News Digest — 3/14/23

Knesset Passes First Of Three Votes On Bill Meant To Override Judicial Reviews

Israel’s parliament passed the first reading of a controversial bill early Tuesday (14th), pushing forward with a measure that would allow lawmakers to protect laws from judicial review.

The plenum split between coalition-opposition lines, with 61 voting in favor of the measure, and 52 voting against after a long filibuster.

If passed, Israeli parliamentarians will be able to add an override clause to immunize specific laws from judicial review with a majority of 61 out of 120 seats, in effect for as long as the coalition remains in power.  After a year, the possibility to extend comes under review.

The proposed law would also limit the Supreme Court’s judicial review, requiring 80 percent of its justices to overturn a law.

This is the first of three votes before the bill becomes law. For now, it heads to Israel’s Constitution, Law and Justice Committee for revisions ahead of the final votes, which usually come in short succession.

The controversial bill is part of reforms proposed by Justice Minister Yariv Levin that have sparked massive protests in the country.

Opponents say that if the bill passes, it would grant Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s coalition unbridled power.

For the time being, it appears unlikely there will be a compromise despite widespread opposition and calls by President Isaac Herzog to halt the legislation.



Father Leaves Hospital, Visits Graves Of Sons Killed In Ramot Attack

Avraham Paley, the father of Yaakov Yisrael Paley, 5, and Asher Menachem Paley, 7, the children who were killed in a ramming attack in the Ramot neighborhood of Jerusalem last month, left the hospital for the first time since the attack Monday (13th) and visited the grave of his sons.

Paley, 42, who was seriously injured in the attack, was sedated for two weeks and only learned of the death of his children nearly three weeks after the attack upon regaining consciousness.

He went straight to the Har Hamenuchot cemetery immediately upon leaving Hadassah Ein Kerem Hospital Monday afternoon (13th), and arrived in a wheelchair via ambulance.

Paley was informed of the tragic loss of his two sons by his wife, Devora, his mother, and his brother, with the aid of staff at Hadassah Ein Kerem Hospital.  He underwent multiple surgeries in the weeks since the attack.

After learning of the fate of his sons, Paley said that “God did this due to my sins,” and also performed the traditional Jewish mourning practice of tearing his clothing.

Upon leaving the hospital, Paley thanked the medical staff who saved his life.  “I thank all those of the staff who took care of me with devotion from the moment I arrived at Hadassah, both in the intensive care unit and the surgical department.  I thank everyone for accompanying me during these difficult moments,” he said.



Terrorism Suspected As Roadside Bomb Injures One In Northern Israel

An explosion in northern Israel, apparently caused by a roadside bomb, left one man seriously injured, police said Monday morning (13th).

The victim, 21-year-old Shareef ad-Din, a resident of the Israeli-Arab village of Salem in the Jezreel Valley, was driving down eastbound Route 65 near Megiddo Junction at approximately 6:00 am on Monday morning (13th) when an explosion on the side of the road struck his vehicle – a road maintenance truck – as it passed by.

Emergency first responders from Magen David Adom were dispatched to the scene, treating ad-Din before evacuating him to Emek Medical Center in Afula.  He was later transferred to Rambam Medical Center in Haifa.

Ad-Din was fully conscious as he was evacuated via ambulance.  He is listed in serious condition suffering from shrapnel wounds across his entire body, including his head.

Police closed Route 65 to traffic in both directions around the scene of the explosion until 3:30 pm.

According to the findings of a preliminary probe of the incident, the explosion was caused by a bomb hidden behind a barrier on the shoulder of the road.

A joint investigation by police and the Shin Bet internal security agency has been opened into the explosion, amid suspicions the bombing may have been terror-related.

The scene of the bombing is just 1.8 miles away from the Green Line separating pre-1967 Israel from Samaria.

If Monday’s (13th) explosion is found to be the result of a terrorist bombing, it would be the latest in a string of Palestinian Arab terror attacks across the country.

Last Thursday (9th), a Hamas terrorist opened fire on pedestrians on Tel Aviv’s Dizengoff Street, wounding three, before he was eliminated by security personnel.

That same evening, an Arab terrorist planted a bomb on a bus in the haredi city of Beitar Illit, south of Jerusalem.

The next day, a terrorist infiltrated an Israeli farm in Samaria, brandishing knives and hurling multiple bombs, two of which exploded.  The owner of the farm responded with gunfire, fatally wounding the terrorist.



Islamic Group Declares “Fatwa” Against Hamas For Corruption – Abuse Of Gazans

A prominent Islamic religious group recently issued a ‘fatwa,’ or condemnation, against Hamas, citing widespread corruption and the abuse of Gazans who are ruled by the terror group.

“Hamas bears responsibility for its own reign of corruption and terror against Palestinian civilians within Gaza” and Muslims around the world are “prohibited to pray for, join, support, finance or fight on behalf of Hamas,” the Islamic Fatwa Council said in a statement explaining the ruling.

The Iraq-based council, which is composed of leading scholars from the Sunni, Shia, and Sufi streams of Islam, has previously issued ‘fatwas’ against the Al-Qaeda and Boko Haram Islamic terror groups.

“As an Islamic legal body, we take note of the condition of the oppressed all over the world,” Muhammad Ali Al-Maqdisi, a cleric from the Islamic fatwa Council, told Fox News in a video statement.

“We have seen what Gaza has been subjected to under Hamas’ rule.  We have also seen the atrocities, which in our view, have been perpetrated against them – faithful and unarmed civilians – who have neither strength nor recourse.  And, so, we believed it was our Islamic obligation to aid the oppressed.”

The Islamic Fatwa Council’s decision was influenced by ‘Whispered in Gaza,’ a series of testimonials from residents of the coastal enclave who spoke about abuses perpetrated by Hamas.   

With their identities hidden and voices disguised, Gazans described a culture of rampant corruption, violence and intimidation targeting business owners who refused to cave to demands for bribes, activists who were jailed and tortured for speaking out against the Hamas regime, and numerous other examples of human rights abuses.

Ghaith al-Omari, a senior Palestinian affairs expert at the Washington Institute for Near East Policy, told Fox News that condemnation from a religious Islamic organization could prove challenging to Hamas’ public relations efforts in the Muslim world.

“As Hamas is an organization that defines itself along religious Islamic lines, this ‘fatwa’ represents a direct challenge to Hamas’ legitimacy and undermines its claim to represent Islam,” al-Omari said.

“It may not immediately impact its rule over Gaza since it maintains this rule by force.  But in the longer term, such a pronouncement represents a serious challenge to Hamas’ narrative.”



Israel Will Not Tolerate A “Threshold Iran”

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu told Iran International on Wednesday (8th), “I came back into the government precisely to prevent Iran from becoming a nuclear state,” vowing to do “everything possible to prevent it.”  He said Israel will not tolerate a “nuclear threshold” Iran.

“For such a regime to have nuclear weapons when it is committed openly to the destruction of not merely my own country but to the subjugation of the world…and chants “Death to Israel,” “Death to America” and everyone else in between,” is a dangerous proposition, Netanyahu said.

He praised the “courage of the Iranian people” who through their recent protests showed “the true nature” of the regime.  “There is a moral imperative and a security imperative” to stand up to the regime and take action, including “crippling” sanctions on the Revolutionary Guard (IRGC) and a “credible” military option to send a clear message to Tehran.

Netanyahu’s message for the Iranians was, “We stand with you, I stand with you, most of the world stands with you…don’t lose heart, be strong.”  He also praised Iran’s civilization and the talents and abilities of its people to achieve successes once the Islamic regime is gone.  He voiced certainty that Israel and a free Iran can have solid relations.



Thessaloniki Film Festival Pays Tribute To Deported Jews

On March 15, 1943, the first train bound for Auschwitz departed from the northern Greek city of Thessaloniki, once home to one of the largest Sephardic Jewish communities in the world.

Eighty years later, the city’s documentary film festival is paying tribute to Jews killed during the Holocaust and to the Jewish community’s enduring importance to the city.

The Thessaloniki International Documentary Festival, which runs for 10 days in March, features several documentaries about the Holocaust and the Jewish experience in Greece, along with panel discussions and other screening events – in-person and online – on the subject.  The full tribute is called “Adio Kerida,”the name of a traditional Sephardic love song in Ladino, the Judeo-Spanish language once commonly heard throughout the city streets.

“Legend has it that the members of the Jewish community sang it just before getting on the trains that would take them to the Nazi concentration camps, saying goodbye to their own people and their beloved Thessaloniki,” said Orestis Andreadakis, the festival director.

The documentaries shown includes “By-standing and Standing-by (2012), which traces the history of Thessaloniki’s Jewish population and the lesser-known community in nearby Katerini; “Salonique, ville du silence” (2006), in which, Thessaloniki-born director Maurice Amaraggi brings together modern images of the city with testimonies from Holocaust survivors; “Kisses to the Children” (2011), which follows the stories of five Jews who were taken in by Christian families during Germany’s occupation of Greece; and Heroes of Salonika” (2021), which highlights the brutal experiences of six Holocaust survivors from the city.

Other highlights include a full screening of Claude Lanzmann’s 9-plus hour “Shoah,” and a screening of  “The Golem,” one of the earliest horror movies from the silent film era.  The latter is set in 16th-century Prague, where a rabbi creates a Golem (creature out of clay), brought to life in order to protect the city’s Jewish community.  The film is accompanied by an original score by composer Yannis Veslemes, played live during the screening.

Before World War II, the city of Thessaloniki was nicknamed “La Madre de Israel” (The Mother of Israel), with a Jewish population over 50,000.  The present-day community, which now numbers just over 1,000, played a key role in putting the festival tribute together.

“This tribute is extremely important,” said Andreadakis.  “The Jewish community has defined the history of the city of Thessaloniki.”