Heritage Florida Jewish News - Central Florida's Independent Jewish Voice

Weekly roundup of world briefs from JTA


Iran approves memorandum for joint probe of AMIA bombing

BUENOS AIRES, Argentina (JTA)—Iran approved the memorandum signed nine months ago with Argentina to jointly probe the 1994 bombing of the AMIA Jewish center in Buenos Aires.

Iranian Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif said Saturday at U.N. headquarters in New York that the bilateral agreement was approved by “competent authorities” in his country, according to the Buenos Aires Herald newspaper.

Zarif and his Argentinian counterpart, Hector Timerman, jointly announced the approval by the Iranians at the United Nations.

In her address last week before the U.N. General Assembly, Argentinian President Cristina Fernandez called on Iran to provide an update on the status of the memorandum.

“We are hoping they will tell us that the agreement has been approved [in Iran] and to settle a date when a judge will be able to fly to Tehran,” she told the Assembly.

There has been no agreement on a date for Argentinian investigators to travel to Iran to interview suspects. The next step will be the exchange of documents officially announcing that the governments have approved the memorandum of understanding.

The next bilateral meeting will be held in early November in Geneva. Both governments then must agree on the details and procedures of the Truth Commission made up of independent legal experts, from neither Argentina and Iran, who will be analyzing the evidence gathered on the AMIA attack and issue a report.

The bilateral accord to jointly investigate the July 1994 AMIA bombing came in January. The attack in Argentina’s capital city killed 85 and injured hundreds.

Argentina’s Jewish community, international Jewish groups, Israel and the United States have protested the agreement.

Alleged gunman in rabbi shooting killed in Russia

(JTA)—The alleged shooter of a rabbi in southern Russia was killed in a raid by Russian security forces.

Sherif Akhmedov was one of five suspected extremists killed last week in Derbent, in the predominantly Muslim Republic of Dagestan near Chechnya, Russia’s National Anti-Terrorist Committee said in a statement issued Friday, according to international news agencies.

Akhmedov, who has been wanted since 2011 for his alleged involvement in bombings and attacks on police, is believed to be behind the July 24 shooting of Rabbi Artur Ovadia Isakov as the rabbi exited his car and headed into his home.

Authorities said the shooting was likely a terrorist attack by Muslim extremists.

Isakov, 40, was airlifted to Israel for treatment; he was released from the hospital last month. He told JTA in early September that he plans to return to Derbent when it is safe and he is well enough to travel.

Last October, unknown assailants detonated a bomb in the interior yard of Derbent’s main synagogue. Nobody was hurt in the explosion.

Some 2,000 Jews live among a predominantly Muslim population in Dagestan.

Lamm deemed unfit to testify in Yeshiva U. sex abuse case

(JTA)—Rabbi Norman Lamm, the former chancellor of Yeshiva University, was found unfit to testify in a $380 million sex abuse lawsuit against the school.

Dr. Elise Caccappolo of Columbia Presbyterian Medical Center said Lamm cannot provide reliable testimony, the New York Post reported, citing Lamm’s attorney Joel Cohen.

Caccappolo, a neuropsychologist, evaluated Lamm on Sept. 16.

“Dr. Caccappolo found that a deposition was unlikely to pose a risk or threat to Dr. Lamm’s health,” Cohen wrote to U.S. District Court Judge John Koetl last week, the Post reported. “However, after administering a battery of tests conducted over a period of nearly five hours, Dr. Caccappolo determined [in her written report] that ‘the pattern of Dr. Lamm’s cognitive impairment impedes his ability to independently comprehend and adequately respond to questions posed to him, as well to reliably retrieve and report past information.”

Koetl had ruled earlier that the choice of doctor should be agreed upon by Yeshiva University and former students of Y.U. institutions who are suing the school.

The students allege they were sexually abused between 1976 and 2003, when Lamm was chancellor, according to The Forward and other media outlets.

Lamm is among top members of Y.U.’s former administration named in the suit filed by 19 former students of the Yeshiva University High School for Boys in Manhattan.

In July in a letter announcing his retirement, Lamm, 85, acknowledged mishandling the abuse allegations decades earlier. He apologized for not alerting police when he learned of the abuse accusations. Lamm also indicated that he may be suffering from a decline in his mental acuity.

Lawyers for the students said they wanted to depose Lamm as soon as possible due to fears that his mental status could further deteriorate, according to The Forward, which first published details of the abuse claims against two former Yeshiva University staff members late last year.

Peres to be first world leader to meet with new Dutch king

(JTA)—Israeli President Shimon Peres is slated to become the first foreign head of state to meet with the new monarch of the Netherlands.

Peres is scheduled to meet King Willem-Alexander on Monday and deliver a speech at the Dutch parliament. He began his three-day visit to the Netherlands on Sunday.

A day ahead of his arrival, Peres told the Dutch daily Telegraaf that he valued the 46-year-old king for his “commitment to peace and friendship with Israel.” He also said the international community should pressure Iran for “clarifications” concerning its nuclear program.

Peres and Willem-Alexander, who in April replaced his mother, Beatrix, on the throne, met years ago when both sat on a committee on resolving the water problem in the Middle East, Peres told the daily.

On Sunday, Peres kicked off his Netherlands visit with a meeting with the heads of the Dutch Jewish community at the Portuguese Synagogue in Amsterdam, where he spoke to several hundred guests from the community.

“No matter how wars or animosities threaten us, we shall always be a people of peace,” he said at the synagogue during an open interview with Esther Voet, a Dutch Jewish journalist and director of the Center for Information and Documentation on Israel. “We shall always remember that the essence of the Torah is ‘you should love your friend as you love yourself.’ I think this is the mission that should guide us in future.”

On Iran, Peres said in the interview for De Telegraaf, “[Iranian President Hassan] Rouhani says Iran does not want a nuclear bomb. But why, then, does it spend so much money on rockets that can deliver such a bomb? These contradictions need to be clarified.”

Tehran has stoked expectations of change in its foreign policy by saying it is ready to show “flexibility” and by releasing political prisoners jailed during the eight-year term of hard-liner Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, whom Rouhani replaced in August.

Philip Roth awarded France’s highest honor

(JTA)—American-Jewish author Philip Roth was awarded France’s highest honor, the Legion of Honor.

French Foreign Minister Laurent Fabius presented the award to Roth on Friday in New York.

The award recognizes civilians and soldiers. Roth was granted the title of commander, the French news agency AFP reported.

“France is giving you back what you have given to my country,” Fabius said, according to AFP.

Roth, the author of nearly 30 novels, has and won numerous literary prizes. They include two National Book Awards, two National Book Critics Circle Awards, three PEN/Faulkner Awards and the 1997 Pulitzer Prize for fiction.

He told a French magazine last year that he was done writing fiction.

Golden Dawn leader, lawmakers arrested in Greece

ATHENS, Greece (JTA)—In an unprecedented crackdown on the ultranationalist Golden Dawn party in Greece, its leader and several lawmakers were arrested.

On Saturday, Greek police from the counterterrorism unit arrested party leader Nikolaos Michaloliakos, party spokesman Ilias Kassidiaris and two other Golden Dawn lawmakers on charges of forming a criminal organization.

It marked the first time that sitting members of parliament have been arrested in Greece since the fall of the military junta in 1974.

The crackdown, which included the arrest of 10 other party leaders, follows widespread outrage and protests in Greece following the Sept. 18 killing of an anti-fascist rapper by a suspected Golden Dawn member.

The European Union, Jewish and other international groups have long urged the Greek government to act against Golden Dawn, which has been accused of being behind dozens of vicious attacks on immigrants in Greece.

The stabbing death of Pavlos Fyssas, a rapper known as Killah P, reportedly spurred the government to action.

In recent days, several senior police officers have been suspended or resigned following accusations that police colluded with Golden Dawn, which is openly racist, xenophobic and anti-Semitic.

Some witnesses alleged that police stood by while Fyssas was stabbed by a black-shirted Golden Dawn member after an altercation in a bar.

Meanwhile, officials have promised a slew of other measures, including stepping up prosecutions against Golden Dawn members and pursuing ways to cut off state funding for the group.

Justice Minister Haralambos Athanassiou also vowed to bring the long-promised anti-racism bill to parliament “very soon.”

Golden Dawn has 18 seats in the 300-member parliament. The party is known for its Nazi swastika-like flag and Holocaust-denying leadership.

Jewish leaders urge Abbas to make moderate stands public

WASHINGTON (JTA)—A slate of 100 U.S. Jewish leaders wrote Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas urging him to make public his opposition to a “right of return” and his agreement to a demilitarized Palestinian state.

The letter, spearheaded by the Israel Policy Forum, noted that in a recent private meeting, Abbas said an agreement would end the conflict and any Palestinian claims to “Haifa, Acre and Safed,” and that a Palestinian state would not need “planes or missiles” but a “strong police force.”

“Making such statements publicly to the entire international community and emphasizing the Palestinian people’s willingness to live in peace with Israel would be important steps to improve the environment affecting the peace process,” said the letter, delivered Sept. 25 to Abbas, who is in New York attending the U.N. General Assembly.

“It would reinforce that the Palestinian leadership has a responsible strategy for courageously forging a lasting peace with Israel,” it said.

Signatories included leaders past and present of pro-Israel and public policy groups, former Jewish Congress members, leading Reform and Conservative rabbis, and top fundraisers in the Jewish federation system.

Netanyahu vows to ‘tell the truth’ on Rouhani, Iranian nukes

JERUSALEM (JTA)—Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu promised to “tell the truth” about Iran during his visit to New York and Washington.

Netanyahu landed in Washington on Sunday after making his remarks on Iran the previous evening before boarding his flight to the United States.

Amid thawing Iran-U.S. relations, the Israeli leader said, “I will tell the truth in the face of the sweet talk and the onslaught of smiles.”

Netanyahu was referring to Iranian President Hassan Rouhani, who offered a more conciliatory tone than his predecessor in his address last week to the United Nations General Assembly and on Friday spoke by phone with President Obama.

Following the conversation, Obama said he was certain that Iran and the world powers could work to resolve the crisis over Iran’s nuclear program.

Netanyahu is scheduled to meet with Obama at the White House on Monday and to address the Nations General Assembly in New York the following day.

“Telling the truth today is vital for the security and peace of the world and, of course, it is vital for the security of the State of Israel,” Netanyahu said.

The Israeli leader reportedly will allege during his General Assembly speech that Iran has enough enriched uranium to produce a nuclear weapon.

Netanyahu earlier on Saturday ordered all government ministers and official spokespeople to refrain from making public statements about the 15-minute phone conversation.

But Avidgor Liberman, chairman of the Knesset’s Foreign Affairs and Defense Committee and former foreign minister, in a post on his Facebook page threw his support behind Netanyahu.

“Now, when the world’s attention is focused on the new Iranian president’s attempts to appear moderate and conciliatory,” Lieberman wrote, “it is important to remember that the Iranians have long employed a pattern of deceit: with various tactics of promises, stalling and feeding the international community with false information time and time again, all the while pursuing their goal of obtaining a nuclear weapon, that is meant to threaten world peace.”

Liberman added that it is “worth remembering that in the case of the Iraqi reactor in the early 1980s, Israel was the only one to warn, and in retrospect it became evident that we were right. And so it was in other cases, too.”

Israeli Air Force chases drones in North and South

JERUSALEM (JTA)—Israeli Air Force jets were scrambled to the north and south of the country in pursuit of unidentified aircraft that entered Israeli airspace.

The Israel Defense Forces would not comment on Saturday’s incident, which involved three IAF jets in pursuit. It is believed that the military suspected unmanned drones had infiltrated Israel’s airspace.

A week earlier, IAF jets were scrambled to intercept what was believed to be a drone but turned out to be a flock of birds.

Israel’s military has intercepted two drones in the past 12 months that were believed to have been sent from Hezbollah in Lebanon.

Vandalism at Christian cemetery in Jerusalem called ‘price tag’ attack

JERUSALEM (JTA)—Four Jewish men were arrested for smashing headstones at a Christian cemetery in Jerusalem in what is being called a “price tag” attack.

The men, aged 17 to 26, were caught on Sunday smashing 15 headstones with concrete blocks at the Christian cemetery at King David’s Tomb, according to reports.

Police are calling the incident nationally motivated and describe the vandalism as a price tag attack.

Price tag refers to the strategy that extremist settlers and their supporters have adopted to exact retribution for settlement freezes and demolitions or Palestinian attacks on Jews. In recent months, several Christian sites have been targeted.

Two of the men are part of the extremist Hilltop Youth and have been banned from the West Bank on previous occasions, according to Israeli media reports.

Also Sunday, two Jewish teenagers were arrested on suspicion of scratching the doors of eight Arab-owned cars parked near the Tomb of Simeon the Just in Jerusalem.

Israel arrests alleged spy for Iran

JERUSALEM (JTA)—Israel’s Shin Bet security service arrested a Belgian citizen of Iranian birth accused of spying on Israel for Iran.

Alex Mans, who traveled to Israel three times in the past year, was arrested at Ben Gurion Airport two weeks ago as he attempted to leave the country. A gag order on the Sept. 11 arrest was lifted Sunday.

Posing as a Belgian businessman, Mans is believed to have been spying on Israel for the Islamic Revolutionary Guards Corps, according to Haaretz. He was carrying photographs of the U.S. Embassy in Tel Aviv when he was arrested, and also had taken photos of areas of the airport and other “sites that interest Iranian security officials,” the Shin Bet said.

Mans, 55, was born Ali Mansouri and lived in Iran until 1980, and then in Turkey until 1997, when he received a visa for Belgium. He married a Belgian woman, from whom he is now divorced.

According to reports, Mans has lived in Iran since 2007 and is married to an Iranian woman.

He reportedly told Israeli investigators that he was recruited by Iranian intelligence, the Revolutionary Guards’ Al-Quds Force, to spy on Israel and was promised about $1 million for his services.


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