Momentous week for LGBTQ rights in Israel: The municipality of Tel Aviv, the Middle East’s largest gay hub, announced that it will begin to recognize civil partnerships—not just of LGBTQ people, but of interfaith couples and the secular. In Israel, all marriages must be performed through conservative religious bodies; unlike in the U.S., there is no such thing as a civil marriage. Though the city is not able to recognize a new kind of civil marriage, it is creating a de facto status for couples that cannot be married by the ultra-Orthodox rabbinate to live together as a couple under the law.
Municipal benefits: Couples will receive the same benefits as married couples in terms of municipal services, such as discounts on property taxes and registering children for preschools and community centers. The move by Tel Aviv is seen as a challenge against the country’s right-wing government that refuses to budge on social issues like marriage.
Bill to outlaw conversion therapy: A proposed bill will be considered in a Knesset committee to outlaw gay conversion therapy in Israel. The bill was put forward by the leader of the liberal Meretz Party, Nitzan Horowitz, who happens to be one of a handful of openly gay members of Israel’s parliament. Not only does the bill aim to strip psychologists who preform gay conversion therapy of their legal status to practice, but it would impose a fine on them and even a jail sentence in extreme cases. Of the bill, Horowitz said, “Conversion therapy is murder. It kills the soul and, in many instances, the body as well.”
Bill put on hold: The bill was later put on hold by the committee in order to propose a more “moderate version” suitable to the ultra-Orthodox parties in Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s coalition. Previous attempts at passing a law banning conversion therapy have failed, but sources from the opposition say that the law was not completely disqualified to minimize offense to the openly gay lawmakers. Alternate Prime Minister Benny Gantz’s Blue & White party promised it would advocate for the LGBTQ community in its campaign.
Coronavirus cases in Israel: Over 20,000 people in Israel have tested positive for coronavirus since the pandemic first spread to the country in March. The situation has gotten much worse very quickly since the country began to reopen. Israeli hospitals have been ordered to start preparing new wards for coronavirus patients. With about 350 cases reported over the course of a single day, Israel’s coronavirus statistics are reaching their previous highs in April.
Two locations in southern Israel, both in Bedouin villages, are to be closed by government order to try and halt the virus’ spread. Both towns, Rahat and Arara, have had sharp upticks in the number of cases in recent days. Netanyahu said that there are to be no further openings of the society unless and until coronavirus cases begin to decline once more. “We need to flatten the curve again and we will take the necessary steps so that this rise is halted,” he told the public. Israeli hospitals have been using steroids to stave off death in critically ill coronavirus patients. Researchers in Britain announced the success of such measures, but Israelis have evidently already been using them.
Virus in the West Bank: While Israel deals with its “second wave,” the West Bank is also confronting a rising and ominous coronavirus toll. The West Bank saw over 100 cases of the virus in one day. Palestinian Authority Prime Minister Mohammad Shtayyeh has shut down the movement of Palestinians in and out of Israel for the next two weeks. Furthermore, two of the West Bank’s largest cities, Hebron and Nablus, will be locked down, with nothing and no one allowed in or out other than supplies and food.
Security service tracking program: The head of Israel’s security service, the Shin Bet, is opposing Netanyahu’s steps to restart a tracking program of Israeli civilians to look for and monitor coronavirus patients. The program uses, among other forms of data collection, cellphone and credit card information to predict and monitor coronavirus-infected people and communities. Although the Knesset recently ended the program, Netanyahu has asked for Shin Bet to reinstate it as the country faces a second wave of infections. This is according to a secret recording of a meeting between Netanyahu and the agency. Nadav Argaman, Shin Bet’s head, said he hopes for a civilian entity to take the reins of any such program. That way, it would be accountable to the people.
Former Security Advisor’s book spills details on Middle East policy: In his newly released book, former National Security Advisor John Bolton spills all about his time in the White House under Donald Trump. With regards to conversations about the Middle East, Bolton wrote that Ambassador Ron Dermer said the day Trump decided to withdraw U.S. troops from Syria was the “worst day” of the Trump administration up to that point. Bolton also wrote of a previously undisclosed moment in time in which Trump was considering opening diplomatic channels to Iran. Bolton, a famous hawk on Iran, Netanyahu, and U.S. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo “sabotaged” the talks; Bolton and Pompeo threatened to resign had the negotiations with Iran gone forward. The talks had reportedly been favored by Trump’s son-in-law, Jared Kushner, and U.S. Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin. In another instance, Bolton said that Trump told him unprompted, “You tell Bibi that if he uses force [against Iran], I will back him.”
The White House will hold meetings this week to debate green lighting annexation. In addition to President Trump, who will make the final call on any decision, the meetings will include Secretary of State Mike Pompeo, National Security Advisor Robert O’Brien, U.S. Ambassador to Israel David Friedman, and Jared Kushner.
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. Under the Trump peace plan, Israel can only move forward on annexation with the backing and approval of the White House.
U.S. decision makers have reportedly been pushing for broad consensus and support from Israel’s coalition government before they will move forward to back Israel with the move. Benny Gantz and Foreign Minister Gabi Ashkenazi have not yet offered their full support for annexation. Gantz and Israeli Foreign Minister Gabi Ashkenazi have told Netanyahu that they do not support annexing lands composed of many Palestinians in order to minimize potential conflict, although what exactly that means remains ambiguous. Gantz also said that it would be “irresponsible” for Netanyahu to upset the Israel-U.S. or Israel-Jordan relationship with the move.
Bibi offers Gantz options: With the U.S. insisting that any annexation plan also have Alternate Prime Minister Benny Gantz’s approval, the Prime Minister has reportedly given Gantz four options from which to choose. At the most drastic end of the spectrum is immediate annexation of 30% of the West Bank as laid out in the Trump plan. That would include all Israeli settlements in the West Bank as well as the most western part of the Bank, the Jordan Valley.
U.S. politicians continue to weigh in: Democrats in the U.S. are mounting their opposition to potential Israel annexation on multiple fronts. In the House of Representatives, a letter proposed by some of the Democratic caucus’ most pro-Israel members—like Ted Deutch and Brad Schneider—warning against the plan has had significant traction; as many as 200 members may sign onto it.
In the Senate, Democratic Minority Leader Chuck Schumer and Senators Bob Menendez and Ben Cardin, three of the most pro-Israel Democrats in that chamber, have released a similar statement opposing unilateral annexation by Israel. And presumptive Democratic Nominee for President Joe Biden has expressed similar distress over the issue. One of Biden’s top foreign policy advisors, Nicholas Burns, said that annexation “would greatly harm Israel, internationally and among its strongest supporters.”
A majority of House Republicans have also signed a letter to Netanyahu—but this letter endorses Israeli annexation and praises the Trump peace plan. House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy of California was one of the 116 Republicans to sign the letter. The letter blames Palestinian leadership for choosing to reject the peace plan and says that it supports Israel’s “right to sovereignty and defensible borders.”
Fatah Party Secretary-General Jibril Rajoub, a top Palestinian figure in the West Bank, called for massive mobilization of Palestinians against potential Israeli annexation. “I fervently hope to see participation by all Palestinians, whether in the West Bank or in the Gaza Strip or in Jerusalem and in the Palestinian diaspora,” Rajoub said.
Palestinian Apathy: So far, the Palestinians have failed to demonstrate against the Israeli annexation plan in any big way, to the dismay of senior Palestinian Authority and Fatah officials. Political analysts say that this apathy can be attributed to skepticism, distrust, and dismay at their own government’s ability to handle policy decisions or even come to the negotiating table.
The PA is also in one of its most severe economic crises ever. As part of the cancelation in the security coordination with Israel, Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas announced that he would refuse to accept tax revenues owed to the Palestinians. As a result, the government did not pay salaries last month to the PA’s 150,000 employees in the West Bank. A Palestinian journalist, who wishes to remain anonymous “because with us, people who are critical of the PA get visits at night,” said, “The PA resembles a country that imposed sanctions on itself without examining their implications or creating an exit or rescue plan, and is now sitting on the window ledge and waiting for the world’s mercy.”
Israeli Ambassador to the U.S. Ron Dermer wrote an op-ed in the Washington Post responding to critics of the Israeli plan, claiming that “the extension of Israeli sovereignty to certain territories of Judea and Samaria will not, as many critics suggest, destroy the two-state solution. But it will shatter the two-state illusion. And in doing so, it will open the door to a realistic two-state solution and get the peace process out of the cul-de-sac it has been stuck in for two decades.”
Dermer addressed the Palestinians refusal to negotiate as follows: “All along, Palestinian leaders have rejected every Israeli peace overture while systematically promoting a culture that rejects peace and glorifies terrorism, including by providing a lifetime of financial support for terrorists who murder Jews. The rejectionism of Palestinian leaders has been no surprise to those who understand that this century-old conflict has never been about establishing a Palestinian state. It has always been about rejecting the Jewish state.”
Dermer said his hope is that Israel’s extension of sovereignty of certain areas in Judea and Samaria (otherwise known as the West Bank) will help convince the Palestinians that “another century of rejectionism is a losing strategy and that the Jewish state is here to stay. And by shattering the two-state illusion and advancing a two-state solution, Israel hopes it will open up a realistic path to peace.”
Celebrities promote and defend Farrakhan: Chelsea Handler posted a video clip on Instagram of Nation of Islam leader and infamous antisemite Louis Farrakhan, in which Handler praised him for his powerful words. After coming under criticism, Handler defended and excused Farrakhan’s antisemitism stating: “Another thing: perhaps Farrakhan’s anti-Semitic views took form during his own oppression. We know now that oppression of one race leads to an oppression of all races.”
Handler responded to a comment asking whether she would post a video of Hitler with, “no, because Hitler was responsible for killing millions of lives. Farrakhan is just responsible for his own promotion of anti-Semitic beliefs. They are very different.” Handler later deleted the clip, including her defense of Farrakhan. Farrakhan has spewed vile antisemitism, including comparing Jews to termites, accusing Jews of being “satanic” and controlling the government, and calling Adolf Hitler a “great man.”
Actress Jessica Chastain also shared the clip and later deleted it. Celebrity likes included Jennifer Aniston, Michelle Pfeiffer and Jennifer Garner.
Ice Cube, who is a loyal follower of Farrakhan, recently posted antisemitic content, including antisemitic conspiracy theories which are linked to Farrakhan and Nation of Islam.
College campus Presidents spew antisemitism on social media: The student senate at Florida State University voted last week not to remove the new president Ahmad Daraldik, who is Palestinian-American, despite antisemitic posts such as glorifying the swastika, equating Israelis with Nazis and making statements such as: “stupid Jew thinks he is cool,” “#f***Israel,” “The Holocaust never ended, it just moved to Palestine…”, among other numerous antisemitic comments. Daraldik was selected by the student senate to replace its previous president, Jack Denton, who was accused of racism. FSU has not responded whether the administration will take action against Daraldik.
Florida Jewish Legislative Caucus Rep. Richard Stark responded with the following statement: “Students expressing extreme or bigoted views against any segment of a University’s population should not be in a position of authority…FSU senate president Ahmad Daraldik has made anti-Semitic remarks and social media posts comparing Israel to Nazi Germany, tweeted altered photographs, and used profanity. It is in the best interests of Florida State University for him to step down.”
Pomona College Class President: The senior class President at Pomona College, Malak Afaneh, who is also a Palestinian-American, posted antisemitic content on Instagram which read: “6 million people died in the Holocaust, we still commemorate it to this day. 18.4 MILLION people are dying in Yemen RIGHT NOW. That’s 3 holocausts at once…SILENCE IS COMPLIANCE!!!” Afaneh added to the screenshot “once again, zionist-Israel-birthright-vacation-stuck-on-comparing-holocaust-to-racism-WW2-worshipping bitches, this should be right up ur alley. Oh wait u hate brown ppl.
TikTok failing to curb antisemitic content: The popular social media application TikTok, which has taken Generation Z by storm, is chock full of racist and antisemitic videos, says Gabriel Weimann of the Institute for Counter Terrorism. Weimann’s scientific review of the platform found that despite official policies banning hate content, the Chinese-controlled app is slow or failing altogether to remove such material. With over two billion downloads, TikTok is the fastest growing application in the world. Over 40% of its users are below the age of 24. This makes the market especially impressionable to hateful views, whether its Nazi- or KKK-style propaganda.
Roger Waters spreading more antisemitic hate: Pink Floyd co-founder Roger Waters appeared on Hamas-affiliated news channel spouting two antisemitic conspiracy theories: one, that Las Vegas Jewish casino magnate Sheldon Adelson is a ‘puppet master’ controlling President Donald Trump and two, that Israel is responsible for teaching U.S. police forces tactics which result in the death of Black men. Walters also said Zionism is “an ugly stain, and it needs to be gently removed by us.”
Brazilian pastor prays for second Holocaust: In a sermon at a Rio de Janeiro church, a Brazilian pastor prayed to God to “destroy the Jews like vermin” and to bring about a second Holocaust. A recording of the event shows Pastor Tupirani de Hora Lores shouting to his congregants: “Massacre the Jews, God, hit them with your sword, for they have left God, they have left the nations…They contrived, went with prostitutes, and when they were told to repent they said they’d do it but they lied. God, what you have done in World War II, you must do again, this is what we ask for in our prayers to you: Justice, justice, justice,” while the congregants are heard repeating his words passionately. A network of Jewish communities in Brazil filed a complaint for incitement against da Hora Lores.
Facebook removes Trump campaign post: In a first, Facebook has taken action against the Trump campaign, removing some of the President’s advertisements from their site. Facebook said the ads in question used hate symbols, for a large red triangle the campaign used “is practically identical to” the triangles Nazis used to identify political prisoners or those who helped Jews, said the Anti-Defamation League. The reference was all the more striking given the campaign’s use of the symbol against “Antifa,” a political enemy of Trump.
Antisemitism in the U.K. Labour Party: The U.K.’s Labour Party is taking a hard look at antisemitism amid its ranks. Under its former leader, Jeremy Corbyn, the Party was accused of being rife and tolerant of antisemitism. His replacement, Keir Starmer, has vowed to undue that legacy and rid the “stain of antisemitism” from the Party. Starmer told the Jewish community, “I am in no doubt that it will take time to rebuild trust between the Jewish community and the Labour party,” but that significant work has already been made.
Winona Ryder shared her experiences with antisemitism in an interview with the London based publication The Times, including an incident with Mel Gibson where he asked her at a party if she was an “oven dodger,” (a reference to the ovens that cremated the bodies of inmates in Nazi extermination camps). Ryder also shared that she was told by a studio head she couldn’t play a certain role because she looks too Jewish. She also mentioned times where people have said, “Wait, you’re Jewish? But you’re so pretty!”
CELEBRATE & REMEMBER
Today we celebrate three female Israeli Air Force cadets who will get their wings this week! Of the approximately 600 cadets who pass preliminary tests to get into the prestigious pilot’s program, two thirds drop out and only 30-40 who remain successfully complete the three-year course. A total of 40 cadets will get their wings this Thursday, which will take place on the 100th anniversary of the establishment of the Jewish Defense Organizations.
Today in 1919, a pogrom took place in Skvria, Kiev Ukraine in which 45 Jews were killed, many severely wounded, and 35 Jewish women were raped by army insurgents. This took place during the Russian Civil War and was part of a series of pogroms in and around Kiev in 1919. There were a total of 1,326 pogroms across Ukraine around that time, in which between 30,000 and 70,000 Jews were killed. The pogroms were marked by utmost cruelty and face-to-face brutality. Thousands of women were raped. Hundreds of shtetlekh were pillaged, and Jewish neighborhoods were left in ruins. According to some estimates, half a million Jews were left homeless in the pogroms of 1918-1921 overall.