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Weekly roundup of world briefs from JTA


Report: Paris attacks mastermind planned attack on Jews as well

(JTA)—The mastermind of last month’s Paris attacks also planned to strike Jewish targets, Reuters reported, citing sources close to the investigation.

The plans by Belgian national Abdelhamid Abaaoud, disclosed in a confidential police witness statement, were leaked last week to the French magazine Valeurs Actuelles, Reuters reported over the weekend.

According to the witness statement, Abaaoud asked his cousin Hasna Ait Boulahcen to hide him while he prepared more attacks following the multiple strikes Nov. 13 throughout Paris that killed at least 130 and wounded hundreds.

The attacks would target the Jewish community, the education system and the transportation system in Paris, according to the report citing Abaaoud.

Abaaoud told his cousin on Nov. 15 of the new attacks that “they would do worse (damage) in districts close to the Jews and would disrupt transport and schools,” according to the witness statement. He also reportedly asked his cousin to buy two suits and two pairs of shoes for him and an accomplice so they could blend in in the commercial district that he would target next.

Abaaoud and Boulahcen died on Nov. 18 in a shootout with police in St. Denis, a northern Paris suburb.

Polish Jewish leader heads protest against new parliament

WARSAW, Poland (JTA)—The president of the council of the Polish Jewish umbrella organization led a civil protest against the new government in Poland.

Krzysztof Izdebski of the Union of Jewish Communities in Poland organized the demonstration Thursday in front of Polish parliament building in Warsaw along with Jacob Gornicki of the ePanstw, or eState, Foundation over the lack of transparency in making changes to the Constitutional Tribunal.

Last week, the parliament, known as the Sejm, revoked a law passed several years earlier governing how to elect the five judges of the tribunal without prior discussion with the opposition.

“We are disappointed by the Sejm,” Izdebski and Gornicki said in a statement posted on Facebook.

Another protest is scheduled for Wednesday.

“We want a transparent and comprehensible state,” said Izdebski, the interia.pl news website reported. “We are opposed to the mode in which the Parliament makes decisions about the state system. Therefore, as citizens, we are here.”

The council directs the umbrella group’s activities.

BDS backers go on labeling spree on Israeli products in German town

BERLIN (JTA)—A team of self-styled “goods inspectors” in a German town tried to label all the Israeli products they could find as being “from illegal Israeli settlements.”

On Saturday, the proponents of the anti-Israel Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions movement visited businesses in downtown Bremen, in northwest Germany, checking to see that products from Israeli settlements were not marked “Made in Israel.”

Dressed in white overalls, the self-styled inspectors visited fruit stands to department stores ostensibly to enforce a European Commission rule that will soon go into effect requiring the labeling of foods and cosmetics that are made in the West Bank and the Golan Heights. But a spokesman for the group told the TAZ newspaper that the activists were making an educated guess on which products originated from those two places.

One “inspector” reportedly laughed in the face of a passer-by who accused the activists of anti-Semitism.

In one pharmacy, the activists were shown the door and barred from reentering after trying to record their actions putting little paper flags on the shelves that read “Warning: This product could come from an illegal Israeli settlement.”

They demanded that the shop manager erase the tape from the shop’s surveillance camera, offering to erase their own tape in return. The manager told TAZ that she did not approve of people entering her shop and disturbing business.

South African mohel banned for life for botching bris

CAPE TOWN (JTA)—A Johannesburg mohel has been banned from practicing for life after a baby’s penis was partially amputated during a circumcision he performed.

In addition to the life ban, all mohels in the country will have to be accredited and seek registration every two years, a commission of inquiry into the June 2014 incident said. The commission announced its findings this month.

South Africa’s chief rabbi, Warren Goldstein, and its beth din, or rabbinical court, commissioned the inquiry into the incident. The panel consisted of retired deputy judge and president of the Kwazulu-Natal province, a specialist urologist and a retired mohel, the Sunday Times reported.

According to the beth din, “In 2014, a circumcision was performed that resulted in devastating and permanent injury to the baby.”

The father of the child told the SA Jewish Report that he and his wife had consulted medical specialists “all over the world for medical advice,” but the damage is irreversible.

“We are not clear what the future holds,” he said. “It is an unprecedented case. But as a family we have to deal with it.”

Among the commission’s recommendations, the renewal of a mohel’s accreditation must take into account factors such as age, state of health and any complaints received during the period under review that bear on his competence to continue performing the procedure.

Alan Gross: Memory of Holocaust survivor relatives got me through Cuban prison

(JTA)—Alan Gross, the American Jewish government contractor who spent five years in Cuban prison, said thinking of his family members who survived the Holocaust was one of three things that helped him get through the ordeal.

Gross told CBS news program “60 Minutes” in footage released last Friday that he “had to do three things in order to survive” each day in Cuban jail.

“I thought about my family that survived the Holocaust. I exercised religiously every day, and I found something every day to laugh at,” he told journalist Scott Pelley, in his first interview since being released last December.

In a preview of the episode, which airs in full Sunday night, Gross, 66, of Rockville, Maryland, also revealed that for the first two weeks of his detainment, he was confident he would get out quickly.

Gross, a contractor for the United States Agency for International Development, had been helping connect Cuba’s small Jewish community to the Internet when he was arrested and charged with crimes against the state.

Gross had traveled to Cuba numerous times as part of a project to connect the Communist-governed island’s small Jewish community to the Internet. On his fifth trip, he was taken into custody and accused of crimes against the state.

Gross was released on Dec. 17, the first day of Hanukkah, as part of a larger diplomatic agreement between the United States and Cuba.

Jewish disability advocate chides Trump for mocking reporter

WASHINGTON (JTA)—A Jewish foundation that advocates for disability inclusion chided presidential candidate Donald Trump for mocking a disabled reporter.

Jay Ruderman, president of the Boston-based Ruderman Family Foundation, offered to provide the Republican front-runner with sensitivity training, The New York Times reported Nov. 26.

“It is unacceptable for a child to mock another child’s disability on the playground, never mind a presidential candidate mocking someone’s disability as part of a national political discourse,” Ruderman said.

In an appearance Nov. 24 in South Carolina, Trump jerked his arms about and mocked Serge Kovaleski, a reporter who has arthrogryposis, a condition that makes it hard for him to manipulate his joints.

“You gotta see this guy,” Trump said.

Trump has cited a 2001 Washington Post report by Kovaleski to back up his claim that thousands of Muslims in New Jersey were seen celebrating the 9/11 attacks in 2001. Kovaleski’s report had said only that police had detained a number of people to question them about allegations that they celebrated the attacks.

Reporters contacted Kovaleski to ask whether he subsequently corroborated the allegations and whether the allegations referred to thousands of Muslims, and not just a “number” as Kovaleski had reported.

Kovaleski, who now works for The New York Times, said the allegations never were corroborated and that he had never heard allegations that thousands of Muslims had celebrated.

Trump, in an uncharacteristically lengthy statement posted on Twitter, said he does not know Kovaleski and had not intended to mock his disability.

CNN posts Middle East map that doesn’t show Israel

JERUSALEM (JTA)—CNN posted a map on its website that replaced Israel with “Palestina.”

The map was posted Nov. 25 on the “Syria and the Middle East” section of the feature article “Beyond ISIS: 2016’s scariest geopolitical hot spots.”

“Palestina” is a Spanish or Portuguese translation of Palestine. The image was taken from Getty Images’ iStock and is not a creation of CNN’s graphics team, according to the media watchdog HonestReporting, which first reported the map.

The graphic was later replaced with a photo of the aftermath of a Syrian airstrike in Aleppo.

“While we question how the error occurred at all, nonetheless we commend CNN for taking prompt action,” HonestReporting said in a statement on its webpage, saying that the switch came following its flagging of the map and “the complaints of many HonestReporting subscribers.”

HonestReporting Managing Editor Simon Plosker wrote: “Whether it was an oversight or something more sinister, CNN’s illustration of the Middle East without Israel is completely unacceptable. At a time when the state’s very legitimacy is being called into question by vicious anti-Israel extremists, any message that Israel does not belong in the Middle East plays into this false narrative and feeds those like the Iranian ayatollahs who wish to see Israel erased from the map.”

In January, veteran CNN anchor Jim Clancy resigned after a series of Twitter posts in which he mocked pro-Israel tweeters on a thread discussing the Charlie Hebdo massacre.

NYC to fund security guards for Jewish schools

(JTA)—New York City will fund security guards for non-public schools.

Mayor Bill de Blasio and New York City Council Speaker Melissa Mark-Viverito announced Nov. 25 that they had agreed on a bill that would require the city to provide each non-public school with more than 300 students with a private security guard.

The bill, which was sponsored by City Councilman David Greenfield, a Democrat, would make $19.8 million available to fund security at New York City’s private schools, Politico reported. It is the first time religious and non-public schools in the city will receive taxpayer-funded security, according to Politico.

“As security is increased in light of recent events and religious communities face especially heightened concerns, it is especially critical that all students are protected regardless of what kind of school they attend,” said Maury Litwack, director of state political affairs for the Orthodox Union.

Argentine rabbi tapped as government minister

BUENOS AIRES, Argentina (JTA)—Argentine lawmaker Rabbi Sergio Bergman was tapped to serve as minister of environment and sustainable development.

Bergman, who will start his new position on Dec. 10 when the new government is sworn in, is believed to be the only rabbi serving as a government minister outside of Israel.

Bergman will be part of Mauricio Macri’s new center-right government. He was named by Macri in 2011 to head the his party’s slate of parliamentary candidates for the Buenos Aires Municipal Legislature. In 2013, he headed the list of national parliamentary candidates. Bergman won both elections.

Bergman is the rabbi of the oldest synagogue in Argentina. He is a friend of Pope Francis, who served as the archbishop of  Buenos Aires prior to his election as pope. The rabbi wrote a book of religious essays, titled  “A Gospel According to Pope Francis,” which praises the pope as a religious leader.

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu called Macri on Nov. 25 to congratulate him on his election, the Prime Minister’s Office said in a statement.

“Macri told me that relations between Argentina and Israel will now change for the better,” Netanyahu wrote in a post on Facebook.

The new Argentine government has said it will cancel the pact that Argentina signed with Iran to jointly investigate the 1994 bombing of the AMIA Jewish center in Buenos Aires, a measure welcomed by American Jewish Committee, the Latin American Jewish Congress, the Argentine Jewish political umbrella DAIA and the Simon Wiesenthal Center. The agreement has been criticized by Israel and Argentina’s Jews, among others. Iran has been accused of responsibility for the bombing, which killed 85 and injured hundreds.

“We will propose to the Congress to cancel the pact with Iran as we promised in the campaign,” Macri said Nov. 23 in his first news conference after being elected in a runoff vote the previous day.

New kosher supermarket opens in Berlin despite security concerns

(JTA)—Despite security concerns, Berlin is about to get a new kosher supermarket.

The Daily Markt in the Charlottenburg district adds an option to those already existing in Berlin, including the Kosher Life supermarket, which opened in 2008 in the former East Berlin, as well as a few smaller shops and bakeries.

The newest addition is the result of cooperation between the non-Jewish businessman Asan Mytev and entrepreneurs within the local Jewish community, assisted by Rabbi Yehuda Teichtal, an official rabbi of the Jewish community in Berlin.

A partner in the Daily Markt, store manager Evgeny Bort, said in a statement last week that he was optimistic that despite security concerns and the recent European Union decision to require the relabeling of products made in the West Bank and Golan Heights, people would patronize the shop.

“We can’t let terrorism stop us and interfere with our lives,” Bort said. He also said that he does not worry about the politics of labeling, and is only concerned with making it easier to purchase kosher food in Berlin.

Berlin’s Jewish population has about 11,000 official members; it is estimated that at least twice that number live in the city but are unaffiliated with the Jewish community.

Anne Frank’s diary to be published online in challenge to copyright

(JTA)—In two separate challenges to the foundation that owns the rights to Anne Frank’s diary and is seeking to extend its copyright, a French lawmaker and a French scholar each plan to publish the text online in January.

Isabelle Attard, a French Parliament member whose grandparents died in the Holocaust, plans to publish the entire Dutch text of the diary on Jan. 1, the date when the current copyright expires, the Guardian reported Nov. 25.

Separately, Olivier Ertzscheid, a lecturer at the University of Nantes, is also planning to publish the text on the Internet on Jan. 1.

Frank’s diary, which chronicles two years of hiding from the Nazis in an Amsterdam attic, is arguably the most famous Holocaust-era document and inspired several play and film adaptations. She died in 1945 at the Bergen Belsen extermination camp.

Because European copyrights generally expire 70 years after an author’s death, the copyright was expected to expire at the end of this year However, Anne Frank Fonds, the Swiss foundation that Frank’s father, Otto, established to allocate the book’s royalties to charity, announced recently that it planned to list Otto Frank as a co-author, thus adding 35 years to the copyright. Otto Frank, the sole survivor of the eight Jews who sought refuge in the attic, died in 1980.

A spokesman for Attard told the Guardian that she plans to defend her online version of the diary in court,  and is prepared to go to court, according to the Guardian.

“Many revisionists, people who want to deny the extermination camps existed, have tried to attack the diary for years,” Attard’s spokesman said. “Saying now the book wasn’t written by Anne alone is weakening the weight it has had for decades, as a testimony to the horrors of this war.”

Yves Kugelmann, a member of Anne Frank Fonds’ board of trustees, told The Guardian: “After the war, Otto Frank merged, or compiled, the two versions of the diary that Anne Frank left, that were both incomplete and that partly overlapped, into one reader-friendly version. He typed over Anne Frank’s manuscripts and with scissors and glue subsequently, literally, ‘cut and pasted’ them into the version that was published in English from the early ‘50s. The book he created earns his own copyright.”

Israeli defense chief: Russian military jet violated Israeli airspace

JERUSALEM (JTA)—A Russian military jet violated Israeli airspace but was not shot down, Israeli Defense Minister Moshe Yaalon said.

The jet breached Israeli airspace by a mile and turned back when Russia was informed of its mistake, Yaalon said Sunday during an interview on Israel Public Radio. The breach came recently while Russia was carrying out airstrikes against rebels in the Syrian civil war.

“Russian planes do not intend to attack us, which is why we must not automatically react and shoot them down when an error occurs,” Yaalon said a week after Turkey downed a Russian jet that it said repeatedly violated Turkish airspace.

Israel is coordinating with Russia to prevent the accidental downing of its planes while operating in and around Syria, Yaalon said. The defense chief noted a hotline to share immediate information.

Israeli and Russian officials met in September to coordinate after Russia announced it would operate in Syria in support of Syrian President Bashar Assad.

One year ago, Israeli forces shot down a Syrian warplane that penetrated Israeli airspace over the Golan Heights.


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