Weekly roundup of world briefs
May 22, 2020
Government to bail out El Al, though harsh cuts in order
(JNS)—The Israeli government plans to bail out national airline carrier El Al, granting loan guarantees for 80 percent of a $400 million loan.
It was agreed on Sunday evening at a meeting at the Finance Ministry that the loan would be dependent on a range of demands, the Israeli business daily Globes reported.
El Al airlines has suffered since the onset of the coronavirus outbreak and the cancellation of passenger flights.
The government is requiring the airline to make cuts beyond those already presented, including the firing of 2,000 employees, or around 33 percent of its workforce.
These will save about $50 million and include cutbacks on employee benefits of free flights for themselves and their families, salary cuts for senior executives and the board of directors, and the temporary stoppage of granting dividends to shareholders, according to the report.
It is also expected that the airline owners invest NIS 100 million ($28.4 million) into the airline or to dilute their stake.
According to the report, El Al has paid around NIS 200 million ($56.9 million) in dividends over the past five years. The Finance Ministry does not want to gain shares in the airline in exchange for the loan.
Jewish group, rabbis decry Biden’s call to restore US funding to Palestinians
(JNS)—A prominent pro-Israel organization and a rabbinical group have criticized former vice president and presumptive 2020 Democratic presidential nominee and former Vice President Joe Biden’s proposal to resume funding to the Palestinian Authority, arguing that it may violate U.S. law.
“Money is fungible. Biden’s stated intention to resume sending U.S. tax dollars to the P.A. will enable the P.A. to finance terrorism, and the murder and maiming of more innocent Jews and Americans,” stated ZOA national president Morton Klein and ZOA chair Mark Levenson.
ZOA noted that Biden’s proposals would be “partially illegal” under the Taylor Force Act, which passed in Congress in 2018 and requires the end of the Palestinian Authority’s “pay to slay” program of financially rewarding terrorists or their families.
“It is utterly immoral to fund the P.A. while it continues to incite hatred and terror; glorify Jews killers in the media; and names P.A. schools, streets, government buildings, public squares and sports teams in honor of terrorists,” said Klein and Levenson.
Biden told the Jewish Telegraphic Agency last week that he would “reopen the U.S. consulate in East[ern] Jerusalem, find a way to reopen the PLO’s diplomatic mission in Washington, and resume the decades-long economic and security assistance efforts to the Palestinians that the Trump administration stopped.”
“Every American should be outraged,” said Rabbi Dov Fischer, Western regional vice president of the Coalition for Jewish Values, a group that claims to represent more than 1,500 traditional rabbis. “Joe Biden has just said he would break U.S. law to do something which is also, of course, morally repugnant—to reinvolve the American taxpayer in incentivizing terrorism against innocent Americans like Taylor Force and others.”
Senators circulate new, watered-down draft of letter opposing annexation
(JNS)—A group of Democratic senators have been circulating a new, watered-down letter warning against Israel annexing parts of the West Bank. It comes after they pushed forward a draft warning that annexation would destroy bipartisan support for the Jewish state.
Jewish Insider first reported the development on Sunday.
Like the original letter, the latest version was drafted by Sens. Chris Van Hollen (D-Md.), Tim Kaine (D-Va.) and Chris Murphy (D-Conn.).
The initial letter, addressed to Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, and Blue and White Party leader Benny Gantz, stated, “If you move forward with unilateral annexation, we could not support that action and would sadly conclude that Israel no longer values the bipartisan support that Congress has provided it for decades.”
The latest version of the letter, obtained by Jewish Insider, says, “If you move forward with unilateral annexation, we could not support that action. This is consistent with long-standing American policy opposing unilateral actions by either party to the conflict. Pursuit of a viable, negotiated two state solution is essential to ensuring our shared democratic values and lasting bipartisan support for Israel in Congress.”
Additionally, instead of the word “threaten,” the updated version states that annexation would “undermine” the common values between the United States and Israel, and that such a move would have “a clear impact on”—not “severe ramifications for both” as stated in the first version—“Israel’s future and our vital bilateral and bipartisan relationship.”
Moreover, the new version replaced “Palestinian Authority” with “Palestinians.”
As of Thursday, the initial draft, which was pushed by J Street, garnered 10 signatures.
AIPAC urges US not to weaken ‘vital relationship’ with Israel even if it annexes territory
By Ron Kampeas
WASHINGTON (JTA)—AIPAC said it would be a “mistake” to allow Israel’s annexation of parts of the West Bank, should it occur, to affect U.S.-Israel ties.
The statement this week was the first from the American Israel Public Affairs Committee on Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s stated plans to annex parts of the West Bank by July 1. A number of groups on the left are mounting a campaign to get presumptive Democratic presidential nominee Joe Biden, as well as Democrats in the Senate, to speak out against the plans.
“Some have proposed reducing our ties with Israel because they object to the potential decision by Israel’s leaders to extend Israeli sovereignty to parts of the West Bank,” the statement said. “Doing anything to weaken this vital relationship would be a mistake.”
The statement cited Israel’s role as a “pillar of America’s regional security framework” and U.S.-Israel cooperation in a number of areas, including scientific research.
AIPAC, a major pro-Israel group, remains committed to the two-state solution. Those warning against annexation say it would undercut and perhaps kill off a two-state outcome.
A letter is circulating among Democratic senators that would caution Netanyahu’s government against annexation. The letter, first reported by Jewish Insider, has engendered tussling among Middle East advocacy groups in the Democratic camp: J Street backs the letter, while the Democratic Majority for Israel wants changes that would make it clear that assistance to Israel is not in question. Democratic Majority also has expressed opposition to annexation.
Michael Solomonov, Joan Nathan and more to participate in first Great Big Jewish Food Fest online
By Joe Baur
(JTA)—Hoping to improve your culinary skills while in quarantine? There’s an online Jewish food festival for you.
Jewish culinary talents like Michael Solomonov, Joan Nathan and Michael Twitty are coming together to partake in the inaugural Great Big Jewish Food Fest from May 19 to 28.
The festival is free for participants and consists of workshops, happy hours and Shabbat dinners led by other well-known Jewish chefs and food writers, including 70 Faces Media’s Shannon Sarna, who edits The Nosher and is the author of the “Modern Jewish Baker” cookbook.
“Not a single person we’ve asked has said a flat out ‘no,’”Jeffrey Yoskowitz told the Forward. “Everyone has said ‘I’m in, I want to be part of it.’”
Yoskowitz is on the team helping to produce the festival alongside Liz Alpern, his co-founder of Gefilteria, a Brooklyn-based company whose focus is reimagining Old World Jewish foods.
The festival is being supported by several foundations that have come together over the past few weeks, including the Jewish Food Society, Mazon and the American Sephardi Federation, among others.
Leah Koenig, author of “The Jewish Cookbook,” will be leading a cooking class dedicated to Roman cuisine. She told the Forward that she has lost income and was “heartbroken” to see gigs that she was excited about vanish overnight.
“While nothing quite replaces face-to-face interaction,” she said, “I have been consistently amazed at how intimate the virtual events and cooking demos I’ve led over the last few weeks have felt.”
Man angry over being told to wear a face mask at mall stabs hospital security guard and is shot to death
By Marcy Oster
JERUSALEM (JTA)—A knife-wielding man who stabbed a security guard at the entrance to a Tel Aviv-area hospital was shot and killed by security officers.
Mustafa Yunes, 26, from the Arab-Israeli village of Arara, in northern Israel, attacked the security guard at the Sheba Medical Center at Tel Hashomer following a row with shoppers at a nearby shopping center over his not wearing a mask, Israel’s Channel 12 first reported. Yunes had brandished the knife in front of the shoppers and put it away. He reportedly became angry when guards stopped him at the main entrance to the Tel Aviv-area medical center because he was carrying a knife.
Yunes, who had an appointment with psychiatric services at Sheba, stabbed a security guard before at least three guards fired shots at the assailant. Yunes later died of his injuries. The guard was lightly injured.
The incident which was captured on video broadcast by Channel 12, will be investigated, according to the report. Israeli officials have ruled out a nationalist motive for the stabbing.
Yunes’ family said he suffered from serious mental health problems.
“He is sick,” Yunes’ brother told Ynet. “He came here for a psychologist evaluation. I don’t know why he was shot. He has a disability.”
100-year-old Jewish war hero is first centenarian to make UK billionaire list
By Cnaan Liphshiz
(JTA)—A British-Jewish businessman and war hero is the first centenarian to appear in the Sunday Times Rich List of the richest individuals in the United Kingdom.
Tony Murray escaped Nazi-occupied France during World War II, joining Polish forces that headed to the United Kingdom.
Serving in the Royal Air Force as a navigator, Murray, who was born Gaston Jacques Kalifa in Paris in 1920, flew dozens of missions in North Africa, according to an article about him Monday in the Jewish Chronicle.
Murray returned to France after World War II, during which his father was murdered at Auschwitz. He took control of the family’s construction firm, accumulating an estimated wealth of $2.8 billion. Later he moved back to the United Kingdom.
His family businesses include London Security, a fire extinguisher firm, and Andrew Sykes Group, a heating giant.
Murray, who has been on the list for many consecutive years, is the oldest person on the list since 2014. But he is not high up on the list of 1,000 wealthy Britons.
His wealth account for only 5 percent of the net worth of the richest men on the list: Gopi and Srichand Hinduja, who own the Hinduja transportation conglomerate.
Israel gives final OK for export of medical cannabis
By Marcy Oster
JERUSALEM (JTA)—Israel gave final approval for the export of medical cannabis—an industry it expects to generate hundreds of millions of dollars in revenue, Reuters reported.
A free export order for medical cannabis products was signed Wednesday by outgoing Economy Minister Eli Cohen.
The Cabinet first approved export in January 2019, but required that a committee made up of the Finance and Health ministries write and approve the actual procedures for labeling, instructions and dosages.
Exporters must apply for and receive a license from the Health Ministry.
There are at least eight cannabis-growing companies operating in Israel, along with several others involved in the production, marketing and distribution. Several companies already have interested buyers abroad.
Israel permits the use of medical cannabis and has largely decriminalized its recreational use.
Australian mourns killed Israeli soldier whose father had saved countryman’s life at ’97 Maccabiah Games
By Henry Benjamin
SYDNEY (JTA)—Nearly 25 years ago, Tom Goldman and Baruch Ben-Yigal forged a relationship that became stronger as the years passed.
Ben-Yigal had saved an Australian athlete from drowning at the 1997 Maccabiah Games in Israel when the bridge across the Yarkon River collapsed as the Australian team headed to the opening ceremony. The disaster killed four and injured more than 60 Australian athletes and other team delegates.
This week, Ben-Yigal suffered a tragedy: His only child, Amit, a 21-year-old Israeli soldier, was killed during a raid on a Palestinian village in the West Bank when he was struck in the head with a large rock.
“Baruch has been an honorary member of the Australian team in every Maccabiah since 1997,” Goldman told the Jewish Telegraphic Agency. “In 2013, Amit helped out with the juniors also in an unofficial capacity. I am devastated.”
Goldman had flown to Israel from Sydney eight years ago to attend Amit’s bar mitzvah.
Ben-Yigal sent an iPhone message to Goldman with a photo of the two men and Amit, who called Goldman his “grandfather,” in his home saying “my life is finished. I love you Tommy.”
When an Israeli army officer visited Ben-Yigal’s home to tell him of his son’s death, Ben-Yigal asked him to contact Amit’s “grandfather” in Sydney.
Gap is selling a ‘camp shirt’ that kind of looks like an Auschwitz uniform
By Ben Sales
(JTA)—Gap is selling a shirt with a design that looks similar to the uniforms worn by Nazi concentration camp inmates.
The gray- and white-striped pattern on the collared button-down T-shirt is one of many being offered by the clothing retailer for the “camp shirt.”
The company said it is investigating.
“Gap Inc. is deeply committed to ensuring our customers are treated with respect and dignity,” Annie Lee, a Gap spokesperson, wrote in an email Thursday to the Jewish Telegraphic Agency. “We are investigating this matter urgently and will get back to you.”
This is not the first time a clothing store has sold apparel reminiscent of concentration camp uniforms. Last year, a luxury fashion house based in Spain stopped selling an $1,840 outfit that looked like the uniform. In 2014, the clothing chain Zara apologized for selling a striped shirt with a yellow Star of David on the chest. In 2007, Zara also apologized for selling a handbag featuring embroidered swastikas.
Holocaust education funding bill passes Senate
By Ron Kampeas
WASHINGTON (JTA)—The U.S. Senate unanimously approved $10 million in funding for Holocaust education in American schools.
The vote Wednesday approving the Never Again Education Act, coming after overwhelming approval for the same bill in the House of Representatives in January, sends the bill to President Donald Trump, who is expected to enact it.
The money will be administered over five years by the U.S. Holocaust Memorial Museum, which will disseminate curriculum materials in part through a centralized website.
“Passing this bill by unanimous consent today sends a strong message that the Congress is overwhelmingly united in combatting anti-Semitism and hate through education,” Rep. Carolyn Maloney, D-N.Y., the lead House sponsor, said in a statement.
Sen. Jacky Rosen, D-Nev., the lead Senate sponsor, who is Jewish, said in the same statement, “The best way to prevent an atrocity like the Holocaust from occurring again is through education.”
Leading lobbying for passage were Hadassah and the Jewish Federations of North America.
Hadassah, noting reports of spikes in anti-Semitism attacks in the United States, said in a statement that the “stakes are so high for communities across America.”