Heritage Florida Jewish News - Central Florida's Independent Jewish Voice

Weekly roundup of world briefs from JTA


Charges dropped against Ohio U. anti-divestment protesters

(JTA)—Charges were dropped against four Jewish Ohio University students who disrupted a student senate meeting with a protest against divestment from Israel.

The charges were dismissed last week following motions filed by lawyers for the students, who were charged with a fourth-degree misdemeanor, for not receiving a speedy trial. Under Ohio law, a speedy trial is 60 days, though extensions are possible. A jury trial had been set to begin in Athens County Municipal Court on Tuesday in the Sept. 10 incident.

“I think it’s prophetic that Judge [William] Grim dismissed the charges against our clients erev Purim,” attorney Larry Zukerman told the Cleveland Jewish News. “In light of what we perceived as anti-Semitic charges, Judge Grim determined that justice should prevail and they should be freed.”

The students—Jonah Yulish, Maxwell Peltz, Rebecca Sebo and Gabriel Sirkin—faced up to 30 days in jail and a $250 fine after being arrested by university police for staging a protest of senate president Megan Marzec’s “blood bucket challenge” video calling for the university to divest from companies doing business in Israel. Their protest called for Marzec’s resignation.

Each student was offered the chance to plead guilty to a minor misdemeanor charge of disorderly conduct and pay a $100 fine, but all refused. The students were charged with disturbing a lawful meeting.

Johannesburg pro-Israel event draws threats from protesters

(JTA)—Protesters including a government official shouted anti-Israel epithets and threats outside a pro-Israel event in suburban Johannesburg.

“You think this is Israel, we are going to kill you,” protesters from the Israeli Apartheid Week and Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions movement shouted outside the Zionist Federation South Africa-Israel Expo in Sandton on Sunday. Others shouted “You Jews do not belong in South Africa” and “no Zionist conference be held on our soil.”

Among the protesters was government deputy minister Obed Bapela.

The protest had been advertised via Facebook on a page called Israeli Apartheid Week Protest (Sandton).

The South African Jewish Board of Deputies said in a statement that it is “every South African citizen’s constitutional right to attend events of our choosing without fear of intimidation.”

Last week, an address by Palestinian human rights activist Bassim Eid at the University of Johannesburg organized by the South Africa Union of Jewish Students was forced to end early due to BDS protesters, according to the Board of Deputies.

Met Council insurance broker sentenced to 18 months plus restitution

NEW YORK (JTA)—Another co-conspirator in the scheme that stole approximately $9 million from New York’s Metropolitan Council on Jewish Poverty was sentenced to prison.

Joseph Ross, the former insurance broker for the nonprofit social service group, was sentenced to 18 months in jail, New York State Attorney General Eric Schneiderman and Comptroller Thomas DiNapoli announced Monday in a news release.

Ross also paid $534,000 in restitution to the Met Council and agreed to a judgment against him in the amount of $956,000.

Ross personally stole $1.5 million from Met Council, according to the news release.

Ross, who pleaded guilty, admitted that from 1992 to 2013 he conspired with former Met Council CEO William Rapfogel, former Executive Director David Cohen and others to rob the Met Council through a kickback scheme in which top staff at the nonprofit knowingly paid inflated insurance premiums to Century Coverage Corp. in exchange for kickbacks.

Ross and Cohen devised the scheme in 1992, and when Rapfogel became Met Council’s head a year later, he joined the conspiracy. The inflated amount on the insurance policies and the amount of the kickbacks increased over the years,with Rapfogel ultimately receiving approximately $30,000 per month, the news release said.

In July, Rapfogel was convicted and sentenced to 3 1/3 to 10 years in prison, and ordered to pay $3 million in restitution to the Met Council. Herb Friedman, the Met Council’s former chief financial officer, was convicted and sentenced to four months in jail, and ordered to pay $775,000 in restitution.

In February, Solomon Ross and William Lieber, former insurance brokers for Met Council, were each sentenced to five years of probation and $1.5 million in restitution.

Kerry calls for return of Robert Levinson, missing in Iran for 8 years

(JTA)—U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry marked the eighth year since the disappearance in Iran of Jewish-American Robert Levinson with a plea for his safe return.

Kerry in a statement issued Monday called on the government of Iran to “work cooperatively with us on the investigation into his disappearance so we can ensure his safe return.”

Levinson, 67, of Coral Springs, Fla., disappeared from Kish Island. The statement said Levinson is one of the longest-held American citizens in history and that he has “spent more than 2,900 days separated from those who love him.”

His family acknowledged in the last couple of years that Levinson, a father of seven, had been working for the CIA in a rogue operation at the time of his disappearance. Levinson is a private detective and former FBI agent. For years it had been reported that he was working as a private investigator when he disappeared.

“We remain committed to the safe return of Mr. Levinson to his family and appreciate the support and assistance from our international partners,” Kerry said in the statement. “We remain concerned about Mr. Levinson’s health given his age and the length of his disappearance.”

The FBI announced that it has increased its reward for information that could lead to Levinson’s safe return to up to $5 million from $1 million.

Drone spotted over Jewish school in Toulouse

(JTA)—An unauthorized drone was spotted flying over the Jewish school in Toulouse that was attacked in 2012.

Soldiers guarding the Ozar Hatorah school as part of a French government directive in the aftermath of the Jan. 9 attack on a kosher supermarket in Paris observed the drone on Sunday evening, French media reported.

The drone looped around the Roseraie neighborhood where the school is located and flew over Ozar Hatorah’s middle school and high school buildings, the guards said.

The incident occurred just one day after an unidentified man was spotted placing a bag containing Stars of David mixed with rags in front of a synagogue in a Toulouse suburb. Police are searching for the man and the people responsible for the drone.

March 19 will mark the third anniversary of the Ozar Hatorah attack, in which three children and a rabbi were shot dead. A commemoration ceremony is planned.

Nuclear pact could end with Obama’s term, 47 GOP senators tell Iran

WASHINGTON (JTA)—Any nuclear agreement signed with President Barack Obama could end when he leaves office, a letter to Iran’s leaders signed by 47 Republican senators threatened.

The letter, first obtained by Bloomberg View, explains that without congressional approval, any agreement concerning Iran’s nuclear capabilities is “nothing more than an executive agreement between President Obama and Ayatollah Khamenei. The next president could revoke such an executive agreement with the stroke of a pen and future Congresses could modify the terms of the agreement at any time.”

The March 9 letter, initiated by Sens. Tom Cotton (R-Ark.) and David Perdue (R-Ga.), also was signed by potential presidential candidates Sen. Marco Rubio (R-Fla.) and Sen. Ted Cruz (R-Tex.).

“President Obama will leave office in January 2017, while most of us will remain in office well beyond then—perhaps decades,” the letter states. It points out that the Senate must ratify any treaty negotiated by the president by a two-thirds vote, part of an abbreviated lesson in the U.S. Constitutional system provided in the letter.

Sen. Barbara Boxer (D-Calif.) decried the letter as “inappropriate.”

“This is a brazen attempt by Senate Republicans to sabotage negotiations aimed at preventing Iran from developing a nuclear weapon,” she said in a statement. “This bizarre, inappropriate letter is a desperate ploy to scuttle a comprehensive agreement and the chance for a peaceful resolution, which is in the best interests of the United States, Israel and the world.”

Police arrest 4 with ties to Paris kosher market terrorist

(JTA)—French authorities arrested four people with connections to the Islamist who seized hostages and killed four people at a kosher supermarket in Paris in January.

The four, among them a French policewoman who converted to Islam two years ago, were friends with the supermarket gunman, Amedy Coulibaly.  Among the others arrested was the policewoman’s boyfriend, “Amar,” who is also wanted on drug charges.

The policewoman, identified as “Emmanuelle,” worked in a major intelligence center in Paris and has been accused of searching through police intelligence files soon after the Jan. 9 attack to determine what authorities knew about Amar, The Independent reported. Amar reportedly was with Coulibaly shortly before the attack. UPI reported that Amar was a relative of Coulibaly’s.

Coulibaly, who was in contact with Said and Cherif Kouachi—the brothers who killed 12 people at the Charlie Hebdo satirical weekly in Paris two days before the supermarket attack—was shot dead when Paris police raided the supermarket he was holding hostages.

Sen. Ben Cardin named anti-Semitism watchdog for OSCE

WASHINGTON (JTA)—U.S. Sen. Ben Cardin was named the special representative on anti-Semitism and intolerance for the 57-nation Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe’s Parliamentary Assembly.

Cardin (D-Md.), a senior member of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee and the senior Democratic senator on the U.S. Helsinki Commission, was tapped on Monday for the newly created position, which aims to raise awareness about prejudice and discrimination, including anti-Semitism and race-based intolerance.

“No longer content to simmer below the surface, the recent heinous attacks in Paris and Copenhagen have demonstrated the severity and pervasiveness of anti-Semitism and prejudice in the world today,” Cardin said in a statement, adding, “I have long fought to shine a spotlight on such activity and supported efforts to address the root causes fueling hate crimes and other forms of discrimination.”

Cardin will report to OSCE’s 325-member Parliamentary Assembly on the records of the participating states and advise the assembly on how best to protect individuals and communities. The OSCE was created by the United Nations charter.

Spanish soccer star cited for condemning racism in sports

(JTA)—A prominent European group promoting tolerance honored one of Spain’s leading soccer stars for his efforts to curb racism in sports.

The European Council on Tolerance and Reconciliation said it was giving its third European Medal of Tolerance to Samuel Eto’o Fils, a Cameroon-born player and three-time Champions League winner. Eto’o received Spanish citizenship in 2007.

Eto’o, who has condemned racism in sports publicly, was scheduled to receive the honor at a ceremony on Monday in London’s Kensington Palace, the council said in a statement.

Moshe Kantor, president of the council and of the European Jewish Congress, said Eto’o was selected for his “personal leadership and devotion to combating manifestations of racism and intolerance. Personally a victim of many racist incidents, he has found the courage and will to stand against the racists, building awareness and inspiring fellow footballers and millions of football fans.”

Sharing the honor with Eto’o is the FARE Network, an anti-discrimination and social inclusion network focusing on combating soccer-related xenophobia.

Tensions between ethnic groups in Europe, where many countries are seeing a rising far right and radical Islam, in recent years have led to increased efforts by European organizations and governments to combat manifestations of racism and other forms of exclusion in soccer stadiums, where derogatory chants about Jews and blacks are commonplace.

That effort featured prominently on the agenda of the March 3 conference in Brussels of Facing Facts, a project set up in 2011 by CEJI: A Jewish Contribution to an Inclusive Europe and other groups to help anti-racism watchdogs become more effective.

At the event, Joanna Perry, the hate crime officer at the Organization for Security and Co-operation in Europe, referred to recent incidents last month in which fans of Britain’s Chelsea soccer team prevented a black man from getting on a Metro in Paris, and another in which fans were seen singing anti-Semitic songs in the London Underground.

“Hate crimes persist, but what is changing is the response,” Perry said in reference to strong and immediate condemnation of the fans by Chelsea’s management. ”They know now they need to respond quickly, and this is another sign that the response has become much stronger to these things.”

Arab-Israeli lawmaker, ex-diplomats slam Liberman’s call for beheading

(JTA)—An Arab-Israeli Knesset member called Israel’s foreign minister “Jewish Islamic State’ after Avigdor Liberman said that Arab citizens who betray the country should be beheaded.

Ahmad Tibi, the head of the Arab Movement for Change (Ta’al) party, on Monday responded to remarks made the previous day by Liberman in Herzliya, The Jerusalem Post reported. Tibi has served in the Knesset since 1999.

Liberman, who chairs the Yisrael Beiteinu party, said in his speech, “Whoever is with us should get everything. Whoever is against us, there’s nothing else to do. We have to lift up an axe and remove his head, otherwise we won’t survive here.”

The foreign minister also said that Umm al-Fahm, a large Arab town in the Galilee, should be part of a future Palestinian state and not Israel.

“Israeli citizens who wave a black flag on Nakba Day can leave, and I am willing to donate them to [Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas] very happily,” he added, referring to the day, also known as “the catastrophe,” in which Palestinians lament the displacement of their people following Israeli independence in 1948.

On Monday, several diplomats, including Israel’s former ambassadors to South Africa and France, also condemned Liberman’s comments.

“Israel’s No. 1 diplomat is waving an axe over the heads of citizens of the country that he represents, and in the same breath he preaches to the whole world about fighting anti-Semitism,” the diplomats said, according to the Post.

Spelunkers discover ancient treasure in Israeli cave

JERUSALEM (JTA)—A cache of rare 2,300-year-old gold coins and silver and bronze objects were discovered in a cave in northern Israel.

The treasure trove was discovered by members of the Israeli Caving Club, who visited the large and well-hidden stalactite cave in preparation for a club visit, according to the Israel Antiquities Authority.

“The reporting of the treasure by honest citizens will contribute to our understanding of the history of the Land of Israel,” Amir Ganor, director of the IAA Unit for the Prevention of Antiquities Theft, said in a statement.

The discovery, announced on Monday, was made about two weeks ago. The location of the cave is being kept secret.

The spelunkers had explored the cave for several hours before happening on the treasure. The first discovery was two ancient silver coins that had been minted during the reign of Alexander the Great, who conquered the Land of Israel at the beginning of the Hellenistic period, or the late fourth century BCE. Several pieces of silver jewelry were found alongside the coins, among them rings, bracelets and earrings, which apparently were concealed in the cave inside a cloth pouch.

According to the IAA, the valuables may have been hidden in the cave by local residents who fled there during the period of government unrest following the death of Alexander, when the Wars of the Diadochi broke out in Israel between Alexander’s heirs.

“Presumably the cache was hidden in the hope of better days, but today we know that whoever buried the treasure never returned to collect it,” the IAA statement said.

Ancient pottery vessels also were discovered in the cave; in some cases stalagmites had developed on the vessels. Some artifacts in the cave are up to 6,000 years, according to the IAA.

It was the second important discovery in recent weeks. Last month, civilian divers discovered a treasure of gold coins off the coast of Caesarea.


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