News Digest — 12/31/19

Israeli Cabinet Votes To Withhold $43 Million In Tax Funds From Terror-Financing Palestinian Authority

The Israeli Security Cabinet on Sunday (29th) voted to withhold $43 million of tax funds from Palestinians, saying that is the amount of money the Palestinian Authority (PA) has paid terrorists to commit violence in 2018, Israel media reported.

The sum includes funds that Israel says the Palestinians have used to pay the families of Palestinians who have been jailed or killed as a result of attacking Israel.  As a matter of PA law, money automatically flows to terrorists and their families acting as both an incentive and a reward for violence against Israel.

The Palestinians say the money is for vulnerable families affected by violence, skirting the question of where the violence originated.  They condemned the Israeli decision.

PA Civil Affairs Minister Hussein al-Sheikh said in a statement, “We will continue to pay salaries to the martyrs and families of the wounded no matter the cost,” noting that the PA intended to take unspecified steps in response to the Israeli decision. 

Under past agreements, Israel collects customs and other taxes on behalf of the Palestinians and transfers the money to the PA.  These monthly transfers, about $170 million, are a key source of funding for the budget of the authority, which administers parts of Judea and Samaria.

Israel passed a law deducting parts of these transfers in 2018 saying the funds were supporting terrorists’ families.

In February, after Israel withheld $140 million, the Palestinians said they would reject all tax transfers to protest Israeli policy.  But six months later, in a deep financial crisis, the PA backed down from its position.

Some Israeli lawmakers express anger that Israel is transferring any money to the PA.



Israel Will Not Make Deal With Hamas Without Return Of Hostages

A Hamas official says Israel will not sign onto a large-scope ceasefire arrangement unless IDF soldiers’ bodies and live civilian citizens are returned as part of the agreement, Israel Hayom reported on Monday (30th).

“The message that Israel delivered was firm,” the senior official told the Israeli daily.  “Long-term projects that the UN and Qatar have undertaken to finance, and that Hamas has agreed to carry out, will not be permitted.”

Hamas has been holding two bodies of soldiers from Operation Protective Edge in 2014, Hadar Goldin and Oron Shaul.  The terror group is also holding two mentally ill civilians who crossed into Gaza on their own in 2014 and 2015 respectively, Avera Mengistu and Hisham al-Sayed.  They are considered still alive.

Israel’s security cabinet discussed theoretical outlines of an arrangement with the Gaza terrorist organization at its Sunday meeting (29th) that contained other gestures as well according to a Channel 12 news report.

These included letting more Gazans enter Israel to work, expanding the fishing zone, and construction of a natural gas pipeline.  These humanitarian gestures would go into effect if Hamas stopped launching rocket attacks and significantly decreased the violence at the Friday border protests it has produced since March 2018.

Hamas announced last week that beginning in March 2020, it would only hold riots once a month and on “national occasions.



‘A Strange Paradox:’ Abbas Derides Israel For Softening On Hamas, Punishing PA

Palestinian leader Mahmoud Abbas has called Israel’s move to achieve ceasefire understandings with Hamas, while withholding funds from Ramallah and advancing settlement activity in the West Bank, a “strange paradox.”

Abbas made the comment in a speech to Fatah members on Sunday (29th) at the PA leader’s headquarters in Ramallah.

“Here we are blocked from funds and the land is being gradually taken.  Over there in Gaza, understandings for a calming and quiet are being done,” he said.

“The strange paradox is that there are deals for a calming there, while there is a daily decision and decree to squeeze us here,” he added.

For over a year, Egypt and other international parties have brokered various informal ceasefire understandings between Israel and terror groups in Gaza, including Hamas, which controls the coastal enclave.

The PA has vehemently opposed them, arguing that Hamas does not have the legitimacy to make deals with Israel.



Jews Are Going Underground – Deborah Lipstadt

In Europe and the United States, Jews have been repeatedly assaulted on the street.  Anti-Semites seem to think it is open season on Jews. And maybe, given the many incidents, they are right.

Most Jewish students on American campuses have not been subjected to overt acts of discrimination or verbal abuse.  But many among them feel they have something to lose if they openly identify as Jews. If they are active in Hillel, the Jewish student organization, they may be informally barred from being active in progressive causes.  Those who want to be elected to student government are learning to scrub their resumes clean of any overtly Jewish or pro-Israel activities. They are not abandoning their Jewish identity; they are hiding it.

When Jews feel it is safer for them to go “underground” as Jews, something is terribly wrong – for them and for the society in which they live.  Jews are taking anti-Semitism very seriously. Non-Jews must do the same. No healthy democracy can afford to tolerate anti-Semitism in its midst.  It is one of the long-term signs of rot in that democracy. If you care about democracy, you should care about the Jews among you, and the anti-Semites too.

The writer is professor of Holocaust History at Emory University.



Jewish College Student Is Attacked on New York Subway

Yonatan Herzfeld was taking the S train from Grand Central Station to Times Square on Sunday afternoon (29th) when he was chased off the subway car by an African-American male.

“The middle-aged male was shouting about my kippa and drawing a circle, referring to my skullcap (kippa) saying, ‘what’s that you got on your head,’” Herzfeld said.

 As the situation escalated and the assailant shouted more slurs, Herzfeld took out his phone to record the anti-Semitic incident.

“I wanted to have evidence for whatever he was about to do,” said Herzfeld, a student at Stony Brook University.  “He then chased me off the train so fast I couldn’t even grab my suitcase and I had to circle back into the train to get it. When the train door closed, I stood as far from him as I could.”

Herzfeld believes the man was simply set off by the fact he was wearing a yarmulke.

“When the train pulled up to Times Square, he was ahead of me, and the only way out was to get past him, Herzfeld explained.  “But he kept coming closer toward me, so I was backing up closer and closer to the wall until there was no more room.”

“I screamed ‘help’ several times at the top of my lungs, and that startled him for a few seconds, which gave me enough time to use my suitcase as a shield and push past the mobs of people.  They all stood frozen.”



Hanukkah: A Trust Deed To The Birthplace Of Jewish History – Judea Pearl

→ Hanukkah is our trust deed to the birthplace of our history, more solid even than the ancient synagogues they are excavating in Israel.  A continuous collective memory, passed on over 110 generations, is unassailable proof that no one can fake.

→ My mother arrived in Israel in 1935.  She said: “The first day after my arrival, I met a neighbor, a teacher who invited me to visit her kindergarten.  There I experienced one of the happiest days of my life. Scores of children were standing there loudly singing Hanukkah songs, in Hebrew, as if this was the most natural thing to do, as if they were singing those songs for hundreds of years.”

→ “Didn’t your family celebrate Hanukkah in Poland?” I asked.  She said: “Yes, we lit the candles, but it was in a dark corner, with my father whispering the blessings….You see, the neighbors were Gentile, and he did not feel comfortable advertising that we celebrated a Jewish holiday.”

→ Only those who have gone through the exhilarating experience of a people returning to its homeland could truly appreciate the gift that history has bestowed upon the Jews: singing songs of the Maccabee heroes in the language used in Jerusalem 2200 years ago.

→ The Grand Mufti of Jerusalem understood that the Jewish immigrants were not crusaders, nor Mongolian invaders, but the original owners of the place.  The tragedy is that the Palestinians chose to reject mutual recognition.

The writer is Chancellor professor at UCLA and president of the Daniel Pearl Foundation.