News Roundup for August 18, 2021

August 18, 2021

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J Street works to promote an open, honest and rigorous conversation about Israel. The opinions reflected in articles posted in the News Roundup do not necessarily reflect J Street’s positions, and their posting does not constitute an endorsement from J Street.

J Street in the News

Ben & Jerry’s is boycotting settlements, not Israel, Jewish News of Northern California
J Street leader Eva Seligman-Kennard writes, “More than a few critics of Ben & Jerry’s decision have incorrectly labeled the decision a “boycott” of Israel or an endorsement of the global BDS movement (boycotts, divestment and sanctions). Others have gone so far as to call the move antisemitic and even an act of terrorism. Such discourse not only clouds the facts but actually harms the fight against the growing tide of actual — and sometimes deadly — hatred that the Jewish community faces worldwide.”

Top News and Analysis

Israeli firefighters say blaze near Jerusalem under control, AP
Israel’s national fire chief on Tuesday said a massive wildfire that has consumed a large swath of forest west of Jerusalem has been brought under control. Dedi Simchi made the announcement after a three-day battle that required over 100 firefighting teams from across the country, over a dozen firefighting planes and even enlisted a small group of Palestinian firefighters in a rare instance of cooperation.

Ben & Jerry’s Co-founder, Board Chair Speak Out About Decision to Freeze Ice Cream Sales to Settlements, Haaretz
In their most extensive comments on the matter to date, one of Ben & Jerry’s Jewish co-founders and its board chair defended the company’s recent decision to cease ice cream sales in Israeli settlements. Speaking at a webinar hosted by Americans for Peace Now on Monday, co-founder Ben Cohen said business is the most powerful force in society today and he believes it needs to contribute to society by standing up for justice.

Israel’s government set for clash with ultra-orthodox Jews over plans to push more into work, The Telegraph
Israel’s government is bracing for a major clash with ultra-orthodox Jews over plans to cut childcare subsidies in what could deepen a bitter rift between secular and religious citizens. The reforms, tabled by the secular right-wing finance minister Avigdor Liberman, would scrap monthly 1,000 shekel (£220) childcare payments for ultra-orthodox families unless both parents take jobs. Mr Liberman says the current system is too lenient on ultra-orthodox parents and hopes the reforms will encourage more devoutly religious Jews to integrate with the workforce.


Gantz, Lapid Thank Palestinian Firefighters for Helping Battle Jerusalem Mega-fire, Haaretz
Israeli Foreign Minister Yair Lapid and Defense Minister Benny Gantz both thanked the Palestinian Authority for assisting Israeli firefighters to gain control over a massive fire near Jerusalem on Tuesday. “I want to thank the President of the Palestinian Authority, Mr. Mahmoud Abbas, for his initiative to send the firefighters who came to help Israel today. Mutual solidarity and saving lives are in our common interest,” Gantz tweeted in Arabic on Tuesday.

UN nuclear watchdog: Iran producing more uranium metal, AP
Iran continues to produce uranium metal, which can be used in the production of a nuclear bomb, the United Nation’s atomic watchdog confirmed Tuesday, in a move that further complicates the possibility of reviving a landmark 2015 deal with world powers on the Iranian nuclear program.

Conservative movement to launch investigation of sexual abuse allegations at youth program, JTA
Days after allegations of sexual abuse by former Jewish youth program participants appeared in the media, the Conservative movement announced it would implement new safety measures and investigate how program officials have handled complaints. In the announcement, the CEO of the United Synagogue of Conservative Judaism, Rabbi Jacob Blumenthal, said the reports of abuse of teenage boys at programs run by its affiliated organization United Synagogue Youth require taking action.

How tales of Jewish resistance inspire a 21st Century Nazi hunter, Forward
A granddaughter of Holocaust survivors, Amy Spitalnick is executive director of the nonprofit Integrity First for America (IFA), which is suing the neo-Nazis who planned the violent “Unite the Right” rally in Charlottesville, Virginia, in 2017. This October, after four years of depositions and delays, IFA’s lawsuit Sines v. Kessler will finally go to trial. Its outcome has potentially historic implications.

Ecologists worry over ecosystem’s recovery after huge Jerusalem-area blaze, Times of Israel
It’s hard to assess the extent of ecological damage wreaked by the massive fires that have ripped through the Jerusalem Hills since Sunday, turning some 25,000 dunams (6,200 acres) of woodlands into scorched earth. Environmental Protection Minister Tamar Zandberg, who toured the area on Tuesday, described the damage as “unfathomable,” with “entire areas of functioning ecosystems totally wiped out.”

Opinion and Analysis

Taliban-controlled Kabul Is Not the Only Place That Erases Women, Haaretz
Noa Landau writes, “Israel is not Afghanistan and the Haredim are not the Taliban. But as Hilo Glazer’s investigation in Friday’s Haaretz Magazine revealed, extremist conservative groups in Israel also wish to set women’s status back hundreds of years.”

‘Israel is Broadway; the Diaspora is Off-Broadway’ – Rabbi Richard Hirsch z”l, Haaretz
Rabbi John Rosove writes, “Few people I have known in my life have had more of an influence on my thinking and focus as a Jew, a rabbi, and a Zionist than Rabbi Richard Hirsch (1926-2021) who passed away this morning (August 17, 2021). An extraordinary human being is not hyperbole when speaking of him. We can credit Rabbi Hirsch with instilling strength in the Reform movement in Israel and around the world, with building significant Reform institutions in the United States and Israel, and with inspiring thousands of people over his more than seven decades of Jewish and Zionist activism.”