In the U.S., 21 states are seeing rising rates of infection, with about 12 states experiencing a rise in hospitalizations and some reaching ICU capacities. With revised predictions, the U.S. could see nearly 200,000 dead from the virus come fall. There are currently over 2 million Americans infected and over 115,000 dead from the virus.
Arizona, Texas, North Carolina, South Carolina, Utah, Arkansas, Florida, and Tennessee are the current hotspots, which experts are warning may quickly strain local hospital systems. Arizona’s ICU units are nearly at maximum capacity, and the health department has urged hospitals to quickly prepare for a crisis situation.
New York, New Jersey, California, and Illinois remain the top four states by death count.
The death toll in Israel has surpassed 300, a small but meaningful rise. As the easing of all restrictions was halted, including the opening of public transportation, Netanyahu said the growing case toll, particularly in Tel Aviv, could spur the country to reinstate social distancing measures. The hardest hit spots, so-called “red zones,” are subject to reinforced lockdowns, announced the government. With increased coronavirus testing, testing sites are already overwhelmed, which could be even more problematic for a future wave of infections. The inability to test may even cause harsher lockdown measures as the state deals with an inability to properly assess the scope of the problem (much as was done in the U.S. in the early days of the pandemic).
The country’s Health Minister, Yuli Edelstein, said the government was going to step up measures to enforce social distancing requirements. Not wearing a mask in public, he said, is akin to driving at 100 miles per hour, and the government will implement the requirements like they do the traffic laws. Despite the problems facing Israel’s reopening, and the comments from the Prime and Health Ministers, Israel was still ranked third safest country in dealing with the coronavirus. According to a Hong Kong survey organization, Israel had been in first place, but was moved into third behind Switzerland and Germany.
The security service’s ability to keep tabs on coronavirus patients without a court order is winding down. The head of the agency, the Shin Bet, proposed the activities be taken over by civilian infrastructure, meaning the extreme measures from the security service were no longer necessary and appropriate. And even though the Knesset aimed to push ahead with legislation granting the authority to the Shin Bet, that too has been withdrawn.
The rapper Ice Cube has been center to a media storm this week after sharing multiple antisemitic memes and conspiracy theories on social media. At least three images he shared on Instagram suggested that Jews control the world financial system or are part of a global conspiracy, one of which showed six old white men with hook noses playing a board game over several black and brown men. A fourth image aimed to discredit Jewish lineage to the Middle East by claiming that “Hebrew Israelites” were “black people.” And a fifth propped up notable antisemite Louis Farrakhan by saying he is rightly ‘warning’ America of an “evil name” to which the country has its “ears off.” These are all classical, long running antisemitic concepts. For its part, the Anti-Defamation League deemed the posts “disheartening.”
In a surprising and welcome turn of events, the head of the Muslim World League, Mohammed Al-Issa, announced that the Saudi-based group plans to fight antisemitism alongside Jews. Al-Issa visited the Auschwitz death camp earlier this year, a highly unusual stop for a Saudi official. In a virtual conference organized by the Combat Antisemitism Movement and the American Sephardi Federation, al-Issa said “We in the Muslim World League are proud to stand shoulder to shoulder with our Jewish brothers and sisters to build understanding, respect, love and interreligious harmony.” Al-Issa further condemned antisemitic hate crimes “as if they were attacks on Muslims.”
German policy reversal: In a policy reversal, the German government now considers some of Iran’s pronouncements on Israel to be antisemitic. Previously, Germany decried Iranian antisemitism with the label “anti-Israel,” but now the government acknowledges that Iran employs antisemitism when it spreads anti-Israel propaganda.
Israel moving forward to legalize cannabis: The two main governing parties of Israel, Likud and Blue and White, have expressed their interest in legalizing cannabis, at least to an extent. While medical marijuana is already legal in Israel, the legislation would do much to relax strict restrictions on prescription use. The advancement of marijuana’s legal status was already given a large boon last month when the country decided to allow the exporting of marijuana.
Israeli embassies participate in #PrideChallenge: Israeli embassies in countries around the world celebrated LGBTQ pride month with posts and ceremony. Israel’s ambassador to Belgium shared a photo of himself wearing a facemask embroidered with the Israel and gay pride flags. Yossi Levy, Israel’s ambassador to Lithuania, shared his story of meeting his partner with whom he is raising two children when stationed in Israel’s diplomatic mission in Warsaw. Israel remains the only country in the Middle East to grant full equality and recognition to its citizens regardless of sexual or gender identity.
Israel digitizing ancient Islamic texts: The Israeli National Library plans to digitize and make available for free to the public 2,500 rare Islamic manuscripts within the span of three years. The massive undertaking will span the texts of ninth through twentieth century documents, many of which are beautifully calligraphed. The descriptions will be posted in English, Hebrew, and Arabic.
Foiled Iranian attack: Israel’s Cyber Defense Unit, the Israeli Defense Force’s elite technology defense service, foiled an Iranian attempt to sabotage Israeli military infrastructure. The IDF’s critical supply chain, which connects all its institutions to the civilian necessities like gas, water, and electricity, faced the threat months ago when the CDU spotted the attack. Rather than immediately stop it in its tracks, the IDF sussed out the culprit and sprung a counterattack on the Iranians.
International Criminal Court Case: The chief prosecutor of the International Criminal Court’s (“ICC”) case against Israel argued that the trial can still move forward, despite the Palestinians nixing of the Oslo Accords.
Backup a little: The ICC is an intergovernmental organization which prosecutes entities for international crimes of genocide, war crimes, and crimes against humanity. The ICC is investigating Israel for alleged war crimes committed in Gaza and the West Bank. There is global outrage surrounding the case due to what many believe are false, misleading, and politically motivated charges and the court’s inherent bias against Israel.
Most recent development: Israel has been arguing the case should not move forward for many reasons, most recently arguing that the Palestinians do not have the standing to file suit in the Court as their recent rejection of the Oslo Accords amounted to a rejection of statehood. ICC Prosecutor Fatou Bensouda rejected this argument. In addition to her announcement about Palestinian standing, Bensouda expressed her “concern” over potential Israeli annexation of parts of the West Bank, saying it would be illegal.
PA submits counter-proposal: The Palestinian Authority (“PA”) has submitted a counter-proposal in response to Netanyahu’s promise to annex roughly 30% of the West Bank in accordance with Trump’s peace plan. Presented before the U.N., Russia, the E.U., and the U.S., the Palestinians call for all of the West in accordance with the 1967 borders to be a part of their future state with its capital in East Jerusalem. Their plan also proposes a demilitarized state, something for which Israel has long called. Additionally, the Palestinian Prime Minister, Mohammed Shtayyeh, asserted that the Palestinians would unilaterally declare a state on the 1967 Six Day War borders and pressure international players to recognize it should Israel proceed with annexation.
Backup a little: Under the coalition deal signed between alternate Prime Ministers Netanyahu and Gantz, the Israeli government can begin the process of applying sovereignty to the West Bank settlements, an area otherwise known as Judea and Samaria, on July 1 in accordance with the U.S. peace plan. The Palestinians have rejected the peace plan in its entirety. There are now conflicting reports whether the U.S. will grant Israel the go-ahead, as it seems the U.S. is now urging Israeli authorities to delay the move.
PA hiding documents: With the region on edge preparing for potential Israeli annexation, the PA is taking a proactive step it hasn’t done since the Second Intifada battered the territory: hiding of confidential and sensitive documents. With the fear of violence and protest, at least two Palestinian cities have been ordered to conduct this rare and extreme measure.
Israel may be changing course: Netanyahu may be steering away from a hardline annexation of the kind proposed in the Trump peace plan. Instead, the Israeli government is possibly planning on annexing three settlement blocs—towns of settlement houses—that are thought to be part of Israel in any potential two-state solution. The area in question is home to some 450,000 Israelis and represents a much smaller portion of the West Bank, rather than roughly 30% granted under the Trump deal. The three land blocs—Gush Etzion, Ma’ale Adumim, and Ariel, are all within ten miles of Israel proper. Etzion and Ma’ale Adumim are both suburbs of Jerusalem, and Ariel, while further within the West Bank, has a direct line to Tel Aviv.
Israel’s High Court weighs in: The Israeli Supreme Court struck down a 2017 law which retroactively legalized about 4,000 settler homes built at least partially on privately owned Palestinian land in the West Bank. Although the decision was praised in international bodies and in the U.S., the Israeli right-wing was infuriated by the Court’s ruling, calling it a “violation” of the Knesset’s powers and a “declaration of war” on the position of settlers in the West Bank. In her ruling, Supreme Court President Esther Hayut said the law did not meet constitutional standards of Israeli law and that the law sought to “retroactively legalize illegal acts perpetrated by a specific population in the region whilst harming the rights of another.”
AIPAC weighs in: The American Israel Public Affairs Committee (AIPAC), Israel’s most powerful friend in D.C., has been privately telling congresspeople they are free to criticize Israel on annexation—at least up to a point. This is a highly unusual tactic for them. AIPAC still made clear that it is unacceptable to propose conditioning U.S. aid to Israel on the annexation issue, but nevertheless the group has stated its expressed support for a two-state solution to the Palestinian-Israeli conflict.
ISRAEL’S NEIGHBORS; NEAR AND NOT SO FAR
Iran’s treatment of LGBT people: The West has long criticized the Iranian regime for its treatment of LGBT people, but Iran’s efforts to hide its actions have often obscured the world’s view. Now Germany’s intelligence services says Iran targets, purges, and executes gays and lesbians in a “high number.” The chilling report was met with calls from the U.S. Ambassador to Germany for countries with embassies in Iran to “speak up” against the barbarity.
Iran set to execute spy: Mahmoud Mousavi-Majd, an Iranian citizen, was sentenced to death by Iran for his alleged involvement in the January 3 killing of Iranian general and terror leader Qasem Soleimani. Although the strike was carried out by a U.S. drone, Israel was providing behind-the-scenes intelligence, NBC News reported. Mousavi-Majd was charged with spying for both Israel and the U.S.—Iran’s chief international rivals.
Currency collapses in Lebanon: Lebanon has descended into chaos as its currency is crashing and protestors shutting down the country’s streets demand change. Protests grew destructive, with some setting fire to major roads across the country and others throwing petrol bombs at banks. This is the worst economic crisis that Israel’s northern neighbor has faced since its civil war erupted in the 1970’s.
CELEBRATE & REMEMBER
Today we’re celebrating Israel’s help in the Congo! Africa’s second-largest country (fourth largest by population) is installing coronavirus drive-through testing sites on the model of Israel’s and with Israeli help. The Democratic Republic of the Congo contacted Israel’s aid society, Magen David Adom, to assist in setting up the technically challenging testing locations. The computer software designed to conduct the testing processes is a unique obstacle. However, Magen David Adom crafted a program specifically designed for the DRC in order to adjust to the country’s different circumstances. Additionally, the Israeli group provided DRC officials with training and advice in all realms of the program, in order that they be able to best implement the testing.
Today in 1929, Anne Frank was born. She should have been 91 today. Today in 1942, Anne Frank received a diary on her thirteenth birthday.