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Weekly roundup of world briefs from JTA

 


Interactive map charts Holocaust deportations of French children

(JTA)—A French historian has created an interactive map that charts the location of children deported from France during the Holocaust.

On Monday, the online map by Jean-Luc Pinol was so overloaded with connections that it could not be accessed.

Based on data collected by Nazi hunter Serge Klarsfeld, the map is part of an exhibit on display outside the National Conservatory of Arts and Crafts in Paris.

Some 11,400 children were among the 76,000 Jews deported from France and sent to Nazi death camps between July 1942 and August 1944.

On the map, red circles indicate from where the children were deported. Zooming in on the circles shows the exact location where a child was arrested and taken for deportation.

Report: Greece intercepted arms shipments to Iran sent by Israeli

ATHENS, Greece (JTA)—Greek authorities reportedly intercepted illegal arms shipments apparently sent by an Israeli that were intended for Iran.

Greek officials, working with the U.S. Department of Homeland Security, uncovered two shipments of spare parts for F4 Phantom jets in December 2012 and again last April, the Kathimerini daily reported over the weekend. The shipments violated international sanctions.

A Greek court ordered the shipments confiscated and transferred to the Americans, according to the Greek newspaper, which claimed to have a copy of the investigation report.

According to the report, the shipment originated in the Israeli town of Binyamina-Givat Ada and was sent via a Greek company based in Athens. Investigators from Greece’s Financial Crimes Squad determined the company was a ghost company, Kathimerini reported. The firm was registered by a British national from the northern city of Thessaloniki who could not be traced.

The report did not name the Israeli suspected of being behind the smuggling attempt.

Solar power field being built on Jewish-sponsored youth village in Rwanda

JERUSALEM (JTA)—The first utility-scale solar power field in East Africa will be built on land belonging to a Jewish-sponsored youth village in Rwanda.

The nearly $24 million project was announced Monday by Yosef Abramowitz, the president of Gigawatt Global Cooperatief, which arranged for its financing.

Construction has already started on the solar field on land belonging to the Agahozo-Shalom Youth Village. The village for orphans from the 1994 Rwandan genocide was founded by the late Anne Heyman.

The solar field will feed electricity into the national grid under a 25-year power purchase agreement with the Rwanda Energy, Water and Sanitation Authority. It is expected to be operational this summer.

“It takes a global village to raise a solar revolution,” said Abramowitz, who also is CEO of Energiya Global Capital, Gigawatt’s Israeli affiliate, which provided seed money and strategic assistance for the project.

Abramowitz called the solar field, which will provide an 8 percent increase in the country’s energy supply, “a game-changer for humanity and the environment.”

The youth village is leasing land to the solar facility and will use the proceeds to fund its charitable mission.

“Anne Heyman, our founder of blessed memory, held to a vision in which the village practiced tikkun olam, the Jewish teaching to help heal the world,” said Laurie Toll Franz, the youth village’s newly elected board chair. “In addition to our work with Rwanda’s most vulnerable children, we’re now helping to improve the lives of thousands of people through sustainable electricity generation.”

Heyman died earlier this month in a horse-riding accident in Florida.

Anti-Semitic, hate graffiti painted on Toulouse buildings

(JTA)—Swastikas and other hate graffiti were painted on buildings throughout the French city of Toulouse.

Sunday night’s vandalism, which also included far-right symbols, struck an LBGT center, a university and cemetery, and the offices of left-wing candidates in elections next month, according to Radio France International. Police have not identified any suspects.

The graffiti attacked Jewish groups and compared Jews to homosexuals, RFI reported.

“Those hateful messages are a real danger for our republic,” Toulouse Mayor Pierre Cohen of the Socialist Party said in a statement. “It is our responsibility not to let this noxious atmosphere reminiscent of the inglorious past become established.”

The Ozar Hatorah School in Toulouse was the site two years ago where a radical Islamist killed four people, including three children.

Also Sunday, some 20 supporters of the French comedian Dieudonne M’laba M’laba held a “quenelle party” on the southwest French city’s main square, police told RFI. The quenelle, a gesture reminiscent of a Nazi salute that was created by Dieudonne, has been widely condemned as anti-Semitic.

Last month, French police arrested a man who posted a photo on social networks that showed a young man wearing sunglasses performing the quenelle while standing in front of the entrance to the Ozar Hatorah School wearing a T-shirt emblazoned with the portrait of the late Palestinian leader Yasser Arafat.

Facebook’s Sandberg recalls identity-building BBYO experience

WASHINGTON (JTA)—Sheryl Sandberg, chief operating officer of Facebook, described how the Jewish youth movement BBYO helped to shape her.

Sandberg, also the author of the best-seller “Lean In” on empowering women in the workplace, spoke in a video message to the annual BBYO conference in Dallas over the weekend.

She said her experience in the organization helped her “stay close to the Jewish identity as a Jewish women that has really mattered to me.”

Sandberg advised using the monthly “Lean In” empowerment circles she advocates in her book in a BBYO context.

Also delivering video messages to the conference, which drew 2,000 teen leaders from across the United States and other countries, were Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and Natan Sharansky, the chairman of the Jewish Agency.

Sharansky spoke of the vital role Jewish youth movements played in sustaining his hopes when he was a prisoner of the Soviet gulag.

Argentine delegation to follow pope’s upcoming Middle East path

BUENOS AIRES, Argentina (JTA)—Jewish religious leaders are part of an Argentine delegation following the path that Pope Francis will take on his scheduled May visit to the Middle East.

The 45-member delegation of businesspeople, politicians and interfaith leaders is leaving Argentina on Tuesday for its trip to Israel, the Palestinian Authority and Jordan. The group is scheduled to meet with King Abdullah of Jordan, Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas and Israeli President Shimon Peres.

A meeting with the pope in Rome on Feb. 27 will finish the trip.

“We will undertake the same journey as Pope Frances will as a pre-interreligious trip to warm the pope’s agenda and to show that Argentina can export our coexistence and interreligious experience to the world as a prologue of what former (Argentinian) Cardinal Jorge Bergoglio will do himself as Pope in May,” Claudio Epelman, executive director of the Latin American chapter of the World Jewish Congress, told JTA.

The Buenos Aires-based chapter organized the trip.

Cantor cites pre-WWII isolation in pressing for greater U.S. engagement

WASHINGTON (JTA)—Rep. Eric Cantor, the House majority leader, cited the lateness of American actions against the Nazis in critiquing President Obama’s foreign policy.

In a speech Monday to the Virginia Military Institute, Cantor (R-Va.), who is Jewish, described leading a congressional delegation recently to Auschwitz to mark the 69th anniversary of the Nazi death camp’s liberation.

“Standing there as the frigid wind swept through the eerily quiet ruins of the camp, I could not help but regret that American action in World War II came too late to save countless millions of innocent lives,” he said.

“Hitler’s rise and conquest of Europe did not come as a surprise. We must not repeat the same mistake by reducing our preparedness, accepting the notion that we are one of many or ceding global leadership to others.”

Cantor said that “evil and hateful ideologies still exist in the world,” citing as perhaps the most evident Iran’s “determined march” to produce nuclear weapons.

“I can imagine few more destabilizing moments in world history than Iran on the threshold of being a nuclear power,” he said.

Cantor called on the United States to prepare for additional sanctions to counter what he said was the erosion of Iran’s isolation through its participation in international talks aimed at keeping it from obtaining a nuclear weapon.

“An America that leads is an America that must work to restore the badly eroded international pressure on Tehran,” he said. “We should lay the groundwork now for additional sanctions in the event Iran violates the terms of the interim agreement.”

The Obama administration has said that the removal of a number of sanctions ahead of the talks has not diminished a tough sanctions regime. It has opposed new sanctions while talks are underway, saying that unilateral U.S. sanctions could fracture the international alliance that has nudged Iran to the talks.

Al-Qaida-linked group says it perpetrated deadly bus bombing

JERUSALEM (JTA)—An Islamist group linked to al-Qaida claimed responsibility for the apparent suicide bombing of a tour bus on the Egypt-Israel border that left at least four dead.

Ansar Bayt al-Maqdis took responsibility for Sunday’s attack on Egyptian soil and promised others to disrupt the country’s economy, tourism and military, according to reports. Three South Korean tourists and the Egyptian driver were reported killed and at least 13 passengers were wounded in the attack on the Israel-bound bus traveling from the Sinai Peninsula.

The Egyptian deputy interior minister, Gen. Abdel-Fattah Osman, told the Al-Hayat newspaper that the attack likely was perpetrated by a suicide bomber on the bus. Osman said a hotel security camera showed a man not related to the trip boarding the bus.

Egypt’s Muslim Brotherhood said on Twitter that the explosion killed three “Zionists,” according to the Times of Israel. The 31 South Koreans on the tour bus were on a church trip to visit holy sites in Egypt, Israel and Turkey.

Israel eyeing more control of Temple Mount, Bennett says

JERUSALEM (JTA)—Israel may try to assume more control over Jerusalem’s Temple Mount, a government minister told American Jewish leaders.

Naftali Bennett, the chairman of the Jewish Home party and the minister of Jerusalem and Diaspora Affairs, on Monday told leaders of the Conference of Presidents of Major Jewish Organizations at the group’s annual meeting in Jerusalem that his office has taken steps to exercise greater Israeli sovereignty over eastern Jerusalem, Haaretz reported.

Among the steps, he said, is providing better services to the Arab residents of eastern Jerusalem.

In addressing the issue of the Temple Mount, Bennett reportedly said, “Unfortunately, the Temple Mount today doesn’t allow for the full exercise of freedom of religion, and there is discrimination against Jews there. But we have to be very careful when dealing with the Temple Mount because of the huge sensitivity of the site.”

The Temple Mount is under the control of the Islamic Wakf.

Bennett’s speech came a day after Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas told a group of visiting Israeli students that he would not be willing to share sovereignty over the Temple Mount but would allow Jews to worship at the Western Wall, one of Judaism’s holiest sites.

On Sunday, lawmakers in Jordan threatened to shut down the country’s embassy in Tel Aviv and expel Israel’s ambassador to Amman if Israeli lawmakers drafted a law to end the Wakf’s authority over Muslim and Christian holy places in Jerusalem, calling it a breach of the Jordan-Israel peace treaty.

A Knesset plenum debate on “the loss of Israeli sovereignty on the Temple Mount” is scheduled for Tuesday.

Hoarder of Nazi-looted art launches website

BERLIN (JTA)—Cornelius Gurlitt, whose stash of art in Munich was revealed to the world last fall, launched a website.

In English and German, Gurlitt explains that he is both duty bound “to preserve and maintain his father’s collection” and “open to historic responsibility.”

At issue is whether the 1,406 works of art confiscated from his home in 2012 as part of a tax evasion investigation were stolen or forcibly purchased from Jewish collectors or museums during the Nazi era.

Gurlitt, 81, said online that he would consider claims by possible heirs, but only “after the rightful return of the entire collection by the Augsburg public prosecutors and the customs authorities.” He also said he was willing to consider market-value offers by museums interested in purchasing works.

The collection, inherited from his father, Hildebrand Gurlitt, contained works by famous artists whom the Nazis considered “degenerate.” A worldwide clamor for transparency and investigation followed.

Since then, hundreds of works have been posted at the official German lostart.de website and a task force has been created to research the provenance of certain works.

Gurlitt had tried to stay under the radar after Focus magazine first reported on the discovered stash.

Meanwhile, the Bavarian minister of justice, Winfried Bausback, is expected to present his proposal on Friday to the upper house of the German Parliament that would eliminate the statute of limitations in cases where individuals are trying to keep art that was looted or forcibly sold during the Nazi years.

Bausback’s proposal was applauded recently by World Jewish Congress President Ronald Lauder in Berlin.

Work with Kerry, Tim Kaine tells Netanyahu

WASHINGTON (JTA)—The chairman of the U.S. Senate subcommittee on the Middle East urged Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu to cooperate with John Kerry in advancing Middle East peace.

Sen. Tim Kaine (D-Va.) is touring the Middle East with Sen. Angus King (I-Maine), and met Sunday with Netanyahu and his defense minister, Moshe Yaalon.

The senators also toured an Iron Dome anti-missile facility in southern Israel. The system, credited with reducing damage from rocket attacks from the Gaza Strip, is largely funded by the United States.

“During the meetings, Senators Kaine and King reaffirmed their strong support for the U.S.-Israel bilateral security relationship, including U.S. military assistance and intelligence sharing,” a statement from Kaine’s office said.

“Senators Kaine and King expressed full confidence in Secretary of State John Kerry’s efforts in the ongoing Israeli-Palestinian peace talks, and urged the Prime Minister to continue his cooperation with and support of Secretary Kerry,” the statement said.

There have been tensions in recent weeks between Kerry and Israeli Cabinet officials over his plans in the coming weeks to present a proposal for a framework peace agreement between Israel and the Palestinians.

Netanyahu and others have strongly rejected elements that reportedly will be included in the proposal, including sharing Jerusalem and handing over security in the Jordan Valley to an international force.

Kaine and King met Monday with Tzipi Livni, Israel’s justice minister and top peace negotiator, as well as with Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas, Prime Minister Rami Hamdallah and chief peace negotiator Saeb Erekat.

Kerry, who is in Abu Dhabi, is scheduled to meet with Abbas on Wednesday in Paris, reportedly at the request of the secretary of state, to discuss the Israeli-Palestinian peace negotiations.

 

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