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NY Congresswoman Connects With Anti-Semitic British Labour Leader

Mon, 02/04/2019 - 09:37

On Sunday, newly elected Congresswoman Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez (D-NY) exchanged compliments on Twitter with British Labour leader, Jeremy Corbyn, who has been accused of being an anti-Semite.

Corbyn reached out to Ocasio-Cortez, referring to a phone conversation the two had.

Great to speak to @AOC on the phone this evening and hear first hand how she’s challenging the status quo.

Let’s build a movement across borders to take on the billionaires, polluters and migrant baiters, and support a happier, freer and cleaner planet.

— Jeremy Corbyn (@jeremycorbyn) February 3, 2019

The young Congresswoman responded, indicating that she too enjoyed the connection, indicating a deep ideological bond with her British counterpart.

It was an honor to share such a lovely and wide-reaching conversation with you, @jeremycorbyn!

Also honored to share a great hope in the peace, prosperity, + justice that everyday people can create when we uplift one another across class, race, + identity both at home & abroad.

— Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez (@AOC) February 3, 2019

The implications of this exchange were quickly pointed out on the twitter thread. Yair Rosenberg, a senior writer for Tablet Magazine who frequently lectures on anti-Semitism, tweeted a response.

85% of British Jews think Jeremy Corbyn is anti-Semitic (

87% of Jews refused to vote for his Labour party in the last election, and for good reason: might want to have her staff screen her calls more carefully.

— (((Yair Rosenberg))) (@Yair_Rosenberg) February 3, 2019

Elad Nehorai, who writes the blog Pop Chassid, tweeted that anti-semitism was now a problem endemic to the left-wing.

I’m a huge huge fan of yours. I hope you’ll take a look at the amount of Jews trying to call attention to Corbyn’s long, documented history of anti-Semitism.

The left’s blind spot in this regard can still be fixed. But we need leaders like yourself to listen.

— Elad Nehorai (@PopChassid) February 4, 2019

Ocasio-Cortez has suffered from anti-Semitic entanglements in the past. She worked as an organizer for Bernie Sanders’s 2016 presidential campaign. Sanders, Jewish by birth, garnered a strong following among Muslim voters and the left-wing with his platform criticizing Israel’s military response to Hamas rocket barrages that led to the 2014 conflict.

In a 2018 interview with Al Jazeera, Ocasio-Cortez echoed Sanders’ criticism of Israel, calling the IDF reaction to the violent March of Return riots a “massacre.” She immediately backtracked, telling the interviewer that she was not an expert in foreign policy. Ocasio-Cortez also referred to the Jewish presence in Judea and Samaria as an “occupation.” She made an enigmatic, seemingly self-contradictory defense of her statements in a PBS interview, saying, “I believe absolutely in Israel’s right to exist. I am a proponent of a two-state solution.”

Paradoxically, she also claimed that her Puerto Rican ancestry indicated that she had Jewish ancestry.

Last week, a video surfaced of her political party, the Democratic Socialists of America, voting in 2017 to adopt the Boycott Divestment and Sanctions (BDS) anti-Israel movement. The vote was accompanied by the chant, “From the river to the sea, Palestine must be free” which effectively calls for the elimination of the state of Israel.

Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez’s (D-NY) political party, the Democratic Socialists of America, voted in 2017 to adopt the anti-Semitic Boycott, Divestment, Sanctions campaign

They called for the elimination of Israel, chanting: “From the river to the sea, Palestine will be free”

— Ryan Saavedra (@RealSaavedra) January 29, 2019

Flirting with anti-Semitism seems to be a recent trend among young Democrats in Congress.  Last month, Representatives Rashida Tlaib of Michigan and Ilhan Omar of Minnesota became the first two Muslim women to serve in the Congress.

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They both support BDS, claiming it is their free-speech right to do so. Critics of BDS point to key leadership positions in the movement being held by convicted terrorists who maintain their connections with recognized terrorist organizations.

Based on a 2016 tweet, Omar, who sits on the  Foreign Affairs oversight subcommittee, was accused of perpetuating an anti-Semitic trope depicting Jews as conspiring towards world domination.

Israel has hypnotized the world, may Allah awaken the people and help them see the evil doings of Israel. #Gaza #Palestine #Israel

— Ilhan Omar (@IlhanMN) November 16, 2012

Tlaib, a Palestinian, became the focus of criticism on her inaugural day in office. After being sworn in on a Koran, she attended an event where she was recorded shouting out about President Trump, “We’re going to go in and impeach the motherf**ker.” Also, a friend of Tlaib’s, comedian Mohammed “Mo” Amer altered the world map hanging on her office wall, indicating that the area is currently the State of Israel should be labeled Palestine.

Someone has already made a slight alteration to the map that hangs in Rashida Tlaib’s new congressional office.

— Hannah Allam (@HannahAllam) January 3, 2019

Cartoon Wars Over IDF

Mon, 02/04/2019 - 08:08

Brazilian cartoonist Carlos Latuff criticized the IDF in the context of their aid delegation to assist in the search and rescue efforts in Brazil. Israeli comic book artist Uri Fink retaliated with a cartoon caricature of the Brazilian artist holding a BDS sign while preventing an IDF soldier from saving a child.

Support the organization supporting our soldiers.

Support LIBI.

Unlikely Political Alliance May Bring Glimmers of Geula to Israeli Elections

Mon, 02/04/2019 - 07:21

Last week, an unlikely alliance was formed in Israeli politics: a Haredi (ultra-Orthodox) rabbi joined forces with a right-wing party in order to advance his pre-Messiah mission of returning the lost remnants of Israel.

Rabbi Chaim Amsalem announced last week that he was running for the Knesset in the April elections as part of the Zehut party. He is no stranger to Israeli politics but his past makes his decision all the more surprising since Rabbi Amsalem was one of the founders of Shas, the Sephardi-Haredi (ultra-Orthodox) party. Zehut is not Haredi but is closer to his current project. Rabbi Amsalem left the party due to an ideological belief that has become his life’s work. A recognized Torah scholar, he wrote Zera Yisrael (The Seed of Israel) in which he advocated a different approach to dealing with the huge phenomenon of people with Jewish ancestry.

To further this, Rabbi Amsalem helped establish the organization Zera Israel with the stated goal of  “reaching out to the millions of ‘People from the Seed of Israel’ around the world, bring them closer to Judaism and the State of Israel, in a welcoming and approachable manner, while preserving the Halachic (Torah law) rules.”  Zera Israel supports and invests in Jewish communities across the globe while focusing on tightening their bond with the Land of Israel.

In cases of conversion, he advocates for taking a significantly lenient position when a person is descended from Jews. In the case of one IDF soldier, Rabbi Amsalem considered the army service itself to be the ‘acceptance of the mitzvot,’ a key component in the conversion process. He has been widely criticized in the ultra-Orthodox press for this decision.

Last week, Rabbi Amsalem announced that he was joining Zehut, a right-wing political party that is often described as the Israeli version of the Libertarians.

“My initial motivation was to join with the man; not the party,” Rabbi Amsalem told Breaking Israel News. The head of Zehut, Moshe Feiglin, seems like an unlikely match but Rabbi Amsalem emphasized that in the issues that mattered the most, he had found both a home and a partner. “Moshe is straightforward and honest. He has enormous integrity. That is essential but, unfortunately, rare in politics. I needed to know that I was dealing with someone that even when I didn’t agree with him, I could trust that he would keep his word.”

Sephardic Chief Rabbi of Israel Yitzchak Yosef (left) and Ashkenazi Chief Rabbi of Israel David Lau (right) speak at a rabbinic ordination ceremony of the Israeli Chief Rabbinate in Jerusalem. (Photo: Yonatan Sindel/Flash90)

“For several years, the majority of my efforts have been dealing with Jewish identity,” Rabbi Amsalem said. “So it was only fitting that the place I chose to continue these efforts would be within the Zehut Party, who, as the name implies, is deeply concerned with this as well. The party really does strive to strengthen Jewish identity.”

Zehut’s platform calls to abolish the Chief Rabbinate’s monopoly over religious services in Israel and allow people to choose who would provide those services.

“My first conversations with Feiglin were about this subject, about my work. I am intensely concerned about the people who have Jewish ancestry and reconnecting them with the Jewish people. This is also an aspect of Jewish assimilation. When Feiglin heard this, he came to the conclusion that we had common interests and that we should work together.”

Rabbi Amsalem maintained that his desire to reunite those of Jewish ancestry with Israel has enormous political ramifications that could benefit Israel in its conflict with the Palestinians. He explained that the left-wing has advocated a two-state solution.

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“The left-wing is not motivated by a love of the Palestinian people,” Rabbi Amsalem emphasized. “The main reason the Israeli left-wing supports the two-state solution is because they believe there is a demographic threat; that the Palestinians will one day be so numerous as to constitute a real threat to the Jewish state. My answer to them is that there are millions of people in the word with Jewish ancestry that are longing to reconnect to the Jewish people. We can fill Israel with these people and that will solve the problem in the best possible manner.”

The rabbi noted that this already happened with the aliyah from the former Soviet Union. In the 1990s more than 1.6 million Jews made aliyah, drastically changing the demographics of Israel.

“I believe that in the end, connecting with the lost seed of Israel is politically advantageous but the main motivation for doing so is not just political expediency,” Rabbi Amsalem said. “It is my mission in life. I believe that it is for this purpose that the modern state of Israel came into existence; for the return of the lost fragments of the Jewish people. This was written in the Prophets and this is indeed what we are seeing today.”

Rabbi Amsalem is undeniably ultra-Orthodox but describes himself as “a different sort of ultra-Orthodox.”

“Our biggest threat is in the areas of religion and belief, so that is where I go,” Amsalem said. “The solution is not to become more religious or to strengthen the religious sector. The opposite is true. The tension between the religious and the non-religious, between the different sections of religious society, between those who serve in the IDF and those who do not; this tension is our biggest threat today. I am in the middle, joining them. I believe in a religion that brings people together, a religion that is understanding. I reject religious coercion just as I reject anti-religious coercion.”

If Amsalem is a religious and political enigma, he has clearly found a partner in Moshe Feiglin. Feiglin was raised in a religious Zionist environment, serving as an officer in the IDF. He was fo, a long time, part of the Likud Party. But he does not use those terms, religious or political, to self-identify.

“I am not a representative of what is defined as ‘the religious,’” Feiglin told Breaking Israel News, unconsciously echoing Amsalem’s sentiments. “My connection with Rabbi Amsalem was a natural bond. He is not the classic case of an ultra-Orthodox man and I am not the classic case of a right winger. Rabbi Amsalem was kicked out by the classic ultra-Orthodox establishment. I was kicked out by the classic right-wing.”

“We represent a new consciousness in which there is no concept right or left wing and even the terms religious and secular are no longer relevant,” Feiglin said, noting that this was perfectly congruent with Amsalem’s personal background as a Sephardi Jew. “Rabbi Amsalem represents the authentic Sephardi Judaism for which the concept of ultra-Orthodox is not relevant. The Sephardi don’t use the terms secular and religious. They don’t have that separation.”

Feiglin emphasized that this was not a universalist feel-good philosophy but was instead a true reflection of what is taking place in Israel today.

“This consciousness that includes all aspects of the population is our message and it is now the majority of the Israeli society,” Feiglin said.

When asked how being religious affected his politics, Feiglin gave a doubly enigmatic response.

“I do not self-identify as religious,” he said. “I try do mitzvoth (Torah commandments) but I perceive ‘religious’ as not an entirely positive description. The same is true of being defined as a politician. There was a time when politics was a way to advance ideas but it has become, unfortunately, a way to advance people. For me, politics is very important. It is a responsibility.”

Though generally known to be an ideologue, a philosopher-politician, Feiglin sees his role in politics as pragmatic.

“Every nation has a role to play in history. This, of course, includes Israel. This can be described as a ‘geula’ (redemption) process. But my role in this is to ensure that the next generation can afford a place to live, can afford to buy food, can make a living, can be educated.”

Mazel Tov Adam Eliyahu Berkowitz; 2,000th Breaking Israel News Article

Mon, 02/04/2019 - 05:44

Breaking Israel News is celebrating Adam Eliyahu Berkowitz’s 2,000th article. He has written for BIN for the best part of 5 years and is nigh-on irreplaceable. We thank Eliyahu so much for all his efforts. We wish him strength to continue in this important work of bringing Geula (redemption) ever-closer.


Everything You Always Wanted to Know About Medical Imaging

Mon, 02/04/2019 - 05:39

In 1895, German mechanical engineer physicist Wilhelm Roentgen was experimenting with cathode rays and called his wife Anna Bertha into a darkened room and asked her to put her hand on a black cardboard screen painted with barium platinocyanide placed close to a small aluminum screen.

When she saw her bones, she exclaimed: “I have seen my death!” No live person before had ever seen his own skeleton. X was the mathematical designation for something unknown – but this very first picture using x-rays has changed modern medicine.

Since then, other imaging technologies have joined x-rays – ultrasound, computerized tomography (CT), magnetic resonance imaging (MRI), functional MRI (fMRI) and nuclear medicine imaging, including positron-emission tomography (PET). All these are used to see inside ourselves for diagnosis and treatment without surgery and other invasive procedures.

The endless possibilities of using imaging technologies in medical practice were discussed recently at the 15th Shishi Bari (“Healthy Friday”) lecture series open free to the public by Jerusalem’s Shaare Zedek Medical Center (SZMC).

About 400 people crowded into the hospital’s auditorium to hear and see the latest developments in medical imaging from the medical center’s leading experts, who were presented by Shishi Bari coordinator Dr. Hagit Meskin, chief of pediatric oncology and hematology. None of the hospital’s department are able to function without imaging, she said. Radiologists, x-ray technicians, nurses and others work round the clock and behind the scenes to make this technology possible.

Hospital director-general Prof Jonathan Halevy said that despite the advances in medical robotics, he was not worried that robots would take the place of physicians for imaging. “My doctor son is concluding his studies in medical imaging; I don’t think he will be put out of a job by a robot. We are all people, and we need interaction. Even if, in a decade, there is a computer program that can read and decipher x-ray images, we will always need the human touch to mediate between patient and images and deal with rare and complicated ones.”

Dr. Ofer Benjaminof, head of SZMC’s imaging institute, noted that in 1905, a US hospital was the first to use x-rays during an operation. In 1948 was the first medical use of ultrasound to find stones in the kidneys and spleen; the technology based on sound waves was utilized, after the sinking of the Titanic, to detect glaciers under the surface of the ocean. In recent years, not only static images of the inside of the body were available but also moving images.

Today, doctors have small ultrasound devices that they hold in their pockets and use at the patient’s bedside.  A Doppler ultrasound can be used to study blood flow for a variety of medical problems; if there are many blood vessels, said Benjaminof, it may indicate a tumor. Contrast media were injected or swallowed to see movement in the gastrointestinal system and difficulty swallowing. Biopsies can be performed with ultrasound after making only a small incision in the skin to determine whether a patient suffers from liver cancer.

CT scans of the whole body “cut” it into thin slices like a loaf of broad to see details of tissues and organs and then put them together to survey the body from head to toe, said the imaging institute head. The amount of radiation used has been greatly minimized in the most advanced scanners.

The physics for seeing molecules in a magnetic field has been known since the 1950s. The human body is composed mostly of water. Water molecules (H2O) contain hydrogen nuclei (protons), which become aligned in a magnetic field. An MRI scanner applies a very strong magnetic field, which aligns the proton “spins.”

Changes in movement causes energy that is translated into images that can determine if a prostate tumor is growing, if a patient suffers from cirrhosis of the liver, if a child suffers from severe inflammation of the bone and so on. “The technology is getting better all the time,” concluded Benjaminof, whose institute has 110 staffers and who produce 250,000 images a year.

Dr. Naama Bogat, head of the hospital’s heart and chest imaging unit, noted that getting images of the heart is challenging because it is always moving. But with the best technology, one an see calcification inside tiny blood vessels, examine supportive stents in the heart to see if they have narrowed, if a cardiac bypass has clogged up, view inflammation of the heart muscle and even identify tumors in the heart. “Various conditions seem similar, but you can see the differences among them using MRI.”

Dr. Anthony Verstandig performs minimally invasive angiographies as head of the angiography unit. “We use very little radiation to see blood vessels. When they are clogged, we use a tiny balloon to open them and insert a metallic stent to hole the cardiac vessel open. We can also close blood vessels that bleed with stent grafts and open intestines that were clogged. We can treat primary or secondary cancer in the liver and stop bleeding from intestinal ulcers. We can treat varicocele, in which blood vessels swell around the testicle; this condition causes infertility in men. We perform this on 250 patients a year, and many of the wives get pregnant soon after. We also use catheters to remove foreign objects from the body,” said Verstandig.

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Dr. Eliel Ben-David, a neuroradiologist and head of the unit for brain and spinal cord imaging, is busy with a wide variety of cases, from strokes and orthopedic problems to cancer, pain and problems with the eyes, mouth and jaw. There are two main types of strokes. The more common – ischemic stroke – is caused by a blood clot that prevents normal blood flow through the brain and causes neurons to die.

This type accounts for 80% of all strokes. Rapid diagnosis and treatment of acute ischemic strokes is essential to reduce death and disability from stroke.

That’s why learning the FAST acronym is so important:

F = Face: Is one side of the face drooping down.

A = Arm: Can the person raise both arms or is one arm weak?

S = Speech: Is speech slurred or confusing?

T = Time: Time is critical!! Call for urgent medical help immediately!

The other kind of stroke is hemorrhagic, when a blood vessel that carries oxygen and nutrients bursts and spills blood into the brain. When this happens, a portion of the brain becomes deprived of oxygen and will stop functioning. The most common signs of a hemorrhagic stroke are sudden, severe headache with no known cause; partial or total loss of consciousness; vomiting or severe nausea, when combined with other symptoms; and sudden numbness or weakness of the face, arm or leg, especially on one side of the body.

The risk factors for stroke – besides age, gender, genetics and ethnic background – are smoking, hypertension, overweight, diabetes, high cholesterol and lack of exercise.

The main treatments for ischemic stroke are injecting tissue plasminogen activator (tPA), a protein that breaks down blood clots, and performing catheterization to pull the clot out of the blood vessel in the brain or the neck, said Verstandig. “In 2017, we had the largest number of cases of stroke diagnosis and treatment in Israel. We also developed a computer application in which Magen David Adom, the emergency ambulance service, informs us that a stroke victim is on the way. Within 25 minutes of the patient’s arrive, we can perform a CT or MRI scan and bring him to an expert for treatment.”

Mapping of the brain with yellow and red colors can tell radioneurologists how much blood flow in the brain remains and how much tissue has died. “The expert has to build a protocol, decide on the type of examination, give an urgent answer in serious cases when the neurologists are sure and also control amount of radiation. We hold several multidisciplinary meetings every week,” he stated.

Five thousand Israeli women each year are diagnosed with breast cancer, said Dr. David Gechtman, head of diagnostic mammography at SZMC. Mammography and a physical exam are the most basic and safe ways to diagnose it and they identify most of the cancers.

If a breast tumor is nevertheless suspected, MRI is used using a contrast medium, but this can lead to unnecessary biopsies, “so we don’t do an MRI on every woman. There is also 3D ultrasound,” said Gechtman. In younger women, tumors grow faster. It grows more slowly, is smaller and less aggressive in older women.” But he still recommends mammograms for women over 75.

Women should not fear radiation from mammograms, as there is plenty of natural and manmade radiation all around us – from jet travel, radon in the ground, food and drink. “Mammograms emit very little radiation, and they themselves do not cause breast cancer,” he assured the audience.

Summing up, Dr. Yigal Frank – a senior radiologist in the imaging institute, summed up that the radiation their devices emit are the lowest possible and used only when necessary. Contrast media that are injected or swallowed are needed to differentiate between the sick tissue and the rest of the body. “Various diseases can influence the way the tissue is colored, and these differences are vital when diagnosing the condition.”

Although MRIs were introduced after CTs and don’t involve radiation, Frank said that MRIs to not replace CTs and are not the preferred device for all conditions. For example, when a diagnosis is urgently needed or when the bones or lungs have to be scanned, CT is faster and better.

And, he concluded, don’t be surprised when the MRI technician asks you to fill out a questionnaire about metal in your body or your clothing, before the scan. If you suffered a shrapnel wound in the army or had a piece of metal implanted in your body – or if you are wearing something with metal inside – they can be damaged or cause harm.


Mon, 02/04/2019 - 05:00

Strangely, the word lechem (לחם), ’bread,’ is the root of the word milchama (מלחמה), which means ‘war.’ People usually do not go to war because they are wicked, but rather because they are deprived of basic necessities, such as bread. If we take care of those who are needy and provide for those who are hungry, we will be one step closer to bringing peace to the world. This is one of the reasons why the State of Israel allows for an enormous amount of supplies to cross over into Gaza each day, supplying the people living in Gaza with goods such as food, medical devices and construction materials.

Polio Eradicated in All Countries Except Three; Israel Will Help to Wipe It Out

Mon, 02/04/2019 - 04:35

Poliomyelitis has been one of the most dreaded word among parents in the world. In the early 20th century, polio was one of the most feared diseases in developed countries, paralyzing hundreds of thousands of children every year. Even in the U.S., parents kept their children out of school when they heard of a child with polio.

A highly infectious disease caused by a virus, polio invades the nervous system and can cause total paralysis in a matter of hours. The virus is transmitted by person-to-person spread mainly through the fecal-oral route or, less frequently via contaminated water or food. The virus multiplies in the intestine. Initial symptoms are fever, fatigue, headache, vomiting, stiffness of the neck and limb pain.

Soon after the introduction of effective vaccines in the 1950s and 1960s however, polio was brought under control and nearly eliminated as a public health problem in these countries. But the developing world lagged behind, and it took additional years for polio to be recognized as a major threat to children there. As a result, 1970s routine immunization was introduced worldwide as part of national immunization programs, helping to control the disease in many developing countries.

The incurable disease is contracted mostly by children under the age of five. One in 200 infections leads to irreversible paralysis, and among those, 5% to 10% die when their breathing muscles are unable to function. Cases due to wild poliovirus have decreased by over 99% since 1988, when there were an estimated 350,000 cases. If a single child remains infected, children in all countries are at risk of contracting polio.

In most countries, the global effort has expanded capacities to tackle other infectious diseases by building effective surveillance and immunization systems. As there is still no cure for polio, it can only be prevented – and polio vaccine – given several times to children can protect for life.

Of the 3 strains of wild poliovirus (type 1, type 2, and type 3), wild poliovirus type 2 was eradicated in 1999, and no case of wild poliovirus type 3 has been found since the last reported case in Nigeria in November 2012.

In 1988, the 41st World Health Assembly of the World Health Organization (WHO) adopted a resolution for the worldwide eradication of polio. It marked the launch of the Global Polio Eradication Initiative (GPEI), spearheaded by national governments, WHO, Rotary International, the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), UNICEF, and supported by key partners including the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation.

In 1994, the WHO Region of the Americas was certified polio-free, followed by the WHO Western Pacific Region in 2000 and the WHO European Region in June 2002. On 27 March 2014, the WHO South-East Asia Region joined them, with no transmission of wild poliovirus in this bloc of 11 countries stretching from Indonesia to India. This achievement marks a significant leap forward in global eradication, with 80% of the world’s population now living in certified polio-free regions. More than 16 million people who would otherwise have been paralyzed. are able to walk today.

Polio still exists only in Pakistan, Nigeria and Afghanistan, but failure to stop polio in these last remaining areas could within a decade bring about as many as 200,000 new cases every year all over the world.

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Once polio is eradicated, the world can celebrate the delivery of a major global public good that will benefit all people equally, no matter where they live. Economic modelling has found that the eradication of polio would save at least $40 billion to $50 billion, mostly in disadvantaged countries.

In 1988, when the Global Polio Eradication Initiative began, polio paralyzed more than 1,000 children around the world every day. Since then, more than 2.5 billion children have been immunized against polio thanks to the cooperation of more than 200 countries and 20 million volunteers, backed by an international investment of more than $ 11 billion.

But wiping out the last 1% of polio cases has proved difficult because of political instability, conflict, hard-to-reach populations and poor infrastructure.

The development of effective vaccines to prevent paralytic polio was one of the major medical breakthroughs of the 20th century. The Global Polio Eradication Initiative uses two types of vaccine to stop polio transmission – inactivated polio vaccine that is injected and oral polio vaccine that comes in the form of oral drops.

Dr. Tomer Hertz (Credit: Courtesy Ben Gurion University)

Israel, which also has eradicated polio, is now at the forefront of the international struggle to eradicate polio. A prestigious research grant from the WHO has been awarded to Dr. Tomer Hertz for the development of an innovative approach to measuring immune responses to polio. The Hebrew University of Jerusalem graduate in microbiology, immunology, genetics and computational neuroscience now works at the microbiology and immunity department of Ben-Gurion University of the Negev and the the National Institute of Biotechnology in Beersheba.

The prestigious WHO grant will be used to develop an alternative and safe test for diagnosing and measuring immune responses to polio in the population. The innovative test will be based on a killed virus and recombinant proteins of the virus, thus not posing a risk of recurrence of the disease.

In 2016, the use of live vaccines of this type was banned so the wild poliovirus would not escape into the population. To prevent a renewed outbreak, new guidelines issued by the World Health Organization to the laboratories allowed individual laboratories worldwide to continue working with the live virus under strict safety conditions. The organization hopes that in the foreseeable future, the two additional types of polio types 1 and 3 will disappear, and identical guidelines will come into effect.

Alongside the new guidelines, and parallel to those licensed laboratories that do not exist in Israel and other countries, there is a need to continue research on the polio virus so as to periodically monitor and monitor the efficacy of the vaccine in the general population, explained Hertz. “The WHO is now looking for new and safe methods to measure the response to a vaccine that does not involve a live virus and to prevent it from spreading again. Our proposal …is to develop a new method for measuring immune responses to polio based on parts of a dead virus.”

Hertz’s lab focuses on systemic immunology and the study of viruses and vaccines against them and specializes in a unique technology for the measurement of immunological profiles based on chips printed on various antigens; these will be used by the research team to develop new diagnostics for polio using killed antigens. We hope this will lead to a effective and inexpensive alternative to the existing test and be used on patients.

Last year, Hertz was awarded two research grants by the US National Institutes of Health (NIH) in collaboration with American research institutions.

Routes Uncovered: Tell es-Safi, Ancient City of Gath

Mon, 02/04/2019 - 04:15

Many biblical sites such as Jerusalem or Hebron are well known, but the greatest biblical site in the Holy Land is less familiar to tourists: Tell es-Safi.  This is a very important archaeological site. This is the ancient Gath, which was one of the five Philistine cities. It’s an amazing place because it’s sort of like a buffer zone between the coastal plain and the beginning of the lowlands. Tel Tzafit (Tel es-Safi) means white bluff, because it’s made of chalk… It’s here that the Philistines built a formidable city.

Lebanese-ah Hezboll-ah-Palooza

Mon, 02/04/2019 - 03:38

After nine grueling months, Lebanon has formed a unity government that includes the U.S.-designated terrorist group Hezbollah. For Hezbollah itself, Mahmoud Qmati became State Minister for Parliamentary Affairs, while Mohammad Fneish took over the Youth and Sports portfolio.

(Credit: Feintooner)

Below, Within and Above

Mon, 02/04/2019 - 02:00

Recent statements by a number of Israeli officials have claimed a degree of success in Israel’s efforts to contain and rollback Iran’s entrenchment in Syria.  But while Israel’s tactical successes are certainly notable and impressive, the big picture is that Iran’s influence and strength in Syria continues to deepen and expand.

Iran’s efforts are taking place at three levels:  below the official Syrian state structures – in the arming and sponsoring of Iran-controlled paramilitary formations on Syria soil, within the Syrian state – in the control of institutions that are officially organs of the regime, and above the state, in the pursuit of formal links between the Iranian and Syrian regimes.  As Teheran seeks to impose its influence on Assad’s Syria in the emergent post-rebellion period, meanwhile, there are indications that its project is running up against the rival plans and ambitions of the Russians.

A report in the generally reliable Syrian Observatory for Human Rights this week described in detail the nature of the Iranian Revolutionary Guards Corps’s efforts to entrench their presence in a single, significant Syrian town: al-Mayadin, west of the strategically important Albukamal border crossing between Iraq and Syria, and just west of the Euphrates River.

The Observatory described extensive recruitment of local Syrians, including individuals who were formerly involved with the armed opposition, into the ranks of Iran’s various paramilitary ‘Syrian Hizballah’ type structures established in Syria.  The report noted that the incentives given to entice individuals into these structures included a monthly salary of between $150-300, allowing individuals a variety of options as to where they wish to serve, and immunity from arrest at the hands of regime security forces.

The report also noted that the IRGC and Lebanese Hizballah have positioned themselves in key areas of al-Mayadin, and are maintaining exclusive control of these areas (ie without cooperation with or permission sought from the forces of the Assad regime).

Among a number of specific examples quoted in this regard,  ‘Members of the Iranian Revolutionary Guards took over the al-Nurain Mosque and houses around it on the Korniche Street in the city, where they prevented civilians, members of regime forces, and NDF from entering or passing through the area, without orders from the command forces located in al-Mayadin,’ while ‘members of the Lebanese Hezbollah took over the area extending from al-Finsh Junction to Al Shuaibi Villa at al-Arba’in Street in al-Mayadin city, and prevented the entry and exit except by orders of them.’

Control of al-Mayadin and its environs matters because it is located along Highway 4, which is the only road leading out of the Albukamal border crossing, which separates Syria and Iraq and which is currently controlled by the IRGC and its allies.  From al-Mayadin,  Route 4 reaches Deir e-Zur, where it connects to the M20 highway, which heads west in the direction of Damascus, or, if a traveler prefers, towards al-Qusayr and the Lebanese border.

That is, the specific example of al-Mayadin shows the means by which Iran seeks to maintain exclusive control along vital nodes in Syria, for the passage of personnel and materiel, in the direction of its allies in Lebanon or its enemies in Israel, according to the needs of the moment.

The activities of the IRGC on the ground in such locations as al-Mayadin go hand in hand with the more conventional, regime-to-regime relations that Teheran maintains with Assad in Damascus.

This week, for example, Iranian Vice-President Eshaq Jahangiri was in Syria, where he signed a number of economic agreements and met with Assad.  The agreements, 11 in number, together offer a roadmap for long term strategic economic cooperation between Iran and Syria.  They cover a variety of areas, including ‘education, housing, public works, railroads and investments,’ according to a report in the Syrian Arab News Agency, the regime’s official media outlet.

Jahangiri’s visit was the latest indication of concerted Iranian efforts to secure a major role in the massive project of reconstruction within the 60% of Syria currently controlled by the regime.  The UN estimates the cost of reconstruction in war torn Syria at around $400 billion.  Earlier landmarks in this process include a military cooperation agreement concluded in August, 2018, a 2017 memorandum of understanding for the extraction of phosphates from the al Sharqiya mine south west of Palmyra, (one of the largest such mines in Syria), and an MOU for the restoration by Iran of over 2000 MW of electrical power production capacity.

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There is even a putative plan for an Iran-Syria rail link, to run from the Shalamcheh border crossing between Iran and Iraq, via Basra in southern Iraq and eventually to Latakia on Syria’s Mediterranean coast.  Such projects are more in the line of visions at present. But they demonstrate the depth and scope of Iran’s plans for the area between its western borders and the Mediterranean.

A third element in the Iranian ambition lies within the structures of the official Syrian state. Iran has invested heavily in the creation of Basij-style paramilitary structures under its control within the Syrian security forces – such as the National Defense Forces.  Evidence is now also emerging that conventional military units of the Syrian Arab Army are also identified closely with the Iranian interest. The evidence in question suggests that this is leading to fissures, as these units face off against other formations more closely allied with the Russian interest in Syria.

A report in the opposition linked Ana press this week, confirmed by additional Syrian sources and also reported in Der Spiegel and by the Turkish Anadolu agency , detailed clashes on January 19th  in the Hama area between Colonel Soheil Hassan’s 5th Corps, associated with the Russian interest, and Maher Assad’s 4th Division, generally seen as closely linked to the IRGC.

According to the report, a number of fighters from both units were killed in the Sahel al-Ghab area in Hama, after a dispute about control of the area.  These incidents show the extent to which the Russian and Iranian projects have the potential for collision, especially in the all important area of control and influence within the official security structures of the Syrian state.

Taken together, all this evidence points to a deep, long term Iranian strategic plan by which Teheran means to dominate the Syrian space in the period ahead.  The blueprint being applied is clearly that which has achieved such impressive results in Lebanon, and later in Iraq.  According to this approach, Iran is activating a variety of tools below, within and above the structures of the Syrian state. The intention is to achieve a level of penetration and influence that will make their ambitions invulnerable both to superior Israeli air power and intelligence, and to the opposing project for domination of Syria currently being undertaken by Russia.  The results of all this remain to be seen.

Reprinted with author’s permission from Jonathan Spyer

From Covington to Northham: A History of American Controversy and Culture in 2019

Mon, 02/04/2019 - 01:00

Over the weekend on February 1 Virginia Gov. Ralph Northam was rocked by controversy and calls to resign after a photo emerged of a 1984 yearbook in which a man in blackface and another in a KKK outfit are pictured. First posted on February 1, the photo led to a press conference with the governor on February 2 in which he refused to resign.

Reactions to the photo have been mixed. Some left wing websites like Mother Jones point out that the photo emerged on a right wing website. Initially the governor apologized for the photo in his medical school yearbook. He claimed that it showed “a costume that is clearly racist and offensive. I am deeply sorry for the decision I made to appear as I did in this photo and for the hurt that decision caused then and now. This behavior is not in keeping with who I am today and the values I have fought for throughout my career in the military, in medicine, and in public service.”

A second photo also emerged from Northam’s 1981 Virginia Military Institute yearbook in which his nickname was given as “coonman,” which appears to be a racist term as well. Leading and influential Democrats in the state and nationally have demanded explanations and also called for resignation. Calls for his resignation also came from four Democratic candidates for president – Senators Kirsten Gillibrand, Kamala Harris and Cory Booker, have supported resignation. Eastern Virginia Medical School has said that yearbook production is a student activity and refused to comment on the old photo.

In his February 2 press conference he walked back his apology a bit. “I believe now and then that I am not either of the people in this photo…This was not me in that picture. That was not Ralph Northam.” He did appear to allude to a second incident where he dressed as a black man. “”I had the shoes, I had a glove, and I used just a little bit of shoe polish to put under my — or on my — cheeks,” he said referring to dressing up as Michael Jackson. “I look back now and regret that I did not understand the harmful legacy of an action like that.”

Out of all the controversy there have been no calls for violence against the governor. In fact the discussion has generally been relatively civil. He has had the chance to speak to the media and explain himself. In fact many questions have not even been asked, such as why a 25 year old man (at the time) would have a photo like that in his yearbook in the 1980s? What kind of culture at the school allowed photos like this? Why was he called “coonman”? How can he simply claim to not remember? Why did he apologize for being in the photo and then claim not to have seen the book when it came out?

The Covington scandal

A week before the Northam controversy erupted, 16-year old Nick Sandmann sat down with the Today show to discuss his own run in with accusations of racism. The Covington Catholic High School junior was caught on video in mid-January at the Lincoln Memorial standing in front of a Native-American activist. “As far as standing there, I had every right to do so,” he said.

Social media didn’t agree. A short video of the incident claimed to show the boys “taunting” the Native American activist. Outraged people on social media excoriated Sandmann and his friends. In Washington for a pro-life rally and wearing pro-Trump hats, the boys were singled out as examples of white racism in the US. “Hundreds of videos, tweets and Facebook posts featuring the event have been shared across multiple channels,” early reports noted. They were “white students in MAGA hats,” perfect villains for the US social media age.

It took some time for a full video to appear of the incident.”A Covington student who said he was present during the incident emailed a local TV network saying the elder approached the students — not the other way around,” Vox reported. It was revealed that “members of the Black Hebrew Israelites were ‘saying some harsh things’ — which reportedly included homophobic remarks — and that one of them even spit in the students’ direction. Phillips said he decided to step in and defuse the situation.”

It turned out that Sandmann and the teens were actually the initial victims of taunts by several adult men, not the other way around. The Guardian reported on January 21 ““I did hear them direct derogatory insults at our school group … They called us ‘racists,’ ‘bigots,’ ‘white crackers,’ ‘faggots,’ and ‘incest ‘kids.’” The report goes on to note “The fresh video, which runs much longer to one hour and 46 minutes,suggests that the four Black Hebrew Israelites might be more culpable than Covington students in instigating the apparent standoff than the initial footage suggests.”

Adults in KKK and blackface, teens “taunting” a Native-American

The two incidents are interesting because they both involve related issues, but reaction has been very different. Both involve, at least initially, white men and youth who are accused of racism. In one the alleged perpetrators of “taunting” were teenage Catholic youth who were wearing pro-Trump hats. In another a governor who was accused of appearing in a racist photo when he was in his mid-twenties.

But the reaction was very different. There were immediate calls for attacks on the teens. People even posted their schools address. They were accused of racist chants, that now appear to have never been made. Sandmann was excoriated for “smiling.” One write notes “The teen is smirking – his expression, for me, oozes entitlement. Behind him an unruly crowd – all male, all white, many also wearing the conspicuous Maga apparel – is jeering the elder in a frenzy of Lord of the Flies privilege.”

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These are sixteen year old teenagers shoehorned into perfect villains of the “white privilege” era. They are forced to pay a kind of price for society’s overall indignation at white privilege. Even though they aren’t adults, the burden of history is assigned to them.

And yet, Northam, a governor, an adult, who actually had a yearbook with a photo of the KKK and a man in blackface, doesn’t face quite the same backlash. He has faced a backlash, as he should, but where is the zeal and anger? Why is an adult, a powerful, male, governor, given more of a pass than a 16-year old? Why does he get a press conference and deferential questions? Sandmann has to wait days for his time to come in the media when he could explain himself? One would think that a teenager, a minor, would get more than a governor. That he would get more excuses, not less.

Has American society found it easier to attack a 16-year old than a sitting governor and if so, why? Why did so many adults tweet the most graphic and hateful things against the Covington teens? Even if the story had turned out to be accurate, that the teens taunted a Native American, and there hadn’t been the context of them first being harassed by other adults, did it deserve the backlash it got? Similarly, the governor’s story seems quite clear. It was his yearbook, and he was called “coonman.” The new claims that he doesn’t know who is in the photo doesn’t really absolve a 25-year old adult in 1984 from taking some responsibility.

Does American rage-culture online tend to pick on the easy targets? Does it prefer the Covington teens to the adult governor because perhaps teens who can’t answer back are easier to target? What is this “punchable” culture online that felt it was normal to call to attack kids? What kind of culture finds teenagers a more welcome target for outrage than grown adult men? Why are teens given the burden of “privilege” but not adults.

Congress member Ilhan Omar even claimed the kids “were taunting five Black men” and made “racist chants.” She then deleted the tweet. Omar and Aslan and others who had slammed the Covington teens have not condemned the governor as of when this was posted on February 3. So why the outrage at one and not the other? Why the outrage over MAGA hats, but not KKK hats? Why the outrage over an actual, and clearly, racist photo, and an unclear video? Why the extreme outrage over a smirk, but not blackface? Blackface would seem to be more racist than smirking.

If the situation were reversed, and the governor and adult white men had taunted the Native-American, while it was the Covington teens who made a yearbook with a KKK costume and blackface, what would be the reaction. For some reason it’s hard to imagine that an adult governor taunting an activist would receive the kind of anger the teens received. And the teens would likely be slammed for the KKK photo in their yearbook more than a sitting governor. After all, Northam is only being called upon to resign, not much else. The Covington teens were calls names and accused of white privilege and other offenses. The governor, oddly, is not seen as a symbol of the same privilege.


Is it just about politics? The teens were at a pro-life rally and wearing MAGA hats, so they are seen as right wing. Not “boys will be boys” and not youthful bad antics, but they are asked to take responsibility as adults. Don’t support Trump. Period. That’s the message.

The governor, a Democrat, is depicted as less threatening than the teens. Yet he has more power. If this was really a story of white privilege or white men in power, then clearly the governor has more power. The teens don’t have much power. But there were assumptions that one day they would. Some said they would turn out “like Kavanaugh,” the Supreme Court justice, who as a nominee was accused of sexual assault. They are the future patriarchy, even though Northam is the present patriarchy.

Nevertheless, it still leaves one wondering if American society prefers the easy target, the teens, and not the adults. That’s why the “black Hebrew Israelites” who had accosted the teens were never the target of much anger online. Because they are adults. And for some reason some adults don’t seem to fit neatly into the outrage target. For whatever reason Northam doesn’t seem to fit the model either.

Reprinted with author’s permission from Seth Frantzman

America’s Real Enemy in the Middle East – Iran

Mon, 02/04/2019 - 00:00

Since the attacks of Sept. 11, 2001, Congress and the presidents alike have had no sustained policy review to establish militarily achievable objectives, coherent political goals, or even a workable definition of “the enemy” to guide lawmakers and military leaders.

Republicans and Democrats both removed governments with no plan for succession or the societal stresses and open warfare that would ensue. Without an updated Authorization for the Use of Military Force (AUMF), we “plinked terrorists” in various countries with drones or airplanes, assassinating at least four American citizens, and killing others as “collateral damage.”

American soldiers have been killed fighting in various countries, including several in Africa. We are spending billions “training” various militaries and militias and hoping they will fight who and how we want them to. Iran’s backing of rebels in Yemen is called the “Saudi war” to avoid dealing with the implications. The “Israel-Palestinian conflict” is to be resolved by creating an extra Arab state while the Palestinians definitively and publicly want to resolve it by eliminating the Jewish one.

President Trump ran against American military involvement in Syria and Afghanistan, and for a hard line on Iran. There is still no complete policy — and sometimes not even a particularly well-articulated policy — but it does appear that America’s focus has changed from retail to wholesale. From executing individual terrorists and recapturing pieces of territory to operating against the malign influence that funds and organizes large-scale Shiite — and Sunni — terror. From terror groups to a terror country.

To Iran.

After years of silence, in his “exit interview” as IDF Chief of Staff, LTG Gadi Eisenkot detailed Israel’s strikes against Iranian targets in Syria, explaining that Israel’s goal had always been to prevent the establishment of Iranian bases and missile factories there. “We struck thousands of targets,” he said, and the Iranians – unable to ensure their own security against Israeli air superiority – have been moving out. As if to punctuate his comments, Israel stuck a series of buildings at Damascus International Airport said to house a secret Iranian intelligence facility.

The administration has firmly supported Israel’s position.

European governments, despite their announced intention to follow the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA, or “Iran deal”) have been trending a harder line since Trump’s re-imposition of sanctions on Iran, and particularly since the discovery of at least two Iranian-sponsored assassination plots on European soil. In a recent meeting, officials from countries including France, Britain, and Germany, told Iranian envoys that Europe would not tolerate Iran’s ballistic missile tests or aggressive behavior. The Iranians walked out.

The Warsaw conference is scheduled for mid-February; 70 countries were invited, including Israel and all of the EU members, but not Iran. A State Department announcement said the meeting “will address a range of critical issues including terrorism and extremism, missile development and proliferation, maritime trade and security, and threats posed by proxy groups across the region.” Code for Iran.

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Iran denounced the conference as a “desperate anti-Iran circus,” but the “circus” is taking place in the middle of Europe. Iran’s oil exports have fallen 60 percent since last spring, and are likely to fall further as the original waivers on certain major oil importers are about to expire. Now the prospect of reduced relations with Europe – particularly Germany – has to be bone chilling for the Mullahs.

Secretary Pompeo’s swing through the Middle East was, in part, to solidify American relations with its Sunni allies and assure them that their concerns about Iran are, in fact, America’s concerns. But he had two other messages. First, that Israel is a partner in American thinking and planning — something the Arab states need to hear from the American government. Secondly, they need to know that the American military is a partner, not the answer to other countries’ problems. “We will continue to assist … and ‘assist’ is the key phrase,” Pompeo said.

The policy as it is emerging is far from perfect. Some friends of the United States are rightly unhappy that the American focus on Iran may lower the heat on the increasingly radical and aggressive but still-NATO-ally Turkey. That would be a mistake and could make the president’s other goals more difficult to achieve. But after 20 years of playing “whack-a-mole” against terrorists, the U.S. has finally focused on the source of chaos across the Middle East: Iran.

Reprinted with author’s permission from Jewish Policy Center

Shalva’s Inspiring Rendition of “One Day”

Sun, 02/03/2019 - 09:23

The members of Shalva have physical disabilities but the music that flows from their souls is truly inspiring.

Fan Favorite Special Needs Israeli Band May Back Out of Eurovision Due to Sabbath Observance

Sun, 02/03/2019 - 09:17

Shalva, a band made up of eight musicians with disabilities, was chosen by fan votes to represent Israel in the next international Eurovision competition but may back out rather than perform at the contest which will be held on Friday night.

The band won the final round of the Israeli talent contest “A Rising Star” on Channel 12 on Saturday night. After the judges were split, the audience voted, giving Shalva a two-point victory that earned them the right to represent Israel in the Eurovision contest. The annual Eurovision song contest will take place in Tel Aviv, from May 14-18 2019. Israel earned the right to host the competition last year after  Netta Barzilai won with the song “Toy” in Lisbon on May 19.

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Three of the band members are Sabbath observant. They turned to the Tzomet Institute which innovates technological solutions to questions in Jewish law, inquiring if a special microphone could be used that does not cause the singer to violate the Sabbath. Such a microphone was developed but Jewish law permits it to be used only in the case of medical necessity. Not only will segments of the show be performed and recorded on the Sabbath but rehearsals will also require Sabbath desecration.

The band made a special request from the Eurovision organizers to pre-record their performance but a source close to the Eurovision production told the J-Post that exceptions like this are very rare for the European Broadcasting Union, and it is unlikely the EBU will allow a change to its tight schedule.

Omar Adam, a popular Israeli singer, also turned down an invitation to the Eurovision contest. Though he is not religiously observant, Adam makes a point not to perform on the Sabbath.

The band is made up of Deena, an immigrant from India, and Annael, an immigrant from France, the band’s lead singers who are both blind. Yosef has Williams syndrome, Yair and Tal have Down syndrome, and Guy is visually impaired.  Shai, the band’s manager, who helped found the group after a long recovery from a serious injury sustained during his IDF service, also performs, as does Sarah, the daughter of Kalman and Malki Samuels, the founders of the Shalva Center.

Netanyahu Proudly Announces: Standard and Poor Makes Israel’s Highest Ever Economic Rating Permanent

Sun, 02/03/2019 - 08:18

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu proudly announced to his cabinet on Sunday at their weekly meeting that the temporary AA- rating Standard and Poors gave Israel in August was made permanent.

“You have certainly noticed another achievement for the Israeli economy,”  he told the cabinet. “This is a very strong expression of confidence in the economic policy that we have led in recent years, which has led the Israeli economy to unprecedented growth.”

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When upgrading Israel’s rating to its historic high, S&P cited Israel’s stable growth and improved fiscal position in light of the sharp reduction in net government debt.

“This is based on our belief that, absent global trade shocks, Israel’s economic growth outlook will remain solid and allow the government to accommodate pressures coming from social and infrastructure spending, as well as a potential moderate escalation of security risks,” S&P said at the time. “Israel has demonstrated sound economic performance since the global financial crisis, with a current GDP of about $140 billion (or 50 percent) larger than in 2010, the current account in a sustainable surplus, and unemployment at historical lows.”

The temporary status was due to Israel’s “high exposure to external and domestic security risks weigh on the country’s creditworthiness.”

WATCH: The Story of Anne Frank

Sun, 02/03/2019 - 07:04

Anne Frank and her best-selling diary is a symbol of the young lives lost in the Holocaust.

WATCH: IDF Boosts Female Integration Into Combat Roles

Sun, 02/03/2019 - 06:57

There has been much debate and even controversy over the IDF’s integration of female soldiers into combat. That process is already in high gear, with some units that used to be comprised of only men, now boasting a majority of women.

Corey Booker: Democratic Presidential Candidate With Mixed Record on Israel

Sun, 02/03/2019 - 06:56

Democratic New Jersey Sen. Cory Booker announced on Friday that he is entering the 2020 presidential race.

Since being elected to the Senate in 2012 after serving as mayor of Newark, his record on Israel has been mixed at best, and sometimes going back and forth on certain issues.

In 2016, Booker, 49, who represents a state with more than half a millionJews, labeled BDS as an “anti-Jewish movement” and last year co-sponsored the Israel Anti-Boycott Act that would prohibit American businesses from boycotting the Jewish state.

“We’ve seen the alarming rise in anti-Semitism in the United States and across the world in recent years manifest itself in many deeply concerning ways, including in the actions of foreign governments targeting Israel and the Israeli people,” he said.

However, on Tuesday he voted against the Strengthening America’s Security in the Middle East Act—legislation that is a combination of four bills, including one that would enable state and local governments in the United States to fight BDS.

He also posed last August with a sign from a pro-BDS group that read “From Palestine to Mexico. All the walls have got to go,” a motto coined by the U.S. Campaign for Palestinian Rights.

Per the watchdog organization NGO Monitor, “USCPR is a national coalition of hundreds of groups working to advocate for Palestinian rights and a shift in U.S. policy, and is a leader and mobilizer of anti-Israel BDS campaigns.”

In a statement to JNS at the time, Booker’s communication’s director, Jeff Giertz, said the senator didn’t realize the sign related to Israel when the picture was taken.

“Just before delivering a speech in New Orleans, Senator Booker was approached by dozens of people for photos,” he said. “In one instance, amid the rush, he was posing for a photo and was passed a sign to hold—he didn’t have time to read the sign, and from his cursory glance he thought it was talking about Mexico and didn’t realize it had anything to do with Israel.”

“He hopes for a day when there will be no need for security barriers in the State of Israel, but while active terrorist organizations threaten the safety of the people living in Israel, security barriers are unfortunate but necessary to protect human lives,” added Giertz.

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On Iran: From ‘poses a threat to American security’ to ‘a point of no return’

Regarding Iran, Booker said in a position paper when running for the Senate that “as a state sponsor of terrorism, Iran poses a threat to American security, a threat made worse by their pursuit of nuclear technology in defiance of the international community and their own treaty obligations. A nuclear-armed Iran is plainly unacceptable. It would pose serious threats to American interests and to our allies, particularly Israel.”

Despite the pressure placed on him by allies such as Rabbi Shmuely Boteach, Booker supported the 2015 Iran nuclear deal, calling it “the better of two flawed options.”

“Despite its significant shortcomings, we have passed a point of no return,” said Booker. “Accepting this deal and moving forward with vigilance and continued commitment to keeping Iran from obtaining a nuclear weapon is preferable to a world in which a debilitated sanctions regime and fractured community of nations allows Iran to acquire many of the benefits of this deal without accepting its meaningful constraints.”

Boteach, who has known Booker since their time at Oxford University, reacted critically to Booker’s presidential campaign announcement: “My friend @corybooker announces for @Potus but will lose unless he repudiates utterly his support for #Iran & reverses his eroding support for #Israel as this betrays American values, shows weakness in foreign policy, proves he puts politics before principle, and abandons friends,” he tweeted.

My friend @corybooker announces for @Potus but will lose unless he repudiates utterly his support for #Iran & reverses his eroding support for #Israel as this betrays American values, shows weakness in foreign policy, proves he puts politics before principle, and abandons friends

— Rabbi Shmuley (@RabbiShmuley) February 1, 2019

“Since our time together at #Oxford where Cory served as my student president I believed he could be president & we remained close like brothers. But since embracing #Iran deal & gradual abandonment of Israel his prospects have eroded. He must show he stands friends & convictions,” added Boteach.

Since our time together at #Oxford where Cory served as my student president I believed he could be president & we remained close like brothers. But since embracing #Iran deal & gradual abandonment of Israel his prospects have eroded. He must show he stands friends & convictions.

— Rabbi Shmuley (@RabbiShmuley) February 1, 2019

Nonetheless, Booker has expressed concerns ranging from Iran testing ballistic missiles to the U.S. Treasury Department suspending countermeasures against Iran’s financial sponsorship of terrorism to the International Atomic Energy Agency’s reports on the regime complyingwith the nuclear agreement.

As expected, he opposed U.S. President Donald Trump withdrawing America from the nuclear accord, saying, “The President’s announcement is nothing less than an abdication of American leadership that jeopardizes our national security, makes the world less safe and increases the prospect of Iran developing a nuclear weapon.”

“Make no mistake, I had concerns about the Iran nuclear agreement when I voted on it, but an imperfect deal with years remaining to conduct further diplomacy was and remains better than a nuclear-armed Iran,” he continued. “The President’s decision puts the U.S. in default of our commitments to the international community and our closest allies.”

Following the party on Mideast issues and concerns

Along with the rest of his party, Booker also opposed the nomination of David Friedman in March 2017 to be U.S. ambassador to Israel: “I am deeply concerned that confirming David Friedman to serve as ambassador to Israel would damage the prospects of finding a two-state solution between the Israelis and Palestinians, the only path to a lasting peace that would bring true security and Middle East stability,” he said.

Moreover, Booker was against the United States officially recognizing Jerusalem as Israel’s capital in December 2017, in addition to relocating its embassy there last May from Tel Aviv.

“It should be part of negotiations for eventual final status,” Booker told The Weekly Standard. “We need to be working towards peace in that region.”

Yet he was a co-sponsor of a Senate resolution to rebuke U.N. Security Council Resolution 2334.

In April 2017, Booker signed onto a letter to U.N. Secretary General António Guterres, calling for the end of the world body’s animosity towards the Jewish state.

Rising from serving in local government and Congress to running for the White House, Booker’s stances related to the U.S.-Israel relationship have shifted in an apparent attempt to appeal to all factions on the left and in the Democratic Party. According to the latest POLITICO/Morning Consult poll, Booker is only at 3 percent.

Whether he will backtrack on his stances to appeal to Boteach and those similar to him remains to be seen.

Pre-Superbowl: Israelis Explain Football (Or Not)

Sun, 02/03/2019 - 06:00

Israelis try to explain the uniquely American sport played with a “pinecone shaped ball.”

10,000 Gazans Riot On Border; Israel Says Elections Won’t Stop Military Response

Sun, 02/03/2019 - 05:39

On Friday, 10,000 Gazans threatened to cross the security fence into Israel, burning tires and hurling incendiary and explosive devices at IDF troops.  The IDF responded with crowd control measures including rubber bullets and tear gas. This is the 45th consecutive week of rioting as part of the March of Return riots.

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The Hamas-run health ministry in Gaza said 23 protesters were injured by live fire and a female paramedic was hit in the face with a tear gas canister.

Last week, an IDF officer was injured when a sniper firing from Gaza hit him in the helmet.

On Sunday morning, the IDF intercepted five men from Gaza who infiltrated the security fence. The unarmed men were arrested and turned over to the Shin Bet for questioning.

Israeli media reported that the government transmitted a message to Hamas via mediators that continued violence along the borders would result in a large-scale military response. The message from the Israeli government warned that the upcoming elections to be held on April 9 would not prevent a military campaign.

“Israel can make tough decisions during elections and is not afraid of a military campaign,” Israel said in the message sent on Thursday.

On Saturday, Egypt reportedly agreed to permanently reopen the Rafah border crossing with the Gaza Strip if Hamas restrains clashes with Israeli troops. The crossing was closed several weeks ago. Hamas has yet to respond.