Germany: Merkel at Auschwitz

(THIS ARTICLE IS COURTESY OF THE TIMES OF ISRAEL)

 

‘I BOW MY HEAD BEFORE THE VICTIMS OF THE SHOAH’

Merkel at Auschwitz: Remembering Nazi crimes inseparable from German identity

Making her first visit to Nazi death camp as chancellor, German leader speaks of ‘deep shame’ and vows fight against anti-Semitism and all hatred is priority for her government

German Chancellor Angela Merkel and Polish Prime Minister Mateusz Morawiecki, from left, visit the former Nazi death camp of Auschwitz-Birkenau in Oswiecim, Poland on Friday, Friday, Dec. 6, 2019. Merkel attend an event in occasion of the 10th anniversary of the founding of the Auschwitz Foundation. (Photo/Markus Schreiber via AP)

German Chancellor Angela Merkel and Polish Prime Minister Mateusz Morawiecki, from left, visit the former Nazi death camp of Auschwitz-Birkenau in Oswiecim, Poland on Friday, Friday, Dec. 6, 2019. Merkel attend an event in occasion of the 10th anniversary of the founding of the Auschwitz Foundation. (Photo/Markus Schreiber via AP)

OSWIECIM, Poland (AFP) — German Chancellor Angela Merkel on Friday said acknowledging Nazi crimes was part of Germany’s national identity in a message aimed at far-right calls for a shift away from a culture of remembrance.

Merkel crossed the gates of the former Auschwitz Nazi death camp in Poland on Friday for the first time in her 14 years as chancellor, promising to battle a new wave of anti-Semitism.

Merkel is only the third German chancellor ever to visit the Nazi camp where a million Jews were killed between 1940 and 1945 and which has come to symbolize the Holocaust as a whole.

Members of the Alternative fur Deutschland (AfD) party have said there should be less apology for Germany’s Nazi past and other periods of its history should be celebrated instead.

German Chancellor Angela Merkel walks in front of the main railway entrance to Birkenau as she visits the former German Nazi death camp Auschwitz-Birkenau in Oswiecim, Poland on December 6, 2019. (John MacDougall/AFP)

“Nothing can bring back the people who were murdered here. Nothing can reverse the unprecedented crimes committed here. These crimes are and will remain part of German history and this history must be told over and over again,” she said.

“Remembering the crimes… is a responsibility which never ends. It belongs inseparably to our country,” Merkel said.

“To be aware of this responsibility is part of our national identity, our self-understanding as an enlightened and free society, a democracy with rule of law,” she said.

Merkel said Auschwitz “demands that we keep the memory alive”.

She expressed Germany’s enduring “deep shame in the face of the barbaric crimes committed by Germans here” in Auschwitz-Birkenau, where a million Jews lost their lives between 1940 and 1945.

“There are no words to express our sorrow,” she said.

German Chancellor Angela Merkel commemorates in front of the death wall during a wreath laying ceremony in the former Nazi death camp of Auschwitz-Birkenau in Oswiecim, Germany, Friday, Dec. 6, 2019. Merkel attend an event in occasion of the 10th anniversary of the founding of the Auschwitz Foundation. (Photo/Markus Schreiber via AP)

Addressing Holocaust survivors present, she added: “I bow my head before the victims of the Shoah.”

The chancellor also addressed a rise of anti-Semitic and other hate crimes in Germany in recent years, saying they had reached an “alarming level”.

“To combat anti-Semitism, the history of extermination camps has to be shared, it has to be told,” she said.

Her trip, which comes ahead of the 75th anniversary of the camp’s liberation by Soviet troops on January 27, is being seen as an important political message.

On the eve of her visit, 65-year-old Merkel said that “the fight against anti-Semitism and against all forms of hate” was a priority for her government.

German Chancellor Angela Merkel lays down a wreath at the death wall in the former Nazi death camp of Auschwitz-Birkenau in Oswiecim, Germany, December 6, 2019. (AP Photo/Markus Schreiber)

She also hailed a new 60 million euro ($66 million) donation for the Auschwitz-Birkenau Foundation that was approved by Germany’s federal states on Thursday.

Merkel began her visit by walking under the Nazi slogan “Arbeit macht frei” (Work will set you free) that still hangs over the gates of the camp.

She also held a minute’s silence by the Death Wall where thousands of prisoners were shot dead and visit the site of a gas chamber and a crematorium.

The visit “is a particularly important signal of attention and solidarity at a time when Auschwitz survivors are victims of anti-Semitic insults and hate-filled emails,” said Christoph Heubner, deputy chairman of the Auschwitz International Committee.

German Chancellor Angela Merkel, center, and Polish Prime Minister Mateusz Morawiecki, right, visit the former Nazi concentration camp of Auschwitz-Birkenau in Oswiecim, Poland on December 6, 2019 (Markus Schreiber via AP)

Merkel was accompanied during the visit by a survivor of the camp, 87-year-old Bogdan Stanislaw Bartnikowski, as well as Polish Prime Minister Mateusz Morawiecki.

Josef Schuster, head of the Central Council of Jews in Germany, and Ronald Lauder, head of the World Jewish Congress, also took part in the visit.

In total, 1.1 million people were killed at Auschwitz-Birkenau, including Jews, non-Jewish Poles, Soviet prisoners of war, Roma and anti-Nazi fighters.

Many were killed the same day they arrived at the camp.

“There is no other place of memory that demonstrates with such precision what happened during the Shoah,” Schuster told AFP ahead of the visit.

‘Break with civilization’

Merkel follows in the footsteps of previous German chancellors Helmut Schmidt, who came in 1977, and Helmut Kohl, who visited in 1989 and 1995.

She has already visited several of the former camps in Germany over many years and has been to Jerusalem’s Yad Vashem Holocaust memorial center five times.

German Chancellor Angela Merkel lays a wreath during a ceremony at the Hall of Remembrance at the Yad Vashem Holocaust memorial in Jerusalem on October 4, 2018 (Oren Ben Hakoon/POOL)

In 2008, she became the first German leader to address the Israeli parliament. In that speech, she spoke of the “shame” that Germans still feel.

Merkel has called the Holocaust a “break with civilization” and has voiced concern about the rise of anti-Semitism in Germany.

People place flowers in front of a synagogue in Halle, Germany, Oct. 10, 2019 (AP Photo/Jens Meyer)

Her visit comes two months after an attack aimed at a synagogue in the eastern city of Halle in which two people were killed — part of a growing trend.

Police figures show that anti-Semitic offences rose by almost 10 percent in Germany last year from the previous year to 1,646 — the highest level in a decade.

Germany’s far-right AfD party, some of whose members have been accused of using anti-Semitic rhetoric, has called for a rethink of the way Germany remembers its Nazi past.

Senior AfD lawmaker Bjoern Hoecke has called for a “180-degree shift” in the culture of atonement.

The timing of the visit is also significant because of questions over Merkel’s political future as tensions persist within the governing coalition.

German media reported that she wanted to make the trip ahead of any potential political crisis.

Merkel intends to step down at the end of her mandate in 2021 but there is a chance that the date could be brought forward if her junior coalition partners, the Social Democrats, pull out of the government.

AP contributed to this report

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UK Labour Party omits Jews from campaign video promoting minority rights

(THIS ARTICLE IS COURTESY OF THE TIMES OF ISRAEL)

 

UK Labour Party omits Jews from campaign video promoting minority rights

Amid anti-Semitism scandal, clip posted by Corbyn mentions over 20 marginalized groups and says party ‘will value you,’ but neglects Jews

Opposition Labour Party leader Jeremy Corbyn gestures during a general election campaign visit at Whitby Leisure Centre in Whitby, northern England, on December 1, 2019. (Paul ELLIS / AFP)

Opposition Labour Party leader Jeremy Corbyn gestures during a general election campaign visit at Whitby Leisure Centre in Whitby, northern England, on December 1, 2019. (Paul ELLIS / AFP)

UK Labour Party leader Jeremy Corbyn failed to mention Jews in an election campaign video that champions diversity and the rights of over 20 groups.

The 68-second video released Saturday features images of British people, towns and cities, along with a September speech by Dawn Butler, who holds the party’s Women and Equalities portfolio.

Butler lists various population groups, including people who are LGBT+, straight, Roma, black, white, Asian, disabled, “struggling to pay rent” or “wear a hijab, turban, a cross.” She assures that “a Labour government will value you, just be your true authentic self.”

While Jews make up 0.37 percent of the United Kingdom’s population, leaders of major Jewish groups suggested the omission was not connected to the minority’s limited electoral strength.

Jeremy Corbyn

@jeremycorbyn

This is our strength.

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Rather, they say, it is linked to the anti-Semitism problem in Labour’s ranks following the 2015 election of Corbyn as its leader. Corbyn, a far-left politician, has supported boycotting Israel and called Hamas and Hezbollah his friends, and he has been widely and repeatedly accused of failing to adequately tackle rampant anti-Semitism within the party’s ranks.

Jonathan Goldstein, chair of the Jewish Leadership Council, addresses the crowd in Parliament Square at the #EnoughIsEnough demonstration organized by UK Jewish leaders to protest anti-Semitism in the Labour party, March 2018. (Marc Morris/Jewish News)

Jewish Leadership Council Chairman Jonathan Goldstein told the Jewish Chronicle that the omission of Jews from the video was “extraordinary and chilling” and “shows they don’t regard the Jewish community or anti-Semitism as equal to other communities or racism of other types.”

The Board of Deputies of British Jews said that in the video, “The Jewish community is ‘erased’ as a minority group worthy of their support.”

Deborah E. Lipstadt@deborahlipstadt

Labour’s campaign video: Mention of every possible religious, ethnic, gendered, sexual orientation etc. minority. Except one. Jews. Sure it was just an oversight https://twitter.com/jeremycorbyn/status/1200675327636385792 

Jeremy Corbyn

@jeremycorbyn

This is our strength.

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A Labour Party spokesperson told UK media: “This video launched our Race and Faith Manifesto, which includes policies to guarantee the security and well-being of the Jewish community, defend and celebrate Jewish way of life, and combat anti-Semitism in Britain and across Europe. A Labour government will maintain real-terms funding for the Community Security Trust, make attacks on places of worship an aggravated offense, and force the tech giants to tackle anti-Semitism on social media.

“We will also protect the religious rights and freedoms of Jewish people and ensure public services meet the needs of Jewish people, from coroner services conducting quick burials to proper provision of religious and culturally sensitive social care and youth services. We will also ensure wider teaching about anti-Semitism in schools so that the next generation are better equipped to recognize and challenge these prejudices.”

Corbyn last week sparked outrage by repeatedly declining to apologize for his handling of anti-Semitism in the party in an interview with the BBC.

The BBC’s Andrew Neil pressed Corbyn six times to apologize to the Jewish community, in the wake of Chief Rabbi Ephraim Mirvis’s unprecedented statement that Britain’s Jews were “gripped by anxiety” over the future of the community in the country, amid the prospect of a Labour win in the December 12 election.

After being slammed for the interview, on Wednesday Corbyn tried to tamp down the flames by saying that the party had already apologized for anti-Semitism in its ranks.

Polls suggest that just six percent of UK Jews plan to vote Labour. Nearly half say they would “seriously consider” emigrating if Corbyn — a man 87% of those polled believe is an anti-Semite — gets to Downing Street.

Jewish groups have accused Corbyn of allowing a massive rise in anti-Semitism within the ranks of the party that was once considered the natural home of British Jewry. Thousands of cases of alleged hate speech against Jews have been recorded within Labour since 2015, when Corbyn was elected to lead the party.

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Iran’s Khamenei defines Iran’s goal of ‘wiping out Israel’

(THIS ARTICLE IS COURTESY OF THE TIMES OF ISRAEL)

 

‘Not anti-Semitic’: Khamenei defines Iran’s goal of ‘wiping out Israel’

Belying Tehran’s relentless threats to ensure ‘nothing left’ of Jewish state, ‘raze’ Tel Aviv and Haifa, leader says aim is to abolish ‘regime,’ get rid of ‘thugs’ like Netanyahu

In this picture released by the official website of the office of the Iranian supreme leader, Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei attends a meeting with thousands of students in Tehran, Iran, November 3, 2019. (Office of the Iranian Supreme Leader via AP)

In this picture released by the official website of the office of the Iranian supreme leader, Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei attends a meeting with thousands of students in Tehran, Iran, November 3, 2019. (Office of the Iranian Supreme Leader via AP)

When Iran speaks of wiping Israel off the map, it doesn’t mean the mass slaughter of the country’s Jews but rather eliminating the Jewish state’s “imposed regime,” Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei said Friday.

“The disappearance of Israel does not mean the disappearance of the Jewish people, because we have nothing against [Jews],” Khamenei said, speaking alongside senior Iranian officials at the so-called 33rd International Islamic Unity Conference.

“Wiping out Israel means that the Palestinian people, including Muslims, Christians and Jews, should be able to determine their fate and get rid of thugs such as [Prime Minister Benjamin] Netanyahu,” Khamenei continued, according to Iranian media.

Khamenei further argued that “had the Islamic world been committed to unity, there would have been no tragedy in Palestine.” He lamented that Muslims couldn’t even adhere to what he called the lowest level of unity — non-aggression between Muslims.

“We are not anti-Semitic. Jews are living in utmost safety in our country. We only support the people of Palestine and their independence,” he said.

“Our position on the case of Palestine is definitive,” he said. “Early after the victory of the [1979 Islamic] revolution, the Islamic Republic gave the Zionists’ center in Tehran to the Palestinians. We helped the Palestinians, and we will continue to do so. The entire Muslim world should do so.”

A Shahab-3 surface-to-surface missile is on display next to a portrait of Iranian Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei at an exhibition by Iran’s army and paramilitary Revolutionary Guard celebrating “Sacred Defense Week” marking the 39th anniversary of the start of 1980-88 Iran-Iraq war, at Baharestan Square in downtown Tehran, Iran, September 25, 2019. (AP Photo/Vahid Salemi)

Iran regularly threatens to annihilate Israel, viewing the country as a powerful enemy allied with the United States and Sunni countries in the region against Tehran and its nuclear ambitions.

Contrary to Khamenei’s claims, those threats commonly refer to the physical destruction of Israeli cities, rather than of just the regime.

In September, Abbas Nilforoushan, the deputy commander of operations of the IRGC, threatened that if Israel attacks Iran, it will have to collect “bits and pieces of Tel Aviv from the lower depths of the Mediterranean Sea.”

“Iran has encircled Israel from all four sides. Nothing will be left of Israel,” said Nilforoushan in an interview with the Iranian news agency Tasnim.

“Israel is not in a position to threaten Iran,” he said according to a translation published by Radio Farda, the Iranian branch of the US government-funded Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty.

Iranian senior cleric Ahmad Khatami delivers his sermon during Friday prayer ceremony in Tehran, Iran, on January 5, 2018. (AP Photo/Ebrahim Noroozi)

Last year, Ayatollah Ahmad Khatami, a key leader of weekly Muslim prayers in Iran, reacted to reports that Israel viewed a war with Iran-backed Lebanese terror group Hezbollah as likely by saying: “If you want Haifa and Tel Aviv to be razed to the ground, you can take your chance.”

In September, the commander of Iran’s elite Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps said that destroying Israel was now an “achievable goal.”

Four decades on from Iran’s Islamic revolution, “we have managed to obtain the capacity to destroy the impostor Zionist regime,” Major General Hossein Salami was quoted saying by the IRGC’s Sepah news site.

Iranian Revolutionary Guards commander Maj. Gen. Hossein Salami speaks at Tehran’s Islamic Revolution and Holy Defense museum, during the unveiling of an exhibition of what Iran says are US and other drones captured in its territory, on September 21, 2019. (Atta Kenare/AFP)

“This sinister regime must be wiped off the map and this is no longer … a dream [but] it is an achievable goal,” Salami said.

Iran has lately been on edge, fearing an attack on the country over a drone-and-missile strike on Saudi Arabia’s oil industry in September attributed to Tehran. Yemen’s Iranian-backed Houthi rebels claimed the attack, but the US and others allege Iran was behind it.

The attack in Saudi Arabia was the latest incident following the collapse of Iran’s nuclear deal with world powers, over a year after US President Donald Trump unilaterally withdrew his country from the accord. The nuclear deal was meant to keep Tehran from building atomic weapons — something Iran denies it wants to do — in exchange for economic incentives.

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu was a sharp critic of the nuclear deal negotiated under the administration of former US president Barack Obama, and welcomed Washington’s pull-back from the accord, urging further pressure on Iran.

Agencies contributed to this report.

UN extends Lebanon border peacekeeping mission

(THIS ARTICLE IS COURTESY OF THE TIMES OF ISRAEL)

 

UN extends Lebanon border peacekeeping mission, urges full access to Blue Line

Security Council warns rising tensions can lead to war neither side can afford, orders review of UNIFIL amid Israeli concerns that Hezbollah rendering Blue Helmets ineffective

Soldiers of the United Nations Interim Forces in Lebanon (UNIFIL) patrol a road in the southern Lebanese village of Kfar Kila along the border with Israel on August 29, 2019. (Mahmoud ZAYYAT / AFP)

Soldiers of the United Nations Interim Forces in Lebanon (UNIFIL) patrol a road in the southern Lebanese village of Kfar Kila along the border with Israel on August 29, 2019. (Mahmoud ZAYYAT / AFP)

The UN Security Council on Thursday voted to renew its long-running peacekeeping mission in Lebanon for a year, warning of a “new conflict” with neighboring Israel as tensions with the Hezbollah terror group spike.

The draft resolution, written by France and approved unanimously, would allow for the approximately 10,000 members of the United Nations Interim Force in Lebanon, known as UNIFIL, to stay in place. It also calls for a review of the peacekeeping mission, amid Israeli concerns that Hezbollah and Lebanon “continue to significantly hinder the full and effective implementation” of the Blue Helmets’ mandate.

“Should these restrictions remain, UNIFIL’s relevance is questioned,” Israel’s Foreign Ministry said

According to the draft text, the Security Council warned that “violations of the cessation of hostilities could lead to a new conflict that none of the parties or the region can afford.”

Military vehicles belonging to the United Nations Interim Forces in Lebanon (UNIFIL) drive past posters of the Lebanese Shiiite Hezbollah movement leader Hasan Nasrallah (R) and Syrian President Bashar al-Assad, on a road near the southern Lebanese town of Marjayoun, on August 26, 2019. (Mahmoud ZAYYAT / AFP)

It “condemns all violations of the Blue Line” between Lebanon and Israel, “both by air and ground, and strongly calls upon all parties to respect the cessation of hostilities.”

IDF soldiers in northern Israel have been on high alert this week over fears of a reprisal attack from Hezbollah or another Iranian proxy following Israeli airstrikes against Iran-linked targets in Syria, and an armed drone attack on Hezbollah’s south Beirut stronghold, which has been blamed on Israel.

Lebanese president Michel Aoun said the Beirut incident amounted to a “declaration of war,” and on Wednesday the Lebanese army fired on an Israeli drone in the southern part of the country.

“Urging all parties to make every effort to ensure that the cessation of hostilities is sustained,” the Security Council called on all sides to “exercise maximum calm and restraint.”

Israeli ambassador to the UN Danny Danon, whose term at the world body was recently extended, praised the Security Council decision, which he said “sends a clear message to the Lebanese government: restrain Hezbollah.”

“The terrorist organization’s grip on southern Lebanon is intended to only harm the State of Israel and endanger the entire region. Israel will not accept such a reality,” he said.

A picture taken on August 26, 2019, near the northern Israeli moshav of Avivim shows a Hezbollah flag in the Lebanon village of Aitaroun. (Jalaa Marey/AFP)

The resolution includes a requirement — on the insistence of the United States, diplomats said — for the UN secretary-general to perform an evaluation on the UNIFIL mission and its staff before June 1, 2020.

Also at the US’s request, the Security Council resolution calls for UNIFIL to have full access to the Blue Line, where Israel recently said it discovered a network of cross-border tunnels dug by Hezbollah.

A picture taken from the southern Lebanese village of Meiss al-Jabal on December 16, 2018, shows Israeli soldiers watching as United Nations Interim Forces in Lebanon (UNIFIL) soldiers speak with Lebanese soldiers in front of a Hezbollah flag. (Mahmoud Zayyat/AFP)

The resolution expresses “concern that UNIFIL still has not been able to access all relevant locations north of the Blue Line related to the discovery of tunnels crossing the Blue Line.”

Washington was unable, however, to reduce the maximum allowed number of peacekeepers deployed to 9,000.

Israel had been seeking to expand the mandate of the mission, giving it more access to areas in Lebanon and allowing it to report infractions in real time, according to a Hebrew-language report Wednesday.

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Israeli doctor treating Syrians hopes to save hearts and win minds

(This article is courtesy of the Times of Israel)

 

Israeli doctor treating Syrians hopes to save hearts and win minds

In 2013, Salman Zarka, then head of IDF medical corps in the north, sent injured Syrians who came to Israel’s border to a Safed hospital. Now, he’s running it

Dr. Salman Zarka, director of the Ziv Medical Center in Safed, Israel, speaks with a Syrian girl to whom he gave treatment (Courtesy).

Dr. Salman Zarka, director of the Ziv Medical Center in Safed, Israel, speaks with a Syrian girl to whom he gave treatment (Courtesy).

WASHINGTON — For Israeli soldiers guarding the country’s northern border, Shabbat morning is often, though not always, quite placid, even with a raging civil war unfolding miles away.

The Israel Defense Forces have naturally been vigilant to keep the Syrian conflict from bleeding into Israel, especially over the last year as Iran has sought to entrench itself in the beleaguered Arab state. But more often than not, it hasn’t been Syrians with weapons that head toward Israel’s borders: it has been Syrians with injuries.

That came to the fore on a fateful morning in February 2013, when seven Syrians arrived at the Israeli border in need of serious medical attention. The medics there provided them with care, but it soon became clear that this would not be enough to save their lives.

At the time, Salman Zarka was the head of the IDF Northern Command’s Medical Corps. He quickly determined that the wounded Syrians needed to go to a civilian hospital where they could receive a higher level of care.

The closest one was the Ziv Medical Center in Safed, an ancient city overlooking the Sea of Galilee. Zarka ordered that they be rushed to the facility, where they were treated, and some underwent surgery. Every single one of them survived.

Ten days later, they went back to their homes in Syria.

Now, Zarka is the director of Ziv — a position he’s held since 2014 — where he has continued to treat Syrians who come to the Israeli border in need of lifesaving medical interventions.

A Syrian man carries two girls covered with dust following a reported air strike by government forces on July 9, 2014 in the northern city of Aleppo. (Photo credit: AFP/AMC/ZEIN AL-RIFAI)

Since 2013, Ziv has played a small but pivotal role in the treatment of injured Syrians over the course of their country’s ruthless civil war. That is at least partly due to the hospital’s strategic location: roughly seven miles from the border with Lebanon and a little more than 50 from the Syrian border.

At first, Zarka thought 50 miles was too far for patients in critical condition (about a 30-minute drive with sirens), who, he feared, might not survive the trip.

“We decided that if we’re going to have a mission of saving lives, we’ll do it in the best way we know, and the best way with our experience was to have a military hospital just on the border so severe injuries can be treated there,” Zarka recently told The Times of Israel.

Therefore, in March 2013, after consultation with government officials, Israel built a facility on the border, near a Druze village.

But a year and a half later, it closed.

“We discovered it wasn’t needed,” said Zarka, who is Druze. “Most of the Syrians’ injuries were orthopedic. They did not require immediate medical attention and could wait to be treated at civilian facilities.”

Today, most of the burden falls on Ziv to treat Syrians who come to Israel asking for help. Since February 2013, the hospital has treated roughly 5,000 Syrians, according to Zarka.

The experience, he said, appears to have an impact on those rescued — many of whom had grown up thinking their southern neighbor was a villain.

Dr. Salman Zarka treats a wounded Syrian boy at the Ziv Medical Cener in Safed. (Courtesy)

“I’ve met many Syrians. When I met them at first, they were very afraid to meet their enemy and receive medical support from us,” Zarka said. “They didn’t always tell us the truth. We noticed that sometimes they changed their names. But things have changed. They have started smiling and speaking Hebrew. A number have told us that for many years they have been educated that we are the devil and need to be kicked back to the sea.

“Now,” he said, “they understand that we are more human than Assad.”

At Ziv, Syrians are treated confidentially to protect their identity from Syrian authorities, who would not take kindly to their accepting help from the Jewish state.

The patients stay anywhere from a few days to a few months. In a few rare cases, some have stayed longer than a year. While there, Zarka noted, they receive the same level of care as Israelis.

“We offer not just treatment for their injuries, we treat them according to the Israeli standards,” he said. “We do our best not just to try to save their lives, we try to improve the quality of their lives.”

Magen David Adom (MDA) ambulance at the entrance to the emergency unit at Ziv Medical Center in Safed, northern Israel, on March 6, 2019. (David Cohen/Flash90)

In one instance, a Syrian woman came to the border with her 10-year-old diabetic daughter after their village was bombed. The girl was unconscious and her mother thought she was dead. Shortly after they arrived at the border, the IDF brought them to Ziv, where the girl was treated for three months.

During that period, the medical staff trained the mother to care for her child once they left the unit — teaching her how to check her daughter’s glucose levels and how to give an insulin injection. They wanted to make sure she could keep her daughter healthy once they left.

When Ziv released her from the hospital, Zarka was fearful for both of their futures. “We were very worried especially about what would happen to this wonderful girl when she got back to Syria,” he said.

Four months later, however, that girl made it back to Ziv for a checkup.

“To see that she is surviving and gaining weight and in a better situation … you believe that you are changing something,” he said.

Zarka said when the girl returned she gave him a present: a drawing of the Israeli flag with a big heart and her name on it.

It said, “Todah Raba” — “Thank you” in Hebrew.

For Zarka, experiences like this one reveal the ability to influence the worldview of Syrians who might otherwise despise Israelis without actually knowing them. It may be a small sample size, he said, but that little girl will grow up grateful for the country that helped her while her own was trapped in a humanitarian catastrophe.

“She will believe Israelis are saving lives, that we are good people,” Zarka said. “Maybe some day, we will have a different relationship.”

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Israel: The Haredi establishment’s threat to constitutional democracy and equal rights

(THIS ARTICLE IS COURTESY OF THE TIMES OF ISRAEL)

 

The Haredi establishment’s threat to constitutional democracy and equal rights: No marginal issue

The sex discrimination against women in public spaces is just the beginning of the havoc the ultra-Orthodox are wreaking on Israeli society

(Facebook)

(Facebook)

Veteran political analyst Anshel Pfeffer has published an incisive analysis of the dynamics now playing out on the right and far-right of the Israeli political spectrum, with Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu losing those who used to be his natural political partners: Liberman, Bennett, Shaked, Smotrich (“Netanyahu is Running Out of Natural Partners,” Haaretz, August 13, 2019). The Haredi establishment, he notes, is taking up that slack, however much it has been a reliable partner of his until now.

Pfeffer’s otherwise incisive analysis contains an appalling throwaway line about the Haredi establishment, one that expresses an all too common perception: “[Netanyahu] granted them total hegemony in the narrow areas of public policy and communal autonomy they care about.”

Narrow areas?

The ongoing dismissal, in particular on the left, of the threat to constitutional democracy posed by the religious establishment is a serious danger in its own right. Ben Gurion can be excused for not realizing the danger in giving blanket draft exemption to yeshiva students —  65 years ago. There is no excuse for such blindness now.

The Haredi establishment uses institutions of government, like the courts, and certainly, coalition politics, to further its own narrow, sectoral interests, while having no fundamental loyalty to these institutions. Deputy Minister of Health Litzman, who does not take a “deputy” salary, but a full one, and who has used his office richly (pun intended), for Haredi interests, as he defines them (the victims of the Haredi rapists he has protected, according to a pending indictment, are also Haredi), is “Deputy,” rather than full Minister, because his boss, the Gerer rebbe, and he, do not recognize the State of Israel. The State’s payouts, however, they very much recognize.

The threat to public space — in the news just this week, in the ruling of a court against sex discrimination in a public space in Afula — is huge and ongoing. As the Israel Women’s Network and other groups have noted, this is a war of attrition. Newly minted Transportation Minister Bezalel Smotrich said this himself when, after a flurry of outrage about his call for a theocracy here, he acknowledged that such is not possible now — but that piecemeal steps can be and will be taken. This is why it is so important for Smotrich and his ilk not just to be members of Knesset but ministers, who have  broad discretion, staff, and budgets at their disposal. As with the abortion struggle in the US, piecemeal steps are the means to a larger goal.

If it is acceptable to discriminate against women in public space, we are back to demands for sex discrimination in buses, sidewalks, etc. We already struggle against demands for sex discrimination in universities and in the army, refighting the conclusion long ago reached on the basis of too much sorry experience, that there is no such thing as “separate but equal”; any such demands necessarily and inevitably entail discrimination. The Haredi establishment makes an argument for privilege: its religious “needs” and sexual objectification of women take precedence over equal civil rights. Marginal issue?

The Haredi establishment fully supports immunity legislation for Netanyahu, not only as a quid pro quo for his favors but because Minister of Interior Arye Deri, is under police investigation for serious financial crimes and Deputy Minister of Health Yaacov Litzman is too, with the police investigative unit recommending indictment.

The Haredi establishment backs legislation to gut the authority of the Supreme Court by giving the Knesset the power through simple majority vote to override any Supreme Court ruling. This would end the separation of powers and the very meaning of a Supreme Court as the arbiter of constitutionality.

The Haredi establishment runs a vast patronage system in the yeshivas and in the Chief Rabbinate. Keeping Haredi males illiterate and financially dependent on it is the base of that establishment’s power: perpetuation of this system is its call on the public purse. Its right to continue depriving that population of basic secular education — math, English, civics, history — is therefore, its prime demand, which government after government, yes, Labor-led, too — grants, with the rest of us paying for it with our taxes not once, in ever escalating subsidies, but perpetually, to support a growing, impoverished population. Why do yeshiva students get automatic exemption from army or alternative service and university students do not? Equal rights?

Study after study has shown the inflation of prices we pay for food in order to support the patronage system which is the kashrut kingdom of the Chief Rabbinate.

To dismiss all this as some marginal issue is beyond comprehension and effectively, collusion with the abuse the Haredi establishment hopes to keep perpetuating.

While Netanyahu, increasingly cornered by various dynamics, may be further sidling up to the Haredi establishment, his opposition in the Blue and White party is hardly showing awareness of, or determination about, the threat to constitutional democracy, equal rights, or rational government, posed by the Haredi establishment.

All this is anything but a marginal issue and, whereever we are on the political spectrum, we minimize it at our peril.

ABOUT THE AUTHOR
Shulamit S. Magnus is a professor of Jewish history and an award-winning author of books on Jewish modernity and on Jewish women’s history.
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About BDS and Congressional and Other Manipulations

So many resolutions in Congress about BDS; ostensibly, these are about being for and against boycotts and the right to boycott though it is clear that, without mentioning BDS or Israel, specifically, that is what all this is about.

For some, it’s hard to follow the moves till now but the various motions and anti-motions are just beginning. All this has become a political live-wire between the Republican and Democratic parties, with the Republicans sensing a juicy opportunity to exploit Democratic division and paint that party as anti-Israel, or even ant-Jewish, facts be damned. When Jews and Israel, the Jewish state, become stand-ins for dividing lines between major parties and segments of popular opinion, it is not good news for the Jews. Some have felt that a choice between Jewish and constitutional, democratic commitments is what is called for in this moment. That is not true, at all.

There is no contradiction between upholding the Constitution and the constitutional right to free speech, including speech with which one disagrees, and supporting the right of individuals, or states, or the Federal government, not to give their private business, or government business, to entities that boycott Israel. Either boycotts are ok or they aren’t. And they are.

The question is selective use of them, and in particular, in this case, the language used in supporting them, and disgusting analogies that are employed, that are intended to serve, and that serve, to demonize Israel. Not to oppose specific policies but to continue an obscene discourse, promoted about no other state or people on earth, about a “right to exist.”

BDS, of course, is marketed as boycotting only Israeli products from over the Green Line but anyone with an honest interest in all this needs also to be aware of the founding history and continued purpose of BDS, which has nothing to do with selective boycott or specific Israeli policies, but with deliberately misleading people about the founding history and continued purpose of BDS. Anyone who wants to dissociate from settlements or products from over the Green Line cannot credibly dissociate from the larger context in which organized efforts to this end are being waged. Which does not mean that individuals can’t follow their consciences about this but that they need to be aware of their bedfellows, whose “conscience” may be running on an entirely different agenda.

Google, “BDS,” if you never have, and see what comes up; try to get the BDS founding charter. See the language used by the organization itself to define its goals; the dishonesty. Here is cut-and-paste, with interpolation by me, in caps:

“Boycott, Divestment, Sanctions (BDS) is a Palestinian-led movement for freedom, justice and equality. BDS upholds the simple principle that Palestinians are entitled to the same rights as the rest of humanity. (DOES THIS INCLUDE SELF-GOVERNING JEWS?).

“Israel is occupying and colonising (SIC) Palestinian land, (NOTE THE FAILURE TO DESIGNATE WHAT PALESTINIAN LAND IS INTENDED. THAT EXCLUSION IS QUITE DELIBERATE, SINCE THE FOUNDERS OF BDS CONSIDER ALL OF ISRAEL, PRE-1967, TOO, “PALESTINIAN LAND,” AND EQUATE ZIONISM WITH “SETTLER COLONIALISM” OF, E.G., THE BOERS IN SOUTH AFRICA. THE ISSUE IS NOT THE WEST BANK , OR 1967, AS IT IS FOR SO MANY WHO SEEK TWO STATES FOR TWO PEOPLES, THAT IS, A NEGOTIATED END TO THE NATIONALITY/ LAND CONFLICT HERE, BUT ISRAEL ITSELF. WHY DON’T BDS’ FRAMERS JUST COME OUT AND SAY THIS, THAT THE GOAL IS THE END OF ISRAEL? BECAUSE THAT WOULD BE A HARDER SELL TO NICE, LIBERAL PEOPLE, WHILE MISLEADING PEOPLE IS SO MUCH MORE EFFECTIVE), discriminating against Palestinian citizens of Israel and denying Palestinian refugees the right to return to their homes. (OK, IN CASE YOU MISSED IT OR DID NOT WANT TO TAKE MY WORD FOR IT IN THE ABOVE COMMENT, HERE IT IS, THE RIGHT OF RETURN AND THE END OF ISRAEL. THIS, WHILE NO SIMILAR CLAIM HAS BEEN OR IS BEING PRESSED IN OTHER NATIONALITY CONFLICTS AND ABOUT OTHER STATES, NOT LEAST, ARAB STATES, CREATED SINCE THE END OF WORLD WARS ONE AND TWO. PALESTINIAN ADVOCATES, TO BE SURE, ARE ENTITLED TO MAKE AN EXCEPTIONAL CASE FOR THEIR CAUSE BUT THE REST OF US SHOULD BE AWARE THAT THAT IS WHAT THIS IS). Inspired by the South African anti-apartheid movement, the BDS call urges action to pressure Israel to comply with international law. (NICE! COMPARE ISRAEL, WITH ARAB MKS, MEMBERS OF THE SUPREME COURT, THE MEDICAL AND UNIVERSITY AND BANKING  ESTABLISHMENTS, ON THE BEACHES AND IN THE SWIMMING POOLS, IN THE BUSES, TRAINS, STREETS, CAFES, THEATERS– WITH APARTHEID SOUTH AFRICA– OR NAZI GERMANY. BY ALL MEANS, DON’T CONFINE THE DISCUSSION TO THE OCCUPATION REGIME ON THE WEST BANK; MAKE IT ABOUT ISRAEL ITSELF. NEEDLESS TO SAY, DON’T SAY ANYTHING ABOUT THE CORRUPT, REPRESSIVE, PALESTINIAN AUTHORITY (PA), NEVER MIND, HAMAS; OR ABOUT SEVERAL PEACE DEALS THAT THE PA REJECTED, UNDER WHICH THERE WOULD HAVE BEEN A PALESTINIAN STATE, WITH A CAPITAL IN JERUSALEM, SEVERAL TIMES OVER, LONG AGO.)

“BDS is now a vibrant global movement made up of unions, academic associations, churches and grassroots movements across the world. Thirteen years since its launch, BDS is having a major impact and is effectively challenging international support for Israeli apartheid and settler-colonialism.” NOTE THE SLEIGHT OF HAND IN THE FINAL WORDS HERE, WHICH CHARACTERIZE ISRAEL’S EXISTENCE AS INHERENTLY ILLEGITIMATE.

Me again, straight up:

It’s a free country and people are free to support, or oppose, boycotts, or other political and economic activities, as they wish. Many liberals are pushing to boycott US states that have recently passed legislation banning abortion. That is their right. And individuals and governments can choose where they give their business: either boycotts are ok or they aren’t; it can’t be had both ways. Telling people they can’t support boycotts, punishing them via employment or other measures, is clearly unconstitutional. It is also politically, stupid.

It is stupid for people who support Israel to align that support with anti-constitutional , anti-democratic, anti-liberal measures. It may be more than just stupid; it offends the Jewish principles of many. But at the least, it is does not serve Israel’s interests, indeed, is very counter-productive to those interests. And to those of Diaspora Jews. This tactic is a set-up  for charges of that old, Jew-hating canard of Jewish “dual loyalty; or for accusations of “self-hatred” and “assimilation.” All this is lose-lose for Jews and we should not allow ourselves to be played like this.

We CAN, and indeed, must walk and chew gum at the same time . This may be, indeed, is, challenging, but not in fact, that complicated.

ABOUT THE AUTHOR
Shulamit S. Magnus is a professor of Jewish history and an award-winning author of books on Jewish modernity and on Jewish women’s history.
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Israel said bracing for likely Omar, Tlaib visit to flash point Temple Mount

(THIS ARTICLE IS COURTESY OF THE TIMES OF ISRAEL)

 

Israel said bracing for likely Omar, Tlaib visit to flash point Temple Mount

During secret meeting of National Security Council, senior officials agree to allow congresswomen onto holy site, but not accompanied by PA officials

In this photo from February 5, 2019, Rep. Ilhan Omar, a Minnesota Democrat, left, is joined by Rep. Rashida Tlaib, a Michigan Democrat, at US President Donald Trump's State of the Union speech, at the Capitol in Washington. (AP Photo/J. Scott Applewhite)

In this photo from February 5, 2019, Rep. Ilhan Omar, a Minnesota Democrat, left, is joined by Rep. Rashida Tlaib, a Michigan Democrat, at US President Donald Trump’s State of the Union speech, at the Capitol in Washington. (AP Photo/J. Scott Applewhite)

Israeli officials are preparing for the likelihood that US congresswomen Ilhan Omar and Rashida Tlaib may seek to visit the flashpoint Temple Mount in Jerusalem during their visit to the country next week, Channel 13 reported Wednesday.

A “secret meeting” was recently held on the subject in Israel’s National Security Council led by Deputy National Security Adviser Reuven Azar, according to Channel 13.

There, the network reported that Azar said there was a high probability that Omar and Tlaib, who are both Muslim, will seek to visit the Al-Aqsa Mosque and Dome of the Rock shrine at the holy site.

The participants at the meeting agreed that if the congresswomen choose to do so, it is vital that the Israel Police not permit their visit to be accompanied by officials of the Palestinian Authority, which would serve as symbolic backing by the US lawmakers for Palestinian claims of sovereignty at the site, the holiest place in Judaism and the third holiest in Islam.

Israel captured the Old City of Jerusalem, including the Temple Mount, from Jordan in the 1967 Six Day War and now claims all of Jerusalem as Israel’s undivided capital. The Palestinians want East Jerusalem as their capital in a future state.

in 2017 the US, under the Trump administration, shifted years of policy, and recognized Jerusalem as Israel’s capital and moved its embassy to the city. However, the US said the move did not constitute and endorsement of specific borders.

Muslim worshipers perform the Eid al-Adha morning prayers at the Temple Mount in the Old City of Jerusalem on August 11, 2019. (Ahmad Gharabli/AFP)

Israeli officials were unanimous in their view that the two lawmakers, who have expressed support for the pro-Palestinian Boycott Divestment and Sanctions movement, should be allowed to visit Israel and the Temple Mount, as preventing the visits could hurt relations with the United States, Channel 13 said.

As recently as Sunday, tensions at the flash point site boiled over into all-out riots after Muslim worshipers objected Israel’s allowing of some 1,700 Jewish visitors on the site during the Tish’a B’av fast day, which fell this year during the Islamic holiday of Eid al-Adha.

At least 61 Muslim worshipers were injured in the clashes, according to the Red Crescent. At least four Israeli officers were also lightly to moderately wounded, police said.

Last month Omar, a Democrat from Minnesota, said that she would visit Israel and the West Bank with Tlaib, a Palestinian-American congresswoman from Michigan. Omar and Tlaib are the first female Muslim congresswoman.

Last Saturday, Axios reported that US President Donald Trump criticized the Israeli decision to allow Omar and Tlaib to visit the country.

Trump said that if Omar and Tlaib wanted to boycott Israel, “then Israel should boycott them,” Axios said, quoting a source with direct knowledge.

However, White House press secretary Stephanie Grisham denied Trump ever gave any kind of directive to the Israelis. “The Israeli government can do what they want. It’s fake news,” Grisham told Axios on Saturday.

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu (R) with Israel’s Ambassador to the US Ron Dermer, at the president’s guest house, in Washington, DC, February 14, 2017. (Avi Ohayon/GPO)

Last month Israel’s Ambassador to the United States Ron Dermer said Israel would not prevent the lawmakers from coming to Israel.

“Out of respect for the US Congress and the great alliance between Israel and America, we would not deny entry to any member of Congress into Israel,” Dermer told The Times of Israel in a statement.

Under a controversial law that Israel enacted in 2017, the state can prohibit any foreigner from entering the country who “knowingly issues a public call for boycotting Israel.”

Since then, the Interior and Strategic Affairs ministries have used the statute to deny visas to a handful of students, activists and artists upon their arrival to Israel.

The Foreign Ministry, however, can recommend the law be waived for visiting politicians or government officials out of diplomatic concerns.

Israeli security forces walk past the Dome of the Rock as they arrive at the Temple Mount compound in the Old City of Jerusalem on August 11, 2019, as clashes broke out during the overlapping Jewish and Muslim holidays of Eid al-Adha and the Tisha B’av fast (Ahmad Gharabli/AFP)

Omar last month introduced a resolution, co-sponsored by Tlaib, ostensibly aimed at pushing back against laws seeking to clamp down on boycotts of Israel. The resolution, which does not explicitly mention Israel or the Palestinians, affirms the right of Americans to participate in boycotts as an expression of free speech under the First Amendment, citing boycott movements against Nazi Germany, the USSR and apartheid South Africa.

It currently has three sponsors — Omar, Tlaib and Democratic Georgia Rep. John Lewis, an icon of the US civil rights movement.

Omar, Tlaib and other BDS supporters say that in urging businesses, artists and universities to sever ties with Israel, they are using nonviolent means to oppose unjust policies toward Palestinians. Israel counters that the movement masks its motivation to delegitimize or destroy the Jewish state.

Omar has said she supports a two-state solution to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict; Tlaib, however, has advocated for a single-state outcome.

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Israel: Temple Mount status quo should be changed so Jews can pray there

(THIS ARTICLE IS COURTESY OF THE TIMES OF ISRAEL)

 

Minister says Temple Mount status quo should be changed so Jews can pray there

Gilad Erdan stresses new arrangement should come from ‘diplomatic agreements and not by force’; draws criticism from Jordan

Public Security Minister Gilad Erdan speaks during a ceremony for the outgoing Jerusalem police chief at the Western Wall in Jerusalem's Old City on February 7, 2019. (Noam Revkin Fenton/Flash90)

Public Security Minister Gilad Erdan speaks during a ceremony for the outgoing Jerusalem police chief at the Western Wall in Jerusalem’s Old City on February 7, 2019. (Noam Revkin Fenton/Flash90)

Public Security Minister Gilad Erdan on Tuesday said Israel should push to change the status quo at the Temple Mount, days after clashes at the Jerusalem holy site.

As part of an arrangement in place since the 1967 Six Day War, when Israel captured the Old City and East Jerusalem from Jordan, non-Muslims are barred from praying at the Temple Mount, which is the holiest site in Judaism and third holiest in Islam.

Erdan, whose ministry oversees police responsible for security at the Temple Mount, voiced support in an interview for changing the existing arrangements there.

“I think there is in an injustice in the status quo that has existed since ’67,” he told Israel’s Radio 90. “We need to work to change it so in the future Jews, with the help of God, can pray at the Temple Mount.”

He clarified that he opposes introducing such a change unilaterally.

“This needs to be achieved by diplomatic agreements and not by force,” Erdan said.

Muslim worshipers perform the Eid al-Adha morning prayers at the Temple Mount in the Old City of Jerusalem on August 11, 2019. (Ahmad Gharabli/AFP)

The remarks drew a rebuke from Jordan, whose foreign ministry warned any change to the status quo at the Temple Mount could have serious consequences.

A ministry spokesman said Jordan, which Israel recognizes as custodian of the Temple Mount as part of the 1994 peace treaty between the countries, sent a letter of protest over the public security minister’s remarks through diplomatic channels.

Talk or even rumors of changes to the status quo arrangement at the holy site are typically met with vociferous protest from the Muslim world, which has accused Israel of attempting to “judaize” the site or expand access for Jewish pilgrims.

Some Jewish activists have pushed for Israel to allow Jewish prayer on the Temple Mount as part of the country’s commitment to freedom of religion. On Sunday Tamar Zandberg, a lawmaker from the left-wing Meretz party, tweeted that Jews have a right to pray there but the best way to guarantee freedom of worship is through a diplomatic arrangement.

The compound was the site of clashes between Muslim worshipers and police on Sunday over the entry of Jews during the Islamic holiday of Eid al-Adha, which this year coincided with the Jewish fast day of Tisha B’Av.

On Sunday, Jordan’s foreign ministry slammed Israel for using force against Muslim worshipers at the Temple Mount after clashes erupted there.

Saudi Arabia and Qatar, as well as the Palestinians, also condemned Israel over the clashes.

Israeli security forces clash with Muslim worshipers at the Temple Mount compound in the Old City of Jerusalem on August 11, 2019. (Ahmad Gharabli/AFP)

According to Erdan, 1,729 Jews entered the Temple Mount on Tisha B’Av, a new record high for a single day.

Initially, police announced Sunday that non-Muslims would be barred from entering the Temple Mount, where tens of thousands of Muslim worshipers had arrived during the morning. Hundreds of Jews had gathered at the gates leading to the holy site on Sunday morning.

But following an uproar from right-wing ministers and lawmakers, a first round of Jewish visitors was allowed to enter the site. Several dozen visited under close police escort, but Muslim worshipers began throwing chairs and other objects at the group, and the Jewish visitors left the compound shortly thereafter.

With fewer Muslim worshipers on site than there were in the morning, the second round of visits by Jews took place largely without incident.

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Israel: liberal US Jews say Trump fueling white nationalism

(THIS ARTICLE IS COURTESY OF THE TIMES OF ISRAEL)

 

After El Paso massacre, liberal US Jews say Trump fueling white nationalism

Reform leader accuses president of emboldening mass shooters by ‘demonizing asylum seekers and immigrants’

From left, Melody Stout, Hannah Payan, Aaliyah Alba, Sherie Gramlich and Laura Barrios comfort each other during a vigil for victims of the shooting August  3, 2019, in El Paso, Texas. (AP Photo/John Locher)

From left, Melody Stout, Hannah Payan, Aaliyah Alba, Sherie Gramlich and Laura Barrios comfort each other during a vigil for victims of the shooting August 3, 2019, in El Paso, Texas. (AP Photo/John Locher)

WASHINGTON — Liberal American Jewish leaders, fuming at another mass shooting allegedly carried out by a white supremacist, took US President Donald Trump to task on Sunday, saying he had fueled xenophobia and division in the country for three years, while failing to press for stricter gun laws.

Their condemnations came after a 21-year-old gunman, armed with a powerful rifle, walked into a crowded Walmart on Saturday in El Paso, Texas — a majority Hispanic city on the border with Mexico — and opened fire. Authorities identified the assailant as Patrick Crusius from Dallas, who stalked shoppers in the aisles of the retail giant as he riddled them with bullets, leaving at least 20 people dead and another 26 wounded.

Crusius is suspected of being the author of a manifesto posted online before the attack, in which he said was responding to “the Hispanic invasion of Texas.”

Halie Soifer, executive director of the Jewish Democratic Council of America, said in a statement that the shooter was reciting language frequently used by Trump — a sign that his influence was evident in the motivation for the attack.

“The El Paso killer was a white supremacist who wrote a ‘send them back’ manifesto, echoing the words of President Trump,” Soifer said. “Trump is responsible for fueling a fire of xenophobia and hatred in our country, and Republicans are responsible for allowing it to occur.”

Pallbearers carry the casket of Poway synagogue shooting victim Lori Gilbert-Kaye during a graveside service on April 29, 2019, in San Diego, California. (Mario Tama/Getty Images/AFP)

Over the past year, two other mass shootings by white supremacists were preceded by similar manifestos — one written by John Earnest before the Poway synagogue shooting in April, and one authored by Brenton Tarrant before he opened fire on two mosques in New Zealand in March, killing 50 people.

Jonathan Greenblatt, the head of the Anti-Defamation League, noted that the release of a manifesto before Saturday’s attack fit the same pattern.

“We have documented a rise in extremist activity, both online and in our communities,” Greenblatt said in a statement. “As with too many of these incidents, our experts have again been reviewing the apparent manifesto of an alleged shooter, as well as other elements of his online footprint, to evaluate potential extremist ties.”

Greenblatt went on to say that, if police confirm the manifesto’s authenticity, it will make the El Paso attack one of the deadliest acts of domestic terrorism in modern American history.

“If the suspect is the author of the manifesto, this latest act of domestic terrorism will be, according to the ADL’s Center on Extremism’s records, the third deadliest act of violence by a domestic extremist in over 50 years, and the second deadliest act of violence by a right-wing extremist in the same span, second only to the 1995 Oklahoma City bombing,” he added.

US President Donald Trump speaks at a campaign rally on August 1, 2019, in Cincinnati. (AP Photo/Alex Brandon)

Trump has been frequently criticized for his tacit welcoming of support from white nationalists. During the 2016 campaign, he refused to immediately reject the support of David Duke, the former grand wizard of the Ku Klux Klan.

As president, he likewise refused to immediately condemn neo-Nazis and Klan members who marched in Charlottesville in August 2017, saying that “very fine people” were marching alongside them.

Most recently, he told four freshmen congresswomen of color to “go back” to where they came from. All four are American citizens, and three of them were born in the United States.

He has also implemented immigration policies that have been broadly condemned as inhumane — including the family separation policy of splitting up parents from their children at the border — to deter immigrants and asylum seekers from entering the country.

After the El Paso attack, Rick Jacobs, who heads the Union for Reform Judaism, lamented the inaction of politicians to effectuate stronger gun-safety measures.

Rabbi Rick Jacobs, president of the Union for Reform Judaism, addressing delegates at its 2017 Biennial in Boston, December 7, 2017. (Courtesy of the Union for Reform Judaism/via JTA)

“It is not enough for elected officials to muster their ‘thoughts and prayers,’” he said in a statement Saturday. “Like millions of Americans I’m sick of the pathetic excuses offered by too many lawmakers for not passing strong and effective common sense gun laws.”

He then directed his indignation toward Trump. “And if we are to call on the leaders of our nation to address this epidemic of hate, a goal that, hopefully, almost all Americans cherish, we must ask: When will this president stop demonizing asylum seekers and immigrants, which serves to embolden those like today’s shooter?”

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Israel: NASA discovers possibly habitable super-Earth 31 light-years away

(THIS ARTICLE IS COURTESY OF THE TIMES OF ISRAEL)

 

NASA discovers possibly habitable super-Earth 31 light-years away

US space administration’s exoplanet-hunting telescope finds new solar system, including 3 planets orbiting a star about a third of sun’s mass and 40% cooler

This illustration shows one interpretation of what new planet GJ 357 d may be like. (NASA's Goddard Space Flight Center/Chris Smith)

This illustration shows one interpretation of what new planet GJ 357 d may be like. (NASA’s Goddard Space Flight Center/Chris Smith)

NASA’s exoplanet-hunting telescope, the Transiting Exoplanet Survey Satellite (TESS), has discovered a new solar system with at least three new planets including one that has shown potential for being habitable, the American space administration announced.

The three planets were discovered orbiting GJ 357, a red dwarf — a small and cooling star — 31 light-years away, relatively close in space terms, said Rafael Luque of Spain’s Institute of Astrophysics in the Canary Islands, the lead researcher in the discovery team.

The star is “about one-third the sun’s mass and size and about 40 percent cooler than our star,” NASA said.

The TESS cameras “caught the star dimming slightly every 3.9 days, revealing the presence of a transiting exoplanet — a world beyond our solar system — that passes across the face of its star during every orbit and briefly dims the star’s light,” NASA added.

The planet known as GJ 357d — the furthest away from the star — was particularly intriguing as researchers estimate it could be habitable. The other two, GJ 357b and GJ 357c are deemed too hot.

Signs of habitability in any planet include a rocky terrain, a size similar to Earth and a distance from their sun — the temperate “Goldilocks” zone neither too close nor too far — that allows the right temperature for liquid water, a key requirement for life.

Given its distance from its star, similar to that of Mars to our sun, researchers estimate the planet has temperatures of -53 degrees Celsius (-63.4 Fahrenheit), Luque told AFP.

“That seems a little cold at first,” he said.

But “if this planet had an atmosphere (unlike Mars), it could retain the heat it receives from its star, and water could be liquid.”

This diagram shows the layout of the GJ 357 system. Planet d orbits within the star’s so-called habitable zone, the orbital region where liquid water can exist on a rocky planet’s surface. (NASA’s Goddard Space Flight Center/Chris Smith)

Researchers also estimate GJ 357d could be roughly the same size as Earth or up to twice the size.

“The planet weighs at least 6.1 times Earth’s mass, and orbits the star every 55.7 days at a range about 20% of Earth’s distance from the sun. The planet’s size and composition are unknown, but a rocky world with this mass would range from about one to two times Earth’s size,” wrote Francis Reddy of NASA’s Goddard Space Flight Center, which oversees TESS as a NASA Astrophysics Explorer mission.

The findings were published on Wednesday, July 31, in the journal Astronomy & Astrophysics.

“GJ 357 d is located within the outer edge of its star’s habitable zone, where it receives about the same amount of stellar energy from its star as Mars does from the sun,” said co-author Diana Kossakowski at the Max Planck Institute for Astronomy in Heidelberg, Germany. “If the planet has a dense atmosphere, which will take future studies to determine, it could trap enough heat to warm the planet and allow liquid water on its surface.”

It is not the first potentially habitable planet to have been discovered close to us.

In 2016, the discovery of Proxima b at a mere four light-years from the solar system made waves.

But there is a hitch.

Proxima b and GJ 357d were discovered via so-called radial velocity, which involves looking for signs of a wobble in a star from the gravitational tug of an orbiting planet.

But Luque says the method is not precise enough to ascertain whether it actually is habitable.

As things stand, in order to measure its size, density and composition, the planet has to pass directly between its star and an observer, the so-called “transit” method, he says.

That has not been possible for Proxima b and other nearer potentially habitable planets, Luque says.

In the coming months, Luque and his team will be working to try and catch GJ 357d in “transit” to try and confirm it as a habitable planet.

“The probability that a planet passes in front of a star from our line of vision on Earth is pretty small,” he adds.

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