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Weekly roundup of world briefs from JTA

 

August 11, 2017



Supreme Court orders Netanyahu to release some details of Sheldon Adelson calls

JERUSALEM (JTA)—Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu must disclose the dates and lengths of the phone conversations he had with billionaire American Sheldon Adelson, publisher of the pro-Netanyahu daily newspaper Israel Hayom.

The Supreme Court ruling on Monday was a response to an appeal filed by a reporter for Israel’s Channel 10 and overturns a Jerusalem Magistrate’s Court decision in 2016. The Magistrate’s Court ruling had overturned a decision calling for the release of the material in 2015 by the Jerusalem District Court.

The reporter, Raviv Drucker, has requested the material under Israel’s Freedom of Information Law, calling the information of public interest.

“There is a clear public interest in exposing the nature and strength of the relationship” between Adelson and Netanyahu, Justice Menachem Mazuz said in his decision, Channel 10 reported.

Channel 10 noted that the release is not a violation of privacy, since the requested information does not relate to the content of the talks but rather to when they took place.

Netanyahu must transfer the call log to Channel 10 and Drucker within 15 days.

Adelson, a casino magnate, and his wife during recent visits to Israel have been questioned twice by police investigators in corruption scandals that allegedly involve Netanyahu. Police have assured the couple that they are not suspects in one of the probes.

Part of the investigation includes accusations that Netanyahu and Arnon Mozes, publisher of the daily Yediot Acharanot, discussed a deal in which Netanyahu would receive favorable coverage in Yediot in exchange for legislation that would cut into the circulation of Adelson’s free paper.

In recordings obtained by police of Netanyahu and Mozes discussing such a deal, they referred to Adelson as the “gingy,” or redhead. Investigators reportedly have asked if Adelson was aware of the deal.

Miriam Adelson reportedly deals with the couple’s Israeli affairs, including the newspaper. The Adelsons and Netanyahus are considered to be close friends.

A T-shirt company tried to reclaim the swastika as a peaceful symbol. It didn’t go so well.

(JTA)—An American company is facing criticism for marketing T-shirts that frame the swastika as a symbol of “love” and “life.”

KA Designs was selling the shirts, which feature white swastikas on a rainbow-colored background with the words “peace” or “zen,” on the U.S.-based clothing company Teespring’s website.

Before the Nazis tainted the swastika by using it as their official symbol during World War II, it had been—and remains—a religious icon in Buddhism, Hinduism and Jainism for thousands of years.

The Auschwitz-Birkenau Memorial and Museum and the Simon Wiesenthal Center slammed the shirts.

Andrew Anglin, founder of the neo-Nazi Daily Stormer site, praised the design.

“I want to say that I am in 100% support of the rebranding of the Swastika as a symbol of love,” Anglin said.

KA Designs released its own statement on the controversy.

“The new meanings given to ‘our Swastika’ wouldn’t make any sense if not based on the previous ones. We want to promote love and peace to remind everyone that mankind can be better that what it currently is and was in the past,” the statement read.

By Monday, Teespring had removed the shirts from its site, The Times of Israel reported.

However, The Jerusalem Post pointed out Monday that Teespring was still offering clothing that referenced or painted Nazis in a positive light, such as shirts that said things such as “Hitler did nothing wrong ever” and “We’re all Hitler now.”

“Teespring’s lack of sensitivity on these issues is repulsive and the company’s obvious goal is to shock people and reap the possible financial rewards, under the guise of their supposed creativity,” Ephraim Zuroff, head of the Simon Wiesenthal Center, told The Jerusalem Post.

Ramah camp in the Rockies evacuated due to early-morning fire

(JTA)—An early-morning fire caused the evacuation of the Ramah in the Rockies summer camp and destroyed the building housing the camp kitchen, dining hall and administrative offices.

No one was hurt in the blaze, which started at 2 a.m Monday and spread to some nearby trees. The camp’s executive director, Rabbi Eliav Bock, noted the damages in a message posted on Facebook.

Local firefighters quickly brought the fire under control, according to the newspaper. The cause has yet to be determined.

The campers and staff were relocated to a field far from the fire, where they played games and sang while under close supervision, according to the post. They then boarded a bus to a synagogue in Denver, where volunteers provided them with food.

There were about 130 campers in the area when the fire broke out, the Denver Post reported.

“The immediate implementation of emergency protocols resulted in a calm and quick camp evacuation,” the statement said. “Camp leaders also retrieved Torah scrolls and other important items, and all animals were released to safe areas away from the fire.”

The camp said it is working on a plan for the last week of camp, which could include relocating to a nearby camp or returning to Ramah in the Rockies with a mobile kitchen.

Jordan’s King Abdullah makes rare visit to Ramallah in West Bank

JERUSALEM (JTA)—Jordan’s King Abdullah visited Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas in Ramallah for the first time in nearly five years.

The two leaders in their West Bank meeting reportedly discussed President Donald Trump and the peace process, as well as the recent crisis over the Temple Mount.

Abdullah has not visited Ramallah, the capital of the Palestinian Authority, since December 2012.

Abdullah reportedly told Abbas that Trump is committed to brokering peace between Israel and the Palestinians, and “stressed the importance of intensifying efforts to create real political prospects for progress toward resolving the conflict,” the Jordanian government’s Petra News Agency reported.

Both the king and Abbas emphasized “the need to preserve the historical and legal status quo” of the Temple Mount, which Petra called the Al-Quds Al-Sharif. Abdullah reiterated that the Hashemite Kingdom would continue to take seriously its guardianship of Muslim holy sites in the city and involve the international community, according to the report.

Abbas reportedly praised Abdullah for his efforts to defuse the recent Temple Mount crisis.

The two sides agreed to form a joint task force that would study the crisis, which was sparked by the murder of two Druze-Israeli police officers by three Arab-Israeli visitors to the site, and to prepare for possible future conflict at the Temple Mount.

Abdullah flew into Ramallah by helicopter, which required coordination with Israeli authorities, but did not meet with Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu. The failure to meet was meant to show the king’s unhappiness with Netanyahu in the wake of the Temple Mount crisis and the incident late last month in which an Israeli security guard from the Israeli Embassy shot and killed two Jordanian civilians after he was stabbed by one of them—a teen who was installing furniture in an apartment used by the embassy.

Vandalized St. Louis Jewish cemetery rededicated with help from Muslim donors

(JTA)—A St. Louis-area Jewish cemetery was rededicated nearly six months after more than 150 headstones were toppled and damaged by vandals.

Dozens of members of the St. Louis Jewish community and its supporters gathered Sunday at the Chesed Shel Emeth Cemetery in University City, Missouri, to acknowledge the community support while honoring those who are buried there, the local media reported.

“While God could not guard this sacred place from harm, God did send so many to repair, reclaim and rededicate,” Rabbi Roxane Shapiro of the St. Louis Rabbinical Association said at the ceremony. “Our help had no barriers and no hate, simply care, compassion and hope.”

Among those in attendance at the rededication was Tarek El-Messidi, founder of the Muslim organization Celebrate Mercy. The group, with the support of other Muslim leaders, including pro-Palestinian activist Linda Sarsour, set up a crowdfunding campaign that raised $162,000 from nearly 5,000 donors, exceeding its $20,000 goal in the first few hours

In the wake of the attack, hundreds of community volunteers came to the cemetery to help with the cleanup and repairs, including Vice President Mike Pence and Missouri Gov. Eric Greitens, who is Jewish and had invited Pence.

No suspects have been identified in the vandalism. The Anti-Defamation has offered a $10,000 reward for tips that lead to an arrest.

Israeli couples embrace a rabbinical prenup

JERUSALEM (JTA)—Recognizing Tu b’Av, the Jewish Day of Love, the Tzohar rabbinical organization said that public interest is increasing in its halachic prenuptial agreement.

Tu b’Av is observed this year on Monday, the 15th day of the Jewish month of Av.

The Heskem B’Ahava, or Agreement of Love, was introduced in 2015 to prevent legal and halachic, or Jewish legal obstacles, in the event of the dissolution of a marriage.

Nearly 2,000 couples have signed the agreement before their weddings, with many more inquiring about it in recent months, according to Tzohar.

The organization hopes to make the agreement standard practice ahead of all Jewish weddings in the hopes of avoiding such issues as agunot, or chained wives.

Rabbinical and legal scholars drafted the agreement to address cases in which one spouse refuses the Jewish divorce, often demanding large sums of money or child custody in exchange for the “get.”

“Every couple who goes under the chuppah deserves to play a part in addressing the growing problem of people trapped by their spouses because of the absence of these types of agreements,” Rabbi Uri Ganzel, director of the Heskem B’Ahava Program, said in a statement. “So by signing on, a couple is able to help make this process more mainstream and combat that trend with the hope that it will one day be completely eradicated from our society.”

Founded in 1996, Tzohar’s core program provides halachic weddings for Jewish couples in Israel as a legal alternative to marriage under the haredi Orthodox-dominated Chief Rabbinate. More than 50,000 weddings have been performed under Tzohar’s auspices, with 20 scheduled this year for Tu b’Av.

“When the couple is standing under the chuppah and dreaming of their lives ahead together, all they can think of is love,” said Tzohar’s founder, Rabbi David Stav. “But the reality of life is there will be other marriages that don’t thrive in the way yours hopefully will. On their behalf, you deserve to be a part of making this agreement standard practice”

Trump attacks Sen. Richard Blumenthal on Twitter as a liar, baby and con artist

(JTA)—President Donald Trump interrupted his working vacation in New Jersey to renew his attacks on Sen. Richard Blumenthal, D-Conn., calling him “a phony Vietnam con artist” on Twitter.

Trump wrote a series of tweets Monday, apparently responding to Blumenthal’s appearance on CNN that morning in which the Jewish senator voiced support for the investigation into alleged Russian election meddling and asserted the possibility of “collusion by the Trump campaign and then obstruction of justice.”

“Never in U.S.history [sic] has anyone lied or defrauded voters like Senator Richard Blumenthal,” Trump wrote on Twitter shortly afterward. “He told stories about his Vietnam battles and ... conquests, how brave he was, and it was all a lie. He cried like a baby and begged for forgiveness like a child. Now he judges collusion?”

Trump also wrote: “Interesting to watch Senator Richard Blumenthal of Connecticut talking about hoax Russian collusion when he was a phony Vietnam con artist!”

The president was referring to Blumenthal’s run for senator in 2010, when the former state attorney general gave a tearful apology for appearing to characterize his service in the Marine Corps Reserves as taking place in Vietnam, where had never served.

Trump received five draft deferments in avoiding service during the Vietnam era; he has said bone spurs in his feet made him ineligible.

Trump has attacked Blumenthal on the same issue in the past.

In February, he assailed Blumenthal’s credibility based on his Vietnam statements after the Democrat reported that then-Supreme Court justice nominee Neil Gorsuch was disheartened by the president’s attacks on a judge. Gorsuch later confirmed the Blumenthal account.

Blumenthal responded to Trump’s latest Twitter volley on Monday, referring to the ongoing investigation into Russian voter meddling by special counsel Robert Mueller.

“Mr. President: Your bullying hasn’t worked before and it won’t work now. No one is above the law,” Blumenthal tweeted. “This issue isn’t about me—it’s about the Special Counsel’s independence and integrity.”

Israeli court revokes citizenship of Arab-Israeli man over terrorism conviction

JERUSALEM (JTA)—An Israeli court revoked the citizenship of an Arab-Israeli man over his terrorism conviction—reportedly for the first time—in a stabbing and car-ramming attack.

The Haifa District Court on Sunday agreed to the request of Interior Minister Arye Deri in the case of Alaa Ziad of Umm al-Fahm. Ziad seriously injured three Jewish Israelis in the October 2015 attack at the start of what has been called the “stabbing intifada.”

Reports said it was the first time that an Arab Israeli has lost his citizenship over a terrorism conviction. Ziad’s mother is an Israeli citizen but his Palestinian father is not. Deri has also said he would revoke the Israeli residency permit for Ziad’s father.

Ziad can appeal the ruling while remaining in the country as a temporary resident, at least until October, Ynet reported.

“Revoking Ziad’s citizenship constitutes a proper and proportionate measure,” Judge Avraham Elyakim wrote in his decision, Ynet reported.

The Adalah Legal Center for Arab Minority Rights and The Association for Civil Rights in Israel said in a statement that a decision to revoke Ziad’s citizenship “deviates from precedent as well as international law.” They noted that the Supreme Court in Israel decided not to revoke the citizenship of Yigal Amir after he assassinated Prime Minister Yitzhak Rabin in 1995.

Ziad drove his car into a group of people waiting at a bus stop near Kibbutz Gan Shmuel in northern Israel, near Hadera. He then exited his car and began stabbing people, injuring four, including a soldier seriously. One of the victims was a 15-year-old girl.

Ziad was found guilty of four counts of attempted murder last year and sentenced to 25 years in prison.

It is not known to where Ziad would be deported.

Holocaust denier Ernst Zundel dies in Germany at 78

(JTA)—Ernst Zundel, a Holocaust denier who was jailed for inciting hatred against Jews, has died in Germany

Zundel died Sunday at his home in Baden-Wuerttemberg, reportedly of a heart attack. He was 78.

He served a five-year prison sentence in Mannheim, Germany, after being found guilty in 2007 of inciting hatred against Jews and systematically denying the Nazi genocide against the Jews—in 14 specific instances—on his website and in a newsletter. His five-year sentence included two years in jail following his deportation from Canada in 2005. He left prison in 2010.

A native of Germany, Zundel left the country in 1958 allegedly to avoid military service. He was considered among the most active Holocaust deniers in the world and was arrested in Canada in February 2003.

Zundel was among the first right-wing extremists to use the internet to spread hate material. Canada expelled him after courts there found his website to be unconstitutional. He was one of several Holocaust deniers deported to Germany at about that time.

He co-wrote the book “The Hitler We Loved and Why” under the pseudonym Christof Friedrich.

 

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