Note: the next newsletter will be on July 9th. Today we’re diving into:
Inside the U.S.: Biden vows no nuclear weapon for Iran during Rivlin’s goodbye tour; Israel sends aid to Florida; Lapid meets Blinken, off to UAE; former Congresswoman spews antisemitism; Franklin & Marshall professors condemn Israel; and new CA dean endorsed Farrakhan
Inside Israel: 100k celebrate pride in Tel Aviv; Bennett tackles Arab crime; Erdan resigns as Israel’s U.S. ambassador; govt refuses Utah online marriages; and Delta variant rises in Israel
Israel’s Neighbors: U.S. attacks Iranian militias in Iraq and Syria; Iran refuses UN watchdog, U.S. offers sanctions relief on Ayatollah; protests erupt over Abbas critic beaten to death by PA; and Israel allows Qatari fuel into Gaza
Inside Europe: Lapid accuses Polish PM of antisemitism; Jewish graves desecrated in Poland; Dutch government aims to return art looted by the Nazis; and Germany allows refugee descendants citizenship
Celebrate & Remember: Celebrating Olympic Team Israel; and remembering Bernard Herrmann
INSIDE THE U.S.
Biden vows no nuclear weapon for Iran during Rivlin’s goodbye tour
Rivlin visits DC: Yesterday, Israeli President Reuven Rivlin, Israel’s head of state, visited the White House for his final tour of the U.S. as president. Rivlin’s term will come to an end on July 7, and he will be replaced by Jewish Agency head Isaac Herzog. In his meeting with President Biden, Rivlin said that “Biden was a real great friend of Israel.” For his part, Biden vowed that Iran will never get a nuclear weapon on his watch. Rivlin also met with Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi and the Republican House leader, Kevin McCarthy. Most notably, Rivlin met with Yousef al-Otaiba, the Emirati ambassador to the United States, for the first time. Prior to his trek to D.C., Rivlin had been in New York, meeting with Jewish leaders and donors, saying that their “many years of support for the State of Israel… makes [them] an integral part of Israeli society.” A summit between Biden and Israeli Prime Minister Naftali Bennett is also in the works.
Israel sends aid to Florida: Rivlin’s trip to the U.S. comes at a time of great suffering for the Jewish community in southern Florida, where 11 people are confirmed dead and 150 still missing at a collapsed condo in Surfside. Israel sent a team of elite rescuers – the Homefront Command – to aid in the effort to find survivors and recover bodies. The collapse took place in a heavily Jewish area of Greater Miami and the cause of the implosion is yet unknown. After a Miami-area contractor said he spotted serious water damage hours before the collapse, experts are looking at pre-existing critical flaws in the structure of the apartment tower.
Lapid meets Blinken, off to UAE: A day prior to Rivlin’s meeting with Biden, Israeli Foreign Minister Yair Lapid held a roundtable with U.S. Secretary of State Antony Blinken in Rome. In a thinly veiled reference to the Netanyahu governments, Lapid told Blinken: “In the past few years, mistakes were made. Israel’s bipartisan standing was hurt. We will fix those mistakes together.” For his part, Blinken spoke of the “enduring partnership” between the U.S. and Israel, as well as their friendship. Lapid stressed to Blinken that Israel has “serious reservations” with the Iran nuclear deal, the 2015 international agreement that President Joe Biden has said he wants to rejoin, but Lapid said he wants disagreements on that issue and others to be a private matter. “We believe the way to discuss those disagreements is through direct and professional conversation, not a press conference,” Lapid said. Also in Rome, Lapid met with Bahraini Foreign Minister Abdullatif al-Zayani and Italian Foreign Minister Luigi Di Maio. Lapid departed for the United Arab Emirates this morning for the first state visit by an Israeli minister since Israel and the UAE entered the Abraham Accords.
Former Congresswoman spews antisemitism: Cynthia McKinney, who served in Congress from 1993-2003 and 2005-2007 as a Democratic representative from Georgia, and who was the Green candidate party candidate for president in 2008, tweeted on Monday the antisemitic conspiracy that “Zionists” committed the September 11, 2001 terror attacks. Twitter has not yet taken down the antisemitic tweet. In response, Congressman Ritchie Torres, a Democrat of New York, said on Twitter: “Why is Twitter turning a blind eye to Antisemitism? Conspiratorial crackpots like Cynthia McKinney have no business being on any social media platform.” McKinney has engaged in Holocaust denial in the past; accused Israel of genocide; referred to the pro-Israel lobby as a “ruthless” entity that “rears its ugly head in too many facets of life in this country, particularly political life” and accused it of engineering her political defeats; and personally met with representatives of Hezbollah and Hamas.
Franklin & Marshall professors condemn Israel: 24 professors at the liberal arts college Franklin & Marshall in Lancaster, Pennsylvania endorsed a statement condemning Israel as a country “ideologically founded upon Jewish supremacy.” For its part, Franklin & Marshall said on Twitter that the statement did not reflect the views of the college, but rather the signatories. In response, 11 faculty members issued a rebuttal, calling the original statement “hyper-simplistic and misguided” and also rejecting the “libelous term ‘Jewish supremacy.’”
New CA dean endorsed Farrakhan: The incoming dean of California State University’s College of Ethnic Studies in Los Angeles is a proud supporter of Nation of Islam leader Louis Farrakhan, even writing antisemitic statements in Farrakhan’s publication “The Final Call” and elsewhere. A 2018 article in the Nation of Islam’s newspaper the Final Call quoted Dr. Julianne Malveaux as saying Farrakhan is unfairly condemned and “until these Jewish people who are running around asking Black people to buck dance, until they ask White people to buck dance, I ain’t having it! I’m just not having it!” In the article she also said: “Farrakhan has never picked up a gun and shot anybody. These people need to just back off.” In a column published in May 2021, Malveaux wrote: “Israel has a lock on U.S. foreign policy, and too many Jewish people say that criticism of Israel makes you anti-Semitic.”
100k celebrate pride in Tel Aviv: Over 100,000 people gathered in Tel Aviv on Friday to celebrate LGBTQ+ Pride, the largest mass gathering in Israel since the start of the coronavirus pandemic. Last year’s event had been canceled due to the public health emergency. The celebration was attended by numerous high-profile individuals, including Transportation Minister Merav Michaeli of the Labor party and Health Minister Nitzan Horowitz of the Meretz party, the first openly gay leader of a political party in Israel.
Bennett tackles Arab crime: Israeli Prime Minister Naftali Bennett announced a national plan to fight violence within the Arab community which has plagued it for years. The plan had been a key demand of the Arab party Ra’am in joining the coalition agreement to form Israel’s new government. Bennett said: “The violence in the Arab community is a blight on the country that has been neglected for many years. Responsibility for fighting this is on our shoulders. This is a national mission.” Part of the coalition agreement also included a commitment of 2.5 million Israeli shekels (770,000 USD) toward fighting violence and organized crime in Israel’s Arab sector.
Erdan resigns as Israel’s U.S. ambassador: Gilad Erdan, Israel’s U.S. and UN envoy, announced on Sunday that he would be resigning from his post as ambassador to the United States, pending the appointment of a replacement. Erdan, who hails from former Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s Likud Party, tweeted, “I believe it is up to the current [Israeli] government to appoint an ambassador [who] will represent it politically with the [U.S.] administration. However, I will continue to defend Israel at the U.N. and fight for justice in the international arena.” Names that have emerged for the post include former Israel Defense Forces Chief of Staff Gadi Eisenkot; Defense Ministry Director General Amir Eshel; former consul general in New York Dani Dayan; and former Israel Air Force Commander Eliezer Shkedy (although he has reportedly declined).
Govt refuses Utah online marriages: The Israeli Population Authority under Interior Minister Ayelet Shaked of the Yamina party is refusing to recognize Israeli marriages performed in online civil ceremonies through the State of Utah. In 2020, Utah began performing civil marriages via the internet to comply with social distancing requirements. This was very popular among many Israelis who are unable to marry in Israel since marriages must be performed under strict religious law; civil marriage in Israel does not exist. Those prohibited from marrying in Israel include interfaith couples and gay couples. In a typical year, thousands of couples fly abroad to get married in Cyprus, Turkey, or other countries. Upon return to Israel, their marriages are recognized as equivalent to an Israeli religious marriage.
Delta variant rises in Israel: Israel is taking the rise of the Delta variant of the coronavirus, which first emerged in India, very seriously. The country is already reimposing indoor mask mandates and asking all Israelis to refrain from nonessential international travel. Israel is even making international travelers pledge not to visit countries experiencing significant coronavirus outbreaks. In the wake of the reimposition of coronavirus restrictions, Israel’s Health Ministry director-general resigned. Nachman Ash, the coronavirus czar, has now stepped into that role. Nevertheless, despite the rise in coronavirus infections, Israel has only had one coronavirus death in the last two weeks.
U.S. strikes Iranian forces: In response to a recent spate of unmanned aerial vehicle (UAV) attacks against U.S. personnel and facilities in Iraq, the U.S. conducted airstrikes against Iranian backed militia groups on the Iraq-Syria border Sunday night. A U.S. military official told CNN that the latest of these Iranian UAV attacks occurred earlier this month when an armed drone detonated at a dining facility at a key entry point in the Baghdad airport used by American soldiers and diplomats. Additionally, in April a drone damaged a CIA drone hanger near Erbil. Pentagon spokesman John F. Kirby said the facilities targeted by the U.S. on Sunday were used by Iranian-backed militias to store arms and ammunition for carrying out these UAV attacks against Americans. There were no immediate reports of casualties. In response to the airstrikes, reports emerged on Monday that pro-Iranian groups had shelled areas in eastern Syria and U.S. forces supporting the Syrian Democratic Forces. The strikes took place against the backdrop of ongoing negotiations in Vienna between Iran and six world powers to revive the 2015 Iranian nuclear deal.
Iran refuses UN watchdog, U.S. offers sanctions relief on Ayatollah: In a move which further complicates a return to the nuclear deal, the speaker of Iran’s parliament on Sunday said his country will not hand over images from inside some Iranian nuclear sites to the U.N. nuclear watchdog, as the monitoring agreement with the agency had expired. This came after demands by the U.N. nuclear watchdog on Friday for an immediate reply from Iran on whether it would extend that monitoring agreement. According to reports, the Biden administration is considering lifting sanctions on Iranian Supreme Leader Ali Khamenei as part of the revival of the 2015 nuclear deal. Some 1,040 other sanctions are also up for negotiation, as per the Iranian president’s chief of staff. These include significant U.S. sanctions imposed on Iranian oil exports during the Trump administration.
Protests erupt over Abbas critic beaten to death by PA: The death of a political activist who has been criticizing the Palestinian Authority for years has sent the West Bank alight with protests. Nizar Banat, the critic, was reportedly beaten by Palestinian Authority security forces to death. The PA has deployed additional security forces to quell the protests. Even the Palestinian labor minister quit amid the uproar. The family of Banat said they would not accept a commission’s conclusion about his death. This was despite the fact that Palestinian Authority Prime Minister Mohammed Shtayyeh said that those who were responsible for Banat’s death “will be held accountable.”
Israel allows Qatari fuel into Gaza: Israel has begun to allow Qatari fuel into Gaza for the first time since last month’s war. The funding will be “conditional on the preservation of security stability,” according to Israel’s military. Gaza’s border had been closed by Israel after humanitarian aid workers were fired upon by the terrorist group Hamas, which controls the Palestinian territory.
Lapid accuses Polish PM of antisemitism: After the Polish prime minister said his country would not pay “a single zloty” [Polish currency] in restitution for Holocaust survivors, Israel’s foreign minister said “the very hint” that we are “interested in Polish money” is antisemitic. Poland’s parliament recently advanced a bill which would deny restitution to victims of the Holocaust. Lapid also said: “no parliament can legislate laws aimed at denying the Holocaust.” Both countries summoned the other’s ambassador for a dressing down over the matter.
Jewish graves desecrated in Poland: For the second time in a week, dozens of headstones were knocked down at a Jewish cemetery in Poland, with several destroyed. On Saturday, 67 Jewish graves were desecrated in southern Poland. Last week in western Poland, 63 Jewish graves were toppled by children, who told police they wanted to use the slabs to build a fortress. Additionally, two weeks ago in Eastern Poland, a headstone from a Jewish grave that was used as construction material years ago was extracted from a sidewalk and given to a local Jewish cemetery.
Dutch government aims to return art looted by the Nazis: Just as Poland advanced a bill limiting restitution for Holocaust survivors, the Dutch government released a statement Friday that it will begin an investigation into Nazi-looted art in its national holdings. The statement began: “The Dutch government aims to return as much as possible of the art looted by the Nazis during the Second World War to its rightful owners.” This includes “so-called ‘heirless art’ looted from Jewish owners,” which shall “be returned to the Jewish community” if the original owners or heirs cannot be found. In a statement, Ingrid van Engelshoven, the Netherlands’s Minister of Education, Culture and Science, said, “We must continue our efforts to return items lost involuntarily or acquired illegally around the time of the Second World War to the right people. . . . This is an important step forward in our thinking around restitution policy.”
Germany allows refugee descendants citizenship: Germany’s parliament passed legislation making it easier for descendants of Third Reich refugees to reclaim German citizenship. The President of the Central Council of Jews in Germany said: “The ruling coalition has taken important legal steps to ensure that Germany lives up to its historical responsibility.”
CELEBRATE & REMEMBER
Source: @AmbDaniDayan / Twitter, September 22, 2019
Today we celebrate Jeremy Bleich and Team Israel heading to the Olympics! For the first time since 1976, an Israeli team will compete in the international sporting competition, this year held in Tokyo. Bleich, who is a Pittsburgh Pirates staffer, will serve as the baseball team’s pitcher. He said: “The whole Pirates organization has supported me on my quest to Team Israel.” In order to qualify for the team, Bleich made Aliyah (immigrated) to Israel. His grandparents were Holocaust survivors.
On this day in 1911, Bernard Herrmann, the famed film composer, was born in New York. As a composer, Herrmann became well known for his innovation and worked most closely with director Alfred Hitchcock. Some of his most celebrated film and television scores include Citizen Kane, North by Northwest, Psycho, the Twilight Zone, and Vertigo.