Note: The next newsletter will be on Tuesday, May 11. Today we’re diving into:
Mount Meron: Israel, world Jewry collectively mourn; antisemitism in response to tragedy; and State inquiries to begin as anger erupts
Inside Israel: Bibi’s time expiring; Rivlin likely to ask Lapid to form coalition; shooting of Jewish teens in West Bank; and Israel sees lowest infection rate in 14 months
Antisemitism: Bronx judge releases antisemitic suspect; U.K. Labour suspends 16 for antisemitism; Jewish institutions suffer attacks in Moscow, Germany; Argentine synagogue attack foiled; Ukrainians honor Nazi soldiers; artwork returned in precedent setting case; Berlin’s antisemitic Al-Quds march cancelled; and Chinese Embassy in Tokyo tweets antisemitic cartoon
Israel’s Neighbors: Biden meets with Mossad head in D.C. re: Iran; explosive devices land in southern Israel from Gaza; PA working to prevent violence after election delay; and UN will examine ‘apartheid’ claims
Inside the U.S.: Biden releases statement for Jewish American Heritage Month; Idaho and WV pass anti-BDS laws; Spielberg funded Jewish documentaries announced; and Eli Broad dies at 87
Celebrate & Remember: Israel’s substantial role in the alternative protein market; and mourning the Mount Meron victims
Israel, world Jewry collectively mourn: Israel, reeling from the Mount Meron catastrophe, engaged in a day of mourning on Sunday. The collective despair over the 45 deaths, including six Americans and two Canadians, resulted in thousands of funeral goers to the weekend funerals. Some funerals had to be delayed while they waited for family to fly in, like the parents of an Argentine Yeshiva student, Abraham Ambon. Yet the sadness turned into blistering political rage, as the public and politicians try to place blame for the disaster. Protesters gathered outside Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s home, while the Public Security Minister, Amir Ohana, said he took responsibility for the incident, but not “blame.” Others, like Defense Minister Benny Gantz, are calling for a complete state investigation into the disaster to examine how the highest levels of government neglected public safety. Even Aryeh Deri, the ultra-Orthodox leader of Shas, said that the government should take control of the Mount Meron site, a very rare comment for the leader of a community which cherishes its autonomy. Avigdor Lieberman, the anti-Orthodox, right-wing leader of Yisrael Beiteinu, called on all the top religious leaders in the government to immediately resign.
Antisemitism in response to tragedy: A report by investigative journalist David Collier suggested that there were at least tens of thousands of Twitter posts celebrating the deaths of the Mount Meron victims. One post by Al-Jazeera had garnered nearly 10,000 antisemitic responses. Collier said on Twitter: “It isn’t about a few sickos celebrating the awful tragedy in Israel. IT IS THE SCALE OF IT. Al Jazeera posted 6 hours ago. There have been 30,000 responses. 10,000+ (33%) either laughing at or loving the fact innocent Jews have died. The most liked comments -the most vicious.”
State inquiries to begin as anger erupts: After Gantz requested the Attorney General weigh in on the legality of a state inquiry into the disaster, AG Mandelbilt said that the transitional government can legally form an official state inquiry into the incident. Gantz had written that “only a state commission will be able to manage all aspects of an investigation into the disaster.” The state comptroller, Matanyahu Englman, said that if he uncovered criminal conduct throughout his separate investigation, he would refer those actions to the Attorney General for potential prosecution. The investigations and the disaster itself might prove to be a turning point in the relationship between the ultra-Orthodox and the state.
Bibi’s time expiring; Rivlin likely to ask Lapid to form coalition
Rivlin likely to task Opposition Leader: Today is the final day for Prime Minister Netanyahu to attempt to form a government. Should he fail by this evening, which is exceedingly likely, his mandate will return to President Reuven Rivlin. Rivlin will then either task another leader with attempting to form a government or transfer the mandate directly to the Knesset. It is being reported that Rivlin will task Opposition Leader Yair Lapid with the next mandate. With very active talks occurring between Lapid and right-wing leader Naftali Bennett of Yamina, it seems likely that the next government will be a power sharing rotation deal, to be led first by Bennett and subsequently by Lapid. Netanyahu has also attempted to woo Bennett (along with almost everybody else, including Benny Gantz), but Bennett said Monday that Netanyahu simply doesn’t have the votes. In a shocking release of secret tapes, Bennett’s number two, Ayelet Shaked, who was thought to be considering jumping ship for Netanyahu, called Netanyahu and his wife Sara: “tyrants” and “dictators” with a “lust for power.” Shaked also said: “Netanyahu must go…It’s true that the only thing he cares about now is his trial. He absolutely does not care about anything else.”
Shooting of Jewish teens in West Bank: Three students were shot, of whom two critically injured, when a Palestinian gunman attacked 19-year-old Yeshiva goers waiting at a bus stop in the West Bank, otherwise known as Judea and Samaria. Soldiers were present at the attack and fired shots, but the attacker fled via car. The car was later found by the Israeli authorities, but seems to have been torched by local Palestinians. The manhunt for what is presumed to be a lone attacker is ongoing. Earlier in the day, a Palestinian woman attempted to carry out a stabbing attack against Israeli soldiers. The Israel Defense Forces said on Twitter: “A soldier fired toward the assailant and neutralized her.“ She reportedly died of her wounds. Regarding the uptick in violence in the area IDF said: “Additional IDF combat soldiers will be reinforcing the Judea and Samaria Division in accordance with our ongoing situational assessment.”
Israel sees lowest infection rate in 14 months: Israel’s coronavirus cases have plummeted down to only 13 new cases in a day. The Israel Defense Forces has no active cases at all, making it one of the only militaries in the world that can say so. The Health Ministry identified two cases of the Brazilian strain, and Israel’s travel ban on seven countries with worrying amounts of virus circulation, including India and Brazil, went into effect. The ban includes those who are vaccinated or have recovered from coronavirus. Furthermore, Israel has continued to send “planeloads” of respirators and therapeutics to India. Foreign Minister Gabi Ashkeanzi said: “India is one of Israel’s closest and most important friends. Especially in this difficult period that India is going through, we stand by it and are sending life-saving equipment to our Indian brethren.
Bronx judge orders antisemitic vandal released without bail
Bronx judge releases antisemitic suspect: Hours after Jordan Burnette was ordered to be held on bail in connection with 42 charges stemming from his 11-day crime spree vandalizing several synagogues in the Bronx, a judge at the Bronx Criminal Court cut the suspect loose on supervised release without any bail requirement. Under New York state law, a suspect with Burnette’s charges cannot be held on bail. The man is accused of shattering synagogue windows and car windows, and destroying prayer books. The judge said the decision rested with the New York state government because: “the legislature did not include hate crimes in its revision of bail reform and, under the law as it exists today, this is not eligible. We will not violate the law.” The judge also said, however, that the suspect’s “shattering of glass” constituted a “violent felony.”
U.K. Labour suspends 16 for antisemitism: Over a year after Jeremy Corbyn was suspended from the U.K. Labour Party over allegations of antisemitism, Labour has suspended 16 councilors and activists who are accused of antisemitic acts, writings, or speech. The suspensions come less than a week ahead of local elections in Peterborough City, from which several of the councilors’ hail. Labour released a statement reiterating its dedication to purge antisemitism from the party, saying “it is testament to our commitment to zero-tolerance that we will not be influenced by an election timetable.” The Conservative Party has also suspended a member over antisemitic speech, after the politician shared an article saying that Israel was running a “Final Solution” in the Gaza Strip.
Jewish institutions suffer attacks in Moscow, Germany: Two Jewish institutions in Europe last week, Moscow’s Jewish community center and a synagogue in Bochum, near Düsseldorf, in western Germany, were attacked by vandals. The Russian Shamir JCC was torched on Adolf Hitler’s birthday and suffered extensive damage, and the German synagogue was shot at with rubber bullets and had the word “death” spray-painted on its facade. One of its windows was also shattered by a bullet. Police do not have leads on the antisemitic vandals in either case.
Argentine synagogue attack foiled: In northern Argentina, police arrested two men who they said were planning a terror attack on a synagogue. The attack had been imminent, planned for an upcoming Shabbat. During the raid, police found weapons, including guns and knives, radio equipment, and Nazi literature. The director of the Simon Wiesenthal Center’s international relations department said: “That two of the group decided to take violent action against a Jewish community is a worrying step, as the threat in Latin America had, until now, come from the far left and Islamist/Iran.”
Ukrainians honor Nazi soldiers: Last Wednesday, hundreds of Ukrainians marched in honor of Nazi SS soldiers in Kyiv. The celebration commemorated the establishment of the 14th Waffen Grenadier Division of the SS, composed of ethnic Ukrainians. It was the first time the ceremony had been held in Kyiv as opposed to Lviv (Lemberg), where it had been for years. The ethnically Ukrainian units fought against the Soviet Union and have a complicated legacy, glorified by extremist Ukrainians and vilified by ethnic Russians. The Jewish community and Israel have protested the celebrations, but the gatherings have only increased in popularity following Russia’s invasion of Ukraine in 2014. Ukraine’s Jewish president, Vlodymyr Zelensky, said: “We categorically condemn any manifestation of propaganda of totalitarian regimes, in particular the National Socialist, and attempts to revise truth about World War II.”
Artwork returned in precedent setting case: The German city of Düsseldorf voted to return a painting owned by a Holocaust refugee to his heirs, in a case that may set a precedent for future instances involving the return of Nazi-era stolen property. The refugee, Kurt Grawi, fled Germany in 1939 after persecution and internment at the Sachsenhausen concentration camp. In order to fund his escape, he sold a valuable Expressionist painting, which is now estimated at $18 million. The commission dealing with the case ruled that, though Grawi sold the painting in Chile, he would not have done so had he not been persecuted by the Nazis. An attorney for Grawi’s heirs said of the decision: “One can only hope that this is encouraging for other parties and countries to come forward.”
Berlin’s antisemitic Al-Quds march cancelled: Berlin’s annual Al-Quds march, a demonstration that protests the establishment of the State of Israel, has been canceled for the second consecutive year. In 2020, organizers canceled the march because of the coronavirus outbreak; this year it is unclear why the demonstration was called off, though it is clear that the organizers canceled it themselves. The march, which has drawn protesters and followers of Iranian Supreme Leader Ayatollah Khameini to Berlin since 1996, is often linked to the Hezbollah terrorist group, which calls for the destruction of Israel, as well as to Iranian leadership. Jewish activist groups have tried to get the Al-Quds march banned over its Hezbollah ties, since it is illegal in Germany to call for the destruction of Israel.
Chinese Embassy in Tokyo tweets antisemitic cartoon: The Chinese Embassy in Toyoko tweeted an antisemitic cartoon showing the United States as the grim reaper wielding a scythe of the Israeli flag. In the cartoon, the grim reaper is entering bloody doors labeled “Afghanistan, Pakistan, Iraq, Libya, Syria, and Egypt.” The tweet’s caption, translated from Japanese, read: “If the United States brought ‘democracy,’ it would be like this.” The tweet was deleted after the Israeli ambassador to Japan issued a complaint, but the Chinese embassy did not provide an apology.
ISRAEL’S NEIGHBORS, NEAR & NOT SO FAR
Biden reportedly told Mossad chief U.S. isn’t close to returning to Iran deal
Biden meets with Mossad head in D.C.: President Biden visited one of the meetings with top Israeli security officials in D.C. last week, stepping in to offer his condolences over the tragedy at Mount Meron. Israeli officials disputed the claim that the visit was unexpected, saying instead that Biden came to the security meeting intentionally to discuss the Iran nuclear deal. According to a senior Israeli official, Biden reportedly told Mossad chief Yossi Cohen that the U.S. has a long way to go in the talks with Iran before it agrees to return to full compliance of the nuclear deal. Reports that the U.S. and Iran reached a sanctions relief and prisoner swap agreement were shut down by the State Department, too. Additionally, Secretary of State Antony Blinken met with his counterpart in the U.K. on Monday, where the Iran deal was expected to be a key topic of conversation. Despite efforts to play down chances of an imminent deal between Tehran and Washington, a flurry of diplomatic contacts and reports of progress suggest the countries are indeed nearing an agreement.
Explosive devices land in southern Israel from Gaza: Explosive devices launched from Gaza landed in southern Israel after a lull in recent months. The devices, attached to balloons to attract children, were defused by police sappers. The attack comes after the Palestinian Authority canceled its election with Hamas, prompting Palestinian confusion, resigned indignation, and frustration. Terrorists in Gaza continue to launch rockets at Israel as well, including dozens fired last month.
PA working to prevent violence after election delay: Jewish and Palestinian groups alike have denounced Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas’s decision to postpone the presidential and parliamentary elections that were supposed to take place this month. The Conference of Presidents of Major American Jewish Organizations published a statement saying that they “deplore” Abbas’s decision, which could incite violence against Israelis. A Palestinian activist and parliamentary candidate called on the European Union to freeze financial aid to the PA because of Abbas’s disenfranchisement of Palestinian voters, which led to the candidate’s home being shot up by gunmen Saturday night. Palestinian Authority officials have said they are working to “prevent violence” in light of the elections delay, but went on to unthruthfully blame Israel for the election postponement, saying that “Israeli policies and measures against Palestinians could lead to a popular uprising.”
UN will examine ‘apartheid’ claims: The United Nations’ Committee on the Elimination of Racial Discrimination (CERD) has decided to move forward with a Palestinian-driven complaint that Israel is committing so-called apartheid in Gaza, the West Bank, and East Jerusalem. CERD routinely examines compliance of all its member states (of which both Israel and the Palestinian Authority are), but has never taken up a direct complaint from the PA. The committee is generally taken more seriously in Israel than other UN decisions, because it is presumed not to have the same anti-Israel bias that the UN has. PA representatives celebrated the decision, while Israel’s mission to the UN sharply rebuked CERD’s progress with the complaint, calling it “biased” and “agenda-driven.”
INSIDE THE U.S.
Biden releases statement for Jewish American Heritage Month
Biden recognizes Jewish ‘firsts’ and condemns antisemitism: In recognition of Jewish American Heritage Month, the White House issued a proclamation honoring Jewish Americans and celebrating recent “historic firsts” in the country. President Biden noted precedent-setting Chuck Schumer, America’s first Jewish Senate Majority Leader and the highest-ranking Jewish elected official in American history, and Doug Emhoff, the first Jewish Second Spouse in American history. In addition to celebrating Jewish success, Biden’s proclamation also condemned the recent “scourge” of antisemitism in the United States. He affirmed that “Jewish Americans have increasingly been the target of white nationalism and the antisemitic violence it fuels,” and that America must “overcome these challenges.” In his joint address to Congress last week, Biden reiterated his belief that white nationalism is the greatest threat that the U.S. faces today.
Idaho and WV pass anti-BDS laws: Idaho and West Virginia became the two latest states to pass laws against the anti-Israel boycott campaign. Both state legislatures signed bills that make it illegal for public entities to do business totaling over $100,000 with any company that does not expressly oppose the Boycott, Divestment, and Sanctions campaign. The momentum for anti-BDS legislation has increased in recent years, and 33 total states have now enacted anti-Israel-boycott laws. Some of these states limit business, like Idaho and West Virginia, while others forbid it completely, like Colorado.
Spielberg funded Jewish documentaries announced: Several weeks after director Steven Spielberg’s announcement that he and wife Kate Capshaw would be launching a foundation to fund Jewish documentaries, the Jewish Story Partners foundation has announced its first ten upcoming films. The films tackle topics such as bias and strife, Jewish continuity in the Diaspora, and religious leadership. Several big names in the media industry are involved with some of the films, including pop legend Bjork and Joey Soloway, the creator of the TV series “Transparent.” Soloway celebrated receiving a grant, saying “We have for so long needed untold Jewish stories to come to light and enter the larger culture. This kind of funding and support, especially for independent, risk-taking films, has been sorely missing on the funding landscape.”
Eli Broad dies at 87: Eli Broad, a Jewish billionaire businessman and philanthropist who greatly contributed to the rebuilding of Los Angeles as a metropolis, died Friday at the age of 87. Broad began as an accountant in Detroit before moving into real estate, insurance, and later philanthropy as he built his fortune and began funding massive projects in downtown LA. His foundations often sought progress in public education and culture, and Broad notably led campaigns to build Los Angeles’s Walt Disney Concert Hall and the LA Museum of Contemporary Art. Mayor of Los Angeles Eric Garcetti tweeted his condolences to the Broad family, calling Eli Broad “LA’s most influential private citizen of his generation,” who “loved this city as deeply as anyone [he has] ever known.”
Today we celebrate Israel playing a “substantial role” in the alternative protein market! According to a report by the Good Food Institute, an organization which champions alternative meat production and accessibility, Israeli alternative protein organizations saw investment funding nearly triple between 2019 and 2020, last year reaching $114 million. In the subfield of plant-based proteins, Israeli companies raised the most money globally. Aviv Oren, an official at GFI Israel, said, “Israel is recognized as a world leader in agricultural research, tissue engineering, stem cell research and engineering and thus has emerged as a hub for alternative protein innovation and cultivated meat companies.”
Today we mourn the 45 souls who died in the unspeakable Mount Meron tragedy. Most of the deceased were under 40 years old, including many who were teenagers or younger. At least 6 of the deceased were U.S. citizens and at least 2 were Canadian. May their memories be a blessing.