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A messy morning commute in NYC as pro-Palestinian protests shut down East River bridges and Holland Tunnel

(New York Jewish Week) — Commuters faced major delays Monday morning as several pro-Palestinian protests shut down traffic on the Brooklyn, Manhattan and Williamsburg bridges on the East River as well as the Holland Tunnel under the Hudson River linking New Jersey to Manhattan.

Organizers said that the goal of the coordinated protests was to escalate disruption and send a message to the city about Israel’s war with Hamas in Gaza. “Particularly with blocking main arteries of transit, the idea is to confront New Yorkers — just for a brief hour or two hours — with the kind of reality of what it’s like to not be able to move, to not be able to freely travel where you’re trying to go,” Nas Issa, an organizer with the Palestinian Youth Movement, told the New York Jewish Week.

“Take this inconvenience and imagine what it’s like for the 2.7 million Palestinians in Gaza who have nowhere to go and have no safe place to hide,” added Issa, who said she was on the Williamsburg Bridge Monday morning with a “few hundred” others. 

In videos posted to social media, protestors at the different locations can be heard chanting “NYPD, KKK, IDF, they’re all the same”; “Shut it down”; “Free Palestine”; “Palestine will never die” and “From Haiti to Palestine, occupation is a crime” while planting themselves on the pavement and linking themselves together with cement-filled tires.

NOW: Pro-Palestine supporters chant “NYPD KKK, IDF they’re all the same” after lines of protesters arrested and cuffed at Holland Tunnel.

— BreakThrough News (@BTnewsroom) January 8, 2024

Along with the Palestinian Youth Movement, the actions were organized and attended by members of the New York chapter of Democratic Socialists of America, the New York chapter of Jewish Voice for Peace, Palestinian Youth Movement and Writers Against the War on Gaza, Jews for Racial and Economic Justice, Critical Resistance, Party for Socialism and Liberation and Al-Awda: The Palestine Right to Return Coalition. 

The New York Police Department issued a traffic advisory just before 10 a.m. Monday morning. At 11:30, the NYPD tweeted that all the protests had been dispersed. 

The protests drew ire from commuting New Yorkers and some government officials. 

In a statement posted to X, New York City council member Robert Holden called the protests “terrorism,” deeming it “unacceptable” and describing the protesters as “anarchists.” 

We must allow this terrorism to continue,” he said. “Swift and decisive action is needed. Arrest and prosecute them now!”

“It’s absolutely ridiculous and helping nobody,” East Village resident Mia Kratchman told the New York Daily News while stuck in an Uber outside the Holland Tunnel. “As a person who takes this route every single day, I’ve never seen anything like this in my life.”

Several New Yorkers worried about the hindrance the blockade might have caused to emergency vehicles. “There are approximately 70 life-threatening emergencies that EMS responds to in New York City every hour. The Pro-Hamas crowd is proud to harm New Yorkers by shutting down the means for Ambulances to take people to the hospital,” David Greenfield, the CEO of the Met Council on Jewish Poverty and an adjunct professor at Brooklyn Law, posted on Twitter.  “Arrest. Them. All.”  

Greenfield’s remarks were reposted by Yehiel Kalish, the CEO of Hatzalah, the Jewish volunteer ambulance service. “You are correct,” Kalish wrote in response to Greenfield. “Thankfully, agencies like ours are notified about these events immediately, and we are forced to make contingency plans.”

Protestors were not deterred. “At the end of the day, there’s always people who are going to be upset by any disruption,” Issa said. “Historically, if you look at anti-war protest movements, in the moment, they’re not very popular because they’re disruptive.” 

“The broader message is trying to keep Palestine at the top of people’s minds,” she added. “Another aspect of it is escalating the disruption and escalating the drain on the New York Police Department’s resources and, in that way, putting pressure on decision makers within the city.”

Over 300 people on the bridges and at the Holland Tunnel were arrested, according to the NYPD  Chief of Patrol Chief John Chell. Many will face misdemeanor charges.

Monday’s actions were the latest in string of pro-Palestinian protests in recent weeks, including one that shut down the Belt Parkway leading to JFK Airport on New Year’s Day and as well as rallies that disrupted the Rockefeller Center Christmas tree lighting ceremony and the Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade

CBS New York reported that nearly 500 protests have occurred in New York City since the war between Israel and Hamas began.

The post A messy morning commute in NYC as pro-Palestinian protests shut down East River bridges and Holland Tunnel appeared first on Jewish Telegraphic Agency.

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Major Israeli Tech Entrepreneur Gil Shwed Retires

Gil Shwed, former Chief Executive of Network security provider Check Point Software Technologies, speaks during the annual Cyberweek conference at Tel Aviv University, Israel, June 20, 2016

Gil Shwed, one of Israel’s wealthiest entrepreneurs, announced his retirement on Tuesday, bringing an end to his 30-year tenure as CEO of Check Point, an Israeli software firm.

“This year Check Point celebrated 30 years since its establishment, in which we managed to generate growth and reached a peak in almost every parameter. I feel that this is the right time for me to focus on Check Point’s next leap,” Shwed, 56, said. “We are now looking for a replacement for the position of CEO. It’s a process that will take time and even when it ends I will remain involved. I want to focus less on the daily work, and more on the future of the company.”

Check Point was founded in 1993 by Shwed, Shlomo Kramer, and Marius Nacht. Shwed and Kramer were friends from their time together in Israel’s elite cyber unit 8200.

The company provides AI-powered advanced software and hardware for cyber security to more than 100,000 customers globally, bringing in more than $2 billion per year in revenue.

Headquartered in Tel Aviv and publicly traded on the NASDAQ, Check Point has a market cap of more than $19 billion dollars, making it Israel’s second most valuable company, $2 billion less than automobile giant Mobileye Eye. Shwed’s role as CEO has allowed him to amass a fortune of $4.4 billion due to his 20% share ownership in the company.

Shwed is also a recipient of the Israel Prize, an annual award given to Israelis who have shown a high level of excellence in their specific fields. Shwed was given the first award in the technology field when it was introduced in 2018.

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Israel’s Leading Hotel Chain Expands Internationally

A view of Athens, Greece. Photo: Jan M via Wikimedia Commons.

Israel’s leading hotel chain Isrotel has announced the opening of their first hotel outside of the country.

The brand, under a new division called ALUMA, meaning “ray of light” in Hebrew, will open its Skylark Hotel in Athens, Greece next month.

“We succeeded in doing the best in Israel, creating a culture that people love, so if you know Isrotel you will want to visit,” Benny Levy, the VP of sales and marketing at Isrotel, told The Algemeiner.

Levy says just because they are expanding outside of the Jewish state, “We aren’t stopping opening in Israel … Outside of Israel the potential is endless, it is a significant opportunity.”

Lior Raviv, CEO of Isrotel, added, “ALUMA is an international chain of hotels that will benefit from Isrotel’s longstanding experience and uncompromising standards of excellence, offering global travelers a wide range of city hotels and leisure resorts to choose from, and providing unique hospitality experiences. As a sister company of Isrotel, ALUMA is guided by our approach to hospitality as a way of life.”

They said most of the workers will be Israelis, ensuring the culture of the brand remains. “Israeli tourists, and especially loyal guests of Isrotel, who return to us time and again due to our hospitality experience and high standard of service, will find those same qualities and sense of a ‘home away from home’ at ALUMA, backed by the international standards of perfection and excellence,” added Raviv.

According to Isrotel, the Skylark hotel will be followed by the Anise Hotel, also in Athens, a month later. An additional hotel in Athens and one in Thessaloniki will open by the end of 2024. They said the total investment in the project is 70 million euros, with plans to expand elsewhere in Europe in the future.

Isrotel has 23 hotels across Israel, including eight in the resort town of Eilat in the south of Israel. Their international move comes as Israel’s National Planning and Construction Council announced this week the changes to the city’s height limitations for hotels, allowing up to 20 floors from the previously permitted eight floors.

Tourism Minister Haim Katz praised the move, saying, “We are bringing good news to Eilat. Hundreds and even thousands of rooms will be added in the city. The move will encourage competition, remove excess bureaucracy for a hotel that wants to renew itself, and allow entrepreneurs who have not yet built to increase supply.”

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Investment Firm Announces Recommendations for Preventing Corporate Anti-Israel Bias

Illustrative Anti-Israel event. Photo: Wikimedia Commons.

Morningstar, Inc., a Chicago based investment firm managing over $250 billion in assets, has issued a report including several recommendations for reducing anti-Israel bias in the environmental, social, and governance (ESG) ratings its Sustainalytics subsidiary assigns to corporations.

For several years, Sustainalytics gave poor ESG ratings to Israel affiliated companies, a practice that led Jewish civil rights groups and lawmakers to suspect that the company was violating state laws against engaging in the boycott, divestment, and sanctions (BDS) movement, which aims to isolate and weaken the Jewish state.

The firm denied the allegations, but a review of the its ratings by JLens, a leading Jewish investor network, found that Sustainalytics created “BDS blacklists” and used in its internal reports “politicized anti-Israel language” to describe Israel. JLens’ work, which was the first to raise alarms about the issue, led to Morningstar’s cracking down on the practices and adopting policies for ensuring that Sustainalytics does not become a BDS collaborator.

Released on Jan. 31, Morningstar’s new report builds on that commitment, outlining several policy changes, including: eliminating a designation which identified companies as being involved in “occupied territories/disputed region,” quashing reliance on disinformative media reports aimed at distorting a company’s ESG rating, and appointing legal experts to examine matters relevant to international human rights law.

“We welcome Morningstar’s commitment to eliminate anti-Israel bias in Sustainalytics research products,” Anti-Defamation League (ADL) CEO Jonathan Greenblatt said in a statement on Wednesday. “We look forward to ongoing engagement with Morningstar to ensure the expert recommendations are fully and effectively implemented.”

The ADL took a leading role in combating anti-Israel bias in ESG ratings, incorporating JLens in Nov. 2022. ADL noted at the time that BDS activists target firms managing ESG rated funds, which attracted over $500 billion in investments in 2021, a 55% increase from the previous year, according to JP Morgan. During 2022’s proxy season, a time when publicly traded companies hold annual meetings to assess performance and weigh suggestions from shareholders, Israel was named in eight of 20 resolutions targeting foreign governments, “making the country only second to China.”

Morningstar’s recommendations will shield ESG from political bias and increase its reliability, Louis D. Brandeis Center for Human Rights Under Law founder and chairman Kenneth L. Marcus explained in a statement applauding the report.

“Anti-Israel external forces are doing everything they can to infiltrate campuses, boardrooms, the [United Nations]., sports leagues, and the securities industry,” he said. “We commend Morningstar for engaging with us, examining their ESG product, and committing to make the changes necessary to ensure that their rating system is apolitical, objective, and honest. We believe that implementing the experts’ report is critical to achieving this goal.”

Ari Hoffnung, managing director of JLens, added that “investor are entitled to research that is both objective and devoid of any anti-Israel bias.”

Last July, Morningstar removed 109 negative “controversy ratings” that Sustainalytics subsidiary had given to companies operating in Israel. The firm has also stopped referring to the West Bank and East Jerusalem as ‘Occupied Palestinian Territory’ or ‘occupied territory” and committed to educating its employees about antisemitism and amassing information about the Israeli-Palestinian conflict from “independent, recognized experts.”

Morningstar, however, has repeatedly denied that it ever supported BDS. In June 2022, Morningstar CEO Kunal Kapoor issued a statement arguing that an external review of Sustainalytics found no evidence that it “encouraged divestment from Israel” but acknowledged that at least one of its departments singled out businesses “linked to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict” and “sometimes used inflammatory language and failed to provide sourcing attribution clearly and consistently.”

Follow Dion J. Pierre @DionJPierre.

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