Antisemitic protestors in Paris: Thousands of French protestors took to the streets this past weekend to demonstrate against racism and police violence. The demonstration was marked by antisemitic and anti-Israel sentiments, such as some who were caught on film shouting “dirty Jews” and the presence of anti-Israel banners reading “Israel, laboratory of police violence.” Antisemitism in France pervades everyday life and has risen sharply in the past few years. A survey conducted and released by AJC Paris at the end of 2019 found that 70% of French Jews say they have been victims of at least one antisemitic incident, 23% have been targets of physical violence at least once, and 10% have been attacked several times. As a result, Israel has seen very large waves of immigration of French Jews in recent years.
Stabbing in London: A Jewish man in his 50s was stabbed in the skull by a terrorist in London. The man was identifiably Jewish with Orthodox garments, and the attack is being treated as a hate crime. The terrorist was tackled and restrained by construction workers from a nearby building. The victim is thought to be in stable condition. The day prior to the assault, posters about potential Israeli annexation of parts of the West Bank were erected in the Jewish neighborhood of London. Anti-Israel sentiment is often a cover for modern-day antisemitism in the U.K. and beyond.
Coronavirus conspiracy theories: A large number of extremist far-right activists are disseminating antisemitic conspiracy theories about the origin and spread of coronavirus online. The most common of the theories is one that states that the “Jewish government” is perpetuating the disease in order to benefit worldwide Jewry, either economically, politically, or both. That sentiment was expressed in 73% of the reported content.
Nashville Holocaust memorial vandalized: A Holocaust memorial located on the grounds of the Gordon Jewish Community Center in Nashville was vandalized with antisemitic and white supremacist messages. The Gordon JCC, which hosts hundreds of visitors a year, is working with local authorities in its investigation.
INSIDE THE U.S.
Jewish ambivalence to defund the police: With rising antisemitic hate and violence, Jewish communities, and especially Orthodox communities where Jews openly wear their identity, have felt an increased need for law enforcement presence as a source of protection. This reality has put many Jews at odds with Black Lives Matter activists calling for the abolition or reconstitution of the police. Instead of calling for defunding of the police, major Jewish institutions, like the Anti-Defamation League, are demanding investments in reform and asking for communities to “get to know local law enforcement.” The Jewish reliance on and cooperation with police has not always been the case—up until the mid-20th century, police in much of the country were either responsible for or turned a blind eye to widespread antisemitism, particularly in the South.
Trump sanctions the ICC: The Trump administration is sanctioning workers of the International Criminal Court who are involved in investigating possible U.S. war crimes in Afghanistan or other alleged crimes by allies of the U.S., such as Israel. The sanctions target the finances of the Court’s employees, as well as prohibit them from entering the U.S.
Prime Minister Netanyahu expressed loud support for the decision, saying “I would like to thank the president for his leadership in sanctioning the corrupt and biased international court obsessed with a witch hunt against Israel and the United States.” At the same time, the European Union, the United Nations, and human rights organizations announced dismay and condemnation of the sanctions.
U.S. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo said “It gives us no joy to punish them, but we cannot allow ICC officials and their families to come to the United States to shop and travel and otherwise enjoy American freedoms as these same officials seek to prosecute the defender of those very freedoms.”
Israel’s youngest victim of coronavirus: Oshri Asulin, a 26-year-old Israeli, died of complications from coronavirus after being hospitalized for two months. Asulin had already recovered from coronavirus, but suffered from a rare complication known as Kawasaki disease in addition to an inflamed heart muscle, which led to his death. Prior to Asulin’s death, the youngest Israeli victim of the virus was a 29-year-old woman who also suffered from a terminal illness.
Huge loss from heritage trip cancellations: The cancellation of trips for Jewish youths and young adults, including programs sponsored by Birthright Israel-Taglit, Masa, and Jewish schools and youth groups, is estimated to cost the Israeli economy a staggering $200 million. The loss does not include lost air travel revenue. The Israel Experience-Educational Tourism Services Ltd., a large organizer of these heritage trips, shared that they lost $40 million in revenue and have furloughed 75% of its employees.
IDF soldier breaks up a confrontation: A violent confrontation between Jewish settlers and a Palestinian man was broken up by an IDF soldier in the West Bank. Video of the attack, which took place in Hebron, shows a group of settlers pouncing on Ibrhaim Badar, a resident of the city. Badar later offered praise of the soldier who rescued him. The incident is under investigation. Alternate Prime Minister Benny Gantz praised the soldier and said it’s the army’s job to protect everyone.
Jaffa protests over Muslim cemetery: Jaffa, the oldest port in Tel Aviv with a large Arab population, has been roiled by protests for the past week. The protests stem in part from the government’s decision to build a homeless shelter on an old Muslim cemetery. The building project was approved because 80 years ago, the then-Grand Mufti of Jerusalem, Amin al-Husseini, had the bodies exhumed by Muslim authorities and the land turned into a soccer field. The other reason for the civil unrest stems from the police killing of an unarmed Palestinian man, Iyad al-Halak, in East Jerusalem. The now week-long protests grew violent, with multiple arson attacks occurring in Jaffa and Tel Aviv. The U.S. embassy sent out a message to Americans warning citizens to avoid going to Jaffa.
Police killing of Iyad al-Halak: The family of Iyad al-Halak, the mentally-challenged Palestinian man shot and killed by Israeli police in East Jerusalem, are seeking publication of the police video showing the murder. The al-Halak family further insinuated that the Israeli police are hiding the video in order to protect the officials responsible for the killing. They also claimed a double standard: had a Jewish man been shot by Arab police, the video would have been released to the public.
More planning meetings between U.S. and Israeli officials: U.S. Ambassador to Israel David Friedman met with Alternate Prime Minister Benny Gantz, Foreign Minister Gabi Ashkenazi, and Knesset Speaker Yariv Levin on Sunday to further discuss annexation plans. The U.S. has reportedly been pressuring Netanyahu to move forward with annexation only if Gantz and Ashkenazi publicly support it, adding to the legitimacy of the move and representing consensus by the coalition government.
Backup a little… Under the coalition government between Netanyahu and Gantz, the Israeli government can pursue annexation backed by the U.S. starting on July 1st. The Trump peace plan allows for annexation of about 30% of the West Bank, otherwise known as Judea and Samaria, with the remaining 70% of the West Bank to remain as a future Palestinian state. The exact mapping of the annexation is in itself a very complicated and charged process. It is unknown to what extent Netanyahu will pursue annexation.
Change of plans: There has been talk that Netanyahu may only seek to annex a much smaller portion of the West Bank, rather than the amount allowed for under the Trump peace plan. According to local Israeli news, several options were reportedly discussed between Friedman and the Israeli officials, including partial annexation or postponing the move altogether.
U.S. House Democrats have put together a letter against annexation, which they hope will unite their entire caucus around the issue. The letter warns Israel about the dangers annexation would pose to Israelis and the region, but does not hint at any danger to the U.S.-Israel relationship. This letter comes a few weeks after another letter with tougher language failed to garner a majority of the Democratic caucus in the Senate.
Emirati official warns against annexation: In an unprecedented move, the UAE Ambassador to the U.S., Yousef Al Otaiba, published an op-ed in an Israeli publication warning that, “Annexation will certainly and immediately upend Israeli aspirations for improved security, economic and cultural ties with the Arab world and with UAE.” Al Otaiba made the case that Israel would have to choose between unilaterally annexing parts of the West Bank and normalizing ties with Arab countries, something decades in the making.
Haim Saban reportedly advised the Ambassador on the op-ed: Israeli-American billionaire and philanthropist Haim Saban was reportedly approached by Al Otaiba and subsequently assisted the Ambassador in publishing the op-ed. Saban apparently advised on publishing the op-ed in Hebrew in an Israeli publication for the most impact. Only a few were made aware of the move to publish the piece. Saban, who has known Al Otaiba for years, was one of Hilary Clinton’s main political backers and donors.
The UAE has also warned the White House that annexation will severely impair Gulf states’ cooperation with the Trump peace plan and would end all efforts to bring Israel and the Gulf states publicly closer together, including efforts to sign non-aggression pacts. In recent weeks, the cooperation between Israel and the UAE reached a highpoint with the Emirates flying into Israel for the first time to deliver aid to Palestinians—aid which was rejected by the Palestinians out of protest of the warming ties.
Mossad Chief Yossi Cohen is reportedly going to tour the Gulf states to meet with and lobby moderate Arab leaders on annexation.
ISRAEL’S NEIGHBORS; NEAR AND NOT SO FAR
Division still apparent between Fatah and Hamas: June 14th marked 13 years since the violent takeover of the Gaza Strip by the terrorist organization Hamas and the expulsion of the Fatah-lead Palestinian Authority (PA), in which hundreds of Palestinians were killed by each other. The Hamas takeover led to Israel’s decision to blockade the territory. To date, Hamas remains in control of the Gaza Strip and the PA controls the West Bank.
Backup a little: Hamas and Fatah have consistently blamed one another for the deteriorating Palestinian pollical situation, including Fatah’s charge that Hamas uses violence to maintain its control.
Fatah’s press release: In a statement marking the 13th anniversary, Fatah said Hamas “insists on continuing its policy of coup d’etat [illegal seizure of power] and division…Hamas does not consider, and continues to systematically dismantle and disrupt the Palestinian national situation, which is directly in the interest of Israel…” According to Fatah, Hamas has failed at serving the Palestinian people and only further divides the Palestinian people, destroys their economy and “serves [only] the agendas of the Muslim Brotherhood and regional and international powers.”
Palestinians call for unity: Though the deep divide remains between Fatah and Hamas, several Palestinian factions and officials called for an end to the dispute and urged Hamas to relinquish its control of the Gaza Strip. Hamas did not publicly comment or acknowledge the anniversary.
PA to stop ID approval process by Israel: The PA is set to begin issuing Palestinians with papers not approved by Israel, which will likely result in thousands of Palestinians being unable to legally enter Israel from the territories.
Since the signing of the 1993 Oslo peace accords, the Palestinian Authority has coordinated issuing identification cards to Palestinians living in the West Bank and Gaza with Israel. This coordination has been terminated with the declaration by PA head Mahmoud Abbas that the Palestinians will no longer abide by agreements with Israel to protest the annexation plans. The crossings between the West Bank and Israel have been mostly closed due to the coronavirus pandemic, but when they reopen, thousands of Palestinians could find themselves unable to work. Thousands of Palestinians from the West Bank are employed by Israeli institutions in the State of Israel.
Protests in Lebanon continue: The large scale protests in Israel’s northern neighbor, Lebanon, have grown even more pointed, with protestors calling for the dissolving of the government. Its currency in freefall, the mass demonstrations are labeling the government a “failure.” The Lebanese army has been dispersing protests in some pockets of the country, including Tripoli, while other cities, like Sidon and Beirut, continue to face throngs of angry citizens. To its east, Syria is also experiencing dramatic economic rupture, in part due to U.S. sanctions and also as a result of the coronavirus pandemic.
CELEBRATE & REMEMBER
Today we celebrate Israel’s lifesaving medical help with its neighbors. Last week a 10-day-old baby born to a family of Syrian refugees based in Cyprus was flown into Israel on a specialized plane for emergency heart surgery. Since the beginning of the Syrian civil war, Israel has treated thousands of Syrian patients. The Israeli envoy to Cyprus worked with the Cypriot and Israeli authorities to speed up the flight.
Today in 1963, David Ben-Gurion resigned as the Israeli Prime Minister and Defense Minister for the second and last time. Ben-Gurion was the primary national founder of the State of Israel and the first Prime Minister of Israel. He was born in Poland and immigrated to Jerusalem in 1906, which was then under the control of the Ottoman Empire (even prior to the British conquest of the land, where it was renamed “Mandatory Palestine”).