News Digest — 12/15/20

Report: Chinese Jews Celebrate Hanukkah In Secret Amid Government Crackdown

While Jewish communities worldwide are celebrating Hanukkah, the small community in China must do so in secret as Beijing works to crack down on foreign influences and unapproved religions in the country, the UK daily, The Telegraph reported.

The community in China is miniscule, consisting of around 1,000 people of which experts say only 100 are actually practicing, and have lacked a rabbi for well over a century.  However, the community goes back over a thousand years, having first settled in Kaifeng.  Even at its height during the 16th century, it numbered just 5,000.  And throughout the years, despite losing many of its members to conversion, wars, disaster and more, the community has lived on through the passing down of tradition between generations.

But as China has in recent years intensified its crackdown on unapproved religions, the community worries officials will start enforcing one against them.

“Every time we celebrate, we are scared,” a Kaifeng Jew identified only by the alias Amir, due to fears of retaliation, told The Telegraph, adding that they work to ensure Chinese authorities never catch wind of their activities.

While much attention has been focused on China’s crackdown on other religious groups, including the five faiths recognized by the Communist Party – Protestant and Catholic Christianity, Buddhism, Daoism and Islam – Judaism is not recognized despite its long history within the country.

Already, the Chinese leadership has worked to erase much of this long history, The Telegraph reported.  This includes not only the removal of museum exhibits regarding the community’s history, but also razing any physical trace of the community.  This has included removing the remains of a 12th century synagogue, alongside stones with engravings of the community’s traditions and heritage, some of which dated back as far as the 15th century.

They have also removed the few signs in Hebrew that could once be found in the city, and the spot where the few practicing Jews once gathered to pray has now been covered with Chinese propaganda, a security camera and reminders that Judaism is an illegal, unrecognized religion in the country.

Jews in China are so terrified they even fear meeting together in public.  Instead, they do so in secret, making sure on the holidays, such as Hanukkah, to find funds for kosher foods and wine.  Lacking access to Hebrew Bibles, they use Christian Bibles and disregard the New Testament.

Despite this apparent crackdown on a religion, some, such as retired rabbi and president of the Sino-Judaic Institute, Anson Laytner, don’t consider this to be an instance of anti-Semitism, according to The Telegraph report.  In fact, China has traditionally eschewed anti-Semitism altogether, with many Chinese people viewing Jews extremely favorably for their perceived success in achieving wealth and influential positions, as well as having accepted Jewish refugees during the Holocaust.

Despite reports of suppression of the tiny Chinese Jewish community, it is unlikely that this will cause any strain in Sino-Israel relations.  This, Laytner explained, is because Israel won’t want to put these ties at risk for such a small number of people.  However, it is also due to generations of intermarriage meaning that they are often not recognized as Jewish under Israeli law.



On 33rd Anniversary Hamas Vows To Free Palestine From ‘The Sea To The River’

Hamas vowed on Monday (14th) to continue the fight against Israel “until the liberation of Palestine, from the [Mediterranean] Sea to the [Jordan] River.” 

In a statement on the occasion of the 33rd anniversary of its establishment, the terror group that rules the Gaza Strip said that it would “continue to carry the banner of resistance” against Israel “until we achieve our people’s goals of freedom, the right of return [for Palestinian refugees and their descendants to their former homes inside Israel] and the restoration of our land and holy sites.”  

Hamas was founded in 1987, shortly after the beginning of the first intifada, its charter, published in 1988, calls for the “liberation of Palestine” and replacing Israel with an Islamic state.

Hamas pledged to confront “all attempts to liquidate the Palestinian cause, first and foremost the Deal of the Century,” a reference to US President Donald Trump’s plan for Middle East peace.

Hamas also vowed to confront normalization agreements between Arab countries and Israel, dubbing them a “national sin that only serves the Zionist enterprise in the region.”

Musa Abu Marzouk, member of the “Hamas political bureau,” said that his group was working to “develop the infrastructure of the Palestinian resistance in its various forms.”  Hamas is also working to extend its “resistance to the West Bank to confront Israeli and US conspiracies,” Abu Marzouk said.

He added that Hamas was facing “challenges” from the US and Israel, claiming that they are “working in cooperation with regional powers to besiege and demonize Hamas and dry up its financial resources.”

Another Hamas official, Ali Barakeh, said that Hamas was seeking to build an Arab-Islamic coalition “to confront American and Zionist projects that are hostile to the Palestinian cause.”

Barakeh said that Hamas’ top priority was to “confirm that the Palestinian issue is a national and Islamic issue, and not only a political issue.”  He added that no Arab or Muslim leader has the right to “give up one inch of the land of Palestine,”  He also revealed that Hamas was working to “strengthen the capabilities of the resistance in all its forms.”



Abbas Silent On Morocco Peace Deal

Unlike the angry reaction to the peace agreements between Israel and the United Arab Emirates and Bahrain, the Palestinian leadership is keeping a low profile following the announcement of the latest peace deal between an Arab country and Israel – opening it up to ridicule from Gulf Arabs and criticism from Palestinians, Makor Rishon reported Sunday (13th).

Palestinian leader Mahmoud Abbas and senior officials have not commented on the announcement last week that Morocco will establish diplomatic ties, becoming the fourth country to normalize relations with Israel in the past few months after the United Arab Emirates, Bahrain and Sudan.

In response to the other peace deals the Palestinian leadership accused the Arabs of selling them out and “stabbing them in the back” in bypassing the previous paradigm that no Arab country would make peace with Israel before the Palestinians had their own state.

This time Abbas refrained from continuing to ignite the fire against normalization with “Ramallah trying to look like good children in the face of the new US administration, hoping that this will lead to a change in policy on its part after years of stagnation in [Palestinian] relations with Washington,” Makor Rishon noted.

While Palestinian officials in Ramallah were silent, several prominent Arabs in eastern Jerusalem expressed their anger at Morocco, which is considered one of the countries that guard the Muslim holy places, the paper noted.

Kamal Khatib, deputy head of the northern faction of the Islamic Movement, attacked the peace agreement and reminded the Moroccans that their ancestors participated in the conquest of Jerusalem by Saladin in 1187.

“You must raise your head, as your grandfather did in the days of Saladin, which prevented the Crusaders from conquering Jerusalem,” Khatib said.



PA: Hanukkiah At Cave Of Patriarchs Constitutes ‘War Crime’

The placing of a Hanukkiah on the roof of the Cave of the Patriarchs in Hebron in celebration of Hanukkah has been denounced as a “war crime” by the Palestinian Authority, according to a report by Palestinian Media Watch (PMW).

The site is holy to both Jews and Muslims; according to the Jewish Scriptures, it is the place where the Patriarchs and Matriarchs, other than Rachel, are buried, while it is known to Muslims as the Ibrahimi Mosque.  It is however used by both Jewish and Muslims worshippers.

“The occupation [i.e. Israel]… is exploiting every opportunity, and particularly the so-called ‘Jewish holidays,’ to commit crimes and plans that desecrate our Islamic holy sites in Hebron,” Mahmoud Al-Habbash, Advisor on Religious Affairs and Islamic Relations said in a statement to WAFA, the PA’s official news agency.

According to the report, Al-Habbash described the placing of the menorah at the site a “war crime” and a blatant attack on an Islamic holy site.  

The PA Supreme Fatwa Council said that the Israelis were trying to Judaize the site and give the Cave of the Patriarchs a Jewish character, according to PMW.



Britain Is Right To Pursue Closer Military Ties To Israel – Jake Wallis Simons

Most people appreciate that it is in Britain’s national interest to have a close relationship with Israel.  Both Britain and Israel face threats from Islamist terrorists, and intelligence sharing has saved lives in both countries.  In 2014, the Mossad helped British police uncover a bomb factory in northwest London, where officers uncovered three tons of ammonium nitrate.

Mossad’s former deputy director, Ram Ben-Barak disclosed recently that an Israeli airstrike on Syria’s secret nuclear reactor in 2007 came after a tip-off from British spies.

Based on Elbit’s Hermes 450 drone, London’s Watchkeeper surveillance UAVs have saved countless British lives in Afghanistan.  Elbit has long-shared its expertise with British forces in the provision of battle management systems – software that allows combat information to be instantly shared across a fighting force.

As the British Army seeks to modernize, there are many lessons to be learned from the IDF, a democratic military machine that relies heavily on technology to engage enemies on various fronts and in diverse contexts.