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Weekly roundup of world briefs from JTA

 


Liberman nears reappointment as foreign minister

JERUSALEM (JTA)—Israel’s Cabinet approved the reappointment of Avigdor Liberman as foreign minister.

Following the approval on Sunday, Liberman’s reappointment now goes before the full Knesset, which is set to follow suit. The head of the Yisrael Beiteinu party will be sworn in on Monday.

Liberman was acquitted last week on a charge of fraud and breach of trust, clearing the way for a return to his old post.

The Jerusalem Magistrate’s Court ruled Nov. 6 that Liberman did not unreasonably advance Zeev Ben Aryeh, Israel’s former ambassador to Belarus, to new positions.

Liberman had resigned as foreign minister last December, shortly before he was indicted.

He will have to leave his prestigious position as chairman of the Knesset Foreign Affairs and Defense Committee.

Report: Tests on Arafat poisoning paid for by his widow, P.A.

(JTA)—The widow of Yasser Arafat and the Palestinian Authority paid for the Swiss medical tests on the late Palestinian leader’s body that showed he did not die of natural causes.

The Washington Free Beacon reported Friday that a spokesperson for the University Centre of Legal Medicine in Lausanne told the newspaper that Suha Arafat and the P.A. paid for the tests.

The tests “moderately” supported the notion that Arafat had been poisoned with polonium, a radioactive substance.

Al Jazeera America reported last week that it believed the Swiss lab conducted the tests for free as a public service, according to the Free Beacon.

Polonium is a highly toxic substance that is rarely found outside military and scientific circles. The substance was found in Arafat’s ribs and pelvis, and in the soil beneath where his body was buried, according to Al Jazeera America.

A report issued Friday by a team of Russian scientists found insufficient evidence that Arafat was poisoned with polonium.

Arafat led the Palestine Liberation Organization for 35 years and became the first president of the Palestinian Authority in 1996. He fell violently ill in October 2004 and died two weeks later, at the age of 75, in a Paris military hospital. His remains were exhumed last year

Suha Arafat had filed legal action in July 2012 asking French authorities to look into claims that her husband was poisoned. The following month, French prosecutors opened a murder inquiry into the death of Arafat.

No gay residents in Beit Shemesh, haredi Orthodox mayor says

JERUSALEM (JTA)—An LBGT group filed a complaint against the haredi Orthodox mayor of Beit Shemesh after he said on television that his “holy and pure” city does not have homosexual residents.

Moshe Abutbul, who was re-elected three weeks ago after a contentious campaign that pitted secular and more Modern Orthodox residents against haredi Orthodox residents, also told Israel Channel 10 in an interview that aired Friday that the Health Ministry and the police are responsible for handling the LGBT (lesbian, gay, bisexual and transsexual) community.

Asked if the city has gay residents, Abutbul said, “We have no such thing. If you mean what I think you mean, then no. Thank God, this city is holy and pure.”

On Sunday, the Association of Gays, Lesbians, Bisexuals and Transgendered in Israel filed a complaint against the mayor.

“This constitutes incitement, urging attacks on and a show of contempt for the LGBT community,” said Shai Doitsh, the association’s chairman.

Meanwhile, Abutbul’s mayoral challenger, Eli Cohen, will file a request Monday for new elections with the Jerusalem District Court claiming voting fraud. Complaints of forgery and other irregularities on Election Day have been leveled against Abutbul’s camp.

Beit Shemesh has gained notoriety in recent years for tension between haredi Orthodox and other residents, including harassment of girls on their way to a Modern Orthodox school and attacks on a public bus after a woman refused to move to the back to accommodate haredi Orthodox passengers.

Palestinian investigators: Israel only suspect in Arafat ‘killing’

(JTA)—Palestinian investigators named Israel the “only suspect” in the death of Yasser Arafat after laboratory tests suggested the Palestinian leader died of poisoning.

“We say that Israel is the prime and only suspect in the case of Yasser Arafat’s assassination, and we will continue to carry out a thorough investigation to find out and confirm all the details and all elements of the case,” Tawfiq Tirawi told a news conference in the West Bank city of Ramallah, the French news agency AFP reported last Friday.

Tirawi, who is leading the Palestinian inquiry, said the investigation had studied the findings of Swiss scientists released Nov. 6 that “moderately” supported the notion that Arafat had been poisoned with polonium, a radioactive substance.

Palestinian officials on Nov. 7 demanded an international inquiry into Arafat’s “killing.”

Wasel Abu Yusef, a senior Palestine Liberation Organization official, said polonium “is owned by states, not people, meaning that the crime was committed by a state.”

Speaking to reporters in Lausanne on Nov. 7, the Swiss team said the test results neither confirmed nor counted out that polonium was the actual cause of death, although they provided “moderate” backing for the idea Arafat was poisoned.

The team said the quantity of the deadly substance found on Arafat’s remains pointed to the involvement of a third party.

“We can’t say that polonium was the source of his death... nor can we rule it out,” said Francois Bochud of the Lausanne Institute of Applied Radiophysics.

Arafat died in France on Nov. 11, 2004 at the age of 75 after falling sick a month earlier. Doctors were unable to specify the cause of death. His remains were exhumed last year.

Israeli emergency responders heading to typhoon-ravaged Philippines

JERUSALEM (JTA)—The Israeli disaster relief organization IsraAid is sending an emergency response team to the Philippines to the areas hardest hit by Typhoon Haivan.

The nonprofit group’s team of medical professionals and trauma and relief specialists are scheduled to arrive in the Philippines on Monday, working primarily in Tacloban City in Leyte. A larger team is expected to land by the end of the week, according to IsraAid.

The death toll in the typhoon, which made landfall in the central Philippines on Friday, could be at least 10,000, according to reports that emerged Sunday, citing local officials. At least half a million people also have been left homeless by the devastating typhoon.

The American Jewish Joint Distribution Committee has begun collecting funds for relief efforts. JDC representatives are consulting with local authorities, the Filipino Jewish community and global partners to assess the immediate needs of the survivors and said it will send a team to the area to assess the situation on the ground.

“Our heartfelt prayers go out to the Filipino people in the wake of yesterday’s deadly storm,” Alan Gill, JDC’s chief executive officer, said over the weekend. “We immediately activated our network of global partners and will leverage our previous experience in the region to provide immediate, strategic relief to survivors in their time of need.”

An Israeli diving instructor who was visiting the small Philippines Island of Malapscua and was believed to be missing in the storm was located early Sunday morning.

Hagar Klein, 23, had not been in touch with her family since late last week, Ynet reported.  Most Israelis living in the Philippines are centered near the capital of Manila, which was not affected in any meaningful way by the typhoon.

N.Y. superintendent defends school district against reports of rampant anti-Semitism

(JTA)—The superintendent of a New York State school district that has been accused of anti-Semitic harassment said the district “has a long history of acceptance and tolerance.”

Joan Carbone, superintendent of the Pine Bush Central School District 90 miles north of New York City, acknowledged in a statement issued Sunday that the school is getting “much media attention” since a New York Times article published on Friday reported on the years of swastikas and anti-Semitic behavior on the part of students there.

The alleged behavior caused three Jewish families to file a lawsuit against the school district and New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo to order investigations into the allegations of anti-Semitic harassment.

“We are confident that the investigations from the Governor’s office will demonstrate our intolerance for racism and acceptance of diversity in our District,” Carbone wrote in the statement.

“The Pine Bush School District has a long history of acceptance and tolerance and we appreciate all the support we have received from those who know our vested interest in creating a welcoming environment for all students,” it concluded.

Citing depositions in the lawsuit, The New York Times reported that Jewish students have complained of anti-Semitic epithets and nicknames, jokes about the Holocaust, being forced to retrieve coins from dumpsters and physical violence. Fellow students are accused of making Nazi salutes and telling anti-Semitic jokes.

“The reports of rampant anti-Semitic harassment and physical assaults at Pine Bush schools, if true, are deeply disturbing,” Cuomo said in a statement issued Friday.

“The public has a right to know the truth and parents across the state have the right to know that their children can attend our schools without fear of this reprehensible behavior,” the statement said.

Parents of the students who say they have suffered from the anti-Semitic incidents said that the school district did not take complaints seriously and that the complaints of anti-Semitic harassment were isolated, according to the Times.

The school district says it took the appropriate disciplinary actions and that anti-Semitic behavior is not widespread in the district.

In the 1970s, Pine Bush was the home of the grand dragon of a Ku Klux Klan chapter whose wife sat on the district’s school board, according to the Times.

 

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