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Building Walls, Binary Crackdown, Viber Calls Foul


Israel president 'sorry for hurt' to Mexico over Netanyahu's border wall tweet

The Guardian, January 31st 2017

Recap:

Israeli President Reuven Rivlin apologized to Mexican President Enrique Peña Nieto “for the hurt” caused by Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s tweet that praised US President Donald Trump’s plan to build a Mexican funded wall on the US-Mexico border to stem illegal immigration.

The Context:

  • Last week Netanyahu tweeted “President Trump is right. I built a wall along Israel’s southern border. It stopped all illegal immigration. Great success. Great idea.” Netanyahu later clarified his comment, saying it did not refer to the US & Mexico and insisted that Israeli-Mexican ties “are much stronger than any passing misunderstanding.” An apology was conspicuously absent.

  • Mexican officials expressed “profound surprise and disappointment” at the statement saying, “Mexico is a friend of Israel, and should be treated as such by its Prime Minister [1].”

  • The southern wall Netanyahu referred to is the barrier Israel constructed in 2012 along the Egyptian border to halt the influx of some 45,000 African migrants from Eritrea and Sudan. At its peak in 2012, more than 10,000 Africans crossed the border whereas now, almost no one attempts the trip [2].

  • Israel also maintains barriers around the Gaza Strip, intended to thwart attacks by Hamas, and along much of its border with the West Bank, a wall credited for preventing nearly all terrorist attacks originating from the territory [3].

  • Nieto accepted Rivlin’s apology to “help the two countries continue their important relationship [4].” Earlier this week, the Mexican government confirmed that diplomatic tensions between the two countries were over [5].

  • Netanyahu will meet Trump in Washington this month [6].

Conversation Points:

  • Is there a parallel between Trump’s proposed Mexican wall and the borders Israel maintains with its neighbors?

  • Was Netanyahu’s tweet a deliberate attempt to pander to Trump? Is that the reason Rivlin walked back the comments and not the Prime Minister?

  • Will Netanyahu sacrifice Israel’s relationship with other allies to remain on solid footing with Trump?

  • Is it wrong for a country to build walls along its borders?

FBI, EU fraud authorities hold emergency summit on binary options fraud

Simona Weinglass, Times of Israel, January 21st 2017

Recap:

Europol, Europe’s law enforcement agency, hosted a summit in the Netherlands to discuss Binary Options – a duplicitous industry flourishing in Israel with little oversight by Israeli authorities.

The Context:

  • The Binary Options industry emerged in 2008 and there are now more than 100 firms operating in Israel. Two Israeli trading platforms handle a combined $8 billion in binary trading volumes annually [7].

  • “Brokers” adopt false names, credentials & locations and sell customers short-term investments with a nearly nonexistent chance of making money. Funds are transferred between accounts to falsify gains and encourage increased client funding [8]. Most customers lose all of their investments, which typically amounts to tens of thousands of dollars [9].

  • Last year, Israeli authorities barred Binary Option companies from targeting Israeli citizens, however, they are still permitted to “service” international clients. Nimrod Assif, an Israeli lawyer representing binary victims, criticized Israel’s partiality saying, “a crime is a crime [10].”

  • In October, the Prime Minister’s Office condemned the industry’s “unscrupulous practices” and this month the Knesset State Control Committee demanded a police crackdown and legislation to wind down the industry [11].

  • Last month, a 61-year-old Canadian man committed suicide after losing over $150,000 to an Israeli Binary Options firm [12].

Conversation Points:

  • If the industry has been unanimously deemed fraudulent, why are Binary Option firms allowed to proceed unchecked?

  • Is it moral that Israel only restricted Binary Option fraud affecting Israeli citizens?

Israeli org offers free calls to those affected by travel ban

Gary Wilig, Israel National News, January 30th 2017

Recap:

Israeli mobile company Viber will waive fees for those affected by President Trump's travel ban. "We are now offering free calls to any landline or mobile number between the United States and Syria, Iraq, Iran, Libya, Somalia, Sudan and Yemen so that those affected will now have one less barrier to cross when trying to reach their loved ones," read a Viber statement.

The Context:

  • The Viber app is free for calls between Viber users, but dialing out to landlines or mobile phones via “Viber Out” costs a per-minute fee [13].

  • While Viber stopped short of criticizing Trump’s directive, Hiroshi Mikitani, the CEO of Rakuten, which acquired Viber several years ago, tweeted “it is wrong to uniformly discriminate based on religion and nationality [14].” Trump upholds the ban is intended to shore up US security however, critics argue otherwise, pointing to his campaign promise to establish a Muslim Registry.

  • In response to the travel ban, Uber established a $3 million defense fund to help cover legal costs its drivers might incur, Airbnb offered free housing for refugees in limbo, Google created a $2 million crisis fund and Lyft agreed to donate $1 million to the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) [15].

Conversation Points:

  • If President Trump rolled out this travel ban in a more orderly way, might the repercussions have been less harsh?

  • Why did Trump target Syria, Iraq, Iran, Libya, Somalia, Sudan & Yemen and not, for example, Pakistan or Saudi Arabia?

  • Is the media sensationalizing the ultimate effects of this travel ban?

Notes:

  1. Israel PM Netanyahu Praises Trump’s Plan for Mexico Border Wall, Rory Jones, Wall Street Journal, January 28th 2017

  2. Israel’s Netanyahu applauds Trump’s plan for wall; Mexico not pleased, William Booth, Washington Post, January 29th 2017

  3. Israel PM Netanyahu Praises Trump’s Plan for Mexico Border Wall, Rory Jones, Wall Street Journal, January 28th 2017

  4. Rivlin Apologizes to Mexico for Netanyahu's Wall Tweet, Herb Keinon, Jerusalem Post, February 1st 2017

  5. Mexico tells Israeli ambassador that diplomatic crisis is behind them, Ynet News, January 31st 2017

  6. Israel PM Netanyahu Praises Trump’s Plan for Mexico Border Wall, Rory Jones, Wall Street Journal, January 28th 2017

  7. Binary options firm Banc De Binary says winding down operations, Tova Cohen, Reuters, January 11th 2017

  8. Ibid.

  9. Ex-worker Gives Rare Peek Into Israel’s Binary Options Industry: We’re Selling Dreams, Shelly Appleberg, Haaretz, January 6th 2017

  10. In first, Knesset committee debates how to stop Israel’s vast binary options fraud, Raoul Wootliff and Simona Weinglass, Times of Israel, January 2nd 2017

  11. Ibid.

  12. Fleeced by Israeli binary options firm, Canadian man dies by suicide, Simona Weinglass, Times of Israel, January 19th 2017

  13. Viber offers free calls from the U.S. to the 7 countries affected by Trump travel ban, Sarah Perez, Tech Crunch, January 31st 2017

  14. Viber Offers Free Calls To Countries Affected By Refugee, Travel Ban, Nina Golgowski, The Huffington Post, January 31st 2017,

  15. Viber offers free calls from the U.S. to the 7 countries affected by Trump travel ban, Sarah Perez, Tech Crunch, January 31st 2017


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