News Digest — 3/13/20

Israel Shutters Schools And Universities As Coronavirus Rages On

On Thursday (12th) Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu announced Israel is closing its schools and universities in an effort to prevent coronavirus contagion.

While Netanyahu excluded kindergartens, boarding schools and special education institutions from the closure announced on Thursday (12th), he noted that a forthcoming decision on them would also be announced.

Netanyahu described the coronavirus pandemic as a “global event” that is “unlike anything else” that has occurred since the State of Israel was established.

While no one in Israel has died from the disease, the prime minister told the nation to brace for potentially “large numbers” of casualties from the virus, which has infected 109 people in Israel so far.

Israel on Thursday (12th) issued a ban on the entry of any non-nationals incapable of self-quarantine, all but ending the nation’s generally robust incoming tourism industry.

Netanyahu’s announcement arrived a day after the World Health Organization (WHO) declared coronavirus a pandemic and urged aggressive action from all countries to fight it.

“We have called every day for countries to take urgent and aggressive action.  We have rung the alarm bell loud and clear,” WHO’s chief Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus said Wednesday (11th).

“All can still change the course of this pandemic If countries detect, test. Isolate and mobilize their people to respond,” he said.

While Italy exceeds 12,000 cases and the United States has topped 1,300, China reported a record-low of just 15 new cases Thursday (12th) and 75% of infected patients have recovered.

“If you want to be blunt, Europe is the new China,” said Robert Redfield the head of the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.



PA Official: Israel Exploiting Coronavirus To Promote Annexation

PLO Executive Committee member Hanan Ashrawi on Wednesday (11th) accused Israel of exploiting the coronavirus pandemic to “annex Palestinian occupied territories.”

According to a report in Israel National News, Ashrawi urged the international community to prevent Israel “from taking advantage of the global health and economic crisis” to promote its plan.

“Israel is taking advantage of the spread of the coronavirus to accelerate the process of annexing territories in the West Bank and provide protection for the armed extremist settlers to continue their ‘terror’ against the ‘helpless’ Palestinian people, Ashwari said in a statement.

The statement was released following remarks by Defense Minister Naftali Bennett that he plans to promote paving a road between the E1 area and Jerusalem, which he called the “Road of Sovereignty” project.

The E1 area,, which stretches across 4 miles east of the Jerusalem municipal boundary between Jerusalem and the suburb of Ma’aleh Adumim, has been the focus of Israeli conservancy for years.

Meanwhile the Palestinians declared a state of emergency this week over the growing numbers of COVID-19 cases in the PA-territories.    



U.S. To Stop Calling Arab Residents Of Jerusalem “Palestinians” – Ariel Kahana

In a new human rights report released by the State Department on Wednesday (11th), the U.S. refers to the Arab residents of Israel’s capital as “non-Israeli residents who live in Jerusalem.”  U.S. officials told Israel Hayom that the new definition reflects reality: the Arab residents are not Israeli citizens, but there is no Palestinian state, so they cannot be considered Palestinian citizens.  A senior U.S. official said “the goal of this report is to maximize accuracy….Peace can only be built on a foundation of truth, anything else will crumble and fall.”

One U.S. official said the administration was surprised by the strong disavowal by Israeli Arabs of the U.S. peace plan and its call for land swaps that would have some Israeli Arabs live in a new Palestinian state.  For dozens of years, Arabs in Israel have called themselves Palestinians and, therefore, the U.S. can’t understand why they are so vehemently against becoming citizens of a Palestinian state.



Christian Israeli-Arab High School Holds ‘Palestine Day,’ Wipes Israel Off Map

A high school in the Israeli-Arab city of Shfar Am held a “Heritage Day for the Palestinian People” this week that wiped Israel off the map, the Makor Rishon newspaper reported.

Organized at the Episcopal Catholic High School, the event celebrated cultural heritage, including a mock “Palestinian wedding” and culinary traditions.  However, there were also Palestinian flags on the wall and maps of “Palestine” in place of Israel.

The event featured the popular cartoon character “Handala,” a barefoot Palestinian refugee drawn by the late cartoonist Naji al-Ali, who was known for his sharp criticism of Israel.

Political activists from the Balad party, one of the four Arab parties comprising the Joint List, also attended the event, the report said.  Balad opposes Israel as a Jewish state and former party leaders have voiced support for the Iran-backed Hezbollah terror group in Lebanon.

The Zionist watchdog in Tirtzu called on the Education Ministry to take immediate action.

“It is inconceivable that an Israeli high school under the supervision of the Education Ministry is brainwashing its students into thinking that they are Palestinians and must hate Israel,” said Im Tirtzu CEO Matan Peleg.

In response, the education ministry said the incident was being investigated Makor Rishon said.



Powerful Storms In Israel With 70-100 MPH Winds

Already buffeted by political gridlock and facing shuttering of key industries over the coronavirus threat, Israelis were informed on Thursday (12th) they should brace themselves for yet other storms – literal ones this time.

Local authorities issued warnings Thursday (12th) over winds set to surpass 70-100 mph, dense dust clouds and enough rain to cut off outlying smaller cities and threaten large cities with severe flooding.

Israel’s southwestern neighbor, Egypt announced it was closing schools and universities on Thursday (12th) over fears that storms would cause flooding, Egyptian media reported.

The weather warning in Israel began at 8 p.m. Thursday, when winds were expected to pick up and reach from 70-100 mph in mountainous areas in the center and north of the country, from the Judean hills to the Carmel range above Haifa.  From there they would expand to include the coastal plain.

Wind damage was to be expected from fallen trees, downed wires, and flying debris.  The winds were forecasted to be carrying massive amounts of dust from North Africa that could reduce visibility in some areas to 65 feet.

Powerful rains into Friday morning (13th) were to stretch from the Jerusalem-Tel Aviv line in the center of the country south to Gaza and down to the Israel-Egypt border.

The heaviest rains on Friday (13th) were to be in Jerusalem and the central West Bank where flooding would be expected.

The storms would diminish Friday evening (13th), forecasters said.