, medical and health breakthroughs, humanitarian missions across the world, diversity, startups and entrepreneurship.

Making an impact

The five-year-old Digital Ambassadors program, with 257 college students participating in total, is a key factor in ISRAEL21c’s steady growth within the 18-24 demographic.

However, Poulin explains, “The main challenge with online interaction is it’s oftentimes hard to see the actual impact you’re making. We want to focus not on ‘likes’ but on potential changes in attitude and behavior that we will inspire with this campaign. This will be a key component.”

Israeli innovation plugs into emerging energy-tech sector

The Startup Nation developed along the simple idea that Israel was never going to be a powerhouse as an exporter of fuel or other natural resources. We joked that the Jews were given a barren land, while our neighbors were given an abundance of natural energy.

This allowed Israel to focus on developing its human capital, the only reliable type of transferable capital in today’s Covid tech world.

This “curse” of a barren land became a blessing in disguise, and Israeli leaders understood that as they laid the foundation for the Startup Nation.

In what looks to be a net positive for the economy, the Leviathan natural gas field in the eastern Mediterranean is helping Israel cement its status as an energy center. Offshore gas was discovered 10 years ago and will continue to play a key role both economically and geopolitically in the Startup Nation.

But gas is only part of the energy picture.

A fast-emerging energy-tech or climate-tech ecosystem is blooming alongside offshore gas exploration. Sustainable sources of energy such as wind and sun have been in development for years and are becoming more relevant today for a variety of factors, primarily economic.

We would be wise to follow the path of our newest partners for peace, the UAE and Bahrain, in how they diversify their natural resources and use technology to develop new ones.

Why now?

Though wind and solar energy have been supported by governments in places like Europe, widespread adoption has not reached a critical mass.

Our World in Data reports that “in 2019, around 11% of global primary energy came from renewable technologies.”



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