Weekly roundup of world briefs


April 19, 2024

Some iPhone keyboards suggest Palestinian flag for ‘Jerusalem’

(JNS) — Typing “Jerusalem” on the current iPhone iOS 17.4.1 software in an emoji search returns a Palestinian flag icon if the phone is set to English (UK) but not when set to English (U.S.), JNS found on Wednesday.

The same thing happens on some Google’s Android devices The Jewish Chronicle reported, citing a social media post by Rachel Riley, a British television presenter.

“I’ve just upgraded my software to version iOS 17.4.1, and now, when I type the capital of Israel, Jerusalem, I’m offered the Palestinian flag emoji,” Riley wrote to Apple and its CEO Tim Cook. “This didn’t occur on my phone immediately before this update.”

“Showing double standards with respect to Israel is a form of antisemitism, which is itself a form of racism against Jewish people,” Riley added. “Please explain whether this is an intentional act by your company, or whether you have no control over rogue programmers.”

She signed the post as a “a Jewish woman concerned about the global rise in antisemitism.”

Riley added a list of 65 capital cities “that do not offer their nation’s flags, let alone the wrong one.”

Center for American Progress head calls for one-state solution

(JNS) — Patrick Gaspard, a former U.S. ambassador to South Africa and current president and CEO of the Center for American Progress, told Politico that he no longer believes in a two-state solution.

“This is difficult, but we need to talk about whether the two-state solution continues to be the sole pathway to peace,” he the publication’s West Wing Playbook. 

“I think that you ultimately get to peace and a ceasefire that is enduring if you have a state that integrates the fulsome rights of Palestinians and Israelis living side-by-side,” he added.

Israel must exist as a state, Gaspard said. “But I also believe Palestinians—if we are going to solve this problem—need to exist in an Israel that is inclusive of their full rights.”

The “pushback has always been that if you have a single state, you can’t have a Jewish majority state that is democratic in Israel,” Politico noted.

“I think that taking out the possibility of coexistence is, in itself, really cynical and tragic,” Gaspard said.

The Center for American Progress is a left-wing think tank. It is “the most influential Democratic-allied think tank in politics, one that has historically been supportive of both Democratic administrations and the state of Israel,” according to Politico.

“People keep telling me that the situation in Gaza is ‘complicated.’ There’s nothing complicated about being able to say killing innocent people is wrong and needs to stop,” Gaspard wrote on Oct. 27. “We said it when it was Hamas. We can say it now that it’s Israel. This is wrong. This needs to stop.”

He has also accused Israel of “using starvation as a weapon is a war.”

Nahal Oz residents allowed to return home for good

(JNS) — Residents of Nahal Oz, 800 meters (2,625 feet) from the Gaza Strip, received notice Wednesday that they can return to spend nights in the kibbutz, even if they do not work in essential services there.

According to the announcement from the IDF, overnight stays have been approved for anyone over age 18 who wishes to do so. However, ancillary services such as healthcare, education, clubs, cultural activities and community gatherings will remain closed for now.

“It’s important to understand that the kibbutz’s security rehabilitation is still an ongoing process,” cautioned the notice. “The desired future security regime is still far from being implemented.”

It cited examples such as the camera network, security roads and lighting upgrades that have yet to be completed in the kibbutz and surrounding area. The reserve force unit is also not operating at full capacity yet.

The area remains an active combat zone with frequent warfare noise from live security drills. “This has operational and emotional implications that must be considered, despite the approval to return overnight,” the notice states.

Any residents choosing to stay overnight must notify the security team in order to receive the required support and monitoring for their safety, which “is critical and not to be taken lightly.” The infrastructure team must also be notified to coordinate home entry and rehabilitation assessment. Updates about emergencies or unusual noises will be sent through a dedicated group.

Entry and exit rules remain unchanged, with the kibbutz open only to residents, volunteers and coordinated professional tours. Communications, tourism related to the conflict, and cultural events are still prohibited.

“May these be good days ahead,” the announcement concludes.

Tehran flooding Judea and Samaria with weapons, Iranian officials tell NYT

(JNS) — As the Israel Defense Forces fight Hamas terrorists in the Gaza Strip, the Iranian regime continues to foment violence in Judea and Samaria by flooding the territory with weapons, The New York Times reported on Tuesday, citing officials in Washington, Jerusalem and Tehran.

Judea and Samaria saw a dramatic rise in terrorist attacks in 2023 compared to the previous year, with shootings reaching the highest level since the Second Intifada of 2000-05, according to Israeli military data.

The violence has continued to escalate since Hamas started a war with its murderous rampage across the northwestern Negev last year. Since Oct. 7, at least eight Israelis have been murdered in Judea and Samaria.

Iranian officials told the Times that Tehran had not singled out one particular terrorist organization it would support with firearms and ammunition, choosing instead to inundate the area with weapons.

The majority of the weapons smuggled into Judea and Samaria are small arms and assault rifles, analysts said. However, the U.S. and Israeli officials charged that the Islamic Republic is also smuggling advanced weaponry, including anti-tank missiles and rocket-propelled grenades.

The Iranians explained that one smuggling route goes through Syria and Jordan. From Jordan, they are transferred to Bedouin smugglers and criminal gangs, who move them over the border to Judea and Samaria.

A more challenging route skips Jordan and takes the guns from Syria to Lebanon, U.S. officials said. From there, the weapons are smuggled into Israel, from where criminal groups move them to Judea and Samaria.

Last month, the Israel Security Agency (Shin Bet) revealed that it had thwarted Iranian attempts in recent months to smuggle advanced weapons into Judea and Samaria. These shipments were to be delivered to terror operatives in the territory for use against Israeli targets.

According to the Shin Bet, Unit 4000 of the Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps’ Special Operations Division and Unit 18840 of the IRGC’s Quds Force in Syria were involved in the smuggling plot.

More than 50 anti-Israel protesters arrested at Senate cafeteria

(JNS) — U.S. Capitol Police officers arrested about 50 anti-Israel protesters who sought to shut down the Senate cafeteria in Washington on Tuesday.

The protesters said “Children are starving in Gaza” and “People are dying in Gaza,” per Fox News. The news network added that some of them appeared to be the same as those who disrupted a Senate Armed Services Committee hearing on Tuesday.

The protesters also reportedly said that “Senate can’t eat until Gaza eats.” 

The Senate cafeteria is typically open to the public during certain hours of the day.

Capitol Police said that “it is illegal to demonstrate inside any of the Congressional Buildings.”

Morocco sentences Islamist to five years for criticizing ties with Israel

(JNS) — A Moroccan who criticized the country’s decision to normalize relations with Israel was sentenced to five years in prison and fined 50,000 Moroccan dirhams ($5,000) on Monday.

The court found Abdul Rahman Zankad guilty of insulting a constitutional institution and incitement, AP reported. Zankad was arrested in March after posting on Facebook about the Gaza war and Morocco’s 2020 decision to establish diplomatic ties with Israel.

“Zankad is a member of Morocco’s Al Adl Wal Ihsane, a banned but tolerated Islamist association that has been a driving force behind many of the country’s protests since the war began,” AP said.

Tens of thousands of Moroccan protesters across the political spectrum have protested in the streets against Israel and in favor of the terror group Hamas, the news outlet reported. They have also criticized the United States and demanded that the government “overturn normalization.”

Morocco generally tolerates free expression, but it’s illegal to criticize the monarchy, and under the country’s constitution, foreign affairs are the prerogative of King Mohammed VI.

Last summer, another Moroccan man, Said Boukioud, 48, was sentenced to five years in prison for criticizing the king on Facebook over the country’s normalization of ties with Israel. He was jailed on Aug. 1, for posts denouncing the Abraham Accords “in a way that could be interpreted as criticism of the king,” the defendant’s lawyer said.

In 2020, Morocco became the fourth Arab country to recognize the Jewish state in the framework of the Abraham Accords after the United Arab Emirates, Bahrain and Sudan.

IDF strikes Hezbollah terrorist infrastructure in Syria

(JNS) — The Israel Defense Forces on Tuesday night struck Hezbollah military infrastructure in Syria.

“The IDF holds the Syrian regime accountable for all activities which take place within its territory and will not allow for any attempted actions which could lead to the entrenchment of Hezbollah on the Syrian front,” the military said.

At the same time, the IDF said that it had struck Hezbollah observation posts and infrastructure in Southern Lebanon.

Throughout the day on Tuesday, IDF artillery fired across the border to remove threats in the areas of Dhayra and Tayr Harfa in Southern Lebanon.

The Israeli Air Force overnight Monday attacked terrorist infrastructure belonging to the Syrian Army in the area of Mahajja, the Israeli military announced on Tuesday.

In addition, Israel Defense Forces artillery struck a military post in southern Syria on Monday night.

According to the latest IDF war data, as of April 2, a total of 3,100 launches from Lebanon and 35 from Syria have crossed into Israeli territory since the start of the war on Oct. 7.

In the northern arena, more than 3,300 targets have been attacked from the ground and another 1,400 from the air. Also, around 30 commanders and 330 terrorists have been killed.

Ben-Gurion University launches $1 billion campaign to rebuild south

(Israel Hayom via JNS) — Ben-Gurion University of the Negev has launched a $1 billion fundraising campaign to strengthen Israel’s future through the Negev region.

The ambitious campaign, called “Way Forward,” has already secured $380 million from donors like Sylvan Adams, Katja Goldman and Michael Sonnenfeldt and the Helmsley Charitable Trust.

After the devastating Hamas attacks on Oct. 7, that heavily impacted BGU’s community, the campaign took on greater urgency. As the largest Negev employer, BGU is vital for the region’s economic vitality and will lead rebuilding efforts.

The funds will support capital projects ($500 million), student aid ($250 million) and research excellence ($250 million).

BGU has been central to developing the Negev over the past 50 years, transforming the desert into an innovation hub. Following the tragedy, BGU’s dual role in fostering research and building the Negev is clearer than ever. The campaign puts into action Americans for Ben-Gurion University’s mission of building a movement committed to improving the world through Ben-Gurion’s pioneering vision for Israel’s future emerging from the Negev.

“From its inception, Ben-Gurion University has had a major role in building the future of Israel through developing the Negev,” said BGU President Daniel Chamovitz. “Over the past half-century, we have accomplished the remarkable in transforming the desert into a center of research, innovation and entrepreneurship. In the wake of the tragedy of Oct. 7, the dual calling of BGU—the fostering of cutting-edge research and building the Negev—is clearer than ever. We are proud to take a central role in continuing to build Israel’s future from the Negev.”

Originally published by Israel Hayom.

Palestinian UN application ‘opportunistic, dangerous,’ senior GOP leaders say

(JNS) — The senior Republicans on the House and Senate Foreign Relations Committees rejected the Palestinian Authority’s bid for membership in the United Nations on Tuesday, calling the proposal “dangerous.”

Rep. Michael McCaul (R-Texas), chairman of the House Foreign Affairs Committee, and Sen. Jim Risch (R-Idaho), ranking member of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, stated that the move undermines the Israeli-Palestinian peace process.

“The P.A.’s request for full membership at the U.N. endangers international security,” the two stated.

The Palestinian Authority “has not made substantive reforms, continues to implement pay-for-slay and there is no negotiated solution between the P.A. and Israel,” they added. “This is not a serious attempt to find a peaceful, lasting solution to the conflict; it is an opportunistic, politically-motivated move to bypass the peace process.”

The Palestinian Authority’s U.N. envoy Riyad Mansour, officially a “permanent observer,” asked the U.N. Security Council last week to hold a vote later this month on granting full U.N. membership to “Palestine.” The authority currently holds U.N. observer status.

The Biden administration has signaled that it would be willing to veto any request for Palestinian membership in the United Nations prior to the completion of final-status negotiations to end the Israeli-Palestinian conflict.

McCaul and Risch reminded the Biden administration on Tuesday of the consequences if the Palestinian Authority was admitted to the global body.

“U.S. law requires the United States to cut off all funding to the U.N. if the U.N. admits Palestine as a member state,” the Republicans said. “Anything other than staunch opposition to this ploy from the Biden administration is political pandering.”

Israeli film back on outside Philadelphia after court issues restraining order

By Carin M. Smilk

(JNS) — In a turnaround of events, an Israeli Film Festival screening on Tuesday night that was previously announced as canceled is now back on.

“The Child Within Me,” a 90-minute documentary about Israeli musician Yehuda Poliker, will be shown as scheduled at 7 p.m. at the Bryn Mawr Film Institute as part of the 2024 season of the Israeli Film Festival of Philadelphia (IFF).

“This attempt to censor the arts and culture of Israel was not successful,” wrote the IFF in a statement.

The development came about as a result of a Temporary Restraining Order by Judge Richard P. Haaz of the Montgomery County Court of Common Pleas outside of Philadelphia.

It is called “extraordinary relief,” as it is rarely granted, said Lori Lowenthal Marcus, legal director of the Deborah Project, who filed the complaint on Tuesday morning with her husband, attorney Jerome M. Marcus.

She noted the film is nonpolitical in nature and that the BMFI is simply providing the space, not sanctioning the content. In fact, that was written into the contract between BMFI and IFF that would have been breached had the movie not been shown.

Pressure, she said, was coming from the chapters of Students for Justice in Palestine at nearby Bryn Mawr and Haverford colleges. The BMFI acknowledged being concerned about both anti-Israel protesters and counter-protesters.

Marcus said their goal was not just to cancel the one film but the seven-day festival entirely, which is taking place from April 6 to April 14. 

BMFI has been a venue for IFF for the past 18 years, and members in the community have said they want it to stay that way. Scott Zelov, Lower Merion Township commissioner, stated that since the announcement, “I have heard from many in our community who are angry and upset by the decision to cancel.”

As for Marcus, she said it’s a matter of “Jews standing up for Jews. Others want to shut us down and shut us up. But we’re not going to weakly walk away.”


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