Weekly roundup of world briefs from JTA


Alleged Kansas City JCC shooter says killings were necessary, his ‘right’

(JTA)—The Missouri white supremacist charged with murdering three people at two Jewish sites in suburban Kansas City last year told a court that the killings were necessary and his “right.”

Frazier Glenn Miller, 74, who is representing himself, appeared in U.S. District Court in Johnson County, Kansas, last Friday.

Judge Thomas Kelly Ryan said Miller could not use the “compelling necessity” defense following an hourlong speech by the defendant about Caitlyn Jenner, AIDS, Israel, the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, British wartime leader Winston Churchill, the Rev. Billy Graham and a Jewish conspiracy he alleged was behind the sitcom “All in the Family,” according to The Associated Press. Miller said he would use the defense to argue that he committed the attacks in order to stop “the Jewish genocide of the white race.”

Miller, a former Ku Klux Klan grand dragon who also goes by Frazier Glenn Cross, is charged with capital murder in the April 13, 2014, shootings. He allegedly killed two people at the Jewish Community Center of Greater Kansas City in Overland Park, Kansas, and one person outside Village Shalom, a Jewish assisted-living facility a few blocks away. Prosecutors are seeking the death penalty in the case.

Miller,, told the Kansas City Star that he began planning the attacks when he became so sick with emphysema that he thought he would die soon and that he conducted reconnaissance missions of the JCC and Village Shalom in the days before the shootings.

“I wanted to make damned sure I killed some Jews or attacked the Jews before I died,” he told the newspaper. None of the victims were Jewish.

The trial is scheduled to begin with jury selection on Aug. 17.

Jewish-Argentine director garners ‘Iberoamerica Oscar’

BUENOS AIRES, Argentina (JTA)—“Wild Tales,” by the Jewish-Argentine director Damian Szifron, won for best movie and Szifron for best director at the Oscars equivalent for Iberoamerica.

“Wild Tales,” which includes Jewish characters and details taken from Szifron’s life, was the most awarded film at the second annual “Premios Platino,” or Platinum Awards, held Saturday in Marbella, Spain. Iberoamerica is made up of Spain, Portugal and Latin America.

The film, which had received the most nominations, was recognized as well for best script, music, art direction and sound effects. Its final segment revolves around a Jewish wedding featuring klezmer music.

Szifron, 40, began studying direction at the ORT High School in Buenos Aires, where he specialized in media studies. “Wild Tales” was nominated in the foreign-language film category at the 2014 Academy Awards.

The Iberoamerica awards were broadcast live on TNT Latin America. Some 13 countries in the region were represented with 30 movies.

Another candidate for best director and best movie was “Mr. Kaplan,” by the Uruguayan director Alvaro Brechner, which tells the story of an elderly Jewish man who tries to kidnap a man that he believes is a Nazi fugitive, with the intention to ship him to Israel for trial.

Miami, Boston Jewish federations voice opposition to Iran nuclear deal

WASHINGTON (JTA)—Two major Jewish federations, in Boston and Miami, are urging local Jews to oppose the Iran nuclear deal.

“We encourage members of the community to reach out to their elected representatives in the House and the Senate to express their deep concern, and to urge them to vote against this deal,” the Combined Jewish Philanthropies in Boston said in a message last Friday to Boston-area Jews.

The message the same day from the Greater Miami Jewish Federation appeared to call on community members who might not oppose the deal to suppress their dissents.

“We acknowledge that there are diverse views within our community, but ultimately this issue must remain above politics and reflect our collective determination to ensure moral clarity and absolute resolve in dealing with one of the world’s most dangerous regimes,” the message said.

The nuclear deal reached July 14 between Iran and the major powers swaps sanctions relief for restrictions on Iran’s nuclear activities. Israel’s government and the American Israel Public Affairs Committee, the premiere pro-Israel lobby, say it does not go far enough and leaves Iran a nuclear threshold state.

Congress may disapprove the plan, and if a disapproval vote passes and then garners the necessary two-thirds majorities in the Senate and the U.S. House of Representatives to survive a presidential veto, it would kill the deal.

Republicans overwhelmingly oppose the deal, leaving Democrats, particularly in states where they are prevalent and where there are large Jewish communities, like Florida and Massachusetts, key targets for lobbying.

Groups that oppose the plan, led by AIPAC, are leading a nationwide campaign against the nuclear deal, countered by a similar campaign from groups that back it, including J Street.

President Barack Obama issued a call to support the deal in his weekly radio address.

“There’s a reason this deal took so long to negotiate,” said Obama, who plans to defend the deal Tuesday in a major speech to U.S. veterans. “Because we refused to accept a bad deal. We held out for a deal that met every one of our bottom lines. And we got it.”

Video shows Queen Elizabeth, at 7, offering Hitler salute

(JTA)—A British tabloid published on its website a 20-second home video showing Queen Elizabeth II as a 7-year-old girl giving a Nazi salute.

The Sun newspaper  on the front page of its Saturday edition also displayed a photo lifted from the video, along with eight pages of articles that its managing editor, Stig Abell, told Sky News puts it into “context.”

“It is disappointing that film, shot eight decades ago and apparently from Her Majesty’s personal family archive, has been obtained and exploited in this manner,” the palace said in a statement published by The Associated Press.

Buckingham Palace reportedly has ordered an investigation into the publication of the images, including how the tabloid obtained the footage.

In the video, the young princess and her sister Margaret, 3, are shown dancing and smiling as the future British king, Edward VIII, instructs his nieces how to perform the Nazi Heil Hitler salute. Some historians have accused Edward of being sympathetic to Adolf Hitler’s regime; Edward abdicated the throne in 1936 to marry divorcee Wallis Simpson.

Queen Elizabeth, 89, is widely popular in Britain and it is not believed that the images will damage her reputation, according to reports.

The Sun said in an explanatory editorial why it published the images.

“What gives The Sun’s extraordinary images such historical significance, and the reason we believe the public has a right finally to see them, is the involvement of the Queen’s uncle Edward,” the editorial said.

“The man who briefly became our King was already a fan of Hitler—and remained so as late as 1970, long after the Holocaust’s horrors were laid bare.”

The editorial continued: “Princess Elizabeth, our future Queen, played her part by joining up at 16.

“Meanwhile Edward was indirectly urging Germany to continue bombing us into a speedy surrender.

“These images have lain hidden for 82 years. We publish them today, knowing they do not reflect badly on our Queen, her late sister or mother in any way.”

New Jersey doubles state allocation for Holocaust survivors

(JTA)—New Jersey has doubled the allocation in its state budget for Holocaust survivors.

The state’s Jewish Family Service agencies will receive $400,000 in the new fiscal year to serve Holocaust survivors as part of a “Grants in Aid” allocation, the New Jersey Jewish News reported.

The allocation announced earlier this month brings the three-year total to $1 million in state funding for services to New Jersey’s 4,700 Holocaust survivors, according to the newspaper.

The additional funding will provide survivors with 11,000 hours of home care service, 3,000 meals, and 1,500 hours of case work and social service needs management, according to the New Jersey Jewish News.

“We are grateful to Gov. Chris Christie and the legislature for once more recognizing, in a bipartisan way, that the concerns of Holocaust survivors are unique because of what they have been through, and because their vulnerabilities at this age are increasing and are real,” Mark Levenson, president of the New Jersey State Association of Jewish Federations, said in a statement.

House Republicans introduce bill of disapproval of Iran deal

WASHINGTON (JTA)—House Republicans introduced a resolution voicing disapproval of the Iran nuclear deal, paving the way to a debate on it.

Rep. Peter Roskam of Illinois and another 171 Republicans introduced a bill on July 16 expressing “firm disapproval” of the deal reached two days earlier by the major powers and Iran that would trade sanctions relief for a rollback of Iran’s nuclear activities.

It’s not yet clear how the debate will proceed: whether the House of Representatives or the Senate would consider the deal first, and whether the bill would be one of approval or disapproval.

Should the congressional leadership advance Roskam’s bill, the parameters of the debate over the next two months, and the time allotted to Congress to review the deal, sets up a clear confrontation between Congress and the White House.

The likely failure of a bill of approval would show Congress’ unhappiness with the deal but would not be binding, and the Obama administration would be able to continue implementing the deal.

A bill of disapproval, like Roskam’s, should it pass and survive a presidential veto, would kill the deal. While Republican majorities in both chambers oppose the agreement, a bill of disapproval is believed unlikely to garner the two-thirds majorities required to override the veto Obama has pledged to impose.

“My legislation sets the stage for the 60-day lead up to a vote on this agreement by allowing Members to express their disapproval of the accord,” Roskam said in a statement last Friday. “The unprecedented outpouring of support for this resolution proves that Congress will not rubber-stamp a deal that severely threatens the United States and our allies by paving Iran’s path to a bomb.”

Bill granting disaster relief to houses of worship reintroduced

WASHINGTON (JTA)—A bipartisan trio of House members from the Northeast reintroduced legislation that would provide direct relief to synagogues and churches damaged by natural disaster.

U.S. Reps. Grace Meng and Peter King, a Democrat and Republican, respectively, from New York, and Chris Smith, a New Jersey Republican, last week introduced the Federal Disaster Assistance Nonprofit Fairness Act, which would override existing Federal Emergency Management Agency rules that exclude houses of worship from recovery funds.

A similar bill introduced by Meng and Smith in the last Congress, in the wake of Superstorm Sandy, passed overwhelmingly in February 2013, but never made it through the Senate.

The Orthodox Union, which lobbied for the bill, praised the lawmakers.

““The recent flooding in Houston reminds us that houses of worship are equally affected by severe flooding and natural disasters,” Nathan Diament, the O.U.’s Washington director, said in a July 16 statement. “When a natural disaster occurs, most often it is the churches and synagogues that offer comfort and a place to gather for members of the community.”

Late Argentine prosecutor remembered at commemoration of Jewish center bombing

BUENOS AIRES, Argentina (JTA)—The eldest daughter of Alberto Nisman, the special prosecutor who died mysteriously while investigating a Jewish center bombing, helped mark the 21st anniversary of the attack.

Iara Nisman, 15, appeared on stage and lit a candle on Friday at the ceremony in Buenos Aires. The organizer was the AMIA, the Jewish organization whose headquarters in the Argentine capital were bombed in 1994, killing 85 people and wounding 300.

“My sister Kala and I ask for help finding the truth about what happened to my dad, because he cannot defend himself and there are some detractors of his work,” Iara said in a written message read aloud on stage by a journalist.

 Approximately 5,000 people attended the ceremony in front of the rebuilt AMIA headquarters.

“We invited Iara to join the ceremony, and she accepted with bravery and honor,” Luis Czyzewski, whose 21-year-old daughter, Paola, was killed in the bombing, told JTA. “It’s not easy for a kid; she shows maturity.”

While the bombing has never been resolved, Iran is widely believed to be responsible for it, along with the bombing two years earlier of the Israeli Embassy in Buenos Aires.

As the anniversary of the bombing fell on Saturday, the Jewish Sabbath, the ceremony was held a day earlier

“The AMIA cause is not an issue for the judicial community, the government or the opposition,” the organization’s treasurer, Ariel Cohen Sabban, said at the ceremony. “The resolution must become a national question that takes us from the shame in which we Argentinians have been living in for the past 21 years.”

World Jewish Congress CEO Robert Singer, who participated in the ceremony, said in a statement: “After the tragic and mysterious death of Special Prosecutor Alberto Nisman last January, a man who did so much to advance this investigation and who is sadly missed, we are now faced with a crucial question: Will we ever see justice in the AMIA case? Will the Argentine government continue to have the worst terror attack in this country’s history investigated, or will it try to close this chapter?”

Mario Averbuj, who lost his 20-year-old daughter, Yanina, in the bombing, said, “We want to mention the human tragedy involved in Nisman’s death. It prevented his daughters from enjoying their dad.

“Iara and Kala, you should feel proud of your father,” he said, interrupted by applause from the crowd. “We want to tell you that every time we met him, the first thing he talked to us about was about you, about how well you were doing in school and how happy he was to see you grow.”

Saturday was the six-month anniversary of Nisman’s death. The prosecutor was found dead of a gunshot wound in his apartment.

Prosecutor Viviana Fein has not yet released a final ruling on the cause on whether it was suicide or homicide.

While the banner appearing onstage at previous AMIA ceremonies honored “justice” and “memory,” this year’s banner bore the words “Victims of Impunity” and “Victims of Terrorism.”

AIPAC backing group that plans to press Dems on Iran deal through TV ads

WASHINGTON (JTA)—The American Israel Public Affairs Committee is backing an action committee that plans to run TV ads across the country pressing Democrats to oppose the Iran nuclear deal.

Citizens for a Nuclear Free Iran is a 501 (c) (4), a tax designation that includes groups that advance political causes, and it launched its website on Friday.

The group is “dedicated to preventing Iran from obtaining nuclear weapons capability,” said Patrick Dorton, a Washington spokesman who frequently speaks for AIPAC, the preeminent pro-Israel lobby, which opposes the deal. “It is financially supported by AIPAC and other individuals and organizations.”

Dorton said the group’s reach and ethos is bipartisan.

“Democrats should be especially concerned because this deal increases the chances of war, will spur a nuclear arms race and rewards an Iran with a horrific human rights record,” he said.

Democrats have become the battleground in the fight between the Obama administration, which backs the deal, and Republicans, who are sworn to kill it in Congress in the next two months.

Some leading Democrats, among them Rep. Nancy Pelosi, D-Calif., the U.S. House of Representatives’ minority leader, back the deal, while others have yet to announce how they will vote now that the deal has been reached and Congress has two months to review it.

The National Jewish Democratic Council on Friday strongly endorsed the deal.

“This was a deal aimed at halting Iran’s march towards a nuclear weapon, and we find it will do exactly that,” the council said in a statement.

The Sunlight Foundation, a group that advances political transparency, first reported on the new group on Thursday, linking to filings that showed it plans on running a TV ad in at least 18 states.

A source close to the new group said the ads would eventually run nationwide and that the group had millions of dollars at its disposal.

The advisory board is made up of five former Democrats who have close ties to the pro-Israel community: former U.S. Rep. Shelley Berkley, D-Nev .; former U.S. Sens. Mark Begich, D-Alaska, Evan Bayh, D-Ind., and Mary Landrieu, D-La .; and former Sen. Joseph Lieberman of Connecticut, who ended his career in 2012 as an independent but who was the Democratic vice presidential pick in the 2000 election.

Notably, the team’s media adviser, Mark Putnam, and pollster, Mark Mellman, are also Democrats.

Senate foreign policy leaders urge Obama to delay U.N. vote on Iran

WASHINGTON (JTA)—The top Republican and Democrat on the Senate Foreign Relations Committee urged President Obama to postpone a U.N. Security Council vote on the Iran deal, saying it usurps the role of Congress.

Under the Iran nuclear deal reached this week in Vienna between the major powers and Iran, the U.N. Security Council must endorse its terms.

Foreign Policy reported Wednesday that Samantha Power, the U.S. envoy to the United Nations, is circulating a draft resolution on the council that would endorse the deal. Such an endorsement would be legally binding and could inhibit any bid by Congress to reject the deal.

“The Iran Nuclear Agreement Review Act, a bill which 98 Senators and 400 Representatives supported and you signed, established a 60-day period for Congress to consider the nuclear agreement,” said the letter to Obama Thursday by Sens. Bob Corker, R-Tenn., and Ben Cardin, D-Md., respectively the chairman and ranking member of the Foreign Relations Committee, which will be among the first bodies to review the Iran deal.

“We are deeply concerned that your administration plans to enable the United Nations Security Council to vote on the agreement before the United States Congress can do the same,” the letter said.

“Doing so would be contrary to your statement that ‘it’s important for the American people and Congress to get a full opportunity to review this deal... our national security policies are stronger and more effective when they are subject to the scrutiny and transparency that democracy demands,’” it said. “We urge you to postpone the vote at the United Nations until after Congress considers this agreement.”

Cardin until now has backed Obama’s Iran policy procedures, although he has yet to say whether he favors the deal.

A number of Republican lawmakers, including Sen. Mark-Kirk, R-Ill., and Rep. Ed Royce, R-Calif., the chairman of the House of Representatives Foreign Affairs Committee, have said they see the Security Council vote as an end run around Congress.

Sen. Ted Cruz, R-Texas, warned Obama in a letter that he would use his prerogative to block State Department funds and nominees until he receives an assurance from the president that the Security Council vote would be delayed until after congressional review of the deal.


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