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Weekly roundup of world briefs from JTA


Rabin’s grandson at memorial makes plea for peace

JERUSALEM (JTA)—The grandson of Yitzchak Rabin at a memorial for the slain prime minister implored Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu to bring peace to Israel.

“My grandfather was murdered over peace and you owe this peace to us, to all of us,” Yonatan Ben Artzi said before a crowd of some 35,000 Israelis gathered Saturday night in Rabin Square in Tel Aviv.

The memorial marked the 18th anniversary of Rabin’s assassination by right-wing extremist Yigal Amir on Nov. 4, 1995, more than two years after Rabin signed the Oslo Accords with the Palestinians and Yasser Arafat. It was held several days before the anniversary of the murder according to the Hebrew calendar.

Held under the banner of “Remembering the murder, fighting for democracy,” the rally was organized by a diverse committee of movements and organizations. They included Dror Israel, Bnei Akiva, Hashomer Hatzair, the Student Union and several American Jewish community federations.

Participating organizations and some individual leaders signed a declaration at the rally calling for a more democratic and inclusive society.

“We will heavily admonish and denunciate, without fear, any incident of incitement and racism that stands opposed to the spirit and essence of the democratic way of life,” the declaration reads in part.

Murder of Israeli colonel may not be terror act, officials say

JERUSALEM (JTA)—Israeli security officials are investigating whether the slaying of an Israeli army colonel by axe-wielding Palestinians was criminally motivated rather than terrorism.

Israel Defense Forces reserve Col. Sariya Ofer was bludgeoned to death early Friday morning by two Palestinian men who waited outside his Jordan Valley home. The men wielded an axe and metal rod, Army Radio reported.

Two Palestinians from the Hebron area, aged 18 and 21, have confessed to the murder, according to the Shin Bet security service. They said they also visited the home in Brosh Habika, a West Bank settlement and vacation village, two weeks ago. Five Palestinian suspects were arrested on Friday.

Security officials are now investigating whether the murder was part of a plot to steal property from the settlement. Initially it was believed that the attack, which also wounded Ofer’s wife, Monique, was terrorism.

Sariya Ofer was the nephew of brothers and business partners Yuli and Sammy Ofer.

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu on Sunday at the start of the weekly Cabinet recalled the slain Ofer.

“I remember him as a child; he was in my brother Ido’s class and was a frequent visitor at our home,” Netanyahu said. “He was a mature, serious boy who afterwards, during his military service, contributed greatly to the IDF and the security of the state.”

Israel uncovers Gaza terror tunnel ending near kibbutz kindergarten

JERUSALEM (JTA)—A tunnel uncovered between Gaza and an Israeli kibbutz was full of explosives and ended near a kindergarten.

The 1.5-mile-long tunnel, which was discovered last week and is now being reported after the lifting of a gag order, had more than one exit point in and around Kibbutz Ein Hashlosha, according to the Israel Defense Forces.

It is believed to have been constructed to kidnap civilians and soldiers, or to infiltrate the community and carry out a terror attack

The tunnel began in the Absan village located between Khan Younis in the southern Gaza Strip and the Gaza border fence. It was destroyed over the weekend.

Israel halted the transfer of goods and construction materials to Gaza following the IDF’s announcement of the discovery of the tunnel, according to reports.

It is the third such tunnel to be discovered in the last several months, originating from the same area. IDF officials believe there are many more such undiscovered tunnels, Haaretz reported.

A similar tunnel was used in the 2006 abduction of Israeli soldier Gilad Shalit.

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said the discovery is part of “an aggressive policy against terror,” despite the fact that this year has been the “quietest in more than a decade.”

Tehran cancels annual anti-Israel conference

(JTA)—Iran reportedly canceled an anti-Israel event held annually in Tehran.

The country’s Foreign Ministry nixed the New Horizon Conference, which was scheduled for November, as part of outreach efforts by recently elected President Hassan Rouhani to the West to map out a new diplomatic path for Iran, according to a report Friday by The Associated Press.

AP cited Iranian news websites as saying the Foreign Ministry scrapped the gathering because it was seen as undermining the government’s policy of “interaction with the outside world.”

The conference’s lead organizer, Nader Talebzadeh, was quoted as telling the website mashreghnews.ir that the cancellation is “a major mistake on the part of our government.”

Held originally in 2005, the conference has drawn well-known Holocaust deniers, including David Duke. Mark Weber, the U.S.-born director of the California-based Institute for Historical Review, attended the conference last year, where he delivered a lecture on “The Zionist Lobby in America” to several hundred Iranian students.

Rouhani’s predecessor, Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, caused an international uproar at a previous conference by describing the Holocaust as a myth and calling for Israel to be “wiped off the map.”

Alleged spies for Israel go on trial in Iran

(JTA)—The trial of three alleged spies for Israel has started in Iran.

The suspects whose trial started last week are charged with conspiring against the Islamic Republic and having relations with Israel, the Iranian Mehr News Agency reported Saturday. They allegedly hired 60 Iranian citizens to assist them, the news agency reported, adding that most of the suspects have confessed their guilt.

In August, an Iranian national was arrested in the Islamic Republic for allegedly spying for Israel. Two months earlier, Iran said it had disbanded and arrested what it called a 12-member terrorist cell trained by Israel to sabotage upcoming presidential elections.

And in May, Tehran said two men convicted of spying for Israel and the United States were executed.

Some 40,000 attend memorial for Rabbi Yosef

JERUSALEM (JTA)—Some 40,000 people participated in a memorial for Rabbi Ovadia Yosef in Jerusalem at the end of the mourning period.

The memorial on Sunday evening at the grave site of the Shas party spiritual leader marked the end of the seven-day shiva period for the one-time Sephardic chief rabbi, who died on Oct. 7 at the age of 93.

Several roads in the city near the cemetery were closed off several hours before the memorial, where some 20 people were injured due to crowding, according to reports.

Shas party leaders and other prominent rabbis participated in the ceremony, including Yosef’s son and the current chief Sephardic rabbi, Yitzhak Yosef; party head Aryeh Deri; and former Sephardic chief rabbi Shlomo Amar.

The haredi Orthodox news website Kikar Shabbat reported Sunday that Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu was denied permission to eulogize Yosef at his funeral because he is not religious, citing an unnamed member of the burial society.

Hundreds of thousands of mourners filled Jerusalem for the funeral.

Egypt: U.S. aid suspension ‘errant’

WASHINGTON (JTA)—Egypt’s military rulers called the U.S. freeze on some forms of military assistance “errant in both substance and timing.”

“The decision raises serious questions regarding the United States’ readiness to provide constant strategic support for Egyptian economic and security programs,” said a foreign ministry statement sent to reporters Oct. 10.

The Obama administration had announced the previous day that it would suspend delivery of some “large scale military systems” to Egypt but will maintain financial aid to help secure its border with Israel.

In recent weeks, as the Egyptian military has stepped up its crackdown on Muslim Brotherhood-affiliated opponents of the regime, the Obama administration has signaled it would reconsider aid.

That reversed its original reluctance to penalize the military for the July 3 coup, which removed the Muslim Brotherhood’s Mohamed Morsi from the presidency.

“The United States continues to support a democratic transition and oppose violence as a means of resolving differences within Egypt,” said the statement by Jen Psaki, a State Department spokeswoman.

Psaki did not say how much of the $1.5 billion in annual assistance—$1.3 billion of it in defense aid—would be cut, but she outlined areas where assistance would continue, suggesting that at least some of the defense aid would be diverted to civil society programs.

The decision was “errant in both substance and timing,” the Egyptian foreign ministry said, “despite the fact that the decision is of a temporary nature and does not terminate or reduce the aid programs and that it was accompanied by assurances that the United States will continue to support the interim government in Egypt.”

The statement said that Egypt remained “keen to maintain its good relations with the United States” but added that its internal affairs and security decisions would be taken in an “independent manner.”

Turkish students arrested for Nazi salute at Majdanek

JERUSALEM (JTA)—Two students from Turkey were arrested in Poland for using a Nazi salute on a group of Israeli students visiting the Majdanek concentration camp.

The Turkish students were taken into custody in Poland. The incident last week was reported in the Turkish media on Friday, according to Today’s Zaman.

The students reportedly made the Nazi salute and said “Heil Hitler” when they met a group of students from Israel. The Israeli group filed an official complaint, leading to the detention of the two Turkish students, who said the action was a joke, according to Zaman.

If they are found guilty of the charges of promoting fascist propaganda, the students could face up to three years in prison.

Tunisian tennis player being probed for not playing Israeli

(JTA)—A Tunisian player allegedly pulled out of a tennis tournament rather than face an Israeli on orders from his country’s tennis federation.

Malek Jaziri officially said Friday that a knee injury forced him to quit the Tashkent Challenger in Uzbekistan before his quarterfinals match against Amir Weintraub.

But Jaziri’s brother Amir told the French news agency AFP that he pulled out under orders from the Tunisian Tennis Federation not to play an Israeli. An email ordering Jaziri to pull out of the match was published by Tunisia’s state news agency, according to The Associated Press.

The Tunisian Sports and Youth Ministry told AFP that it does not make such demands on its players.

Simon Higson, a spokesman for the Association of Tennis Professionals, the tournament’s organizer, said the ATP was investigating along with the International Tennis Federation.

“There’s a clear distinction between the ATP’s jurisdiction over players and the ITF’s over federations,” Higson said. “We are looking into the specific circumstances of the case together with the ITF and will act accordingly.”

Jaziri and Weintraub train at the Sarcelles Tennis club in France and have known each other for several years. Weintraub told The Jerusalem Post that Jaziri is “a good friend” and that “he really wanted to play.”

Weinraub lost Saturday in the semifinals to Teymuraz Gabashvili of Russia.

It is believed to be the first time that a player has refused to play against an Israeli in international tennis play, according to reports.

Nazi Priebke’s funeral not welcome in Rome or Argentina

ROME (JTA)—The funeral for convicted Nazi war criminal Erich Priebke will likely be held  the day before Rome marks the 70th anniversary of the Nazi deportation of more than 1,000 Roman Jews to Auschwitz.

But officials and news reports Sunday said it was not yet clear where Tuesday’s service would take place or where his body would be buried.

Priebke died Friday at 100 in Rome, where he had served 15 years of a life sentence for his involvement in one of Italy’s worst World War II Nazi atrocities—the March 1944 massacre of 335 men and boys, including about 75 Jews, in the Ardeatine Caves south of Rome.

Since his death, officials in Rome and the Vatican, as well as in Argentina, where Priebke had fled after the war and from where he had been extradited to Italy in 1995, made clear that memorial services for Priebke were not welcome.

According to Priebke’s lawyer, Paolo Giachini, Priebke had wanted to be buried next to his wife in Argentina. But in barring the request, the Argentine Foreign Ministry said in a Twitter post that Foreign Minister Hector Timerman had “given the order not to accept the slightest move to allow the return of the body of Nazi criminal Erich Priebke to our country.”

In Rome, meanwhile, the mayor and police chief said they would not allow any form of “solemn and public” funeral, and did not want Priebke to be buried in a tomb in Rome that could become a place of pilgrimage for neo-fascists and neo-Nazis.

“Rome is an anti-fascist city that suffered dramatically,” said Mayor Ignazio Marino. “Just in the days in which we mark the 70th anniversary of the roundup in the ghetto, Rome cannot become the place of demonstrations in favor of those who inflicted so much suffering on people who live in this city.”

Shortly after Priebke’s death, graffiti reading “Honor to Priebke” was scrawled on a wall near the apartment where he had been serving his sentence under house arrest.

A spokesman for the Roman Catholic Church in Rome also was quoted by the news agency ANSA as saying that funeral rites for Priebke “were not foreseen” in a Roman church. Giachini told Italia media on Sunday, however, that the funeral would take place Tuesday, probably in Rome, in a private service.

Y.U. teacher with abuse conviction is dismissed

NEW YORK (JTA)—Yeshiva University terminated Akiva Roth, a recently  hired teacher, after his past sexual misconduct came to light.

Roth, 42, who started as a Hebrew teacher this term at Yeshiva College, had pleaded guilty to four counts of abuse against boys he tutored for their bar mitzvahs in 1997. He was sentenced to 10 years of probation.

“Mr. Roth is no longer employed by the University,” said a statement released Friday. To the university’s knowledge, “he has not engaged in any inappropriate conduct during his time at YU.”

The university admitted that it had “erred” by allowing Roth to begin teaching before his background check was completed.

“Yeshiva University will continue to re-evaluate its hiring processes and work to close any gaps in our procedure,” the statement said.

Prior to the hiring of Roth, the university had been at the center of controversy after alumni filed a lawsuit alleging years of sexual abuse by multiple faculty members.

Pope warns of anti-Semitism as Rome commemorates Holocaust victims

ROME (JTA)—Pope Francis urged vigilance against any resurgence of anti-Semitism ahead of the 70th anniversary of the deportation of Rome’s Jews to Auschwitz.

The pope made the warning Friday during a meeting at the Vatican with Italian Jewish leaders, including Riccardo Di Segni, the chief rabbi of Rome.

Commemoration of the 1943 deportation, Francis said, “will also be an occasion to recall the importance of remaining vigilant in order that we do not regress, under any pretext, to any forms of intolerance and anti-Semitism, in Rome and in the rest of the world.”

More than 1,000 Roman Jews were deported by Nazi occupiers on Oct. 16, 1943; only 16 survived.

Noting that Jews had lived in Rome for more than 2,000 years, the pope said that this history “as we well know” was “often marred by misunderstandings and real injustice.” However, he added, “by now this history includes, with the help of God, many decades of the development of friendly and brotherly relations.”

Francis also indirectly responded to criticism of wartime Pope Pius XII by noting that many Catholic religious institutions helped save Jews during the Holocaust. Critics say Pius turned a blind eye to the persecution of Jews during the Shoah.

The pope said he hoped to contribute “to that nearness and friendship” in the way that he had with the Jewish community in Buenos Aires, where he had been cardinal.

He added, “It is a contradiction for a Christian to be anti-Semitic. His roots are in part Jewish. A Christian cannot be anti-Semitic! May anti-Semitism be banished from the heart and the life of every man and woman!”

Francis also paid tribute to Christians who aided Jews during the Holocaust. “We know that many religious institutions, monasteries and indeed the Papal Basilicas, in accordance with the wishes of the Pope, opened their doors to provide a fraternal welcome, and that Christians offered the assistance, great or small, that they were able to give.”


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