Category Archives: News

Pekudei – Panic Today, Joy Tomorrow

The parallel in wordings between the Torah’s account of the universe’s creation and of the building of the Mishkan has been noted by commentaries. I won’t cite examples here but they abound.

The late British Chief Rabbi Jonathan Sacks well phrased the upshot of that parallel, writing that “Genesis begins with G-d creating the universe as a home for humankind. Exodus ends with human beings, the Israelites, creating the Sanctuary as a home for G-d.”

A little-known Midrash, I believe, also adds to the parallel.  The Midrash Hagadol, on the parsha’s final pasuk (Shemos 40:38) – which states that “For the cloud of Hashem was upon the Mishkan by day, and there was fire within it at night, before the eyes of the entire house of Israel…” – recounts the following:

“When the Jews saw the cloud resting on the Mishkan, they rejoiced… [but] when night came and fire surrounded the Mishkan, they were anguished and cried ‘All our work was for naught!’ When they awoke the next morning and saw the cloud enveloping the Mishkan again, they rejoiced an even greater rejoicing…”

That account is strongly reminiscent of the Gemara (Avodah Zara 8a) that tells of how:

“On the day that Adam Harishon was created, when the sun set upon him, he said: ‘Woe is me, as because I sinned, the world is becoming dark around me, and the world will return to the primordial state of chaos and disorder. And this is the death that was sentenced upon me from Heaven.’ He spent all night fasting and crying, with Chava crying opposite him. Once dawn broke, though, he said: ‘Evidently, the sun sets and night arrives, and this is the order of the world.’ He arose and offered a sacrifice…”

Both  accounts illustrate that, even when it seems that all is lost, that the world is bearing down and no hope is in sight, reason to rejoice may lie around the corner. 

Living as we are in precarious times and headed toward Purim, when we will read of how a seemingly dire, threatening situation was turned on its head, it is a timely and trenchant message.

© 2024 Rabbi Avi Shafran

Cartoons, Canards and Poison Programs

Covered in blood, Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu is eating a child.

That succinctly describes a cartoon published by a Libyan news organization on this past October 20. 

The next month saw a Bahrain news outlet depicting Mr. Netanyahu driving through Gaza in a blood-soaked tank while pulling the Statue of Liberty and President Biden behind him.

Yet another cartoon, featuring a frocked Jew with a large microphone in place of his nose, is captioned: “The Lie of Zionist Media.” 

That’s rather like the pot calling the glass of milk black. For decades, Arabic-language newspapers and websites have crawled with anti-Israel and antisemitic images and sentiments. And since the October 7 Hamas massacre, according to the Anti-Defamation League, the ugliness has only increased.

A report from the organization cites examples from Palestinian publications as well as in media based in Bahrain, Egypt, Jordan, Kuwait, Libya, Morocco, Oman, Qatar and Saudi Arabia. Some also appeared in UK Arabic-language news outlets.

Welcome to the warped world of Arab media.

It’s not only the Arab world’s cartoons that evidence hatred for Jews. What passes for actual news reportage in that realm also regularly promotes incendiary falsehoods, claiming, for instance, that Israel wishes to kill Gazan civilians; and provides ample space to opinion writers whom Goebbels would have been overjoyed to have had on hand.

Among the best examples of such propaganda posing as reportage is Iran’s PressTV, which is nothing more than the malignant mullahs’ mouthpiece. It regularly traffics in Holocaust denial and spreads an assortment of antisemitic conspiracy theories. (Iran isn’t an Arab land, but its rulers share their Arabian coreligionists’ sentiments when it comes to Jews.)

Hezbollah’s Al-Manar television station, based in Lebanon, is another contender. Its director let his less-than-journalistic sentiments show when, speaking about Mr. Netanyahu, he explained that “We want to get close to him, not to interview him, but to kill him.”

And then, of course, we have Qatar’s Al-Jazeera network. It does a good job of pretending to be a neutral, objective medium. But not good enough.

Recently, a laptop belonging to an Al-Jazeera reporter, Muhammad Washah, was found at one of Hamas’ bases in Gaza. It contained photos and intelligence materials linking him to Hamas.

“In the morning a ‘journalist’ on the Al-Jazeera network and in the evening a terrorist in Hamas,” was IDF Lt. Col. Avichay Adraee’s comment on a social media platform.

Apparently, according to Mr. Adraee, Mr. Washah is a senior military operative in Hamas’ anti-tank missile system and has worked in the research and development of aerial weapons for the terror group. Photos show him with rocket-propelled grenade launchers and weaponized drones.

On October 7 itself, it eventually came to light, at least two Al-Jazeera journalists entered Israel with Hamas terrorists and photographed atrocities. Ahmed Najjar accompanied some of the terrorists and filmed several kidnappings. Ismail Abu Omar filmed the Hamas slaughter in Kibbutz Nir Oz, even sharing a video in which he is heard saying: “The comrades have progressed, may Allah bless.”

Sheikh Yusuf Al-Qaradawi, a cleric who praised Hitler, condoned Palestinian suicide bombings against Israeli civilians and appealed for people to “kill Zionists and Jews, down to the very last one…” was, until his death in 2020, a frequent guest on Al-Jazeera’s Arabic channel. 

As to moderate Arab voices, Jordan Cope, of the think tank Middle East Forum, asserts that “Other than in Israel… freedom of expression in the Middle East is limited.” There must be some prize for understatement.

And need we even mention Hamas’ own Al-AqsaTV? Renowned for its children’s programming, a medium in its own right, its broadcasts have featured cute furry characters like “Nahoul,” a giant bee, who encouraged his young fans to “punch” Jews and “turn their faces into tomatoes”; and his co-host, an actual little girl, responded to one of her pint-sized peers who expressed the wish to grow up and “shoot the Jews” – “all of them” – with: “Good!”

When some of the cuddly creatures suddenly disappeared from the program, the kiddies watching were solemnly informed that their beloved friends had been “martyred” by Israelis.

That particular “educational” program aired back in 2014. I find myself wondering if any of the young people who watched it back then might have been, ten years later, in the vicinity of the Gaza Strip’s border with Israel on October 7.

© 2024 Ami Magazine