Note: The next newsletter will be on June 4th. Today we’re diving into:
Gaza War: UN approves indefinite Israel inquiry; top UN official commends Israel’s care in Gaza; niece of Hamas leader hospitalized in Israel; and Blinken concludes Israel trip
Inside Israel: Lapid makes progress in forming government; Rivlin to make DC visit; UK Foreign Secretary chums with Israel, French not so; antique pendant bears God’s name; and Israel’s AG to indict ultra-Orthodox leader
Inside the U.S.: Antisemitic crimes up 80%; attackers arrested in NYC; McCarthy condemns Taylor Greene’s continued antisemitism; Ruffalo apologizes; and Seth Rogan bullies Jewish journalist
Israel’s Neighbors: Syria’s al-Assad wins sham election; and Hezbollah head got COVID?
Inside Europe: France seeks to undo Halimi exception; Pope meets Holocaust survivor; and Ireland blames Israel
Celebrate & Remember: Eitan Biran’s recovery in Italy; and Happy Birthday to the Israel Defense Forces
UN approves indefinite Israel inquiry: The United Nations Human Rights Council approved an unprecedented panel to indefinitely investigate Israel’s treatment of the Palestinians, in addition to the numerous other UN procedures designed to target Israel. No other country is the subject of any panel similar to this. The panel completely ignores any Palestinian culpability in the ongoing violence, including Hamas and other terrorist organizations. The Organization of Islamic Cooperation, which represents 57 countries and is headquartered in Saudi Arabia, proposed the permanent UN panel before the Human Rights Council to assess Israel’s treatment of the Palestinians. The proposal also calls for the UN to investigate “repression based on group identity” within Israel proper. The U.S. government called the panel’s approval “a distraction that adds nothing to ongoing diplomatic and humanitarian efforts.” Nations with atrocious human rights records like China, Cuba, Pakistan, Russia, and Venezuela, all of which sit on the Human Rights Council, voted in favor of the measure.
Top UN official commends Israel’s care in Gaza: The head of the UN agency for Palestinians in Gaza said in an interview that Israel’s strikes were “precise” and “sophisticated” and that Israel clearly did not intend to target civilians but only terror infrastructure. However, when faced with pushback from anti-Israel activists, the chief backtracked, apologizing for his (truthful) statements. Pro-Israel organizations like the American Israel Public Affairs Committee (AIPAC) have cited the statements as proof of Israel’s just intent, which is being misconstrued or otherwise disregarded by the UN.
Niece of Hamas leader hospitalized in Israel: The six-year-old niece of Hamas terrorist leader Ismail Haniyeh has reportedly been hospitalized at Ichilov Hospital in Tel Aviv for over a month, according to Israel’s Walla News. The terrorist’s niece was in the hospital while Hamas launched thousands of rockets toward Israel. In response to the report, Israeli Knesset Member Idit Silman tweeted: “Israel only knows how to give one type of humanitarian aid, and it comes at the cost of [Israeli] civilians’ lives.” Silman was referring to the Israeli government’s apparent failure to return Israeli prisoners who are stuck in Gaza. Religious Zionist Party Knesset Member Orit Struck said: “[The Israeli government] performing humanitarian acts towards one of our greatest enemies, who kidnap our soldiers and our civilians, must be in exchange for returning Israeli citizens.”
Blinken concludes Israel trip: Secretary of State Antony Blinken concluded his days-long trip to the Middle East in the aftermath of Israel’s war with Hamas. Blinken visited Jerusalem, Ramallah, Cairo, and Amman in an attempt to shore up the cease-fire agreement, placate American allies, and restart the U.S.’s diplomatic relationship with the Palestinians. In his meetings in Israel and the West Bank, Blinken noted that the U.S. intends to reopen its consulate to the Palestinians in Jerusalem, even though the consulate is in West Jerusalem, which is internationally recognized as Israeli territory and has been since 1948. Israeli Prime Minister Netanyahu said Israel would prefer that such a consulate to another entity – the Palestinian Authority – not be on Israeli sovereign territory. Blinken also said in an interview on Israeli television that Israel “took very significant steps” to avoid civilian casualties in Gaza during the recent fighting with Hamas and reiterated Biden’s commitment to Israel’s security. While flying back to the U.S., Blinken told Axios reporter Barak Ravid that evictions of Palestinians or further unrest on the Temple Mount could spark further conflict. “We raised the concerns that we have on all sides with actions that in the first instance could spark tension, conflict and war and also ultimately undermine even further the difficult prospects for two states,” Blinken said.
Lapid makes progress in forming government: With less than a week left to form a new government, Opposition Leader Yair Lapid is close, but not quite there. Lapid has finalized coalition agreements (political contracts) with a number of parties, including the left-wing Meretz and Labor parties and right-wing Yisrael Beiteynu, but the holdouts remain right-wing A New Hope and Yamina. With only eight seats in the Knesset, Yamina’s Naftali Bennett is set to become prime minister if he should approve of the coalition agreement. He and Lapid covertly met yesterday for the first time since the war in Gaza began. Significant opposition within his party to sitting with the left-wing parties remains the biggest obstacle. His number two, Ayelet Shaked, first called on the extremist Religious Zionism party to join the opposition coalition, and then excoriated the party’s leader, Bezalel Smotrich, for not joining.
Rivlin to make DC visit: Israeli President Reuven Rivlin will travel to Washington, D.C. before his presidency expires later this summer. He, and not Prime Minister Netanyahu, was invited to meet with President Biden and speak before a joint session of Congress. (The last time Netanyahu spoke to Congress in 2015, he had not been invited by then-President Obama. It was a diplomatic outrage to the U.S. administration.) In 2015, Obama invited Rivlin to the White House.
UK Foreign Secretary chums with Israel; French not so: British Foreign Secretary Dominic Raab visited Israel this week in the wake of the war with Hamas, saying “You can always count on us.” Raab’s father is Jewish and fled Czechoslovakia in 1938 to escape the Nazis. In Israel, Raab met with Prime Minister Netanyahu, Defense Minister Benny Gantz, and Foreign Minister Gabi Ashkenazi. Afterward, Raab traveled to Ramallah and met with Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas, saying: the U.K. reaffirms its “support for a two-state solution as the only way to bring sustainable peace.” In contrast, Prime Minister Netanyahu denounced French Foreign Minister Jean-Yves Le Drian for saying Israel is heading toward the path of an “apartheid” state. Netanyahu called the claim “false and baseless,” “lies” and “hypocritical.” Ashkenazi reportedly reprimanded the French Ambassador to Israel after the incident.
Antique pendant bears God’s name: A donor turned over a 1,500-year-old amulet to the Israel Antiquities Authority which was discovered four years ago. The amulet was found near Tiberias, in the Galilee. Inscribed on the bronze amulet is (the Jewish) God’s name and horseman. A researcher said: “[the pendant] indicates that even Jews of the period wore amulets of this type for protection against the evil eye and demons.”
Israel’s AG to indict ultra-Orthodox leader: Israel’s attorney general (AG) is set to indict one of the top ultra-Orthodox leaders for obstruction of justice and breach of trust. AG Avichai Mandelbilt plans to charge Yaakov Litzman, a strong Netanyahu ally who is currently the head of the Housing Ministry and one of two leaders of the Ashkenazi ultra-Orthodox party, United Torah Judaism. The charges stem from Litzman’s time as Deputy Minister of Health. (Litzman headed the Health Ministry from 2009 to 2020.) Litzman allegedly pressured individuals involved in a sexual molestation case against an ultra-Orthodox woman, pushing for health officials to deem the woman not to be fit for extradition where she was facing sexual assault charges in Australia. In another instance, Litzman is accused of intervening to avoid the closure of his friend’s food business due to health concerns. Litzman will still have the opportunity to persuade Mandelbilt not to charge him, as is the case with all public officials to be charged with crimes.
U.S. antisemitic crimes up 80%: According to the organization that advises U.S. Jewish organizations on security concerns, antisemitic hate crimes in the U.S. increased by 80% over the last month during Israel’s war with the Hamas terrorist organization. The CEO of Secure Community Network said: “There may be foreign actors spreading information and disinformation, often tied to antisemitic tropes.” Some of the online antisemitism seems to have its roots in Iran, said the CEO. In New York, the government is deploying troopers at Jewish sites across the state, including at religious, community, and educational locations. Canada is also grappling with a roar of antisemitic activity, as are many European countries.
Antisemitic attackers arrested in NYC: Amid a steep rise in antisemitic hate crimes worldwide, an elderly Jewish man was punched in the face as he tried to enter a Brooklyn synagogue Monday night. The attacker also yelled antisemitic insults while attacking the Jewish man. The NYPD Hate Crime Task Force said the alleged attacker, 20, was arrested and charged with assault, assault as a hate crime, aggravated harassment, resisting arrest, criminal mischief, and menacing. Police also arrested three individuals in connection with other violent antisemitic assaults in Brooklyn last Shabbat, in which the assailants targeted two different groups of Jewish men. The three criminals allegedly accosted two Orthodox Jewish men on Ocean Parkway in Brooklyn on Saturday evening, during Shabbat. On the West coast, a Jewish tourist was assaulted on Las Vegas Strip in an alleged hate crime attack on Monday.
McCarthy condemns Taylor Greene’s continued antisemitism: House Republican leader Kevin McCarthy condemned Congresswoman Marjorie Taylor Greene’s antisemitic remarks comparing the COVID-19 vaccine card to the Nazi’s mandate for Jews to wear yellow Stars of David. McCarthy said: “[Taylor Greene’s] intentional decision to compare the horrors of the Holocaust with wearing masks is appalling.” In the same statement, McCarthy also falsely accused House Speaker Nancy Pelosi of ignoring antisemitism. Democrats introduced a censure resolution against Taylor Greene, who was already stripped of her committees in the wake of revelations over other antisemitic, racist, and inflammatory remarks.
Ruffalo apologizes: In the wake of rising antisemitism, actor Mark Ruffalo apologized for his inflammatory rhetoric concerning the fighting in Gaza, saying he should not have called the situation a “genocide.” Ruffalo said: “It’s not accurate, it’s inflammatory, disrespectful and is being used to justify antisemitism here and abroad.”
Seth Rogan bullies Jewish journalist: On Wednesday Jewish actor Seth Rogan mocked Jewish journalist and advocate Eve Barlow, after Barlow expressed concern about the rise of antisemitism. Barlow tweeted the link for her Tablet magazine article, “The Social Media Pogrom,” where Barlow discussed being trolled by hundreds of Twitter users who wrote “Eve Fartlow” and compared the current rise of antisemitism on social media to digital pogroms. Rogan responded to Barlow’s Twitter post with a “gust of wind” emoji used to represent flatulence, mocking the journalist. Rogen’s reply received over 17,000 likes and 1,200 retweets, fueling the abuse directed at Barlow. Many came to Barlow’s defense including former Democratic New York State Assemblyman Dov Hikind, who wrote, “How desperate are you to be liked by Jew haters that you’re trolling a Jew on their behalf?”
Al-Assad “wins” sham election: Syrian President Bashar al-Assad won his fourth election, widely dismissed by experts and activists as a sham. The Syrian parliament’s Speaker announced yesterday that Assad won 95.1% of the vote, with a 78.64% turnout. Assad, a serial human rights abuser, expressed gratitude to his supporters amid a civil war that has lasted over a decade, killed more than half a million people, and displaced millions. The election went ahead despite efforts by the UN to have the vote under international supervision. Among other human rights abuses, Assad is accused of using chemical weapons on the Syrian people. Prior to the election, the foreign ministers of France, Germany, Italy, Britain, and the United States criticized the vote for not being free or fair. UN Watch Executive Director Hillel Neuer tweeted: “It’s official: Bashar al-Assad wins Syrian presidential election with 95.1% of the votes. I wouldn’t want to be one of the 4.9% when he finds them.”
Hezbollah head got COVID?: Israel believes the head of the Hezbollah terrorist organization might have contracted the coronavirus. When he spoke on Tuesday about ‘defending’ Jerusalem from Israel, Hassan Nasrallah seemed fatigued and coughed frequently. Nasrallah said: “The Israelis must understand that breaching the holy city and Al-Aqsa Mosque and sanctuaries won’t stop at Gaza resistance.” Despite rockets fired from Lebanon at Israel during this month’s war with Gaza, Hezbollah did not claim responsibility for the attacks. The deputy to Nasrallah said yesterday Nasrallah “is fine, praise be to God. He was struck by illness in recent days, and needed two or three days to recover.”
France seeks to undo Halimi exception: The French Senate adopted the first draft of a bill to amend the country’s penal code. This comes in the wake of Sarah Halimi’s murderer being let off because he was under the influence of marijuana. The bill would make it harder to use drug or alcohol intake as an excuse for avoiding criminal responsibility. Even though Sarah Halimi’s antisemitic murderer admitted his guilt for the gruesome crime, psychiatric experts insisted he could not be deemed criminally responsible.
Pope meets Holocaust survivor: Yesterday, the Pope met Lidia Maksymowicz, an 81-year-old Holocaust survivor. Wordlessly, Maksymowicz pointed out her tattoo from Auschwitz which the Pope subsequently kissed. She said: “We understood each other with a glance. [He] has strengthened me and reconciled me with the world.” Maksymowicz was born in Belarus and at age three sent to Auschwitz where she was experimented on. She now resides in Krakow, Poland and works on youth education about the Holocaust.
Ireland blames Israel: The Republic of Ireland’s parliament unanimously adopted a resolution deeming Israel’s occupation of the West Bank to be “de-facto annexation.” In doing so, Ireland became the first European Union member state to accuse Israel of annexation. However, the government also rejected a motion to expel Israel’s ambassador. The Irish Foreign Minister said: “This is not something that I or, in my view, this house says lightly… But it reflects the huge concern we have about the intent of the actions and, of course, their impact.” Israel’s foreign ministry said the position “reflects a blatantly one-sided and simplistic policy.”
CELEBRATE & REMEMBER
Source: @IDF/ Twitter, May 26, 2021 (Soldiers at the IDF’s very first swearing-in ceremony in 1948)
Today we celebrate Eitan Biran recovering in Italy. The condition of the Jewish-Israeli boy who was injured in the cable car crash that killed his family has improved. Five-year-old Eitan is apparently awake and communicating with his aunt at a hospital in Italy, where the crash took place. Leaders and communities all around the world have expressed their hope for Eitan’s recovery, including the Pope. The accident has come under swift investigation in Italy, which arrested three people on charges of manslaughter. 14 people were killed in the crash, including Eitan’s brother, parents, and great-grandparents.
On May 26, 1948, the Provisional Government of the State of Israel issued an ordinance, signed by Prime Minister David Ben-Gurion, to establish the Israel Defense Forces, to be composed of “land forces, a navy and an air force.” The IDF was formed out of the Jewish paramilitary organization Haganah and the Irgun, which had been headed by Menachem Begin, a fierce Ben-Gurion critic. Despite being wholly outnumbered and outgunned, the IDF stunned with success in Israel’s war for independence and went on to win successive battles against Israel’s Arab neighbors. To this day, Jewish men and women in Israel are conscripted to the IDF for years at a time, putting their lives on hold to defend the nation. The IDF tweeted “On our 73rd birthday, we salute all the soldiers who fought for the existence of Israel & reaffirm our ongoing mission to defend our nation.”