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Weekly roundup of world briefs from JTA


U.S. nixes Egypt drill over civilian deaths, completes Navy exercise with Israel

(JTA)—Israel and the United States concluded a joint military naval exercise as President Obama canceled a U.S.-Egyptian drill due to civilian deaths in Cairo demonstrations.

Obama told reporters on Aug. 15 that aid cuts could be coming if Egypt’s military government does not stop its bloody crackdown on protesters and move quickly to new elections, USA Today reported.

His statements on Egypt came as Israeli and American vessels were wrapping up their Reliant Mermaid 103 exercise, which combines 10 days of training in the Mediterranean Sea on search and rescue capabilities, according to a statement by the Israel Defense Forces.

The exercise included a guided-missile destroyer from the U.S. 6th Fleet, as well as missile boats from the Israeli Navy.

Referring to Egypt, Obama told reporters that his government “strongly condemns” the violence there but added that continued U.S. “engagement” with the interim government in Cairo will help it transition back to democracy.

“But while we want to sustain our relationship with Egypt, our traditional cooperation cannot continue as usual when civilians are being killed in the streets and rights are being rolled back,” Obama said from his vacation home at Martha’s Vineyard.

The death toll stood at at least 600, with dozens of fatalities reported Friday in Tahrir Square in Cairo and beyond.

The U.S. provides Egypt with about $1.3 billion in aid per year.

Obama spoke a day after Egypt’s interim government used force to clear encampments created by backers of ousted President Mohamed Morsi. The action triggered violent clashes throughout the country, as the government has declared a nationwide state of emergency and a nighttime curfew.

Israel fires missile into Syria in response to shelling

JERUSALEM (JTA)—The Israeli army fired a missile into Syria after several shells fired from Syria exploded in northern Israel on the Golan Heights.

The Tammuz anti-tank guided missile reportedly destroyed a Syrian cannon at an army post from which mortars fired at Israel had originated.

The mortar fire on Israel on Saturday landed in open areas and caused no injuries. It was believed to be spillover from the fighting in Syria’s civil war rather than purposely shot at Israel.

The weekend incident was the eighth time the Israeli military has fired a missile at Syria in response to shells and live fire.

Dozens of mortar shells have hit northern Israel since the beginning of Syria’s 2 1/2-year civil war. At least 10 mortars from Syria landed in northern Israel last month.

Israel has filed numerous complaints over the cross-border fire with the United Nations Disengagement Observer Force, the U.N. peacekeeping force on the Golan Heights.

Over the weekend, at least 12 Syrians wounded in their country’s civil war were treated for their injuries in at least three hospitals in northern Israel. More than 100 Syrians have been treated in Israeli hospitals in recent months.

Inscribed pottery shard found from First Temple

JERUSALEM (JTA)—Archaeologists have discovered a pottery fragment in Jerusalem believed to be from the First Temple period that contains the name of a biblical figure.

The fragment was found near the City of David in the village of Silwan, believed to be the site of the ancient city of Jerusalem, according to the Israel Antiquities Authority.

The words on the fragment are believed to be the name of Zechariah son of Benaiah, the father of the seventh century BCE prophet Jahaziel. The writing is in ancient Hebrew script; the first letter is missing.

Jahaziel is found in the second book of Chronicles, when he prophecizes for King Jehoshapat.

The fragment was found among other shards of pottery, candles, ceramics and figurines also believed to be from the end of the First Temple period.

Polio inoculation campaign starts for Israeli children

JERUSALEM (JTA)—Israel launched a nationwide campaign to inoculate children aged 9 and under with the weakened, live form of the polio virus.

More than 50,000 Israeli children living in southern Israel have been inoculated with the live virus in the past two weeks. The three-month campaign now is being spread to central and northern Israel.

The campaign is in response to the discovery in May of the polio virus in wastewater in Israel’s South that reportedly had been there since February. The virus was found about a month ago in wastewater in central Israel.

The children already have been inoculated against polio in their regular childhood vaccinations.

The purpose of the extra vaccine is to pass the weakened virus to adults with whom the children come into contact who may not previously have been vaccinated.

Across Israel, the vaccination rate against polio is 94 percent, according to the World Health Organization, which is supporting the vaccination campaign and whose representatives reportedly called it “necessary.”

It is believed the virus was brought to Israel from Egypt; polio was discovered in sewage in Egypt in December. The same virus also is prevalent in Pakistan.

Israel experienced its last case of polio in 1988.

Abbas: Final-status issues discussed at first round of peace talks

(JTA)—Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas said Israel and the Palestinians discussed all the final-status issues in the first session of peace talks held in Jerusalem.

Abbas made his comments Aug. 15 following a meeting with U.N. Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon in Ramallah, The Jerusalem Post reported. The first round of talks was held the previous day in Jerusalem under a veil of secrecy.

Abbas said he hoped the talks would be concluded within six to nine months. Final-status issues are understood to be borders, Jerusalem, settlements, refugees, security and prisoners.

“It’s premature to say whether we have or haven’t achieved something,” Abbas said. “We hope that the coming days would bring us answers that we could present to all.”

Ban, who traveled to Israel last Friday to meet with Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and President Shimon Peres, said in Ramallah that he hoped Israel would “create the appropriate atmosphere by halting settlements which we and the world consider illegitimate.”

He also said the Palestinians have “sincere intentions.”

But Netanyahu told Ban that the root of conflict between Israel and the Palestinians “doesn’t have to do with the settlements,” the Post reported. “That’s an issue that has to be resolved, but this is not the reason that we have a continual conflict.

“The conflict preceded the establishment of a single settlement by half a century, and when we rooted out all the settlements in Gaza, the attacks continued because of this basic opposition to the Jewish state.”

Pollard: Israel harms its own citizens to please enemies

(JTA)—Jonathan Pollard expressed strong opposition to Israel’s freeing of terrorists in a letter sent to The Jerusalem Post.

Pollard, who is jailed in the United States for spying for Israel, accused Israel of being a “strange kind of democracy that pays no heed whatsoever to the will of the people” in an Op-Ed last Friday in The Jerusalem Post.

The article followed Israel’s release earlier this week of 26 prisoners convicted of terrorist activities as part of peace talks with the Palestinians. Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu has pledged to release another 78 prisoners in the coming months.

Pollard, who was given a life sentence in 1987 for giving Israel classified U.S. intelligence information, argued that Israel was harming its own citizens to satisfy its critics and enemies.

“Israel is the only country in the world ever to voluntarily expel its own citizens from chunks of its homeland in order to hand over the land to its enemies,” he wrote.

In an accusation that seemed to refer also to his own case, Pollard wrote that Israel “also holds unenviable world records for betraying those who serve the state.”

Pollard was first jailed in 1986. Several Israeli leaders and an increasing number of U.S. political figures from both parties have made requests that the United States pardon Pollard.

President Obama has rejected the requests, insisting that Pollard receive a fair hearing by a parole committee review set to take place in 2015.

Bar mitzvah celeb Sam Horowitz donating gifts to Israeli youth village

(JTA)—Sam Horowitz, whose bar mitzvah entrance video has gone viral on YouTube, has donated thousands of dollars of his gift money to an Israeli youth village.

Sam, of Dallas, and his parents asked guests at the bar mitzvah to make a contribution to the Ben Yakir Youth Village in lieu of gifts, and is requesting that those who watch the performance online to do the same, the Forward reported over the weekend.

Thus far, $36,000 has been donated to the youth village, which is home to 120 boys aged 12-18, mostly Ethiopian immigrants.

Sam donned a sparkling white suit and descended from the ceiling inside a massive chandelier in the lavish ballroom of the Omni Hotel in Dallas at his  bar mitzvah last November, and then danced with a bevy of professional dancers in flapper costumes.

Since the video turned Horowitz into a celebrity in recent weeks, he has appeared on “Good Morning America” and been featured in major U.S. newspapers and on popular websites. He also has been heavily criticized for the lavishness of the affair.

Schindler documents sell for $122,000

(JTA)—Original documents connected to Oskar Schindler, who saved hundreds of Jewish from the Holocaust, fetched $122,000 at an auction in New York.

One letter, dated Aug. 22, 1944, describes permission to move an enamelware factory owned by Schindler along with its workers from Poland, the Associated Press reported. Historians say the move allowed the German industrialist to carry out the rescue chronicled in the 1993 Oscar-winning film “Schindler’s List.”

The letter was offered by RR Auction in the U.S. The auction, which ended last week, also offered the Krakow factory blueprints.

RR Auction told the AP that one buyer, who wished to remain anonymous, purchased all the documents.

Last month, a list of Jews to be rescued by Schindler went unsold on eBay after it was listed with a reserve price of $3 million.

The 14-page list identifies 801 Jewish prisoners by name, birth date and profession. The date April 18, 1945 is written in pencil on the first page. The document is one of four remaining copies of the list, typed on onion skin paper.

ADL: Russian treatment of gays ‘similar’ to Soviet treatment of Jews

(JTA)—The Anti-Defamation League called for a new version of the Jackson-Vanik amendment to pressure Russia to improve its treatment of gays.

Jackson-Vanik was a provision of the 1974 Trade Act that denied favored status to nations that restricted emigration. The amendment was used to pressure the Soviet Union to loosen its restrictive emigration policies.

“It is obvious that Russia is oppressing the gay, lesbian, bisexual and transgender community in a manner similar to the ways in which the Soviet Union once oppressed the Jewish community,” ADL National Director Abraham Foxman wrote last Friday in an article in the Huffington Post. “We need a new Jackson-Vanik to convince Russia that steps backward on this issue of basic human rights will be met with strong repercussions from the United States.”

In June, Russian President Vladimir Putin signed new anti-gay legislation that prohibits “propaganda of nontraditional sexual relations amongst minors,” including any gay-rights literature; banned gay-rights advocacy in general; and prohibited gay pride events in Moscow for the next 100 years.

Protests against the new law have met with violent retribution in recent months.

Anti-Semitic attacks in Belgium highest since 2009

(JTA)—The number of anti-Semitic attacks reported last year in Belgium reached its highest level since 2009, according to an annual report.

Anti-racism volunteers registered 80 anti-Semitic incidents throughout Belgium in 2012, according to a report released this month by the Antisemitsm.Be watchdog group. The figure represents a 23 percent increase over 2011.

The 80 attacks was the most recorded by the group since 2000 with the exception of some 100 attacks in 2009, when an Israeli military campaign against Hamas triggered a massive leap in anti-Semitic attacks worldwide.

The authors of the report wrote that the number of incidents reported last year constitute a 34 percent increase from the per annum average of the past 12 years.

The increase, the authors wrote, owes to a noticeable spike in attacks following  the murder of four Jews by a Muslim extremist in Toulouse, France, in March 2012.

Five of the incidents involved physical attacks, three of which occurred in Antwerp. Thirteen incidents were acts of vandalism against Jewish institutions, and 30 incidents involved threats made online.

In neighboring Holland, the Anne Frank Foundation released a report last month that said one in every three teachers in higher education has witnessed anti-Semitic incidents in the past year. The report was based on the answers of 973 teachers to a survey conducted this year.

Many incidents are soccer-related, the report indicated. Anti-Semitic acts in connection with Israel and Holocaust denial also were common, the report said.

Last May, the Hague-based Center for Information and Documentation on Israel, or CIDI, reported a significant rise in reports of soccer-related anti-Semitism.

In February, CIDI urged the Dutch education ministry to research anti-Semitism in high schools.


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