Weekly roundup of world briefs
September 10, 2021
Israeli swimmer Mark Malyar wins a second gold and sets another world record at Tokyo Paralympics
By Emily Burack
(JTA) — Israeli swimmer Mark Malyar continued his historic Paralympics on Sunday, winning another gold medal and breaking his own world record.
Malyar won the 400-meter freestyle race in the S7 category, days after winning gold in the men’s 200-meter individual medley in the SM7 category. He set a new world record in that race, too.
Malyar, 21, completed Sunday’s race in 4:31.06, two seconds better than his previous record, which he set at the 2019 World Para Swimming Championships in London. He still has three more events to go in Tokyo.
“I’m happy that I succeeded in getting the result I want, I’m very tired,” he told Israeli media. “I didn’t feel that I was even going that fast, but it worked and my body is just about done.”
He now has two gold medals at his first-ever Paralympics. His twin brother, Ariel Malyar, is also competing in the Tokyo. Ariel competes in the S4 category, however, a different Paralympics swimming classification. Both brothers have cerebral palsy and began swimming at age 5 as part of physical therapy.
Israel now has seven medals at the Tokyo Paralympics, six of which are in swimming. Of those six swimming medals, four are gold — Malyar’s two golds; a first-ever medal for an Israeli-Arab swimmer, Iyad Shalabi; and a win for 20-year-old Ami Omer Dadaon. Dadaon has also won a silver medal.
Israel’s one non-swimming medal comes in rowing: Moran Samuel won a silver medal in the PR1 single sculls in her third Paralympic Games. In Rio, she won bronze.
Samuel was one of two flag bearers for Israel in the Paralympics’ opening ceremony.
GOP congressman compares COVID measures to Holocaust, prompting an intern’s resignation
By Gabe Friedman
(JTA) — Kentucky Rep. Thomas Massie was far from the first Republican lawmaker to compare public health measures aimed at curbing the spread of COVID-19 to the Holocaust when he posted an image of a tattooed wrist on Twitter on Wednesday.
Reps. Marjorie Taylor Greene and Lauren Boebert have also done so, along with several lower-level officials who have made similar comparisons across the country in recent weeks.
“If you have to carry a card on you to gain access to a restaurant, venue or an event in your own country … that’s no longer a free country,” read the text in the image Massie tweeted, which he deleted shortly afterwards.
But Massie’s example got an extra burst of attention after one of his interns resigned in a letter that he posted to Twitter, where it went viral. The intern, Andrew Zirkle, called his former boss’s post antisemitic.
“The tweet that Congressman Massie tweeted last night, in which he compared vaccine passports to the Holocaust, was insensitive to not only survivors of the Holocaust, but the millions who perished as a result,” Zirkle wrote. “The anti-semetic[sic] nature of this post is beyond apology and as a result, I cannot in good conscience continue at my current position.”
In subsequent tweets, Zirkle apologized for misspelling the word antisemitic. He also expressed surprised about how widely shared his resignation letter had been, saying that his tweet “was mostly supposed to be for folks who knew me personally.”
The Anti-Defamation League called on Massie to apologize, saying that “deleting this isn’t enough.” So far, Massie has not commented publicly about his post.
Iran’s new government appoints 2 suspected in 1994 bombing of Buenos Aires Jewish center
By JTA Staff
(JTA) — Iran’s new government includes two men who have been implicated in the 1994 bombing of the AMIA Jewish center in Buenos Aires that killed 85 people.
On Wednesday, the parliament approved Ahmad Vahidi as interior minister and Mohsen Rezai as vice president of economic affairs among the 19 nominations by President Ebrahim Raisi.
In its investigation of the bombing, which also injured 300, Argentina has said Vahidi and Rezai played key roles. Both are listed by Interpol with red alerts, meaning they are wanted for arrest internationally.
Since 2010, Vahidi has been the subject of sanctions by the United States, which seek to freeze any assets he may have under U.S. jurisdiction. He headed the Quds Force, the paramilitary arm of Iran’s Islamic Revolutionary Guard, at the time of the 1994 attack, and was Iran’s Defense Minister between 2009 and 2013.
Jewish institutions in Argentina and Israel, as well as the Argentine government, criticized the Vahidi nomination.
“This decision once again exposes the Iranian government’s contempt for Argentine Justice and the victims of terrorism,” DAIA, the Argentine Jewish umbrella, said when Vahidi was nominated for the cabinet position two weeks ago.
Argentina’s Foreign Ministry in its statement Wednesday demanded that Iran “fully cooperate with the Argentine courts, allowing the people who have been accused of participating in the attack against the AMIA to be tried.”
Politico employees will not have to sign their new parent company’s pro-Israel mission statement
By Gabe Friedman
(JTA) — Ben Smith hid a significant nugget deep within his latest New York Times story, on the billion-dollar sale of Politico: The magazine and news site’s new owners, German publishing powerhouse Axel Springer, will not require its newly acquired American employees to sign the company mission statement pledging support of Israel.
Axel Springer, named after the journalist who founded it in the 1940s, has long been a staunch supporter of Israel. On its website, the second of the company’s five core principles reads, “We support the Jewish people and the right of existence of the State of Israel.”
The company, which owns some of Europe’s most-read publications, including Die Welt and Bild, apparently requires its European employees to sign a pledge in support of “the trans-Atlantic alliance and Israel, among other favored values,” according to Smith’s report.
In May, during the latest round of fighting between Israel and Hamas in Gaza, the company’s headquarters raised an Israeli flag as a show of support. In June, Matthias Dopfner, CEO of the German company, reportedly said that any employees disgruntled by the move should leave the company.
“I think, and I’m being very frank with you, a person who has an issue with an Israeli flag being raised for one week here, after antisemitic demonstrations, should look for a new job,” he was quoted as saying by Israel Hayom.
Smith’s column dissects the Axel Springer purchase and its significance in the wider American media landscape. Dopfner told Smith the Politico purchase “cemented the company’s American future.”
US not seeking death penalty for Chabad of Poway synagogue shooter
(JNS) — Federal prosecutors announced on Monday they would not seek the death penalty for a former nursing student who plead guilty to murder and other charges after shooting a gun inside the Chabad of Poway synagogue in California in April 2019.
The decision was mentioned in a court filing in federal court and comes soon after U.S. Attorney General Merrick Garland stopped federal executions while the Justice Department conducts a review, the APreported.
John Earnest fired bullets at congregants on a Saturday morning during the last day of Passover, killing 60-year-old Lori Gilber-Kaye and wounding three others, including a child and the senior rabbi at the time, Yisroel Goldstein. Earnest, 19 at the time, called 911 afterward and said he committed the act because Jews were trying to “destroy all white people.”
Hurricane Ida destroys one-time Jewish family’s residence that was Louis Armstrong’s second home
By Ron Kampeas
(JTA) — Hurricane Ida flattened the New Orleans home where a youthful Louis Armstrong spent time with a Jewish immigrant family who mentored him.
CNN reported Monday that the Category-4 storm destroyed the brick structure on South Rampart Street where the Karnofsky family lived and ran a tailor shop at the turn of the 20th century.
Starting at about age 5, Armstrong was friends with the five Karnofsky sons and the family would have him over for meals, leading to Armstrong’s lifelong love of matzah. His first job was blowing the tin whistle on the family’s coal and junk wagon, alerting potential customers. A musicologist has said that the whistle was Armstrong’s first instrument.
The Karnofsky patriarch bought Armstrong’s first trumpet, with the repayment being Armstrong would ride on the wagon for a year and blow the whistle. The famed jazz musician was reputed to wear a Magen David and have a mezuzah on his door, said the musicologist, John Baron.
“The Karnofskys were a tremendous warm influence in his life,” Baron said in 1999.
One of the Karnofsky sons, Morris, opened the first jazz record store in New Orleans and was a lifelong friend of Armstrong, who became a seminal figure in modern American music.
The building was long shuttered, although there was talk of restoring it as an homage to Armstrong’s New Orleans roots.
EU removes Israel, US from COVID-19 safe-travel list
(JNS) — The European Union on Monday removed Israel, the United States and four other countries from its COVID-19 safe-travel list, meaning that travelers from those countries could now face increased restrictions.
Removal from the list is a non-binding recommendation, however, and the E.U.’s 27 member nations can decide individually whether to follow it. Tourists should therefore “expect a mishmash of travel rules across the continent,” AP reported.
The other countries that have been taken off the list due to spiking coronavirus infection rates are Kosovo, Lebanon, Montenegro and North Macedonia.
On June 30, 2020, the European Council adopted a recommendation on the gradual lifting of the temporary restrictions on non-essential travel into the European Union. The list is reviewed and updated regularly.
Seventeen countries remain on the safe list, including Japan, Canada and New Zealand, in addition to China, which is listed on condition of reciprocity.
Most non-E.U. visitors who are fully vaccinated are still allowed in by the bloc, though various restrictions can apply depending on the country, including quarantines and testing, according to Reuters.
Israel approves $17 million in appreciation grants for COVID-19 medical workers
(JNS) — The Israeli Cabinet on Wednesday approved a decision by Prime Minister Naftali Bennett to allocate 55 million shekels ($17.1 million) in grants for medical and health system employees involved in treating COVID-19 patients.
“The special grant expresses the gratitude of the citizens of Israel for the medical teams,” said Bennett. These teams, he continued, “are fighting at the forefront of the campaign against the coronavirus and have been doing holy work from the moment the crisis started.”
The grants, valued at 1,000 shekels ($311) each, are to be disbursed via multi-use debit cards, which will be purchased by the Economy and Industry Ministry and distributed to medical staff by hospitals and HMOs.
The grants are designed to serve a two-pronged goal of rewarding medical workers and stimulating the country’s economy, which has been hit hard by the pandemic, according to a statement from the Prime Minister’s Office.
Lebanon has not received request to transfer Iranian fuel, energy minister says
(JNS) — Lebanese Energy Minister Raymond Ghajar said on Wednesday that the country’s caretaker government has not received a request to import fuel from Iran. His comments come after Hezbollah leader Hassan Nasrallah had announced last month that a shipment of Iranian fuel could help the country deal with shortages.
Nasrallah had also warned Israel and the U.S. against interfering with an oil tanker that was set to leave Iran for Lebanon.
Asked if an Iranian shipment was coming without permits, Ghajar said, “No. We do not have information. Permission was not requested from us. This is all I am saying,” reported Reuters. “Our role is restricted to import permits, we did not receive a request for permission,” he said.
Hezbollah is the most powerful political player in Lebanon and seemed to be moving to import Iranian fuel without involving the state, according to the report.
Lebanese Prime Minister-Designate Najib Mikati said that if Lebanon would import cargo from Iran, it would subject the country to sanctions from the West, according to a report by the Middle East Media Research Institute.
Notably, it was Hezbollah that nominated Mikati to his current position.
Meanwhile, Hezbollah is facing harsh criticism as the country faces an ongoing economic and political crisis, the AP reported on Wednesday. Protests have occurred in Hezbollah strongholds over electricity cuts and fuel shortages.
Lapid says Biden plan to reopen US Palestinian mission in Jerusalem a ‘bad idea’
(JNS) — Foreign Minister Yair Lapid on Wednesday said Israel believes the U.S. plan to reopen its consulate in Jerusalem to service Palestinians is a “bad idea,” while arguing that the consulate could fracture the fragile government of Prime Minister Naftali Bennett.
“Jerusalem is the sovereign capital of Israel and Israel alone, and therefore we don’t think it’s a good idea,” Lapid said at a news conference.
“We have an interesting and yet delicate structure of our government and we think this might destabilize this government and I don’t think the American administration wants this to happen,” he said.
Lapid added, “We know that the (Biden) administration has a different way of looking at this, but since it is happening in Israel, we are sure they are listening to us very carefully. I am a devoted believer in the two-state solution … but we’ll have to admit the fact this is not feasible in the current situation.”
Regarding the U.S. chaotic withdrawal from Afghanistan, Lapid said, “It was probably the right decision maybe that wasn’t performed in the right manner.”
Wasel Abu Youssef, a senior Palestine Liberation Organization official, told Reuters that Israel is “trying to maintain the status quo and block any political solution.”
An aerial banner said ‘Jew, I have a question.’ It turned out to be a marriage proposal.
By Ben Sales
(JTA) — The banner, dragged by a plane last week across the Florida sky, looked disconcerting.
“Jew, I have a question,” it said.
Certainly it was a moment made for Twitter, attracting both jokesters and antisemitism watchdogs.
A tweet of the photo Saturday by the group StopAntisemitism got more than 100 shares. Another group, United With Israel, shared the photo and tweeted, “Antisemitism is alive and well.”
Others poked fun.
“Judging by my experience of Judaism the question is either something deep, philosophical and existential or ‘when are we eating? I’m STARVING,” one person tweeted.
Ben Shapiro, the Orthodox Jewish right-wing commentator, tweeted the photo out to his 3.5 million followers along with a joking, obscure reference to how rabbis answer questions of Jewish law.
Turns out the banner wasn’t meant to be hate speech or a joke: It was a marriage proposal to a woman nicknamed “Jew.” (What that’s short for — Julia? Jewel? Judith? Remains unclear.)
According to Glenna Milberg, a local South Florida television reporter, the banner was created and flown by Aerial Banners, whose Instagram page shows examples of similar marriage proposals — though others tend to say “Will you marry me?” That probably would have cleared up the confusion here.
Milberg reported that Milo Srkal Jr., a representative of Aerial Banners, said he didn’t realize the banner could be read as offensive until he got a call from the local branch of the Anti-Defamation League.
“It was like, ‘Wait, what? What are you talking about?’” he said, according to News10, Milberg’s station. “And then after sitting back, thinking about it, reading a few things and having things explained to us, it was like, ‘Oh my God.’”
Of course, the real story of the banner prompted another question: Did “Jew” say yes?
According to Milberg, she did.