Israel warns its nuclear scientists, fears Iranian response: According to reports, Israel has warned nuclear scientists working at the covert Dimona reactor that they should take increased safety precautions for fear of Iranian retaliation over the killing of Iranian nuclear mastermind Mohsen Fakhrizadeh. Some scientists were told to change their daily routines and to be wary of suspicious packages. The Iranians have tried in the past to carry out attacks against senior Israeli officials overseas. Retired general Nitzan Nuriel said, “I doubt [Iran has] the ability to carry out such an attack in Israel. Nevertheless, people need to be cautious.” Additionally, Israeli tourists have largely failed to heed the public warnings about their safety during travel abroad to the Gulf. In fact, the demand for travel to Dubai is so high that Flydubai, the first Emirati airline offering direct UAE-Israel flights is increasing the number of its daily flights to three. The UAE is only one of three countries worldwide to which Israelis can travel during the pandemic without quarantining upon return.
Iranian official denies rumors that supreme leader stepped down: A London-based Iranian journalist Momahad Ahwaze tweeted Saturday that Iran’s Supreme Leader Ayatollah Khamenei stepped down from power—perhaps temporarily—and handed over the reins to his son, Sayyid Mojtaba Hosseini Khamenei. The senior Khamenei, who is 81-years-old, is apparently in poor health due to suspected prostate cancer and had canceled recent meetings. In 2014, Khamenei had surgery on his prostate. Khamenei has led Iran since the death of the Islamic Republic’s founder, Ayatollah Khomenei, in 1989, ten years after the revolution. The appointment of Khamenei’s son is unconstitutional; the Iranian constitution prescribes that the Supreme Leader’s successor is to be chosen by a council of 88 senior religious figures. Mehdi Fazaeli, an official close to Khamenei, denied the rumors that Khamenei’s health was deteriorating.
Iran seeks reconciliation with Biden: Iranian Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif said last week that Iran will comply with the 2015 nuclear deal should the U.S. return and honor its commitments to the agreement. Zarif remarked on the recent bill which was approved in Iran to suspend UN inspections and boost uranium enrichment: “the Europeans and the U.S. can come back into compliance with the [Iran nuclear deal] and not only this law will not be implemented, but in fact the actions we have taken … will be rescinded. We will go back to full compliance.” Biden has expressed willingness to return to the deal as well. At the same time, Iran just informed the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) that it planned to install several cascades, or clusters, of advanced uranium-enriching centrifuges at the Natanz plant in violation of its commitments under the nuclear deal. France, Germany, and the U.K. said this “would be incompatible with the JCPOA [the Iran nuclear deal] and Iran’s wider nuclear commitments. If Iran is serious about preserving a space for diplomacy, it must not implement these steps.”
Israeli soccer team has a new co-owner: an Emirati sheikh
UAE sheikh buys 50% stake in Israeli soccer club: Israeli soccer team Beitar Jerusalem announced Monday that UAE sheikh Hamad bin Khalifa Al Nahyan, a member of the Emirati ruling family, has promised to purchase a 50 percent stake in the club. Beitar Jerusalem is one of the most successful soccer teams in Israel’s history and has been known to have fans as high up as the prime minister and president. Israel Football Association chairman, Oren Hasson, celebrated the deal, which comes on the heels of the Israel—UAE normalization deal, saying “football can be a wonderful bridge between people and promote coexistence.” The sheikh’s son, Mohamed bin Hamad bin Khalifa, will sit on the Beitar Jerusalem’s board of directors.
Bahrain backtracks on importing from West Bank: Although the Bahraini Minister of Commerce and Tourism announced last week that his country would import products from the occupied West Bank and label them ‘Israeli,’ the Bahraini government has officially backtracked. The government wrote: “The minister’s statement was misinterpreted, and that the ministry is committed to the Bahraini government’s unwavering stance regarding adherence to the resolutions of the United Nations.” The statement comes after immense pushback from the Palestinian Authority which was outraged by the alliance with Israel and subsequent business cooperation. It was also announced Monday that West Bank companies that produce wine, tahini, olive oil, and honey signed a deal with a Dubai distribution company to export their products to the UAE before the normalization deal was signed between their two governments. The UAE has not issued a statement on how these products will be labeled.
Saudis discuss normalizing with Israel: Speaking at the same conference in Manama, Bahrain’s capital, one prominent Saudi prince had very critical words about the existence of Israel, while the Saudi Foreign Minister, Prince Faisal bin Farhan said that his country is willing to normalize relations with Israel. Farhan insisted that only a Palestinian state could bring peace to the Arab-Israeli conflict. It was the first time Israel had been invited to participate in the security conference in Manama. According to Saudi news channel Al Arabiya, the remarks by the foreign minister are part of speculation that Saudi Arabia could follow the United Arab Emirates and Bahrain to join the Abraham Accords.
In a vote 153-6, UN states call on Israel to ‘renounce possession of nuclear weapons’
UN vote calls on Israel to ‘renounce possession of nuclear weapons:’ The United Nations General Assembly (UNGA) called on Israel to “renounce possession of nuclear weapons” in a 153-6 vote on Monday. Israel was asked “not to develop, produce, test or otherwise acquire nuclear weapons.” Israel is presumed to be one of the world’s nine nuclear powers, but it has never admitted to the possession of nuclear weapons. Last year the same resolution passed 152-6. The six countries that opposed the resolution included Canada and the United States. The resolution was part of a package of close to 20 annual UNGA resolutions considered to be anti-Israel. Executive Director of United Nations Watch, Hillel Neuer, tweeted, “Did you know that over the next month the UK is preparing to single out Israel 14 times at the UN General Assembly? That’s 14 times more than the UK will have condemned Syria, Iran or North Korea.”
Israel opens investigation into Palestinian teen’s killing: In Ramallah on Friday, a teenage Palestinian boy was shot during protests involving stone-throwing and clashes with the Israeli military, and he later died of his injuries. The protests, which Israel called “violent riots,” were against the construction of a Jewish settlement in the West Bank. After pressure from the UN and EU, the Israeli army has opened an investigation into his death. The teen, Ali Abu Aliya, was hit by five bullets in his stomach. The army says it was using non-lethal rifles with rubber bullets at the time of the incident. Palestinian Prime Minister Mohammed Shtayyeh said: it’s “a new crime added to the occupation’s long record.”
Four murders in Israeli communities in 24 hours: In a time span of 24 hours, four unrelated men, three Arab-Israeli and one Palestinian, were murdered in Arab-Israeli communities. At least two of the murders have been classified as the result of feuds between rival Arab families. The third and fourth cases are currently under investigation. A report by Haaretz in November noted that crime rate in Arab communities has jumped 50% in the past five years. Despite accounting for just 21% of the population, Arabs commit 93% of shooting incidents and 64% of murders. Additionally, only 20% of Arab murder cases are solved each year, compared to 53% of cases in Jewish-Israeli communities. Police have defended themselves, saying they “invest a great deal of effort and resources to get to the truth” without discrimination based on the background of the victim.
Roald Dahl’s family apologizes for his blatant antisemitism, years after death
Roald Dahl in 1971
Roald Dahl’s family apologizes for antisemitism: The family of famous children’s author Roald Dahl is apologizing for Dahl’s history of vicious antisemitism. In a statement posted to the Roald Dahl website, the family said: “The Dahl family and the Roald Dahl Story Company deeply apologize for the lasting and understandable hurt caused by some of Roald Dahl’s statements. Those prejudiced remarks are incomprehensible to us and stand in marked contrast to the man we knew.” The apology was in such an obscure part of the author’s website that it was unclear how long it had been there. Dahl’s statements include claiming that Jews control the media and the American government, and proudly stating that he is “anti-Israeli” and “antisemitic.” Dahl once said, “Even a stinker like Hitler didn’t just pick on them [the Jews] for no reason. I mean, if you and I were in a line moving towards what we knew were gas chambers, I’d rather have a go at taking one of the guards with me; but they [the Jews] were always submissive.”
Britain mourns Rabbi Lord Jonathan Sacks 30 days later: At the ceremonial concluding of Shloshim (or 30 days) mourning period for the former Chief Rabbi of Britain, Rabbi Lord Jonathan Sacks, Prince Charles spoke in remembrance. The Prince called Sacks, who died of cancer, a “light unto this nation” and exclaimed, “I shall miss him more than words can say.” He went on to say: “Through his writings, sermons and broadcasts, Rabbi Sacks touched the lives of countless people with his unfailing wisdom, with his profound sanity and with a moral conviction which, in a confused and confusing world, was all too rare.” Israeli President Reuven Rivlin, former British Prime Minister Tony Blair, and Lord Jacob Rothschild also spoke at the service.
Terrorist charged in France with 1982 attack: On Saturday, following his extradition from Norway, the suspected terrorist Walid Abdulrahman Abu Zayed was charged in France with murder for a 1982 terrorist attack on a Jewish restaurant in Paris. On August 9, 1982, the Chez Jo Goldenberg restaurant in the Marais area of Paris was bombed and attacked by the Palestinian terrorist organization Abu Nidal. At least three, and perhaps five, terrorists threw grenades into the shop and opened fire. Six people were killed and 22 injured. The suspected terrorist says he was not in France at the time of the terrorist attack. The suspects were identified long after the attacks because of a French judicial process that maintained their anonymity. Additionally, lawyers for the victims said documents give credence to the idea that French intelligence guaranteed the group it would not face prosecution so long as it did not carry out any more attacks in France.
Israel assists Northern Italy’s fight against COVID-19: A dispatch of Israeli medical doctors and nurses have set out for a region of Northern Italy to assist in its fight against the novel coronavirus. The director of the Israel Center for Disaster Medicine and Humanitarian Response said of the Italian region Piedmont: “There are around 300 patients in the hospital and 165 of them are coronavirus cases, which is on a completely different scale from what I see in Israel.” The hospitals in Piedmont are not only at capacity, they are all overwhelmed by the number of patients. Although the group has deployed to many countries in desperate need, this marks the first time its resources have been put to use in a Western country. The group plans to stay in Italy until next week.
INSIDE THE U.S.
Supreme Court hears Holocaust survivors’ cases against Hungary and Germany
A visitor looks at a Guelph Treasure displayed at the Museum of Decorative Arts in Berlin
SCOTUS hears Nazi cases: The U.S. Supreme Court has decided to take up a case that asks whether pieces of Nazi-stolen art should be returned to the Jewish descendants of their original owners. The art, 40 pieces of the Guelph Treasure, worth potentially hundreds of millions of dollars, are currently on display in the Museum of Decorative Arts in Berlin, while Jed Leiber, the grandson of the owner, lives in California. In 2015, Leiber sued the Prussian Cultural Heritage Foundation, a state-run entity that controls the museum, for the artwork. The German government motioned to dismiss the suit. The lawsuit not only has to contend with whether or not the artwork belongs to Leiber, but whether the U.S. court systems have jurisdiction over the matter in the first place. Under international law, the sale of items from Jews to the Nazi regime is presumed to be coerced and invalid. In another case before the Supreme Court, which was also heard yesterday, 14 Holocaust survivors from Hungary are asking the Court to demand Hungary compensate them for property seized from the survivors who were sent to Auschwitz. The case also asks the Court to rule on whether it has jurisdiction over the issue.
Biden chooses Jewish CDC director: President-elect Joe Biden has chosen another Jewish person for a top position in his incoming administration. This time, though, the choice was for a medical position: head of the Centers for Disease Control. Biden picked Rochelle Walensky, currently the chief of the infectious diseases division at Massachusetts General Hospital and a professor at the Harvard Medical School, to lead the agency at perhaps its most important moment ever. Walensky, who received glowing praise from peers and media, was among a slate of candidates Biden announced to fill top health roles in his incoming administration.
U.S. House gets new Foreign Affairs head: The Democratic majority in the U.S. House of Representatives voted in a successor to Representative Eliot Engel as Chair of the House Foreign Affairs Committee. Engel was ousted by a progressive primary challenger. After the selection process whittled down three members who put their hats in the ring, Congressman Gregory Meeks of New York was selected as Engel’s replacement. Meeks has strong relationships with both the American Israel Public Affairs Committee and J Street and will be the first Black member to chair the committee. Unlike Engel, however, Meeks supports the U.S. reentering the Iran nuclear deal in the Biden presidency.
CELEBRATE & REMEMBER
Golda Meir in 1964
Today we celebrate six Israeli inventions chosen this year as part of Time Magazine’s annual list of 100 Best Inventions. The list is comprised of inventions that are “making the world better, smarter and even a bit more fun,” according to Time. The six products are: Beehome, an automated beehive; Trialjectory, an artificial intelligence service that combs through clinical studies and extracts medical information; Augmedics, a virtual reality headset used to visualize CT scans; Mifold Hifold, a collapsible booster seat; City Transformer, a folding electric car that can drive up to 55 miles per hour; and Incredo Sugar, a sugar substitute that derives the same amount of sweetness for 50% of the sugar content.
On this day in 1978, Israel’s first and only female prime minister, Golda Meir, died at the age of 80. Meir, born in Ukraine and raised in Milwaukee, became one of the most famous women in the world—a pioneer and trailblazing leader in Israel. She was the country’s fourth prime minister and the world’s third woman with that title. She was a passionate Zionist and ardent socialist. Meir served as Israel’s ambassador to the Soviet Union, Israel’s Minister of Labor, Foreign Affairs Minister under David Ben-Gurion, and Prime Minister from 1969 to 1974. During her tenure, Israel experienced its darkest days during the Yom Kippur War, which ultimately led to Meir’s resignation. She died of lymphatic cancer and was buried on Mount Herzl. Today, Meir is widely quoted as a visionary and a towering figure of leadership.