Columbia BDS Vote, Normalization With Sudan, & Remembering RBG

September 22, 2020

Columbia BDS Vote, Normalization With Sudan, & Remembering RBG

September 22, 2020
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Happy Tuesday!

Today we’re diving into:

  • Peace Deals: Decisive meeting on Sudan normalization; Saudi royal family divide on normalization; and Honduras embassy move to Jerusalem
  • Inside Israel: Israel’s sharp rise in coronavirus deaths; lockdown violations and protests; and Tel Aviv’s electric road pilot program
  • Inside Europe: Paris Kosher supermarket attack hearing; and Germany’s grant for Jewish security
  • Inside the U.S.: Sweeping sanctions on Iran; Columbia University BDS referendum; Newt Gingrich’s antisemitic rant; and Jewish donor’s pledge to racial justice groups
  • Ruth Bader Ginsburg: Ruth Bader Ginsburg’s death and legacy; and battle over Supreme Court vacancy
  • Celebrate & Remember: First Israeli to complete the Tour de France; and Fiddler on the Roof


After years of hostility, Sudan may be next to normalize ties with Israel

U.S. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo and Sudan’s Sovereign Council Chief General Abdel Fattah al-Burhan in Khartoum in Sudan, August 25, 2020.

Meeting may lead to normalization between Israel & Sudan: Axios reported that a meeting between U.S., Emirati, and Sudanese officials on Monday held in Abu Dhabi may lead to Israel and Sudan normalizing ties. According to Sudanese sources, if the U.S. and United Arab Emirates accommodate Sudan’s requests for economic aid and if the U.S. removes Sudan from the state sponsors of terrorism list, Sudan will agree to officially normalize ties with Israel. Since Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu met with Sudan’s Sovereign Council Chief General Abdel Fattah al-Burhan last February in Uganda, both countries have quietly talked about normalization. During Monday’s cabinet meeting in Israel, Netanyahu abruptly left to take a phone call of what he referred to as a matter of national importance, which was rumored to be in relation to these ongoing talks.
Significance of Israeli peace with Sudan: The shift from hostility to normalization between Israel and Sudan is incredibly significant given that Sudan was the birthplace of the Arab League’s 1967 policy known as the “Summit of Three Nos”: No to peace with Israel, no to recognition of Israel and no to negotiations with Israel. Since the popular uprising which led to dictator Omar al-Bashir’s removal from office just over a year ago, Sudan has sought to remove U.S. sanctions by moving out of Iran’s sphere of influence as a supporter of Hamas, Hezbollah and other terror groups. In August after the peace deal between U.A.E. and Israel was announced, Sudan’s foreign ministry spokesman said that Sudan “aspires toward a peace agreement with Israel.” He was later fired for his comments, but he said he did not regret making them.

  • To underscore the significance of warming ties after Netanyahu’s meeting with al-Burhan last February, Israeli news reporter Barak Ravid tweeted, “Why it matters: Today’s meeting follows years of hostility from Sudan toward Israel and signals a diplomatic opening under the joint civilian-military government that replaced long-time dictator Omar al-Bashir last year. Flashback: Sudanese soldiers fought against Israel in the 1948 and 1967 wars. The country also used to host Hamas headquarters, and was used by Iran’s Revolutionary Guards Corps as a logistical hub for arms smuggling to Gaza.” 

Reported divide in Saudi royal family over Israel normalization: The Wall Street Journal is reporting of a divide within the Saudi royal family over whether to normalize relations with Israel prior to the establishment of an independent Palestinian state. While King Salman bin Abdulaziz is adamant that any peace with Israel must be preceded by the creation of a Palestinian state, his son, Prince Mohammed bin Salman, the country’s de facto ruler, seems to be in favor of an immediate rapprochement with the Jewish state. In fact, Mohammed bin Salman knew of negotiations between Israel and the U.A.E., but apparently hid that fact from his father, fearing the King would try to sabotage the talks. As Saudis’ most closely tied ally, most experts believe Bahrain got implicit or explicit Saudi permission for its deal with Israel. This report also comes at the same time as another WSJ report which details how Western officials have become concerned over nuclear cooperation between China and Saudi Arabia.
Honduras moving embassy to Jerusalem: Honduras’ president, Juan Hernandez, said on Twitter that Honduras and Israel agreed to mutual placement of embassies in each other’s capitals, Tegucigalpa and Jerusalem respectively. He said: “We hope to take this historic step before the end of the year, as long as the pandemic allows it.” Speaking with Prime Minister Netanyahu, Hernandez congratulated Israel on its peace agreements with the U.A.E. and Bahrain, and also wished the Jewish people a happy new year. Should Honduras open an embassy in Jerusalem, it will become the third country to do so after the United States and Guatemala. Kosovo and Serbia also agreed to move open embassies in Jerusalem earlier this month. 


With 77 deaths since Friday, Israel’s lockdown may be tightened in the days ahead

Israel sees sharp increase in deaths during second lockdown: Israel’s second nation-wide lockdown is more turbulent and controversial than the first one, but the country’s epidemic is far, far worse than it had been. Israel’s death rate has increased past the average global number and it now has more cases per capita than the United States. Israel currently has 52,876 active cases; 1,273 people have died. Coronavirus Czar Ronni Gamzu said that the number of seriously ill patients could reach 800 by the end of the week and he expects Israel to start having 20 deaths a day, or 600 a month, from the disease. September 19th and 20th each saw 30 deaths per day. “It is ravaging the country,” said Gamzu. Israeli hospitals in Ashdod and Jerusalem have begun to turn away coronavirus patients, unable to care for the number of incoming sick. The coronavirus cabinet is expected to meet today and will decide whether to tighten the existing restrictions.
Defense Ministry to set up field hospital as many protest lockdown: Israeli Defense Minister Benny Gantz ordered the defense forces to construct field hospitals as hospitals continue to fill up. Pockets of the Israeli public, however, are ignoring the new regulations. Police said they cited about 7,000 violations over the lockdown’s first days. Restaurant workers filmed themselves smashing plates in the street in protest of the rules which apply equally to all citizens and cities, even though the majority of cases are concentrated in ultra-Orthodox and Arab localities. A restaurant in Tel Aviv was fined for being open and filled with 50 patrons. One notable place not shutting down is the Temple Mount, controlled by the Muslim Waqf authority. The Waqf says: “the [al-Aqsa] mosque will never be closed, and prayers will be held in it.”
Tel Aviv’s electric road pilot program: In an effort to reduce air pollution, the city of Tel Aviv is installing 600 meters of wireless, electronic roads between the Tel Aviv University train station and another station in Ramat Gan. The roads will allow certain electric vehicles to drive without needing to be recharged; the technology has an estimated technical lifespan of approximately 40 years if properly maintained. The pilot program, which will begin in two months if all goes well, will use electronic buses to shuttle between the two train stations. The city’s mayor said: “electric transportation will assist municipal efforts to reduce air pollution and noise and assist the transition to green modes of transport.” 


Hearing for Paris Kosher supermarket attack set for Yom Kippur, causing outrage among Jews worldwide

Paris Kosher supermarket shooting hearing set on Yom Kippur: A crucial hearing in the trial for the accomplices in the 2015 Kosher supermarket shooting in Paris has been set for next week, on Yom Kippur, causing outrage among Jews and the victims’ families. One woman tweeted, “Yom Kippur is the highest Jewish holiday, a strict day of rest and fasting. Shouldn’t the families of the victims get this respect?”  The lawyers of the victims’ families have asked for a postponement of the hearing, since it is scheduled for the holiest day of the Jewish year. The court, however, is reluctant to move the date due to France’s strict code of separation of religion and government, which calls for the government to not even recognize religious holidays. The trial began last month and has already heard testimony from a Paris municipal worker who wrestled one of the gunmen, likely saving a nearby Jewish school from an attack.
Germany to cover extra $26 million for Jewish security: Almost a year after a violent attack on the synagogue in Halle, Germany on Yom Kippur which left two passersby dead, Germany announced it will pledge an additional $26 million to the country’s Jewish umbrella organization to cover security costs. Last week German Chancellor Angela Merkel expressed “shame” over rising antisemitism and reminded German citizens “how quickly words can become actions, as the attack on the synagogue in Halle on Yom Kippur last year alone showed in a particularly terrible way.” She also warned that the coronavirus pandemic was acting as a “catalyst” for increased antisemitism. The funds are to be used for drastic improvements to the physical security of synagogues and other communal buildings.


White House imposes unilateral sanctions on Iran and despite pushback, insists UN “snapback” sanctions are in force

U.S. issues sweeping unilateral sanctions on Iran: Ahead of the 75th opening session of the UN General Assembly, the U.S. issued new sanctions on Iran’s Ministry of Defense and others involved in Iran’s weapons program on Monday with an executive order signed by President Donald Trump. U.S. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo tweeted, “Rather than waiting for Iran to threaten the world, the US is taking sweeping actions to prevent the world’s top state sponsor of terror from obtaining a nuclear weapon. This includes sanctions on 25 entities and individuals. We are keeping Americans and world citizens safe!” These new sanctions, which were unilaterally imposed by the U.S., come at the same time as the U.S. seeks to “snapback” UN Security Council sanctions against Iran, which were lifted in 2015 at the signing of the Iran nuclear deal. The UNSC plans to lift its existing arms embargo on October 18th pursuant to the Iran deal, at which point Iran will technically be able to freely buy almost any weapons it desires.
Every other signatory to Iran deal rejects UN snapback sanctions: In a press conference, Pompeo urged other countries to adhere to the UN snapback of sanctions. Every other signatory to the 2015 Iran deal, including Britain, France, Germany, China, and Russia have rejected the U.S.’ authority to order the snapback of UN sanctions, and 13 of the 15 members of the Security Council said they won’t recognize the move since the U.S. quit the multilateral deal. UN envoys from Germany, France, and the U.K. wrote in a letter to the president of the Security Council that the U.S. move to snapback sanctions “is incapable of having legal effect.” As a result, UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres said, “There would appear to be uncertainty whether or not the process” of snapping back the sanctions “was indeed initiated,” adding that he awaited instructions from the Security Council.
Columbia University students to vote on BDS referendum: Columbia University students are scheduled to vote this week on a referendum whether the school should “divest its stocks, funds and endowment from companies that profit from or engage in the State of Israel’s acts towards Palestinians” that, according to the student group Columbia University Apartheid Divest (CUAD), “fall under the United Nations International Convention on the Suppression and Punishment of the Crime of Apartheid.” Jewish on Campus posted an anonymous quote from a Columbia student which read, “I have already seen an increase in bullying, intimidation and silencing of my friends and fellow students who advocate against BDS… I am honestly glad that we are not on campus for this vote because I would have a legitimate fear for the safety of me and my peers.”
Newt Gingrich blamed “George Soros’ money” for violence in American cities: On Fox News, former Republican Speaker of the House Newt Gingrich falsely blamed the Jewish billionaire George Soros for violence in America. He was shut down by other panelists on the show, with one saying: “George Soros doesn’t need to be a part of this conversation.” The next day Fox apologized—for not letting Gingrich finish his antisemitic rant. Gingrich later tweeted: “Why are some in the left so afraid of our mentioning George Soros’ name that they scream antisemitic? It IS his name. He IS funding pro-criminal, anti-police district attorneys. Why is the left afraid of the facts?” Rhetoric demonizing Soros perpetuates antisemitic conspiracy theories about rich Jews secretly controlling the world with their money.
Jewish donor giving $200 million to racial justice groups: Susan Sandler, a Jewish philanthropist, is donating $200 million to fighting racial injustice in the United States. The organization she is founding, the Susan Sandler Fund, will specifically support projects in the southern and southwest U.S. She wrote: the “way to transform societal priorities and public policies is to change the climate and environment in which decisions are made.” Sandler’s motivation to move so much money is that she was diagnosed with an aggressive stage of brain cancer four years ago and given about a year and a half to live. Sandler’s mother, Marion Sandler, was the first woman to become the CEO of a Fortune 500 company and was the daughter of Lithuania Jewish immigrants. 


Ruth Bader Ginsburg, first Jewish woman on the Supreme Court, dies at 87 and leaves a lasting legacy

Ruth Bader Ginsburg dies at 87: Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg, the first Jewish woman to sit on the Supreme Court of the United States, died just before Erev Rosh Hashanah at age 87. Ginsburg had long suffered from periodic bouts of cancer, which ultimately took her life. The timing of Ginsburg’s death just prior to Rosh Hashanah led commentators to point out Jewish teachings which say those who die on the very last day of the year are considered the most righteous—it is those people who God needed to keep on Earth until the year’s very last moment. After her death, New York Governor Andrew Cuomo announced a statue to be erected in her honor in her hometown of Brooklyn, NY. Later this week, Justice Ginsburg will become the first woman, and the first Jew, to lie in state at the Capitol. Ginsburg will be buried in Arlington National Cemetery alongside her husband who predeceased her, Marty Ginsburg. May her memory and her work be a blessing.
Battle over vacant Supreme Court seat: The opening of the Supreme Court seat has already set into motion a ferocious battle in Washington over its future. President Trump said he plans to announce a replacement on Friday or Saturday of this week. Ginsburg’s dying wish, as dictated to her granddaughter days before her death, was to “not be replaced until a new president is installed.” Republican Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell reversed his stance on election year vacancies and has vowed to confirm a new justice in the coming months. He previously refused to consider President Obama’s nomination of Merrick Garland in 2016, nine months before the U.S. election.  
Teenage essay on the Holocaust: A phrase from the Book of Deuteronomy, “Tzedek, tzedek tirdof,” or “Justice, justice, you shall pursue,” hung on the wall of Ginsburg’s Supreme Court chamber, which summed up perfectly her calling as jurist and a Jew. In a 2018 interview with Jane Eisner, then editor of the Jewish daily Forward, Ginsburg said that she grew up in the shadow of World War II and the Holocaust and that it left a deep and lasting imprint on her. “She saw being a Jew as having a place in society in which you’re always reminded you are an outsider, even when she, as a Supreme Court justice, was the ultimate insider,” said Eisner. “That memory of it — even if it’s more from the past — informed what she thought society should be doing to protect other minorities.” Written in 1946, when she was just 13 years old, Ginsburg wrote this essay a little over one year after the Bergen-Belsen concentration camp was liberated, and published it in her synagogue’s bulletin:
One People
The war has left a bloody trail and many deep wounds not too easily healed. Many people have been left with scars that take a long time to pass away. We must never forget the horrors which our brethren were subjected to in Bergen-Belsen and other Nazi concentration camps. Then, too, we must try hard to understand that for righteous people hate and prejudice are neither good occupations nor fit companions. Rabbi Alfred Bettleheim once said: “Prejudice saves us a painful trouble, the trouble of thinking.” In our beloved land families were not scattered, communities not erased nor our nation destroyed by the ravages of the World War.
Yet, dare we be at ease? We are part of a world whose unity has been almost completely shattered. No one can feel free from danger and destruction until the many torn threads of civilization are bound together again. We cannot feel safer until every nation, regardless of weapons or power, will meet together in good faith, the people worthy of mutual association.
There can be a happy world and there will be once again, when men create a strong bond towards one another, a bond unbreakable by a studied prejudice or a passing circumstance. Then and only then shall we have a world built on the foundation of the Fatherhood of God and whose structure is the Brotherhood of Man.”


Guy Niv finishing the Tour de France. Photo: Noa Arnon
Today we celebrate Israeli cyclist Guy Niv making history at the Tour de France! Niv, 26, was the first Israeli to complete the Tour de France and was riding as part of the Team Israel Start-Up Nation. “I felt shivers when I crossed the finish line on the Champs-Elysées,” said Niv. “It was a sense of vast relief and sheer happiness: I have done it for the next generation of young Israeli cyclists. They can now dream of achieving this and more.”
Today in 1964, Fiddler on the Roof opened for the first time on Broadway. The original Broadway production of the show had the first musical theatre run in history to surpass 3,000 performances (3,242 performances to be exact). It won nine Tony awards, including best musical, score, book, direction and choreography. When Fiddler on the Roof premiered in Poland in 1985, the show’s authors donated their royalties to preserving the country’s Jewish monuments.  The show and has spawned five Broadway revivals and a highly successful 1971 film adaptation, which was nominated for eight Academy Awards in 1972, winning three: Best Cinematography, Best Sound and Best Scoring: Adaptation and Original Song Score. 

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