Week in Review: High-Tech Dead Sea Scrolls, Israel Boycott Bill Axed and much more!
The New York State Assembly has withdrawn a bill that would cut off funding to colleges and universities that initiate boycotts of Israel. Although a similar bill, sponsored by State Assembly Speaker Sheldon Silver, passed the State Senate last week, the Assembly removed the proposed legislation from consideration so that lawmakers could take a closer look at it. The New York Times editorial board wrote that the bill would “trample on academic freedoms and chill free speech and dissent.”
Several Israeli politicians have labeled U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry an “anti-Semite” after he said Sunday Israel could face international boycotts if peace talks fail. “We expect of our friends in the world to stand by our side against the attempts to impose an anti-Semitic boycott on Israel, and not be their mouthpiece,” said Israel’s Economy Minister Naftali Bennett. The State Department, meanwhile, clarified that Kerry’s “only reference to a boycott was a description of actions undertaken by others that he has always opposed.”
The Israel Antiquities Authority has launched an updated version of its digital library of the Dead Sea scrolls to include 10,000 new high-tech images and translations. “These are the best possible images of thousands of fragments,” said Pnina Shor, curator and head of the authority’s Dead Sea Scrolls Project. “The technology was invented for NASA. It is a living site and a uniquely comprehensive one for documents this old.”
Israel has given final approval for the construction of 558 new housing units in East Jerusalem, a move Palestinian officials say undermines the ongoing U.S.-brokered peace negotiations.
Scarlett Johansson’s resignation as an Oxfam global ambassador in the wake of her controversial affiliation with SodaStream, an Israeli product made in the West Bank, has provoked an outpour of opinion, including boycott activist Omar Barghouti’s New York Times op-ed, “Why Israel Fears the Boycott,” and Israeli author Hirsh Goodman’s “Losing the Propaganda War,” also in the Times.
The Times reports this week that AIPAC’s influence over Washington, DC is waning, as evidenced by the lobbying group’s standoff with the White House over a new Iran sanctions bill. Although AIPAC has been pushing President Barack Obama to bring the bill to a vote, he has refused, saying it would jeopardize his ongoing diplomatic efforts.
One of the first Facebook users is now an educator in Israel, studying at the rabbinical seminary of the Schechter Institute of Jewish Studies. Arie Hasit, who lived in the same dorm as Mark Zuckerberg at Harvard, was the fourth person to open an account with the social media platform, making his the first profile that didn’t belong to one of the co-founders.
The recent debate over whether female students at Modern Orthodox Jewish high schools should be allowed to wear tefillin has prompted Slate writer Miriam Krule to ask: “How long will educated, committed women want to be part of the community that doesn’t want them?”
In the latest battle over ultra-Orthodox military service in Israel, the Finance Ministry announced this week that it is cutting funding to seminary students exempt from compulsory military service. “If you do not take on the duties, then why are you asking to get the privileges?” said Finance Minister Yair Lapid. The cuts are expected to affect around 10,000 students.
Image courtesy of Wiki Commons.