Inside the U.S.: Jewish election results; pro-Israel progressive win; QAnon congresswoman; and federal probe over Zoom with terrorist
Inside Israel: Opposition withdraws motion to dissolve government; Netanyahu ally investigated over threats; ultra-Orthodox military exemption bill; and plan to address Arab-Israeli crime rates
Israel’s Neighbors: Malawi’s embassy decision; anti-Israel UN resolutions; Palestinian officer attack; and Israel razes Bedouin village
Inside Europe.: Antwerp’s response to Vienna attack; Iceland’s publication of Holocaust denial book; and desecration of Jewish cemeteries
Celebrate & Remember: Dream Doctors in COVID-19 wards; and remembering Abraham Lincoln
INSIDE THE U.S.
Jewish newcomers in the House, and Democrat Senate hopes may hinge on Jewish candidate in potential Georgia runoff
Wins and losses for Jewish newcomers and incumbents: Democrat Jews maintained the vast majority of their 23 incumbent seats, including their two most powerful House representatives, California’s Adam Schiff and New York’s Jerry Nadler. In Virginia and Michigan, Elaine Luria and Elissa Slotkin, both moderate Jewish Democrats with national security backgrounds, narrowly held onto their seats in the House of Representatives, despite criticism they both received for backing a vote for President Trump’s impeachment. Democrat Kathy Manning, the first female chair of the Jewish Federations of North America and the founding director of Prizmah, a Jewish day school organization, defeated Republican opponent Lee Haywood to win a North Carolinian seat in the House of Representatives. In Florida, incumbent Democratic Rep. Lois Frankel defeated controversial Republican Laura Loomer, who is also Jewish, 59 percent to 39.2 percent, respectively. In the Senate, Republican Sen. David Perdue and 33-year-old Jewish Democrat Jon Ossoff are headed to a Georgia Senate race runoff after both candidates failed to clear the state’s 50 percent vote threshold to win outright, which could prove crucial to Democrats diminished hopes of taking control of the U.S. Senate. Merav Ben-David, who was the first Israeli to run for statewide office for a major party in U.S. history, lost her race in Wyoming and Al Gross, an Alaskan whose run for Senate had garnered impressive donation levels from Democrats, is currently significantly behind.
‘Pro-Israel’ progressive elected to Congress: Ritchie Torres, a 30 year old, who has described himself as “the embodiment of a pro-Israel progressive,” has won a seat in New York’s 15th district, becoming one of the first two openly gay black members of Congress. Torres has a history of distinguishing himself from other young progressive members of Congress, including the Democratic socialist camp that includes figures such as New York’s Alexandra Ocasio-Cortez. Torres told Jewish Insider in December, “I am from the Bronx, I’m Afro-Latino, I’m Puerto Rican, I’m a millennial – but I’m also pro-Israel. The notion that you cannot be both progressive and pro-Israel is a vicious lie, because I am the embodiment of a pro-Israel progressive.” Torres opposes the Boycott, Divest, and Sanction (BDS) movement against Israel, which he has referred to as “an insidious form of antisemitism.” Danny Danon, former consul general of Israel in New York, has called Torres “an outstanding human being.”
First adherent of antisemitic QAnon theory elected to Congress: Marjorie Taylor Greene, who has come under fire for her history of espousing antisemitic QAnon conspiracy theories and using racist rhetoric during her congressional campaign was elected as a representative to Congress in her very conservative Georgia district. Greene, the first adherent of QAnon to be elected to Congress, has publicly posted her support for QAnon and the conspiracy theory that Jewish philanthropist George Soros collaborated with the Nazis. She also shared a video on Facebook that promoted the “Great Replacement” theory which falsely alleges that “Zionist supremacists” have conspired to replace whites in Europe in “the biggest genocide in human history,” by flooding Europe with African, Asian, and Latino migrants. Greene, touted as a “future star” of the Republican party by President Donald Trump, ran unopposed, after her Democrat opponent Kevin Van Ausdal dropped out of the race, in part because Greene’s supporters made him too fearful to campaign.
CA university probed over Zoom meeting with Palestinian terrorist: The U.S. Department of Education is probing San Francisco State University, which may have violated federal rules by attempting to host a Zoom event with Palestinian terrorist Leila Khaled. Khaled helped carry out two politically motivated hijackings in 1969 and 1970. The Justice Department and the U.S. Treasury may provide help in examining the case. Zoom barred the event from its platform and YouTube cut off the livestream after 23 minutes. The Lawfare Project, a nonprofit which works to protect the human and civil rights of Jewish and pro-Israel communities worldwide, urged federal officials to investigate the event, due to Khaled’s ties to the Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine, a U.S. designated terrorist organization. “In normal circumstances, people like Leila Khaled would be barred entry into the United States,” Lawfare Project senior counsel Gerard Filitti said. “However, now we’re living in a world in which Zoom and teleconferences and videoconferences are the norm, and it would be a perversion of justice if terrorists were allowed to spread their message and indoctrinate students by Zoom.”
Opposition withdraws motion to dissolve government, blaming Blue and White
Yesh Atid withdraws motion to dissolve government: On Wednesday, the opposition Yesh Atid party withdrew a bill that would move to dissolve the Knesset and send the Israeli government to its fourth election in two years. In a statement, the party blamed its former ally, the Blue and White party, for keeping “Netanyahu in the leadership.” Blue and White had given Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and his Likud party an ultimatum to pass a state budget by the end of October or risk moving to elections, but, last week, head of Yesh Atid Yair Lapid called Blue and White on their bluff by submitting this movement to dissolve along with the sarcastic comment: “I have no doubt of course that this time Blue and White members will honor their word [and vote to dissolve the government].” The bill follows months of tension between the two main parties of the governing coalition, Blue and White and Likud, over passing a state budget through 2021. Blue and White seemed unlikely to actually vote to dissolve the government, as, in doing so they would give up the chance for Defense Minister Benny Gantz to take over the role of prime minister as part of a rotation deal with Likud. Reportedly, however, there is talk among leaders of Blue and White that they wanted to wait until the conclusion of the U.S. election and will move to dissolve the Knesset on December 23, the final deadline for the budget.
Prominent member of Likud questioned over threats: On Thursday, police questioned Miki Zohar, a close ally of Prime Minister Netanyahu, on suspicion of extortion, with regards to threats he made to air dirt about Israel’s Attorney General Avichai Mandelblit last month. Mandelblit has faced immense backlash from Netanyahu’s supporters, as he brought three criminal cases for bribery and other corruption charges against the premier. Zohar called for Mandelblit’s resignation in mid-October, after taped phone conversations where Mandelblit could be heard complaining about ex-state attorney Shai Nitzan were leaked. At the time, Zohar said “I can guarantee that more things will be revealed soon. If he doesn’t resign, it will be an earthquake.” Zohar tweeted, “I knew that as a right-winger fighting for our truth, I could pay a price, but I didn’t imagine how far they would go in trying to intimidate me.” Although other right-wing ministers condemned the investigation, the Movement for Quality Government in Israel watchdog organization lauded the decision, saying that “such a direct threat, live on air, did not leave any alternative but to open an investigation. We back the law enforcement system in the struggle for our elected officials’ integrity.”
High Court deadline to pass Haredi enlistment bill: On Tuesday, the High Court of Justice denied the government’s appeal for a 6-month extension, giving them until February 1st to pass legislation exempting ultra-Orthodox seminary students from mandatory military service. If no law is advanced by the deadline, Haredi students will face conscription to the Israeli Defense Forces like their secular counterparts. Historically, ultra-Orthodox students have been awarded blanket deferrals on military service in favor of studying at religious seminaries. While many Haredi Israelis shun military service, required for other Jewish Israelis, many less religious Israelis view these deferrals as unfair. Haredi conscription has been the subject of a decade-long legal and political battle, most recently in 2017 when the High Court of Justice deemed a law that granted most yeshiva students exemptions from military service unconstitutional and gave lawmakers a year to craft new legislation about ultra-Orthodox enlistment. Since, the deadline has been extended multiple times. After Tuesday’s decision, opposition leader Yair Lapid tweeted his support: “The time has come to restore ‘equality of the burden.’ Every young person is required to serve the country. No one gets discounts.”
Alarming crime rates in Arab communities lead to calls for change: On Sunday, a triple homicide in Northern Israel became the latest in a series of alarming crimes within the Arab Israeli community, including seven homicides in the past week. Residents of these northern towns worry that there has not been enough increase in police presence and fear the imminence of the next murder: a resident of the Galilean town of Bu’eine said, “It’s intolerable at this point. It’s as if everyone’s waiting for the next killing.” On Wednesday, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu confirmed his intention to participate in a November 9 meeting of the Special Committee on Eradicating Crime in Arab Society headed by Joint List member Mansour Abbas. In recent years, as crime rates have continued to rise in Arab society, efforts to draft outlines and plans to deal with the situation have failed. Next week’s meeting will focus on creating practical initiatives to reverse the situation and create a final plan that can be approved by the Knesset. Last week, the government decided to continue its support of the 922 Plan that will invest NIS 4.7 billion into the Arab sector to develop infrastructure and increase the sector’s education budget.
ISRAEL’S NEIGHBORS, NEAR & NOT SO FAR
Malawi to be first African state with embassy in Jerusalem
Malawi to open embassy in Jerusalem next summer: During a visit to Israel on Tuesday, Malawi Foreign Minister Eisenhower Mkaka announced that Malawi intends to open an embassy in Jerusalem next summer, becoming the first African country to do so. Israeli Foreign Minister Gabi Ashkenazi expressed his pleasure with Malawi’s decision, calling Malawi a “pioneer,” and saying that the decision is “further proof of the ties between the country and the widening of the circle of peace.” In a joint statement, the two ministers announced that “This important statement testifies to the depth of relations between Israel and Malawi, and will lead to their continued strengthening of the cordial relations between the two nations” Ashkenazi vowed to increase bilateral cooperation between the two countries. The United States and Guatemala are the only countries that have embassies in Jerusalem, although several other others have expressed intent to open their own embassies in Jerusalem, including Brazil, Serbia, Kosovo, Croatia, Honduras, Moldova, Romania and the Czech Republic.
UAE, Bahrain, and Sudan back anti-Israel moves at UN: On Wednesday, a committee to the General Assembly of the United Nations passed seven resolutions critical of Israel, including one which referred to Jerusalem’s Temple Mount solely by its Muslim name of Haram al-Sharif. The resolutions included criticism for human rights violations against Palestinians and “repressive measures” against Syrians in the Golan Heights. Israel’s Ambassador to the UN Gilad Erdan told the committee that the resolution referring to the Temple Mount only by its Muslim name “completely ignores any link between the Jewish people and the Temple Mount – our holiest site. This is a disgrace.” Although Israel recently signed normalization agreements with the United Arab Emirates, Bahrain, and Sudan, the three countries continued their voting patterns and backed all resolutions critical of Israel.
Hillel Neuer, head of UN Watch, a Geneva-based nonprofit monitoring the UN’s anti-Israel bias, said on Twitter, “No joke: the U.N. just adopted a resolution referring to Jerusalem’s Temple Mount solely by its Muslim name of Haram al-Sharif, one of seven resolutions passed today that single out or condemn Israel, with zero on the entire rest of the world.” He went on, “The UN also falsely accuses Israel of “the continuing systematic violation of the human rights of the Palestinian people.“ No mention of thousands of rockets, stabbings, shootings & other terror attacks by Hamas & Islamic Jihad.”
Palestinian security officer opens fire on IDF officers: On Wednesday morning, the Israel Defense Forces announced that a member of the Palestinian Authority’s security services had opened fire on troops in northern West Bank and was shot dead by troops. Palestinian security troops, which usually coordinate with Israeli defense agencies, very rarely carry out attacks on Israeli troops and civilians. The man was named by Palestinian media as 29-year-old Bilal Rawajba, a legal adviser ranked as a captain in the Palestinian Preventative Security Forces, one of the PA’s most powerful intelligence organizations. The PA news source called Rawajba’s death an “execution” claiming that he had been shot “point blank” at a checkpoint. The IDF strongly denies this account, saying that Rawajba opened fire on Israeli troops, before they responded with fire to neutralize him.
Israel razes Bedouin village in ‘live-fire zone’: On Tuesday, Israeli soldiers razed a Bedouin village in the West Bank that was home to 73 Palestinian Bedouins, including 41 children, in the largest demolition in over a decade. The Coordinator of Government Activities in the Territories (COGAT) said that demolition had been carried out against what it said were illegal structures consisting of “7 tents and 8 pens,” which were allegedly built in an IDF training and live fire zone. The human rights group, B’Tselem said “The wiping off of a whole community at once is extremely rare. It seems like Israel was making use of the fact that everyone’s attention is currently set elsewhere to move forward with this inhumane act.” Israeli military law forbids the expulsion of permanent residents from a firing zone, but the High Court of Justice found that residents of Khirbet Humsa did not constitute permanent residents. The court ruled that: “The petitioners have no recognized property rights in these areas. These are intruders who use these areas for grazing. The construction in the area has not been authorized and is illegal.” By Thursday morning the residents had already moved back to the site, using tents donated by Palestinian aid groups, according to a Reuters witness.
Belgian city of Antwerp increases protection for Jewish community after Vienna attack
Terror attack in Vienna sparks unease and questions: A gunman, having vowed his support for the Islamic State, opened fire on Monday night outside a kosher restaurant and the Jewish community headquarters in Vienna, killing four and wounding more than 20. The attack occurred meters away from the Stadttempel, a 19th century synagogue that was the only synagogue in Vienna to have survived the Second World War and Kristellnacht (“Night of Broken Glass”) on November 9-10, 1938. In a statement reflecting the unease currently felt by Austria’s Jewish community, the European Jewish Congress said that this attack “brings back tragic memories for us as one of the first attacks on Jewish targets in Europe happened at this very spot almost 40 years ago.” The Mayor of Antwerp, Bart De Wever, announced on Tuesday that the city will provide additional protections for its 20,000 Jewish residents, Algemeiner reported on Wednesday. The decision to increase protection is based on intelligence reports from Belgian Police, Wever said.
Holocaust denial book to go on sale in Iceland: An Icelandic company plans to publish a 1976 book that argues that the Holocaust is a hoax: the Icelandic-language translation of “The Hoax of the Twentieth Century: The Case Against the Presumed Extermination of European Jewry” by Arthur Butz. The book is being advertised online, as it will be released in time for the Christmas shopping period. Although denying the Holocaust is not illegal in Iceland, the Association of Icelandic Book Publishers can intervene to stop the book’s sale. However, the organization’s head Heiðar Ingi Svansson says that will not preclude the sale of the book, as “one of the cornerstones on which book publishing here and elsewhere is based is freedom of the press and expression.”
Jewish cemeteries desecrated in Moldova and Hungary: On Monday, in Moldova’s capital Chisinau at least five headstones were destroyed at a Jewish cemetery, which has been targeted for vandalism for three straight years. The headstones were vandalized with spray painted Swastikas, a pentagram and the number 666. In a separate incident on Sunday in Kecel, Hungary, three headstones were smashed and human feces were found on a nearby headstone, as reported by the Mazsihisz umbrella group of Hungarian Jewish communities.
CELEBRATE & REMEMBER
A street in central Jerusalem is named after President Lincoln
Today we celebrate, Israeli medical clowns spreading cheer in COVID-19 wards. At the Hadassah Ein Kerem hospital in Jerusalem, along with 29 other hospitals across Israel, the Dream Doctors project has been improving patient wellbeing and enhancing the efficacy of healthcare delivery since 2002, with 100 clowns who have visited over 200,000 patients. Since June, the Dream Doctors have taken shifts in COVID-19 wards at hospitals across the country. Israel is the only country where medical clowns are still working regular shifts in hospitals since the coronavirus outbreak, and directly with COVID-19 patients. Two Israeli medical clowns, Smadar Harpak and Nimrod Eisenberg, joined us for a conversation in August to talk about the power and philosophy behind therapeutic clowning, life in Israel as a country of trauma and great resilience, their work with the amazing Dream Doctors, Clownbulance and more!
Today in 1860, Abraham Lincoln was elected 16th President of the United States. In addition to abolishing slavery, Lincoln championed the rights of Jewish Americans, even when it was difficult and unfashionable to do so. Jonathan D. Sarna, a historian at Brandeis University and co-author, with Benjamin Shapell, of the book “Lincoln and the Jews,” said, “Lincoln played an important role in turning Jews from outsiders in America to insiders. It’s a subject that has really been overlooked.” Lincoln counted Jews among his closest political allies. One of Lincoln’s closest friends was Abraham Jonas, a Kentucky merchant, lawyer and politician, who was the only person Lincoln ever referred to as “one of my most valued friends.” As President, Lincoln took some bold actions on behalf of Jews. In 1862, he approved legislation creating the first Jewish military chaplains, to serve the nearly 7,000 Jews in the Union Army. He also appointed an Orthodox Jew as a quartermaster, noting that “we have not yet appointed a Hebrew.” When Gen. Ulysses S. Grant issued his infamous General Orders No. 11 in 1862, barring Jews “as a class” from all territories under his control because he thought they were smuggling cotton, Lincoln quickly rescinded it. Lincoln’s lifetime coincided with a dramatic increase in America’s Jewish population, which grew from about 3,000 in 1809, the year of his birth, to roughly 150,000 in 1860.