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Weekly roundup of world briefs from JTA

Israel intercepts flotilla vessel attempting to break blockade of Gaza

JERUSALEM (JTA)—The Israeli Navy intercepted an activist ship in the waters off the coast of the Gaza Strip.

Commandos from the Shayetet 13 naval special forces unit boarded the Marianne of Gothenburg early Monday morning and began sailing the ship, which was trying to breach Israel’s maritime blockade of Gaza, to the Israeli port of Ashdod.

The takeover of the vessel and its approximately 20 passengers was short and there were no casualties, the Israel Defense Forces said in a statement. The passengers are expected to be interviewed and then deported. Among the passengers is the Arab-Israeli lawmaker Basel Ghattas of the Joint Arab list.

The IDF said the seizure followed numerous requests for the ship to change course, in accordance with international law. Three other flotilla ships carrying about 30 passengers turned back before they were be boarded.

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu commended the sailors and commanders of the Navy for their “determined and efficient action in detaining the passengers on the ship that tried to reach the Gaza coast in contravention of the law.”

“This flotilla is nothing but a demonstration of hypocrisy and lies that is only assisting the Hamas terrorist organization and ignores all of the horrors in our region,” Netanyahu said in a statement released after the takeover of the Marianne. “Preventing entry by sea was done in accordance with international law and even received backing from a committee of the UN Secretary General.”

In a letter to be distributed to flotilla passengers upon their arrival in Israel, Netanyahu said: “Welcome to Israel. You seem to have gotten lost. Perhaps you meant to sail to a place not far from here—Syria, where Assad’s army is slaughtering its people every day, and is supported by the murderous Iranian regime.

“Here in Israel we face a reality in which terrorist organizations like Hamas try to kill innocent civilians. We defend our citizens against these attempts in accordance with international law.”

“Despite this, Israel transports goods and humanitarian aid into the Gaza Strip—up to 800 trucks a day. In the past year we enabled the entry of over 1.6 million tons of products, an average of one ton per person in the Gaza Strip. By the way, these supplies are equivalent to 500,000 boats like the one you came in on today.”

In a statement issued Monday morning, Ship to Gaza Sweden called on Israel to return the Marianne, release the passengers and allow them to travel to Gaza.

“Ship to Gaza Sweden protests against this flagrant abuse of the freedom of navigation,” the statement said. “Israel’s repeated acts of piracy in international waters are worrying signs that the occupation and blockade policy extends to the entire eastern Mediterranean.”

In the past, Israel’s Navy has intercepted ships attempting to breach the blockade. The Foreign Ministry said aid groups may send supplies to Israel for inspection, after which permissible goods would be transferred to Gaza.

In 2010, an Israeli Navy commando takeover of the Turkish Mavi Marmara ship carrying activists armed with knives and clubs ended with nine Turkish nationals dead.

Hamas claims to have built new terror tunnel to Israel

JERUSALEM (JTA)—Hamas claims to have built a new terror tunnel to be used in the next conflict against Israel.

A video of the tunnel was screened Sunday on Iranian television, according to reports. A masked terrorist filmed in the tunnel said it measures 2 miles long and is made of concrete. The report indicated that the tunnel crosses over into Israel, according to The Jerusalem Post, which reported that official Israeli assessments do not believe this is true.

Israeli troops destroyed tunnels used by Gaza terror groups during last summer’s Israel-Gaza conflict.

Hamas has been conducting war exercises in recent weeks, the Times of Israel reported, and has threatened to build new tunnels. A road was constructed recently on the Gaza side of the border security fence.

Palestinian prisoner in Israel ends 55-day hunger strike

JERUSALEM (JTA)—A Palestinian jailed in Israel ended his 55-day hunger strike after Israel agreed to free him.

Khader Adnan, 37, stopped the strike on Sunday night after Israeli authorities said they would release him in two weeks, his attorney told the Palestinian news agency Maan. Israel agreed after Adnan withdrew his demand that Israel guarantee that it would not rearrest him.

The announcement came days after the International Committee of the Red Cross expressed concern that Adnan was near death.

Adnan was protesting his being held in administrative detention, without charge or trial. Other prisoners also joined the strike.

A prisoner can be held in administrative detention, without charges being brought, for up to six months. The detention can be renewed indefinitely.

It is the second time that Adnan has undertaken a prolonged hunger strike. In 2012, he went on a 66-day strike to protest his administrative detention. Adnan was later released in exchange for ending his hunger strike.

He has been held by Israel since being rearrested nearly a year ago for “activities that threaten regional security.”

The decision to release Adnan comes as the Knesset debates versions of a bill that would allow the force feeding of hunger-striking prisoners.

Chief Rabbinate reportedly extends Riskin’s chief rabbi term in Efrat

JERUSALEM (JTA)—Rabbi Shlomo Riskin’s term as chief rabbi of Efrat reportedly was extended five years by Israel’s Council of the Chief Rabbinate.

Riskin appeared before the 16-member council on Monday, the Religious Zionist Israel National News website reported. He turned 75 last month, the age at which municipal rabbis are required to retire unless their tenure is extended five years, as is usually done automatically.

But the Chief Rabbinate declined to automatically renew Riskin’s appointment as chief rabbi and summoned him late last month for the hearing. Riskin has been the chief rabbi of Efrat since 1983, when he helped found the settlement located in the Gush Etzion bloc of the West Bank.

During the hearing, the legal adviser to the Chief Rabbinate said that only health issues may be considered in determining whether to extend the term of a municipal rabbi. In approving the extension, the council said it disagreed with many of Riskin’s halachic opinions, according to Israel National News. The council also reportedly appointed a committee to establish new guidelines as to what can be discussed in extending a municipal rabbi’s term.

Riskin recently appointed a woman, Jennie Rosenfeld, to serve as a religious leader in Efrat, giving her the title “manhiga ruchanit,” or spiritual adviser. He has also come under fire from the Chief Rabbinate for his views on reforming the conversion process in Israel, supporting a government directive that would allow municipal chief rabbis to form conversion courts rather than requiring potential converts to appear before four Chief Rabbinate-led courts.

These issues reportedly were discussed in connection with summoning Riskin for the hearing.

Earlier this month, Ashkenazi Chief Rabbi David Lau said that “the issue of Rabbi Riskin’s continued service has been blown out of proportion.”

In addition, Israel’s chief Sephardi rabbi, Rabbi Yitzhak Yosef, slammed Riskin during his weekly sermon, saying he made “all kinds of innovations” regarding women and is “making a new war.”

Female Israeli soldier stabbed in West Bank by Palestinian woman

JERUSALEM (JTA)—A female Israeli soldier was injured seriously in a stabbing by a Palestinian woman at a West Bank checkpoint.

The Palestinian, 20, was arrested at the scene after stabbing the soldier at the Rachel Crossing near Bethlehem, on the road to Rachel’s Tomb,  according to the Israel Police. She was found to have two other knives in her possession.

The soldier, also about 20, was taken to Hadassah Medical Center Ein Kerem with stab wounds to her upper body and neck.

During an interrogation, the attacker, from Bethlehem, admitted that she intended to kill a soldier, according to reports.

Earlier Monday, a Palestinian teen tried to enter Israel from a checkpoint outside the Shuafat refugee camp with an assault rifle hidden under his clothes. The rifle was discovered by a metal detector.

Israel’s defense chief: Help for Syrian rebels is exchange for Druze safety

JERUSALEM (JTA)—Israeli Defense Minister Moshe Yaalon told reporters that Israel has been providing humanitarian aid to Syrian rebels in exchange for the safety of Druze Arabs.

The medical aid has been conditioned on the rebel fighting not getting too close to the border fence between the Israeli and Syrian sides of the Golan Heights and that the local Druze population is not harmed, Yaalon said at a briefing on Monday.

He called Druze attacks last week on Israeli ambulances carrying Syrian fighters “irresponsible.” In one of the attacks, an injured fighter was dragged from the ambulance and beaten to death. The Druze-Israeli attackers believed the men were members of the rebel forces from the Al-Nusra Front, a branch of al-Qaida in Syria that has harmed the Druze in Syria.

Israel has primarily dealt with non-jihadist rebels, a Defense Ministry official said, according to Reuters.

Israel treats wounded from the civil war in the field and at local hospitals regardless of what side they are fighting for. More than 1,600 wounded Syrians have been treated in Israeli hospitals during the civil war, according to the IDF.

“Our general policy is that we are not getting involved in the Syrian war,” Yaalon said.

He added: “We will not tolerate any violation of our sovereignty or even accidental fire from Syria into our territory. We will act immediately to strike at those who plant explosives near the border or fire at us.”

Israel has fired on Syrian positions on the Golan in retaliation for rocket fire believed to be part of the ongoing four-year civil war that has landed in Israeli territory.

Netanyahu was ‘smuggled’ to hospital twice in disguised vans

(JTA)—Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu was “smuggled” to medical appointments in disguised vans shortly before and after elections.

Netanyahu, 65, in both cases had routine prostate examinations that found “nothing uncharacteristic for a man of his age.”

In the first instance, shortly before the March 17 elections, he was transported to Mayanei Hayeshua Medical Center, a haredi Orthodox hospital in the Tel Aviv suburb of Bnei Brak, in what appeared to be a pita delivery van, Israel’s Channel 2 reported.

Shortly after the vote, Netanyahu was taken in a disguised pest-control van, with his security guards dressed as pest controllers around the vehicle.

Channel 2 did not explain why Netanyahu employed the disguised vehicles.

Jewish group hired Mexican laborers to protest N.Y. gay pride parade

NEW YORK (JTA)—An Orthodox Jewish group hired Mexican laborers to protest for them at the gay pride parade in New York.

A reporter for The New York Times witnessed the group of Mexican men picketing for the Jewish Political Action Committee, a fringe Hasidic group based in Brooklyn, at Sunday’s parade in Manhattan.

The hired protesters wore ritual fringes, or tzitzit, and held up signs protesting homosexuality and same-sex marriage, which was upheld by the U.S.  Supreme Court on June 26.

Heshie Freed, a member of the Jewish Political Action Committee, told the Times that the men were hired to fill in for “yeshiva boys” who would normally protest but were kept away because of “what they would see at the parade.”

The group of Mexican men was fenced off from the main parade at Fifth Avenue and 15th Street, and parade-goers repeatedly kissed in front of them.

Later in the day, a fight broke out between a parade-goer and an Orthodox man associated with the group.

“It’s been a lot of confrontation,” Freed told the Times. “Whenever you have emotions, you have a situation.”

Iranian nuclear talks expected to go past scheduled deadline

(JTA)—Negotiations for an agreement on Iran’s nuclear program will go past the scheduled deadline, several officials said from Vienna, where the final round of talks was underway.

The agreement was scheduled to be concluded on Tuesday.

On Sunday, Iranian Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif left the negotiations and flew home to Tehran for consultations after first meeting with U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry. Zarif is scheduled to return on Tuesday, the deadline day for the talks.

The talks between Iran and the six world powers were expected to continue for a few days beyond the deadline, according to reports.

British Foreign Secretary Philip Hammond said the world powers do not have to sign a deal in Vienna.

“No deal is better than a bad deal,” Hammond said. “There are red lines that we cannot cross and some very difficult decisions and tough choices are going to have to be made by all of us.”

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu criticized the deal on Sunday, saying “there is no demand that Iran change its behavior and its violations are being completely overlooked. Its extreme demands, as well as the concessions to Iran, are increasing.”

President Barack Obama said in April that the interim framework agreement achieved then was “a good deal” that “meets our core objectives, including strict limitations on Iran’s program and cutting off every pathway that Iran could take to develop a nuclear weapon.”

Netanyahu and other critics of the deal, which would gradually lift sanctions on Iran, say elements of the emerging deal allow Iran to continue a degree of uranium enrichment that would enable it to creep toward nuclear offensive capabilities.

Report: Jews removed from Dutch royals’ classroom in 1950s

AMSTERDAM (JTA)—The Dutch royal house said it would investigate claims that Jewish students were transferred in 1951 from their classroom because it was also the classroom of two princesses.

The royal house released a statement on Saturday following a report published in the Nieuw Israelitisch Weekblad, or NIW, a Dutch Jewish weekly, about the objections of parents of several Jews from the classroom of Princess Irene and Princess Margriet at the Nieuw Baarnsche School in Baarn, a town located five miles east of Amsterdam.

“The material published is too serious and the allegations too grave to provide a rapid response,” a Royal House spokesman told the NRC Handelsblad daily on June 27, adding the Royal House would reply next week to queries on the subject.

The NIW article about the school was based on internal documents of the Jewish Community of the Netherlands from 1952 that came to the attention of Bart Wallet, a historian with the University of Amsterdam who is researching Dutch royalty’s relationship with the kingdom’s Jewish community.

In the document, dated February 1952, Benjamin W. de Jongh, then-secretary of the Jewish community, wrote: “The classes which the princesses would have attended were split and the children of Jewish descent were placed in the parallel class, the one which the princesses were not supposed to attend.”

Wallet’s research showed that parents of Jewish children who were transferred to the parallel class protested the move to the Royal House. The late Queen Juliana, the grandmother of King Willem-Alexander of the Netherlands, replied to the parents in a letter that the royal family “has not been anti-Semitic, is not anti-Semitic and will not be anti-Semitic.”

But according to NRC Handelsblad, Juliana is not known to have intervened in the partition of her daughters’ class.

In an editorial statement, the NIW said that the removal of Jewish children “six years after the Holocaust is not just a stain on Juliana’s coat of arms. It is a serious omission.”

Wallet told NRC that while the Royal House had a “passive attitude” to the removal, it was probably decided on by the prestigious school after influential parents insisted that their children attend the princesses’ class.

“The ones who didn’t make the cut were those who were less accepted in the prestigious milieu, including local Jews,” Wallet said.

In protest, Rabbi Avi Weiss quits Rabbinical Council of America

NEW YORK (JTA)—Rabbi Avi Weiss is quitting the Rabbinical Council of America to protest its failure to admit as members rabbis whose sole ordination is from the rabbinical school he founded.

The RCA, the main association of modern Orthodox rabbis in America, has yet to grant membership to rabbis who have been ordained only from Yeshivat Chovevei Torah in the Riverdale section of the Bronx. Weiss established the rabbinical seminary in 2000 as an alternative to Yeshiva University’s Rabbi Isaac Elchanan Theological Seminary.

Chovevei Torah, which is located at Weiss’ synagogue, ordains a handful of rabbis each year and is now led by Rabbi Asher Lopatin.

After Chovevei Torah graduates failed to gain membership to the RCA, Weiss co-founded an alternative rabbinic group, the International Rabbinic Fellowship.

“As an act of protest I have not paid my dues to the Rabbinical Council of America (RCA), and have now allowed my membership to lapse,” Weiss wrote in an email message on Monday. “I have chosen to leave the RCA foremost because of its attitude towards Yeshivat Chovevei Torah (YCT), the rabbinical school I founded years ago.

“If YCT rabbis—with YCT semikha only—cannot join the RCA, neither can I be part of this rabbinical group,” Weiss wrote.

The RCA did not respond immediately to a request for comment.

Weiss has been a frequent critic of the RCA, most recently for centralizing control of Orthodox conversions in America.

Shortly after Weiss made his announcement, Rabbi Shmuel Herzfeld, leader of the Ohev Shalom synagogue in Washington and a former assistant rabbi to Weiss at the Hebrew Institute of Riverdale, announced that he, too, was quitting the RCA.

$11 million Jewish cultural center to be built in Paris

PARIS (JTA)—An $11 million Jewish cultural institution will be built in Paris, the city’s mayor and the oldest existing Jewish organization in France announced.

The European Center for Judaism will be built in the 17th arrondissement, or district, in northern Paris and is set to open in 2017, according to the announcement on Sunday by Mayor Anne Hidalgo and Joel Mergui, the president of the Consistoire Centrale, the body responsible for providing French Jewry with religious services since its foundation in 1808 under Napoleon I.

“I wouldn’t want us to leave for the summer vacation and close this especially tragic year for France and for the Jewish community without being able to provide a note of hope,” Mergui told the Liberation daily. He said the center will operate from “a large building situated in an area of Paris where a large Jewish community has developed.”

Hidalgo is scheduled to attend a fundraising dinner on Monday at the seat of the Paris municipality along with French Interior Minister Bernard Cazeneuve and officials from the European Jewish Congress under Moshe Kantor, who has helped to realize the center’s construction.

The institution, which is intended to serve as an academic center as well as a cultural institution, will have a synagogue, conference halls, exposition space and offices, according to Liberation.

Just over a quarter of the $11 million estimated cost will be paid in subsidies by government offices. The City of Paris leased the land for the center, which will be among the largest opened in Western Europe in recent years, free of charge.

The center’s opening comes at a time of record emigration from France by French Jews, partly because of violent anti-Semitism that has led to the slaying of 12 people since 2012 in attacks attributed to French Islamist terrorists targeting Jewish institutions. About 20,000 French Jews have left for Israel since 2012.

“It would’ve been easy to give up on this project and say that Jews are leaving,” Mergui said. “I want to convey a different message to France and its Jews: We determine our own future.”

Aussie moneyman ripped for anti-Semitic rant against Jewish official

(JTA)—A financial adviser in Australia unleashed a series of curse-laden anti-Semitic tweets at the country’s Jewish assistant treasurer.

James Howarth, the head of Retirement Wealth Advisers based in Brisbane, ripped Josh Frydenberg on Sunday for his proposed law that would cut upfront commissions for financial advisers, news.com.au reported. Howarth was immediately reprimanded for his remarks, which were full of anti-Semitic stereotypes.

Among other things, Howarth called Frydenberg a “tinkering Jew” and joked that he had ordered hundreds of “Central Planning Jew” punching bags.

“What a c*** sucker. First plan of action was to regulate insurance salaries,” Howarth tweeted. He added: “The F*** Frydenberg movement is picking up steam. Free Markets or Central Planning Jews.”

Frydenberg’s proposed plan would decrease the cost of life insurance policies and slash the upfront commissions for financial advisers in half by 2018, news.com.au reported.

“This nasty, personal and ­derogatory language is not becoming of a financial adviser, let alone anyone else, and is completely over the top,” Frydenberg told the Australian on Sunday.

Australia’s human rights commissioner, Tim Wilson, called Howarth’s comments “disgusting and outrageous,” news.com.au reported. Australian human rights lawyer George Newhouse called the incident a “disgrace to all Australians.”

“It is deeply troubling that Mr Howarth has injected race and religion into a legitimate public discussion, and has employed hateful descriptions that play into classic anti-Semitic charges of powerful Jews controlling and wanting to centralise financial markets,” said Dr. Dvir Abramovich, the head of Australia’s B’nai B’rith Anti-Defamation Commission.


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