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On Israel’s bizarre definitions: The West Bank is already annexed – Jordan Times

Posted By on July 7, 2020

Wednesday, July 1, was meant to be the day on which the Israeli government officially annexed 30 per cent of the occupied Palestinian West Bank and the Jordan Valley. This date, however, came and went and annexation was never actualised.

I dont know if there will be a declaration of sovereignty today,said Israeli foreign minister, Gabi Ashkenazi, with reference to the self-imposed deadline declared earlier by Israeli prime minister, Benjamin Netanyahu. An alternative date was not immediately announced.

But does it really matter?

Whether Israels illegal appropriation of Palestinian land takes place with massive media fanfare and a declaration of sovereignty, or whether it happens incrementally over the course of the coming days, weeksand months, Israel has, in reality, already annexed the West Bank, not just 30 per cent of it but, in fact, the whole area.

It is critical that we understand such terms as annexation, illegal, military occupation, and so on, in their proper contexts.

For example, international lawdeems that all of Israels Jewish settlements, constructed anywhere on Palestinian land occupied during the 1967 war, are illegal.

Interestingly, Israel, too, uses the term illegal with reference to settlements, but only to outposts that have been erected in the occupied territories without the permission of the Israeli government.

In other words, while in the Israeli lexicon the vast majority of all settlement activities in occupied Palestine are legal, the rest can only be legalised through official channels. Indeed, many of todays legal 132 settlements in the West Bank and Jerusalem,housing over half-a-million Israeli Jewish settlers, began as illegal outposts.

Though this logic may satisfy the need of the Israeli government to ensure its relentless colonial project in Palestine follows a centralised blueprint, none of this matters in international law.

Article 49 of the Fourth Geneva Conventions states that Individual or mass forcible transfers, as well as deportations of protected persons from occupied territory to the territory of the Occupying Power or to that of any other country, occupied or not, are prohibited, regardless of their motive, adding that The Occupying Power shall not deport or transfer parts of its own civilian population into the territory it occupies.

Israel has violated its commitment to international law as an Occupying Power on numerous occasions, rendering its very occupation of Palestine, itself, a violation of how military occupations are conducted, which are meant to be temporary, anyway.

Military occupation is different from annexation. The former is a temporary transition, at the end of which the Occupying Power is expected, in fact, demanded, to relinquish its military hold on the occupied territory after a fixed length of time. Annexation, on the other hand, is a stark violation of the Geneva Conventions and The Hague Regulations. It is tantamount to a war crime, for the occupier is strictly prohibited from proclaiming unilateral sovereignty over occupied land.

The international uproar generated by Netanyahus plan to annex a third of the West Bank is fully understandable. But the bigger issue at stake is that, in practice, Israels violations of the terms of occupation have granted it a de facto annexation of the whole of the West Bank.

So when the European Union, for example, demands that Israel abandons its annexation plans, it is merely asking Israel to reembrace the status quo ante, that of de facto annexation. Both abhorring scenarios should be rejected.

Israel began utilising the occupied territories as if they are contiguous and permanent parts of so-called Israel proper, immediately following the June 1967 war. Within a few years, it erected illegal settlements, now thriving cities, eventually moving hundreds of thousands of its own citizens to populate the newly acquired areas.

This exploitation became more sophisticated with time, as Palestinians were subjected to slow, but irreversible, ethnic cleansing. As Palestinian homeswere destroyed, farms confiscated, and entire regions depopulated, Jewish settlers moved in to take their place. The post-1967 scenario was a repeat of the post-1948 history, which led to the establishment of the State of Israel on the ruins of historic Palestine.

Moshe Dayan, who served as Israels defence minister during the 1967 war, explained the Israeli logic best in a historical address at Israels Technion University in March 1969. We came to this country which was already populated by Arabs, and we are establishing a Hebrew, that is a Jewish state here, hesaid.

Jewish villages were built in the place of Arab villages. You do not even know the names of these Arab villages and I do not blame you, because these geography books no longer exist; not only do the books not exist, the Arab villages are not there, either... There is no one place built in this country that did not have a former Arab population, he added.

The same colonial approach was applied to East Jerusalem and the West Bank after the war. While East Jerusalem was formally annexed in 1980, the West Bank was annexed in practice, but not through a clear legal Israeli proclamation. Why? In one word: Demographics.

When Israel first occupied East Jerusalem, it went on a population transfer frenzy: Moving its own population to the Palestinian city, strategically expanding the municipal boundaries of Jerusalem to include as many Jews and as few Palestinians as possible, slowly reducing the Palestinian population of Al Quds through numerous tactics, including the revocation of residency and outright ethnic cleansing.

And, thus, Jerusalems Palestinian population, which once constituted the absolute majority, has now been reduced to a dwindling minority.

The same process was initiated in parts of the West Bank, but due to the relatively large size of the area and population, it was not possible to follow a similar annexation stratagem without jeopardising Israels drive to maintain Jewish majority.

Dividing the West Bank into Areas A, B and C as a result of the disastrous Oslo accords, has given Israel a lifeline, for this allowed it to increase settlement activities in Area C, nearly 60 per cent of the West Bank, without stressing too much about demographic imbalances. Area C, where the current annexation plan is set to take place, is ideal for Israeli colonialism, for it includes Palestines most arable, resource-rich, and sparsely populated lands.

It matters little whether the annexation will have a set date or will take place progressively through Israels declarations of sovereignty over smaller chunks of the West Bank in the future. The fact is, annexation is not a new Israeli political agenda dictated by political circumstances in Tel Aviv and Washington. Rather, annexation has been the ultimate Israeli colonial objective from the very onset.

Let us not get entangled in Israels bizarre definitions. The truth is that Israel rarely behaves as an Occupying Power, but as a sovereign in a country where racial discrimination and apartheid are not only tolerated or acceptable but are, in fact, legal as well.

Ramzy Baroud is a journalist and the editor of The Palestine Chronicle. He is the author of five books. His latest is These Chains Will Be Broken: Palestinian Stories of Struggle and Defiance in Israeli Prisons (Clarity Press, Atlanta). Dr Baroud is a non-resident senior research fellow at the Centre for Islam and Global Affairs, Istanbul Zaim University. His website iswww.ramzybaroud.net

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On Israel's bizarre definitions: The West Bank is already annexed - Jordan Times

Remote rituals: The Jewish community is sustaining faith, upholding sacred traditions during the pandemic – capitalcurrent.ca

Posted By on July 7, 2020

In a pre-pandemic world, eight-day-old Theo Rapkin would have had his bris ceremony in a Montreal synagogue, surrounded by friends and family, his parents and a rabbi.

There would have been prayers and a brunch.

The bris formally known as the brit malah, or the covenant of circumcision is a ceremony performed on the eighth day of a boys life.

Theos father, Cory Rapkin, a Montreal resident and teacher, describes the scene a rite of passage for most Jewish boys that never came to be because of COVID-19, at least not in the traditional sense.

Instead, Cory and his partner Chantal Burgy were forced to adapt.

In mid-May, Rapkin and Burgy, who were expecting their son in June, planned to hold the bris at the hospital. It didnt look like synagogues, along with other places of worship, would be opening any time soon.

But two weeks prior to Theos birth, the hospital announced that they would no longer perform circumcisions during the pandemic. So the Rapkins decided to hold the bris at home, inviting a Rabbi in to perform the ceremony two weeks ago.

Those in attendance were Rapkin, his wife, his best friend ceremonially dubbed the zander, a title akin to godfather and the rabbi, all donning masks for protection. About 30 guests also tuned in over a Zoom call.

Rapkin said that this was their way of observing the tradition while trying to be respectful of social distancing.

He isnt the only one seeking this balance during the pandemic.

The Jewish community in Canada and beyond has been forced to adapt to the circumstances of the COVID-19 public health crisis.

For example, the Violins of Hope concert series planned for this spring in the U.S. and featuring virtuoso American violinist Niv Ashkenazi, who performed in Ottawa in November 2018 using an instrument reclaimed from the Holocaust has been postponed to several dates in Los Angeles in January and February 2021.

But Ashkenazi did perform a live-streamed concert in April from The Soraya arts centre in California, including an interview adhering to current State, County and City safe-distancing guidelines.

In the past three months, Ottawas Rabbi Reuven Bulka has performed a virtual bar mitzvah over Zoom and a physically distanced bris, leading the ceremony through an open window at the familys house.

Bulka is the Rabbi Emeritus at Congregation Machzikei Hadas in Ottawas Alta Vista neighbourhood. The congregation opened its doors for in-person services last week.

Theres a lot of things we are doing that we never did before, and we didnt even dream wed be doing, said Bulka, who has been leading the congregation for more than 50 years.

Did I ever think there would be a time that it would be a backhoe? he said, referring to the burial process. No.

While COVID-19 has transformed the ways religious rites can be performed, respecting public health guidelines was never up for debate, said Bulka.

The rule that we work about something that weve had to implement many times in our history is, in times of danger, life is paramount, he said.

For Bulka, the health and safety of the community is the most important thing and everything else folds into it.

He said he has also seen some good come from these precautions.

While some have found beauty in these new ways of gathering, not all ceremonies lend themselves to virtual alternatives.

Traditional interment, for example, is usually far a more intimate ceremony to mark the passing of a loved one. The casket is buried by hand or shovel, as each person in attendance throws three scoops of dirt into the grave.

But Bulka said that this practice is no longer possible during the pandemic.

Did I ever think there would be a time that it would be a backhoe? he said, referring to the burial process. No.

Faith, tradition, and ceremony during a pandemic is not a one size fits all, said Bulka.

As for Rapkin, he said he really enjoyed the intimacy of his sons bris ceremony.

It felt more personal, he said.

With no travel and minimal organization required, the experience was actually less stressful than a normal bris. More people could also attend, he noted, including Corys brother who lives in Vancouver, along with friends and family from Los Angeles and Florida.

His only concern was with certain Zoom guests, one of whom gained access to the feed without being invited.

Virtual etiquette is something that many will have to learn to navigate if ceremonies are to be held remotely, according to Rabbi Bulka.

Zoom shivah visits, he noted, are going to be a permanent part of our vocabulary.

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Remote rituals: The Jewish community is sustaining faith, upholding sacred traditions during the pandemic - capitalcurrent.ca

Record Numbers to Begin 40th Cycle of Daily Rambam Study – A simultaneous new start to study of Mishneh Torah and Sefer Hamitzvot – Chabad.org

Posted By on July 7, 2020

Throughout the long, difficult months of the coronavirus pandemic, many have said that a bulwark against worry each day was their study of Torahparticularly, the daily study of Maimonides Mishneh Toraha connection to eternal wisdom in a time of uncertainty. Now, as the 39th cycle of daily study comes to its end, thousands worldwide are preparing to celebrate its conclusion. And with the availability of many new online study tools, thousands more are expected to join in the daily study for the first time as the 40th cycle begins.

The celebration this year will consist of three study tracks all concluding simultaneously. When the RebbeRabbi Menachem M. Schneerson of righteous memoryinstituted the daily study of Rambam, he suggested a daily study regimen of three chapters, finishing the entire Mishneh Torah in under a year. For those unable to study three chapters on a daily basis, the Rebbe proposed learning one chapter a day, allowing the learner to finish the entire work in just under three years.

For those who found even the daily chapter to be a challenge, the Rebbe instituted a third track: studying the Rambams Sefer Hamitzvot (book of commandments). By studying the more concise summaries of the mitzvahs all 613 commandments could be completed annually. This year, being the third year since the start of the 13th cycle of one-chapter study, all three tracks will be concluding their study, making for a momentous commemoration.

When the Rebbe instituted the daily study of Rambam in 1984, he explained that one of the intentions of the study was to achieve unity by having the entire Jewish people learning the subject at the same time. With the amount of resources to aid the study increasing from year to year, this unityencompassing any Jew at any stagehas never been closer to full realization.

On the digital stage, Chabad.org offers numerous resources, starting from the online edition of Rabbi Eliyahu Tougers landmark translation of the entire Mishneh Torah and a wealth of audio classes. Jewish.tv features a wide selection of videos, including the renowned classes of Rabbi Yehoshua B. Gordon. Chabad.orgs daily study app and the Hayom app bring all these resources and more into the palm of your hand.

In print, recent years have seen a massive influx of study aids and publications, providing the scholar to the layman with the right resource to enhance the learning process. The weekly Chayenu magazine carries the Rambam being studied each week in the one-chapter-daily cycle, together with the Touger translation published by Moznaim. Scholars such as Rabbi Adin Even-Israel (Steinsaltz) released contemporary commentaries on the Mishneh Torah, and Dr. Baruch Davidoff, a dentist from London, published a ground-breaking set revolutionizing the study of the text.

The worldwide Siyum Harambam will highlight these components, alongside celebrating the accomplishment of those who spent one year or three fulfilling the goal of learning every mitzvah in the Torah. Organizers say that the celebrations also serve to draw more people to start the new cycle.

Celebrations around the globe will take place beginning on Thursday, July 9, but as the pandemic still rages, large public gatherings will not be held this year. Despite the challenges (or perhaps because of them), online Siyum Harambam webcasts and festivities that mark the completion of the Maimonides magnum opus will be larger than ever. The wonders of modern technology being utilized in the absence of traditional gatherings allow for the siyum (completion) celebrations to reach audiences as never before.

The central celebration in New York is one such example. In prior years, thousands from the Crown Heights neighborhood of Brooklyn and other areas would attend with featured Hebrew and Yiddish-language speakers hailing from diverse Jewish communities across the tri-state area. With the event being held online this year, a much wider pool of participants will be able to join from any location around the globe.

Addressing the event will be Torah scholars from the East and West coasts, and even the chief rabbi of Bnei Brak, Israel. A similar event being held earlier the same day will feature a live stream from Maimonides resting place in Tiberias, Israel, and a siyum for the Montreal Chabad community being held over Zoom will highlight a Chabad emissary beginning the new study cycle from Maimonides original house in Fez, Morocco.

On Sunday, July 12 at noon Eastern time, a program called Hope and Healing: Gaining Strength from Maimonides Wisdom will be broadcast from Israel, hosted by Colel Chabad with greetings from former Sephardic Chief Rabbi Shlomo Amar, Ashkenazi Chief Rabbi David Lau, Jewish Agency chairman Isaac Herzog, Jerusalem Mayor Moshe Lion, in addition to a keynote address by Rabbi Mendel Kaplan.

In the introduction to Mishneh Torah Maimonides expresses his goal: to make it possible for all the laws to be revealed to both those of lesser stature and those of greater stature, regarding every single mitzvah, and also all the practices that were ordained by the Sages and the Prophets. Organizers note that Maimonides himself would no doubt be heartened by how far the world has come to achieving just that.

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Record Numbers to Begin 40th Cycle of Daily Rambam Study - A simultaneous new start to study of Mishneh Torah and Sefer Hamitzvot - Chabad.org

Israeli Sovereignty: Officially on the clock – The Jewish Press – JewishPress.com

Posted By on July 7, 2020

Photo Credit: Pixabay

{Reposted from the JNS website}

Israeli media and international objectors waited on Wednesday with bated breath for an announcement from Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu about the upcoming implementation of sovereignty in much of Judea and Samaria. July 1 had been set within the unity governments coalition agreement as the first day on which Netanyahu could bring the issue for a vote, either in the Cabinet or in the Knesset, either of which would be legally binding.

Contrary to media reports, July 1 was not a deadline for the implementation of sovereignty. There is no such deadline, other than the limited window available for Netanyahu to work with a friendly U.S. president in Donald Trump. That window could close if Trump loses in the November presidential elections or if Netanyahus coalition collapses, which is a persistent concern within Israels quasi-stable parliamentary system.

Meanwhile, the Netanyahu administration is methodically working with the Trump administration to recognize Israeli sovereignty over approximately 30 percent of Judea and Samaria, commonly known as the West Bank. These strategic tracts comprise all Jewish settlements, including isolated outposts, as well as the Jordan Valley, which serves as Israels easternmost border with Jordan.

The mapping process

A closely guarded joint Israeli-American mapping process continues apace to delineate the precise lines over which Israel will apply its sovereignty. The mapping process is complex, due to the overlapping populations of Jews and Palestinians living in the West Bank. No simple lines can be drawn between the two populations.

A conceptual map presented following a press conference at the White House in January with Netanyahu and Trump illustrated 15 separate Jewish-controlled enclaves that would be surrounded by lands the Palestinians would control should they reach the requirements of peaceful statehood and negotiate a final-status agreement with Israel. In addition, several Palestinian enclaves would be surrounded by Israeli territory. Delineating the precise sizes and lines around these enclaves is a sensitive and complex process.

The areas in which Israel would apply its sovereignty represent approximately half of Area C. These are territories the Jewish state already fully controls as part of the 1993 Oslo Accords, brokered by President Bill Clinton, and signed by Israeli Prime Minister Yitzhak Rabin and PLO chairman Yasser Arafat.

Should Israel declare its sovereignty over the territories in question, Israel will continue to retain full control over these areas as they have done for decades. In return for American recognition of Israeli sovereignty, Israel will commit not to build any new communities in the remaining half of Area C for a period of four years. This remaining territory is being set aside for future peace negotiations that may or may not lead to a Palestinian state.

Mapping progress

The mapping process is nearing completion. A six-person team, including U.S. Ambassador to Israel David Friedman and Israeli Ambassador to the United States Ron Dermer, are finalizing the details. The maps are being presented to the U.S. administration, which is expected to agree to recognize Israeli sovereignty in the outlined areas.

The mapping process was made more difficult by the onset of coronavirus and the travel restrictions that came along with the global pandemic. Both the Israeli and American administrations have had to focus a lions share of their attention unexpectedly on the virus, which reduced the time that each administration was able to give to the diplomatic initiative.

Proof that the process is nearing completion is evident by a recent three-day visit by Friedman to Washington, followed by a return visit to Israel by Scott Leith, U.S. Special Envoy for the Israeli-Palestinian Negotiations and member of the mapping team, and Avi Berkowitz, U.S. Special Representative for International Negotiations.

The president will soon be updated on the process and will formally decide whether or not to approve Israels application of sovereignty.

Radio silence

The noticeable lack of formal announcements regarding the process until now has caused immense speculation as to whether or not sovereignty will be applied. Predominantly left-wing media and opponents of Netanyahus policies have filled the void left by the administrations radio silence with numerous reports on growing rifts between political rivals turned coalition partners Netanyahu and Defense Minister Benny Gantz, as well as speculation that approval over the maps is being held up by senior adviser and presidential son-in-law Jared Kushner, or even Trump himself.

Meanwhile, the two administrations have been extremely careful to make sure that any final map details have been kept out of the public until they can be formally explained. Numerous leaks on other sensitive issuesboth in Israel and the United States in recent monthshave led both administrations to carefully guard the details which will spark countless international headlines once they are known.

The lack of leaks on this issue is a demonstration of trust built between the two administrations.

Formal announcements are expected in the next several weeks, and while there are never any guarantees in the Middle East until something actually happens, indications from both administrations are that the application of sovereignty will move ahead as initially conceived.

Coalition difficulties

Netanyahu pledged in the run-up to the most recent elections that if elected, he would immediately work to apply Israels sovereignty, in coordination with the Trump administration. And the embattled, but extremely popular Israeli leader fully intends to keep that pledge.

Gantz and Foreign Minister Gabi Ashkenazi, who both campaigned vehemently against Netanyahu before conceding defeat and joining Israels longest-serving prime minister in a unity government have recently been sending mixed signals over their willingness to accept the parameters of the Trump plan and to implement Israeli sovereignty.

In Washington, ahead of the January Netanyahu-Trump press conference, Gantz told Trump in a private meeting that he supported the presidents Peace to Prosperity vision. He also stated multiple times during his election campaign that he supported the application of Israeli sovereignty over the Jordan Valley.

Furthermore, Netanyahu made the application of sovereignty a key requirement in the negotiations of the coalition agreement signed by Gantz. That Gantz and Ashkenazi are now zigzagging on sovereignty is politically motivated and provides a clear indication of their loyalty as coalition partners.

And while the United States would prefer that Gantz and Ashkenazi be fully on board for the controversial move, their support is not a prerequisite. Netanyahu will likely find a majority for the application of sovereignty either in the cabinet or in the Knesset, even without the 14 Blue and White Party members.

Opposition from Jordan

Gantz and Ashkenazi appear to be concerned about mixed signals sent by Jordans King Abdullah. He has publicly opposed Israels application of sovereignty, though such remarks are made primarily to maintain the support of the majority Palestinian population within Jordan. In addition, Europeans who consistently oppose Israeli policies have similarly referenced Abdullahs public anti-Israel remarks.

Yet Israels continued presence in the Jordan Valley is critical for the security of Abdullahs often fragile regime. While Abdullah reportedly rejected phone calls from Netanyahu, media reported a recent visit to Jordan by one of Netanyahus most trusted confidants, Mossad director Yossi Cohen. The report is a strong indication that security cooperation between Israel and its eastern neighbor is likely to continue, and that a peace treaty signed between the nations in 1994 remains firm.

U.S. Democrats

Gantz and Ashkenazi are also basing their objections on threats from Democrats in the United States. Democrats, as well as many American Jewish leaders who consistently align politically with the Democratic Party, have claimed that Israels application of sovereignty would further damage U.S.-Israel relations. This week, progressive Democrat party Reps. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez of New York, Pramila Jayapal of Washington, Rashida Tlaib of Michigan, Betty McCollum of Minnesota and Sen. Bernie Sanders of Vermont signed a letter calling for the United States to cut aid to Israel should it formally apply its sovereignty over land it controls.

The threats are indicative of the increasingly progressive shift of the Democratic Party away from traditional American values, including longstanding support for Israel.

Despite the Democratic threats, relations between Israel and the United States have never been stronger. Israel remains among Americas most important and reliable allies. And the basis of the relationship has little to do with the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. Intelligence sharing and security cooperation, including in the field of cybertechnology, remain critical to the strength of both nations.

Even under President Barack Obama, security cooperation between the two allies grew exponentially, with Obama inking a 10-year, $38 billion memorandum of understanding to provide military equipment vital to Israels security and stability in the Middle East.

For Netanyahu, the current intimidation attempts are not deterrents against the rapid implementation of sovereignty, but rather motivations to continue. Should Trump lose this fall, Jerusalem can safely bet that any administration led by Democrats would likely grow increasingly hostile to Israel, whether or not it implements sovereignty over land it already controls.

Israel may not have an ally in the White House as friendly as Trump in the foreseeable future. If Israel wants to guarantee immediate American backing for its implementation of sovereignty, making a move in the coming weeks is critical.

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Israeli Sovereignty: Officially on the clock - The Jewish Press - JewishPress.com

Shira Haas finds the complexity within her ‘Unorthodox’ role – Los Angeles Times

Posted By on July 7, 2020

Just after shed arrived in Berlin to start filming the Netflix series Unorthodox, Shira Haas went out for drinks with director Maria Schrader.

After a few glasses of wine, Schrader broke the news: The first day of production on the series which follows a young woman raised in a Hasidic community in Brooklyn was going to be intense. In the morning, shed have to get partially nude for a scene in a mikveh, or ritual bath. In the afternoon, shed have to shave her head on camera.

I was like, Nooooooo! Maybe she felt like she needed to give me wine, Haas recalled with a laugh during a recent Zoom call from her home in Tel Aviv. I was really shocked in the beginning. But now that I look at it I can see how helpful it was. It got me into character like that, she says, snapping her fingers.

Inspired by Deborah Feldmans memoir of the same name, Unorthodox tells the story of Esty Shapiro, a teenager who flees a miserable arranged marriage to pursue a dream of studying music in Berlin. The four-part limited series was released in late March, as the coronavirus pandemic was forcing much of the world indoors. Suddenly, people everywhere could relate to a story about a woman feeling impossibly isolated.

Amit Rahav and Shira Haas star in Unorthodox, a Netflix series about a young woman who flees her Hasidic community.

(Anika Molnar / Netflix)

Featuring Yiddish dialogue and careful re-creations of Satmar Jewish rituals, it became an unlikely sleeper hit, and Haas mesmerizing performance as Esty, a quiet character with a wildly expressive face that nearly rendered subtitles unnecessary, was integral to its success.

Although Haas and Esty share a certain steely determination, the actress, 25, is more animated than her onscreen counterpart. Over the course of a nearly hourlong chat, she uses an array of colorful gestures conveying the brain-melting difficulty of learning Yiddish by dragging a finger down her face and the pleasure of playing such a rich and complicated character with an enthusiastic chefs kiss.

Etsy is very stubborn but also very flexible. She wants to fit in but she wants to break out. She is strong but she is soft. You have to bring this complexity not only to every scene, but to every sentence. So this was very attractive to me. I found it amazing, this combination.

As a toddler in her hometown about 30 minutes outside Tel Aviv, Haas was diagnosed with kidney cancer and spent several years undergoing treatment. Her earliest memories involve hospital visits and chemotherapy. The experience made her something of an old soul. When I was 7 or 8, I was in a lot of ways like a 40-year-old. She also suspects it enabled her, as an actress, to go to some deep places.

Haas was certain shed go to college to study psychology but enrolled at an arts high school. A casting director reached out to her on Facebook about an Israeli film called Princess. She got the part, playing a 12-year-old with a sexually abusive stepfather. That was the moment where I was like, OK, this is what I want to do. I always say it was like Narnia. I open the door and [she sings a heavenly note].

She gained even wider notice in the Israeli series Shtisel, which follows a strictly religious Haredi family in Jerusalem. A hit at home in Israel, it was eventually picked up by Netflix.

When she got the call to audition for Unorthodox, she was told only that it was for a German series called The Orchestra and was asked to perform Leonard Cohens Hallelujah. (Esty sings during a pivotal scene in Unorthodox.) Once she was cast, she devoured Feldmans memoir and the scripts by Alexa Karolinski and Anna Winger.

You read something thats supposed to be very different from you, and youre like, Oh, Im very curious to see those people. And then you read it, and youre like, Thats actually me, Haas says, noting that, like Esty, she grew up asking a lot of questions. Questions about life, about meaning, about who I am, what I am. For me it was a blessing. For Esty, and maybe also for Deborah, it was a curse. Asking questions was not the best thing to do.

Haas spent weeks memorizing dialogue in Yiddish, a language the native Hebrew speaker had heard only fleetingly before, and mastering a new accent in English. Eli Rosen, a translator and consultant on the series, saw the darkest side of me, she says. You know that you learn something so much that your brain is melting and youre not you anymore? I was a monster sometimes. Well, not like a cruel one. A very sympathetic monster.

But Haas says Esty really only came to life at her first costume fitting, when she put on her modest clothing and wig. I put it on and she makes a sound like a vacuum sucking up air immediately, physically I was suddenly Esty.

Haas has followed an unusual professional journey the last three months, having a breakout moment while barely leaving her apartment. Shes used the downtime to write scripts she says she would love to direct one day and create collages. I really love staying at home. But I wish it was different circumstances.

Shira Hass in Unorthodox on Netflix.

(Anika Molnar / Netflix)

Once production can safely begin, she is scheduled to film Season 3 of Shtisel, and the acclaim shes received for Unorthodox will almost certainly lead to more work. But for now shes grateful to hear from the people whove been touched by Unorthodox including formerly Hasidic men and women whove left the strict religious upbringing.

So many people said, Im Esty, this is my story. Its an unbelievable privilege. There is nothing you can say except thank you for sharing.

It has also strengthened Haas bond with her 86-year-old grandmother, a Holocaust survivor who spontaneously gave her the ring off her finger when she heard about the project. She was really emotional and excited about the fact I would be playing an Orthodox girl in a show in Yiddish for Netflix. Its amazing. The fact that I can take part in this series thats a gift for me.

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Shira Haas finds the complexity within her 'Unorthodox' role - Los Angeles Times

Letter: Teaching genocide, but where is the representation? – Concord Monitor

Posted By on July 7, 2020

Published: 7/7/2020 5:33:01 PM

The New Hampshire House recently passed HB 1135 which contained other bills, including an amendment that called for requiring all school districts in the state to teach about the Holocaust and other genocides.

Two people spoke in opposition, both citing the bill might constitute an unfunded mandate, especially as part of the bill called for the creation of a special commission to study best practices in formulating curricular for schools. One mentioned that the bill is redundant in that many, if not most schools, already teach about the Holocaust.

Among those who testified in favor were the NH Council of Churches, the Jewish Federation of NH, the Cohen Center for Holocaust and Genocide Studies, and the Anti-Defamation League (ADL), and a Holocaust survivor all legislated to be on the special commission along with seven other members of the state government and New Hampshire schools.

Concerning the commission, there is no representative from the Black community such as the NAACP or Black Lives Matter. Millions of African-Americans died either during the passage from Africa or during enslavement. Moreover, no person of Indigenous origin was named to sit on the commission. Millions of Native people died beginning with Columbus four voyages to the Americas.

Such omissions of those communities of color who have been victimized in both history/herstory and in the present-day United States is absolutely shameful.

William Thomas

Auburn

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Letter: Teaching genocide, but where is the representation? - Concord Monitor

Scrabble Will Ban Racial and Ethnic Slurs From Tournaments and Game Rules – The New York Times

Posted By on July 7, 2020

It was the competitive players who objected. In a compromise, slurs and profanities were taken out of the official Scrabble Dictionary, but clubs and tournaments could follow a separate lexicon, produced by the players association, that allows for the slurs.

It is very difficult for a lot of people to understand why those words are still acceptable in Scrabble, said Stefan Fatsis, the author of a book on competitive scrabble, Word Freak.

But, he added, it is also hard for them to understand why qi and aa are words. For Scrabble players, they are just instruments with which to score points.

During the 1990s furor, Steven Alexander, who is white and Jewish, was one of many players who wrote letters opposing any expurgation. He still opposes most exclusions, but he has amended his position after recent events.

The one word that has actually been used to rally mobs into terrorism is the N-word, he said. Its a word of conspiracy, a tool of oppression. If Black people demand something, a white person like me shouldnt necessarily put their views first.

Chews initial proposal came after an association member wrote a letter on the organizations Facebook page calling for the body to take action. Chew agreed and made the proposal, then opened the topic for debate, which he says was fairly evenly split.

I couldnt have found a bigger wedge issue if I tried, he said.

For those who objected to removing the words, Chew said, the three main arguments were: A words meaning is irrelevant in Scrabble; its a slippery slope, and one he repeated with a tone of incredulity if some people are not offended by the presence of those words, why should anyone else be?

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Scrabble Will Ban Racial and Ethnic Slurs From Tournaments and Game Rules - The New York Times

Infinity Ward quietly removes OK gesture from Call of Duty: Modern Warfare and Warzone – Eurogamer.net

Posted By on July 7, 2020

Infinity Ward has quietly removed the OK gesture from Call of Duty: Modern Warfare and Warzone.

The developer has yet to explain the decision, and publisher Activision has so far failed to comment after Eurogamer got in touch last week, but it seems likely the gesture was pulled due to its status as a hate symbol.

In Call of Duty: Modern Warfare and Warzone, you're able to assign hand gestures to your character for use out on the battlefield.

The OK gesture, which was added to the game earlier in 2020, was used by some as a trickshot of sorts - the player character doing the OK sign with their left hand while firing their gun with their right.

Call of Duty social media and subreddits would often carry clips of players doing the OK sign as they ended a multiplayer match or a game of Warzone with the final kill.

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But the OK sign is no longer in the game, pulled on the quiet by Infinity Ward as part of Modern Warfare's mid-season update and replaced by a new gesture called "crush". There is no mention of the change in the official patch notes, but of course it didn't take players long to spot the difference.

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In September 2019, the Anti-Defamation League (ADL) added the OK sign to its list of hate symbols after it was found to be used by some as a "sincere expression of white supremacy".

Its use in this context owes its origins to users on 4Chan, who pretended there was a hidden meaning behind the OK sign in a bid to trick the media into a reaction. However, this ploy ended up with the OK sign's use by the far-right, and now many believe its meaning has changed.

While Infinity Ward is yet to comment, the removal of Call of Duty's OK gesture probably has to do with the ongoing Black Lives Matter movement. The developer has issued strong statements in recent weeks, pledging to crack down on racism in Call of Duty: Modern Warfare, and even inserting a Black Lives Matter message into the game.

This isn't the first time the video game industry has taken action over the OK sign. Back in April 2019, Blizzard reportedly told a fan in the Overwatch League arena they were not allowed to use the OK sign after it was spotted on a stream and a complaint was made.

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Infinity Ward quietly removes OK gesture from Call of Duty: Modern Warfare and Warzone - Eurogamer.net

How the ADL went from working with Facebook to leading a boycott against it – Forward

Posted By on July 6, 2020

Image by facebook

(JTA) It was when Mark Zuckerberg said he would allow Holocaust denial on his platform that the Anti-Defamation League realized its partnership with Facebook wasnt working.

The social media giant and the Jewish civil rights group had been working together for years to curb hate speech online. In October 2017, Facebook headlined a new ADL initiative to start a Cyberhate Problem-Solving Lab in collaboration with Silicon Valleys biggest companies.

Then, nine months later, Zuckerberg told the tech site Recode that while he personally found Holocaust denial deeply offensive, he said, I dont believe that our platform should take that down because I think there are things that different people get wrong.

People who monitor anti-Semitism criticized Zuckerberg for what they saw as undeservedly giving anti-Semites the benefit of the doubt as if they were making an innocent mistake rather than propagating a deliberate lie. Thats when the ADL realized that Facebook wasnt going to change on its own and needed to be pressured.

Holocaust denial is somethingthat weve been talking to Facebook about forI think its11 years at this point, Daniel Kelley, associate director of the ADLs Center for Technology and Society, told the Jewish Telegraphic Agency. Weve told them Holocaust denial is hate. It is not misinformation. And they have not only not changed, but in several instances doubled down on treating Holocaust denial as someformof misinformation.

So the ADL has changed tacks as Facebook, according to ADL CEO Jonathan Greenblatt, has allowed some of the worst elements of society into our homes and our lives.

After years of seeing the largest social network in the world as a partner, it is now treating Facebook as an adversary. That shift has culminated in an ADL-led campaign urging companies to stop advertising on Facebook for the month of July in collaboration with the NAACP and other civil rights groups.

The campaign has attracted a growing list of leading brand names. More than 230 companies have signed onto the pledge, and last week Facebooks stock dipped more than 8%, though it has since rebounded.

Apparently shaken by the boycott, Zuckerberg has announced a series of changes to Facebooks hate speech policies, which he said come directly from feedback from the civil rights community. He also pledged to meet with the organizers of the boycott.

Facebooks changes include labeling posts regarding voting access, flagging posts that target immigrants, banning members of the far-right antigovernment Boogaloo movement and placing warnings on hateful or false posts from public figures that the network still feels are newsworthy.

Im committed to making sure Facebook remains a place where people can use their voice to discuss important issues, because I believe we can make more progress when we hear each other, Zuckerberg wrote Friday in a Facebook post. But I also stand against hate, or anything that incites violence or suppresses voting, and were committed to removing that no matter where it comes from.

Those moves have not lessened the ADLs commitment to pressuring the company, which makes nearly its entire $70 billion in annual revenue through ads.

Facebook says it will take meaningful steps to address the hate on its platform, Greenblatt tweeted after the announcement. Weve been down this road. Dont let them refuel for another hate-filled trip.

Fighting tech companies is a change for Greenblatt, who came to the ADL job in 2015 following a career as a social entrepreneur in Silicon Valley. Greenblatt founded a bottled water company that donated a portion of its proceeds to clean-water access, as well as All for Good, an open-source platform that aggregated volunteer opportunities online.

The ADL had been pushing tech companies to get more serious about combating anti-Semitism for decades. Greenblatts predecessor, Abraham Foxman, complained in a 2013 interview with JTA about the geniuses at Palo Alto and said, The providers need to take greater ownership. They dont want regulation.

Under Greenblatt, the ADL increased its focus on tech, and at first tried to curb online hate through partnership. The group expanded its presence in Silicon Valley in 2016 and founded the Center for Technology and Society in 2017 to combat cyberhate. Greenblatt said he hoped to collaborate even closer on the threat with the tech industry.

Later that year, the ADL announced its partnership with four tech giants Facebook, Google, Microsoft and Twitter to create the Cyberhate Problem-Solving Lab. The idea was to work with the companies on technical solutions to improve detection and removal of hateful posts, with the ADL providing guidance on how to spot bigotry and address it.

But according to Kelley, the effort went nowhere. Facebook, he said, never acted on any of the advice provided by the ADL.

They were happy to sign onto a press release and to say, well, were working with ADL. We did have several meetings, Kelley said. Its the same story of us coming to the meeting with real ideas for how to approach the problems on their platform and them walking away not promising anything. We tried to work with them.

Facebook did not respond to an email request for comment. But the company has disputed that it has a poor record on addressing hateful posts. It points to a recent study from the European Union showing that Facebook is the quickest among the major social media platforms in addressing notifications of hate speech coming from European users. It found that Facebook assessed 96% of the notifications of hate speech within 24 hours, compared to 76.6% for Twitter. Facebook removed 87.6% of the flagged content, compared to 35.9% for Twitter.

But Kelley said that while Facebook does release transparency reports, it does not give outside researchers access to the data, unlike Twitter. So he said theres no real way to confirm Facebooks claims of transparency.

As months and then years passed, activists in Myanmar and elsewhere were complaining that Facebook was allowing public officials to encourage human rights violations. In 2018, the shooter at the New Zealand mosques livestreamed the massacre on Facebook.

But while Facebook made some modifications to its hate speech policies, it did not appear to change course philosophically. In October, Zuckerberg said in an address at Georgetown University that he was proud that our values at Facebook are inspired by the American tradition, which is more supportive of free expression than anywhere else.

Using the speech, the Jewish comedian Sacha Baron Cohen compared Zuckerberg to a restaurateur gladly serving neo-Nazis.

If he owned a fancy restaurant and four neo-Nazis came goose-stepping into the dining room and were talking loudly about wanting to kill Jewish scum, would he serve them an elegant eight course meal? Or would tell them to get the f*| out of his restaurant? Cohen wrote. He has every legal right, indeed a moral duty, to tell them to get the f*| out of his restaurant.

A month later, the ADL gave Cohen its International Leadership Award. The comic actor used the opportunity to give a keynote address to excoriate social media companies.

I say, lets also hold these companies responsible for those who use their sites to advocate for the mass murder of children because of their race or religion, he said. Maybe its time to tell Mark Zuckerberg and the CEOs of these companies: You already allowed one foreign power to interfere in our elections, you already facilitated one genocide in Myanmar, do it again and you go to jail.

A wrinkle in this story came a few weeks before Cohens speech. Following the October attack on a synagogue in Halle, Germany, the ADL accepted a $2.5 million donation from Facebooks COO, Sheryl Sandberg. Greenblatt said, upon accepting the donation, that he was grateful for her commitment to fighting hate in all of its forms.

Sandberg posted on Facebook that It means so much to me to be able to support this vital work at this critical moment.

Facebooks mostly hands-off approach to posts does have notable defenders.

David Hudson, an advocate of expansive First Amendment rights, said that free speech protections should be extended to Facebook because its size and breadth gives Facebook the power of a government.

Certain powerful private entities particularly social networking sites such as Facebook, Twitter, and others can limit, control, and censor speech as much or more than governmental entities, he wrote for the American Bar Associations Human Rights magazine. A society that cares for the protection of free expression needs to recognize that the time has come to extend the reach of the First Amendment to cover these powerful, private entities that have ushered in a revolution in terms of communication capabilities.

But Holocaust scholar Deborah Lipstadt, who spoke out against Zuckerbergs remarks on Holocaust denial, said a boycott was the right way to go.

Facebook is a private entity and no private entity is obligated to post hate speech, she said. Generally I dont like boycotts, but if this is the only thing to which Facebook is going to respond, then you have no other choice. You can choose where you put your money.

This year, in testimony to Congress, Greenblatt cited his work in Silicon Valley in calling on tech companies to work harder. He called tech an amplifier, an organizer, and a catalyst for some of the worst types of hate in our society, and said Facebook and Twitter need to apply the same energy to protecting vulnerable users that they apply to protect their profits.

Despite the measures Facebook has taken, the ADL says that hasnt happened. And thats why, after years of trying to collaborate with Facebook, the ADL is now trying to disrupt its revenue stream in the hopes of forcing change.

Theres a common understanding that Facebook is a company that puts revenue above all else, but I think this is a very clear-cut example, the ADLs Kelley said. All of these changes, the minor tweaks that Mark Zuckerberg announced on Friday, were things that the civil rights community have been asking for for years, in addition to larger structural changes to the platform.

It took a massive pause on advertisement by major companies to get them to move an inch.

The post How the ADL went from working with Facebook to leading a boycott against it appeared first on Jewish Telegraphic Agency.

Continued here:

How the ADL went from working with Facebook to leading a boycott against it - Forward

How the ADL went from working with Facebook to boycotting against it – The Jerusalem Post

Posted By on July 6, 2020

(JTA) It was when Mark Zuckerberg said he would allow Holocaust denial on his platform that the Anti-Defamation League realized its partnership with Facebook wasnt working.The social media giant and the Jewish civil rights group had been working together for years to curb hate speech online. In October 2017, Facebook headlined a new ADL initiative to start a Cyberhate Problem-Solving Lab in collaboration with Silicon Valleys biggest companies.Then, nine months later, Zuckerberg told the tech site Recode that while he personally found Holocaust denial deeply offensive, he said, I dont believe that our platform should take that down because I think there are things that different people get wrong.

People who monitor antisemitism criticized Zuckerberg for what they saw as undeservedly giving antisemites the benefit of the doubt as if they were making an innocent mistake rather than propagating a deliberate lie. Thats when the ADL realized that Facebook wasnt going to change on its own and needed to be pressured.

Holocaust denial is something that weve been talking to Facebook about for I think its 11 years at this point, Daniel Kelley, associate director of the ADLs Center for Technology and Society, told the Jewish Telegraphic Agency. Weve told them Holocaust denial is hate. It is not misinformation. And they have not only not changed, but in several instances doubled down on treating Holocaust denial as some form of misinformation.

So the ADL has changed tacks as Facebook, according to ADL CEO Jonathan Greenblatt, has allowed some of the worst elements of society into our homes and our lives.

The campaign has attracted a growing list of leading brand names. More than 230 companies have signed onto the pledge, and last week Facebooks stock dipped more than 8%, though it has since rebounded.

Apparently shaken by the boycott, Zuckerberg has announced a series of changes to Facebooks hate speech policies, which he said come directly from feedback from the civil rights community. He also pledged to meet with the organizers of the boycott.

Im committed to making sure Facebook remains a place where people can use their voice to discuss important issues, because I believe we can make more progress when we hear each other, Zuckerberg wrote Friday in a Facebook post. But I also stand against hate, or anything that incites violence or suppresses voting, and were committed to removing that no matter where it comes from.

Those moves have not lessened the ADLs commitment to pressuring the company, which makes nearly its entire $70 billion in annual revenue through ads.

Fighting tech companies is a change for Greenblatt, who came to the ADL job in 2015 following a career as a social entrepreneur in Silicon Valley. Greenblatt founded a bottled water company that donated a portion of its proceeds to clean-water access, as well as All for Good, an open-source platform that aggregated volunteer opportunities online.

Under Greenblatt, the ADL increased its focus on tech, and at first tried to curb online hate through partnership. The group expanded its presence in Silicon Valley in 2016 and founded the Center for Technology and Society in 2017 to combat cyberhate. Greenblatt said he hoped to collaborate even closer on the threat with the tech industry.

Later that year, the ADL announced its partnership with four tech giants Facebook, Google, Microsoft and Twitter to create the Cyberhate Problem-Solving Lab. The idea was to work with the companies on technical solutions to improve detection and removal of hateful posts, with the ADL providing guidance on how to spot bigotry and address it.

But according to Kelley, the effort went nowhere. Facebook, he said, never acted on any of the advice provided by the ADL.

They were happy to sign onto a press release and to say, well, were working with ADL. We did have several meetings, Kelley said. Its the same story of us coming to the meeting with real ideas for how to approach the problems on their platform and them walking away not promising anything. We tried to work with them.

But Kelley said that while Facebook does release transparency reports, it does not give outside researchers access to the data, unlike Twitter. So he said theres no real way to confirm Facebooks claims of transparency.

Using the speech, the Jewish comedian Sacha Baron Cohen compared Zuckerberg to a restaurateur gladly serving neo-Nazis.

If he owned a fancy restaurant and four neo-Nazis came goose-stepping into the dining room and were talking loudly about wanting to kill Jewish scum, would he serve them an elegant eight course meal? Or would tell them to get the f*** out of his restaurant? Cohen wrote. He has every legal right, indeed a moral duty, to tell them to get the f*** out of his restaurant.

I say, lets also hold these companies responsible for those who use their sites to advocate for the mass murder of children because of their race or religion, he said. Maybe its time to tell Mark Zuckerberg and the CEOs of these companies: You already allowed one foreign power to interfere in our elections, you already facilitated one genocide in Myanmar, do it again and you go to jail.

A wrinkle in this story came a few weeks before Cohens speech. Following the October attack on a synagogue in Halle, Germany, the ADL accepted a $2.5 million donation from Facebooks COO, Sheryl Sandberg. Greenblatt said, upon accepting the donation, that he was grateful for her commitment to fighting hate in all of its forms.

Facebooks mostly hands-off approach to posts does have notable defenders.

David Hudson, an advocate of expansive First Amendment rights, said that free speech protections should be extended to Facebook because its size and breadth gives Facebook the power of a government.

But Holocaust scholar Deborah Lipstadt, who spoke out against Zuckerbergs remarks on Holocaust denial, said a boycott was the right way to go.

Facebook is a private entity and no private entity is obligated to post hate speech, she said. Generally I dont like boycotts, but if this is the only thing to which Facebook is going to respond, then you have no other choice. You can choose where you put your money.

Despite the measures Facebook has taken, the ADL says that hasnt happened. And thats why, after years of trying to collaborate with Facebook, the ADL is now trying to disrupt its revenue stream in the hopes of forcing change.

Theres a common understanding that Facebook is a company that puts revenue above all else, but I think this is a very clear-cut example, the ADLs Kelley said. All of these changes, the minor tweaks that Mark Zuckerberg announced on Friday, were things that the civil rights community have been asking for for years, in addition to larger structural changes to the platform.

It took a massive pause on advertisement by major companies to get them to move an inch.

Read the rest here:

How the ADL went from working with Facebook to boycotting against it - The Jerusalem Post


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