News Digest — 1/5/23

Jason Greenblatt: Why Is The U.S. Tolerating Discrimination Against Jews On The Temple Mount?

Former White House Special Envoy to the Middle East Jason Greenblatt questioned the U.S. Ambassador to Israel’s response to Israeli Minister Itamar Ben-Gvir’s visit to the Temple Mount on Tuesday (3rd) in which the ambassador said that the Biden administration condemns all actions which undermine the “status quo” on the Temple Mount.

“Like so many things about this conflict, people say different things – ‘status quo, historical status quo, legal status quo’ – and people define these differently.  The demands to maintain the so-called status is completely unhelpful and deepens the problem,” Greenblatt wrote in a Twitter thread Wednesday (4th).

He continued: “And if we were to use ‘historical status quo’ let’s understand actual ‘history’ and remember that Jews (of which I am a very proud one), had two Jewish Temples on the site and worshiped on this holy site for a very significant period of time, over the span of two Temple periods.” 

Greenblatt questioned why the current U.S. administration endorses a policy which discriminates against Jews at the holiest site in Judaism.  “In a world where people of good faith are attempting to fight against all sorts of discrimination (a good thing to be sure) why is the discrimination against Jews and Jewish prayer at the holiest site for Jews still demanded?”

“It never made sense to me that this wasn’t part of the ‘status quo.’  That’s why in the peace plan that we released, it called for all religions to be allowed to pray at the site which is holy to countless people around the world, and to end the discrimination against Jews at this site.  To demand otherwise is completely dishonest.  Let’s end the discrimination, once and for all,” he said.

Greenblatt was responding to statements by Ambassador Nides to Axios reporter Barak Ravid shortly after Ben-Gvir’s visit, in which Nides protested any perceived changes to the status quo on the Temple Mount.

“To be very clear – we want to preserve the status quo and actions that prevent this are unacceptable.  We have been very clear in our conversations with the Israeli government on this issue,” Nides said.



‘Pathological Obsession:’ Cruz Blasts US Administration Over Condemnation Of Israel

US Senator Ted Cruz (R-TX), a member of the Committee on Foreign Relations, blasted the Biden administration on Wednesday (4th), after top administration officials condemned Israel and suggested that the government may be changing the “status quo” regarding the Temple Mount following National Security Minister Itamar Ben-Gvir’s visit to the compound.

“The US administration’s pathological obsession with undermining Israel is endangering the national security of America and our allies,” said Cruz.

“A visit by a minister from Israel’s government to a site ‘inside Israel’ is not a change in any status quo arrangement, and it should not be controversial for a Jew to visit the holiest site in Judaism,” he clarified.  

“The statements from the Biden White House and State Department, which suggest otherwise, will further destabilize the Middle East and risk inciting terrorism.  They convince Palestinian officials that compromise is unnecessary because Democrat administrations will coerce our Israeli allies into making dangerous concessions.

Cruz said that the current administration “has consistently sought to undermine Israel’s security and sovereignty over its territory.  It prohibited even mentioning the ‘Abraham Accords,’ sought to open a Palestinian consulate in Israel’s capital Jerusalem, unleashed the FBI against the Israeli army, and publicly ostracized parts of Israel’s democratically-elected government.

“Meanwhile, this administration is pouring over a billion dollars into Palestinian areas and bringing officials from the terrorist Palestine Liberation Organization (PLO) to Washington, DC.  And it continues to double-down on these disastrous policies,” he concluded.



Israeli Minister Asks To Revoke Citizenship Of Terrorists Set To Be Freed

Interior Minister Aryeh Deri asked the attorney general Wednesday (4th) to revoke the citizenship of two Palestinian terrorists who killed an IDF soldier 40 years ago.

Brothers Maher and Karim Younis murdered Cpl. Avraham Bromberg in 1980 while he was on his way home, and the two are expected to be released from prison in the coming days after serving four decades behind bars.

“It’s unthinkable that these kinds of people will continue to hold Israeli citizenship,” he said in a letter to Attorney General Gali Baharav-Miara.

“Canceling their citizenship will send an important message when it comes to those who have become ‘symbols’ of committing terrorist and criminal acts.  This move has legal validity in circumstances when people use their Israeli citizenship to harm the State of Israel and its citizens,” Deri added.

According to the indictment, the two terrorists assaulted the 20-year-old soldier, snatched his personal weapon, shot him in the head and left him by the side of the road to die.  He was transferred to Rambam Health Care Campus in Haifa in critical condition, where he was pronounced dead four days later on December 1, 1980.

The authority of the Interior Minister currently allows him to revoke the citizenship of terrorists and deport them only if they have additional citizenship besides the Israeli one.

They are normally deported to their place of origin, whether it is the West Bank or to European countries.  The new government intends to change this, but in the meantime, it is legally complicated and requires the support of the attorney general.



‘Insulting And Indecent:’ Iran Protests Cartoons Ridiculing Supreme Leader Ali Khamenei

Iran warned France on Wednesday (4th) it would respond to “insulting” cartoons depicting Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei in the satirical magazine Charlie Hebdo.

The weekly had published dozens of cartoons earlier that day ridiculing the highest religious and political figure in Iran, claiming they were part of a competition in support of the ongoing protests – triggered by the September death of Mahsa Amini, an Iranian-Kurdish woman killed while in the custody of Tehran’s so-called “morality” police for wearing her hijab “incorrectly.”

“The insulting and indecent act of a French publication in publishing cartoons against the religious and political authority will not go without an effective and decisive response,” Iran’s Foreign Minister Hossein Amir-Abdollahian tweeted.  “We will not allow the French government to go beyond its bounds.  They have definitely chosen the wrong path.”

Charlie Hebdo  said the content aimed “to support the struggle of Iranians who are fighting for their freedom.”

Hundreds have been killed and thousands arrested in protests that Iran has blamed on foreign powers – including Israel, the United States, and France.

The French satirical magazine published caricatures in a special edition to mark the anniversary of a deadly attack on its Paris office on January 7, 2015.  At the time, the assailants said they were acting on behalf of Al Qaeda to avenge the magazine’s decision to publish cartoons of the Prophet Mohammed.



How Many Tourists Came To Israel In 2022?

More than 2.67 million tourists arrived in the Holy Land in 2022, a huge spike after the industry took a big hit due to the coronavirus pandemic.

As Covid-19 rammed into Israel and countries worldwide, 2020 only saw a mere 831,000 tourists and 2021 less than half that with 397,000.  So seeing millions arriving in Israel this past year was a huge win. 

These still are not pre-pandemic numbers.  The year 2019 was a record year for Israel’s tourism industry, with over 4.55 million tourists coming to visit.

Nevertheless, 2022’s tourists brought a massive income into the country of NIS 13.5 billion.

According to the Tourism Ministry, while North American tourists came far more this year than they had the previous two years, their number in 2022 is still 19% lower than 2019.

Central and South America, however, both saw significant growth in the arrival of tourists in 2022 compared to 2019.  Central America saw a massive 50% increase – from approximately 33,250 tourists in 2019 to 50,000 in 2022 – while South America saw an even higher 92% increase – from approximately 65,450 to 125,800.

The most tourists came in October of 2022, with approximately 333,500 entering the country that month.  The weakest month was January, when coronavirus pandemic travel restrictions were at their peak so only about 46,00 tourists entered the country.

Newly inaugurated Tourism Minister Haim Katz saw the tourism numbers of the year as an improvement, claiming that “breaking the incoming tourism record of 2019 is a realistic goal on the horizon,” adding that “2022 was a year of recovery from the coronavirus crisis.”

“Our goal is to reduce obstacles, to launch projects that increase the accommodation supply and develop infrastructure to fully realize the tourism potential in the country.”

He further spoke in favor of “domestic tourism,” or “staycations” as many like to call them, saying that they have proven themselves to be “an economic force just as essential as incoming tourism.”

The industry has now set its sights on bringing Israel to the next level of tourism, with hotels cropping up left and right and major international players glad the coronavirus pandemic is in the past.



Kentucky Jewish Council Releases Its First-Ever Antisemitism Report

The Kentucky Jewish Council released its first-ever antisemitism report on Tuesday (3rd) amid record-high antisemitic incidents.

The report lists over 30 antisemitic incidents that occurred throughout 2022, which is an unprecedented amount for Kentucky.

In 2021, Kentucky became the first state to adopt the International Holocaust Alliance’s Definition of Antisemitism (IHRA).

In response to the rise of antisemitism in his community, Rabbi Shlomo Litvin, Chairman of the Kentucky Jewish Council stated that “we have seen a horrifying rise in Jew hatred, both across the country and right here in Kentucky…from the shocking attempted murder of a Jewish candidate for office to repeated issues in the political spectrum – Kentucky has made far too many headlines for the wrong reasons this year.”

The report makes note of a particularly extreme incident that happened in February 2022 when an assassination attempt was carried out on Jewish mayoral candidate Craig Greenberg.  Greenberg’s attempted assassinator, Quintez Brown, had previously made antisemitic social media posts and met with a Black Hebrew Israelite hate leader.

Only a day after the attempted assassination of Greenberg, threats were made against synagogues in Lexington by phone call.

Antisemitism is rampant within the culture of America, and one example the report makes note of is when a Kentucky legislator used the term “Jew-them-down” – a phrase intended to connect Jews with the stereotype of being cheap, frugal and constantly bargaining.

‘Nation of Islam’ then also sent antisemitic messages to State Legislatures asking for them to take action against the Jewish community.

It would seem that legislators in Kentucky have a particular problem with antisemitism as one representative submitted an amendment to treat the Jewish community differently.  Unfortunately, the report does not expand on what “differently” means.

In another instance, a Kentucky state representative made an out-of-place speech referencing Jewish women, the Holocaust, and Jewish involvement in abortion, prompting the representative to meet with Jewish leaders following the speech. 

Following the pattern of poor behavior, The Libertarian Party of Kentucky, whose online behavior has often included offensive speech, doubled down on previous antisemitic posts, and eventually blocked numerous Jewish leaders and organizations.

There are significantly more incidents listed in the eight-page report from further threats to synagogues, antisemitism in the media, and physical assaults.  Community centers and private homes have also been targeted with threats of attack and some have been vandalized.