Inside Israel: Budget deadlock and possible December election; easing out of the lockdown; and COVID-19 vaccine
Peace deals: U.S.’ removal of Sudan’s terror status; Israel-Bahrain’s normalization agreement signing; and first Emirati passenger flight to Israel
Israel’s Neighbors: UN Iran arms embargo expiration; and senior Palestinian official in Israeli hospital
Inside Europe: Monaco’s large Jewish population; Hungarian PM’s accusation that Jewish group failed to call out antisemitism; “Heil Hitler” at Dutch coronavirus rally; and Danish neo-Nazi jailed for antisemitic crimes
Inside the U.S.: New York Times’ op-ed praising Farrakhan; World Zionist Congress’ vote on “hostile takeover”; neo-Nazi’s guilty plea in plot to blow up synagogue; Twitter bans Holocaust denial; and Jewish groups sue New York over “blatantly antisemitic” COVID -19 rules
Celebrate & Remember: New cannabis therapeutic research; and Austrian Empress’ reign of terror
Finance Minister and PM reportedly decide against passing 2021 budget by end of year, even if it initiates another election
Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu on October 19, 2020 (Twitter)
December elections likely as neither side willing to compromise on budget: On Saturday, Alternate Prime Minister Benny Gantz threatened that if the government fails to produce a budget for 2021, he will “weigh his options.” A Friday report detailed that Gantz will not agree to another extension and if the budget is not ready by the deadline, Gantz will move to disperse the Knesset and send Israel into its fourth elections in two years. If that happens, Blue and White will “act as opposition” to Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and the Likud party. On Monday, Foreign Minister Gabi Ashkenazi confirmed that if the 2021 budget is not advanced by the end of the month, Israel will go to elections. The government’s original deadline for the 2020-21 budget passed at the end of August, but was extended for 100 days until December 23. Monday night, sources close to Netanyahu said that he and Finance Minister Israel Katz decided not to give in to Gantz’s demands to pass the budget by the end of the year, even if it means triggering another election. Katz reportedly said, “If Blue and White continues to make demands, it would already be better to go to elections.”
Gantz has also threatened that his Blue and White party will vote in support of the “anti-Bibi bill” that will make it illegal for anyone facing serious legal charges, such as Netanyahu, to form a government. Although this bill was originally voted down in August, with Blue and White’s support the bill would gain a majority, effectively ending Netanyahu’s political career. Netanyahu has responded that “It is time to stop the threats; It is time to stop acting like a government within a government.”
Israel easing out of lockdown as numbers stabilizing: On Sunday, Israel began the initial phase of exiting the contentious second national lockdown, as new case numbers have continued to drop. To date, the total death count stands at 2,260. On Sunday, ultra-Orthodox schools refused to comply with lockdown restrictions and in response, opposition leader Yair Lapid said that the institutions which violate the restrictions should be fined NIS 100,000 instead of NIS 5,000 and for repeated violations, should lose government funding completely. On Monday, Israel announced that it had named its coronavirus vaccine Brilife, a word that incorporates the Hebrew word for health, “bri.” Benny Gantz visited the laboratory where the vaccine is being developed, and announced that the vaccine will be ready for human testing by the end of the month.
U.S. State Dept. removes Sudan from terror list, clearing way for Israel normalization
Sudanese Prime Minister Abdullah Hamdok and Secretary of State Mike Pompeo on August 25, 2020 (Twitter)
Deal to remove Sudan as sponsor of terror paves way for Israel move: President Donald Trump announced Monday morning that the State Department will remove Sudan from its list of states that sponsor terrorists. Sudan’s removal from the list clears the way for Sudan to seek normalization with Israel, following the lead of Bahrain and the UAE, which officials said could happen within days. The move comes as an unrelated delegation of 40 Sudanese civilians, led by former Sudanese Member of Parliament Abu Al-Qasim Bartham, plan to visit Israel in November in an effort to “break the psychological barriers” between Israelis and Sudanese. A normalization deal between Israel and Sudan would be especially significant as Khartoum, Sudan’s capital, is where the Arab League’s Three No’s (no recognition, no peace, no negotiations) agreement was signed in 1967. Only North Korea, Iran, and Syria remain on the United States’ state sponsors of terrorism list.
Israel and Bahrain sign bilateral peace agreements: On Sunday morning, Bahrain and Israel signed eight agreements to formalize ties between the two countries. Among the agreements were a “joint communiqué on the establishment of diplomatic, peaceful, and friendly relations,” and memoranda of understanding — dealing with bilateral cooperation in various fields, including civil aviation, communications, agricultural, and technology. El Al flight 793 from Ben Gurion airport, carrying the Israeli delegation, was the first ever non-stop flight from Israel to Bahrain. A US delegation, headed by Treasury Secretary Steve Mnuchin and the White House’s special envoy to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict Avi Berkowitz, oversaw the process. Berkowitz said that support of the Abraham Accords is bipartisan in the US government: “It’s our sincere hope that, no matter who wins the election, the Abraham Accords will continue to grow.”
First UAE flight lands in Israel after aviation agreement reached: On Monday morning, the first Emirati passenger jet landed in Israel, displaying Israeli and Emirati flags as it taxied in the airfield. Etihad Airlines official Twitter account shared, “Today, we make history. Etihad has become the first Gulf airline to operate a passenger flight to Israel. And this is only the beginning… Salam and Shalom!” Later on Monday, the flight returned to Abu Dhabi with an Israeli travel and tourism delegation on board. This flight came a day after the two countries established an aviation agreement which will allow 28 weekly direct commercial flights between the countries. Etihad Airlines has launched a Hebrew language website and local authorities in Abu Dhabi have asked all hotels in the city to prepare Kosher food for their imminent Israeli visitors. Emirati ministers are scheduled to visit Israel today for the first time ever for a four-hour visit geared at implementing the peace treaty. Israeli reporter Barak Ravid tweeted on Monday that Israel and the UAE plan to sign a visa exemption, which means Emiratis visiting Israel will not need a visa, a deal that no other Arab country has with Israel.
ISRAEL’S NEIGHBORS, NEAR & NOT SO FAR
The United Nations arms embargo against Iran expired, despite American efforts to extend it
UN Iran arms embargo expires despite U.S. objections: On Sunday, an embargo that prevented Iran from purchasing foreign weapons expired after 13 years, pursuant to the terms of the 2015 Iran Nuclear Deal. The United States has condemned this decision, and Secretary of State Mike Pompeo has promised retribution for those who engage in arms deals with Iran, saying: “The United States is prepared to use its domestic authorities to sanction any individual or entity that materially contributes to the supply, sale, or transfer of conventional arms to or from Iran, as well as those who provide technical training, financial support and services, and other assistance related to these arms.” Israeli Defense Minister Benny Gantz has expressed Israeli disapproval of the end of the embargo, promising that Israel will take “whatever measures necessary” to prevent Iranian rearming. Both Russia and China have eyed military deals with Iran, but it is unlikely that Iran will follow through with these deals for the time being. On Monday, Iran said it is more inclined to sell weapons than buy them.
Senior Palestinian official Saeb Erekat in critical condition in Israeli hospital: Secretary-General of the Palestine Liberation Organization Saeb Erekat is in critical condition with COVID-19 and being treated at Jerusalem’s Hadassah Ein Kerem Hospital. On Sunday, after a request from the Palestinian Authority, Magen David Adom paramedics, escorted by IDF soldiers, went to Erekat’s home in Jericho to bring him to Jerusalem. Erekat has been intubated and sedated due to respiratory distress, and, due to a previous lung transplant, his condition has proven difficult for doctors to treat. Doctors at Hadassah Hospital have consulted with specialists from Tel Aviv, New York, and Washington. Although Defense Minister Benny Gantz approved Erekat’s move to the Jerusalem hospital, members of the Knesset from both his coalition and the opposition have condemned the decision, saying that Israel should have demanded concessions, such as the return of civilian captives and soldiers’ bodies from terrorist group Hamas in Gaza, in a “humanitarian in return for humanitarian” deal.
A tiny country on France’s southeastern coast has the highest ratio of Jewish inhabitants of any country in the world outside of Israel
Monaco now has the highest ratio of Jews in the world outside Israel: Monaco now has over 2,000 Jews, marking 5% of the small country’s 38,600 population. The highest proportion of Jews in the world outside Israel is growing rapidly, most recently due to the construction of a new multi-million dollar building for the Synagogue Edmond Safra. The Synagogue Edmond Safra and the Chabad Jewish Cultural Center of Monaco are the two congregations that serve a widely diverse population of Jews in Monaco, who speak a range of languages from Russian to French to Hebrew to English.
Hungarian PM accuses Jewish group of ignoring antisemitic candidate: Hungarian Prime Minister Viktor Orban, who has been accused of using antisemitic tropes in the past, accused his country’s largest Jewish group of ignoring antisemitism. He accused the Jewish group of not speaking out loudly enough against a far-right candidate named Laszlo Biro, who has made overt antisemitic remarks in the past. The Jewish organization said they had called out Biro’s antisemitism months ago. Biro, who narrowly lost the vote for a parliamentary seat, has claimed in social media posts that Orthodox Jewish tourists may be responsible for giving his dog fleas, has branded Budapest “Judapest” and has even called for “disconnecting Jewish usury bank capital from the economy.”
Dutch coronavirus demonstrators shout “Heil Hitler:” On Saturday, in the Dutch city of Den Bosch, a demonstration against coronavirus restrictions with around 200-300 attendants turned ugly as protesters began to shout “Heil Hitler.” Videos of the incident posted on Twitter showed demonstrators shouting the antisemitic slogan as they marched through the city. Police are inspecting these videos of the protest that violated arrangements with the municipality, and a police spokesman said that “this could ultimately lead to arrests.”
After desecrating over 80 Jewish graves, Danish neo-Nazi to be jailed: On Friday, a Danish court sentenced a 39-year-old neo-Nazi to a year in prison for desecrating over 80 Jewish graves with a 28-year-old accomplice whose sentence has yet to be handed down. The two men were found guilty of overturning gravestones and covering others with graffiti as well as two other vandalism charges for painting over a building decorated with Stars of David and putting stickers with the symbol of neo-Nazi Nordic Resistance Movement (NMR) group on a rainbow-colored park bench. The unnamed 39-year-old is a leader of the NMR, a “revolutionary national socialist” organization founded in Sweden in 1997, that has been banned by Finland’s supreme court for violating freedom of speech laws by spreading “hateful rhetoric about immigrants, sexual minorities and Jews.”
INSIDE THE U.S.
New York Times’ op-ed praising Farrakhan, without mention of long antisemitic past, sparks outrage from Jewish community
New York Times’ op-ed praising Farrakhan sparks outrage: On Saturday, the New York Times published an opinion piece, “The Women Behind the Million Man March,” by Natalie Hopkinson, which favorably discussed the role of Nation of Islam leader Louis Farrakhan, without mentioning his long record antisemitic, racist and homophobic remarks. Former op-ed editor for the NYT, Bari Weiss, called out the NYT for maintaining a “worldview in which Jew hate does not count.” President of the Anti-Defamation League Jonathan Greenblatt wrote a letter to the editor in response to the article, highlighting incidents that make Farrakhan a “serial bigot,” and imploring the NYT to consider that “when this type of hatred is ignored, it normalizes such intolerance and makes it more acceptable for others to hold such dangerous views.” Hopkinson’s response to the Jewish community’s outrage was to tweet that “ppl who have become white [Jews] should not be lecturing Black ppl about oppression” and denounce concern shown by Jewish activists as “privilege.”
World Zionist Congress vote to strip non-Orthodox parties of power: The World Zionist Congress will convene online for the first time in its 123-year history, with the convention being held today through Thursday. Normally held in Jerusalem, COVID-19 concerns have transferred the Congress onto video conference. At the Congress, non-Orthodox and center-left Jewish organizations will attempt to deny Orthodox and right-wing factions a “hostile takeover” of key leadership and policy-making positions within the World Zionist Organization, which are traditionally dispersed equally across the spectrum of religious and political ideology. A delegate from the Reform Movement, Gusti Yehoshua Braverman, denounced the coalition between the Orthodox and right-wing parties, claiming that “If this agreement is passed, the message would be that Israel is only the homeland for Jews who think a certain way, and that is nothing less than a catastrophe.”
Neo-Nazi pleads guilty to plotting to blow up a Colorado synagogue: Richard Holzer, a self-proclaimed neo-Nazi has pleaded guilty to federal hate crimes and explosives charges after plotting to blow up Temple Emanuel, a 100-year-old synagogue in Pueblo, Colorado. Holzer was arrested after he co-conspired with a man who was an undercover FBI agent. He had previously tried to poison the synagogue’s water system with arsenic. The Department of Homeland Security warned last week that violent white supremacy was the most “persistent and lethal threat in the homeland.”
Twitter to ban posts that deny the Holocaust: On Wednesday, Twitter announced that it will ban content that denies the Holocaust following Facebook’s decision to do so. A spokesperson for Twitter said: “We strongly condemn anti-Semitism, and hateful conduct has absolutely no place on our service. We also have a robust ‘glorification of violence’ policy in place and take action against content that glorifies or praises historical acts of violence and genocide, including the Holocaust.”
Jewish groups sue New York over “blatantly antisemitic” COVID -19 rules: Three Rockland County Jewish congregations filed a lawsuit to the Manhattan federal court on Wednesday against the State of New York and Governor Andrew Cuomo. The suit accused Cuomo of making discriminatory statements against the Orthodox Jewish community while implementing increased coronavirus measures across New York State’s “red zones.” On October 6th, the state began to enforce a new restriction that limited the size of religious gatherings to 25 percent capacity, or a maximum of 10 people. The lawsuit called this restriction part of a “streak of anti-Semitic discrimination,” which was especially painful for these congregations in Rockland, where a man invaded a Hanukkah celebration in December and stabbed or slashed five people. The lawsuit alleged that Cuomo’s crackdown “not only flagrantly flies directly in the face of scientific evidence,” but also “specifically singles out the Orthodox Jewish community.”
CELEBRATE & REMEMBER
Today we celebrate new Israeli research which will allow cannabis to reach the brain directly for therapeutic purposes. Using research from the Technion-Israel Institute of Technology, Nextage Therapeutics has created a system that allows for cannabis to pass through the blood brain barrier and reach the brain directly. This new technology will allow for smaller doses of cannabis to be used as a therapeutic tool for the brain with fewer side effects. This technology has the potential to help develop treatments and therapies for brain diseases such as Parkinson’s, Alzheimer’s, epilepsy, chronic pain, brain cancer and various psychiatric illnesses. This new technology is tailored for use with cannabinoids, but research has shown that it can be adapted to allow for other chemicals to enter the brain directly. Nextage plans to patent the technology, then negotiate with various researchers and companies to develop treatments for brain diseases.
Today in 1740, Maria Theresa took the throne of Austria. Maria Theresa began with a profound hatred of Jews, about whom she would write, in 1777, “I know of no greater plague than this race, which on account of its deceit, usury and avarice is driving my subjects into beggary. Therefore as far as possible, the Jews are to be kept away and avoided.” She imposed a myriad of restrictions on Jews living in her realm and attempted to expel all Jews in 1744. The expulsion orders were retracted in 1748 due to pressures from other countries, including Great Britain. It was said that this Empress caused Jews more trouble than all of the Emperors who had come before her. She was probably the most anti-Jewish monarch of her time, having inherited the traditional prejudices of her ancestors and acquired new ones.