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Polished Over, Lights Out in Gaza, Feeling Spacey


Poland and Israel Try to Improve Ties, but History Intrudes

David M. Halbfinger and Marc Santora, New York Times, February 17th, 2019

Recap:

Poland pulled out of a summit with Israel in protest over remarks made by Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and Israeli Foreign Minister Yisrael Katz, saying Poles "collaborated with the Nazis" during the holocaust and "suckle antisemitism with their mother's milk." Poland's nationalist government is quick to denounce anyone accused of linking the country to its well-documented history of holocaust collaboration [1].

The Context:

  • The first gathering outside Europe of the Visegrad Group was supposed to be a crowning achievement for Netanyahu in his outreach to Central and Eastern European nations to counter the traditional criticism Israel faces in international forums [2]. The Israeli comments led Polish Prime Minister Mateusz Morawiecki to scrap his visit to Israel and to an admonishment by the United States Ambassador to Poland [3].

  • A year ago, the Polish government made it a crime to accuse the Polish nation of complicity in the Holocaust, setting off a diplomatic crisis after Israeli officials likened it to Holocaust denial. Poland backtracked by removing criminal penalties for provisions that critics said would distort history and hamper discussion of the Holocaust. Poland has sought to repair relations with Israel and the two countries eventually issued a joint statement to resolve the rift.

  • Once a vibrant center of Jewish life, Poland was the first country occupied by the Nazis during World War II. It was later occupied by the Soviet Union. Although Polish gentiles suffered under the dual occupation and thousands of Poles risked their lives to help Jews, over 3 million Polish Jews were killed by Nazis and their Polish collaborators during the Holocaust [4].

Conversation Points:

  • How should a nation balance remembering its past and forging a new future?

  • Is Poland absolved of its acts against Jews during World War II because gentiles also suffered?

Qatar Warns Hamas It Won’t Pay For Gaza Electricity Beyond April — Report

Times of Israel, February 19th, 2019

Recap:

Qatar’s envoy to the Gaza Strip warned Hamas that it will not extend payments for the territory’s electricity supply beyond April amid frustration with Hamas’s foot-dragging on several large projects in the Strip, including a long-delayed high-voltage power line from Israel that could double the Strip’s power. “We do not fund Hamas, but we try to contain the humanitarian crisis in Gaza in a very clear way [5],” said Qatari officials.

The Context:

  • Qatar has poured hundreds of millions of dollars into large-scale projects, including a new highway, state-of-the-art rehabilitation hospital and high-rise housing. In October, Qatar started transferring around $10 million a month in fuel to Gaza’s only power station. The shipments have allowed residents of the Strip to receive around eight hours of electricity a day, instead of the previous four. Gaza is in need of $100 million a month to revive its economy and Hamas hasn't paid its civil servants’ full salaries in years [6].

  • Israel allowed Qatari fuel into Gaza, hoping it would help ease months of protests and clashes along its border. The transfers are met with criticism by the Palestinian Authority, Hamas’ rival, and the Israeli right who see it as a reward for terror.

  • Both Israel and Egypt enforce a number of restrictions on the movement of people and goods in and out of Gaza to keep Hamas and other terror groups from arming or building military infrastructure. The two main gas lines into Gaza from Israel and Egypt have been damaged since February 2018 [7].

Conversation Points:

  • Will Qatar’s threat pressure Hamas into advancing delayed infrastructure projects?

  • What does Qatar have to gain by immersing itself in Gaza?

  • Would life improve in Gaza if Hamas was suddenly overthrown?

Israel Prepares to Launch Its Historic Private Mission to the Moon

Ilan Ben Zion, Time, February 19th, 2019

Recap:

SpaceIL’s “Beresheet” will take off from Florida on a weekslong voyage into space. If successful, Israel will become the fourth country to land a spacecraft on the moon, after the Soviet Union, United States and China. “Every Jew, not only every Israeli, will remember where he was when Israel landed on the moon,” said the mission’s billionaire financier Morris Kahn.

The Context:

  • SpaceIL was founded in 2011 and originally competed for Google’s Lunar Xprize, which challenged private companies to land a robotic spacecraft on the moon. The $20 million competition was scrapped last year when it became clear none of the five companies would meet the preset deadline.

  • The 350-pound spacecraft will be the smallest and cheapest spacecraft to ever achieve a moon landing and its mission is expected to last just a couple of days before the sun’s rays destroy its crucial communication systems. However, scientists hope that in this time, it will be able to send back valuable data regarding the moon’s magnetic field [8].

  • The craft holds a “time capsule” of hundreds of digital files containing drawings by Israeli children, the Bible, the National Anthem, prayers, Israeli songs and a map of the State of Israel [9].

Conversation Points:

  • Why is space travel considered such an important national achievement?

Notes:

  1. Poland Seeks Apology From Israel On Alleged Holocaust Role Remark, Al Jazeera, February 19th, 2019

  2. Ibid.

  3. Siding With Poland, Us Slams Israeli Fm’s ‘Offensive’ Anti-Semitism Remark, Times Of Israel, February 19th, 2019

  4. Poland Seeks Apology From Israel On Alleged Holocaust Role Remark, Al Jazeera, February 19th, 2019.

  5. Qatar: We Will Continue To Support Gaza, Middle East Monitor, February 18th, 2019

  6. Qatar Changes Plan, Decides To Use Money For Humanitarian Aid In Gaza, Not Hamas, Daniel Estrin, Npr, February 4th, 2019

  7. Qatar Will Not Finance Gaza's Electricity After April - Report, Jerusalem Post, February 19th, 2019

  8. Israel Spacex Launch Set To Make It Fourth Nation To Reach The Moon, Aristos Georgiou, Newsweek, February 19th, 2019

  9. Israeli Spacecraft Beresheet Ready For Take Off, Jerusalem Post, February 19th, 2019


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