Weekly roundup of world briefs from JTA

 


White House steps up Iran pitch to Jewish leaders, donors

WASHINGTON (JTA)—President Barack Obama will attend two meetings with Jewish leaders in his bid to persuade the Jewish community to back the Iran nuclear deal.

Obama and Susan Rice, his national security adviser, will meet Monday with top officials of Jewish organizations, including civil defense groups like the American Jewish Committee and the Anti-Defamation League, umbrella groups like the Conference of Presidents of Major American Jewish Organizations and the Jewish Federations of North America, pro-Israel groups like the American Israel Public Affairs Committee and J Street, and the major religious streams.

Later that afternoon, Obama and Rice will meet with “Jewish community leaders,” as the White House describes them on its schedule. Sources who have been apprised of the second meeting said the group is comprised of “influencers,” or major donors to the Democratic Party who have expressed skepticism about the Iran nuclear deal, among them Israeli-American mogul Haim Saban.


Secretary of State John Kerry and Wendy Sherman, the undersecretary of state who leads the U.S. delegation to the Iran talks, held a similar meeting last week with organizational leaders that lasted two hours.

The major powers and Iran earlier this month released the outline of a deal that would exchange sanctions relief for restrictions aimed at keeping Iran from acquiring a nuclear weapon. Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu of Israel opposes the emerging deal, saying it will leave Iran a nuclear weapons threshold state.

Shots fired at Nashville synagogue, no injuries

(JTA)—No one was injured when shots were fired outside a Nashville synagogue.

The shots were fired outside the West End Synagogue on Monday morning, according to The Tennessean.

Police identified at least one bullet hole between two windows at the front of the building.

The shooting outside the 400-member Conservative congregation occurred hours before a Holocaust memorial ceremony at the Tennessee State Capitol in Nashville.

Dutch Jewish group decries honoring of soldier who fought for Hitler

THE HAGUE, Netherlands (JTA)—Dutch Jews protested the commemoration of a soldier who fought for Adolf Hitler on a monument bearing names of Holocaust victims.

The Federative Jewish Netherlands, or FJN, called the inclusion of the soldier’s name to the monument in the town of Geffen, located 60 miles southeast of Amsterdam, “both shocking and cowardly,” the Eindhovens Dagblad reported last week.


In 2012, then-Geffen Mayor Roel Augusteijn announced the scrapping of a controversial plan to unveil a monument bearing the names of German soldiers who died fighting for Nazi Germany along with Holocaust victims and Allied soldiers.

Hotly contested by Jewish organizations including FJN, the so-called Reconciliation Monument’s original intention had become too controversial to be realized, Augusteijn said. Instead, a monument with no names was unveiled.

But the monument was redesigned to include one headstone carrying the names of Jewish Holocaust victims and another bearing the name of a local man who died while fighting for Germany’s Wehrmacht under Hitler, the Eindhovens Dagblad reported.

The additional headstones were placed in December with no media coverage. FJN was informed about it earlier this month.

“There can be no reconciliation between perpetrators and victims,”  FJN chair Herman Loonstein told the local daily. “Certainly not in one stroke, as was done here with the placing of two adjacent stones.”

A member of the local historical society defended the move, saying “the names of all victims from the village are listed together” on previously erected monuments.

The Geffen controversy comes amid a polarizing debate in the Netherlands about commemoration of World War II fatalities.

In 2012, the national commemoration committee of the Netherlands scrapped a poem from its main annual ceremony because it was seen to suggest that Nazis deserved to be commemorated along with their victims. The poem was written by a high school student to his late great-uncle, who died while fighting as an SS officer.

Also that year, a Dutch court issued an injunction against the commemoration of German soldiers in the town of Vorden.

The country’s leading watchdog on anti-Semitism, the Center for Documentation and Information on Israel, has called for official commemoration authorities to adopt clear criteria that exclude the commemoration of soldiers and other representatives of Nazi Germany or its allies in ceremonies in memory of people who died during or because of World War II.

Gunter Grass, Nobel Prize-winning author who served in Nazis’ Waffen-SS, dies

(JTA)—Gunter Grass, the Nobel Prize-winning German author who admitted in 2006 that he had served in the Nazis’ notorious Waffen-SS, has died.

Grass died Monday in a hospital in the northern German city of Luebeck. He was 87.

Grass wrote more than 30 plays and novels, as well as books of poems, essays and memoirs. He is best known for his debut novel, “The Tin Drum,” dealing with the rise of Nazism in Danzig, Poland.

He won the Nobel Prize for Literature in 1999.

In 2012, Grass was declared a persona non grata in Israel a week after publishing the poem “What Must Be Said,” which claimed that Israel was endangering world peace by threatening Iran with a nuclear attack. In interviews after the poem was published, Grass reiterated the claim about Israel and criticized the German government for its support of the Jewish state.

In a 2006 interview ahead of the publication of his autobiography, “While Skinning an Onion,” Grass admitted that he served in the Waffen-SS, a paramilitary force he was drafted into at 16. He said in the book that he tried to volunteer for the submarine corps at 15. Grass had previously and openly talked about his membership in the Hitler Youth at age 10.

“It weighed on me. My silence during all these years is one reason that led me to write this book. It had to come out,” he said in an interview with a German newspaper.

Grass criticized the role of average Germans in the rise of the Nazis and condemned the reunification of East and West Germany, saying it would lead again to the rise of a kind of Nazism.

Stanford student Senate candidate asked about Jewish faith

(JTA)—A candidate for the student Senate at Stanford University filed a complaint after she was asked how her Jewish faith would inform her decisions.

Molly Horwitz, a junior, filed the complaint with the student elections commissioner shortly after the March 13 endorsement interview with an umbrella group on campus, the Stanford Review student newspaper reported Sunday. The elections will be held Tuesday.

During the interview with the Students of Color Coalition, a member asked Horwitz, “Given your strong Jewish identity, how would you vote on divestment?”

In February, the student Senate passed a divestment resolution calling on Stanford to withdraw investments in companies that assist Israel in the West Bank.

Horwitz, a Paraguay native living in Milwaukee, told the coalition that she disapproved of the Senate vote for divestment, but reiterated her belief in the Senate’s democratic system and her hope for a peaceful Middle East, according to the Review.

Horwitz was among a limited number of candidates interviewed by the coalition, an umbrella for six student organizations.

Her endorsement application made reference to her Judaism, including statements such as “I identify as a proud South American and as a Jew,” and “I felt like I was not enough for the Latino community and further embraced my Jewish identity,” the student newspaper reported.

Horwitz reportedly has asked for a public apology from the coalition.

In a meeting with a university official, coalition members gave a different account of the line of questioning, according to the Review.

The incident comes two months after a similar one at UCLA. The four student government members who questioned Rachel Beyda during a confirmation hearing later apologized.

Putin lifts ban on Russian air defense missile sales to Iran

(JTA)—President Vladimir Putin of Russia lifted a ban on the sale of an advanced Russian missile defense system that could reinforce Iran’s defense of its nuclear facilities.

A statement released by the Kremlin said that Putin signed a decree to remove the ban on Monday.

The move signals that Russia is greatly interested in reaping profits from the resumption of international trade with Iran should a final deal be reached, The New York Times reported.

Russia’s foreign minister, Sergey Lavrov, said that the framework deal signed by world powers and Iran earlier this month in Lausanne, Switzerland, made the ban obsolete.

Russia agreed to sell Iran the S-300 defense system in 2007, but strong opposition from the United States and Israel blocked the sale. Moscow was also prevented from selling Iran the missile system in 2010 after new U.N. sanctions on Iran’s nuclear program prohibited the exchange.

Secretary of State John Kerry in a phone call to Lavrov expressed U.S. opposition to Russia’s intentions to sell the missiles.

White House spokesman Josh Earnest said the sale could endanger the realization of a deal that lifts sanctions on Iran.

Jean-Marie Le Pen quits French election after conflict with daughter

(JTA)—Far-right French politician Jean-Marie Le Pen said he will not run in regional elections following a conflict with his daughter, who heads the National Front party he founded.

Le Pen told the French magazine Le Figaro that he will not run this year in the southeast Provence-Alpes-Cote d’Azur region, “even though I think I am the best candidate.”

“If I must make a sacrifice for the future of the movement, I would not be the one to cause it damage,” he said.

His daughter, Marine Le Pen, said last week that she would oppose allowing her father to run for office as a member of the party after the elder Le Pen slammed her in an interview for criticizing his remarks diminishing the Holocaust.

Jean-Marie Le Pen, 86, told the far-right weekly Rivarol earlier this month that he stood by his remark that the Nazi gas chambers were a “detail” of World War II, and accused his daughter of betrayal for criticizing him. He also defended the French Nazi collaborator Phillipe Petain and called on France to join Russia to defend the “white world.”

Jean-Marie Le Pen remains honorary president of the National Front and retains a seat in the European Parliament.

Marine Le Pen, who has sought to gain mainstream acceptance for the anti-immigrant National Front by eliminating her father’s anti-Semitic rhetoric, responded by saying of her father, according to The Wall Street Journal, “His role as honorary president (of the party) doesn’t authorize him to take the National Front hostage, with crude provocation that seemingly aims to harm me but unfortunately deals a heavy blow to the whole movement.”

Marine Le Pen has called a meeting of the National Front’s executive committee for April 17 to discuss her father’s role in the party going forward.

Man arrested for throwing firecrackers outside N.J. synagogue

(JTA)—A New Jersey man was arrested for throwing lit firecrackers outside a synagogue and yelling “God is greatest” in Arabic.

Rizek Musheisen, 21, of Clifton, fled in a car Saturday night after the incident at the Ahavas Israel Synagogue in neighboring Passaic, the Secure Community Network said Monday in a notification sent to Jewish community leaders and local law enforcement. The Orthodox synagogue, located about a half hour from New York City, was full of worshippers at the time of the incident.

His car was found in a parking lot shortly after the incident. Police found a bag of firecrackers in the trunk of the car.

Musheisen was charged with bias intimidation, possession of fireworks, harassment and criminal mischief.

Human Rights Watch: Palestinian kids working illegally at settlement farms under hazardous conditions

JERUSALEM (JTA)—Farms in West Bank settlements are using Palestinian children as workers in contravention of international law, Human Rights Watch wrote in a new report.

In its 74-page report, “Ripe for Abuse: Palestinian Child Labor in Israeli Agricultural Settlements in the West Bank,” Human Rights Watch asserted that Palestinians as young as 11 labor on the farms in unsafe conditions, including working in high temperatures, carrying heavy loads and  being exposed to pesticides.

The children also are paid less than minimum wage and are either dropping out of school or are tired while in school, according to the report. They are hired under unwritten agreements through Palestinian middlemen, according to Human Rights Watch.

The report is based on interviews with 38 Palestinian children and 12 adults who work on farms in seven Jewish settlements in the Jordan Valley. The children told Human Rights Watch that they had to work on settlement farms to help support their families.

Human Rights Watch blamed Israel’s “discrimination and settlement policies” for the poverty of the Palestinian families.

Israeli and Palestinian development and labor rights groups estimate that hundreds of children work in Israeli agricultural settlements year-round, and even more during the harvest season, according to Human Rights Watch.

Israeli labor laws prohibit youth from carrying heavy loads, working in high temperatures and working with hazardous pesticides, but the laws are not enforced on farms in the settlements, the report found.

The report offers recommendations to Israel, the European Union, the United States and Palestine.

It calls on Israel to dismantle the settlements and allow freedom of movement and land use to Palestinians in the West Bank, as well as to prohibit settlers from employing Palestinian children for work in violation of international law. The report says European Union should instruct European importers to cease imports of settlement agricultural products and exclude settlement agricultural products from shipments of Israeli goods eligible for preferential tariff treatment.

The report recommends that the United States revise the U.S./Israel Free Trade Agreement to exclude settlement agricultural products and instruct U.S. importers to cease imports of settlement agricultural products. Palestine, the reports says, must continue to press foreign governments to cease imports of settlement agricultural products and to improve enforcement of laws on children’s free and compulsory education and prohibitions on child labor, including punishing the middlemen that help the children find employment.

Kim Kardashian, Kanye West visiting Israel

JERUSALEM (JTA)—Reality television star Kim Kardashian and her husband, rapper Kanye West, landed in Israel for a private visit.

The couple and their nearly 2-year-old daughter, North West, as well as Kardashian’s sister Khloe, landed at Ben Gurion Airport on Monday following a roots visit to Armenia. Photos of their arrival were featured on Israeli news websites and on news programs.

The celebrities and their entourage had originally planned to stay at the new Waldorf Astoria Hotel in Jerusalem, but reportedly switched to another hotel after their plans were leaked to the public.

An Israeli security firm that specializes in protecting VIPs reportedly was hired for the visit.

The group is scheduled to visit the Western Wall and other Jerusalem sites, where footage reportedly will be shot for the reality show “Keeping Up with the Kardashians.” The sisters reportedly will make a trip to the Dead Sea and travel from Israel to Jordan.

Later Monday, Ynet reported that the purpose of the visit was to baptize North that day at the Cathedral of St. James in Jerusalem’s Armenian Quarter. They were reportedly scheduled to visit the Church of the Holy Sepulchre following the baptism.

Reports emerged in January that Kardashian and her two sisters were planning to buy a Tel Aviv apartment worth $30 million.

Israeli soldier indicted for leaking information to right-wing activists

JERUSALEM (JTA)—An Israeli soldier was indicted in military court for allegedly leaking classified military information to right-wing activists.

Cpl. Elad Yaakov Sela, 25, of the West Bank settlement of Bat Ayin, was indicted Monday in Jaffa on charges of espionage and disclosure of sensitive information, according to reports. Sela will remain in custody until the end of proceedings against him.

Sela reportedly provided information on the planned arrest of Bat Ayin activists, the Shin Bet security service said. Three other Bat Ayin residents also were arrested in connection with the case.

The soldier was arrested several weeks ago, according to reports. Sela also allegedly passed on information about military activities against Palestinian terrorists on several occasions.

Israeli mobile game publisher TabTale purchases American developer

JERUSALEM (JTA)—The Israeli mobile game publisher TabTale acquired a U.S. mobile game developer for children.

TabTale, a top 10 worldwide mobile game publisher headquartered in Tel Aviv, announced Sunday that it had purchased Sunstorm Games, a Las Vegas-based firm that has released more than 100 games. It is the Israeli company’s first American acquisition and its third foreign buy this year.

No purchase price was disclosed.

Founded in 2010, TabTale has operations in seven countries, including Israel, the United States and China. It has more than 350 applications, 40 million monthly active users and 600 million downloads worldwide.

Body of Thai ferry fatality, Shani Maril, 12, identified

JERUSALEM (JTA)—The body of the 12-year-old girl from Israel who was killed in a fire aboard a ferry in Thailand was positively identified.

Shani Maril of Modiin, in central Israel, was identified on Monday. Her family had taken her to Thailand as a bat mitzvah present.

The transfer of her body back to Israel is being delayed due to a three-day New Year festival in Thailand. The rest of the family, including Shani’s parents, a sister and a brother, returned home on Sunday.

Shani was the lone fatality in the April 8 fire that erupted aboard the Ao Nang Princess 5 tourist ferry. She was locked in one of the bathrooms, which was engulfed by flames.

 

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