Weekly roundup of world briefs


Survey finds Israelis split on annexing West Bank territory

By Marcy Oster

JERUSALEM (JTA) — Israeli public opinion is split on whether the government should annex parts of the West Bank and which territory should be included, a survey found.

The Israeli Voice Index for June 2020, a monthly survey conducted by the Israel Democracy Institute, found that 24.5 percent of Israelis support applying sovereignty to all of the West Bank; 14 percent support applying sovereignty to the West Bank settlement blocs; 8 percent support applying sovereignty to just the Jordan Valley; and 25 percent oppose applying sovereignty to any part of the West Bank. Some 28.5 percent responded that they don’t know.

When asked if Israel should still apply sovereignty if it is conditioned on the establishment of a Palestinian state, 49 percent of survey respondents said it should and 38 percent said it should not.

Some 55 percent of respondents said that there is a low or very low chance that Israel will go ahead with plans to annex parts of the West Bank this year.

On the coronavirus pandemic, respondents gave the government a grade of 5.4 for its handling of the crisis, where 10 is excellent.

Meanwhile, some 56 percent of respondents said they felt President Donald Trump is better for Israel’s interests than Democratic challenger Joe Biden, while 16 percent favored Biden. Twenty-eight percent said they did not know.

The survey was conducted between June 28 and June 30, and interviewed 609 men and women in Hebrew and 149 in Arabic. The survey has a sampling error of plus or minus 3.7 percent.

Israeli man who rescued Bedouin woman and her 3 children to be posthumously honored

By Marcy Oster

(JTA) — An Israeli man who drowned while rescuing a Bedouin woman and her three children from drowning in a lake will be honored with a posthumous award.

President Reuven Rivlin will present the Civil Medal of Distinguished Service to the wife and children of Michael Ben Zikri, 45, who died on Friday after jumping into a lake near Ashkelon to help four people struggling to stay afloat. Ben Zikri succeeded in getting them out of the water but did not manage to get out himself.

His body later was pulled out of the water by a rescue team. He was pronounced dead at the scene.

The woman and her children were released from the hospital on Sunday. In an interview with the Kan public broadcaster, the children’s father called Ben Zriki a hero.

The Civil Medal of Distinguished Service is a new honor meant to commend exemplary behavior in Israeli society.

‘An American Pickle’ trailer shows Seth Rogen plays both 1920s Jewish immigrant and his great-grandson

By Gabe Friedman

(JTA) — The trailer for “An American Pickle,” the upcoming movie in which Seth Rogen plays a 1920s Jewish immigrant who falls into a pickle vat and wakes up 100 years later, is finally here.

We caught a first glance of Rogen looking the part in a historically accurate picture released in April. Now, the trailer shows that Rogen actually plays both main characters: Herschel Greenbaum, the poor ditch-digger from “Schlupsk,” a fake region of Eastern Europe, and Ben Greenbaum, his great-grandson who works as a computer programmer in modern-day Brooklyn.

The trailer also fills out the plot, which is based on a short story by Simon Rich. When Herschel wakes up in the future, he attempts to get Ben to start a pickle business with him after Ben loses his job.

The trailer suggests a wealth of Jewish references. In one snippet, the two are shown talking about how polio has been cured. Ben says the doctor who discovered the cure was named Jonas Salk. Herschel asks if he was a Jew, and when Ben says yes, Herschel pumps his fist.

The movie is out on HBO Max on Aug. 6.

Israel successfully launches new spy satellite

By Marcy Oster

JERUSALEM (JTA) — Israel successfully launched the new Ofek 16 reconnaissance satellite.

The spy satellite was blasted into space early Sunday morning from a launch site in central Israel, the Ministry of Defense said in a statement. Following the launch, the satellite began to orbit around earth and transmit data, in accordance with original launch plans.

Ofek 16 is an electro-optical reconnaissance satellite with advanced capabilities, according to the statement. It was developed and produced by Israel Aerospace Industries, led by the Defense Ministry’s Space Administration. The last satellite in the Ofek series was launched three years ago.

“The successful launch of the Ofek 16 satellite overnight is yet another extraordinary achievement for the defense establishment, for the defense industries as a whole, and for Israel Aerospace Industries in particular,” Defense Minister Benny Gantz said. “Technological superiority and intelligence capabilities are essential to the security of the State of Israel. The fact that Israel is one of the 13 countries in the world with satellite launching capabilities is not a given, and was made possible by the people who have been investing in these systems and advancing breakthrough capabilities over the years.”

The satellite is expected to send its first images next week.

Third intifada could ‘absolutely’ be on the way

(MEMRI via JNS) — The Palestinians have a right to confront Israel, and a third intifada may be on the way, said senior Palestinian official Nabil Shaath on Friday.

Shaath, an adviser to Palestinian Authority leader Mahmoud Abbas, said in a July 3 interview by France 24 that Saudi Arabia’s King Abdullah had pledged $1 billion in support of the second intifada, which lasted from 2000-05, and that today, the Arabs and the whole world would stand by the Palestinians if things continue as they have been.

Europe will not tolerate an Israeli annexation of the West Bank, he said.

Shaath, who claims to have taught U.S. President Donald Trump at the Wharton School of the University of Pennsylvania, where Shaath served as a professor, said that Trump had been a poor student and is unpredictable, specifically with regard to the issue of Israeli annexation of parts of the West Bank.

In addition, Shaath said that PLO chairman Yasser Arafat had been “martyred” by Israeli poison because of his position, and that the United States will cease to be the leader of the world within five years.

El Al bailout of $400 million likely to result in airline being nationalized

(JNS) — Israel’s national carrier El Al announced on Monday that it had agreed to a government bailout deal that will likely result in the airline’s being nationalized.

According to the terms of the deal, the airline will receive a $250 million government-backed loan and raise another $150 million by selling shares on the Tel Aviv Stock Exchange, with the state purchasing any unsold stock, AP reported.

According to the report, Israeli Transportation Minister Miri Regev said that was the “first step taken to return El Al to the runway. We will work to assist the company during the interim as is needed, with the aim of protecting Israel’s aviation independence.”

El Al was privatized more than 15 years ago. It has suffered financial losses over the years, though none as significant as those resulting from the coronavirus crisis, which has caused the airline to halt operations completely.

The bailout deal still needs to be approved by a Knesset committee.

US Supreme Court to hear case of Nazi-stolen art

(JNS) — The U.S. Supreme Court agreed on June 2 to hear the case about a German art museum and whether or not a treasure trove, known as the “Guelph Treasure,” should be returned to the heirs of four Jewish art dealers in Germany.

The dealers have argued that they were forced to sell it to the Nazi-controlled Prussian government in 1935 in what they called a “genocidal taking.”

The collection, worth around $225 million, consists of medieval church relics and was owned by the House of Guelph in 1671 until it was sold to a group of art dealers in 1929. The items currently sit in the Kunstgewerbemuseum (Applied Arts Museum) in Berlin.

In a May 26 filing, U.S. Solicitor General Noel Francisco argued that the heirs have failed to make the case — in accordance with the 1976 Foreign Sovereign Immunities Act — that the collection was confiscated “in violation of international law” in that the Nazi seizure was domestic. That law includes limitations as to whether a foreign sovereign nation may be sued in U.S. courts, either state or federal.

Francisco also noted that although the 2016 Holocaust Expropriated Art Recovery Act “demonstrates Congress’s concern with art seizures that occurred as part of the Holocaust,” that law doesn’t “create a cause of action in U.S. courts” for the heirs’ case.

New York Jewish Week is putting print edition on hiatus

By Marcy Oster

(JTA) — The New York Jewish Week said it will put its print edition on hiatus as it transitions to a “digital-first model.”

The last print edition of the nearly 50-year-old weekly — at least for now — is scheduled for July 31, according to an announcement published Tuesday on The Jewish Week website.

The move is in part due to the financial effects of the coronavirus crisis “and how it has hurt our bottom line and that of our advertisers,” said the announcement signed by Kai Falkenberg, board president of the Jewish Week Media Group, and Andrew Silow-Carroll, the paper’s editor in chief.

“As so many of our loyal readers have discovered in the past few months, life online offers opportunities for engagement, flexibility and information-sharing that can’t be matched by print products, even daily ones,” they also wrote.

The announcement asked the paper’s “loyal readers” to “be more proactive in accessing and sharing the wealth of content available on our website.”

The newspaper said its special programs, including Public Forums, Write On For Israel, The Conversation and Fresh Ink for Teens, will continue.

The Jewish Week also will be closing its Midtown Manhattan office, in the heart of Times Square, this month.

Canada’s flagship national Jewish newspaper of record, the Canadian Jewish News, became a coronavirus casualty in April after being in print for 60 years. But unlike The Jewish Week, the weekly did not maintain an Internet version.

Conservative news outlets were duped into publishing Middle East ‘hot takes’ from fake columnists

By Marcy Oster

(JTA) — Conservative news outlets, including some reporting on the Jewish community, were duped into publishing Middle East “hot takes” from fake columnists, the Daily Beast reported.

The news outlets, including The Jerusalem Post and Jewish News Syndicate, were among 46 publications that published opinion pieces by 19 nonexistent authors originating from a massive Middle East propaganda campaign that appears to have started in July 2019, according to a Daily Beast investigation published Monday.

The Jerusalem Post has removed the one op-ed that it published.

Jonathan Tobin, the editor in chief at JNS, told the Jewish Telegraphic Agency that the news outlet is investigating the six op-eds that it published, “but in the meantime those posts are being removed from our website.”

The purported writers were contributors to two news websites, The Arab Eye and Persia Now, which appear to be linked, and to be fake, including having a nonexistent mailing address, according to the Daily Beast.

The articles praised the United Arab Emirates and called for a more heavy-handed approach to Qatar, Turkey and Iran, according to the report.

Twitter has suspended the accounts of 16 of the fictitious writers in the wake of the Daily Beast investigation.

Civil rights groups leading the Facebook ad boycott met with Mark Zuckerberg

By Marcy Ostser

(JTA) — Mark Zuckerberg hasn’t changed his tune about Facebook’s stance on the spread of hate on the social media platform.

That’s what the heads of several civil rights groups, including the Anti-Defamation League, said following a meeting Tuesday with Zuckerberg and other Facebook executives to discuss the demands of the advertisers that joined the #StopHateForProfit movement.

“It was abundantly clear in our meeting today that Mark Zuckerberg and the Facebook team is not yet ready to address the vitriolic hate on their platform,” read a statement issued by the leaders after the meeting. “Zuckerberg offered the same old defense of white supremacist, anti-Semitic, Islamophobic and other hateful groups on Facebook that the Stop Hate For Profit Coalitions, advertisers and society at large have heard too many times before.”

Dozens of Facebook’s largest advertisers are boycotting the platform this month, according to the movement. Among them are Starbucks, Hershey, Coca-Cola, Ben & Jerry’s, the North Face and Patagonia.

Led by the ADL, the groups launched the campaign to protest Facebook’s unwillingness to police hate speech or monitor posts for misinformation. The campaign has issued a list of 10 demands, including a permanent civil rights infrastructure, independent audits of identity-based hate and misinformation, and an internal mechanism to automatically flag hateful content in private groups for human review.

The Stop Hate for Profit leaders said the Facebook executives — COO Sheryl Sandberg and the chief product officer, Christopher Cox, joined Zuckerberg — only addressed one item on the list, and that it was unsatisfactory.

The leaders of the ADL, NAACP, Color of Change and Free Press were in the meeting.

Afterward, Facebook spokesman Andy Stone called the meeting “an opportunity for us to hear from the campaign organizers and reaffirm our commitment to combating hate on our platform. They want Facebook to be free of hate speech and so do we.”

Stone said that Facebook has banned more than 250 white supremacist organizations and created new policies to prohibit voter and census interference.

Benny Gantz enters quarantine as Israel hits highest total of confirmed coronavirus cases in 24 hours

By Marcy Oster

JERUSALEM (JTA) — Israel recorded more than 1,300 new cases of the coronavirus in 24 hours ending on Wednesday morning, its highest total since the start of the pandemic.

Benny Gantz, the defense minister and prime minister designate, entered quarantine on Wednesday after he came into contact with a family member with COVID-19.

The Cabinet met to discuss whether to declare some areas with high numbers of cases restricted areas. Jerusalem is among the cities where restricted zones could be declared, Israel’s Channel 12 reported Wednesday night. The restrictions would differ in each area, including up to a complete closure.

Gantz said in a statement that he feels good and will continue to work from quarantine. His contact with the confirmed coronavirus carrier took place more than a week ago. He will have a coronavirus test.

On Tuesday, the Knesset’s Ministerial Committee on Declaring Restricted Zones declared Beitar Illit, a haredi Orthodox city in the West Bank, restricted for a week beginning on Wednesday.

The Cabinet directed the Ministerial Committee on Declaring Restricted Zones to meet following the formulation of final recommendations from the Health Ministry. Other cities that could be declared restricted are Ashdod, Beit Shemesh, Bnei Brak, Kiryat Malachi, Lod, Modiin Illit, Ramla and Raanana.

Jewish Agency releases numbers of Jewish coronavirus deaths from countries around the world

By Marcy Oster

JERUSALEM (JTA) — Jewish deaths around the world from the coronavirus — excluding the United States, Israel and the countries of the former Soviet Union — total about 2,200, the Jewish Agency said Wednesday.

The group, which works to bolster Israel-Diaspora relations, released these numbers on a Zoom call that included the leaders of several Diaspora Jewish communities that are suffering financially from the current crisis: 33 Jewish deaths from countries in the Middle East, 40 from Chile, 50 from Mexico, 70 from Argentina and 100 from Brazil.

Jewish Agency Chairman Isaac Herzog said his organization was not able to confirm figures for the United States and the FSU.

Herzog added that some Diaspora Jewish communities have entered into “literal paralysis” due to the coronavirus crisis. Some cannot provide basic communal services, welfare services or Jewish educational activities, he said.


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