Weekly roundup of world briefs from JTA

 


Israeli woman, 20, killed in stabbing at West Bank site of recurring attacks

JERUSALEM (JTA)—A 20-year-old Israeli woman was killed in a stabbing attack—the fourth attack in the West Bank in less than 24 hours.

Hadar Bucharis of Safed, a city in northern Israel, was stabbed on Sunday afternoon at the Gush Etzion Junction, near the West Bank settlement of Alon Shvut. She was declared dead at a Jerusalem hospital.

The assailant, identified by the Shin Bet security service as Wissam Tawabte, 34, was shot and killed by troops at the scene. Tawabte, a Palestinian from the nearby village of Beit Fajjar, did not have a previous terror history, according to the Shin Bet.

At the same junction three days earlier, American yeshiva student Ezra Schwartz and two others were killed in a shooting attack, reportedly by Palestinian gunmen. Other deadly terror attacks have taken place at the junction in recent months.

Earlier Sunday, a Palestinian taxi driver attempted to run over a group of Israelis at a junction near the West Bank settlement of Kfar Adumim, the Israel Defense Forces said. Unsuccessful in his attempts, he exited his vehicle and tried to stab Israelis at the junction. The attacker, identified as a resident of a Palestinian village near Ramallah, was shot and killed by a civilian at the scene, according to the IDF.


That morning, a 16-year-old Palestinian girl from Nablus allegedly attempted to stab an Israeli near the West Bank settlement of Ariel. An Israeli civilian who witnessed the attack ran over the girl, then shot her dead, according to reports. The Israeli media identified the civilian as Gershon Mesika, a settler leader who is the former head of the Samaria Regional Council.

On Saturday evening, a Palestinian man from a village near Hebron in the West Bank allegedly stabbed four people in front of a sports stadium in the southern Israeli city of Kiryat Gat, including a 13-year-old girl. Their injuries were reported to be moderate to serious.

The alleged stabber and his two alleged accomplices were found hiding in a home near the attack and arrested Saturday night after a manhunt that lasted several hours. The alleged attacker reportedly was holding a bloody knife at the time of the arrest.

The next morning, Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu announced more stringent security measures being taken in the Hebron area, where most of the recent terror attacks have originated. Netanyahu said they include more roadblocks and arrests, as well as an increase in security forces.


“We are facing terrorism by individuals – this is not terrorism by organizations, this is terrorism by individuals, occasionally with kitchen knives, who are incited mainly by social media,” he said. “It is very difficult to hermetically prevent the arrival of such knife-wielding, or other, terrorists to this or that place.

Netanyahu cautioned Israelis to be on “maximum alert” and praised them for not only their awareness, but their “considerable resourcefulness and courage.”

Cremation of transgender activist going to Israel’s Supreme Court

JERUSALEM (JTA)—The Supreme Court of Israel will hear the appeal brought by the haredi Orthodox family of a transgender activist over the activist’s cremation.

The hearing in the case of May Peleg, 31, is scheduled for Tuesday, according to the Campaign for May Peleg’s Memory.

On Sunday, Peleg’s haredi Orthodox mother asked the Supreme Court to overturn the Nov. 18 ruling by the Jerusalem District Court allowing the body to be cremated, as Peleg had arranged and paid for in her last will and testament, and that she be allowed to bury her child’s body. The appeal filing refers to Peleg in the feminine, as opposed to the original request, which called Peleg “my son.”

Peleg’s will requests not only that she be cremated, but that a ceremony be held and her ashes scattered at sea and under a tree to be planted in her memory.

Cremation is forbidden according to Jewish law, although it has become increasingly popular among liberal and secular Jews in recent years, particularly in the United States.

Peleg killed herself, according to a statement released from the Jerusalem Open House for Pride and Tolerance.

Peleg wrote in an affidavit prior to her death that was submitted to the court: “There are reasonable grounds for concern that if my body reaches my biological mother’s hands she will subject me to a religious burial, with Judaism not recognizing me as a woman, even though I’ve undergone sex change surgery. This constitutes a lack of respect and an erasure of my identity.”

Peleg married at age 20 and had two children before divorcing and undergoing a sex-change operation.  While Peleg and her ex-wife initially maintained good relations, two years ago the ex-wife stopped letting Peleg have a relationship with the children, who are now 9 and 10 years old.

Missing Maryland Jewish college student found dead

(JTA)—A Jewish college student from Maryland was found dead in Pennsylvania with what was reported to be a self-inflicted gunshot wound.

The body of Jacob Marberger, a sophomore at Washington College who had been missing since Nov. 16, was discovered Saturday in a nature sanctuary in Kempton. The wound was to his head.

Marberger had left home with a firearm, leading to a shutdown of the school for at least two days until it was decided to close the campus until the end of Thanksgiving break.

The car he had been driving also was found in the sanctuary, according to reports.  The sanctuary is located about an hour-and-a-half drive from his family’s home in suburban Philadelphia. It is not known how long his body had been there before it was discovered, The New York Times reported.

In an announcement posted on its website Saturday evening, the college informed the campus community of Marberger’s death.

“This is a terrible blow to our community, and the outpouring of compassion and support we have shown each other will help us through this difficult time,” the post said. “We need to continue to be supportive of each other as we mourn individually and as a community.”

Vigils had been held for Marberger, including one large gathering at Temple Beth Am in Abington, Pennsylvania, the Forward reported.

Marberger had been suspended from campus for two weeks and was facing expulsion for showing off an antique pistol at a campus party, according to the Times. He also was kicked out of his fraternity and dormitory, and was looking at possible criminal charges: It is illegal in Maryland for someone under the age of 21 to possess a firearm. The incident reportedly left Marberger feeling depressed.

He reportedly had not made any threats to the college or fellow students.

Kerry agenda in Israel has no plans for new peace talks, State Dept. official says

JERUSALEM (JTA)—U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry on his visit to Israel and the Palestinian Authority is not planning to restart peace talks or broker any agreement.

Kerry will meet with Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas in an effort to tamp down the current violence.

“We have called many times publicly and privately for the both sides to take concrete steps to demonstrate a genuine commitment to a two-state solution, and that’s what we continue to stress to them,” a senior State Department official said Saturday in a briefing ahead of Kerry’s visit to Jerusalem, Tel Aviv and Ramallah set to begin Monday. “We also talk, obviously, to both sides about steps that we think they can take that can help to reduce tensions.”

Kerry also will talk to Abbas about controlling incitement over the Temple Mount and about preventing the P.A. from collapsing, the official said.

The official referenced the recent spike in Palestinian violence against Israelis.

“Five people killed, it’s a terrible tragedy, including an American citizen,” he said of two deadly attacks that occurred Thursday. “We’re a bit concerned about that and said so publicly.”

In answer to a question about Netanyahu comparing the recent attacks in Israel to those in Paris that left at least 129 people dead, the official said that the State Department has encouraged both sides to “put an end to provocative rhetoric.”

He added: “I wouldn’t necessarily characterize what he said there as being provocative rhetoric in the sense of the violence on the ground here.”

Of the recent announcement of the marketing of nearly 500 Jewish housing units in eastern Jerusalem, the official said, “The Israelis have made settlement announcements repeatedly for decades now, and we continue to express our view very clearly publicly and very clearly privately on that. That would – and we continue to do that. That would not be a reason for the secretary to come on this visit.”

Netanyahu and Kerry are scheduled to talk about “a range of bilateral issues” following up on conversations they had in Washington, including on Syria and the Islamic State, according to the official.

Major German department store apologizes for pulling Golan wines

(JTA)—Germany’s KaDeWe department store in Berlin has apologized for removing wines made in the Golan Heights from its shelves and said it will return them immediately.

In a letter to Green Party legislator Volker Beck, the company said it acted “rashly and insensitively” in carrying out a recent European Union labeling regulation.

“We regret that this improper reaction of the KaDeWe group triggered a misunderstanding, and ask for your pardon,” the brief note from the management read, in part.

Beck posted the apology on his Facebook page, noting that “protest pays off.” The department store followed suit on its page.

Protests broke out over the weekend, when news spread that the store had decided to comply with a new European Union regulation requiring special labeling of fruit and vegetables, cosmetics and other products from the West Bank and Golan Heights. The products are no longer permitted to bear the label “Made in Israel.”

Noa Laron, founder of the Berlin-based Milk and Honey Tours, and Manuela Bleiberg, owner of one of Berlin’s few kosher restaurants, were among those who publicly protested and said they would urge clients not to shop at KaDeWe until the policy was revoked.

A spokeswoman for KaDeWe told the German media on Friday that the store was removing eight wines from stock, due to the recent decision by the European Union Commission.

The spokeswoman, Petra Fladenhofer, said the importer of the eight wines was planning to have new labels printed, and that “of course the products will then be back on our shelves again.”

According to the Berlin Morgenpost newspaper, the Galeria Kaufhof – another major department store in the German capital – has not reacted to the new EU regulation. Kaufhof sells products from Israel, the West Bank and the Golan Heights.

A Galeria Kaufhof spokesman told Spiegel Online magazine that the store does not make political or religious statements through the products on its shelves. Suppliers, and not the store itself, are responsible for labeling, the spokesman said.

KaDeWe was opened in 1907 by a Jewish merchant. In 1933, with Germany under National Socialism, a banking group forced KaDeWe’s Jewish owners to sell the store and others in the Hertie chain.

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu addressed what he called a “boycott” on Sunday at the beginning of the weekly Cabinet meeting.

“This department store had been owned by Jews; the Nazis took it. Absurdly, the store is now labeling products from communities in Judea, Samaria and the Golan Heights,” he said.

“It started with labeling products and now we are told that the products have been removed from the shelves – a boycott in every respect. We strongly protest this step, which is unacceptable morally, historically and on its merits. We expect the German government, which came out against product labeling, to act on this grave matter.”

US anthropological group sends Israel boycott resolution to full membership

(JTA)—Members of the American Anthropological Association overwhelmingly advanced a resolution to boycott Israeli academic institutions.

The motion to place the boycott resolution on the organization’s spring ballot was approved last Friday night at its annual meeting in Denver by a vote of 1,040 to 136. More than 10,000 members will be voting on a resolution that calls on the association to refrain from formal collaborations with Israeli academic institutions but does not ban relationships with individual scholars.

The members also rejected a resolution to oppose the anti-Israel Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions movement by a vote of 1,173 to 196.

“We provided as much relevant information to our members as we could and used the same approach we apply to everything else, namely utilizing an anthropological framework to understand what the range of positions is and why people hold them,” said the association’s outgoing president, Monica Heller, in a statement. “We’re encouraged by the turnout and expect our members to continue an informed and respectful conversation regarding the issue.”

In December 2014, the association rejected a similar motion on boycotting Israeli academic institutions.

Friday’s vote came after the Task Force on AAA Engagement with Israel/Palestine issued a report listing recommendations as to how the organization might best engage with the issue. The report included measures that could be adopted and strongly urged that the “no action” option be taken off the table.

The report was compiled after 1,100 anthropologists signed a petition to boycott Israel in August 2014. In describing their reasons for signing, the Anthropologists for the Boycott of Israeli Academic Institutions cited “Israel’s ongoing, systematic, and widespread violations of Palestinian academic freedom and human rights.”

The Anti-Defamation League criticized the decision to go forward with a full vote of the membership on what it called an  “extreme and discriminatory approach” to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict.

“We are alarmed that the advocates of this resolution used incendiary and biased allegations in its public statements, using terms such as ‘settler colonial regime’ and ‘Jewish supremacy,’” ADL CEO Jonathan Greenblatt said in a statement. “Should the membership of the association wish to express its views on the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, there are constructive ways to do so which do not place the onus of a two-party dispute on Israel alone and hold all of Israeli academia responsible for the resolution of this complex dispute.”

Both the American Studies Association and the Asian American Studies Association  have approved similar motions.

Orthodox Jew to head Argentina’s political umbrella for first time

BUENOS AIRES (JTA)—An Orthodox Jew will head the Argentine Jewish political umbrella for the first time in its 80-year history.

Ariel Cohen Sabban was elected Nov. 19 with 52 percent of the vote to 44 percent for the incumbent, Julio Schlosser. He will start his three-year term on Dec. 15.

“Not only a president was elected, but an entire team, which includes Orthodox Jews and also Conservatives, social and sports institutions,” Cohen Sabban told the Argentine media after his victory. “We will represent the entire Jewish community.”

DAIA encompasses the 125 Jewish institutions in Argentina and has 25 local branches. It is also the liaison between Argentine Jewry and the national government.

Cohen Sabban, currently the treasurer of AMIA, the central Jewish institution in Buenos Aires, is part of a growing trend of Orthodox people leading Jewish institutions. He took a leadership position at AMIA in 2008, when the United Religious bloc won in the group’s elections for the first time in history. It remains in power after winning two elections.

Cohen Sabban, a religious Zionist, last year recognized the Israeli team that came to Buenos Aires to help in rescue efforts at the AMIA building after the 1994 attack that left 85 dead and hundreds injured.

The new DAIA administration will coincide with a new national government, which will start on Dec. 10 following runoff elections on Sunday.

Cohen Sabban said he will immediately ask the new government to cancel Argentina’s memorandum of understanding signed with Iran agreeing to a joint investigation of the AMIA attack.

“We will collaborate with Argentina to achieve justice,” Cohen Sabban told Infobae TV news  during an interview, in which he was joined by new DAIA vice presidents Alberto Indij and Santiago Kaplun, both attorneys, who said they will focus on the judiciary resolution of the ‘94 AMIA bombing, the pact with Iran and the still-unsolved death of AMIA special prosecutor Alberto Nisman, as well as the 1992 bombing of the Israeli Embassy in Argentina.

Obama administration condemns murder of American yeshiva student

WASHINGTON (JTA)—The Obama administration condemned in the “strongest possible terms” the murder of an American yeshiva student in the West Bank.

“We were deeply saddened to learn about the death of Ezra Schwartz, an American citizen from Massachusetts who was murdered in a terrorist attack on Nov. 19 while in Israel to pursue his studies,” the State Department said in a statement sent Friday to reporters.

“We extend our deepest condolences to the victim’s family, friends and community, as well as the family and friends of the four other people killed in yesterday’s tragic events.”

Schwartz, 18, of Sharon, Massachusetts, was one of three people killed in a shooting attack near the Alon Shvut settlement in the West Bank. Hours earlier, a Palestinian attacker stabbed two men to death near a prayer service in Tel Aviv.

“We continue to condemn in the strongest possible terms these outrageous terrorist attacks,” the statement said. “These tragic incidents underscore the importance of taking affirmative steps to restore calm, reduce tensions and bring an immediate end to the violence.”

The statement said five other Americans were wounded in the attacks.

In the immediate aftermath of the killings, pro-Israel activists flooded social media with queries about whether the Obama administration would condemn the murder the way it had the murder of an American student among at least 129 people slain in the Nov. 13 Islamist terrorist attacks in Paris.

Daniel Shapiro, the U.S. ambassador to Israel, condemned the attack on Schwartz almost as soon as it was reported, in a statement on his Facebook page. Referring to a speech he had given the day before likening the terrorism in France to that in Israel, Shapiro wrote: “As I said yesterday, terror is terror, and we condemn it forcefully.”

The Conference of Presidents of Major American Jewish Organizations expressed “disappointment” on Friday afternoon that the Obama administration had not condemned the attack, a day after Shapiro’s posted comments and just minutes before the State Department issued its condemnation to reporters.

“We are deeply disappointed that the United States government has not issued a statement despite the death of an American citizen,” the Presidents Conference said in its statement.

Also last Friday, State Department spokesman John Kirby slammed as “illegitimate and counterproductive” Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s decision to allow the marketing of 436 housing units in an eastern Jerusalem neighborhood.

“We remain deeply concerned about Israel’s current policy on settlements, including construction, planning, and retroactive legalizations,” Kirby said Friday, referring to the decision to advance sales of the units in Ramat Shlomo, in Jerusalem’s northeast.

A previous announcement regarding the Ramat Shlomo neighborhood, in March 2010, led to a crisis in relations between the American and Israeli governments, coming during a goodwill visit to Israel by Vice President Joe Biden.

“We remain unequivocally opposed to these kinds of unilateral steps that seek to pre-judge the outcome of negotiations,” Kirby said Friday. “They’re going to have detrimental effects on the ground, increase already heightened tensions with the Palestinians, and further isolate Israel internationally.”

John Kerry, the U.S. secretary of state, will be in Israel and the West Bank this week in a bid to calm tensions that have led to a spate of deadly Palestinian attacks on Israelis in recent months and Israeli efforts to curb the violence.

“At this sensitive time, we call on all parties to redouble their efforts to restore trust and confidence, promote calm, and return to a path of peace,” Kirby said.

 

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