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Weekly roundup of world briefs from JTA

 


Letter by families of terror victims calls for Pollard release

JERUSALEM (JTA)—Family members of terror victims killed by Palestinian prisoners released in connection with the current Israeli-Palestinian peace negotiations called on President Obama to free Jonathan Pollard.

The letter, signed by 22 terror victim relatives, was delivered Sunday to U.S. Ambassador to Israel Dan Shapiro to be passed on to the U.S. president, according to the Times of Israel. The letter was circulated by the Almagor Terror Victims Association.

“Mr. President, with a broken heart we are turning to you and asking you—please release Pollard, in the name of justice, compassion and humanity,” read the letter, which detailed their pain and suffering, and their failed attempt to prevent the release of the prisoners over the last eight months.

“Sadly, we did not succeed in our struggle. Close to 80 cold-blooded murderers were freed in the last three releases, and were received with massive celebrations by Abu Mazen while being portrayed as heroes,” read the letter.

Israel released the 80 Palestinian prisoners over the last eight months as part of an agreement made last August to jump-start the peace process.

Some 28 other prisoners were set to go free at the end of last month, but Israel postponed their release pending progress in the peace process, or an agreement by the Palestinians to extend the time of the negotiations, which currently are scheduled to end on April 29.

In an effort to convince Israel to release the latest batch of prisoners, U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry offered to release Pollard, the convicted American spy for Israel, currently in his 29th year of a life sentence in a U.S. prison. Many U.S. intelligence officials object to freeing Pollard.

“If all the requests and considerations weren’t enough, please do this as a gesture to the families who lost those most dear to them, who were forced to see the murderers of their precious ones freed, so that the end of the Pollard tragedy will offer them at least a tiny sliver of consolation,” said the letter.

Firebombs thrown at dance club near Hebrew U.

JERUSALEM (JTA)—Several firebombs were thrown at a dance club near Hebrew University.

The club is located next to the university’s Mount Scopus campus in French Hill in Jerusalem. French Hill is located alongside the eastern Jerusalem Arab neighborhood of Isawiya.

The club is in an area popular with students. One person was injured in the attack.

Three Arab youths were arrested in connection with the attack, Ynet reported.

Firebombs frequently are thrown at homes and buildings in French Hill, according to reports.

Palestinian man tried to carry out stabbing attack in West Bank settlement

JERUSALEM (JTA)—A Palestinian man was arrested while attempting to carry out a stabbing attack in the West Bank settlement of Maale Adumim.

The man, who appeared to be drunk, was carrying a 12-inch knife at the entrance to the community on Friday night, it was announced late Saturday. He told police called to the scene that he planned to stab someone from the settlement.

Police arrested the man, 34, of Abu Dis, and took him in for questioning.

Israel strikes Gaza targets after rocket falls on Ashkelon

JERUSALEM (JTA)—Israel struck five targets throughout Gaza hours after a rocket fired from Gaza landed near the southern coastal city of Ashkelon.

Direct hits were confirmed on what the Israel Defense Forces called in a statement “terror sites.”

The attacks occurred late on Saturday night. Earlier, on Saturday evening, a rocket fired from Gaza landed in an open area south of Ashkelon.

It was the fifth rocket to hit Israel over the weekend. Israel’s Air Force also attacked five terror targets in Gaza early Friday morning, following a rocket attack Thursday night.

Netanyahu: Peace talks ‘but not at any price’

JERUSALEM (JTA)—Israel is ready to continue peace talks with the Palestinians “but not at any price,” Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said.

“To my regret as we reached the moment before agreeing on the continuation of the talks, the Palestinian leadership hastened to unilaterally request to accede to 14 international treaties. Thus the Palestinians substantially violated the understandings that were reached with American involvement,” Netanyahu said Sunday at the start of the regular weekly Cabinet meeting.

His remarks came as U.S. envoy to the Israeli-Palestinian peace negotiations, Martin Indyk, was set to meet with the Israeli and Palestinian negotiating in an attempt to keep the peace talks going, at least until their April 29 scheduled end, and possibly beyond.

The Palestinians “will achieve a state only by direct negotiations, not by empty statements and not by unilateral moves,” Netanyahu said, adding: “unilateral steps on their part will be met with unilateral steps on our part.”

Israel’s chief negotiator to the peace talks, Justice Minister Tzipi Livni, on Saturday in an interview on Israel’s Channel 2 accused Naftali Bennett’s Jewish Home party of trying to “torpedo” the peace process.

Housing Minister Uri Ariel of the Jewish Home Party last week, as negotiations hit a major impasse, announced the reissuing of tenders for the construction of more than 700 residential units in the eastern Jerusalem neighborhood of Gilo.

Livni also blamed Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas for the failure of the talks.

Bennett responded to Livni’s allegations on Sunday morning in a Facebook post: “Last night I heard that someone is blaming Bayit Yehudi (!) for the collapse of the negotiations with the Palestinians. She should remember what Rabbi Akiva said in Pirkei Avot:  Silence is a sign of intelligence. Or as I would translate it into English: Silence is golden.”

Palestinians, IDF troops clash near Israeli prison

(JTA)—Several Palestinians were injured in clashes between rioters and Israeli troops near the Ofer Prison north of Jerusalem.

The rioters hurled stones and burning tires toward Israelis guarding the facility, Army Radio reported Friday.

The troops used crowd dispersal means. The Ma’an news agency reported that 13 people were injured.

Hundreds of Palestinian prisoners are housed at Ofer Prison.

The riots broke out one week after Israel failed to release 26 Palestinian prisoners it said it would set free in a framework agreement for jump-starting peace talks with Palestinian Authority negotiators.

The delay was born out disagreements between the parties on the release of Israeli Arabs. Israel opposes their release and says it never consented to such a move, while the Palestinians demand they be allowed to walk.

After Israel delayed the release, Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas on Tuesday applied for membership for “Palestine” in 15 international bodies—a move he had agreed to put on hold until talks run their course.

Palestinian negotiators are currently demanding that Netanyahu give a written commitment to recognize east Jerusalem as the Palestinian capital and lift the naval blockade of Gaza as a condition to going ahead with peace talks, Army Radio on Friday reported. They are also demanding the release of 1,200 prisoners, including Fatah leader Marwan Barghouti, the report said.

Kerry: U.S. to evaluate next steps in peace process

WASHINGTON (JTA)—U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry said the United States planned to evaluate its approach to Israeli-Palestinian peacemaking in light of recent setbacks, which he blamed on both sides.

In response to a question while visiting Morocco, Kerry said that he would return to Washington to confer with President Obama before deciding on the next steps. He said it was “reality-check time.”

“There are limits to the amount of time and effort that the United States can spend if the parties themselves are unwilling to take constructive steps in order to be able to move forward,” Kerry said. He said that “both sides have taken steps that are not helpful, and that’s evident to everybody.”

On Tuesday, Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas applied to join 15 international conventions in defiance of his commitment last year not to seek such recognition until an agreement is in place.

Israeli Finance Minister Yair Lapid wrote on Facebook that the applications appeared to be “a deliberate provocation aimed at blowing up the talks.”

Abbas went ahead with the applications after Israel on March 29 failed to release the final batch of 26 Palestinian prisoners out of 104 it said it would release in a framework agreement for jump-starting talks.

Kerry noted that the United States was grappling with crises and engagement in other arenas, including Russia’s incursion into Ukraine, the Syrian civil war and the nuclear talks with Iran.

“This is a global concern, but President Obama has made it clear and I’ve made it clear this is not open-ended,” he said. “We have a huge agenda. And we’re going to evaluate precisely what is possible and what is not possible.”

He said the United States was “not going to sit there indefinitely. It is not an open-ended effort.”

On Friday, Kerry phoned Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas and Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu in a bid to save the peace talks amid breakdowns that prevented progress.

Palestinian negotiators are currently demanding that Netanyahu give a written commitment to recognize east Jerusalem as the Palestinian capital and lift the naval blockade from Gaza as a condition to going ahead with peace talks, Army Radio on Friday reported. They are also demanding the release of 1,200 prisoners, including Fatah leader Marwan Barghouti, the report said.

Kerry phones Abbas, Netanyahu to save peace talks

WASHINGTON (JTA)—U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry held late night phone conversations with Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas in a bid to revive peace talks.

“Neither side, throughout this process recently, has indicated they want to walk away from the talks,” State Department spokesperson Marie Harf told reporters Thursday. “They both indicated they want to find a path forward.”

The late-night conversations followed a crisis in negotiations, which suffered a setback after Israel failed to meet a March 29 deadline to release 26 Palestinian prisoners and the Palestinian Authority applied to join 15 international conventions in defiance of its commitment not to seek such recognition until an agreement is in place.

Kerry, speaking in Algiers, where he was meeting Thursday with his Algerian counterpart, Ramtane Lamamra, said it would be a “tragedy” were the talks to collapse over what he said were procedural issues.

“A fight over process, how to get into a negotiation, should not stop you from getting into that negotiation,” Kerry said. “And so I hope that they will consider that very, very carefully.”

Palestinian negotiators are currently demanding that Netanyahu give a written commitment to recognize east Jerusalem as the Palestinian capital and lift the naval blockade from Gaza as a condition of going ahead with peace talks, Army Radio on Friday reported. They are also demanding the release 1,200 prisoners, including Fatah leader Marwan Barghouti, the report said.

Israeli-American Council expands to Las Vegas

LOS ANGELES (JTA)—The Israeli-American Council has established an office in Las Vegas as part of a drive to expand from its Los Angeles base to U.S. cities with major concentrations of Israeli expatriates.

Miriam Adelson, born in Haifa and the wife of billionaire casino owner Sheldon Adelson, is chair of the new IAC Las Vegas regional council established this week.

Inauguration of the Las Vegas office comes on the heels of similar openings in Miami and Boston.

“The Israeli-American Council is changing the landscape of the Jewish community in America ... through the full spectrum of educational, cultural, traditional and social programming,” Miriam Adelson said of the inauguration. “We are always thinking of strengthening the Jewish and Israeli identity of future generations and their endless support for the State of Israel.”

IAC’s three-fold mission is to support Israel, strengthen Jewish identity among young Israeli-Americans and enhance communication between the Israeli-American and the more established Jewish-American communities.

An estimated 10,000 Israeli expatriates live in Nevada, primarily in the Las Vegas area, and one of the new office’s first projects is to promote the community celebration of Israel Independence Day.

The IAC was founded in Los Angeles in 2007 by a group of Israeli-American businessmen as the Israeli Leadership Club. Last year it changed its name to Israeli-American Council. It had a presence at this year’s annual American Israel Public Affairs Committee (AIPAC) policy conference in Washington.

Among its major programs are the Israel Independence Festival; Sifriyat Pijama B’America, which distributes Hebrew children’s books throughout the United States; Mishelanu, setting up leadership groups on college campuses; and Tzav 8, which organizes activists to participate in demonstrations and pro-Israel activities.

Estimates of the number of Israelis and their children in the United States vary widely, from 500,000 to IAC’s figure of 800,000.

Amir Eden, a veteran educator and community activist, has been named regional director of the new IAC office for Nevada.

Soccer star Anelka: Jewish wife influenced French PM on quenelle

(JTA)—Soccer star Nicolas Anelka said the Jewish wife of French Prime Minister Manuel Valls influenced the politician to oppose the quenelle salute.

Anelka, who was fired last week from his British soccer team for performing the gesture in December, made the charges in an interview published Friday by the French edition of the Metronews daily.

Valls, who was recently nominated prime minister, called the quenelle salute “a gesture of hatred .., an anti-Semitic gesture” at a press conference in January, when he was still interior minister. But Anelka and his friend Dieudonne M’bala M’bala—the gesture’s inventor and the owner of seven convictions for inciting racial hatred against Jews— say it’s merely anti-establishment.

“He’s not so bad,” Anelka told Metronews of Valls. “I think he was under the influence of his wife on this quenelle issue.”

Anne Gravoin, Valls’ wife whom he married in 2010, is a violinist of Jewish Moldovan descent. In a 2012 talk in Paris, he said: “Through my wife, I am eternally bonded to the Jewish community and Israel.”

Last month, the West Bromwich Albion team, where the France-born Anelka was playing as a forward striker, fired him over “gross misconduct,” both for making the quenelle –- the act of folding one arm over one’s chest while pointing downward with the other arm—during a Dec. 28 match and for failing to apologize for it or to accept a club fine over the incident.

In February, the British Football Association imposed a $130,000 fine on Anelka and handed him a five-match ban.

His interview for Metronews was his first in-depth reaction to the sanctioning.

He denied harboring anti-Semitic sentiments and denied that the quenelle, which critics say echoes the Nazi salute, was anti-Semitic. Claiming so, he said, was paranoid.

He also said that for him, the affair has “turned Dieudonne from a friend to brother.”

In the interview, Anelka alluded to another of Dieudonne’s inventions called “shoananas.” A mashup of the Hebrew word for Holocaust and the French word for pineapple, it is seen as a way of suggesting the Holocaust is a hoax or mocking it without breaking France’s laws against genocide denial.

“If this continues, those who decide that the quenelle is racist will soon forbid the consumption of pineapples,” he said.

Many of Dieudonne’s fans have taken to posing while performing the quenelle near or while holding a pineapple, and then posting the photos online.

 

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