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Weekly roundup of world briefs from JTA


Killer filmed Paris kosher supermarket attack

(JTA)—The Islamic terrorist who killed four Jewish men at a kosher supermarket in Paris filmed the attack.

Amedy Coulibaly recorded seven minutes of the attack on a video camera, including the shooting deaths of three of the victims, CNN reported Friday, citing a U.S. intelligence official. Citing a French source close to the investigation, the French magazine L’Express made an identical report.

Coulibaly wore the GoPro camera, often used in extreme-action video photography, on his torso during the Jan. 9 attack, CNN reported. It is not known whether Coulibaly had time to send the video by email during the standoff.

He tried to connect to the Internet on his computer and then on a computer in the store during the attack. Coulibaly was seen editing video on the computer.

Coulibaly had maps of Jewish schools in his car on Jan. 8, a day before the attack on Hyper Cacher, when he killed a police officer south of the city center.

Mohammed Merah, who killed three children and a rabbi in March 2012 at a Jewish school in Toulouse before fleeing the scene on a scooter, also filmed his attack using a GoPro camera strapped to his body.

Prosecutor: Only Nisman DNA found at scene of his death

BUENOS AIRES, Argentina (JTA)—Only the DNA of Argentine prosecutor Alberto Nisman was found at the site of his shooting death.

On Friday, the prosecutor in charge of the investigation into Nisman’s death revealed the information.

“It can categorically be reported that chemical testing of shirt, shorts, gun, pistol magazine, bullets and shell casing has found a single genetic profile that matches without a doubt the genetic profile of the deceased,” Viviana Fein said.

The death of Nisman, who was heading the probe into the bombing of the AMIA Jewish center in 1994, remains unexplained two weeks after his body was found in his Buenos Aires apartment.

Nisman, 51, was found dead on Jan. 18 hours before he was to present evidence to Argentine lawmakers that President Cristina Fernandez de Kirchner covered up Iran’s role in the attack.

Fernandez said his death was a deliberate “operation against the government” after originally calling it a suicide.

In addition, the security camera in the apartment building’s service elevator was not working and there were no cameras in the building’s stairwell, a specialized group of the Federal Police discovered after analyzing the security cameras in Nisman’s apartment building, Le Parc.

“As a magistrate, I have to apologize because I am part of this state branch that is not doing its best to figure out what brought you to this end,” Sandra Arroyo Salgado, Nisman’s ex-wife and current federal judge, said at his Jan. 29 funeral. “Now you are in peace and we’ll search for the truth because none of us believe that you were the maker of this end. We are certain that it was the work of another person. We do not know who.”

Nisman was laid to rest in a Buenos Aires Jewish cemetery where the victims of the AMIA bombing are buried.

Cruz, Zeldin press State Dept. on funding for group working on Israeli election

WASHINGTON (JTA)—Two GOP lawmakers asked the Obama administration to explain the involvement of a State Department-funded dialogue group with an Israeli get-out-the-vote effort.

“There appears to be a danger that U.S. taxpayer funds are being used to directly shape the outcome of the upcoming Israeli election—and specifically to campaign against Prime Minister [Benjamin] Netanyahu—something all would agree would be highly inappropriate,” said the letter by Sen. Ted Cruz (R-Texas) and Rep. Lee Zeldin (D-N.Y.) sent Jan. 29 to Secretary of State John Kerry.

The letter arose from reports in Haaretz that Jeremy Bird, the national field director for President Barack Obama’s reelection campaign, is leading an Israeli get-out-the-vote effort, V15, which is partnered with the OneVoice movement. OneVoice was founded in 2002 during the second intifada to promote Israeli-Palestinian dialogue and the two-state solution.

Jen Psaki, the State Department spokeswoman, in statements on Jan. 28 and Jan. 29, said the group received $233,500 last year, disbursed before the Israeli elections were called and before OneVoice partnered with V15.

“That grant ran from September of 2013 to November of 2014,” Psaki said Jan. 28. “During the period of the grant, as is standard practice, the U.S. Embassy approved OneVoice Israel’s implementation plan for the grant and monitored its performance. And as is routine for such a grant, final payments are disbursed after the grantee provides documentation showing completion of the grant terms.”

The V15 campaign does not name Netanyahu, although it is clear it wants the government replaced; one T-shirt slogan declares “It’s simple, there’s a change.”

Bird is following a long tradition of U.S. campaign advisers working for Israelis. Netanyahu initiated the practice in the 1990s, and has used Obama campaign advisers in past elections.

Zeldin and Cruz cast their questions in the context of the refusal by Obama and other administration officials to meet with Netanyahu when he is in Washington next month to address Congress. Obama and administration officials say that any meeting would be inappropriate just two weeks before Israelis go to the polls.

“Given the public statements by a number of Obama administration officials, including the President, that it would be ‘inappropriate’ for the government of the United States to exercise any influence over elections in a foreign country including Israel, we believe this issue demands your urgent attention,” Cruz and Zeldin wrote.

Polish strongmen partner with group moving Jewish headstones

WARSAW, Poland (JTA)—A Polish federation of strongmen announced its partnership with an organization whose work includes moving and preserving Jewish headstones.

The cooperation between the From the Depths commemoration group and the Polish Strongman Federation began last year, when two of the sport club’s athletes helped move two headstones from the garden of a resident of Warsaw, the two groups said in a statement issued Sunday.

“We knew immediately that we wanted to be involved and help however we can,” said Tomosaz Kowal, former champion of the Polish Strongman Cup who participated in the removal of the two 550-pound headstones last year.

The partnership means that “all of our strongmen from around Poland will be ready at a moment’s call to help From The Depths and their holy work,” added Kowal, who weighs 286 pounds and can lift 859 pounds.

During and after the Holocaust, countless Jewish headstones were used in Poland for construction, pavement and even decoration. Some of those headstones—many of them dilapidated or brittle—are inaccessible by vehicles, making manual lifting the safest and most practical way of moving them to a place where they can be loaded onto a vehicle to be transported to the Jewish cemetery, where they were taken or to another cemetery.

Several strongmen will assist From the Depths this year to return dozens of Jewish headstones that were used to build a river dam, said Jonny Daniels, the British-born Israeli who founded From the Depths last year.

The strongman federation’s willingness to help is part of growing awareness in Polish society of the issue of restoring Jewish heritage sites in Poland, according to Daniels.

“We have cooperation with local fire departments, nuns, communities,” he said, adding that seeing athletes like Kowal help out “does a great deal to combat fear individuals may have in returning the tombstones.”

Top House Foreign Affairs leaders urge Kerry to cut P.A. funding

WASHINGTON (JTA)—Leaders from both parties on the House Foreign Affairs Committee urged Secretary of State John Kerry to suspend funding to the Palestinian Authority until it withdraws from the International Criminal Court.

“The United States should not support direct economic assistance to the P.A. until it demonstrates a meaningful reversal of this destructive course and proves it can be a willing partner for peace,” said the letter sent Jan. 22 and relayed to reporters late last week.

The letter, signed by the top Republicans and Democrats on the U.S. House of Representatives committee and each of its subcommittees, stopped short of a threat to take congressional action.

The only subcommittee leader not to sign was Rep. Karen Bass (D-Calif.), the top Democrat on the Africa subcommittee.

In a separate Senate letter sent to Kerry around the same time, 75 of its 100 members said they would “not support” assistance to the Palestinian Authority, suggesting they would withhold approval of appropriations.

Both letters were careful to target direct funding to the Palestinian Authority; much of the approximately $500 million in annual U.S. funding for the Palestinians goes to humanitarian projects separate from the P.A.

Cuts would affect U.S. funding for Palestinian security forces, which cooperate with Israel in securing the West Bank.

The Palestinians acceded to the ICC late last year and, in early January, the court’s prosecutor launched a preliminary examination of whether crimes were committed during Israel’s conflict last summer with Hamas in the Gaza Strip. The probe also is looking into Israel’s actions in the West Bank subsequent to the kidnap and murder by Palestinian terrorists of three Jewish teenagers.

Serbian president called on to apologize for Holocaust Day remarks

(JTA)—Serbian human rights groups called on Serbian President Tomislav Nikolic to apologize for saying at a Holocaust commemoration that Nazis targeted Jews because of their overrepresentation in professions.

Nikolic “is spreading stereotypes about the Jewish people, saying that this minority was ‘over-represented in prestigious professions’,” said the Jan. 28 statement signed by a number of Belgrade-based human rights monitors and civil society groups.

Among the signatories were Belgrade representatives of the Lawyers Committee for Human Rights and the Helsinki Committee for Human Rights.

In his speech on Jan. 27, Nikolic said that for the Nazis, “the biggest threat was seen in the Jewish people, probably on the account of their characteristics and being prominent in the prestigious professions in the domains of finances, art and science,” according to a report by the government-run broadcaster, Voice of Serbia.

He spoke at a ceremony marking International Holocaust Remembrance Day, commemorating the liberation of Auschwitz in 1945.

Nikolic, who is friendly to Israel and spoke in the presence of the Israeli ambassador, members of Serbia’s Jewish community and Holocaust survivors, made the need for remembrance the central point of his speech.

“The Holocaust was the most shameful and abominable event in the human history,” he said. “In the manner unique for its fanaticism and cruelty, a huge number of human lives perished in a short time, and it must never be forgotten.”

The statement signed by the human rights groups and activists stopped short of saying that Nikolic, whose politics are nationalist, is anti-Semitic, instead suggesting that his aides were ill prepared.

Nikolic’s remarks “testify to the extremely bad preparation for public statements, ignorance and insensitivity to human rights,” the statement said.

At Cal Davis, swastikas at Jewish frat house follow BDS resolution

(JTA)—Two swastikas were spray-painted on a Jewish fraternity’s house at the University of California, Davis, two days after the student senate passed a divestment resolution targeting Israel.

The swastikas were painted on the off-campus house of Alpha Epsilon Pi sometime early Saturday morning.

“I don’t think that it’s a coincidence that this happened right after divestment,” AEPi vice president Nathaniel Bernhard told the California Aggie student newspaper.

The nonbinding advisory resolution was passed Jan. 29 by the Associated Students of U.C. Davis by an 8-2 vote with two abstentions. It calls on the University of California system to divest from “corporations that aid in the Israeli occupation of Palestine and illegal settlements in Palestinian territories,” the Aggie reported.

In separate statements, U.C. Davis Chancellor Linda P.B. Katehi said the university opposed divestment and condemned the anti-Semitic graffiti.

“Nothing rivals a swastika as a more potent or offensive symbol of hatred and violence toward our Jewish community members,” Katehi said.

Davis now joins several schools in the University of California system—at Berkeley, Los Angeles, San Diego, Santa Cruz, Irvine and Riverside—in passing resolutions supporting the Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions movement. A similar resolution had failed to pass the student senate at U.C. Davis last May.

The U.C. Board of Regents, which controls the university system’s investment portfolio, has said repeatedly that it does not intend to divest from companies doing business with Israel.

Brandeis President Frederick Lawrence leaving post

BOSTON (JTA)—Brandeis University President Frederick Lawrence will step down at the end of the academic year.

Lawrence, who made the announcement on Friday, is serving his fifth academic year as president at the Boston-area school, the only nonsectarian Jewish-sponsored college or university in the country.

Lisa Lynch, the current provost, has been appointed to serve as interim president, effective July 1.

In a letter to the university community, Lawrence said he was “tremendously proud of the ways Brandeis has grown and thrived” during his tenure.

“Brandeis is a strong, vital, and dynamic institution, and I am profoundly grateful for the opportunity to serve alongside so many extraordinary students, faculty, alumni, staff, parents, and friends of the university,” Lawrence, the eighth president of Brandeis and an expert on civil rights, said in his letter.

Lawrence said he plans to return to full-time scholarship and teaching as a senior research scholar at Yale Law School. Prior to becoming president of Brandeis, Lawrence had served as dean and Robert Kramer Research Professor of Law at George Washington University Law School from 2005 to 2010.

In a letter to the university, Perry Traquina, chairman of the Brandeis Board of Trustees, thanked Lawrence, saying he “has worked tirelessly to move our university forward … including making significant progress in balancing the university’s budget, a record endowment, the fundraising of $225 million in gifts, and a 35 percent increase in applications under his stewardship. Fred has also brought an unbridled energy and enthusiasm to our campus, and our students have benefited greatly from Fred’s hands-on approach to their education and student experience.”

Lawrence also was credited with presiding over the reopening of the Rose Art Museum on the Brandeis campus, putting an end to a controversy over whether to sell its unique and valuable collection of modern art.

The trustees said they will start an international search to find a new president.  Lynch, a prominent economist, is the former dean of the Heller School for Social Policy and Management at Brandeis.

Brandeis, founded in 1948, is a leading research institution.

Italy’s new president, at site of Ardeatine massacre, calls for united terrorism fight

ROME (JTA)—Sergio Mattarella, the new president of Italy, at a visit to the site of a Nazi massacre called for international unity in the fight against terrorism.

On Sunday, a day after he was elected by the Italian Parliament, Mattarella made his remarks at the Ardeatine Caves, where German occupation troops killed 335 people in March 1944. Among the 335 victims were Jews, political prisoners, partisans, and civilians.

The visit to the caves in a rural suburb of Rome was his first act as president.

“The alliance between nations and peoples was able to beat the Nazi, racist, anti-Semite, totalitarian hate of which this place is a painful symbol,” Mattarella said inside the memorial. “The same unity in Europe and around the world will be able to beat those who want to bring us in a new season of terror.”

Renzo Gattegna, president of the Union of Italian Jewish Communities, said, “The very high symbolic significance of his first institutional act, the words in defense of the fundamental values and against all forms of hatred, racism and anti-Semitism pronounced at Fosse Ardeatine represents a clear signal to the whole country.”

The mass killing of Romans was a reprisal for a partisan attack that killed 33 German soldiers in central Rome.


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