News Digest — 9/18/19

Election: Deadlock Between Likud And Blue And White After 92% Of Votes Counted

Israel’s two main political parties, Likud and Blue and White, are deadlocked without a clear path to forming a majority government as of Wednesday morning (18th) after 92% of the votes from Tuesday’s (17th) national election were counted.

Here are the results as of Wednesday morning in Israel:

Likud: 32, Blue and White: 32, Joint Arab List: 12, Yisrael Beytenu: 9, Shas: 9, United Torah Judaism: 8, Yamina: 7, Labor-Gesher: 6, Democratic Union: 5.

The far-right Otzma Yehudit party failed to pass the minimum electoral threshold.

Seeming kingmaker Avigdor Lieberman said Wednesday (18th) he’ll assist on a secular unity government between Netanyahu’s Likud and Benny Gantz’s Blue and White parties which are currently tied.

Lieberman said that is the “one and only option” on the table.  Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said he will seek the formation of a new Zionist government that excludes Arab parties.

“There will not be, and there cannot be, a government that leans on Arab, anti-Zionist parties,” said Netanyahu.

Gantz echoed sentiments for a unity government in a post-election speech in Tel Aviv early Wednesday (18th), saying that political contacts with other parties are already underway.  “I mean to talk to everyone. We will work to set up a broad national government that will express the will of the people,” he said   

Without Lieberman’s endorsement, both parties appear to have fallen well short of securing a parliamentary majority with ideological allies.

However, final results could still swing toward Netanyahu.

Meanwhile, Palestinian Authority Prime Minister Mohammad Shtayyeh on Tuesday (17th) indicated he saw no significant difference between the two candidates for Israeli prime minister.

“Today, there are elections in Israel.  And frankly, the difference between Benny and Bibi – Benny Gantz and Bibi Netanyahu – is not much of a difference – like Pepsi and Coca-Cola,” he said speaking in broken English.



Israelis Enjoyed Beaches And Shopping Sprees On Election Day

As Israeli politicians battled it out on Tuesday (17th), in a last ditch effort to win over voters, the public took advantage of the warm Israeli weather on Election Day, a national holiday, to visit local beaches, shopping centers, and nature reserves.

The polls opened across Israel at 7 a.m. Tuesday morning as 6,394,030 eligible Israeli voters began casting their ballots for the second time in six months on the makeup of the 22nd Knesset—and the prime minister who would lead it.

Shopping centers came out with promotional campaigns to boost revenue, aware of Israeli customers’ propensity to shop during days off.

In addition, those opting to work on Election Day received bonus pay on top of regular wages.

Beaches across the country were also full from the early morning hours, with visitors struggling to find parking spaces and spare chairs and sunbeds.  Some Israelis said they drove for miles to find a spot on local beaches.

Other Israelis chose to spend their day off barbecuing in local parks and strolling through wooded areas, with some 130,000 visiting local natural reserves.

Some said they voted before they went out to enjoy the day, while others said they decided to enjoy their day off in the out of doors first, and then vote.  Either way, everyone agreed that they didn’t want another Israeli election for at least four or five years.



In Rebuff To Netanyahu, Palestinian Government Meets In Jordan Valley

The Palestinian Authority held its weekly cabinet meeting on Monday (16th) in the Jordan Valley, an apparent act of defiance after Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu pledged to annex the territory if he won the election on Tuesday (17th).

“We will do everything we can to strengthen our people’s steadfastness on our land, and to make the Palestinian Jordan Valley the vegetable and fruit garden of Palestine, as it was in the past,” Prime Minister Mohammed Shtayyeh said at a meeting in the Jordan Valley village of Fasayil.

Netanyahu’s announcement that he would “apply Israeli sovereignty” over the West Bank territory drew condemnation from European leaders and some Arab countries.

Shtayyeh spoke at the start of the meeting, which is normally held in Ramallah.

The Western-backed PA exercises limited self-rule in parts of the West Bank and cooperates with Israel on security and economic issues.

The valley, which is 930 square miles, accounts for nearly 30% of the West Bank.

The Palestinians still seek a state in the West Bank and Gaza Strip with east Jerusalem as its capital.



Belgian University Posts Hooked-Nose Gesture For ‘Jew’ In Sign Language Videos

A Belgian university included in its sign-language dictionary a gesture meaning “Jew,” which involves signaling a hooked-nose.

The European Jewish Association on Monday (16th) protested in a statement the gesture’s inclusion in online videos on the website of a dictionary compiled in conjunction with the University of Ghent.  In a letter to the rector, it demanded the clips be removed.

The first videos, that function as sign language definitions for Jew, “seemed standard,” the Association’s director, Menachem Margolin, wrote in the statement.  Both videos show a presenter stroking an imaginary beard.

“The second involving side-locks are borderline acceptable if misleading, and the last two are simply racist and demeaning to Jews, using gesticulation of a large and hooked-nose to define Jew,” he added.

Margolin was told about the videos by a Jewish family who had been looking up sign-language gestures online.

In a letter Monday (16th) to the rector of the university Margolin asked that campus authorities remove the two gestures from their dictionary.

“If the aim of this project was to embellish or add to the standard definition, it has certainly managed to do so, in the most stereotypical and racist way imaginable, by focusing on side-locks and worse, gesticulating a hooked- nose to describe a Jew,” Margolin wrote. 

“We certainly hope that such stereotypes do not reflect the policy of the university, nor your students,” he continued.

According to the EJA the online dictionary of Flemish sign-language-gestures is nearly fifteen years old.



Wiesenthal Center Denounces Threats, Vandalism At Atrocity Site In Romania

The Wiesenthal Center announced on Monday (16th) in Jerusalem that it denounces the vandalism with swastikas of a Holocaust memorial in Bogdaovka, where one of the great atrocities of the Holocaust took place in 1941—where the massacre by Romanian soldiers, the regular Ukrainian police, civilians, and ethnic Germans murdered over 40,000 Jews. 

Bogdaovka was the location of an extermination camp in Transnistria, Romania, with mostly Ukrainians from Odessa and the rest from Bessarabia.  With the outbreak of Typhoid, the German and Romanian administrators decided to kill all the detainees.

The massacre took place from December 21 through December 31.  In the first stage, the infirm were forcibly packed into two locked stables, doused with kerosene and set ablaze.  In the next stage, other prisoners were led to a ravine and shot in the neck or killed by hand grenades. The rest of the prisoners froze to death while digging pits in the freezing cold with their bare hands.  The Romanian administrator then ordered that all the bodies be burned.

In a Wiesenthal Center press statement, Director for Eastern European Affairs and Holocaust historian Dr. Efraim Zuroff also noted that there were threats made against three prominent Jews recently: Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky, Jewish activist Eduard Dolinsky, and former minister Evgeny Cherconenko, now a television reporter.

Zuroff’s statement said that anti-Semitic vandalism was especially “frequent” in the Ukraine and was due in part because of the failure of Ukrainian authorities to criminalize anti-Semitic acts.  He stated that “as long as the perpetrators of these disgusting and offensive actions are not punished, they will continue and increase. The center urges expediting the passing of legislation to outlaw anti-Semitism and all other forms of racial hatred and xenophobia.”