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The Palestinians are caught between ‘waiting’ and ‘the possibility’ of annexation – Middle East Monitor

Posted By on August 8, 2020

While the Palestine Liberation Organisation has been calling upon the EU to step up from rhetoric to action regarding Israels forthcoming annexation of occupied West Bank territory, Europes Foreign Affairs Chief Josep Borrell invited Israeli Defence Minister Gabi Ashkenazi to Brussels to meet with the blocs foreign ministers.

While the international community is concerned with the possibility of annexation, said PLO Executive Committee Member Hanan Ashrawi, Israel is implementing its annexation scheme on the ground without any deterrence. Israeli plans for further construction in East Jerusalem prompted Ashrawis comments, as EU politicians adopt activist tactics by abandoning their power to act both morally and politically and opting instead to write a protest letter to Israels Foreign Ministry.

It would be perplexing to come to terms with the fact that such dismissive attitudes towards Palestinians and Palestine are not properly rejected by the Palestinian Authority, were it not for the fact that the PA itself is enamoured of futile pleas in place of political action.

The EU, meanwhile, is not adopting condescending attitudes towards Israel and its annexation plans. In his phone call with Ashkenazi, Borrell reiterated the EUs unequivocal commitment to Israels security, which he described as not negotiable for the EU.

READ: Funding the PA strengthens Israels colonial framework

Ashkenazis accusation of EU megaphone diplomacy is thus a sham. That type of diplomacy is reserved for Palestinians, encouraged as it is by the PAs accommodating collaboration. The Israeli official made his comment in May, when Borrell declared that the EU looks forward to continue working with the new Israeli government in a constructive and comprehensive way. In other words, the EU will ensure that if Israel wants to build further settlements to normalise the forthcoming annexation, it will stand by Israel in the name of its (entirely fake) security narrative.

If the EU truly wanted to put a stop to annexation, Ashkenazi would have been invited to a meeting in which EU foreign ministers would outline action to be taken against Israel. As Ashrawi succinctly asserted, though, the EU thrives upon possibility, and so does Israel, which makes the bloc and the colonial presence in Palestine diplomatic allies working in tandem.

The EU knows that waiting, as the international community tells Palestinians to do constantly, has led to a near-irreversible situation. International diplomacy has normalised delays, to the point that they are now permissible political actions undertaken by powerful countries against states and populations concerned with accessing and implementing their legitimate political and legal rights. Hence, writing a protest letter to Israels Foreign Ministry is lauded as action, despite the disparity in the EUs diplomatic relations with Israel and the PA. Making headlines in Israeli media, after all, conveys Israeli displeasure and the illusion of action. And nothing else matters, as far as Israel and the EU are concerned.

Take away the two-state compromise from international diplomacy and the EUs peacebuilding narrative, and the Palestinians will, at least, have a voice that is not tainted by external impositions. If Israels colonial narrative was adopted willingly internationally, there is no reason why the Palestinian leadership should not prioritise and maintain Palestinian narratives. However, the issue of PA compromise, even with waiting, remains, and Palestinian efforts at diplomacy are merely mirrored by ineffective tactics employed by the EU.

READ: EU official claims Israel wants to provoke Iranian response whilst Trump in office

The views expressed in this article belong to the author and do not necessarily reflect the editorial policy of Middle East Monitor.

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The Palestinians are caught between 'waiting' and 'the possibility' of annexation - Middle East Monitor

Netflix’s ‘The Umbrella Academy’ Accused of Promoting Antisemitic Stereotypes by Continuing to Feature Yiddish-Speaking Villain – Algemeiner

Posted By on August 8, 2020

Actress Kate Walsh. Photo: Vikram Valluri / BFA.com.

A show on Netflix is being criticized for continuing to feature a Yiddish-speaking villain in its recently-released second season.

The Umbrella Academy, starring Ellen Page, follows a family of adopted sibling superheroes who reunite to save the world from an apocalypse.

The shows second season began streaming on July 31, and it includes an evil organization called the Commission whose boss, known as the Handler, speaks primarily Yiddish, a language spoken nearly exclusively by Ashkenazi Jews.

The character, played by former Greys Anatomy star Kate Walsh, also spoke Yiddish in the shows first season, which sparked outrage when it first aired in 2019 and resulted in the Board of Deputies of British Jews denouncing the series.

The use of a Yiddish saying by the evil boss of an organization which controls the worlds timeline is clearly an anti-Semitic trope, Amanda Bowman, the Jewish groups vice president of the board, told The Sun last year. Whether intentional or not, this makes for very uncomfortable viewing. Netflix should take action to remove the racism from this scene.

Some viewers accused the series of promoting antisemitic stereotypes and deliberately including the Yiddish-speaking character in season two.

Idk what to tell you the umbrella academy having the secret world domination cult speaking Yiddish is definitely, intentionally antisemitic, a Twitter user wrote, adding that the jewish people trying to get world domination is such an old and widely known anti semitic trope there is just no way its a coincidence.

A Jewish TikTok user accused the show of antisemitic dog whistling in a video about the series, saying, Yiddish is a language spoken almost entirely by Ashkenazi Jews. Having the villains speak that language is showing, Look at these big Jewish villains, arent they vile, look at their gross language. Look how evil it sounds. That is what it is. That is what its always been, because society is built on believing that Jewish people control everything. That is antisemitism.

The series has also come under fire for depicting an underground society of lizard people who control the world from the shadows. As reported by The Jerusalem Post, the lizard people stems from a conspiracy theory deeply rooted in antisemitic tropes that was initiated by David Icke, a former BBC sports reporter who released a series of books that included conspiracies revolving around The Protocols of the Elders of Zion and his belief that Earth was controlled by shape-shifting lizards he called the Babylonian Brotherhood.

The Umbrella Academy is based on a comic book series of the same name written by My Chemical Romance singer Gerard Way.

Yiddish is not used in the comic book series, but the two assassins written by Way, named Hazel and Cha-cha, do wear swastika armbands, suggesting that they are part of a Nazi organization, according to The Sun.

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Netflix's 'The Umbrella Academy' Accused of Promoting Antisemitic Stereotypes by Continuing to Feature Yiddish-Speaking Villain - Algemeiner

The right must wake up – JNS.org

Posted By on August 8, 2020

(August 4, 2020 / JNS) To fully understand the nature of the protests against Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, we have to accurately define two amorphic terms: First Israel and Second Israel.

Some like to portray this as an ethnic division, which makes it easier for the left to dismiss it by showing the host of left-wing Sephardi public figures who have risen to power in difficult circumstances, or by highlighting the Ashkenazi roots of the leaders on the right.

But more than anything else, the Archimedean point to understand this political reality is in the realization that First Israel is an exclusive club that gives its members privileges and makes it very hard for all other citizens to join.

The First Israel club began as a fraternity of people associated with Mapai, the party that was dominant in the early statehood years and governed through centralized policies.

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According to one sociologist, that group can be loosely described at the Ashkenazi, secular, older, Socialist Israelis. Over the years, the club has lost its relative strength and has had to offer membership to others, but only if they paid the bouncer exorbitant membership fees.

A young Sephardi Israeli outside the main cities who wants to pursue an academic career; a national-religious woman who wants to join the State Attorneys Office; the son of parents who were part of the right-wing pre-state militias who wants to join theater productions. All those people know that in order to join the club, you have to turn your back on the places where you grew up, to embrace the values of enlightenment as defined by the club managers, and use the right terminology, and on top of that, attack Netanyahu and the Likud and show disdain for the settlers and the haredim.

The clubs power lies in the fact that even after being out of power for almost all of the past 40 years, the power-centers in Israel continue to be at their disposal through unelected means.

The right may win election after election, but only recently has it actually internalized the importance of controlling committees and apparatuses that run the government bureaucracy and the judiciary, which have been gradually chipping away at the political institutions.

Over the past several years, the right has had a quantum leap on a perceptual level. The right-wing media outlets, social media and NGOs managed to break the lefts hold on the flow of information and its control of the national agenda. Its fight against judicial overreach has become one of the main rallying cries of right-wing voters (mostly because of the perception that the judiciary was out to get Netanyahu).

Second Israel has begun to fight for its political rights and for the first time may breach the walls, and actually enter the power centers that the old guard has long considered to be its own.

The protests currently being held by the left are not designed to protect democracy from some dangerous right-wing assault, but rather the exact opposite: This is a determined fight to create anarchy and preserve the privileges of First Israel. They are not fighting for democratic values, but for the exclusive perks of the oligarchs.

We are at the height of a battle that will determine whether Second Israel manages to open the gates of power and climb the rungs, or whether First Israel manages to deny them the limited powers that they already enjoy, and turn them into Third Israel. If the right does not wake up, the left may very well succeed. This is what is at stake.

Erez Tadmor is co-founder of Im Tirtzu, a right-wing nongovernmental organization.

This article first appeared in Israel Hayom.

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The right must wake up - JNS.org

Jaishankar holds discussion on Covid-19 with five countries – The Indian Express

Posted By on August 8, 2020

By: Express News Service | New Delhi | Updated: August 8, 2020 8:15:48 am There are regular summits and informal meetings with the US, Russia, Europe and Japan, Jaishankar stated. India engages with China on more equal terms politically. Ask the analysts, he tweeted.

External Affairs Minister S Jaishankar on Friday held a meeting with his counterparts from the US, Australia, Israel, Brazil and South Korea and discussed challenges related to the coronavirus.

Jaishankar said in a tweet that he had a useful meeting with Australian Foreign Minister Marise Payne, South Korean Foreign Minister Kang Kyung-wha, Brazilian Foreign Minister Ernesto Araujo, Israeli Foreign Minister Gabi Ashkenazi and US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo.

Useful meeting with my colleagues @MarisePayne, Kang Kyung-wha, @ernestofaraujo, @Gabi_Ashkenazi and @SecPompeo. Continued our conversation on the Corona challenge. Always good to learn from each other, Jaishankar posted.

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On Thursday, Jaishankar and Pompeo had spoken over the telephone and in a wide-ranging conversation had discussed regional and global issues, including the Covid-19 pandemic, Indo-Pacific and Quadrilateral coalition.

The two leaders spoke over phone and reiterated the strength of the India-US relationship to advance peace, prosperity and security in the Indo-Pacific region and around the globe, Cale Brown, Principal Deputy Spokesperson of the US State Department, said.

Jaishankar on Friday said he held a wide-ranging conversation with Pompeo.

Reviewed our bilateral cooperation including working of relevant mechanisms. Shared assessments on regional and global issues including South Asia, Afghanistan, Indo-Pacific & beyond, he tweeted.

Exchanged views on responding to the coronavirus challenge. Discussed meeting in the Quad format in the near future, he wrote.

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Jaishankar holds discussion on Covid-19 with five countries - The Indian Express

Guest Opinion | Like all forms of racism, anti-Semitism is rooted in misinformation and slander – UI The Daily Iowan

Posted By on August 8, 2020

The United States history taught to students does not inform nearly as well as it should, leaving gaps in knowledge open to be exploited by conspiracy theorists.

The last several weeks have seen an uptick in anti-Semitic social media postings. The ones that have been receiving the most traction have been from Black athletes and celebrities Ice Cube, DeSean Jackson, Stephen Jackson, P.Diddy, and Nick Cannon. The main anti-Semitic conspiracy echoed in their posts have been that Jews controlled the Trans-Atlantic Enslaved Persons Trade. The five men who made these tweets are not representative of every Black American, but represent a far greater issue within American society.

Most Americans still do not know the history of American Jews. This is due to a fault in the American educational system. The fault is that we are taught the framework of why, in theory, America is the best place to live regardless of your race, gender, and/or sexual preference. But we are not the history as to why Jews, like many minorities, are still fighting towards a pursuit of happiness rather than already having achieved happiness.

Once high school and even college course work is completed, several Americans are still so uninformed about histories and daily lives of the Jewish community in their own country. This lack of knowledge is so severe that the simplest and most cathartic answer towards dealing with complicated issues involving the Jewish community is by spewing hate and racist conspiracy.

According to historian Jacob Rader Marcus, more than 75 percent of Jewish families in Charleston, South Carolina; Richmond, Virginia; and Savannah, Georgia, owned slaves. That is a staggering number, but also quite a misleading one.

Yale University Professor David Brion Davis concludes that in the Southern United States in the year 1830, there were 120 Jews among the 45,000 slaveholders owning 20 or more slaves and only 20 Jews among the 12,000 slaveholders owning 50 or more slaves.

The Jewish Virtual Library estimates that only 4,000 to 6,000 Jews lived in the United States in 1830 which was far less than 1 percent of the worldwide Jewish population. A vast majority of Ashkenazi American Jews can trace their ancestors arrival to the United States between 1880 and 1914. The Jewish Virtual Library estimates the American Jewish population increased from 150,000-200,000 in the pre-Civil War era to over 4,000,000 by the mid-1920s.

So what were all the other Jews around the world doing from 1000-1880? Mizrahi Jews in the Middle East and North Africa were relatively safe. Sephardic Jews from the Iberian Peninsula, were purged, imprisoned, and executed during the Spanish Inquisition. Ashkenazi Jews in the Russian Empire, like my family, often fled from organized raids on Jewish communities known as pogroms.

When the majority of these Jews arrived in America they were poor and hardly spoke any English.

So no, people like myself did not have ancestry in or responsibility for the Trans-Atlantic Enslaved Persons Trade.

Growing up in Los Angeles, I have been blessed to have had Black educators in the form of classroom teachers, athletics coaches and/or straight up role models. But at the University of Iowa, where I tripled majored, I had zero Black professors. So I wanted to take a note from a number of my role models who have been posting on Facebook recently. That note is this:

Do not just expect your Jewish friends, if you have any, to converse about anti-Semitism because it may be difficult for them to clearly express themselves without evoking emotion you might find unbecoming.

To clarify, I harbor no hard feelings towards anyone who makes these claims.

What I harbor is empathy and sympathy, words that should be taught in history classes.

I empathize with being unwanted, unliked, and mistreated. I empathize with being talked down and drowned out when trying to fight for representation outside of my community. I empathize with being pigeonholed into a political ideology or position based on who I am from a standpoint of my race and not who I am as an individual.

I empathize with being called racist epithets by white Americans who know nothing of my experience in America when going against the grain of my communitys stereotyped set of beliefs.

And most of all, I hope that you took the time to drop down your guard and process information that may be sensitive to your ego.

If you did not, then there may be some work ahead for you should you ever want to become a decent person who truly cares for all lives and doesnt just say it.

-William Silverstein, J.D. candidate at Drake University

Editors Note: William Silverstein is a former DITV producer

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Guest Opinion | Like all forms of racism, anti-Semitism is rooted in misinformation and slander - UI The Daily Iowan

One-third of American Jews pray to cope with coronavirus – The Jerusalem Post

Posted By on August 8, 2020

Around one-third (36%) of American Jews say they have turned to prayer to cope with the coronavirus pandemic, according to a new Pew Research Center report.However, the percentage of Jews relying on prayer is more than twice as less than the 74% of Christians who did so.When broken down by sect: 78% of Protestants, 84% of Evangelicals, 65% of Mainline; 88% of Historically Black and 66% of Catholics have used prayer to cope. The only groups who have used prayer less than the Jews are unaffiliated (23%), atheist (2%), agnostic (2%) and nothing in particular (35%).The survey of 10,211 US adults was conducted between July 13 and 19 and has a margin of error of 1.5%.When it comes to where they pray, the new survey found that 79% of US adults said houses of worship should be required to follow the same rules about social distancing and large gatherings as other organizations or businesses. Only 19% thought that houses of worship should have different rules.Jews aligned with the general public: 80% agreed synagogues should have the same coronavirus regulations and 20% disagreed.In Israel, the battle over keeping synagogues open and how many people should be allowed to pray in them, both inside and outside, has been raging since the first wave. Statistics presented by the Health Ministry in late March showed that 24% of patients were contaminated at places of prayer and that 5% caught the virus in yeshivot.Then, haredi (ultra-Orthodox) and Religious-Zionist rabbis agreed that their constituents should take extra precautions, in some cases rabbis even expressed favor for shuttering places of worship. The argument was that protection of public health is an obligation and that the duty to save lives is above all other commandments.Religious Americans expressed similar sentiments in the recent Pew survey. More than eight-in-10 attenders (28%) think their own congregation should either be closed altogether or open only on a modified basis (57%). Those who attend believe worshipers should stay two meters apart from each other (51%), wear masks (44%), limit the number of people in attendance (41%) and limit communal singing (29%).Moreover, only 6% of American worshipers say that their congregation is open to the public in the way it was before the pandemic. Three-in-10 say it is closed altogether.However, 79% said that their house of worship is streaming or recording its religious services so people can watch online or on TV. However, according to the survey, 17% of American Jews had attended virtual prayer services in July, as opposed to 33% of all Americans and 49% of Christians.Pew respondents suggested they would feel comfortable returning to places of worship (75% of Protestants, 59% of Catholics and 56% of mainline Protestants). However, the survey suggested that far fewer (12%) Americans actually went to their houses of prayer in the month of July

Still, more than eight-in-10 US adults say that when the outbreak is over, they will attend in-person religious services at about the same rate as they did before the pandemic. Far fewer say that when the outbreak is over, they plan to attend in-person services more often (10%) or less often (5%).

Among Jews, the numbers are remarkably similar: Some 10% of Jews say they will go more often, 3% less often and 48% about the same. The rest of the Jews said that they did not attend services before and will not after.

In Israel, however, worshipers are looking to return to normal by the High Holidays.

Last week, the Knessets Constitution, Law and Justice Committee held a meeting on discrimination against synagogues with severe restrictions and the distortion of data on the infections that have occurred in them.

During that meeting, Committee Chairman MK Yaakov Asher (United Torah Judaism) explained that while sanctity of life is one of the most important commandments of the Torah, the ultra-Orthodox community has two very important things: the lifeblood of Judaism - prayer in synagogue, and the world of Torah and yeshivas.

He said that a solution must be found for synagogues and yeshivas.

However, data shows that little has changed with regards to the safety of synagogues. The Coronavirus National Information and Knowledge Center in early July listed synagogues as among the highest risk locations for catching coronavirus. To date, 50% of infections occur in the ultra-Orthodox and Arab communities, and the cities with the highest rates of infection are either majority ultra-Orthodox or Arab communities, or cities with large populations of those groups

Israel's Ashkenazi Chief Rabbi David Lau defended his community at the Knesset meeting, saying that, I can't say if there is a place in Israel where the guidelines are kept like they are in most synagogues in Israel. Ten people in the men's section, and when there is an eleventh, he goes up to the women's section. They keep the guidelines.

He also said that the Health Ministry should not compare a synagogue with 20 seats, where a 10-person limit is logical, to a synagogue with 300 seats, where there is no logic in the restriction.

"The People of Israel are preparing for Rosh Hashanah and Yom Kippur, when many people come and we must do everything so that they will continue to come, Lau said. In open areas we cannot limit it to 20 people. Enforce it seriously, but please make conditions and implement them Please find a way to provide a proper solution so that the Children of Israel will be able to pray in synagogues."

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One-third of American Jews pray to cope with coronavirus - The Jerusalem Post

Translation of 17th century memoir shows how Jews dealt with plague – Jewish News

Posted By on August 8, 2020

A new translation of a 350-year old memoir is showing an English-speaking audience how Europes Jews dealt with a deadly 17th century plague, including by social distancing.

The memoirs of Glikl Hamel, a successful Jewish merchant, record how the plague took hold in Hamburg and Hanover shortly before the High Holy Days, with young children forced to quarantine from their parents.

In her journal from 1691 to 1719, Hamel recalled how she and her husband Hayyim were ordered to banish their four-year-old daughter, Tsipor, to another town despite her not being ill, after locals reported that they thought she was infected.

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Allowed to visit from a distance, Hamel later wrote: I will let any good father or mother judge for themselves how we felt. My husband, of blessed memory, stood ina corner, weeping and pleading, while I stood ina corner.

Publisher Sylvia Fuks Fried paid tribute to Glikls remarkable skills as a writer, adding: Its why it has such staying power and why we are reading it today.

The original was written in Old Yiddish, the vernacular language among German-speaking Ashkenazi Jews in the early modern era.

In 2006, Israel Prize winning Yiddish scholar Chava Turniansky translated it into a more modern Hebrew-Yiddish version, and the new book is based on that.

Historian Rachel Greenblatt said: Glikl provides us with an unparalleled historical source, opening a window on the daily life, anxieties, petty rivalries and stories of folk wisdom occupying the mental world of a woman who bore14 children.

Glikl began writing her memoirs of living a Jewish life about two years after the death of her husband in 1689, when she was 44. It was initially a way to console herself through sleepless nights and is embellished by stories and proverbs.

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Translation of 17th century memoir shows how Jews dealt with plague - Jewish News

Tel Aviv lights up its city hall with the Lebanese flag in a sign of solidarity – CNN

Posted By on August 8, 2020

The city's municipality building was lit up with an image of the Lebanese flag on Wednesday evening as a show of support for Beirut, which was heavily damaged by Tuesday's blast.

"Humanity comes before any conflict, and our hearts are with the Lebanese people following this terrible disaster," Tel Aviv Mayor Ron Huldai said in a statement.

It has become a tradition in Tel Aviv to use the large frontage of the building to demonstrate solidarity with a city or a country that has suffered misfortune, whether man-made or otherwise.

The show of support followed the massive explosion that rocked the Lebanese capital of Beirut on Tuesday evening, killing at least 135 people and injuring at least 5,000 more, according to the Lebanese Health Minister.

Dozens of people are still missing, and at least 300,000 people have been displaced as a result of the blast.

"On behalf of the Israeli government, I send my condolences to the people of Lebanon," Israel Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said. "Yesterday, there was a very big disaster. We are prepared to extend humanitarian aid as human beings to human beings. As we did in the humanitarian crisis in Syria. This is our way."

Tuesday evening, within hours of the explosion, Israel's Defense and Foreign Ministers Benny Gantz and Gabi Ashkenazi jointly announced an offer to the Lebanese government for the provision of medical aid for the victims.

Some Israeli hospitals were also told to prepare for the possible arrival of UN personnel wounded in the explosion. So far there is no official word of whether the aid offer has been accepted.

Some in Israel have questioned these offers of assistance and shows of solidarity. Yair Netanyahu, the eldest son of the Prime Minister, gave his take on the decision of the Tel Aviv mayor to light up the municipality with the Lebanese flag by tweeting, "Displaying the flag of an enemy state is a criminal offense !!!!"

Israel considers Lebanon an enemy state and regards itself as in an ongoing armed conflict with Hezbollah, which, though technically holds only a limited role in Lebanon's government, is nevertheless key to the Lebanese government's survival.

CNN's Helen Regan, Tamara Qiblawi, Ghazi Balkiz, Ben Wedeman, Luke McGee, Kareem Khadder and Schams Elwazer contributed to this report.

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Tel Aviv lights up its city hall with the Lebanese flag in a sign of solidarity - CNN

Israel to Begin Partial Reopening of Skies on Aug. 16 – Algemeiner

Posted By on August 8, 2020

Passengers wearing masks push trolleys at Ben-Gurion International Airport, near Tel Aviv, Israel, amid the coronavirus disease (COVID-19) pandemic, May 14, 2020. Photo: Reuters / Ronen Zvulun.

JNS.org Israels coronavirus cabinet decided on Wednesday night that the country will partially reopen its skies on Aug. 16, by which date Transportation Minister Miri Regev, Health Minister Yuli Edelstein and Foreign Minister Gabi Ashkenazi are scheduled to have come up with a detailed plan and guidelines for the process.

Israelis returning from green countriesthose with low COVID-19 infection rateswill not have to enter a two-week quarantine, according to Globes, which reported that it is still not clear which countries those are or whether travelers without Israeli passports will be allowed to enter.

The report said that Tourism Minister Asaf Zamir called the move important news for the aviation sector and all Israelis. Opening the skies is a necessary step towards the recovery of the Israeli economy and rehabilitating the tourism industry and its employees who have suffered a mortal blow following the crisis. I welcome this decision which provides many with hope for the future.

The coronavirus cabinet also decided to reduce weekend restrictions on the publics activities.

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Israel to Begin Partial Reopening of Skies on Aug. 16 - Algemeiner

The virtues and pitfalls of former IDF chiefs of staff entering politics – The Jerusalem Post

Posted By on August 8, 2020

In Israels 72-year history, it has had 22 IDF chiefs of staff, including the current one, Lt.-Gen. Aviv Kochavi.

And that short list might soon get even shorter, as over the last week there has been abundant banter regarding Eisenkot, which could be summed up in three words: Run, Gadi, run.

A number of high-profile journalists, such as Channel 13s Raviv Drucker, have extolled his virtues and encouraged him to run, and a Channel 12 poll last week indicated that were Eisenkot to head a party list, that list would win 16 seats in the next election.

And that is before most people in the country have any idea where he stands on the marquee political issues or could identify his voice if they heard it on the radio.

Sound familiar? It should.

In October 2018, as elections were in the air and a couple months before the Knesset dissolved itself and sent the country spiraling into the seemingly endless election loop of 2019/2020, Israel Television conducted a poll that found that Benny Gantz, at the time the countrys freshest former chief of staff, would win 12 Knesset seats. And neither his voice nor his positions were recognizable to most Israelis at the time. Today Gantz is the alternate prime minister and defense minister.

This is all indicative of a well-known Israeli phenomenon: a romance a good part of the country has with its chief of staff, a love affair the former generals then leverage into springboards into politics.

In Israel there is a need to over-idealize generals just like a kid who has to over-idealize his parents because in the security stress in which we live, we do not have the luxury to see them objectively, said Udi Lebel, a professor specializing in political psychology and civil-military relations at Bar-Ilan Universitys School of Communication.

If people did look at the countrys security elite objectively, he added, we would not sleep at night. There is a cognitive need to feel that we are in good hands.

The population, for the most part, does not look at those who rise to the pinnacle of the military establishment as regular folk who decided to make a career in the army instead of selecting another career path, but, rather, as people who stand out because they are head and shoulders above the rest.

From the start we have a tendency to think that they are wow, and by definition they enjoy a benefit that, for instance, an engineer from the Technion [interested in politics] would not enjoy, even if the engineer may be much more intelligent.

Lebel said this phenomenon has come out clearly in studies he has done with high school and college students. In a recent study, pictures of Eisenkot, Gantz and a third former chief of staff, Gabi Ashkenazi, in full IDF uniform, were placed in front of a group, and the students were asked if those in the pictures have what it takes to be prime minister. About 84% answered that they did, even if some could not name the people in the pictures.

When I pushed a button and changed his uniform to that of a police officer, and asked if then he was worthy of being a prime minister, the number dropped to around 60%, Lebel said. Dressing the men in civilian clothes dropped the figures even lower, to around 40%.

What this shows, he said, is simple: Its the uniform that makes the person, not the person who makes the uniform.

INTERESTINGLY, SAID Lebel, who is also affiliated with the Begin-Sadat Center for Strategic Studies, an attraction to the military elites and the former chiefs of staff has traditionally been stronger on the Center-Left than it has been on the Right.

Of the eight former chiefs of staff who have gone into politics since 1987 Dan Shomron, Ehud Barak, Amnon Lipkin-Shahak, Shaul Mofaz, Moshe Yaalon, Dan Halutz, Ashkenazi and Gantz six went to center or left-wing parties initially, and two, Mofaz and Yaalon, drifted there after first joining the Likud.

According to Lebel, most of the parties considered to be on the Right except for the religious-Zionist parties have moved on from a love affair with military leaders as politicians.

On an emotional level, the ex-generals do not hold an appeal for haredim, and also do not have the same luster for middle-class Mizrahim (descendants of local Jewish communities in the Middle East and North Africa) or for voters attracted to Avigdor Libermans Yisrael Beytenu Party, he said.

Which is not to say that in the past the Right did not see members of the military elite as important assets to their parties.

When the Likuds Menachem Begin in the 1970s wanted to wrest control of the country from Mapai, Lebel said, he looked to military leaders such as Ariel Sharon and Yigal Yadin who he knew were people who gave his party legitimacy and would make it possible for people who were not squarely in his camp to vote for him nonetheless, because as military leaders they were people of the consensus, and represented Israeli-ness.

With time, he said, the Right has mostly matured past its fascination with ex-generals as politicians.

But where the rank still does carry weight is with the Left, with Lebel arguing that this camp has long believed those who have reached top positions in the army are endowed with leadership capital that others simply dont possess. This tendency, he said, has long been a dominant component of the Labor Partys DNA, more than any other party in Israel.

The Labor Party was the natural habitat of both the political and the military elite during the early years of the state, creating a security-political complex that was inseparable so long as it remained in power, he wrote in 2016 in a study coauthored with Guy Hatuka from Ariel University. The phenomenon of former senior army officers in the Knesset list of the Labor Party was far more extensive than in any other political party.

Interestingly, the steep decline of the Labor Party in current polls it does not even pass the electoral threshold corresponds with that period when security figures did not figure prominently in the partys leadership or on its Knesset list.

For instance, in the 2013 and 2015 elections when social issues, following the 2011 social justice protests, were a key part of the partys campaigns the number of ex-generals on the Labor list dropped precipitously.

While in the 2009 elections members of the military elite known in Hebrew as bithonistim made up 30% of Labors top 10 Knesset seats, that number dropped to 10% in the 2013 election, and to zero in the 2015 elections.

Avi Gabbay brought a former general, Tal Russo, to fill the No. 2 position in 2019, but with little success. In that election the party won only six seats. Labors gradual demilitarization, according to this study, has been a factor in its marginalization.

The Blue and White Party, on the other hand, is a case study in the other direction. That party was packed with ex-military elites when it was founded in 2019, featuring three former chiefs of staff in its top four positions. This strategy was guided partly by the belief that since one of the reasons Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu continues to win is his image of being Mr. Security, the surest way to beat him is to out-security Mr. Security.

And the strategy did well, with the party winning 35 seats in April 2019, 33 in September of that year, and 33 in March 2020, before falling apart after Gantzs decision to join the government with Netanyahu in May.

And now that Blue and White has self-destructed recent polls show it will get crushed in the next election the eyes of the Center-Left are cast in the direction of the freshest ex-chief of staff: Eisenkot.

This camp, Lebel said, still believes that those who can return it to relevance and political dominance are the military leaders.

And Lebel has a word of advice to those military leaders: If you want to get into politics, declare it a minute before the elections. That way, he said, the public will still remember them in uniform. Otherwise you will just be seen as another regular guy who says things that are not that impressive. You have to run as a poster. Dont say a word, because it is the poster that has the wow.

This advice echoes an old saying: Better to keep your mouth closed and let people think you are unwise, than to open it and remove all doubt. Former generals benefit, as Lebel puts it, from a wow factor that evaporates when the publics memory of their uniform fades as they begin to actually start to speak and express opinions.

Sound familiar?

Read the original post:

The virtues and pitfalls of former IDF chiefs of staff entering politics - The Jerusalem Post


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