News Digest — 3/8/19

Two Balloon Bombs From Gaza Explode Over Southern Israeli Community

Two explosive devices attached to bunches of balloons were launched from the Gaza Strip Wednesday (6th) and detonated above a community in the southern Israeli Eshkol region.

The blasts caused neither injury or damage, the Eshkol Regional Council said in a statement.

“There are no special safety instructions for residents besides showing increased awareness and reporting all suspicious objects,” the council noted.

The incident came after the Israeli Air Force carried out airstrikes on several targets in the Gaza Strip on Tuesday night (5th), in response to balloons with explosives flown into Israel earlier in the day.  One of the bombs went off in a community between two buildings causing no injuries.

Meanwhile, Egyptian officials have reportedly sent Hamas a message from Israel that warned the terror group it is playing with fire by instigating a daily stream of attacks from Gaza during the Israeli election campaign.

The warning reported in the Lebanese Al-Akbar newspaper, comes amid daily rising tensions along the Gaza-Israeli border.

Hamas responded that it was examining its own option for military escalation in response to Israeli retaliatory strikes.

The Egyptians also warned Hamas not to try to “intervene in the elections in Israel or try to influence them.”



Former Pakistani Leader Pushes For Diplomatic Ties With Israel

Pervez Musharraf, who served as president of Pakistan from 2001 to 2008, commented recently in Dubai that the time is ripe to revisit his nation’s position on Israel.

Specifically, Musharraf commented, “There is no harm to establish a relationship with Israel,” positing that the arrangement could help his country in the longstanding conflict with its neighbor, India, reported The Media Line.  Musharraf also communicated his hope that such a move would help Pakistan interface with an “elite club” of “influential states.”

The ex-president’s comments were made against the backdrop of flare-ups in the Kashmir region between Pakistani and Indian forces.  

During his term as president, Musharraf transitioned from an anti-Israel stance to advocating the establishment of ties between the Muslim-majority nation and the Jewish state.

Meanwhile, The Media Line published Pakistan’s Foreign Minister Shah Mahmoud Qureshi’s response to Musharraf’s recent comments about ties with Israel, including Qureshi’s comment that “Pakistan has had a pro-Palestine stance for a long time,” and that “The attitude on the Pakistani street is distinctly anti-Israel.”

Musharraf resides in self-imposed exile in Dubai, away from court problems he faces in his home country.



Critics Of America’s Support For Israel Cannot Escape History – John Finley

→Certain of our recently elected congressional representatives view U.S. support for Israel as inexplicable.  They are dismissive of explanations of shared values or strategic importance. They ask what reason other than a malignant influence could possibly explain why the U.S. has supported Israel and Zionism.

→They fail to appreciate the extent to which the restoration of the Jewish people to sovereignty in their ancient homeland has been deeply ingrained in the religious, political, and social fabric of America.

→Even before there was a U.S., our Founding fathers and even their forefathers longed to restore the Jews to their ancient homeland.  Increase Mather, the Puritan leader, taught his followers that one day the “Jews would return to their homeland and establish the most glorious nation in the world.”  The Yale University coat of arms is adorned with the Hebrew words meaning “light and perfection.”

→Benjamin Franklin recommended that the Great Seal of the United States be an illustration of the Hebrews fleeing Egypt for their homeland.  John Adams wrote in 1819: “I really wish the Jews again in Judea, an independent nation.” This all occurred when the Jews in America numbered in the thousands.

→Abraham Lincoln wrote of “restoring the Jews to their national home in Palestine” and that relieving their oppression was “a noble dream and one shared by many Americans.”  This support was echoed by Teddy Roosevelt, Woodrow Wilson and Herbert Hoover.

→While recent congressional critics of America’s support of Israel might dismiss this history, they cannot escape it.



Tourism To Israel Soars To Record Levels

Tourism to Israel remained at record levels in February with 362,000 visitors entering the country, the Central Bureau of Statistics reported Tuesday (5th).

The number included 342,000 tourists who stayed at least one night, 259,000 tourists who arrived by air, 44,000 tourists who arrived by land, and 19,000 other visitors.

A record 4.1 million tourists visited Israel in 2018, up 14% from 2017, which was itself a record, and the unprecedented rates continued to rise even further over the first months of the current year.

In January and February combined, 683,000 visitors came to Israel, up 16% from the first two months of 2018, with 628,000 of February tourists staying at least one night, up 13% from the first two months of 2018.

After the promising January figures were announced last month, Tourism Minister Yariv Levin said: “The encouraging figures for the start of the year are a direct continuation of the innovative activities we have carried out in marketing and infrastructure.  The rise in the number of tourists over the years is proof of the quality of the Israeli tourism product,” said the minister, adding that “I hope and believe that 2019 will continue the unprecedented surge in tourism that we have created over the past few years.”



Jewish Leaders Enraged By Outrageous Anti-Semitic Float At Belgian Parade

Angry messages of condemnation have been issued in the aftermath of the publication of photographs showing blatant anti-Semitism at an annual Belgian carnival recognized by UNESCO as a Masterpiece of the Oral and Intangible Heritage of Humanity.  The event took place on Sunday (3rd).

A photo circulated by FJO, a Jewish umbrella group in Belgium, shows a parade float at the Aalst Carnival in Belgium featuring puppet caricatures of Orthodox Jews atop money bags with rats on their shoulders..

People marched near the float dressed as Nazi SS officers and Orthodox Jews.  A poster on the wagon showed Belgian politicians dressed as Nazis and holding canisters labeled Zyklon B, the poison used by the Nazis to exterminate Jews in gas chambers in the Holocaust.

“Will the Belgian authorities take action?” asked Arsen Ostrovsky, executive director of The Israeli-Jewish Congress, an Israel-based NGO.  He called the images on the float: “sick anti-Semitism at its worst.”

Meanwhile, the mayor of Aalst, the Belgian city where the float was paraded, said, “In Aalst this float should be allowed.”  

Mayor D’Haese told the news media on Monday (4th) “It’s not up to the mayor to forbid such displays.”  “Carnival participants did not have sinister intentions,” she added.