News Digest — 4/18/19

‘Bibi’ Is Selected To TIME’S Top 100 Most Influential People

Normally, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu wouldn’t be the name one immediately associates with pop stars or soccer athletes, but all have at least one thing in common.  They made the list of TIME magazine’s top 100 Most Influential People 2019.

Israel’s prime minister thanked TIME in a tweet on Wednesday (17th): “Thank you to TIME International Magazine for choosing me as one of the 100 most influential people in the world.  I will continue to operate with all my strength for our state.”

TIME asked David French, staff writer for conservative magazine National Review, to write the remarks for the Netanyahu entry on its site.  “Israel is Bibi’s nation,” Mr. French said, referring to the prime minister by his nickname.

Despite facing existential dangers, he writes,”Israel grows more prosperous.  It grows more powerful. And as the election shows, sufficient numbers of Israelis believe not just that Netanyahu is partly responsible for that success but that he’s the nation’s indispensable man.  And so he won again, in spite of facing serious issues. Bibi certainly deserves his share of credit for Israel’s strength, but persuading Israelis that he alone could achieve it is his true political accomplishment.”

On Tuesday (16th), Israel’s right-wing and religious parties endorsed Netanyahu for another term, giving him an absolute majority of 65 seats in the next Knesset.  He needs only 61 seats to cobble together a governing coalition.



Report: Israel Used Special Missile In Syria Attack

According to an unconfirmed report in foreign media, Israel Aerospace Industries’ Rampage missile was used to attack a Syrian military base on Saturday (13th), successfully overcoming the advanced Russian S-300 interceptor.

For the first time, Israel fired advanced Rampage stand-off air-to-surface missiles against Syria in order to overcome the advanced Russian-made S-300 interceptor, foreign media reported Wednesday (17th).

Israel reportedly attacked Iranian assets in a Syrian base near Hama on Saturday morning, destroying several military installations.  Israel did not assume responsibility for the attack, but satellite imagery showed the aftermath of the strike.

According to the foreign media reports from Wednesday (17), Israel used the supersonic missile Rampage, developed by Israel Aerospace Industries (IAI).  The reports said it effectively hit its intended targets, essentially neutralizing the S-300, which had been recently transferred to the Syrian military.

Israel has repeatedly stressed that it would do everything it could to prevent Iran from establishing a foothold in Syria, even if that means military attacks.  This has often led to friction with Russia.

In September, following an Israeli attack, Syrian forces accidently shot down a Russian aircraft that had been in the area, having mistaken it for an Israeli plane.  Moscow said Israel was indirectly responsible for the incident and shortly afterward, transferred the advanced S-300 air defense system to the Syrian regime.



First Passover Seder To Be Held In Warsaw Ghetto Since Holocaust – Batya Jerenberg

Hundreds of Jews will celebrate a Seder this Friday night (19th) in a place that has not seen such a ceremonial meal since 1943, it was reported on Wednesday (17th).

The chief rabbi of Chabad-Poland, Shalom Bar Stambler, will host a hundred families from the U.S., Israel, and Poland in the former Warsaw Ghetto, which still stands in part today in the center of the Polish capital as a reminder of the Holocaust.

“It is very significant for us to be celebrating Jewish holidays, and particularly the Seder night, which symbolizes Jewish freedom and the day that we united as a nation, in a place that not long ago others sought to destroy us,” Stambler said.  Throughout the ages, the Jewish people have been oppressed by many nations yet we have always emerged triumphant.”

There will be three simultaneous readings of the Passover Haggadah, the text used during the meal that celebrates the Jews’ miraculous exodus from Egypt as described in the Bible.

The Hebrew-language group will be led by Stambler’s 13-year-old son, Yossi, whom a report describes as a “talented orator” even at such a young age.  Attendees from Israel will include at least one survivor who participated in the last Seder in the ghetto, which was held the night before the Jews began their famed revolt against the Nazis.

The Nazis had decided that Passover, known as the Festival of Freedom, was the proper date to deport all the remaining Jews in the ghetto to the death camps.

The Polish-language group will be led by the chief rabbi.  Among the local participants will be family members of Vladislav Szpilman, a pianist and composer whose story of surviving the war in Warsaw was made famous by the 2002 film, The Pianist.

Other Chabad-Lubavitch rabbis are coming from the United States to co-host the Seder for the English speakers.  One of them, Rabbi Levi Goldschmidt, is the great-grandson of a noted hassid who risked his life to prepare for that last Seder by secretly baking matzah, the unleavened bread eaten during Passover.  Goldschmidt is the grandson of the sole survivor of the family, a daughter who had left Poland for Tel Aviv before the war.

The three groups are set to end the Seder together, in a show of Jewish unity in what is possibly one of the most evocative settings in which Passover will be celebrated this year.



University Of Maryland Jewish Group Laments ‘Insensitive’ Plan For BDS Vote On Passover

A resolution supporting the controversial boycott, divestment, and sanctions (BDS) campaign against Israel will be considered by student leaders at the University of Maryland next week, as Jewish students celebrate Passover, the campus Hillel said.

In a Wednesday (17th) email to community students, Maryland Hillel staff member Elan Burman said the bill was submitted to UMD’s Student Government Association (SGA) and will be brought to a vote on April 24.

“The timing of this resolution is particularly insensitive given that many Jewish students will be away from campus this weekend for Passover and will be celebrating the intermediary days of the holiday when the vote takes place,” noted Burman, whose group is campaigning against divestment.

The bill – backed by groups including Students for Justice in Palestine – “calls upon the university administration to divest from companies engaged in human rights violations in Palestine.”  Other supporters include groups: UMD Pride Alliance, UMD Young Democratic Socialists of America, and the African Student Association, among others.

“Zionism is terrorism,” the UMD Muslim Alliance for Social Change wrote in a solidarity statement, in reference to a movement that champions the Jewish people’s right to self-determination in the Levant.

Opponents of the campaign – which last failed to gain SGA endorsement in 2017 – argue that it delegitimizes, demonizes, and applies a double standard to Israel.

After a BDS resolution passed at Tufts University days before Passover in 2017, a time when the local Hillel said many Jewish students were away, an activist with the Israel education and advocacy group,StandWithUs described the “undemocratic” tactic as an attempt to silence Zionist student voices.



Khamenei: Quran Prohibits Ties With Israel

Iran’s Supreme Leader, Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, told participants in an international Quran competition in Tehran that maintaining ties with Israel is prohibited.

According to various Iranian and regional media reports, Khamenei told the “masters, reciters and memorizers” who took part in the competition that the Quran says that Muslims must be “stern to the disbelievers.”

“Some Muslims forget, like those Muslim countries which compromise with the U.S. and the Zionists [Israel] to shed the blood of Palestinians and violate their rights.  They abandoned being ‘stern to the disbelievers’ and they became servants of the disbelievers. Today, the officials of many Muslim states represent examples of that,” said Khamenei in his comments this week.

The Iranian leader also criticized Muslim states that engage in wars against their Muslim brethren.

“Another group has forgotten the principle [from the Quran] of ‘compassion among themselves.’  They reject and excommunicate the believers in Allah, the Quran… When ‘compassion among themselves’ is abandoned, internal wars may arise,” he cautioned.

“You see the current situation in Yemen and Syria; Yemen has been bombarded for four years now,” he said.  “Those that bombarded Yemen are Muslims in appearance, but they do not show mercy to Muslims.”

In an apparent reference to sanctions imposed on Tehran for its nuclear and terror activity, the supreme leader warned that “what the enemies do against Iran today is their last resort of enmity.  The sterner they become against us, the stronger our willpower will become; the more they intensify their measures against us, the more powerful we will become.”

The Iranian threat has paved the way for closer ties between Israel and a number of Arab states.