Weekly roundup of world briefs
March 15, 2019
Mayors from around the world form coalition to combat anti-Semitism, BDS
(JNS)—Mayors from around the world have announced a coalition to combat anti-Semitic and anti-Israel sentiment.
Announcing the launch last week of a Global Mayors Coalition Against Hate, Antisemitism and BDS were Mayor Uwe Becker of Frankfurt, Germany; Mayor Gabriel Groisman of Bal Harbour, Fla.; and Mayor Haim Bibas of Modi’in-Maccabim-Reut in Israel.
The announcement was at the MuniWorld Conference—the annual international municipal conference hosted by the Federation of Local Authorities in Israel—after a meeting led by Becker, Groisman and Bibas, along with mayors from Spain and Argentina. They talked about having a united, strong approach to halt discrimination and hatred worldwide, including anti-Semitic movements such as BDS.
“Given the meteoric rise of hatred and anti-Semitism around the world, everyone must play a role in this important fight. As mayors, we share a bond and a goal of making the lives of our residents better on all fronts,” said Groisman. “This coalition is a powerful statement against hate and hateful movements such as BDS and will be an important tool for mayors around the world to share ideas and resources in fighting hate of all forms, anti-Semitism included.”
Becker noted that “this common initiative of international mayors against the anti-Semitism and the BDS movement is a strong signal of solidarity with the State of Israel, and a clear message against anti-Semitism and those who try to spread hate against Jews in the world.”
Erdan calls on countries to cease funding for pro-BDS groups with terrorist ties
(JNS)—Israeli Minister Public Security and Strategic Affairs Gilad Erdan urged interior, internal security and justice ministers in 10 countries to re-evaluate ties and cease support for terror-linked, boycott-promoting nongovernmental organizations due to a ministry report last month, announced Erdan’s office on Monday.
The report examined 13 international BDS organizations and discovered that senior positions were held by 30 terror activists—20 of whom who had actually spent time in prison for their crimes, including murder.
“We will continue to expose the true face of BDS organizations and act to stop the funding given to them,” he said, calling on European Union Foreign Minister Federica Mogherini last month to immediately stop the more than $5.6 million in annual funding for pro-BDS groups.
“It is unthinkable that terrorists who present themselves as human-rights activists are going around European parliaments receiving legitimacy and funding from them,” continued Erdan. “I urge my counterparts to put an end to the fraud stemming from BDS.”
Million-plus Israeli websites target of ransomware hack
(JNS)—A massive hacking attempt to infest more than a million Israeli websites with ransomware that would lock administrators out until they agreed to pay was thwarted over Shabbat, though many pages were defaced with “Jerusalem is the capital of Palestine.”
The hackers attacked the Hebrew website Nagich, which is dedicated to making the Internet more accessible to disabled users, infecting the sites which use Nagich’s services.
Though Nagich managed to stop the breach just 20 minutes after the attack, some websites were unusable for about an hour.
Targeted sites included McDonald’s Israel, newspaper Makor Rishon, and business news site Calcalist.
Analysts say the purpose of the attack was to get thousands of Israelis to download ransomware, which would give the hackers the ability to block access to unprotected files and pages until administrators agree to pay to get back in.
Report finds Israel wasted 2.5 million tons of food in 2018
(JNS)—A survey by Leket Israel, Israel’s National Food Bank, found that Israelis threw away a staggering 2.5 million tons of food in 2018—almost half of which could have been salvaged.
According to Leket Israel, a total of $5.5 billion in food was thrown away in Israel last year, with 1.2 million tons of food still edible. Households were responsible for $2.2 billion in waste, with the average Israeli family chucking NIS 3,200 ($884) in groceries, representing approximately a month-and-a-half of the average Israeli food budget.
Research found that fruits and vegetables were the most wasted, but that Israel wasted less food (23 percent) than America (28 percent) and more than Europe (19 percent).
Leket Israel called on the government to develop a national plan for food rescue, an initiative that has been taken on by some countries around the world.
According to The Jerusalem Post, Leket Israel CEO Gidi Kroch said Israel’s food-insecurity gap would be closed if just 20 percent of wasted food was rescued, and that it would take $230 million to do it—less than a third of the cost of the food itself.
Kroch told the newspaper that Israel’s annual food waste would take up the same amount of space as the 50,000-square-meter, 20-meter-high Expo Tel Aviv Pavilion 2, the grounds for the upcoming Eurovision Song competition.
Lobbying by Leket resulted in the October 2018 passage of the Food Donation Act, which protects food donors and food associations from legal liability for donated foodstuffs, opening the door to more contributions.
According to the organization, 15,500 tons of agricultural produce were salvaged last year, as well as 2.2 million Israel Defense Forces, hotel catering and restaurant cooked meals, which were distributed to 175,000 needy individuals.
First international flights land at new airport in Eilat
(JNS)—Irish budget-friendly airliner Ryanair became the first to land a plane at Eilat’s new international airport on Monday.
The flights were to Poznan, Poland, and round-trip from Prague.
The Ramon International Airport is named after the first Israeli astronaut Ilan Ramon, who perished in the Space Shuttle Columbia disaster in 2003, and his son Asaf Ramon, who died six years later when his F-16 fighter jet crashed in a training accident.
Ramon’s wife and Asaf’s mother, Rona Ramon, passed away on Dec. 17.
The airport, constructed at a cost of some $500 million, has an annual capacity of 2.5 million passengers, with room for expansion. It is able to handle 20 takeoffs and landings an hour and accommodate large aircraft, such as Boeing 747s.
Jews and Muslims remember victims of 1992 Khojaly genocide in Azerbaijan
(JNS)—The American Sephardi Federation and the Muslim American Leadership Alliance of New York held a special event last week remembering victims of the 1992 Khojaly genocide in Azerbaijan.
The ceremony was in memory of the 613 people, including 63 children, 106 women and 70 old people, killed in the massacre committed by Armenian armed forces during the Nagorno-Karabakh War between 1988 and 1994.
Vugar Gurbanov, counselor for the Embassy Azerbaijan in the United States, delivered speech following an interfaith prayer service and labeled the event, organized by Jewish and Muslim organizations, “a good example of interfaith cooperation.”
The occasion was backed by the Embassy of Azerbaijan in the United States and the Azerbaijan State Committee on Work with the Diaspora. Azerbaijan and Israel maintain close ties.
The war ended in a ceasefire, followed by peace negotiations. Armenia has yet to apply four U.N. Security Council resolutions to withdraw its armed forces from Nagorno-Karabakh and the surrounding areas.
Israel ranked eighth most powerful country in world
(JNS)—The US News & World Report annual international survey found Israel to be the eighth most powerful nation in the world for the third year in a row, based on responses from 21,000 people in four regions across the globe.
A ranking of 80 countries found Israel to be the 29th best country, up one from the last two years, but the eighth most powerful. Switzerland and Japan took first and second place in the ranking for best countries.
The world’s most powerful country is the United States, followed by Russia, China, Germany, the United Kingdom, France and Japan. Israel came in just ahead of Saudi Arabia, South Korea and the United Arab Emirates.
To determine the power of each country, the country’s leader, military, international alliances, economic influence and political influence were analyzed. Israel was found to have a “large role in global affairs,” despite its “relatively small size.”
However, Israel was ranked 13th on the list of up-and-coming economies, down from the 10th place spot in 2018.
Israel ranked 25th for entrepreneurship, 28th for heritage, 29th in citizenship, 41st in quality of life, 42nd in cultural influence, 70th in openness for business and 75th in adventure.
UN council delays release of its ‘blacklist’ of companies operating in settlements
By Marcy Oster
(JTA)—The release of a United Nations list of companies that do business in West Bank settlements has been delayed.
The U.N.’s high commissioner for human rights, Michele Bachelet, announced Tuesday that the list of companies, which was to be released by the U.N. Human Rights Council during its session ending on March 22, would be delayed due to the “novelty of the mandate and its legal, methodological and factual complexity,” Reuters reported.
The so-called blacklist is said to include American companies such as Caterpillar, TripAdvisor and Priceline.com, as well as dozens of Israeli firms. It is supposed to be updated annually.
The Trump administration has urged the Human Rights Council not to publish it, saying it is counterproductive to Israeli-Palestinian peace initiatives.
The council has no power to sanction any of the companies on the list, but other U.N. committees could use the list to do so.
Bachelet’s predecessor, Zeid Raad al-Hussein, also had postponed publishing of the list.
The World Jewish Congress applauded the move and said the “tendentious” list should be canceled because it could “inadvertently lead to the targeting of Jewish communities and fuel antisemitism around the world.”
Escape room in Greece drops Schindler’s List name
By Marcy Oster
(JTA)—An escape room in Greece that had raised the hackles of the Jewish community has dropped the name Schindler’s List.
The Great Escape company changed the name to Secret Agent, the German news website Deutsche Welle reported. One of the company’s eight games and among the most popular, Schindler’s List has been operating for about two years in Thessaloniki.
The game requires participants to draw up a list of survivors who will be spared a horrible death by enemy forces, drawing on the plot of Steven Spielberg’s 1993 Holocaust film “Schindler’s List.”
“Your mission is to find Schindler’s list and deliver it to the right hands,” according to the game’s former description. “Will you manage to escape from the German army and save the lives of hundreds of innocent people?”
The new description makes no explicit reference to Jews or the Holocaust, according to Deutsche Welle.
The Central Board of Jewish Communities in Greece has condemned the game.
Escape rooms have become hugely popular throughout Greece.
Thessaloniki, Greece’s second largest city, was one of the largest Jewish communities in the world before it was almost completely decimated by the Nazis in 1943.
White supremacists targeting message to neighborhoods and campuses like never before
By Marcy Oster
(JTA)—White supremacists dramatically stepped up their propaganda efforts targeting neighborhoods and campuses in 2018 to never-before seen levels.
Such efforts increased by 182 percent, to 1,187 distributions across the U.S., up from 421 total incidents reported in 2017, the Anti-Defamation League reported Tuesday.
The number of racist rallies and demonstrations also rose last year, with 91 white supremacist rallies or other public events attended by white supremacists held in 2018, up from 76 the previous year. In addition, hate groups increasingly used so-called “flash mob” tactics to avoid advance publicity and scrutiny.
In most cases the identities of individual members were hidden, according to the ADL.
“Posting fliers is a tried-and-true tactic for hate groups, one that enables them to spread hateful ideas and sow fear across an entire community,” said Jonathan Greenblatt, the ADL’s national director. “Hate groups were emboldened in 2018, but their increasing reliance on hate leafleting indicates that most of their members understand this is a fringe activity and are unwilling to risk greater public exposure or arrest.”
ADL recorded 319 incidents of white supremacist propaganda appearing on 212 college and university campuses in 37 states and Washington, D.C., up from 292 campus incidents in 2017.
The number of noncampus community propaganda efforts soared to 868 from 129 incidents. “Alt-right” groups were responsible for the majority of these efforts.
3 explosives carried by balloons from Gaza detonate in Israeli territory
By Marcy Oster
JERUSALEM (JTA)—At least three explosive devices carried by balloons from Gaza to southern Israel have detonated in Israeli territory.
One of the explosives landed between two buildings in a Gaza border community on Monday before detonating, but did not cause any damage.
The Israel Defense Forces responded to the first explosion with attacks on two Hamas military posts in Gaza.
Two other homemade bombs carried into Israel Monday afternoon by clusters of balloons detonated in the air, causing no damage or injuries.
Daughter of terror victim Ari Fuld marries
By Marcy Oster
JERUSALEM (JTA)—Tamar Fuld, whose father Ari was stabbed and killed by a Palestinian terrorist outside a shopping mall in Gush Etzion last September, was married.
She was walked down the aisle at her wedding on Sunday by her mother, Miriam and her brother, Yakir.
Ari Fuld, 45, a dual American-Israeli citizen, was attacked on the morning of Sept. 16 by a Palestinian teen from a village near Hebron. Fuld chased after his attacker and shot him before falling to the ground. He died of his injuries at Shaare Zedek Medical Center in Jerusalem.
Fuld was labeled a hero for his actions, which prevented the assailant from stabbing a waitress from the falafel shop where he was stabbed. The Palestinian teen had been chasing her brandishing a knife when Fuld ran after the assailant, planted his feet and shot at him before collapsing.
Trump said parents of Otto Warmbier ‘misinterpreted’ his message
By Marcy Oster
(JTA)—President Donald Trump said what the parents of Otto Warmbier called his “lavish praise” of North Korean dictator Kim Jong Un was “misinterpreted.”
“Of course I hold North Korea responsible for Otto’s mistreatment and death. Most important, Otto Warmbier will not have died in vain. Otto and his family have become a tremendous symbol of strong passion and strength, which will last for many years into the future. I love Otto and think of him often,” Trump said in a series of tweets on Friday.
The tweets were in response to a statement by Fred and Cindy Warmbier which said that Kim “and his evil regime are responsible for the death of our son Otto,” as well as “unimaginable cruelty and inhumanity. No excuses or lavish praise can change that.”
White House adviser Kellyanne Conway said on Fox News on Friday that Trump “agrees with the Warmbier family and holds North Korea responsible for Otto Warmbier’s death.”
“Some really bad things happened to Otto—some really, really bad things,” Trump told reporters in Hanoi, “but [Kim] tells me that he didn’t know about it, and I will take him at his word.”
Warmbier was detained in a North Korean prison for over a year and died shortly after his return home to Cincinnati, Ohio, in June 2017 in a coma. He was 22. His doctors in the U.S. said he suffered extensive brain damage.