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Weekly roundup of world briefs from JTA

 


Karnit Flug to be first female Bank of Israel chief

JERUSALEM (JTA)—Karnit Flug, the deputy governor of the Bank of Israel, was picked to move up to the top spot and if confirmed will be the first woman to be the central bank’s governor.

Flug’s appointment was announced Sunday by Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and Finance Minister Yair Lapid. The deputy governor since July 2011, Flug has been serving as acting governor since Stanley Fischer stepped down on June 30. Fischer recommended Flug to be his replacement.

Her appointment comes after two would-be appointees withdrew their names from the nomination after embarrassing personal information came to light. 

Lawrence Summers, a former U.S. Treasury secretary and president of Harvard University, also reportedly turned down the post last week.

Flug had resigned from her position after being passed over to replace Fischer.

“We have been impressed by Dr. Flug’s performance as Acting Governor in recent months and we are certain that she will continue to assist us in moving the Israeli economy to additional achievements in the face of the global economic upheaval,” Netanyahu and Lapid said in a brief statement.

Flug’s nomination must be confirmed by the Knesset.

Flug received a doctorate in economics from Columbia University in 1985 and worked at the International Monetary Fund before joining the Bank of Israel in 1998.

She joins Janet Yellen of the United States as landmark picks to lead the central banks of their countries. Yellen, who is Jewish, was appointed earlier this month as chief of the Federal Reserve and if confirmed would be its first female chief.

Israeli diplomats protest poster claiming ethnic cleansing of Bedouin

(JTA)—Israeli diplomats protested the use of a poster accusing Israel of ethnic cleansing against the Bedouin that was featured at an event at the European Parliament.

“Stop Prawer-Begin Plan, no ethnic cleansing of Palestinian Bedouin” read the poster seen at a conference Oct. 17 in Brussels organized by the Progressive Alliance of Socialists and Democrats, the European Parliament’s second largest bloc, on the Bedouin Arab minority in Israel.

The Israeli ambassador to the European Union, David Walzer, termed the poster “unacceptable” in a letter he sent to the president of the European Parliament, Martin Schulz, who is a member of the Socialists and Democrats group.

“Europeans and Israelis are fully aware of the possible consequences of the irresponsible use of such words,” Walzer wrote.

The Bill on the Arrangement of Bedouin Settlement in the Negev, also known as the Prawer-Begin Plan, was drawn up by former Likud Knesset member Benny Begin and approved by the Cabinet in January.

It calls for Israel to officially recognize and register the vast majority of Bedouin settlements throughout its South, and compensate the residents of 35 unrecognized villages—some 30,000 to 40,000 people—who are to be moved off state-owned land into towns built by Israel for them.

The plan to remove the Bedouin has sparked protests in Israel and drawn condemnations from international bodies.

Organizers of the conference in Brussels “systematically rejected” requests to host Doron Almog, director of the Headquarters for Economic and Community Development of the Negev Bedouin in the Prime Minister’s Office, Walzer said in a statement Saturday.

Leaders of the Socialists and Democrats group were not available for comment.

David Saranga, the head of European Parliament Liaison Department at Israel’s mission to the European Union, said event organizers agreed only to give Almog the floor for five minutes during the debate.

“All this makes me fear that the real objective of this seminar is not to improve the living conditions of the Israeli Bedouin but rather to cynically exploit this crucial issue to bash again Israel,” Saranga said. “This is certainly not the best way to conduct a constructive dialogue.”

Almog and Kamel Abu Nadi, an Israeli Bedouin from the Negev, addressed the Delegation for Relations with Israel in the European Parliament the same day and provided firsthand information concerning the Prawer-Begin Bill and its ramifications.

Palestinian shot while attempting to infiltrate security fence

JERUSALEM (JTA)—Israeli soldiers shot a Palestinian man who was cutting through the security fence in the northern Negev.

The man was believed to be attempting to infiltrate the Negev village of Meitar, according to the Israeli army, and was shot in the leg following warning shots during the Sunday morning incident.

He was treated at Soroka Hospital in Beersheva.

The incident comes less than a week after a Palestinian man was shot and killed after breaking into an army base near Jerusalem on a tractor and destroying army vehicles.

On Sunday night, a Palestinian man riding on a public Israeli bus traveling between Beit Shemesh and Beitar attempted to stab a Jewish passenger. The Palestinian pulled near the checkpoint at the entrance to Beitar Illit, northwest of Bethlehem, Ynet reported. He jumped off the bus and fled the scene.

The Israeli military is looking into whether the attack was nationalistically or criminally motivated.

The Jewish Press reported that the attacker cut off a sidelock of the passenger that he attempted to stab.  It reported that the bus line, in addition to being used largely by the haredi Orthodox community, is frequented by Palestinians who work illegally in Israel.

Several minor earthquakes shake Israel

JERUSALEM (JTA)—Israel has been hit by four minor earthquakes over the past several days.

Two earthquakes on Sunday were felt in the area of Tiberias and the Sea of Galilee—one at noon and the second a few hours later.  They both measured about 3.6 on the Richter scale.

The previous day, an earthquake of the same magnitude hit northern Israel, with its epicenter between the Hula Nature Reserve and the Sea of Galilee. A 3.5 magnitude quake occurred late last week, also near Tiberias.

It is not known what the string of mild earthquakes means and if it is a precursor of a larger earthquake in the region.

The Sea of Galilee is located on the Great Syria-African Rift, which has been the center of several earthquakes.

Family of Egyptian righteous gentile rejects honor

JERUSALEM (JTA)—A family member of an Egyptian doctor who was the first Arab to be recognized by Yad Vashem as Righteous Among the Nations said the family is not interested in the honor.

Mohamed Helmy, who died in 1982, was recognized by the Yad Vashem Holocaust Memorial in a ceremony last month.

The Associated Press tracked down one of Helmy’s relatives in Cairo, who told the news service that the family would not accept the award.

“If any other country offered to honor Helmy, we would have been happy with it,” Mervat Hassan, the wife of Helmy’s great-nephew, told AP.

Hassan told AP that the family did not want to accept the honor because Israel and Egypt continue to have a hostile relationship despite a 30-year peace treaty. She added, “I respect Judaism as a religion and I respect Jews. Islam recognizes Judaism as a heavenly religion.”

Helmy settled in Berlin after completing his medical studies there, but was forbidden to work under the Nazi regime beginning in 1938 because he was not considered Aryan. He spoke out against Nazi policies and hid a Jewish friend at a cabin he owned. Helmy arranged to hide other members of her family at the home of a German woman who also was honored by Yad Vashem, Frieda Szturmann, according to Yad Vashem.

Letters written decades ago by the Jewish Holocaust survivors on behalf of Helmy were discovered in the archives of the Berlin Senate and recently submitted to Yad Vashem.

Abbas: Peace talks have plenty of time

JERUSALEM (JTA)—Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas said the new peace talks with Israel have plenty of time to bear fruit.

Abbas told the German news service Deutche Welle that the peace talks that restarted in July after a hiatus of several years have not reached a dead end, as some have claimed in recent weeks.

“We’re still at the beginning of the road,” he said during the interview on Saturday. “We have enough time to continue to examine the main and tough issues.”

U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry has said the talks should last about nine months.

Abbas also said during his visit to Germany that any peace deal will be put up for referendum, and that Jerusalem should be the shared capital of both the Jewish and Palestinian states. He also hinted that the negotiations are based on the pre-1967 borders.

Also Saturday, the Hamas prime minister in Gaza, Ismail Haniyeh, called for an end to the division between the Palestinian leaderships in the West Bank and Gaza Strip in order to better negotiate an agreement with Israel.

“Let’s have one government, one parliament and one president,” Haniyeh said, according to Reuters.

He also called for a national strategy that includes “armed struggle, popular uprising and political, diplomatic and media battles.”

Knesset panel advances bill requiring two-thirds majority to negotiate Jerusalem

JERUSALEM (JTA)—A bill approved by a Knesset committee would require the approval of a two-thirds majority of Knesset lawmakers to negotiate the status of Jerusalem.

The Knesset Ministerial Committee for Legislation on Sunday approved the bill by a 5-4 vote.

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu opposes the measure, which will require 80 of the 120 Israeli lawmakers to approve any withdrawals from land within the city limits of Jerusalem.

Israeli Justice Minister Tzipi Livni, Israel’s chief negotiator in peace talks with the Palestinians, has said she will file an appeal.

Under the law, the Knesset, Cabinet and municipality of Jerusalem are exempt from implementing an agreement on Jerusalem reached without the approval of two-thirds of the Knesset.

Yosef Kolko sentenced to 13 years for sexual assault

NEW YORK (JTA)—Yosef Kolko, a former Jewish educator from New Jersey, was sentenced to 13 years in prison for aggravated sexual assault.

Kolko, who was sentenced Oct. 17 in Ocean County Superior Court in New Jersey, pleaded guilty in May to multiple sexual crimes. A former counselor at an Orthodox summer camp, Kolko admitted to performing oral sex and attempting anal intercourse with a 12-year old boy.

Kolko repeatedly tried to withdraw his guilty plea, claiming that members of the Lakewood, N.J., Jewish community had pressured him into pleading guilty in order to avoid the spectacle of a trial.

Testimony from the victim, now 16, was crucial in the outcome of the case, The Associated Press reported. According to prosecutors, the victim’s family was ostracized by the Lakewood community for bringing the case to state authorities because they feared religious authorities were not handling the issue appropriately.

‘My message to those monsters out there who are abusing: You will be exposed, you will be put behind bars, and you will go through hell on earth,” the unnamed victim told the court. “Molesting may seem harmless to you, but the reality is that it kills people with every touch.’’

Report: U.S. considering freeing up seized Iranian assets

WASHINGTON (JTA)—The Obama administration is considering freeing up Iranian assets if Tehran takes specific steps to curb its nuclear program, a senior administration official said.

The official, who was not named, told The New York Times that if the United States frees up Iran’s frozen overseas assets in installments, the Obama administration would avoid the political and diplomatic risks of waiving some of the sanctions.

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and a number of congressional leaders are opposed to lifting any sanctions until Iran verifiably complies with U.N. Security Council resolutions that require a suspension of uranium enrichment.

The report comes after two days of talks in Geneva over the Iranian nuclear program. While the talks did not produce a breakthrough, Iranian officials were more candid and substantive than in previous diplomatic encounters, officials said.

Many Western countries and Israel believe Iran is attempting to obtain nuclear arms. Iran insists its nuclear program is peaceful.

Administration officials said they would urge the Senate to hold off on voting on a new bill to enhance existing sanctions on Iran’s oil and banking sectors until after the next round of talks on Nov. 7.

The official likened the plan, which is still being debated inside the White House and the State Department, to opening and closing a financial spigot.

Muslim group appoints Jew as Philadelphia director

(JTA)—The Council on American-Islamic Relations hired a Jewish filmmaker and interfaith activist as executive director of the group’s Philadelphia office.

Jacob Bender is the highest ranking non-Muslim in the Washington-based organization and the first to lead one of its chapters, Religion News Service reported Oct. 17.

“Many Muslims face daily suspicion, not unlike other immigrant groups throughout history,” said Bender. “When one group of Americans is attacked, it lessens the quality of democracy for all of us.

“As part of a community that has historically faced persecution in Europe and the United States as well, I hope that I would bring a certain amount of sensitivity,” he told RNS.

Iftekhar Hussein, chairman of CAIR-Philadelphia’s board of directors, told the Jewish Daily Forward that Bender brought a minority’s sensibility to the job.

“The needs of the Muslim community are really the needs of any minority community in the United States,” he said. “Jacob, being Jewish, understands that from his own background.”

At CAIR, Bender said his work would focus on fighting civil rights violations, discrimination and hate speech, and promoting relations between Muslims and non-Muslims.

But several Jewish Americans greeted the move with caution, citing positions adopted by CAIR that they found unacceptable.

“The fact that he is Jewish does not indicate, necessarily, a change of attitude and activity at CAIR,” said Abraham Foxman, national director of the Anti-Defamation League, in a statement. “Unfortunately, there are Jews who are anti-Jewish and anti-Israel. But we will wait and see.”

In a 2006 report, the ADL accused CAIR of associating with people who have supported terrorism and of having extremist views on Israel.

Bender, who started Oct. 1 but whose appointment was announced on Oct. 15, the day Muslims celebrated Eid al-Adha, dismissed charges of extremism.

“Those attacks on CAIR are totally unfounded,” said Bender. “Many people equate extremism with any criticism of Israel.”

French lawyer disbarred for motion to replace Jewish judge

(JTA)—A lawyer from Lyon in eastern France was disbarred for filing a motion to disqualify a Jewish judge because of his origins.

The French Bar Association disbarred Alexis Dubruel on Oct. 16 for citing Judge Albert Levy in a 2012 motion to disqualify him from presiding over a custody case in which one of the parents was called Moses. He attached the Wikipedia definitions of Moses and Levy to his motion.

Dubruel has appealed his disbarment and his attorney called the punishment “disproportionate,” Le Figaro reported Oct. 16.

In his 2012 motion, Dubruel said Levy was “aggressive” toward his client but cordial in his demeanor toward the man called Moses. Dubruel accused Levy of “miscarriage of justice” during a hearing before the criminal court in Lyon in June.

Levy has in the past been the subject of anti-Semitic insults, according to Le Figaro.

In a separate trial last week, a Paris criminal court sentenced the French blogger Boris Le Lay to eight months in prison and gave him a $670 fine for posting material that “incites discrimination, hatred and violence against Jews” on websites he administers, according to French daily Le Telegramme.

Additionally, he is to pay $2,000 in damages to associations he had targeted, the court ruled.

Also separately, prosecutors in Correze in southern France indicted a 40-year-old Norwegian heavy metal musician named Kristian Vikernes for inciting hatred and other charges linked to his alleged anti-Semitic and xenophobic blog posts.

The trial was set for June after his lawyer asked for more time to read documents and prepare his defense, the BBC reported on Oct. 17.

In Norway, Kristian is a well-known neo-Nazi and former associate of Anders Breivik, the Norwegian militant who killed 77 people in Norway in 2011.

 

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