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Weekly roundup of world briefs from JTA


Temple Mount closed after Jewish-Muslim brawl

JERUSALEM (JTA)—The Temple Mount in Jerusalem was closed to visitors after a fight broke out between Jewish visitors and Muslim worshipers. The Jews visiting the site Sunday morning reportedly began singing Chanukah songs and praying. In response a group of Muslim worshipers attacked them, Israeli media reported. Two Jews and two Muslims were arrested in the incident.

Jews generally are not permitted to pray or bring any ritual objects to the Temple Mount, which is considered Judaism’s holiest site, in order to avoid confrontation with Muslim worshipers at the Al-Aksa Mosque, Islam’s third holiest site. The site is overseen by the Muslim Wakf, the Muslim religious administration charged with managing the Temple Mount site.

The Temple Mount was closed to non-Muslim visitors during this year’s Sukkot holiday over fears that Muslims would be incited to violence by the crowds. Days later, the Temple Mount was shut down to visitors after police removed 10 Jewish men for praying and singing.

Thousands demonstrate against Bedouin resettlement plan

JERUSALEM (JTA)—At least 28 protesters were arrested and 15 police officers injured during protests over a plan to resettle Bedouin into permanent communities in southern Israel.

The thousands of protesters in the Negev Desert, Haifa, eastern Jerusalem and the Arab-Israel community of Taibe threw rocks at police forces and blocked roads as part of a so-called Day of Rage against the plan. Police used water cannons, tear gas and sound grenades to disperse the demonstrators, according to The New York Times.

“We will treat offenders to the fullest extent of the law and will not tolerate such disturbances,” Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said after the demonstrations were quelled. “We have—and will have—no tolerance for those who break the law. Attempts by a loud and violent minority to deny a better future to a large and broad population are grave.”

The Bill on the Arrangement of Bedouin Settlement in the Negev would compensate Bedouin for land claims and relocate 30,000 Bedouin to recognized communities in the Negev. It passed its first reading in the Knesset in June by a vote of 43-40. The bill is expected to come up for its second and third readings during the current winter session of the Knesset.

Also known as the Prawer Bill or the Prawer-Begin outline because of the work on the bill by former lawmaker Benny Begin, the legislation also would enable the recognition of unrecognized Bedouin villages, but only within certain designated areas that include plans for infrastructure. Other unrecognized villages would be razed.

According to the bill, “the development of the Negev, for the benefit of all of its residents, is a national task of the highest order. In order to realize this national goal to its fullest, the issue of the Bedouin settlement in Negev must first be regularized.”

About 200,000 Bedouin, who are Israeli citizens, live in the Negev.

David Peleg, Israeli historian and diplomat, dies at 72

JERUSALEM (JTA)—David Peleg, an Israeli historian and a longtime diplomat who served as director of the World Jewish Restitution Organization, has died.

Peleg, Israel’s former ambassador to Poland, died Nov. 27 in Israel following a long illness. He was 72.

The Jerusalem native, whose family was from Poland, served as an Israeli envoy starting in 1965, finishing his career in Warsaw from 2004 to 2009. Previous stops included Zambia, Atlanta, London, Washington, New York and Geneva.

He was appointed director-general of the World Jewish Restitution Organization after leaving the Israeli Foreign Ministry in 2009.

Ronald Lauder, president of the World Jewish Restitution Organization as well as the World Jewish Congress, praised Peleg as a “thoughtful and skilled professional who did not seek the limelight but instead fought tirelessly to secure a small measure of justice for the dispossessed victims of the Holocaust and their heirs.”

David Harris, executive director of the American Jewish Committee, said in a statement that Peleg “was an Israeli patriot, proud of the country he represented and angered by the efforts to delegitimize and demonize the Jewish state.”

Harris said he met Peleg 25 years ago, when Peleg served as minister of public affairs at the Israeli Embassy in Washington.

“He was a voice for strengthening the bonds of Jews worldwide, and in particular between Israel and the Diaspora,” Harris said. “ He helped keep alive the memory of the six million Jews who perished in the Holocaust through his work as a diplomat and later at the WJRO.”

Peleg graduated from the Hebrew University in Jerusalem after studying general history and the history of Islam.

Israel awarded international women’s rights prize

 (JTA)—An international forum on women’s rights awarded Israel with a prize for progress made in reducing gender gaps.

The Women in Parliament Global Forum presented the award during a Nov. 27 ceremony at the European Parliament in Brussels. Accepting the award for Israel was Daphne Barak-Erez, 48, the youngest justice on the nation’s Supreme Court.

Some 500 female lawmakers, government officials and scientists from more than 100 countries attended the ceremony.

Israel is among a minority of 9 percent of developed countries with gender-sensitive  institutions in the seat of government, according to a 2012 report titled “Closing the Gender Gap” by the Organization for Economic Co-operation and Development, or OECD.

The report also said that in Israel and Norway, dropout rates for female high school students are at 27 percent—15 percent lower than for males.

Still, Israel ranked 53 in the World Economic Forum’s 2013 Global Gender Gap Index, scoring well below countries such as the Netherlands, Germany and the United States—at 13, 14 and 23, respectively—but also lower than Latvia, Nicaragua, Malawi, Namibia and Bulgaria. Israel scored 56 in last year’s index.

“The Israeli legal system is the arena in which the promise of gender equality is materializing,” Barak-Erez said during her address. This was “the result of legislation regarding gender equality in various areas of life as well as through judicial precedents.”

Report: al-Qaida has gained foothold in West Bank

    JERUSALEM (JTA)—Al-Qaida reportedly has gained a foothold in the West Bank, an Islamist group has asserted.

Majles Shura al-Mujahideen, or Holy Warriors’ Assembly, said in recent days on an Islamist web forum, “By the will of God Almighty, the global jihadi doctrine has reached the bank of pride, the West Bank, planting its foothold after all attempts to thwart its presence.”

Three suspected terrorists said to have been planning terror attacks against Israel and the Palestinian Authority who were killed by Israeli troops last week in the West Bank were members of al-Qaida, according to the forum, Reuters reported, and proved that the Islamist terror organization has established itself in the West Bank.

Reuters reported that the group already has support in Gaza and that Majles Shura al-Mujahideen called for an end to Israeli-Palestinian peace negotiations.

“We are serious about fighting the aggression against religion by the blaspheming Jews and the hypocritical collaborators,” the statement also said.

Israeli officials condemn discrimination against Druze troops

JERUSALEM (JTA)—Israeli officials condemned an incident in which Druze Israeli Air Force troops were not permitted to enter the nuclear reactor in Dimona as part of a security drill.

The incident, which reportedly occurred several weeks ago, was reported in the Israeli media over the weekend, and was first reported in Yediot Acharonot.

“Our brothers the Druze are our flesh and blood. They serve in combat units in the IDF and should be treated as equals,” Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said Saturday night, according to Israel Radio.

Israeli Defense Minister Moshe Yaalon called the incident “serious and outrageous, and it absolutely contradicts all our policies.”

“It is difficult to stand by and watch such discrimination, but this incident will not damage the ties between the State of Israel and the Druze,” he said.

The incident occurred when a busload of Israeli Air Force troops arrived at the Dimona nuclear reactor for a security drill. Three Druze soldiers, including one officer, were not permitted to enter the building, reportedly on orders from the Negev Nuclear Research Center.

Following an outcry from their fellow soldiers, the Druze soldiers were permitted to enter, about a half-hour later.

Four Palestinians arrested in rock attack that injured Israeli toddler

JERUSALEM (JTA)—Four Palestinians were arrested in connection with an attack on a car in a Jerusalem neighborhood that seriously injured a Jewish toddler.

The alleged attackers, ranging in age from 15 to 20, were ordered held in custody through last Monday. They are residents of the eastern Jerusalem neighborhood of Sur Baher, located adjacent to the scene of the attack.

The 2-year-old victim, identified as Avigayil, was hit in the head on the evening of Nov. 28 while traveling through the Jewish neighborhood of Armon Hanatziv, which separates the West Bank from pre-1967 Israel. Police said they believed the incident was nationalistically motivated.

The child, who reportedly lost consciousness after the blow, was taken to Hadassah Ein Kerem hospital. Last Friday, the hospital’s chief of pediatrics told Israeli media that the toddler had improved and was expected to make a full recovery with no irreparable damage.

Ex-Hungarian extremist to speak in Montreal despite opposition

TORONTO (JTA)—A one-time anti-Semitic extremist in Hungary will speak in Montreal despite attempts to have the invitation rescinded.

Csanad Szegedi, 31, a leading figure in the ultranationalist Jobbik party for a decade, was invited to speak on Dec. 9 by a local branch of Chabad, according to the Canadian Jewish News.

Known for his rabid anti-Semitism, Szegedi will speak on “My Journey From Hater to Fighter of Hatred.”

Last month, a Hungarian-Jewish Holocaust survivor, Paul Herczeg, and countryman Peter Sipos spent 90 minutes meeting with Chabad of Westmount leader Rabbi Yossi Shanowitz in an attempt to disinvite Szedegi, the newspaper reported.

Szegedi discovered in 2011 that he has a maternal Jewish grandmother who was an Auschwitz survivor. He was ousted by Jobbik and made contact with Chabad representatives in Hungary.

Szegedi’s detractors charge that his denunciation of Jobbik is insincere and that he only embraced his Jewish identity after he failed to suppress the news through bribery.

Sipos told the newspaper that Szegedi would be far more credible if he publicly condemned his one-time fascism in the European Parliament, where he sits as a member.

Chabad said Szegedi has proved himself by undergoing ritual circumcision and following Jewish practices.

“Today, despite many attempts to discredit him, Mr. Szegedi, a member of the European Parliament, has dedicated himself to speak out against fascism and anti-Semitism in Hungary and Eastern Europe,” Chabad of Westmount’s website said.

Kanye West: Black people don’t have same connections as Jews

(JTA)—Rapper Kanye West, saying “Black people don’t have the same level of connections as Jewish people,” defended President Obama’s difficulty in passing his policies.

West made the comments last week in an interview on the New York City radio station WWPR-105.1 FM. The Israeli daily Haaretz with its report last Friday apparently was the first to note the interview on the hip hop and R&B station.

“Man, let me tell you something about George Bush and oil money and Obama and no money,” West said. “People want to say Obama can’t make these moves or he’s not executing. That’s because he ain’t got those connections. Black people don’t have the same level of connections as Jewish people. Black people don’t have the same connection as oil people.

West went on to say, “Can you guarantee that your daughter can get a job at this radio station? But if you own this radio station, you could guarantee that. That’s what I’m talking about.”

The rapper has made comparisons in the past that have raised the hackles of the Jewish community. In August 2011, he was booed at a concert in England after comparing himself to Hitler.

“I walk through the hotel and I walk down the street, and people look at me like I’m (expletive) insane, like I’m Hitler,” West told an audience of 40,000 at the Big Chill Festival. As the audience booed, he said, “One day the light will shine through, and one day people will understand everything I ever did.”


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