News Digest — 6/9/20

Netanyahu Puts ‘Emergency Brake’ On Easing Corona Restrictions As Infections Climb

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu told Israelis Monday (8th) the government won’t continue easing restrictions because of the increase in confirmed cases of coronavirus.

Speaking at a press conference after a meeting of the special Corona Cabinet of top ministers, Netanyahu said health officials briefed the government on the recent “very steep increase in morbidity.”

“It seems that we have already seen the doubling of the rate of the infection within ten days.  I very much hope not,” Netanyahu said.

Israel had reaped the benefit of some tough policies that not only shut down the education system and closed Israel to international travel, but used nationwide curfews on key holidays to force millions of Israelis to stay at home when they would have been getting together and could have spread the virus.

As the number of new daily infections neared zero and hospital wards emptied out, the government moved to reopen the economy, warning Israelis to adhere to the health guidelines by wearing masks and maintaining social distancing.

That didn’t last as Israelis returned to school, hit the beaches and shopping malls, and were shown on local media without masks and ignoring safe distancing.  Over the past two weeks the number of infections started to rise again resulting in scores of schools being closed and thousands of Israelis forced into mandatory isolation.

Last week the Knesset, Israel’s parliament, was forced to close when an Arab member of the Knesset tested positive for coronavirus.

After another weekend of crowded beaches and additional school closures from new infections, the government met Monday (8th) to assess the situation.

“What we decided to do, first of all, is to hit the emergency brake,” Netanyahu said.  “We stopped all of the measures to ease restrictions that we were going to apply in the coming days.  We will check this again next week.”

“The main thing that all the experts emphasized is that we must keep the three rules:  Wear masks, keep two meters’ distance, and wash hands,” Netanyahu said.



‘Raise A Gun’: Calls For Violence Against Israel By Hamas

The leader of the Hamas terror group in Gaza praised his rival Palestinian leader, Mahmoud Abbas, for cutting off ties with Israel and called for a new armed uprising against the Jewish state.

“We welcome the Palestinian Authority leader Mahmoud Abbas’ decision to disengage from all agreements with the Israeli occupation, but we need real actions,” Ismail Haniyeh said.

“It has been proven to all liberation movements around the world that liberation cannot be achieved unless a gun is raised,” Haniyeh said in comments carried by the PIC news agency affiliated with Hamas.

Haniyeh welcomed the support given by some Arab and Muslim countries, including Jordan’s outward objection to annexation of parts of the West Bank by Israel, and called for a rejection of the proposed peace deal offered earlier this year by President Trump.

“No to the deal of the century,” Haniyeh said.

In a veiled threat to Abbas, Haniyeh also called to “rebuild the Palestine Liberation Organization (PLO) and form an organized leadership for the Palestinian people.”  He said the PLO “is now almost idle, and we are not calling for an alternative to it, but we do not accept that it be misused under the slogan ‘the legitimate and sole representative of the Palestinian people.’”

The Iran-backed Hamas has not hidden the desire to try and take control from Fatah, which would give it a platform in Judea and Samaria to launch attacks in its long-term goal to replace Israel with an Islamic state.



US Army Testing Israeli Sharpshooting System In Syria

The newest tool being tested by US Special Forces in the fight against ISIS terrorists in Syria is an Israeli-made sharpshooting system mounted on their rifles, American defense news publication Task & Purpose reported last Monday (1st).

The US-led Coalition Forces’ Special Operations command, posted pictures of the soldiers training with the SMASH 2000 fire-control system, to the Defense Visual Information Distribution Service on May 30.

The men, lying at a shooting range at the At-Tanf Garrison in Syria, can be seen looking through the advanced optical sights on their M4A1 carbines, and shooting at boxes hanging from small drones.

The fast-moving machines, easily and cheaply bought on the civilian market, have been successfully used by ISIS forces to bomb coalition forces in both Iraq and Syria.  Because they are so quick and small, even experienced snipers have a hard time hitting them.

By using an advanced camera and laser rangefinder as well as cutting-edge algorithms that can calculate the drone’s next moves, the SMASH 2000 can lock onto the target from as far away as 400 feet.  The software can even take into account any accidental movement made by the shooter while aiming his weapon.  It also has a “locked” mode, when the system will only fire if the gun is lined up correctly on the target.  Besides ensuring accuracy, it can protect both fellow soldiers and civilians from any “friendly fire” accident.

The Kibbutz Yagur-based Smart Shooter company sold dozens of its sighting systems to the American military last year.  This was the first time the company knew that its customers were using them in Syria, company VP Dr. Abraham Mazor told The Jerusalem Post Monday (8th).

“We are proud that the US armed forces appreciate the performance of the system,” he said, adding, “We are proud of any of our products that work for increased survivability and safety of the US and Israeli forces.”

The Israeli Defense Ministry’s R&D arm worked closely with Smart Shooter in developing the SMASH system, which the IDF named the Dagger.  After a run of successful tests in early 2019, the Ministry of Defense ordered an initial batch of 2,000 sights.



No, Israel Isn’t A Country Of Privileged And Powerful White Europeans – Hen Mazzig

→ There is a growing inclination to frame the Israeli-Palestinian conflict in terms of race.  According to this narrative, Israel was established as a refuge for oppressed white European Jews who in turn became oppressors of people of color, the Palestinians.  As an Israeli, and the son of an Iraqi Jewish mother and North African Jewish father, it’s gut-wrenching to witness this shift.

→ The majority of Jews in Israel today are of Middle Eastern and North African descent.  I am baffled as to why mainstream media and politicians around the world ignore or misrepresent these facts.  Israel was established for all Jews from every part of the world – the Middle East, North Africa, Ethiopia, Asia and, yes, Europe.  No matter where Jews physically reside, they maintain a connection to the Land of Israel, where our story started and where today we continue to craft it.

→ Those who misrepresent Israel try to position it as a colonist aggressor rather than a haven for those fleeing oppression.  That all but erases the story of my family.  In Iraq, my family experienced ongoing persecution.  My great-grandfather was falsely accused of being a Zionist spy and was executed in Baghdad in 1951.

→ Any erasure of the Mizrahi experience negates the lives of 850,000 Jewish refugees.  It would also deny the existence of almost 200,000 descendants of Ethiopian Jews who were airlifted to Israel in the early 1990s in a daring rescue operation.

→ Israel is a place where an indigenous people have reclaimed their land and revived their ancient language, despite being surrounded by hostile neighbors and hounded by radicalized Arab nationalists who cannot tolerate any political entity in the region other than their own.  Jews that were expelled from nations across the Middle East, who sacrificed all they had, have been crucial in building and defending the Jewish state since its outset.



Synagogues Can Reopen On Limited Scale In Most Of New York State  

New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo announced that houses of worship in most of the state can now reopen on a limited scale.

Cuomo issued an executive order on Saturday (6th) permitting the opening of houses of worship in areas designated as phase two of the state reopening plan, which includes all of the state except New York City.  The buildings will be required to operate at 25% of their usual capacity and employ appropriate social distancing and disinfecting protocols.

“We’re going to open the valve more than we originally anticipated because the metrics are so good,” Cuomo said during his daily briefing.

On Friday (5th), 35 people in New York died with the COVID-19 virus down from a high of 800 some eight weeks ago.

Reopening houses of worship had originally been slated for stage four of reopening.  Some have called for a quicker reopening, noting that protests now unfolding against racism have gathered thousands of demonstrators who are not social distancing.

About two weeks ago, the governor allowed services to resume with 10 worshipers or less, and strongly advised that the services be held out of doors.

This is welcoming news for the large Jewish population living in the State of New York.  However, houses of worship in New York City will remain closed for now.