A Jewish American who immigrated to Israel asks why refugees can’t


Journalist and author of 'The Unchosen,' Mya Guarnieri Jaradat. (Courtesy)


When Mya Guarnieri Jaradat arrived in Israel 10 years ago from the United States, she was supposed to have come on a one-year trip to complete her master’s thesis. Like so many others, she prolonged her stay. But what made her expatriation in the Jewish state unique were the motivations behind it.

There were two issues that caused her to prolong her initial educational and cultural sojourn: a love of Hebrew and commitment to learning it fluently, and the desire to work with the state’s marginalized communities in south Tel Aviv.

Jaradat began her work primarily with migrant workers from southeast Asian countries such as Thailand or the Philippines, as well as African asylum seekers from countries including Eritrea and South Sudan. Her initial observation was that there was massive poverty among these communities. But Jaradat also began to witness how most of the people she spoke with also had few legal, civic or labor rights.

What started off as volunteer work soon transitioned into journalism, which led Jaradat on the path to eventually becoming an Israeli citizen.

“As soon as I took on Israeli citizenship, I felt a strong sense of responsibility for what the Jewish state was doing in my name,” says Jaradat.

African asylum seekers protest on on January 26, 2017 near Jerusalem's Supreme Court against the new 'Rwanda or Saharonim' policy of the Israeli government. (Yonatan Sindel/Flash90)

Jaradat has continued working as a journalist, covering Israel, the West Bank and Gaza in a wide host of publications around the globe, including The Nation, The New York Times, the Guardian, the BBC, the far-left Israeli blog +972, and Al Jazeera.

The outspoken Jewish-American reporter claims that Israel’s policy on migrant workers and asylum seekers is shaped by what she calls a paradoxical double-sided contradiction “to maintain a particular demographic balance necessary for the state to be both ‘Jewish and democratic.’”

'The Unchosen.' (Courtesy)

“What you see in Israel is this attempt to uphold hegemony of a particular group,” Jaradat says from her home in Florida, where she is currently based.

“And so if you are not in that group — if you are not Jewish — then the state is going to be in conflict with you on some level, ” she adds.

This topic is the main theme of “The Unchosen: The Lives of Israel’s New Others,” which Jaradat recently published via the self-described “radical” Pluto Press, in both the US and the UK.

Avoiding jargon and academic theory on the subject, the book focuses instead on giving voices to the migrants and asylum seekers themselves through in-depth interviews that take the reader into a seldom-seen world — one even most Israelis don’t know exists.

She visits, for instance, overcrowded black-market kindergartens in south Tel Aviv, where she describes how toddlers are left crying for hours on their own in unhygienic conditions. In another chapter we get descriptions of middle-of-the-night raids by Israeli immigration police — whom she accuses of intimidating members of the Filipino community — to deport them with quick succession.

A Tel Aviv kindergarten used by children of migrants and foreign workers suffered damage from a Molotov cocktail Friday (photo credit: Tomer Neuberg/Flash90)

Jaradat says a recent reading of Israeli history is required to understand why the state — in regard to both African asylum seekers and migrant workers — currently operates the labor and migration policies it does.

Primarily, she says, this issue ties in with the fate of the Palestinians.

Palestinians once constituted nearly 10 percent of the Israeli work force. When the First Intifada began in 1987, for example, almost half of Israel’s construction workers were Palestinian, as were 45% of agricultural laborers. But with increased distrust between the two peoples in the aftermath of the intifada, the 1990s saw Israel make a transition to foreign workers instead.

Palestinians laboPalestinian laborers ride a Palestinian-only bus en route to the West Bank from working in Tel Aviv area, Israel, Monday, March 4, 2013. (photo credit: AP/Ariel Schalitrers ride a Palestinian-only bus on route to the West Bank from working in Tel Aviv area, Israel, Monday, March 4, 2013. (photo credit: AP/Ariel Schalit)

“Israel was once dependent on Palestinian day laborers,” Jaradat says.

As Israel implemented and tightened movement restrictions on Palestinians, it needed to find a group to substitute for these people that were crucial to different sectors of the economy. So the state began to bring migrant workers to replace Palestinians, claims Jaradat.

“With a large pool of inexpensive laborers in the country, Israel doesn’t need Palestinian day laborers anymore. The state can effectively lock the Palestinians behind the wall without feeling the economic consequences they would have felt when they were dependent on Palestinian day laborers, before they had migrant workers,” she says.

Chinese foreign workers cook in a Tel Aviv restaurant, 2008. (photo credit: Moshe Shai/Flash90)

“Now, there are no economic consequences to shutting Palestinians out and, further, granting work permits to Palestinians can function as a reward — a carrot and stick, if you will — rather than as something crucial that meets the Israeli need for laborers,” Jaradat adds.

Jaradat says it’s also worth noting that “it’s easier for a Palestinian day laborer to obtain a permit to work in a settlement than it is inside of Israel proper, so the presence of migrant workers inside the Green Line helped the state channel the Palestinian day laborers towards the settlements.”

Palestinian laborers work at a construction site in a new housing project in the Israeli settlement of Maale Adumim, near Jerusalem, February 7, 2017. (AP Photo/Oded Balilty)

The journalist claims the treatment of asylum seekers also bears a resemblance to that experienced by Palestinians — notably in subjecting both groups to detention without trial.

“I guess [one of the main concerns of this book] is about that contradiction between trying to maintain a certain demographic and being democratic at the same time,” says Jaradat.

‘This isn’t exclusive to Israel, but I’m using Israel as a case study’

“This isn’t exclusive to Israel,” Jaradat says. “But I’m using Israel as a case study of what happens when a nation is trying to uphold hegemony of a particular group. Looking at those two groups [migrant workers and African asylum seekers] is a way of getting at the question: Can the state maintain hegemony of a certain group and be democratic at the same time?”

And with regards to possible security concerns influencing Israel’s policy towards migrant workers and African asylum seekers, Jaradat claims “ there are none.”

“The state’s concern is about maintaining Jewish demographic and cultural hegemony,” she insists.

Jaradat’s book also spends a chapter looking at how loose labor laws in the Knesset are inextricably linked to a culture of companies — across Israel — making an easy buck.

A spectrum of Israeli society including Israelis, refugees, and migrant workers, stand at a bus stop in South Tel Aviv. May 12 2011. (Photo by Nicky Kelvin/Flash90)

The journalist points out, for instance, that while Israel’s treatment of non-Jews is rooted primarily in demographic concerns, there are business interests representing the construction and agricultural sectors that affects public policy on this issue, too. Israeli manpower agencies have huge sway especially, Jaradat says.

“The workers pay a fee to the manpower agencies,” she explains. “And therefore a worker who stays on in the state and who doesn’t change jobs isn’t going to pay a fee. So it’s more profitable for the manpower agency to be always bringing in new workers.”

These agencies have aggressively lobbied for the Israeli government to set higher quotas of migrant workers, using bribes to officials in key ministries as one major means of achieving this, Jaradat claims.

Referencing a term used by anthropologist Barak Kalir, who has also written on labor migration in Israel, Jaradat refers to what is known as “the revolving door.” The Israeli government brings in new workers with one hand, and deports existing and older workers with the other.

The two big winners here are the state and the manpower agencies. The state doesn’t have to worry about legislating new laws on migration, and the manpower agencies make huge profits in return.

“Where this issue gets really interesting is when you bring the asylum seekers into that conversation,” Jaradat says. “Because here is a group of people — currently 40,000 in Israel — who cannot be deported legally.”

‘Where this issue gets really interesting is when you bring the asylum seekers into that conversation’

A lot of these asylum seekers are not willing to voluntarily repatriate because they cannot go back to their home countries, says Jaradat.

“These African asylum seekers are stuck in this legal limbo, so why not give a job to them rather than bringing in workers from overseas? That’s where you see the role that profit plays in all of this,” she says.

The reason that both asylum seekers and migrant workers are being exploited so consistently by both the Israeli state and by private business groups, is primarily because there is no legislation protecting them, Jaradat says.

Any laws that do deal with migration in Israel, she says, are “centered on privileging Jewish immigration, while stopping other groups from coming into the country.”

African refugees sit behind a border fence after they attempted to cross illegally from Egypt into Israel as Israeli soldiers stand guard near the border with Egypt, in southern Israel, on September 4, 2012. (photo credit: AP/Ariel Schalit, File)

The journalist cites two examples. One is the Law of Return, passed in 1950, which ensures that any Jew in the world has the right to return and live in Israel as an oleh, a new immigrant. The second is the Citizenship and Entry into Israel Law — a temporary law passed in 2003, and amended several times since — which prohibits, among other ethnic groups and nationalities, the granting of any residency or citizenship status to Palestinians from over the Green Line who are married to Israeli citizens or permanent residents.

“Israel cannot pretend that non-Jews don’t exist, and that they won’t come to the country,” says Jaradat.

“It’s not sustainable to bring migrant workers, then to open one-time windows to their children while deporting some and naturalizing others. Israel needs to deal with this issue in a more humane and practical way,” she adds.

Asylum seeker Jacob Barry seen together with other representatives of the African refugee debate, seen at a discussion regarding the Immigration Authority policy towards asylum seekers and the impact on the business sector, at a meeting of the Committee on Foreign Workers, in the Israeli parliament on January 15, 2014 (photo credit: Flash90)

Another way that Israel has tried to legally deal with the issue of migrants and asylum seekers is through a government initiative called voluntary departure. This is a voluntary scheme which encourages mainly Eritreans and Sudanese asylum seekers from Israel to head to other so-called “third countries.”

Jaradat points out that many of these voluntary departures — where the Israeli government sometimes offers a cash incentive of $3,500 up front — have resulted in African asylum seekers ending up in countries like Uganda, Rwanda and Libya. Often facing considerable risk and danger.

‘I take issue with the term voluntary departure… you can either go to jail, or back to a third country’

“I take issue with the term ‘voluntary departure,’” says Jaradat. “What is really happening is that you are in a state that is depriving you of your rights and that is keeping you in legal limbo. So the state says, you can either go to jail, or we will send you back to a third country.”

“I think when Israel began deporting South Sudanese citizens, they were trying to make an example of this group and using it as a threat to the other groups, saying, ‘You have two choices: you can deport yourself voluntarily, and take the little cash incentive. Or, we are just going to deport you anyway.’ So that naturally put pressure on other groups watching the South Sundanese being deported,” Jaradat says.

While most of her book focuses almost exclusively on the rights of migrant workers and asylum seekers, the narrative is a personal journey of sorts, too — Jaradat fell in love and married a Palestinian man while living in Israel.

Illustrative: a social experiment in which actors dressed up as a Jewish/Muslim couple. (YouTube screen cap)

The journalist says Israel’s varied political and social policies, and attitudes towards Arabs — on both sides of the Green Line — in general, eventually led her and her husband to leave the country. Both chose to settle in the United States instead, where they currently reside.

“I do feel there is something incorrect about having to get married outside of Israel. My husband is a native, an indigenous Palestinian,” says Jaradat, “and according to the State of Israel, I am a returnee.”

“We had to leave Israel to live together. He is a native of the land. And then there is me who is supposed to have all of this privilege under the Jewish state,” she says.

“Well, if you step out of line and marry a non-Jew, there goes your privilege,” she says.


Trump asks Colombia’s help to end Venezuela political crisis

WASHINGTON — President Donald Trump said Thursday that he intends to work closely with his Colombian counterpart to find a solution to spiraling violence in Venezuela.

Sitting side by side with President Juan Manuel Santos in the Oval Office, Trump said he will seek Colombia’s help in pressuring neighboring Venezuela to address the near-daily protests and violence that have shaken President Nicolas Maduro’s grip on power.

At least 40 people have been killed and hundreds injured in protests that erupted after Venezuela’s supreme court issued a ruling in late March stripping the opposition-controlled National Assembly of its last remaining powers. The ruling was later partially reversed amid a storm of international criticism.

The meeting came as the Trump administration rolled out new sanctions Thursday on members of Venezuela’s supreme court for alleged human rights violations.

“A stable and peaceful Venezuela is in the best interest of the entire hemisphere,” Trump said at a joint news conference. “We will be working with Colombia and other countries on the Venezuela problem. It is a very, very horrible problem.”

Driving the latest outrage is a decree by Maduro to begin the process of rewriting Venezuela’s constitution. The opposition rejects that plan as another attempt by the president to tighten his grip on power, and opposition leaders are calling on Venezuelans to continue to take to the streets in protest.

Santos is the third Latin American leader to meet with Trump since he took office, after the leaders of Peru and Argentina. The president’s bullish policies toward illegal immigration and his proposed border wall with Mexico have incensed many across Latin America who say they are being unfairly targeted. The dispute led Mexico’s President Enrique Pena Nieto to cancel his trip to Washington weeks after Trump took office.

Santos has been among the critics of Trump’s proposed wall, though he avoided outwardly criticizing the plan during their joint remarks.

Trump defended his proposed border wall Thursday, saying, “Walls work, just ask Israel.”

Santos is looking for Trump’s support on a number of domestic issues. His government signed a peace accord last year with the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia, or FARC, ending one of the world’s bloodiest and longest-running armed conflicts. The rebel group agreed to turn over 30 percent of its arsenal of assault rifles, machine guns and explosives.


The Trump administration is also looking to work with Colombia to stem the flow of drugs into the U.S. from Latin America. “We have a problem with drugs, and you have a very big problem with drugs,” Trump said to Santos at the start of their meeting.

Santos said he is committed to working with the United States and other countries in Latin America “to fight the other links in the chain,” saying they will join forces to “seize cocaine in transit.”

Santos is a graduate of the University of Kansas and holds a master’s degree from Harvard University.

Curt Schilling asks CNN’s Jake Tapper (Kike) why Jews back Democrats


(JTA) — Former All-Star pitcher Curt Schilling is in political hot water even before his political career has begun after he pressed a Jewish CNN anchor to explain why so many Jews support the Democratic Party.

Schilling, who is registered as an Independent, appeared Friday with CNN’s Jake Tapper on his “The Lead” program, during which he announced that he is considering a 2018 Senate bid in Massachusetts as a Republican to unseat Democrat Elizabeth Warren. Schilling is an outspoken supporter of Republican presidential candidate Donald Trump.

“I would like to ask you something as a person who is practicing the Jewish faith and has since you were young. I don’t understand — and this is, maybe this is the amateur, non-politician in me — I don’t understand how people of Jewish faith can back the Democratic Party, which over the last 50 years has been so clearly anti-Israel, so clearly anti-Jewish Israel,” Schilling said.

“I don’t know what else would need to be done, said or happen for people to understand that they don’t — the Democratic Party is aligned for Israel only because we have agreements in place to make them have to be.”

Tapper responded that he does not speak for Jews and that he does not support a particular political party, but guessed that perhaps “one of the reasons many Jews are Democrats has more to do with Democrats’ support for social welfare programs and that sort of thing than it does for Israel.”

“That’s fair,” Schilling replied.

“And I know a lot of Jews who are very strong supporters of Israel do support the Republican Party, but again, I don’t speak for Jews,” said Tapper, who also said he does not vote in elections that he covers.

“Right, no, I know you don’t. I just always find it a great conversation for somebody of your faith to — because I want to understand the reason behind some of those things, so I appreciate that,” Schilling said.

Schilling later the same day defended his question to Tapper in an interview with MSNBC’s Chris Matthews on “Hardball.”

“I’m apparently an anti-Semite, because I had the gall and the audacity to ask someone of the Jewish faith why or how they believe people of Jewish faith vote Democrat,” he said. “God forbid I listen to someone of the faith, rather than the media, who clearly are not biased and don’t have an agenda.”

“I don’t need Chris Matthews to tell me why people of Jewish faith vote the way they do,” he said. “And I don’t have a problem asking people questions like that, because I’m not trying to be offensive or racist.”

Matthews responded that it may not be the best idea to “ask a person of a religious faith or a race to speak for that religious group and ask them to sort of account for it.”

Last year, Schilling was temporarily suspended by ESPN, where he worked as a live game analyst, for tweeting a meme that showed an image of Hitler against a dark blood-red background that compared modern Muslims to the German population under Hitler. Schilling deleted the tweet shortly after posting it.

“It’s said that only 5-10% of Muslims are extremists,” the graphic read. “In 1940, only 7% of Germans were Nazis. How’d that go?”

Schilling added in his own accompanying text: “The math is staggering when you get to true #’s.”

Earlier this year, ESPN ultimately fired him for a Facebook post that mocked transgender people.

Schilling played 19 seasons for five teams and won World Series championships with the Arizona Diamondbacks in 2001 and the Boston Red Sox in 2004 and 2007. He was a six-time All-Star and has the best postseason record of all-time for a pitcher with at least 10 playoff decisions.

Member of School Board Asks Muslims 1 Question… Immediately All Hell Breaks Loose

When Chesapeake School Board Chairwoman Christie New Craig shared a provocative political cartoon to her personal Facebook page last month, Muslims in her state of Virginia immediately used it as an opportunity to complain about racism, discrimination and Islamophobia.

“Muslims hate pork, beer, dogs, bikinis, Jesus, and freedom of speech,” the cartoon read. “My question is, what the hell do they come to America for?!”

When questioned by reporters at The Virginian-Pilot, Craig maintained that she did not share the cartoon “maliciously.”
“I merely shared it,” she told WAVY-TV. “I did not make a comment, and I’m just shocked with everything going on in our country — police officers are losing their lives, people are homeless and people don’t have jobs — that a political cartoon would cause this much stir.”

And yet it created so much controversy that the Council on American-Islamic Relations accused Craig of propagating “anti-Muslim bigotry” and demanded that school board members investigate her post.

“Only by addressing this issue can the board uphold its stated commitment ‘to the principle of equal opportunity for all and does not permit discrimination or harassment on the basis of race, color, national origin, religion, sex, age, disability, military or veteran status, genetic information, or any other characteristic protected by applicable law,’” the council wrote.

Furthermore, M’hammed Abdous, president of the Muslim Community of Tidewater, questioned the accuracy of the cartoon and asked Craig to apologize for sharing it.

Craig did eventually apologize, though she made it abundantly clear that this was the furthest she was willing to go — that she would not resign.

Craig clearly never once discriminated against anyone. She simply shared a political cartoon or meme on her private Facebook account.
Judging by the way local Muslims responded to her innocuous post, however, it is clear that the cartoon was 100 percent right about one thing: Muslims really do hate freedom of speech.

Japan Asks U.S. To Stop Military-Related Rapes And Deaths

Japan has formally asked the U.S. to end all military-related rapes, deaths and other violence in their country.

The Japanese Prime Minister said that he has “no words to express” his horror at an incident involving the disappearance of a Japanese woman, and the involvement of an American working on a U.S. military base who was arrested in connection with her disappearance. reports:

The Japanese leader told the public that he urged the U.S. to “take thorough measures to prevent the recurrence” of any similar events in the future.

It’s alleged that there is increasing discontent in the region as anti-U.S. Military sentiment grows in Okinawa and other areas. Locals are allegedly upset over a heavy troop presence there and there are repeated instances of claims regarding violent encounters between American military personnel and locals.

The Defense Department has said that the man arrested in regards to the recent disappearance of the woman, was a U.S. military contractor and their spokesman, Peter Cook, extended his apologies over the tragedy. For now, Okinawa is home to roughly 50,000 American troops who are based in Japan, and it is alleged that there are many complaints over noise and crime that are in relation to the U.S. bases.

A large rally is expected to be held in Okinawa to protest the latest crime involving the disappearance of the woman. The organizers include local political parties, businesses, citizen groups, and others. It is expected that the rally will be held next month.
This recent incident has stirred-up past memories for locals there that remember when a 12-year-old schoolgirl in Okinawa was raped by three U.S. servicemen. Following that incident there was a protest of roughly 85,000 people back in 1995.

The former U.S. marine that was arrested last week, Kenneth Franklin Shinzato, is alleged to have dumped the body of Rina Shimabukuro, a 20-year-old office worker. It is expected that the Okinawa Governor, Takeshi Onaga, will likely attend the upcoming rally. It has been claimed that there are at least 30 different groups involved in organizing the upcoming rally.

When it comes to the endless number of U.S. bases overseas, former Congressman and veteran Ron Paul recommends a different foreign policy approach to the norm, he suggests that the U.S. should stop spending trillions of dollars maintaining the empire. He suggests that the U.S. should close its military bases around the world and focus on its own people at home.

“Why are we in Korea? We’ve been there since I’ve been in high school, why are we in Japan? We’ve been there since WW2, why are we in Germany, subsidizing their welfare state by paying for their defense by staying in Germany? And why are we in five wars in the Middle East?… We’re less safe because of this, we’re going broke, and it undermines our national security, there’s no economic or military advantage to be so involved…” he says.

And after trillions of dollars spent and thousands of lives lost, what has really been achieved? Besides the many civil liberties that have been eroded, when is it time to consider a different approach; one that doesn’t tarnish the economy, tens of thousands of families and individuals, and the reputation of a nation?

But with so many who have a vested interest in the continuation of the war machine, it isn’t likely that we will see the topic of peace trending very much in the future.

New documentary asks if we’re ready to laugh at the Holocaust

NEW YORK (JTA) — In “The Last Laugh,” a new documentary about humor and the Holocaust (you read that right), the comedian Judy Gold tells this joke: If the Nazis forced her to stand naked on a line with other women, would she hold her stomach in?

How you, or anybody, feels about a joke like that is the point of the documentary, which includes interviews with a slew of mostly Jewish comedians and a cinema verite portrait of an elderly Los Angeles-area survivor, Renee Firestone, who seems to have lived through the Holocaust with her sense of humor largely intact.

“The Last Laugh,” which was a feature documentary at this month’s Tribeca Film Festival in Manhattan, is a hybrid in other ways as well. Director Ferne Pearlstein wanted to explore not only the limits of humor and free speech today, but how Shoah victims and survivors used humor as a salve, defense mechanism and weapon despite their powerlessness.

At a Nevada survivors’ convention filmed in the incongruous setting of The Venetian resort in Las Vegas, one survivor recalls how his fellow concentration camp inmates would mock the SS guards’ latest orders. Contemporary footage shot at the Theresienstadt concentration camp shows inmates performing comic skits and a children’s opera with apparent gusto. We now know that the Nazis allowed these theatricals for their own propaganda purposes, and that many of the performers were subsequently murdered at Auschwitz. But survivors tell of the relief, however temporary, provided by the performances.

“You have to remember, these were people who were living their lives,” Pearlstein, who co-wrote the film with her husband, Robert Edwards, said in an interview last week. “They didn’t think, ‘I am going to die.’ They still might have made a joke because they were living their lives.”

READ: Hollywood is not the first to reflect humor amid the horrors of Holocaust

In some ways, the uses to which survivors put humor gave permission to the comedians, most of them Jews, who spun Holocaust-related jokes even in its immediate aftermath. Mel Brooks, a frequent talking head in the film, reminisces about his days at the Borscht Belt hotels in New York’s Catskill Mountains soon after the war had ended.

“I got a lot of laughs with Hitler,” he says, calling it his revenge on the Nazis. He’d go on to make the 1968 movie “The Producers,” which stunned audiences with its chorus-line Nazis and prancing Hitler. The shock had largely warn off by the time “The Producers” had become a hit Broadway musical in 2001, perhaps proving Steve Allen’s famed formula, “Tragedy plus time equals comedy.”

Yet “The Producers” also illustrates a key point in the film: Making fun of the Nazis is OK, making fun of the Holocaust not so much. Actor Robert Clary, the French-born Buchenwald survivor who played Corporal LeBeau in the 1960s sitcom “Hogan’s Heroes,” is asked how he could have appeared in a comedy set in the kind of camp where 12 of his immediate family members were murdered. He points out that the show was set in a POW camp, not a concentration camp.

But even though Brooks insists “I don’t give a s–t what’s in good taste,” even he has his limits. The film delves into the controversy that brewed after the late Joan Rivers said of the supermodel Heidi Klum, “The last time a German looked this hot was when they were pushing Jews into the ovens.” Abe Foxman, the former head of the Anti-Defamation League and himself a child survivor, complains in an interview that Rivers’ joke trivializes the Holocaust. Even Brooks says of the joke, “I can’t go there.”

But as tasteless as it may be, the Rivers joke ridiculed Germans, not their Jewish victims – all but saying that 70 years after the Holocaust, the German people can’t escape their guilt or culpability.

In fact, few of the jokes in “The Last Laugh” are as tasteless or transgressive as some commentators in the film suggest. Larry David’s “survivor” episode from “Curb Your Enthusiasm,” the “Soup Nazi” gag from “Seinfeld,” a Louis C.K. bit about auditions for “Schindler’s List” or Ricky Gervais’ Anne Frank jokes — none carries the shock of a single utterance of, say, the “N-word.”

Even Gold’s joke, which she tells almost apologetically, is not a joke about Holocaust victims but her own vanity.

READ: Hitler, funny? Jewish director says yes

Of all the comics heard in “The Last Laugh,” only Sarah Silverman seems to come close to violating taboos. In a bit from her 2005 concert film “Jesus is Magic,” Silverman recounts how her “Jewy” niece referred to the “60 million” who died in the Holocaust. When Silverman says the correct number is 6 million, the niece asks what the difference is.

“Because 60 million would be unforgivable, young lady,” Silverman replies.

To appreciate Silverman’s joke, you have to be familiar with her faux naive persona – the bigot too self-involved to realize she is a bigot. Renee Firestone, the survivor, is clearly not on her wavelength. In one scene she is shown watching Silverman on YouTube.

“I don’t think this is funny,” she says.

Pearlstein recalls the moment as one of the most uncomfortable during their weeks of filming.

“Renee is so resilient,” the director says. “She uses her sense of humor to get through things, but she doesn’t think everything is funny. That makes her a perfect guide for that reason.”

Including Firestone’s story “lets us remember what we’re laughing at,” Pearlstein says.

But “The Last Laugh” doesn’t bestow or withhold permission as to what an audience should and shouldn’t find funny. If Foxman, the arbiter of anti-Semitism, comes across as a bit of a killjoy in the documentary, that’s because it is at heart a comedian’s movie, and Holocaust humor is understood on their terms. Comedians have one obligation and one obligation only, they insist: to make people laugh.

The last word, spoken early in the film, belongs to Gold, who declares, “It’s all about the funny.”

Lebanon asks France to resolve sea spat with Israel

The speaker of Lebanon’s parliament on Saturday asked visiting French President Francois Hollande for help in demarcating the maritime border with Israel, amid warnings a dispute over a resource-rich patch of sea could lead to war.

Parliament speaker Nabih Berri said Israel was laying claim to a patch of sea thought to contain to contain rich offshore gas and oil fields that Lebanon also considers part of its exclusive economic zone, the Lebanese Naharnet reported, citing Arabic daily al-Hayat.

“Israel is claiming part of the EEZ as its own when in fact we have evidence of the contrary,” Berri told Hollande, who was in Lebanon for a two-day visit at the start of four days of meetings in the region.

“This dispute is hindering our efforts to invest in our oil and gas wealth,” he lamented.

A parliamentary source cited by Naharnet said the tiff could widen into a larger conflict.

“This is a problem that Israel is creating and it may spark a war,” the source said.

An EEZ is an region of sea in which, under UN convention, a country has the right to develop maritime resources.

According to the report, the area in question consists of over 850 square kilometers (323 square miles) of territorial water.

Beirut claims a maritime map it submitted to the United Nations matches an armistice accord with Israel from 1949 that is not contested by Israel.

In 2014, Berri made a similar appeal to US Secretary of State John Kerryduring a visit to Lebanon, calling on the US to continue its efforts to resolve the dispute with Israel.

According to a US Geological Survey in 2010, the field may contain up to 123 trillion cubic feet of gas and 1.7 billion barrels of oil.

Lebanon, a resource-poor nation, is relying on the drilling site to provide the government with the means of paying off its mounting high debts.

In 2014 the then Lebanese energy minister, Gebran Bassil, announced that his country planned to conduct its first ever oil exploration drilling within the next few months. However, the US asked Lebanese officials to hold off on drilling in disputed waters until a final deal on borders was reached.

The Mediterranean Sea has become a new frontier of energy exploration with foreign investment lured in to prospect via deep-water drilling.

The Leviathan natural gas field, which is located about 80 miles off Israel’s coastline, contains 17 trillion cubic feet of natural gas.

Its detection in 2010 was one of the world’s biggest offshore discoveries in a decade. Developing the field has been dependent on the approval of a controversial agreement with an Israeli-US consortium that has faced persistent opposition from critics who say it gives away too much to the developers.

US asks Security Council to meet on Iran missile tests

The United States has asked the UN Security Council to discuss Iran’s recent ballistic missile launches during a meeting on Monday, the US ambassador said.

The United States is “deeply concerned” about the missile tests “which are provocative and destabilizing,” Samantha Power said in a statement on Friday.

Iran fired two long-range ballistic missiles on Wednesday and similar tests were carried out on Tuesday, less than two months after the Iran nuclear deal was implemented.

Power said Iranian military leaders had claimed that the missiles were designed to be a direct threat to Israel and added: “We condemn such threats against another UN member-state and one of our closest allies.”

President Reuven Rivlin meets with United States Ambassador to the United Nations Samantha Power at the president's residence in Jerusalem on February 15, 2016. (Kobi Gideon / GPO)

Under the nuclear deal with Iran that came into force January 16, most sanctions resolutions against Tehran were annulled.

But an arms embargo and restrictions on ballistic missile technology capable of carrying a nuclear warhead remain in place, under Resolution 2231.

Iran has maintained that its missile program is not aimed at developing a nuclear capability.

“We will raise these dangerous launches directly at council consultations, which we have called for, on Monday,” said Power.

“These launches underscore the need to work with partners around the world to slow and degrade Iran’s missile program,” she added.

On Wednesday, Iran fired two Qadr-H and Qadr-F precision missiles fired from launcher trucks tucked in a mountain range in northern Iran, hitting targets about 1,400 kilometers (870 miles) away in the southeastern Makran area, Iran’s Revolutionary Guards said.

A day earlier, state media announced that short-, medium- and long-range precision guided missiles were fired from several sites to show the country’s “all-out readiness to confront threats”.

Ammon Bundy asks remaining Oregon militants to ‘stand down’

The leader of the month-long armed occupation of a federal wildlife refuge in Oregon urged remaining protesters on Wednesday to leave the site and go home, a day after his arrest and the death of a supporter.

“To those remaining at the refuge, I love you. Let us take this fight from here. Please stand down. Please stand down. Go home and hug your families. … Please go home,” Ammon Bundy said in a statement through his attorney read to the media following a court hearing.

One protester who remained at the refuge following Bundy’s arrest on Tuesday told Reuters by phone that some of the protesters were leaving the refuge through checkpoints set up by authorities, but rejected the word “surrender.”

“I don’t know what surrendering looks like,” Jason Patrick said. “They’re walking through the checkpoint and going home. That’s what I’ve heard unless I’m being lied to.”

Patrick added: “It’s getting emptier over time, some people leaving, some people still there holding onto what they’re holding onto.”

Law enforcement surrounded the refuge and blocked off access roads on Tuesday evening, after Bundy and his group were taken into custody at a traffic stop along Highway 395.

Citing the investigation, authorities declined to say what led to the fatal shooting of one member of Bundy’s group, identified by activists as Robert LaVoy Finicum, a rancher who acted as a spokesman for the occupiers. Bundy’s brother, Ryan, was wounded in the incident.

The arrested protesters were each charged in U.S. District Court in Portland with conspiracy to use force, intimidation or threats to impede federal officers from discharging their duties.

During a brief hearing on Wednesday afternoon, the defendants were ordered held without bail until a detention hearing set for Friday.

Netanyahu asks US to help Israel avoid war crime charges

WASHINGTON — Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu asked US lawmakers Wednesday to help fend off Palestinian claims that his country engaged in “war crimes” while defending itself against attacks from Gaza, one top lawmaker told The Post.

The Israeli leader later told international reporters that his country employed “extraordinary measures” to avoid civilian deaths in the nearly month-long conflict.

As a ceasefire between Israel and Hamas held for a third day, Netanyahu met with a group of US legislators, including Rep. Steve Israel (D-LI,) to discuss the country’s tense security situation and some fissures in US-Israel relations.

Netanyahu asked the delegation to help Israel stay out of the International Criminal Court, where its attacks on Gaza could come under scrutiny — even while responding to Hamas rockets fired at Israeli urban centers.

Palestinian leaders are getting ready to join the ICC, and met with officials in The Hague recently to discuss the implications of joining.

“The prime minister asked us to work together to ensure that this strategy of going to the ICC does not succeed,” Rep. Israel told The Post by phone from Tel Aviv.

Netanyahu “wants the US to use all the tools that we have at our disposal to, number one, make sure the world knows that war crimes were not committed by Israel, they were committed by Hamas. And that Israel should not be held to a double standard,” the congressman said.

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Palestinians sit amid the ruins of destroyed homes in the Shejaia neighborhood of Gaza City, which witnesses said was heavily hit by Israeli shelling and airstrikes.Photo: Reuters

“It’s Hamas that embedded its rockets in hospitals and in homes,” he added. “And now there are some in the international community who want to investigate the Israelis for the war crime of simply defending themselves.”

Netanyahu blamed Hamas for the civilian deaths, saying the group intentionally used innocent people as human shields — and showed a video to international journalists to prove the point.

“Let’s imagine your country attacked by 3,500 rockets,” Netanyahu said at a news conference.

“Your territories infiltrated by death squads. What would you do? What would you demand your government do to protect you and your family? What if the rockets are fired from civilian areas? Should you then not take action?”

Netanyahu also criticized Hamas for not agreeing sooner to the ceasefire now in effect.

“Ninety percent of the fatalities could have been avoided had Hamas not rejected the ceasefire it accepts now,” he said.

“We have taken extraordinary measures to avoid civilian casualties.”

His assessment came as news surfaced that the West Bank kidnapping and killing of three Israeli teens in June was funded by Hamas.

According to the Times of Israel, the alleged ringleader of the terror cell behind the deaths told authorities that Hamas operatives in Gaza funded the operation.

The discovery of the bodies, and an apparent revenge attack, sparked days of unrest, which prompted Israel to launch its operations to destroy a network of cross-border attack tunnels.

President Oba­ma said he had “no sympathy” for Hamas and that Israel needs assurances there will be no repeat of the rocket attacks, but indicated Israel should make long-term concessions.

The two sides agreed to a 72-hour truce Monday — and Israel said it was prepared to extend it. Hamas officials said they’d agree to an extension only if progress is made in negotiations being held in Cairo.

Nearly 1,900 Palestinians have been killed in the fighting, with Gaza officials saying three-quarters of the dead were civilians.

Israel says some 900 Hamas militants were among the dead. Sixty-four Israeli soldiers and three civilians inside Israel have also been killed.