Daily Briefing: WEDNESDAY’S “NEWS OF THE WEEK IN REVIEW” (March 11.2020)


A Purim Lesson at the White House:  Lela Gilbert, Jerusalem Post, Mar. 10, 2020 — The first venue that comes to mind when Purim celebrations are being organized is not likely to be the White House.


Hassan Nasrallah meets Khamenei in visit to Iran (Source: Wikipedia)
“This is a global pandemic, whether the CDC [the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention] calls it such or not… It is doubtful whether there has been a similar pandemic in the last 100 years. It seems that the rate of infection is greater than we figured. The assumption that the virus will disappear or evaporate in hot weather is unproven… The virus is currently spreading to Africa. There is no vaccine and antiviral drugs are ineffective. Economies are starting to be hurt. Governments are ordering their gates closed. This is important for the supply of products for all economies. Nobody knows how the pandemic will end,” — said Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu.  He rolled out a five-point plan to stem the spread of the virus in Israel that includes imposing an unprecedented 14-day quarantine on all new arrivals.  (United With Israel, Mar. 8, 2020)

“Huge companies are on the verge of collapse. Workers have already been laid off and thousands of workers have been put on furlough — which will hurt tens of thousands of workers and families in Israel. We are on the brink of a Yom Kippur for the Israeli economy. I’m anxious for the fate of the Israeli economy and society,” — said chairman Arnon Bar-David of the large and influential Histadrut union.  His remarks came as the train line to Ben-Gurion International Airport was shut down to foreign travelers, nursing homes banned family visits and the IDF called up a group of reservists to assist in its efforts to fight the spread of the virus. (Algemeiner, Mar. 10, 2020)


“My friend, President Trump clearly stated that he would recognize Israeli sovereignty over the Jordan Valley, the northern Dead Sea, and all Jewish communities in Judea and Samaria, as well as a broad area encompassing them. We have formed an Israeli team to work with the American team on the work of mapping, which has already begun,” – Israeli Prime Minister Bibi Netanyahu said in reference to the Trump peace plan.  The US is moving forward with its implementation despite Israel’s political instability.  (United With Israel, Mar. 6, 2020)


Jared Kushner, Trump’s senior adviser, said discussions concerning the details regarding which areas will be included under Israeli sovereignty will continue for several months. The Palestinians “will have only themselves to blame” if they refuse to take advantage of the opportunity to return to the negotiating table to discuss any changes in the mapping while the sovereignty talks are ongoing, Kushner said.  (United With Israel, Mar. 6, 2020)


“By choosing to classify the conflict [as religious], the Palestinians chose to box with [champion boxer Mike] Tyson [i.e., with Israel], instead of challenging him to a match [in a sport] at which he does not excel. If I were Palestinian, my first priority would have been to establish my presence on the ground within the historical borders [of Palestine]. My temporary goal would be to make my sons understand… that there are many ways to live a dignified life, that dignified life is not confined to ‘armed resistance’ and self-sacrifice, and that the only truth regarding the [Israeli-Palestinian] conflict is that they were born in disputed territory… Israel is a powerful country, and that is one of the major reasons to make peace with it. There is no shame in that.” — Egyptian journalist and writer Khaled Al-Bari wrote in a February 24, 2020 article headlined “If I Were Palestinian” in the London-based Saudi daily Al-Sharq Al-Awsat. (MEMRI, Mar. 3, 2020)


“The incitement crosses all lines. Unless we wake up, the next political murder is around the corner,” – said Blue and White leader Benny Gantz.  He responded to what he said were inflammatory campaign messages posted on billboards and on social media by Likud supporters.  (WIN, Mar. 8, 2020)


Netanyahu’s “joy was premature, very premature … There has yet to be any official contact between us and the Blue and White party. … Our public is waiting to see [political] accomplishments and we will act responsibly while keeping the Joint List unified,” – said Arab Joint List member Ahmad Tibi, whose party received a record-high 15 seats in the Knesset, making it the third-largest faction. Determined to topple Netanyahu, one of the preconditions the Joint List has placed on Blue and White to join them in reaching a majority is to block Israel from taking all defensive measures against Palestinians. “There will be no bulldozers on bodies, no air attacks on the Palestinians… I have a limit of what I can swallow,” he said.  (WIN, Mar. 9, 2020)


“It’s really important that we work closely with our partners in the region but also that the Europeans and the North Americans give a very clear message on this: We cannot afford to see Iran acquiring nuclear weapons. We will hold Iran to account for its destabilizing activities in Syria and Iraq, but at all times we would like to see the door left open for Iran to do the right thing, come back to the negotiating table and build confidence that it’s actually a responsible member for the international community,” — Britain’s Foreign Secretary Dominic Raab told Al Arabiya.  (Asharq Al-Awsat, Mar. 10, 2020)


“What must be avoided at all costs, and what I fear is happening today, is a process of mentality that goes from hard-fought debates about very real and vital issues to hostility and even hatred toward all members of groups of people simply by virtue of a religious, racial, national, or ethnic relationship.  This must not happen.” – said Columbia University President Lee C. Bollinger in a statement to the university senate plenary. He voiced “concern” about “rising antisemitism on our campus,” connecting it to the activities of the anti-Israel BDS movement, to which he declared his opposition.  Jewish student groups at Columbia University expressed appreciation for Bollinger’s statement against antisemitism but warned that more must be done to deal with a campus atmosphere that was becoming “more and more hostile” toward Jews and Israel. (Algemeiner, Mar. 9, 2020)

GANTZ ACCEPTS ALL OF LIBERMAN’S PRECONDITIONS: ‘MUST MOVE FORWARD’ (Jerusalem) — Israel Beiteinu chairman Avigdor Liberman announced his demands from the Blue&White party as precondition for joining a government led by Benny Gantz. Among his demands: legislation permitting civil marriages, handing conversions to local rabbis, and letting local municipalities decide whether they want public transportation on Shabbat. And equal IDf recruitment for all — Haredim and non-Haredim. Blue&White chairman Benny Gantz responded to Liberman’s demands in a clipped tweet: “Agreed. We must move forward,” which excludes Hareidim from entering the government.  (Jewish Press, Mar. 8, 2020)

BLUE&WHITE MKS HENDEL AND HAUSER RESIST GANTZ’S MINORITY GOVERNMENT SCAM (Jerusalem) — Two Blue&White MKs: Yoaz Hendel and Zvi Hauser, will not agree to support a minority government with the Arab Joint List, and as a result the party will not have the necessary 61 votes in the Knesset to approve the move. Other MKs refuse to do so, as well.  (Jewish Press, Mar. 8, 2020)


FOURTH ELECTION? NETANYAHU PREPARES THE GROUND (Jerusalem) — The Likud’s constitutional committee will convene next week to approve the cancellation of primaries for the movement’s leader and party list if the 23rd Knesset is disbanded. The decision means that MKs elected to the 23rd Knesset will form the list for the next Knesset as well. (Israel National News, Mar. 10, 2020)


ISRAELI SCIENTIST DISCOVERS SIRT6 PROTEIN IS ‘FIRST RESPONDER’ TO DNA DAMAGE (Negev) –– SIRT6 is the equivalent of a first responder to the site of DNA damage, the Toiber group at Ben-Gurion University of the Negev has discovered. Dr. Deborah Toiber and her group had previously discovered SIRT6’s role in repairing DNA damage, which ameliorates the effects of aging, cancer and neurodegenerative diseases, but this new discovery of SIRT6’s role as a sensor gives us the understanding of “starting over at Chapter 1 instead of jumping in at Chapter 3,” she says. (Jewish Press, Mar. 8, 2020)


ISRAELI CORONAVIRUS INFECTIONS JUMP TO 76 AS SECOND CASE OF ‘UNKNOWN ORIGIN’ APPEARS (Jerusalem) — The number of confirmed coronavirus cases in Israel jumped by 12 to 76, with the health authorities confirming that as of now, the latest victim is the second person for whom they cannot determine exactly how he became infected. The man, named Yehuda, is around 60 years old and works for the Airport Authority in a department that manages the facility’s fire detection systems. Since he had not traveled abroad himself or come into direct contact with any known victim, he didn’t isolate himself when he began feeling ill last week. He did take time off from work. (WIN, Mar. 11, 2020)


SEVENTH IRANIAN OFFICIAL, MP FATEMEH RAHBAR, DIES OF CORONAVIRUS (Tehran) — Conservative Iranian MP Fatemeh Rahbar, 55, died Saturday of the COVID-19 new coronavirus.  She was one of several newly elected female politicians, Rahbar represented Tehran, Rey, Shemiranat and Eslamshahr. She had also previously served in parliament for three consecutive terms from 2004 to 2016, as a member of the conservative Islamic Coalition Party. (Jewish Press, Mar. 8, 2020)


SENIOR HEZBOLLAH OFFICIALS TEST POSITIVE FOR CORONAVIRUS (Beirut) –– Senior Hezbollah officials have been placed under quarantine after being infected with the coronavirus, Channel 13 reported. They may have been in contact with Iranian officials who also tested positive for the coronavirus. Hezbollah leader, Hassan Nasrallah, is under quarantine to prevent him from contracting the coronavirus. (Jerusalem Post, Mar. 11, 2020)


US JUDGE: IRAN LIABLE IN DISAPPEARANCE OF RETIRED FBI AGENT (Washington) –– A federal judge held Iran responsible for the kidnapping of former FBI agent Robert Levinson, entering a default judgement against the regime on the 13th anniversary of his disappearance. The decision from U.S. District Judge Timothy Kelly was a milestone moment in the family’s lawsuit against Tehran, which featured wrenching testimony in Washington’s federal court from each of Levinson’s seven children. (AP, Mar. 9, 2020)


PRO-ISRAEL DEMOCRATIC GROUP ENDORSES BIDEN FOR PRESIDENT (Washington) — The Democratic Majority for Israel (DMFI) officially threw its support behind former Vice President Joe Biden. Last week, Biden emerged as the front-runner for the nomination after he defeated his progressive rival Bernie Sanders in 10 of the 14 Super Tuesday contests. Even before the recent resurgence of his campaign, Biden was a favorite among US Jewish voters. (Algemeiner, Mar. 4, 2020)


US BACKS OFF IRON DOME PURCHASES AS ISRAEL REFUSES TO HAND OVER SOURCE CODE (Washington) — The U.S. Department of Defense has decided not to buy any more Iron Dome missile defense systems from Israel after integration issues emerged involving two Iron Dome batteries it bought in 2019. According to multiple media outlets, the reason behind the decision is that Israel has refused to hand over the source code for the technology. Without the source code, the technology only partly helps the military achieve its military goal of properly defending against short-range ballistic missiles. (WIN, Mar. 8, 2020)


US HOUSE DEMOCRATS BLOCK PRO-ISRAEL, ANTI-BDS BILL (Washington) –– The Israel Anti-Boycott Act, introduced by Rep. Lee Zeldin (R-N.Y.), would have expanded the Export Control Reform Act of 2018 to include prohibiting U.S. support for foreign boycotts of Israel from groups including the European Union and the U.N. Human Rights Council. Lawmakers defeated consideration of the bill by a tally of 219-194. (WIN, Mar. 6, 2020)


OKLAHOMA HOUSE PASSES PRO-ISRAEL BILL (Oklahoma City) — The Republican majority in the House passed a bill that would prevent the state from contracting with companies that boycott goods or services from Israel. The proposed law would apply to state contracts in excess of $100,000. If the legislation advances, Oklahoma would be the 29th state to pass such a law in response to the national, pro-Palestinian BDS movement, which asks groups to boycott, divest and sanction Israel. (The Oklahoman, Mar. 4, 2020)


PALESTINIAN HIJACKER HONORED ON INT’L WOMEN’S DAY BY ANTI-ZIONIST US STUDENTS () — The national branch of Students for Justice in Palestine (SJP) is drawing criticism after honoring female Palestinian terrorists on social media. One tweet — part of a series intended to celebrate Palestinian women for International Women’s Day — featured a picture of Leila Khaled smiling and holding an AK-47 assault rifle. The tweet identified Khaled as one of the many women who “demonstrated fortitude in the face of oppression.” Another tweet included an image of Rasmea Odeh, who was convicted of aiding in the murder of the college students Leon Kanner and Eddie Joffe in a 1969 supermarket bombing in Jerusalem. She was deported from the US to Jordan in 2017. (United With Israel, Mar. 10, 2020)


FAMILIES OF PITTSBURGH SYNAGOGUE MASSACRE VICTIMS TO RECEIVE $3 MILLION FROM SOLIDARITY DONATIONS (Pittsburgh) — Eleven worshipers at the synagogue were murdered and two more wounded during the shooting rampage by neo-Nazi Robert Bowers. Their families will now share just over three million dollars from a total of $5.45 million that was raised from individual donors in an outpouring of public solidarity. (Algemeiner, Mar. 9, 2020)


JEWISH STUDENT SAYS SHE LEFT CITY UNIVERSITY OF NEW YORK LAW SCHOOL AFTER BEING TARGETED BY ANTISEMITIC HARASSMENT FOR SUPPORTING ISRAEL (NYC) — Rafaella Gunz — a journalist focusing on LGBT and feminist issues — was studying at the CUNY School of Law when she became a target of pro-Palestinian groups, particularly Students for Justice in Palestine (SJP), as a result of her criticism of their attitudes toward Jews and Israel. Last month, she published an article in The Jewish Journal, titled “Campus Antisemitism Made Me a Zionist,” that detailed her struggle, saying that her Jewish identity had been consequently strengthened. Gunz has now decided to leave the school as a result of what she called a campaign of harassment. (Algemeiner, Feb. 27, 2020)


FRONTRUNNER IN CONTEST TO SUCCEED CORBYN AS UK LABOUR LEADER PLEDGES TO BOOT OUT ANTISEMITES (London) — Sir Keir Starmer, the frontrunner in the contest to succeed UK far-left politician Jeremy Corbyn as leader of the opposition Labour party,  said that the hundreds of cases of antisemitism that have plagued Labour since Corbyn became leader in 2015 “have to be dealt with robustly and swiftly and there’s no reason they can’t be.” (Algemeiner, Mar. 5, 2020)


IN THE NEW DAF YOMI CYCLE, DAILY TALMUD STUDY IS REACHING NEW POPULATIONS (NYC) –– An expansive work of Jewish law and narrative written in Aramaic and Hebrew, the Talmud spans 2,711 double-sided pages. At a rate of one page studied each day, a practice called Daf Yomi (Aramaic for “daily page”), the whole thing takes 7 1/2 years to complete. Previously, only those with the fortitude to show up in person every day for a lesson in millennia-old Jewish law — or study it on their own or with a partner — could participate. But with the proliferation of online tools to study Talmud in translation, and Facebook groups to connect with others who have undertaken the daily commitment, a much wider spectrum of people seem to have taken it on. For those who live far from other Jews, Daf Yomi has created a virtual community of fellow learners. (JTA, Mar. 9, 2020)


WATCH: Rabbi Performs Purim Reading at Tomb of Esther and Mordechai in Iran:  United With Israel, Mar. 10, 2020 — Iran’s Chief Rabbi Yehuda Gerami read Megillat Esther, the Scroll of Esther, at the Tomb of Mordechai and Esther in the city of Hamadan on Monday evening, when Jews around the world celebrated the Purim holiday.

WATCH: World Court Deliberates its Jurisdiction to Judge Israel for War Crimes:  WIN, Mar. 9, 2020  Israel and the U.S. are coordinating their response to the International Criminal Court, which will decide whether it has the jurisdiction to prosecute both countries for war crimes, ILTV reports.