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Weekly roundup of world briefs


November 20, 2020

NY Gov. Andrew Cuomo reduces restrictions on Brooklyn Jewish neighborhoods as COVID rates drop

By Shira Hanau

(JTA) — Parts of Brooklyn that had high COVID test positivity rates in early October, including some with large Orthodox Jewish communities, will face fewer restrictions after seeing the rates fall.

The neighborhoods labeled “red zones” last month have been reduced to “orange,” the middle level for restrictions. One of the neighborhoods is Midwood, which has a sizable Orthodox population.

“Brooklyn has made great progress and we reduced the red zone by 50 percent last week based on the progress,” New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo announced at a news conference Monday.

While the orange designation will allow some nonessential businesses to reopen, schools remain closed. Religious services are restricted to 33 percent capacity, up from 25 precent, with a maximum attendance of 25 people, and mass gatherings can have 10 people at most. High-risk nonessential businesses like gyms and salons remain closed.

Restrictions on the Brooklyn neighborhoods were a source of tension last month as local Orthodox Jews protested the new rules, which kept public and private schools as well as nonessential businesses closed. The easing of the limits comes as cases continue to rise across New York City and state. Mayor Bill de Blasio said Monday morning that the city recorded 779 new daily cases and Cuomo announced a statewide COVID test positivity rate of 2.8 percent.

If the seven-day average positivity rate in New York City goes above 3 percent, the city’s public schools will automatically close. The seven-day rolling average rate hit 2.21 percent on Monday.

Last week, all restrictions were removed from Far Rockaway, a neighborhood in the borough of Queens with a large Orthodox Jewish community, after the positivity rate there remained in the 1-2 percent range. The Brooklyn neighborhood of Borough Park was taken out of the red zone last week.

First direct tourist flight from Israel to UAE touches down in Dubai

(JNS) — A flydubai flight carrying Israeli tourists landed in the United Arab Emirates on Sunday at the Dubai International Airport.

Hussein Suleiman, the head of a delegation of Arab businessmen on the flight, said, “There is no doubt that the normalization between Israel and the UAE will bring good things and benefit to the Arabs inside Israel. There is no doubt about that,” according to the AP.

“We are supportive of this deal and of the normalization [of relations between Israel and the United Arab Emirates], and we are here today to normalize the normalization in reality,” he said.

The flight took around three hours and crossed over Saudi Arabia.

UAE and Israeli citizens can now visit each other’s countries visa-free owing to the recently signed Abraham Accords.

Flydubai CEO Ghaith al-Ghaith said last week that “since the launch of flydubai 11 years ago, we have been committed to removing barriers to travel, creating free flows of trade and tourism and enhancing connectivity between different cultures across our network.”

US enacts new sanctions on Syrian entities, individuals

(JNS) — The Trump administration imposed sanctions on 19 entities and individuals on Monday that it accused of providing support to Syrian President Bashar Assad’s regime.

Among those sanctioned were the National Defense Forces, the Syrian Ministry of Petroleum and Mineral Resources, Syrian Air Force Intelligence Unit chief Ghassan Ismail and Syrian Political Security Directorate head Nasr al-Ali.

“The Treasury Department is determined to continue to apply economic pressure on the Assad regime and its supporters for the repression conducted by the regime,” said U.S. Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin in a statement.

In a statement, U.S. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo said that the “sanctions targeting military commanders, members of parliament, Government of Syria entities, and financiers, highlight how deeply the Assad regime has corrupted Syria’s institutions.”

The moves freeze any U.S. assets of those sanctioned and generally bars Americans from dealing with these individuals.

Shin Bet thwarts Hamas attempt to recruits West Bank minors for terror attacks in Israel

By Lilach Shoval and JNS staff

(Israel Hayom via JNS) — Hamas has been recruiting West Bank minors to carry out terrorist attacks against IDF soldiers and Israeli civilians, Israel’s Shin Bet security agency revealed on Monday.

According to available details, two Palestinian minors, one of them 16 years old, residents of Beit Omar in Judea, were arrested by the Shin Bet in October. When questioned, they admitted to being recruited by the terrorist group ruling the Gaza Strip to carry out terrorist attacks.

The teens said they were contacted with instructions via social media, saying the online exchanges were “frequent and over several months,” according to the Shin Bet.

The agency identified their handler as Bilal Kardi, a known operative from the cyber unit operated by the Izzadin al-Qassam Brigades, Hamas’s military wing.

The two minors were reportedly expecting a delivery of weapons, ammunition, uniforms and money with which they were to carry out shooting attacks. They were also ordered to attempt the abduction of Israeli soldiers or civilians.

They were also ordered to gather intelligence on Israeli settlements including Bat Ayin and Kfar Etzion and provide maps detailing gathering points of IDF troops in the area.

The two even tried producing pipe bombs, the agency said.

The suspects were indicted this month in the Judea District military juvenile court, according to a statement from the Shin Bet.

“The investigation underscores the unbridled scope of Hamas’s efforts to advance terrorist attacks and infrastructures in Judea and Samaria by exploiting minors and harming their families,” the statement said.

“The [Shin Bet] will continue to take action to thwart the efforts of Gaza Strip-based Hamas operatives to advance terrorist infrastructures in Judea and Samaria in order to carry out attacks on Israeli territory and thereby undermine regional stability,” the agency said.

This article first appeared in Israel Hayom.

Israeli government approves establishment of new town in Western Negev

(JNS) — The Israeli government on Sunday approved the establishment of a new town, tentatively named Hanun, in the Sdot Negev Regional Council adjacent to the Gaza Strip. The town, east of Kibbutz Saad, will initially be home to 500 families.

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, who proposed the initiative, called the decision “a big day for the State of Israel,” while conveying a message.

“We are there facing enemies [in Gaza] who want to uproot us, and they discover not only will we not be uprooted, but we plant, build and create. It’s a very big thing—it’s the essence of Zionism,” he said in a statement.

The Construction and Housing Ministry will be charged with coordinating the project, in collaboration with the relevant government ministries.

Netanyahu congratulated Sdot Negev Regional Council head Tamir Idan during a meeting with him on Sunday.

“I remember six years ago, when I was with you, Tamir, and you told me, ‘Let’s start a new settlement.’ It captured my imagination and my heart and we decided to do it, and here we are implementing it,” said Netanyahu, adding that then-Housing Minister Yoav Galant was a “full partner” in the project.

The prime minister told Idan that the Cabinet’s passing of the measure had made him proud.

“We are moving forward. I said some things needed to be done, for example, building a fence so that we don’t get flooded with illegal migrants from Africa, and we did it. For example, building up transportation, roads, we haven’t finished it yet, we’ll have to do it. For example, bringing in all kinds of financial projects, we’re doing it—but the most important thing is the enthusiasm, the burning desire, the fire, and you proved it, and I want to thank you and bless all the settlements.”

Idan said that the announcement marked “a holiday day for the State of Israel in general and for the Gaza periphery in particular.”

He told Netanyahu he remembered the meeting in question, “a meeting where we thought about how to convince people not to leave, how to bring in new people. And when I told you, you asked me, ‘Do you think they will come?’ and I said, ‘Let’s go for it.’ You told me, ‘Let’s go.’ Six years later, and here we stand.”

Idan went on to say when Israel’s enemies in Gaza see the Gaza periphery population increasing, existing settlements expanding and new settlements being created, and towers going up in Sderot, “their spirit falls, and ours will not fall.”

“It will not fall because of a prime minister like you,” he added, “who was with me all the way and who, it moves me to say this, has not given up to this day. I did not give up, and neither did you. And all the ministers here today transcended petty politics and said ‘yes’ to a Zionist act of the first order.”

In Georgia, Senate candidates Perdue and Ossoff head to January runoff

By Jackson Richman

(JNS) — A Jan. 5 runoff in Georgia between incumbent Republican Sen. David Perdue and Jon Ossoff, a Jewish Democrat, appears likely as neither candidate reached the 50 percent voter threshold required to avoid a runoff.

With 99 percent of votes reported, Perdue has 49.8 percent of the vote, while Ossoff got 47.9 percent.

In accordance with Georgia electoral law, if no candidate gets at least 50 percent of the vote, a runoff between the top two finishers will be held in January.

Perdue, who co-sponsored an anti-BDS law in 2017, has supported Trump’s pro-Israel agenda, while Ossoff has supported the Iran nuclear deal and, in a statement to Jewish Insider, warned that Israel applying sovereignty to the West Bank would undermine “efforts to achieve a two-state solution. A sustainable and humane resolution of conflict can only be achieved by diplomacy.”

Along with the runoff between Perdue and Ossoff comes another runoff, also on Jan. 5, between incumbent Republican Sen. Kelly Loeffler and Rev. Raphael Warnock, a Democrat in the special election to serve the remaining two years of the term of Sen. Johnny Isakson (R-Ga.).

Warnock received 32.9 percent of the vote while Loeffler got 25.9 percent, knocking off Republicans, including Rep. Doug Collins, and eight Democrats, including Matt Lieberman, a son of former Sen. Joe Lieberman (I-Conn.).

On Friday, Lieberman, who finished in fifth place with 2.8 percent of the vote, told JNS that he will back Warnock because “on a large majority of issues, he represents Georgia priorities far more faithfully than Kelly Loeffler, who describes herself, albeit tongue in cheek, as ‘[more conservative than] Attila the Hun.’ ”

Despite pandemic, Argentina looks to double kosher meat output in 2021

JTA staff

BUENOS AIRES (JTA) — In the midst of a kosher meat price war in Argentina, one of the world’s largest suppliers of kosher meat, a new batch of Israeli rabbis arrived to increase output in the midst of a second wave of the coronavirus pandemic.

The 87 rabbis who arrived last week will help the country double its exports of kosher meat in 2021, according to Argentina’s government. About 24,000 tons were exported last year.

A similar group of nearly 100 rabbis came from Israel in June.

Last month, Jewish businessman Roberto Goldfarb, who owns the Diarco market chain, began selling kosher meat locally for far cheaper than traditional prices, comparing the country’s kosher certification industry to a “mafia.” He was supported in a statement by the The Latin American Rabbinical Seminary, a branch of the Conservative movement’s Rabbinical Assembly.

But the country’s Orthodox chief rabbis blasted the statement, calling the Conservative groups “self-designated rabbinical institutions” and saying they do not set prices, only provide certification services.

The cheaper kosher meat sold at Diarco supermarkets — in some cases less than half the traditional price — isn’t supervised by conservative rabbis, but by an Orthodox rabbi affiliated with the Chabad-Lubavitch Hasidic movement, Rabbi Yosef Itzjak Feigelstok.

RJC and ZOA won’t say ‘president-elect’ Biden for now

By Ron Kampeas

(JTA) — Two conservative Jewish organizations known for their support of President Donald Trump’s Israel policies will not call Joe Biden “president-elect” until legal challenges are settled, reflecting a consolidation of right-wing backing for Trump’s refusal to concede.

“We will be referring to ‘President-elect’ Biden when the states certify the election and the courts have ruled on allegations of fraud and irregularities,” Matt Brooks, the Republican Jewish Coalition director, said in an email. “Remember it’s the states that call outcomes, not decision desks.”

Morton Klein, the president of the Zionist Organization of America, said he too would not use the term. “I will not call him president-elect, I will say ‘likely president-elect,’” Klein said in an interview.

After Biden posted insurmountable leads in enough states to make the election clear, major media projected him as the winner on Saturday, as they have prior to formal certification dating back to the 19th century. But Trump and a number of Republicans have launched multiple lawsuits challenging vote counts in a number of states where the vote was close, falsely alleging fraud.

Republican Sen. Mitch McConnell of Kentucky, the majority leader, set the tone Monday for much of the party and its allies on the right when he said in a Senate floor speech that it would be premature to refer to Biden as president-elect, pending the outcome of Trump’s legal challenges.

Nonetheless, a number of moderate Republican senators, including Susan Collins of Maine, Mitt Romney of Utah and Ben Sasse of Nebraska have congratulated Biden and referred to him as president-elect.

There were multiple legal challenges and demands for recounts in states in 2016, but no one hesitated to call the election then for Trump, or to refer to him immediately as “president-elect.”

Klein faulted the Conference of Presidents of Major American Jewish Organizations for congratulating Biden. A number of other mainstream Jewish groups, including the American Israel Public Affairs Committee and the American Jewish Committee have also congratulated Biden, as have a number of Modern Orthodox and haredi Orthodox groups whose constituents were likely to have supported Trump.

Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky tests positive for COVID-19

By Cnaan Liphshiz

(JTA) — Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky said he has tested positive for COVID-19.

Zelensky, who is Jewish, made the announcement Monday on Twitter, adding that he is feeling well and continuing to work in confinement.

“There are no lucky people for whom #COVID19 does not pose a threat,” Zelensky wrote. “Despite all the quarantine measures, I received a positive test. I feel good & take a lot of vitamins. Promise to isolate myself, but keep working. I will overcome COVID19 as most people do. It’s gonna be fine!”

Zelensky, 42, is among a number of world leaders who have contracted the virus, including President Donald Trump, British Prime Minister Boris Johnson and Brazilian President Jair Bolsonaro.

Video shows two men stealing pants from victim they call ‘Jew’ in Vienna

By Cnaan Liphshiz

(JTA) — Police are reportedly not treating as a hate crime an incident in which two men were caught on video in Vienna stealing another man’s pants and calling him a Jew.

The video, which surfaced last week and which seems to have been taken by the unidentified perpetrators, shows a young man being ordered to take off his pants by two men speaking German with a Viennese accent, the Heute news site of Austria reported Sunday. As they run off, one of the men shouts back at the man whose pants were stolen: “It’s that easy with you Jews.”

Journalist Liam Hoare reported on Twitter Monday that the Vienna police department told him that it is familiar with the incident and that its working assumption is that the incident is not a hate crime but an altercation between fans of rival soccer teams.

Several soccer teams across Europe are associated by their supporters as being Jewish, as is the case with Amsterdam’s Ajax team, Munich’s Bayern and London’s Hotspurs. This sometimes leads to anti-Semitic chants at soccer stadiums. According to scholars of anti-Semitism, the phenomenon has seeped into other parts of society not directly connected to sports.


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