Weekly roundup of world briefs from JTA


FAA suspends U.S. airlines’ flights to Israel

NEW YORK (JTA)—The Federal Aviation Administration prohibited all U.S. airlines from flying to Israel for at least 24 hours.

All three U.S. carriers with nonstop flights to Israel—United, U.S. Airways and Delta Airlines—canceled their flights to Tel Aviv on Tuesday.

El Al, which is not bound by the FAA order issued in the early afternoon Tuesday, said it plans to continue to maintain its normal schedule of up to five daily nonstop flights to Tel Aviv from the United States.

The FAA order came after a rocket fired from Gaza struck and destroyed a home in Yehud, an Israeli town about a mile from Ben Gurion Airport near Tel Aviv.

“Due to the potentially hazardous situation created by the armed conflict in Israel and Gaza, all flight operations to/from Ben Gurion International Airport by U.S. operators are prohibited until further advised,” the notice said.

A slew of other airlines also canceled their flights to Tel Aviv, including Air Canada, Lufthansa, Austria Airlines, Germanwings and Swissair, according to Israeli media reports.

Delta diverted a flight en route to Tel Aviv from New York’s Kennedy Airport on Tuesday. Flight 268, carrying 273 passengers and 17 crew members, instead was sent to Paris.

Delta said it made its decision to suspend all flights to Tel Aviv “in coordination with the U.S. Federal Aviation Administration” and “to ensure the safety and security of our customers and employees.”

Korean Air suspended its flights to Tel Aviv last week.

Leaflets threaten Chicago Jews over Israel’s Gaza operation

(JTA)—Leaflets threatening the Jewish community because of Israel’s Gaza operation were found on parked cars in a Chicago neighborhood.

The leaflets found Saturday on six cars in the Pulaski Park neighborhood, in the northwestern part of the city, threatened violence if Israel did not pull out of Gaza and end its operation in the coastal strip that began July 8, the Chicago Tribune reported.

Chicago Police opened an investigation and notified the department’s hate crimes unit, according to the newspaper.

The leaflets were discovered a day after hundreds of protesters held a demonstration in downtown Chicago, including a “die-in” in which protesters representing the more than 400 Palestinians killed by Israel in the Gaza operation lay on the ground.

The demonstrators then moved their protest in front of the Israeli Consulate in Chicago, according to the Tribune.

Pro-Israel rallies held in 3 Australia cities

SYDNEY, Australia (JTA) – More than 3,000 people demonstrated in support of Israel at rallies in Melbourne, Sydney and Perth.

In Melbourne, a piercing siren shattered the silence Sunday as about 2,000 people joined a “Code Red” rally.

Dr. Danny Lamm, president of the Zionist Federation of Australia, told the crowd, “Israel faces a battle on three fronts—the battlefront in Gaza, the home front and the global front, where the legitimacy of her operations are questioned. It is imperative that the world hears the truth and understands that Israel is acting in self-defense.”

Nina Bassat, president of Melbourne’s Jewish community, added, “We are here today because the State of Israel, so integral to our sense of identity and indeed to our destiny, is suffering.”

Sen. Scott Ryan, representing Prime Minister Tony Abbott, told rally participants that “the Australian government stands with you.”

In Sydney, some 1,000 people converged on Central Synagogue in Bondi to hear Israeli Ambassador Shmuel Ben-Shmuel tell the crowd, “Your support is a source of encouragement, your compassion is a source of comfort and your solidarity is a source of hope.”

Across the city, Julie Nathan, the research officer for the Executive Council of Australian Jewry, witnessed the 5,000-strong pro-Palestinian rally, which she described as a sea of “black flags of jihad, the yellow flags of a banned terrorist organization, Hezbollah, the Islamist chants and placards spewing anti-Semitism.”

She said some were bearing placards including “Israel: using one Holocaust to continue another since 1948”; “One Holocaust doesn’t justify another”; and “Netanyahu: modern day Hitler.”

One woman entered the throng flying an Israeli flag before police escorted her out of harm’s way, according to Nathan.

In Perth, about 500 supporters joined what was billed as a “peace rally,” with one federal and several state parliamentarians in attendance, according to reports.

Obama tells Kerry to broker ‘immediate’ cease-fire in Gaza

WASHINGTON (JTA)—President Obama told U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry to push for an “immediate cessation of hostilities” between Israel and Hamas in the Gaza Strip.

“As I’ve said many times, Israel has a right to defend itself against rocket and tunnel attacks from Hamas,” Obama said Monday in a brief news appearance as Kerry headed to Egypt to attempt to broker a cease-fire.

“And as a result of its operations, Israel has already done significant damage to Hamas’s terrorist infrastructure in Gaza. I’ve also said, however, that we have serious concerns about the rising number of Palestinian civilian deaths and the loss of Israeli lives. And that is why it now has to be our focus and the focus of the international community to bring about a cease-fire that ends the fighting and that can stop the deaths of innocent civilians, both in Gaza and in Israel.”

Obama said he wanted a return to the truce with Hamas brokered in November 2012, but Hamas has rejected such a return. Hamas has added demands including internationally monitored border crossings, prisoner releases and Israel staying out of Hamas-Palestinian Authority unity talks.

“I’ve instructed him to push for an immediate cessation of hostilities,” Obama said.

More than 500 Palestinians have died in the fighting, most of them civilians, while 25 Israeli troops and two civilians have been killed.

State Dept. official on using #UnitedForGaza hashtag: ‘My bad’

(JTA)—The U.S. under secretary of state for public diplomacy and public affairs published and then removed a tweet with a hashtag in support of Gaza.

Rick Stengel used the hashtag #UnitedForGaza in a tweet published late Saturday night calling for an international investigation into the crash of a Malaysian Airlines flight earlier this week in eastern Ukraine.

Hours later, on Sunday, Stengel removed the tweet and replaced it with a similar tweet using the hashtag #unitedforukraine.

Stengel added a tweet that read, “Earlier tweet with wrong hashtag was a mistake. My bad.”

Senate unanimously backs Israel in its conflict with Hamas

WASHINGTON (JTA)—The U.S. Senate unanimously approved a non-binding resolution in support of Israel’s right to defend itself against rocket fire from the Gaza Strip.

The resolution, which had 78 bipartisan sponsors, passed July 17 by unanimous consent, a week after it was introduced by Sens. Robert Menendez (D-N.J.), Lindsey Graham (R-S.C.), Charles Schumer (D-N.Y.) and Kelly Ayotte (R-N.H.).

A similar resolution passed unanimously in the U.S. House of Representatives on July 11. The measure introduced by Reps. Steve Israel (D-N.Y.) and Tom Cole (R-Okla.) had more than 140 co-sponsors.

The American Israel Public Affairs Committee, which backed both resolutions, praised the Senate for its passage.

“Israel launched Operation Protective Edge to defend its citizens against hundreds of rockets launched from Gaza by Islamist terrorists,” AIPAC said in a statement, referring to the air strikes launched by Israel July 8 in response to an intensification of rocket fire from Gaza.

“While Israel accepted a cease-fire plan offered by the Egyptian government, Hamas rejected it and continues to send rockets into the Jewish state,” AIPAC said.

The resolution “reaffirms its support for Israel’s right to defend its citizens and ensure the survival of the State of Israel,” “calls on Hamas to immediately cease all rocket and other attacks against Israel” and “calls on Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas to dissolve the unity governing arrangement with Hamas andcondemn the attacks on Israel.” Abbas had entered into unity talks with Hamas prior to the current outbreak.

Separately, six Democrats in the House wrote President Obama and U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry urging them to bring about a cease-fire and return the parties to peace talks, which collapsed in April.

“Ground troops, air strikes, and rockets do not lead to permanent peace in the Middle East,” said the July 17 letter, first reported by Al-Monitor and signed by Reps. Keith Ellison (D-Minn.), Jim Moran (D-Va.), John Conyers (D-Mich.), Alan Lowenthal (D-Calif.), Hank Johnson (D-Ga.) and Barbara Lee (D-Calif.).

Pro-Palestinian rally in Berlin features anti-Semitic chants

BERLIN (JTA)—Following a pro-Palestinian demonstration in Berlin at which participants chanted anti-Jewish slogans, the American Jewish Committee Berlin office filed a complaint with police.

According to a news statement, the marchers on Thursday chanted “Jew, Jew, cowardly pig, come on out and fight.”

Deidre Berger, director of the AJC’s Berlin office, wrote an open letter to the members of the German Bundestag calling on them to be vigilant in protecting Jewish citizens. Police should crack down on such threats “to show that anti-Semitism has no place in our society.”

The danger of uncontrolled demonstrations was made clear last week in Paris, when violent protesters trapped Jews inside a synagogue and chanted such slogans as “Hitler was right” and “Death to Jews.” In Germany, such expressions are illegal and not protected by free-speech laws.

“We’re concerned that there are no more taboos against open expressions of anti-Semitism at such protests,” Berger said. Reports of aggressive anti-Israel demonstrations have come in from other cities in Germany, including Frankfurt, Gelsenkirchen, Kassel and Bremen.

Another pro-Palestinian demonstration was scheduled for Saturday in Berlin.

Kerry meets with Jewish leaders

WASHINGTON (JTA)—U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry met with a delegation from the Conference of Presidents of Major American Jewish Organizations.

The State Department last Friday posted the meeting on its schedule, noting that it was closed.

The meeting focused on the Iran nuclear talks and Israel’s conflict with Hamas in the Gaza Strip. According to a Presidents Conference release, Kerry said the Obama administration still favored an Egyptian proposal for a ceasefire, which Israel accepted earlier this week and Hamas ignored.

“The delegation, many of whom recently visited Israel, expressed appreciation for assistance that made possible the Iron Dome missile defense system that has saved so many lives,” the release said.

“They also noted the support of the United States for Israel to take the steps necessary to defend its citizens and end the constant barrage that has seen more than 1,000 missiles hit Israel in recent days,” it said. “They urged the United States to continue to press the international community to stand by Israel, which has demonstrated remarkable restraint and gone to unprecedented lengths to avoid civilian casualties.”

Kerry on July 17 met with a delegation of Jewish members of Congress and briefed them on Israel’s conflict with Hamas in the Gaza Strip, efforts to revive Israeli-Palestinian peace talks, and talks between the major powers and Iran on Iran’s nuclear capabilities.

The Iran nuclear talks later were extended beyond the July 20 deadline to November.

Over 600 turn out for Washington pro-Israel rally

WASHINGTON (JTA)—More than 600 people attended a pro-Israel rally in Washington, D.C., cheering Jewish and Christian clergy and lawmakers who pledged to stand with Israel during the Gaza conflict.

Speakers at the July 17 rally in Farragut Square, just blocks from the White House, called for an end to the barrage of missiles launched by Hamas and other groups.

The speakers rejected equating Hamas and Israel in the current conflict, saying that Israel goes out of its way to warn Palestinians while Hamas places its arms among its civilians.

If counting the number of dead is the way to decide which side is right, then “by that reckoning, you look at World War II and you see that Eisenhower is a war criminal” due to the high number of German casualties, said Rep. Brad Sherman (D-Calif.).

“Every rocket fired into Israel is a war crime,” he said.

Rep. Trent Franks (R-Ariz.) spoke of Congress’ strong support for Israel.

If Hamas “would protect their own children as much as Israel protects their own children, we would have a chance for peace,” Franks said. “Hamas needs to understand Israel is here to stay forever.”

Rabbi David Saperstein, director of the Religious Action Center for Reform Judaism, praised the unity of the crowd in its support for Israel, but also called for consideration of the civilians on both sides who suffer.

“We are gathered here as one people,” he said. “Never before in history has a nation taken the steps Israel has to avoid civilian killing.”

He added, “We must never, never turn our backs when civilians die. It is painful whenever a child dies.”

The rally was sponsored by the Jewish Community Relations Council of Greater Washington, a number of area synagogues and about 50 Jewish organizations. Canadian and Israeli diplomats also attended.

Several pro-Palestinian counter protesters tried unsuccessfully to shout over the speakers.

Several hundred people turned out for a pro-Palestinian demonstration on July 11 at the Israeli Embassy in Washington.

Senate panel approves $350 million in Iron Dome funding

WASHINGTON (JTA)—A key U.S. Senate panel approved a spending bill that would double President Obama’s request for funding for Israel’s Iron Dome missile defense system.

The defense subcommittee of the Senate Appropriations Committee on July 15 approved the $620 million missile defense package for Israel, which includes $350 million for Iron Dome, a short-range missile interceptor that is being credited with keeping Israelis safe during the current Israel-Gaza conflict.

The funding was already in the pipeline and had been approved last month by the U.S. House of Representatives as part of the Department of Defense Appropriations Act, the same overall $549 billion spending bill approved by the Senate panel on July 15.

Sen. Dick Durbin (D-Ill.), the chairman of the subcommittee, indicated that Iron Dome’s success during the recent hostilities helped spur support for the package, telling The Associated Press that the anti-missile system “works.”

The American Israel Public Affairs Committee commended the panel “for standing with Israel by significantly increasing funding for these critical defensive programs, including Iron Dome, at a time when the citizens of our ally are under an unprovoked attack by Islamist terrorists in Gaza,” Marshall Wittmann, the AIPAC spokesman, said in an email.

Israeli officials said the system has had a success rate of 86 percent.

The full Senate Appropriations Committee is set to consider the defense spending bill by the end of this week.

Missile cooperation funding is above the $3.1 billion Israel is set to receive in defense assistance this year. Israel contributes its own funds to the missile cooperation programs, and the United States maintains a proprietary claim to the technologies.

Obama, who initiated funding for Iron Dome in 2009, had requested $175 million for the program for the 2015 budget year. Congress traditionally increases presidential requests for Israel-related spending.


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