News from May 3 to May 9

Clashes in Jerusalem, Netanyahu fails to form a government, and honorable mentions

Happy Mothers Day! As always, feel free to reach out to me with questions, comments, concerns, or ideas for how to make News of the Jews better at newsofthejews@gmail.com. If you need good Jewish/Israeli shows or movies, make sure to check out this newsletter. You can follow me on Twitter @skaps1

Clashes between Israeli police and protesters erupt in Jerusalem over Sheikh Jarrah evictions

Background: In 1876, two Jewish trusts bought land in Sheikh Jarrah, a neighborhood in East Jerusalem. During the 1948 Arab-Israeli War, hundreds of thousands of Palestinians were forced to flee or left Israel, settling in the West Bank (controlled by Jordan), Gaza (controlled by Egypt), and other places in the region. After the war, Jordan ruled East Jerusalem, and many Jews fled to West Jerusalem and Israel proper. At the same time, Jordan built houses and moved dozens of Palestinian refugees into Sheikh Jarrah. Then, during the 1967 War, Israel captured East Jerusalem (including Sheikh Jarrah) and transferred ownership of the buildings to the trusts that owned the land before 1948, which sold the land to an Israeli settler organization. Since then, there have been intense disagreements over who rightfully owns the land, with Israeli settlers and Palestinian residents both citing various Ottoman-era documents to prove their case. According to Israeli law, Jews can regain ownership of East Jerusalem property if they can prove they were the heirs to land taken in the 1948 war (Palestinians are not subject to the same law and cannot make the same claim on land Israel annexed after the 1948 or 1967 wars). This week, the Israeli High Court was set to hear a case that would decide the ownership of some property in Sheikh Jarrah but delayed the hearing. If the court rules in favor of the Jewish claim, several Palestinian families will likely face eviction.

What’s been happening? As you may recall, Israeli police have been clashing with Palestinian protestors in Jerusalem for weeks now due to the placement of security barriers outside the Damascus Gate. The Sheikh Jarrah case only contributed to the existing unrest in Jerusalem, with many Palestinians viewing the potential evictions as the latest in a series of moves to expel the city’s Arab population. In their view, the evictions are an attempt to solidify the Jewish demographic control of the holy city, ensuring future Israeli control over the totality of Jerusalem. On the other side, some Israelis see the Sheikh Jarrah dispute as a legal question and nothing more. Since the issue is so polarizing and it touches the core of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict–land, historical grievances, and religion–the Sheikh Jarrah case has led to immense tension between Israelis and Palestinians. Protests have erupted in Jerusalem and at times turned violent, with hundreds of Palestinians and several Israeli police officers reportedly injured.

Is it just the court case? While the case is itself sensitive, it comes at a particularly delicate time. Israel is about to celebrate Jerusalem Day, a holiday that celebrates the unification of Jerusalem after the 1967 War. Palestinians will also be honoring Nakba (Tragedy) Day, which commemorates Palestinian displacement after the 1948 War, this week. The convergence of these events, and the mixing of large groups with deep distrust and antipathy in Jerusalem’s old city, has led to a dangerous situation where Israeli extremists, Palestinian protestors, and Israeli police are clashing nightly. Sadly, the city that should most embody coexistence finds itself plagued by violence. 

How have people reacted? Here are some notable reactions:

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu: “We firmly reject the pressure not to build in Jerusalem. To my regret, this pressure has been increasing of late. I say also to the best of our friends: Jerusalem is Israel’s capital and just as every nation builds in its capital and builds up its capital, we also have the right to build in Jerusalem and to build up Jerusalem. That is what we have done and that is what we will continue to do.” He also said that Israel “shall not allow any radical element to undermine the calm.”

United States State Department: “The United States is extremely concerned about ongoing confrontations in Jerusalem, including on the Haram al-Sharif / Temple Mount and in Sheikh Jarrah, which have reportedly resulted in scores of injured people.”

“There is no excuse for violence, but such bloodshed is especially disturbing now, coming as it does on the last days of Ramadan. This includes Friday’s attack on Israeli soldiers and reciprocal ‘price tag’ attacks on Palestinians in the West Bank, which we condemn in no uncertain terms.”

“We call on Israeli and Palestinian officials to act decisively to deescalate tensions and bring a halt to the violence. It is absolutely critical that all sides exercise restraint, refrain from provocative actions and rhetoric, and preserve the historic status quo on the Haram al-Sharif / Temple Mount – in word and in practice. Leaders across the spectrum must denounce all violent acts. Security services must ensure the safety of all of Jerusalem’s residents and hold all perpetrators to account.”

“We are also deeply concerned about the potential eviction of Palestinian families in Sheikh Jarrah and Silwan neighborhoods of Jerusalem, many of whom have lived in their homes for generations. As we have consistently said, it is critical to avoid steps that exacerbate tensions or take us farther away from peace. This includes evictions in East Jerusalem, settlement activity, home demolitions, and acts of terrorism.”

Pope Francis: “I am following with particular concern the events in Jerusalem. I pray that it may be a place of encounter and not of violent clashes, a place of prayer and peace. Violence begets only violence. Enough of these clashes.”

Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas: “The terrorism of the settlers will only increase our determination to stick to our legitimate rights to end the occupation, attain freedom and independence and establish a sovereign and independent Palestinian state with Jerusalem as its capital.”

The United Nations Security Council will hold a session to discuss the situation in East Jerusalem today.

Anything else? Candidly, there has simply been too much in Jerusalem to cover, so if you are looking for a more in-depth breakdown, this article does a pretty good job. As I finished writing this, Israeli police announced that the Jerusalem Day parade would not be permitted to approach the Temple Mount for fear that it could lead to violence. Gazan militants also fired three rockets into Israel early this morning. Israeli journalists have been sharing pictures and videos from Jerusalem, where clashes appear to have reached the Temple Mount and Al-Aqsa Mosque, and it is a really, really ugly situation right now. We should all hope and pray for a peaceful resolution.

Further reading: https://www.bbc.com/news/world-middle-east-57049126

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Yair Lapid tapped to form a government after Netanyahu’s coalition talks falter:

What happened? After Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s mandate to form a government expired on Tuesday evening, President Reuven Rivlin tasked opposition leader and Yesh Atid head Yair Lapid with building a viable governing coalition. Lapid now has a little over three weeks to cobble together a coalition of ideologically diverse parties that only share one thing in common: a deep distaste for Netanyahu. 

Why did Netanyahu fail to form a coalition? To form a government, Netanyahu would have needed to persuade the Islamist Ra’am party and the far-right extremist Religious Zionist party to support the coalition together, something which both parties have ruled out. Otherwise, he would have needed to convince Yamina to join him with at least two MKs from other parties to defect to give him a 61 seat majority. Perhaps such an outcome would have been possible during one of the previous elections. However, after Netanyahu broke his main coalition promise to rotate the premiership to Benny Gantz this year (and countless other political tricks over the years), virtually nobody in Israeli politics trusts him to make good on his commitments.

Can Yair Lapid form a government? It will certainly be challenging, but he is probably closer to replacing Netanyahu right now than any other politician over the last few years. To assemble a coalition, Lapid must convince the right-wing anti-Netanyahu New Hope, right-wing Yamina, Islamist Ra’am, centrist Blue and White, center-left Labor, and left-wing Meretz parties to join his centrist Yesh Atid. Two years ago, the prospect of Yamina joining a government with an Islamist party and a dovish left-wing party would have been unthinkable. Now, due to the uniquely polarizing nature of Netanyahu, the opposition is getting creative. 

If they manage to form a government, it will likely be led by a rotation of Lapid and Yamina’s Naftali Bennett, who would serve as Prime Minister first (even though Yesh Atid has ten more MKs than Yamina). The powerful defense, justice, and interior ministerial roles would also probably be ceded to the right-wing parties. There has been some progress; Lapid, Bennett, and Hew Hope’s Gideon Sa’ar have reportedly been meeting in an attempt to solidify the government quickly, and it could happen as soon as this week. Many believe that the longer the negotiations take, the less likely the coalition will be because Netanyahu can try to pry individual MKs away from the “change” camp. Indeed, one member of Yamina has already said he will not support the proposed coalition.

Yair Lapid. Source: Brookings Institution via Ralph Alswang.

What to watch for: There could be a new government as soon as Shabbat this week. Of course, there are still numerous challenges to overcome, but recent progress and reports suggest the differences are not insurmountable. The storyline to watch is whether Netanyahu will be able to convince Yamina MKs to vote against the coalition proposal. If he cannot, and Lapid and Bennett successfully negotiate a coalition deal, Prime Minister Netanyahu will become Opposition Leader Netanyahu by next week’s newsletter.

Where can I learn more about Yair Lapid? Yair Rosenberg did a remarkable write-up of Lapid in his Substack last week. I highly encourage you to check it out: https://yair.substack.com/p/what-you-should-know-about-yair-lapid

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Honorable Mentions:

Actor Lakeith Stanfield moderated a Clubhouse room full of anti-Semitism” by Gae Friedman (JTA)

Report: Israel shared Soleimani’s phone numbers with US hours before his slaying” (Times of Israel)

Hate crimes see 73% rise in NYC, with Asians and Jews most targeted” by Andrew Silow-Carroll (JTA)

NY Jewish federation sending $200K in COVID relief to India” by  Andrew Silow-Carroll (JTA)

Heshy Tischler pleads‌ ‌guilty‌ ‌to‌ ‌inciting‌ ‌mob ‌against‌ ‌journalist‌” by Molly Boigon (Forward) (I wrote about this case back in October)

Antisemitic Attacks Spike in NYC as COVID-19 Fades” by Armin Rosen (Tablet)

Israel launches largest-ever multi-front war exercise” (JNS)

A New Suspenseful Israeli Show Is Coming to Netflix This Month” by Lior Zaltzman (Kveller)

Hoboken’s first Sikh mayor is on the front lines of fighting antisemitism” by Gabby Deutch (Jewish Insider)

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News from April 26 to May 2

Lag B'Omer stampede and honorable mentions

Hey everyone! As always, feel free to reach out to me with questions, comments, concerns, or ideas for how to make News of the Jews better at newsofthejews@gmail.com. If you need good Jewish/Israeli shows or movies, make sure to check out this newsletter. You can follow me on Twitter @skaps1

A fair warning, today’s newsletter is going to be shorter than usual. I write News of the Jews on Sunday evenings every week, but as some of you know, I graduated from Duke University yesterday!

Thank you all for reading the newsletter every week! Writing for all of you has certainly enriched my college experience. A lot of folks have asked me if I’m going to keep up the newsletter after graduation, and the answer is yes, at least for the time being. However, if you are interested in helping out with News of the Jews (research, writing, editing, etc.) or you know someone who may be interested, definitely reach out! I could use some help!

Now, for the news:

Tragedy in Israel as dozens die in stampede at religious festival:

What happened? Last Friday, 45 people were killed and 150 were injured at a Lag B’Omer event at Mt. Meron in Israel when a stampede suddenly crushed individuals leaving the facility. Reports suggested that tens of thousands of ultra-Orthodox Jews had attended the gathering, despite warnings from officials that the site was not equipped for such a high occupancy (some estimates reached up to 100,000 attendees). The stampede, which killed six United States citizens, appeared to occur after attendees rushed to exit through a narrow passageway that grew slippery from spilled water and grape juice. An investigation into the stampede is underway.

The victims of the Mt. Meron stampede. Source: @Israel on Twitter.

Why were thousands gathered together for a religious festival? Every year, tens of thousands of people flock to Mt. Meron to celebrate Lag B’Omer, a holiday that commemorates the 2nd century Rabbi Shimon Bar Yochai.* Celebrants typically light bonfires and sing songs at Bar Yochai’s tomb at Mt. Meron. This year, the event proceeded as normal even as officials warned that it could lead to significant COVID-19 spread (Israel has lifted many restrictions following a world-leading vaccination campaign). 

* Different groups celebrate Lag b’Omer for different reasons

How have people reacted? Here are a few notable reactions:

President Joe Biden: “The United States stands with the people of Israel, and with Jewish communities the world over, in mourning the terrible tragedy at Mount Meron. I spoke with Prime Minister Netanyahu today to offer my profound condolences on behalf of the American people to our friends in Israel. The loss of life among worshipers practicing their faith is heartbreaking. I have instructed my team to offer our assistance to the government and people of Israel as they respond to the disaster and care for the wounded.  We are also working to confirm reports that American citizens may have lost their lives or been wounded during the religious observance of Lag B’Omer. Our Embassy and Department of State will provide all necessary support to any U.S. citizens and their family members affected by this sad event. The people of the United States and Israel are bound together by our families, our faiths, and our histories, and we will stand with our friends. Our prayers are with those who were injured and all those who lost loved ones. May their memories be a blessing.”

European Union Ambassador to Israel: “We are shocked and very saddened by the terrible news of the wounded and killed at the Lag B'Omer celebration on Mount Meron. Our condolences to the families of the victims and best wishes for a speedy recovery to all the injured.”

Queen Elizabeth: “I was deeply saddened by news of the disaster at the Lag B’Omer festival in Meron, Israel. My thoughts are with all those who have been injured, and the friends and families of those who lost their lives. They have my deepest sympathies.

National Security Advisor Jake Sullivan: “Our hearts go out to the people of Israel tonight following the terrible tragedy at Mount Meron. We offer our condolences to the families and friends who lost loved ones in this disaster, and wish a full and swift recovery to those injured.”

UAE Embassy in Israel: “Our hearts go out to the people of Israel who lost their loved ones in the tragedy during #LagBOmer celebrations in Mt. #Meron. HE @AmbAlKhaja, @UAEinIsrael team and all the people of the UAE offer condolences to the families, and wish a full and swift recovery to those injured.”

Officials from Bahrain and Jordan also reached out to their Israeli counterparts. 

Further reading: https://www.nytimes.com/2021/04/30/world/europe/deadly-stampede-israel-mt-meron.html

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Honorable mentions:

Biden in Jewish heritage month message nods to Chuck Schumer and Doug Emhoff for setting precedents” by Ron Kampeas (JTA)

Iran’s Foreign Minister, in Leaked Tape, Says Revolutionary Guards Set Policies” by Farnaz Fassihi (NYT) (In the tapes, Iran’s Foreign Minister said that former Secretary of State John Kerry informed him of Israeli operations against Iranian targets in Syria, a claim which Kerry denies. Here’s a good analysis of the tapes.)

China Embassy Deletes Tweet Depicting US, Israel As Grim Reaper” by Aaron Bandler (Jewish Journal)

Sean Hannity demands apology for Jerusalem Post article noting accusations of antisemitism” by Ron Kampeas (JTA)

International Federation imposes four-year judo ban on Iran over discrimination” (JNS)

David Cohen is a longshot to become the 1st Jewish jockey to win the Kentucky Derby. But he’s beaten long odds before.” by Rob Charry (JTA)

After 100 days, Jewish leaders weigh in on Biden’s domestic policy” by Gabby Deutch (Jewish Insider)

Republican Jewish Coalition makes first endorsements for 2022 election cycle” (JNS)

ADL calls on Oregon university president to resign over firing of Jewish professor who alleged antisemitism” by Ben Sales (JTA)

Former CIA head targets Jewish suffering in Israel’s actions - analysis” by Seth Frantzman (JPost)

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News from April 19 to April 25

Netanyahu suffers major political blow, Gazan militants fire rockets at Israel, and honorable mentions

Hey everyone! As always, feel free to reach out to me with questions, comments, concerns, or ideas for how to make News of the Jews better at newsofthejews@gmail.com. If you need good Jewish/Israeli shows or movies, make sure to check out this newsletter. You can follow me on Twitter @skaps1.

Israeli election update:

Background: Since Israel has a parliamentary-style government, individuals vote for parties, which are then allotted proportional representation in the Knesset. The Prime Minister is chosen not by direct election but through negotiations between the various parties elected to the Knesset. As a result, there is a window of time post-election after the Knesset members (MKs) are sworn in where there is no Prime Minister. During that time, the Knesset still has to function, so there is a committee called the Arrangements Committee that votes to establish the basic setup of the Knesset. The Arrangements Committee decides who chairs each committee, how many MKs from each party are members of each committee, and other administrative issues. 

What happened? Last week, Netanyahu suffered a significant political blow when Likud failed to pass its proposal to form Knesset committees in the Arrangements Committee. Instead, the Arrangements Committee passed the “anti-Netanyahu bloc’s” proposal, which gave more sway to Netanyahu’s opponents. Although the pro-Netanyahu camp appeared poised to pass their bid to set up the Knesset, Ra’am, a conservative Islamist party who expressed a willingness to work with Netanyahu in the past, decided to vote with the anti-Netanyahu bloc. Ra’am leader Mansour Abbas reportedly changed his party’s votes after learning that Netanyahu intended to give Naftali Bennett’s Yamina disproportionate political power and after Yesh Atid’s Yair Lapid offered him powerful committee assignments (though he said the posts did not affect his decision).

Why was the vote important? By winning the vote, the anti-Netanyahu bloc can now set the agenda for the Knesset and lead important oversight committees. Notably, the anti-Netanyahu bloc can attempt to pass legislation that would prohibit someone who is indicted from forming a government. Although the bill would be controversial, it could pass because it would specifically prevent Netanyahu from forming a government. 

On another note, the vote was noteworthy because it was the first time that Ra’am formally partnered with either the anti-Netanyahu or pro-Netanyahu camps. Before the vote, Ra’am was fence-sitting, and Abbas was relishing his kingmaker status. However, despite constant speculation that Netanyahu might woo him, Abbas and Ra’am finally signaled their position (though it could always change) to support Lapid and the anti-Netanyahu camp in the Knesset.

What’s the bottom line? Last week’s vote went very poorly for Netanyahu. In fact, it went so badly that Miki Zohar, a senior Likud leader, admitted that Netanyahu would be the opposition leader (and not the Prime Minister). Netanyahu’s prospects for forming a government are growing slimmer and slimmer, and Ra’am’s decision to side with the anti-Netanyahu camp may well prove to have been the nail in his proverbial coffin. Things are so dismal for Netanyahu now that he reportedly offered Benny Gantz the ability to serve as Prime Minister first in a rotation. In case you haven’t been paying attention to Israeli politics over the past few years, this election happened precisely because Netanyahu did not want to rotate the premiership to Gantz later this year. Accordingly, one might interpret the reports to suggest that Netanyahu is growing desperate. 

What should I watch moving forward? Netanyahu has a little over a week left to form a government. Anything could happen in that time, but it’s looking increasingly unlikely that he’ll be able to assemble a coalition. It remains to be seen who will get a chance to form the government next, as both Lapid and Bennett are likely to seek the mandate from President Reuven Rivlin.

Further reading:https://www.timesofisrael.com/in-blow-to-netanyahu-raam-gives-lapids-bloc-control-of-key-knesset-panel/

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Gazan militants launch dozens of rockets into Israel amid clashes in Jerusalem:

What happened? Over the past few days, Gaza-based terrorists have launched dozens of rockets into Israel. The groups, which include the Al-Aqsa Martyrs Brigade and Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine (PFLP), have said that their rocket fire is a response to the rising tensions in Jerusalem. Israeli forces struck several sites in Gaza in response to the rockets, including underground facilities, observation posts, and rocket launchers. Israel also closed the zone where Gazan fishermen can fish after initially reducing it from 15 nautical miles to nine nautical miles. At least 36 rockets have been fired into Israel over the last few days, six of which were intercepted by the Iron Dome air defense system. Responding to the attacks, the United States State Department tweeted, “We condemn the rocket fire from Gaza into Israel. There is no justification for such attacks.”

Why are tensions high in Jerusalem? There have been many issues, and the timeline is not necessarily clear. One incident that stoked tensions was Israeli police setting up metal barricades at the Damascus Gate, where Palestinians have been gathering after Ramadan prayers. Meanwhile, many Israelis were angry that videos of Arab youth attacking religious Jews in Jerusalem were spreading on Tik Tok and other forms of social media. As a result of both issues and other lingering problems, Palestinians and ultra-nationalist Israelis violently clashed over the weekend. It was an ugly scene, with ultra-nationalist Israelis at times chanting “death to the Arabs” while some Palestinian protestors threw rocks at officers and buildings. 

Israeli forces during 2019 protests in Jerusalem. Source: Israeli police.

Is this scuffle going to escalate further? It’s hard to say. Jerusalem police have since restored Palestinian access to Damascus Gate, so it’s possible that the clashes could subside. However, the tension between ultra-nationalist Israelis and Palestinians is unlikely to subside any time soon. Prime Minister Netanyahu instructed Israeli security forces to prepare for any scenario.

Further reading: https://www.reuters.com/world/middle-east/israeli-police-clash-with-palestinians-east-jerusalem-tensions-flare-during-2021-04-23/

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Honorable Mentions: 

In protest rallies, thousands of Jews in France and beyond demand ‘justice for Sarah Halimi’” by Cnaan Liphshiz (JTA) (For reference, I wrote about the Halimi story in last week’s newsletter)

CBS News story on the origins of Billie Holiday's “Strange Fruit:”

What happened to Israel’s COVID-19 vaccine?” by Maayan Jaffe-Hoffman (JPost)

Israeli NBA forward Deni Avdija suffers injury, ending promising rookie season” by Louis Keene (Forward)

The Jewish National Fund’s iconic blue charity box is now accepting bitcoin” by Asaf Shalev (JTA)

In ‘WandaVision,’ Timely Jewish Wisdom About Coping With Loss” by Shmuel Hain (Tablet)

New DNC chair stands by Israel amid progressive headwinds” by Matthew Kassel (Jewish Insider)

Dr. Ruth’s post-pandemic life is a lot busier than yours” by Benyamin Cohen (Forward)

The State Dept.’s diversity officer grew up among Orthodox Jews in Cleveland” by Gabby Deutch (Jewish Insider)

Sanders, Warren: U.S. Should Restrict Military Aid to Israel” by Aaron Bandler (Jewish Journal)

Four synagogues in NYC’s Riverdale neighborhood vandalized, windows smashed” by Ben Sales (JTA)

A portal for federal entertainment industry grants will no longer launch on Shabbat, following complaints from observant Jews” by Andrew Silow-Carroll (JTA)

Billy Crystal and Tiffany Haddish Star in a New, Very Jewish Movie” by Lior Zaltzman (Kveller)

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News from April 12 to April 18

A French Jewish woman's murderer avoids trial, Explosion at an Iranian nuclear facility (update), and honorable mentions

Hey everyone! As always, feel free to reach out to me with questions, comments, concerns, or ideas for how to make News of the Jews better at newsofthejews@gmail.com. If you need good Jewish/Israeli shows or movies, make sure to check out this newsletter. You can follow me on Twitter @skaps1.

French Court rules killer of Jewish woman will avoid trial:

(Warning: this story is graphic)

Background: On April 4, 2017, Sarah Halimi, a 65-year-old French Jewish woman, was killed by Kobili Traoré, a 27-year-old immigrant from Mali. The details are gruesome; Traoré entered Halimi’s apartment, beat her, and ultimately threw her out the window of her 3rd-floor apartment building. While he was attacking her, neighbors reported that Traoré yelled “Allahu akbar” and “I killed the devil.” A psychiatric report found that Traoré was troubled by the mezuza on Halimi’s door.

Although Traoré was formally charged with intentional homicide in 2017, a French court later ruled that Traoré would not be tried because he was in the midst of a cannabis-induced delirious fit that prevented him from being criminally liable when he killed Halimi. The case was so controversial that even French President Emmanuel Macron weighed in by calling for a trial of Traoré. Still, the trial had been delayed as the case made its way through the appellate courts.

Sarah Halimi. Source: Halimi Family via Times of Israel.

What happened? Earlier this week, the French Court of Cassation, France’s highest appellate court, ruled that Traoré will not be tried. In the ruling, the Court stated that “a person is not criminally responsible if suffering, at the time of the event, from psychic or neuropsychic disturbance that has eliminated all discernment or control.” In response, lawyers for Halimi’s family announced their intentions to bring their case before the European Court of Human Rights. 

How have people reacted? Here are some of the notable reactions:

Simon Wiesenthal Center: “After a harrowing 3 years of courtroom debate on the criminal responsibility of a murderer, presumedly 'under the influence' of cannabis - which basically resulted in him being interned in a psychiatric hospital instead of being judged and condemned to prison - the family has been on edge until now. This is a devastating blow!”

Francis Kalifat (President of the Representative Council of Jewish Institutions in France): “From now on in our country, we can torture and kill Jews with complete impunity.”

Anything else? The last decade has been extremely difficult for French Jews. In 2012, a gunman shot and killed three children and a teacher at a school in Toulouse. Then, in 2015, a man killed four Jewish customers at a Kosher supermarket in Paris. In 2018, Mireille Knoll, an 85-year-old Holocaust survivor, was stabbed to death in her apartment. Thus, it is no surprise that 77% of French Jews believe antisemitism is increasing, and 70% of French Jews have experienced an antisemitic incident during their lives. As a result, many Jews are leaving France for Israel.

Further reading:https://www.jpost.com/diaspora/antisemitism/frances-court-confirms-sarah-halimi-murderer-irresponsible-for-taking-drugs-665173

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Update on Natanz explosion:

What happened? As you may recall, Iran’s Natanz nuclear facility was damaged in an apparent explosion last Sunday. Immediately after the incident, western intelligence officials indicated that the Mossad was involved. The blast, which came just days after Iran began operating its advanced IR-5 and IR-6 centrifuges, reportedly targeted the facility’s power system and potentially caused nine months of damage.

So what have we learned? Since the initial reports were published last week, many new details have emerged. Notably, American and Israeli officials have told the New York Times that Israel was indeed involved in the Natanz incident and the Jerusalem Post reported that the attack was intended to “send a message to Iran” to halt its nuclear program. The New York Times also reported that the incident was in fact an explosion (some believed it was a cyberattack), and it targeted the primary and backup power systems for Natanz’s uranium enrichment centrifuges. 

In Iran, government officials stated that Iran would replace the damaged or destroyed centrifuges with more advanced ones. The Iranian government also named a suspect, though experts believe pinning the attack on one individual could be a way to publicly downplay the damage.

Anything else? Since the attack, Iran has started enriching a small amount of Uranium to 60% purity, a technical step on the way to the 90% purity needed for a nuclear weapon. Meanwhile, the Biden administration reportedly asked Israel to stop commenting on operations in Iran because it’s “dangerous,” “detrimental,” and “embarrassing” to the United States as it attempts to negotiate a return to the Iran deal. Israeli Defense Minister Benny Gantz called for a probe of the highest ranks of the Israeli security services to stop the leaks.

Further reading: https://www.politico.com/news/2021/04/17/iran-names-suspect-in-natanz-attack-says-he-fled-country-482647

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Honorable Mentions:

Bernie Madoff, whose Ponzi scheme devastated the Jewish world, dies in prison at 82” by Ben Sales (JTA)

‘Kids need camp this summer more than ever before’: What Jewish summer camp will look like this year” by Shira Hanau (JTA)

The Week Quietly Removes Image Criticized As Anti-Semitic” by Aaron Bandler (Jewish Journal)

Jewish leaders react to death of Prince Philip, praise his ‘affection’ for community” (JNS) (Prince Philip’s mother is recognized as a “Righteous Among the Nations” for protecting Jews during World War 2)

Team Israel unveils expanded roster for Olympic Games” (Israel Baseball)

The Israeli startup working to monetize Clubhouse” by Amy Spiro (Jewish Insider)

A Formerly Ultra-Orthodox Mom Will Star in a New Netflix Reality Show” by Lior Zaltzman (Kveller)

Abbas to address J Street confab as group seeks to top DC’s Israel lobby scene” by Jacob Magid (Times of Israel) (Mahmoud Abbas is the President of the Palestinian Authority)

Tucker Carlson takes aim at ADL with Israeli immigration policy” by Ben Sales (JTA)

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News from April 5 to April 11

Holocaust Remembrance Day, Israeli election update, explosion at a Iranian nuclear facility, and honorable mentions

Hey everyone! As always, feel free to reach out to me with questions, comments, concerns, or ideas for how to make News of the Jews better at newsofthejews@gmail.com. If you need good Jewish/Israeli shows or movies, make sure to check out this newsletter. You can follow me on Twitter @skaps1.

The world honors Yom HaShoah (Holocaust Remembrance Day):

What happened? Last Wednesday was Yom HaShoah, or Holocaust Remembrance Day. One of the most significant memorials this year was Secretary of State Antony Blinken’s speech in which he acknowledged the United States’ inaction during the Holocaust (with an emphasis on the State Department’s complicity). Blinken, who is Jewish, has a stepfather who is a Holocaust survivor. To be clear, I did not choose to highlight his speech because of his political views or my opinion of the current administration. I decided to include his speech because, as far as I know, there hasn’t been an American official who directly addressed the United States’ failure to save Jews during the Holocaust. Here are a few selections from his remarkable speech (you can watch below):

“We remember to learn. And we learn so that we do not repeat.”

“The United States Holocaust Memorial Museum currently has an exhibit called ‘Americans and the Holocaust.’ One story it highlights is about a man at the State Department named Breckenridge Long. He was appointed in 1939 by President Roosevelt as Assistant Secretary of the Special War Problems Division, a unit created after Hitler invaded Poland. Long oversaw immigration and refugee policy for countries impacted by the war, including the issuing of visas. He had immense power to help those being persecuted. Yet as the Nazis began to systematically round up and execute Jews, Long made it harder and harder for Jews to be granted refuge in the United States. He established onerous security checks, claiming they were necessary to prevent enemy spies from infiltrating the U.S., even though there was no evidence that refugees posed that risk.”

“Long didn’t hide what he was doing. He wrote it up in official cables. One from June 1940 read – quote – ‘We can delay and effectively stop for a temporary period of indefinite length the number of immigrants into the United States. We could do this by simply advising our consuls to put every obstacle in the way and to require additional evidence and to resort to various administrative devices which would postpone and postpone and postpone the granting of the visas.’ Postpone and postpone and postpone. As the Nazis continued to kill and kill and kill.”

“Assistant Secretary Long did still worse. He blocked cables with reports of the mass killing, which would have increased pressure for America to take in more Jews. And he lied to Congress. He told them the State Department was doing everything in its power to rescue Jews from Europe, and that the U.S. had admitted 580,000 Jewish refugees. We had only taken in around 138,000 Jews. It is important to note that Long did not act alone. Others at the State Department helped him draft and implement his policies. And still others sat silently while Long created more restrictions and delays.”

“But some did push back. A group of determined officials at the Treasury Department came up with payments to evacuate thousands of Jews in Romania and France who faced execution. After countless obstructions by officials like Long, they decided to appeal to President Roosevelt. They produced a document titled ‘Report to the Secretary on the Acquiescence of this Government in the Murder of the Jews,’ which laid out in devastating detail the State Department’s refusal to help Jews. The authors wrote – quote – ‘State Department officials have not only failed to use the government machinery at their disposal to rescue the Jews from Hitler, but have even gone so far as to use this Governmental machinery to prevent the rescue of these Jews.’ They warned – quote – ‘his government will have to share for all time responsibility for this extermination.’”

“Six days later, Roosevelt announced the creation of the War Refugee Board, to pursue ‘the immediate rescue and relief of the Jews of Europe and other victims of enemy persecution.’ And the board went on to rescue tens of thousands of Jews and help hundreds of thousands more. But by then, more than four million Jews had already been murdered.”

“From 1933 to 1943, America’s immigration quotas permitted accepting 1.5 million people. We admitted fewer that 480,000 people. More than a million slots unfilled, as thousands of Jews were murdered every day. ‘Never forget,’ the words scratched into the walls of the gas chamber tell us. I hear that warning, as the current Secretary of State, leading the institution where Breckenridge Long and others once used the levers of government to do harm.”

You can watch the whole speech here:

Other Holocaust Memorial Day stories:

President Biden’s statement

As Racial Hatred Rises, Unity Is the Best Way Forward” by Gilad Erdan and Enes Kanter (Newsweek) (This piece, released on Holocaust Remembrance Day, was written by Israel’s Ambassador to the United States and Muslim NBA star Enes Kanter).

Avdija wears special message on sneakers for Holocaust Remembrance Day” by Idan Zonshine (Jerusalem Post) (Deni Avdija is an Israeli NBA player who the Washington Wizards selected 9th overall in the 2020 NBA draft)

On Holocaust Remembrance Day, Lawmaker’s Comments Draw Fire” by Bruce DePuyt (Maryland Matters) (A lawmaker compared a mental healthcare access bill to the Holocaust on Holocaust Remembrance Day)

In first, Holocaust remembrance ceremonies held in UAE, Bahrain” (Times of Israel)

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Israeli election update:

What happened? After consulting with all of the political parties elected to the Knesset, Israeli President Reuven Rivlin decided to give the first “mandate” to form a government to Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu. Although Netanyahu still does not appear to have a clear path to assembling a government, Rivilin granted him the opportunity to try first because 52 lawmakers recommended him, compared to 45 for Yesh Atid’s Yair Lapid and 7 for Yamina’s Naftali Bennett. 16 MKs decided not to recommend any candidate.

What does this mean? Netanyahu now has the exclusive ability to form a viable governing coalition for a few weeks. However, forming a government remains a tall task for Netanyahu. For one, he still needs to somehow convince the far-right, overtly anti-Arab Religious Zionist party and Ra’am, a conservative Islamist party with ideological ties to the Muslim Brotherhood, to work together. Even if he can, he also needs to convince Bennett and his Yamina party to join the coalition, which would likely require Netanyahu to offer a rotation of the premiership. Last week, reports indicated that Netanyahu was willing to offer Bennett a rotation where Bennett would serve as Prime Minister first (though Netanyahu would remain in the Prime Minister’s residence and serve as Alternate Prime Minister). If Netanyahu wants to form a government, he’s going to have to get really creative.

Anything else? Lapid made a speech earlier this week in which he announced that he was willing to rotate the premiership with Bennett and let him serve first. That’s a big deal because if Bennett does not like the terms he gets from Netanyahu, he has an excellent insurance policy by becoming the Prime Minister. Although Bennett would prefer a more right-wing government, he retains the option to compromise and join forces with Lapid. In his speech, Lapid said that “the Israeli public needs to see that its leaders can work together.”

Further reading:https://www.jpost.com/israel-news/politics-and-diplomacy/blue-and-white-decides-to-back-lapid-664147

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Israel reportedly sabotages Iran’s Natanz nuclear facility:

What happened? Yesterday, the head of Iran’s Atomic Energy Organization, Ali Akbar Salehi, revealed that an Iranian nuclear facility had suffered a blackout, which he described as “nuclear terrorism.” Western intelligence officials suggested Israel’s Mossad spy agency was behind the incident, which targeted Iran’s primary uranium enrichment site (Natanz). The incident comes just one day after Iran announced it had begun operating advanced IR-5 and IR-6 centrifuges. Although the extent of the damage remains unclear, Iran has suggested it may retaliate, saying, “Iran reserves the right to respond against the perpetrators, and those who committed the terrorist action.” The latest reports suggested a large explosion had destroyed the independent power systems that supply the underground centrifuges, causing damage that will take at least nine months to repair.

What’s the bigger picture? Tensions between Israel and Iran are quite high right now. Israel was reportedly involved in a separate incident at Natanz and the assassination of Iran’s top nuclear scientist within the last year. A few weeks ago, an Israeli cargo ship was targeted with a limpet mine, causing minor damage. Just last week, an Iranian spy vessel in the Red Sea was damaged in an attack analysts have attributed to Israel. If Israel is indeed involved in the latest incident at Natanz, it represents yet another development in the slow-burning Israel-Iran conflict.

It’s also important to consider the timing of this incident at Natanz. Not only did it happen shortly after Iran started using more advanced centrifuges, but it also comes as the United States is engaged in diplomatic talks with other world powers about reentering the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA), or Iran Deal. Accordingly, some analysts have speculated that Iran might not be able to respond to the Natanz incident because it would complicate the United States’ efforts to reenter the deal. 

Further reading: https://www.middleeasteye.net/news/iran-accuses-israel-nuclear-terrorism-after-incident-nuclear-facility

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Honorable mentions:

Biden’s new slate of aid to Palestinians comes under intense scrutiny” by Ron Kampeas (JTA)

ADL chief calls for Tucker Carlson’s ouster after Fox News host endorses white supremacist conspiracy theory” by Ben Sales (JTA)

Local Rabbi Introduces Social Media Star David Portnoy to Tefillin” by Harvey Farr (Jewish Journal)

Editor of Orthodox newspaper the Jewish Press was inside the Capitol during the Jan. 6 breach” by Shira Hanau (JTA)

U.S. Secretary of Defense arrives in Israel amid Iran tensions” (JNS)

Israel to tell ICC it does not recognise court's authority” by Dan Williams (Reuters)

In surprise twist, enrollment in many Israel gap year programs ‘skyrocketed’ amid pandemic” by Marie-Rose Sheinerman (Forward)

Israel may have reached a ‘sort of herd immunity’ from COVID, expert says” (TOI)

ADL may have violated Wikipedia rules — editing its own entries” by Arno Rosenfeld (Forward)

The Democrats launching long-shot bids to unseat Marjorie Taylor Greene” by Marc Rod (Jewish Insider)

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