Today we’re diving into: Israel’s looming coronavirus lockdown; Israeli nurses’ planned strike; “Black Flag” protests in Israel; Nick Cannon’s antisemitic meltdown; Canadian politician’s charge to remove Jews; questions about disturbing reports of Yemenite Jews; Bari Weiss’ resignation from the New York Times; Trump’s niece’s accusations; boycott calls over NYU Tel Aviv campus; Pompeo’s promise on extending Iranian embargo; campaign to stop Iran’s executions; Hezbollah’s new missile launch sites in civilian areas; and Dutch government threatens store for selling wine with ‘made in Israel’ tag.
Public discontent coincides with record numbers of new coronavirus cases
Lockdown is coming again: Israel is on the precipice of total lockdown in the next two days due to the resurgence of the coronavirus pandemic. Barring a “miracle,” said Public Health Minister Yuli Edelstein, the country will need to once again close everything to stop the rampant spread of the virus. The case count has reached over 1,700 new daily infections, an all-time high, while the country grapples with over 200 critically ill patients, also higher than it’s ever been. With 40,000 total cases, a group of researchers from Hebrew University told the government that they expect hundreds more Israelis to die by the end of this month.
Nurse strike coming: The National Association of Nurses announced they will go on strike starting Monday because of a shortage of staff and resources. “Out of national responsibility,” nurses will continue in their emergency roles, but they will cease in their day-to-day operations. The nurses are demanding greater support from the government as they deal with the onslaught of thousands of coronavirus patients.
Netanyahu’s approval ratings plummet as cases soar: Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu has seen his approval ratings plummet, with only 29.5% of the Israeli public saying that they trust him to solve the coronavirus crisis. As he contends with the twin public health and economic crises, Netanyahu has proposed sending a check to every Israeli citizen over the age of 18 against the objections of his coalition partners.
Thousands of “Black Flag” protesters gather in front of Bibi’s house: “Black flag” protests have been taking place across Israel for months and, on Tuesday night, thousands of demonstrators gathered in front of Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s house to demand his resignation. At least 50 protestors were arrested on Tuesday evening as the protest turned violent, most of whom were freed overnight after the protest. The protesters are demanding that the PM step down over the multiple investigations into his ethical misconduct. The demonstration also focused on Israel’s deteriorating economic situation brought on by the pandemic, but these protests are different from the other economic protests taking place across the country.
What is the movement about? The Black Flag movement started on March 19th when a convoy of vehicles gathered in the center of Jerusalem with black flags as a warning sign of the destruction of Israel’s democracy. The largely left-wing demonstrators are opposed to many government policies that they consider to be undemocratic and corrupt, including the coalition agreement between the Likud and Blue and White parties and certain government coronavirus policies like the tracking of civilian carriers of the virus via their phones. The protestors held signs that read: “We’re saving democracy; we’re fighting corruption” and “no to dictatorship under the cover of corona.”
Vocal antisemitism from some of Farrakhan’s most influential supporters grows
Nick Cannon’s antisemitism: Celebrity personality Nick Cannon is in the spotlight for espousing antisemitic comments and conspiracy theories in an interview he posted online with Richard Griffin. Griffin was a member of the hip hop group Public Enemy until the late 1980s, when Griffin was ousted over antisemitic remarks he made in a series of interviews. Much of what the men said in the interview comes from Louis Farrakhan’s antisemitic teachings. Cannon eventually apologized for his comments and vowed to learn from his mistakes in a statement. Many Jewish leaders and organizations have reached out to Cannon to use this controversy as a teaching opportunity.
Studio responses and Jewish defenders: While ViacomCBS has terminated its relationship with Cannon, Fox is standing by him after his apology and allowing Cannon to continue to host and executive produce “The Masked Singer.” A few prominent Black celebrities, including Kareem Abdul-Jabbar, Roxane Gay, and Jemele Hill, have demanded more communities show allyship towards the Jewish community and express outrage at antisemitism from within the Black community.
More antisemitism: Rapper Ice Cube, a loyal follower of Farrakhan for years who has been regularly posting antisemitic conspiracy theories for the past few months, accused Kareem of betraying the Black community by calling out antisemitism and suggested that the Jewish community paid Kareem for his statements. Charlamagne Tha God, a radio personality with a following of millions, suggested that Cannon’s firing proves that Jews “have the power.”
DeSean Jackson gets fined: The Nick Cannon incident comes a week after NFL player DeSean Jackson posted a quote on his Instagram page falsely attributed to Hitler, which promoted antisemitic conspiracy theories. Jackson’s Hitler post came after posts complimenting Farrakhan’s teachings. The Philadelphia Eagles fined Jackson for his antisemitic comments.
Canadian politician calls for removal of Jews: The Royal Canadian Mounted Police have opened an investigation into a fringe right-wing Canadian politician who is calling for the removal of Jews from Canada. Travis Patron, leader of the Canadian Nationalist Party, described Jews as “snakes,” “inside manipulators,” and a “parasitic tribe” who “hijack the central bank” and ought to be “removed.” Patron also quoted anti-Jewish verses of the Christian Bible to further emphasize his point. Along with the remarks, which he gave in a videotaped speech, Patron distributed flyers showing a Nazi salute.
French Jewish cemetery desecrated with “Death to Jews” and swastikas: Another cemetery vandalism occurred in Europe, this time in France. In Gruissan, a southern, coastal French town, vandals wrote “Death to Jews” and swastikas on about 20 tombstones. No suspects have been identified. France’s National Bureau for Vigilance Against Antisemitism said: “[Gruissan is] usually rather calm, rather peaceful, and this aggression surprises and scandalizes us.”
Questions about report that Houthis arrested Yemen’s last Jews: An Egyptian report that Yemen’s Houthis are arresting the country’s remaining Jews has yet to be confirmed, leaving questions about the validity of the report. The D.C. Yemen Embassy office tweeted that they are demanding the Houthis immediately clarify the situation and declare that they will respect the rights of the few remaining Yemenite Jews.
NYU rejects Tel Aviv campus boycott calls: The New York University administration is rejecting an antisemitic petition by the University’s Graduate Student Organizing Committee to boycott its NYU Tel Aviv location. NYU said: the “repeated attempts to exclude, stigmatize and boycott NYU Tel Aviv are at odds with the tenets of academic freedom and the free exchange of ideas, and at odds with the university’s clear and long-standing position on the matter. NYU remains strongly committed to its excellent program in Tel Aviv, and to global engagement.”
INSIDE THE U.S.
Bari Weiss blasts the New York Times for ‘illiberal environment’ and culture of intolerance and bullying
Bari Weiss leaves the NY Times: Bari Weiss, a prominent Jewish opinion writer and editor for The New York Times, resigned this week in a letter that accuses the paper of fostering an “illiberal environment” and allowing her to be openly attacked and bullied by fellow NYT employees, who called her a “Nazi” and “racist.” Weiss also criticized the Times for steering news towards the moment’s popular opinions on Twitter. “As the ethics and mores of that platform [Twitter] have become those of the paper, the paper itself has increasingly become a kind of performance space,” said Weiss. Weiss said she was harassed in meetings and on company-wide Slack channels. Weiss described the environment at the Times as one where voices outside of the normative ideology have no representation.
Trump’s niece says he regularly used slurs: President Donald Trump’s niece, whose tell-all book about her uncle was published this week, told The Washington Post and MSNBC’s Rachel Maddow that the President and the Trump family regularly used the “n-word” and antisemitic slurs. Mary Trump, who is 55 and estranged from her uncle, said in the interview that Donald Trump is “clearly racist.”
George Soros announces large donation for racial equality movement: The Hungarian-American-Jewish billionaire George Soros announced his plans to donate $220 million to American organizations fighting for racial equality through his charity, the Open Society Foundation. The funds will be distributed within the next five years. Some of the money will go to efforts to increase Black voter participation before the November 2020 general election. Of the plans, the New York Times said: it is “a huge financial undertaking that will support several Black-led racial justice groups for years to come.” Soros’ effort to assist racial justice groups probably make him the single largest financial backer of the entire movement.
Deepfake campaign exposed: Reuters has exposed a fabricated person behind a series of freelance editorials which have been published by Jewish publications such as the Algemeiner, the Times of Israel, and the Jerusalem Post. Reuters did not find out who or what is behind this fabricated person, named “Oliver Taylor.” In an article in The Algemeiner, “Taylor” had accused a London academic named Mazen Masri of being a known terrorist sympathizer. Masri helped launch an Israeli lawsuit against the surveillance company NSO on behalf of alleged Mexican victims of the company’s phone hacking technology.
ISRAEL’S NEIGHBORS, NEAR & NOT SO FAR
UN ban on selling weapons to Tehran set to expire in October
Pompeo says U.S. to ensure Iranian arms embargo extension: U.S. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo said that the U.S. intends to “ensure” that the Iranian arms embargo is extended past the point this year when it is set to expire. The U.S. will put forward a resolution before the United Nations Security Council and Pompeo expressed his belief that the measure will be successful. Nevertheless, should the U.N. resolution fail, the U.S. will still do everything within its power to sustain the embargo, he said.
Campaign to stop Iranian executions: A worldwide social media campaign is attempting to stop three executions from happening in Iran. Iran has heavily restricted internet access in response to the campaign, which aims to prevent the execution of three men in their 20s who participated in the November 2019 protests aimed at the government. The campaign suggests the three men were tortured into confessing crimes they did not commit. President Donald Trump also weighed in on Twitter urging Iran to halt the executions. Iran executed a man last week for drinking alcohol.
Hezbollah’s new missile launch sites in civilian areas: A recently published open-source Israeli report concluded that the terrorist organization Hezbollah is hiding at least 28 newly discovered missile launch sites in civilian locations in Beirut, Lebanon’s capital. The sites include places where Hezbollah stores and produces missiles, as well as locations from which they can launch the missiles. The head researcher noted: “The world must understand and know that these launch sites are located at the heart of residential and urban civil infrastructure. [They are] not hesitating to place their launch sites near public buildings, educational institutions, factories and more.”
Jewish groups pressure U.S. to demand terrorist extradition: A coalition of American Jewish organizations are pressuring the U.S. government to demand Jordan extradite a terrorist convicted in Israeli court of killing 15 people, two of whom were American, in Jerusalem during the Second Intifada. The killer, Ahlam Al-Tamimi, was exiled to Jordan in a 2011 prisoner swap between Israel and the terrorist organization Hamas.
Dutch government fining store selling West Bank wine: The government of the Netherlands is fining an organization selling wine made in Hebron for labeling them as “made in Israel.” The seller, Israel Products Center, which is run by Christians for Israel, said that it would not comply with Dutch demands to alter the labeling. The country’s chief rabbi, Binyomin Jacobs, said the government was imposing a double standard: “Why inspect Israeli products but none from China, which occupies Tibet, or goods from Morocco, which occupies Western Sahara, or Turkey (northern Cyprus), Russia (Crimea)?”
CELEBRATE & REMEMBER
Today we celebrate more Israeli advancements in coronavirus research! A remarkable Hebrew University study shows that an already FDA-approved drug which is used to treat cholesterol, Fenofibrate, can potentially drastically reduce the health impacts of the coronavirus. The researchers said that when using the drug “the virus almost completely disappeared within only five days of treatment.” The research was not conducted with human patients, however — only with lung samples. The study will soon move to animal clinical trials and human trials after that.
Today, in 1810, Reform Judaism was born with the opening of the first Reform temple in the town of Seesen, Germany. There was an inaugural ceremony with a parade of rabbis, Christian ministers, and political dignitaries. Reform Judaism then spread through Europe and to North America.