Amid Multiple Protests, Israeli Lawmakers Move To Vote On Weakening Supreme Court

Israeli lawmakers are gearing up to vote on the government’s overall plan to weaken the nation’s court system, despite nearly six months of protests from citizens, and waves of urgent warnings from the White House.


US Media Reports Israel As Being Responsible For Drone Attacks At Iranian Military Plant

According to reports from The Wall Street Journal and New York Times, Israel was responsible for drone attacks on a military plant in Iran; specifically in the central city of Isfahan. The New York Times cited a senior intelligence official who was familiar with the conflict between Israel and Iran. 

A US Department of Defense spokesperson also told CNN that the US has not conducted strikes or operations in Iran. 

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“We’ve seen the press reports, but can confirm that no US military forces have conducted strikes or operations inside Iran. We continue to monitor the situation, but have nothing further to provide.”

The Israel Defense Forces and Iran’s Defense Ministry have not offered any information regarding the attack.

“An explosion has occurred in one of the military centers affiliated to the Ministry of Defense. The explosion had left some damage, “but fortunately there were no casualties,” said the deputy head of security for Isfahan governorate Mohammad Reza Jan-Nesari to the Fars News Agency.

IRNA, a state news agency, also stated “the explosion had been caused by “small drones.”

“There was an unsuccessful attack by small drones against a defense ministry industrial complex and fortunately with predictions and air defense arrangements already in place, one of them (struck),” IRNA said.

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“The air defense system of the complex was able to destroy two other drones. Fortunately, this unsuccessful attack killed no one and minor damage was sustained to the roof of the complex.”

Within the past few years there have been several explosions that have occurred around Iranian military and nuclear facilities. 

According to Iran’s Supreme Nation Security Council, as reported by CNN, “In July 2020, a fire tore through the Iranian Natanz nuclear complex, a site that has been key to the country’s uranium enrichment program, in Isfahan Province, south of the capital Tehran. Iranian authorities decided not to publicly announce the findings on what caused the fire due to security concerns.”

In 2021, Natanz experiences a blackout, which Iran’s Atomic Energy Organization labeled a “terrorist action,” with a potential involvement from Israel.

No further reports on the recent explosion have been made at this time from either nation. 

Israel’s NSO Group, Creator Of Pegasus Spyware, Put On U.S. Blacklist

The U.S. Department of Commerce has announced that Israeli software company NSO Group, along with three other companies, was put on the U.S. Entity List, a list that enforces importing and exporting trade restrictions.

NSO, along with fellow Israeli company Candiru, were blacklisted “based on evidence that these entities developed and supplied spyware to foreign governments that used these tools to maliciously target government officials, journalists, businesspeople, activists, academics, and embassy workers,” according to the USDOC.

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NSO is the creator of Pegasus, a program that — thanks to its stealth — allows authorities such as police and intelligence agencies to access a phone’s passwords, photos, messages and record calls all without ever being detected by the user.

According to The Guardian, the earliest version of Pegasus was found by researchers back in 2016. That version was able to infiltrate phones through spam emails and texts, a process known as “spear-phising.” Since that time, NSO’s product has become more advanced, even reaching “zero-click” infiltration, which means no user interactions need to be had in order for the spyware to access the device.

Several foreign countries used Pegasus on journalists, emissaries, and diplomats. The ruler of Dubai and Prime Minister of United Arab Emirates, Sheikh Mohammed bin Rashid Al-Maktoum, was found to have used the spyware hacked the phones of his ex-wife, Princess Haya bint Hussein, and her associates.

Meanwhile, French president Emmanuel Macron’s phone – along with the phones of other French officials — was hacked, and ended up causing a “diplomatic rift” between France and Israel.

An Hungarian official acknowledged that the government used Pegasus to target journalists, businesspeople, and fellow politicians while saying that Hungary’s Interior Ministry was the purchaser. However, Hungary officials claim they used the surveillance technology legally.

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The spyware has been heavily criticized for years now due to its dangerous array of surveillance tactics and breaches. Whatsapp claimed the spyware was responsible for nearly 1,400 users being breached by governments in 2019, which led CEO Will Cathcart to sue NSO.

Following this development, the U.S. Department of Justice began an investigation into NSO Group, which denied any wrongdoing in the matter.

As The New York Times notes, the U.S.’ announcement also came at the surprise of the Israeli defense ministry, which approves the sales of Pegasus to foreign government – the spyware is classified as a “defense technology,” and NSO maintains that its used for fighting crimes like terrorism.

In 2019, Israeli defense export deals totaled $7.2 billion and involved 120 defense companies. That year, Israeli said 17 percent of all deals involved radars and electronic warfare, the highest percentage of any contract.

NSO Group released a statement in response to the blacklisting, where they expressed a desire for the decision to be overturned while stating their surprise.

“NSO Group is dismayed by the decision given that our technologies support US national security interests and policies by preventing terrorism and crime, and thus we will advocate for this decision to be reversed.”

NSO also explained how they possess “the world’s most rigorous compliance and human rights programs,” and claim they have severed contracts in the past with government agencies that misused their products.

NSO has undergone numerous changes in the past couple days, with CEO and founder Shalev Hulio stepping down from the role, instead becoming the “global president.”

The White House

President Biden ‘Committed’ To Two-State Solution For Israel And Palestine 

Secretary of State Antony Blinken claimed this past Sunday that President Joe Biden is “still committed” to a two-state solution between Israel and the Palestinians. Blinken was interviewed by ABC, where he explained that “repairing the structural damage in Gaza and dealing with the humanitarian crisis stemming from the recent outbreak of violence is most important to the administration.” 

“Biden has been very clear that he remains committed to a two-state solution. Ultimately, it is the only way to ensure Israel’s future as a Jewish and democratic state and, of course, the only way to give the Palestinians the state to which they’re entitled.”

“But that, I don’t think, is something necessarily for today. We have to start putting in place the conditions that would allow both sides to engage in a meaningful and positive way toward two states,” he added.

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The Israeli-Palestinian conflict has been occuring for decades now, and the latest violence has many activists worried that a long-term solution is no where close to feasible right now. 

“In the first instance, we have to deal with making this turn from the violence — we have got the cease-fire — and now deal with the humanitarian situation, deal with reconstruction and deepen our existing engagement with Palestinians and with Israelis alike,” Blinken explained.

Blinken continued to discuss how “the violence is likely to repeat itself if a path forward to help Palestinians live with more dignity and with more hope is not reached.” 

He also credited President Biden’s efforts in the lead-up to the cease-fire between Hamas, who controls both Gaza and Israel, after 11 straight days of destructive warfare that led to the deaths of 248 Palestinians, 66 of which were children; and 12 citizens of Israel, including two children and one Israeli soldier. 

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When asked how the US could help assist Gaza in rebuilding all that’s been lost without directly funding Hamas, Blinken explained that the government “would use independent parties that can help do the reconstruction and development. 

“Hamas is a quasi-government authority that has brought nothing but ruin to the Palestinian people.” 

“What’s the real challenge here is to help the Palestinians and particularly to help moderate Palestinians and the Palestinian Authority deliver better results for their people and, of course, Israel has a profound role to play in that, too,” he said.

As tensions in the Middle East continue, more and more innocent lives are being taken. Activists all around the world have been taking to the streets and social media to express their support and condemnation of the violence that’s occurring to innocent people who were born in a violent space with no protection. 

Israeli Flag

President Biden Supports Ceasefire In Call To Israeli Prime Minister

President Biden spoke with Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu this Monday, marking their second phone call within a week. The president has expressed his support of a ceasefire after receiving pressure from fellow Democrats who are urging him to do more to stop the senseless violence. 

Mr. Biden reiterated his firm support for Israel’s right to defend itself against indiscriminate rocket attacks. Mr. Biden also encouraged Israel to make every effort to ensure the protection of innocent civilians.” 

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According to a readout of the call, “Mr. Biden expressed his support for a ceasefire and discussed U.S. engagement with Egypt and other partners towards that end. Additionally, the two leaders agreed that they and their teams would remain in close touch.”

The White House and Biden Administration has been facing massive amounts of pressure from the public as well who have been speaking out against the Israeli airstrikes on Palestine as the number of dead and wounded Palestinians far outnumbers the number in Israel; even worse Palestine’s population is 60% children. 

This past weekend thousands of protesters gathered all around the US, and world, in support of the Palestinians who are being forced to live in violent conditions. 30 Democratic senators called for an immediate ceasefire as well. 

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“There isn’t really a path to peace without the United States playing a role, and so I hope the Biden team’s going to be very active over the next few days to try to wind down these hostilities,” Senator Chris Murphy said. 

Senator Bernie Sanders, wrote in The New York Times over the weekend that “the U.S. should stop supporting Netanyahu.” Congresswoman Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez took to Twitter to question if U.S. aid has contributed to violence in Palestine. 

“Our role as White House, as the federal government, is to play a constructive role in diplomacy, to have intensive, quiet discussions with leaders in the region,” White House press secretary Jen Psaki.

Palestinian diplomat Maen Rashid Areikat said that the president needs to do much more if he actually cares about the well being of the innocent people being murdered violently overseas due to militant conflict that has nothing to do with them. 

“The United States and the international community need to work more diligently to rein in Israel and tell them enough is enough.”

Immunity Coronavirus

Expert Claims Israel May Have Reached ‘Sort Of Herd Immunity’ From Covid-19

Eran Segal is a computational biologist at the Weizmann Institute of Science who recently spoke with the local Israeli media about how Israel in general may have reached a “sort of herd immunity” after getting nearly 4.9 million residents fully vaccinated. This led to a 97% decrease in the amount of new Covid-19 cases appearing in the nation.

“It is possible that Israel has reached a sort of herd immunity and regardless, we have a wide safety net. I think that makes it possible to remove some of the restrictions immediately.”

Segal claimed that now that most Israelis are immunized, a multitude of economic sectors can begin reopening to assist the nation in its recovery post-pandemic. He also cited that since the gatherings over the Purim and Passover holidays did not lead to any direct spike in cases, the vaccines were proving to be more than effective.

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If Israel does actually achieve this goal, they will be the first country in the world to hit herd immunity. Last week, researchers at the University College London said that the United Kingdom would reach herd immunity by Friday; a claim that was immediately disputed.

Israel has already begun rolling back on a multitude of coronavirus restrictions within the recent months as more and more citizens received their vaccinations. Businesses were able to reopen, even venues and other gathering activities were able to occur more frequently has morbidity levels dropped exponentially with the country’s world-leading vaccination drive.

The Israeli Health Ministry is expected to lift outdoor mask mandates in public spaces later this month while some restrictions on gatherings and schools are still being enforced to protect younger generations.

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Israel is continuously limiting the number of people who can enter and/or exit the nation every day as well, as many experts are worried about the multitude of variants around the world that could potentially undermine the effectiveness of their vaccination program.

Government ministers this past week voted to further ease certain Covid-19 restrictions in schools; they removed the requirement that made fourth graders learn in much smaller class sizes. Ministers also ended the requirement that made all students present a health declarations signed by their parents to enter into a classroom. All universities and colleges are also now able to hold all tests in person.

Currently, Israeli residents are allowed to gather outdoors in crowds up to 100 and up to 20 for indoor gatherings. Cultural and even venues are allowed to host up to 750 people under the Green Pass Program. This program is designed to grant access to public venues exclusively for individuals who have been fully vaccinated or have recovered from the coronavirus.

As of this past Saturday there were 4,002 active Covid-19 cases throughout Israel; 221 of which were recently diagnosed last week. The Health Ministry claims that 268 individuals are in serious condition, but the death toll has remained at 6,292. According to the ministry over 5.3 million citizens are vaccinated with their first dose while 4.9 million are now fully immunized.

Coronavirus Vaccine in Bottles

Pfizer-BioNTech Vaccine Proven To Reduce Symptomatic Covid-19 In Real World

Researchers in Israel this week announced that Pfizer-BioNTech’s Covid-19 vaccine has appeared to reduce symptomatic coronavirus infections by more than 90% in the real world now that more and more populations are receiving their doses. 

The preliminary findings suggest that the vaccine itself has remained as successful as researchers initially proved in their vaccine trials. Within a clinical vaccine trial the conditions are greatly controlled to monitor the actual effectiveness of the shot, however, that monitoring already eliminates a slew of other risks that exist within the real world that could impact the vaccine’s efficacy. 

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Luckily, nothing of the sort has occurred, and the vaccine is still wildly successful. The Clalit Research Institute is a major part of Israel’s healthcare system, and they’re the ones who analyzed data on 1.2 million individuals; half of which received the Pfizer-BioNTech vaccine. The researchers wanted to compare patients who had received the vaccine and individuals with similar immune systems who hadn’t.

The researchers wanted to analyze the rate in which symptomatic Covid-19 was spreading with the release of this vaccine; meaning they looked at individuals who contracted the virus and actually felt sick. Symptomatic Covid-19 was proven to decrease by 94% among individuals who have received their two doses of the vaccine, according to a press release from Clalit. The rate of serious illness caused by the virus decreased by 92%. 

The research has yet to be published by the Institute because they’re still waiting for it to be peer-reviewed so that the results are as accurate as possible. However, the results are already consistent with the data that Pfizer initially released to prove their vaccine would be effective. 

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Pfizer’s initial data from their vaccine trial showed that their Covid-19 vaccine was 95% effective against symptomatic coronavirus. In the trial itself, participants were either given the actual vaccine or a placebo. They then observed how many people from each group got infected after the fact. 

Pfizer’s clinical study was considered to be the “golden standard in clinical research” according to the Institute due to the fact that it was a randomized and controlled trial. The studies from Israel are now observational, meaning researchers aren’t randomly picking individuals who got the vaccine or not already.

Observational studies can skew the data in this case, however, due to the fact that different individuals who choose to be vaccinated are likely going to take less or more steps towards protecting themselves from potential infection. 

While the observational aspect of this study may not be as effective as a controlled trial, the combination of these new results with the results that came from Pfizer and BioNTech themselves shows the world that the vaccine is just as effective as anticipated, and we should all continue to do our parts to protect each other and bring this pandemic to an end.

Isreal Landscape

How To Take A Virtual Tour Of Israel While Quarantined

As the world continues to endure quarantining themselves while we wait for the Covid-19 curve to flatten, there’s a multitude of online virtual tours/attractions/shows that cultural institutions from all over have created to entertain us while we wait. Israel as a whole has decided that they want to give travelers everywhere a special gift and has created dozens of digital offerings that allows anyone to explore almost the entire country from the comfort of their own home.

A company called Sygic Travel Virtual Reality has created a 360-degree virtual tour of Jerusalem’s Old City. In a mission statement, a spokesperson for the group stated: “Holy to Jews, Christians, and Muslims, Jerusalem is one of the world’s foremost pilgrimage destinations. You may feel moved, energized, or swept into the maelstrom of contemporary issues — but the city will not leave you unaffected.” You can participate in the tour via the Sygic Travel VR website.

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The Israel Museum is a cultural hub for the nation. The museum is offering a virtual tour experience of its many historical exhibits, as well as a ton of virtual activities for children if you’re kids are home from school and often running out of things to do everyday. The activities themselves are both online, as well as printable, and include things like coloring sheets of famous exhibits. 

Speaking of museums, the Tel Aviv Museum of Art is one of Israel’s most popular destinations for tourists and citizens alike. The museum itself is also offering virtual tours of its most famous exhibits, as well as pre-recorded video footage from older exhibits that are no longer on display. 

Beyond just virtual museum tours and online activity books that one could do with their child, Israel really wanted to offer up a true digital experience of what it would be like to travel to the nation if we had the ability to do so right now. So, the country has created a whole slew of 360-degree videos that are meant to “cater to a variety of interests,” for different types of tourists. 

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Israel knows that certain tourists visit certain places for a whole variety of reasons, so they wanted to offer up digital experiences for as many of those reasons as possible. The virtual tours that are uploaded to the official YouTube page for Israel includes some of Tel Aviv’s most famous beaches, as well as a hot air balloon ride overlooking the entire city. Additionally, there are also tours of the famous Dead Sea, the Tower of David in Jerusalem, Independence hall, and much more. 

Our mission is to give you a tour of Israel using our ultra high definition panoramas of Israeli hotels, cities, attractions, holy places, and to help you understand Israel and plan your vacation, for the future. View everything from Haifa in the north to Eilat in the south,” according to 3D Israel, the company responsible for a lot of the content involved in this project. 

Beyond just 3D Israel, other third-party users on YouTube have offered up their own personal footage from past trips to Israel to create even more virtual adventures for the tortured traveler stuck in quarantine. Some of these online experiences include a trip through the Western Wall tunnels, the Via Dolorosa, the Sea of Galilee, and even Tel Aviv Pride.

While it may be awhile before you’re actually able to get on a plane and explore the real beauty of Israel, the nation wants to keep their culture alive, so they offered these amazing virtual experiences to keep us all a little more sane as we make it through the next few months. 


Pew Survey Reveals Global Citizens’ Views on World Leaders

In the United States, the president’s approval rating is historically low, hovering at about 42% while his disapproval rating rarely falls below 50%. However, the opinion of the United States president held by people around the world is even lower, as a recent Pew survey shows that almost two-thirds of people surveyed in 33 countries express “no confidence” in President Trump, whereas just 29% of those surveyed express confidence in him. The results vary widely by country, but only a handful of countries, including Israel, India, the Philippines, and Kenya, have a majority of citizens who approve of the president. Unsurprisingly given the president’s rhetoric about building a wall on the southern border of the United States, a whopping 89% of Mexicans surveyed expressed no confidence in the president, and the president has similarly high disapproval ratings across much of Europe, in particular Germany, Sweden, France, Spain, and the Netherlands. Interestingly, the percentage of global citizens Pew surveyed who approve of President Obama exactly matches the percentage of those surveyed who disapprove of President Trump at 64%.

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That being said, a majority of respondents surveyed worldwide, 54%, expressed favorable views of the U.S., whereas 38% had an unfavorable view. This suggests that people around the world separate their view of the president from their view of the country as a whole, perhaps reflecting a view that the presidency of Donald Trump is a fluke rather than a genuine reflection of the general attitudes of Americans. Trump ranked dead last among five of the world’s most influential leaders; by contrast, German chancellor Angela Merkel took first place, at a confidence level of 46%. Interestingly, none of the world leaders drew a global confidence level greater than 50%, suggesting that people around the world are skeptical of the world’s leadership as a whole.

Citizens of the world not only disapproved of President Trump as a leader, but also of many of the specific policies he has implemented or proposed. 68% of people in the survey disapproved of the president’s practice of putting tariffs on goods imported from other countries, and 66% of people disapproved of America’s withdrawal from the Paris Accords and its position in the fight against climate change more broadly. People also generally disliked the idea of building a wall on the border between Mexico and the United States, as well as the country’s withdrawal from the Iran nuclear deal. In fact, the only policy that people more people approved of than disapproved of was the opening of talks between the United States and North Korea, though even in this case less than half, 41%, of respondents approved of it whereas 36% disapproved.

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The U.S. president was ranked more favorably in right-leaning countries than in left-leaning ones, which is unsurprising given that U.S. politics is generally further to the right than those of the rest of the world. In countries that have displayed authoritarian tendencies, like the Philippines and India, Trump had the highest approval rating. In general, men were more likely than women to have a favorable opinion of Trump. In Ukraine, a country which has become relevant to the United States in the wake of the scandal that led to Trump’s impeachment, 73% of people surveyed had a positive view of the United States, although just 46% of people had a positive view of Trump specifically. His popularity in Israel specifically likely has to do with his decision to move the U.S. Embassy to Jerusalem as well as his decision to terminate the Iran nuclear deal, which is unpopular in Israel.

Though the survey reveals broadly negative views of Trump around the world, the president’s approval rating has actually increased since 2017, when just 22% of respondents expressed confidence in Trump. Given the tumultuous nature of modern-day global politics, it’s difficult to predict how these numbers will change as time goes on.