News Digest — 4/29/20

Rivlin: In Shadow Of Disease And Its Victims, Israelis Must Keep “Togetherness”

In a pre-recorded speech in honor of Israel’s Independence Day, known in Hebrew as “Yom Haatzmaut,” 80-year-old Israeli President Reuven Rivlin said Israelis “despite the distance” must still celebrate the occasion in the comfort of their homes.

“At every stage, in those joyful and festive days of independence, and in the harder and sadder times, we always had an Israeli ‘togetherness,’” he said.  “We grieved together and we celebrated together.  Today on Yom Haatzmaut, in the shadow of the corona disease and its victims, and the economic crisis, we must not give up on our “togetherness.’”

The president went on to praise Israel and its people for always being able to “develop, renew, dream,” calling the country “a wonder and a miracle.”

“We created advanced industry, we established wonderful and innovative agriculture that the whole world looks to,” he said.  “We have created a rich and diverse culture and became a country with a world-class reputation in development and invention, entrepreneurship and technology, medicine, research and science.”

As he ended his speech Rivlin spoke to the public directly asking them to “buy local.”  “Opt for Israeli industry and agriculture and choose small businesses in order to get Israel’s economy back on track following the month-long shutdown of the economy due to the health crisis,” he said.



Grounded Israelis Began Subdued Independence Day With Salute To Medical Staff

Israel saluted its doctors, nurses and volunteers on the frontlines of the pandemic as it transitioned from its somber Memorial Day to Independence Day on Tuesday evening (28th), with the celebration of 72 years of independence subdued due to a curfew imposed to prevent the spread of the coronavirus.

The national holiday, usually marked with lavish fireworks, barbecues, street parties, and air shows, will see most of its festivities cancelled to avoid a fresh outbreak of the coronavirus, which has killed over 200 and infected more than 15,000 in the country.

The annual torch-lighting ceremony, a centerpiece of the shift to Independence Day, was pre-recorded for the first time at Jerusalem’s Mount Herzl military cemetery and performed without an audience present.

“We’ve never had an Independence Day like this.  We’re far apart physically, but we’ve never been closer,” said Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu in a video address, praising medical staff and security forces who were enforcing the rules. 

“A day will come when the hugs will return…but we’re not there yet, because the pandemic is still here,” he said in the clip aired prior to the torch-lighting ceremony.

Ahead of Israel’s 72nd Independence Day, many cities cancelled their fireworks displays, despite cabinet approval for the shows to go ahead.

The Israel Defense Forces meanwhile, announced it was canceling its annual flyover on Wednesday (29th) to prevent people from gathering to watch the jets and other military aircraft zoom by.  Instead the military said it would hold a smaller performance by its fleet of acrobatic planes over the nation’s hospitals to salute medical staff.

A nationwide Independence Day curfew went into effect at 5 p.m. Tuesday confining people to their homes, preventing the traditional street revelry that usually accompanies the holiday.

With outdoor cookouts at parks and beaches banned, Israelis will only be able to hold their traditional barbecue on their balconies or in their yards.

The Independence Day curfew will be in effect until Wednesday evening (29th) at 8 p.m.



Number of Israelis Who Have Recovered From Coronavirus Exceeds Active Patients

For the first time since the onset of the coronavirus pandemic in Israel, the total number of Israelis who recovered from the COVID-19 disease exceeded the number of active patients, the Health Ministry reported on Wednesday (29th).

According to ministry data, 7,929 patients in Israel have already recovered (554 recoveries in the last 24 hours), compared to 7,641 patients who are still battling the virus. 

 In the last 24 hours, 193 new cases of coronavirus were confirmed bringing the country’s overall sick tally to 15,782, while 212 patients have succumbed to the complications of COVID-19.

The nationwide lockdown imposed on Israel’s cities throughout Independence Day Wednesday (29th) to help curb the coronavirus, will not stop the Israeli people who will celebrate from their balconies, with singing, dancing, flag-waving and more.

Some communities are operating mobile-stages that will travel down the streets and neighborhoods of their communities blasting Israeli music as cheering citizens watch gleefully from their balconies.

The Israeli flag is flying everywhere throughout Israel, from private balconies to government buildings – including Tel Aviv’s municipal building on Rabin Square.

Israeli public transportation which has been halted during the lockdown, will  be reopened Thursday morning (30th).



U.S. Keeps Corona Aid Out Of Hamas’ Hands

Days after Secretary of State Mike Pompeo confirmed that the U.S. is sending 5 million dollars of coronavirus aid to the Palestinians, a senior official in the Trump administration clarified that no funds will be distributed to the Gaza Strip.

“There is a Hamas government in Gaza,” said the unnamed official, who spoke to the New York Post, “and they have indicated no interest in engaging with us, no interest in peace with Israel, and in fact they continue – despite having coronavirus cases in Gaza – to fire rockets at the Israelis on a regular basis,” the official added. 

The Palestinian aid is being distributed by the United States Agency for International Development (USAID), which is actively working to keep the coronavirus funds out of the hands of the Hamas group, the Post reported.

Last Wednesday (22nd), Pompeo addressed the issue of Palestinian aid during a press briefing session at the State Department.

“We hope the aid will get to the right places,” said Pompeo.

While the aid in Judea and Samaria is being entrusted to a contractor who is disbursing funds, USAID has so far been unable to secure a trustworthy counterpart in the Gaza Strip.

Since 2014, Hamas has received over $1 billion in aid from Qatar, while Iran supplies the terror group with about $30 million a month.  Both Iran and Hamas are committed to Israel’s destruction.

According to statistics compiled by watchdog group NGO Monitor, Hamas spends on average $100 million a year on “terror infrastructure,” $40 million of which it allocates to digging cross-border tunnels that the group hopes to use for attacks on Israeli civilians and soldiers.

Similar to the Palestinian Authority (PA), Hamas provides salaries to those who commit violent terror attacks against Israelis and pays stipends to family members of Palestinians killed while committing terror-related crimes.

The Trump administration has slashed aid to the PA over this practice, which violates a U.S. law called the Taylor Force Act.



Anti-Semitism And The Coronavirus – Brig.-Gen Yossi Kuperwasser

→ Since the worldwide spread of the coronavirus, we are witness to anti-Semitic expressions that denote the Jews, in general, and Israel specifically, as those who have developed the virus and are responsible for its propagation.  The anti-Israel BDS community and the Palestinian establishment have been leveraging the coronavirus to defame Israel.

→ The facts are, of course, unimportant to them.  In practice, Israel cooperates with the Palestinians in treating the coronavirus, transfers large amounts of medical equipment for their use, and advises medical teams in Gaza and the West Bank on how to treat the disease.

→ Israel has further encouraged international medical aid to the Palestinians, given a loan to the PA, and has delayed the execution of the law that offsets money used to pay salaries to terrorists.  Israel’s cooperation with the Palestinians has been praised by the international community.  Israel also follows the same medical treatment policy among all sectors of its population, including the Israel-Arab population.

→ The Israel-haters see this as an appropriate time to harness events to advance their permanent policy aims, such as the removal of the Israeli security blockade on Gaza and the release of imprisoned terrorists.  They also use anti-Semitic tropes as tools to prevent internal criticism of their corruption, their lack of concern for a proper medical system for their citizens, and their decision to use their resources to promote terror instead. 

→ But more than the dissemination of vilifications, anti-Semitism reflects the beliefs of those who stand behind these slanders that their accusations are real, and their target audiences tend to believe these fabrications.  Anti-Semitic brainwashing throughout history has brought a large public to believe in the responsibility of Jews for plagues.

→ The new attempt to disseminate Israel-hatred cannot be taken lightly.  While continuing cooperation with the Palestinians, we must denounce the brainwashing, the libels, and their disseminators.  And we must demand from the international community condemnation of them, loud and clear.

The writer, former head of the IDF Military Intelligence Research Division and director-general of the Strategic Affairs Ministry, is director of the Project on Regional Middle East Developments at the Jerusalem Center.