US rabbis join Bibi, Livni in slamming radical Jews
US rabbis add their “outrage” to those of Israeli society, politicians & security organisations in slamming release of video taken at a wedding attended by associates of Jewish terror suspects. The revellers at the hareidi wedding wave knives, guns and a picture of one of those burned in the Duma attack that left 3 dead in July. The remaining member of the family is still in hospital recovering from burn wounds. SEE THE 20-second VIDEO & catch up on the horrific story. See why we included this in our Top-Reads of the Year.
This video, posted to YouTube by Ha’aretz.com from a news report by Israeli TV network Channel 10, shows a group of Orthodox teenagers purportedly dancing with guns, knives and Molotov cocktails as some stab the picture of Palestinian toddler Ali Dawabsheh, who died with his parents in the Duma arson attack earlier this year. Israeli PM Benjamin Netanyahu strongly condemned the shocking images in the clip, saying that it shows the real face of a group that poses danger to Israeli society and security, according to Ha’aretz.
The main modern Orthodox rabbinical group in the United States expressed its “outrage” over a video that shows Jewish revellers at a wedding celebrating the murder of three Palestinians in a West Bank firebombing. Reportedly filmed three weeks ago at the Jerusalem wedding of a couple linked with Israel’s radical right, the video was later picked up by the news channel and published on December 24, under the title: “Jewish wedding celebration guests ‘mock dead Palestinian baby’.”
“The vigilante and lawless calls for revenge and dancing with machine guns and knives are anathema to Jewish morality and religious standards,” Rabbi Shalom Baum, president of the Rabbinical Council of America (RCA), said in a statement issued on Thursday.
RIGHT: OUT OF THE ASHES – A baby picture of 18-month-old Ali Dawabsheh who, with his parents, Saad and Reham, died in the July 31 firebombing. The only surviving family member is four-year-old Ahmed who is still being treated in an Israeli hospital
The video, released on December 23 on Israel’s Channel 10 and filmed at the Jerusalem wedding of a right-wing couple earlier in the month, features friends of the suspected assailants in the July firebombing of a home in the Palestinian village of Duma that killed three members of the Dawabshe family – a toddler and his parents.
READ: JEWISH TERROR, the story on the original incident on Jewish Report Online.
US Orthodox rabbis slam wedding video
The RCA, which represents over 1 000 rabbis, “applauds the quick and decisive statements of Israeli religious and political leaders” against the guests at the wedding, the statement said.
Jewish Report Online has included this in our Top-Reads of 2015 series as it has been the subject of so much media attention since July – and will clearly be one of the top ongoing news stories in 2016 with so much public interest. This could become a negative game-changer in Middle East politics
The statement by the US rabbis called on the Israeli government to “take whatever measures necessary to protect the safety of all of its innocent citizens, and calls upon Israeli religious and educational leaders to nurture values in Israeli society that hold these despicable acts to be unacceptable and intolerable”.
The International Rabbinic Fellowship, a group of rabbis from around the world, issued a statement on December 24 expressing its “shock and sorrow” over the contents of the wedding video.
“That even a few Jews identified with the observant community can act in this way is frightening and an admonition to us all. Such behaviour is halachically and morally repulsive and an ethical stain on the good name of Judaism and the State of Israel,” the Fellowship said in its statement. “We trust the authorities in Israel not only to condemn this behaviour but diligently work to prevent the awful acts it encourages.”
The statement continued: “As a small educational step, we call on all members of the observant community both in Israel and in the Diaspora to desist from playing songs of vengeance such as the one taken from the Book of Judges, at any wedding or other celebration that is held. We call on all people invited as guests to exit the circles of dancing when such songs are playing and express their disapproval.”
Celebrating and mocking deaths
The incident comes as accusations have been made by far-right Israelis that the suspects in the Duma fire-bomb murders, who are being held in administrative detention, have been tortured by the Shin Bet, Israel’s internal security service. Netanyahu has spoken out in defence of the organisation, saying that the leaked video, attests to the importance of the Shin Bet to Israel’s security.
The shocking footage from the wedding shows guests celebrating the death of a Palestinian baby burned alive in an arson attack, says JTA.
They start celebrating and mocking the death of 18-month-old Ali Dawabsheh. One guest danced while holding a knife through a picture of the young boy who, with his parents, died after an arson attack on their home in July
The video was aired on Israeli TV and published the next day by the daily Ha’aretz newspaper. Israeli police said they were investigating whether the actions at the wedding constitute an incitement to violence.
There have also been hints that charges may be imminent in the arson case but some of the suspects’ lawyers have accused Shin Bet state security investigators of trying to exact confessions with torture.
READ: ARSON SUSPECTS CAN’T SEE LAWYERS, the story on the Supreme Court upholding a lower court on Jewish Report Online.
According to the Times of Israel, the video, released last Wednesday night on Channel 10 and filmed at a Jerusalem wedding last week, features friends of the suspected assailants in the July attack on a home in the Palestinian village of Duma.
RIGHT: 18-month-old Ali Dawabsheh and his parents, Saad and Reham, died in the July 31 firebombing. The only surviving family member is four-year-old Ahmed who is still being treated in an Israeli hospital
Three members of the Dawabshe family – Ali, 18 months, and his parents, Saad and Riham – were killed. Ahmed Dawabshe, now 5, the only surviving member of the immediate family, is still undergoing treatment in an Israeli hospital.
Netanyahu slammed the right-wing Israeli group in a statement released after the video aired: “The shocking pictures that were broadcast this evening show the true face of a group that constitutes a danger to Israeli society and to the security of Israel,” said the PM. “We are not prepared to accept people who deny the laws of the state and do not view themselves as subject to them. The pictures underscore how important a strong ISA (Israel Security Agency, or Shin Bet security service) is to the security of us all,
READ: NEW ‘DEVELOPMENT’ IN INVESTIGATION, the story that there may be imminent charges and more arrests by Shin Bet on Jewish Report Online.
Tzipi Livni, a Zionist Union lawmaker, spoke about the video before the Knesset: “This is the group that wants to destroy the Jewish Israel, to destroy this state from within, to destroy the government from within and sow hate,” the Times of Israel quoted Livni as saying.
Livni pointed at Bezalel Smutrich, a member of the right-wing Jewish Home party, and said: “These are the people you protest being interrogated by the Shin Bet.”
The suspects in the Duma attack, who are Jewish and are being held in administrative detention, have claimed the Shin Bet tortured them during interrogation, a charge the security service denies.
Prime Minister Netanyahu and Jewish Home party leader Naftali Bennett have defended the Shin Bet. Bennett, who is the education minister, told a group of religious Zionist school administrators at a gathering last Wednesday that he is “closely supervising” the Shin Bet, according to Haaretz.
“What is being done to [the Jewish terror suspects] is certainly no more than is done against Palestinian terrorists,” he said.
Catch up this story on JR Online
- BIBI, LIVNI, US RABBIS ALL SLAM JEWISH TERRORISTS
- NEW ‘DEVELOPMENT’ IN ISRAELI INVESTIGATION: SHIN BET
- SUPREME COURT: ARSON SUSPECTS CAN’T SEE LAWYERS
- JEWISH TERROR DRAWS NETANYAHU HOMEWARD
More of 2015 Top-Reads series
- 28 Dec: RISE OF JEWISH RIGHT-WING TERRORISTS
- 27 Dec: #1 PHILIP KRAWITZ STORY HAS 11 736 READS
- 22 Dec:TOP-READS AND ISSUES ON JR ONLINE IN 2015
Get the best out of JR Online
During the December/January holidays last year we were overrun by enquiries from non-regular users of the website about how to find things on SAJR Online. Well, the good news is that each and every one of the almost 15 000 content items posted on the website over the past 26 months are still there! And they will remain available and searchable on the internet forever.
And so, we are going to also run a twice-weekly segment entitled “Getting the best out of JR Online” which we will start posting from next week. They will eventually be put together for posterity as a manual for users to follow.
As a sweetener, allow us to introduce you to three useful pages (which we will explain how to access in the “Getting the best…” series):
Closer ties between Zim and Israel rattles ANC
Zimbabwe and Israel have had full diplomatic relations since 1993, but further overtures by our northern neighbour to the Jewish state could cause conflict with South Africa, particularly certain factions in the African National Congress (ANC).
According to an article by Carien du Plessis published on News24 on Wednesday, 3 February, “Zimbabwe has been seeking closer ties with Israel in the hope of securing more investment and doing away with sanctions. This move has caused unease within the ANC, which has a pro-Palestinian stance, although it’s unlikely the party will act on it.
“The ruling party [in Zimbabwe], ZANU-PF, has historically positioned itself as pro-Palestinian, but Zimbabwean President Emmerson Mnangagwa’s latest move closer to Israel represents a change in policy direction,” Du Plessis writes.
She reports that although the head of the ANC committee on international relations, Lindiwe Zulu, said that, “We cannot interfere with the sovereign decisions of the governing party of any other government”, there have been divisions within ZANU-PF and within the ANC about the Israel matter.
“A pro-Palestine lobby within the ANC wants South Africa’s governing party to take a more hardline approach to its Zimbabwean counterpart, while the pragmatists prefer not to push this issue for diplomatic reasons,” Du Plessis says.
Darren Bergman, the shadow minister for international relations and cooperation and a member of the Southern African Development Community (SADC) Parliamentary Forum Human Rights Committee, didn’t mince his words about South Africa’s response.
“The people of Zimbabwe are suffering. The internal affairs of Zimbabwe couldn’t get South Africa to act, the situation in Zimbabwe couldn’t get South Africa to act, but the relationship with Israel gets South Africa to act,” he said.
“This is a sinister situation that must make the SADC and African Union [AU] question what exactly South Africa’s situation is with regard to the Middle East,” Bergman said.
“It’s one thing to have an opinion and a position, but it’s another to keep a hard-pressed, almost spiteful stance at all times that can actually harm and injure the people and the continent. To this I would say that South Africa should show diplomatic constraint, and hold back.”
One of Mnangagwa’s recent moves to improve relations with Israel is the appointment last year of Israeli national Ronny Levi Musan as honorary consul of Zimbabwe to Israel.
The Afro-Middle East Centre reported in October 2020 that, “Musan has set plans into motion for Mnangagwa’s official visit to Israel. His activities in Zimbabwe include collaboration with Pentecostal churches to push for Christian support for Israel. Zimbabwe’s honorary consul is also pushing for Israeli businesses to invest in Zimbabwe’s agricultural sector, and he recently announced the intention to open an Israeli academy of agriculture in Zimbabwe. On the diplomatic front, Israel hopes that Mnangagwa will follow the example of his Malawian counterpart, Lazarus Chakwera, who announced plans to open an embassy in Jerusalem.”
Musan told the SA Jewish Report he had worked in Africa for the past 20 years to strengthen links between churches and the Holy Land. “About five years ago, I was invited to visit Zimbabwe which lasted about two weeks. I tried to do everything possible to connect Zimbabwe to Israel on a practical level. After the first visit, I visited Zimbabwe several more times, and met a number of ministers and church leaders, and just fell in love with the place.
“From there, it continued through my activities with the Israeli foreign ministry and the foreign ministry in Zimbabwe to promote diplomatic relations between the countries.” He was eventually appointed to this role.
“My main responsibility is to do everything possible in every field to bring knowledge and support from Israel to Zimbabwe, and vice versa. The main issue is technology in the field of agriculture, education, and innovation. These are the cornerstones that will return the crown to Zimbabwe as the ‘grain basket of Africa’.”
Local political analyst Daniel Silke says that Zimbabwe’s overtures to Israel “could well be an attempt by Zimbabwe to follow the Sudan example, in which currying favour with the United States via the channel of restoring relations with Israel allows the country to receive assistance and perhaps even escape some of the worst sanctions. But, of course, [former US] President Donald Trump is no longer in the White House. Whether this will have any traction with Joe Biden, who I think will be a lot more critical of the Zimbabwean regime, remains to be seen.”
In terms of the impact it could have on South African-Israel relations, Silke says, “Many other African countries are forging their own path in terms of relations with Israel. For President [Cyril] Ramaphosa, it’s a difficult balancing act given the demands from within his own party. But I don’t think South Africa has any leg to stand on in terms of interference with any country which wishes to forge some sort of close relationship with the Jewish state. As head of the AU, Ramaphosa is again in a tough position because of the changing dynamics across Africa, but I don’t think it’s an issue that will really get much attention.”
Rowan Polovin, the chairperson of the South African Zionist Federation, says, “We see this as a positive development, particularly for Southern Africa, which is part of the momentum that is being created by the Abraham Accords.
“Northern Africa has been very much part of the momentum. In the southern region, Malawi, which is diplomatically and geographically close to South Africa, has signalled its intention to open an embassy in Israel. If all this has an impact on South Africa’s neighbours, then South Africa will see the benefits. It’s very hard to ignore the importance of building ties with Israel, which has so many solutions for African issues, particularly water, electricity, agriculture, and security. Notwithstanding the noise that the ANC might make, ultimately it’s positive.”
Just how successful is Israel’s vaccine push?
Israel is reporting promising initial results from its COVID-19 vaccine rollout, the fastest in the world.
The first official findings released by the health ministry show that only 0.04% of people caught the virus a week after their second dose, and a mere 0.002% needed hospital treatment.
Clalit, the country’s largest health service organisation, has also released its preliminary data. It compared 200 000 people aged 60 and over who’ve been vaccinated with 200 000 similar unvaccinated older adults. It found that the rate of those who tested positive dropped 33% among the vaccinated 14 days after they received it. No decline was seen in the unvaccinated.
Maccabi, another healthcare organisation, saw an even larger drop. Infections decreased 60% among 430 000 people 13 to 21 days after they received the vaccine. The data also suggested the vaccine was 92% effective, close to the 95% efficacy claimed by Pfizer.
Israeli researchers are conducting more in-depth analysis, and point out that real-world effectiveness of vaccines is often lower than the efficacy seen in clinical trials due to a number of factors.
But experts warn that this data has yet to be published in a peer-reviewed journal so it should be viewed with some caution.
There are also various factors that could be influencing the results. The current lockdown and behaviour such as travelling and gathering less, wearing masks, and greater physical distancing might be decreasing infections.
The first people to receive the vaccine were mostly from vulnerable populations, so they are more likely to take precautions which could also skew the data.
In spite of the encouraging news, the death toll from COVID-19 continues to climb. Of the 4 816 fatalities at the time of writing, 30% occurred in January when the vaccination rollout was already in full swing. The government blames this on the more transmissible British variant of the virus, especially among children. According to Clalit, when the vaccination campaign started in late December, the new variant caused 30% to 40% of infections, whereas now that figure has doubled.
As for the South African strain, there are currently 80 detected cases in Israel, and there is concern that the vaccine isn’t as effective against this variant. A number of Israelis who previously had COVID-19 have been re-infected with the South African strain, with the most recent case identified two days ago.
Compounding the situation is the flagrant disregard by the ultra-Orthodox community, that comprises just less than 13% of the population, for lockdown rules. Since the start of the pandemic, one in five ultra-Orthodox has tested positive.
Many in the community doubt the safety of the vaccine or believe the country’s citizens are being used as guinea pigs to test its efficacy. Prominent rabbis have also said that communal prayer and study needs to overwrite lockdown concerns.
Last Sunday, 31 January, thousands of ultra-Orthodox mourners, many without masks, crowded together to attend two funerals of famous rabbis who died from coronavirus. Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu has been criticised for not cracking down harshly enough on the community for political reasons – he needs their votes in the upcoming 23 March election.
Residents of Tel Aviv spoke to the SA Jewish Report, complaining that the actions of the ultra-Orthodox were forcing the whole country to go repeatedly into lockdown, and it wasn’t fair. It’s no surprise thus that the latest word from the government is that the current – third – nationwide lockdown may not be Israel’s last.
Many Israelis want cities and towns to once again be divided into red, orange, yellow, and green zones and scales of restrictions to be put in place accordingly. This would mean those who obey the restrictions wouldn’t have to pay the price of those who don’t.
In recent days, there’s also growing concern in some quarters in Israel that because the mass vaccination campaign is running in parallel with an active coronavirus outbreak, it could lead to an “evolutionary pressure” on the virus in which it would ultimately become immune to vaccination. Doctors are suggesting that in future, people will need to take an annual anti-COVID-19 jab, much in the same way the annual flu injection is taken.
But for now, the race to innoculate everyone is on. Among the first to be injected were people aged 60 or older. More than two-thirds of this age group have already received the required two doses. Up to 200 000 people are being injected each day, and the vaccine is now available to anyone over the age of 35. High-school students aged 16 to 18 are also included in the hope that they will be able to sit for exams. It seems Netanyahu is on track to fulfil his promise of innoculating five million of the country’s nine million citizens by the end of March.
To date, just more than one in three Israelis has been inoculated – about 1.7 million of them twice. Because this is a far higher fraction than anywhere else in the world, it makes the country a test case for the international vaccine push.
The right to demonstrate, even during lockdown
Israelis are being allowed out of their homes in full lockdown to call for the resignation of Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu (Bibi), who is viewed by many on both sides of the political spectrum as corrupt.
This freedom in a lockdown which ordinarily limits you to being no more than one kilometre from your house is based on the country’s constitutional right to protest. On bridges, at junctions, and outside Bibi’s house in Jerusalem, daily protests occur, resuming after Shabbat goes out on Saturday night.
“Lech! Lech!” (Go!) is shouted loudly – which is also the name for the movement against Netanyahu.
There are some staunch Likud followers who scream, “Arafat and Rabin sold out the country,” prompting laughter amongst some demonstrators, who point out that their arguments are old and outdated. Demonstrators including doctors, lawyers, pilots, accountants, and students point out that this isn’t about the Israel-Palestine issue, it’s not about being leftist or rightist, but about ethics and bringing to justice an allegedly corrupt prime minister.
The protestors are passionate, some defying orders not to camp outside Bibi’s residence. At 21:30, police order the drums, trumpets, and whistles to cease. The protestors obey, but continue to demonstrate quietly, so as not to disturb the Jerusalem neighbourhood.
Then, at about 23:00, carrying Israeli flags in blue and white and others in red and white, the protestors pack up and go home to lockdown.
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