News from March 8 to March 14

Meyers Leonard, Israeli election update, and honorable mentions

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Meyers Leonard uses antisemitic slur during live stream:

What happened? Last week, NBA player Meyers Leonard used an antisemitic slur while live-streaming himself playing Call of Duty. Specifically, the Miami Heat player said, “Don’t f***ing snipe me, you f***ing k*ke b*tch.” Shortly afterward, Leonard appeared to receive a call, which he said was from his sister, and abruptly left the livestream. The NBA announced on Thursday that Leonard would be fined $50,000 and suspended for one week. You can watch a clip of the incident here (Warning: NSFW language):

How have people reacted? Here are some notable reactions:

Julian Edelman (NFL player): “So we've never met, I hope we can one day soon. I'm sure you've been getting lots of criticism for what you said. Not trying to add to that, I just want to offer some perspective. I get the sense that you didn't use that word out of hate, more out of ignorance. Most likely, you weren't trying to hurt anyone or even profile Jews in your comment. That's what makes it so destructive. When someone intends to be hateful, it's usually met with great resistance. Casual ignorance is harder to combat and has greater reach, especially when you command great influence. Hate is like a virus. Even accidentally, it can rapidly spread. I'm down in Miami fairly often. Let's do a Shabbat dinner with some friends. I'll show you a fun time. JE." 

(Personal note: Major props to Edelman for using his platform to educate! He did something similar after the DeShaun Jackson incident last year, and it’s awesome)

Meyers Leonard: “I am deeply sorry for using an anti-Semitic slur during a livestream yesterday. While I didn’t know what the word meant at the time, my ignorance about its history and how offensive it is to the Jewish community is absolutely not an excuse and I was just wrong. I am now more aware of its meaning and I am committed to properly seeking out people who can educate me about this type of hate and how we can fight it. I acknowledge and own my mistake and there is no running from something like this that is so hurtful to someone else. This is not a proper representation of who I am and I want to apologize to the Arisons, my teammates, my coaches, the front office, and everyone associated with the Miami Heat organization, to my family, to our loyal fans and others in the Jewish community who I have hurt. I promise to do better and know that my future actions will be more powerful than my use of this word.”

NBA: "Meyers Leonard’s comment was inexcusable and hurtful and such an offensive term has no place in the NBA or in our society. Yesterday, he spoke to representatives of the Anti-Defamation League to better understand the impact of his words and we accept that he is genuinely remorseful. We have further communicated to Meyers that derogatory comments like this will not be tolerated and that he will be expected to uphold the core values of our league – equality, tolerance, inclusion and respect – at all times moving forward.”

Miami Heat (which is owned by the Jewish Arison family): “Today, the NBA announced its discipline of Meyers Leonard, which included the maximum allowable fine of $50,000, a suspension from all HEAT activities for one week, and requiring that he participate in cultural diversity training. While we remain hurt and disappointed by what he said, we are encouraged that Meyers has started to take the necessary steps to educate himself about why his comments were so offensive. We will continue to communicate with Meyers and his representatives while he remains away from the team.”

Further reading:

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Israeli election update:

What happened? With elections just eight days away, Israeli politicians are pulling out all the stops to attract as many votes as possible. Last week, reports indicated that Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu was trying to flex his foreign policy credentials by visiting the United Arab Emirates for the first time since the signing of the Abraham Accords (he has attempted to visit the UAE several times before, but the trip was canceled each time for a variety of reasons). However, the UAE initially declined to host the visit, not wanting to be involved in the upcoming Israeli election. Still, Netanyahu reportedly deployed Mossad director Yossi Cohen, who convinced the UAE to host Netanyahu.

Ultimately, though, Netanyahu and Cohen’s efforts were moot because Jordan declined Netanyahu’s plane permission to traverse Jordanian airspace. Earlier last week, Jordanian Crown Prince Hussein Bin Abdullah canceled his planned trip to the Temple Mount when Israeli officials refused to allow some of his security team into Israel. Jordan claims that Israel changed the security arrangements for the Crown Prince at the last minute, though Israeli reports suggested that the Crown Prince brought more security than Israel expected. Either way, the trip caused a lot of tension between Jordan and Israel, which led Jordan to withhold airspace rights for Netanyahu’s plane. Regardless, as some have pointed out, flying around the southern tip of Jordan, as opposed to through the middle of the country, would have likely only added about 20 minutes to the flight. It is hard to say what really happened, especially because Jordan allowed removed overflight restrictions later in the day.

What do the polls say? There are new polls every day in Israel, and they don’t really differ too wildly, so here’s an example of a recent Channel 13 poll (Remember, there are 120 seats total):

Likud: 29

Yesh Atid: 20

Yamina: 11

New Hope: 9

Joint List: 8

United Torah Judaism: 7

Yisrael Beitenu: 7

Shas: 6

Labor: 6

Religious Zionism: 5

Blue and White: 4

Meretz: 4

Ra’am: 4

Let’s break it down: If this were to be the result next week, Netanyahu would not be able to form a governing coalition. Likud, United Torah Judaism, Shas, and Religious Zionism would only add up to 47 seats. Even if the bloc were to add Yamina, the only party which has not ruled out sitting in a Netanyahu government, it would still only have 58 seats, three short of the 61 needed to form a government. Still, some believe Ra’am, an Islamist party led by the pragmatic MK Mansour Abbas, might be willing to support Netanyahu’s government. On the anti-Netanyahu side of things, it is similarly challenging to see a viable coalition. Yesh Atid, led by Yair Lapid, would be the anti-Netanyahu coalition’s natural leader since Yesh Atid would have double the seats of the next closest party. However, the leaders of Yamina and New Hope have vowed not to sit in a Lapid government. From their perspective, if most of the bloc’s voters are right-wing voters, the leader should be right-wing as well. Regardless, it would be unprecedented for a party with only around ten seats to lead an Israeli government. Even if Yamina and New Hope ultimately agree to sit under Lapid, it would still be difficult to form a stable government. The coalition would likely have to include both Yamina, one of the most right-wing parties, and Meretz, one of the most left-wing parties. As a result, there’s a good chance there will be a fifth election in two years!

Further reading:

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Honorable mentions:

Our Orthodox communities got COVID-19 early. We led a study to turn tragedy into science.” by Avi Rosenberg, Jonathan Silverberg, Jason Zimmerman, and Israel Zyskind (JTA) 

Natalie Portman Will Star in a New, Very Jewish TV Show!” by Lior Zaltzman (Kveller)

Israeli Strikes Target Iranian Oil Bound for Syria” by Gordon Lubold, Benoit Faucon, and Felicia Schwartz (WSJ) (This story is a pretty big deal, and there has been a lot of coverage in Israeli media about its implications, especially in light of the recent attack on an Israeli tanker in the Gulf of Oman)

Best friends separated in the Holocaust just reunited. They were ‘laughing like they were still 9 years old,’ family said.” by Sydney Page (WaPo)

Syrians tried to use Israeli woman who crossed border to capture IDF troops” (Times of Israel)

Trump showed off photos of naked women at a shiva, report says” by Ron Kampeas (JTA)

IDF becomes first vaccinated military in the world” by Yaakov Lippin (JNS) (You can read a great follow-up article about how the IDF is supporting Israel’s vaccination effort here)

Czech Republic opens branch of its embassy in Jerusalem” (JNS)

Most Jewish groups mum amid growing pressure on Cuomo to resign” by Jacob Kornbluh (Forward)

Interpol drops arrest warrant for Sbarro bomber Ahlam al-Tamimi” (JPost)

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