News Digest — 2/17/23

Israeli FM Visits Sites Of Mass Killings In Ukraine’s Bucha, Babi Yar

Israeli Foreign Minister Eli Cohen on Thursday (16th) visited Kyiv’s suburb of Bucha, which became known for mass killings of civilians under the Russian occupation.

The minister, who arrived in Kyiv on Thursday morning (16th) to meet with his Ukrainian counterpart Dmytro Kuleba and President Volodymyr Zelensky, visited the homes of Jewish residents of Bucha.

They told Cohen about the hardships of war they had endured in the last 12 months since the start of the Russian invasion last February.

“I visited Bucha, one of the suburbs of Kyiv that was badly damaged at the beginning of the war.  It is impossible to remain indifferent in the face of the harsh sights and horror stories that I have heard and been exposed to here.  Israel condemns any intentional harm to the innocent,” said the minister.

FM Cohen then visited Babi Yar, one of the most infamous sites of Soviet Jews and Nazis.  There, Cohen said a prayer together with members of the local Jewish community and laid a wreath at the memorial to the Holocaust victims.

“We stand today in this painful place, where more than 30,000 Jews were murdered in a process that preceded the terrible final solution that led to the extinction of more than one and a half million Jews in the territories of the former Soviet Union,” he said at the commemoration site.

“Standing here today as the foreign minister of the State of Israel and as a representative of the government of Israel, I can guarantee that we will do everything to protect our people and provide them with security against those who sow evil against them,” Cohen vowed.

Later, air raid sirens blared across the Ukrainian capital as Cohen met with his Ukrainian counterpart Kuleba, sending them and their staff scurrying to a nearby shelter.



Jewish Earthquake Survivors In Antakya Rescued, Flown To Istanbul

As the death toll from Turkey’s devastating earthquakes earlier this month approaches 45,000, the Antakya Jewish community is mourning the deaths of Jewish community president, Saul Cenudioglu and his wife Fortuna.  The two were found dead by an Israeli rescue mission last week.

At the same time, members of eight Jewish families were rescued in a special operation and flown from Antakya to Istanbul.  They are being housed in a Jewish nursing home and by members of Istanbul’s Jewish community.

The operation was made possible thanks to the cooperation of Istanbul’s Jewish community (TJC), and Keren Hayesod donors.  Every effort was made to fly the survivors to Istanbul as quickly as possible despite the transportation chaos in the area.  Thanks to donations from Keren Hayesod, Istanbul’s Jewish community has arranged to provide clothing and food for the survivors of Antakya and will allow them to stay for the coming months with them, understanding that they will be unable to return to their homes in the future.

“Even in the most difficult days following the disaster, members of Turkey’s Jewish community discovered a unity which has characterized our people throughout the generations,” said Alexander Machkevitch, Keren Hayesod donor.  “I am honored to take part in this joint effort to help our fellow Jews from Antakya, and hopefully give them an opportunity to rise from the ruins, to rebuild their families and restore community life.  Our hearts are with the Turkish people during this difficult time, and we hope for a full recovery for the wounded and for the rebuilding of the area.”

Antakya’s Jewish community has a celebrated history that goes back 2,500 years.  The first mention of migration of Jews coming from Aleppo to the city can be found in “The Wars of the Jews” by the first century historian Flavius Josephus.  Antioch, as it was called then, became an important Jewish center both before and after the destruction of the Second Temple in 70 CE.  The Talmud mentions the phrase “like Antioch” in several places to describe a large city.  Today, the city’s only remaining synagogue serves a congregation of 20 people, who immediately arranged for removal of their synagogue’s Torah scrolls from the dangerous area.  While last week’s earthquakes are not the first to hit the city, this marks the first real threat to the very existence of the Jewish community in Antakya.



Biden’s Ambassador To Israel: Trump, Netanyahu Get ‘Enormous Amount Of Credit’ For Peace Accords

US Ambassador to Israel Tom Nides on Wednesday (15th) said he gave an “enormous amount of credit” to the Trump administration for brokering the normalization accords between Israel and Muslim Arab states, which he said was a message to the world that those Arab countries “stand by Israel.”

Nides also said that the economic policies of Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, whom he refers to as “the father of the Startup Nation,” heavily contributed to the success of the Abraham Accords. 

“One of the first things I did when confirmed by the US Senate was saying, “I love the Abraham Accords,” Nides told an audience of 9,000 investors and entrepreneurs at the OurCrowd Global Investor Summit in Jerusalem.

“I give the former administration enormous amounts of credit for putting it together,” he added.

According to Nides, the Abraham Accords made Israel “a stronger democratic Jewish state” and allowed the relationships between Arab nations, including the United Arab Emirates, Bahrain and Morocco, to “create an unbelievable message to the world that they stand by Israel.”

“It just makes the region stronger…and is enormously important not only for the security of these countries, but their economic security also,” he added.

“Netanyahu’s efforts to strengthen Israel’s economy, both in his tenures as Israel’s prime minister and its finance minister, were behind his embrace of the Abraham Accords,” said Nides.

“I’m an enormous admirer of the Abraham Accords.  We need to grow it, develop it, and nurture it,” he said, noting securing a normalization agreement with Saudi Arabia is a goal of the Biden administration.



Palestinian Militant Thought Dead By PA Turns Up In Israeli Hospital

The Palestinian Authority was surprised to find out Thursday (16th) that a Palestinian terrorist presumed dead is hospitalized in Israel.

After an exchange of fire with IDF troops near the West Bank city of Jericho last week, the PA announced that five Palestinian militants were killed, identifying one as 21-year-old Thaer Aweidat.

But Aweidat had been receiving medical treatment  at the Hadassah Medical Center in Jerusalem and the misinformed PA statement came as a result of Ramallah’s recent suspension of security coordination with Israel.

The bodies of the Palestinian terrorists who had barricaded themselves during the IDF raid of Aqabat Jaber near Jericho had not been on the premises when the forces left and therefore the PA assumed they had been killed and their bodies removed by the troops.

It was assumed that the bodies of those militants who did die, including Aweidat’s brother, were being held in Israel.  But Aweidat himself  had been seriously injured and transferred to the hospital.

Israel regularly informed the PA officials of any dead or injured Palestinian in their custody when security coordination was in place.

The raid in Jericho was considered unusual because the area had previously been considered among the quietest in the West Bank in terms of the Palestinian-Israeli conflict.

Jericho is considered one of the two most important tourist attractions in the PA and is a site of Christian pilgrimages.



When Is Terror Not Terror?  When The Victims Are Jews – Lilac Sigan

In the aftermath of the shooting of seven people near a synagogue in Jerusalem, one of the deadliest mass shootings in over a decade, many media outlets including The New York Times carefully avoided the word “terror.”  In 2022, the Times mentioned Hamas, Islamic Jihad, and Hezbollah in its headlines only eight times throughout the entire year.  Only one mention of Hamas and Hezbollah was negative.  Islamic Jihad was mentioned negatively twice.  By comparison, 192 headlines mentioned Israel in a negative or critical tone.

In total, 53% of New York Times’ news coverage of Israel was negative in tone, compared with 11% that was positive.  Between January and October 2022, before the new government was elected, 60% of op-eds were negative towards Israel.  After the election, the negative tone became more extreme.

According to the Israel Security Agency (ISA), there were 2,618 terror events in 2022, 204 of them significant (shootings, bombings, stabbings, or intentional car rammings).  Another 472 significant attacks were thwarted.  The Times has stressed that most of the Palestinians killed were not terrorists, whereas IDF data shows the exact opposite.

The Times is obsessed with Israel but offers the world a monochromatic picture of the situation.  Its journalistic failing contributes to the growing hatred of the world’s only Jewish state, and the global rise in antisemitism that comes with it.

The writer is an Israeli author and journalist who completed a year-long study of the coverage of Israel in the New York Times for Ma’ariv and Bar Ilan University.  



EU, U.S. Embrace Palestinian Lies – Bassam Tawil

PA leader Mahmoud Abbas continues to rewrite history.  On February 12th, Abbas addressed an Arab League conference in Cairo and repeated his false claim that there was no connection between Jews and Jerusalem, as well as the Western Wall of the Temple Mount, part of the retaining wall from the Second Temple of Solomon that was destroyed in 70 CE – more than 500 years before the Islamic Prophet Mohammad was born.  Abbas also once again argued that Israel was created because the Europeans wanted to get rid of the Jews living in their countries, when in fact the Jews have continuously lived in the Holy Land area since at least 1550 BCE.

Two days after Abbas’ latest attempt to rewrite history, his friends in the Biden administration and some European countries issued a joint statement attacking Israel for advancing plans to build new homes for Jewish families in the West Bank, claiming that this would “exacerbate tensions between Israelis and Palestinians.”

It is the Palestinian leadership’s refusal to accept Israel’s right to exist as the homeland of the Jewish people, and to erase history that is exacerbating tensions between Israelis and Jews.  It is the Palestinian leadership’s massive campaign of incitement against Israel and Jews and continued glorification of terrorists that is aggravating tensions between Israelis and Palestinians.

Abbas made it clear in Cairo that the Arabs’ problem with Israel started back in 1917, when the Jews were promised a homeland of their own.  The conflict started long before the construction of even one house for Jews in the West Bank.