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Arab-Israelis riot to protest killing by Israel Police

JERUSALEM (JTA)—At least 20 Arab-Israelis were arrested during riots in the Arab-Israeli town of Kfar Kana in the aftermath of the fatal shooting of a resident by Israel Police.

On Sunday, the Arab-Israeli community declared a nationwide strike to protest the killing last Friday night of Kheir Hamdan, 22. Riots were also taking place in other Arab-Israeli cities.

In the face of the riots, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu threatened to strip the citizenship of those who call for the destruction of the State of Israel.

Police shot Hamdan after he brandished a knife and slammed his fist on the windows of a police van in Kfar Kana after a relative was arrested for using a stun grenade. Police in the northern Israeli town said they feared they were in danger.

A surveillance video released the following day showed Hamdan walking away from the police van when he was shot.

Israel’s Justice Ministry said in a statement released Saturday night that the Police Internal Investigations Department at the State Attorney’s Office—a civil, independent investigations unit—is looking into the incident. The Israel Police also have launched an investigation, according to reports.

Netanyahu said at the beginning of the weekly Cabinet meeting Sunday that Israel will not tolerate riots.

“We will take determined action against those who throw stones, firebombs and fireworks, and block roads, and against demonstrations that call for our destruction,” he said. “We are not prepared to tolerate more demonstrations in the heart of our cities in which Hamas or ISIS flags are waved and calls are made to redeem Palestine with blood and fire, calling in effect for the destruction of the State of Israel.

“I have instructed the interior minister to use all means, including evaluating the possibility of revoking the citizenship of those who call for the destruction of the State of Israel.”

Hamdan’s father, Rauf, told reporters, “Whoever did this act is not human. The incident will not only interest residents of Kfar Kana, but all of Palestine.”

The mayor of Kfar Kana called the shooting “murder in cold blood.” Arab-Israeli lawmaker Ahmad Tibi in a tweet called the incident “a mafia-style execution.”

Israeli gov’t minister Amir Peretz quits over 2015 budget

JERUSALEM (JTA)—Amir Peretz, Israel’s environmental protection minister, resigned from the government over the proposed 2015 budget.

Peretz, of the centrist Hatnua party that is part of the government coalition, announced he was stepping down at the weekly Cabinet meeting on Sunday. His resignation goes into effect on Tuesday.

Saying the 328 billion shekel (approximately $86 billion) budget does not help the poorest Israelis, Peretz in an interview on Israel’s Channel 2 on Saturday night said he would “not be a part of a government that continues in this direction.”

At the Cabinet meeting, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu reportedly said after Peretz criticized the government and announced his resignation, “I thank you for acknowledging that your place is not around the Cabinet table.”

Peretz was bound by the coalition agreement to vote for the budget on Monday. If he had not resigned, and voted against the budget, he would have been removed from his position. Hatnua has six seats in the government.

Economy Minister Yair Lapid presented the budget on Sunday to President Reuven Rivlin.

Meanwhile, a minister in Yesh Atid, which has 19 seats—one more than Netanyahu’s Likud—said his centrist party was deciding whether to remain in the government.

Science Minister Yaakov Peri said in an interview on Army Radio that Netanyahu’s continued shifting rightward is making it difficult for Yesh Atid.

Court frees scores of Eritrean, Sudanese asylum seekers in Israel

(JTA)—Israel will release 138 Eritrean and Sudanese asylum seekers who the nation’s Supreme Court ruled were being held illegally.

Thursday’s ruling was in response to a petition filed by the nonprofit organization The Hotline for Refugees and Migrants.

Following the decision, the Population and Immigration Authority said that the inmates would be released by Tuesday and issued new temporary residence permits. Most citizens of Eritrea and Sudan living in Israel carry such permits.

The asylum seekers were first incarcerated in accordance with the Anti-Infiltration Law, which allowed Israeli officials to hold individuals deemed to be “infiltrators” for more than three years in detention centers. The law was amended in 2013 and allowed the state to detain illegal migrants without trial for one year. That section was then struck down in September.

The asylum seekers were held at the Saharonim Prison in 2012 before being transferred to the Holot Detention Center in southern Israel last December. The petition filed by the Hotline for Refugees and Migrants argued that the state had held the asylum seekers beyond the legal time limit.

“There can be no dispute over the fact that incarceration for 12 long months, added to by a year in a detention center, as was carried out under the prevailing law, is extremely unreasonable and disproportionate,” the court said in its ruling, Haaretz reported. “It is unthinkable that this court has repeatedly struck down this law, yet the petitioners are still imprisoned.”

Gaza commemoration for Arafat canceled following attacks on Fatah leaders

JERUSALEM (JTA)—A commemoration rally in Gaza for the late Palestinian Fatah party leader Yasser Arafat was canceled after attacks on Fatah leaders there.

The event set for Tuesday was canceled on Sunday, two days after the homes and cars of Fatah leaders were blown up, as well as the stage where the commemoration was to take place.

Hamas has denied responsibility for the attacks.

A crowd of hundreds of thousands was expected to attend the rally, which was being held on the 10th anniversary of Arafat’s death, Reuters reported.

“After the series of explosions and assaults against Fatah leaders, we have been notified by Hamas’ political and security officials that security services won’t be able to take charge of security arrangements during the Arafat anniversary ceremony,” a senior Fatah leader in the Gaza Strip told the Palestinian Maan news agency.

It would have been the first time that a public commemoration of Arafat’s death would be held in Gaza since it was taken over by Hamas in 2007.

In June, Hamas and Fatah formed a unity government under Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas.

U.S. Supreme Court justices talk Jewish at G.A. opening

OXON HILL, Md. (JTA) – U.S. Supreme Court justices Stephen Breyer and Elana Kagan talked about their Jewish identities at the opening plenary of the 2014 General Assembly conference of the Jewish Federations of North America.

Speaking before a crowd of more than 2,000 at the conference center just outside Washington, Breyer said the most remarkable thing about there being three Jews among the nine Supreme Court justices is how unremarkable it is in America today.

Kagan, the other justice on the panel discussion moderated by NPR correspondent Nina Totenberg, said that her Jewish identity was the one thing that didn’t come up during her confirmation process.

“The one thing nobody ever said, the one thing I never heard was, ‘We don’t need a third Jewish justice,’ or ‘There’s a problem with that,’” she said. “So that’s a wonderful thing. My grandmother would have said ‘Only in America.’”

Kagan also talked about her bat mitzvah, crediting Rabbi Shlomo Riskin – then of the Lincoln Square Synagogue on Manhattan’s Upper West Side (and now rabbi in Efrat, West Bank), with enabling the ceremony even though that sort of thing was not done in Orthodox synagogues back when Kagan was a kid.

The bat mitzvah wasn’t exactly identical to her brother’s, Kagan said – it was called a bat Torah, took place on Friday night rather than Saturday and had her chanting the haftarah portion rather than the Torah portion – but it was meaningful and groundbreaking nonetheless.

“We reached a kind of deal: It wasn’t a full bar mitzvah, but it was something,” she said. “Rabbi Riskin was very gracious, and I think it was good for the synagogue.”

Breyer said that when he thinks about what it means to be Jewish in the court, he thinks about the Jewish tradition of tzedakah.

“It’s not quite charity,” he said, “and it’s not quite rule of law either, but it’s part of trying to create a better world.”

Breyer said the great divisions of the world today are between those who believe in the rule of law and those who don’t.

“And that is a battle, and we’re on the right side of that,” he said.

The theme of this year’s General Assembly is “The world is our backyard,” and speakers will include Vice President Joe Biden and, via satellite, Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu.

“This year’s G.A. will remind us of why federation is relevant and critical,” G.A. co-chair Howard Friedman said.

Northeastern U. president decries swastikas drawn on Jewish event fliers

(JTA)—The president of Northeastern University called the defacing of fliers advertising an event about Israel “an affront to our entire community.”

Swastikas were drawn on two fliers promoting a visit to the Boston campus by an Israeli army lieutenant colonel sponsored by the Alliance for Israel at Northeastern and the Louis D. Brandeis Center. The event, set for Monday, reportedly will go on as planned.

An email from the school’s president, Joseph Aoun, was sent near midnight Friday to the Northeastern community.

“Let there be no doubt: we have absolutely no tolerance for anti-Semitism, prejudice, and hate crimes of any kind, including this incident,” Aoun wrote in the email, which had the subject line “An affront to our community.”

He said the campus Police Department was investigating the case and had some evidence.

“Let me also affirm my support for all groups, including the organizers of Monday’s event, to operate and speak freely in an atmosphere of mutual respect and understanding, and free from intimidation,” Aoun wrote.

Lindsey Graham: New Senate will push congressional review of Iran deal

WASHINGTON (JTA)—The incoming Republican majority in the Senate will advance a bill that would subject any Iran nuclear deal to congressional review, a top senator said.

“If there is a deal, if it is a good deal, I will go for it,” Sen. Lindsey Graham (R-S.C.) said Saturday at the inaugural conference in Washington of the Israeli American Council.

“If it is a bad deal, I will kill it,” said Graham, who as chairman of the foreign operations subcommittee of the incoming Senate’s Appropriations Committee will wield considerable power in foreign policy. He said his bill would be cosponsored with Sen. Bob Corker (R-Tenn.), the incoming Foreign Relations Committee chairman.

The Obama administration, with the outgoing Democratic Senate majority, until now has managed to minimize Congress’ influence on the talks underway between Iran and the major world powers. Nov. 24 is the deadline for a nuclear deal, and American negotiators in recent weeks have sounded more optimistic about achieving an agreement.

Graham alluded to frustration until now by most of the Republican caucus and some Democrats at the Democratic leadership’s refusal to bring to a vote enhanced sanctions legislation that the White House had opposed.

“In January of next year, we’re going to stop talking and start voting,” he said.

Graham’s remarks earned cheers from the audience at the conference. The Israeli American Council seeks to advance the interests of Israeli Americans within the Jewish community and more broadly.

Israel’s ambassador to the United States, Ron Dermer, described the difference between Israel and the United States over Iran as a “serious disagreement.”

“We don’t merely want to prevent Iran from developing a nuclear weapon today, we want to make sure that Iran does not have the capability to build a nuclear weapon tomorrow,” Dermer said. “And we believe that goal is achievable by keeping strong sanctions and other pressures, and only reducing those pressures when Iran fully dismantles its nuclear weapons capability.

“A deal that removes those sanctions and leaves Iran’s nuclear program essentially intact is a bad deal as far as Israel is concerned.”

U.S. and other nations’ officials have said that a nuclear deal with Iran will likely allow Iran to continue enriching uranium at minimum levels, with a tough inspections regime in place, but Israel believes any enrichment capacity leaves Iran as a nuclear threshold state.

“The idea that instead of dismantling Iran’s nuclear weapons program, and intelligence and U.N. inspectors will do the job, does not give Israel much comfort,” he said.

Dermer spent a considerable portion of his speech pushing back against the notion arising out of a series of recent diplomatic disputes that U.S.-Israel relations were at a nadir. He listed disputes going back to 1948 with other administrations that were seen as pro-Israel and praising the Obama administration’s “unprecedented” levels of military and intelligence cooperation with Israel.

Mitt Romney, the GOP presidential candidate who was defeated by Obama in 2012, opened the conference Friday with a blistering criticism of Obama in the light of the revelation that the president wrote Iran’s supreme leader a letter saying that any U.S.-Iran cooperation on combating Sunni Islamist extremists was contingent on a nuclear deal.

“That the president would write a letter of this nature, in effect legitimizing a nation and a leadership that is violating international norms and is threatening the world, is so far beyond the pale, I was stunned. I was speechless,” Romney said. “The right kind of approach in dealing with Iran is that we consider them a pariah, their leaders are shunned and we exert that kind of moral suasion on them.”

Obama: ‘Still a big gap’ in negotiations with Iran

(JTA)—President Obama tamped down expectations about brokering a nuclear deal with Iran before the upcoming deadline.

“There’s still a big gap,” Obama told “Face the Nation” host Bob Schieffer on Sunday on the 60th anniversary broadcast of the CBS program. “We may not be able to get there.”

Nov. 24 is the deadline for a nuclear deal between Iran and six world powers. American negotiators in recent weeks have sounded more optimistic about achieving an agreement.

Obama said there have been “significant negotiations.”

Israel rejects any deal that allows Iran to continue enriching uranium at even minimal levels, which it is believed that a nuclear deal with Iran will include. Israel believes any enrichment capacity leaves Iran as a nuclear threshold state.

Meanwhile, Iran’s supreme leader, Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, posted Sunday on his official Twitter account a plan to eliminate Israel, or what he called the “fake Zionist regime.”

“The elimination of Israel does not mean the massacre of the Jewish people in the region,” he said.

The plan, which Khamenei believes will be palatable to the international community, calls for a referendum by “all the original people of Palestine including Muslims, Christians and Jews wherever they are.”

“Naturally, the Jewish immigrants who have been persuaded into emigration to Palestine do not have the right to take part in this referendum,” according to the nine-point plan.

Khamenei said the plan “can be properly understood by global public opinion, and can enjoy the support of the independent nations and governments.”

His plan rejects a “classical war” or an arbitration by the United Nations or other international organizations.

Dutch Protestant Church pulls out of Kristallnacht event over sponsors

AMSTERDAM (JTA)—A senior official from the Dutch Protestant Church pulled out of a Holocaust memorial event co-organized by Socialists who commemorated a Hamas leader.

Arjan Plaisier, secretary of the PKN umbrella of Dutch Protestant churches, announced Friday that he would neither be speaking nor attending the Kristallnacht commemoration event organized by the Platform Against Racism and Exclusion.

The platform lists among its Kristallnacht commemoration partners the International Socialists, which in 2004 held a ceremony in memory of Ahmed Yassin, a former spiritual leader of Hamas whom Israel killed that year.

Another sponsor was the Dutch Palestine Committee, which supports the Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions movement against Israel, and far-left groups.

The Kristallnacht event is funded by Kerk in Actie, the PKN’s aid organization.

Likoed Nederland and other pro-Israel groups protested Plaisier’s planned attendance as a speaker at the event, which took place at the same time Saturday as the Jewish community’s official commemorative ceremony for the victims of the 1938 Kristallnacht pogroms in Germany and Austria, which many historians regard as the opening shot for the systematic application of violence against Jews by the Nazis and their helpers.

“After intensive dialogue, Arjan Plaisier decided not to speak at the event planned by the platform,” a PKN spokesman told Likoed Nederland. “We must respect the voices that we are hearing,” he added in reference to the protest.

The spokesman added that Plaisier decided “as a sign of good will” to attend the official ceremony organized by the Central Jewish Board, or CJO, at the Portuguese Synagogue of Amsterdam.

Plaisier told the Nederlandse Dagblad newspaper, “I had not realized there were two commemorations, each sounding a different voice.”

Venezuela to give 1,000 Palestinians free university education

(JTA)—At least 1,000 Palestinians will receive a free university education in Venezuela.

Venezuelan President Nicolas Maduro on Nov. 6 welcomed 119 Palestinian students who will be trained in the field of medicine through the new Yasser Arafat Scholarship Program.

“We will train at least 1,000 doctors, quickly, now,” Maduro said in an address to the students in Caracas, the South American nation’s capital. “It is a hard goal but we can’t fail on this, we have no excuses.”

Maduro also announced the expansion of the program to engineering, architecture “and every field of knowledge.”

The scholarship program is named for Arafat, the former head of the Palestine Liberation Organization and the first president of the Palestinian Authority.

Maduro said he cried when he saw the images of Palestinian students dancing in their first minutes in Venezuela.

“We want to see you dance again,” the president said.

The Palestinian students obliged by dancing for Maduro, who received from them a keffiyah, or Arab headdress.

More than 20 of the students are from Gaza; the rest are from the West Bank. They were picked up in Jordan by a plane sent from the Venezuelan government that also brought 10 tons of humanitarian aid for Gaza.

In August, Maduro publicly accused Israel of pursuing “a war of extermination against the Palestinian people” and has compared Gaza to Auschwitz.

Three months earlier, Venezuela announced that it would supply oil to the Palestinians. Venezuela in 2009 recognized the State of Palestine.

78-year-old assaulted in Warsaw anti-Semitic attack

(JTA)—Police in Warsaw arrested the alleged perpetrator of an assault on a 78-year-old man while shouting anti-Semitic slurs.

The suspect, identified in Polish media as a 30-year-old man named Pawel L., allegedly struck the victim outside a store on Friday, causing him injuries that required hospitalization.

Police found Pawel being subdued by passers-by who intervened after witnessing the attack, according to the news website fakt.pl. The report did not say whether the victim was Jewish, but prosecutors intend to charge Pawel with perpetrating a hate crime along with assault.

Pawel was taken into custody immediately at the scene. If convicted, he could face a jail term of up to 10 years.

Austria’s national railway opens exhibit about its Holocaust complicity

BRUSSELS (JTA)—Austria’s national railway company opened an exhibition at the European Parliament about the firm’s complicity in the Holocaust.

Titled “The Suppressed Years,” the exhibition opened last week at a ceremony attended by members of the European Parliament, European Jewish Congress staff and Austrian Federal Railways executives, including the firm’s CEO, Christian Kern.

“When we first discussed bringing this exhibition here, some from our marketing team feared it would hurt the brand,” Kern said. “But we need our brand to be clean. And showing what happened in the Holocaust is necessary for that.”

The exhibition features a confined space the size of a cattle wagon of the sort that was used in transporting tens of thousands of Austrian Jews and other groups persecuted by the Nazi regime in Austria to concentration and death camps across Europe.

It also tells the story of foreigners who were forced to work for the Austrian railway and the story of the railway’s rapid absorption, within a few days, into the German railway system after Nazi Germany merged with Austria in 1938.

For decades after World War II, Austrian politicians argued that Austria was an occupied nation and officials at first resisted offering restitution to Holocaust victims. But in 1991, then-chancellor Franz Vranitzky apologized for Austria’s role in the murder of 90 percent of the country’s pre-Holocaust population of over 200,000 Jews.

“The exhibition tells not only the story of what happens in the Holocaust, but also the background – the process of nazification among the railway’s workers, the rooting out of dissidents, the severe oversight that existed,” said Milli Segal, an Austrian Jew who is curator of the exhibition.

 

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