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Weekly roundup of world briefs from JTA


U. of Illinois censured for canceling prof’s job over anti-Israel tweets

(JTA)—A national professors’ organization voted to censure the University of Illinois for rescinding a job offer to a professor over his anti-Israel tweets.

The vote by the American Association of University Professors took place on Saturday at its annual meeting in Washington, D.C. In April, the association released a report that found the university violated the principles of academic freedom and tenure in the case of Steven Salaita.

Also in Saturday’s voting, Yeshiva University in New York was removed from the association’s censure list.

The condemnation, a relatively rare move by the professors’ group, can damage a university’s reputation in the academic world, according to The Associated Press. There are 56 institutions of higher learning on the association’s censure list.

Last summer, the university announced that Salaita would be joining the faculty. Chancellor Phyllis Wise later revoked the appointment, however, after being made aware of tweets by Salaita attacking Israel and its U.S. supporters in harsh language during Israel’s operation in Gaza last summer. The tweets appeared on Salaita’s personal Twitter account.

Donors to the university reportedly had complained about the tweets and called on the university to rescind the appointment.

Salaita has filed a lawsuit against the university, the board of trustees and several administrators claiming that they violated his constitutional rights, including to free speech and due process. He also is suing for breach of contract and intentional emotional distress. Salaita is seeking compensation and the job as a tenured professor in the American Indian studies department.

Meanwhile, Yeshiva University was taken off the list after rectifying issues over some of its hiring and firing policies and practices.

U.S. Navy names ship for ex-congresswoman Gabrielle Giffords

(JTA)—The U.S. Navy christened a combat ship named after former U.S. Rep. Gabrielle Giffords of Arizona.

Jill Biden, the wife of Vice President Joe Biden, broke a bottle of sparkling wine across the ship’s bow during the naming ceremony Saturday at the Austal USA shipyard in Mobile, Alabama.

Giffords stepped down from her congressional seat in January 2012 to recover from being shot in the head a year earlier at a political event in Tucson, Arizona. Six people were killed in the shooting by a lone gunman, including a 9-year-old girl.

She and her husband, former astronaut Mark Kelly, founded an organization that lobbies in support of  gun control. Giffords was the first Jewish woman elected to statewide office in Arizona.

“The christening of the future USS Gabrielle Giffords marks the beginning of what is certain to be a long life for this great ship,” said Secretary of the Navy Ray Mabus. “It is also a celebration of the skill and dedication of the men and women who have built LCS 10 and the courage of her namesake. This ship truly embodies the Navy motto of Semper Fortis—Always Courageous.”

Muslim hero in Paris kosher market attack honored in N.Y.

(JTA)—The Muslim employee who saved Jewish shoppers during a terrorist attack on a Paris kosher supermarket was honored in New York.

Lassana Bathily was presented with an official city proclamation last Friday by Mayor Bill de Blasio for his actions in the Hyper Cacher siege on Jan. 9.

Bathily, an immigrant from Mali, was in the basement when a gunman entered the store. He hid 15 Jewish shoppers, including a 2-year-old child, in the supermarket freezer.

De Blasio called Bathily a “real hero” who “stood up to protect human life even when his own life is in danger,” the New York Daily News reported. The meeting took place at the Islamic Center of Brighton Beach in Brooklyn.

Bathily was flown in to be recognized at the annual scholarship dinner of the New York Police Department’s Muslim Officers Society, according to the newspaper.

Earlier in the week, the American Jewish Committee presented Bathily with its Moral Courage Award at its 2015 Global Forum in Washington, D.C.

“What I did was place people out of danger and ensure their safety—something everybody can do when they find themselves in such an extreme situation,” Bathily told AJC. “If it were to happen again tomorrow, I would do exactly the same thing because, for me, this is a normal and humane response.”

At the forum, AJC presented posthumous awards citing Dan Uzan, a Jewish volunteer security guard murdered while protecting a Copenhagen synagogue in February, and Zidan Sief, an Israeli Druze policeman killed while trying to stop a terror attack at a Jerusalem synagogue last November.

In January, Bathily, who has lived in Paris for nine years, was granted citizenship at a Paris ceremony after his application, initially filed last summer, was expedited in response to a public campaign on his behalf.

Dieudonne loses appeal on parody of Holocaust survivor’s song

(JTA)—The French comedian Dieudonne M’bala M’bala lost his appeal over the parody of a song by a French Jewish singer and Holocaust survivor.

The country’s highest appeals court on June 11 upheld the ruling by the French Supreme Court in January and tacked on an additional daily fine for his not removing the parody from online venues. In total, the fine comes to more than $146,000.

Dieudonne, who has been convicted seven times for inciting racial hatred against Jews, changed the song by the late Barbara from “The Black Eagle” to “The Black Rat.” He reportedly called the singer “crazy.”

Her descendants argued that the parody was anti-Semitic in nature and humiliated the artist, who died in 1997, the French daily LeFigaro reported.

Barbara, born Monique Andree Serf, was forced into hiding at the age of 10 during the Nazi occupation of France, according to the Times of Israel.

Norwegian insurance giant dumps investment in 2 firms over West Bank dealings

(JTA)—A $35 billion Norwegian insurance firm has excluded two cement companies from its investment portfolio over their business in the West Bank.

KLP Kapitalforvaltning made the announcement that it would exclude Germany’s Heidelberg Cement and Mexico’s Cemex in a statement issued June 11. Both firms have Israeli holdings.

The exclusions, KLP said, is “on the grounds of their exploitation of natural resources in occupied territory on the West Bank. In KLP’s opinion this activity constitutes an unacceptable risk of violating fundamental ethical norms.”

Jeanett Bergan, head of responsible investment at KLP, said in the statement that “the international legal principle that occupation should be temporary has carried the most weight. New exploitation of natural resources in occupied territory offers a strong incentive to prolong a conflict.”

KLP excluded eight more companies for other reasons. The latest exclusions bring to 108 the number of companies that have been omitted from KLP’s investment portfolios for violations of its guidelines on responsible investment.

Another Northwestern University building hit with swastikas

(JTA)—Vandals spray-painted swastikas on a Northwestern University campus building.

Construction workers found the swastikas at a construction site for a new business school building on June 8, university officials said on June 11.

The graffiti included at least one swastika and other racist comments, Vice President for University Relations Alan Cubbage told the Chicago Tribune.

“There were some other things but I’d rather not be more specific,” he said.

This is the second instance of swastikas at Northwestern in less than two months. In late April, swastikas were found in a library bathroom. At the time, 23 anti-Semitism watchdog groups urged university president Morton Schapiro, who is Jewish, to take more action to prevent anti-Semitism on campus.

Ex-employee sues Al Jazeera for pro-Arab, anti-Israel agenda

NEW YORK (JTA)—A former Al Jazeera executive is suing the company for advancing a “pro-Arabic/Middle Eastern agenda, often at the expense of Jewish people.”

The suit, one of the latest in a string of recent high-profile allegations against the company, was filed June 11 by Shannon High-Bassalik, the channel’s senior vice president of programming and documentaries from July 2013 until this February.

High-Bassalik asserted that the news network “favored its Arabic and male employees, treating its non-Arabic female employees as second class citizens” and that one employee said, “Anyone who supports Israel should die a fiery death.” She also claimed that the network, which purports to be objective, sets aside truth for its “pro-Arabic prejudices.”

The news channel responded June 11 in a statement.

“The allegations made against Al Jazeera America are by a former employee whose conduct and performance went through a full process of investigation led by an external law firm before her employment ended, during which Ms. High-Bassalik made none of the allegations she makes in her complaint,” Al Jazeera said.

The lawsuit also targets former CEO Ehab Al Shihabi, who left the company last month after another former employee sued, alleging that the channel allowed workplace anti-Semitism and sexism.

Three other female executives, including the former executive vice president of communications, Dawn Bridges, resigned after that lawsuit was filed.

Anti-Semitic incidents in Canada reach all-time high

TORONTO (JTA)—Recorded anti-Semitic incidents reached an all-time high in Canada last year, indicates B’nai Brith’s annual audit.

The yearly tally, released June 11, shows there were 1,627 reported anti-Semitic incidents in 2014, a 28 percent increase over the year before.

The previous record was 1,345 incidents in 2012.

Most cases last year—84 percent, or 1,370 incidents—involved harassment; there were 238 reported incidents of vandalism, or 15 percent of all cases; and 1 percent of recorded incidents, or 19 cases, involved violence.

Reported incidents of vandalism in 2014 declined over the year before by nearly 40 percent. But cases of harassment increased by nearly 30 percent.

Overall, most incidents—961—were in Ontario, followed by Quebec and Atlantic Canada at 259. That is “consistent with years past,” BBC stated.

Canada saw “dramatic spikes” in anti-Semitic activity in July and December, coinciding with the kidnapping of three Israeli teenagers and July’s Israeli ground offensive against Palestinian militants in Gaza.

The summer incidents “mirror what has occurred in previous years when Israel is in a state of conflict,” the audit stated.

The spike in December was expected, said the audit, as white supremacist groups began their annual campaign accusing Jews of mounting an attack on Christmas. Much of the December activity was online.

Canada’s overall increase in anti-Semitic incidents is consistent with data gathered by other human rights organizations around the world, including the U.S.-based Anti-Defamation League, which reported a 21 percent rise over the previous year, BBC noted.

In 2014, “a clear pattern emerged. It has become too easy to deny anti-Semitism, as long as it is reframed under the legitimizing veil of anti-Zionism,” said Michael Mostyn, CEO of B’nai Brith Canada.

It’s also important to consider technology, the group added.

“The landscape for spreading anti-Semitic messages has grown exponentially, so it is only reasonable to expect the actual number of incidents to have increased along with it.”

Hungarian ex-mayor fired over anti-Semitic tirade

(JTA)—A Hungarian county’s government fired a former department chief after he was seen making anti-Semitic sentiments in a recording that surfaced online.

Imre Sisak, a former lawmaker for Hungary’s Socialist Party, MSZP, was fired June 9 from his position as the head of a department within the local government of the northern country of Nógrád, ATV reported.

In the audio recording, which surfaced online in April, Sisak rants about how “foreign trade companies are all run by dirty Jews” and describes the Jewish people as “a vile, dirty folk.” He referenced the late Jewish mayor of Paszto, Laszlo Kramer, as an example proving his point. Kramer passed away in 2013. Sisak served as Paszto’s mayor from 1998 to 2014.

According to ATV, Sisak eulogized Kramer after his passing, highlighting in a statement the late mayor’s “readiness, devotion to his voters and town, willingness to help and constructive attitude.” He also credited Kramer with “greatly contributing to the town, including by setting up an ambulance post.”

During a Holocaust commemoration ceremony last year in Paszto, Sisak, who was mayor then, spoke of “reverence and deep sorrow as we remember the first days of June 1944, when hundreds of Paszto’s Jewish community were deported to forced labor or to death camps set up by Nazi Germany and its henchmen.”

Sisak was unavailable for comment on his dismissal. ATV spoke with two of his children who said he did not wish to speak to media.

U.S. officials: Iran needn’t reveal past nuclear activity

WASHINGTON (JTA)—Iran will not have to come clean about its past efforts to obtain nuclear weapons in order to sign a final deal with world powers on its atomic program, U.S. and Western officials said.

On June 11, The Associated Press quoted unnamed officials as saying that questions about Iran’s past activity toward achieving those capabilities will not be answered by the June 30 deadline for a final deal.

In 2013 by the Obama administration said that a comprehensive solution “would include resolution of questions concerning the possible military dimension of Iran’s nuclear program.”

The deal would lift some sanctions on Iran in exchange for what U.S. officials have described as verifiable compliance with limitations set to prevent Iran from obtaining nuclear arms.

The officials said that instead of coming clean before the deal is signed, the lifting of sanctions would be linked to Iranian compliance with the deal, including coming clean about its nuclear past.

The officials’ expectation that the questions about Iran’s past nuclear weapons activity would not be answered by the deadline echoed an assessment by the U.N. nuclear agency’s top official earlier this week.

Nevertheless, the officials said an accord remains possible. One senior Western official on June 11 described diplomats as “more likely to get a deal than not” over the next three weeks.

Iran has denied ever working to obtain nuclear offensive capabilities, though Israel and Western intelligence agencies dispute this.

Israel and some Arab countries are opposed to the deal with Iran, saying that it will allow Iran to reach a threshold that would make it impossible for the international community to stop Iran from going nuclear.

Obama administration officials say the deal is the best way to prevent Iran from going nuclear.

Separately, Michael Flynn, until last year the chief of the Defense Intelligence Agency, told Congress last week that there are “severe deficiencies” in the emerging deal with Iran.

Speaking to a joint session of the U.S. House of Representatives Foreign Affairs and Armed Services Committees, Flynn said that Iran “has every intention to build a nuclear weapon” and its “stated desire to destroy Israel is very real.”

Among the deal’s deficiencies outlined by Flynn, in testimony posted by the Daily Mail, are limits Iran’s leaders say they will impose on nuclear inspectors; the notion that sanctions could be reimposed once Iran violates the deal; and the notion that Iran will moderate its positions during the 10-15 years some of the restrictions are in place, which Flynn called “wishful thinking.”

Flynn also faulted the administration with not consulting with allies in the region, including Israel.

Talks between the major powers and Iran are underway this week in Vienna. Israeli National Security Adviser Yossi Cohen will meet Monday with Cohen’s U.S. counterpart, Susan Rice, in Washington, Rice’s spokesman said.

“This meeting is part of robust and regular consultations between the United States and Israel at all levels,” Alistair Baskey said.


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