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Weekly roundup of world briefs from JTA

 


Israeli prime minister, president to have private plane

JERUSALEM (JTA)—Israel’s Cabinet approved a plan to purchase a private plane for the country’s prime minister and president.

At its weekly meeting Sunday, the Cabinet backed the recommendations of a public committee on the plane and the construction of a combined office and official residence for the prime minister in Jerusalem.

The plane is expected to cost up to $20 million and the building about $188 million, according to Ynet.

The prime minister currently must charter a plane for trips abroad. In December, Benjamin Netanyahu decided not to attend the funeral of Nelson Mandela in South Africa due to the high cost of travel, estimated at $2 million.

‘Price tag’ attacks hit near Jerusalem, in West Bank

JERUSALEM (JTA)—Suspected “price tag” attacks outside Jerusalem and in the West Bank included anti-Arab graffiti and chopped down olive trees.

An Arab-owned construction site in the community of Kiryat Yearim, also known as Telz-Stone, located west of Jerusalem, was spray-painted late Saturday night with anti-Arab graffiti, including “price tag” and “Kahane was right.”

Also Saturday, a Star of David was spray-painted on the car of an Arab resident of Acre and its tires were slashed.

Earlier in the day, more than 30 olive trees were discovered chopped down in the West Bank village of Nahalin and the words “Arab thieves” and “price tag” were found spray-painted on rocks nearby, according to Ynet.

Price tag refers to the strategy adopted by extremist settlers and their supporters generally to exact retribution for settlement freezes and demolitions or Palestinian attacks on Jews.

Yitzhar rabbi blames ‘establishment’ for settler-soldier clashes

JERUSALEM (JTA)—The “establishment”—the Israeli army and government—is responsible for the current clashes between soldiers and settlers, the head of a settlement yeshiva said.

Rabbi Yitzchak Ginsburgh released the statement last Friday, addressing the takeover of the Od Yosef Chai Yeshiva in Yitzhar earlier this month by the Israel Defense Forces. Leaders of the settler movement had called on Ginsburgh to condemn recent attacks by Yitzhar residents and yeshiva students on Israeli soldiers and police.

Ginsburgh said he is “distressed by any clash of Jews with Jews—between soldiers and settlers—’We are all sons of one man.’ “ But, he added, “it must be stated clearly that the guilty party for this situation is the establishment, which has been behaving with aggression and brute force towards Jews, yet with magnanimousness and lenience towards enemies of the Jewish People.”

Among Ginsburgh’s objections, according to the statement, was preventing Jews from building in the West Bank and ignoring illegal building by the Palestinians, releasing Palestinian prisoners, and defining “as ‘terror’ and ‘hate crimes’ trivial acts of protest (even arresting minors for spraying graffiti on walls, etc.).”

Early last month, Yitzhar residents attacked an army outpost in the settlement after the demolition of five illegal homes built on the settlement.

Ginsburgh’s statement followed a vote taken last week by members of the Yitzhar community in which more than half the settlement’s adult members voted against violence toward the IDF. The Yitzhar secretariat had threatened to quit if the community did not approve the measure.

A Yitzhar couple was arrested last week for alleged involvement in a “price tag” attack on a mosque in an Israeli-Arab town in northern Israel.

On Sunday, right-wing activists threw rocks at police who came to Yitzhar to search the couple’s home.

Siren marks start of Israel’s Memorial Day

JERUSALEM (JTA) — A siren wailed across Israel marking the start of the country’s Memorial Day.

Sunday’s siren at 8 p.m. was followed by the national memorial service at the Western Wall broadcast by Israeli television channels.

A second siren on Monday at 11 a.m. will mark the beginning of memorial services at Israel’s 52 military cemeteries.

Memorial Day, or Yom Hazikaron, this year honors the 23,169 casualties of war and terrorism who have been killed since 1860.

“The fallen of Israel’s wars are our national heroes,” Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said Sunday afternoon at the opening ceremony for Memorial Day held in the Yad Labanim compound in Jerusalem. “We would not be here today if not for their willingness to lay down their lives so we could be here. Never, not even for a moment, do we forget we are here thanks to them.”

Netanyahu visited the grave of his brother Yoni on Saturday night with his wife, Sara. They went a day early to the military cemetery on Mount Herzl so as not to interfere with the crowds who will visit there on Memorial Day.

Yoni Netanyahu was killed during a rescue operation to release hostages during Operation Entebbe in 1976.

On Monday morning, the annual ceremony in memory of victims of anti-Semitic incidents and terror attacks around the world will take place at the Jewish Agency for Israel in Jerusalem in a program sponsored by The Jewish Agency, the World Zionist Organization, the Jewish National Fund, Keren Hayesod-UIA, the Jewish Federations of North America and the Jewish Federations of Canada-UIA.

According to Jewish Agency figures, some 200 Jews have been killed in anti-Semitic terror attacks around the world since Israel’s establishment in 1948.

Family of Yom Kippur War casualty discovers empty grave

JERUSALEM (JTA)—The family of an Israeli soldier killed in the Yom Kippur War discovered an empty grave after illegally exhuming the burial site.

After its finding early Saturday morning at the Mount Herzl military cemetery, the family of Zion Tayeb called for the Israel Defense Forces to set up an independent investigation, the Walla news website reported Sunday. Walla first reported the discovery of the empty grave.

Israel’s Supreme Court last year refused the family’s request to exhume the body in order to positively identify it as Tayeb’s.

“The family’s request to unearth the grave was examined by the High Court, which accepted the state’s position and determined that the body was positively identified and as such there was no cause for digging up the site,” the IDF said in a statement after the exhumation, according to The Jerusalem Post.

Tayeb’s family reportedly had long suspected that his body was not recovered after he was killed on Mount Hermon on the first day of the war in October 1973.

The bodies of Tayeb and five other soldiers were missing following an attack by a Syrian commando unit. Several months later the Israeli army told the family that it had found the bodies and buried them on Mount Herzl.

Tayeb’s family believed he had been kidnapped alive and were suspicious about the body in the grave.

Palestinian Authority joins 5 U.N. global treaties

JERUSALEM (JTA)—The Palestinian Authority formally joined five global treaties at the United Nations.

The membership became official on Friday, the United Nations told the French news agency AFP.

The five treaties ban torture and racial discrimination and protect the rights of women, children and the disabled, according to the report.

The membership comes after Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas on April 2 signed 15 applications to join the U.N. conventions in retaliation for Israel’s failure to release a final batch of Palestinian prisoners by March 29. The Palestinians had agreed to refrain from requesting international recognition as long as peace talks with Israel were ongoing.

In retaliation, Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu ordered Israeli government officials to halt cooperation with their Palestinian counterparts.

The Palestinians on May 7 will formally join a treaty protecting children in conflict zones and on July 2 two agreements involving civil, political, economic, social and cultural rights, according to AFP.

Iran bans WhatsApp over ‘American Zionist’ Mark Zuckerberg

JTA)—Iran banned the free text-messaging service WhatsApp because it is now owned by a Jew, Mark Zuckerberg, according to news reports citing an Iranian censor.

“The reason for this is the assumption of WhatsApp by the Facebook founder Mark Zuckerberg, who is an American Zionist,” said Abdolsamad Khorramabadi, head of the country’s secretary of the Committee for Determining Criminal Web Content,  Fox News reported Sunday.

Facebook acquired WhatsApp in February for a reported $19 billion in cash and stock. Zuckerberg is Facebook’s founder and chief executive.

Iran does not ban Facebook. Iranian President Hassan Rouhani has been active in recent months on the social networking site as well as Twitter.

Tomb of Palestinian national hero vandalized near Haifa

(JTA)—The tomb of a Palestinian national hero was vandalized in a suspected “price tag” attack near Haifa.

The vandalism against the grave of Izz ad-Din al-Qassam, the Muslim preacher who provided inspiration for Hamas’ military wing, was discovered last Friday morning in the city of Nesher, Army Radio reported.

The perpetrators spray-painted the words “price tag – Tzipi Livni” on the tombstone, according to the report, in reference to Israel’s justice minister, who is also heading negotiations with the Palestinian Authority. Another tomb was spray-painted with the words “thanks for Memorial Day John Kerry,” in reference to the United States’ secretary of state.

Izz ad-Din al-Qassam, whose full name was Izz ad-Din Abd al-Qadar ibn Mustafa ibn Yusuf ibn Muhammad al-Qassam, is revered by many Palestinians for his tough stance against the British and Jews during the 1930s. He died in 1935 in a clash with British soldiers when they still ruled modern-day Israel under the British Mandate.

Nesher Mayor Avi Binmo headed to the Muslim cemetery where Izz ad-Din al-Qassam is buried as soon as he heard about the vandalism, Army Radio reported. A few dozen Muslim men were present and  threatened to riot, the radio station reported. The slogans were removed.

Israel has seen an increase in suspected price tag attacks, which police said were mostly the work of right-wing radicals seeking to intimidate Palestinians in Israel and in the West Bank with warnings of revenge for violence or moves that go against what the radicals perceive as their interests. Some price tag attacks were directed at Israeli troops.

The U.S. State Department’s 2013 Country Reports on Terrorism, which was released on Wednesday, said that “attacks by extremist Israeli settlers against Palestinian residents, property, and places of worship in the West Bank continued and were largely unprosecuted.”

Israeli police refuted the report’s claims and argued that nationalist “price tag” attacks could not be considered acts of terrorism.

“There’s no comparison whatsoever between criminal incidents with nationalistic motives and terrorist-related incidents,” Israel police spokesman Micky Rosenfeld told Israeli media.

Israel’s U.S. Embassy distances itself from Danon attack on Kerry

WASHINGTON (JTA)—Israel’s envoy to Washington rejected a charge by Israel’s deputy defense minister that U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry was attempting to “scare” Israelis into a peace deal.

“Deputy Minister Danny Danon’s views of Secretary Kerry do not reflect the views of the Government of Israel,” Ambassador Ron Dermer said in a statement May 1.

“Israel deeply appreciates Secretary Kerry’s efforts to advance peace with the Palestinians,” the statement said. “We do not believe that Secretary Kerry has tried to threaten Israel, and we believe that his decades of support for Israel reflect an abiding commitment to Israel’s security and its future.”

In an Op-Ed in Politico last week, Danon said Kerry’s recent claim that failure to reach a peace deal could lead Israel into becoming an apartheid state was part of a pattern in which Kerry tries “to scare the Israeli public into capitulation.”

Kerry, who made the apartheid comment in a private meeting of Western leaders, spoke in the days after the collapse of peace talks he had launched nine months ago. He later said his use of the word “apartheid” was inappropriate.

Bennett backs soldier who aimed loaded rifle at Palestinian youths

(JTA)—Naftali Bennett, an Israeli Cabinet minister, joined other right-wing leaders in justifying the actions of a soldier who was filmed loading a rifle and pointing it at Palestinian youths.

In the April 27 incident in Hebron, the soldier,  identified in Israeli media only as David, ordered a Palestinian youth to leave the area.

In the video, an older youth approaches David from behind, with his right hand gripping an object. David, who appears to be unaccompanied, detects the older youth’s presence and loads and points his assault rifle at both youths while calling for backup.

Media coverage of the incident sparked a social media campaign in support of David, in part because of an apparently mistaken assumption that he was disciplined for the incident. Bennett’s comments came in the wake of the ensuing debate over whether David’s actions were justified.

“I would have acted like David of the Nahal [infantry brigade],” Economy Minister Naftali Bennett, a former commando fighter in the Israeli Defense Forces and leader of the rightist Jewish home party, was quoted as telling Army Radio on May 1. The situation in the West Bank “is no ballet recital,” he added.

After Channel 10 aired the video, an army spokesman said the soldier’s conduct was “unusual and incompatible with army norms.” But on April 30, army officials told Army Radio the soldier acted according to orders because he perceived a threat and because the older Palestinian was wearing brass knuckles.

The soldier was recently sentenced to jail for an unrelated incident in which he struck a commander, Army Radio reported, apparently leading to the popular misconception that he had been jailed for the filmed incident.

In the Hebron encounter, Bennett said, the soldier “was subjected to violence.”

“He was alone and surrounded by a number of violent Arab provocateurs,” the minister said. “He did not discharge, he took actions to defend himself and his surroundings and brought the event to an end,” Bennett wrote. He warned that “failing to back up soldiers will mean they will run away under fire.”

After the scuffle, the soldier told another Palestinian, “Switch off the camera, I’ll put a bullet in your head.”

Some 80,000 people expressed support on Facebook for the soldier, who was nicknamed “David Hanachlawi” or “David of the Nachal Brigade.” Among David’s supporters were whole army units that posed for pictures while covering their faces with cardboard signs with the slogan “I am David Hanachlawi.”

A spokesman for the left-wing group Breaking the Silence told Army Radio that the incident shows that “the only way Israeli soldiers can govern over Palestinians is through fear.”

Police: Young Israeli woman likely murdered by terrorists

(JTA)—A young Jewish woman whose body was found in northern Israel may have been killed by terrorists, police said.

Shelly Dadon, 20, who left her home in Afula on May 1 for a job interview in Migdal Ha’emek, was found dead in the city’s industrial zone later that day, Army Radio reported last Friday.

A senior police officer told Radio Kol Rega, a regional station, that “detectives found evidence that led them to focus on nationalistic motives,” using police jargon for terrorist attacks. “This is a complex murder, and we certainly do not rule out other leads,” said the officer, Moshe Cohen, commander of the police’s northern regional division.

Police are looking for the perpetrators, he said.

Cohen said Dadon’s body showed “severe signs of violence.” According to Channel 10, police detectives believe Dadon was abducted en route to the industrial zone of Migdal Ha’emek. She was led to woods near Route 75, where she was stabbed to death. Channel 2 reported the injuries were to her upper body.

Dadon’s parents, who filed a missing person’s report on May 1, arrived at the Migdal Ha’emek parking lot where Dadon’s body was found in order to identify her.

Dadon’s cellphone was found at the scene of the crime, Channel 10 reported. She was buried in Afula on Saturday night.

Most of the details connected to the investigation are subject to a gag order issued at the police’s request, according to Israel’s Channel 2.

 

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