Inside the U.S.: An unimaginable tragedy in Miami; Eric Adams takes NYC top spot; antisemitic attacks in Pittsburgh; and Democrats urge Biden to reverse Trump’s Israel moves
Inside Israel: Honduras opens Jerusalem embassy; COVID variant rises in Israel; Israel votes against China at UN; and Druze Jewish Agency envoy
New Government: Lapid works to fill long-vacant posts; effort to outlaw far-right Jewish group; “Submarine affair” sparks new government discord; government approves settlement construction; and Kanievsky opposes West Bank settlements
Israel’s Neighbors: Activist dies after beating by Palestinian security forces; Reps. Omar and Tlaib falsely place blame on Israel; Iran faces attack; and Bennett diverges on Iran approach
Inside Europe: Poland advances bill against Jewish restitution; and U.S. & Germany agree to Holocaust education
Celebrate & Remember: Gilad Shalit gets married; and remembering the Czestochowa Ghetto uprising
INSIDE THE U.S.
For 3rd time in 2021, mass casualty event strikes Jewish community
Unimaginable tragedy in Miami: A Miami suburb is in disbelief after a portion of an apartment building collapsed, leaving at least 99 people missing and at least one person dead. The suburb of Surfside is heavily Jewish and the Chabad of South Broward said at least 34 of the people unaccounted for are Jewish. Israeli Foreign Minister Yair Lapid said on Twitter, “We are at their disposal for any assistance they may need.” The head of the ultra-Orthodox party in Israel Shas, Aryeh Deri, said he was “anxiously following the heavy tragedy in Miami.” The death toll is expected to rise as rescuers work tirelessly to try to save those trapped in rubble. There is still no official cause of the partial building collapse. The Miami-Dade County Police Department said they will investigate the incident after search and rescue operations are completed. This is the third tragedy with multiple casualties this year in the Jewish world. The Mount Meron stampede killed 45 and the stands collapsing at a synagogue near Jerusalem during a Shavuot celebration killed three. A journalist in Miami has compiled some information about those who are missing here. May the memories of the deceased be a blessing.
Eric Adams takes NYC top spot: In New York City, Eric Adams, the former New York State Senator and Borough President of Brooklyn, is poised to become the next mayor. Adams came in first in a ranked-choice voting system that saw Maya Wiley and Kathryn Garcia take the second and third spots respectively. That said, with no outright winner of over 50%, the rank system will be employed and second choice candidates will be redistributed and so on until a candidate does reach 50%. Therefore, the winner of the race will still be unclear for some time. Adams had built a large coalition of minority groups in the city, including Latinos, Blacks, and Jews in the outer boroughs. Adams won much of the crucial ultra-Orthodox vote, although Andrew Yang, the former presidential candidate, also garnered some top Orthodox Jewish endorsements. Meanwhile, the man chosen to be the Republican nominee for mayor, Curtis Sliwa, has a history of anti-Jewish remarks. Speaking of Orthodox Jews in 2018, Sliwa said: “We’re not talking about poor, impoverished, disabled people who need help. We’re talking about able-bodied men who study Torah and Talmud all day and we subsidize them. And then all they do is make babies like there’s no tomorrow and who’s subsidizing that? We are. So are we the shmucks and putzes? Yes.”
Antisemitic attacks in Pittsburgh: In the past month, four Orthodox Jews have been assaulted and subjected to antisemitic slurs in Pittsburgh’s largely Jewish Squirrel Hill neighborhood, leaving at least one man hospitalized. On June 6, three members of the Squirrel Hill Jewish community were subject to antisemitic slurs while walking home from a synagogue and a week later, on June 13, one man was violently assaulted while walking home from a different synagogue. The victim was thrown to the ground and suffered multiple broken bones, and needed to undergo hip replacement surgery. The attacks happened in the heavily Jewish Squirrel Hill neighborhood, the site of America’s worst antisemitic attack, when a gunmen killed 11 worshippers at the Tree of Life synagogue in 2018. Shawn Brokos, the director of Jewish community security for the Jewish Federation said, “We have seen over the past month or so a rise in antisemitism that was largely spurred by the conflict between Israel and Hamas. We have seen it across the nation; we’ve seen it globally, and up until two weeks ago we hadn’t seen it impact us in Pittsburgh.” Police said they are investigating “whether it was a hate crime.”
Democrats urge Biden to reverse Trump’s Israel moves: 73 Democrats in the House of Representatives, including 7 Jewish Democrats, urged President Biden to reverse a number of the previous administration’s policies related to Israel, which they say were an “abandonment of longstanding, bipartisan United States policy.” The letter calls for Biden to deem Israeli settlements illegal and the West Bank occupied, two things the Trump administration stated that it would no longer do. It also calls for the U.S. to refer to Gaza as occupied, despite the 2005 Israeli disengagement from Gaza. “Make clear that the United States considers settlements to be inconsistent with international law by reissuing relevant State Department and U.S. customs guidance to that effect,” the letter states. It also calls for Biden to, “Strongly oppose the forced expulsion via eviction of Palestinian families from their homes in East Jerusalem and throughout Palestinian territory.”
4th nation to mark Israel’s capital: Honduras became the fourth country to open an embassy to Israel in Jerusalem, following the United States, Guatemala, and Kosovo. In his first meeting with a foreign head of state, Prime Minister Bennett cut the ribbon for the embassy’s opening with Honduras’s president, Juan Orlando Hernández. Hernandez referred to Jerusalem as “the eternal capital of Israel” and Bennett in turn said: “The Jewish people have a long memory, and you will be recorded in the pages of history as having done a brave and justified deed for the State of Israel.” Later, former Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu also met with Hernandez, with whom he had originally made the agreement for the embassy’s location.
COVID variant rises in Israel: With COVID cases in Israel rising to its highest figure in months, Prime Minister Bennett asked all Israelis not to travel abroad. He said the government is working to “cut off” the spread of the dangerous Delta variant, first discovered in India, which is surging particularly in schools. The government is pushing for more teenagers to get vaccinated, while also delaying the reopening of Israel’s borders to tourists until August. The cases have risen so rapidly, that Israel will reinstate its indoor mask mandate in an effort to curb the spread. And yet, the director of the Health Ministry said that the vaccinations Israeli teens are receiving are the exact same ones rejected by the Palestinian Authority earlier this month. As of Monday, there were 387 active COVID cases in Israel.
Israel votes against China at UN: Under apparent pressure from the Biden administration, Israel voted to condemn Chinese human rights abuses at the UN Human Rights Council in a statement put forward by the Canadians. Israel and 40 other nations called for China to allow “immediate, meaningful and unfettered access” of international bodies into the Xinjiang province in which China is accused of perpetrating a genocide against its Muslim Uyghur minority. According to Walla news, Foreign Minister Yair Lapid received an official request from the U.S. State Department to vote against the Chinese, something Israel rarely does due to their strategic partnership. Israel did not publish a statement about its vote or an explanation.
Druze Jewish Agency envoy: The Jewish Agency appointed its first-ever Druze envoy. The envoy will be Gadeer Mreeh, a former Member of Knesset in the Blue and White and Yesh Atid parties, led by Benny Gantz and Yair Lapid respectively. She was also the first Druze woman to ever serve in the Knesset. Mreeh will have a senior role in Washington, D.C. and focus on Israel advocacy on college campuses.
Lapid appoints NY consul general and fills vacancies: Foreign Minister Yair Lapid appointed Asaf Zamir, Israel former tourism minister and previously the deputy mayor of Tel Aviv, to be Israel’s consul general in New York. Zamir will fill the post that former Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu had kept empty for nearly a year. In October, Zamir, who served in the last government under the Blue and White party, resigned in protest from the Netanyahu government due to the character of the prime minister. Zamir said: “Strengthening Israel’s position, the bipartisan [nature of] relations and ties with the Jewish communities in the United States are important and complex challenges that have been brought to the forefront of the new government and I am happy and motivated to try and contribute to addressing them.” Lapid is also preparing to fill other prominent positions that were left vacant by former Prime Minister Netanyahu for over a year. They include the posts of ambassadors to Australia, Canada, and France, among others. Of the French vacancy, one activist said: “I think it is ridiculous that in such a key European country Israel does not even have a representative and leaves all the hasbara work to the local Jewish communities. French Jews don’t think Israel is actually supporting them.”
MK wants Lehava designated terror group: The chair of the Knesset’s Foreign Affairs and Defense Committee wrote to Defense Minister Benny Gantz and urged Gantz to designate the far-right Jewish extremist group Lehava as a terrorist organization. Such a designation would “outlaw the organization and its activists.” The effort to ban the group has been underway for at least half a decade, with little movement. Lehava is a racist and homophobic organiation which decries Jewish intermarriage. Knesset member Itamar Ben Gvir of the Religious Zionism party has been involved with the organization.
Submarine affair sparks new government discord: Defense Minister Benny Gantz and Justice Minister Gideon Sa’ar are quarreling over a new investigation into the so-called submarine affair in which former Prime Minister Netanyahu allegedly looked the other way while officials were bribed to award a defense contract to a German firm. Gantz proposed a new investigation into the matter, but Sa’ar views the new proposal as too rushed and claims that Gantz does not have the authority to move forward without Sa’ar’s go-ahead. Sa’ar also called Gantz’s actions “unprofessional and unacceptable,” particularly for announcing the decision to the press before formally making the request.
Bennett government approves settlement construction: For the first time under the Bennett administration, the government has approved the construction of additional buildings in Judea and Samaria, otherwise known as the West Bank. The approved buildings include a mall, synagogues, and yeshivas in various Jewish-Israeli settlements. Ayman Odeh, leader of the Arab-Israeli Joint List party, said: “The left caves to the right and sidelines the diplomatic issue, but the right continues to sabotage the prospects for peace and deepen the occupation, the oppression and dispossession of millions of Palestinians.” Additionally, Foreign Minister Lapid expressed his certainty that a particular settlement outpost which has been deemed illegal by the Israeli army will be razed. Speaking about the Evyatar settlement, Lapid said: “The outpost will be evacuated. It is illegal. It is not at all a question of right or left. It is an order from the army and the civil administration.”
Kanievsky opposes West Bank settlements: Through his grandson, who acts as his spokesman, Rabbi Chaim Kanievsky, the world’s preeminent ultra-Orthodox spiritual leader, announced his opposition to Israeli settlements in the West Bank. Kanievsky’s grandson said: “the rabbi repeatedly says to not provoke the Arabs and not to live in settlements.” Reportedly, Kanievsky’s grandson also said that the ultra-Orthodox parties would join the new Israeli government if Finance Minister Avigdor Lieberman did not block them.
ISRAEL’S NEIGHBORS, NEAR & NOT SO FAR
Activist dies after arrest and beating by Palestinian security forces
PA arrests critics, one dies: A prominent critic of the Abbas regime died after he was arrested and “vicious[ly] beat[en]” by Palestinian Authority officers. The Palestinian Authority said it would investigate the death of the man, Nizar Banat, which the U.S. State Department called “deeply distrub[ing].” Palestinian security also arrested Issa Amro, a Palestinian rights activist, after he called Palestinian officials corrupt online. Amro said he was asked about his post in support of a rival of Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas who was jailed. When Secretary of State Antony Blinken visited the West Bank last month, he met with Amro.
Reps. Omar and Tlaib falsely place blame on Israel: United States Representatives. Ilhan Omar (D-MN) and Rashida Tlaib (D-MI) both shared an Instagram post falsely blaming Israel in part for the death of Nizar Banat. The post falsely calls the Palestinian Authority agents of the Israeli government, saying the PA are “mercenaries for the Israeli occupation that jail activists and coordinate with Israel to murder revolutionaries.” Tlaib also lied on Twitter earlier on Thursday, falsely claiming that Israel sprayed “sewage water” on the “Al-Aqsa compound.” The “sewage water” was actually skunk water, a type of putrid smelling water developed as a humane and non-lethal means of riot dispersal. There is no sewage or anything harmful in the water—it is an eco-friendly compound made entirely of food-grade ingrediants. Additionally, the claim regarding the location was false—the skunk water was sprayed on the exterior of the Damascus Gate.
Iran faces attack: On the Iran front this week, the U.S. seized multiple Iranian websites backing Hamas in a significant cyber offensive. Also, an attack on an Iranian nuclear site, which seemed to have been done through the use of armed drones, damaged its centrifuge production facility. Nevertheless, Iran said the attack “left no casualties or damages and was unable to disrupt the Iranian nuclear program.” Prime Minister Bennett appeared to confirm Israeli involvement in the attack, saying: “Our enemies know — not from statements, but from actions — that we are much more determined and much more clever, and that we do not hesitate to act when it is needed.” However, Bennett also signaled a difference from the Netanyahu administration in his willingness to work with other powers to seek an agreement over the Iran nuclear program that is more acceptable to Israel—rather than just to oppose it wholesale. During s graduation ceremony for new Israel Air Force pilots, Bennett said Israel would prefer a world that understands that “this violent, fanatical regime, that elected ‘the hangman of Tehran’ as its president, that is willing to starve its nation for years in order to attain a military nuclear program, is a regime with which one cannot do business.”
Poland advances bill against Jewish restitution; Lapid calls it “a disgrace”
Israel angered by Polish move: The Polish parliament advanced a bill which will make it much harder for Jewish victims of the Holocaust to seek property stolen by the Nazis. Israeli Foreign Minister Yair Lapid said: “Today, the Polish parliament passed a law preventing the return of Jewish property, or compensation for it, to Holocaust survivors and their descendants. I have no intention of remaining silent in the face of this law. This is a direct and painful violation of the rights of Holocaust survivors and their descendants. This is not the first time that Poles have tried to deny what was done in Poland during the Holocaust.” The bill was passed without any no votes, but it must also pass the Polish senate. The charge d’affaires at the U.S. embassy in Poland wrote to the parliament’s speaker expressing the U.S.’s “deep concern about the law, which, if adopted, will cause irreparable damage to Holocaust survivors and their families.”
U.S., Germany agree to Holocaust education: Secretary of State Antony Blinken and German Foreign Minister Heiko Maas signed a letter of intent to pursue “global action” to combat Holocaust denial. The pair signed the agreement in Berlin at the Memorial to the Murdered Jews of Europe. Cherrie Daniels, the State Department’s official for Holocaust education, said: “We need to be active together in developing new tools and working within our own countries, as well as globally, to really promote historically accurate Holocaust education, remembrance and research and to combat distortion and disinformation.”
Today we celebrate Gilad Shalit and Nitzan Shabbat! Gilad Shalit married his fiancée Nitzan Shabbat in a private ceremony on Wednesday. His marriage to Shabbat took place 10 years after Shalit was famously released from the captivity of the terrorist organization Hamas in Gaza. Mazal tov, Gilad and Nitzan!
On this day in 1943, Jews launched the Czestochowa Ghetto uprising, which lasted five days. The resistors were not well armed and over 1,500 to 2,000 Jews were killed in the five days of uprising against Nazi terror in the city northwest of Krakow, Poland. Only about 5,000 of 48,000 Jews in the ghetto survived the Holocaust.