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Weekly roundup of world briefs from JTA


White House official: Nuclear deal could portend Iran ties

WASHINGTON (JTA)—A top Obama administration official said that a nuclear deal with Iran could start the way toward a possible resumption of ties.

“A nuclear agreement could begin a multi-generational process that could lead to a new relationship between our countries,” Philip Gordon, the White House coordinator for the Middle East, said in a speech Saturday to the National Iranian American Council. “Iran could begin to reduce tensions with its neighbors and return to its rightful place in the community of nations.”

Gordon made clear that Iran had much to do beyond reach a nuclear deal in order to remove its pariah status, but his casting a nuclear deal as part of a normalization process and not an end in itself represented a shift.

At the outset of nuclear talks between the major powers and Iran in January, U.S. officials were adamant, including in conversations with Jewish leaders, that the only relief Iran should expect from such a deal was the removal of sanctions.

Gordon said there was “progress” in the latest round of talks with Iran ahead of a Nov. 24 deadline for a deal.

Israel has expressed reservations about the talks, mostly because of its concerns that the major powers seem ready to allow Iran limited uranium enrichment capacity.

However, Israel and a number of Arab countries are also concerned that the talks represent an entry for Iran into accepted status in the region without addressing its meddling, including backing for Hezbollah, the Lebanese militia that launched a war with Israel in 2006.

Gordon said that the United States in its talks with Iran had made clear that it regarded Iran as “irresponsible” and “destabilizing” in its backing for Hezbollah and other actions, but also suggested that a nuclear deal trumped other concerns.

“The nuclear issue is too important to subordinate to a complete transformation of Iran internally,” he said.

Chabad’s Nepal emissary jailed on Rosh Hashanah over visa error

(JTA)—The Chabad emissary to Nepal spent the first day of Rosh Hashanah in a Kathmandu jail due to a clerical error on his visa.

Rabbi Chezki Liftshitz, co-director of Chabad of Kathmandu, was freed on the second day of the holiday following urgent appeals from his wife, Chani, Chabad officials worldwide, and U.S. and Israeli officials, according to Chabad.org.

Due to the visa error, Nepalese officials believed Liftshitz was in the country illegally.

Hundreds of Jews—mostly Israeli backpackers and tourists from around the world—spent Rosh Hashanah at the Chabad House in Kathmandu, according to Chabad.org.

Dutch town quits charity drive over funding for groups deemed anti-Israel

THE HAGUE, Netherlands (JTA)—The schools in a Dutch town opted out of a charity campaign that municipal officials said collects funds for anti-Israeli groups.

The six schools in Urk, located 20 miles northeast of Amsterdam, decided not to participate in the fundraising campaign this year organized by the Kinderpostzegels Association, the Omroep Flevoland broadcaster reported Sept. 26.

On the same day, the Urk Town Council passed a motion calling for a boycott of the Kinderpostzegels initiative—a national drive in which children collect donations for what the association defines as “worthy causes”—because of reports that the money raised funds anti-Israel activity.

“Through the Bible, we love Israel very much and we know that the Kinderpostzegels this time is used in a way in which the funds raised go to groups with anti-Israel causes and this is why we could not support the Kinderpostzegels this time,” said Jan Koffeman, the alderman who submitted the motion.

The motion followed a campaign calling for a boycott of the fundraising campaign mounted by Likoed Nederland, a pro-Israel association.

Likoed Nederland flagged one recipient of Kinderpostzegels donations, the Holy Land Trust, and said it gave resources to Hamas. The association responsible for the Kinderpostzegels campaign declined to answer Likoed Nedrland’s questions on how the money raised for Palestinian groups is used.

The pro-Israel group also noted that Kinderpostzegels funds Defense for Children International, an organization that supports the Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions movement against Israel.

On Sept. 26, the Kinderpostzegels Association posted a statement on its website denying that it funded anti-Israel groups, including Hamas, and saying the group’s focus was on the welfare of children.

“One of our partners is the Holy Land Trust of Bethlehem,” the Dutch charitable association wrote. “This group gives training in non-violence. In 2006 the training was given to several Hamas members. The Kinderpostzegels Association however does not fund this training.”

Chelsea Clinton, Jewish husband welcome baby girl

(JTA)—Chelsea Clinton and her husband, Marc Mezvinsky, became the parents of a baby girl.

Charlotte Clinton Mezvinsky was born on Friday evening at Lenox Hill Hospital in New York City.

“Marc and I are full of love, awe and gratitude as we celebrate the birth of our daughter, Charlotte Clinton Mezvinsky,” Clinton said in a tweet.

Mezvinsky, who is Jewish, is the banker son of two ex-Congress members. Clinton, the daughter of the former U.S. president and former U.S. secretary of state, serves as the vice chairwoman of the Bill, Hillary & Chelsea Clinton Foundation.

In a statement Saturday, President Bill Clinton and Hillary Clinton said they are “blessed, grateful and so happy to be the grandparents of a beautiful girl.”

Clinton and Mezvinsky were married in late July 2010 under a traditional huppah, or wedding canopy, and recited the traditional sheva brachot, or seven wedding blessings. A rabbi and a Methodist minister officiated at the wedding. The couple signed a ketubah, or Jewish marriage contract.

BB gun fired at Baltimore Jews leaving synagogue

(JTA)—A man fired a BB gun and shouted “Jews, Jews, Jews” at three Jewish teens leaving a synagogue in Baltimore.

One of the pellets struck a window of the Bais Hamedrash and Mesivta of Baltimore, a traditional Orthodox institution, in the Sept. 28 incident.

The gunman, described as being “possibly of Middle Eastern descent,” drove away after firing the gun and shouting at the pedestrians on the first day of Rosh Hashanah. He has not been apprehended.

Police are investigating the incident as a possible hate crime.

“We want to stop that. We want to let people know that’s not going to be tolerated in our communities,” Cpl. John Wachter of the Baltimore County Police told the local CBS affiliate WJZ.

Scott Shellenberger, the state attorney in Baltimore County, told WJZ that the suspect could be charged with a hate crime in addition to other criminal acts.

Jewish lawmaker resigns from Britain’s Parliament over sex scandal

(JTA)—A Jewish lawmaker from Britain’s Tory Party resigned after reports that he sent X-rated photos of himself to an undercover reporter posing as a female party activist.

Brooks Newmark, 56, a married father of five children, said on Saturday that he had been “a complete fool,” according to the British newspaper the Mirror, which broke the story.

In the wake of the expose, Newmark quit the government as well as his position as minister for civil society. The story was scheduled to be published in the Sunday Mirror.

Newmark was in charge of British Prime Minister David Cameron’s efforts to involve more women in politics as co-founder of Women2Win.

The undercover reporter, who called himself Sophie Wittams and used a photo of a blonde woman in her 20s, was investigating “the alleged inappropriate use of social media by MPs” in order to meet women, according to the Mirror.

Newmark began following “Sophie” on Twitter and then initiated a private WhatsApp conversation in early July, during which they swapped explicit photographs.

Vittorio Dan Segre, Italian writer and political figure, dies at 92

(JTA) – Vittorio Dan Segre, an Italian-Israeli diplomat, a writer and political figure, has died.

Segre, a committed Zionist who was also one of the grand old men of contemporary Italian Jewry, died in Turin on Saturday. He was 92.

Born near Turin in 1922, he fled to Palestine in 1938 after Italy’s fascist dictator Benito Mussolini imposed anti-Jewish racial laws. He volunteered for the British Navy in World War II, and later fought in Israel’s War of Independence as a paratroop officer. After Israel’s independence he became an Israeli diplomat.

Known in Israel as Dan Avni, Segre was a friend of David Ben-Gurion and recalled that he practiced yoga with the nation’s first prime minister.

Segre wrote for Italian newspapers and authored numerous books. He taught at universities in Israel, the United States and Switzerland.

In the United States, Segre was best known for his best-selling autobiography, “Memoir of a Fortunate Jew,” which first came out in English in 1987. He also was known, especially in the U.S., as Dan Vittorio Segre.

British soccer club removes Rosh Hashanah tweet following anti-Semitic responses

(JTA)—The Liverpool FC soccer team deleted a tweet wishing its Jewish supporters a happy Rosh Hashanah after the message elicited dozens of anti-Semitic responses.

The message—“Liverpool FC would like to wish all our Jewish supporters around the world a happy new year. #RoshHashanah”—was posted Friday and removed several hours later, the Guardian reported.

Some followers of the British squad objected to the removal of the tweet, saying it pandered to racists.

On Sunday, the team posted a second tweet addressing the anti-Semitic messages:  “LFC believes in the practice of religious freedom – we seek a world in which we can send good wishes to supporters without hateful responses.”

The message Sunday was retweeted 1,200 times in nine hours; more than 900 Twitter users made it their favorite.

Liverpool FC, which has some 3.22 million followers on Twitter, has recognized various religious events and holidays on social media, according to the Guardian.

The incident was reported to the U.K. police’s online reporting venue and likely will be investigated, the newspaper reported.

Kick It Out, a watchdog on soccer racism in Britain, contacted the team after complaints about the anti-Semitic responses to the New Year’s message.

“It is encouraging that a football club recognizes these holidays and religious landmarks – Liverpool did the same for Ramadan – but extremely sad when a club does that in a proactive manner and gets these responses,” a Kick It Out spokesman told the newspaper.

Demonstrators again prevent unloading of Israeli cargo ship in Oakland

(JTA)—Pro-Palestinian activists prevented the unloading of an Israeli cargo ship at the Oakland Port for the second time in less than two months.

In Saturday’s incident, the Zim Shanghai was unable to unload its cargo after some 200 activists gathered at the port and prevented workers from getting near the ship, which is owned by Zim Integrated Shipping Services, Israel’s largest shipping company.

Approximately 50 police officers were on hand but did not intervene.

The protest reportedly was coordinated by the Stop ZIM Action Committee, and a spokesman told the media that the protests would continue during later shifts.

In August, demonstrators prevented the Zim Piraeus from unloading at the Oakland Port for five days in order to draw attention to Israel’s operation in Gaza.  The Piraeus feigned a return to sea before doubling back secretly to port.

Netanyahu says his U.N. speech will ‘refute all the lies’ about Israel

JERUSALEM (JTA)—Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said his address to the United Nations General Assembly will “refute all the lies” being directed at Israel.

Netanyahu made the remarks on Sunday as he boarded a plane for New York a day before his speech to the world body. On Friday, Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas in his General Assembly speech accused Israel of committing a “war of genocide” in the Gaza Strip.

“In my address to the U.N. General Assembly, I will refute all of the lies being directed at us and I will tell the truth about our state and about the heroic soldiers of the IDF, the most moral army in the world,” Netanyahu said.

The Israeli leader is scheduled to meet with President Obama in Washington, D.C., on Wednesday, as well as U.N. Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon the day before.

Abbas in his speech on Friday called 2014 “a year of a new war of genocide perpetrated against the Palestinian people,” and said the recent conflict between Israel and Hamas in Gaza was “a series of absolute war crimes carried out before the eyes and ears of the entire world, moment by moment.”

Abbas also asserted that Israel does not want to make peace with the Palestinians and that the Palestinians will live in a “most abhorrent form of apartheid” under Israeli rule.

He also said that the Israeli government undermined the prospects for peace during the nine months of the recent U.S.-brokered peace talks that ended with no agreement.

Abbas said he would introduce a plan for a U.N. Security Council resolution that would set a deadline for a two-state solution using the 1967 borders.

Israel’s foreign minister, Avigdor Liberman, who also left Sunday for New York, criticized Abbas’ speech.

Referring to Abbas, Liberman said, “Abu Mazen’s words at the U.N. General Assembly sharply clarify again that Abu Mazen doesn’t want and can’t be a logical partner for a political settlement. Abbas isn’t a member of joint government with Hamas for no reason.”

Fatah and Hamas have signed a unity agreement that allows a government of Palestinian Authority technocrats to assume responsibility for Gaza.

The United States also condemned the Abbas speech, calling his statements “provocative.”

“President Abbas’ speech today included offensive characterizations that were deeply disappointing and which we reject,” State Department spokeswoman Jen Psaki said Friday. “Such provocative statements are counterproductive and undermine efforts to create a positive atmosphere and restore trust between the parties.”

Senior officials in Abbas’ office reportedly said a Palestinian proposal that would set a deadline for Israel to pull back to the 1967  borders will be given to the Security Council in the coming days.

Armed Palestinian infiltrator arrested

JERUSALEM (JTA)—A Palestinian teenager was arrested in southern Israel near the Gaza border armed with a knife and a pick.

The 18-year-old was arrested Sunday by local security officers near Kibbutz Alumim. He is believed to have infiltrated into Israel from Gaza near Kibbutz Nahal Oz.

A security alert was issued for the area after a breach in the border fence was identified, according to reports.

The teen was turned over to the Shin Bet internal security service for questioning.

Haredim’s refusal to sit by women delays El Al flight

JERUSALEM (JTA)—Haredi Orthodox men who refused to sit next to women delayed the takeoff of an El Al flight from New York to Tel Aviv.

The haredi passengers offered money to other passengers to switch seats on the flight, which arrived in Israel hours before Rosh Hashanah, Ynet reported.

Haredi passengers who could not switch their seats stood up immediately upon takeoff and remained in place, crowding the aisles and inconveniencing fellow passengers and flight attendants, Ynet reported.

“It was an 11-hour-long nightmare,” one of the passengers told Ynet.

According to passengers, the flight crew informed them that they were under no obligation to agree to switches. But the captain also said the flight would not take off with people standing.

El Al told Ynet it would look into the incident.


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