Trump sought options for attacking Iran to curb its nuclear program: Following a report last week noting a significant increase in Iran’s stockpile of nuclear material, Trump asked advisers for “options” on how to address this, reportedly looking to attack the nuclear facilities. He was dissuaded by his advisers, among them Vice President Mike Pence and acting Defense Secretary Christopher Miller, who warned that any attack on Iran could escalate into a broader conflict during Trump’s last weeks in office. After Trump fired multiple officials at the Pentagon, former national security officials are worried about what Trump could do in Iran and Afghanistan, and fear he is looking “to end his administration with a bang.” Analysts consider Secretary of Defense Mark Esper’s termination as setting the stage for Trump to make riskier military moves. Meanwhile, American officials including Elliott Abrams, the administration’s top envoy on Iran, and Secretary of State Mike Pompeo continue to travel to Israel to meet with Israeli officials.
FBI report says antisemitic hate crimes rising: An FBI review detailing 2019 hate crime statistics has reported that anti-Semitic hate crimes rose 14% last year. Of the 1,650 religion-related hate crimes committed in 2019, over 60% of them were against Jews, despite Jews only comprising 2% of the American population. The religion with the second-most hate crimes committed against it was Islam, at 13%. The Anti-Defamation League said that the FBI numbers are almost certainly a significant undercount of the true number of hate crimes in the U.S. because many municipalities do not submit all of their hate crime data. The ADL called on Congress and law enforcement agencies nation-wide to recognize that hate crimes against all backgrounds are rising, and to improve data collection and hate-crime reporting. ADL’s CEO Jonathan Greenblatt said of the FBI’s report, “When one individual is targeted by a hate crime, it hurts the whole community.” The total number of U.S. hate crimes committed in 2019 is the highest in over a decade.
After antisemitic tweets, Ice Cube to headline at ZOA’s gala: Rapper and actor Ice Cube, who has a long history of antisemitism, is set to headline at the Zionist Organization of America’s (ZOA) virtual gala in December. Ice Cube has historically been a staunch supporter of the antisemitic Nation of Islam leader Louis Farrakhan, was accused in 2015 of ordering his entourage to beat up a rabbi, and has railed against Jews in his lyrics. After he posted antisemitic images on social media this summer, ZOA president Mort Klein reached out to confront Ice Cube about his tweets, and the two ended up becoming friends. Klein even tweeted that “I, Mort Klein, just had a 2 hour conversation with Ice Cube. We both grew up poor in Black hoods. Cube told me he thanked Jews for starting NAACP, many Black schools & fighting for Black civil rights. Cube told me he supports condemning Black & all antisemitism & I condemned all racism.”
CNN’s Christiane Amanpour compares Trump-era to Kristallnacht: On Thursday, the week after the anniversary of the Kristallnacht pogroms, Christiane Amanpour opened her show “Amanpour” by invoking the pogroms as a comparison to the dishonesty and misinformation spread by President Donald Trump. American and Israeli politicians, as well as many Twitter users have called out Amanpour for this comparison. The Israeli Foreign Ministry reportedly requested an official apology from Amanpour. Jewish groups have criticized comparisons of modern-day politics to Nazi Germany in the past, including an advertisement released in September by the Jewish Democratic Council of America that drew parallels between the rise of fascism in Hitler’s Third Reich to the Trump presidency, which was swiftly condemned by the Anti-Defamation League. However, some, including former ADL director Abraham Foxman and Holocaust scholar Deborah Lipstadt, have argued that such comparisons are relevant. On Monday, Amanpour apologized on her program, saying, “Hitler and his evils stand alone, of course, in history. I regret any pain my statement may have caused. My point was to say how democracy can potentially slip away, and how we must always zealously guard our democratic values.”
For the third time in two years, thunderstorms are blamed for the launch of rockets at central Israel
Hamas rockets fired into Israel, explained as accidental: Early Sunday morning, two rockets were fired from Gaza, landing near the city of Ashdod and on Palmachim Beach, south of Tel Aviv — causing no significant damage or injuries, but triggering sirens that sent thousands of Israelis to shelter. In response to the rocket fire, the IDF released a statement that they had targeted “underground infrastructure and military positions of the Hamas terrorist organization in the Gaza Strip.” Security sources announced that the rockets from Gaza were fired from Hamas launch pads. Hamas blamed the rocket fire, which had been armed and pre-aimed at central Israel, a malfunction, accidentally triggered by the weather. Analysts believe that, as Israel and Hamas are engaged in ongoing talks to negotiate a long-term ceasefire, the rocket fire threatened to derail their talks and potentially lead to a major round of fighting, and thus both were willing to concede that the rocket fire was accidental.
Israel to send second astronaut to space: Israel will send its second-ever astronaut to space in late 2021, when former fighter pilot Eytan Stibbe will spend just over a week on the International Space Station. Stibbe’s commanding officer and close friend in the Israeli Air Force was Ilan Ramon, Israel’s first astronaut in orbit, who was killed in the 2003 Columbia disaster. Stibbe will be conducting groundbreaking experiments on board the ISS, which could pave the way for breakthroughs in Israel’s scientific and technological communities. Stibbe will participate in a mission that is composed entirely of privately funded individuals, and Stibbe is funding his participation by himself. Several Israeli news outlets rumored that one of Stibbe’s fellow astronauts on the mission will be Tom Cruise, who is reportedly filming an adventure movie in space in October 2021.
Dozens call to prevent new nominee for chair of Yad Vashem: In August, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and his allies called to appoint a former far-right politician and general, Effi Eitam, as the next chairman of Yad Vashem. Yad Vashem, referred to recently by politician Yair Lapid as a “sacred institution” in Israeli culture, is a museum and memorial to the Holocaust located in Jerusalem. Holocaust survivors, politicians, academics, and Jewish organizations have all expressed concern with Eitam’s appointment, as he has a long history of using inflammatory actions and statements against Israeli Arabs, including calling for their expulsion from the political system and land of Israel. Even the Anti-Defamation League has spoken out against Eitam’s appointment, saying that “his problematic moral record is deeply disturbing for those individuals and organizations dedicating to inculcating the lessons of the Holocaust.” Eitam’s supporters, however, view the opposition to his appointment as part of a pattern of discrimination against religious Jews in Israel. Eitam has yet to be officially appointed to the chair position, as it is subject to government approval — first in a parliamentary committee and then in an Israeli cabinet vote.
Israel expedites East Jerusalem expansion: After the U.S. election identified Joe Biden as the next president, Jerusalem City Hall and the Israel Lands Authority began to expedite approval of building plans for construction in East Jerusalem’s Givat Hamatos neighborhood, as Israel expects a settlement freeze with the Biden administration. If this neighborhood is built, it will become the first new Jewish neighborhood in East Jerusalem in two decades. The neighborhood’s location is beyond the Green Line, which is a term used to delineate the demarcation line between Israel, Jordan, Egypt and Syria from the period following Israel’s 1948 Independence War until the 1967 Six Day War, when Israel captured the West Bank, and East Jerusalem from Jordan, the Gaza Strip from Egypt, and the Golan Heights from Syria. Critics say this new neighborhood would completely surround the Palestinian neighborhood of Beit Safafa, cutting it off from the rest of the largely Arab East Jerusalem. During Barack Obama’s tenure as president, Biden played an important role in a years-long construction freeze across the Green Line that began in 2010 and was only unfrozen when President Donald Trump came into office.
NETANYAHU’S LEGAL TROUBLES
Netanyahu’s corruption trial resumes with hearing on defense request for delay
Netanyahu corruption trial resumes with delay requests: On Sunday, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s corruption trial on charges of fraud, breach of trust, and accepting bribes resumed. Netanyahu’s lawyers claimed they lacked access to the full case files from the investigations of the premier, and therefore could not properly form a defense. This will likely further delay the trial. In an effort to disqualify certain allegations, Netanyahu’s lawyers also claimed that police began their probe into Netanyahu’s conduct before the attorney general permitted them to do so. A report released Thursday uncovered that, at the request of Netanyahu, Jewish American businessman Larry Ellison convinced Arnon Milchan, who was previously charged in one of Netanyahu’s corruption charges, to give up the services of his attorney so that he could represent Netanyahu instead.
On Sunday, Deputy Attorney General Dina Zilber gave a speech at an online conference, in which she attacked Netanyahu’s claims that his indictment is part of a “judicial coup,” referring to the claims as part of “a culture of scapegoating instead of taking responsibility.” Zilber said that Netanyahu’s claims are similar to the plot of the Protocols of the Elders of Zion, an infamous anti-Semitic fiction from 1903 about a Jewish cabal plotting global domination. Zilber has received criticism in the past for being anti-right wing and promoting a leftist agenda, and is set to retire this December.
Anti-Bibi bill to be voted on Wednesday in the Knesset: On Sunday, the opposition Yesh Atid-Telem faction announced that the Knesset will vote on legislation, dubbed the “anti-Bibi bill,” on Wednesday that would prohibit anyone under criminal indictment from serving as prime minister. The bill is intended to test the Blue and White party, as Blue and White leader Benny Gantz has reportedly set a deadline to decide whether to leave the coalition with Netanyahu this week. A month ago, Gantz said he would consider signing this bill if Netanyahu did not enable the passage of the state budget. The bill was first presented in August but was defeated, as it did not have Blue and White’s support, but if Blue and White votes in favor of the bill on Wednesday, it has a chance of passing. A member of Yesh Atid said that, “It is time for my friends in Blue and White to stop threatening and start keeping their promises.” On Friday, opposition leader Yair Lapid announced that, in the event of a new election, he is open to re-partner with Gantz and the Blue and White party, if Gantz agrees to give Lapid the alliance’s top spot.
On Saturday, senior members of the Blue and White party reportedly announced willingness to compromise on the current budget impasse, in order to avoid sending Israel into its fourth election in two years. However, these lawmakers also told Channel 12 that they were wary of Netanyahu’s willingness to compromise, as they agree with the widely held belief that Netanyahu has manufactured this political crisis. If Netanyahu can trigger the automatic dissolution of the government which would lead to early elections, he would be able to avoid the agreed-upon handover of power next year to Gantz. If no budget is passed by late December, the government will automatically dissolve, and new elections will be called.
AROUND THE WORLD
Al Qaeda’s # 2 was killed in Iran by Israeli agents at the behest of the U.S.
The American Embassy in Nairobi, Kenya, was bombed in 1998, one of two attacks that day attributed to the al Qaeda leader al-Masri
Al Qaeda’s No. 2 killed in Iran, eyes turn to Israel: Intelligence officials have confirmed that al Qaeda’s second highest leader, Abu Muhammad al-Masri, was shot on the streets of Tehran by two Israeli operatives at the behest of the United States on August 7th. These reports have yet to be publicly acknowledged by the United States, Israel or al-Qaeda, and on Saturday, Iran denied that al-Masri had even been present on its “soil.” Al-Masri’s daughter, Miriam, who was the widow of Osama Bin Laden’s son, was also targeted and killed in the attack, as she was being groomed for a leadership role in al-Qaeda. Most famous for his role in planning the deadly 1998 attacks on American embassies in Africa, al-Masri was reportedly “planning attacks against Israelis and Jewish targets in the world” and the U.S. had offered $10 million for his capture. Al-Masri’s presence in the Iranian capital is evidence of a link between the Sunni al-Qaeda and Shi’ite Iran, which is the world’s leading state sponsor of terrorism.
Apology from a German whose grandfather took over Jew’s shop in 1938: Thomas Edelmann, a German businessman, contacted a retired teacher in Israel last year to apologize for the actions of his Nazi grandfather. Although Edelmann had never met his grandfather, he had heard rumors about the family business and had suspicions that it had previously been owned by Jews who were forced to sell to his family. After looking into his family’s genealogy, Edelmann found tax records confirming that, after the introduction of Germany’s antisemitic Nuremberg laws that permitted the confiscation of Jewish property, the Jewish owner Benjamin Heidelberger was forced to sell his hardware store in southern Germany to Edelmann’s grandfather. Upon hearing Edelmann’s story, the genealogy website he had used, MyHeritage, found Heidelberger’s 1942 naturalization record from British Mandatory Palestine, his gravestone alongside his wife, Emma, in northern Israel, and the contact information for his living granddaughter Hanna Ehrenreich, an 83-year-old retired teacher. Edelmann reached out to Ehrenreich, writing: “I believe that if my family supported the injustice your grandparents experienced, it is our duty to take this into account and take over responsibility at least in getting in touch with you to listen and learn. As I am part of the Edelmann family I want to take the first step and listen to you.” Edelmann also wrote about “new antisemitism upcoming” in Germany, stating his will that his “family will never again be responsible for injustice experienced by others, but stand up to take part for the weak.” Ehrenreich responded, and the two engaged in a 90-minute phone conversation, which she called “a very good conversation. Thomas wanted to hear how we had been. I said we were happy, and we have had a good life.”
Ethiopian conflict claims first Jewish life: For almost two weeks, Ethiopian government forces have been fighting against a powerful regional government in the country’s north and on November 12, the first victim from the Jewish community was reported: Girmew Gete, 36. Gete had been waiting with his family to immigrate to Israel for the past 24 years. Hundreds have died in this recent conflict and at least 20,000 refugees have fled to Sudan. The conflict is the result of a power struggle that goes back to 2018, when a popular uprising brought Prime Minister Abiy Ahmed to power. Ahmed ushered in democratic reforms and dismantled Ethiopia’s ruling party, which had run the country for almost 30 years. Tigrayans, who dominated the prior coalition ruling party, are an ethnic minority who make up about 6% of Ethiopia’s population. They refused to join Ahmed’s government, and, in September, they held their own parliamentary elections, which the national government deemed illegal. On November 4, Tigrayan security forces attacked the headquarters of the Ethiopian National Defense Force’s Northern Command in Tigray, prompting Ahmed to order retaliatory airstrikes. There are fears that the fighting could draw Amhara, which is right next to Tigray and where most Ethiopian Jews live, into the violence. On Friday night, the Tigray People’s Liberation Front launched rockets at two airports in Amhara, one of them serving Gondar City, where three-quarters of the Ethiopians waiting to come to Israel are based. Some 8,000 to 9,000 Jews who are waiting to make Aliyah remain in Ethiopia.
Increased border security in Argentina after bomb plot against Jews: On Saturday, Argentina announced that it will tighten its border security with Paraguay after its British embassy received a tip that a person was trying to smuggle bomb materials through the border in order to build a “bomb with a Jewish objective.” Argentinian officials are investigating the name of the suspect who was mentioned in the tip. Argentina’s last Jewish-centered bombings were in 1992 and 1994 when Iran and its proxy Hezbollah were implicated in bombing attacks at the Israeli embassy and the AMIA Jewish Center. Hezbollah has also been known to use Paraguay as a base for illicit financial operations.
CELEBRATE & REMEMBER
Then-Israel Ambassador to the UN Abba Eban speaks at the General Assembly in New York
Today we celebrate alumni from the IDF’s Intelligence Corps 8200 cyber hacking unit who are working together with a non-profit organization to promote the Arab community in Israel. The program, known as Hybrid, is run in coordination with the Ministry of the Economy to assist Arab-led startups from an early stage all the way to becoming independent and international hi-tech companies. Participants of the program receive a mentorship process that helps them achieve connections with investors and collaborators and practical experience in developing effective technologies and business models. One of the main successes of the Hybrid program is its work with women-led startups from the Israeli Arab community, including the Mirrori startup, which has invented an AI-based virtual beauty assistant that provides advice to women based on their facial features and their own inventory of beauty products. Noa Gastfreund, Hybrid’s managing director, says that “The Arab community has an abundance of talented hi-tech professionals, mostly working in corporations. Our goal is to be the bridge to the competitive world of entrepreneurship in Israel. Hybrid connects the extensive network and skills among Arab entrepreneurs with those of the 8200 unit’s alumni, making Israel a more diverse startup nation.”
Today in 2002, Abba Eban passed away. Abba Eban was an Israeli orator, diplomat and politician who served in many capacities including Deputy Prime Minister, Foreign Minister, and Israeli Ambassador to the United Nations. Eban was born on February 2, 1915 in Cape Town, South Africa, and brought up in England. He studied oriental languages (he was fluent in 10 languages) and classics at Cambridge University, England, where he was a lecturer in Arabic from 1938 to 1940. During World War II he served in the British Army in Egypt and Mandate Palestine, becoming an intelligence officer in Jerusalem, where he coordinated and trained volunteers for resistance in the event of a German invasion. In 1946, the Jewish Agency appointed him political information officer in London, where he participated in the negotiations with the British government and the UN concerning the establishment of the State of Israel. When Israel became independent in 1948, he was appointed its first Ambassador at the UN. From 1950 until 1959 Eban was both Israel’s ambassador in Washington, D.C., and chief delegate to the UN. In 1959, Eban returned to Israel and was elected to Knesset for the Mapai political party, serving under Prime Minister David Ben-Gurion as Minister of Education and Culture from 1960 to 1963 and then as Deputy Prime Minister under Levi Eshkol from 1963 to 1966. From 1966 to 1974, Eban served as Israel’s Minister of Foreign Affairs, defending the country in the political arena following the Six-Day War and ensuring that world powers knew Israel had defended itself in the war and not acted aggressively. He was a famous supporter of land for peace exchanges with Egypt and the Palestinians and played a key role in shaping UN Security Council Resolutions 242 and 338. In 1988, after having served for three decades in the Knesset, Eban was booted over internal splits within the Labor Party and he devoted the rest of his life to academia, writing and teaching about Israel. He served temporary posts as a visiting academic at Princeton, Columbia and George Washington universities. Throughout his career, he found time to publish meticulous and detailed historical works based on his vast knowledge and personal experience.