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Weekly roundup of world briefs from JTA


Knesset foreign affairs chief: Ex-settler leader will not be Israel’s envoy to Brazil

JERUSALEM (JTA)—Former settler leader Dani Dayan will not become Israel’s ambassador to Brazil, a top Israeli government official reportedly said.

“We needn’t delude ourselves; Dani Dayan will not be the ambassador to Brazil. We condemn Brazil’s behavior,” Tzachi Hanegbi, chairman of the Knesset’s Foreign Affairs and Defense Committee, said Sunday during a committee discussion on Brazil’s refusal to accept Dayan’s credentials, the Times of Israel reported.

Hanegbi reportedly said Dayan should receive an equally important position elsewhere.

Brazil has not accepted the appointment, made in September, and has indicated it is unhappy with the choice.

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said last month that if Brazil does not approve Dayan as its ambassador, Israel will not offer another diplomat.

Netanyahu’s apparent decision to stand by Dayan comes after various reports that Israel would withdraw Dayan’s name and instead give him the Israeli consulate general position in Los Angeles or New York.

Netanyahu tapped the former head of the settlers’ Yesha Council four months ago to serve as envoy to Latin America’s largest nation. The Brazilian government remained silent on the choice to signal an official rejection of Dayan’s credentials because of his settler past. A native of Argentina, Dayan, 59, currently lives in the West Bank settlement of Maale Shomron.

A group of 40 retired Brazilian diplomats signed a statement against the appointment of Dayan, complaining that Israel had bypassed protocol because there was no prior communication with the Brazilian Foreign Ministry or any presentation of his credentials for an agreement.

Nearly 4,000 Brazilian Jews and non-Jews signed an online petition in late December in defense of the appointment.

Brazil is home to a 120,000-member Jewish community, the second largest in Latin America, at nearly half the size of Argentina’s. Some 500 Brazilian Jews immigrated to Israel in 2015. Many in the Brazilian Jewish community say the government of President Dilma Rousseff and her predecessor, Luiz Ignacio Lula, has fomented an anti-Israel environment.

Palestinian hunger striker rejects Israeli offer of May 1 release

JERUSALEM (JTA)—A Palestinian journalist on the 75th day of a hunger strike has rejected Israel’s offer to release him by May 1.

Muhammad al-Qiq, 33, said he will not accept an offer unless it ends his detention immediately and allows him to be treated in a Palestinian hospital, the Palestinian Maan news agency reported Sunday.

Qiq, who lost his ability to speak due to the strike and only communicates in writing, said he will continue the strike until “martyrdom or freedom,” according to Maan. He is protesting being held by Israel in administrative detention since Nov. 24.

The offer comes days after Israel’s Supreme Court suspended Qiq’s detention due to his failing health from the hunger strike. Under the Supreme Court order, Qiq would not be allowed to leave the hospital without permission and his family would be allowed to visit. The order did not cancel, just suspended, his detention.

Under administrative detention, a prisoner can be held for six months without being charged or tried. The order can be renewed indefinitely.

On Saturday, Maan quoted a doctor at HaEmek Medical Center in Afula as saying Qiq was in danger of imminent death.

“Each minute marks serious threat to his life because it is probable that his inner organs will stop operating at any moment, leading to immediate death,” the doctor said, according to Maan.

Doctors at the hospital have refused to force-feed Qiq, despite a law passed in July that allows hospital to do so.

Qiq has been jailed by Israel before, including a month in 2003 and 13 months in 2004, the French news agency AFP reported. In 2008, he was sentenced to 16 months on charges linked to his activities on the student council at the West Bank’s Birzeit University, according to AFP.

Prayer books, Torah scrolls destroyed in suspected Palestinian arson attack

JERUSALEM (JTA)—Palestinian arsonists are suspected of burning Jewish prayer books and Torah scrolls in a West Bank outpost’s synagogue, police said.

The attack occurred Friday in Givat Sorek, in the Etzion bloc, established on a hill overlooking the site where three Jewish teens were kidnapped from a bus stop and murdered in the summer of 2014. The synagogue was named for the three teens: Gilad Shaar, Naftali Fraenkel and Eyal Yifrach.

A trail of evidence led to a nearby Palestinian village, West Bank police determined, according to reports. Police later confirmed the attack was arson.

The books and Torahs were placed in a pile in the tent that serves as the synagogue and center for youth activities and set alight.

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, speaking at the start of Sunday’s Cabinet meeting, called for widespread condemnation of the attack.

“I expect from everyone in the country and around the world who rightly condemn every desecration of a mosque or writing of graffiti on mosques, including the burning of mosques, I expect them to come out with the same cry against, and condemnation of, this abhorrent act,” Netanyahu said.

“We are in a harsh struggle between those who—like us—seek coexistence and peace, and those who seek war and bloodshed.”

Sheik Mohammed Kaiyuan Abu Ali, the chairman of the council of Muslim religious leaders in Israel, condemned the attack in a conversation Sunday with Israel’s chief Ashkenazic rabbi, David Lau, Israel National News reported.

The news website quoted the sheik as saying, “In my name, and on behalf of all imams, we condemn this act and hope another disaster like this doesn’t happen again in any holy place.”

Israeli soldier, Jewish grandmother stabbed in separate attacks

JERUSALEM (JTA)—An Israeli soldier and a Jewish grandmother were stabbing victims in separate attacks in southern Israel.

On Sunday, a 20-year-old soldier was lightly injured in a stabbing near the central bus station in Ashkelon, allegedly by a Sudanese national. The suspected stabber was shot by another soldier at the scene who used the victim’s weapon and died hours later at the city’s Barzilai Medical Center, where the victim was also treated.

Police said the attack appeared to be nationalistically motivated.

The bus station was filled with soldiers returning from weekend leaves.

A day earlier, a 65-year-old grandmother was lightly wounded in a suspected terror attack while shopping with her family at a market in the Bedouin city of Rahat. The stabber was not caught.

Police said they did not know if the assailant was a local Bedouin or a Palestinian from the West Bank who was working in the city.

Muslim Waqf opposes expanded egalitarian prayer area at Western Wall

JERUSALEM (JTA)—The Waqf, the Islamic trust that oversees the Temple Mount, says it opposes an expanded egalitarian prayer area at the Western Wall.

The Waqf has filed a complaint with the Israel Police and will consider other steps, The Associated Press reported Sunday, citing Omar Kiswani, director of the Al-Aqsa mosque compound. The Muslim body lays claim to the antiquities at the holy site and says the expansion disturbs the status quo there.

On Jan. 31, Israel’s Cabinet approved an agreement to expand the non-Orthodox Jewish prayer section of the Western Wall.

Jordan reportedly also is protesting the plan, saying it will damage the ruins of the Umayyad Palace at the site where the expanded section is to be built, south of the Western Wall and next to the Temple Mount.

The Waqf claims the area also should be under its jurisdiction.

Meanwhile, a plan to install surveillance cameras on the Temple Mount announced in October by the United States in order to deter violence at the site has been delayed due to disagreement between Israel and Jordan, Haaretz reported.

Among the areas of disagreement are where the cameras will broadcast, whether Israel can edit the transmissions or control the broadcasts, and where the cameras will be stationed, according to Haaretz.

Israeli officials fear there could be more tension and violence on the Temple Mount if cameras are not installed by Passover.

Netanyahu eyeing measures to punish lawmakers for inappropriate behavior

(JTA)—Days after three Arab-Israeli lawmakers met with the families of Palestinians who killed or attempted to kill Israelis, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu of Israel said he would propose legislation that would punish Knesset members for inappropriate behavior.

“I would like to examine new and reinforced legislative changes to ensure that anyone who acts in this direction will not serve in the Israeli Knesset. I think this is an important statement as to what kind of society we want,” Netanyahu said Sunday, adding that he and Knesset Speaker Yuli Edelstein would submit a complaint to the Knesset Ethics Committee over the incident.

Netanyahu also said Sunday that he asked Israel’s attorney general to consider taking legal action against the three lawmakers—Jamal Zahalka, Hanin Zoabi and Basel Ghattas of the Joint Arab List.

“I believe that most citizens of Israel feel that these MKs do not represent them,” he said.

Netanyahu added: “I try to imagine what would happen in the British Parliament or the U.S. Congress if MPs or members of Congress would stand at silent attention for murderers of British or American citizens. I think that there would be a very major outcry, and rightly so.”

The three Arab-Israeli Knesset members met Thursday with the families of three Palestinian attackers whose bodies have not yet been returned to their families, a punitive measure used by Israel. They reportedly observed a moment of silence in memory of the dead terrorists.

Palestinian Media Watch brought the visits to public attention.

Israel returns bodies of terrorists who killed soldier in Jerusalem

(JTA)—Israel handed over to the Palestinian Authority three bodies of terrorists who died in a Jerusalem shootout, in which they killed one soldier.

The bodies of Ahmed Abu al-Ghub, Ahmed Zakarna and Mohammed Kamil from the Jenin area of the West Bank were given to Palestinian Authority officers last Friday afternoon, Ynet reported.

The three men, all childhood friends aged 20-21, arrived armed with knives and an automatic machine gun to the Old City in eastern Jerusalem on Feb. 3. When one of them stabbed a Border Police officer, the stabber was shot dead by Hadar Cohen, a 19-year-old woman who had joined the police force as part of her mandatory army service two months ago. One of the terrorists shot Cohen dead before being gunned down by other soldiers, along with his two friends.

The terrorists were all on the list of Palestinians who are denied access to Israel because they are deemed security risks. Army officials told the NRG news website that they believe the three men entered Israel illegally and are working with the Israel Security Agency, or Shin Bet, to retrace their steps.

Cohen was buried Feb. 4 at the Yahud Military Cemetery near Tel Aviv, where Israel Police Commissioner Roni Alsheikh called her “a hero, whose actions prevented a much larger tragedy.”

Israeli actress, 46, sues fashion boss who replaced her with younger model

(JTA)—An Israeli fashion store’s decision to fire Israeli actress Ayelet Zurer, 46, as its house model and replace her with a 25-year-old sparked a national debate on women’s rights in that industry.

Zurer, a Tel Aviv-born actress who had prominent roles in Steven Spielberg’s 2005 film “Munich” and the 2013 Superman franchise “Man of Steel,” sued the Golbary chain of discount fashion stores last month for wrongful dismissal after working for 11 years as their house model, the Globes daily reported last week.

The lawsuit for $118,000 in damages alleges the owners told Zurer that her looks had deteriorated and then fired her for a different reason—namely that she had missed a photo shoot because of a minor operation she had to undergo last year. Then they replaced her with Esti Ginsburg, a 25-year-old model once featured on the cover of Sports Illustrated magazine.

The lawsuit against Golbary prompted an outcry in media and social networks, with some users setting up Facebook pages calling on women to boycott the Golbary chain, which has 85 stores. It also elicited an angry reaction from Shelly Yachimovich, the previous chair of Israel’s Labor Party.

Yachimovich called Zurer “breathtakingly beautiful” and added that the actress attained her current status through talent.

“That someone should consider her not beautiful enough pours gasoline on the fire” that is low self-esteem among many women because of the fashion industry’s perpetuation of unattainable beauty standards, Yachimovich wrote on Facebook.

Zurer’s “looks haven’t really deteriorated. Simply, for 54-year-old Moshe Golbary, her time was up—her age was beyond his ability to fathom it,” Yachimovich wrote, adding that Golbary used to own a firm that specialized in organizing horse pageants.

“Women are not horses,” wrote Yachimovich.

Palestinian killed in rioting as Israel hands out West Bank demolition notices

(JTA)—A Palestinian youth was killed by Israeli troops during rioting in Hebron that started as demolition notices were handed out to seven West Bank households that belonged to terrorists.

The fatality, a male teenager, was shot Friday, according to the Maan news agency.

The orders of demolition—a controversial measure whose application against terrorists’ families is under frequent judicial review in Israel—were handed out Thursday to the family of Ihab Maswada from Hebron, who murdered Genadi Kaufman in a stabbing attack near the Tomb of the Patriarchs in December.

Additionally, troops gave notices to the Qalandiya family of Issa Assaf and Anan Abu Habsah, who killed Rabbi Reuben Birmajer in a stabbing attack at the Jaffa Gate in Jerusalem that month; the Beit Amra home of Abdullah Dais, who murdered Dafna Meir on Jan. 17, and the Nablus homes of Bassam Saih, Ragheb Ahmad Muhammad Aliwi and Zir Ziad Jamal Amar—all members of a cell responsible for the murders of Eitam and Naama Henkin in October.

Also Thursday, Israeli troops and Border Police arrested eight Palestinians suspected of terrorism in overnight raids in the West Bank, the Israel Defense Forces said Friday.

Separately, the High Court of Justice on Thursday suspended demolition orders for the West Bank homes of two Palestinians who allegedly killed five Israelis in twin attacks on Nov. 19.

The court issued the temporary injunctions in response to petitions by the families of the suspected terrorists, Israel Radio reported Friday.

One of the homes belonged to Raed Masalmeh, 36, of Hebron, who admitted stabbing to death Reuven Aviram, 51, and 32-year-old Aharon Yesiav, and wounding a third person in an attack on Jewish worshipers at the Panorama building in south Tel Aviv. He was indicted for murder in Tel Aviv District Court.

Canada lifting some Iran sanctions

TORONTO (JTA)—Canada’s new Liberal government announced it is lifting some economic sanctions against Iran.

Stephane Dion, Canada’s minister of foreign affairs, announced last Friday that Ottawa will be ending a number of sanctions against Iran, including a ban on financial services and imports and exports.

In a statement, the government said all applications for export permits would be considered on a case-by-case basis.

“We’ll engage with Iran step-by-step, (with) open eyes, because we still have a lot of concerns about the role of Iran in the region,” Dion said in Ottawa.

Dion added that Canada is considering restoring diplomatic contacts with Iran, which were severed by the previous Conservative government in 2012. He said Canada was wrong to cut ties with Iran.

“We should have been part of it, to engage Iran, with sanctions, but with diplomacy at the same time,” the foreign minister told reporters.

Dion said he was aware of Iran’s “very questionable” human rights record and the threat it poses to Israel.

In response, David Cape, chair of the Centre for Israel and Jewish Affairs, urged the government “to maintain caution and vigilance.”

CIJA said sanctions and “robust diplomacy have proven invaluable in holding Iran to account for its illicit nuclear program. Ongoing, targeted economic and diplomatic pressure is likewise required to address the multifaceted threat Iran poses to international peace and security.”

The advocacy group pointed out that Canada will maintain sanctions on the Basij Militia and Iranian banks implicated in financing terrorism and illicit nuclear procurement; retain Iran’s designation as a state sponsor of terrorism, and impose restrictions on exports to Iran of goods and technology that may be used for nuclear or ballistic missile purposes.

These steps signal that Canada “remains committed to the objective of changing Iran’s destructive behavior,” CIJA said.

In a separate report, the Globe and Mail newspaper said the Liberals are expected to provide $15 million in annual funding to the United Nations Relief and Works Agency, which was set up in 1950 to help Palestinian refugees, after the former Conservative government phased out $30 million in annual funding to the agency by 2013.


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