Inside the U.S.: Final victim of Surfside collapse identified; CUNY professors quit union after anti-Israel resolution; Jewish world melts (down) over Ben & Jerry’s; Antony Blinken meets Natan Sharansky; and Dems seek Islamophobia envoy
Inside Europe: Poland advances legislation limiting Holocaust restitution; study says Hungarians hold strong antisemitic views; and U.S. seizes stolen Jewish artifacts
Inside Israel: Bombshell report over Israeli spyware; Israel-Morocco flights begin; African Union reinstates Israel; Dani Dayan chosen as Yad Vashem head; and Israel spooked by German floods
Israel’s Neighbors: Terrorists cause explosion in Gaza; and IDF hits Hamas targets after more arson balloons
Olympics: Olympics honors Israelis murdered in Munich; Israel takes its 1st medal at Olympics; judo players drop out rather than face Israeli; and Israeli and Iranian basketball coaches shake hands
Celebrate & Remember: Breakthrough cardiology procedure in Israel; and remembering El Al Flight 402
Surfside tragedy ends, but not the pain: More than a month after the horrifying collapse of the condo building in Surfside, Florida, search and rescue teams identified the final victim’s remains. Estelle Hedaya, 54, was identified yesterday and the final death toll stands at 98. Firefighters Friday declared the end of their search for bodies at the site, continuing the investigation of the debris now stored at a Miami warehouse. “Nothing we can say or do will bring back these 98 angels, who left behind grieving families, beloved friends, loved ones across this community and across the world,” Mayor Daniella Levine Cava of Miami-Dade County said in a news conference. “But we have done everything possible to bring closure to the families.”
CUNY professors quit union after anti-Israel resolution: Over 50 professors from CUNY (the City University of New York) have resigned from their faculty union after it passed a one-sided resolution threatening to support the boycott campaign against Israel and condemning “the massacre of Palestinians by the Israeli state.” The Professional Staff Congress (PSC-CUNY) resolution also refers to Israel as a “settler colonial state.” In a letter of resignation to PSC President James Davis, Professor Yedidyah Langsam wrote: “With the PSC-CUNY resolution you have chosen to support a terrorist organization, Hamas, whose goal (`From the River to the Sea’) is to destroy the state of Israel and kill all my relatives who live there.” He went on, “I personally… feel exceedingly uncomfortable on campus.”
Jewish world melts (down) over Ben & Jerry’s: The Ben & Jerry’s ice cream scandal is roiling Israel and the Jewish world. Last week, the ice cream maker said it would no longer sell its product in the “occupied Palestinian Territory” because it would be inconsistent with the company’s values. However, the company maintained that it will continue to sell ice cream within Israel proper (behind the Green Line). The company’s distributor in Israel responded by saying: “Keep ice cream out of politics.” Israeli politicians from the prime minister to the president to the foreign minister condemned the withdrawal, with the president even likening it to a “new kind of terrorism.” The Palestinian Authority’s Foreign Ministry, though, praised the move, saying it “calls on companies working, directly or indirectly, with the settlement system to take similar positions and immediately stop their dealings and business.” Israel’s ambassador to the U.S. and the UN called on 35 states in the U.S. which have anti-Israel boycott (BDS) legislation to prohibit the sale of Ben & Jerry’s. Florida, Illinois, Texas, New Jersey, and New York have already announced they are looking into whether the Ben & Jerry’s move violates state law.
Blinken meets Sharansky: Secretary of State Antony Blinken met with Natan Sharansky, freedom fighter of Soviet Jews, last week. The pair spoke about combatting antisemitism and Holocaust denial, according to the State Department. Sharansky was a political prisoner in the USSR; he spent nine years in forced labor in the Gulag in Siberia and, after being freed, became Chair of the Jewish Agency. Blinken praised him as a “courageous” activist.
Dems seek Islamophobia envoy: A letter addressed to Secretary of State Antony Blinken, which was co-led by Muslim House Democrat Ilhan Omar and Jewish House Democrat Jan Shakowsky, is uring Blinken to appoint an Islamophobia envoy alongside the State Department’s antisemitism envoy to monitor worldwide hatred. The letter raised specific concerns about the genocide against the Uyghurs in China’s Xinjang province and the ethnic cleansing of the Muslim Rohinyga in Myanmar. The letter read: “It is past time for the United States to stand firmly in favor of religious freedom for all, and to give the global problem of Islamophobia the attention and prioritization it deserves.” Shakowsky is among six other Jewish Democrats who co-signed the letter, including Brad Schneider who recently visited the Palestinian Authority in Ramallah and criticized its president for his failures of leadership.
Poland closer to adopting controversial law: On Friday, Poland’s Senate approved an amended draft of a bill effectively preventing Holocaust survivors from recovering property seized by the Nazis during the Holocaust. Under the previous version of the legislation, outstanding claims for the restitution of seized property that have not reached a final decision in the last 30 years would be halted or dismissed. With the new amendments passed by the Senate, existing claims will continue to be heard, however with restrictions on the ability to regain the lost property. The amended draft now goes to the parliament’s lower chamber for approval and then will need the signature of President Andrzej Duda, who has spoken in its favor. Foreign Minister Yair Lapid criticized the move, saying that “Israel is following with great concern the advancement of Poland’s legislation on property restitution, property which was stolen from Holocaust victims.” He went on to say that “the legislation will severely harm our relationship with Poland,” and that “Poland knows very well what the right thing to do is.”
Study says Hungarians hold strong antisemitic views: Around one-third of Hungarians hold either strong or moderately antisemitic views, according to a survey released last week by Hungary’s largest Jewish group. The study was carried out in late 2019 by Median Opinion and Market Research Ltd. on behalf of the Federation of Hungarian Jewish Communities, or Mazsihisz. Out of 1,200 participants, 15% stated that “it would be best if the Jews left the country” and 19% agreed that “[t]he suffering of the Jews was God’s punishment.” 23% stated that “The number of Jews in certain occupations should be limited.” 32% agreed that there “is an excessive influence of the Jews in Hungary today;” 29% agreed that intellectuals of Jewish descent keep the media and culture under their control; 36% agreed that there “is a secret Jewish network determining political and economic processes.”
U.S. seizes stolen Jewish artifacts: The U.S. Department of Justice (DOJ) seized 17 historic Jewish artifacts that were stolen from Eastern Europe during the Holocaust, which were set to be auctioned off in New York. Investigators are now working to return the scrolls and manuscripts to their rightful owners. The objects, seized last Thursday, were looted during the Holocaust from Romania, Hungary, Slovakia, and Ukraine. The Paris Peace Treaty of 1947 declared that all unclaimed Jewish property be returned to survivors’ communities, according to a DOJ affidavit quoted by USA Today. Acting U.S. Attorney for the Eastern District of New York Jacquelyn Kasulis said: “The Scrolls and Manuscripts that were illegally confiscated during the Holocaust contain priceless historical information that belongs to the descendants of families that lived and flourished in Jewish communities before the Holocaust. This Office hopes that today’s seizure will contribute to the restoration of pre-Holocaust history in Eastern Europe.”
Israeli spyware investigation: Several journalists published a bombshell report that a spy technology called Pegasus made by private Israeli firm NGO Group has been used by many governments to spy on lawmakers, journalists, and activists across the world. A coalition of news outlets, including The Washington Post, Haartez, and The Guardian is behind the reporting, and they’re calling it the Pegasus Project, which is investigating the leak of 50,000 phone numbers that were potential surveillance targets for countries that bought NSO’s spyware. NSO spokesman Oded Hershkovitz told Israel’s Army Radio that the list of phone numbers was “not connected” to NSO, but rather to other companies and open-source software. The Pegasus Project analyzed the numbers on the list and found people who should’ve been off-limits to governmental spying (based on the standards NSO it says it holds its clients to), including hundreds of politicians and government workers — including three presidents, 10 prime ministers, and a king — plus 189 journalists and 85 human rights activists. NSO Group has denied media reports that the Pegasus software is linked to the mass surveillance of journalists and rights defenders and insisted that all sales of its technology are approved by Israel’s defense ministry.
Israel-Morocco flights begin: Israel and Morocco have initiated direct flights, with the first two landing in Morocco this past Sunday. Israeli carrier Israir said it planned to conduct two to three direct flights from Israel to Morocco per week. El Al also conducted a flight to Morocco on Sunday and said it plans to conduct five direct flights per week. The U.S., which sponsored last year’s Abraham Accords which normalized relations between Israel and Morocco, said the flights were “another important development stemming from improved relations between our partners and friends in Israel and Morocco.” Over 50,000 Israeli tourists typically visit Morocco in a given year, particularly ones of Moroccan descent of which there are 700,000 in Israel.
African Union reinstates Israel: The African Union has reinstated Israel as an observer member after a nearly two-decade ban since 2004. Israel was kicked out of the Union at the behest of Libya’s then-dictator Muammar Gaddafi. Israeli Foreign Minister Yair Lapid said the reinstatement was a “diplomatic achievement” to “help us strengthen our activities vis-à-vis the continent and vis-à-vis the member states of the organization.” Algeria, which still does not have diplomatic relations with Israel, denounced the invitation to Israel, saying: “this decision has neither the vocation nor the capacity to legitimize the practices and behaviors of the said new observer.” Palestinian groups, like the terrorist groups Hamas and Islamic Jihad, also slammed the decision.
Dayan chosen as Yad Vashem head: Former Israeli emissary to the U.S. Dani Dayan has been chosen to be the next leader of Yad Vashem, Israel’s Holocaust museum. He garnered universal acclaim after the decision was announced. Mickey Gitzin, head of the New Israel Fund and a progressive, said of the right-wing Dayan: “[He] is a political adversary, but a legitimate and proper leader and I wish him well in this important post.” Dayan currently belongs to the A New Hope party led by Gideon Sa’ar.
Israel spooked by German floods: Israel, along with all of Western Europe, is spooked by the recent floods that ravaged Western Germany and the Low Countries, killing at least 200 people. Israeli President Isaac Herzog sent his condolences to the German people and wrote that “the challenge of global warming, which contributed to this calamity, requires us all to make a special effort.” Israeli Prime Minister Naftali Bennett said he too would seek action to tackle climate change, while Environmental Protection Minister Tamar Zandberg urged the government to designate climate change as a “strategic threat.” She wrote: “We must urgently prepare for the effects of climate change in order to protect, first and foremost, human life.” Additionally, Israel plans to impose a tax which would literally double the price of disposable plastics by 2022. Currently, the average Israeli spends five times more on single use plastic than the average European Union resident — Israel is the second biggest user of single use plastic per capita in the world –but the tax will seek to reduce that amount by 40 percent.
ISRAEL’S NEIGHBORS, NEAR & NOT SO FAR
Palestinians call on Hamas to stop using human shields after explosion
Terrorists cause explosion in Gaza: A huge explosion in al-Zawiya market in Gaza last Thursday is being blamed on terrorist weapons storage in civilian areas. The explosion reportedly killed at least one person and left 14 others injured. According to the Israel Defense Forces, the weapons storage belonged to the terror group Islamic Jihad. Palestinian groups said the storage belonged to terror group Hamas. Following the explosion, several Palestinian factions and human rights organizations called on Palestinian terror groups to stop storing weapons in residential areas and demanded a thorough investigation in order to hold those responsible accountable. Hamas said it has launched an investigation but has not provided any details.
IDF hits Hamas targets after more arson balloons: After incendiary balloons were launched into Israel by Hamas-affiliated terrorists in the Gaza Strip on Sunday, the Israel Defense Forces struck several buildings in a Hamas military base, as well as unspecified “infrastructure and utilities used for activities” of the terror group. Israeli Fire and Rescue services reported that the balloons sparked at least three fires in southern Israel. There were no immediate reports of casualties on either side. The IDF noted that the Hamas base was located “adjacent to civilian sites, including a school.” “The IDF will respond aggressively against continued terror attempts out of the Gaza Strip,” the IDF said in a statement. The exchange came amid a holdup of Qatari fuel into Gaza, which was allowed in on Monday morning.
In first, Olympics honors Israelis murdered in Munich
Olympics honors Munich victims: For the first time ever, the Olympic Games held a moment of silence during its Opening Ceremony for the 11 Israeli athletes murdered during the 1972 Munich Olympics. During the 1972 Olympics, eight members of the Palestinian terrorist group known as Black September kidnapped and killed eleven Israeli Olympic team members, in what became known as the Munich massacre. A West German police officer who participated in an unsuccessful raid to free the hostage athletes was also killed. The moment of silence comes a year away from the 50th anniversary of the terror attack.
Israel takes its 1st medal at Olympics: Avishag Semberg has won bronze in taekwondo, the first Israeli to ever medal in the sport! Semberg, who is 19, beat out Rukiye Yildirim of Turkey to clinch the podium spot. Semberg said: “I still haven’t fully grasped what I did here — [the fact that I won] an Olympic medal is not yet absorbed in my head.” Foreign Minister Lapid said: “A medal for Avishag! Honor for Israel.” Israeli swimmer Anastasia Gorbenko also made history and set a national record in the 100-meter backstroke Monday.
Judo players drop out rather than face Israeli: Two judokas dropped out of the Olympics judo competition to avoid facing Israeli Tohar Butbul. First, Algerian judo player Fethi Nourine withdrew from the Olympics rather than face his Israeli counterpart and days later Sudan’s Mohamed Abdalrasool didn’t show up to face Butbul. Nourine was suspended from the International Judo Association (IJA) for withdrawing, but neither the IJA nor the Sudanese Olympic officials immediately announced a reason why Abdalrasool didn’t compete. In January, Sudan signed onto the Abraham Accords with the U.S., paving the way to normalize relations with Israel, but a report earlier this month said Sudan was disappointed with the outcome of the normalization agreement (which was widely protested in Sudan).
Israeli and Iranian basketball coaches shake hands: In a show of rare exchange between members of hostile nations, Israeli and Iranian men’s basketball coaches shook hands at the Olympics. Iranian coach Meehan Shahintab of the Iranian men’s basketball team did not refuse to shake the hand of Israeli coach Ronen Ginzburg, who coaches for the Czech national team. Ginzburg said: “Obviously it’s special that an Israeli coach is leading a team against Iran.” The Czech team beat Iran by 84 to 78.
CELEBRATE & REMEMBER
El Al aircraft, pictured in 1950
Today we celebrate a cardiology breakthrough in Israel! Last Sunday, for the first time ever, a woman’s heart was repaired by Israeli doctors without implanting a foreign object in her body. Doctors were able to fix her condition with a single stitch and without putting the patient under full anesthesia. The breakthrough cardiology procedure was conducted at the Shaare Zedek Medical Center in Israel. The woman was released from the hospital Monday in good health. According to The Jerusalem Post, the patient gratefully thanked the team, saying, “they treated me like their daughter.”
On this day in 1955, an El Al plane on its way from London to Tel Aviv was shot out of the sky over Bulgaria. Everyone on board, 51 passengers and seven crew, were killed instantly. The communist Bulgarian government eventually said that its army had been “too hasty” in shooting down the plane, which had been attempting to flee Bulgarian airspace which it had accidentally entered, and paid compensation to the victims’ families. 13 Americans had been on board the flight.