Terror Strikes France, Labour Suspends Corbyn, & West Bank Policy Reversal

October 30, 2020

Terror Strikes France, Labour Suspends Corbyn, & West Bank Policy Reversal

October 30, 2020
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Shabbat Shalom!

Today we’re diving into:

  • Inside Europe: Nice terror attack; Jeremy Corbyn’s suspension from Labour; and Albania’s conference against antisemitism
  • Inside the U.S.: Twitter’s about-face on holocaust denial; policy reversals on passports and West Bank project funding; and Borat lawsuit dismissed
  • Inside Israel: Yitzhak Rabin memorial; Yad Vashem controversy; LGBTQ+ bill voted down; and Norway’s embassy to grant civil marriages
  • Israel’s Neighbors: White House notifies Congress on F-35 sale; new underground Iranian nuclear facility; and Israel—Lebanon border talks
  • Celebrate & Remember: Study to reverse age related mental deterioration; and happy birthday Henry Winkler!


France declares national emergency after third attack in 2 months tied to Muslim extremists

Three killed in Islamic terror attack in Nice: On Thursday, a terrorist killed three people at the Basilica of Notre Dame in Nice, France. Police sources named the attacker as Brahim Aioussaoi, who “virtually beheaded” at least one of his victims, while repeating the phrase “Allahu Akbar” (God is great in Arabic), which he continued to repeat even while sedated after his arrest. French President Emmanuel Macron deemed the incident an “Islamist terror attack.” The attack follows weeks of tensions in France after the beheading of Samuel Paty, a teacher who had shown a caricature of the Prophet Muhammad in class. Additionally, last month a man seeking asylum in France attacked bystanders with a butcher knife outside the former offices of the satirical magazine Charlie Hebdo. Israeli soccer team, Hapoel Beersheva, reportedly requested heightened security from the French government, as the team was in Nice for a soccer game against OGC Nice on Thursday.  The head of the Palestinian Islamic Supreme Council called for a “day of rage” to protest Macron’s defense of free speech in connection with the cartoon and his remarks that “Islam is a religion that is experiencing a crisis today all over the world.” At several protests in the West Bank, Palestinians burned French flags and trampled on pictures of Macron, accusing him of spearheading a campaign against Islam and Muslims.
Jeremy Corbyn suspended by British Labour Party after antisemitism report: On Thursday, the Equality and Human Rights Commission (EHRC) released a report identifying “serious failings” regarding how the British Labour party dealt with antisemitism during Jeremy Corbyn’s tenure as leader. The report said that the Labour Party is responsible for “unlawful acts of harassment and discrimination” against Jews. Corbyn responded to the report by saying that while he condemned antisemitism, the scale of the problem under his leadership had been “dramatically overstated for political reasons.” In response, the Labor Party suspended Corbyn and a statement by the party read, “in light of (Corbyn’s) comments made today and his failure to retract them subsequently, the Labour Party has suspended Jeremy Corbyn pending investigation. He has also had the whip removed from the Parliamentary Labour Party.” For years, Jewish politicians have accused the party of using antisemitic language on social media and in party meetings, including smears against Jews at large and anti-Israel and anti-Zionist rhetoric. Corbyn’s successor as leader, Keir Starmer, said he accepted the report “in full” and would implement all its recommendations. “It is a day of shame for the Labour Party. We have failed Jewish people… I am truly sorry for all the pain and grief that has been caused,”
Inaugural Balkans Forum Against Antisemitism conference hosted by Albania: On Wednesday, the Muslim-majority Albania hosted the first forum against antisemitism in the Balkans online due to the coronavirus pandemic. The forum aimed to create “a united front among the Balkans to act collectively against anti-Semitism, including the removal of hatred and bigotry from our discourse, creating a more tolerant Europe.” A main topic of conversation at the conference was the International Holocaust Remembrance Alliance’s (IHRA) working definition of antisemitism, after Albania passed legislation to adopt the definition earlier this month. U.S. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo attended the conference and urged the other Balkan countries to adopt the IHRA definition, calling on them to “continue to make sure that people of all faiths can live and flourish side by side in peace.” Albanian Prime Minister Edi Rama also stressed the danger of online antisemitism, saying: “let us not forget that the very first pogroms originated from the ‘fake news’ and slanders of the day against the actions of Jews. This is where it all originated. The new form of spreading this in the digital world should worry us. There is a lot of hope in digital society for progress, but this must not turn into a nightmare spiraling out of control.” 


Two weeks after Twitter banned Holocaust denial, CEO Jack Dorsey says it’s still allowed

In Senate hearing, Twitter CEO suggests Holocaust denial not banned: At a hearing of the Senate Commerce Committee on Wednesday, Twitter CEO Jack Dorsey suggested that tweets denying the Holocaust are not banned on his platform, despite an announcement earlier this month implying the opposite. Colorado Senator Cory Gardner asked Dorsey, “If somebody denied the Holocaust happened, it’s not misinformation?” To which the CEO responded, “It’s misleading information, but we don’t have a policy against that type of misleading information.” Dorsey claims that Twitter has policies against misinformation in three main categories: “manipulated media, public health, specifically COVID, and civic integrity, election interference, and voter suppression.” A spokesperson for Twitter told the Times of Israel that Twitter: “strongly condemn[s] anti-Semitism, and hateful conduct has absolutely no place on our service. She continued saying that, although Holocaust denial is not included in Twitter’s misinformation policy, their “Hateful Conduct Policy prohibits a wide range of behavior, including making references to violent events or types of violence where protected categories were the primary victims, or attempts to deny or diminish such events.” Gardner continued the questioning, pointing out tweets where Iran’s Ayatollah Khamenei expressly denied the Holocaust. Dorsey defended Twitter’s policy of allowing Khamenei’s tweets, saying that “We believe it’s important for everyone to hear from global leaders, and we have policies around world leaders. We want to make sure we are respecting their right to speak and to publish what they need.”
U.S. citizens born in Jerusalem now allowed to list Israel on their passports: On Thursday U.S. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo announced the reversal of a policy that prohibited U.S. citizens born in Jerusalem from listing Israel as their country of birth on their passports. Now people will have a choice between “Jerusalem” or “Jerusalem, Israel.” In 2015, under President Obama, the U.S. Supreme Court struck down a law that would have let Jerusalem-born Americans list Israel on their passports as their country of birth, saying it unlawfully encroached on presidential powers to set foreign policy. The State Department recognized Jerusalem as Israel’s capital in 2017 and since then, U.S. Ambassador David Friedman has pushed for the passport policy to be changed to be consistent with U.S. recognition of Jerusalem. Jerusalem Deputy Mayor Fleur Hassan-Nahoum, said “We are happy that today the U.S. has kept its promise to Israel and completed the process of recognizing Jerusalem as Israel’s capital.”
U.S. allows funding for science projects in the West Bank: On Wednesday, the United States and Israel signed agreements to allow for U.S. funding of scientific research in the West Bank, which modified prior science cooperation agreements from the 1970’s. The agreements had previously stipulated that U.S. funding could not apply to projects in areas captured by Israel in the 1967 Six Day War — including the West Bank, East Jerusalem and the Golan Heights. The U.S. Embassy in Israel said, “these geographic restrictions are no longer consistent with U.S. policy.” Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu lauded the agreement, calling it “an important victory against all those who seek to delegitimize everything Israeli beyond the 1967 lines.” U.S. Ambassador to Israel David Friedman said that the agreement is “righting an old wrong and strengthening yet again the unbreakable bond between our two countries.” The agreement has come under fire by Palestinians, who view the extension of U.S. funding to projects in the West Bank as a recognition of Israeli sovereignty over the area and have called it a “dangerous precedent.” Netanyahu, however, called out those who do not recognize Israel’s right to land in the West Bank: “to those malevolent boycotters, I have a simple message today: You are wrong, and you will fail.” 
Georgia judge rejects Holocaust survivor’s daughter’s “Borat” lawsuit: A judge in Georgia dismissed the appeal of a Holocaust survivor’s daughter to have her mother cut from Sacha Baron Cohen’s Borat sequel, “Borat Subsequent Moviefilm.” Judith Dim Evans, who died earlier this year, was featured in the film, teaching Borat’s character about the Holocaust. Evans’ daughter claims that she was “horrified and upset” when she learned that the film was a comedy. Cohen and Amazon, where the film aired last Friday, hold that Evans was told about the film’s gag style, namely tricking unsuspecting people into doing things on camera, after the scene was filmed, and that she signed a waiver that authorized use of the footage. A large portion of the Borat sequel is devoted to mocking Holocaust denial and antisemitism, and Cohen dedicated the film to Evans’ memory, which he has never done with previous films. Cohen and Amazon are working to share the footage of Evans telling her full Holocaust story. An Amazon rep explained Cohen’s relationship with Evans: “Sacha Baron Cohen was deeply grateful for the opportunity to work with Judith Dim Evans, whose compassion and courage as a Holocaust survivor has touched the hearts of millions of people who have seen the film. Judith’s life is a powerful rebuke to those who deny the Holocaust, and with this film and his activism, Sacha Baron Cohen will continue his advocacy to combat Holocaust denial around the world.”


Rabin square lights up to commemorate 25th anniversary of Yitzhak Rabin’s assassination

A display of 25,000 candles in honor of the 25th anniversary of the assassination of Prime Minister Yitzhak Rabin at Rabin Square in Tel Aviv, October 29, 2020
Jewish world marks 25 years since Rabin’s assassination: On Thursday, Israelis and Jews of the diaspora alike commemorated the 25th anniversary of the assassination of Prime Minister Yitzhak Rabin, who was murdered on November 4, 1995. Tel Aviv’s Rabin Square (posthumously named after him) was lit up with 25,000 candles in memory of Rabin, killed by a right-wing extremist who objected to Rabin’s peace efforts. President Rivlin hosted a commemoration ceremony for Rabin, lamenting that even 25 years later “the country is divided like the Red Sea.” Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said Thursday that he is now under a similar threat, yet “nobody says anything.” Hundreds of Jewish Agency for Israel emissaries in the United States, England, Mexico, Australia, Argentina, and more are holding memorial ceremonies with educational activities in their communities as a way to honor Rabin’s commitment towards Jews of the diaspora.
Outcry over nomination of far-right politician to lead Yad Vashem: On Tuesday, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s Likud Party announced plans to nominate Effie Eitam, a far-right former general and cabinet minister, to lead the Yad Vashem Holocaust Memorial Museum. Eitam has a history of anti-Arab rhetoric, and has called for the expulsion of Palestinians from the West Bank and the removal of Israel’s Arabs (20% of the population) from the political system, calling them a “fifth column” and a “group of traitors.” Groups representing Holocaust survivors are outraged by the decision and are concerned that his appointment would reflect poorly on the museum. Colette Avital, director of  the Center of Organizations of Holocaust Survivors in Israel said: “There are enough people, whether it’s BDS or whether it’s people that deny the Holocaust and so on, who will say ‘Look, the guy, how can he speak on behalf of Holocaust survivors when this is what he says about the Arabs?’” Chairman of the Israeli Association of Bergen-Belsen Survivors, Shraga Milstein, joined in disapproval, saying that Eitam is “unfit” for the role because “he is not a man who regards everyone as equal, which is a basic assumption for anyone running an institution like Yad Vashem.” Eitam’s candidacy has yet to be vetted by a parliamentary committee. 
Bill to require gender-neutral terms for parents rejected: A pro-LGBTQ+ bill requiring all official Israeli documents to change the language of their parent information section was shot down by the Knesset on Wednesday, after Blue and White abstained from voting. The bill would have initiated a change from the heteronormative “father” and “mother” categories on official documents to the more inclusive “Parent 1” and “Parent 2”. Although they supported the bill, the Blue and White party boycotted the vote, opting not to anger right-wing and Orthodox parties in their coalition. Instead they drew criticism from the opposition, as they were accused by Yair Lapid of selling out their “own values and conscience.” 

  • On Thursday, Norway indicated it will allow Israelis who cannot get married in Israel to hold civil marriage ceremonies at its Tel Aviv embassy. The decision cites the coronavirus-imposed halt of international travel, of which couples seeking civil marriages normally take advantage. This action will favor LGBTQ+ couples, as well as interfaith and unclear-faith couples, all of whom cannot be married by the Israeli Rabbinate. Uri Keidar of the Free Israel Movement praised the move, stating “We welcome any step that will allow Israeli couples to choose their path to marry.”


White House officially notifies Congress of intent to sell 50 F-35 fighter jets to UAE

White House moves ahead with plans to sell F-35s to UAE: On Thursday, the White House notified Congress of their plans to sell 50 F-35 fighter jets to the United Arab Emirates. The U.S. and the UAE hope to have a letter of agreement by Dec. 2nd, which is UAE National Day. The deal may face resistance, as the U.S. Senate Foreign Relations and House of Representatives Foreign Affairs committees, who have previously criticized the UAE for its role in civilian deaths in Yemen, have the right to review and block weapons sales. Although the deal initially faced backlash from Israeli leadership, Defense Minister Benny Gantz released a statement on Thursday in support of the sale, saying that “ The U.S. continues to be committed to Israel’s security and its qualitative and technological advantage in the Middle East.” U.S. Secretary of Defense Mark Esper met with Gantz yesterday in Israel, where Gantz thanked Esper for the United States’’ intentions to “significantly upgrade Israel’s military capability.” On a press call Wednesday, Joe Biden’s top foreign policy adviser Anthony Blinken said that Biden’s campaign is concerned about the plans to sell the aircraft to the UAE and that the sale might hinder Israel’s qualitative military advantage in the region, which the U.S. is obligated to uphold. U.S. Democrats have recently advanced legislation which would give Israel a say in arms sales to other Middle East countries.
UN watchdog finds new Iranian underground nuclear facility: On Tuesday, inspectors from the UN’s atomic watchdog confirmed that Iran is building an underground centrifuge assembly plant after its previous one exploded in July. Tehran claims that the explosion in July was the result of “sabotage,” as it was one of a series of blasts at strategic sites in Iran at the time, thought to be perpetrated by Israel and/or the United States. Iran had promised that it would rebuild the centrifuge assembly plant in the mountains, but there has been no apparent progress made on this construction. Rafael Grossi, director-general of the International Atomic Energy Agency, says that Iran continues to stockpile greater amounts of low-enriched Uranium, but likely does not have enough to produce a weapon. Experts warn, however, that this underground site is much more difficult to strike, and thus, as Iran continues to make strides in nuclear weapon development, Iran’s enemies must pay attention to the facility’s capacity to produce a secret weapon. 
Israel & Lebanon end second round of border talks: On Thursday, Israeli and Lebanese delegations declared the end of a “productive” second round of negotiations over their long-disputed maritime border. Though both parties have largely kept the proceedings of the U.S.-mediated discussions secret, Lebanese negotiators have reportedly pressed for a larger chunk of the territory than before, in hopes of claiming natural gas hotbeds. Negotiations will resume next month, according to both delegations. This past week, Israel also completed a drill simulating multi-front war, dubbed “Lethal Arrow.” The drill intended to raise inter-branch cooperation against the threat of war from Hezbollah in Lebanon, Hamas in Gaza, and fronts with non-bordering countries. Prime Minister Netanyahu visited the drill and voiced his approval, warning that “those who attack us will meet fire and a steel fist.”


Henry Winkler, Twitter June 19, 2019
Today we celebratenew joint study between researchers at Ben Gurion University of the Negev and University of California, Berkeley, which has taken steps toward discovering a revolutionary approach to slowing and possibly reversing the mental deterioration that results from aging. The treatment combines a new diagnostic technique to detect a leaking blood-brain barrier with an anti-inflammatory drug. So far, the treatment has only been tested on rodents, but has proven promising, as the rodents treated have shown cognitive abilities near those of other rodents half their age. Ben Gurion University professor and senior study author Alon Friedman said, “These findings represent real hope that we can stop, and even reverse, the deterioration that until now we considered an inevitable part of aging.”
Today in 1945, less than 2 months after the end of World War II, Henry Winkler was born! Henry’s Jewish parents, Ilse Anna Marie Winkler and Harry Irving Winkler, emigrated from Germany to the United States in 1939, right before the beginning of the war. Winkler was named after his uncle Helmut, who was killed by the Nazis. On the day Henry’s parent’s left Germany, Helmut was supposed to go with them but he had loose ends to tie up and decided to delay his own departure by 24 hours. “He waited one day too long,” Winkler said. “He was going to go, but the tailor was making a (white) dinner jacket (for him) and he thought he could wait one more day and then take it with him.” That night, Uncle Helmut was seized by the Nazis and was later sent to Auschwitz, where he would not survive. Henry credits faith in Judaism with providing the strength and determination to pursue his acting dreams—even in the face of parental disapproval. His father, who owned a lumber business, wanted Henry to follow his footsteps. Winkler has said that he was very anxious as a child because of his undiagnosed dyslexia, and that he was considered to be “slow, stupid, [and] not living up to [his] potential.” Winkler has been acting, producing and directing for almost 50 years now and rose to fame with his role as Arthur “Fonzie” Fonzarelli, a greaser who became the breakout character of the sitcom Happy Days (1974–1984). He’s also an author and has collaborated on a series of children’s books featuring Hank Zipzer, a fictional fourth-grade boy with dyslexia.

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