Note: the next newsletter will be on June 15. Today we’re diving into:
Israeli Election: New government awaits vote; “change bloc” agenda; and Stern likely to be Jewish Agency head
Inside Israel: Jerusalem march again canceled, may be revived; Temple Mount bridge at risk of collapse; Honduras to open Jerusalem embassy; and Israeli kids get vaccine
Israel’s Neighbors: PA makes huge ‘pay for slay’ payment; and moderates barred from Iran’s election
Inside Europe: France jails man who threatened Jews; and Germany appoints army rabbi
Inside the U.S.: LA teachers union to vote against Israel; Dem rep. calls out colleagues; anti-Israel group blocks Israeli ship; Biden likely to appoint Shapiro, Nides; AJC slams Arizona’s plan to execute inmates with ‘Zyklon B’; and two rappers invest in Jewish dating app
Celebrate & Remember: Jamie Lee Curtis pledges to restore Hungarian synagogue; and remembering the reunification of Jerusalem
New government awaits vote: While the new governing coalition waits for Israel’s parliament to officially vote it in, Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu is continuing his campaign of political incitement against the group seeking to replace him. Despite claiming that political violence is “out of bounds,” Netanyahu’s recent rhetoric, like calling the new coalition “the greatest election fraud” in history, is closely mimicking the same kind of language from U.S. President Donald Trump that preceded the January 6 insurrection. Incoming Prime Minister Naftali Bennett called for Netanyahu to cease his “scorched earth” campaign. Netanyahu’s statement condemning violence came one day after the Shin Bet, Israel’s security force, gave a rare and stark warning about the “radicalization in violent and inciting discourse.” Knesset members of the anti-Netanyahu bloc, including or even especially its right-wing members, have requested additional security, but the Netanyahu bloc continues to hold rallies of hundreds strong outside of opponents’ homes. Netanyahu is apparently targeting four right-wing members of the anti-Netanyahu bloc in particular; without their votes the coalition cannot form the new government. The Knesset is set to hold the vote of confidence by June 14, with the change bloc coalition holding a razor-thin majority.
“Change bloc” agenda: While the coalition agreements are being finalized, some clauses are being revealed which highlight the priorities of the new government. The new governing coalition aims to swiftly pass a budget (for the first time in two years), advance electoral and judicial reform, introduce term limits for the prime minister, boost funding for Arab communities, and apparently continue to build up Israel’s capital, Jerusalem. On Monday, incoming Prime Minister Naftali Bennett denied that the coalition was going to pass a new law which would prevent Netanyahu from being elected into the Knesset. Both Bennett and Alternate Prime Minister Yair Lapid will apparently have veto power over any government decision. The coalition charter stated that the government would “focus on the many issues affecting all citizens of the country in the fields of security, health and economy.” It also stated that “The government will work to mend the rifts between the various elements of Israeli society and to strengthen the foundations of Israel as a Jewish and democratic state in the spirit of the Declaration of Independence, and lead various programs aimed at getting the State of Israel out of the economic crisis.”
Stern likely to be Jewish Agency head: The incoming Israeli government will likely back Yesh Atid Member of Knesset Elazar Stern to be the new head of the Jewish Agency. The Jewish Agency’s departing head is Isaac Herzog who last week was elected as Israel’s next president. Traditionally, the Prime Minister will submit a candidate’s name to the somewhat independent agency, the largest Jewish nonprofit in the world, for it to approve. The nominating committee which will vote directly on the candidate is made up of members of the World Zionist Organization, the Jewish Federations of North America, and Keren Hayesod – United Israel Appeal. The committee has only once before rejected a prime minister’s nomination – in 2018, when Netanyahu proposed a Likud member rather than Herzog, who was chosen.
Jerusalem march canceled after police reject Damascus Gate route; may be revived
Jerusalem march again canceled, may be revived: The nationalist Jerusalem Day march, which was interrupted and subsequently canceled due to rocket fire in last month’s war with Hamas, was rescheduled for this week, before being canceled again. Organizers said they were cancelling the march after the police blocked its route from entering Jerusalem’s Old City through the Damascus Gate and the Muslim Quarter. The route was blocked for its potentially incendiary consequences which might have “set the area alight” again. Defense Minister Gantz had been preparing to personally stand in the way of the march going forward, or at least going on its scheduled route, before the police preempted him. The decision by the police to block the march’s route was seen as a rebuke of Prime Minister Netanyahu as his influence wanes before his successor is sworn in. Far-right Religious Zionist Knesset Member Bezalel Smotrich called the decision a “shameful surrender to terrorism and Hamas threats.” Journalist Judah Ari Gross said, “Hamas is lauding the Flag March cancellation cuz it’s a terror group that’s thoroughly enjoying the internal rifts in Israel over the issue… It’s about sowing discord.” The chief of police will reportedly present Prime Minister Netanyahu with several alternatives in a bid to revive the march.
Temple Mount bridge at risk of collapse: The wooden bridge that non-Muslims use to enter the Temple Mount is at extremely serious risk of imminent collapse, according to a report. The Mughrabi Bridge was constructed in 2007 after its previous iteration was also found to be structurally unsound. Its replacement has been the subject of intense controversy and a replacement bridge was dismantled in 2014 after negotiations between Israel, Jordan, and the United States fell apart. The current bridge, erected in 2007, had only ever been intended as a temporary measure, but it’s now stood for 14 years. The bridge is made out of wood that is now “in a state of extreme dryness and has many longitudinal cracks.” It is also not fireproof. The report’s recommendation was for the bridge to be replaced with a metal one. Regarding Jordanian and Palestinian anticipated sensitivities in replacing the bridge journalist Shoshanna Keats Jaskoll commented: “Now we’re going to endanger ourselves because [Muslim authorities] may get upset that we fix dangerous access?”
Honduras to open Jerusalem embassy: Honduras is set to open its embassy to Israel in the capital, Jerusalem, later this month. After opening a temporary embassy last year, Israel will open its embassy in Tegucigalpa, Honduras’ capital, in reciprocation. The embassies had been set to open last year but were delayed due to the coronavirus pandemic. Additionally, Honduras’ president, Juan Hernandez, will travel to Israel this month to open the embassy personally.
Israeli kids get vaccine: 10,000 kids aged 12 to 15 have already signed up to get vaccinated in Israel after Israel approved the Pfizer shot for use in teens. However, there are 600,000 kids that fall in the newly opened age range, so there is a far greater number to get covered. A pediatric specialist said that parents are not motivated to get their kids vaccinated because “the general feeling is that there is no more disease.” Along those lines, Israel will be entirely lifting its indoor mask mandate in coming days, in recognition of the near-zero cases now experienced in the country.
ISRAEL’S NEIGHBORS, NEAR & NOT SO FAR
Palestinian Authority pays $42,000 to terrorist’s family
Source: @Palestine_UN/ Twitter, September 25, 2020
PA makes huge ‘pay for slay’ payment: The Palestinian Authority paid the family of a Palestinian terrorist who murdered two Israelis in 2015 the equivalent of $42,000 in accordance with the PA’s “pay for slay” policy (a policy rewarding terrorists and family members of imprisoned and deceased terrorists). According to Wafa, the PA’s official news agency, PA President Mahmoud Abbas “complete[d] the payment of the price” of the family’s house that was demolished by the Israel Defense Forces. The PA governor of Ramallah handed over the money to the family of [the terrorist] on Sunday.” In 2015, the terrorist attacked a family in Jerusalem’s Old City as they were on their way to the Western Wall to pray. The terrorist fatally stabbed Aaron Benita, the father of the family, and wounded the mother, Adele, and their two-year-old son, Matan. Nehemia Lavi, a resident who heard screams and came to help, was also murdered. The terrorist was shot dead by police officers.
Moderates barred from Iran’s election: After a number of candidates for Iran’s presidential election were disqualified, Iran’s supreme leader said some of those rejected candidates were “wronged” by the process. Ayatollah Khamenei said: “[Some candidates] were accused of untrue things that were unfortunately spread throughout the internet too. Protecting people’s honor is one of the most important issues. I call on the responsible bodies to restore their honor.” Among the charges against the candidates were close ties to Western nations, which spread across social media despite inaccuracies. The barring of the candidates raised the prospects that far-right opponents who were not shut out of the race would succeed in the election.
French court sentences Holocaust denier for death threats
Ahmed Moualek (YouTube)
France jails man who threatened Jews: A French court sentenced a man to five years in prison for posting videos calling for the murder of prominent French Jews. The criminal, Ahmed Moualek, 53, is also a Holocaust denier. On the 2019 anniversary of the Hyper Cacher Kosher supermarket shooting, Moualek shared a video saying: “You know it would have pleased me no end if the Shoah existed but I’m just sorry you weren’t on the train.” He was sentenced for promoting terrorism and making death threats. His sentence was reportedly among the harshest in France over such offenses in recent years.
Germany appoints army rabbi: For the first time in 100 years, Germany’s army appointed a chief rabbi, Mordechai Balla. Of his position, Balla said: “It is a great responsibility. We need to help all Jews [in the army] live a Jewish life, if they are looking for Kosher food, if they are looking for the opportunity to pray.” Germany will spend five million euros on the reconstructed army rabbinate which comes 76 years after the Holocaust was ended. Approximately fewer than 300 Jews serve in the German army and, in recent years, white supremacists and extremists were discovered among the army’s ranks. One army unit was even partially dismantled due to the revelations over its members’ far-right and extremists’ sympathies and ties.
INSIDE THE U.S.
CA teachers’ union to vote on endorsing BDS measure
LA union to vote against Israel: The Los Angeles teachers’ union is expected to vote in September on a resolution urging the U.S. government to cut all aid to Israel. In a statement to the Los Angeles Times, the Jewish Federation of Los Angeles said: “It is inappropriate and unacceptable for [the teachers’ union] to promote a one-sided position on a complex geopolitical issue that is far removed from the day-to-day public education in our schools, among our teachers, our students and their families.” The resolution “knowingly alienates an entire population of their members, and intentionally makes all LAUSD schools feel unwelcome and unsafe for most Jews and their allies.” The Anti-Defamation League said the resolution “marginalizes those who disagree with it, including many Jewish and Israeli-American staff, students and families. With the recent rise in antisemitic hate crimes and speech around the world, including here in Los Angeles, we would hope that the focus of UTLA remains with the well-being of their staff, students, friends, and neighbors.” The San Francisco teachers union already adopted an anti-Israel position in May, voting to endorse the anti-Israel Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions (BDS) campaign and urging the U.S. government to cut aid to Israel.
Dem rep. calls out colleagues: At a virtual event with Democratic Florida legislators on Thursday, Representative Ted Deutch of Florida linked comments by congresspeople in his own party to the recent spike in antisemitism. “When we have colleagues whose position is ‘Palestine from the river to the sea,’ which includes no place for a Jewish state, and when our colleagues…wrongly and falsely describe Israel as an apartheid state, there is a context for all of this,” Deutch said. Deutch added, “Attacks like that against Jews have led to antisemitism and expulsion, and violence around the world.”
Anti-Israel group blocks Israeli ship: With the help of the labor union representing longshore workers (those who unload ships), hundreds of anti-Israel protesters managed to prevent the unloading of an Israeli ship at a port in Oakland, CA on Friday. Due to their success in preventing the unloading of the ship in Oakland, the anti-Israel activists called for another boycott of an Israeli ship scheduled to dock in the Port of New York and New Jersey on Sunday. The Zachor Legal Institute, which combats the boycott Israel campaign and antisemitic organizations in the United States, told JNS that by refusing to unload a ship with perceived Jewish ownership, the members of International Longshore and Warehouse Union Local 10 had engaged in an “unlawful secondary boycott in violation of longstanding National Labor Relations Act rules.”
Biden likely to appoint Shapiro, Nides: President Biden is reportedly considering former U.S. ambassador to Israel under President Obama for an envoy position to the Middle East. If chosen for the role, Dan Shapiro would likely continue the work of the Trump administration in furthering diplomatic relations between Israel and Arab countries known as the Abraham Accords. Those agreements last year normalized relations between Israel and the U.A.E., Bahrain, Morocco, and Sudan. Shapiro is a fluent Hebrew speaker and is well-known in the Jewish and pro-Israel world. Additionally, Biden has reportedly handed the position of Ambassador to Israel to Tom Nides who was a State Department official under Obama and later an executive at Morgan Stanley.
AJC slams Arizona’s plan to execute inmates with ‘Zyklon B’: On Monday, the American Jewish Committee excoriated Arizona’s plans to restart its long-frozen execution program by using “Zyklon B,” which was used to exterminate Jews in death camps by the Nazis during the Holocaust. The AJC said in a statement: “Arizona’s decision to employ Zyklon B gas as a means of execution defies belief…While there can be no doubt about its effectiveness – the Nazis used it to kill millions of innocent Jews – it is that very effectiveness as an instrument of genocide that makes it utterly inappropriate for use by a civilized state in a proceeding sanctioned by the state and its judiciary.”
Two rappers invest in Jewish dating app: Two rappers, Bhad Bhabie (whose father is Jewish) and Lil Yachty, invested $1 million in a Jewish dating app called Lox Club. The private, membership-based dating app purports to be for people “with ridiculously high standards.” The rappers recently launched a fund together called Scoop Investments alongside their music manager Adam Kluger. The app describes itself as an online reincarnation of a Jewish speakeasy hidden behind the front of a delicatessen.
CELEBRATE & REMEMBER
Interior of the synagogue in Mateszalka, Hungary, in 2016 (Public domain)
Today we celebrate Jamie Lee Curtis leading the charge to restore an abandoned synagogue in eastern Hungary in which her grandparents worshipped. On Sunday, Curtis attended the pre-opening of a new memorial museum and cafe dedicated to her father, actor Tony Curtis, in the Hungarian town of Mateszalka, her grandparents’ former hometown. In her post about the event, Curtis announced that she will help raise funds to restore the dilapidated synagogue and turn it into a community center “for celebrations and art and music.” She also noted that the former synagogue, originally built in 1857, is “empty now, as the entire Jewish population was exterminated but the building stands as a living tribute to those who lived there and continue to live there.” The Jewish community of Mateszalka numbered 1,555 people in 1941, representing 15% of the town’s population, according to the Times of Israel. When the Nazis invaded Hungary in 1944, the Jews were rounded up and sent to Auschwitz. In 1946, about 150 survivors returned to Mateszalka, and as of 1959 there were 98 Jews left.
On this day in 1967, Israel reunited its capital Jerusalem under Jewish control for the first time in 2,000 years. While the Six-Day War raged, Israel battled enemies on all sides. The following day, Israel launched an attack against Syrian forces in the Golan Heights, ultimately capturing that territory and annexing it years later. The war, an immense military success for Israel, preempted an imminent Arab invasion intended to completely wipe Israel off the map. However, the war left controversy in its wake, for Israel gained control of the Sinai, Gaza, the West Bank, East Jerusalem, and the Golan, all of which the international community viewed as occupied territory. Israel later returned the Sinai to Egypt (after more war) in exchange for normalization and peace, and disengaged from Gaza.