Election Averted, BDS Targets Cycling Team, & TikTok Holocaust Challenge

August 25, 2020

Election Averted, BDS Targets Cycling Team, & TikTok Holocaust Challenge

August 25, 2020
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Happy Tuesday!

Today we’re diving into: Israel’s budget deadline extension; Pompeo’s Middle East trip; tensions with U.A.E. over F-35 fighter jets; convention speech controversy; threats to Israel’s cycling team; Jewish graves destroyed in South Africa; Corbyn advisor’s explanation for antisemitism; U.K. Muslim nonprofit’s board resignation; attack on Austrian Jewish leader; antisemitic banner on L.A. highway; TikTok Holocaust challenge; Medical Board’s revocation of antisemitic doctor’s license; Israeli NBA study; and the Hebron massacre.


Israel’s parliament passes legislation pushing off fourth election for now

Israel avoids a fourth election: At the 11th hour, the Knesset approved legislation to extend the deadline to pass the country’s budget until December 23rd. The vote was held a few hours before the budget deadline was set to expire, which would have automatically triggered a fourth election in less than two years. After much drama ahead of the vote and with many assuming the country was headed toward another election, both Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and Alternate Prime Minister and Defense Minister Benny Gantz voted in favor of extending the budget deadline.
Backup a little: The fraught unity coalition government between Netanyahu and Gantz is rife with profound disagreements on some of Israel’s most pressing issues. The government was formed in the wake of three inconclusive elections which prompted Netanyahu and Gantz to form a unity government. Both Netanyahu and his Likud party and Gantz and his Blue and White party have harshly criticized and blamed each other for the breakdown that has led the country to the brink of another election. If the coalition parties cannot agree to the budget prior to December 23rd, an election will be automatically triggered and held on March 23, 2021.  
Budget disagreement or something else? Most experts don’t believe that the problem is rooted in a budget disagreement. Some claim the budget disagreement is a way for Netanyahu to avoid turning over the premiership to Gantz in 2021. Another narrative claims Netanyahu is attempting to secure political immunity so he will not be forced from office on competence grounds when his corruption trial kicks into high gear in January. In the case of a March election, Netanyahu is likely more worried about the political ground right-wing opposition member Neftali Bennett is gaining in Israel, rather than Benny Gantz’s recently weakened chances.
Responses from Israel’s top leaders: After the law was approved to postpone the budget, Netanyahu wrote on his Facebook page, “We prevented elections. Now is the time for Blue and White to stop with ‘government within government’ and work with us in cooperation for you, Israeli citizens.” Gantz posted on Facebook, “I love the country, I love you guys, I will always put Israel before anything.” The chairman of the opposition, Yair Lapid, attacked the decision and said the “biggest losers tonight are the citizens of Israel, who have been left with no budget, no plan to deal with unemployment by their disconnected government that does not stop fighting.” Lapid said that Netanyahu “managed to destroy poor Blue and White, who made the mistake of believing him, of thinking he cares about something other than himself.”


Pompeo begins weeklong Mid East trip in Israel with push for more Arab-Israeli peace deals, and stirs controversy with convention speech plans

Pompeo lands in Israel to begin Arab-Israeli push: U.S. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo arrived in Jerusalem on Monday morning, his first stop on a five-day visit to the region to push more peace deals between Israel and other Arab countries. In addition to a stopover in the U.A.E., Pompeo is visiting Bahrain and Sudan, which are rumored to be next in striking normalization agreements with Israel. Additionally, Senior Advisor to the President Jared Kushner and Mideast peace envoy Avi Berkowitz will fly to Israel, the U.A.E., Oman, Saudi Arabia, and Bahrain next week as part of the effort. Also on Pompeo’s agenda will be addressing the security challenges posed by Iran, including the U.S.’ decision to “snapback” sanctions at the UN Security Council, and relations with China. The U.S. is increasingly wary of China’s growing influence in the Middle East and North Africa.
Controversy over the F-35 sale to U.A.E.: In Israel, Pompeo said the U.S. will find a way to help the U.A.E.’s military without weakening Israel’s qualitative military edge (QME), which the U.S. is bound to preserve. Last week, an Israeli news report alleged that as part of the peace deal, Netanyahu signed off on the U.A.E.’s purchase of F-35 stealth fighter jets, the U.S.’ most advanced fighter aircraft. The report set off a political firestorm in Israel, as Israel is the only country in the Middle East to possess the F-35 and the sale would therefore hinder Israel’s QME. Without mentioning the F-35 by name, Pompeo said, “The U.S. has legal requirements with respect to the QME, and we will respect that. We have a 20-plus-year security relationship with the U.A.E. as well.”
Tensions with the U.A.E. over dispute: The U.A.E. canceled a meeting with the U.S. and Israel last Friday, reportedly to send a message to Netanyahu over his opposition to the F-35 sale. The Emiratis were apparently under the impression that there was an understanding between the parties and Netanyahu would not air any grievances publicly. Acquiring F-35s is a top priority for the U.A.E. and they saw it linked to the normalization deal with Israel. Though some claim otherwise, Netanyahu gave a statement that the sale of the fighter jets was not included in the peace deal and he was not aware of any such deal between the U.S. and the Emirates. Jared Kushner confirmed the peace deal “should increase the probability” that the U.A.E. gets the F-35 jets.
Morocco rejects normalization: Like Kuwait and Saudi Arabia, Morocco has ruled out normalizing ties with Israel. Despite a long history of covert allyship, Morocco’s Prime Minister said, “We refuse any normalization with the Zionist entity.” Since 2000, the few formal ties established between Morocco and Israel in the 90s have been severed. 
Controversy over Pompeo convention speech while in Israel: Secretary of State Mike Pompeo’s decision to speak to the Republication National Convention remotely from Israel has stirred controversy in the United States. Pompeo’s decision is a departure from past secretaries which have historically stayed away from political conventions in an effort to keep the State Department nonpartisan. Pompeo is also accused of exploiting Israel and Jerusalem for partisan political gain and violating the Hatch Act, which prohibits certain federal officials from taking part in political activity while on official duty. Representative Eliot Engel, Chairman of the House Foreign Relations Committee, released internal State Department legal documents showing that Pompeo’s convention speech violates legal restrictions and Pompeo’s own instructions to Department personnel.


BDS campaign targets Israeli cycling team, with some threatening harm to riders  

Israeli Tour de France cycling team faces threats: Groups focused on boycotting Israel are targeting the Israeli professional biking team set to compete in the Tour de France. Nationals of no other country are being targeted. The organizations are using scare tactics, even suggesting throwing “nails on the road.” Meyer Habib, a French-Israeli member of the French National Assembly, condemned the campaign saying it “raises hate ranging from calling for sabotage to physical assault” and asked, “Should I recall the massacre of Israeli athletes at the Munich Olympics in 1972?” An Israeli cycler who will be riding for the Israeli team, Guy Niv, will be the first Israeli to ever compete in the Tour de France on August 29.
Austrian Jewish leader attacked with wooden club: The leader of the 150-person Jewish community in Graz, Austria’s second biggest city, was assaulted with what is believed to be a baseball bat. A Syrian man has been arrested in connection with the assault and the motive is believed to be Islamic extremism. Additionally, the city’s 20-year-old synagogue was defaced twice in the past week, with antisemitic, anti-Israel graffiti scrawled on its exterior. The Jewish man, Elie Rose, said, “In Graz, we are dealing with a stronger left wing and anti-Israel antisemitism.” In a statement posted to Twitter, Austria’s president said, “Hatred towards Jews and antisemitism have no place in our society.” 

Jewish graves damaged in South Africa: At a cemetery 200 miles outside of Cape Town, more than 30 Jewish headstones were damaged in an antisemitic attack. The head of the Chevra Kadisha, Bernard Herman, said, “We are fighting a losing battle in our small and shrinking Jewish community.” The cemetery dates to 1918, during which time the community was afflicted by the Spanish flu. Herman said, “We also surrounded the entire boundary wall with hundreds of meters of barbed wire at great expense some time ago, and every inch has been removed and stolen since.” 
Jeremy Corbyn not empathetic with ‘prosperous’ Jews: A senior advisor to Jeremy Corbyn has revealed why that former head of the U.K.’s Labour Party struggled so mightily to combat antisemitism within his ranks: he buys into it. According to Andrew Murray, Corbyn is “empathetic with the poor, the disadvantaged, the migrant, the marginalized, the people at the bottom of the heap,” which “is not the Jewish community in Britain today.” He went on to say that “the Jewish community today is relatively prosperous.” In aiming to dispel rumor of Corbyn’s antisemitism, Murray has instead employed antisemitic tropes about Jews and wealth. 
Entire board of Muslim nonprofit resigns over Hamas praise: All the members of the board of Britain’s largest Muslim charity, Islamic Relief Worldwide, will resign after anti-Israel and pro-Hamas statements of one of its members were revealed. The charity’s director, Almoutaz Tayara, said that members of Hamas were “great men” who answered the “divine and holy call.” Additionally, the official posted a cartoon of President Obama being controlled by an Israel-themed necktie. Once Tayara’s comments and posts came to light, he said, “I do not support any terrorist movement. I do not support the Muslim Brotherhood or the Izz al-Din al-Qassem Brigades. I am not an anti-Semite.” The director who proceeded Tayara resigned after antisemitic comments of his own were discovered in which he said Jews are the “grandchildren of monkeys and pigs” and that Egyptian President Abdel Fattah al-Sisi was a “Zionist pig.” Last year, the German government said that IRW had extensive ties with the Muslim Brotherhood. 
Antisemitic banner hung over Los Angeles highway: Jewish organizations and individuals expressed outrage after three banners were draped over an overpass on Interstate 405 in Los Angeles on Saturday. One banner said, “The Jews want a race war,” another asked drivers to honk their horns in agreement and the third banner promoted a site called “Goyim TV.” The ADL’s Los Angeles contingent tweeted that they are aware of the banner drops and “working closely with law enforcement to identify the perpetrators.”
Teens pretend to be Holocaust survivors on TikTok: A new trend on TikTok involves young people pretending to be Holocaust victims under the hashtag #holocaustchallenge, which has caused an outcry on social media. The video creators wear makeup imitating bruises, burns, and the effects of starvation, in what some claim to be ill-informed attempts to raise awareness about the Holocaust. Wired quoted a 19-year-old Jew whose family lost members in the Holocaust, saying, “Most creators are doing [these videos] to hop onto a trend so they can get likes and exposure [but they are] ill-informed and woefully ignorant.” Diane Saltzman, the director of survivor affairs at the U.S. Holocaust Museum, said, “Imitating Holocaust experiences dishonors the memory of the victims, is offensive to survivors and trivializes the history.”
Doctor who said she would give wrong medications to Jews loses license: Ohio’s State Medical Board revoked the medical training certificate of a doctor who posted antisemitic comments on social media, including one threatening to purposefully give Jews the wrong medications.  Lara Kollab is not permitted to participate in another medical training program in the state. Kollab was fired from a residency at the Cleveland Clinic in 2018 and was also expelled from a residency program at Kern Medical Center in California several months later.


The Tomb of the Patriarchs, Hebron

Today we celebrate Israeli sports ingenuity! A new study conducted by researchers at the Technion predicts how successful NBA players will be in a given season based on statistics and pregame interviews. Using the athletes’ words from pregame interviews, the researchers were able to accurately decipher the players’ mental state and, as a result, how well they were able to perform during a game. The method had a 60% success rate. While the researchers’ system still needs improving, it could lead to a revolution in data analyses and predicting mental state based on word choice. Professor Roi Reichart, who conducted the study with two other doctoral students said, “The really central thing here is that until now, people didn’t look at mental state as revealed by language as a way of predicting performance in sports. It’s a new opening. As a technology, this is the first time that it’s happening.”
On August 24, 1929, 67 Jews were killed in Hebron by their Arab neighbors, in what is known as the Hebron massacre. The massacre was triggered by a baseless rumor that Jews were planning to march to the Temple Mount and claim ownership. The assault was aimed to eliminate Jewish presence in Hebron. Hebron holds special significance to the Jewish people, as it is the oldest Jewish community in the world, dating back to Biblical times. Jews have lived in Hebron for centuries, even during periods of exile and for centuries had coexisted alongside a larger Muslim community. Hebron contains many sites of Jewish religious significance, including the Tomb of the Patriarchs. The centuries long Jewish presence in Hebron was curtailed after the massacre took place, as the city’s remaining Jews were evacuated by the British. Following the 1948 War of Independence, Hebron fell under Jordanian rule, and no Jews lived there until after the 1967 Six-Day War. Hebron currently has a Jewish population of about 500-850.

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