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First passenger flight from Saudi Arabia arrives in Israel after emergency landing

(JTA) — What appears to have been the first-ever passenger flight between Saudi Arabia and Israel has taken place — even though the two countries have not yet established diplomatic relations.

An Air Seychelles flight to Tel Aviv made an emergency landing on Monday in the the port city of Jeddah, where passengers spent the night. On Tuesday, they flew from there to Ben Gurion International Airport.

“I really appreciate the warm way in which the Saudi authorities treated the Israeli passengers,” Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said in a statement. “I really appreciate the good neighborliness.”

The incident comes amid what are reported to be U.S.-brokered talks to establish ties between the two countries. Saudi Arabia would become the fifth Arab country to normalize relations with Israel in recent years, following the four deals known as the Abraham Accords that were struck in 2020.

Relations between the countries have been softening in recent years, and Saudi Arabia began allowing Israeli planes to pass through its airspace last year. Last week, Israelis participated in a global video game competition in Riyadh, the Saudi capital, and reported having a positive experience. Because there are no direct flights between the countries, the Israeli competitors traveled through Dubai — a city they could not reach directly before the United Arab Emirates established ties with their country in 2020.

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Tragic World Central Kitchen Aid Workers Incident Exposes Rank Hypocrisy

Aerial view shows a World Central Kitchen (WCK) barge loaded with food arriving off Gaza, where there is risk of famine after five months of Israel’s military campaign, in this handout image released March 15, 2024. Photo: Israel Defense Forces/Handout via REUTERS

The tragic killing of the seven aid workers in Gaza in an IDF drone strike has undoubtedly changed the direction of Israel’s war against Hamas.

After the IDF admitted to making “grave mistakes” in the strike on a World Central Kitchen (WCK) vehicle convoy, pressure has piled on Israel to agree to an immediate ceasefire in the Strip, as well as other unpalatable terms Hamas put forward.

In the immediate aftermath, Israel dismissed two military officers and reprimanded several others.

The point that has been ignored by the vast majority of media pundits and politicians as they line up to criticize Israel is that holding up the WCK incident as proof there must be an immediate ceasefire is tantamount to saying that Hamas should stay in power.

Some of the harshest criticism leveled at Israel has come from its staunchest allies, including the United States and the United Kingdom, which have previously stopped short of calling for an immediate and unconditional ceasefire.

The UK’s foreign minister, Lord David Cameron, for example, warned that Britain’s support for Israel was “not unconditional,” while describing the deaths of the WCK workers as “tragic and avoidable.”

Meanwhile, US President Joe Biden released a statement on April 2 — mere hours after the incident — which called for a “thorough investigation” that brings full “accountability.”

“Even more tragically, this is not a stand-alone incident. This conflict has been one of the worst in recent memory in terms of how many aid workers have been killed,” the statement added.

Such criticism was mirrored in the international press.

An editorial by The Observer argued that “only a ceasefire in Gaza can save [Israel] from its worst-ever crisis” and called for an “independent, international inquiry into last week’s outrageous killing of seven World Central Kitchen aid workers.”

“The IDF’s internal investigation and its limited admission of error do not begin to excuse or explain the army’s trigger-happy behaviour and ongoing, systemic problems with targeting,” it added.

Writing in The Guardian, Nesrine Malik described the World Central Kitchen incident as evidence that “Israel has gone rogue.”

The Wall Street Journal attempted to explore what it called the “deadly mistakes of Israel’s military in Gaza,” in a piece that observed how the aid convoy strike had “crystallized a broad international backlash against Israel’s war in Gaza.”

However, the swift and unforgiving reaction to the WCK incident by both international leaders and the media has exposed another issue: a glaring hypocrisy where Israel is judged by a standard that is not applied to its allies.

Opinion writer Brendan O’Neill was among the handful of media pundits to call out this double standard in a piece for The Spectator:

David Cameron has got some front. The Foreign Secretary is haranguing Israel over its tragic unintentional killing of seven aid workers in Gaza, and yet he oversaw a war in which such ‘friendly fire’ horrors were commonplace. In fact, more than seven people were slain in accidental bombings under Cameron’s watch.

It was the Libya intervention of 2011. In that Nato-led excursion, in which Cameron, then prime minister, was an enthusiastic partner, numerous Libyans died as a result of misaimed bombs. Things got so bad that the West’s allies took to painting the roofs of their vehicles bright pink in an effort to avoid Nato’s missiles.”

Another op-ed in Newsweek by international human rights lawyer Arsen Ostrovsky and urban warfare expert John Spencer noted how one inevitable consequence of war is that “errors will occur” and that the US too had made similar errors during its conflicts:

The United States itself, during its withdrawal from Afghanistan in August 2021, mistakenly killed an aid worker and nine members of his family—including seven children—after targeting the wrong vehicle in a Kabul drone strike.

Similarly, NATO members have also, inadvertently and mistakenly, killed civilians, as in Libya in 2011, when 13 people, including ambulance workers, were killed by so-called ‘friendly fire.’

A piece published in The Daily Mail by columnist Richard Littlejohn called out the “nauseating” double standards that the WCK strike has exposed.

Recounting the events that followed the death of his friend, ITN correspondent Terry Lloyd — who was killed alongside several other journalists in a US strike on their clearly marked vehicle on the outskirts of Basra, Iraq, in March 2003 — Littlejohn wrote:

A subsequent inquest ruled that Terry had been unlawfully killed by American troops and his lawyer said he had been the victim of a ‘very serious war crime‘. No one was ever charged.

The shock of his death was as traumatic for his family and friends as for those of the three brave British aid workers killed by Israeli forces in Gaza this week.

But no one at the time demanded that the American-led Coalition — which included 46,000 British military personnel — withdraw immediately from Iraq, allow Saddam Hussein to remain in power and abandon the hunt for what turned out to be non-existent weapons of mass destruction.

Every innocent person killed in this war is a tragedy, whether they are international aid workers or Palestinian civilians. However, suggesting that Israel’s tragic accidents are somehow unique or more severe than others is hypocrisy of the highest order.

The author is a contributor to HonestReporting, a Jerusalem-based media watchdog with a focus on antisemitism and anti-Israel bias — where a version of this article first appeared.

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Joe Rogan’s Troubling Anti-Israel Podcast Episodes

Joe Rogan, host of The Joe Rogan Experience podcast on Spotify. Photo: Screenshot.

At 14.5 million followers, The Joe Rogan Experience consistently tops the charts as the most popular podcast on Spotify.

With 16 million subscribers on YouTube and millions more on Apple Podcasts, it is clear that Joe Rogan’s unique interviews and charismatic personality both resonate with — and influence — a wide audience.

Part of the appeal of The Joe Rogan Experience is that it covers topics that are generally considered controversial, and features interviews with people who hold ideas that are seen as being outside the mainstream.

Naturally, this means that the podcast has touched on Israel and the Jewish people in the past.

However, just because The Joe Rogan Experience’s brand isn’t scared to go outside the mainstream, that doesn’t absolve the podcast of spreading misinformation by either Rogan himself, or one of his guests.

Here are just some of the times that Joe Rogan enabled the spread of anti-Israel misinformation or dangerous stereotypes about the Jewish people on his podcast.

Joe Rogan: Israel Is Committing Genocide

During a podcast interview with comedian Kurt Metzger recorded at the end of March 2024, Joe Rogan said that Israel’s ongoing defensive war against Hamas was tantamount to genocide due to the number of civilian casualties caught up in the fighting.

Rogan then went on to engage in Holocaust inversion, claiming that Israel was okay with imitating what was done to the Jews during the Holocaust. According to Rogan, “You guys [Israel] are willing to do what was done to you that led you to believe that you needed to start your own country? You’re willing to do that on a small scale in Gaza.”

Rogan also allowed his guest to openly claim that Israel’s war conduct in Gaza was worse than that of Putin’s Russia during its invasion of Ukraine, and that Israelis hated Palestinians as part of a “racial thing.”

Joe Rogan Defends “All About the Benjamins” Tweet

In 2019, Minnesota Democratic Congresswoman Ilhan Omar publicly commented on US Congressional support for Israel, tweeting “It’s all about the Benjamins, baby,” asserting that bipartisan support for the Jewish state is a result of lobby money and not shared values between the two countries.

With its allusions to the classic antisemitic stereotypes of Jews and money as well as dual loyalty, Omar’s tweet aroused a media firestorm and she subsequently apologized for her statement.

In February 2023, following a US House of Representatives vote to oust Omar from the Foreign Affairs Committee, her 2019 tweet arose as a topic of discussion between Joe Rogan and his guest, Krystal Ball.

Rogan jumped to the defense of Omar, quipping that her 2019 tweet was “not an antisemitic statement, I don’t think that is. Benjamins are money. The idea that Jewish people are not into money is ridiculous. That’s like saying Italians aren’t into pizza, it’s f—-ng stupid.”

Later, Rogan concurred with Ball’s assertion that the pro-Israel lobby movement and money are responsible for “uniparty consensus around our policy vis-à-vis the Israeli government and a total inability and unwillingness to criticize the Israeli government.”

Joe Rogan Interviews Roger Waters

For years, Roger Waters has spent his time spreading a wide variety of absurd claims about Israel, Zionism, and the Jewish people — some of which have crossed the line into outright antisemitism.

So, it was only natural that when he appeared on The Joe Rogan Experience in October 2022, the famed musician would take some time to spread his latest conspiratorial talking points about the Jewish State.

However, as pointed out by many on social media at the time, rather than push back against Waters’ extreme rhetoric, Rogan simply nodded along and even responded positively to some of Waters’ assertions, granting them an air of legitimacy.

As detailed at the time by the pro-Israel blog site Israellycool, some of the most egregious statements made by Waters during his Joe Rogan Experience interview included:

The claim that Israel behaves like “people in the past behaved towards Jews in northern Europe” [i.e. Nazis].
A legitimization of Hamas as the “democratically elected government of Gaza”; the claim that Hamas rockets are “ineffectual”; and the implicit validation of Hamas’ anti-Israel terrorism as “resistance” against occupation.
That Israel is hoping for another Palestinian intifada as a pretense “to kill them all.”
The oft-repeated claim that an Israeli audience reacted negatively to Waters’ suggestion at a 2006 concert that it was incumbent upon this generation of Israelis to make peace with the Palestinians, even though audio footage from this concert belies his claims.

Joe Rogan Hosts Abby Martin

In 2017, Joe Rogan hosted independent journalist and former Russia Today host Abby Martin on his podcast, giving her a platform to spread her anti-Israel libels and misinformation.

As noted by the UK-based Israel Advocacy Movement in its takedown of Martin’s untruths following her appearance on the Joe Rogan Experience, these are the most egregious claims that Rogan allowed Abby Martin to make without any pushback:

The claim that Palestinian political parties are illegal in the West Bank.
That Palestinians who share incitement to violence against Israelis and Jews on social media are punished based on how popular their posts are.
Her claim that someone she had interviewed had been shot in her vagina during a “peaceful protest” even though the woman admitted in her original interview with Martin that she had been shot in the leg while attempting to slingshot Israeli forces during a violent riot.
The absurd claim that 200 Palestinians had been shot during this violent riot even though there are no reports that it ever occurred.
The claim that Israel has a policy called “shooting to cripple,” where Israeli forces shoot men in their genitalia.
That barely any Palestinians are allowed to pray at the Dome of the Rock, “the most holy site in Jerusalem” (which also goes to show her general ignorance about the region in general).
The baseless claim that Arabs and Jews have different license plates (as opposed to different license plates in Israel and the Palestinian Authority).
The claim that Israel is a “white nationalist ethno-supremacist state.”
The claim that the UN “partitioned a country on top of another country” even though there was no independent state in the area during the 1947 UN vote.
That Israel has been the “crux of so many problems in the world.”

Despite the above examples, there have been other occasions where Joe Rogan has interviewed pro-Israel voices or made positive comments about Israel and the Jewish people on his podcast.

Unlike some of his guests, Rogan does not appear to have an inherent animus against the Jewish state. However, his apparent lack of understanding of the topic has allowed for the spreading of extreme and absurd claims about Israel and the Jewish people without any resistance.

As someone with an audience of millions of followers around the world, Joe Rogan has a responsibility to do better and not to allow his podcast to serve as a jump-off point for the proliferation of such baseless and dangerous claims.

The author is a contributor to HonestReporting, a Jerusalem-based media watchdog with a focus on antisemitism and anti-Israel bias — where a version of this article first appeared.

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Jon Stewart Says Israel ‘Slaps America in the Face,’ Slams Biden for Not Being Tougher on Jewish State Over Gaza

Jon Stewart on “The Daily Show” on April 8, 2024. Photo: Screenshot

The Daily Show host Jon Stewart berated the Biden administration on Monday for condemning Russian aggression against Ukraine during the ongoing war between the two countries but failing to do the same with Israel and its military actions in the Hamas-ruled Gaza Strip.

Stewart did a “wellness check” on the Israel-Hamas war, solely focusing on Gaza, in light of it being six months since Hamas’ Oct. 7 massacre across southern Israel. “As the war has grinded on, justice is beginning to seem more like cruelty,” he said.

The Daily Show host then played clips of President Joe Biden, Secretary of State Anthony Blinken, and White House Press Secretary Karine Jean-Pierre denouncing Russia’s attempts to target journalists, suppress freedom of the press, and weaponize food shortages against Ukrainians.

“Speaking of which, there is a literal famine in Gaza caused by the war. I assume America will also consider this unconscionable?” Stewart asked. “How about the free press? Ordinarily we are strongly in favor of free press. More journalists have been killed in Gaza in six months than anywhere else in the world, and a new Israeli law says they can ban media outlets they consider a threat.”

Stewart showed clips of Jean-Pierre and White House spokesperson John Kirby expressing only “concern” about Israel’s actions in Gaza and reports that Israel was considering banning the news network Al Jazeera for allegedly posing a threat to national security. The talk show host said that if the reports about Al Jazeera were true, then the US should “condemn it.”

Stewart then moved on to discuss what he called the “bedrock rule of international law” regarding forceful land seizures. He played a clip of Biden denouncing such behavior by Russia.

“You might say Israel’s war is different [from] Ukraine’s — Israel is responding to an attack and hostage crisis. But in the midst of that, they pulled a little something in the West Bank on March 22 that might be notable,” Stewart said, referring to the Israeli government’s appropriation of land in the West Bank.

“That’s not even Gaza. That’s the West Bank. So you can’t say this has anything to do with defending yourself against Hamas. Let’s see if America upholds its rule against taking land,” Stewart said.

“Why do we tiptoe around on eggshells?” the frustrated talk show host exclaimed. “They [Israel] slap America in the face and our response is, ‘Well, if anyone slapped us in the face, it’d be concerning, that’s for sure. I mean, raising a hand to a delicate body part of the face, if true.’ The verbal gymnastics that the American government must undertake so as not to offend the delicate sensibilities of a country we provide most of the weapons for is yarghhhhh!”

“Every time America tells the world that there’s something we won’t allow, Israel seems to say, ‘challenge accepted.’ Are they willfully trying to provoke us?” Stewart added. “Or perhaps they’re just reading our principles from right to left?”

Steward ended by criticizing Biden’s response to the death toll in Gaza since the start of the Israel-Hamas war.

“What the f–k are we doing here? The subtext of all this is America knows this is wrong. But apparently, it doesn’t seem to have the courage to say it in a straightforward manner,” he added. “You cannot bomb your way into safety. And after this recent week, with so much horror, perhaps America finally finds the need for a new approach with Israel with more justice and less cruelty.”

Analyses of casualty figures coming out of Gaza indicate the Hamas-controlled health authorities there systematically overcount civilian casualties and undercount terrorist combatants who were killed.

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