Trump concedes after coup attempt: As Congress convened to count the Electoral College votes certifying President-elect Joe Biden’s win in the 2020 presidential election, pro-Trump thugs, including neo-Nazis and Holocaust deniers, stormed the Capitol building, stoked by President Trump’s defiant speech falsely claiming the election had been stolen. The attempted coup was so egregious that it sent shockwaves around the world. As it was unfolding, Trump recorded a message saying “I love you” to the insurrectionists. Amid resignations of Cabinet members and growing calls for either his removal from office using the 25th amendment or a fresh impeachment, Trump conceded publicly for the first time Thursday that he will not serve a second term. At the end of the long day and night marked by chaos and violence, a reassembled Congress certified President-elect Joe Biden and Vice President-elect Kamala Harris’ victory early on Thursday. The Justice Department said that it would not rule out pursuing charges against President Trump for his role in inciting the mob. “We are looking at all actors, not only the people who went into the building,” Michael Sherwin, the U.S. attorney in D.C., told reporters. The U.S. Capitol police confirmed the death of one of their officers late Thursday, Officer Brian D. Sicknick, from injuries suffered while physically engaging with protesters. Sicknick is the fifth person to die as a result of Wednesday’s insurrection.
Congresswoman praises Hitler prior to riot: Prior to the violence that ensued on the Capitol complex, a pro-Trump rally was held in which Republican Congresswoman Mary Miller quoted Mein Kamp, declaring “Hitler was right on one thing. He said, ‘Whoever has the youth has the future.’” The Anti-Defamation League demanded an apology, stating: “Hitler wasn’t right on anything — and invoking his name in this or any other context is wildly offensive.” Hate, white supremacy and antisemitism were also on full display at the riot. A man was pictured with a shirt that read “Camp Auschwitz,” along with the message “Work brings freedom.” The back of the shirt said “Staff.” Swastikas and Confederate flags were among other overt hate signs. Prominent Holocaust deniers and neo-Nazis, including members of QAnon and Proud Boys, were part of the mob. Nooses — a prominent symbol of racist violence — were placed outside. One member of the mob appeared to perform the Nazi salute several times and another harassed an Israeli reporter “with vicious, grotesque antisemitism,” according to the ADL.
Democrats sweep Georgia races; Jewish Ossoff heading to Senate: In a shattering upset, Democrats have swept both Georgia Senate runoffs, thereby reclaiming power in the United States Senate for the first time in 10 years. The wins result in unified Democratic control of both houses of Congress and the Executive Branch, which has only happened for a total of four years since 1992. The 100th race deciding control of the 50-50 Senate (whose tie will be broken by Vice President-elect Kamala Harris) was Jon Ossoff’s, the Jewish Democrat from Atlanta. Jewish commentators spoke of the significance of the first Jewish Senator from Georgia and the first Jewish Senator from the South since the days of the late 1800s. The pairing of Ossoff and Reverend Raphael Warnock was also reminiscent of the Civil Rights Movement of the 1960s that brought the Black church and liberal Jews together in the fight for equality. With the change of control in the Senate, the Democratic Leader, Chuck Schumer, will become the Majority Leader of the Senate, its most powerful position. Schumer will be the first Jew to hold that position, and all four heads of the federal government—House Speaker, Senate Majority Leader, President, and Chief Justice of the Supreme Court—will be non-Protestants (three Catholics, one Jew) for the first time in American history. Vice President-elect Harris is a practicing Baptist, but her husband, Doug Emhoff, is Jewish.
More Biden Jewish picks announced: President-elect Joe Biden announced his pick for Attorney General: Merrick Garland. Formerly President Obama’s nominee for Supreme Court Justice, Garland will succeed Acting Attorney General Jeffrey Rosen who is himself Jewish. During Garland’s speech at the announcement of his Supreme Court nomination in 2016, he spoke about his family’s history: “My family deserves much of the credit for the path that led me here,” Garland said. “My grandparents left the Pale of Settlement at the border of western Russia and Eastern Europe in the early 1900s, fleeing antisemitism and hoping to make a better life for their children in America.” Additionally, Biden is appointing Anne Neuberger, an Orthodox Jewish woman, to be his Deputy National Security Adviser for Cybersecurity, a new role. Neuberger’s parents were among the hostages rescued by Israeli commandos from Entebbe Airport in 1976. She said that her family’s escapes – first from the Holocaust and then from the hostage situation in Uganda – have helped shape her worldview.
Israel starts 3rd lockdown with rise in new cases, 1.7 million vaccinations
Source: @naftalibennett / Twitter, January 7, 2021
Another lockdown across Israel; this one stricter: The government imposed a strict lockdown across Israel as the coronavirus pandemic ‘rages.’ Police are being deployed nationwide and schools are entirely shuttered. The head of the Israel Police’s operations department said 5,000 officers would be deployed across the country to enforce the rules, including school closures and the shuttering of nonessential businesses. The lockdown is scheduled to last until January 21 but could be extended. The Ministry of Health’s head of public health said: “The forecast of the seriously ill has gotten worse than what we expected and we’re in a catastrophe.” Over 30 people are dying every day. Yet Israel continues its vaccination efforts with over 1.7 million people already having received the first dose. The U.S. reported more than 4,000 Covid-19 deaths Thursday—the most virus-related deaths any country has reported in one day since the pandemic’s start.
Netanyahu secures additional vaccine: Facing a shortfall of coronavirus vaccines as it rapidly distributes them across the nation, Israel received short relief from Moderna, which sent 120,000 additional doses to Israel yesterday. There seemed to be confusion over how many doses Moderna would provide and when, given that the Health Minister said that they wouldn’t be coming for two months and Moderna said they would start to send them this week (which the company ended up doing). Pfizer also pledged to send millions of doses starting next week with which the Prime Minister promised to inoculate every citizen over 16 by March. Israel has sent a small number of coronavirus vaccines to the Palestinian Authority, which “are intended for humanitarian cases, and not for senior Palestinian officials.” However, there was speculation that the doses would be given to Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas. Up until days ago, the Palestinian Authority had yet to ask Israel for help procuring the vaccines. The PA is attempting to obtain the rest via the World Health Organization.
Ultra-Orthodox gather for wedding: At least two mass gatherings were held in ultra-Orthodox communities on Tuesday, with hundreds of mostly maskless people participating in a wedding in the West Bank settlement of Beitar Illit. The settlement is notable for being among the biggest coronavirus hotspots in the country, with a positivity test rate of 26%. Police attempted to break up the wedding, and yet a laughable photo showed a maskless police officer participating in the festivities. On Wednesday, the Police Commissioner Kobi Shabtai suspended several police officers who allowed the mass wedding to go ahead. The officers will be removed from their posts “until the end of the inquiry into the matter,” a police statement said.
Over half of Israelis will vote for new parties in the upcoming election
Poll—over half of Israelis will vote new parties: A Tuesday poll showed that over half of Israelis who voted in the previous elections are planning to switch their party choice for the upcoming elections in March. The demographic most loyal to their previous party is ultra-Orthodox voters, whereas previous Blue and White voters are most likely to vote differently in March. Another poll by The Jerusalem Post showed that mergers between existing parties and ideologically similar parties, such as Yamina with New Hope and Yesh Atid with Israelis, could present a winning alternative to Prime Minister Netanyahu and his Likud party. Blue and White is projected to earn only four Knesset seats in a new government, likely a consequence of Benny Gantz’s ineffective coalition with Likud, which he continues to defend.
Ben-Gurion University hit by cyberattack: Ben-Gurion University, located in the Negev, was hit by an ongoing cyberattack. The attack was discovered during a routine scan of electronic equipment. The university said that “no significant damage to the servers is known of.” However, the president of the university also said: “This is a serious incident and at the forefront of my mind at the moment is the need to curb intrusion and strengthen the protection of the digital array and university servers by all necessary means.” It was unclear who launched the sophisticated attack, and whether it was by a foreign power such as Iran.
Suicides remain leading cause of death for IDF troops: 2020 had the second-fewest soldier deaths in the IDF’s history, with 28 lives lost. Of the 28, the leading cause of death was suicide, which claimed the lives of nine soldiers. A potential tenth suicide is still under investigation. Only one soldier died in an “operational activity”: Amit Ben-Ygal, who was killed during a raid in May. Though the IDF’s suicide rate is lower than the country’s overall, and lower than that of many other militaries, IDF Manpower Directorate commander Maj. Gen. Moti Almoz said, “we could lower it further.” The IDF employs various prevention programs which, along with swift locating tactics if a soldier has gone missing, have contributed to the low suicide rate. Only 2019, with 27 deaths, was a less deadly year for IDF soldiers.
Ford to test autonomous cars in Israel: The Ford Motor Company will begin testing self-driving cars on Israeli roads. The choice to begin testing in Israel is no coincidence; Ford acquired Israeli startup SAIPS in 2016, an integral technological component of its autonomous vehicles. SAIPS CEO said: “Until now, we’ve been developing software, sending it to the United States, getting feedback and so on. We want to shorten the process.” The cars are planned to deploy on American roads by the end of 2022.
Israel and Greece sign defense agreement: The Israeli Defense Ministry agreed to a $1.68 billion defense deal with the Greek government. The deal, “the largest defense procurement agreement between the two countries to date,” will remain in effect for the next 20 years. Defense Minister Benny Gantz said: “It is a long-term partnership that will serve the interests of both Israel and Greece, create hundreds of jobs in both countries, and promote stability in the Mediterranean.” The deal includes the Israeli erection of a flight school for the Greek Airforce. The Israeli government competed with other nations to secure the deal, which it eventually did.
ISRAEL’S NEIGHBORS, NEAR & NOT SO FAR
European powers warn Iran to stop 20% uranium enrichment
Europe to Iran: stop uranium enrichment: After Iran announced that it would increase its uranium enrichment to 20%, the United Kingdom, France, and Germany, called on Iran to halt. They said: “This action, which has no credible civil justification and carries very significant proliferation-related risks, is in clear violation of Iran’s commitments under the [Iran nuclear deal] and further hollows out the agreement.” The countries stated their worry that this action by Iran would make it harder to return to negotiations led by the incoming Biden administration. Iran also conducted large military exercises, including with “kamikaze” drones this week. The drone is loaded with explosives and flown into its target. The military exercises come as tensions increase between the United States and Iran on the anniversary of the killing of Iranian terror mastermind, Qassem Soleimani.
Iran frees woman convicted of visit to Israel: The Iranian government temporarily freed a woman imprisoned for traveling to Israel. Visiting Israel is punishable by up to five years in Iran. The woman, Farahnaz Kohan, is 50-years-old and had been detained for an unspecified period of time. In December, Iran freed another man who had been imprisoned for visiting family in Israel.
Sudan signs Abraham Accords: Sudan has signed the Abraham Accords, the U.S. brokered peace deal between Israel and other Arab nations, the U.A.E., Bahrain, and Morocco. This follows the October announcement from the country saying that it would normalize relations with Israel. The Sudanese government said: “The declaration stipulates the necessity to consolidate the meanings of tolerance, dialogue and coexistence between different peoples and religions in the Middle East region and the world, in a way that serves the promotion of a culture of peace.” Additionally, Israel’s foreign minister said: “Sudan’s signing of the Abraham Accords is an important step in advancing regional normalization agreements in the Middle East.” The normalization in Israel came in exchange for the U.S. dropping Sudan from its list of state sponsors of terrorism, thereby stripping it of harsh sanctions and freeing much of its previously frozen funds.
Reported Israeli strike near Damascus: According to the Syrian government, Israel launched its third airstrike in 10 days within the country, this time against sites near Damascus, the capital. The Israel Defense Forces refused to comment on the late-night strikes, in accordance with its policy to neither confirm nor deny its operations in Syria. Syria’s state media outlet SANA said: “The Israeli enemy carried out an air attack by means of a barrage of missiles from the direction of the occupied Syrian Golan on some targets in the southern region.” The military targets were bases of Iranian operation within Syria, which many of the previous strikes have attacked. Residents in the Golan heights, at a minimum only 40 miles from Damascus, reported hearing explosions. One Syrian-aligned group said that three Iranian or Iranian-backed fighters were killed in the strike.
Far-right protesters in Ukraine blame Jews for 1930’s famine and communism
Ukrainian far-right protesters blame Jews for famine: After Israel’s ambassador to Ukraine condemned the rally last week which honored Nazi collaborators, dozens of ultranationalists rallied outside the Israeli Embassy in Kyiv. The protesters wildly demanded that Jews assume responsibility for Holodomor, a famine that killed millions of Ukrainians in the 1930s. Holodomor was caused by the policies of the government of Soviet dictator Joseph Stalin. “Israel deliberately spreads anti-Semitism in Ukraine,” one protester, a white supremacist activist, said during a speech at the rally. He said Jews and Israel must “repent for genocide” on Ukrainians.
Queens official resigns over anti-Israel tweets: A Jewish Queens official, Michael Hurwitz, is resigning from his political appointment after several messages criticizing Israel, AIPAC, and defending Representative Ilhan Omar circulated among the Orthodox community. In one tweet to the Israeli Yamina party’s head, Naftali Bennet, Hurwitz wrote: “You are not welcome! You are a cancer to Judaism.” Hurwitz describes himself as “a proud Jew” and “lifelong Zionist.” He also said: “I love the state of Israel and I love that I’m raising my children Jewish in Queens.” He claimed that Twitter is not the suitable platform to address complex issues such as the Israeli-Palestinian conflict and Israel-U.S. relations and admitted that trying to discuss such issues and put them “into 250 characters or less was naive.”
Antisemitic flyers posted in Staten Island: Antisemitic flyers claiming that the Antifa movement is a Jewish communist militia” were plastered around New York’s Staten Island last weekend. The flyers said: “There is a war against all non-Jewish European-American nationalists.” The flyers were put up by the New Jersey European Heritage Association, which the Anti-Defamation League deems a white supremacist group that “espouses racism, antisemitism and intolerance.”
CELEBRATE & REMEMBER
Source: @GabbyGiffords / Twitter, October 26, 2020
Today we celebrate Israel’s spray-on ‘skin’ technology! An Israeli-developed device that enables doctors to spray a translucent skin substitute onto burns and wounds is now being used in Israel, Europe, and India. The ‘skin’ spray technology replaces painful, restrictive bandages. The system uses a special medical gun to spin out the breathable, web-like nano-fiber material that attaches to the wounded area. Though the technique has existed for years, it has never before been available in a device small and compact enough for doctors to easily bring it to a patient’s bed for application.
Today, January 8, 2021, marks the 10th anniversary of the assassination attempt on Representative Gabby Giffords, Arizona’s first Jewish Congressperson. After being shot in the head, Giffords was left in critical condition. She eventually partially recovered from the attack which occurred in Tucson just days after being sworn in. Giffords and her husband became vocal advocates of gun policy reform. Her husband, astronaut and Democrat Mike Kelly, went on to win his Senate special election against former Senator Martha McSally in November 2020, being sworn in last month.