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Weekly roundup of world briefs from JTA


US Orthodox rabbis slam wedding video calling for revenge against Palestinians

(JTA)—The main modern Orthodox rabbinical group in the United States expressed its “outrage” over a video that shows Jewish revelers at a wedding celebrating the murder of three Palestinians in a West Bank firebombing.

“The vigilante and lawless calls for revenge and dancing with machine guns and knives are anathema to Jewish morality and religious standards,” Rabbi Shalom Baum, president of the Rabbinical Council of America, said in a statement issued Dec. 24.

The video, released Dec. 23 on Israel’s Channel 10 and filmed at the Jerusalem wedding of a right-wing couple earlier in the month, features friends of the suspected assailants in the July firebombing of a home in the Palestinian village of Duma that killed three members of the Dawabshe family—a toddler and his parents.

In the video, party-goers stab a photo of the Palestinian family and wave knives, rifles, pistols and Molotov cocktails. The crowd chants the words to a song that includes a verse from Judges 16:28, in which Samson says, “Let me with one blow get revenge on the Philistines for my two eyes.” The crowd substitutes “Palestinians” for Philistines.

The youths in the video have been condemned from across Israel’s political and religious spectrum.

The RCA, which represents over 1,000 rabbis, “applauds the quick and decisive statements of Israeli religious and political leaders” against the guests at the wedding, the statement said.

The statement called on the Israeli government to “take whatever measures necessary to protect the safety of all of its innocent citizens, and calls upon Israeli religious and educational leaders to nurture values in Israeli society that hold these despicable acts to be unacceptable and intolerable.”

Head of British Muslim faith schools calls for teaching of Judaism

(JTA)—The head of Muslim faith schools in Britain has called for the teaching of Judaism in the schools, echoing a call by Britain’s chief rabbi to teach Islam in Jewish schools.

Ashfaque Chowdhury, the chairman of Britain’s Association of Muslim Schools, said he will encourage member schools to teach their students about Judaism, the JewishNews.co.uk website reported last week.

“We were hoping to recommend Catholicism and Judaism as we can complement the teaching by visits to each other’s schools and joint activities between students,” Chowdhury told the Jewish News last week. “We feel it will contribute to community cohesion, British values and interfaith relations. I also feel that amongst Abrahamic religions, Islam and Judaism are most similar.”

Days earlier, the spokesman for British Chief Rabbi Ephraim Mirvis, in an interview with the London Jewish Chronicle, said it “is more important than ever that our children have a better understanding of Islam and that we build strong relationships with British Muslims. As such, the chief rabbi has recommended that schools take this opportunity to teach students Islam, a faith which is widely discussed but often poorly understood in public discourse.”

The office of the chief rabbi told the Jewish News that Chowdhury’s recommendation is “extremely significant.”

“We often talk about tolerance and understanding between communities as an ideal, but education is the vehicle that will get us there,” the statement from the office said. “It is so important that every child learns from a young age that all people are created in the image of God, no matter what their faith or ethnicity, and it is my hope that other Muslim schools will follow their lead.”

Beginning in September, British schools will be required to teach two faiths as part of their curriculum in order to receive secondary education certification in religious studies. Religious groups had lobbied against the new requirement.

The British government is requiring the teaching of two religions in its effort to counter religious extremism and promote tolerance.

Spain lifts war criminal designation from Netanyahu, 6 other Israeli officials

(JTA)—Spain will not list Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu as a war crimes suspect in connection with the Mavi Marmara incident, as a National Court judge had ordered.

Two judges from the same court canceled the registration recently, saying the previous judge had made a jurisdictional error in naming Netanyahu and six other Israeli government officials as persons of interest, the El Diario daily reported. The judges’ authority superseded that of Justice Jose de la Mata, who made the ruling in November.

“The 2nd section of Penal Court found the judge adopted this measure without jurisdiction, as the issue had been closed last June,” ACOM, a pro-Israel Spanish group based in Madrid, wrote in a statement Saturday after reviewing the ruling by the two judges.

Under the de la Mata ruling, if the officials came to Spain, they could be detained, arrested or charged.

The other officials are Ehud Barak, Avigdor Lieberman, Moshe Yaalon, Eli Yishai, Benny Begin and Eliezer Marom.

In the 2010 Mavi Marmara incident, Israeli troops killed nine people aboard the Gaza-bound ship after its passengers attacked soldiers who boarded the vessel to prevent it from reaching the Hamas-held enclave in defiance of Israel’s blockade on the territory. Three of the boat’s passengers, who were not killed, were Spanish.

Israeli windsurfers quit world tourney in Malaysia over visa flap

(JTA)—Two Israeli windsurfers and their coach withdrew from the ISAF world youth sailing championships in Malaysia after they did not receive visas to travel there.

Israel and Malaysia do not have diplomatic relations. The championships began Sunday and run through Jan. 3.

Last year in Poland, the two Israelis—Yoav Omer and Noy Drihan—each took home gold medals. Omer won in the boys under-19 category, and Drihan was first in the under-17 and under-19 windsurfing events.

Israel Sailing Association chairman Amir Gill told The Jerusalem Post that he and the two competitors had been offered conditional visas to compete in the championships. Among the terms, he said, were that the Israeli windsurfers could not compete under the Israeli flag, wear any symbols associated with Israel and have Israel’s national anthem played if they won the gold medal.

Israel’s sailing association, along with the Olympic Committee of Israel, is considering a lawsuit against Malaysia and the International Sailing Federation, now known as World Sailing, Amir told the Post.

Malaysia’s  youth and sports minister, Khairy Jamaluddin, told the Malay Mail Online news website that Malaysia was guided by its existing diplomatic policy in offering the visas with conditions.

World Sailing said in a statement issued Sunday that it would investigate the issue and that a member of its executive was on his way to Malaysia to seek clarification from the Malaysian Organizing Authority.

“World Sailing is committed to ensuring participation in our sport by competitors from all nations, and is taking this issue seriously,” the group’s president, Carlo Croce, said in the statement.

In November, two Israeli judokas won medals at the Judo Grand Slam in Abu Dhabi after reportedly agreeing to compete without Israeli symbols and insignia in exchange for visas to enter the United Arab Emirates, which does not have formal relations with Israel.

Pan American Maccabi Games in Chile to host thousands of Jewish athletes

(JTA)—Some 4,000 Jewish athletes from at least 20 countries will participate in the Pan American Maccabi Games in Chile.

The 13th edition of the quadrennial sporting event will be held in Santiago from Dec. 28 to Jan. 4. Athletes from South, Central and North America, as well as Israel and guest countries such as Australia and South Africa, are scheduled to participate.

The Pan American Maccabi Games aim to “perpetuate and preserve the Jewish communities in the Americas by encouraging Jewish pride, strengthening Jewish bonds, and by creating a heightened awareness of Israel and Jewish identity.”

Brazil hosted the 2011 games in Sao Paulo.

Senior Russian rabbi accuses Ukrainian president of ‘using Jewish card’

(JTA)—A senior Russian rabbi accused the president of Ukraine of glossing over his country’s Holocaust record and lying about Russia’s treatment of Jews.

Rabbi Boruch Gorin, spokesman for Rabbi Berel Lazar, one of Russia’s chief rabbis, made the accusation in an Op-Ed published Friday on the news site Jewish.ru following President Petro Poroshenko’s Dec. 22-24 visit.

The criticism by Gorin, chairman of the Jewish Museum and Tolerance Center in Moscow, focused on Poroshenko’s allegation that Jews in Crimea are barred from entering synagogues and his claim that they are in danger from the “cultivation of anti-Semitism” there, as Poroshenko said during a speech at the Knesset.

Russia annexed Crimea from Ukraine last year, citing the need to protect minorities, including Jews, from Ukrainians following the overthrow of a government that was seen as pro-Russian.

Calling Poroshenko’s claims fabrications, Gorin said Poroshenko was “using the Jewish card and slandering and lying,” as Poroshenko has accused Russian President Vladimir Putin. Gorin criticized Israeli politicians for not addressing these issues during the visit, which was Poroshenko’s first as president.

During a talk with labor lawmakers in Israel, Poroshenko dismissed concerns that post-revolutionary sentiment is stoking anti-Semitism amid the glorification of local collaborators with the Nazis against Russia during World War II.

“In Ukraine, Jews have nothing to fear. But in the Crimea they are oppressed and not allowed in synagogue,” Poroshenko said during that talk, according to Ksenia Svetlova, a Labor lawmaker and former journalist who attended the meet. Synagogue services are held regularly in Crimea, where many Jews welcomed the Russian annexation.

Gorin said Ukraine under Poroshenko was glorifying figures responsible for atrocities against Jews during the Holocaust, including the former militia leader Stepan Bandera. Several streets are named after Bandera in Ukraine.

Separately, on Friday the RIA Novosti news agency reported that a video surfaced online showing a Ukrainian right-wing lawmaker, Artem Vitko, singing a song praising Adolf Hitler that included the lyrics “We are all Hitler.”

“I support Ukrainian sovereignty and find foreign interference in Ukraine’s internal affairs totally and absolutely criminal,” Gorin wrote. But neither Russia nor Putin “are making Ukrainians swear allegiance to the memory of a hateful abomination,” he added.

Sacha Baron Cohen, Isla Fisher donate $1 million to help Syrians

(JTA)—British actor and comedian Sacha Baron Cohen and his wife, actress Isla Fisher, have donated some $1 million to help Syrian children.

The couple is giving about half the sum to the Save the Children charity to pay for measles vaccinations for children in northern Syria and the rest will go to the International Rescue Committee to help refugees in Syria and in neighboring countries. The latter donation will help pay for health care, housing and sanitation, the French news agency AFP reported Sunday.

Cohen, who is Jewish, starred as Borat in the movie of the same name and in other films. Fisher converted to Judaism when she married Cohen.

The New York-based IRC is run by former British Foreign Secretary David Miliband, who is Jewish.

Islamic State leader threatens Israel, Jews

(JTA)—The leader of the Islamic State threatened Israel and Jews in a taped message that is said to be from him.

“The Jews thought we forgot Palestine and that they had distracted us from it. Not at all, Jews. We did not forget Palestine for a moment. With the help of Allah, we will not forget it,” Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi said in the message released Saturday. “The pioneers of the jihadist fighters will surround you on a day that you think is distant and we know is close. We are getting closer every day.

“You will never find comfort in Palestine, Jews. Palestine will not be your land or your home, but it will be a graveyard for you. Allah has gathered you in Palestine so that the Muslims may kill you.”

The message was posted on Twitter accounts that have published Islamic State statements in the past. It has not been verified as actually originating from Baghdadi.

In a video released last month by the Islamic State, the group threatened to wage war against the Jewish people.

3 Israeli soldiers wounded in stabbing attacks, 2 Palestinian assailants killed

JERUSALEM (JTA)—Three Israeli soldiers were wounded in stabbing attacks in Jerusalem and the West Bank, and two Palestinian assailants were killed.

Early Sunday morning a soldier, 21, was stabbed in the back near Jerusalem’s Central Bus Station, the Israel Defense Forces said. A security guard overpowered and captured the assailant.

That afternoon, two soldiers shot and killed two assailants who stabbed them at a West Bank checkpoint near Nablus, according to the IDF.

Also Sunday in the West Bank, a Palestinian woman was caught and arrested following a stabbing attempt on a security guard at the gate of the Maale Shomron settlement, according to Ynet, which cited Israel Police reports. Police said another Palestinian woman was arrested at the entrance to the Tomb of the Patriarchs in Hebron after she was discovered carrying a knife.

Netanyahu: ‘No comparison’ between Jewish and Palestinian terrorism

JERUSALEM (JTA)—The group of right-wing extremists captured on a wedding video showing support for the suspected assailants in the deadly firebombing of a Palestinian family’s home “certainly does not represent religious Zionism,” Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said.

But at the beginning of Sunday’s weekly Cabinet meeting, Netanyahu also drew a distinction between Jewish and Palestinian terrorism.

“Arab terrorism attacks us relentlessly and we are fighting it without restrictions,” he said. “This terrorism is much greater in magnitude; there is no comparison.”

Netanyahu noted “the strong, clear and sharp statements” by political leaders and rabbis who disavowed the extremists’ denial of the state.

“The government here, and our public, and all bodies and all leaders come out against phenomena of Jewish terrorism. We condemn, they praise,” he said.

The previous evening, Israel’s defense minister said charges are expected soon against the Jewish extremists suspected of the July 31 firebombing of the home in the West Bank village of Duma that killed three members of the Dawabshe family—an 18-month-old boy and his parents.

Indictments could be issued as early as Tuesday, according to Israeli media reports.

Defense Minister Moshe Yaalon called for rabbis who incite the far-right extremists to carry out attacks to be investigated.

Also Saturday, Yair Lapid of the centrist Yesh Atid party singled out two leading right-wing rabbis for incitement, including Rabbi Yitzchak Ginsburgh and Rabbi Dov Lior.

Transparency bill for NGOs advances in Israel

JERUSALEM (JTA)—An Israeli bill requiring nongovernmental organizations to state publicly that they receive funding from foreign countries has advanced to the full Knesset.

On Sunday, the so-called Transparency Bill unanimously passed the Knesset’s Ministerial Committee for Legislation. Justice Minister Ayelet Shaked of the right-wing Jewish Home party sponsored the measure, which would disproportionately affect left-wing human rights organizations.

Under the bill, NGOs that receive more than half their funding from foreign governments must declare it publicly, including noting it on official documents. NGO representatives also would be required to wear identification badges when they attend Knesset sessions, as required of lobbyists.

“It is a black day for civil liberties, associations, and Israeli thought,” opposition leader Isaac Herzog tweeted. “The government decision to approve the twisted NGO bill is a bullet between the eyes for Israel’s standing in the world.”

Peace Now in a statement following the vote called the bill a “hate crime against democracy” and called on Shaked to “promote legislation requiring right-wing organizations to expose the millions they receive from private donors abroad and from the state budget.”


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