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What Happened: December 20, 2021

Tablet’s afternoon news digest: Radical Palestinist wins Chile’s election, browbeats Jews and proposes a constitutional convention; Israel’s Omicron travel ban draft; fentanyl overdoses are now the leading cause of death for Americans aged 18 to 45

The Scroll
December 20, 2021

The Big Story

Americans got a revealing glimpse into how their tax dollars fund the most powerful military in the world Monday when Pentagon officials announced new rules aimed at countering extremism in the ranks. The forthcoming policy, as described by senior defense officials to the Associated Press, focuses on soldiers’ activity online, including “‘liking’ or reposting extremist views” on social media. The new mandate appears to grant broad authority for monitoring troops’ behavior online but stipulates that in order to be punished, they must have “actively participated” in the designated extremist behavior on the internet. Echoing policies set by the White House, military officials have repeatedly spoken about the threat of radicalization and extremism in the ranks over the past year, elevating those threats to the level of strategic priorities. Yet even the senior defense officials quoted by the AP acknowledge that “fewer than 100 military members are known to have been involved in substantiated cases of extremist activity in the past year.” That’s fewer than 100 out of an organization with more than 2 million members. That matches a finding that was noted in The Scroll in June: We reported on the study conducted by a tech company that identifies people searching for “extremist content” online, which concluded that “active duty troops are less prone than the American public as a whole to seek out information about violent extremism.” The Pentagon’s turn inward to the supposed problem of internal threats comes as the military’s overseas ventures, most notably in Afghanistan, have ended in strategic failure yet have led to no serious repercussions for the generals in charge of those wars, most of whom have continued their career advancement. In July of this year, the United States was crushed in a military war-gaming exercise. “Without overstating the issue, it failed miserably,” then vice chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, General John Hyten, said after the exercise.

Read it here:

Today’s Back Pages: Israel to Diaspora Jews: Screw You

The Rest

→ The monthslong power struggle over President Biden’s $1.75 trillion Build Back Better social-spending bill sputtered to an end on Sunday when Joe Manchin, the Democratic senator from West Virginia, said he would not support the plan. Manchin had consistently objected to the cost and scope of the bill, which has never had the backing of a majority in the Senate and now appears to be on life support.

→Amid the ongoing legal battle over the Biden administration’s vaccine mandate for private businesses, the Labor Department’s Occupational Safety and Health Administration announced Saturday that starting Jan. 10, companies that don’t comply with the rule would be subject to citations that carry fines. The rule, affecting some 80 million American workers, was twice blocked by a federal appeals court. But that decision was reversed on Friday when the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Sixth District in Cincinnati ruled that the mandate could go forward. The policy now appears to be headed for the Supreme Court.

→Israel added the United States to a travel ban list on Monday, following a recommendation from the Health Ministry that prohibits visitors from a number of countries, citing risks from the Omicron strain of the novel coronavirus. The measure still needs final approval from a committee in the Knesset but is expected to go into effect Tuesday night.

For Americans aged 18 to 45, fentanyl overdoses are now the leading cause of death, according to Centers for Disease Control and Prevention data analyzed by the organization Families Against Fentanyl. The group found that the synthetic opioid, which is 50 times more potent than heroin and has become the drug of choice for many users due to how cheap and strong it is, killed nearly 79,000 people between 18 and 45 years old in 2020. Most fentanyl in the country is now produced in Chinese laboratories and shipped to the United States. Reported deaths caused by the drug doubled in two years, from 32,754 in April 2019 to 64,178 in April 2021.

→Ross Barkan, an independent journalist and former candidate for the New York state senate who got an endorsement from Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, has an interesting analysis on his Substack about how the media and his fellow Democrats are ignoring the sizable swing among Asian American voters in New York City toward the Republican Party. Barkan first points to the larger trend of nonwhite voters moving to the right and notes that this held in New York, where in 2020, “Spanish-speaking neighborhoods cast votes for Trump at a much higher rate than four years prior.” But the bigger surprise, Barkan says, came from how in last month’s mayor’s race, “Asian voters, particularly Chinese and Korean voters, had migrated to the Republican Party.” One of the examples he cites is the 40th Assembly District in Queens, which includes the neighborhood of Flushing—a major hub for Asian Americans that was carried by both Hillary Clinton and Joe Biden, with 67% and 62% of the vote respectively, but voted for the Republican candidate, Curtis Sliwa, in this year’s mayor’s trace.
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→This might shed some light on the political conversions among some Asian voters in New York: New statistics released by the police department show that Asian New Yorkers experienced the largest increase in bias crimes this year out of any group in the city, with a 368% increase in incidents over last year. Jews remain the most targeted group in the city, with a 49% increase in bias incidents over the previous year. As The Scroll has repeatedly pointed out, the through line connecting the attacks on Asian and Jewish New Yorkers is the larger increase in violent crime and disorder that made New York a more dangerous city under Mayor Bill de Blasio.
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→Chileans elected the left-wing former student activist Gabriel Boric as their new president. Boric, who won with a coalition that included Chile’s communist party, beat out the right-wing Catholic candidate, José Antonio Kast. Tablet contributor John Paul Pagano points to a telling incident involving Boric, who has close ties to Chile’s 400,000-person Palestinian diaspora community and has called Israel “genocidal.” Boric was given a jar of honey by Chile’s Jewish community in celebration of Rosh Hashanah and replied on Twitter that while he appreciated the gesture, “they” could instead try “asking Israel to return the illegally occupied Palestinian territory.”
See it here:

→Just over a year after he was released from a Los Angeles prison, where he once granted a memorable interview to Tablet, West Coast rap legend Drakeo the Ruler died Saturday night after he was stabbed in a scuffle during the Once Upon a Time in L.A. concert, where he was scheduled to perform along with Snoop Dogg and 50 Cent. Drakeo, whose real name was Darrell Caldwell, called his elusive, cryptic style of hip hop “nervous music.”

RIP Drakeo, the greatest West Coast artist of a generation, a legend who invented a new rap language of slippery cadences, nervous rhythms, and psychedelic slang, who beat life twice only to suffer the most tragic fate conceivable. The Ruler, once, always, and forever.

— Otto Von Biz Markie (@Passionweiss) December 19, 2021

→The drone delivery business is picking up. Service volume was up by more than 600% in 2021 for Wing, the drone delivery company owned by Google’s parent company Alphabet. The company made more than 140,000 deliveries this year and is preparing to partner with major retailers in the near future. “The company’s plans for 2022 are even bigger. And that reflects in its decision to enter into a contract with the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) to launch the OpenSky app and help the agency process requests for authorizations to fly drones in controlled airspace,” reports the trade industry journal DroneDJ.

Notable new development into the unraveling origins of Russiagate, explained by the lawyer known as Techno Fog.

Steele source Igor Danchenko is now represented by lawyers who worked for the Hillary Campaign.

Special Counsel John Durham is asking the court if that’s an improper conflict.

Notable: trial inquiry may include whether the Clinton Campaign directed Danchenko’s activities.

— Techno Fog (@Techno_Fog) December 20, 2021

The Back Pages

backpages Liel Leibovitz lets loose on the Israeli government’s decision to ban visits from his kids while opening its doors to Miss Universe.

Here’s a partial list of folks who got to visit Israel last week: comedian Steve Harvey; Harnaaz Sandhu, Miss India; Nadia Ferreira, Miss Paraguay; Lalela Mswane, Miss South Africa; and scores more models, producers, and executives partaking in the 70th Miss Universe pageant held in Eilat.

Here’s a partial list of folks who didn’t get to visit Israel last week: Lily Leibovitz, age 10, and Hudson Leibovitz, age 8, my children, who live in New York and were hoping to visit their grandmother in Tel Aviv.

The children were subjected to Israel’s latest draconian set of COVID-19-related restrictions, which bar any noncitizen from entry. The models had no such worries: A glitzy televised ceremony featuring scantily clad women was judged much too prominent a national affair to bother with such earthly concerns as infections or quarantines. A bit of good PR for the goyim is priceless; a couple of Jewish kids enjoying Shabbat dinner with Savta is nobody’s priority.

Dr. Warren Goldstein, South Africa’s chief rabbi, addressed Israel’s decision this week, calling it “a moral disgrace.” 

“By doing what it is doing, the government is saying, ‘You are not part of us, we are not part of you, and our borders are locked to you,” he said, a decision that “cannot be defended on grounds of medical safety. The future sustainability and success of Israel depend on if it fulfills the reason for its existence. That is to be a Jewish state. If you violate the Jewish identity of the Jewish state, if you take away its reason for being, that is a strategic threat to the State of Israel.”

Amen, Selah, and how shameful that so few prominent Diaspora rabbis, if any, joined Rabbi Goldstein in his moral clarity. So, with our leadership so silent and squishy, please accept this howl from yours truly, who is no one’s idea of a rabbi: If you’re just not that into me and my children, Israel, please don’t expect me to keep on being that into you.

You see, as far as I’m concerned, it isn’t the accident of my birth that delivered me in Tel Aviv rather than Telluride. It’s not nostalgia and it’s not inertia and it’s not coincidence. It’s the very sacred fact that you are the world’s only Jewish state, our indigenous homeland, home to nearly half of us who currently futz around on the globe. If you choose to honor that heritage, you’ll continue to occupy a very significant place in the emotional, spiritual, and intellectual life of any Jew who takes Judaism seriously. If you come to see yourself, as your current government seems to see you, as just another normal nation looking out for the interests of its own citizens above all, well, then, you would have betrayed your historical mission just as bitterly as the previous Jewish republics that all too briefly enjoyed a spell of sovereignty in the land of Israel before succumbing to irrelevance and punishment by exile.

While you make up your mind, beloved, please spare me the bullshit about “continuity” or “Diaspora relations” or any of the asinine catchphrases your bloated government emissaries throw around so often and so callously. Want my Jewish American kids to grow up loving Israel? The very least you can do is give them the same chance to enjoy Eilat that you just gave Miss Panama.

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Tablet’s afternoon newsletter edited by Jacob Siegel and Park MacDougald.