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Weekly roundup of world news from JTA

 


Streisand to perform two stadium concerts in Tel Aviv

JERUSALEM (JTA)—Barbra Streisand will perform two Tel Aviv concerts in Israel in addition to performing at the 90th birthday celebration for President Shimon Peres.

The concerts will take place June 15-16 at Tel Aviv’s Bloomfield Stadium, the Israel media reported.

On June 18, Streisand will perform at the opening ceremony of the Israeli Presidential Conference, which will be marking Peres’ milestone birthday.

Streisand reportedly has visited Israel many times, and is a strong supporter of Israel, but has never performed in the Jewish state.

Oren says ‘Gatekeepers’ makes his job harder

WASHINGTON (JTA)—Israel’s U.S. ambassador, Michael Oren, said the Oscar-nominated documentary “The Gatekeepers” complicates his mission.

The movie compiles interviews with six former leaders of the Shin Bet, Israel’s internal security service, and records their perceptions of how successive Israeli governments missed opportunities for peace.

“This is a good movie that presents a narrative of 45 years of occupation but is completely devoid of information on Israel’s peace plan offers—(Ehud) Barak’s Camp David attempts, then [Ehud] Olmert, from the unilateral withdrawal from the Gaza Strip and the rocket fire on us,” Oren told Ynet in a story posted Sunday. “Whoever views the movie without knowing the background can leave feeling that Israel is to blame and didn’t do a thing.”

Israeli judge who fled extradited from Peru

JERUSALEM (JTA)—An Israeli judge who fled to Peru eight years ago following allegations of bribery and fraud was extradited to Israel.

Dan Cohen arrived in Israel on Sunday morning after he was arrested by Peruvian police and placed directly on an airplane leaving for Israel.

He has been fighting the extradition, which was approved in secret by the Peruvian government to prevent Cohen from going into hiding. The two countries do not have a signed extradition treaty.

Cohen is charged with of bribery, fraud, breach of trust, obstruction of justice and failure to report earnings.

Another swarm of locusts in Israel sparks new concerns

JERUSALEM (JTA)—Another swarm of locusts entered Israel, spurring concerns that they will continue to infest the country for several weeks.

A new swarm was discovered in southern Israel on Saturday.

8 Palestinians arrested for near-fatal stoning

(JTA)—Israel arrested eight Palestinians suspected of causing a car accident that left an Israeli infant in critical condition.

The suspects, who were apprehended by Israeli soldiers, Shin Bet security agents and police, are suspected of causing several injuries to Israeli civilians by throwing rocks at cars on March 14 near the West Bank Jewish settlement of Ariel.

One of the cars collided with a truck as it came under a volley of rocks. In the crash, 3-year-old Adelle Biton sustained head injuries, which doctors at Schneider Children’s Medical Center in Petach Tikvah termed “extremely serious,” according to Army Radio. Her mother and two of her sisters from the settlement of Yakir received minor injuries and also were hospitalized.

Man dies, dozens in hospital from heat at Tel Aviv Marathon

(JTA)—One man died and as many as 12 people suffered serious medical complications during Tel Aviv Marathon-connected races despite government warnings of extremely hot weather.

The municipality cut short last Friday’s races of 13 and 6.2 miles. The full 26-mile marathon was postponed until today because of the severe heat.

Bulgaria’s interim PM will not push EU on Hezbollah terrorism label

(JTA)—Bulgaria’s interim prime minister said he will not push the European Union to label Hezbollah a terror group, despite the country’s finding that Hezbollah was behind a terror attack on its soil.

Marin Raikov made his remarks on Saturday during an interview with the state BNR radio station, Reuters reported.

Bulgaria had implicated Hezbollah for the July 19 bus bombing at the airport in Burgas that targeted a bus of Israeli tourists. Five Israelis and their Bulgarian bus driver were killed.

Raikov was named interim prime minister last week following the fall of the government over corruption allegations and a dismal economy that has impoverished many Bulgarians. National elections are scheduled for May 12.

Bulgaria’s interior minister, Tsvetan Tsvetanov, announced in February that two men with links to Hezbollah were implicated in the bus bombing. Hezbollah also financed the attack, according to the Bulgarian investigation.

Greek prime minister in shul visit vows crackdown on neo-Nazis

THESSALONIKI, Greece (JTA)—Greek Prime Minister Antonis Samaras vowed to crack down on neo-Nazi groups.

Samaras was speaking Sunday at a ceremony marking the 70th anniversary of the first deportations of Thessaloniki’s Jews to the Auschwitz-Birkenau death camp.

The Greek government will enact legislation that will be “completely intolerant to violence and racism,” Samaras said at the city’s Monastiriotes Synagogue in what was said to be the first-ever visit by a sitting prime minister to a synagogue in Greece.

The ceremony commemorated the deportations that sent 49,000 of the city’s 55,000 Jews to Nazi death camps. The events also were marked Saturday with a silent march from the city’s Liberty Square to the Old Railway Station.

The Jewish community of Thessaloniki was a vital center of Sephardic Jewry for 450 years following the expulsion from Spain. Known as the “Flower of the Balkans,” it was the center of Ladino culture in the region.

Ex-Israeli lawmaker dies in Latvia hours after anti-Nazi rally

(JTA)—Marina Solodkin, a former Israeli lawmaker, died of what appeared to be natural causes in Latvia, hours after attending a protest rally against a large neo-Nazi gathering.

Solodkin was found dead Saturday night in her hotel room at the FG Royal Hotel in central Riga. She was 60.

Solodkin, a Kadima lawmaker whose Knesset term ended in January, arrived in Latvia over the weekend to attend a roundtable discussion with European Union representatives and nongovernmental agencies fighting xenophobia. The meeting coincided with the annual Waffen SS March on Saturday by hundreds of neo-Nazis through the streets of Riga.

Joel Rubinfeld, co-chair of the European Jewish Parliament, also attended the roundtable discussions and staged a counter demonstration with Solodkin and approximately 30 others in the area where approximately 1,500 neo-Nazis were marching.

Would-be New York synagogue bomber sentenced to 10 years

(JTA)—An Algerian immigrant who admitted to planning to blow up synagogues in New York City was sentenced to 10 years in prison.

Ahmed Ferhani, 28, was the first person convicted under a state terror statute that went into effect following the 9/11 attacks. He was sentenced last Friday.

Ferhani could have been sentenced to up to 25 years in prison, but entered a plea agreement in December. He also will serve five years of probation under the terms of the agreement.

Senate letters on Mideast trip compete for Obama’s attention

WASHINGTON (JTA)—Two separate Senate letters counsel President Obama to make Israeli-Palestinian peace a priority during his visit to the region.

Both initiatives, including one that places the burden on the Palestinians, circulated among senators ahead of Obama’s arrival in Israel on Wednesday.

A letter initiated by Sens. Ben Cardin (D-Md.) and Susan Collins (R-Maine) urges Obama in his meeting with Palestinian leaders to “make clear that the pathway for peace is through unconditional direct negotiations between both the Israelis and Palestinians.”

Another letter, initiated by Sen. Dianne Feinstein (D-Calif.), also urges Obama to reaffirm his commitment to Israel’s security and the U.S.-Israel relationship, but expresses support for any U.S. initiative that encourages both parties to come to the table.

Separately in Congress last week, Reps. Susan Davis (D-Calif.), Ileana Ros-Lehtinen (R-Fla.) and Pete Roskam (R-Ill.) introduced a bipartisan bill with another 60 co-sponsors to raise additional funding for Iron Dome, the anti-missile system that Israel credits with repelling most Hamas rockets aimed for population centers during last November’s Gaza Strip war.

Americans backing Israel in ever-growing numbers, poll shows

(JTA)—Americans’ sympathies lean heavily toward Israel over the Palestinians in the highest level of support seen in 22 years.

According to data gleaned from Gallup’s 2013 World Affairs poll, 64 percent of Americans support Israel over the Palestinians, with 12 percent backing the Palestinians over Israel. The last time Israel garnered as much support from Americans was in 1991 during the Gulf War.

Republicans are much likelier than Democrats to favor the Israelis, at 78 percent to 55 percent, with independents at 63 percent. But since 2001, independents have shown the greatest gain in support, up 21 percent. The support from Republicans has increased 18 percent during that time and Democrats’ backing has grown 4 percent.

Older Americans backed Israel in the greatest numbers, with 71 percent among those 55 and older showing sympathy. The figure fell to 65 percent among 35- to 54-year-olds and 55 percent among 18- to 34-year-olds.

Sociologist Kovacs, 2 accused of anti-Semitism win high honors from Hungary

(JTA)—Hungary recognized a Jewish sociologist, Andreas Kovacs, and two citizens accused of making anti-Semitic statements with prestigious national awards.

Kovacs, 65, was one of 17 people presented the Szechenyi Prize on the occasion of Hungary’s March 15 national day. The prize, given to Kovacs for his decades-long research on postwar Jewish identity, anti-Semitism, minority rights and social history, recognizes outstanding contributions in academic life in Hungary. He has tracked anti-Semitism in Hungary as well as Hungarian Jewish identity since the 1970s.

Also March 15, Ferenc Szaniszlo, a television presenter for Echo TV, was awarded the Tancsics Award for journalists, despite the anti-Semitism accusations and calling Roma “apes”—a comment for which his station received a $500 fine from the Hungarian state media regulator in 2011.

Szaniszlo has made several anti-Semitic comments, according to the online edition of Der Spiegel. He has described himself as an “anti-szemét:” a term which in Hungarian literally means “anti-garbage” but is understood to be a wordplay on the closely sounding “antiszemita”—anti-Semitic. He received the award for “outstanding activity in the cultural area,” the news site Index.hu reported.

In the sciences, the list of recipients of the Order of Merit included Kornel Bakay, an archaeologist who according to Der Spiegel online has claimed that Jesus was not Jewish but a Parthian and that Jews had organized the slave trade during the Middle Ages.

At least six past recipients of the Tancsics Prize have renounced the award in protest of the award to Szaniszo, according to Professor Eva Balogh of Yale University, who writes the Hungarian Spectrum blog on current affairs.

“One must look upon this list of recipients as a gesture from the government [of Prime Minister Viktor Orban] toward Jobbik and the extreme right,” she wrote, referring to the ultranationalistic party that has gained strength in recent years.

Baby survives fall in N.Y. strapped to suicidal mom

(JTA)—A Jewish infant in New York survived an eight-story fall after his mother, Cynthia Wachenheim, strapped him to her body and apparently jumped to her death.

Wachenheim, who was 44, landed on her back in her Harlem neighborhood in the March 13 incident, allowing 10-month-old Keston to roll away virtually unscathed, according to media reports. She had been on maternity leave from her work as a lawyer and left a 13-page suicide note for her husband, Hal Bacharach, 48.

Wachenheim believed the boy had suffered brain damage in two falls and that she was to blame, The New York Times reported.

Interpol won’t lift arrest warrants for Iranians wanted in AMIA bombing

BUENOS AIRES, Argentina (JTA)—Interpol will not lift the arrest warrants for Iranians suspected of involvement in the 1994 bombing of the AMIA Jewish community center in Buenos Aires, despite Tehran’s supposed cooperation with Argentina in investigating the event.

Argentinian Foreign Minister Hector Timerman cited a letter from the international police organization during a news conference last Friday in explaining that the arrest warrants would remain active. Six Iranians are wanted by Interpol in connection with the bombing, including Iranian Defense Minister Ahmad Vahidi.

Over Jewish community protests, Argentina’s congress last month approved an agreement with Iran to jointly investigate the bombing of the AMIA center, which killed 85 people and is believed to have been carried out under orders from Tehran.

German university fires professor for denying Holocaust

(JTA)—The University of Aachen in Germany fired historian Vladimir Iliescu for claiming the Holocaust never happened in Romania.

The institution said it canceled the teaching contract of Iliescu “immediately after statements he made to the Romanian Academy became known,” a spokesperson for RWTH Aachen told JTA on March 12, adding that the university was “appalled” by his words.

“In Romania there was persecution against Jews, 20,000 Jews died, but this is not a Holocaust,” Iliescu said last month during an address organized by the Romanian Academy in Bucharest.

 

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