For those of you who observe Yom Kippur, wishing you an easy and meaningful fast. Note: we will not be sending our usual Tuesday newsletter in observance of the holiday.
Today we’re diving into:
Coronavirus In Israel: Lockdown restrictions tightened; record numbers of new cases; political bickering over lockdown; and coronavirus test pilot program
Palestinian Authority: New elections announcement; antisemitic curriculum; and EU funding of legal actions against Israel
Iran: New sanctions for human rights abuses; Saudi King’s warning; and France’s pushback on U.S. sanctions
Inside the U.S.: Report on Trump’s antisemitic comments; resolution against ‘pay for slay’ policy; shutdown of terrorist webcast; F-35 sale discussions; and report on Netanyahus’ laundry
Celebrate & Remember: Initiative to promote sustainable practices; and remembering Mark Rothko
CORONAVIRUS IN ISRAEL
With over 7,500 new cases in the past 24-hours, Israel set to enter full lockdown
Israel tightens existing lockdown: With coronavirus cases in Israel blowing past all measures of containability, the cabinet approved further restrictions to go into effect Friday afternoon. Although the country was already under a national lockdown, these new restrictions will prohibit gatherings like synagogue prayer and protests, two hot button topics as Yom Kippur arrives and protesters continue to demand the resignation of Prime Minister Netanyahu. There are some doubts if the prayer or protest restrictions will actually pass through the Knesset, as any restrictions on them go beyond the cabinet’s authority. Many ultra-Orthodox have argued that they should be allowed to pray without restrictions as long as the protesters are allowed to protest en masse.
Breaking down the numbers: The Health Ministry added 59 new deaths to Israel’s toll between Wednesday and Thursday evening, a record 7,527 new cases were reported in the last 24-hours, and Israel has confirmed it’s 200,000th case only 32 days after it’s 100,000th, indicating how rapidly the virus is spreading. There have been 1,378 deaths from the virus in total. The overwhelming majority are being infected by their families or in the community—few are being infected at work. Beginning this afternoon, only “essential” businesses will be allowed to remain open, restaurants will only be allowed to deliver to homes, and Israelis will be ordered to remain close to home (no more than 1 km or 0.62 mile away), with far fewer exceptions to leave than under the existing measures.
Political bickering over lockdown: A report on Israeli Channel 13 news alleged that Netanyahu’s primary reason for enacting the stricter lockdown measures was to stop the ongoing protests against him, which Netanyahu dismissed as “absurd.” The report cited a private conversation of coronavirus czar Ronni Gamzu, who apparently strongly disagreed with the new measures due to the economic implications. Defense Minister Benny Gantz acknowledged the government’s failures in containing the virus, but also defended the decision to impose the stricter measures. Government opposition party leaders railed against the new measures, but urged Israelis to follow the regulations.
Israeli one-second coronavirus test to be piloted in Europe: A one-second self-service coronavirus test that was created in Israel will be piloted at two European airports. The test requires patients to gargle with water and then spit into a tube to be analyzed. The new test detects the coronavirus basically instantaneously through “light wavelengths” in the saliva. The test also incorporates artificial intelligence and will be able to learn as time passes to even more easily distinguish between infected and cleared saliva.
Fatah and Hamas say they will be holding Palestinian elections in the next six months
Hamas leader Ismail Haniyeh and PA President Mahmoud Abbas in Gaza City, March 2007
Fatah and Hamas reportedly agree to elections within 6 months: After reconciliation talks in Turkey, Palestinian political party Fatah and terrorist organization Hamas agreed to hold Palestinian elections within six months. The Fatah led Palestinian Authority controls the West Bank, while Hamas rules over Gaza. If the agreement holds, it would be the first Palestinian election in 14 years. The last election was in 2006 when a Hamas victory over Fatah led to a power struggle for control of the Gaza Strip, which Hamas ultimately won. Previously, similar agreements have been announced and then fallen through due to disagreements and the long-running feud between Fatah and Hamas.
Palestinian Authority curriculum still antisemitic: A comprehensive analysis of the Palestinian Authority’s newly released school curriculum for children shows no improvement on promoting antisemitism and hate. A research and policy institute that analyzes curricula with UNESCO standards on peace and tolerance showed that the Palestinian curriculum “remains openly antisemitic, encourages violence, and promotes jihad and martyrdom.” Although under pressure from the European Parliament the PA promised to reduce and remove hate from its curricula, the institute said that 82% of books remain the same and an overwhelming majority of edits and adjustments kept hateful content the same or intensified it.
The research institute’s CEO said: “It is disastrous that 1.3 million Palestinian children are condemned to yet another year of sitting in PA and UNRWA schoolrooms to be fed hate and incitement on a daily basis.” Meanwhile, European governments also spoke out, with one top British official saying: “The UK Government remains deeply concerned about allegations of incitement in the Palestinian Authority’s (PA) curriculum.”
EU countries funding Palestinian legal actions against Israel: A lawsuit filed before the International Criminal Court in The Hague asserts that European governments are funding Palestinian legal actions against Israel in the international arena. The watchdog group NGO Monitor showed that the Swiss government sent $700,000 to the Palestinian Center for Human Rights between 2018 and 2020. PCHR says that its goal is to “inundate the [Israeli] occupation with hundreds and thousands of legal suits that will incriminate and convict it.” Israeli right-wing publication Israel Hayom said that Denmark, Ireland, and Sweden are all participating in the scheme to fund the legal actions against Israel.
U.S. slaps new human rights abuse sanctions on Iran, days after unilateral military sanctions imposed
U.S. imposes new human rights abuse sanctions on Iran: On Thursday, the U.S. blacklisted Iranian officials and entities over violations of human rights, including by imposing sanctions on a judge involved in the death sentence of Iranian wrestler, Navid Afkari. “The U.S. is committed to holding accountable those who deny freedom and justice to people of Iran and later today the United States will announce sanctions on several Iranian officials and entities including the judge who sentenced Navid Afkari to death,” said U.S. Special Representative for Iran and Venezuela Elliott Abrams during a hearing at the Senate Foreign Relations Committee. Earlier this week, the U.S. imposed new sanctions on Iran’s military and others involved in its nuclear and weapons programs.
Iran rated most dangerous country for LGBTQ+ travelers: The human rights abuse sanctions were announced at the same time as a finance website ranked Iran as the world’s most dangerous country for LGBTQ+ people to travel in. The site said that “it’s hard to confirm how many executions have actually been carried out, but there are reports of such executions taking place.” One of the executions was conducted publicly last year, with Iran hanging a man under its anti-gay laws. A 2008 Wikileaks report claimed that 4,000-6,000 LGBTQ+ individuals had been executed in Iran since its 1979 revolution (averaging between 138—207 LGBTQ+ executions per year).
Saudi King warns of Iran’s nuclear threat: In a speech to the UN General Assembly, Saudi Arabia’s King Salman bin Abdulaziz called on world leaders to confront Iranian nuclear aspirations. He said Iran exploited the 2015 nuclear deal with world powers “to intensify its expansionist activities, create its terrorist networks, and use terrorism,” adding that this had produced nothing but “chaos, extremism, and sectarianism.” Though the Saudi Arabian royal family is reportedly split over normalizing ties with Israel, Salman also referenced U.S. peace efforts in the Middle East by saying that “the kingdom supports all efforts aimed at advancing the peace process.”
France says U.S. pressure not working: At the UN General Assembly France’s president Emmanuel Macron said France, which is a signatory to the 2015 Iran deal, will not accept the U.S.’ attempt to “snapback” sanctions. Macron said, “The maximum pressure strategy, which has been under way for several years, has not at this stage made it possible to end Iran’s destabilizing activities or to ensure that it will not be able to acquire nuclear weapons.”
INSIDE THE U.S.
The Washington Post reports more troublesome allegations of antisemitic and racist comments made by the President
Allegations of antisemitic and racist comments by Trump: The Washington Post reported that, according to anonymous current and former officials in the White House, President Trump said Jews are “only in it for themselves” and “stick together” at the expense of others, after ending a call with Jewish leaders. Past antisemitic comments of President Trump include that Jews who vote Democratic are “disloyal,” that Jews “want to control your own politicians,” and that there were “very fine people on both sides” of a White nationalist march in Charlottesville, VA in 2017, at which neo-Nazis chanted “Jews will not replace us.” Trump officials denied the reports by saying the president has been “fighting for inclusion” and also by saying Trump “is not a disciplined enough thinker to grasp the full dimensions of the white nationalist agenda.”
House resolution against Palestinian ‘pay for slay’ terror policy: Josh Gottheimer, a Jewish, Democratic representative from New Jersey, announced a bipartisan Congressional resolution to condemn the Palestinian Authority’s payments to terrorists. The resolution specifically recalls and denounces the killing of three Americans in the Jerusalem Jaffa Road bus bombing of 1996. The three were Sara Duker, a former constituent in Gottheimer’s district, Matthew Eisenfeld, and Ira Weinstein. The resolution states: “There are few clearer examples of bias and double standards than supporting the hostile and anti-Semitic BDS movement while turning a blind eye to rewarding terrorism.”
Webcast featuring terrorist shut down: Following complaints from the Lawfare Project, Zoom and Facebook both denied their platforms for an event featuring Palestinian terrorist Leila Khaled, which was hosted by San Francisco State University. The webcast successfully began streaming live on YouTube before it was shut down 20 minutes into the livestream. Khaled has admitted guilt in her role in two hijackings of flights in 1969 and 1970 departing from Europe and heading, respectively, to Tel Aviv and New York. “A massive grassroots movement of the Jewish community came together and raised our voices to deplatform terrorism, and we succeeded,” said Benjamin Ryberg, chief operating officer and director of research at the Lawfare Project.
F-35 sale under discussion with Gantz in D.C.: Israeli Defense Minister Benny Gantz was in Washington this week to discuss with his American counterpart the issue of the Emiratis acquiring American F-35 fighter jets. It has been reported that Israeli acceptance of the sale of the jets to the U.A.E. was included as part of negotiations over the Israel-U.A.E. peace deal, something Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu denies. The Israeli government and pro-Israel lobbying efforts in the U.S. view the American sale of F-35s to the U.A.E. as an impingement on Israel’s qualitative military edge, something to which the U.S. is bound by law.
America’s ambassador to Israel, David Friedman, said it will likely take six to seven years for the U.A.E. to actually get the jets, but sources told Reuters that the Americans and Emiratis are hoping to reach a deal on the sale by December. U.S. Defense Secretary Mark Esper pledged to honor Israel’s military edge after his meetings with Defense Minister Gantz.
Netanyahu’s’ laundry becomes controversy again: Prime Minister Netanyahu and his wife Sara have once again stumbled into a controversy over their laundry. The Washington Post reported that the Netanyahus brought suitcases full of dirty laundry on their trip to the U.S. last week specifically to be laundered with free of charge at the White House. The service is offered to all dignitaries who stay at the White House, but according to the sources, the Netanyahus have repeatedly abused the offer. The Israeli embassy said: “there was no dry cleaning, only a couple shirts were laundered.”
CELEBRATE & REMEMBER
A photograph of Mark Rothko in front of one of his paintings
Today we celebrate Israel’s new governmental initiative to promote sustainable practices! Businesses in Israel can now receive grants up to NIS 100,000 in order to publish reports demonstrating the environmental and social benefits they bring to society. The Strategic Affairs Ministry has earmarked the grant money for the “Impact Nation” initiative, which is aimed to encourage Israeli businesses to promote and implement ethical business practices. It also aims to counter actions which attempt to discredit Israeli businesses internationally. In February, the UN Human Rights Council published a blacklist of 112 companies operating in Israel, which they claimed were engaging in unethical business practices by operating in areas beyond the pre-1967 border lines of Israel. This was the first time ever that companies had a black mark against them for operating within a particular geographic area. Strategic Affairs Minister Orit Farkash-Hacohen said the grant would “add value to Israeli companies, which is especially important during the coronavirus pandemic, and will further strengthen Israel’s reputation against efforts to delegitimize it.”
Today in 1903, Jewish painter Mark Rothko was born. He was born Marcus Rothkowitz in Daugavpils (Dvinsk), Russia (now Latvia) and emigrated to the United States in 1916. Although respected by other artists, Rothko remained in relative obscurity until 1960, supporting himself by teaching art. Rothko’s use of broad, simplified areas of color caused his style to be categorized as a new artform called “Colorfield Painting.” He painted in thin, layered washes of color that seemed to glow from within, and his large-scale canvases were intended to be seen at close range, to that the viewer would feel engulfed by them. After a long struggle with depression, Rothko committed suicide in his New York studio on February 25, 1970. Following his death, the settlement of the Rothko estate, including nearly 800 of his paintings, became the subject of a famous court case between his family and the executors of the will.