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Weekly roundup of world briefs from JTA

 


Abbas: Willing to speak to Knesset on my terms

JERUSALEM (JTA)—Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas said he would be willing to speak to the Knesset, but only on the issues he chooses.

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu in a public statement last week called on Abbas to address the Knesset and said he would travel to Ramallah to speak to the P.A. leadership.

“Netanyahu comes up with an offer and then immediately puts forward his own terms – that this and that should be said and so on. No, if those terms are put forward, I do not accept that,” Abbas told the Voice of Russia in remarks broadcast Friday. “But if he wants me to come and say the things I want to say, then I am ready to do it—but only in order to say what I want to say and not what he wants to hear. “

Abbas said there would be a “full-fledged” Palestinian state.

“When Israel realizes the need to establish peace in the Middle East, then there will emerge a Palestinian state with the capital in holy Jerusalem,” the P.A. leader said.

He said the Palestinian Authority currently is not discussing efforts to push forward a bid for full membership in the United Nations.

Abbas said Russia has a “significant part to play” in peace talks between Israel and the Palestinians.

Brandeis president says he’ll stay in touch with Al-Quds U. counterpart

(JTA)—Brandeis University President Frederick Lawrence said he would reach out to the president of Al-Quds University in the wake of the U.S. school suspending relations between the two institutions over an Islamic Jihad rally.

In a statement posted last Friday on the Brandeis website, Lawrence said the decision to suspend relations with Al-Quds University “was taken deliberatively and with broad input. The partnership was suspended—not terminated—pending the receipt of additional information including input from our faculty members.”

The universities have been sister institutions since 1998.

The suspension was announced on Nov. 18 in light of recent events at the Palestinian school, including a demonstration on its main campus in Jerusalem glorifying terrorism.

At the Nov. 5 demonstration, protesters marched in black military gear with fake automatic weapons while waving flags and offering the traditional Nazi salute. Banners with images of Palestinian suicide bombers decorated the main square of the campus, according to a statement from Brandeis. Several students also portrayed dead Israeli soldiers.

Lawrence said Al-Quds University President Said Nusseibeh’s condemnation of the demonstration, in which he said that “Jewish extremists” were using the demonstration to “capitalize on events in ways that misrepresent the university as promoting inhumane, anti-Semitic, fascist, and Nazi ideologies,” was “unacceptable and inflammatory.”

In his statement last Friday, Lawrence said he was “dedicated to keeping the lines of communication open between our institutions,” but that he would not respond to issues raised by Nusseibeh in the media. He said he hoped Nusseibeh would be “open to that discussion.”

On the same day, Nusseibeh in an email to the Times of Israel that Lawrence had “gone overboard” in his reaction to the controversy.

Daniel Terris, director of the International Center for Ethics, Justice and Public Life at Brandeis, said in a statement posted Nov. 21 on the Brandeis website that “nothing that we have learned during this period has changed our conviction—built over many years of experience—that Sari Nusseibeh and the Al-Quds University leadership are genuinely committed to peace and mutual respect.”

Terris and two other faculty members were visiting the main campus of Al-Quds at the time of the suspension of relations. Al-Quds has two other campuses.

“This is a good time to recall Nusseibeh’s forty-year record of courage, innovation, and willingness to engage in challenging dialogue, the marks of a man whom I know personally to be a stalwart opponent of hatred and intolerance wherever they are found,” Terris wrote.

The Jerusalem Post reported last Friday that Syracuse University’s Institute for National Security and Counterterrorism also has “indefinitely” suspended its relationship with Al-Quds.

Textbook on Arab-Israeli conflict by Arabs and Israeli debuts

BOSTON (JTA)—A textbook on the Arab-Israeli conflict co-authored by a Palestinian, an Israeli and an Egyptian has been published.

The project was a seven-year undertaking by the founding scholars of the Crown Center for Middle East Studies at Brandeis University.

“Arabs and Israelis: Conflict and Peacemaking in the Middle East” is a collaboration of Shai Feldman, Abdel Monem Said Aly and Khalil Shikaki based on a course the trio has taught as a team at the suburban Boston university since 2006.

The course and the textbook are based on the center’s mission to engage in a balanced and dispassionate approach to what it describes as the most resilient of all international conflicts. The authors are widely published scholars who hold multiple academic appointments in the United States and the Middle East.

“We hope that this book will allow the teaching of the Arab-Israeli conflict to be more sophisticated than it is now,” said Feldman, who has directed the Crown Center since it was established in 2005.

The book helps students to become more sensitive to the competing narratives of the three perspectives—an important dimension of the conflict, he told JTA—and provides critical background for intelligence analysts.

Each of the 13 chapters, structured to match a college semester, includes a section with uncontested facts, another that exposes the disagreements and competing narratives, and a final section of analysis, Feldman explained at a Nov. 22 panel discussion at Brandeis celebrating the book’s release.

Agreeing on the facts was among the most challenging aspects of writing the book, according to Shikaki, who noted that the task was made easier by the fact that the three have worked together for decades and are friends.

“The book demonstrates that collaboration doesn’t require a uniformity of views, but rather the openness to listen to different perspectives,” said Steve Goldstein, the university’s provost, who introduced the panel. “This is a prerequisite for peacemaking.”

Khamenei anti-Israel tirade draws U.S. condemnation

WASHINGTON (JTA)—An anti-Israel speech by Iranian Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei drew condemnations from U.S. officials.

In his Nov. 20 speech, Khamenei said Israel “will not endure” and appeared to refer to Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu as an “unclean rabid dog.”

A day later Samantha Power, the U.S. ambassador to the United Nations, called the remarks “abhorrent.” Also on Nov. 21, Secretary of State John Kerry told the Senate Foreign Relations Committee that Khamenei’s remarks were “inflammatory” and “the last thing we need” while talks are underway in Geneva.

In his speech, Khamenei appeared to respond to Netanyahu’s claim that Iran poses a threat not just to Israel but to the entire international community.

“Sometimes this is heard from the enemies of Iran, such as from the sinister mouth of the unclean rabid dog of the region in the Zionist regime,” Khamenei said, according to Iran Pulse, an English language monitor of the Iranian press.

Khamenei slammed the French for adopting the toughest stand in major powers’ negotiations with Iran on rolling back the Iranian nuclear program in exchange for sanctions relief.

“The support of the miserable Zionist regime to which not even an animal’s name can be assigned will be a great dishonor to the Europeans. Of course, the French must themselves find a remedy for it,” he said. “The Zionist regime is an imposed regime, and whatever comes out of force is not durable and this regime will not endure.”

Netanyahu, meeting in Moscow with Russian Jewish community leaders, said that the remarks underscored the true nature of the Iranian regime.

“This is the real Iran! We are not confused,” Netanyahu said. “They must not have nuclear weapons. And I promise you that they will not have nuclear weapons.”

In his speech, Khamenei also warned Iranian negotiators in Geneva not to cross “red lines,” although he did not spell these out.

Iranian Foreign Minister Javad Zarif has suggested in recent days that Iran may retreat from its demand that the international community recognize an Iranian right to enrich uranium.

Alleged Knockout participant charged in assault of Jewish man

(JTA)—A man accused of participating in the Knockout game was charged with assaulting an Orthodox Jewish man in Brooklyn.

Amrit Marajh of Brooklyn was arraigned Saturday and released on $750 bail after being charged with misdemeanor assault and harassment. He was not charged with a hate crime, according to The New York Times.

The attack reportedly occurred early Friday morning when the 24-year-old Orthodox man said he was boxed in by a group of men and punched out by one of them. The victim said he heard the alleged attacker and his friends talking about the game, in which the attackers try to knock out someone with one punch.

At least seven such attacks have taken place in the Brooklyn area since September, most directed at identifiably Jewish people, according to reports.

Marajh said in court that he never heard of the game and did not hit the victim.

Other incidents of Knockout have occurred in New Jersey, Pennsylvania and Washington, D.C., The Associated Press reported.

Neo-Nazi’s victory in Slovakia spurs Jewish call for action

(JTA)—European officials must act to reverse the momentum of neo-Nazi political parties, the head of the European Jewish Congress said following a victory in Slovakia by a neo-Nazi candidate.

EJC President  Moshe Kantor issued a statement Sunday in the wake of the victory by Marian Kotleba, the ex-chairman of the banned Togetherness National Party.

Kotleba in a second round of voting over the weekend defeated the Social Democrat incumbent to become president of the self-governing region around the central city of Banska Bystica.

“The neo-Nazis are gaining many political victories and are using the democratic system against democrats,” Kantor said. “Democracy has to fight back and European officials should immediately create a plan of action, including the proscription of neo-Nazi political parties, to deal with this phenomenon before it is too late.

“We hope the Greek model of suspending state funding for the Golden Dawn party and the revocation of parliamentary immunity for its members will be enacted elsewhere in Europe and form the basis of the opposition.”

The Slovak Spectator newspaper said Kotleba  “frequently organized and participated in anti-Roma demonstrations or marches commemorating the Nazi-allied wartime Slovak state and its president Jozef Tiso. He has been detained and charged repeatedly for crimes, including racial defamation.”

The German DPA news agency described Kotleba as being known for his “agitation against the Roma minority as well as for appearing in uniforms modeled upon fascist styles.”

At a Jewish conference, German president marvels at return of Jews

BERLIN (JTA)—German President Joachim Gauck in an address to a Jewish community conference in Berlin marveled at the fact that Jews want to live in his country.

Gauck’s appearance Sunday was the first time a German president attended the annual conference hosted by the Central Council of Jews in Germany, the main umbrella organization representing some 105,000 official members of Jewish communities throughout the country.

Speaking to some 600 community members and guests at Berlin’s Intercontinental Hotel, Gauck also defended his decision to sign the Prague Declaration in 2008, which called the Nazi and Communist regimes twin disasters of the 20th century.

“We should avoid competition between victims,” Gauck said, noting that as a German he felt a special responsibility to warn against genocides.

Called “One People, One Community,” the three-day conference drew rabbis, communal leaders, representatives of Jewish NGOs and community members for workshops, meetings, Sabbath services and a gala party.

Gauck, who grew up in the former East Germany, said he had never imagined as a young man that Jews would want to live in Germany again.

Meeting later with six young Jewish professionals, Gauck asked them how their families had come to the country and how they felt about living in Germany.

“All of us answered that the decision to come to Germany of all places was difficult, particularly for the first generation,” Roy Naor, 27, told JTA. “But now with the third generation, it is a different story.”

Naor, a fledgling attorney who was recently elected to the board of the Jewish community of Hamburg,  said he was moved by Gauck’s response.

“He said that often grandparents did not talk to their own children about their issues, but that grandchildren can now ask the questions... with a different sense of self confidence,” Naor said. “He said, ‘Maybe we see it as our mission.’ “

Though some in the audience bristled at Gauck’s remarks on genocide, Naor did not think the president had tried to establish a moral equivalency between tragedies. Rather, the message was “don’t sit back and think that something like this won’t happen again.”

At the council assembly meeting on Sunday, Graumann said one of his top agenda items was how to ensure that survivors of Nazi-era ghettos receive the pensions promised to them by the German government.

“There are 21,500 survivors who are at least 85 years old who are eligible,” he said, adding that he hoped the government was not just waiting for them to die.

Gauck also reiterated his support for Israel and his commitment to Jewish life in Germany.

ADL ties proving a problem for Mass. high court nominee

BOSTON (JTA)—A nominee for the top court in Massachusetts is facing opposition in part because of his affiliation with the Anti-Defamation League.

Joseph S. Berman, 49, a regional leader of the New England ADL and a commissioner for the national ADL since 2006, was nominated as a judge for the state Superior Court in October by Gov. Deval Patrick.

At an emotionally charged hearing last week, Marilyn Pettito Devaney of the Governor’s Council—the elected eight-member panel that is voting on the nomination—said she had the votes to deny Berman the appointment.

Devaney, who lives in Watertown, a Boston suburb with a large Armenian population, added that if she belonged to a group that denied the Holocaust, she would resign.

Her comments relate to a controversy from the mid-2000s, when the national ADL did not recognize the massacre of millions of Armenians on the eve of World War I as genocide. The ADL changed its position in 2007.

Several other councilors cited additional reasons for their unwillingness to support Berman while also agreeing that his ADL ties are a concern, the Boston Globe reported.

Admitting he was not prepared for the council’s reaction, Patrick delayed the vote until Dec. 4.

“I’m going to work hard to get the votes,” he said, although the Globe indicated the extra time would not save the nomination.

Robert Trestan, director of the New England ADL, said “the attack” on Berman and the ADL was a surprise.

“It’s not warranted based on the facts,” Trestan told JTA. “We changed our policy and we have moved on.”

He added, “Membership in an organization such as the ADL should not be a litmus test to qualify for being a judge.”

Berman was among the most persuasive leaders urging the group to acknowledge the massacre as a genocide, according to Jeffrey Robbins, chair of the New England ADL, who testified at the hearing.

Berman, a partner at the Boston firm Looney & Grossman, is a commercial litigation lawyer with a long track record in civil rights advocacy.

 

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