Nationwide Lockdown, Airlift of Ethiopians, & Netanyahu’s Legal Troubles

September 11, 2020

Nationwide Lockdown, Airlift of Ethiopians, & Netanyahu’s Legal Troubles

September 11, 2020
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Shabbat Shalom!

Today we’re diving into: Israel’s soaring coronavirus numbers and impending lockdown; approval of 2,000 Ethiopians to Israel; El Al’s ban on hunting trophies; Attorney General’s consultations regarding Netanyahu; apology for 2017 killing of Bedouin man; U.A.E.—Israel peace deal signing; congresswoman’s opposition to F-35 sale; antisemitic attacks on CA senator; U.S.’ sanctions on Lebanese lawmakers; Austria’s measures to protect Jews; Norway’s arrest of terror suspect; BBC producer spreading damaging misinformation; closing the Israeli gender equality gap; and a prayer for those killed on 9/11.


Israeli ministers approve nationwide lockdown as cases soar and set new records; cabinet to approve on Sunday

Ministers approve full lockdown as coronavirus cases soar: New infections of coronavirus in Israel have surpassed 4,000 in a 24-hour period for the first time, with 22 new deaths in that time. Israel’s new daily case total would be equivalent to 150,000 new daily cases in the United States. Israel has had the highest rate of new cases per capita of any country in the world since last week. Although Prime Minister Netanyahu is slated to travel to the United States next week for four days for the signing of the U.A.E.-Israel peace deal, it is likely that the trip will be substantially shortened. Though the specifics are still being finalized, Israeli ministers voted to impose a full nationwide lockdown to start next week before Rosh Hashanah and last through the High Holy Days.

  • Lockdown details: The plan will be voted on by the full cabinet on Sunday and will likely mandate that people be confined to a 500 meter radius of their homes; all businesses will be closed (other than pharmacies and grocery stores) and the education system will be shut down. People will be allowed to gather to pray in accordance with specific regulations on gathering size. Netanyahu attempted to avoid a full scale shutdown after pressure from mostly ultra-Orthodox politicians by instead imposing curfews in specific “red” cities, but the curfews were widely ignored by the public. A report was released which indicated that with the current level of infection, it would take over 90 days of lockdown to reach a manageable number of new cases per day. 

Government approves airlift of 2,000 Ethiopians by end of 2020: The Israeli government will airlift 2,000 Ethiopian Falash Mura to Israel by the end of the year. The Falash Mura are Ethiopian Christians whose ancestors were forcibly converted from Judaism. Cabinet member Pnina Tamano-Shata, herself from Ethiopia, put forth a $380 million plan to bring 8,000 Ethiopians to Israel. The refugees, perhaps as many as 14,000, have been waiting to be brought to Israel for years. Tamano-Shata posted on Facebook, “After tough negotiations with the Prime Minister’s Office and the Finance Ministry, with the full backing of my party leader Benny Gantz….we have succeeded! …I intend to meet the target, then complete bringing all of the remaining people who are waiting, which will lead to closure of the camps by the end of 2024.”
El Al banning hunting trophies: As announced by People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals, El Al will now ban all shipments of hunting trophies. The announcement came on the heels of the release of a disturbing video of an American trophy hunter shooting and killing an elephant named Ruby in South Africa. PETA said: “By putting body parts on the no-fly list, El Al is helping PETA end this gruesome industry.” El Al joins about 40 other airlines in prohibiting the transport of the trophies.


Israel’s Attorney General is holding talks whether Netanyahu must step down before trial, as Netanyahu demands investigation over law enforcement cover ups

Attorney General debating whether Netanyahu must step down: Israel’s Attorney General Avichai Mandelblit is holding talks with senior officials over whether Prime Minister Netanyahu should be disqualified from serving as premier over his use of the office for personal benefit to protect himself while he is on trial in three corruption cases. At a bar association meeting last week, Mandelblit said Netanyahu would not have to step down on the basis that the timetable of his trial does not require him to spend a lot of time in court, “provided he is subject to the very clear restrictions of a conflict of interest arrangement, that deprives him of any possibility of influencing his personal criminal matters by utilizing the powers of his office.”

  • Netanyahu and Likud party denounce AG: Netanyahu lashed out at Mandelblit and called for an independent investigation after a news report earlier this week detailed a law enforcement cover up of a conflict of interest with one of the lead investigators. Netanyahu’s Likud party members excoriated Mandelblit and the Justice Ministry and threatened to “tear it down” if Mandelblit tries to force Netanyahu to step down, even if it means new elections.   

Apology for 2017 killing of Bedouin man: Economy Minister Amir Peretz apologized on behalf of the government and visited the family of a Bedouin man, Yaqoub Abu al-Qia’an, who was shot dead by the police in 2017. This apology came a day after a television report accused law enforcement of covering up various cases of police misconduct, including this one. Netanyahu apologized soon after Peretz’s visit, but said that law enforcement labeled Abu al-Qia’an a terrorist “to protect themselves and hurt me.” Some claim that Netanyahu is exploiting this tragic incident to discredit his own law enforcement agencies before his corruption trial kicks into high gear in the coming months. Israel’s Attorney General responded that the case is not connected to Netanyahu, saying, “Such claims are false, fabrications whose whole purpose is to delegitimize law enforcement agencies and their decisions regarding the prime minister.”

  • Details of the case: In January 2017, police officers arrived to oversee the demolition of houses in the unrecognized village of Umm al-Hiran. As officers approached the village, Abu al-Qia’an was driving away after telling friends he did not want to see the destruction of the village. His vehicle was shot by police, after which he lost control and rammed into a group of officers, killing one. Officers claimed that he was acting suspicious with his lights off, did not listen when asked to stop, that he was accelerating toward them. Police labeled him a terrorist after the incident. However, video footage and audio recordings have shown that gunshots can be heard before he accelerated.


U.A.E.—Israel peace deal signing next week in Washington, D.C., as more doors open for Israel in the Arab world

U.A.E.—Israel peace deal signing next week: The splashy signing ceremony for the United Arab Emirates-Israel peace deal will take place next Tuesday at the White House. Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and Emirati Foreign Minister Abdullah bin Zayad, brother to the crown prince of Abu Dhabi, will participate. The deal has opened new doors for Israel’s diplomacy in the Arab world. Senior advisor to President Trump Jared Kushner just announced Saudi Arabia and Bahrain will now allow Israel to use its airspace for all eastward flights, not just flights to the U.A.E. as had been announced last week. For 72 years, Israeli flights have been prohibited from crossing into Gulf states’ airspace. The Arab League rejected a call to condemn the U.A.E.-Israel peace deal from the Palestinians, who have reportedly reacted with outrage and deep disappointment.

Trump says another country may be ‘added’: In a press conference ahead of the peace deal’s signing ceremony, President Donald Trump said that another country may also join Israel and the U.A.E. at the signing ceremony next week saying, “…we could have another country added into that. And I will tell you that countries are lining up that want to go into it.” Trump did not specify which country might attend but mentioned that he spoke recently to Saudi Arabia’s King Salman. 

Congresswoman announces opposition to U.A.E. F-35 sale: Debbie Wasserman-Schultz announced her opposition to a potential sale of U.S. F-35 fighter planes to the United Arab Emirates in the wake of the peace deal. Wasserman-Schultz, a pro-Israel advocate within the Democratic Party, argued that providing F-35s to the U.A.E. potentially endangers Israel. She wrote that sending advanced machinery to other Middle Eastern nations does more to harm Israel’s security than strengthen its ties in the region. As a leader in the Democratic Party, Wasserman-Schultz might be signaling a policy stance for the party as a whole. Without Congress’ approval, the sale cannot transpire. 
CA senator facing antisemitic and homophobic attacks: Scott Wiener, a California state senator, is being attacked with antisemitic and homophobic threats and through doxxing, the sharing of his private information publicly. The onslaught of attacks stems from QAnon followers, who subscribe to a set of conspiracy theories that falsely allege the world is run by a cabal of Satan-worshiping pedophiles who are plotting against President Trump. Wiener introduced a bill to remove a disparity regarding who has to register as a sex offender in California, because the current law discriminates against teenage LGBTQ couples. His stance has resulted in thousands of death threats and false accusations of being a pedophile. One image targeting Wiener in recent days featured a crudely doctored photo of Wiener with an elongated nose and wearing the garb and hairstyle of an Orthodox Jew. Wiener said the unrelenting attacks have been “really extreme and hard.”
U.S. sanctions Lebanese politicians to help push reform: The U.S., in a rare maneuver, sanctioned two Lebanese politicians connected to the terrorist group Hezbollah. U.S. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo announced that the former Transport Minister and former Finance Minister were sanctioned for directing “political and economic favors to Hezbollah, including ensuring Hezbollah-owned companies won government contracts worth millions of dollars and moving money from government ministries to Hezbollah-associated institutions.” U.S. Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin added, “The United States stands with the people of Lebanon in their calls for reform and will continue to use its authorities to target those who oppress and exploit them.”


After a recent string of attacks against Jews in Austria, the government is taking action to protect its Jewish population and fight antisemitism

Austrian government triples Jewish security funding: Two weeks after the head of the Jewish community in Graz, Austria was attacked with a wooden club and a synagogue was vandalized, the Austrian government signed an agreement to triple the security funding provided to the Jewish community. The government will provide $4.7 million to cover the costs each year. The agreement was celebrated by the head of Austria’s Jewish community. Austrian Chancellor Sebastian Kurz, who is a staunch supporter of Austria’s Jewish community and of Israel, has also advanced legislation to allow those persecuted by the Nazis and their descendants to obtain Austrian citizenship without giving up other existing passports.
Norway arrests suspect from 1982 Paris Jewish deli attack: In Norway, police arrested a suspect who is linked to a 1982 terrorist attack at a Jewish deli in Paris. France requested the extradition of the terrorist in 2015; he has been living outside of Oslo since 1991. In 1982, at least two Palestinian terrorists threw a grenade into the Chez Jo Goldenberg and then attacked with machine guns, killing six. It was the largest killing of Jews in the country since World War II. Two other assailants are currently being sought by France—one lives in Ramallah and the other in Jordan.   
BBC producer admits sharing inaccurate Israel information: Another BBC employee has been caught sharing misleading anti-Israel content online. A senior producer, Rosie Garthwaite, posted a photo showing an incorrect map of Israel and the Palestinian Territories that aimed to misrepresent the amount of land incorporated into Israel since 1947. One British researcher said: “Another BBC employee caught spreading lies with raw anti-Israel propaganda. The first thing the BBC should do is stop any Israel related program she is working on. It is impossible to calculate the damage these ‘journalists’ and the BBC have done to the truth. Shameful.” In a statement, the BBC said, “she realized it was inaccurate.”


Today we celebrate a step toward gender equality in Israeli higher education! Israeli universities are set to receive generous government funding to increase parity of the gender ratio of faculty. The goal of the initiative is to “equalize the percentage of women in academic staff positions with their numbers in the population.” The five-year plan to level the balance of faculty will be allotted around $2 million. Currently, approximately two-thirds of Israeli faculty are men.
Today we remember the tragic events of September 11th, 2001, in which 19 terrorists seized control of four passenger planes and crashed them into the World Trade Center, the Pentagon and a field in Shanksville, Pennsylvania, killing 2,977 souls. We honor and mourn the lives of those who were killed, with an excerpt from a 9/11 memorial prayer from liturgist and poet, Alden Solovy:
Grant a perfect rest under your tabernacle of peace
To those who died in the 9/11 attacks on the United States.
Grant their families peace and comfort for Your name’s sake
And for the sake of those who perished.
Bring an end to violence and terror,
Speedily, in our days.
May their memories be sanctified with joy and love.

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