Category Archives: Israel

(DN) Acordo cinematográfico Portugal-Israel entra em vigor amanhã


O objetivo principal do acordo é “desenvolver laços culturais e tecnológicas entre Portugal e Israel” bem como “promover as indústrias cinematográficas e o crescimento económico dos setores ligados à atividade”.

O acordo de coprodução cinematográfica entre o governo português e israelita, acordado em 2016 por Augusto Santos Silva, ministro dos Negócios Estrangeiros, e Benjamin Netanyahu, na altura também ministro dos Negócios Estrangeiros de Israel, vai entrar em vigor esta quarta-feira, dia 17 de abril.

O objetivo principal deste acordo, além de desenvolver a pr​​​​​​odução cinematográfica, é criar um “desenvolvimento dos laços culturais e tecnológicos entre Portugal e Israel”, segundo um comunicado da Embaixada de Israel em Portugal. O principal promotor deste acordo foi Raphael Gamzou, atual Embaixador de Israel em Portugal e ex-diretor-geral das Relações Cientificas e Culturais no Ministério dos Negócios Estrangeiros em Jerusalém. Gamzou defende que a história de ambos os povos tem muito pontos em comum e que este acordo pode fazer com que várias “histórias que ainda estão por contar” ganhem protagonismo no grande ecrã.

Outro dos objetivos da coprodução é promover as indústrias cinematográficas de ambos os países e o crescimento económico dos setores ligados à atividade. Neste momento, já estão a ser feitos alguns contactos entre ambas as indústrias cinematográficas com o propósito de criar e fortalecer futuras coproduções.

O Cinema City, com cerca de 50 salas espalhadas pelo país, é gerido pelo israelita Eyal Edery, com 43 anos, filho de Leon Edery, fundador do Cinema City e da produtora de filmes, a United King Films, que já produziu mais de 300 filmes em Israel. Conhecido por ser a maior operadora de cinema em Israel, exibe vários filmes israelitas nas salas portuguesas e promove, há mais de 11 anos, um festival cinematográfico intitulado os Dias do Cinema Israelita. Com o novo acordo entre Portugal e Israel, não só mais filmes israelitas chegarão a Portugal, como mais filmes portugueses chegarão a Israel.

O acordo permanece em vigor por um período de cinco anos e será automaticamente prorrogado por períodos adicionais de cinco anos.

(BBC) Israel election: Netanyahu set for record fifth term


Media captionNetanyahu hails his party’s election results

PM Benjamin Netanyahu is likely to secure a record fifth term after almost complete results from Israel’s election suggest a new right-wing coalition.

His Likud party is expected to finish with a similar number of seats as ex-military chief Benny Gantz’s centrist Blue and White alliance.

But Likud and right-wing allies are set to be the largest bloc with 65 seats in the 120-seat Knesset, local media said.

The 69-year-old premier is facing corruption allegations.

However, the election result means he could become Israel’s longest-serving prime minister later this year, overtaking Israel’s founding father David Ben-Gurion.

Exit polls had predicted a tight race with no clear winner, prompting both Mr Netanyahu and Blue and White leader Benny Gantz to claim victory on Tuesday night.

Israel election graphic

“It will be a right-wing government, but I will be prime minister for all,” Mr Netanyahu told cheering supporters.

“I’m very touched that the people of Israel gave me their vote of confidence for the fifth time, and an even bigger vote of confidence than previous elections.

“I intend to be the prime minister of all citizens of Israel. Right, left, Jews, non-Jews. All of Israel’s citizens.”

No party has ever won a majority in Israel’s 120-seat parliament and it has always had coalition governments.

Presentational grey line

‘Netanyahu’s most serious challenge yet’

By BBC Middle East correspondent Tom Bateman, Tel Aviv

Image captionEarly exit polls were positive for Mr Gantz

There were roars of celebration at the election night party for Benny Gantz as the first exit poll was released. His supporters believed Israel was on the brink of a new centre-ground government.

But as the votes were counted overnight, Benjamin Netanyahu’s success became clearer. The incumbent PM’s Likud party appears most likely to be able to form another coalition government with the help of right-wing nationalist and religious parties.

He said history had given the people of Israel another chance as his supporters, using his nickname, chanted: “Bibi, the King of Israel.”

With left-wing and Arab-Israeli parties suffering heavy losses, his win appears decisive, despite the most serious challenge yet to his decade in office.

Presentational grey line

How was the campaign fought?

Mr Netanyahu, 69, put forward tough messages on security ahead of the vote and it soon became one of the election’s key issues.

He also made a significant announcement in the final days of the campaign, suggesting a new government would annex Jewish settlements in the occupied West Bank.

The settlements are considered illegal under international law, although Israel disputes this.

In a separate controversy on Tuesday, Israeli Arab politicians condemned his Likud party for sending 1,200 observers equipped with hidden body cameras to polling stations in Arab communities.

The Arab alliance, Hadash-Taal, said it was an “illegal” action that sought to intimidate Arabs. Likud said it wanted to ensure only “valid votes” were cast.

Mr Netanyahu’s main challenger, Mr Gantz, is a retired lieutenant-general who formed the Blue and White in February, promising to unite a country that had “lost its way”.

The 59-year-old former chief of staff of the Israeli military rivalled Mr Netanyahu’s tough stance on security and promised cleaner politics.

Mr Gantz’s campaign platform referred to “separation” from the Palestinians but did not specifically mention them having an independent state. It also called for continued control over the Jordan Valley and retaining West Bank settlement blocs.

What allegations is Netanyahu facing?

At the end of February, Attorney General Avichai Mandelblit informed Mr Netanyahu that he intended to indict him on charges of bribery, fraud and breach of trust in connection with three cases, pending a final hearing.

Now that the election is over, the evidence in those cases is to be turned over to the lawyers of the various parties involved.

The prime minister is alleged to have accepted gifts from wealthy businessmen and dispensed favours to try to get more positive press coverage. Mr Netanyahu has denied any wrongdoing and says he is a victim of a political “witch-hunt”.

A date for the final hearing, at which the prime minister and his lawyers would be able to argue against the allegations, has not yet been set. Mr Mandelblit has said the Supreme Court will determine whether Mr Netanyahu has to resign if he is charged.

There have been reports that Mr Netanyahu will attempt to persuade his potential coalition partners to pass legislation that would grant prime ministers immunity from prosecution while in office.

The Jerusalem Post reports that Likud and four other allied parties, who together will control 61 seats in the Knesset, have made it clear that they will not require Mr Netanyahu to resign if he is charged.

What does it mean for the peace process?

Recent weeks have seen tensions flare between Israel and Palestinian militants in the Gaza Strip, and US President Donald Trump is expected to publish his plan which aims to solve Israel’s long-standing conflict with the Palestinians soon.

However, ways to revive the moribund peace process were not a main subject of electoral debate. Many Israelis appear to see little hope in the longstanding international formula for peace – the “two-state solution”.

In the final days of the election campaign, Mr Netanyahu made a significant announcement suggesting a new government led by him would annex Jewish settlements in the occupied West Bank. The settlements are considered illegal under international law, although Israel disputes this.

Israel’s once-dominant Labour party, which sealed a breakthrough peace deal with the Palestinians in the 1990s, managed to win just six seats – its worst-ever performance.

The secretary general of the Palestine Liberation Organisation (PLO), Saeb Erekat, tweeted a downbeat view of the prospects for peace.

Twitter post by @ErakatSaeb: Dr.Saeb Erakat What the early results suggest is that Israelis have voted to preserve the status quo,they have said no to peace and yes to the occupation. The fact that  only 14 out of 120 elected members of the Israeli parliament support the two state solution on the 1967.

A two-state solution is the shorthand for a final settlement that would see the creation of an independent state of Palestine within pre-1967 ceasefire lines in the West Bank, Gaza Strip and East Jerusalem, living peacefully alongside Israel.

What comes next?

Under Israeli law, the Israeli president will consult political parties before designating a candidate deemed most able to form a government backed by a parliamentary majority. The process could take several weeks.

Mr Netanyahu has promised to speedily put together a coalition with his “natural partners”. Some Israeli analysts have predicted that this could produce a government that will accelerate nationalist and conservative policies pursued by Mr Netanyahu’s outgoing administration.

Why did Netanyahu prevail?

Despite pending indictments against the prime minister in three corruption cases and a strong challenge by a centre-right alliance featuring three former army generals, Mr Netanyahu was able to rally his right-wing base to deliver the votes he needed.

During the campaign, Mr Netanyahu warned that his opponents would set up a “leftist” government with the support of Israeli Arab parties that would allow the creation of a Palestinian state, which he said would pose a mortal threat to Israel.

He promoted his foreign policy credentials in the weeks before the elections, meeting US President Donald Trump and Russian President Vladimir Putin and hosting Brazilian President Jair Bolsonaro.

To attract hawkish voters, Mr Netanyahu veered further to the right in promising to annex Jewish settlements in the West Bank, and in a final election-day push he frantically warned that his opponents were poised to win if his supporters chose to stay at home.

(NYT) Why Israel Still Loves Netanyahu

(NYT) Yes, he has many faults. But on the issues that matter most, he’s a visionary leader.

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu with supporters on Tuesday night.CreditCreditThomas Coex/Agence France-Presse — Getty Images

JERUSALEM — There are more than a few reasons to dislike Benjamin Netanyahu. He can be smug and vindictive. He can be ruthless when going up against political enemies. He is likely to be indicted on corruption charges related to three separate cases, which, if they are accurate, indicate that he is greedy, vain and manipulative.

And yet last night, this dislikable prime minister appears to have won his fifth — yes, fifth! — term in office. If he forms a government in the coming weeks, as he is expected to, Mr. Netanyahu will surpass Israel’s founder David Ben Gurion as the country’s longest serving prime minister. How is this possible?

To be fair, this was a close race. The main opposition party, Blue and White, is expected to get as many seats in the Knesset as Mr. Netanyahu’s Likud party. The coalition that he forms will probably have little more than the minimum 61 seats behind it.

Given Mr. Netanyahu’s unsavory qualities, many people were intent on defeating him. Just a few months ahead of the election, Blue and White, a new centrist alliance led by three decorated generals and a former security minister, came together with little purpose other than to present an alternative to Mr. Netanyahu, who has been in power since 2009. They campaigned fiercely — but civilly. At rallies, General Benny Gantz, the head of Blue and White, made it a habit to thank the prime minister for his service to the nation; this was a mirror image of Mr. Netanyahu’s and Likud’s name-calling and personal attacks. But civility and centrism weren’t enough to carry the day.

Mr. Netanyahu may be cynical but he doesn’t rig elections. He wins fairly, often against great odds, including, this time, the coming indictments against him and an understandable fatigue with his decade-old leadership, not to mention various other inter- and intraparty squabbles. But he seems to have succeeded again this time for the same reason he has dominated Israeli politics for most of the past 25 years: because when it comes to Israel’s national security, he is a leader with strategy and vision. And that is what many voters want.RelatedMore from Opinion on Israel’s electionOpinion | Hagai El-AdDemocracy, Israeli StyleApril 7, 2019Opinion | Roger CohenWill the Israeli ‘King’ Be Recrowned?April 7, 2019Opinion | Raja ShehadehWe Are Too Weak to Stop IsraelApril 4, 2019

In the mid-1990s, during his first term as prime minister, Mr. Netanyahu rejected the assumptions underlying the peace process with the Palestinians. At the time this was considered daringly right wing. Today, it is considered common sense in Israel, including by Mr. Netanyahu’s political rivals. Likewise, Mr. Netanyahu was one of the first politicians to recognize Iran as the main threat to Israel’s survival, and fought fiercely in international forums to get the world’s attention to this problem. Today, this view is also widely appreciated across the Israeli political spectrum.

The list goes on: In 2005, he warned that withdrawing Israeli troops from Gaza would end in disaster — and it did. He successfully resisted eight years of the Obama administration’s pressure to offer concessions to the Palestinians. He quickly forged an alliance with President Trump that has already proved to be of great benefit to Israel. In two years, Mr. Trump has moved the American embassy from Tel Aviv to Jerusalem, withdrawn from the nuclear agreement with Iran, recognized Israel’s sovereignty over the Golan Heights, and on Monday, designated Iran’s Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps as a terrorist organization.

Blue and White tried to make this election a referendum on Mr. Netanyahu. Its campaign focused largely on the prime minister’s personal failings, the corruption accusations against him, and exhaustion with his leadership. But in Israel, security trumps all other issues. (A poll ahead of the election found voters rated security as their No. 1 concern.)

Blue and White thought that by placing former Israel Defense Force chiefs of staff at the top of the party list, it could counter Mr. Netanyahu’s image and experience as a defender of Israel, diplomatically and militarily. But the public still showed that it trusts the incumbent more.

Has Mr. Netanyahu ever been wrong when it comes to security? The truth is, many Israelis will find it hard to think of an example. And this goes not just for voters for the Likud party, or even the right-wing parties that are expected to join Likud in the next government, but even for Blue and White, which largely echoed Mr. Netanyahu’s positions on important foreign policy and national security questions.

Those Israelis who do want Mr. Netanyahu gone — and yes, there are many — want him gone because of his personality, his coarsening of Israeli political discourse, his pettiness and, maybe, his corruption. Those Israelis who want Mr. Netanyahu to stay — and the election makes clear that there are many — want him to stay despite those same characteristics. They can forgive the prime minister for often being a small man, because they appreciate him as a great leader.

(BBC) Israel’s election: Five things to know


A man walks with his dog between election campaign billboards of Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu (L) and leaders of the Blue and White party Benny Gantz (2-R) and Yair Lapid (3-R) and Moshe Ya'alon (R), in Tel Aviv, Israel, on 3 April 2019

Israelis head to the polls on Tuesday for a general election in which Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu is fighting for his political survival.

Here are five things to know about the contest, and what to expect.

1. This is the closest fought election Israel has seen for years

Benjamin Netanyahu is running for his fifth term in office. If re-elected, he will overtake Israel’s founding father David Ben-Gurion in July as the country’s longest-serving prime minister.

However, Mr Netanyahu is facing both serious corruption charges, pending a final hearing with the attorney general, and his toughest competitor in years – Benny Gantz.

Mr Gantz, a former chief of staff for the Israeli military who is a newcomer to politics, can rival Mr Netanyahu on security – one of the election’s key issues – and promises cleaner politics.

A woman sorts ballot boxes at the Israel Central Election Committee Logistic Centre in Shoham (6 March 2019)
Image captionMore than 6.3 million Israelis are eligible to vote in their country’s 21st general election

His centrist Blue and White alliance – formed with two other former military chiefs and the former TV anchor-turned-politician Yair Lapid – was initially doing slightly better than Mr Netanyahu’s Likud party in opinion polls, although the situation has since reversed.

The close race is leading to an aggressive and often dirty election campaign with lots of smear attempts. Israeli voters tend to decide who to support on the basis of the candidates’ personalities, rather than their policies, and whether they consider them strong leaders.

2. The party leader with the most seats will not necessarily become prime minister

No single party in Israel has ever won a majority of seats in parliament; the country has always had coalition governments.

That means the prime minister is not always the person whose party wins the most votes, but the person who manages to bring together enough parties to control at least 61 of the 120 seats in the Knesset.

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu (C-R) and MPs take part in a Knesset(parliament) session in Jerusalem on 26 December 2108
Image captionThe party that wins the most seats in the Knesset may not be able to form a governing coalition

Some polls suggest that Mr Netanyahu is more likely to be able to form a coalition than Mr Gantz because of the prime minister’s close relationship with other right-wing parties and religious parties.

In a widely criticised move to lock down extra right-wing seats, Mr Netanyahu brokered a deal making it easier for candidates from an extreme-right wing party that many view as racist to enter parliament.

3. Plans for peace with the Palestinians have not featured prominently

Recent weeks have seen tensions flare between Israel and Palestinian militants in Gaza, and US President Donald Trump is expected to publish his plan to solve Israel’s long-standing conflict with the Palestinians soon after the election.

However, ways to revive the moribund peace process have not been a main subject of electoral debate. The Israeli public sees little hope in the long-standing international formula for peace – the “two-state solution”.

A local photographer takes pictures as an Israeli border police member holds her back during the demolition of a Palestinian house whose owners said they were informed by the Israeli forces that they didn't obtain a construction license, in Beit Jala in the Israeli-occupied West Bank on 2 April 2019.
Image captionThe Israeli-Palestinian conflict and prospects for peace have not been a key election issue

Prominent members of Mr Netanyahu’s current right-wing governing coalition openly oppose the creation of a Palestinian state and want to annex much of the occupied West Bank.

Blue and White’s campaign platform refers to “separation” from the Palestinians but does not specifically mention them having a state.

It also supports a “united” Jerusalem as Israel’s capital, although Palestinians claim the east of the city as their future capital.

Benny Gantz’s alliance also calls for continued control over the Jordan Valley and retaining West Bank Jewish settlement blocs. Settlements are seen as illegal under international law, although Israel disagrees.

Israel’s Labour Party, which sealed a breakthrough peace deal with the Palestinians in the 1990s, has lost favour with voters.

4. Demographics will play an important role

There are 6.3 million Israeli voters, and the social, ethnic and religious groups to which they belong can be a key factor in deciding what they do on election day.

Israel’s religious Haredi population is over a million-strong. Traditionally, ultra-Orthodox Jews of European descent and those of Eastern descent have taken advice from their rabbis and voted for dedicated parties.

However, more are now voting for mainstream parties, mostly those on the right. Among the key issues for them is ultra-Orthodox conscription in the military, which is due to come up again in the next parliament.

A mounted Israeli policeman disperses a group of Ultra-Orthodox Jews during a demonstration against Israeli army conscription in the Israeli city of Bnei Brak near Tel Aviv on 1 November 2019
Image captionThe exemption from military service for ultra-Orthodox men has divided Israeli Jews

Israeli Arabs make up almost a fifth of the population, but surveys suggest that fewer than half of those eligible to vote plan to do so.

Turnout among Arabs was boosted in 2015, when four parties ran together under the Joint Arab List, to take 13 seats. But the list has broken up for this election.

5. A dark horse could emerge as kingmaker

The leader of the ultra-nationalist, libertarian Zehut party, Moshe Feiglin, could emerge as a kingmaker in future coalition talks, with polls suggesting it could take at least four seats.

Mr Feiglin says he has no preference between Benjamin Netanyahu and Benny Gantz as prime minister.

A supporter of the leader of the far-right Zehut political party Moshe Feiglin smokes a fake inflatable marijuana joint during a meeting in the Israeli city of Tel Aviv on 2 April 2019
Image captionLegalisation of cannabis for recreational use has become a hot topic in recent weeks

Mr Feiglin is well known for his calls to legalise cannabis but his party has an eclectic platform.

He has a hard-line position on the Palestinians and wants to encourage them to emigrate from the occupied West Bank and Gaza.

He also calls for a third Jewish temple to be built on the contested holy site in Jerusalem known to Jews as Temple Mount and to Muslims as Haram al-Sharif, which is the location of the al-Aqsa mosque.

(Reuters) Netanyahu uses icy relationship with Obama to try to win votes


JERUSALEM (Reuters) – Israel’s Benjamin Netanyahu is using a second American president in his re-election campaign ads, but with a twist, featuring a famously frosty encounter with Barack Obama.FILE PHOTO: Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu (R) talks with U.S. President Barack Obama at the Mount Herzl national cemetery during the funeral of former Israeli president Shimon Peres on September 30, 2016. REUTERS/Menahem Kahana/Pool/File Photo

The right-wing prime minister put up billboards several weeks ago picturing a smiling President Donald Trump shaking his hand – highlighting warm ties marked by dramatic U.S. policy moves that Netanyahu has welcomed with delight.

A video Netanyahu posted on Thursday on Facebook, Twitter and Instagram portrayed his cold relationship with Trump’s predecessor to try to attract votes.

It shows a 2011 Oval Office meeting in which Netanyahu lectured a grim-looking Obama on how the Democrat’s vision of ways to achieve Middle East peace was unrealistic.

“In the face of all pressure, I will always protect our country,” Netanyahu wrote in Hebrew in a caption above the link to the video clip, credited to a 2016 U.S. PBS documentary, on his Facebook page.

At the meeting, Netanyahu insisted Israel would never pull back to its pre-1967 war borders — which would mean big concessions of occupied land — that Obama had said should be the basis for negotiations on creating a Palestinian state.

“It’s not going to happen. Everybody knows it’s not going to happen,” the Israeli leader said in the clip, as Obama, chin on hand, fixed him with an icy stare.

The White House encounter exposed a deep divide between Netanyahu and Obama, whose efforts to achieve peace between Israel and the Palestinians collapsed in 2014.

Opinion polls show Netanyahu, now in his fourth term and battling corruption allegations he denies, locked in a close race with centrist challenger Benny Gantz, a former armed forces chief. Voting is less than two weeks away.

In Washington on Monday, Netanyahu was at Trump’s side when the president signed a proclamation recognizing Israeli sovereignty over the occupied Golan Heights, territory that Israel captured from Syria in the 1967 war and annexed in 1981.

A popular figure in Israel, Trump had already broken with long-standing U.S. and international policies when he recognized Jerusalem as Israel’s capital in 2017 and moved the American embassy there from Tel Aviv last May.

Palestinians want East Jerusalem, in Israeli hands since 1967, to be the capital of a state they seek to establish in the occupied West Bank and in the Gaza Strip.

P.O. (GUA) Trump says US will recognize Israel’s sovereignty over Golan Heights

I can only say:
Well done President Trump!
The Golan Heights are vital to Israel security.
Before 52 years ago, when Israel conquered the area with enormous acts of heroism, under orders from the famous General Moshe Dayan, Israel used to be bombed almost everyday from these Heights.
It could not continue.

And i am of the opinion the Golan Heights should for ever be a part of Israel.
Full Stop.

Francisco (Abouaf) de Curiel Marques Pereira

(GUA) Donald Trump has announced that the US will recognize Israel’s sovereignty over the Golan Heights, captured from Syria in 1967, in a dramatic move likely to bolster Benjamin Netanyahu’s hopes to win re-election, but which will also provoke international opposition.

Previous US administrations have treated Golan Heights as occupied Syrian territory, in line with UN security council resolutions. Trump declared his break with that policy, in a tweet on Thursday.

He said: “After 52 years it is time for the United States to fully recognize Israel’s sovereignty over the Golan Heights, which is of critical strategic and security importance to the State of Israel and Regional Stability!”

By defying a 52-year-old unanimously adopted UN resolution on “inadmissibility of the acquisition of territory by war”, Trump has also broken the postwar norm of refusing to recognise the forcible annexation of territory – which has underpinned western and international opposition to the Russian annexation of Crimea.

“The United States relies on these core principles regarding peaceful dispute resolution and rejecting acquisition of territory by force,” Tamara Cofman Wittes, the former deputy assistant secretary of state for Near Eastern affairs, wrote on Twitter. Wittes, now a senior fellow at the Brookings Institution, added the move “yanks the rug out from under US policy opposing Russia’s annexation of Crimea, as well as US views on other disputed territories”.

Netanyahu, the Israeli PM, quickly tweeted his gratitude for Trump’s gesture.

“At a time when Iran seeks to use Syria as a platform to destroy Israel, President Trump boldly recognizes Israeli sovereignty over the Golan Heights,” the Israeli prime minister wrote. “Thank you President Trump!”

The Syrian state news agency issued a statement saying Golan Heights remained Arabian and Syrian regardless of Trump’s comments.

The announcement came as Netanyahu was hosting the US secretary of state, Mike Pompeo, in Jerusalem.

“President Trump has just made history,” Netanyahu said. “I called him. I thanked him on behalf of the people of Israel. The message that President Trump has given the world is that America stands by Israel.”

Pompeo said: “President Trump tonight made the decision to recognise that hard-fought real estate, that important place is proper to be sovereign part of the state of Israel.”

He added: “The people of Israel should know that the battles they fought, the lives that they lost on that very ground, were worthy, meaningful and important for all time.”

The announcement marks a diplomatic coup for Netanyahu, less than three weeks before a close fought election, and four days before he is due to visit Washington.

Trump denied his announcement was intended to help Netanyahu hold on to office, even suggesting he had been unaware the election was imminent.

“I wouldn’t even know about that. I have no idea,” Trump told Fox News. He said he had been thinking about recognising the Israeli annexation “for a long time”.

“This is sovereignty, this is security, this is about regional security,” he said.

Administration officials had previously rebuffed Netanyahu’s pressure for recognition of Israel’s possession of the strategic border area, pointing out that Trump had already handed the Israeli leader a significant political gift by moving the US embassy in Israel from Tel Aviv to Jerusalem.

Recognition of the Golan could pave the way for US recognition of Israeli sovereignty in the Palestinian occupied territories. In a recent state department report on human rights, the administration changed its description of the West Bank and Gaza from “occupied territories” to “Israeli-controlled territories”.

Robert Malley, a former Middle East adviser to Barack Obama and now head of the International Crisis Group, said: “This decision is intensely political – timed to boost Netanyahu’s electoral chances; gratuitous – it will not alter in any way Israel’s control of the Golan Heights; in disregard of international law; and an ominous step at a time when voices in Israel calling for the annexation of the West Bank are growing louder.”

He added: “It is of a piece with the administration’s one-sided Mideast policy and confirms that its goal is not Arab-Israeli peace but a fundamental redrawing of the parameters that have governed its pursuit.”

Israel advanced into the Golan Heights gradually in the years following the 1948 war Arab-Israeli war, and occupied it entirely in the 1967 war. That year, UN security council resolution 242 stressed the “inadmissibility of the acquisition of territory by war and the need to work for a just and lasting peace in which every state in the area can live in security”.

A further resolution, supported by the Reagan administration in 1981, rejected as “null and void” a move to put the area under direct Israeli jurisdiction.

Over the decades there have been a string of abortive attempts to negotiate a peaceful solution to the fate of the Golan Heights – most recently in 2010 when the Obama administration and Netanyahu engaged in secret talks with the Syrian dictator, Bashar al-Assad, on a peace treaty involving Israeli withdrawal.

But that effort foundered with the spread of the Arab Spring revolt to Syria, and Assad’s decision to crush the rebellion by massacring protesters in 2011.

Frederic Hof, a former senior state department official involved in those negotiations, told the Guardian on Thursday that annexation “would be an entirely gratuitous gesture with potential diplomatic downsides for Israel and for the security of Israelis”.

Hof said: “It will be welcomed by Israel’s bitterest enemies – Iran and Hezbollah – who would see annexation as additional justification for terror operations. It would enable Syria’s Assad regime to change the subject from its war crimes and crimes against humanity to Israel’s formal acquisition of territory in violation of UN security council resolution 242. It would do nothing whatsoever positive for Israel’s security.”

(OBS) O ódio a Israel é uma estupidez perigosa – Rui Ramos


Desde que as geringonças tornaram os esquerdistas respeitáveis, o seu ódio a Israel também se tem feito respeitável, como se vê no caso da Eurovisão. Convém dizer que é uma estupidez perigosa.

Parece que Roger Waters, nos intervalos da sua campanha a favor da ditadura chavista na Venezuela, tem andado a escrever aos cantores da Eurovisão para boicotarem o festival em Israel. Já o ano passado tinha havido um movimento para dissuadir o voto na canção israelita, sem muita eficácia: Israel ganhou. As pessoas ainda não vivem todas na cabeça do ex-Pink Floyd. Mas a conjugação entre o amor à ditadura venezuelana e o ódio a Israel não é uma excentricidade de Waters. Já a propaganda soviética tinha feito do “anti-sionismo” um elemento básico do credo do “homem de esquerda”. A ditadura venezuelana é aliada de Cuba, Israel é aliado dos EUA: para um bom esquerdista, não importa saber mais nada. Desde que as geringonças tornaram os esquerdistas respeitáveis, o seu ódio a Israel também se tem feito respeitável, como se vê pelas assinaturas para o boicote da Eurovisão. Convém dizer que é uma estupidez perigosa.

Dir-me-ão: há os palestinianos. Falemos então dos palestinianos. Sim, os árabes da Palestina nunca tiveram um Estado. Israel, porém, não tem sido o único problema a esse respeito. Entre 1948 e 1967, enquanto controlaram a Cisjordânia e Gaza, nunca o Egipto ou a Jordânia deixarem fundar o Estado árabe da Palestina. Interessou-lhes mais usar esses territórios e as suas populações para atacar Israel. Por isso, com a colaboração das Nações Unidas, mantiveram os árabes palestinianos em campos de refugiados, e impediram que fossem assimilados nas outras sociedades do Médio Oriente, como os judeus expulsos dos países árabes foram assimilados em Israel. Sempre que Israel, nos últimos anos, retirou de territórios ocupados – da Faixa de Gaza, por exemplo – logo esses territórios se tornaram base, não de um Estado palestiniano, mas de jihad contra Israel. O Estado palestiniano não é inviabilizado apenas pela ocupação israelita da Cisjordânia, mas pelas organizações terroristas que mantêm os árabes palestinianos reféns da campanha, iniciada pelo nacionalismo árabe e depois assumida pelo fundamentalismo islâmico, para destruir Israel. Devemos lamentar a política de colonatos israelitas, mas não devemos ignorar um direito de defesa que, num país que não chega a ter, em certos pontos, mais de 15 quilómetros de largura, tem passado infelizmente pela ocupação de território. A existência do Estado árabe da Palestina depende, como dependeu sempre, do reconhecimento do direito de Israel a existir como o Estado judeu da Palestina, segundo a resolução das Nações Unidas de 29 de Novembro de 1947 (que o Hamas, no poder em Gaza, embora por entre alguma confusão calculada, fundamentalmente recusa).

Nada disto, como é óbvio, é minimamente relevante para os inimigos de Israel. Para esses, o que importa é fazer de Israel a África do Sul do século XXI. Há quem diga que o problema é apenas as “políticas” de Israel. Mas como Israel é o Estado judeu do Médio Oriente, o “anti-sionismo” de tipo soviético tem sido a grande via para o restabelecimento do anti-semitismo, que, à conta da raiva contra Israel, infectou os partidos de esquerda como os Trabalhistas no Reino Unido e os Democratas nos Estados Unidos, conforme a esquerda radical neles ganhou influência. E isto, quando, através da influência do islamismo radical entre as comunidades imigrantes, a cultura de anti-judaísmo desinibido do Médio Oriente ameaça instalar-se no Ocidente.

Ora, o repúdio consensual do anti-semitismo tinha sido, desde 1945, a maior de todas as barreiras contra as extrema-direitas, incapazes de se desligarem de uma aversão que, nos anos 20 e 30, tinha sido a base popular do seu racismo e das suas teorias da conspiração. A esquerda radical diz-se hoje muito ansiosa com um eventual retorno desse tipo de extrema-direita. Deplora até todos os debates sobre temas que acha exclusivos do “populismo” (a imigração descontrolada, por exemplo). No entanto, não parece preocupada em reabrir a porta ao anti-semitismo através do ódio a Israel. Às vezes, é difícil distinguir entre o facciosismo e a estupidez.

(DN) Nova Zelândia/Ataque: Embaixador israelita em Portugal solidariza-se com comunidade islâmica


O embaixador de Israel em Portugal condenou hoje o atentado contra duas mesquitas na Nova Zelândia, que causou 49 mortos, e exprimiu “solidariedade na dor” numa carta enviada ao presidente da Comunidade Islâmica de Lisboa.

“Foi com choque e repugnância que tomei conhecimento do ataque insano a crentes muçulmanos”, declara Raphael Gamzou na carta dirigida a Abdool Karim Vakil, classificando o ataque de “crime de natureza claramente islamofóbica”.

“Só sociedades unidas por indivíduos de paz e tolerância para com todas as religiões, fundeadas em princípios profundamente humanistas (…) poderão derrotar a barbárie”, defende o embaixador israelita, que pede a Abdool Karim Vakil que transmita à comunidade islâmica portuguesa a sua solidariedade.

Pelo menos 49 pessoas morreram e 48 ficaram feridas hoje no ataque a duas mesquitas em Chirstchurch, na Nova Zelândia, tendo sido já detidos quatro suspeitos, três homens e uma mulher.

Um homem que se identificou como Brenton Tarrant, de 28 anos, nascido na Austrália, reivindicou a responsabilidade pelos disparos e transmitiu em direto na Internet o momento do ataque.

Christchurch é a maior cidade da Ilha Sul da Nova Zelândia e a terceira maior cidade do país com cerca de 376.700 habitantes.

(DN) Israel quer “igualar patamar elevado” da Eurovisão em Portugal

(DN) Embaixador de Israel em Portugal não acredita que nenhum país vá boicotar o evento marcado para maio em Telavive.

A dois meses do arranque da Eurovisão, o embaixador de Israel em Portugal falou com o DN sobre a preparação do evento em Telavive. Raphael Gamzou elogia a organização portuguesa do ano passado e espera que o seu país faça, pelo menos, igual.

“Gostaríamos de igualar o patamar muito elevado que Portugal colocou no ano passado e desejamos que as pessoas estejam confortáveis e felizes como estavam no ano passado em Lisboa”, sublinhou.

O diplomata confessa que não viu o concurso nacional – que deu a vitória a Conan Osíris – mas que um amigo fã do certame lhe garantiu que foi um “espetáculo muito bom”. Por isso, não tem dúvidas que a televisão pública israelita – KAN – pode aprender com a portuguesa RTP. “A Eurovisão em Lisboa foi um enorme sucesso, de todos os pontos de vista: produção, organização e a bonita atmosfera na cidade. Tenho a certeza que temos muito a aprender e sei que o estamos a fazer entre as polícias e entre a RTP e a KAN”.

Quanto aos pedidos que foram feitos a Conan Osíris para que boicotasse o evento, Raphael Gamzou acredita que se trata de um reflexo. “São os suspeitos do costume, que agem sempre de acordo com instintos pavlovianos, de forma automática, não são grupos ou pessoas ligados à realidade, mas à sua agenda política.”

Os apelos feitos pelo Comité de Solidariedade com a Palestina, o SOS Racismo e as Panteras Rosa ao vencedor português para não se deslocar a Telavive não tiveram, para já, grande impacto. Da mesma forma, o embaixador de Israel acredita que não se irão verificar boicotes de nenhuma natureza.

“Não acredito que nenhum país ou público vai boicotar a Eurovisão. Penso que vai ser mais um bom concurso de canções e acho que o apelo ao boicote é um fenómeno automático e marginal.”

Para já, o único boicote tem surgido de alguns artistas israelitas que se recusam a participar na final da competição europeia da canção por esta se realizar no sábado, dia sagrado para os judeus. Omar Adan e a banda Shalva são dois dos nomes que já se recusaram a participar. No entanto, Raphael Gamzou defende que este detalhe não será um problema: “A final vai ser extraordinária para todos os participantes e para todas as pessoas que vêm de todo o mundo para assistir ao concurso“, prefere sublinhar.

Num tom mais descontraído admite que não irá ficar dividido entre a participação portuguesa e a israelita. “Fico sempre contente quando o meu país ganha. No futebol, como até hoje, infelizmente, a seleção israelita não tem chegado a fases finais de campeonatos, então aí não tenho dúvidas ou hesitações e apoio totalmente Portugal.”



The Shaare Tikva Synagogue (Toby Saltzman photo)

Truths, legends and visions of history tumbled through my mind as I explored Portugal, treading through narrow alleys and steep paths on a quest to see authentic remnants of the Jewish civilization that had thrived prior to its Inquisition.

Evolution and current splendours aside in this country alluring with pleasures, my mission was inspired by an undeniable truth: some 500 years ago, an entire people – 200,000, then 20 per cent of the population – was eradicated from the western Iberian Peninsula, leaving sparse evidence of the intrinsic culture that distinguished their existence. Legends hold that a romance precipitated the Jews’ forced conversion to Christianity, and a joke instigated executions and their ultimate expulsion.

That was then, this is now. History cannot change, but that it can be transcended by changes in attitude was palpable on the final night of my week-long journey when I heard Ana Mendes Godinho, Portugal’s secretary of state for tourism, validate the Jews’ pre-Inquisition existence, noting – among many details – that navigator Pedro Alvares Cabral, who discovered Brazil, was a highly esteemed Jewish Portuguese nobleman.

Addressing our rapt audience of seven Canadians and Americans – the first writers and agents to trace part of Portugal’s new “Jewish Legacy” trail – Godinho’s tone was genuinely, sincerely apologetic for the indelible past, yet vivaciously welcoming to Jews now: “Our history is completely bonded to Jewish history. Now is the moment to take down walls [of anti-Semitism built by the Inquisition]. Today we say ‘every Portuguese has a Jewish bone in their body.’”

Godinho was referencing that all Portuguese in the country and Diaspora may be descendants of Jews forcibly converted to Christianity. Today many Portuguese feel quite the opposite of “anti-Semitic” and classify themselves as “philo-Semitic” for interest in their possible Jewish heritage.


Our introduction to the Jewish experience in Portugal began with Gabriel Steinhardt, president of Lisbon’s Jewish community, officially known as Comunidade Israelita de Lisboa. Dining on cod at Aura, an elegant restaurant bordering the historic, harbourside Praça do Comércio square where Jews once scrambled to ships bound for freedom, Steinhardt – an Ashkenazic Jew whose parents fled to Portugal from eastern Europe in the 1930s – explained: “The Inquisition was not against Jews, but against the New Christians who had converted from Judaism, but secretly practiced Jewish rituals.” These “secret Jews” (conversos) were denounced as heretics of the church and threats to the social order.

Jews had inhabited Iberia for some 3,000 years. By the 1400s, Jews were thriving in Portugal’s prime trading, commercial and intellectual centres. As Lisbon developed, Jews were shuffled to three, less desirable areas, including the stone dwellings sloping down the steep, rocky pocket of Alfama that remains today. When Spain’s Queen Isabella and King Ferdinand decreed the Spanish Inquisition in 1492, some 100,000 Jews fled to Portugal. When Portugal’s King Manuel I begged to marry King Ferdinand’s daughter, the Spanish monarch allowed it providing Portugal expels its Jews.

In 1496, King Manuel ordered Jews to convert or leave on specified ships which never arrived. Lucky Jews escaped to Amsterdam, Germany, Italy, France, Constantinople, Morocco, Brazil and Peru.

Legends go that tensions exploded in 1506 – a year of drought and deadly epidemics – when a worshipper at Lisbon’s Sao Domingos Church called a glowing aura “a miraculous light from Christ” and a New Christian joked, “Instead of light, Christ should give us rain.” On April 19, 1506, over 2,000 Jews were massacred on the church square. Ending the madness, King Manuel gave New Christians a grace period of 30 years without persecution to stop Jewish practices or leave. By May 23, 1536 when Pope Paul II’s edict officially initiated Portugal’s Inquisition, all Jews had converted and assimilated. All elements of their culture, including synagogues, signs and architectural details had vanished.    

A monument to the massacre of Jews in Lisbon in 1506. (Toby Saltzman photo)

Years later, New Christians were blamed for the wrath of nature when  on Nov. 1, 1755, an earthquake decimated Lisbon, just as worshippers were lighting candles for All Saints Day. The flaming candles created a fiery apocalypse, burning nearby Christians’ wood-built homes while the New Christians’ homes – embedded in Alfama’s rocky threshold – survived.

After the earthquake, the Marques de Pombal rebuilt Lisbon on a geometric grid into the architecturally significant, neo-Classical city core it is today. By then, the Enlightenment era was stimulating change. Although the Inquisition quit interrogations in the mid-1700s, the Vatican officially abolished it in1821.

By the mid-1800s, descendants of Jews who had fled from Portugal or Spain began settling in Portugal’s Azores Islands and southern Algarve region. Gibraltar Jews arrived with British passports. Those who gravitated to Lisbon created cemeteries and community charities, one dating to 1830. In 1904, they inaugurated Shaare Tikva, the first synagogue built since the Inquisition. Today it is a Portuguese National Monument. “Lisbon’s Jewish community officially became legal in 1912,” Steinhardt noted.

The Discoveries monument in Lisbon commemorates the 500th anniversary of the death of Prince Henry the Navigator. (Toby Saltzman photo)

Portugal’s population increased between the two world wars with central European Jews fleeing pogroms, economic hardships, and Nazis. Portugal maintained its neutrality in the Second World War. Spain required all Jews leaving France to have visas to Portugal. In 1940, Portugal’s Consul General Aristide de Sousa Mendes, based in Bordeaux, ignored government orders and issued thousands of visas to Jews. In 1966 he was named Righteous Among the Nations. Jews arriving in Portugal were placed in gated areas and the concrete-set gate poles are still visible in some villages.

In Lisbon, Shaare Tikva Synagogue’s inconspicuous entrance belies its grand, wood-embellished interior. Steinhardt explained that although the congregation is half Ashkenazic, rituals are Moroccan Sephardic Orthodox and there is a mikveh. Friday night and Saturday morning services typically attract only 20, so they welcome visitors’ camaraderie.

In 2017 Shaare Tikva received over 12,000 Jewish and Christian visitors, many tracking family roots. It recently added a kosher kitchen and plans to host glatt kosher affairs and prepare sealed meals for hotel delivery.

Lisbon’s second synagogue, Ohel Jacob, founded in 1934 originally focused on integrating the crypto-Jews or b’nei anousim whose ancestors had been forced to convert.

Today Portugal has one of Europe’s smallest Jewish communities, including about 1,000 in Lisbon and 300 in Porto. A cluster of about 35 to 40 crypto-Jews living in Belmonte all hail from original survivors of the Inquisition who converted outwardly yet maintained Jewish rituals.

For all of Lisbon’s beauty and majesty of its treed Avenida da Liberdade, Rossio Square (a.k.a. Praça de D. Pedro IV) and tiled Rua Augusta leading to the triumphal arch and harbour, it was worth the uphill climb and cable ride to Castelo de Sao Jorge, the ancient Moors’ citadel, captured by Christians in 1147, that became home to successive Portuguese kings.

Its ramparts gave geographic perspective of Lisbon’s seven hills, the Tagus River harbour, the circa 1521 Belem Tower still standing as symbol of Portugal’s maritime prowess, and context to the tiny pockets once inhabited by Jews.

Descending past the castle moat, we entered a recently excavated archeological site, its stony borders historic evidence of a 7th-century BCE Moorish civilization. From here, steep paths sloped down to Alfama, a labyrinth of alleys where Rua da Judiaria – its sign being Lisbon’s sole historic evidence of past Jews – is now clustered by small museums, tavernas and bars boasting soulful Fado singers.  An empty lot is designated for a Jewish museum and cultural centre.

At the corner of Rossio Square, outside San Domingos Church, stands a poignant memorial to the past, a monument to the massacre of Jews in 1506.

(Haaretz) Israel’s First Moon Mission Blasts Off From Florida


The unmanned Genesis spaceship, which has already set several records, is scheduled to land on the moon on April 11

The SpaceX rocket that took off from Florida's Cape Canaveral carrying Israel's Beresheet spacecraft, on Thursday, February21, 2019.
The SpaceX rocket that took off from Florida’s Cape Canaveral carrying Israel’s Beresheet spacecraft, on Thursday, February21, 2019.AFP

Early Friday morning at 3:45 A.M. Israel time marked the beginning of a new era for Israeli space research with the launch of the first Israeli spacecraft heading to the moon. The launch set several records: The ship will be the smallest and least expensive spacecraft ever to land on the moon and will put Israel among the ranks of the superpowers, the United States, Russia and China, which have successfully carried out lunar landings of various kinds.

The unmanned Genesis spacecraft (“Beresheet” in Hebrew), which was privately built by the non-profit group SpaceIL in cooperation with Israel Aeronautics Industries, was launched from Cape Canaveral in Florida on a Falcon 9 rocket built by Elon Musk’s SpaceX company. At a press conference this week, the president of SpaceIL, Morris Kahn, who donated $40 million of the $100 million cost of the spacecraft, said Genesis was presented as a gift to President Reuven Rivlin and declared a national project.

A simulation of Israel's Genesis spacecraft on the moon.
A simulation of Israel’s Genesis spacecraft on the moon.SpaceIL

“We have been on this journey for eight years and it will be completed in two months, with the landing on the moon. We are making history and we are proud to be part of a group that has dreamed and realized the dream that many countries have had but only three have fulfilled,” Kahn said.

In addition to the national pride that the project, which is not entirely a private venture, generates, the symbolic importance of Genesis is huge and the launch has sparked global interest. The spacecraft itself is mostly a demonstration of the capabilities that the project has drawn on. Its scientific mission is simple and the plan is for it to stay on the moon for just two days. Up to this point, only China has had the proven technology necessary for a soft landing on the moon.

Israel’s success could lead to a whole host of future lunar landings and create an entirely different business model in which private firms would offer a range of services. Customers would be able to purchase a spot on a spacecraft for their equipment — ranging from scientific instruments and communications technology to clients who want to spread the ashes of their loved ones on the moon. In the longer term, firms could try to reach the moon to produce products, from precious metals to water that could be used to fuel rockets or to actually settle the moon.

Netanyahu attends an event to watch the launch of the Israeli spacecraft "Beresheet" from the Israel Aerospace Industries control room, in Yehud, Israel, on February 22, 2019.
Netanyahu attends an event to watch the launch of the Israeli spacecraft “Beresheet” from the Israel Aerospace Industries control room, in Yehud, Israel, on February 22, 2019.Eliran Avital

SpaceIL’s project began as an initiative of three young people, Yariv Bash, Kfir Damari and Yehonatan Weintraub, who in 2010 registered for Google’s Lunar XPRIZE competition. The competition ended in March of last year without a winner, but SpaceIL announced that it would continue to pursue the plans. With the assistance of private donors and with the support of Israel’s Science, Technology and Space Ministry, the threesome managed to fulfill their dream with Friday’s launch.

Thirty-two minutes after liftoff, the spacecraft, which was placed on an Indian communications satellite, the main payload of the launch, separated from the Falcon rocket. Several minutes later, personnel in the project’s control room at Israel Aerospace Industries in Yehud, near Ben-Gurion International Airport, made contact with Genesis.

According to plans, the spacecraft’s lunar landing legs opened and were followed by a series of tests of the spacecraft’s systems to verify that they weathered the launch and are functioning well in space. About an hour after the launch, Genesis entered its first orbit of the Earth.

The unmanned Genesis spacecraft “(Beresheet” in Hebrew) ahead of the launch, on February 22, 2019.
The unmanned Genesis spacecraft “(Beresheet” in Hebrew) ahead of the launch, on February 22, 2019.יואב וייס

Genesis’ path toward the moon includes elliptical orbits of increasing size around the Earth, during which the spacecraft makes use of the Earth’s gravitational pull to increase its speed. All told, Genesis is scheduled to travel 6.5 million kilometers (4 million miles), making it the lunar mission with the longest path ever traveled.

On its final orbit, the spacecraft is scheduled to approach the moon itself, to be followed by a complex maneuver in which it will attempt to be pulled into the lunar field of gravity — about 10 days before it actually lands on the moon. If everything goes well, it will orbit the moon until the timing is right for a landing, which is currently scheduled for April 11.

“Our journey to the moon is full of challenges, and therefore our mission is immeasurably complex. Every step that we take successfully will pave the way for the success of the next step, until the landing on the moon,” Ido Anteby, SpaceIL’s CEO, said at this week’s news conference.

Lightweight and at a relatively low price tag 

Genesis, which weighs just 600 kilograms (1,320 pounds), and whose $100 million price tag compares with billions that have been spent on prior lunar missions, was planned without a backup system in the event of a technical malfunction. The spacecraft is a meter and a half tall and 2 meters wide (nearly 5 feet tall and 6 and a half feet wide). Its maximum planned speed is 10 kilometers (6.2 miles) per second.

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It will be carrying equipment to measure the moon’s magnetic field, which astronomers still don’t fully understand. In addition, after the spacecraft lands, it will take a selfie of itself and of the Israeli flag from the lunar surface. Genesis also has a time capsule on board with hundreds of digital files, from details regarding the construction of the spacecraft and the team involved, to national symbols, cultural information and other material collected from members of the public over the years.

One of the motivations leading the various partners in the project to support it is the hope that it will spawn the Israeli equivalent of the Apollo effect in the United States, created in connection with the American program to land a man on the moon, leading up to the actual landing of Apollo 11 in 1969. The Israeli entrepreneurs and their donors hope that a successful Genesis mission will encourage Israeli young people to take an interest in space and science and engineering.

(JTA) Congress is now 3 times more Jewish than the United States as a whole


New members of the House of Representatives being sworn in during the first session of the 116th Congress at the U.S. Capitol, Jan. 3, 2019. (Chip Somodevilla/Getty Images)ADVERTISEMENT

(JTA) — More than 6 percent of the new Congress is Jewish, with 34 Jews among the total of 535 lawmakers in the U.S. House of Representatives and Senate.

Jews make up 2 percent of the U.S. population, so Congress as a whole is more than thrice as Jewish as the country in general, according to a new study by the Pew Research Center on religion in the new Congress, which was inaugurated Thursday.

The number is even larger in the Senate, where eight of the 100 members are Jewish. That’s 8 percent, for the math challenged.

This Congress has four more Jews than its predecessor, which had 30 Jewish members. But it’s far from the most Jewish Congress ever. That was the 1993 Congress, which boasted 51 Jews — nearly 10 percent of the total.

All of the Jews in the Senate are Democrats, as are all but two in the House. The Republican exceptions are Reps. Lee Zeldin and David Kustoff, from New York and Tennessee, respectively. They are the only non-Christian Republicans in the Congress, according to Pew.

Congress as a whole is overwhelmingly Christian — even more so than the country. Seventy-one percent of Americans identify as Christian, compared to 88 percent of Congress. Both Protestants and Catholics are overrepresented on Capitol Hill.

The most underrepresented group is unaffiliated Americans. Twenty-three percent of Americans don’t identify with a religion, but that’s true of just a sole member of Congress — new Arizona Sen. Kyrsten Sinema. Muslims, Buddhists, Hindus and Unitarians are also represented in Congress.

(EUobserver) France to ban far-right groups over antisemitism


French president Emmanuel Macron has said France would ban three far-right groups – Bastion Social, Blood and Honour Hexagone, and Combat 18 – and adopt a tougher definition of antisemitism in reaction to a spike in hate crimes, such as recent vandalism of Jewish graves. “Europe, and most Western democracies, seem to be facing a resurgence of antisemitism unseen since World War II,” Macron said.

(Algemeiner) ‘Ça Suffit!’: Thousands Demonstrate in Paris and Across France Against Surging Antisemitism


Demonstrators gather for the rally against antisemitism in the Place de la Republique in Paris. Photo: Reuters / Philippe Wojazer.

More than 20,000 demonstrators filled the Place de la Republique in Paris on Tuesday night in response to a nationwide call for mass rallies against the continuing surge of antisemitism in France.

The show of solidarity with French Jews in the capital was replicated across the country, with rallies against antisemitism being held in more than 60 cities and towns, including Lyon, Marseille, Toulouse and Strasbourg — the city in eastern France near which only on Tuesday morning dozens of graves in a Jewish cemetery were found defaced with swastikas and antisemitic slogans.

The vandalism at the cemetery came following a week of high-profile antisemitic incidents, including the daubing of a Jewish-owned bakery with the slogan “Juden!” and the abuse hurled at the French-Jewish intellectual Alain Finkielkraut last weekend by protesters affiliated with the populist “yellow vest” movement.

Under the floodlit statue of Marianne, the symbol of the French Republic, the demonstrators who gathered at dusk in Paris held signs declaring “Ça suffit!” (“That’s enough!”), as well as the greeting “Shalom, Salaam, Salut.” Many of the signs at the rally highlighted the figure “74%” — the total increase in the number of antisemitic outrages recorded in France during 2018.

At the podium, children from schools in the local district read out speeches against antisemitism, some of them recalling the mass deportation of the Jews of Paris by the Nazis in July 1942.

French rap artist Abd al Malik closed the rally, leading the crowd in a chorus of “La Marseillaise,” the national anthem.

Initiated by the opposition Socialist Party, Tuesday’s rallies against antisemitism were backed by 14 political parties from the far left to the center-right. Political leaders attending the demonstration in Paris included Prime Minister Edouard Philippe and 14 other members of the French cabinet, including Education Minister Jean-Michel Blanquer and Higher Education Minister Frédérique Vidal.

Minutes before the rally against antisemitism commenced, French President Emmanuel Macron paid a separate visit to the Holocaust memorial in Paris. After laying a memorial wreath, Macron praised the nearby rally without taking further questions from assembled reporters. On Wednesday night, Macron is scheduled to deliver a much-anticipated speech at the annual dinner of CRIF, the French Jewish communal organization.

On arriving at the Holocaust memorial, Macron — who earlier in the day had visited the vandalized Jewish cemetery in Quatzenheim — was accosted by a woman who implored him, “Mr. President, I’m French, Jewish, I need to talk to you! I beg you!” Aides in Macron’s office told newspaper Le Figaro that the president engaged in a short conversation with the woman, but did not share details of their discussion.

Tuesday’s rallies around France followed a debate in the French National Assembly around a new legislative proposal to criminalize anti-Zionism — understood as the call for the elimination of the State of Israel —  as a form of antisemitism.

Speaking in favor of the motion, French Jewish lawmaker Meyer Habib expressed his fear that the current wave of antisemitism would force Jews to leave the country in large numbers.

Asked during his cemetery visit on Tuesday for his view on the National Assembly debate, President Macron said he opposed making anti-Zionism a criminal offense.

“I do not feel that penalizing anti-Zionism is a good solution,” Macron said. “I do believe that those who want Israel to disappear also want to target Jews, but when you examine the issue of outlawing anti-Zionism, you realize this would cause a number of problems.”

While turnout at Tuesday’s rallies did not exceed the numbers at similar previous events — several thousand marched against antisemitism in 2012 following the terrorist attack at a Jewish school in Toulouse, and did so again last year, following the brutal murder of Holocaust survivor Mireille Knoll — French-language social media feeds carried extensive photos and videos of the gatherings in Paris and elsewhere.

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L’Echiquier social@EchiquierSocial

Place de la République : 19h47 #CaSuffit #JeDisNon Rassemblement contre l’antisémitisme7:09 PM – Feb 19, 2019See L’Echiquier social’s other TweetsTwitter Ads info and privacy

Bernard-Henri Lévy@BHL

Ce n’est pas aux #Juifs de se défendre, c’est à la #République, dit #Macron au cimetière juif de #Quatzenheim au lendemain de la profanation. La réaction est rapide. Les mots sont justes et beaux. La France est debout et l’#antisémitisme demeure la honte de notre nation.1,1564:57 PM – Feb 19, 2019Twitter Ads info and privacy491 people are talking about this

Aurélie Sarrot@aureliesarrot · 19hReplying to @aureliesarrot

« Touche pas à mon pote », « salam shalom salut » et #Giletsjaunes place de la République #manif #Paris

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Aurélie Sarrot@aureliesarrot

Mathilde, 22 ans, militante @SOS_Racisme , intervient dans les collèges et lycées contre le racisme et L’antisemitisme. Elle est place de la #Republique #Paris ce soir pour la #manif PM – Feb 19, 2019Twitter Ads info and privacy

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France 3 Rhône-Alpes@F3Rhone_Alpes

A #Lyon, plusieurs centaines de personnes sont massées place Bellecour pour protester contre toutes formes d’antisémitisme. (Photos D. Pajonk)226:12 PM – Feb 19, 2019See France 3 Rhône-Alpes’s other Tweets

(EUobserver) Hungary and Slovakia break EU line on Jerusalem

(EUobserver) Hungary and Slovakia have promised to open diplomatic missions in Jerusalem, going against the EU line that the city should be shared between Israel and a future Palestinian state. “We will have an official presence in Jerusalem,” Hungarian leader Viktor Orban said in Israel on Tuesday. The Czech Republic also opened an official delegation in Jerusalem after the US moved its embassy there last year.

(EuroJewCong) Portuguese MEP warns against ‘return’ of antisemitism – European Jewish Congress


Francisco Assis, a Portuguese Member of the European Parliament (MEP) for the centre-left Progressive Alliance of Socialists and Democrats (S&D) political group has warned against the return of antisemitism and the infantilisation of European public discourse in a column for the Portuguese daily newspaper Publico.

Addressing the huge increase in antisemitic incidents in France as one of the most poignant examples of this phenomenon, MEP Assis wrote: “In recent years, French society has experienced a new kind of antisemitism, stemming from Islamic fundamentalist currents and which has benefited from a certain complacency on the anti-Israel currents in the far left. What also seems to have come back is the antisemitism of an avowedly anti-liberal, anti-cosmopolitan, and anti-universalist far-right.”

“It seems that the movement of the yellow vests in France has contributed to the spread of xenophobic and racist positions and to the popularisation of a proto-fascist discourse,” he added, “yet the effects of globalisation and meagre economic growth in France in recent years do not solely explain this phenomenon: There are  economic roots, but there are also important cultural and political causes.”

“I firmly believe that the intellectual and political collapse of moderate currents of thought, in the context of the infantilisation of public discourse, opens the door for the rise of those brutal and infamous ideologies, which have not been strange to us in the past,” Mr. Assis concluded.

(Algemeiner) German Government Records 60% Surge in Violent Attacks Targeting Jews During 2018

(Algemeiner) b

Demonstrators in Berlin brandish Turkish and Palestinian flags as they burn an Israeli flag. Photo: Jüdisches Forum für Demokratie und gegen Antisemitismus.

In yet another dramatic sign of rising antisemitism on the European continent, Germany’s government disclosed on Wednesday that violent attacks against Jews in the country surged by 60 percent during 2018.

The numbers were published in answer to a request for information from German parliamentarian Petra Pau, a prominent leader of the left-wing socialist party Die Linke (“The Left”). Figures gathered by the German authorities showed an overall rise of 10 percent in antisemitic incidents compared to 2017, with 1,646 offenses reported last year.

Of those, 62 were classified as “violent crimes,” compared with 37 crimes in the same category in 2017.

A total of 43 people were injured in 2018’s violent incidents, while police said they had identified 857 suspects and made 19 arrests.

About two dozen offensive posters were found outside the Hillel building at Tufts University in Massachusetts on Tuesday morning, including one calling…

Germany’s government again reiterated its firm opposition to antisemitism in its response to the numbers. Ulrike Demmer — a spokeswoman for Chancellor Angela Merkel — emphasized that “there is no place for antisemitism in Germany.”

Jewish life in Germany must be allowed to “develop freely and safely,” Demmer stated.

Josef Schuster — president of the Central Council of Jews in Germany — remarked in an interview with the BBC that what “had already solidified as a subjective impression among Jews is now confirmed in the statistics.”

“The latest numbers are not yet official, but at least they reflect a tendency — and that’s scary,” Schuster said.

“Considering that acts below the threshold for criminal liability are not covered, the picture becomes even darker,” he added.

Last April, the German government appointed career diplomat Felix Klein as the country’s first federal commissioner charged with combating antisemitism. In successive interviews, Klein identified both the far right and elements within Germany’s various Muslim communities as responsible for the increase in offenses against Jews.

Additional government statistics made public on Wednesday showed that more than 19,000 hate crimes were carried out by German far-right extremists in 2018, of which nearly 1,100 involved violence.

News of last year’s precipitate increase in Germany came one day after the French government announced a shocking rise of 74 percent in antisemitic crimes committed last year.

Last week, the Community Security Trust —  the UK Jewish community’s security body — published its highest ever annual toll of antisemitic incidents, with 1,652 offenses targeting British Jews in 2018, more than 100 of which involved violence.

About 100,000 Jews live in Germany, a community swelled in recent years by the arrival of thousands of young Israelis.

(Forward) 52 Iraqi Jews Were Killed By The Secret Police. 50 Years Later, Their Descendants Come Forward.


The men in the back asked for silence, and then one began to read the names of the Iraqi Jews killed half a century ago. There were 52 in all: nine hanged in a public square after a show trial in 1969, the rest disappeared by the secret police. The hangings were a de facto death sentence for Iraq’s 2,500-year-old Jewish community, pushing those who had not already fled to Israel to begin smuggling themselves out of their homeland.

About 150 people gathered Sunday at Congregation Bene Naharayim, the Iraqi synagogue in suburban Queens, for a commemoration of the hangings and the kidnappings. Old and young, refugees and their descendants, mingled in a mix of English and Hebrew with a Mizrahi, or Eastern, accent. They spoke of the significance of this milestone, and the long decline of Iraq’s Jewish community and its American diaspora.

“This oldest and proud Jewish community into which we were born is now all but gone, probably forever, sadly,” said Rita Katz, a private terrorism investigator, told the assembled. Katz’s father was one of the nine men hanged; her family escaped to Israel several months later.

“I’m sure that all of you here never forgot, and will never forgive,” she said. “And we will never, ever will stop loving and missing them, all of them.”

Iraqi Jewish synagogue remembers 1969 Baghdad hangings by the Forward
Raphael AbadaShlomo Yadoo reading the names of the killed or disappeared Iraqi Jews.

Congregation Bene Naharayim, located in the Jamaica Estates section of Queens, was founded in 1984. From the street it looks like one of the larger houses that dot the neighborhood. Inside, its walls are covered in photographs of Jews in Baghdad and Basra, maps of Iraq and plaques of deceased members. It has 300 families paying dues, and 100 active members, according to Shlomo Yadoo, the synagogue’s president.

The community it serves is a minority of a minority in American Jewish culture: Iraqi Jews and their descendants, who are part of the diverse world of Sephardic Judaism, which broadly encompasses the Jewish communities whose roots lie from Spain and Morocco to Iran. In the years after the establishment of the State of Israel, in 1948, many Jewish communities were expelled from the Arab or Muslim countries they had called home for 2,000 years or more.

In 1968, the Ba’ath party rose to power in Iraq, in large part through the efforts of Saddam Hussein, who would go on to lead the party, and be dictator of Iraq, for 24 years. The Jewish community had already largely fled for Israel; its population in Iraq had gone from 130,000 in 1950 to less than 3,000 by 1969.

That was the year the regime hung 14 people accused of being spies: nine Jews, three Muslims and two Christians. Iraqi citizens held cookouts in the Baghdad square where the hangings occurred. In the early 1970s, the regime allowed the rest of the Jews to leave, and by the 21st century fewer than a few dozen Jews remained in the country.

Iraqi Jewish synagogue remembers 1969 Baghdad hangings by the Forward
Raphael AbadaRita Katz, left, and her mother Salima Gabbai.

Iraqi Jews feel that their stories have been broadly forgotten in favor of remembering the tragedies that befell Ashkenazi Jews in Europe, whose descendants now vastly outnumber Sephardic Jewry in America.

“In Israel, and everywhere, they don’t know about Iraqi Jews, or Middle Eastern Jews,” said Ruth Shakarchy, head of Bene Naharayim’s sisterhood group, which organized Sunday’s event. “They know only about the Holocuast.”

Shakarchy said that besides the hangings, many Ashkenazi Jews also don’t know about the Farhud, the Iraqi Kristallnacht in June 1941 when widespread rioting caused the deaths of over 100 Jews and the destruction of over a thousand Jewish homes.

Iraqi Jewish synagogue remembers 1969 Baghdad hangings at lunch by the Forward
Raphael AbadaWomen speaking at lunch after the program.

Jordan Salama’s mother fled Iraq with her family as a teenager. Though raised in Westchester County, Salama, 22, had his bar mitzvah at Bene Naharayim. In high school, he made a half-hour documentary about his grandparents’ journeys in the Mizrahi diaspora, and now hopes to expand his research on his Syrian paternal grandfather’s life in Argentina.

“All these stories keep circulating around in my head, and I think the most important thing is to keep tell them to other people so we don’t forget,” he said.

Part of the reason he wants to tell these stories, Salama said, is because they are often overlooked in the Ashkenazi-dominated American Jewish culture.

“I think it’s important to recognize that there was this time of paradise and coexistence [for Arab Jews], and that maybe hopefully it can happen again, if we’re given the opportunity,” he said.

Iraqi Jewish synagogue remembers 1969 Baghdad hangings by the Forward
Raphael AbadaLighting the memorial candles

After the program, the attendees lined up for an Iraqi and American Jewish spread of lunch fare: bagels and cream cheese; pita, eggplant, roasted eggs and pickled mango sauce (amba) for sabich, the Iraqi-Israeli street food; pound cake and muffins; date cookies and baklava.

Next to the desert buffet, Doris Sheena Zilkha, 66, born in Iraq, recounted how after the 1969 hangings the Jewish community was constantly in fear of disappearances, and fasted on Mondays and Thursdays in a gesture of frantic piety.

“People were landing on the moon, and here we were educated, and sitting ducks,” she said.

Baklava at Iraqi Jewish Baghdad hangings memorial program by the Forward
Raphael AbadaBaklava.

One of the family members of the disappeared men in Iraq was Felix Shamash, who was just a teenager when his father, Shoul, was taken from their home in October 1972.

Shamash said that the manner in which his father was taken away forever was as banal as the other stories mentioned Sunday. He had just come home from school when a member of the secret police arrived to escort his father away. The man promised that Shoul would be home soon. Before he left, Shoul put a toothbrush and a tube of toothpaste in his jacket pocket.

“We didn’t even go near him or kiss him,” Shamash recalled. “We were sad. You knew this was goodbye.”

Within six months, they had fled for Athens, where they received U.S. visas and immigrated to New York.

The family never officially learned the fate of Shoul. Shamash said he heard his father’s name once in a radio broadcast from outside Iraq, included in a list of Jews murdered by the regime. But because they didn’t have a date of death, or a grave, Shamash said that no one ever said kaddish for his father.

But a couple years ago, Shamash decided to change course. Now he uses the date of his father’s disappearance as the yartzeit, the anniversary of death.

“I figured I’m getting old, someone has to say kaddish for him,” he said.

Iraqi Jewish synagogue remembers 1969 Baghdad hangings by the Forward
Raphael AbadaListening to Yadoo read the names.

The photographs in this article were taken by Raphael Abada. You can view more of his photographs of the event here.

Ari Feldman is a staff writer at the Forward. Contact him at or follow him on Twitter @aefeldman

This story “Iraqi Jews In America Remember Baghdad Hangings” was written by Ari Feldman.

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