Inside Europe: Israel pans Poland’s ‘disgraceful’ law curbing Holocaust restitution; Halimi’s sister files suit in Israel; Jewish graves, memorial vandalized; and Russian scientist beaten in antisemitic attack
Israel’s Neighbors: Iran’s new interior minister wanted for role in Jewish Center bombing; Lapid inaugurates Israel liaison office in Morocco; Hamas blocks UN school inspection; UN agency “investigates” its own antisemitism; and terrorists bomb Gaza resort
Inside Israel: Israel to become first country to offer COVID-19 boosters to over-50s; CIA Director visits Israel; new construction approved in the West Bank; and girl discovers ancient coin
Celebrate & Remember: Jewish Olympians score; and remembering the Abraham Accords
Israel pans Poland’s ‘disgraceful’ law curbing Holocaust restitution
Poland passes anti-Holocaust law: The Polish parliament passed a law this week that will effectively prevent restitution of Jewish property seized by the Nazis during the Holocaust, drawing swift and intense rebuke from Israeli and American politicians. The Polish bill must now be signed by President Andrzej Duda in order to be law. Knesset Speaker Mickey Levy said he was canceling plans to form an inter-parliamentary friendship group, calling the new law “outrageous thievery,” and saying it would harm the countries’ relations. Further, Foreign Minister Lapid said a document of the Netanyahu administration which cleared Poland of its responsibility for the Holocaust was no longer “in effect.” U.S. Secretary of State Antony Blinken said the U.S. was “troubled” by the legislation and urged that President Duda not sign the bill into law. Blinken said, “These pieces of legislation run counter to the principles and values for which modern, democratic nations stand.”
Halimi’s sister files suit in Israel: The sister of Sarah Halimi, the Jewish woman who was murdered in Paris, is reportedly suing her sister’s murderer in Israel under a law that allows Israelis to file criminal complaints about antisemitic acts abroad. Halimi’s murderer was formerly let off the hook by the French supreme court which claimed he was too high on the influence of marijuana to have been in control of his actions. The verdict caused outrage across the Jewish world and led French President Emmanuel Macron to come out in favor of a revision of the law. The filing is apparently the first time that an Israeli has taken action under the provision of Israeli law. Yet France does not extradite its citizens, so the case will almost certainly not be tried in Israel.
Jewish graves, memorial vandalized: Last week the grave of the daughter of Hasidic leader Rabbi Nachman of Breslov was razed and vandalized in Ukraine with pieces of dead pigs, including a skull. This is the fifth time a grave in the area has been vandalized since 2013. Also in the past week, a memorial commemorating the life of Auschwitz survivor and former French minister Simone Veil was defaced with swastikas this week in France. The Ouest-France newspaper said it was the third time the memorial had been targeted within the last week. It had previously been smeared with mustard and excrement. Veil, born in 1917, survived the Holocaust to become a celebrated figure in French politics, fighting for abortion rights, battling antisemitism and also serving as speaker of the European parliament. In two other unrelated incidents over the past week, a grave at a Jewish cemetery in Greece and a monument for Holocaust victims in Moldova were also vandalized.
Russian scientist beaten in antisemitic attack: Vladimir Tselin, a prominent 82-year-old Russian scientist who has worked on the Russian space program, was assaulted on a bus in Moscow by an attacker who shouted that “Hitler should have finished the job, so I’ll do it for him.” No one on the bus or on the street intervened as the attacker hit Tselin and chased him off the bus. Tselin sought medical treatment for minor injuries he sustained in the incident. Police are looking for the perpetrator.
ISRAEL’S NEIGHBORS, NEAR & NOT SO FAR
Iran’s new interior minister wanted for role in Buenos Aires Jewish Center bombing
Iran’s new interior minister wanted by Interpol: Iran’s newly installed President Ebrahim Raisi, who is accused of crimes against humanity, has installed an interior minister who is wanted by international authorities for his involvement in the 1994 bombing of a Jewish cultural center in Buenos Aires, which killed 85 civilians. Iran’s new interior minister, Gen. Ahmad Vahidi, who was blacklisted by the U.S. in 2010, was the head of Iran’s Revolutionary Guards’ Quds Force at the time of the bombing of the AMIA Jewish Center in Argentina’s capital. His name appeared on an Interpol “red notice” list regarding the AMIA attack. Raisi also tapped a new foreign minister, Hossein Amirabdollahian, an avowed anti-Westerner believed to have close relations with the Hezbollah terrorist group in Lebanon as well as Iran’s Revolutionary Guards force.
Lapid visits Morocco: This week, Israeli Foreign Minister Yair Lapid became the first Israeli foreign minister to visit Morocco since last year’s normalization agreement between the two countries. The trip was a diplomatic success, and Lapid said the Israeli-Moroccan diplomatic relationship will soon be elevated to complete relations. In Morocco, Lapid opened an Israeli liaison office– not quite an embassy– and put forward an invitation from Israeli President Isaac Herzog to the King of Morocco, inviting him to visit Israel. Lapid said the two countries will open embassies in each other’s countries in two months. The Moroccan Foreign Minister pushed the issue of the resumption of negotiations with the Palestinians and a two-state solution, while U.S. Secretary of State Antony Blinken praised the historic meeting.
Hamas blocks UN school inspection: The terrorist organization Hamas has prevented a UN inspection team from looking at a school where a terror tunnel was located. The UN team had been sent to ensure the safety of the school and make sure that no weaponry remained from this summer’s fighting between Israel and Hamas. Yet Hamas turned the team away, sending so-called police to refuse its entry into the school’s facilities. The Israel Defense Forces said: “A school funded by international aid to give Gazan children a better future is instead being militarized by a terrorist group. Again, the world must condemn Hamas for using children as human shields.” Also this week, Human Rights Watch, a human rights non-governmental organization, said Hamas conducted war crimes in May’s righting through its “indiscriminate attacks by launching thousands of unguided rockets toward Israeli cities.” Human Rights Watch also found that Hamas rockets misfired, killing Palestinian civilians as well.
UN agency “investigates” its own antisemitism: The United Nations agency that handles Palestinian affairs has launched an investigation into a human rights group’s report about staffers’ antisemitism. Some of the documented cases of antisemitism included staffers praising Hitler or promoting conspiracy theories that Jews manufactured the coronavirus. The agency, UNRWA, said it “has a zero-tolerance policy for hatred [and] takes each allegation seriously.” However, the agency also said: “To suggest that hate is widespread within the Agency and schools is not only misleading and false, but validates sensationalist and politically-motivated attacks.” To that, the human rights group director, Hillel Neuer of UN Watch, said: the agency “misse[d] the point entirely.” Neuer said, “Facing serious allegations about widespread support for antisemitism and terrorism among its educators, UNRWA is burying its head in the sand, falsely pretending that these are isolated cases.”
Terrorists bomb Gaza resort: A resort in Gaza was bombed by extremists last week for holding a mixed-gender concert. The explosion reflects the growing influence of ISIS-inspired groups in the Gaza Strip, Palestinian factions said. One of the terrorists involved with the bombing wrote on Facebook: “Today we went to Bianco Resort in order to deny the evil before it happens, as this resort will hold a mixed singing party tomorrow on the beach of Beit Lahiya. Therefore, we ask the [Hamas] government to stop this evil before it happens. I call on all preachers and sheikhs to publicly denounce this evil after the owner refused our request not to hold the party.” According to The Jerusalem Post, no one was hurt, but a wall surrounding the resort was damaged.
Israel to become first country to offer COVID-19 boosters to over-50s
750,000+ received 3rd dose: Israel is facing an upsurge in coronavirus cases that is so acute the U.S. government is now formally recommending people not visit the country. Israeli officials are attempting to prevent a nation-wide lockdown by promoting the third vaccine dose to Israelis over the age of 60. And, starting today, the third shot will be offered to people under the age of 60 (first to those over 50). Among the 750,000+ elderly Israelis who have already received a third dose of the coronavirus vaccine, only about 50 people have reported any side effects from the vaccine. All of the reported symptoms were mild. Finance Minister Avigdor Lieberman said: “It is not clear that there is a correlation between lockdowns and a decrease in the number of cases and seriously ill patients, but it is clear that there is a correlation between lockdowns and economic damage.” Meanwhile, top officials are also proposing an increase in hospital capacity. Should the nation head to another lockdown, the Finance Ministry might even attempt to bar the unvaccinated from receiving government financial support, according to reports. Prime Minister Bennett also spoke to the Pfizer CEO this week and urged him to speed up regulatory approval of the vaccine for those under the age of 12.
CIA Director visits Israel: The Central Intelligence Agency (CIA) director, William Burns, was in Israel this week for discussions with Israeli officials over a number of security matters, but most especially Iran. The director met with Israeli Prime Minister Naftali Bennett on Wednesday. Burns also traveled to Ramallah to meet with Palestinian officials, including Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas. The U.S. is reportedly considering contingency plans should nuclear negotiations with Iran fail. The talks have stalled after a sixth round in Vienna which preceded the inauguration of the new Iranian President, Ebrahim Raisi, who is accused of crimes against humanity for his participation in the execution of thousands of political prisoners. One such prospect would be the U.S. freezing a certain number of sanctions in exchange for a limited Iranian backdown of its most severe nuclear provocations.
New construction approved in the West Bank: Israel is set to approve construction of both Jewish and Palestinian housing in “Area C” of the West Bank, which is controlled by Israel. The West Bank construction approvals are expected next week and will be the first by Israel’s new government. Israeli Defense Minister Benny Gantz said this will end an unofficial moratorium on the approval of new settlements that had lasted ten months. It’s also the first time in several years that Israel has approved new Palestinian homes in Area C. Gantz said the committee would authorize 2,200 new housing units in West Bank settlements — 900 of which are already in the final planning stages and ready for construction — while also noting that permits would be issued for 1,000 housing units for Palestinians in Area C. The plan was reportedly cut down by some 1,000 Jewish homes that were okayed due to a desire not to upset the U.S. administration. Israeli journalist Barak Ravid said the new construction, “could destabilize Bennett’s ideologically diverse coalition. It’s also one of the biggest challenges for Bennett to navigate as he prepares for an expected meeting with President Biden later this month.” Yesterday Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas condemned the decision to advance the housing units and urged the U.S. to “immediately and seriously work to stop this Israeli advancement.”
Girl discovers ancient coin: An Israeli girl discovered a 1,500-year-old Jewish coin in northern Israel. While hiking with her family in Korazim, the girl stumbled upon the coin that dates to the Talmudic era. An archaeological park manager said: “this is an ancient bronze coin that, according to initial estimates, dates to the Talmudic period between the fourth and fifth centuries CE. This was the peak period of the Jewish village in Korazim.” He continued: “the girl and her family showed good citizenship and handed us the coin since it is a national treasure. The coin will be passed on to the Israel Antiquities Authority for further research and preservation.”
Today we celebrate Jewish Olympians scoring! Israel won its most-ever medals at the Tokyo 2020 Olympics, with a total of four. The medalists were Linoy Ashram, gold in rhythmic gymnastics, Artem Dolgopyat, gold in artistic gymnastics, Avishag Sember, bronze in taekwondo, and the Israeli mixed judo team, which won bronze as well. Other Jewish Olympians snagged medals, like Sue Bird, Jessica Fox, Nick Itkin, and Alix Klineman in basketball, canoe slalom, fencing, and volleyball respectively. Ashram, who carried the Israeli flag in the Olympic closing ceremony, said the results were “what [she] dreamed of for all my life.” She continued: “It’s an amazing feeling to stand in this place, at this time, on the podium and in first place”
Today marks the one-year anniversary of the Abraham Accords, first normalizing relations between Israel and the United Arab Emirates. The agreement became the third-ever peace deal between Israel and an Arab nation, following the agreements with Egypt in 1979 and Jordan in 1994. Collectively, the Abraham Accords grew to include peace or normalization agreements with four Arab-Muslim nations: the UAE, Bahrain, Morocco, and Sudan.