My Dear Friend: Shabbat Shalom and welcome to the latest edition of TheFridayReport. The report tries to bring to your attention some of the latest critical issues of the past week.
If you like what you read, forward it on to your family and friends and encourage them to subscribe at www.avibenlolo.org (the home page of this website).
This week, fans of the Arnhem based Vitesse football club were heard chanting "Hamas, Hamas, Jews to the gas" ahead of their game against Amsterdam. In my conversation with its Chief Rabbi, he confessed there is an increasing problem of radical antisemitism among the Dutch.
This is particularly shocking given the tragic history of Netherland's Jewish community - where 107,000 were deported and murdered. A town hall meeting is planned between the Rabbi and the Mayor to address this horrific incident and rising tensions in the city.
It comes then as no surprise as the European Union announced this week it plans to unveil a massive $1.5 Billion strategy to combat antisemitism, racism and discrimination. In other words, Antisemitism has gotten so bad in Europe a mere 76 years after the Holocaust, that the EU must now pour money into combating it (instead of heeding our warnings years ago).
But our warnings are still not being heeded. A new report published in Berlin found that the number of antisemitic incidents is increasing. On average, it said, there are about three occurrences of Jew-hatred in Berlin every day. In fact, in another press release, it was revealed that two-thirds of Jewish footballers have experienced antisemitism at Makkabi Germany.
Jewish soccer players say they regularly hear insults from the stands like, "you lousy Jew" and you should have been gassed".
That is simply unacceptable in the birthplace of the Final Solution. Authorities must take harsher legal measures against incidents of antisemitism and hate crimes, including possibly incarcerating repeat offenders.
And the harsh lessons of the Holocaust and antisemitism also do not seem to carry any weight in France. In comparison to this week's just and proper guilty verdict of Derek Chauvin over the murder of George Floyd, France failed miserably to convict Sarah Halimi's murder. I write about this unbelievable travesty of justice in my column in the National Post. It's a black stain on France - a stain that must be removed and justice served.
Here is the link to the article: https://nationalpost.com/opinion/avi-benlolo-latest-travesty-of-justice-a-black-stain-on-france
Addressing Antisemitism effectively and efficiently is often overlooked. This week, I was disappointed to learn that in Canada, Global Affairs' anti-racism handbook does not mention antisemitism once. At a time when all statistics report that the Jewish community is still the most targeted of all communities in Canada for hate crime, that Antisemitism is not mentioned even once? I have called on Canadian leaders to explain.
In Wilmot Ontario, I commend its city council for denouncing white supremacist groups after an event poster was found in New Hamburg. The council's statement said, "white supremacist groups are not welcome in our community". Once councillor wrote on Twitter, "white supremacy, racism and hate cannot be allowed to have a place here or anywhere".
Similarly, in the fight against hate this week, the U.S. Senate overwhelmingly adopted a bipartisan bill to combat hatred in all its forms. Even still, the Biden Administration continues to negotiate with the largest purveyor of global hate - Iran - over the JCPOA nuclear deal. While the parties are said to be far away in agreement, already indications are that the U.S. will take a more compromised position.
But things do not stand still in the Middle East. An errant Syrian rocket landed dangerously close to Israel's nuclear reactor in Dimona. The attack set off sirens all over the regions and Israelis as far as Jerusalem were said to have heard explosions. Was the shadow war taking place between Israel, Iran and Syria about to explode into open warfare? It was close.
Without doubt, tensions in the region are high. It was reported that certain areas of Syria are completely under Iranian or Hezbollah control. In other words, if we thought having Syria as a neighbour to Israel was bad, Israel is now directly shaking hands with the devil. It's no surprise therefore that Israel is intensifying its air war against Syria.
As some US congress people have called for a re-examination of aid to Israel - including Bernie Sanders last week at Jstreet - a bipartisan group of more than 300 lawmakers urged the House Appropriations Committee to fully fund U.S. assistance to Israel. President Biden, to his credit, said, "I'm not going to place conditions for the security assistance given the serious threats that Israel is facing, and this would be, I think, irresponsible".
In positive news coming out of Israel this week, over 5 million citizens have been vaccinated representing some 80% of the population over 16 years old. Israel literally removed its mask this week as citizens resumed ordinary life. This gives new meaning to the words, "Am Yisrael Chai" - the people of Israel live.
In other positive developments, Israel's relationship with Greece continues to strengthen as both nations regularly conduct joint military drills and share intelligence, signing a strong mutual defence agreement. In other news, Israel and Bahrain reached the world's first bilateral agreement for mutual recognition of Covid-19 passports - allowing the movement of its citizens.
As we marked Earth Day this week and world powers met to discuss climate change, taking care of our planet can be a productive source of mutual cooperation. In the Middle East for example, Israel has developed incredible systems of green technologies and reforestation. It's innovations including drip irrigation, solar power, desalination plants and renewable energy (just to name a few of many) can be catalysts for change throughout the region.
Indeed, I would argue that with the outgrowth of the Abraham Accords, there could be a change in strategy that focuses on prosperity and human advancement - and away from war and conflict. Alas, that may be the dreamer in me. But as Theodore Herzl said, "if you will it, it is no dream".
- Shabbat Shalom!
Avi Abraham Benlolo, BA MA, Doctor of Philosophy (Honoris Causa)
Order of Vaughan, Queens Diamond Jubilee Medal, Race Relations Award
ABOUT: Avi Abraham Benlolo has been described as the nation's most prominent and noted expert in Holocaust studies, in countering Antisemitism and promoting human rights. He has dedicated nearly three decades in executive capacities, was founding President and CEO of a major organization in the Jewish community, has raised over $150 million for charities and is a leading voice in Canada. His academic research, graduate degree, Ph.D. coursework and nearly three decades of professional work has focused on these arenas in addition to peace and security in the Middle East. He has published hundreds of articles in these areas. In recognition of his national and international leadership in this area, he has received numerous awards including an Honorary Doctorate from a prestigious Israeli university for his work in Holocaust studies and combating antisemitism; an Order of Vaughan for his distinguished contribution to anti-racism, equity and diversity; the Queens Diamond Jubilee Award for his contributions to Canada and a race relations award for best practice, based on distinguished service in promoting human rights.
As a supporter of Israel, he is proud to have established "The Avi Benlolo Scholarship Fund in National Security" at Haifa University.