Breaking news: Government approves reopening of most stores, hairdressers and beauty salons and Turn the Quarantine into a vacation and Pandemics, Palestinian incitement and peace by Caroline Glick and wild boars roam the street in Haifa and Words can Kill-the symbolism in the Torah
Yehuda Lave is an author, journalist, psychologist, rabbi, spiritual teacher, and coach, with degrees in business, psychology and Jewish Law. He works with people from all walks of life and helps them in their search for greater happiness, meaning, business advice on saving money, and spiritual engagement. Now also a Blogger on the Times of Israel. Look for my column
Love Yehuda Lave
Not that long ago the word 'quarantine' was a regular feature of our international lives. Originating in Italian, in Venice, incoming ships had to keep their crew on board for 40 days (quarantina) before disembarking, to ensure that any diseases were not transmitted to the local population.
This week we read a double Parsha, Tazria-Metzora, the second of which also prescribes quarantine for certain illnesses.
A by-product of being removed from society for a requisite time, is that it affords a wonderful opportunity to conduct a personal retreat. This can be a time for introspection, self-analysis, gaining perspective. In other words, even without an enforced quarantine, we should conduct periodic removal from society to have a good look at ourselves and the world.
Today's vacations don't cut it. Peppered with daily outings and exotic epicurean temptations, it is well-nigh impossible to relax the mind and heart so that a stillness conducive to the examination of self and life can result.
So make a specific plan for your retreat. Take a few days off in a quiet secluded setting, preferably in nature, and 'self-quarantine'. Make your life meaningful by giving it direction, depth, and purpose. You are an essential cog in the wheel of creation. Play your role effectively. All of our lives depend on your success.
Words can Kill-the symbolism in the Torah
When we were growing up, our parents would encourage us when we got into battles with other children, by telling us that sticks and stones can break your bones but names will never hurt you.
I don't want to disparage the memories of our blessed parents, but they didn't tell us the truth.
Names and words can not only hurt, but can kill or bring life.
Proverbs 18:21 puts it this way: "The tongue has the power of life and death." The stakes are high. Your words can either speak life, or your words can speak death. Our tongues can build others up, or they can tear them down. An unchecked fire doubles in size every minute.
Before the internet, a word was important, but in today's fake news world, the internet has the power to ruin lives or build businesses.
Just about every blogger can identify with the frustration. You write an article that is kind and well-reasoned and, at least in your estimation, displays your expertise. With some excitement you share this article with the world and, yet, within minutes, you face a barrage of comments that immediately turn it into a battlefield. The entire tone changes from kindness to all-out warfare. While bloggers have rightly been criticized for being too negative at times, blog commenters can be equally ruthless. You don't have to keep a blog to be a large part of the problem.
This problem has become even more exasperated for the last three years. Liberals have become so frustrated that the world (including the US with Trump), has become more conservative, that if someone doesn't agree with their viewpoint, they must be wrong and therefore you can insult the other person without any limits.
While the content of the articles of the blogs I read is usually discerning, gracious, loving, the comment threads are commonly not NEARLY marked by the same characteristics but are rather characterized by sarcasm, anger, backbiting, and sometimes, what even appears to be out and out hatred.
One of the strange realities of the Internet is that it gives us the illusion of being somewhere together, and yet at the same time, it dehumanizes us.
In this new coronavirus world, we are constantly pushed the illusion that we are together when we are on Zoom or Skype. Since we lost being physically together, people take lemons and make it into lemonade, by saying being on the internet together is just as good. This is especially sold to Grandparents that can no longer see their own grandchildren.
We speak of the Internet as "cyberspace"–a space or place where we go and gather. We tacitly understand that the Internet provides a level of interactivity that was not present in many of our previous means of communication. And yet even as we believe that we are actually somewhere together, we ignore the rules that govern the way we communicate when we are face-to-face. In this relationship mediated by computers and blogs, kindness, gentleness, and self-control seem irrelevant.
Do you see the tension here? We feel like we are together in a real relationship, and yet we dehumanize the person we communicate with. This leads to exactly the kind of ugliness that the reader identified with blog comments.
There is one part of the problem. The second part of the problem is much older than the Internet: We underestimate the power and importance of our words.
The deadly tongue disrupts the community and by its lethal power isolates its owner from the community and kills him. The life-giving tongue creates community and by its vitality gives its possessor the full enjoyment of the abundant life within the community.
People who understand the power of the tongue us their words carefully and thoughtfully. "They search for chaste expression and precise meaning, and they have an end in view which they will reach because they know what language is for and how it can best be used to achieve its purpose." Yet this is hardly what you expect when reading blog comments.
The Bible teaches in both the Old Testament and the New is that everything you say online, just like everything you say in your home and synagogue and workplace, is a reflection of your heart. The Bible tells us time and again that the tongue is connected to the heart. The words that come out of your mouth simply reflect what's going on at a spiritual level. This is equally true of the words that fly off your fingers when you are tapping away at a keyboard. Angry and bitter words are necessarily the product of an angry and bitter heart.
So we are dealing with a two-part problem: We underestimate the power of our words and this allows us to misuse them. Meanwhile, the Internet enhances our ability and even our desire to use words carelessly. And before we know it, we are leaving harsh, angry, unkind, sarcastic comments on blogs.
Maybe the solution to this problem is as simple as just growing up. So much of the Spiritual life comes down to maturity–to believing what the Bible says, accepting it, and obeying it. Can't we just believe that our words are as powerful as Scripture says they are and allow that to then change our behavior?
While there was no internet at the time of the bible, the concept of killing words was there. In Hebrew, it is called Lashon Hara.
Lashon hara (or loshon horo) (Hebrew: לשון הרע; "evil tongue") is the halakhic term for derogatory speech about a person. Lashon hara differs from defamation in that lashon hara is truthful speech, rather than lies, for a wrongful purpose. Lashon hara is considered to be a very serious sin in the Jewish tradition.
Speech is considered to be lashon hara (detraction) if it says something negative about a person or party, is not seriously intended to correct or improve a negative situation, and is true. Statements that fit this description are considered to be lashon hara, regardless of the method of communication that is used, whether it is through face-to-face conversation, a letter, telephone, or email, or even body language.
By contrast, hotzaat shem ra ("spreading a bad name") – also called hotzaat diba or motzi shem ra (lit. "putting out a bad name") – consists of untrue remarks, and is best translated as "slander" or "defamation" (calumny). Hotzaat shem ra is worse, and consequentially an even graver sin, than lashon hara.
The act of gossiping is called rechilut, and is also forbidden by halakha.
Much of the book of Leviticus, especially in chapters 13 and 14 is taken up with long stories of leprosy and bringing birds with for sacrifice and dipping them in blood and hyssop and cedarwood. Most of these stories are pretty unintelligible in today's world, and we dismiss them as not relevant.
When you have a powerful Bible teacher as I have, the words come to life to teach us, while the Torah didn't talk about the internet, it taught that words can kill or bring life long before anyone thought about the internet.
Ideas, that help explain how the world works
Principle of Least Effort: When seeking information, effort declines as soon as the minimum acceptable result is reached.
Government approves reopening of most stores, hairdressers and beauty salons
Fines for violating social distancing rules are doubled and those caught without a mask will now pay up without an initial warning; malls to stay shut
The government on Friday approved lifting further restrictions on businesses as it continued to gradually reopen Israel's economy amid the coronavirus pandemic.
Stores that aren't in shopping malls will be allowed to operate if they adhere to guidelines regarding cleanliness, the wearing of protective gear and enforcing social distancing.
Hairdressers and beauty salons can also resume operations from midnight Saturday, if hygiene regulations related to the virus are adhered to.
In addition, restaurants and food shops will be allowed to sell products for takeaway, not just home deliveries, if a physical barrier is placed between the cashier and the customers. The problems faced by small eateries had been given a face by falafel store owner Yuval Carmi, whose tearful account of being unable to provide for his family as he couldn't sell food for takeaway, moved the nation this week.
However, the restriction barring the general public from traveling more than 100 meters from their homes for non-essential purposes or more than 500 meters for exercising or prayers will remain in effect until after Independence Day, which ends next Wednesday evening.
Additionally, the various fines for violating the guidelines have been doubled, from NIS 500 to NIS 1,000 and from NIS 1,000 to NIS 2,000.
The rules on wearing a mask have also changed with the minimum age limit raised from six to seven, and with fines of NIS 200 ($55) to now be given without an initial warning.
The stricter new regulations for masks are reportedly the result of a video conference call Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu had Friday morning with a group of world leaders, including Australian Prime Minister Scott Morrison, who told him that having mandatory masks works, Channel 12 news reported.
The increase in age limit means kindergarteners are now generally excluded from the regulation, pointing to a possible future reopening of daycare facilities.
The easing of commerce restrictions came after public confusion and anger over the decision-making process on which businesses can and cannot currently open. However, it was not announced if the decision to roll back the regulations was made on the basis of scientific evidence or economic and political concerns.
Anger rose particularly on Wednesday as IKEA reopened its furniture stores in accordance with government rules, drawing in large crowds, while many other shops remained shuttered. Lottery booths throughout the country also reopened, Channel 12 reported, with the Finance Ministry saying they met the standards.
Critics pointed to the matter as a symbol of the government's seemingly inconsistent regulations and attitudes toward different businesses.
The government has faced pressure to accelerate reopening the economy, though officials have expressed fears that the virus could easily rebound and warned that tighter restrictions could yet be put back in place.
Small business owners have been pushing for the government to allow them to re-open, citing weeks of lost income.
On Friday, the government approved an NIS 8 billion ($2.27 billion) plan to increase support for self-employed Israelis and small business owners who have been hit hard by the coronavirus, following accusations that Israel wasn't helping businesses forced to shut down.
According to the latest guidelines prior to Friday's announcement, workplaces in the industry, production and services sectors are allowed to have 30 percent of their employees come to work, or 10 workers at the same time at the same workplace — whichever is higher.
Meanwhile certain types of shops — including those selling electrical goods, household goods, opticians and others — are also allowed to open under certain restrictions, including taking body temperatures upon entry, delineating a two-meter distance between customers at cash registers, erecting a physical barrier between buyer and seller and frequent disinfecting.
The cabinet on Wednesday voted in favor of severely limiting commemorations and celebrations of Israel's independence and memorial days and the Muslim holy month of Ramadan, in the latest bid to stem the spread of coronavirus.
Over Ramadan, which begins Thursday evening, all stores in towns with majority Muslim populations, aside from pharmacies, will be closed to the public from 6 p.m. to 3 a.m. to discourage people from congregating during the holy month in which Muslims traditionally fast during the day and enjoy joint meals at night (though stores will be able to operate deliveries during those hours).
On Memorial Day, which begins Monday night and ends Tuesday evening, people will be barred from visiting military cemeteries and memorial sites. Intercity travel will be prohibited with the exception of people going to work and shopping in permitted stores. On Independence Day, which begins Tuesday evening and ends Wednesday evening, a general curfew will be in effect requiring people to remain within 100 meters of their homes — except for medicinal needs — and banning intercity travel, similar to the curfew earlier this month for Passover. Supermarkets will not be open to the public.
The Independence Day curfew will begin at 5 p.m. on April 28 and end at 8 p.m. the next day.
Words can Kill as I said above- a little story
A Helpmate Against Him
Morty just finished reading the book, 'MAN OF THE HOUSE'.
He stormed into the kitchen and walked up to his wife menacingly.
Pointing a finger in her face, he said, "From now on, I want you to know that I am the man of this house, and my word is law! I want you to prepare me a gourmet meal tonight, and when I'm finished eating my meal, I expect a sumptuous dessert afterward. Then, after dinner, you are going to draw me my bath so I can relax. And when I'm finished with my bath, guess who's going to dress me and comb my hair?"
His wife replied, "The Chevra Kadisha would be my guess."
INTO THE FRAY: Imbecilic, Iniquitous, Inimical By Dr. Martin Sherman
Benjamin Netanyahu is a failed leader. He has led the State of Israel, once a proud example of a tenacious and highly developed democracy, to the threshold of third-world status. He has failed in his domestic policy and his foreign policy. And a substantial percentage of Israel's citizens refuse to believe a single word that he says—Eric Yoffie, former president of the Union for Reform Judaism, in Netanyahu is a colossal failure. But against the coronavirus, he is all Israel has, Haaretz, April 2, 2020.
In the midst of this unprecedented health and financial crisis for Israel, we respectfully urge you not to use the need for unity in the face of emergency to create a different crisis for Israel by moving forward on unilateral annexation—From a letter initiated by the Israel Policy Forum (IPF) to Blue & White leaders, Benny Gantz and Gabi Ashkenazi, signed by over 130 left leaning US Jewish leaders, April 6, 2020.
Such a move would make a two-state solution harder — if not impossible to achieve — and would likely have far-reaching negative consequences for the US-Israel alliance…We cannot overstate the long-term damage such a move would have on the US-Israel alliance…The repercussions would be extremely serious and long-lasting. Most Americans will only support that so long as they believe Israel is committed to pursuing peace—A letter from Mark Mellman and Anne Lewis, president and co-chairwoman of the Democratic Majority for Israel (DMFI) to Benjamin Netanyahu, Benny Gantz and Yair Lapid, warning against unilateral annexation in Judea-Samaria, circa April 13, 2020.
April was a bad month for common sense—at least as far as declarations from representatives of allegedly "progressive" US Jewry and purportedly pro-Israel organizations associated with the Democratic Party are concerned.
Appalling, asinine & absurd
Arguably, one of the most appallingly asinine instances of the torrent of pompous and pretentiously pious pontification directed at Israel and Israelis was a recent opinion piece in Haaretz by Eric Yoffie (see introductory excerpt), berating Netanyahu as a "colossal failure". Indeed, virtually every sentence in the article "elevates" the absurd to heights rarely attained in he past.
Yoffie begins his venomous brew of self-contradictions, non-sequiturs and flights of fancy with a toxic tirade against Benjamin Netanyahu and indirectly against Israeli society as a whole.
According to Yoffie: "Benjamin Netanyahu is a failed leader [who] has led the State of Israel, [from being] a proud example of a tenacious and highly developed democracy, to the threshold of third-world status."
Yoffie rails on: "He has failed in his domestic policy and his foreign policy. And a substantial percentage of Israel's citizens refuse to believe a single word that he says."
However, despite this, Yoffie concedes: "And yet, not only does he remain Israel's prime minister, but at the moment he is widely seen as the only figure who can lead Israel through the coronavirus crisis… Bibi, after all, is the man who has governed Israel for the past 11 years, (Israel's longest-serving premier, Bibi was also in office for three years in the 1990s)".
Yet despite this, he depicts Netanyahu's long incumbency as "a period of dramatic and disastrous decline in Israel's economic and social well-being."
Disdainful and derogatory
This, of course, is a grave indictment of Israel and Israelis and by unavoidable implication, displays utter disdain for the Israeli electorate—and for the Israeli population in general.
After all, if Yoffie was right in his assessment (i.e. that "Israel's citizens refuse to believe a single word that he says" and Netanyahu has been responsible for "a period of dramatic and disastrous decline in Israel's economic and social well-being"), then surely the Israeli voters must be both masochistic and moronic. For what other reason could there be for them to keep reelecting a leader so "unequivocally" mendacious and incompetent.
Curiously, it was well into Netanyahu's second incumbency that Israel acceded to the prestigious organization of the world's most developed countries, the Organization for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD), and, despite stiff, opposition the country became a significant energy exporter.
Under his stewardship, Israel has become one of the best performing economies in the world — with GDP per capita breaching the $40,000 mark for the first time ever in 2017, up sharply by over 45% since 2009, when he was first re-elected after losing power in 1999. Indeed, according to the International Monetary Fund (IMF), today Israel has overtaken France, Britain and Japan in terms of GDP per capita—something unimaginable not many years ago
This is a "dramatic and disastrous decline in Israel's economic …well-being"? Really?
The pot calling the kettle black?
In stark contrast to Yoffie's glum assessment of Israel's socio-economic progress after almost a decade under the allegedly "inept" Netanyahu-led governments, the OECD itself describes Israel's development, in glowing terms: "Israel's economy continues to register remarkable macroeconomic and fiscal performance. Growth is strong and unemployment low and falling. With low interest rates and price stability, financial policy is prudent, and public debt is comparatively low and declining."
According to the OECD's report: "[Israel's] external position is solid, thanks to a dynamic high-tech sector. The average standard of living is improving, mainly due to higher employment rates. Continued accommodative macro policies and planned investments in the offshore gas fields in the coming years will spur further growth."
Of course, the dimwitted Israelis, who, by Yoffie's account are teetering on the brink of a third-world tyranny, are far too dumb to realize in what a perilous situation they are in. Thus, the OECD report concluded: "Against this backdrop, Israelis remain on average more satisfied with their lives than residents of most other OECD countries."
Significantly, in this regard, Israel was slated number eleven in the 2018 Happiness Survey, released every year by the United Nations Sustainable Development Solutions Network, coming in just below the top ten, which included (in descending order): Finland Norway, Denmark, Iceland, Switzerland, the Netherlands, Canada, New Zealand, Sweden and Australia—none of which are facing the harrowing existential challenges faced by Israel.
Thus, Israel easily outpaced Yoffie's own country, the United States, which was in 18th place. Likewise, he berates Israel's health services as being "near collapse". However, if one assumes the life expectancy is largely determined by the level of medical services and social support, it is interesting to note the 2019 UN Development Report ranked Israel 9th out of over 200 countries, well above a host of Western European countries and almost thirty (!) places above the United States, in the 38th place.
Could the pot be calling the kettle black??
A truly transformative leader?
Of course, Netanyahu—like every mortal on the planet—is not irreplaceable or unblemished, but his record indicates that he is by far the most capable candidate to lead Israel in these challenging times—as even Yoffie is compelled to concede.
Indeed, in many ways, he has been a truly transformative leader.
This is clearly the case not only in the economic sphere, but in security and diplomacy as well.
He has drastically reduced Palestinian terror from the horrific levels he "inherited" from the Rabin-Peres era — and, despite occasional flare-ups, he has largely managed to contain it to hardly perceptible proportions — certainly nowhere near the grisly scale that prevailed under his predecessors.
In terms of foreign policy, he has produced remarkable success. He managed to wait out the inclement incumbency of Barack Obama, emerging largely unscathed — despite the undisguised antipathy between the two men.
His views on Iran and its perilous nuclear ambitions have been embraced by the Trump administration. He has managed to initiate far-reaching changes in Middle East politics, with increasingly amicable — albeit, as yet, only semi-overt — relations with important Arab states, inconceivable several years ago, while sidelining — or at least, significantly reducing — the centrality of the intractable "Palestinian problem".
He has overseen Israel's "pivot" eastwards, and burgeoning relationships with the ascendant economies of India and China, increasingly offsetting Israel's commercial dependence on the oft less-than-benign EU. He also has scored remarkable diplomatic successes in Africa and South America.
Moreover, notwithstanding difficulties with western European countries, he has fostered increasingly warm relations and understanding with those in central and eastern Europe, driving a wedge into the otherwise widespread European animus towards Israel.
Small minded endeavor to diminish achievements
Yet despite Netanyahu's impressive record of achievement, Yoffie embarks on a smallminded and meanspirited endeavor to dismiss them. Belittling his warm relations with world leaders, his success in getting the US to adopt his perspective on the Iran nuclear issue, his success in reducing the once horrific levels of terror and his developing contacts with the Arab-Sunni worlds, Yoffie sneers: "Bibi has produced a record that is, by any measure, a miserable one."
Significantly, Yoffie is at a loss to explain why a country, that is on the cutting edge of almost all fields of human endeavor, repeatedly "shoots itself in the foot" by time and again voting into power a leader, whose record is "by any measure, a miserable one".
He produces a motley mélange of unpersuasive excuses for a lack of realistic competitors from both Right ([Bibi] has destroyed potential rivals on the right by his ruthless control of… the right-wing bloc) and Left (Barak was "…politically inept", Herzog "…insufficiently tough ; Gantz… weak and indecisive…)
Of course, the real reason for Yoffie's chronic Bibiphobia is only thinly disguised, something he gives away about halfway through the article: The "Palestinians".
He laments: "Deal of the Century' practically forgotten, Bibi has shown no interest in any alternative arrangement—if not peace, then at least separation that would offer the Palestinians a degree of stability and dignity."
This leaves us to puzzle over just how much "stability and dignity" separation has provided the "Palestinians" in Gaza—with many awash in a untreated sewage, with polluted water supplies, with perennial power outages and under the yoke of the oppressive, dysfunctional Islamist tyranny of Hamas.
As to why separation is likely to produce anything more "stable and dignified" in Judea-Samaria, Yoffie offers nary a clue.
Pursing a pipedream
Significantly, the Trump Plan and the Palestinians constitute the link that brings us to the other "progressive" caveats directed at the Israeli leadership.
The first is a letter (April 6, 2020) initiated by the Israel Policy Forum (IPF), an organization that aims to "shape the discourse and mobilize support among American Jewish leaders and U.S. policymakers for the realization of a viable two-state solution."
Addressed to Blue & White leaders, Benny Gantz and Gabi Ashkenazi, and signed by over 130 left leaning US Jewish leaders, it proclaims: "We have strongly objected to Israel unilaterally annexing West Bank territory and applying sovereignty to Jewish settlements, whether according to the parameters of the Trump plan or any other similar proposal, at any point in time."
The IPF letter warns "To unilaterally move forward with such a plan now would be particularly damaging. It will call into question the Israeli government's priorities during a global and national emergency, shine a spotlight on controversial Israeli policies…and could create a rupture inside of Congress and in the upcoming presidential campaign…."
According to the IPF signatories, such a unilateral initiative "will be viewed as political opportunism by proponents of annexation during the worst possible moment and will make it more challenging for American Jewish leaders as they seek to maintain strong support for Israel and pro-Israel policies at this time.
The second is a letter (circa April 13, 2020) from the president and co-chairwoman of the Democratic Majority for Israel, whose goal is to "Promote a Two-State Solution and Arab-Israeli Peace through Diplomacy andPartnership."
Addressed to Benjamin Netanyahu, Benny Gantz and Yair Lapid, it warns against unilateral annexation in Judea-Samaria: "Such a move would make a two-state solution harder — if not impossible to achieve — and would likely have far-reaching negative consequences for the US-Israel alliance… We cannot overstate the long-term damage such a move would have on the US-Israel alliance…The repercussions would be extremely serious and long-lasting. Most Americans will only support that so long as they believe Israel is committed to pursuing peace ."
When "progressive" means "regressive"
It is of course, a long-standing conundrum why so called "progressives", who purportedly cherish liberal values of societal pluralism and individual freedoms would cling to support for a Palestinian state. After all, such a state, if it were to emerge, would almost certainly be yet another homophobic misogynistic Muslim-majority tyranny and the utter antithesis of all to which they claim to subscribe. Yet impervious to factual precedents and future probabilities they adhere doggedly to their flawed dogma.
This was aptly described by Jonathan Tobin in a recent opinion piece, A disingenuous debate about annexation. He ends it with these words: Living in the past and clinging to the false hopes of the 1990s won't build support for Israel or nurture the alliance between the two democracies. It's long past time for liberal American Jews, even the old Oslo-cheering squad, to accept the reality of Palestinian rejectionism and the permanence of the West Bank settlements, whether or not they believed that they were a good idea in the first place.
He points out: Trying to undermine the new Israeli government or setting the stage for a conflict with the Democrats should Trump lose in the fall isn't consistent with their claim of being ardent supporters of the Jewish state. Nostalgia for the illusions of the past should never be confused with activism that actually helps Israel.
He is of course, quite right. By its unflagging support of the establishment of a homophobic, misogynistic tyrannical political entity (a.k.a. a Palestinian state), America's allegedly "progressive" Jewry reveals that it is, in fact, profoundly regressive.
That is the real paradox that Eric Yoffie should set about resolving.
Wild animals roam around cities in Israel
With coronavirus lockdowns leaving public spaces largely empty, wild animals are moving in to cities across Israel.
Pandemics, Palestinian incitement and peace by Caroline Glick
Should we ever get confused about who the good guys and bad guys are, we need look no further than how each government behaved during the coronavirus pandemic to tell which is which.
A few weeks ago, Israel's Health Ministry officials were calling for Israel to "medically annex Judea and Samaria" for the duration of the coronavirus pandemic. The proposition was that while Israel and the Palestinian Authority are separate political entities, from a public health perspective, they are indivisible.
On a practical level, the call was superfluous. From the moment the virus arrived in Israel, the P.A.'s Health Ministry began cooperating in an unprecedented manner with its Israeli counterpart. The Palestinians followed Israel's lead on virtually all aspects of the coronavirus fight. Palestinian medical teams received training in Israeli hospitals. Israel provided the P.A. with testing kits, protective gear, respirators and other vital equipment for fighting the pandemic. Even the Hamas regime in Gaza viewed Israel as the authority for dealing with the virus.
With all due respect to "medical annexation," the collaboration between medical professionals doesn't indicate any change of heart on the part of the Palestinian leadership. Both the PLO-controlled Palestinian Authority in Judea and Samaria and the Hamas regime in Gaza are fully capable of taking advantage of Israel's help in fighting the pandemic while simultaneously using the pandemic as a means to harm Israel. And that is precisely what they are doing.
P.A. Prime Minister Mohammad Shtayyeh has long been considered a moderate. He was a member of the Palestinian negotiating team with Israel. He is a Western-educated academic and a favorite of the European Union. Many viewed P.A. leader Mahmoud Abbas's decision to appoint Shtayyeh prime minister last year as a sign of moderation.
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Alas, the optimism was misplaced.
At a press conference in Ramallah in late March, Shtayyeh propagated multiple blood libels against Israel.
Against Israeli soldiers, Shtayyeh alleged, "We have heard testimony that some soldiers are trying to spread the virus through the door handles of cars. It is a case of racism and hatred by people who hope for the death of the other. We will add this to the list of crimes they've committed."
As for Israel as a whole, Shtayyeh accused Israel of using Palestinian workers in Israel as a biological weapon against the Palestinians as a whole. He said Israel wants the 30,000 Palestinians working for Israeli employers to keep working so that they can get infected with coronavirus and then go home and infect their fellow Palestinians. He added that a resident of his village who worked in Israel returned to the village infected and proceeded to infect 20 of his neighbors with the virus.
In the spirit of cooperation with the P.A., and in the hope of preventing mass infection among Palestinians, Israel took the unprecedented—and risky—step of permitting P.A. security forces to operate in Arab villages in Jerusalem and in the Palestinian villages in Area C. Despite the fact that in accordance with the bilateral agreements between Israel and the Palestinians, Israel has sole security authority in those areas.
Rather than thank Israel, Shtayyeh claimed that Israel was refusing to help the Palestinians handle the coronavirus epidemic and deliberately endangering them.
Moreover, Palestinian security forces in Area C are not being deployed to prevent businesses from operating. They are blocking Palestinians from doing business with Israelis and preventing Palestinians from working for Israelis. In short, they are not being deployed to fight the coronavirus but rather to prevent peaceful ties between Palestinians and Israelis.
Over the past several weeks, Palestinian Media Watch, an Israeli NGO which monitors the P.A.'s media outlets, published multiple reports of harsh, anti-Semitic incitement in official P.A. media and social media outlets.
For instance, the Facebook page of the PLO's Commission on Prisoners Affairs ran a special video clip to mark "Palestinian Children's Day" earlier in the month accusing Israel of infecting Palestinian minors in Israeli detention centers. In the dramatization, small children in handcuffs are attacked by a plastic model of the coronavirus.
The P.A.'s official television network regularly hosts P.A. spokesmen who accuse Israeli civilians in Judea and Samaria of deliberately infecting Palestinians with the virus by spitting on them and touching ATM machines in Palestinian villages.
Al-Hayat al-Jadida, the P.A.'s official newspaper, ran a cartoon depicting an IDF soldier as a coronavirus waging biological warfare against innocent Palestinians.
While the P.A. wages a Nazi-like campaign of incitement against Israelis in its media and physically blocks peaceful ties between Israelis and Palestinians, it continues to ask Israel for handouts: Shtayyeh requested and received a half-billion shekel loan (roughly $140 million) from Israel.
And what will the money be used for?
While Shtayyeh, the blood libel proliferator, claims that the money will be used to save the P.A. economy from the ravages of the coronavirus, the P.A. officially announced that terrorists imprisoned in Israeli jails and their families will receive money before impoverished Palestinians.
The P.A.'s lack of concern for its people's welfare is all the more apparent when Shtayyeh's fundraising for the poor is seen in the context of his actual employment policies: The security forces in Area C blocking Palestinians from selling to or working with Israelis are following Shtayyeh's orders. Shtayyeh has barred Palestinians from working in Israeli communities in Judea and Samaria and so has doomed tens of thousands of Palestinian families to destitution.
The P.A. is also using this period, as Israelis are under coronavirus quarantines, to massively expand its illegal building activities around the Israeli communities in Judea and Samaria. For instance, extensive construction activities are being carried out around the city of Efrat in Gush Etzion south of Jerusalem.
The illegal construction has two focal points:
The first is adjacent to the northern entrance to the city, where the P.A. is building along the access road to Highway 60. The building physically threatens the residents in the northern neighborhoods of Efrat and transforms the access road into a gauntlet that residents will have to run every time they enter or leave the city.
The second focal point is around Eitam Hill. Eitam Hill is both Efrat's main reserve land for urban development and a strategic topographical point that connects Efrat to eastern Gush Etzion and particularly to the major community of Tekoa.
The Palestinians have long engaged in illegal building around the hill to prevent its development and to isolate the eastern communities in Gush Etzion. Since the onset of the pandemic, the building there has also intensified.
Like its PLO counterpart, the Hamas regime in Gaza has run a similarly poisonous stream of anti-Semitic incitement against Israel, claiming that the Jews are waging biological warfare against the Palestinians.
But as always, Hamas's central effort is more directly connected to physical warfare than the PLO's. Last week, optimistic reports began surfacing in the Israeli media claiming that Israel and Hamas were holding secret talks to reach a deal whereby in exchange for assistance in fighting the coronavirus, Hamas would return the bodies of IDF soldiers and the Israeli hostages it has been holding since 2014.
Unfortunately, the Israeli officials leaking the optimistic projections forgot who they were dealing with.
Hamas doesn't care about protecting Gazans from the coronavirus, Israel does. The same terrorists who cynically use Gaza's children as human shields for missile crews aren't going to sacrifice any leverage against Israel to protect their people from the coronavirus. The moment they realized that Israel was committed to protecting Gaza from mass infection, they decided to exploit Israel's concern.
Hamas insisted that Israel provide assistance in fighting coronavirus for free. And Israel did. Israeli medical professionals trained Gazan medical teams from Shifa Hospital in Gaza on how to treat coronavirus patients. Israel allowed an advanced PCR medical device, used for the rapid detection of coronavirus, to be imported into Gaza last week.
As for the release of Israeli hostages and the remains of IDF soldiers, according to Arab media reports, the terror group's position hasn't been impacted by the pandemic. Hamas demanded that Israel release 250 terrorists from prison, but not in exchange for the hostages and bodies of fallen soldiers—but rather in exchange for "information" about them.
The behavior of leaders of the PLO-P.A. regime in Judea and Samaria and the Hamas regime in Gaza shows us two things: First, both groups remain obsessively focused on their war against Israel. Second, the notable aspect of their behavior is that it highlights the difference between authoritarian regimes and the leaders of free societies.
Since the onset of the pandemic, all democratically elected governments have made their share of mistakes in contending with it. But the struggles of the governments of Italy, Israel, Taiwan, the United States and all the rest share a common key feature: Their top priority is to protect the lives and well-being of their citizens.
In contrast, we see that like the Palestinian regimes, authoritarian regimes in China, Iran and beyond have busied themselves with principally trying to exploit the pandemic for their own benefit.
China, the source of the coronavirus, is hiding much of what it knows about the origins of the pandemic and vastly underreporting their infection and death rates. The Chinese hide this vital information to present themselves as more competent in handling the virus than the "bungling democracies" struggling to contain it, and to build their conspiracy theory that the United States is the source of the pandemic. At the same time, China has ratcheted up its threats against Taiwan and has allegedly tested another nuclear weapon.
Iran is also publishing false data about its coronavirus infection and death rates. Whereas the official numbers claim that 4,700 Iranians have died from the coronavirus, Iranian opposition forces allege that 30,000 Iranians have died.
Like the Palestinians and the Chinese, the Iranians accuse Israel and the United States of inventing and spreading the virus. After they rejected a U.S. offer for humanitarian assistance to fight the coronavirus, the Iranians began using the pandemic as a fundraising tool.
They demand assistance from the International Monetary Fund and the European Union and exploit the political cleavages in the United States to pressure the Trump administration to cancel the U.S. economic sanctions on Iran. All the while, Iran is threatening U.S. forces in Iraq and continuing its uranium enrichment activities.
Through their behavior, the Palestinians show that peace is a dead issue. Israel has permanent, vital interests in Judea and Samaria. It needs to secure those interests by applying its sovereign laws wherever it deems necessary, and bar the P.A. from operating in its territory.
More broadly, through their conduct, the Palestinians, like their authoritarian brethren in China, Iran and beyond, drive home the difference between democracies and dictatorships.
There are good guys and bad guys in this world. In the future, when we get confused about who is on which side, all we will need to do to figure out where justice lies is look back at how each behaved during the coronavirus pandemic.
Caroline Glick is an award-winning columnist and author of "The Israeli Solution: A One-State Plan for Peace in the Middle East."