News Digest — 9/15/20

Hungarian Foreign Minister Only EU Invitee To Peace Signing Ceremony

Hungary’s Foreign Minister Peter Szijjarto is the only EU minister invited by President Donald Trump who will attend the signing ceremony of the peace agreement between Israel and the United Arab Emirates and Bahrain in the White House on Tuesday (15th), Hungary’s MTI news agency reported Sunday (13th).

Hungarian Foreign Ministry spokesman Mate Paczolay said Szijjarto would hold bilateral talks in Washington including a meeting with senior presidential adviser, Jared Kushner, who played a significant role in developing Trump’s Middle East peace plan and brokering the agreements to be signed between the two Gulf nations and the Jewish state.

Szijjarto posted on his Facebook page that Hungary continues to support the efforts for peace in the region.  He praised the White House roadmap for stabilizing the region, saying it has produced two peace agreements between Arab states and Israel which promise the best chance for peace in the Middle East.

While the Palestinians have assailed the peace deals as a “stab in the back” by the UAE and Bahrain, European powerhouses like France, Germany and the UK have praised the deals in which the two Gulf nations will become the third and fourth Arab countries to establish diplomatic relations with Israel after Egypt and Jordan.

Last year Hungary opened a diplomatic trade mission in Jerusalem, becoming the first European country in decades to do so.

Szijjarto told Netanyahu at the time that Hungary will not follow the European Commission’s policy of labeling items that are produced in Judea and Samaria.

“We do not support the list of companies in the settlements to be announced by the high representative of Human Rights of the United Nations,” he said.  “We support tighter, better and more dynamic cooperation between Israel and the European Union.”



Emirati Schools Already Teaching About Peace Treaty with Israel In Textbooks

Textbooks used in schools in the United Arab Emirates are already teaching about the normalization agreement between the Gulf state and Israel, barely two weeks after the announcement of the deal.

IMPACT-se, a research and policy institute that analyzes schoolbooks and curricula within the prism of UNESCO-defined standards on peace and tolerance, has released a preliminary report evaluating the current United Arab Emirates (UAE) Moral Education curriculum, taught in all schools, both public and private, from grades 1-12.

The UAE has undergone a lengthy process of textbook reform as part of its process toward modernization and national development.

Part of the Moral Education Curriculum – composed of four units; character and morality, the individual and the community, cultural studies, and civic studies – is aimed at creating a holistic educational system that blends personal development and civics with traditional subjects.

Key findings of the IMPACT-se report included positive developments across a range of competencies.  These include: diversity and inclusivity, in which students are encouraged to view diversity positively and as a source of national pride.  By teaching about the importance of respecting different cultures and beliefs the curriculum aims to eradicate discrimination.

Peace is highlighted as the pre-eminent goal for global society in textbooks as early as the fourth grade.  Students are taught that one of the UAE’s national characteristics is to place central importance on the value of peaceful conflict resolution.

“It is remarkable that a textbook that teaches about the UAE-Israel treaty was on the desks of schoolchildren in the Emirates just two weeks after the announcement of the agreement,” said IMPACT-se CEO Marcus Sheff.



New Year? New Lockdown: Schools, Malls, Restaurants Shuttered Under Corona Restrictions

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu on Sunday (13th) announced a new country-wide lockdown that will be imposed amid a stubborn surge in coronavirus cases, with schools and parts of the economy expected to shut down in a bid to bring down the infection rates.

Beginning Friday (18th), the start of the Jewish High Holiday season, schools, malls, restaurants and hotels will shut down, among other businesses, and Israelis will face restrictions on movement. 

“Our goal is to stop the increase in cases and lower morbidity,” Netanyahu said in a nationally broadcast statement.  “I know that these steps come at a difficult price for all of us.  These are not the holidays we are used to.”

The tightening of measures marks the second time Israel is being plunged into a lockdown, after a lengthy shutdown in the spring.  That lockdown is credited with bringing down infection numbers, but it wreaked havoc on the country’s economy, sending unemployment skyrocketing.

The lockdown will remain in place for at least three weeks, at which point officials are expected to relax measures if numbers are seen declining.  Israelis typically hold large family gatherings and pack synagogues during the important fast of Yom Kippur, settings that officials fear could trigger new outbreaks.

Israel has had more than 150,000 confirmed cases of the coronavirus and more than 1,100 deaths,  Given its population of 9 million, the country now has one of the world’s worst outbreaks.  It is now seeing more than 4,000 daily cases of the virus.

Israel earned praise for its initial handling of the coronavirus outbreak, moving quickly to seal the country’s borders and appearing to bring the infections under control.  It has since been criticized for opening businesses and schools too quickly and allowing the virus to spread.

However, some government ministers have pointed the fingers at what they call ‘an undisciplined public,’ who they have accused of violating restrictions against public gatherings and mask wearing.



‘Vision, Resolve, Gumption’ Hailed At Israel Defense Prize Ceremony

Israeli President Reuven Rivlin on Sunday (13th) bestowed the Israel Defense Prize – the country’s highest honor in the field of security – on three classified defense projects countering significant threats to state security.

Standing beside Rivlin at the ceremony were Defense Minister Benny Gantz, IDF Chief of Staff Lt. Gen. Aviv Kochavi, Defense Ministry Director Maj. Gen. Amir Eshel, Mossad Director Yossi Cohen, Israel Security Agency Director Nadav Argaman, and former National Security Adviser Yaakov Amidror.

The prize, named for famed pre-state Hagana force commander Eliyahu Golomb, is awarded for projects and actions that made a special contribution to state security and maintaining Israel’s qualitative advantages on the battlefield, in both technology and operations.

The nature of the three projects that won the prize remains largely classified.  The winning projects comprised teams from the military, Mossad intelligence agency, Shin Bet security agency, the Defense Ministry, and leading military industry contractors.

Rivlin praised the recipients, saying they exemplified “vision, resolve, and gumption,” and noted that those involved in the projects pursued their mission with ‘daring determination,’ resulting in “significant contribution to state security.”

“It’s not just the high-level ability, it’s not just the out-of-the-box thinking, it’s not just the teamwork, it is principally always, always being ahead of the enemy,” he said.

Defense Minister Benny Gantz also lauded the winners, saying the prize represents the country’s appreciation for their clandestine work and tireless efforts, on its behalf. 

In addition, a lifetime achievement award was presented to a senior Mossad agent.

The agent, identified only as “A,” was honored “for his decades-long contribution to state security and for his initiative in developing many technological solutions while displaying outstanding talent, creativity, curiosity, and courage,” the Defense Ministry said in a statement.

The Israel Defense Prize has been awarded annually by the president since 1958.  Though the prize is sometimes given for lifetime achievement, generally the recipients are honored for the creation of a new piece of technology or for a specific operation.



Tombstones Vandalized At 3 Jewish Cemeteries In Poland

About 20 tombstones were damaged at a Jewish cemetery in Zabrze in southern Poland, the third case of vandalism at a Polish Jewish cemetery this month.

Dariusz Walerjanski, who has maintained the cemetery for 30 years, described what he said was an act of vandalism in a Facebook post on September 11, showing pictures of the stones having been broken.

“After many years of peace and tolerance, and understanding for the place where the dead rest, an act of vandalism was committed.  It’s a rude act of stupidity.  I can’t find an answer for why someone planned and did it,” he wrote.

“Police are searching for the perpetrators,” he added.

Last week, a 19th century tombstone at the Jewish cemetery in Tarnowskie Gory, near Krakow, was defaced with red spray paint.

Earlier in the month, 10 tombstones were knocked down at the Jewish cemetery of Dobrodzien, some 80 miles northwest of Krakow.  Some of them were broken.

Poland has about 1,200 Jewish cemeteries.  Some are owned by Jewish communities and others are municipally owned.