Conspiracy theory of the day

I am so proud of my crazy little country that sent a military delegation to Brazil to help search for victims in the disastrous dam-burst and mud slide last week.

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An IDF search and rescue delegation departs for Brazil to assist in dam collapse disaster, January 27, 2019
IDF Spokesperson

However for some people nothing that Israel does is good. Everything we do is inherently evil, imbued with ill-will and malice and bad intentions.

Take a look at these malicious tweets for example:

Of course we can expect no better from George Galloway, who “saluted the courage of Saddam Hussein”, and from the vile cartoonist Carlos Latuff whose caricatures would have felt at home in the Nazi magazine Der Sturmer.

Shame on them all and shame on those who promote these falsehoods.

Posted in Antisemitism, Incitement, International relations, Israel news, Lawfare and Delegitimization | Tagged , , , , , | 4 Comments

Good News Friday

We’ve had a bit of a crazy week in the family this week, but there’s always (well, nearly always) time for a Good News Friday post.

I’ll start with the major news of the week and that after Malaysia’s antisemitic president Mohammad Mahathir banned the participation of Israelis in the qualifying event for the swimming competition in the 2020 Paralympics, the Paralympics Committee stripped the competition from Malaysia:

LONDON — Malaysia has been stripped of the hosting rights for the World Para Swimming Championships after refusing to let Israelis compete in the event that serves as a qualifying event for the 2020 Tokyo Paralympics.

The Malaysian government said earlier this month that no Israeli delegates can enter Malaysia for sporting or other events in solidarity with the Palestinians. Malaysia does not have diplomatic relations with Israel.

Swimmers at the 2018 Israel Paralympic winter swim championships held at the Alyn pool in Haifa (Karen Isaacson, Israel Paralympic Committee Facebook page)

The swimming championships were due to be staged July 29-Aug. 4 in Kuching.

The International Paralympic Committee on Sunday said its governing board meeting in London decided to take the event from Malaysia after it “failed to provide the necessary guarantees that Israeli Para swimmers could participate, free from discrimination, and safely in the championships. This includes full compliance with the IPC protocols related to anthems and flags, and where required the provision of relevant visas.”

Malaysia remained defiant even after having the competition taken away from them, covering their Jew-hatred with claims of defending the Palestinians:

Malaysian Sports Minister Syed Saddiq Syed Abdul Rahman was unapologetic. He said that Malaysia will not compromise on its decision “on the ground of humanity and compassion for the Palestinian plight.”

but the International Paralympics Committee was unimpressed:

“Politics and sport are never a good mix,” said IPC President Andrew Parsons in a statement after the body’s governing board made the decision in London. “We are disappointed that Israeli athletes would not have been allowed to compete in Malaysia.”

The IPC said in its Sunday statement that in 2017, when it signed the contract with Malaysia, the government had provided assurances that all athletes would be able to participate without discrimination. But a regime change that saw Mahathir rise again to power meant those assurances were withdrawn.

“All World Championships must be open to all eligible athletes and nations to compete safely and free from discrimination,” said Parsons. “When a host country excludes athletes from a particular nation, for political reasons, then we have absolutely no alternative but to look for a new Championships host.

After criticising the IPC for their earlier lame response to Malaysia’s anti-Jewish boycott, I now congratulate the IPC and thank them for their principled response. Let’s keep racism and politics out of sports!

A similar rejection of an anti-Israel boycott came from a most surprising source – the BBC! The Beeb rejected calls to boycott the Eurovision Song Contest because it is being held in Tel Aviv:

The BBC has dismissed anti-Israel campaigners’ calls to boycott the Eurovision Song Contest in Tel Aviv, saying it will broadcast it because it is “not a political event”.

Israeli singer Netta Barzilay won the Eurovision in 2018

A letter to The Guardian on Tuesday signed by 50 artists urged the broadcaster use its influence to “press for Eurovision to be relocated to a country where crimes against that freedom are not being committed”.

The signatories included Roger Waters, musician Peter Gabriel, designer Vivienne Westwood, actor Julie Christie and filmmakers Mike Leigh and Ken Loach.

They also claimed that the European Broadcasting Union (EBU) “chose Tel Aviv as the venue over occupied Jerusalem – but this does nothing to protect Palestinians from land theft, evictions, shootings, beatings and more by Israel’s security forces”.

But the BBC said: “The Eurovision Song Contest is not a political event and does not endorse any political message or campaign.

“The competition has always supported the values of friendship, inclusion, tolerance and diversity, and we do not believe it would be appropriate to use the BBC’s participation for political reasons.

“Because of this we will be taking part in this year’s event. The host country is determined by the rules of the competition, not the BBC.”

The letter-writers demanding the boycott were the usual suspects who invariably appear in any call to boycott Israel:

Many of the signatories to Wednesday’s letter have previously made calls for a cultural boycott of Israel, criticising artists such as Nick Cave, Radiohead and Lana Del Rey for organising concerts in the country.

Their campaign follows a call last September by by a coalition of artists from across Europe for Eurovision to be relocated.

That was organised by the Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions (BDS) movement, which urges a complete boycott of Israel over its policies towards the Palestinians.

Israel says BDS opposes its very existence and is motivated by antisemitism.

There were plenty of tweets calling out the boycotters for their outright Jew-hatred, here is just one example:

I never thought I’d say it but kol hakavod to the BBC for giving the BDS bigots short shrift and rejecting their boycott demand outright.

I wonder if the BDS bigots would boycott this next item: Israeli scientists think they have found the cure for cancer!

A small team of Israeli scientists think they might have found the first complete cure for cancer.

“We believe we will offer in a year’s time a complete cure for cancer,” said Dan Aridor, of a new treatment being developed by his company, Accelerated Evolution Biotechnologies Ltd. (AEBi), which was founded in 2000 in the ITEK incubator. AEBi developed the SoAP platform, which provides functional leads to very difficult targets.

“Our cancer cure will be effective from day one, will last a duration of a few weeks and will have no or minimal side-effects at a much lower cost than most other treatments on the market,” Aridor said. “Our solution will be both generic and personal.”

Aridor, chairman of the board of AEBi and CEO Dr. Ilan Morad, say their treatment, which they call MuTaTo (multi-target toxin) is essentially on the scale of a cancer antibiotic – a disruption technology of the highest order.

AEBi is doing something similar but with peptides, compounds of two or more amino acids linked in a chain. According to Morad, peptides have several advantages over antibodies, including that they are smaller, cheaper, and easier to produce and regulate.

In contrast, MuTaTo is using a combination of several cancer-targeting peptides for each cancer cell at the same time, combined with a strong peptide toxin that would kill cancer cells specifically.

He equated the concept of MuTaTo to the triple drug cocktail that has helped change AIDS from being an automatic death sentence to a chronic – but often manageable – disease.

The MuTaTo cancer treatment will eventually be personalized. Each patient will provide a piece of his biopsy to the lab, which would then analyze it to know which receptors are overexpressed. The individual would then be administered exactly the molecule cocktail needed to cure his disease.
However, unlike in the case of AIDS, where patients must take the cocktail throughout their lives, in the case of MuTaTo, the cells would be killed, and the patient could likely stop treatment after only a few weeks.

There is much more at the link for those who understand scientific lingo. But what an exciting development! The potential is enormous and what a literal life-changer this could be. Kol  hakavod to all the scientists and researchers and we wish them the best of luck and success, for all our sakes.

An equally great new Israeli invention, and this time it is already entering clinical trials, is a device to help heart failure patients when they have fluid build-up:

Fluid overload caused by congestive heart failure and chronic kidney disease is a major clinical problem, placing a heavy burden on healthcare budgets and representing the leading cause for frequent re-hospitalization of the elderly.

Yet nearly a third of patients have developed diuretic resistance and therefore do not respond to current medication, leading to frequent re-hospitalizations costing the US healthcare system approximately $17 billion annually – more than half of all heart failure-related costs.

Aiming to break the costly hospitalization cycle for eight million heart failure patients worldwide, Nazareth-based Paragate Medical has developed a fully-implantable medical device offering a 24/7 out-of-hospital solution to actively prevent painful fluid overload.

Paragate co-founder and medical director of Dr. Yair Feld (L), and CEO and co-founder Nitai Hanani (Credit: Courtesy)

If we can find a chronic solution for this fluid accumulation, we can prevent the hospitalization, and it will be an enormous benefit for both the patient and the health system,” Dr. Yair Feld, founder and medical director of Paragate, told The Jerusalem Post.

Paragate’s Implantable Peritoneal Ultrafiltration device is a minimally invasive, implanted system serving as a mechanical bypass of the kidneys. Peritoneal refers to the serous membrane, which forms the lining of the abdominal cavity and secretes a fluid that fills body cavities.

Paragate’s Implantable Peritoneal Ultrafiltration device.. (photo credit: PARAGATE MEDICAL)

The company expects to commence clinical tests later this year in Wroclaw, Poland, in collaboration with leading cardiology specialist Prof. Piotr Ponikowsky.

“We cannot replace the kidney entirely, but we can at least relieve congestion, reduce the cardiac filling pressure and high blood pressure, and relieve the flood that hits all internal organs and leads eventually to the deterioration of the patient,” Paragate CEO and co-founder Nitai Hanani told the Post.

“The implantable device has a smart control unit that the patient recharges wirelessly on a weekly basis. After the device is implanted and the patient has stabilized, we believe the patient may only need to visit a physician every three months.”

What a clever invention! And having had experience of such fluid build-up with both family members and friends’ parents, this device can’t come onto the market quickly enough. Kol hakavod to Dr. Yair Feld, Nitai Hanani and his Paragate company, may their new device become a huge success.

And now from 21st century technology we jump back a mere 2,000 years to a Second Temple-era coin that was found by an Israeli schoolchild on a school trip:

A boy found a 2,000-year-old coin from the Second Temple-era rule of Herod Agrippa, the last king of Judea, during a hike last week in the northern West Bank Samaria [ed.]

A 2000-year-old coin from the rule of Herod Agrippa, found in Nahal Shilo in Samaria in January 2019. (COGAT)

The rare piece was uncovered in the Shilo stream during a school trip, according to a Sunday statement from the Coordinator of Government Activities in the Territories (COGAT), an Israeli body that administers civilian matters in the West Bank under the Defense Ministry.

The coin features three stalks of grain on one side, and a royal canopy surrounded by an engraving reading “King Agrippa” on the other side.

The other side of the 2000-year-old coin from the rule of Herod Agrippa, found in Nahal Shilo in January 2019. (COGAT)

The student found the coin on the eastern side of the stream — one of the main tributaries of Tel Aviv’s Yarkon River which flows to the Mediterranean Sea — and informed the group’s tour guide, the statement said.

The tour guide then contacted an employee of the Archaeology Unit at COGAT’s Civil Administration, who arrived in the area.

The schoolkid handed him the coin, which will join the Israel Antiquities Authority’s collection of National Treasures.

Herod Agrippa ruled Judea from 41 CE until his death three years later. He was the grandson of Herod the Great and the father of Herod Agrippa II, the last king of the Herodian Dynasty. He ruled the territory to the satisfaction of the Jews, and was hailed at the time as “Agrippa the Great,” according to Josephus.

“This is an exciting finding,” commented Hananya Hizmi, the head staff officer of the Archaeology Unit. “Every archaeological find has a story that gives more details on the history of the Land of Israel and the Jewish people.”

“Findings like this one complete another piece in the historic puzzle of our nation.”

What a fantastic find! Once again we see that wherever you walk in the Land of Israel you literally stumble over pieces of history that prove our link to this land of ours, no matter what the Jew-haters, the slanderers and the boycotters claim.

Kol hakavod to the schoolboy for finding this tiny coin and for doing the right thing in handing it over to the Antiquities authority. And kol hakavod to the school for taking their students on this hike to such a historical region.

With all these good thoughts it’s time for me to wish you all Shabbat Shalom and chodesh tov – the month of Adar I begins this week. I know it’s a leap month and not the “real” Adar, but nevertheless, may this extra Adar bring us an extra dose of Simcha, of joy and health and happiness, just like we expect in the second Adar.

Shabbat Shalom everyone!

Posted in Antisemitism, Boycotts and BDS, Culture, Arts & Sports, indigenous rights, Israel news, Technology | Tagged , , , , , , , , | 4 Comments

Watch: How Shurat HaDin, the Israel Law Center, wages economic lawfare against terror organizations

Adv. Nitsana Darshan-Leitner, head of the NGO Shurat HaDin (The Israel Law Center)

I’m sure you have all heard of Adv. Nitsana Darshan-Leitner, the courageous and enterprising Israeli lawyer who, through her NGO Shurat HaDin (The Israel Law Center) has taken the economic fight against terrorism to the doorstep of the terror organizations such as Hamas and Hezbollah, and terror-exporting countries such as Iran.

Adv. Darshan-Leitner was a participant in the Harpoon (Tziltzal) unit established by former Mossad chief Meir Dagan in this vital part of Israel’s defence and security, and she published a book, “Harpoon”, about it.

Now we have a documentary (with English sub-titles) produced by Israeli TV Channel Kan on the story of Nitsana Darshan-Leitner and the Israel Law Center and her courageous economic war on the terrorists.

From the promo sent out by email:

Israeli TV recently ran a feature length documentary on the groundbreaking work of the Shurat HaDin Law Center. This investigative report was originally broadcast in Hebrew to a very enthusiastic nationwide response. We added English language subtitles to the program and present it for your viewing pleasure.

“Adv. Nitsana Darshan-Leitner, President of Shurat HaDin, is fighting a war against terror organizations and Iran, all from her small office. Her battlefields are courtrooms around the world. Her weapons are the lawsuits she files. And, her victories are making them pay, choking off terrorism by choking off its money sources.”

The film, titled Tag Mechir (Price Tag) is riveting!

Posted in Defence and Military, Incitement, International relations, Lawfare and Delegitimization, Terrorism | Tagged , , , , , , , | 2 Comments

International Holocaust Memorial Day 2019

It is International Holocaust Memorial Day today, and although it is not marked in Israel since we have our own Yom Hashoah after Pesach, this is a fitting time to both talk about the Shoah, to remember the different kinds of heroes who saved so many lives, and also to warn about the ugly resurgence of antisemitism today.

Just over a month ago Simcha Rotem, the last surviving fighter of the Warsaw Ghetto Uprising, passed away in Israel:

Simcha Rotem, last surviving fighter in the Warsaw Ghetto Uprising of 1943, died in Jerusalem Saturday at the age of 94.

Simcha Rotem z”l, last surviving fighter of the Warsaw Ghetto

Rotem, born in Warsaw in 1924 as Kazik Ratajzer, was active in Zionist youth movements by his early teen years. He was 15 when World War II broke out and Nazi Germany invaded Poland.

Early in the war German bombs destroyed his family’s home, killing several family members including his brother and grandparents. He and his mother were wounded.

In 1942 Rotem joined the Warsaw Ghetto’s Jewish Combat Organization, or ZOB, which was committed to armed resistance against the Nazis.

Simcha Rotem in his youth. (Courtesy)

In April 1943 the Nazis began efforts to empty the Ghetto of its remaining occupants, leading to the outbreak of combat, with Rotem fighting under one of the leaders, Marek Edelman.

The insurgents preferred to die fighting instead of in a gas chamber at the Treblinka death camp where the Nazis had already sent more than 300,000 Warsaw Jews.

Speaking at a 2013 ceremony in Poland to mark the 70th anniversary of the uprising, Rotem recalled that by April 1943 most of the ghetto’s Jews had died and the 50,000 who remained expected the same fate.

Rotem said he and his comrades launched the uprising to “choose the kind of death” they wanted.

“But to this very day I keep thinking whether we had the right to make the decision to start the uprising and by the same token to shorten the lives of many people by a week, a day or two,” Rotem said.

“At the first moment when I saw the great German force entering the Ghetto, my first reaction, and I’m sure not just mine — I felt we were nothing,” Rotem recalled in a testimony to the Yad Vashem Holocaust Memorial Museum. “What could we do with our pathetic, almost non-existent weaponry, when faced with the tremendous German firepower, with light canons and tanks and armored personnel carriers and a huge infantry force numbering hundreds, hundreds if not thousands…I felt utterly helpless.”

But that feeling was followed by “an extraordinary sense of spiritual uplifting…this was the moment we had been waiting for…to stand up to this all-powerful German.”

However Rotem noted the rebels had no illusions about their chances. “We’d kill as many of them as we could [but] we knew our fate was completely clear.”

Thousands of Jews died in Europe’s first urban anti-Nazi revolt, most of them burned alive, and nearly all the rest were then sent to Treblinka.

As the Germans pounded the Ghetto and the uprising faltered, Rotem was instrumental in helping fighters flee to safety through the Warsaw’s sewer system to forests outside the city.

He continued to fight alongside Polish partisans and in 1944 participated in the Warsaw Uprising. After the war he joined avengers group Nakam, which was dedicated to exacting vengeance on Nazi war criminals.

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu on Saturday eulogized Rotem. “Kazik fought the Nazis, saved Jews, made aliyah after the Holocaust, and told the story of his heroism to thousands of Israelis,” he said.

“His story and the story of the uprising will forever be with our people.”

President Reuven Rivlin noted that in one interview, Rotem said his one message to Israeli teens would be “to be human beings.”

“We are all animals on two legs,” Rotem said. “That’s how I feel. And among those animals on two legs there are some who are deserving of that description — humans.”

Rivlin said: “Thank you for everything, Kazik. We promise to try every day to be deserving of the description ‘Human.’”

Rotem is survived by his two children and five grandchildren.

With his passing, there is only a single known remaining Warsaw ghetto uprising survivor left in Israel — 89-year-old Aliza Vitis-Shomron. Her main task had been distributing leaflets in the ghetto before she was ordered to escape and tell the world of the Jews’ heroic battle.

What an incredibly brave man! It is hard to imagine the terror and helplessness that the Jews of Warsaw, of all of Europe, felt during those dark days, and yet there were such courageous men as Simcha who refused to lie down and die.  It is the people like him who helped build the new State of Israel and rebuild the Jewish nation after the Shoah. May Simcha Rotem z”l rest in peace and may his memory be for a blessing.

A different kind of story in our own family was recently revealed to us. My husband’s cousin Susan Herold presented a collection of papers and memorabilia from the Shoah that belonged to her late mother Daisy Roessler z”l to Yad Vashem. Amongst the papers was a letter from Daisy describing her escape to England with the Kindertransport with the help of British officer Frank Foley (whom I blogged about previously) who issued visas to as many Jewish refugees as possible:

“If it wasn’t for these visas we all certainly would have died.”

The words of Lion ‘Bob’ Rubin, who along with his family was saved from Hitler’s murderous Nazi regime thanks to the bravery of Black Country war hero Major Frank Foley.

Frank Foley, the British officer who issued visas to Jewish refugees in Germany before WWII

The MI6 officer used his role in the British passport control office in Berlin to help an estimated 10,000 Jews flee Nazi Germany, before retiring to live in the Black Country.

Among them was Mr Rubin, then aged two, and his Polish-born parents, Samson and Ettel, who Major Foley issued with papers that helped them to flee Germany for England just 25 days before the start of the Second World War.

Now the long lost papers showing how Mr Foley engineered their escape have seen the light of day for the first time in decades.

A suitcase containing the documents – including letters, birth certificates, memoirs and official papers – has been donated to the The World Holocaust Remembrance Center (Yad Vashem), in Jerusalem, Israel.

It had belonged to Mr Rubin’s then 12-year-old sister Daisy, who left for England a short time before the rest of the family via a train laid on through the Kindertransport rescue effort.

Mr Rubin looks through the artefacts in his sister’s suitcase. Susan Herold, Daisy’s daughter, is in the background [credit Yad Vashem Archives]

In a letter she explained how her parents and brother had escaped in the nick of time – all thanks to the efforts of Mr Foley.”My family tried to emigrate to anywhere after the Austrian Anschluss [Nazi-occupation] in March 1938,” she wrote….

“They all arrived in England on the August 9, 1939. The war broke out on September 3. I have never forgotten this story and am happy to know the name of the person who saved the lives of my mother and brother 60 years ago.”

Daisy and her parents before the war [credit Yad Vashem Archives]

Daisy – who died in 2011 – stayed in Rabbi Solomon Schonfeld’s hostel for Jewish refugee girls in Sunderland before reuniting with her family in London.

Mr Rubin, a former black cab driver who has lived in London since escaping Germany, said: “I can’t know how hard it must have been for my parents to send their daughter away on the Kindertransport – not knowing if they will ever see her again.

“But we were the lucky ones. None of the other girls [from the hostel] ever saw their parents again.” The suitcase and the items were presented by Daisy’s daughter, Susan Herold.

British spy Mr Foley’s bravery would later see him become known as ‘the British Schindler’.

You can read Daisy’s story in her own words in the Esra Magazine, which she wrote shortly before she passed away.

Frank Foley was one of the true heroes of the Shoah, and it is very good that he was finally recognized and honoured for his courage. Kol hakavod to Susan Herold for donating her mother’s papers to Yad Vashem for the sake of posterity – so that no one can ever say “it never happened”.

Outrageously though, there are indeed many people who say “it never happened”, Holocaust deniers who refuse to believe that the Nazis murdered 6 million Jews and millions of other “undesirables”. They are but one example of the modern antisemites who have raised their heads and magnified their voices now that antisemitism is no longer unfashionable.

In Britain, the latest target of Labour antisemitism, about which I have blogged so many times in recent years, is the heroic Rachel Riley whom I wrote about a couple of weeks ago. Rachel is a game show presenter who had no need to jump into the fray and could have remained a happy show-biz personality. But the courage of her convictions (real physical courage) led her to announce that she herself is Jewish and to investigate and denounce Labour Antisemitism. This has brought incredible amounts of opprobrium, hate mail, even death threats on her head. The fact that this is happening in 21st century Britain and doesn’t even seem to be investigated by the police is staggering.

Last week Rachel Riley delivered a brilliant speech at the Holocaust Memorial Event in Parliament. Watch the video:

 

You can read the full text of her speech in the Jewish Chronicle. Here are just a few excerpts:

If you told me this time last year that, come January 2019, I’d be standing in Parliament, addressing a room full of people at a Holocaust memorial event, describing the hideous abuse I’ve been receiving daily since I started speaking about the growing problem of antisemitism in the UK, I wouldn’t know where to begin with my incredulity.

I thought all Jew-haters were like them [Nazis], loud and proud, and acting through irrational hate which could neither be explained nor understood – and I also thought that that the horrors of the Holocaust would mean that antisemitism would never rear its ugly head again.

Sadly, I was wrong on both counts.

I first started following the story of antisemitism in Labour after the protest outside parliament in March last year. I started listening and I started reading. And the more I read, the more shocked I became.

Without irony, I’m shown just how little many people understand about antisemitism, simultaneously denying any evidence of it whilst actively participating in it – vilifying me, the Jew calling it out, as a paid Israeli shill, angrily comparing Israel to Nazis, or classing me as “Zionist racist scum” in response to me posting about anything but the subject of Israel and Palestine.

They cry “smear” or “anti-Zionist is not antisemitism” even in the face of outright Holocaust denial, finding new and obscene ways to explain or obfuscate it way, echoing the excuses often heard from their political heroes.

I’ve had to do so much research and learning to even begin to have the tools to fight this. I’ve read books, watched videos, taken an online course, spoken to experts, spoken to Jewish groups, spoken to Labour Party members and MPs. I spent 6 hours on Christmas Day watching education videos on the history of antisemitsm, including so much not so festive stuff about the Holocaust.

It pains me to revisit these atrocities, it tires me, it angers me, but knowledge and truth are our only weapons. If I can do this in just a couple of months, there is no excuse for any Labour official not to take-up the same kind of learning themselves, when they clearly still haven’t got to grips with understanding this problem.

You need to know next to nothing to propagate Nazi or Soviet Jew-hating propaganda, reframed to fit today’s narrative, which spreads like wildfire, and is dangerous. But you need to know nearly everything in order to combat it. The odds are stacked in the antisemite’s favour.

We need to re-stack those odds. No-one should have to risk their safety and jeopardise their career speaking out against antisemitism in Britain in 2019.

It’s lonely speaking out about this. And we can’t win this fight alone, nor should we have to try.

We’ve seen where antisemitism can lead from centuries of persecution. It never ends well.

This needs a bigger spotlight. This should be a national scandal. We need action rather than words. I call on all people, the media and politicians from every side to stand with us and Be Louder against antisemitism.

Enough is enough.

Rachel Riley’s word resonate loudly and are a battle cry and challenge for all of us.

We must never forget and always remember, so that history cannot be denied and the victims made victims once more.

As I always do on these days of commemoration, I invite readers to visit my pages on my family history during the Shoah.

Posted in Antisemitism, Incitement | Tagged , , , , , , , , | 9 Comments

Good News Friday

The days are getting longer and warmer after the very cold and stormy weather of the last few weeks, so it’s just the right mood for a Good News Friday post.

Let’s start with some #BDSFails which never fails to bring a smile to my face:

From the link in the above tweet:

A new agreement signed today (17 January) with Israel is set to boost investment between the UK and the Middle Eastern country.

Financial Secretary to the Treasury Mel Stride said:

This agreement will facilitate UK investment into Israel by removing tax barriers to cross-border trade. It will also provide important protections against those who seek to use the treaty for tax avoidance purposes.

I’m delighted to sign this deal with such a close ally, and pleased we now have a treaty that reflects the latest international standards. It is a sign of the continued excellent cooperation between our two countries.

Total trade in goods and services between the two countries increased by 2% last year, reaching £3.9bn in the year to July 2018.

The UK’s leading exports to Israel are machinery and electrical equipment, while pharmaceuticals account for more than 70 per cent of Israeli exports to the UK. Israeli companies are major suppliers to the NHS.

With Israel’s strong GDP growth, low inflation and falling unemployment rate, it continues to be a growing market for UK companies. Israel has an excellent reputation for innovation and invention and is a world centre for R&D.

The new Protocol provides UK companies with reduced rates of Israeli tax on dividends, interest and no Israeli tax on royalties, while UK Pension Schemes will suffer no Israeli tax on payments of dividends and interest. It also implements standards agreed as per the OECD/G20 Base Erosion and Profit Shifting (BEPS) Project.

This is wonderful news, not only for the tax benefits accruing to Israel and the investment opportunities it will bring, but the very fact of the agreement means that the UK has faith in Israel’s strong economy, its innovativeness and its compliance with international tax treaties.

Kol hakavod to all parties involved in arranging this treaty.

Speaking of Israeli pharmaceuticals and biomedical innovation, Israel is now clinically testing a new cure for HIV (via Suzanne):

 

This is a fantastic development which can save the lives of millions! Kol hakavod to all the researchers and developers involved – and may the BDSers boycott this forever!

On the subject of boycotts, an organization called If Not Now has been in the news lately as they have tried ot impose their own extreme-leftist anti-Israel agenda onto Birthright trips. Their disruptions have caused headlines and are upseetting Birthright participants and organizers as well as mainstream Jewish communities.

Now the pushback has begun and it is very heartening to learn that young American Jews say that If Not Now does not speak for them (via Brian Goldfarb):

We are young Jews from across the United States. We represent the left, right, and center of the political spectrum. We are Ashkenazi, Sephardi, Mizrahi, Orthodox, Conservative, and Reform. Yet, despite our differences, we are united in our view of the group IfNotNow (INN): they do not speak for us.

INN claims that Jewish institutions systematically censor the truth about Israel, taking advantage of our naivete and selling us a utopian image of the Jewish state that ignores its flaws. But this is not our experience.

If Not Now hijack Birthright trips to Israel

Our youth in summer camps, synagogues, and day schools was suffused with education about Israel, and what it meant for the Jewish people. We were encouraged to unequivocally support the right of the Jewish people to a country of their own in their ancestral home. However, we also learned very early on that, as Zionists, we could love Israel while criticizing it at the same time.

Growing up, our educators and families did minimize our exposure to the worst of the conflict between Israel and its neighbors. We understand that they were preserving our innocence and do not blame them. We recognize that this is a privilege robbed from Israeli and Palestinian children, who must live within the conflict. No child should be exposed to war or terror, and we are grateful that we were able to mature before learning about the harsher realities in more depth.

Birthright participants visit the Kotel

University life was a whole new world that tested our knowledge and identities. However, instead of abandoning our values, our passion for Israel has only deepened. Exposure to different narratives and historical contradictions has motivated us to strengthen ourselves and our Jewish communities. We strive to meet our intellectual, social, and political challenges with engagement, understanding, pride, growth, and solidarity with other marginalized groups.

We continue to see Israel as a dynamic country involved in some of the most amazing technological, cultural, and humanitarian pursuits. The revival and resilience of this nation, surviving and thriving against all odds, is part of what makes us proud to be Jewish and supportive of Israel. And we also see a country only 70 years young, which is still a work in progress.

We also understand that there are no easy solutions — and no amount of slogans, chants, or entitled outbursts against Birthright Israel by IfNotNow and other groups can change the reality on the ground.

Palestinian leaders have rejected every major peace proposal since the 1937 Peel Commission Plan.

Israel’s attempts to “end the occupation” have been met with suicide bombings, rockets, terror tunnels, and genocidal rhetoric by terrorist groups. They have been met with Fatah rewarding terrorism, spreading antisemitism, and denying any Jewish connection to Israel in the Palestinian media, education system, and beyond. By ignoring these realities, INN perpetuates the conflict and reinforces a black and white narrative that fuels hostility against Israelis and Jews around the world.

This is a beautifully written article and I recommend you read it all. It is written from the standpoint of center-left or “soft-left” young Jews yet it is still supportive of Israel while retaining a clear-eyed view of the reality on the ground.

Kol hakavod to the three authors. May their words be shared and broadcast widely to influence the brainwashed of their generation and to strengthen the hearts of those who stand with them.

And now a change of pace for just a moment. Dozens of countries are now gearing up for the next Eurovision Song Contest, due to take place in Tel Aviv in the spring. Each country holds a competition to choose their own song. Israel’s competitoin is in the framework of “A star is born”, and one of the top contenders is a very special group, in all senses of the word.

The Shalva Band is comprised of disabled but extremely talented singers, and they have been sweeping the competition so far.

One of the most poignant moments in the high-ratings TV show was the performance of The Shalva Band, comprised of young musicians with physical and intellectual disabilities.

The band was formed by in 2005 as a professional outlet for talented clients of Jerusalem-based Shalva, the Israel Association for the Care and Inclusion of Persons with Disabilities.

Current lead singers Dina Samte and Anael Khalifa are blind.
Khalifa’s rendition of The Beatles’ “Here Comes the Sun” knocked the socks off the audience and an all-star panel of judges: Eurovision 2005 contestant Shiri Maimon, fresh from her Broadway gig in “Chicago”; Harel Skaat, Israel’s 2010 Eurovision representative; singer-songwriters Keren Peles and Asaf Amdurski; and pop duo Static & Ben-El.

Below is an English-subtitled clip of the band’s heartwarming pre-show interview with “Next Star” hosts Assi Azar and Rotem Sella, and their stellar performance that advanced them to the next round of auditions.

You can see their first audition here, with English subtitles:

 

Their first entry brought tears to everyone’s eyes. Their next entry, The Sound of Silence, brought even the experienced judges to tears. Just watch this video and I challenge you to have a dry eye by the end:

 

I am so proud to live in a country where people who might have been sidelined by society are given a place to grow and develop their talents, and even represent their country on the international stage.

A huge kol hakavod to the Shalva Band and to the Shalva organization for bringing this fantastic group to such heights. Even if they don’t win the competition in the end, they have won over our hearts forever.

And now I shall come full circle to the beginning of my post where I mentioned how the stormy weather is behind us for now. In an unusual change of pace, instead of intense public prayers asking for rain, this week hundreds of Jews gathered around water reservoirs and lakes, as well as at the Kotel, to give thanks to G-d for the abundant blessed rains that have fallen on Israel in the last few weeks.

Here is the thanksgiving celebration at the Kotel:

 

From Arutz Sheva:

Hundreds of people took part today in a prayer of thanksgiving at the Western Wall of the Temple in Jerusalem, which was initiated by Minister of Agriculture Uri Ariel following the recent rains.

Ariel said, “Today we have the privilege of praying, praising and thanking God for the many rains that have fallen and for those who will yet come,” adding, “We came to bless the wonderful farmers of Israel, and we are all happy about the rain, and we will continue to pray for the continuation of many good rains.”

Hundreds of people also gave thanks in the north, next to the Bnei Yisrael Reservoir at Hispin in the Golan Heights, which was refilled with water after the heavy rainfall.

עשרות אנשים ונשים, ילדים, נוער ומבוגרים,
התאספו בשעות האחרונות אל מול מאגר בני ישראל המלא במי גשמים טריים וצלולים, להודות על גשמי הברכה שזכינו בהם בשפע בחודש האחרון. מרגש!
צ

It has actually been the rainiest winter after a 5-year drought and we are all so grateful to Hashem for His blessings.

Following a five-year-long drought, the water shortage in Israel has worsened. The Hydrological Service at the Water Authority reported that precipitation in 2018 was significantly lower than the multi-year average, and was therefore declared the fifth consecutive year of drought.

However, since the beginning of the rainy season this year, the Lake Kinneret, Israel’s largest body of water, saw a 0.88 meters elevation in its level, according to the Water Authority.

I am so proud of my country and my fellow citizens who not only know how to ask, but also how to give thanks for the natural bounty and blessings that are bestowed upon us from Heaven.

May we all be showered with blessings from Hashem as we enter Shabbat and then into the new week.

Wishing you all Shabbat Shalom!

Posted in Boycotts and BDS, Culture, Arts & Sports, Israel news, support Israel, Technology | Tagged , , , , , , , , , | 2 Comments

Israel’s northern border heats up

Operation Northern Shield, in which the IDF uncovered and destroyed 6 Hezbollah tunnels from Lebanon into Israel, was declared a success by the IDF a few days ago, although some people felt it was a premature announcement.

But success or not, the Iranians in Syria are not going to let a good opportunity go to waste and launched a missile at the civilian area of the Golan Heights – constituting a war crime by any standards.

You can hear the photographer shouting “I can’t believe I just filmed that!”. It’s what makes life in Israel interesting…

In response to this unprovoked attack, the IDF launched several air strikes against Iranian targets in Syria:

The IDF destroyed several Iranian military targets in Syria in their airstrikes:

IDF fighter jets struck Iranian and Syrian military targets, air defense batteries and Quds Forces positions throughout Syria in the predawn hours of Monday, in response to the firing of a missile a day earlier toward the Golan Heights.
The IDF said that the missile had been fired by Iranian forces in Syria with the intention of hitting the northern Golan. The missile was intercepted by the Iron Dome.
The IDF attack targeted military targets belonging to Iran’s Quds Force in Syria, including weapons storage sites, a site at Damascus International Airport, an Iranian intelligence site, and an Iranian training camp.

The IAF attacked Iranian military sites in Damascus airport

During the attack, dozens of Syrian surface-to-air missiles were fired. In response, several Syrian air defense batteries were attacked.

Watch the video below of the IAF airstrikes:

“The Iranian attack on Israeli territory yesterday is yet another clear proof of the intention behind the attempts to establish Iran in Syria and the danger they pose to the State of Israel and regional stability,” the IDF said. “The IDF will continue to act decisively and firmly against the Iranian establishment in Syria.”
The IDF Spokesperson’s Office said the Syrian regime is responsible for what is happening in its territory and warned it not to act or to allow other actors in the country to take further action against Israel.
“The IDF is ready and alert for a variety of scenarios and will continue to act as necessary to ensure the safety of Israeli citizens,” read the IDF statement.

With the presence of Iranian and Hezbollah forces, Israel’s northern front has become the IDF’s number one priority with former IDF Chief of Staff Lt.-Gen. (res.) Gadi Eisenkot admitting that Israel has carried out hundreds of strikes against Iranian targets in Syria.

Israel “operated under a certain threshold until two-and-a-half years ago,” when he got “unanimous consent” from the government to change the rules of the game and dropped some 2,000 missiles against Iranian and Hezbollah targets in 2018 alone, he said.

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said last week that Israel conducted airstrikes on Iranian weapons near Damascus airport on January 13 and Russia warned Israel against further strikes near the airport. Syria is therefore on high alert for any potential airstrikes.

Nevertheless, daytime strikes by Israel against targets in the war-torn country are extremely rare with the IAF operating during the night.

Someone in the IDF with a sense of humour engaged in some cheeky trolling of the Iranians with this tweet:

The action in the north didn’t stop after all this. Last night shots were fired across the border at IDF soldiers near the border fence. Thankfully no one was hurt.

With all the attention focused on the north, we must not lose sight of the fact that the southern border with Gaza too is not exactly quiet. The violent Friday riots (aka the March of Return) are still continuing with thousands of Palestinians attempting to breach the border and invade Israel. Earlier this week we saw a miraculous event when an IDF soldier was shot in his helmet – but the bullet did not penetrate and the soldier was only lightly wounded, thank G-d.

The soldier who was lightly wounded when he was shot by a terrorist from Gaza narrowly escaped death during the incident.

The IDF revealed that the bullet struck the officer’s helmet but did not penetrate it, saving his life.

He was evacuated to the hospital with light injuries.

Shortly before the shooting, terrorists broke through the security fence, sabotaged military equipment, and returned to the Gaza Strip. The IDF responded by firing tank shells at the Hamas position.

An IDF spokesperson stated: “An IDF tank attacked an observation post belonging to the Hamas terrorist organization after an IDF officer was lightly injured in a disturbance in the southern Gaza Strip, which included the throwing of stones at IDF forces. The circumstances of the injury are under investigation.”

The IDF later released an additional statement: “Following the earlier investigation, a preliminary investigation revealed that during a riot involving stone throwing, a terrorist opened fire at IDF soldiers, one of whom was lightly injured and was evacuated to the hospital.”

In the light of the uptick in violent activity on both borders, with Syria threatening to bomb Ben Gurion Airport in retaliation for the IAF attacks on Damascus Airport, not to mention the always-present terrorism in Judea and Samaria which are in central Israel, an Iron Dome battery was deployed yesterday in Gush Dan, the Tel Aviv region:

The Iron Dome missile system was deployed yesterday in Gush Dan in light of security tensions on the Syrian and Gaza borders.

However, National Security Council head and former Military Intelligence research division head Maj. Gen. (res.) Yaakov Amidror estimated yesterday that Syria would not fulfill its threats to bomb Ben-Gurion Airport.

In an interview with Radio 103FM Amidror confirmed the Syrians had the means to fire at Ben-Gurion Airport, but said the Syrians had a clear interest not to use them.

“The Syrians have missiles that can reach Ben Gurion Airport. They have antiaircraft missiles that can damage planes coming out of Ben-Gurion Airport, but the relationship between us and Syria is such that a Syrian attempt would give us permission to strike them so hard that the Syrian regime would be over, so I don’t see the Syrians risking such an incident. The chances that the Syrians would do such a thing seem to me baseless,” he explained.

Regarding Iranian backing, Amidror said, “In the Middle East, the countries usually talk very high, but once it comes to support, one doesn’t help the other. There are few cases where an organization or state has come to help another country out of commitment alone. The Iranians in Syria have no ability to back the Syrians. This is what we’re fighting for and what we want to prevent.”

Gen. Amidror is a clear-headed thinker. Let us hope he is right in his assessments.

Posted in Mideast news, Terrorism, Defence and Military, Iran | Tagged , , , , , , , , | 13 Comments