Weekly roundup of world briefs from JTA

 


Hate crimes charge added in case of Barclays Center assault

(JTA)—A New York man charged with assaulting the head of the Brooklyn Jewish Y at a borough arena has been hit with a hate crimes charge.

The new charge against Shawn Schraeder, 25, of Queens, on June 18 followed eight months of investigation by a grand jury, CBS New York reported. Schraeder had been charged with assault following the incident at the Barclays Center amid sparring between pro-Palestinian and pro-Israel fans.

He is accused of punching Leonard Petlakh, the executive director of the Kings Bay Y, following an exhibition basketball game last October between the Brooklyn Nets and Israel’s Maccabi Tel Aviv.

Fans verbally sparred inside the arena as the game was ending. Pro-Palestinian protesters began shouting anti-Israel slogans, Petlakh told JTA at the time of the incident, and a pro-Israel fan grabbed a Palestinian flag from one of them.

As the crowds spilled out of the arena and onto the street, he said, one of the protesters took a swing at Petlakh, who was with his 14- and 10-year-old sons. Petlakh’s nose was broken and he required eight stitches. The pro-Palestinian demonstrators reportedly chanted “Free Palestine” and “Your people are murderers” during the alleged assault.


Couple suing Waldorf Astoria hotel, accidental shooter over canceled wedding reception

(JTA)—A couple are planning to sue the Waldorf Astoria hotel in New York and the guest who accidentally shot another guest over their canceled wedding reception.

Anna Goldshmidt and Elan Stratiyevsky, who are Jewish, have hired the prominent lawyer Benjamin Brafman and will sue for millions of dollars, the New York Post reported last Friday.

The shooting occurred on June 13 when guest Vladimir Gotlibovsky’s gun accidentally discharged and grazed another guest in the head.

The hotel canceled the reception because the gun had not been located at the time the reception was scheduled to begin.

Goldshmidt reportedly “let out a blood-curdling scream” when her 350-person reception was canceled, according to the Post. She was in her suite after the ceremony when the shooting occurred.

The bride and groom are seeking a settlement with the hotel, according to the Post.

“We certainly understand and appreciate Ms. Goldschmidt’s disappointment; however, the decision to cancel the reception was based on the paramount concerns of the safety and security of our guests and team members including the guests of her wedding,” a Waldorf Astoria New York spokesman told the newspaper.


Helen Mirren honored for educating about Nazi-looted art

(JTA)—Academy Award-winning actress Helen Mirren accepted an award for helping to educate the public about the issues surrounding Nazi-looted art.

On Friday, the World Jewish Congress presented Mirren with its Recognition Award, which honors those working on behalf of the Jewish people, at a ceremony at New York’s Neue Gallery.

Mirren starred in the 2015 film “Woman in Gold,” which tells the story of Maria Altmann, an Austrian-American woman who made headlines in 2006 for winning her legal battle against the Austrian government to reclaim five Gustav Klimt paintings, among them the famous “Portrait of Adele Bloch-Bauer I,” nicknamed “Woman in Gold.”

In 1938, the painting was among the works forced from their rightful owner, Altmann’s late husband, Ferdinand, because he was Jewish. Following its restitution to Maria Altmann in 2006, the painting was acquired by WJC President Ronald Lauder and is now on display at the Neue Galerie in Manhattan.

“Being a part of this film and preserving Maria Altmann’s legacy has been a truly exceptional experience from the start,” Mirren said at the ceremony, according to a statement from the World Jewish Congress. “I am utterly moved to receive this award from the World Jewish Congress, an organization that does such important work all over the globe in advocating for Jewish rights.”

Lauder presented the award to Mirren.

“Thanks to Helen Mirren’s stunning performance—which really electrified this issue—the international public will learn about this legacy of World War II which still hasn’t been addressed properly by many governments and museums,” Lauder said at the ceremony, the statement said.

Jewish family appeals ruling in case of Nazi-looted art

(JTA)—The family of a Jewish woman who sold a valuable painting under duress while fleeing the Nazis has appealed a decision by a U.S. judge allowing a museum in Spain to maintain possession.

The family of Lilly Cassirer on Friday appealed the ruling handed down earlier this month in the case of the 1897 painting “Rue Saint-Honoré, Après-midi, Effet de Pluie,” a Paris street scene by Camille Pissarro, which is in the Thyssen-Bornemisza Museum in Madrid.

Judge John Walter of the Los Angeles District Court of California ruled on June 4 that that Spanish law applied in the case, and the law did not require the painting’s return. The ruling came after a decade-long dispute over ownership.

In 2005, Cassirer’s grandson Claude sued for restitution of the painting, which his German-born grandmother sold in 1939 to an art dealer for the equivalent of $360 as she was fleeing her homeland from the Nazis. Cassirer’s father-in-law, Julius, had purchased the painting from the painter.

The museum does not dispute that the painting was stolen, but is fighting the lawsuit on technicalities, including international jurisdiction issues and time limitation on restitution claims.

Eventually the painting was acquired by Baron Hans Heinrich Thyssen-Bornemisza in 1976 and has been displayed in Madrid since the museum opened in late 1992. It was insured for over $10 million.

The Jewish Federation of San Diego County has agreed to be a co-plaintiff on the appeals case with the Cassirer family, according to NBC San Diego.

At Hillel-J Street U meeting, no agreement on joint national efforts

WASHINGTON (JTA)—Representatives of J Street U and Hillel met and failed to immediately agree on how best to collaborate on the national level.

The meeting earlier this month, details of which emerged late last week, was called after Hillel director Eric Fingerhut pulled out of a commitment to speak at J Street’s annual conference in March.

Fingerhut reportedly canceled under pressure from Hillel donors who object to J Street, a Jewish Middle East policy group that advocates greater U.S. engagement toward an Israeli-Palestinian peace deal and criticizes Israel’s settlement policies.

Fingerhut’s speech was to have praised campus chapters of J Street U and Hillel for cooperating in combating the Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions movement against Israel. Fingerhut’s appearance would have elevated the relationship to the national level.

The June 11 meeting between members of J Street U’s board and staff and lay leaders of Hillel International, held at Hillel’s headquarters in Washington, D.C., began with a reiteration of the close working relationship enjoyed by campus chapters of both groups, J Street U’s president told JTA.

“We talked about our shared interest in engaging progressives and the enormous progress we’ve made on campuses,” Benjy Cannon said.

Hillel’s spokesman, Matthew Berger, told JTA that the meeting was at the request of  J Street U. He said Hillel’s lay and professional leadership and J Street U’s leaders had a wide-ranging conversation that lasted several hours.

“The discussion covered every topic that the J Street U leaders raised,” Berger said. “We will continue to work with them, as we do with other organizations that engage Jewish students on campus.”

However, Hillel did not immediately respond at the meeting to three J Street U requests: an opportunity for J Street U’s board to engage directly with the Hillel donors who object to the partnership; the opportunity for J Street U to help train Hillel staff at its summer training institute; and Fingerhut’s appearance at J Street U’s summer leadership institute.

“They were open to that, if noncommittal,” Cannon said. Agreeing to the requests would “show we’re an important part of this conversation,” he said.

A Hillel official confirmed Cannon’s account and said that the body was still considering the requests.

The official said Hillel understood it would be given some time to evaluate J Street U’s requests.

“Unfortunately, J Street U decided to send out fundraising letters instead of waiting to see if we could come to an agreement. That was counterproductive,” the official said.

In a fundraising letter after the meeting, Cannon described the meeting in generally positive terms, but added, “I am disappointed to report that we ultimately did not leave the meeting with any concrete commitments from them.”

ADL raps Michael Oren for stereotyping Obama in new essay

(JTA)—The Anti-Defamation League criticized Michael Oren, Israel’s former ambassador to the United States, for an “insensitive and unjustified” attack on President Barack Obama.

Oren’ should “walk back” views published in an essay posted Friday on the Foreign Policy website, the ADL said.

Oren wrote that Obama’s attitudes toward Islam and American foreign policy in the Middle East are driven by his personal interactions with Muslims, including his exposure to Muslims while growing up.

The essay, said ADL National Director Abraham Foxman in a statement, “veers into the realm of conspiracy theories, and with an element of amateur psychoanalysis he links U.S. policies in the Middle East to the president’s personal history of having a Muslim father.” Foxman said Oren takes it a step further “by suggesting this ‘worldview’ of Muslims and Islam has driven the president to embrace the Muslim world at the expense of both Israel and U.S. national security interests. This results in borderline stereotyping and insensitivity.”

Oren wrote: “I could imagine how a child raised by a Christian mother might see himself as a natural bridge between her two Muslim husbands. I could also speculate how that child’s abandonment by those men could lead him, many years later, to seek acceptance by their co-religionists.”

Oren said that achieving a nuclear deal with Iran could bring a fresh start for Obama with Muslims, observing, “The president who pledged to bring Arabs and Israelis together ultimately did so not through peace, but out of their common anxiety over his support for the Muslim Brotherhood in Egypt and his determination to reach a nuclear accord with Iran.

“Understanding Obama’s worldview was crucial to my job as Israel’s ambassador to the United States. Right after entering office in June 2009, I devoted months to studying the new president, poring over his speeches, interviews, press releases, and memoirs, and meeting with many of his friends and supporters. The purpose of this self-taught course—Obama 101, I called it—was to get to the point where the president could no longer surprise me. And over the next four years I rarely was, especially on Muslim and Middle Eastern issues.”

Oren, now a member of the Israeli Knesset, came under fire last week for an Op-Ed in the The Wall Street Journal in which he wrote that Obama abandoned the principle of keeping disagreements between the two countries private and of “no surprises” between them.

Obama cites Israel in arguing for gun control

WASHINGTON (JTA)—President Barack Obama compared Israel favorably to the United States in making a point about gun violence.

“Here are the stats: Per population, we kill each other with guns at a rate 297x more than Japan, 49x more than France, 33x more than Israel,” Obama said Sunday on a Twitter account that the White House says he personally authors.

“Expressions of sympathy aren’t enough.” he said. “It’s time we do something about this.”

Obama’s tweets referred to the June 17 shooting deaths of nine congregants in a historically black church in Charleston, South Carolina. An alleged white supremacist is being held in the shootings.

Obama has made efforts to strengthen gun control a hallmark of his presidency.

Handgun ownership in Israel is subject to stringent restrictions.

West Bank settler who killed Palestinian nabbed in Brazil

(JTA)—Brazilian police arrested an Israeli fugitive who was convicted of killing a Palestinian man in the West Bank in 2004.

The convict was identified in a report June 18 by the Estado news agency as Y.E.—initials that match those of Yehosha Elitzur, 44, who in 2005 disappeared from his home in the West Bank settlement of Itamar, shortly before an Israeli district court sentenced him to 20 years in prison for manslaughter.

Elitzur was released to house arrest until his sentencing and required to post a bail sum equivalent to $7,000.

Eliztur killed a Palestinian taxi driver, Saal Eastiyah, near the Elon Moreh settlement with an M-16 assault rifle. A judge ruled that he threatened the driver with the weapon before he fired multiple shots.

The court issued an international warrant for Elitzur’s arrest with Interpol, which cooperated in Elitzur’s capture in Sao Paulo, Brazil, on June 18, Estado reported.

According to the report, Brazil’s federal police located Elitzur in the Sao Paolo of Higienopolis, where many members of the city’s Jewish community are concentrated. The report said he entered Brazil on a false passport, complicating investigators’ attempt to ascertain how long he has resided in Brazil.

Israel and Brazil signed a mutual extradition agreement in 2009.

U.S .: Iranian sponsorship of terrorism ‘undiminished’ in 2014

(JTA)—Iran’s funding of terrorism “remained undiminished” in 2014, according to a new U.S. government report.

Country Reports on Terrorism 2014, released by the State Department last Friday, said Iran continued its “terrorist-related” activity through its support for Palestinian terrorist groups in Gaza, Hezbollah in Lebanon and various groups in Iraq and elsewhere. The report also said Iran increased its assistance to Shia militias in Iraq in response to the rise of ISIS.

According to the report, Iran attempted to smuggle weapons to Gaza, which is controlled by Hamas, which the United States regards as a terrorist group.

The report comes as Iran and the major world powers enter the final stages of negotiating a complex accord to address the country’s nuclear program.

Ukrainian Holocaust monument vandalized with swastika

(JTA)—A Holocaust monument in Ukraine was vandalized with a red swastika that was painted over a Star of David symbol.

The vandalism in Nikopol, an eastern Ukrainian city located 60 miles from Dnepropetrovsk, occurred on June 16, according to a report Tuesday by the Federation of Jewish Communities of Ukraine.

Alexander Taratuta, who heads Nikopol’s small Jewish community, said he filed a complaint with police about the act of vandalism. No perpetrators have been identified.

In April, the monument commemorating Jewish victims of the Babi Yar massacre in Kiev was desecrated for the fourth time in recent months, possibly on Adolf Hitler’s birthday.

A total of about 20,000 Jews were murdered in Dnepropetrovsk alone during the German occupation of the area,  according to the Yad Vashem Holocaust museum in Jerusalem.

Most of the bodies of the murdered Jews were burned in October 1943 by Sonderkommando 1005—a unit made up of Nazi prisoners, including Jews, whose task was to eliminate the traces of the Nazi crimes.

Most of the Jews of Dnepropetrovsk were evacuated ahead of the German invasion.

Today, Dnepropetrovsk’s Menorah Jewish community center and office building houses the country’s largest museum about the genocide, the Tkuma Ukrainian Institute For Holocaust Studies.

Wife of Israel’s interior minister tweets Obama joke, apologizes

JERUSALEM (JTA)—The wife of Israeli Interior Minister Silvan Shalom apologized after tweeting an inappropriate joke about President Barack Obama.

Judy Shalom Nir Mozes, who hosts an Israeli talk show, posted the joke Sunday and removed it shortly after, but not before unleashing a storm of criticism on social media in Hebrew and English.

“Do u know what Obama Coffee is? Black and weak,” the Mozes tweet read.

After deleting the tweet, Mozes apologized in a second tweet, saying: “I apologize, that was a stupid joke somebody told me.”

A second apology posted a half hour later was directed at the U.S. leader: President Obama I shouldnt have written the inappropriate joke I heard. I like people no matter about their race and religion.

A third apology read: “Sorry if I caused any offence to anyone. I hope I will stay married when my husband will land and hear what I did.”

Mozes has nearly 75,000 Twitter followers.

Shalom, of the Likud Party of Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, also is a vice prime minister.

There was no comment from the White House as of Sunday afternoon.

Palestinian teen stabs Israeli soldier in Jerusalem

JERUSALEM (JTA)—A Palestinian teenager stabbed and seriously wounded an Israeli Border Police officer in Jerusalem.

The officer, who was not identified in reports, was stabbed in the neck and the upper body outside the Damascus Gate in the Old City on Sunday morning. He shot his assailant before collapsing, according to Israeli news reports. Both were taken to Jerusalem hospitals in serious condition.

The alleged attacker was identified as an 18-year-old male from Hebron who had entered Israel from the West Bank illegally.

Jerusalem Mayor Nir Barkat in a statement commended the officer for his quick action in subduing the attacker and called on Israelis to support the beleaguered city.

“We must continue our daily routines,” Barkat said. “I call on all residents of the State of Israel to continue visiting Jerusalem and strengthen it.”

The stabbing attack comes two days after an Israeli man was killed and a second was injured in a shooting near the West Bank settlement of Dolev.

Reports: Israel destroys its own drone in Lebanon

JERUSALEM (JTA)—Israel reportedly destroyed a downed drone in eastern Lebanon with an airstrike.

The attack on Sunday was first reported by Hezbollah’s al-Manar television, according to Reuters. The French news agency AFP also reported the strike on a downed Israeli drone, citing unnamed security sources in Beirut.

“An Israeli airstrike was launched this morning to destroy one of their drones that crashed in the mountains outside Saghbine yesterday,” the anonymous source said, according to AFP.

Israel’s military did not comment on the reports, saying it does not respond to foreign news reports.

Israel fought a war with Hezbollah in Lebanon in 2006. Israel has struck several arms convoys in Syria that it said were en route to Hezbollah.

Thousands demonstrate in front of Israeli church that suffered arson attack

JERUSALEM (JTA)—Thousands of Israeli demonstrators, most of them Christian, demonstrated in front of a church in Israel that was the victim of an alleged arson attack.

The demonstrators carried signs and crosses on Sunday afternoon outside of the Church of the Multiplication of the Loaves and Fishes, located on the northwest shore of the Sea of Galilee, at the site where Jesus is believed to have fed thousands of people with five loaves of bread and two fish, the Hebrew language news website Walla reported.

Protesters called for the arrest of those culpable for the attack.

The northern Israeli church was burned early Thursday morning in what is believed to have been an arson attack. Graffiti reading “False idols will be smashed” and “pagans” were found on the walls of the church, leading police to believe the fire was set deliberately as part of a hate crime.

Some 16 youths, reportedly all residents of the West Bank who were hiking in the area, were detained for questioning in the attack and later released.

“We are in the place where Christ performed his miracles, and we the monks have hosted invalids here for years,” said Abbot Gregory Collins, head of the Order of Saint Benedict in Israel, Ynet reported. “We will replace the terrible fire with the fire of God’s love and forgiveness.”

 

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